Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Made in Chelsea: Episode 1 - 'a winner on the lustrous hair front'

So Made In Chelsea is here, and the world is still turning on its axis, which, when all is told, is a relief.

The seven girls and five guys that make up 'the cast' of the new E4 'dramatised reality show' are all as well-groomed and potentially annoying as you'd expect, but fortunately there seems to be some humour in evidence, something which the producers should immediately develop further.

If we can laugh when we watch - either at or with the characters, either'll do - then the show will have much more chance of catching on.

As a nation, us Brits never have much time for spoilt little rich kids - so the apparent wealth of the characters, or their champagne-heavy lifestyle or - probably most importantly - their posh accents, could easily alienate its intended audience, which presumably overlaps significantly with the fake tans, fake boobs and soapy relationships of the similar but much more down to earth reality show The Only Way Is Essex.

Early notables in Made in Chelsea include club promoter Olly - not only is he very excitable and full of love and kisses, but he has a lustrous mane of long black hair (although he revealed he's recently been worried about its 'volume' - I trust this plot line will be picked up later, for all our sakes).

Also, witness his response to girlfriend Gabriella, when, over dinner, she told him how crazy she is for him, before asking him how he feels about her.

"I really like you too," he said after an awkward pause. "God your eyelashes look AMAZING!"

'Potential prize plum'

Other guys also not being up front about how they feel about the women in their lives include potential prize plum Spencer.

On one hand he's got his live-in Brazilian girlfriend Funda, and on the other he's got singer songwriter and unfulfilled childhood sweetheart Caggie and he lies to the former so he can rush off and see the latter at her debut solo gig.

Worse still, Spencer hasn't yet learned to 'perform' in front of the cameras - so his awkwardness and verbal reticence in explaining himself to his girlfriend on the morning after make for cringe worthy viewing.

"I'm going for a run. So yeah."

Fascinating.... it isn't.

If you want to be a player, young Spencer with the inexplicable beardy thing, you need to get your story straight - otherwise audiences will tire of you and your idiot ways.

If he's meant to be the equivalent of the Mark Wright character in The Only Way is Essex, he has a long way to go.

But - on the plus side (!) - male model Fredrik has equally lustrous hair, and all of the girls in the show, even those with amusing names like Cheska and Binky, all have lustrous hair too, so, it's clear that for now, Made in Chelsea is a sure-fire winner on the lustrous hair front.

Everything else is still up for grabs, mind you, but in terms of lustrous hair - it's got it. Phew.

Related stories:
Made in Chelsea series 3 official trailer: But what does it all MEAN? And where is Binky?

Monday, 9 May 2011

Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane: Andy Pandy outfits in space

There can't be many fictional tv characters who had their own spin-off programme thirty years after they last regularly appeared on television.

And there were even fewer characters that managed to be quite so fashion conscious while battling plastic monsters in a Berkshire quarry half-heartedly disguised as outer space.

Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith, travelling companion to both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker's Doctor Who in the 1970s, was revived for her own CBBC series in 2007, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Off the back of the success of a fresh run of Doctor Who, her programme won a new generation of fans - both for her acting, Sarah's exploits, and, possibly, for what she wore.

And among all of the tributes for Elisabeth Sladen, whose untimely death last month was a shock to many, it became clear just how highly both the actress, and the character she was best known for, was regarded.

Tributes by BBC News, by Granada Reports, by the young viewers of The Sarah Jane Adventures on Newsround, and from fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker or tenth Doctor actor David Tennant, variously mention her engaging acting ability, or her humble beginnings at the Liverpool Playhouse or an early bit-part role in Coronation Street and, of course, her status as the definitive Doctor Who companion.

But elsewhere on the internet there are sites and more sites all dedicated to what she wore as Sarah Jane.

"A very sporadically patterned jumper," writes one fan, lovingly, under a grainy still from the programme showing Sarah in a definition-defying sweater.

"A yellow two piece rain outfit plus woolly hat!", the writer tries again, or, perhaps giving up a bit now, "it appears to be some kind of quilted vest type thing."

And as a tribute to Elisabeth, and to Sarah's fashions, BBC Four is repeating her final regular appearance in her original run of Doctor Who, in a story called The Hand of Fear from 1976, with Tom Baker as the Doctor.

Sarah spends the four-part adventure dressed in an Andy Pandy-style red striped jump suit and is mostly possessed by a strange alien force or roams around a nuclear plant, before abruptly deciding she's had enough of getting chased by monsters and declares an intention to go home.

She doesn't mean it but the Doctor has to let her go anyway, as he's been summoned home.

He drops her off back in South Croydon (which we learn - thirty years later! - was actually Aberdeen) - and off Sarah goes.

It's a poignant, understated and timeless tv moment but this - and all of her other hugely appreciated work on Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures - mean that both Sarah and Elisabeth Sladen will live on, forever.

And as tributes go, that's arguably as good as they get.

