Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Absolutely Fabulous: A welcome comeback, but was it ever that funny?

To the delight, perhaps, of The Gays and rowdy town centre hen party groups everywhere, the 1990s comedy series Absolutely Fabulous is to return.

It's to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and filming is underway, with three 30-minute long episodes due to be shown over Christmas 2011.

That's all fair enough - an anniversary is as good a reason as any for a revival, and the characters of Jennifer Saunders' Eddie and Joanna Lumley's Patsy are firmly lodged in the comedy, um, wardrobe of well-loved British comedy characters.

Bubble would hang there next to Trigger from Only Fools and Horses. Hyacinth Bucket would be in a protective plastic sleeve.

Ab Fab was always entertaining of course, just never actually that funny - unless of course you like people falling downstairs, people falling upstairs or people falling out of cars.

So the more cynical among us may wonder if the show's return is writer Jennifer Saunders running out of ideas that the BBC wants to make, or if the BBC is unwilling to commission anything else from her.

The gentle, character-based 'smile-humour' comedy of  Saunders' most recent work, Jam and Jerusalem, didn't come across as particularly well loved by the BBC: its six episodes of its third and final series were edited into three one hour episodes, and then it was dropped.

It wasn't especially funny either, but had solid character-led performances and a good cast doing vaguely amusing stuff, and all made on location in Devon.

It was good to watch, but probably very expensive to make - and the kind of programme only an established talent like Saunders could get made.

So the prospect of an Ab Fab revival - a straightforward shoot lasting a few weeks, with scenes performed in front of an over-excited, shrieking studio audience of those who loved the original, and with location work done on the streets nearby - is probably a much cheaper proposition.

But more probably, the amount of goodwill that exists towards the show, and its 20th anniversary, makes its return a bit of a no-brainer.

So what do we know? According to the BBC press information, episode one will focus on a life-changing experience for one of the characters; in the second show, Eddy aims to change the career of a "a very big fish indeed"; and the final episode features the London 2012 Olympics.

Jennifer Saunders said: "It's great that we are able to celebrate our 20th birthday with all the original cast.

"Last week when we started filming in dear old West London, it was as if nothing had changed.

"It was raining.

"Nevertheless, we are so happy to be working for an audience that has grown just a tiny bit older like us, but is still willing to let us fall over on TV in the name of PR."

Tv-ooh will be watching.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Homes Under the Hammer: An ode to the daytime property auction show

Homes Under the Hammer
You are comfort for the dispossessed
But not the repossessed
Or for those sitting at home
with no
to go to
Or for those who do not like Jeremy Kyle
On the other side of the television
at the time

Lucy Alexander and Martin Roberts
We call you the presenters
You are qualified
To talk
about houses and that
And the difference
party walls

And stud walls

Lucy Alexander and Martin Roberts
You are
Like Kirstie and Phil
But without

Lucy Alexander and Martin Roberts
The puns
you utter about the auctioned properties
but we like them
all the same

But know this

Agents of Estates
Cannot naturally walk into refurbished rooms and look interested in a window frame while on camera

Or walk jauntily down a road to the sound of 'Express Yourself' by Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band

Lucy Alexander and Martin Roberts
You must be knackered
For you make hundreds and hundreds of episodes a year
Which must be nice for them


[Editor's note: We will NEVER do this again]

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler review - the only River in the, er, River, is a River?

So the sort-of controversial title of Let's Kill Hitler, kicking off the second part of the latest series of Doctor Who, was all a bit of a red herring as it turned out, despite some background business with the Nazi dictator himself.

It's more just a throwaway line as an example of all the kind of currazzy stuff you can do with a time machine.

But the person who says the line is far more interesting - a new character, Mels. She's the childhood friend of Amy and Rory, and has had a lifetime of trouble arising from hearing about young Amy's stories of the Doctor.

Mels barges her way into the action as Amy and Rory meet up with the Doctor again. In a cornfield.

It's mad, of course, and very fast moving; and all with the Steven Moffatt-patented quippy lines of clever dialogue.

Mels feels like she could be a new companion, until she's shot in Hitler's office - he's in a cupboard by now - and then she regenerates into the woman who will become River Song (Mels short for Melody, and who Amy named her baby after, but Mels/River is Amy's baby).

But, after Mels/River was kidnapped as a baby (as seen in the last episode), she'd been conditioned to hunt down and kill the Doctor, hence Mels befriending Amy and Rory.

But despite all of this, the cries of "It's so confusing!" thrown at the first part of the series by some, so far don't apply - tv-ooh understood it, and tv-ooh generally has to ignore the plot and just enjoy the spectacle.

