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BBC2..House Of Fools. Is it a Comedy?

28 Jan

House of Fools. When is a comedy not a comedy?  Easy. When it is not funny!

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer were big in the 1990′s, scratch that, they were huge stars.

Their shows like Shooting Stars were massive and did wonders not only for the careers of Vic and Bob but also their star-dust brightened the careers of  many others like Ulrika “Ulrika-ka-ka-ka” Jonsson, Johnny Vegas, Mark Lamarr and Matt Lucas aka George Dawes.

Not content with being major TV celebrities, Vic Reeves also found time to release a number one single  a cover of the 1969 Tommy Roe hit “Dizzy“.



That though was the 90′s. Back to the present Vic and Bob are reunited for the BBC2 comedy House of Fools.

I think Comedy years are like dog years and it is clear that the many, many years have gone by since Vic and Bob were really funny and it shows, the show is dire.

Vic and Bob were always renown for being unconventional and their humour always had a Marmite quality to it,  you loved it or loathed it. This is more like Semolina, tasteless, flavourless and clearly only used a filling because BBC 2 has nothing better to show. It was not good.



BBC…Clare Balding to lead Winter Olympics coverage.

9 Jan

BBC announces Sochi Winter Olympics coverage

The London 2012 Olympics produced two winners for the BBC. The first was acclaim for its unparalleled multi-channel coverage of pretty much all sports at the Olympics, and the second was Clare Balding.

Well for fans of multi-sport extravaganzas the goods news are that both are back for the Winter Olympics which starts in Sochi, Russia in four weeks time.

The BBC has promised that its programming will consist of Six HD streams across digital platforms to deliver over 650 hours of live action, covering every moment of Sochi 2014. New digital approach brings world-class live event coverage to audiences with over 200 hours on network TV plus two red button streams.

650 hours of sport over two weeks should keep even the most die hard sports junkie well taken care of.

Clare Balding’s informative, engaged and enthusiastic presentation during the Olympics was a ratings winner. So exemplary was her coverage that she was awarded a special BAFTA in  for outstanding achievement in factual presenting in recognition of her coverage of the Olympics.

Say what you like about the BBC, but they know a good thing when they see one, so no surprise that Clare along side Hazel Irvine and Jonathan Edwards will lead the BBCs team to Russia. She will no doubt be looking forward to another Olympic commentary gem like the now famous Bert Le Clos interview.

The 2014 Winter Olympics games runs from the 7th of February, 2014 to the 23rd of February, 2014 in Sochi, Russia



BBC2….QI XL Kit and Kaboodle

24 Nov

As we all go through life we generally collect more than we let go, relationships, assets, debts, regrets, memories, kids and also lots and lots of sometimes useful, sometimes useless facts as well as things we think are facts but actually aren’t.

The last two things we collect for almost no reason other than we can’t stop collecting them, we find interesting, and maybe even that we live in hope that we might just one day we could catch an edition of the QI and smugly say to friends or family as Stephen Fry reels out some incredibly obscure snippet of information “yes, I knew that, you guys might be surprised but I knew that all along that there are 15 Marsupials for every Australian alive.”

If you are a fan of the all things factual you would no doubt know that BBC2′s QI (Quite Interesting) is back for its eleventh series, the K Series.

I find the show, for want of a better descriptive phrase, quite interesting but only when the panel is a good mix of comedic talent and purveyors of esoteric nuggets of information. Masters of this fine balance are folks like David Mitchell, Sandi Toksvig and Bill Bailey

Sometimes like this episode there is too much “comedic” talent at the expense of amusing but informative anecdotes or contributions from the panel. The “over-comedic” panel was the Australian comic Colin Lane, Ross Noble and Noel Fielding, alongside Stephen Fry and his regular sidekick Alan Davies.

One interesting nugget at the beginning of the show was the connection between Colin Lane, Alan Davies, Stephen Fry and Noel Fielding. Colin Lane was the winner of the prestigious Perrier Comedy award at the Edinburgh festival in 1994, and who was the runner up? None other than Alan Davies. Alan Davies recounted how on a trip to Australia he stayed at Colin’s house in Melbourne and woke up one morning to find the Perrier award on his beside, a bit of one-upmanship from Colin.

To add to the panel’s award related navel grazing Stephen reminded how he had won the inaugural Perrier award, and that Noel Fielding had won the best newcomer in 1998. With the panel’s ego suitable massaged the programme proper began.

The edition was amusing in parts, but was largely dominated by Ross Noble’s scatter gun comedy, you could sense almost at times some exasperation on Stephen Fry’s part as he wanted to push on with the programme but had to wait as Ross unleashed another bout of Zany-ness. Noel Fielding was also a culprit in the zany-ness, the difference was Ross was occasionally funny, Noel just wasn’t.

