The Watchlist: May 2017

Television

suits-season5Suits S5

Oh, Suits. It’s been a while since I watched you. Every time I finally took the plunge and bought the latest series on DVD inevitably Netflix would release it for streaming just weeks later so this time round I opted to hang in there, and BAM, surprise surprise it appeared… although not very well publicised, it took me a month to realise it.

The problem I always face with Suits is that it’s so tightly plotted it’s impossible to remember what’s gone on one series to the next and it can be incredibly alienating to start a new series after time away and be scratching your head. But hey, that’s not the biggest issue with the show: it’s time to get some stuff off my chest.

  1. Why does nobody use mobile phones?! They’re hotshot lawyers ffs and it’s like they’re in a parallel universe where working on the move just doesn’t happen. They’d rather schlep half-way across the city to have a conversation face to face that lasts two minutes than pick up the goddam phone. I appreciate endless calls don’t make ‘gripping’ TV in the same way face-to-face confrontations do but purleasseeee.
  2. Also on that note, how come everybody has access to harvey’s apartment? He wanders into his living area and BAM there’s somebody sitting on his sofa. And. It. Happens. All. The. Time. He needs to change the locks, pronto.
  3. The shot-to-shot continuity is still dreadful. If you’re going to be working with documents scattered all over the place it’s difficult but ffs it just looks messy. This is something they’ve never managed to conquer since season one.

Aside from all that, did I enjoy it? I suppose. There’s still great moments of humour but, as I’m sure it does with a lot of viewers, some of the lawyering stuff goes right over my head. It’s worth noting that character development seems to have paused for many of the series regulars – there’s little of their personal lives seen on screen, probably wise given the nature of the series plot overall. Harvey is a different matter, however. He’s started therapy and we see him come to realise things (albeit slowly) and get some flashbacks too.

Honorary mention for Jessica still being sassier than a sassy thing. We could all do with being a little more Jessica.

In The Flesh S2

Given this series is only six episodes long it took me a mightily long time to get through it – nearly six weeks. It was always within reach for me to watch another episode (the disc never left the blu-ray player) but it was never on the top of my list. I’m glad I finally got round to it though as series one was (for all its plot holes) one of the better things I watched last year. Was this purely because my future husband Luke Newberry is in the starring role? I couldn’t possibly comment.

The plot appears to have developed nicely, and given they were given more time (series one only had three episodes) it didn’t feel as rushed. The plates that were spinning never felt overwhelming or too few, it all trundled along nicely. There’s many parallels that can be made about the politics on display in the series and those we’ve seen the world over during the past few years. That’s no accident but it’s interesting how its come to more of a head since the series aired back in early 2014.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S3

With UKS (cba to type it again) there always seems to be an element of people wearing rose-tinted glasses between series. “It’s amazing!” “Look at these gifs of the show we made!” “Can’t wait for the next series!!!1!” Then the next series comes along and people come to their senses: “it’s… not as good as I remember?” “um… it’s not as perfect as it was in my head?”

It’s not a perfect show, that’s a given. It suffers from the classic Netflix problem of having as much time as it needs for each episode. That inevitably effects how tightly the editing of the show and script has been given its not fitting to linear broadcast episode times. There’s some really plodding moments at times ~but~ I think S3 is a vast improvement on S2. Far more enjoyable, and it’s nice to see Lillian finally given some semblance of character and plot for a change. In the previous two series I always felt that she was purely a conduit for the overall plot and as a sounding board for other characters’ feelings. That’s obviously important in any show but she always felt like a spare part and any episodes that tried to revolve around her were weak.

The opening two episodes of this series were very poor imo. Miraculously it perks up substantially for the next five or six episodes before falling a little again, so that was relief.

P.S it’s notable how many familiar 30 Rock faces pop up this series.

taskmaster_series4

Taskmaster

Woah now, this series has come round quickly again! This is the shining jewel in the Dave original programming crown (and kudos to them, there’s a fair bit these days) and it really is a great light relief from the trials and tribulations of the real world. There’s been a lot of politics and horrific events and news over the past few weeks and Taskmaster has acted as shining light for me; a real escape from the real world with an hour of joyous, good-natured nonsense. I can’t wax lyrical about it enough.

The Handmaid’s Tale

elisabeth-moss-as-offredThis has been much-hyped on Twitter since its release on US streaming series Hulu and there was much chatter about which UK entity would pick up the rights. I swear I saw that Amazon were extremely close to getting it, but thankfully it fell to free-to-air Channel 4. With any much-hyped show there’s always a fear that the reality is going to be far different from the gushing on the internet but I was thrilled to discover the The Handmaid’s Tale lives up to, if not exceeds expectations. The first episode was *insert 100/fire/suitable emoji*, roll on the rest of the series.

(I’m in two minds as to whether I should read the original novel or not – it’s been on my to read list for years, should I take the plunge? Or will it ruin my enjoyment of the show given I have no idea where the story’s heading?)

The Trial

My least favourite part of any crime drama series is often the bit in court. I realise it’s the essence of real life dramatics and you have the twists and turns of the courtroom but it wasn’t until American Crime Story last year that I think I appreciated it more. This series is a really interesting premise: a mock trial with a real life jury. Genuine judges and barristers preside over the case in a real court-room but we see all the evidence as the jury do and follow their deliberations. It was certainly different but I wouldn’t say it was as shit-mazing as some were making out.

First Dates

It’s back! And I’m back – I refuse to watch the mess that it First Dates Hotel. There’s been a few interesting developments this series:

  • diners no longer return if there date was unsuccessful the first time, as with previous series.
  • Also of note is the sizeable increase in sob-stories – there’s a far greater number of dead family, disabilities and illnesses cropping up than previously
  • the outdoor seating area is being utilised more, and they’ve switched its side – no more free exposure for Birley sandwiches
  • there was one episode where they experimented with using none of their post-date animations, but exclusively new shots of London where lights appear out of focus in the shape of hearts or heart shaped balloons float away. This lasted one episode before normal service resumed.
  • and… there was an odd episode this series. It didn’t appear under the banner of ‘series 8’ on All4, but series 5 and featured some clearly older dates that had sat on a shelf for a while, interspersed with more recent dates and shots of the restaurant and staff. I wonder what went on?

First Dates Ireland (and Australia?) air on E4 – I’ve not taken the plunge with these, but I’m intrigued to see if/when First Dates US appears. Drew Barrymore narrates it and it’s been getting rave reviews..! Okay, mainly from Ellen DeGeneres.

Films

bd2b9ae44c11280e488ab4bc48de6b63701e8251309eaa525bf24b388fb0fa8b

Ex Machina

There’s bound to be a lot of chatter this year about The Circle. I read the novel last year and the cinematic version is due for release in a few months (don’t get me started on how Emma Watson is terrible casting) but if you’re unaware of it, it centres around a large tech company, its mysterious leader and its mysterious new projects and ever reaching powers and presence in people’s lives.

