Friday, November 7, 2008

on the tube x 3

Since I watch too much TV.

We’re onto episode 5 of The Sarah Jane Adventures, but again, I don’t feel like giving a full review until the season is finished.

Paul Merton’s India has just finished. He is finally venturing south to where my friends are from. He spent the train ride to Chennai having his portrait drawn and succumbing to fast food. In Hyderabad (apparently it has a reputation of having nothing to see—Adi was shocked!) he went to a motoring museum that had the world’s largest tricycle—indeed intimidating! He also followed Snake Rescue around. I absolutely loved this section because it showed a man who had lost two fingers to snakebites but was still committed to rescuing and releasing snakes rather than having house-owners kill them out of habit. Paul Merton watched in horror as Raj, his Hyderabad guide, caught a cobra with great nonchalance. It also happened that Merton wanted to experience having a huge constrictor draped around his neck, much as I did as a child since I was not (am not) scared of snakes and in fact loved handling them. He also visited Snow World which, like a faux airplane ride complete with crash-landing glimpsed further west in Shillong I think, fabricated an environment much too expensive for the ordinary Indian. Earlier he visited a temple to rats and despite his squeamishness helped feed the rats who were feasting on milk and crumbs. He also visited Bangalore Prison because the local Hare Krishnas make the prison food so tasty, prisoners are breaking back in. It’s great fun to watch this and Stephen Fry in America and compare and contrast the two.

Somewhat different in approach was Unreported World in Kerala, tackling the “god-men” who swindle the devout out of money and sometimes sexually abuse those entrusted to their care. As I explained, we still have cults like this in the States.

Heroes continues to get better and better. Wednesday nights are sacred as I must have my weekly Heroes dosage. Full report to follow.

Stephen Fry in America is slowly winding its way about the country. Through the South he went coal mining in West Virginia (being slightly claustrophobic), got teased at a bluegrass festival in Tennessee, and met a really hot guy in Kentucky. He had bourbon and proved himself a wimp when it comes to American torrential downpours. Very often this show teaches me stuff about my own country that I don’t know, including the “Body Farm” in Tennessee where students study bodies in states of decomposition in order to find killers—Stephen saw his first dead body. He went ballooning over North Carolina and had a very traditional Thanksgiving in Georgia. He hates Florida, visiting with “snowbirds” the “living embodiment of hell.” In Alabama he attended a college football game and somehow that made me homesick.

Following the Mississippi, Fry attended Mardi Gras in New Orleans, visited a voodoo priestess and got the tour of Angola State Prison. In Mississippi he passed through Clarksdale; he breezed through Arkansas on a course in river craft. He stayed at the “St Louis Riverfront Hilton,” a slum. St. Louis is one of the few Eastern cities I’ve actually visited, so while I can say it has its attractions, it has a weird, deserted, decrepit feeling to it—malls are empty and aimless, there are definite bad areas, and it’s freezing in winter. Frankly it reminded me a bit of Nolan!verse Gotham! Fry sure knows how to pick ‘em—instead of doing something with dairies or driving a school bus like my cousin, in Iowa he visited a center of transcendental meditation. In Michigan it was Detroit and Motown. Sadly for Indiana, all he did was ride in a fire truck. Sadly for Ohio, all he did was go on at length about Kent State! I’m happy to say, Evan, he relished his time in Chicago, watching the Second City perform, eating a Chicago dog, seeing an Oscar statuette being made, and visiting Sears Tower. At last in Wisconsin he tackled the Amish (not directly of course) and opined that American cheese, aside from Wisconsin ewe cheese, is crap. In Minnesota he went ice fishing! I believe there are still three episodes left.

I don’t know anything about Doctors, but Jamie gave me the heads up that Sylvester McCoy was appearing on it as a washed-up actor who used to be an iconic alien in a kids’ program. Sound familiar? Fortunately McCoy isn’t washed up, otherwise he wouldn’t be playing the part with such grace and humor. And it was funny. First of all, the character got mistaken for Jon Pertwee. Second of all, he was complaining to his wife about recording “DVD cemeteries.” There were also some great publicity shots in the actor’s home. It was really sweet.

I caught a bit of Dawn Porter going to Japan to train to be a geisha. She seemed to be such a stuck-up cow about the whole thing—I guess she was in agony wearing the tiny geisha shoes, not being able to sleep on her hair, and feeling very out of her depth when a client wanted to go on a rickshaw ride with her. She did find out that geisha life is not at all what the Western stereotype depicts.

I saw two episodes of Imagine, and the first one is by far the most important. It detailed the dance/drama efforts between Juliette Binoche and Akbar as they decided to create a fusion genre and put it on in London. It was interesting to watch them work. By telling Adi about it, he immediately rushed off and bought tickets for the last week of the show and ended up meeting Juliette, his idol! The second episode I saw had to do with love and the psychology of it. While it was interesting—now there are, in Western culture, few barriers to love, ergo the love story is dead—I watched it right after I wrote if i don’t believe in love, so maybe not the best time.

Jamie recommended Have I Got News For You? based on how much I like Mock the Week and Paul Merton’s India. While I think it is somewhat amusing, it’s not laugh out loud funny for me like Mock the Week, perhaps because there are fewer contestants, and maybe better tempered-ones. It takes the news a biiit more seriously than Mock the Week. Anyway, I did really enjoy Tom Baker guest-hosting the program. If you’ve ever seen him play Xoanon, you know exactly what he was like as host. OMG.

