Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Apprentice: Tom should have gone, Melody and Zoe should wrestle

The Apprentice is always much better when it gets to five or six candidates, when we're left with the cold-hearted mentals. Those characters who, either by luck or by judgement, have managed to avoid being fingered by Lord Sugar's fat pointy man-digit in the boardroom.

A more entertaining collection of psychopaths you won't see anywhere - and as the stakes get raised the pantomime drama cranks up a notch too.

But with the firing of Zoe, did the right gobby girl go?

No. It should have been Tom.

Not that he's a gobby girl of course; in fact, the self-styled inventor looks like one of those lanky school boys we used to call 'early developers' and who was harmless enough but no-one really wanted to talk to him in the playground.

You know the type - he had to start shaving at 12 and was all arms and legs on the football pitch, and would instead prefer to make precisely to-scale airplane models, alone in a dimly-lit garage.

And put up against Melody and her 'global business', and the 'immensely driven' Zoe, you'd think that affable unshaven Tom wouldn't stand a chance in the boardroom.

The sniping bitch-fight between Melody and Zoe - coming across like a right pair of old bags - was the highlight of episode 9, 'Biscuits',  and so it's shame we won't get to see more of this.

Melody should be out next, for the crimes of not listening to anyone and for upsetting Swansea (never upset the Welsh!), and then perhaps her and Zoe can fight it out once and for all, perhaps with some sort of non-kinky wrestle.

Zoe can pull Melody's hair, Melody can pull Zoe's hair, and then former candidate Glenn Ward can come in and break it up, but even he won't be able to stop them, because remember Melody has a 'global business' and Zoe is 'immensely driven', while Nick Hewer sits, arms-folded and inwardly tutting to himself, as the two contestants fight it out over who has the best business brain/is the best fighter/has the hottest fella, say.

It's a BBC Three spin off waiting to happen.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Angry Boys: this review contains the words 'pathos', 'Neighbours' and 'casserole'

As part of a generation of pale indoor-living Brits whose only exposure to Australian life in those key formative years was the dull suburban exploits of Neighbours, or its beachside Neighbours-on-sea equivalent (aka 'Home & Away'), watching comedy show Angry Boys could almost give you culture shock.

It's like an Aussie Little Britain (made by national broadcaster ABC) so the question of whether it's an accurate insight into Australian life or not is irrelevant - it's no more true to life than those times in Neighbours when Helen Daniels would pop around Madge's with a casserole, or Paul Robinson's interminably endless business deals with the mysterious Mr Ooodygower or whatever his flippin' name was.

But back to Angry Boys. It's written and mostly performed by Chris Lilley, and follows on from his previous hit, the brilliant Summer Heights High - and so has a lot to live up to.

Some reviews have loved it, and there's some occasionally really funny stuff, but despite the rowdy testosterone of many of his characters - the boisterous twins Daniel and Nathan stuck in the rural town of Dunt in South Australia, or the absurdly bad black rapper SMouse from LA -  there's actually something a bit sympathetic and sad about it all: English A Level students might call it pathos; students of Sociology might nod knowingly.

Students of maths might feel strange and then bury their feelings deep inside before comforting themselves with a complicated sum.

But all of them are likely to chuckle.

If you see Angry Boys as a straight documentary, it's fantastic and often amusing. But if you see it as a comedy show - it doesn't always work.

Although the pushy Japanese mum, Jen Okazaki, exploiting her skateboarding gay son as a unique and money-making brand - despite the fact that he's not even gay - is almost genius.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Made in Chelsea: Series 1 - a verdict *awkward pause, hair toss, pouty look*

Oh Made in Chelsea, you have television's most well-groomed cast with AMAZING HAIR and now you have completed your first series of ever-so light incident resulting from self-absorbed early-twenty something fun and frolics and angst and that.

Time for Champagne toasts in an all-white trouser suit at some sort of vague summer garden party held at a big country house then, yar?

We have all grown to, erm, watch the gang leading their staged and structured lives as they play with their hair a lot - but perhaps Made in Chelsea's biggest achievement is how the show has made the awkward pause and pouty silent look an art form all of its own.

In order to create the drama out of what we're told is 'structured reality' (ie real people doing set up things), moments of silence, as we see close up reaction shots, are edited into the end of scenes as the characters reflect and think about what they've just discussed.

And sometimes it feels like these silences go on for an age, just to try and crank up the tension - almost as long as one of Caggie's interminable acoustic 'numbers'.