All of it now makes a bit more sense, and questions have been answered - and to viewers who have followed the series and the character of River Song, we've now seen how she began, and how she surrendered the remainder of her regenerations to save the Doctor, who she had poisoned earlier in the episode while still under her murderous conditioning.

And, as the Doctor, Amy and Rory leave her recovering in some space-hospital (was that a cat-nun?), the Doctor places the brand new TARDIS-shaped diary that we'll see later/have seen before.


Just got the problem of getting around the whole Doctor getting shot by an 'Impossible Astronaut' now.

But that's later.

And the promo-photos of Rose, Martha and Donna, shimmering in the TARDIS as the poisoned Doctor faces certain (but not certain) death, is a teasy fan-thrill all of its own.

Watch the episode, enjoy the fun. Then have it all ruined by watching Doctor Who Confidential afterwards. Hmmm.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

EastEnders: "I want pizza and I want Hazell Dean!"

EastEnders in Southend is a bit of a laugh this week, which is not something you hear very often.

It's almost like a pantomime, assuming you'd get a pantomime with quite dark storylines about pimps and HIV in them. Slotted in seamlessly between musical numbers about working and whistling, maybe.

It's a fact of life that misery is never far away in EastEnders, but comic relief character Heather - she's the one who wants pizza and Hazell Dean - has gone to Southend for an 80s pop concert, and other characters have gone along for the ride and to bring some misery - known as "drama", of course - and to make a week of it.

Like Shirley, who clothes-wise, never left the 80s anyway - while Dot's found a sister no-one ever really knew she had, and some sort of long lost son or something.

But as we say - panto.

And as well as pizza, Hazell Dean, an 80s singer from the 80s who had several hits in said decade, is a recurring theme for our Heather - and Heather even did a rendition of one of Hazell Dean's hits, Searchin' - which, again, is not something you see everyday.

If tv-ooh was a betting blog about television tv-ooh would bet Hazell Dean would pop up in the next episode.

A bit like this perhaps:

or this:

And, in the interests of editorial balance and such like, tv-ooh also found a pizza-related video, but it's not nearly as tunesome.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Celebrity Big Brother: Not all celebrities, but good to have it back (sort of)

When you go to the trouble of putting in a fiver for someone's leaving present at work, it's a bit galling to have them turn up again barely a year later, as if their departure never happened.

And so with Big Brother - back like it never left but now on Channel 5 - all that fuss about it finishing last year "for good" seems a bit hollow, like the short-lived careers of so many former contestants.

Wisely, Channel 5 have kept the same format for this revival, the same Geordie voice over man, the same everything - although Davina and her "is she having a fit or just quite excited" presenting style is replaced by Brian "Towling" Dowling, doing his best to settle in quickly but still a bit "rabbit in the headlights", probably unable to believe his luck.

And as for the celebrities themselves - a three week version with "well known faces" precedes a "regular" version - few of them really qualify.

It's proving to be fun though.

Notables so far include Amy Childs (from The Only Way is Essex). How many times will she refer to her "vaj" or "min" or talk about her enhanced boobs, or say "jel" (as in "jealous"), as if to say, "I've got a catchphrase everyone!".

And how much longer will twin virgin eunuchs Jedward bother to both get dressed identically and immaculately?

But when Celebrity Big Brother comes alive is when we eavesdrop on the better-known housemates talking about events in their own lives that we've heard about, like a real life version of a Heat magazine interview.

So genuinely endearing but gobby semi-fatal car crash Kerry Katona - talking about her well-publicised problems quite openly - is the only housemate to actually give us (and the hundreds of viewers of her now axed ITV2 programme) the fix of celebrity tittle-tattle the title promises.

The others, well, if they're not very well known now, their profiles are likely to raise further by the end of it, as we get to know the cast better.

So it's business as usual really.

Celebrity Big Brother: Welcome back, you old tart.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Killing (Forbrydelsen): Familiar, but different - and knitwear fetish intact

It's interesting watching the BBC Four repeats of the original Danish version of murder investigation drama The Killing, only several weeks behind the showing of the American remake on Channel 4.

Aside from the obvious difference of the language - the Danish speech lends the programme a sort of melancholic quality, perhaps not unlike if ABBA were to sing in their native Swedish tongue about a particularly bad heartbreak but compared awkwardly to a game of cards in some way - it seems like large parts of the US version match the original.

So instead of Sarah Linden leaving Seattle to go to LA, we get Sarah Lund leaving Copenhagen to go to rural Sigtuna, near Stockholm in Sweden, with her fiancé.