Alan was Alan, happy and comfortable in his role being a counterfoil to Stephen. Colin was quite quiet and probably just overwhelmed by all the Zany-ness flying about. He did tell a good joke on how you would know you are being followed by a Gay Shark.

Some of the facts we learnt.

  • Cat litter (or kitty litter to fit in with the “K” theme) was used by American tobacco manufacturers to bulk up to cigars as it was cheap, odourless, burnt and was tax free.
  • Churchill put a needle in his cigars so the ash never fell away and created  increasingly long finger of ash at the end of the cigar often mesmerising his audience.
  • Mint cake was not, as many people would assume, the thing that made Kendal famous, rather it has had the longest running snuff manufacturing in the world starting back in in 1750
  • The 18th century courtesan Kitty Fisher was reputed to be the first celebrity in modern British history on account of her having gone “commando” in St James Park, London.
  • The follies of the British K Class submarine were discussed. A submarine which relied on a steam engine submarine and thus needed funnels, a clear disadvantage in a submarine’s design especially when diving.
  • Flat-pack furniture was invented in 1956. One of the first Ikea employees, Gillis Lundgren, came up with the idea of flat-pack furniture when he took the legs off a table to transport it in a car.
  • Although the word salary is derived from salt, Roman soldiers were never paid in salt.

BBC2…Up In The Air (Movie)

17 Nov

Up In The Air is a bitter-sweet tale of modern life. George Clooney is superb in the film as Ryan Bingham, a “Corporate Downsizer” a man whose job is to fire people when the companies they work for don’t have the balls to do the job themselves.

He lives a nomadic existence travelling the length and breadth of the United States like some kind of corporate Anti-Santa Claus leaving shattered dreams and despair in his wake. Not content with this, he also has a career as a public speaker and his theme? Shedding you relationships and travel through life with no “personal baggage”. His one true pleasure in life is pursuing the acquisition of as many air miles as possible.

On the surface you would expect the character to be a grey, grizzled and unfulfilled middle age coporate drone, but that would not be a role for George Clooney. What Clooney brings to the role is a large dose of humanity and allows us to understand that what you do for a living is not always a definition of what you are.

His company pairs him up with Natalie Keener (Anna Kendric), a fresh faced new executive with a big idea to move the company away from face-t0-face firing, to firing people over video conference. Ryan is unconvinced by this idea and agrees to take Natalie on the road to experience the reality of the job they do and unintentionally also giving her an insight into the life he leads.

Firing someone face to face it goes without saying is much harder than you can imagine, and was much harder that anything Natalie was ready for. The whole experience left her distraught especially when one woman she fired  calmly telling Natalie she was going to kill herself.

As they journey across the country Natalie struggles to understand Ryan’s approach to life questioning his relationship-free existence. Along the way they also meet Alex (Vera Farmiga) a fellow traveller with whom Ryan is having a casual relationship.

While all three are getting to know each other Natalie receives a text message from her boyfriend dumping here, an irony given the new system she is championing. As Alex and Ryan try to comfort her the conversation turns to questions of what they are seeking from from life and Alex answers are suggestive of Ryan being the sort of man she would be content with.

Natalie eventually returns to the head office to implement her new system. Ryan on the other hand persuades Alex to accompany him to his sister’s wedding. In a pivotal scene in the movie, his brother-in-law to be is developing cold feet and Ryan contrary to all his has preached and the live he has lived persuades him to go ahead, with a speech emphasising how “everyone needs a co-pilot” and how the “most important moments in life are shared”.

This leaves Ryan thinking of his own life and about Alex, and days later purely on impulse he decides to fly to Chicago to surprise Alex. He arrives at her home and knocks, she opens the door to a background of noisy kids and a less than welcoming look on her face. No words need to be said by either Alex or Ryan. As he turns around to leave, in the background we hear her husband call out “Who was that?” and her answer “Just someone who was lost” and that sums up what Ryan’s life has become and how he has has only just come to realise it.

Natalie learns the woman who threatened suicide actually did, devastated she left the company and her programme was canned. Ryan is last seen receiving an air miles reward and returning to the road.

How would I describe Up In the Air? A dark powerful, character driven and evocative romantic comedy, a reminder of how the convenience of modern life can seduce us away from the things that make us truly happy often until it is too late.

America’s Poor Kids…BBC2

6 Mar

Often when you think of poor children you often think of the grinding poverty you see in the third world or of images from the great depression. Poverty so visual it is difficult to be anything but that, but in thinking that way may mean you could easily miss the extent to which poverty still exists in the first world.

America’s Poor kids on BBC2 attempted to strip back the veneer of first world prosperity and to reveal a different world, a world of need, deprivation and depression through the eyes of the children trapped in situation not of their making

There was Kaylie in Iowa bouncing from a house her family could not afford to a motel, and back again to  another house they could barely afford. Jonny stuck with his family in a Salvation Army shelter with ever constant threat of write-up’s  constantly hanging over them. Write-ups given for infractions for any one of the myriad of shelter’s rules, go across a certain number and you’re evicted. Then there is little Sera stuck in a shelter in Tenderloin San Francisco, Tenderloin it turns out is anything but tender.