I’m just going to briefly mention that there is a touring version of Whose Line Is it Anyway? on Dave, and it included an episode in London which was possibly the funniest of the show I’ve ever seen.

Adi and I both benefited equally from Miss Marple with Geraldine McEwan because I enjoyed watching Paul McGann and he enjoyed watching Dawn French (their characters were married, by the way). Also I got to lord over the beautiful Sophia Myles that she’s not David Tennant’s girlfriend anymore, nyeh nyeh.

The weekend before Halloween I was alternating scared and baffled by Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Horror Moments. I might not have been scared at all if I hadn’t had to walk home in the dark and cold from Sketty by myself afterward. I was very surprised that Jaws and The Shining were in the top ten, though obvious choices like The Exorcist and The Omen were up there. I’m not actually much of a horror movie buff so I didn’t really recognize much except by reputation. The Wizard of Oz made it onto the list.

Becoming Queen traced the early years of Victoria’s life, basically to her ascension and marriage to Albert with some reconstructions, some fancy-schmancy graphics, and lots of narration from the historian who was supposed to be sexy (Adi didn’t think so). Still it’s a good story, often neglected, since Victoria’s mother wanted all the power for herself, and Victoria showed, even at a young age, the wilfulness that would make her such a successful future ruler of England.

Hotel Inspector was quite relevant to me since I work in a hotel. It was mildly entertaining but mostly you are embarrassed for the hotel owners.

I confess I quite liked watching Gok Wang’s How to Look Good Naked two years ago. I thought sometimes I might like to be on the show! Anyway, Miss Naked Beauty is his new project. He’s gathered a bunch of pretty girls in sizes larger than 0 (and in some cases smaller); tall women, short women, big women, little women, blondes, brunettes, Black women, white women (though no Asians, unless they were already eliminated). I was quite amused at their task: wearing no makeup themselves, they had to convince as many Essex girls as they could not to enter a night club with makeup on. A formidable task, and one I heartily approve of, for obvious reasons. While I think the program has a good heart, its message is somewhat diminished by being surrounded by ads for hair dye and skin cream.

By now, I hope, everyone knows the bombshell dropped at the National TV Awards—other than the erruurrrgh factor of giving Simon Cowell a special award. Excuse me while I vomit. That was the strange thing about National TV Awards—of course they’re not the BAFTAs, but I guess I was expecting something more akin to the Emmys rather than the MTV Awards. I couldn’t be bothered to get up any excitement over soaps, Ant and Dec, or Strictly Come Dancing usurping X Factor’s crown. Paris Hilton?!? What made up for it: a) Doctor Who wins and Elisabeth Sladen is there to pick up the award with giant RTD; b) David Tennant wins; c) Zachary Quinto presents the award; d) David looks smokin’ hot. I’m sorry, I have to go on about this because I was just flipping through channels and idly kept watching once I remembered David and Catherine Tate were both nominated. Then they showed a certain scene from season 4 which about melted me. And then I got really melted again by the Prince of Denmark. Okay, I’m done.

Oh-ho, except we’ve come to Richard Armitage! Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that one reason I finally watched Spooks was because of Richard Armitage joining the cast, but the other two reasons have to do with Radio Times’ rave reviews of this show, and also because James Moran said in his blog he’s writing for the show. Okay, let’s get the easy part out of the way—shirt off? Yes, okay. Check. Now, as to the drama. The first episode was extremely nationalistic because, granted, it was set around Remembrance Day, and Richard Armitage’s character has just been recovered from the Russians after 8 years (!) in prison. I knew vaguely that Spooks was about spies, but I had no idea what it was really about. It’s kind of like a slightly more believable Torchwood. The slickness, the really cool people who dress well, the fight against terrorism as well as in-house corruption, etc . . . that seems to ring a bell. I don’t know if there is an American equivalent to the show—we have the CIA but somehow MI5 and MI6 have that association with Bond and coolness that I don’t associate with the CIA. (I just saw Casino Royale, by the way, which is the only Bond film I’ve ever really liked.) Anyway, while the first episode was good, each subsequent one gets better and better. I do admit to just liking the Armitage factor (not just the eye candy, kids, but he does act you know) but the other characters are interesting as well, it’s very clever, and I’m growing quite fond of Peter Firth. I’m addicted to the show now and may go through the back catalogue.

Finally, the entire cast of Doctor Who seems to be in Little Dorrit, the massive Andrew Davies mini-series of one of Dickens’ most neglected tomes, probably because it’s boring. I actually love the mini-series, I think it’s extremely well-done, and because it’s presented in half-hour episodes, it’s kept up the pacing brilliantly. I think Matthew Macfayden is a much better Arthur Clennam than he was a Darcy. Freema’s acting—I’m really not sure—perhaps it’s just the unbalanced nature of the character. Russell Tovey is certainly appealing but I wouldn’t want him to be the next Doctor. Ron Cook, Eve Myles, it’s just full of luminaries. Also surely the costumes and the staging, sets, etc, should get a mention as it’s brilliantly convincing of the period. There is nothing of the old BBC circumspection—this is Dickens’ world at its grittiest. I may as well tell you now (since you’ll find out in TTZ should it ever be published) that Simon Guerrier is really gunning for Andy Serkis to be the next Doctor, based on his performance here and elsewhere. Little Dorrit is like a sweet addiction. Entirely different in mood than Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but they’re both so high quality they make my teeth hurt.

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