And we know that's not going to work out well.

And instead of that relentless rain in the US version, visually the original seems a bit brighter, crisper.

But what's also interesting are the minute, subtle differences - when Lund gets out of bed to be greeted by her fiancé, she's in one of his shirts and we see she's all legs and pants.

Sarah Linden meanwhile keeps herself festooned in oversize jumpers 24/7 - although we can see now that's adapted from the original, too.

Sarah Lund's working the knitwear like it's going out of fashion.

And the blow-up male doll that greets Lund on her last day at work, as a surprise from her colleagues, has a great big dildo stuck on it - but there's no such eye-popping detail on the US version.

Gosh - those crazy, crazy Europeans with their liberal values.

But when the discovery of the murdered girl, Nanna Larsen, is made, in the original we see only her bound feet, and her bound hands. The rest if left to imagine.

In the US version, we see Rosie Larson's submerged, battered body in full, after the car in which she was dumped is pulled from the lake.

It's gruesome and upsetting - but maybe says a lot about the differences of the tv networks in the US and Scandinavia.

Plastic penises, no; graphic shots of murdered girls, why yes.

Although, arguably the latter's much more relevant to the plot, of course - unless the original Danish version is way different from the American remake.

As BBC Four show four episodes of this 20-part series per week, it will be interesting to see how the story unfolds, and spot the differences and similarities to the US copy.

But even if you're not familiar with the Channel 4 version, it looks like the Danish version is just as involving, dramatic, and well made.

And with a main character who loves big jumpers.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Seven Dwarves: Stuck in panto when you want to be Robert De Niro

It must be frustrating having both dwarfism and ambitions of a serious acting career - you're going to forever be on your tiptoes peering over the fence, so to speak.

And as Max said - he's one of the seven dwarves in the Channel 4 programme of the same name - one in ten people who see him in the street comment on his size.

So if you're a dwarf you don't even have to sign up to panto to be laughed at.

Stuck with only roles as dwarves in pantomime, when really you'd fancy a beefy part in a Law and Order, you're going to worry about typecasting, as many actors of regular height do too.

It's especially a problem for Max, cast as Grumbly in Snow White in Woking, aged 31 and 4' 2" in height - and for his sister too.

"It's not acting acting is it," said Max's sister.

"Well it is. I'm playing a part that's in the name of it. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I'm one of the dwarves."

You have to admire his ambition - and his hope that a part in something called My Fat Gypsy Gangster is going to improve his career prosepcts.

Max is one of seven actors in the panto playing the dwarves, and who are also sharing a house, in a kind of Big Brother-style programme, only it's being called "a documentary".

But arguably the whole thing seems to trade on that same curiosity that makes those strangers in the street want to comment.

But then on the other hand, once the novelty subsides, it might make us see the people with dwarfism for what they are - regular people just like any one else.

Or at least any one else who fancies making a tit of themselves in panto dancing around a bossy house-proud princess with an evil step-mother. What's she got?

Monday, 15 August 2011

EastEnders: Zoe Lucker's Vanessa and her white trouser suit loses plot; shoe; shouts a lot

You know it's a good episode of EastEnders when a character ends up shouting and bawling on the street, especially if they're in a white trouser suit - a fate which has now befallen the apparently ever-glamorous Vanessa.

Sounding slightly like a demented cat, and with her heavily-sprayed hair fighting to move with all the thrashing about, it was remarkable her white trouser suit remained relatively intact.

Only a scuffed abandoned shoe in the background, and the slightly dirtied knees of that white trouser suit - technically white trousers under a white blouse and jacket, I believe - were evidence of Vanessa's descent into madness.

Apart from the screaming and thrashing about, that is.

The reason was not her huge dry cleaning bill from all those whites, but something much more soap like: she's discovered her lover, Max, has vanished.

But it's not even that straightforward. Vanessa has also just found out he was cheating on her with his ex, Tanya.

Sure, she had her suspicions, but Tanya denied it. And now, Vanessa learns the pair of them had a special bedsit they used to visit "so they could be together".

Even a confrontation with Tanya didn't lead to the fireworks we were all now expecting.

Tanya apologised - but we learn later her calm response to Vanessa's confrontation was actually because she was "stunned", as news in a letter she'd just received from the hospital indicate serious health problems. Then she tore it up, which is what you do in soap.

Of course, no one ever learns any lessons - if they did, there'd be no stuff to fill episodes, or "drama", as it's called.