Ex Machina has been recommended to me a few times. The reason I bring up The Circle is because Ex Machina also revolves around a tech firm and its mysterious leader (Oscar Issac). Caleb ‘wins’ a competition to go to the a retreat and meet the man behind the company and things develop from there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Domhnall Gleeson in another film before but I found him very watchable. His characters not overly likeable, he’s not the ‘hero’ of the piece (there really isn’t one) but Caleb was nicely naïve and well presented.

It’s worth noting how few characters feature in this film. In fact, it could quite easily be a play. There’s broadly one setting, the action doesn’t move out of three of four rooms and the number of characters can be counted on one hand. And it’s not too lengthy –  a run time of just over a 100 minutes. A decent watch.

Memento

Brace yourself, it’s coming – the joke is on its way, are you ready? Hold on, here we go… there’s no going back now…

I couldn’t remember if I’d seen this film before!!!!

Okay, now that’s over with let’s skip to the chase. Did I enjoy this? Yes, towards the end. I realise I’ll be saying all of this twenty years after everyone else but the presentation of this story takes a while to get used to. Is it genius? Yes. Is the way your perception of events and characters constantly changing impressive? Yep. Solid.

The Watchlist: April 2017

A joyous month, truly. I’ve moved and settled into a flat with a proper telly, a proper living room and proper sofas. Here’s the watch list.

Television

Line Of Duty S3 & S4

I treat my Line Of Duty as a bit of a non-binge. I made my way through Series 1 and 2 in March and it was now the turn of 3 and 4. I could have gone from episode to episode in an afternoon but the episodes are so detailed, so full of plot that I was determined that I was going to at least partially savour them and try to leave a day between episodes. I’m glad I did – this has been one of my favourite periods, knowing I’ve got another episode of LoD to come back to after work.

Series 3 was explosive, as seeds planted in series 1 and 2 came to a head with an astonishing finale. In fact, it’s worth pointing out that a huge swathe of the finale was based in the ‘interview room’ – over twenty minutes, one scene, one table, four actors. It’s testament to the show’s direction and writing that this doesn’t feel boring, far from it. This finale felt like an ending as well, whereas I thought S2 was a little of a damp squib in the final few minutes. There’s the usual series of twists and turnsand and as I said previously, the fact that what other shows would use as a cliffhanger to close an episode can happen in the middle of one with Line Of Duty, this is about as tightly plotted and action packed a drama you can get without feeling overwhelming. At no point are you confused, at no point does it over step the mark and feel ridiculous, at no point is it overwhelming.

landscape-1491492653-12984220-low-res-line-of-duty-series-4

I caught up with Series 4 the week before the finale aired. This one was more nuanced, we didn’t see the full picture but were given inklings as to the truth. There was a lot that each character under investigation was hiding. Finale wise? Not as explosive as S3, but the final ten minutes were pacey. The whole thing leant back to Series 1 without making new viewers feel alienated, and they set themselves up for a S5… but we have to wait until 2019 for that. The investigation took control of this series and less was seen of Arnott, Flemming and Hasting’s personal lives. A shame I thought, but with so much going on with Huntley’s, it was understandable.

I also discovered the reason as to why I felt there was something odd about Martin Compston’s portrayal of Steve Arnott in S1. I mentioned in last month’s post that his delivery seemed a little stilted and off, but I couldn’t understand why – his acting felt fine. It turns out that he’s not a native English man! He’s ‘doing a Tennant’ and in fact has a natural strong Scottish brogue that he’s covering up.

Broadchurch

The final few episodes of Broadchurch aired in April. It’s undeniable that it was a marked improvement on Series 2, which undeniably had it’s problems, but this wasn’t without its flaws either. I was impressed that the finale didn’t play too much on the fact it was billed as the final series. There wasn’t a neat personal wrap up for Hardy and Millar, it didn’t appear wistful in anyway. I was, however, disappointed by how the plot wrapped up. With a series of this length that’s based around one case, I, as a viewer, feel a little cheated when the ‘winning evidence’ in the final episode is something new. Something the murderer did in panic, something only just discovered that changes everything… I want to be able to look back on the series and see the stars align and wonder why I didn’t get it sooner. I’m all for red-herrings, obviously, but I felt like the reveal featured a bit of a scapegoat and not one that was massively clever. No one could have predicted it or why it was, so I felt cheated.

My money was on Arthur Darvill as the vicar and when it turned out not to be it left me scratching my head. Not because there was a mountain of credibly evidence against him, but the opposite. I couldn’t understand why he was in this series. Sure, he’s the parish priest but he plays no part in any plot. Same goes for the newspaper editor. They’re local ‘characters’ we’ve met before but there inclusion in this series felt odd. They were given nothing to do, and the fact part of the finale was given over to wrapping up their story seemed bizarre – no one really gave a monkeys about them or what they were up to post ‘case’. Will I miss Broadchurch? Nah. Did I appreciate it for what it was? Yes.

Car Share

Am I just very difficult to please? I’m feeling like I’m being very negative this month, but I had real issues with the new four episode (and apparently final) series of Car Share. Having sat on the shelf for a while S1 proved to be a huge success and S2 was met with a lot of excitement as a result. Once again, all episodes were available to stream on iPlayer at once and I did them over a weekend. Episode one was a real shame I thought, feeling like a free kick that went nowhere near its intended goal. I understand the broad show premise had to move on a little, but I kept waiting for Episode 1 to get started, to become pacey with an actual storyline filled with jokes… and it just never appeared. It ended and left me feeling a little empty. Was that… it? Really? After all that time?

4221396001_5395733519001_5395726104001-vsEpisodes two and three were a marked improvement. Still not as ‘laugh a minute’ as they could have been but at least they felt like an episode worth watching. The final one felt a little flat to me. A shame. And interesting to see how often Peter Kay lifted his phone while stationery at traffic lights – that’d get you six points now with the 2017 post-filming crackdown!

First Dates

Having ditched First Dates Hotel in a fit of pique, I was pleased to see ‘proper’ First Dates had returned and back to its usual self. The newer waiter still has much charisma as a wet fish, though.

Department Q

Interestingly, this was filed under the ‘films’ section of iPlayer while I was browsing through. I assume that was the case purely because the three episodes that exist are standalone and of feature length. It’s another BBC Four Scandi-noir import, based on some novels revolving around the premise of a police officer recovering after a botched operation being shunted to ‘close’ cold cases. His idea of ‘closure’ is a little different from his superiors, however, as he goes about re-investigating from scratch. Episode 1 was quite enjoyable and I haven’t watched a piece of Scandi-noir for a while. What I really loved was the fact that once again, being multi-screen is impossible. You can’t quickly check Twitter while watching as you’ll miss half the action and subtitles.