So, depending on the character involved, the result is smirky looks (Spencer), supposedly charming smiles (Hugo); moments of woe and emotional despair (everyone at one time or another, but mainly Caggie, Millie, Funda, and Gabriella, who, by the way, does the LEAST CONVINCING 'I'm ok' face when she's clearly not ok); or general but unintentional hilarity (Ollie, Francis, and Mark Francis, the impossibly posh bilingual antique dealer twit).

Even more remarkably, the programme also features a character who seems unable to talk properly.

We're all for telly tackling important issues, but listening to rubbish entrepreneur Francis Boulle attempting something as ambitious as speaking can be quite taxing - for the audience.

His inability to create any sort of flowing collection of words that make sense - known as 'a sentence' - or make any kind of eye contact suggests that either a) he doesn't want to be involved in the show or b) his parents REALLY wasted the money they spent on his education.

Either way, maybe one day he'll develop more in the Hugh Grant mould he's presumably meant to be aping.

All told, though, Made in Chelsea you have been both dreadful and amazing, but we have liked you, and we hope you return.

And if you do, here are the pertinent questions we need answering:

Who or what is in New York that Caggie is returning to? Let's see New York!
Is Spencer always a bit drunk in most of his scenes or what?
And is he not actually really 30 rather than '22'?
Will Binky and Cheska ever get their own fella (each) (Binky in particular is coming across as particularly in need)?
Also, a few notes:
The whole Caggie/Spencer romance thing is boring
More posh twats doing posh nonsense PLEASE
Oh and let's have like a really haughty horsey girl who's like a total bitch?

That is all x

PS ooh the official site says series two will air later this year. Yay!

Related stories
Made in Chelsea series 3 official trailer: But what does it all MEAN? And where is Binky?
Made in Chelsea: Episode 1 - 'a winner on the lustrous hair front'
Made In Chelsea: Episode 6 - 'Interesting use of the carrots - and the bananas'

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Luther: dark detective drama with a dimmer switch; grimly exciting; no jokes

Things are all a bit dark and forbodin' in Luther, the grimly exciting four-part police drama on BBC One.

Idris Elba plays DCI John Luther and he's all cool and a bit cockney of course, but he is also most definitely Troubled, as the best detectives are.

There's a bit of back-story bobbin' about as this second series begins, but it's not essential to really know about it.

I imagine it was something all dark and forbodin' anyway. [It was: Luther's ex-wife was murdered and he was framed for it, to summarise]

But the programme's all about the atmosphere: shadowy, night-time London; a 'haunting' soundtrack that either sounds like an upset string-like instrument or a lady holding one high note, and a stroppy young 'sex worker' that Luther's trying to help.

They form the backdrop to the main story involving a killer with a taste for murdering in front of CCTV cameras, while wearing a vintage Punch (as in Punch and Judy) mask.

He also phones his victims' contacts with the chant: "I am the sunrise," just to add a bit of colour.

It's a rich old soup, this, and it's all done with the dimmer switch down. This is most definitely a joke-free zone - they could all do with a week in Tenerife.

And of Luther's two sidekicks, his new one, DS Erin Gray, is cautious about Luther's reputation, while also appearing a bit eager to please too - most of her lines are just 'stuff that she's doing', as if to impress.

She says: "I'll source the chant, and the mask: I'll check websites and see who's buying and selling."

So basically she's on eBay.

And we get to find out her if bid's successful next week (probably).

Luther, BBC One, Tuesdays 9pm

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Made In Chelsea: Episode 6 - 'Interesting use of the carrots - and the bananas'

"Stick your bum out a bit. Perk it, perk it! Now, spread them apart."

Depending on how you look at it, watching a nearly-naked young man fondle the bark of a tree in a windy park as he poses with bananas and carrots as props, for photos which he hopes will land him work as a model, is either the zenith or the nadir of this new 'structured-reality' tv genre everyone's parping on about.

The people are real, and there's no acting as such, but the situations are set up, and the participants are directed as to what they should talk about.

Hence the semi-nude photo session.

The fella in question is inexplicable show-off and cartwheeling loon* Ollie Locke, quickly becoming the star and bonkers-beating-heart of the show that is basically sort-of-posh twenty-somethings gliding around a semi-fictionalised London, and known as Made in Chelsea.