The story’s were all told by kids who were all remarkably articulate. They came across as  coping as best as they can in a situation not of their making but in their interviews you could see some traces of resentment in what they perceive as their parents failure, certainly in the case of Kaylie and Sera. Both were in single parent household and touched upon their Moms not having made the right choices.

The real emotionally gripping aspect was when the children talked about the future, they still had dreams but the experience and the reality of the life they had lived had begun to encroach into those dreams.

They talked about breaking the cycle of poverty they find themselves in, of getting an education and getting jobs but they also talked about what happens to people who don’t escape poverty. It was in that you got the feeling they could see one possible and arguably an increasingly probable vision of their own future, a future slowly being shaped by their being  trapped in a vortex of dwindling choices on education, housing and healthcare that poverty in America brings.


MasterChef: The Professionals…Why doesn’t Monica Galleti have her own show?

27 Feb
English: MasterChef Logo

English: MasterChef Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monica Galleti is a breath of fresh air. She is a serious chef. Not a pouting diva delivering us lectures on how to boil eggs – I am looking at your Sophie Dahl or a distracting us from the food with an overdose of screen sexiness – I am looking at your Nigella Lawson. Monica is a down to earth hard-working professional who knows her stuff.

She was back this evening in a recap of Masterchef over the years in  MasterChef: The Professional Uncovered.  A look back at the professionals who have competed recently for the prize of being called BBCs MasterChef. Along with her boss Michel Roux Jr and Gregg Wallace they took us through the highs and lows of the series.

Monica traditionally takes the first half of the series, separating the wheat from the chaff so to speak, and obviously the riskier part of the show because some of the food presented by the cooks for her to taste in those first rounds defy polite description.

It is  amazing how the pressure really gets to the competitors especially considering they are supposedly professionals but it seems throw in a few cameras and tv exposure and these guys turning into wobbling souffles.

It also means Monica has to brave her way through a lot of muck before unearthing nuggets of golden cooking ability for  Michel Roux Jr to cast his eye over in the later round.

Her facial expressions as she tastes her way through a variety of dishes are the stuff of legends, as is her critique like when she tells one contestant  ”if you treated salmon like that in my kitchen I would slap you with it”.

I have to admit I am a bit of a philistine when it comes to food, and particularly do not like my food over-pampered but when I see Monica putting a dish together skills test for the contestants to recreate it just always looks exquisite and rarely matched by even the best of the contestants.

BBC2…Lunch is Av-Ant Garde at Claridge’s!

18 Dec
Claridge's Hotel in Brook Street, London, Engl...

Claridge’s Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Should the Big Yellow Box be worried? Apparently Claridge’s offer long term storage for their customers, particularly if you spend a reasonable time at the hotel. Say maybe 30 days a year for last 10 years and insist on a suite that sets you back £3,500 a night.

Welcome to another edition of BBC Two’s fly on the wall Documentary – Inside Claridge’s. Although being Claridge’s it probably more aptly termed rare Tibetan turquoise tiger beetle on the wall rather than some common domestic fly.

We start off with a visit from Jose ‘Pepe’ Fanjul. A billionaire with interest in sugar companies across the world including Tate and Lyle. For Pepe Claridge’s is a home away from home. In between jaunts to Scotland for a bit of shooting and trips across the world he likes to come back to the familiar luxury of Claridge’s.

He is in and out so frequently that the hotel stores clothes, furniture and presumably pretty much anything else he wants stored to ensure every night stayed there is as stress free as possible. At £3,500 a night it is the very least they could do.

The big theme tonight was the Olympics. The episode was filmed over this year’s London summer Olympics and Claridge’s was heaving under the weight of delegations from over 30 countries  If you ever wondered where some of the billions that the Olympics cost went, a fair sum seemed to have been spent here. With Rooms at £5,000 a night you would need an Olympic sized budget to cope which Seb Coe obviously had.

We saw entourages from across the world checking in, a team of 16 from Malawi staying for 11 nights, team of 9 from Gabon for 8 nights, the Attorney General of New Zealand and many more. Prince Andrew also popped up, although it was unclear if he was there as part of the Olympic jamboree.

As a special celebration of the Olympics, Claridge’s had teamed up with what is supposedly the best restaurant in the World – Copenhagen based Noma  - for a two-week special event.

Noma’s specialty menu for the event included amongst other things foraged greens, Juniper oil and live ants all for the princely sum of £195 a sitting.

I often find when people have to explain or justify why a particular dish is great you do come away with the sense that there is a lot of smoke and mirrors under pinned by great marketing rather it being simply great food.