Films

Get Out

I’m a terrible person I know, but when I’m considering going to see a film at the cinema, its length is very important to me (ooh, matron etc). Get Out is a snip at 1h44m, and it felt just the right length. There was a lot of chatter flying around about this film and I haven’t seen a psychological thriller for a while. The people with me in the cinema however, had clearly got the wrong memo. They thought it was more of a horror and subsequently audibly gasped at every little thing that made you jump. It wasn’t designed to scare but to freak you out. I think Get Out did a pretty good job of that, aside from the fact the main theme sounded remarkably like ABBA’s Does Your Mother Know with the ‘take it easy, take it easy’ line.

I was a little thick at times and had to get my flatmate to explain some plot points and scenes to me I didn’t understand and when he did I realised how clever the plot was. A good, solid little thriller.

45 Years

This has been on my to-watch list for a good while now and I’ve really had no excuse since Netflix added it months back. This is one of those wistful movies, the ones that are character driven and feature lingering shots of them staring into the distance contemplating things. In fact, like a true cliché, that’s how this ends. Nice to have Norwich having a spotlight shone on it though with something other than Partridge.

The Watchlist: March 2017

I’ve been moving flat this month so I’ve watched far less than usual – here we go though…

Television

Line of Duty S1 and S2

This show completely passed me by to begin with. It wasn’t until people started raving about S3 last year that I sat and took notice, but it was only the imminent airing of S4 that made me finally get round to watching them. It’s a really strong premise: an anti-corruption force investigating bent coppers and their criminal connections (in the East Midlands no less – whoop!). Steve Arnott, the guy I want to call the protaganist or at least an ‘integral character’, is recruited after standing up for what’s right when an antiterrorism operation he’s running is botched. For the first series I struggled to understand if the acting and portrayal was a bit pants and there was some very wooden delivery that I couldn’t put down to a poor script. S2+, however, the performance seems to improve and be more settled and comfortable. The other performances are difficult to fault.

Line of Duty has more twists and turns than a maze. Anyone who’s watched it can testify that, it’s not a show where you can in anyway predict the direction of the plot. Things happen thick and fast and for a show where a bunch of the drama takes place during long repetitive police interviews there’s never a dull moment. Out of these two series, however, I was disappointed by the ending of S2. It seemed to peter out in my opinion, and the use of a flashback seemed a lazy way of conveying the truth with little character retribution after a series full of thrills and spills. The way the series end with non-action shots and overlaid captions as if it was based on real events, however, nicely wrap things up without being reliant on forcing extra drama. I eagerly dive into S3 and S4.

Grace & Frankie

If you ask me at any time outside of a new series of G&F hitting Netflix, I’ll happily tell you I love the show. During the process of watching it though? I’m not so sure. The extended family of children has always felt like a bit of a spare part to me, in particular, Frankie’s two adopted sons. I don’t know whether to put this down to under-utilisation or over-utilisation. Every scene they seem to be in they appear to be superfluous to requirements*. In S3, however, I was pleased to see the strongest of the bunch, Briana, have her character continue to grow into something more tangible.

tumblr_ompx24vwmu1rtxg0co1_500

In a rare move, I’m including an image that’s *not* taken from the show in question. Why? The clutch! OMG the Jane Fonda mugshot clutch! Iconic.

The show’s almost definitely seems to have gone down the route of Amazon Prime’s Transparent route: a comedy about family that, a few series in, has become more of a drama than a comedy, and can barely be called a dramedy. There’s not all that many ‘funny’ moments or lines here and those that there are are often given (and rightly so!) to Lily Tomlin aka Frankie. It’s disappointing that plot ends up getting in the way of tight editing and strong lines, but that is the Netflix way. On the other side though, it’s great to see a show appear to deal with aging so sensitively and properly. I want to say ‘correctly’ at this point but that’s not something I’m qualified to judge barely being out of the fetus stage in terms of my life experience and age. Retirement, health, and fear of dying, appear throughout – and even the panic from the children in terms of their lives appears. Are they happy? Should they be somewhere in life that they’re not?

 

In all, it’s not the greatest series in the world but it’s still enjoyable. One thing it’s difficult to settle into from the off though is the glossy nature of how it’s filmed. It’s very ‘shiny’ and if I was more well versed I might be able to point to it being 25i or 50p or something, but the stylisation does look odd for a comedy drama. It appears almost like they ticked the ‘reality series’ box on the cameras when filming.

Sidenote: I was very disappointed that the Murder, She Wrote reference in the series finale was inaccurate. While talking about food ingredient lists Frankie comments that she expected them to be listed in “order of appearance like on Murder, She Wrote”. Guest stars are in fact listed in alphabetical order, a decision made by the show’s creators from the off to forgo celebrity egos. Don’t at me.

Broadchurch

Let’s cut to the chase: Broadchurch 2 was a bit pants. Broadchurch 1 was good but it wasn’t as amazing as people’s collective memories seem to have moulded it. It was quite predictable in the final few episodes, but it’d been a long time since there was a long one-case week by week crime drama on the telly so people went a bit mad. And Olivia Colman’s fame has skyrocketed in recent years, and there’s Tennant so obviously there was a losing of minds as to the potential of S3.

Thus far, it seems to be plain sailing. The script can be a little obvious and clichéd at times but the performances are all very strong, and the imagery and visuals are great as usual. There’s a list of suspects as long as your arm and I’m sure week by week this will be stripped back until someone who wasn’t a suspect is the one whodunnit. My money’s on the vicar: the other’s are too obvious.

All being said, there’s a great linking of themes in this series. Misogyny, rape, teenage sexualisation, what it means to be a woman – it’s clearly carefully crafted. Not so sure what I think of the odd newspaper sub-plot though. It appears to just exist with no real reason.

Inside No 9

This is another series I see a lot of chatter about on Twitter, and not a speck of criticism. There’s a lot of comparisons to Tales of the Unexpected in terms of the twists and the way episodes are written and pan out – each thirty minute episode is a mini tale, presented with just a few cast members and all in one location. One location for thirty minutes could almost prove to be a little dull and tiresome in some hands but Pemberton and Shearsmith. Each of these tales would work just as well on stage as on the telly and it wouldn’t suprise me if at some point in the future there was an anthology stage show.

Some episodes are weaker than others and I’m not as enamoured by it as some on Twitter but it’s undoubtable that it’s unlike anything else on telly at the moment. S1&2 have now appeared on Netflix so I’ll be sure to watch the episodes I’m yet to see.