"Looking good," says Ollie's pal Cheska, who is trying to not look cold as Ollie works a pineapple.

"Growl at me," invites Binky, with the camera, "like a grizzly bear! Like a tiger!"

Ollie Locke, Made in Chelsea: carrots and bananas not shown;
feather model's own (Pic: Channel 4)
Then Funda, the recently dumped girlfriend of would-be cad (but actually just totally useless) Spencer, happens to rolls up.

And, quite by chance, she soon receives a text telling her that Spencer's gone to Cannes with Caggie, his long-time friend and the distraction that made the wedge that drove Spencer and Funda apart.

The result is drama that, if you overlook the occasionally awkward or self-conscious delivery and the fact that it's all so set-up, can be as slick and structured as the best soap, and it all builds to a relatively edge-of-seat scene at something called 'a garden party'.

Caggie's song performance is ruined when Funda arrives, and, spurred on by Ollie, Binky and Cheska, Funda confronts Spencer, and then Caggie, about the trip to Cannes and why it was so soon after Spencer ending his relationship with Funda.

But we do not question, we do not probe. We do not even ask why.

Hypnotised, we kneel at the altar of its glossy sheen and lap it up like a cat laps up a saucer of milk or something else that is enthusiastically lapped up.

'Interesting use of the carrots - and the bananas'

And how did Ollie fair with his meeting at the model agency?

"Interesting use of the carrots - and the bananas," says Charlie from the agency as he looks at the photos.

Ollie looks worried: "Do you think that's the wrong way to go?"

"I think so."

And as previously discussed, Ollie, like many of the cast, has long, flowing and incredibly well-kept hair - but a reluctance to get it cut could well curtail his modelling career before it even begins.

"I don't think I'm attractive with short hair because I've got quite big ears," Ollie explains.

"You can have an ear reduction," deadpans Charlie.

Six weeks in to its first series, Made in Chelsea is continuing to irritate, amuse and entertain in equal measure - a sure sign that the producers are getting it right.

So zenith or nadir? It's probably both. Simultaneously. And without any haircuts, ever.

*there is, as yet, no evidence Ollie is a cartwheeling loon

Related stories:
Made in Chelsea series 3 official trailer: But what does it all MEAN? And where is Binky?
Made in Chelsea: Series 1 - a verdict *awkward pause, hair toss, pouty look*
Made in Chelsea: Episode 1 - 'a winner on the lustrous hair front'

Monday, 6 June 2011

The Shadow Line: Amazingly terrifying, and by someone who is mad, possibly

If you put one person completely in charge of a seven-part crime thriller you'd probably send that person mad.

But if that person was Hugo Blick - famous for low-key but popular BBC Two comedy like Marion & Geoff and Sensitive Skin - it wouldn't matter.

Because Hugo Blick is probably quite mad already.

And watching The Shadow Line, which Blick has written, produced and directed - and maybe even organised the catering, we don't know - you can well believe he's lost it.

Because it is bloody terrifying.

The Shadow Line: Chiwetel Ejiofor as Jonah Gabriel, Stephen Rea as the BLOODY TERRIFYING
Gatehouse and Christopher Eccleston as Joseph Bede (Pic: BBC)
To describe the plot using words - you know, these things here - won't do it justice because it's so multi-layered and complex and that, but it's basically the police and drug gangsters all trying to find out the truth behind the murder of drug baron Harvey Wratten immediately after his prison release.

No one is safe, and especially not at the hands of a sinister character called Gatehouse, which is Stephen Rea in a mac and a hat and a nice line in top-secret lairs equipped with lots of technology and a microwave, in case he fancies heating up a pasty.

But somehow, Gatehouse gets people to trust him before either killing them, or putting their lives in danger so that they obey his wishes.

It is definitely tv for grown ups - noirish, film-like, patient, tense, murderous and, as Blick says himself, with a "grim humour".

It's also very confident - episode five begins with what is pretty much a 15 minute two hander between two characters we haven't met before - although we know one of them, and we know to fear him.

While later in the same episode Christopher Eccleston's character goes to bed with the posh English lady from Nurse Jackie (Eve Best), while drug dealer Bob Harris (Robert Pugh) is killed changing a car tyre, in a hit organised by his ambitious rent boy lover, while chief cop and amnesiac Jonah Gabriel (Chiwetel Ejiofor) finds his boss isn't all he seems either.