And with pictures in the press of what we're told are Zoe Lucker's final scenes as Vanessa - involving - deep breath - her being splashed by a puddle after being set up in some complicated revenge plot or other against Eddie Moon organised by his conniving son Michael - things probably aren't going to get any better for Vanessa and her white trouser suit.

Which is a shame - of all the things the writers could have given her to do, they give her the old "woman driven mad by dodgy men" storyline.

She deserved better.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Tudors: Your Majesty is really spoiling us with your costume drama nonsense your Majesty

Squirrelled away late at night on BBC Two are re-runs of The Tudors, and, watching it from the start and at a rate of four episodes a week, the whole thing has become like a 16th Century Neighbours, only with much better costumes and an unrivalled attention to facial hair.

Telling the story - vaguely - of England's King Henry VIII and his many, many wives and his realm and reign over four seasons, it's become something of a late night treat.

And the multiple episodes a week give it a soap opera feel it never had on its original once-a-week showing.

Treason, beheadings, renouncing the Catholic Church in order to grant the King a divorce and him then mercilessly crushing the resultant uprising in the north - Emmerdale was never like this.

And where else would you see the singer Joss Stone cast as a character considered "too ugly" to be the King's bride?

It is by turns a world of gruesome torture, and endless sycophancy towards the King in a God-fearing society.

But it's also a world of billowing night dresses, that finely constructed facial hair (from series two onwards only, mind) and impossibly perfect teeth no one would ever have had in the 16th Century.

But let's not dwell on details - 'TIS DRAMA.

*bows slowly and elaborately in front of your Majesty*

Historically accurate? Meh. WHATEVS.

Great escapist and partially-truthful nonsense tv? Why yes, your Majesty.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Sarah Beeny's Village SOS: It's all about the fougasse

Sarah Beeny, freshly poached - as in stolen, not boiled in a pan on a hob - from Channel 4, is a bit of a low-key tv legend in a trendy jacket, all told.

She presided over - that is to say, "turned up a bit" - in Village SOS, a BBC One six-part programme following lottery-funded community projects designed to help our "ailing rural villages".

The first project in question was the restoration of a water mill in Talgarth, Brecon.

Also included in the scheme was a new access path, a cafe serving coffee and fougasse bread, and carried out amid much talk about "community" and "heritage".

And suggesting that village life still plays by conventional gender roles, the men sorted out the mill and the heavy work, with their beards and their furrowed brows, while the women planned the cafe, sitting around large oak tables drinking red wine and talking about the bread they wanted to make and sell.

Because, as Sarah Beeny pointed out: "For anyone wanting artisan bread in Talgarth, they have to travel five miles to a neighbouring town."

Gosh, life in Britain's rural villages really is hard.

And unlike in her previous programme Property Ladder, Sarah Beeny dispensed hardly any sage advice in a rueful manner, nor asked any cautiously-put questions about the participants' glaring renovation errors.

Instead, she seemed to be enjoying the break: just appearing to rock up in her utility-chic jacket or her hard hat now and then, coming in to chat to the locals, offering a bit of support, and basically having a bit of a jolly good time.

Even the "reality check" bit - when the project appears to be falling behind schedule 40 minutes into the hour-long programme to inject a bit of "jeopardy" into proceedings - couldn't hinder the chirpiness of the thing, as it was back to the jaunty jazz music within seconds.

It's feel-good telly, and that's all fair enough, really - and everyone loved that bread, too.

"We can take on anything now," said one triumphant woman, after she'd mastered the cappuccino machine.

With all the talk about community engagement and the enthusiasm of people giving up their time to work together in a picturesque village to help boost tourism, it's hard not to be taken in.

As Beeny herself said: "This is going to be a roaring success."

Send her into Tottenham - let's get her sorting out that.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Nighty Night: Series 3 may be coming; good news for fans of the demented

There's always room on television for the demented - after all, most of us know one or two, if we're not demented ourselves.

So news that the BBC's "dark" sitcom Nighty Night may be returning is probably quite cheering - assuming our anti-demented medication allows us to feel anything anymore - because no-one is as demented as Jill Tyrell.

Manipulative and deluded, the self-absorbed sociopath Jill was at the programme's dark, icy heart, and was intent on her endless pursuit of another woman's husband at any cost.

Angus Deayton, who played the subject of Jill's passion, Don, has told The Sun's Buzz magazine that writer and creator Julia Davis - later to appear as Dawn in Gavin and Stacey - has had "an idea" for a third series, which she is currently working on.