Films

giphyMoonlight

It proved near impossible to go and see Moonlight on its initial release. The nearest cinemas showing it were over an hour away and it wasn’t until the Oscar win that Odeon begrudgingly added it to their roster for a few evenings, but alas, it disappeared as quickly as it appeared. I was making a trip to Nottingham for a gig one weekend so went a few hours early to allow time to see it. Moving, poetic and full of pathos, I enjoyed it, ’nuff said.

Toast

Browsing through Netflix the other evening I saw this film from a few years ago that completely passed me by: a little (kind of) independent film starring Helena Bonham-Carter and Freddie Hamblin and based on the childhood of well known chef Nigel Slater. It was an unexpected find to say the least. Around the ninety minute mark and with an all-British cast I settled down to it with a certain sense of expectation: this already ticks two of my film boxes.

I found the first hour or so quite enjoyable but its when the clock shifted forward five or six years it collapsed in on itself for one reason: Hamblin, Freddie. I don’t know if the script just became suddenly clunky or if there was something wrong with the delivery but it felt like a different film at this point. Bonham Carter continued on fine as did the Father but Nigel’s charter just no longer worked and seemed to be a complete shift away from what we’d seen up to that point without any radical change in his character. It was quite bizarre and unsettling. Also, I’m not quite so sure how realistic it is (spoilers) for Nigel’s epiphany, father dying, first gay kiss and escape from home to all happen in the same afternoon. But hey, it’s a film right? 6/10

*tautology?

 

The Watchlist: February 2017

Quite a light Watchlist this month. I know February is the shortest month but that’s not really an excuse – I just happened to have one of my cultural lulls.

Television

The Moorside

A few months ago there was a thing doing the rounds on Twitter: what was the first news story you remember? For me, I’ve an awareness of Dr David Kelly’s suicide back in 2003, the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, the looting of the MSC Napoli in 2006, the Securitas depot heist (which I was fascinated by) also in 2006 and of all things, Dr Martens going into administration in 2003. Not all exactly major stories but those are the ones I can remember from being under the age of 10.

A lot of people around my age, however, were stating the Shannon Matthews case from early 2008 as one of their strongest news memories. I had no recollection of it whatsoever and had to ‘do a Google’. It still rang no bells. I’ve no idea what I was up to in Feb 2008 but clearly I wasn’t paying that much attention, even though I “read” the newspaper every afternoon after school religiously between the ages of seven and fourteen.

This drama based on the circumstances surrounding Shannon’s ‘disappearance’ was superb, a really great period piece and, from what I can gather, incredibly true to real life events. Hell, the casting and costumes were outstanding too – compare and contrast the genuine protagonists in the saga with the drama cast and you’d be hard pressed to tell which is which. At no point did the version of events appear over-dramatised either, which is worth congratulating. If this was a Channel 5 drama (do they even still do them?) I imagine it would have had a very different feel.

Further Back In Time For Dinner

Words cannot describe my love for this programme. Casting really hit the jackpot when they found the Robshaw family. We first met them a couple of years ago when they time-travelled from the 1950s to the 1990s, exploring family life through cuisine; there was a subsequent Christmas special exploring the festivities through the ages and when I had accepted that I’d never see them again* – up they pop! This time they’re heading back to the start of the 20th Century, travelling from 1900 to 1949. It’s an absolute treat to watch – and there’s a new ‘character’ too. It’s fair to say the Robshaws are middle-class** and given the period they’re travelling through they’d have a maid so up pops Debbie! Representing the working class, Debbie’s a Northern lass who represents the change in fortunes for women through their expanded roles in WWI and WWII, their liberation, expanded horizons and gaining of the vote.

I assume this will be the last time we see the Robshaws but I desperately hope it isn’t. Rochelle is an icon for the ages.

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-23-40-31

*Back In Time For The Weekend, charting leisure activities through the ages, tried so desperately to replicate the success but the family just weren’t as great as the Robshaws.

**it was pointed out during the series that tracking working class diets and advances sadly makes less interesting television because there aren’t that many changes. Fair enough.

The Tracey Ullman Show

You wait for a half-decent impressionists show on the BBC and then two come along at once.* There seems to be a dirth of comedy sketch shows these days after they bred like rabbits again in the mid-00s, but if there was a venn diagram of sketch + impressions, the Tracey Ullman Show would be bang in the middle. I enjoyed S1 having barely been aware of Ullman’s work up to now, and S2 seems to have been commissioned and made surprisingly quickly – or possibly S1 was just on the back burner, made but not-aired for a while.

Obviously with any show of this nature there are weaker and stronger characters, but Ullman really does deliver with aplomb. Her Adele when speaking may not be as great as Robinson’s in The Agency but Ullman has a trick up her sleeve: each episode features one or two sung sketches and these are superb. The lyrics are great, the cinematography is great – it all looks the part and really sets it apart from other comedy series of a similar ilk, I’d say. Enjoyable half hours, get on them.

*the other being Morgana Robinson’s The Agency from a few months ago

Grandma's HouseGrandma’s House S2

Whenever I’m in a cultural lull (or indeed a general life lull) I often return to an old favourite. I tell myself that I’ll only watch the one episode or, if I am going to watch more than one, I’ll space it out over a period of ten days. Once again that didn’t prove true here – I rewatched S2 over a couple of days. Grandma’s House S2 has the aura of being an improvement on the first. Some people didn’t like S1 and I’m not sure they’d necessarily change their mind with S2 but it remains understated, slightly plodding and with a great amount of pathos. The situations seem somehow funnier even though their appears to be less of ‘them’ than in S1. I suppose that’s based around Simon now living at Grandma’s house, rather than relying on people to pop round at a similar time. The characters are once again as incredibly well perceived as S1 and delivered as impeccably (Sam Spiro tho!). A must watch, I’d recommend it to anyone.

netflix-original-abstract-the-art-of-designAbstract

Netflix, for all its faults, does like surprises and drops shows out of nowhere. Also, to its credit, it invests in things other than just drama and comedy shows. Chef’s Table has had rave reviews for years, for example. The latest documentary series is called Abstract and focuses on various different elements of ‘design’, be it interior, graphic, illustration etc. Each episode focuses on one designer in that field and often someone at the top of their game. Not necessarily someone you’re aware of, but you come away almost in awe of their work and what they can achieve. They’re lovingly crafted episodes featuring great animations and interspersed with the designers work, interviews and shots following them in everyday life. 45 minutes long, a pleasure to sit through, very relaxing and engrossing at the same time. If you need an in – start with the graphic or illustration ones.

SS-GB

Sorry, what was that? Can you speak up, I can’t quite hear you… oh, doesn’t matter, it wasn’t worth listening to anyway.