'I bought a white board'

Blick tells The Guardian he spent four months in a room plotting the numerous and overlapping plot-strands for the programme.

He said: "I bought a white board, three feet by four, and created a double helix of the entire conspiracy, working backwards with the murder at the bottom."

You can well imagine. Putting one man in charge of everything could have been a disaster, but The Shadow Line is probably the most gripping thing to hit tv this year - and if a well spoken man in a hat knocks on your door DON'T BLOODY LET HIM IN WILL YOU.

The Shadow Line - Thursdays 9pm, BBC Two

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War review: 'Epic', ' Blimey', 'quips'


After six episodes that were criticised/praised by some for being too scary or too mind boggling, or even too mind-boggingly scary, the seventh and, for now, final episode of this series of Doctor Who was as big and mad and exciting as promised by all the thigh-rubbingly excited TV listings magazines.

We've seen executive producer and main Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat do finale episodes before of course (with last year's The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang) and many of the same tricks were pulled from the box marked 'EPIC' in what must be Moffat's never-ending time-vortex-like brain of amazingly complex stories.

And it worked, mostly - only Rory the meek Mr Pond in a Roman Centurion outfit didn't quite manage to convince as he attempted 'anger' when he confronted some bit-part Cybermen.

I know, a fleet of Cybermen - in a cameo: that's how EPIC it was.

But with Rory, we think: 'Oh you're going to do some 'self aware' little joke to yourself any minute, highlighting your actual lameness before someone else does'.

He didn't, not this time. In fact he destroyed the Cybermen. Mild-mannered characters acting all angry: that's how EPIC it was.

'A cross Sontaran'

There's also River Song, all curly hair and pouts and space guns, with her dialogue of emotion and meaning (learned from all those years on ER no doubt) - and she got a little mid-season finale poem too.

While other familiar characters - a reward for the faithful fans who love them - unite to help fight the Doctor (as in last year's finale) or help him fight other villains who've kidnapped Amy and her baby (this year's).

There's a cross Sontaran, made to nurse the war-injured as the ultimate punishment for a race so obsessed  with combat, and that bloke from Downton Abbey ('Hugh Bonneville') who was in episode three this series popping up for a line in a shadowy corridor brandishing a pistol.

And - HRRRNKK! - spin-off potential alert! - a Silurian and her cockney maid sidekick, plucked from hunting Jack the Ripper in Victorian London by the Doctor, via what must be the only lesbian-themed oral sex joke ever in the series, involving the lizard woman's extending tongue and a momentarily suggestive smile between the two after she asks her maid, 'I don't know why you put up with me'.

But these were all cheap thrills - albeit EPIC cheap thrills - because at the episode's heart was the character-led drama.

'Could well take centuries'

It's almost all too involving and mind-boggling to go into any useful detail - you may as well just watch it - but the cliffhanger, pivoting on River Song's identity and her relationship to Amy and Rory, raises far far too many new questions that could well take centuries to unravel (never mind understand).

And the Doctor, as he rushes off to find Amy and Rory's vanished baby, leaves everyone else behind and is now not to be seen again until an adventure called 'Let's Kill Hitler!', to be shown in the autumn.

But it was odd that the Doctor, although at the heart of everything, didn't appear until 20 minutes in.

But Matt Smith has well and truly made the Doctor his own, and it's clear that many of the themes - as well as the techniques - of the Moffat era of the programme are now firmly in place.

'Quips and bluster and friends'

As well as the returning characters in relatively minor roles, and previously-mentioned events finally happening (this episode saw the battle of Demons Run we'd heard about before), there's also the recurring idea of the Doctor having become such a powerful force he makes others fear him.

He's someone to be fought, contained and defeated, but the Doctor triumphs by making the army walk away - winning a war not with violence but with only quips and bluster and friends.

But even after all of that, EVEN AFTER ALL OF THAT, the plot almost doesn't even matter - it's 50 minutes of space opera and action set-pieces unlike anything else on British tv, where you can let the intricacies of the plot whizz by like a laser bolt and just enjoy the running about and the quippy dialogue and odd explosion here and there.

The cliffhanger was great, no question, and Doctor Who remains one of the most genuinely entertaining shows on tv, but if you find it too confusing, don't worry - let the densely-plotted storyline pass you by.

And if you're worried about it being too complex: tough.

Doctor Who isn't about to be getting any simpler.

Which is why it's best just to enjoy the spectacle.

Because that's how EPIC it is.