Doctor Who - The Hand of Fear, BBC Four, Monday 9 May 7.40pm, Tuesday 10 May 7.40pm.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Only Way Is Essex: Series two - a verdict: the winners, the losers

As The Only Way Is Essex series two draws to a close on ITV2, what have we learned? Who are the winners, who are the losers? Ask yourself, fellow viewers, do we wish to return for a series three? Let's peruse the information as tv-ooh sees it.

1. Arg, or James, is quite simply a simpleton. His - albeit tanned - man boobs and weight gain do not an interesting plot line make. It's almost as bad as watching his awkward and hesitant attempts at 'talking about his feelings' in his on/off (but mainly off) relationship with Lydia. Enough.

2. Lydia. Lydia is by turns amusing and then annoying in her relationship with Arg (see above), but gets extra points for having a name that can be abbreviated to 'Lid'. Lid needs to go on holiday. We hope that bloke she's bumped into will put a smile on her face.

3. Mark and Lauren's relationship. "We've been together 10 years." It's time for their own spin-off series, so we don't have to watch them anymore.

3a. Honourable mention here to wideboy car salesman Gemma, too. Yeah, we do mean 'wideboy car salesman'.


1. Joey Essex, would-be Mark Wright, club promoter. That quiff. The too-tight slip-on plimsolls. The fake tan. His little Smart car. The limited vocabulary. A sketchy grasp of reality not unrelated to having an undiagnosed personality disorder. What's not to love?

2. Chloe, cousin of Joey Essex - that mouth, those inexplicably buoyant boobs - that tan! Chloe brings a bit of je ne sais pas to Essex. Plus, she's got a bit of an X-Factor-style sob story too, or at least, 'I've got a kid', which we sort of love her for. She'd be the one to do Celebrity Mastermind.

3. Lydia's mum, Debbie. Fierce protector of Lydia against Arg the simpleton, like when Arg bumped into Debbie in the street. "Sorry James, but I have more interesting things to worry about than you!" Only a slight de-frizzing of her wild hair could improve her.

3a. Lauren 'Popey' must also get a mention, but her relationship with fire-brand Kirk's going to cause problems with her mate Maria if Lauren agrees to move in with him.

And Amy, Harry, and Sam are all doing good business too, with their 'jels' and their 'shutupp' etc. In particular, Sam's new direction as 'successful businesswoman' - which means standing about in her sister's boutique - has been delightful.

We're not bored of them either, so that's good. TICK.

So do we want a third series? Yes - and there's one due later this year. Spiffing.

Previous related stories:
Only Way Is Essex - the dumbed down, dumbed down
Only Way Is Essex: Reality/drama hybrid wins heart, confuses mind

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Casualty: ‘real time’ episode – ‘we’ve got a stedicam!’

Hoary old telly warhorse Casualty proved it's still got a bit of go in it as it sprang into life with its episode Momentum, billed as being ‘in real time’.

This means that the onscreen drama unfolded across 50 - I want to write 'heart-stopping' but I'm not a press release - minutes in the A&E department of Holby General, matching the 50 minute duration of the episode.

And when you make 47 episodes a year, little novelty tricks like this ensure a bit of extra attention.

So the writers ramped up the drama to match, with the stabbing of a regular cast member, Polly, by a deranged patient, Hannah.

No nurses contemplating the quality of the lunch menu or pondering the future values of their pensions here.

And although it felt a lot like a regular episode of the programme, with long tracking shots along corridors, ambulance crew moaning a bit, and all round general scenes of import and gravity played out by actors with stethoscopes, it was only in the second half did things really perk up, when the director got out the stedicam.

Breathless, shaky shots as the nurses rushed to save Polly, bleeding to death in the disused hospital basement, intercut with Beth Goddard as perpetrator Hannah, doing her best ‘mental’ acting – thank God she signed up for that particular class at drama school – and the struggle to save Polly, were all genuinely involving, and built to a tense, then sad, then 'oh!', ending, all designed to make us watch next week.

We won't be though – tv ooh doesn’t really like hospitals.

Bin Laden death reporting frenzy: "It's like 24!"

In the race to report the death of Osama bin Laden, rolling news channels everywhere were falling over themselves to get as much detail on air as quickly as possible, which to be fair, is kind of their role.

But it's during these huge international news stories that the 24 hour news channels really come into their own - presenters thinking on their feet, correspondents drafted in at short notice and ending up on air in their pyjama bottoms, and backroom producers called upon to report on 'what we know' (ie whatever's coming in from news agencies) - and looking a little bit terrified.

In the first few hours of the story, not all reporting was as restrained as the BBC - its policy to 'second check' everything means there's no place on air for speculation.

But elsewhere, the reporting of the story can often be as dramatic as the story itself.

Over on Sky, not only was there a bit of drama, but the whole thing felt quite lively.

There was speculation, swoopy graphics, possibly unverified footage from the scene and interactive maps that reporters could draw on in electronic felt-tip, while in-house journalists would begin reports with lines like, "Well this is just like something out of 24!"

But, perhaps understandably, none of the coverage matched the fevered approach taken by some of the US channels, and on Fox News, the excitement even led to the presenter momentarily confusing Osama with Obama - possibly the only story that, at that moment, would've been even bigger than the death of 'America's most wanted'.