Julia Davis played Jill for two six-part series from 2005, in which she faked her husband's death, murdered her husband, poisoned a vicar, tried to seduce a schoolboy, and rearranged the face of a teenage rival - and all while pursuing Don in front of his chronically-polite wife Cath.

The she disappeared off a cliff and into a speedboat.

There's more clips on the BBC Worldwide Nighty Night YouTube page (except they call them "channels". Tsk)

Monday, 8 August 2011

Doctor Who: Episodes 8 - 11 trailer: 8 fatuous observations


It's a trailer for the second part of the latest series of Doctor Who, due back on BBC One on August 27.

It looks quite exciting, doesn't it.

But let's look closer. What can we determine from the lightning-quick editing and blustery operatic music designed to whet our appetite, quicken our pulse and make us reach for one's inhaler?

1. There will be running. A lot of running. The cast, had they not already finished shooting the whole thing quite a while ago, may in fact need to borrow that inhaler we just mentioned.

2. The Doctor wears a top hat and tails. He may attempt to dance, he may not.

3. Winston Churchill is back, as seen in Victory of the Daleks. He's pointing a gun, dramatically. Let's hope he's lost a bit of weight, as he's heading for an early grave like that. Think of your BMI, man.

4. James Corden, last seen in The Lodger, is also back. He's not pointing a gun, but he looks like he's about to kiss the Doctor in some sort of embrace. DOCTOR WOO-HOO or DOCTOR COO-EEE or TIMELORD TO GAYLORD, says The Sun, maybe.

5. The TARDIS smashes through a window. The TARDIS smashes through a window! Anyone know a good glazier?

6. River Song - aka Amy and Rory's daughter - has an eye patch. That other women who kidnapped Amy also has an eye patch. PERHAPS THEY ARE CONNECTED IN SOME WAY.

7. Cybermen - blowing up! That'll explain their lavish but brief cameo appearance in episode six, when they also blew up. In terms of budgets and such like - no, come back reader - it makes more sense for them to have been used again, and properly, so perhaps this is why they are re-appearing here. (Although tv-ooh generally endorses the reappearance of the Cybermen.)

8. Well done for getting this far. Important lines of dialogue heavy with portent and meaning:
"Something has happened to time"
"Time is running out"
"An impossible astronaut will rise from the deep and strike the Time Lord dead."
We don't know what exactly they may mean at this stage, but as they sound important and thrilling, and as a device to make us want to watch, they are very good lines of dialogue to chose.

THE RESULT: Yes. Yes, everything appears to be in order, and as a result the remaining six episodes of the series all look terribly exciting don't they.
Let's just hope that window gets repaired.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Hour: Would we like it more if it was about The One Show?

It does, of course, look amazing, but beyond the beautifully observed 1956 period detail, it feels like The Hour is still working out what it is.

For every set painstakingly constructed (hello props department!) - from the kitchen larder stocked with authentic-looking Birds powdered custard and cleaning product Brasso (would those even be stored together?), to the art deco stairwells of what is meant to be the BBC's Lime Grove studios used as back-drops for scene after scene of people walking and talking a lot - there seems to be two or three programmes going on at once.

So is The Hour an "occupation-based" drama, specifically aimed at those now mainly dead journalists who worked during the early days of tv current affairs, given its insight into the creation and early days of a new hour-long news programme from the 1950s?

Or could it basically be quite a hum-drum drama programme about office politics and power and class and smoking indoors, but all given an extra sheen thanks to the authentic period detail?

There's an ambitious cocky young journalist, an ambitious slightly older cocky journalist who is not as good as he thinks he is, and an ambitious young journalist who is reminded of her status as "a woman" at regular intervals, but is also "the producer" of the programme.

Take the very same plot and give it the backdrop of The One Show and it suddenly feels a bit more ordinary.

Or, is The Hour some sort of murder mystery, with an odd looking character (Thomas Kish, played by Burn Gorman) who we know has carried out two murders, but who also happens to be a whizz with translation and so is casually employed in the BBC studio, as the Suez Canal crisis unfolds - and, stunningly, leads to one of the best lines of absurd dialogue ever uttered:

"The only English man I know who can switch from the Classical Arabic to the Egyptian vernacular without batting an eyelid," says Anna Chancellor, as she's hunched over a typewriter, playing journalist Lix.

In fact, The Hour could easily be all these things, and is probably trying to be - but it needs to heat up a bit, and soonish.

So far it's all pretty pictures and nice clothes and intermittent posh accents and an escalating international political crisis to boot.

Let's hope it comes together - authentic boxes of 1950s powdered custard do not a good drama programme make - but they help.