SS-GB is the Beeb’s big new Sunday evening drama set in the alternate universe where the Nazis won the Battle of Britain in WWII and occupy the country. There’s been a lot of comparisons in the press to Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle as you’d imagine (something, months later, I still need to get round to watching after reading the original novel last year). This should be right up my street but there’s something about it that makes it difficult to get into or care about. With any drama like this, you have to power through the first episode – you don’t know the characters, you don’t know the situation and it was just about watchable (bar the complaints of mumbling. Personally, I didn’t notice but everything was very softly spoken, as you’d imagine give it’s a show about war and the resistance etc). Episode Two, however, completely lost me. Slow, laboured, incredibly lengthy scenes and the plot starts to become difficult to understand. It might be the case that this series is one that implodes in the final two episodes and you have to power through the first few but I imagine (talking to people in the office) a lot of people will give up on it. I’m certainly tempted.

On that note, I have given up on This Is Us, as discussed last month. It can’t have been much of a loss – I haven’t even thought about it until now.

NB: I feel I watched so many YouTube videos during this month from one particular show it warrants inclusion here. Last month saw me watching almost every bit of Billy On The Street available on YouTube (Elena though!) and this month I delved deep into Conan, and watched many, many of his remotes and bits and pieces from over the years.

Films

To be honest, I’m writing these with very little inclination to do so and no one gives a monkeys what I think so let’s make them short and sweet.

logo2Birdman

Finger on the pulse as always, I got to round watching this when it appeared on the Netflicks and enjoyed it tremendously. I kind of had to given I used up my mobile data to watch it (internet was down, I had to personal hotspot). The one track shot throughout (stitched together, but still), the way we the viewer enter Thomson’s mind, his struggles and desperation for success. It’s all well done – but you don’t need me to tell you that. Worth a watch, obviously.

Annie Hall

It’s one of my aims this year to watch more Woody Allen and Wes Anderson films – Annie Hall being one of the most famous by the former, and I was culturally aware of the balcony scene prior to watching the film. Allen is of course playing a version of himself here (surprise!) and the script is really sharply written so it’s no surprise that it’s included in so many ‘100 Best Comedy Movies’ lists.

This is New York in the rather more dangerous 1970s, although that doesn’t feature in its presentation. It just has an aura of being more real and less gentrified even though we’re following liberal minded artsy people. I also quite enjoyed the way the film is woven; Allen interjects, narrates parts and time jumps a little as he looks back retrospectively on the relationship.

Layer Cake

This film has been on my cultural radar for years but I’d never taken the plunge until now. Tapping ‘Ben Whishaw’ into the Netflix search engine presented this as one of the options so I dove straight in. My first overwhelming thought: there’s a fair few EastEnders actors in amongst the British cast. My second thought: I’m quite enjoying this. I’m not usually one for films with any form of action whatsoever (my life has no action in it in any form, so I’ll be damned if my watching habits will override this) but this was right up my street. Solid, tick tick tick.

The Watchlist: January 2017

Woah now! I am fully aware of the fact very few people read this blog (other than you obviously. By the way your hair looks LOVELY today), and I kind of do it for myself as a record of my ‘cultural engagement’ but I’m quite chuffed that it’s now successfully been running for a year. Here’s January’s rather lengthy watch list…

Television

Search Party

I LOVED this so much. It stars Alia Shawkat who most people know as Maeby in Arrested Development (I still love the fact that they committed to one joke in S1 Ep1 so much that they were willing to set in stone a character’s name for the entire series), as Dory, a stuck-in-a-rut 20-something looking for something more meaningful. She ends up taking an interest in the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of an old school-peer, and one that in reality, she barely spoke to. She’s joined on the merry ride by her hapless boyfriend, her self obsessed gay friend (Elliott) and insipid blonde-actress friend (Portia).

sourceWhat I found really remarkable about this was how well Episode 1 was done – it’s an absolute masterclass in introducing characters and plot in the space of little over twenty minutes. I went away from it feeling like I knew each and everyone of them incredibly well already, even though there weren’t any unsubtle “this is my friend Nick, who happens to own this expensive house and has a job and two dogs and a mother who hates him and did I mention he bakes cakes which will become relevant in ep 3”-type lines.

The characters aren’t meant to be flawless but it’s such a rollicking good ride along the way. They’re twenty-something millennials looking for meaning in their lives. Yes, they’re incredibly vacant at times, desperate for fame or something tangible but mostly they’re trying to get by. The mystery element of the whole piece makes it so difficult not to binge immediately – I tried to savour a couple of episodes at a time but did do a straight out five episode binge at one stage. I can’t recommend this highly enough – even if you think a mini US drama about Brooklyn millennials won’t be up your street I promise you this is not to be missed.

This Is Us

This show seemed to tick the box of being “the hit new US-sensation”, and me, ever desperate to be seen as being #relevant, decided to leap in feet first. I mean, with the premise summarised as being “US drama series charting the lives of individuals who happen to share a birthday and whose paths cross and stories intertwine”I thought “ooh, that sounds interesting”. It turns out minor spoiler their stories intwine because they’re part of the same family. They’re three siblings that just so happen to be born on the same day as their Father. That was disappointment number one – disappointment number two is that it just feels like an incredibly plodding, expensive soap opera. I realise it’s meant to be a light drama but the ‘cliffhangers’ are all based on the viewer not yet knowing the whole truth which I think is a bit of an easy get-out. Where’s the real drama? The realisations? In fact, by around Episode 4 they just gave up on cliff-hangers altogether and the episode simply ends, as do many subsequently. I assume some focus group research on US TV showed that by Ep 4, viewers will generally stick with a show if they’ve reached that point. And it’s been true for me, thus far. I’ve wanted to bail, particularly once I learned how many episodes there were in the season but I’m sticking with it at the moment even if I’m not necessarily enjoying it.

On a side note, it seems Channel 4 have grown bored of it too – initially scheduled for Tuesdays at 9pm, it’s now been pushed to the graveyard 11pm slot and will undoubtedly be shoved on to More4 in the near future. I am being a bit of a negative nelly here, but there’s nothing wrong with the actual performances of the actors and it’s nice to see Sterling K Brown (who we met in The People vs OJ Simpson this time last year) in something else. This Is Us has been greenlit for a two more seasons – I doubt I’ll watch them, but I realise that NBC can’t exactly sniff at something that gets more than two viewers these days.

fanartBarracuda

An Australian drama featuring lots of men in Speedos with a subtle gay undertone throughout the series… what a shock I ended up watching it, eh? I actually thoroughly enjoyed this. Each episode charts a portion of a year in the life of Danny, a champion swimmer in the making. Danny’s not a perfect underdog character that we’re meant to fully support – he’s a teenager full of bravado once he realises his ability; he’s a bit of a knob but he’s well intentioned. It’s a solid teen drama and the beginning of the Episode 4 finale really packs a punch, both literally and metaphorically. It makes you go “oh shit, oh shit, oh no!” as you watch through your fingers.

For those playing “Aussie-drama Bingo”, much like “Nordic-Noir Bingo” where you keep an eye on the actors appearing in other things, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor pops up. We met him last month in Deep Water.