That was the sense I came away with watching all the to and fro’ing as they set our recreating the spartan Scandinavian feel of Noma in Claridge’s ballroom. Maybe I am just a food pleb with an agrarian palate but it seemed that everyone shown ‘enjoying’ the food for this event had to ‘like’ it irrespective of what their faces portrayed as they nibbled of a selection of live ants.

I did warm a bit to Noma head chef Rene Redzepi though when asked about Prince Andrew and his quizzical response was “Who’s he?”.

The Olympics clearly looked like a winner for Claridge’s but it came at a price as the hotel was invaded by vast numbers of what can only be described as the hoi polloi, congregating in the lobby in numbers and even going as far as resting their feet on footstools. You get the feel that Claridge’s could not wait for the hotel to return to its traditional luxurious gentility.

BBC2…How many people does it take to choose an Alarm Clock at Claridge’s?

10 Dec
English: Claridges Hotel This luxury 5-star ho...

Claridges Hotel  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BBC2 took us on a trip into one of the last bastions of British Gentility as it once would have been. The Claridge’s Hotel in London. To call Claridge’s well-appointed is to understate its poshness. It is like a shop with no price tags, a club with comfortable well-preserved Chesterfield chairs, a church with wedding banns from the 1700′s.

I often find with these things it is the scale, or sometimes the detail of what goes behind the scenes that is impressive. With Claridge’s I was impressed the longevity of service of the staff, the fact that the hotel had their own tailors making made to measure uniforms for staff, and the scale of their laundry operation. Not sexy but very impressive.

In times where so much is outsourced and contracted out, retaining full ownership of the what makes you unique may not be the most profitable way to run a business but it almost certainly ensures that you can maintain the quality you are renowned for, and maybe also allow you to get away with charging £6,900 per night for your most expensive room. A move that is not going to make you popular on TripAdvisor.

The eye watering charges notwithstanding, it does come across as a great hotel, an institution that has stood the test of time.

We saw a sample of the guests attracted by its opulence, The Crown Prince of Yugoslavia, the actress Joan Collins and an East End Bookie made good, old money, celebrity and a geezer with lots of cash. I suspect in the old days the cockney geezer may have had a somewhat harder time getting the welcome he gets now.

Like the Hotel itself the programme was gently reassuring. The Manager Thomas, with his clipped  German accent, exuded an aura of Teutonic efficiency but still showed a clear appreciation of the importance of tradition.

If I had the cash to blow, I think a few nights at Claridge’s would definitely be on my list.

And Oh the answer to the question is 4. That’s how many members of staff it takes to choose an Alarm clock at Claridge’s.

BBC…I don’t enjoy paying my TV Licence but sometimes…

22 Nov
English: This image of a document is from &quo...

Jim Jones :  Credit  ”the Jonestown Institute” at San Diego State University. 

…BBC shows a gem and we would be much the poorer without it.

Two nights ago I stumbled upon a repeated edition of Storyville on BBC2. There are certain things the BBC does better than anyone else in the world, not just in Britain, not just Europe, not just in the West, not just in the Northern hemisphere, but the whole wide world, these are nature programmes and factual documentaries.

They do a lot of other good things but on these two they are beyond compare.

Storyville is a excellent example of  the world class factual documentary shown by the beeb. Storyville rarely gets any publicity, is often shoved into late night time slots, but the gradual way the documentaries in this series dissemble and present even the most complex subject matters is second to none.

On Tuesday we were taken back to the swinging sixties and psychedelic seventies. To a time when civil rights was just making a break through in the USA and we met a charismatic preacher Jim Jones.  In ”Jonestown: The World’s Biggest Mass Suicide”, we are taken through Jim Jones life from his early days as a preacher, through his rise a powerful local politician in San Franciso and finally to a commune in the South American country of Guyana.

It was here in Guyana that events unfolded which shocked the world. The documentary carefully charted the events that led to 909 people committing mass suicide far from home in a sweltering jungle. We meet the survivors and witnesses to events that led to this, talking poignantly of their experiences at the camp and the loss of those they knew.

The closing segment with short shots of the those contributing survivors as they contemplated their memories was particularly powerful. Very powerful.











James Bond Skyfall…An Interview with Sam Mendes

24 Oct

BBC 2 have an interview with Sam Mendes about his new film, the latest in the James Bond Franchise Skyfall, as well as a retrospective of his other work.  He gave some insight into how the Skyfall plot developed and the tidbits about what to expect.

It is whetting my appetite as I am a big James Bond fan, and  also a big fan of Daniel Craig who I think is the best Bond ever!. Plus Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men was super awesome, so I am keen to see how he shapes up as a Bond baddie

Cant wait to see Skyfall.

plus Adele has done an awesone soundtrack for the movie. I think I might have used “awesome” a bit too much :-)