Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Christopher And His Kind: Glad it wasn't Tom Baker

Christopher And His Kind: Douglas Booth and Doctor Who actor Matt Smith
- why not insert some joke about 'playing with a sonic screwdriver'. (Pic: BBC) 
The most peculiar thing about Matt Smith's role as writer Christopher Isherwood in BBC Two 90 minute 'think piece' drama Christopher And His Kind was not seeing the actor who plays the current Doctor Who vigorously bumming another man and looking like he was enjoying it (that's called acting); but it's the fact that no other actor to have played the Doctor would probably ever have gotten away with that scene, or even chosen to do such a film in the first place.

The human brain's not advanced enough to image ninth Doctor Chris Eccleston in a gay sex scene - he prefers grit to gay - or, say, the mid-1980s Doctor actor Colin Baker in a drama where his character stops off in a lay-by for a quick spot of cottaging in the loos on a sunny day: "I just fancied a bit of fun, Officer."

And that's before we consider Sylvester McCoy - even the most devoted or pervy Doctor Who fan would need centuries more evolution before you'd cast the seventh Doctor, or rather the actor who played him, in some raunchy gay sex drama (you would hope).

Only with the most recent former Doctor, David Tennant - and always keen to take on challenging roles - do things become less clear.

Would Tennant have taken on the Isherwood part, in a drama that focuses on a key time of the author's voyage of self discovery? Hamlet and widowers and Casanova yes, creative gays? Probably a no.

Not, in fact, a Time Lord

With only a few weeks to go until Matt Smith's second series as the Doctor begins, it shows how far, in some ways, telly has come: an actor who portrays what is essentially a child's hero in a family show can also take on a part in a film where the lead character spends a lot of the time, erm, 'discovering his sexuality' (bumming lots of men), against a backdrop of the rise of Nazism in a late 1930s Berlin while occasionally sharing scenes with the bloke who plays Billie Piper's boyfriend Ben in Secret Diary of a Call Girl but with a German accent that comes and goes.

There's no reason why Matt Smith shouldn't have made the film of course - the sex scenes are only a small part of a much larger coming of age love story, and even then the sex is hardly pornographic.

Also, the film was shown in a later slot and, most importantly, most people 'get' that Matt Smith is an actor and not, in fact, a Time Lord travelling around in a time machine.

But Christopher And His Kind has been sitting on the shelf for months as if the BBC weren't quite sure when they should schedule it, after it was pulled from its original slot last autumn - which suggests that maybe the Doctor's shadow loomed large after all.

In the press material for the programme, Matt Smith said: "First and foremost as always it was the script that attracted me to the role. I loved the idea of playing someone so extreme to me, that different kind of vocalisation and physical shape.

"I hope that you look at this and quickly forget that you're watching the Doctor."

Well - maybe. As engaging and absorbing as both Smith's performance, and Christopher And His Kind as a whole, was - as good as the end revelation regarding the relationship between his brother and mother was slightly unsettling - it's likely the Doctor was never too far from any one's minds.

Especially in the sex scenes - thousands of devoted grown up Who fans, all sat there, wondering: "Is that what might happen in the TARDIS in between adventures?"

But either way, just be thankful they didn't cast fourth Doctor Tom Baker - he'd probably enjoy it all way too much.

You'd never look at the sonic screwdriver in the same way again.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Only Way Is Essex: the dumbed down, dumbed down

Success can do funny things to tv shows, and to the people who make them.

Along comes a new programme untested, it finds an audience and then, if it's lucky, it's a hit.

Take The Apprentice. What began as a low-level and reasonably well intentioned BBC Two programme earnestly concerning itself with finding Britain's best new 'business brain' quietly grew in popularity to become something quite different: a prime-time BBC One super-hit, but with such a shift in emphasis it became more like a search for Britain's 'biggest twat'.

And, as confusing reality-stroke-drama-stroke-sort of UK version of The Hills The Only Way Is Essex returns for its second run on ITV2, complete with the status of 'hit show', the stakes - and audience expectaions - are raised.

OUT! go the boring characters we never paid much attention to anyway. IN! come new characters who the producers no doubt hope will capture our hearts/capture our minds/make us shake our collective heads in pity. It's all to play for.


It's too early to identify who might be popular out of the new characters -  they all kind of look the same so far, apart from Mr Darcy, who has the distinction of being a pig (belonging to Arg and Lydia), and Billie, who is Sam's elder sister and owner of a new Essex fashion boutique called Minnies - named after Billie's pet name for 'her bits' - of course - as well as bad boy Mark's mother.

Done up to the nines just to sit around a kitchen table, she may well play a crucial part in her son's rehabilitation into a one-girl-man (or not) (cough) -  that is, when she's not looking all glam and that or talking to her daughter Jess about Jess wanting her boobs done.

But could the burden of sucess be hanging heavy on the shoulders of The Only Way Is Essex, like a specialist lady-part adornment so beloved of main Essex girls Sam and Amy - the vajazzle - but gone a little bit mad with the jewels, and, er, applied to the wrong place? Perhaps.

Because worst of all, the first episode of series two is doing heavy handed SIGNPOSTS for the new viewer in a way we've never seen before. WE'VE GOT A NARRATIVE HERE VIEWER AND THIS IS WHAT OUR DIRECTOR IS DOING TO SHOW IT.

SIGNPOST: James 'Arg' has put on lots of weight so SIGNPOST we see him eating at every available opportunity as a prelude to SIGNPOST his best friend Mark badgering him into doing something about his excess weight.

If Arg's diet and a new clothes shop and Jess's mulling over a boob job are the main 'plot strands' this series then the programme's status as a hit could be short-lived.

Of course it won't be, mainly because we all bloody love this stuff.

But who would've thought it - it looks like the dumbed down has been dumbed down.

Well, that - or it's got a new director.

Never mind all that though - the official website has got some deleted scenes from episode one!!!! OMG LMAO WTF!!! :) ;)*

*feel my heavy irony reader, feel it