Sherlock

Ah, Sherlock. A show that has an unbelievable amount of hype for something that’s barely on a TV screens. It started off so well, great episodes, great cases and conclusions that made you go “ohhhhh!” as everything became clear, like a high brow Jonathan Creek. Nowadays, my end of episode reaction is more of a disappointed “oh”. There’s been enough criticism levelled at the show so I don’t feel like I need to go into great detail here. Toby Jones appeared in Ep 2 (Toby Jones in a BBC One drama? whatever next!) and I thought things were going to get back to normal – it seemed like a cut and dry case that Sherlock had to solve. Alas, even that proved to be a little disappointing in its conclusion but I had strong hopes for Episode 3 if the formula was back in play. It turns out it wasn’t. The entire series now seems to revolve around the ‘myth of Sherlock’ and his character, which is delivered slowly throughout an entire episode. I’d much prefer if his character and past were recognised and revealed throughout the course of a case that makes some form of sense but alas. Everything just feels a bit pants and from what I gather from Moffat/Gattis interviews, they’re not planning on changing that anytime soon. It sure is dark and difficult to see when you’ve got your head up your own arse, I suppose.

a-series-of-unfortunate-events-review-netflix-02_1484209999522A Series Of Unfortunate Events

There was a lot of pressure riding on this from my perspective. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I was obsessed or loved the books above all else when I was younger, but they were a big part and constant during my childhood. In fact, I’d say the release of The End was bigger for me than the release of any Harry Potter book. I’ve never actually seen the film adaptation in full but squeezing three books into one feature-length does seem a bit tight. This series stretches each book to two 45 minute episodes, which I think works far better.

I did enjoy the series but I think it struggles with what it wants to achieve. The performances are good but parts of it do seem a bit rushed and I can’t tell if the terrible, terrible CGI at points is meant to be an affectation or not. (I realise a non-CGI baby may have proved difficult at points, and credit where credit’s due Sunny could be a lot worse) The way they’ve tried to intwine green screen elements with actual sets and props is interesting but at times is a little jarring. Parts feel steam-punk influenced (a token to the nature of the books, which are set in some bizarre mix of the turn of the millennium and way-back-when olden times) and others like a poor man’s Wes Anderson movie. Everything is highly stylised. It’s also a shame that they went down the route of Count Olaf being a farcical character – the books add some real depth of creepiness and terror which I think is lacking here.

The tales are narrated by a Lemony Snicket character, interjecting at points and helping you pierce together more of the facts and mysterious back story, which is a more drawn out process in the actual books. These are nicely done. There’s also some moments where the fourth wall is broken within the ‘drama’ itself which I love obviously (one way that’s guaranteed to win me over is a tongue in cheek reference or joke). If you don’t take it all too seriously, it’s a great piece of fun and no doubt one of my favourite things Netflix has commissioned. I look forward to the next two series. Some viewers were complaining that the episodes became a little formulaic and repetitive after a while but that’s part of the books’ charm. It’s the same basic plot explored in a variety of different settings.

Other things of note: in true Netflix style the episodes have proper opening credits over a minute in length. The second of each double bill opens with Count Olaf singing as his ruse character. Also, my dress sense is scarily similar to that of Klaus Baudelaire, particularly in the first few episodes. Same glasses? Tick. Same suede shoes? Tick. Hair to the left? Tick. Shirt and jumper combo? Tick. If only I’d looked that good when I was thirteen.

brooklyn-nine-nineBrooklyn Nine-Nine

Unquestionably, B99 (is anybody calling it that?) is one of the best mainstream network comedies out of the US right now. The Big Bang Theory is a congealed drop of condensed milk by comparison. Season 3 finally appeared on Netflix and it’s a great show to fill your day – spare twenty minutes? Stick on an episode and all is well in the world again. The jokes are good, situations funny, characters well written and well delivered. It has everything and never manages to feel rushed in twenty two minutes or full of ‘filler’ mid-season either. Andre Braugher is a tour-de-force (in fact, as is everyone) and the line in the finale along the lines of “I should have known he was a bad egg. I once saw him… wearing a V-neck” *gasp* “And you did nothing?” perfectly describes my opinion of V-necks. Have some self respect. I’m in two minds as to watch Season 4 on All 4 but I think 22 spaced out episodes and the same tired old ads might grow a little wearisome for me.

First Dates Hotel

I am an unashamed First Dates stan. I love it… but I can’t seem to click with this version of the show. It strikes me that there was some terrible, terrible meeting somewhere where someone said “First Dates is great and all but what we’d really like to see is like… a second date?” and thus this format was born. I hate it so much I’ve stopped watching, which is a shame really.

Streetmate

And with First Dates Hotel disappointing it was back to me watching this for some light kicks. And it’s meant to be coming back soon too! Sadly not with me hosting but you can’t have everything in life.

Films

Spotlight

I always feel like a fool ‘reviewing’ (that’s not really the point of this blog, but…) films that have won a load of awards and been written about to death by critics. What could I possibly add that’s relevant or even vaguely insightful? Not a jot. That doesn’t stop me being able to say something incredibly simple, however: I enjoyed this. You’d think given the subject matter it might be tough watch, or have a dull mid-section, or be over dramatising elements for effect. It isn’t and doesn’t have any of these things. It’s an incredibly well put together film that at no point feels plodding. Sure, there’s very little in the way of actual action and it could no doubt have been a little shorter but it didn’t feel like a mountain of movie you had to climb. I wouldn’t go as far to say it was a relaxing Sunday afternoon watch, but it was worthy of my time and I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. Also, and I assume this is down to me being a #mediageek but I genuinely cried at the end. When everything comes together and you realise the impact for good that the media can have when it puts its heart into something, it all got a bit overwhelming. It’s precisely like when I was fifteen/sixteen and I was watching the BBC News Channel and started crying during the countdown up to the top of the hour as the music built to a crescendo. I’m a freak.

henryorient1

The World Of Henry Orient

This has been on my Netflix to watch this for a long old time and I couldn’t quite work out why and then it hit me – it’s one of the few things on Netflix UK starring Angela Lansbury. Sadly, there weren’t any good gifs I could get from this film (wonder why I’d need them, cough cough) but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It charts two teenage girls who become close friends and bond over a shared obsession with a middlingly successful (and in reality quite terrible) womanising pianist. It’s good fun and the two young actresses are stand out… there’s a really fascinating New Yorker article on what became of them, including a look at the movie and how it was made. Worthy of a read even if you don’t intend to ever watch it.

Royal Tenenbaums

Treat myself to a Wes Anderson movie. This isn’t my favourite one but I still broadly enjoyed it. This instrumental version of Hey Jude at the beginning is so great and so’s this exchange towards the back end of the film…

– I’ve always been considered an asshole for about as long as I can remember. That’s just my style. But I’d really feel blue if I didn’t think you were going to forgive me.

