It’s New Years Day and I’m feeling charitable so this blog is brought to you in a whisper, with a cold flannel (for your forehead) and a bacon sandwich (for your mouth… if you need instructions on how to eat a sandwich, maybe don’t get out of bed yet). Read my round-up of the best Christmas telly and figure out what you want to watch on catch-up to keep the festive feelings flowing, and I’ll pop to the shops for paracetamol. Alright?
A classic tale of mismatched neighbours Andrew (Stephen Merchant, playing exactly the sort of person he always does) and Dev (Asim Chaudhry) from Bedford on a 9 hour mission to save Christmas and buy the must-have toy (Sparklehoof the Unicorn Princess) for Andrew’s daughter. Dev is the lonely chubby one, separated from his family at Christmas, and Andrew is the awkward angry intellectual, successful but bad tempered with a family who loves him for some unseen qualities. Dev teaches Andrew to be a happier man and a better father, and despite themselves they’ll be best buddies for life. Basically it’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles or Jingle All The Way for the small screen. It looks lovely with cosy camera angles suited to our suburban action heros. There’s great pacing throughout with real tension and subversive moments of mischief. Neither lead performance is all that over-the-top and their situation, while silly, seems entirely probable. An unexpected gem.
If you’ve not yet heard anything about the The Handmaid’s Tale, let me give you a hand getting out from under that rock where you’ve been hiding. This is an MGM production being show on Hulu in America. They seem to be a good 7 episodes ahead of us. Sadly, even in 2017, sometimes America is ahead of us in tv land. It’s great to have synchronised start dates, but it’s still not the norm. Avoiding spoilers for this much talked-about show is going to be a killer.
A few weeks after starting in the USA this 10 part drama series has been picked up by Channel 4 in the UK, which, as the young, intelligent, and left-leaning political channel is a really good fit for their brand and a bit of a coup. The series is based on a novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood and despite its startlingly relevant content was actually written in 1985. So this dystopian future Atwood envisaged is 30 years closer than we’d have hoped for, and none of her themes are any less relevant or possibilities presented any less realistic. In interviews Atwood says that none of these war crimes in the fictional Republic of Gilead are entirely made up – all have happened somewhere on the globe. This really is extremely dark stuff. Do we as the audience have the stamina to get through it?
The series opening is distressing, as our heroine Offred is violently parted from her husband and daughter, but it’s not a tense escape. We know she’ll get caught. The rippling tension comes from her social position at her new posting with the Commander (Joseph Feinnes) and his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski).
This week I have been thinking about all sorts of telly. Comedy in particular, which is a pretty all encompassing description when you think about it. What is it? In Shakespearian parlance it meant a play that ended in a marriage. It could be farce. It could be sketches. It’s very often character driven. It’s so many things. On reflection I prefer a sit com to dramas. I sat through the much lauded Doctor Foster because Hubby wanted me to watch with him but it just was so …well…miserable. Suranne Jones stropping around just didn’t do it for me (a little bit controversial there). I tried The Night Manager because, well, Hugh Laurie and just the other day, Undercover because well, Adrian Lester. But I know I won’t stay the course. Heck I couldn’t even invest in Downton Abbey. I’m saving my concentration for Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic, 9pm 25th April).
Barack Obama, sitting President of the USA, the guy with the most famous desk job in the world. He looks pretty fit for a fairly stressed out 54 year old but he seems to be worried that he’s not getting out enough. So he teams up with chipper Boy Scout adventurer Bear Grylls for a walk on the wild side up a glacier in Alaska.
Bear’s eyes light up as soon as he sees the helicopter (Chopper Force 1?) and from the off you can tell this is going to be a total bromance – “You look so fit. How do you keep so fit?” growled Bear, stating into Barack’s deep brown eyes. Barack is happy to be out of the office and out of his suit, but still wearing black and grey. How smart, how dull.