– I don’t think you’re an asshole, Royal. I just think you’re kind of a son of a bitch.

– Well, I really appreciate that.

lalalandLa La Land

It wasn’t long before the La La Land backlash set in. There was an enormous amount of hype around this film which is always a little worrying and I went in fully expecting to be disappointed – but I loved it so much. It was light and airy and a joyous watch. Bitter sweet rather than cloyingly sweet but it was still great. Don’t go into the cinema expecting miracles and you’ll come out pleased, feeling like you’re walking on air and with a desperate urge to leap out your car and start singing whenever you’re next stuck in traffic.

My feet were tap-tapping away in the cinema and I was properly mouthing along when out of nowhere A Flock of Seagull’s I Ran randomly appears. It was a fairly empty screening, don’t judge me.

Love Is Strange

I watched this on a Sunday evening and was only half paying attention. It was okay, maybe worthy of a rewatch in a few years time but it didn’t set my world on fire.

Blind Date

(ctrl-c, ctrl-v) I watched this on a Sunday evening and was only half paying attention. It’s a French romcom.

Little Men

(ctrl-c, ctrl-v) I watched this on a Sunday evening and was only half paying attention. It’s a French romcom. Someone on Twitter said this was one of their favourite films – I can’t for the life of me understand why.

The Watchlist: December 2016

As you can imagine, given this includes the Christmas period, this feels fairly mammoth this month! Some things have been relegated (thankfully, no doubt) to a few lines.

Television

Dirk Gently

I had eagerly been looking forward to this series for a good few months. I’d purposefully tried to both be excited about it but not watch or read too much about it – I wanted to see it with properly fresh eyes. Obviously, I loved the Stephen Mangan Dirk gently series that was on BBC Four a few years ago (back when BBC Four had a homegrown drama budget – when that went, so did the show), which did a fairly decent job of being faithful to the original novels. It’s worth saying here that the novels are far from perfect. I know that Adams is held up in high-esteem by his fans as if he could and didn’t do wrong, but the second Gently book is an absolute mess in the back half.

gallery-1481457854-dirk1

The BBC UK series was an anthology and I kind of expected this BBC America/Netflix series to be mildly similar. Maybe a few detective cases, spread over a couple of double episodes, with a longer running thread between them all that comes to  a head in the final episode. I couldn’t have been more wrong! This series paves its own way completely, and the Dirk Gently legacy is barely visible apart from the name in the titles and the titular character being a quirky Brit. Macduff doesn’t really exist, being replaced by a down-on-his-luck bellhop called Todd,  played by Elijah Wood*. I spotted one nod to “Dirk” in the pilot – he randomly eats pizza from the box during one scene. Bizarrely, he’s upgraded from a wreck of a car to a sports car (?!), which is a shame but understandable as there’s already another character, the assassin, driving around in a wreck. Gently’s ineptitude when it comes to finances aren’t visible, sadly, and his secret psychic but not psychic path is turned into something bizarre involving the CIA. I’ll say no more on that one but safe to say correctly predicting exam papers doesn’t appear at all. There’s no young Dirk flashbacks like in the BBC UK series.

If you divorce any semblance of expectation of”Dirk” from the show and just watch it for what it is, it is enjoyable. There’s lots of threads all playing out at once and Todd and Dirk barely feature in some of the first episodes. There’s a surprisingly high body count if you can look past that, but there’s some really strong characters within the series. The ending just about holds up – there’s a lot of ‘explanation’ at then end, which although needed, I always feel like is a bit of a get-out when it comes to TV series. They’re fine with a one episode, ninety minute murder mystery, looking back at the vital clues that were underneath your nose; but if you have to explain in great detail how everything links then maybe you haven’t plotted and presented it well enough. A viewer should be able to realise connections as a series goes on.

It’s a fun series, there’s a definitive ending, a lovely bit where the main characters are sitting at a table in a diner, Christine & The Queens’ Saint Claude floats in, and everything seems serene… and then they set themselves up for a second series with crashes and bangs and wallops. Maybe in the second series we can actually find out what the point of the assassin character is?! I’m still struggling to see how she progressed the story in anyway. And Samuel Barnett has set himself up very nicely to be a future Doctor…

*I don’t know if it’s just because he looked incredibly good as a forlorn bellhop and my brain immediately thought of The Grand Budapest Hotel straight away, but… when is there going to be a Wes Anderson film with Elijah Wood in the main role? It needs to happen.

modus_1_Modus

Modus is about as clichéd Scandi-noir as it’s possible to get – but unlike other series, we are fully aware of ‘whodunnit’ and we witness the merry dance between them and the police as the deaths stack up. It’s not an unenjoyable series, it ticked a lot of boxes for me and it was really great to see a middle-aged couple represented on screen where their sexuality doesn’t come into play all that much… or so I thought. The ending is a complete pile of pants though – a rushed mess that undoes everything that’s been built up in the previous seven episodes. It was actually incredibly disappointing and frustrating in hind-sight. I could understand why they didn’t get ten episodes of the series and I don’t think they needed it, there would have been a lot of treading over the same ground again (is the daughter safe? Will she tell her secret? Who will be murdered next?) but a lot of the ending came out of nowhere. Inheritance scandals, random in-car deaths, a complete lack of reaction or reference as to the explosive ending of Ep 7 and a bizarre final showdown that makes no sense. And *spoiler* when you examine the plot it starts to unravel too: for starters, if the bishop’s secret lesbian life was such a well kept secret, how did some random cult in America with no real Scandinavian links happen to know about it?

All that aside, for those playing Scandi Actor Bingo, it was nice to see another cast member from Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves pop up in something, following Adam Pålsson in The Bridge S3 and Adam Lundgren in Blue Eyes. Modus stars Simon Berger.

Witness For The Prosecution

It’s like Toby Jones hasn’t been off BBC One in 2016 and yet, I’m pretty sure this is the first drama I’ve seen him in for a while! The BBC seem to have started a new Christmas tradition of an Agatha Christie-adaptation, and it was all going to be a tough act to follow And Then There Were None (don’t mention their work on Tommy & Tuppence). WftP is actually a Christie play, but this adaptation presents the story slightly differently. The first of the two episodes presented itself as a bit ‘meh’, I’d say. It just seemed like any average 1920s mystery drama, and tbh, I was tempted to bail out on it *but* obviosuly with Christie there’s a decent enough twist coming, and that appears in episode two. This was solid and decent and I await next year’s adaptation.

2-16-deep_water-1358-photo_by_sean_oreillyDeep Water

This is unusual for me: a foreign detective show that doesn’t involve people in knitwear, running through snowy forests in the hunt for a killer! It was down-under this time round, so there’s surfers, swimming costumes and beaches instead. Interestingly, Deep Water‘s airing in the UK couldn’t have come at a more apt time given the news stories – the premise revolves around the murder of gay men via dating app hook-ups. It took me a while to realise why I recognised the two detectives – one is Charlie Bucket’s Dad (Noah Taylor) and the other is Morello (Yael Stone) from OITNB.

It felt very ‘commercial television’-esque as a detective drama, but wasn’t terrible. It had four episodes, and I think they could have stretched it to six if needed be. It never felt rushed as such, but things weren’t presented in masses of detail and the plot developed happened at an incredible pace in some episodes. There was a really nice direction thing with it though, in some scenes, where the audio of a conversation continues as voice-over as other shots from before/after the conversation and reaction shots are blended in. It’s difficult to explain properly but felt incredibly originally and didn’t grate at all.

Rillington Place

I admit I was completely unaware of any of this real life tale. I’d never heard of Christie or Timothy Evans or the crimes committed. This series presented itself as three episodes presented, broadly, from three different perspectives. It wasn’t a first person account per episode, it just went through the years with differing viewpoints. Looking back, it was nice that Christie’s wife Ethel got an episode revolving around her given her closeness but lack of direct involvement with the murders. Tim Roth does a strong job of portraying the creepy Christie. Two old My Mad Fat Diary take on the loved-up couple together; Nico Mirallegro and Jodie Comer. I’m a fan of Nico but his accent in this was questionable, appearing strong one minute and disappearing the next.

Two Doors Down S2

It feels like a pretty swift turn around from Series 1 – I think that’s down to S1 originally airing on BBC Scotland, before appearing on the network. Once again, this is a decent BBC comedy. Hell, I think TV comedy in the UK is in a terrible place but this is one of the better ones out there. It’s nice to see Christine’s character develop too, away from the ‘hypochondriac’ she’s been presented as before.

p04mbs2s2016 Wipe/Cunk On Christmas

Oh, Charlie Brooker. What a man, what a mind blah blah blah. Oh, and what a year. I think Brooker said on Twitter the rough cut for 2016 Wipe was over ninety minutes long, and they managed to get it down to just over an hour. It was strong as usual and one of those shows you need to re-watch to appreciate all the one-liners littered throughout. I was surprised by how pro-Remain it presented itself, however. I didn’t expect Brooker to be a Leave-voter, but this is very “you twats!” in some places but then seeks to point out it recognises some of the issues that led to the vote swinging how it did. It’s both tongue-in-cheek about it (the magazines etc) but equally, by the notion of describing 2016 as a shitty year of tumultuous events you’re insinuating Brexit was a terrible thing, and yet a whole bunch of people think 2016 was /great/ for that very reason.

I’m a big fan of Philomena Cunk and her Shakespeare special earlier in the year showed great promise for a full series. Sadly, however, I felt this Christmas special wasn’t as tight or funny as it could be. Likewise, her ‘moment of wonder’ in 2016 Wipe was average at best, even if Brian Cox was in it and had clearly sussed her out beforehand well enough to not appear like a rabbit in headlights when the questions tumbled from her mouth. But that’s the fun, right?

Skam I blogged about this last month, and if there’s one thing this show doesn’t need another of , it’s a ‘hot take’. I really enjoyed it however, and the final two episodes were so great. There’s a beautiful ending to the penultimate episode where a Norwegian Christmas song is sung in falsetto over the scenes, and the scene in the kitchen at the party in the final episode gave me a big grin plastered all over my face. The final episode was quick to remind us that the entire series wasn’t all about Isak – in fact, Isak and Even’s relationship doesn’t feature all that heavily. And it’s refreshing that they both agree to enjoy it for what it is now, knowing full well that good things come to an end but that doesn’t mean they were any less wonderful at the time.

Please Like Me S4 this series drew to a close, and it was more heartbreaking than ever before. And, as much as each character’s life appeared to change dramatically to the the point when it was almost end-of-an-era level, things went round in a circle. The show’s future is in doubt but if the S4 finale was the forever finale I’d be happy with it.

Michael McIntyre’s Big Show The hey-day of Saturday night TV had all but disappeared by the time I was a child. Endless years of Strictly, a karoake competition, Casualty was all there really was. It appears that the Beeb have struggled to know what to do with Michael McIntyre of late (a comedy roadshow? a chat show?) but MMBS has settled in incredibly nicely, taking elements from other shows and giving them a nice new feel. There’s live music, classic hidden camera stuff, taking the piss out of celebrities… and it’s all in good faith, there’s nothing mean spirited about it. When one woman is united with a pen-pal she’s written to but never seen in all of 70 years.. that’s special. Great Saturday night family* TV whether you’re a fan of McIntyre’s style or not. (*some jokes are a little risqué, but broadly a family show)

Grandma’s House The beginning of the month saw me in another of my classic cultural droughts. very little was of interest to me, and, as usual when this time comes I end up watching Grandma’ House again, for what must be the seventh or eighth time. It was an acquired taste at the time, but there’s so many great lines within it and it’s a masterclass in character presentation.

Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves My rather morbid December tradition is to watch this Swedish-drama set in the 80s during the height of the AIDs crisis. I have a real fondness for this drama and its characters, particularly Benjamin. Epsiode 2 breaks me every single year.

Films

Clue

I’ve heard a lot about this film, over time. I started watching it a few months back and bailed but felt in the mood for a bit of comic farce over Christmas. My parent’s were unimpressed by it (which I found quite surprising given some of the crap they watch) but I enjoyed it. I mean, who couldn’t love a film based on a board game, right? It’s the whole classic premise of people in an isolated place being murdered one by one, but who is the culprit?!?!?!??? There’s a whole bunch of false endings to this film which was unexpected, but it’s alright. It does it’s job, it’s amusing and that’s all you can hope for really.

high-rise-film-ben-wheatley-mark-tildesley-interview_dezeen_1568_9High Rise

It got mixed reviews at the time, which prevented me from going to see it at the cinema, and having now watched it at home, that was probably a wise idea. I didn’t detest this film exactly, the whole future-from-a-60s-perspective thing is always a great stylised look, and it’s presented well here. There’s a solid British cast (and Elisabeth Moss) too and I hate to admit how basic I am but I do fancy Tom Hiddleston. Forgive me, forgive me, but this is the first thing I’ve watched that he’s been a protagonist in and he’s slim and blonde and looks good in a suit… It’s a shame that the film becomes batshit crazy at the drop of a hat half way through. I understand that’s its a societal commentary on hierarchy and bubbles and a collapse etc but it does disintegrate very quickly, both literally and in terms of the plot itself. The second half became nonsensical to me, and oddly plodding. I lost interest. But still – at least the first forty minutes looked nice!