Reviews

This Week in TV: Strictly Come Dancing, Merlin and Place of Execution

Let’s kick it off straight away with a familiar tune

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Ba ba da da da da da da da da da… and so on that’s me trying to type out the Strictly Come Dancing theme music. Strictly Come Dancing is a main-stay of Saturday night T.V. now because its strangely reassuring, seeing familiar faces dancing along for our votes while judges give them marks and comments on a varying scale of spite. While Bruce Forsyth tries desperately to make it down those two steps every Saturday night with Tess Daly acting as his carer as much as his co-host. For those who read my preview blog knows that I should never predict anything a) I didn’t know that there would be two same sex shows this year and b) that Cherie Lunghi would be that good. In fact Ms. Lunghi and James Jordan have topped the leader board this year even though I predicted an early bath for the former Kenco Goddess based on her popularity but I was wrong. Similarly I was wrong that Mark Foster would be the best male dancer of the pack although I did predict Top 5 for Austin Healey it looks like he’ll be in the final. I’m now changing my prediction for a Top 4 of Rachel Stevens, Austin Healey, Tom Chambers and either Cheri Lunghi or the improving Christine Bleakley or even Lisa Snowdon. As you can see the girls are doing a merry dance that is unless you were in Eastenders with Gillian Taylforth and Jesse Wallace waltzing off the show along with Phil Daniels and the great dance senstation that was Gary Rhodes is the only non-Walfordian to leave. That said John Sergeant seems to have survived mainly on viewer-love and he’ll probably be off next week in fact I’m making a new prediction that we’ll have a triple crown of male evictees with Sergeant being joined by Don Warrington and Andrew Castle. But who knows in the crazy world of dancing? Sergeant to win!

p00q3nxs This Week in TV: Strictly Come Dancing, Merlin and Place of Execution
For some reason there’s no Robin Hood this autumn season on BBC1 maybe the Hungarians are taking a year off from letting the BBC camera crews invade their country. Luckily the French were able to let some of the filming of Merlin take place there instead which I’m guessing meant more could be spent on the CGI budget. Merlin is BBC1’s new flagship family Saturday night show. It concerns the life of the young Merlin who comes to Camelot to work for the Court Physician Gaius, who quickly learns that Merlin has magical powers. Using his powers or just being a little bit smarter than everyone else, Merlin is able to suss out the evil power in basically every episode saving the life of the young King Arthur who at this stage in his life is a bit of a twat. But Merlin has been told he has to protect the life of Arthur by a big stupid CGI dragon voiced by John Hurt. Because hormones are buzzing around there is also a lot of flirting going on between Merlin and Gwen (the future Guinevere) who at this point is a handmaiden to Uther Pendragon’s Ward, Morganna who is more than likely going to end up with Arthur. Each of the episodes opens in a standard way with some kind of magic heading to Camelot, Uther Pendragon getting all het up, Arthur having a go at Merlin and Merlin saving the day by defeating the magic force. Although recent episodes have seen Michelle Ryan enter the series as Nimueh a sorceress who has a long history with Uther and her flirting with Merlin while secretly want to kill him as livened up the series.

merlin01 This Week in TV: Strictly Come Dancing, Merlin and Place of Execution
Contrary to what you may think after reading that I do actually like Merlin, at first I thought Young Wizard, CGI, sorcery = another Harry Potter rip-off. But instead this series seems to have a spark to it which might be from its charismatic young lead Colin Morgan who works well with what he’s got. The other younger members of the cast are all very well but Arthur and Morganna aren’t the most likeable of characters and Angel Coulby’s performance as Gwen is a little wet. Anthony Head is woefully miscast as Uther Pendragon, I think having Head in this series mainly full of young people made it easier to sell to the Americans who thought ‘I know that guy he was in Buffy’. Although Head is a decent actor the morally ambiguous part of Uther needed a stronger hand and Head’s delivery at times often seems a little Hammy. Thankfully the other seasoned performer Richard Wilson as Gaius is absolutely brilliant he adds a little humour with his exchanges with Merlin but proves that he is more than a comic actor at times giving very strong dramatic performances and he hasn’t uttered the words ‘I don’t believe it’. Sometimes the episodes seem to go a bit overboard on the CGI and some of the guest baddies have seemed a little tame (Will Mellor with a shield made out of CGI snakes anyone?) but all in all they’re enjoyable. So what if the mythology is all wrong did anyone make a twitter over Robin Hood being factually incorrect, only the saddos who’ve got nothing better to do. There’s not been anything that feels like this on T.V. for a while know something with a bit of magic but a bit dark that the whole family can sit down and enjoy. It’s never going to set the world alight but as a piece of Saturday Night entertainment you could do a lot worse.

PlaceOfExecution460 This Week in TV: Strictly Come Dancing, Merlin and Place of Execution
Finally we switch gears completely know we turn to ITV1’s tense three-part drama Place of Execution. This was a drama set in two very different time periods, Yorkshire in the early sixties and present day London. Juliet Stevenson took the main role as Catherine Heatcoate a documentary film maker who used to make films about African life but her latest work is looking back at a murder enquiry for the early 1960s in which police were asked to investigate the disappearance of a young girl and when her clothes were found bloodied they’d charged her well-to-do stepfather with the murder after finding child pornography in his dark room. The story flipped between Catherine’s life while making the film and her interviews with George Bennett the Inspector on the case played by Lee Ingleby in the 1960s and the excellent Philip Jackson in the present day. As the documentary nears its closing date Bennett tells Catherine he wants nothing more to do with the documentary so she journeys to Yorkshire taking her delinquent daughter along with her. This was a brilliant drama and I wasn’t surprised to hear that it was adapted from a book. Because of the jumps in time between the narrative in the present day and the past your never quite sure about whose telling the truth and what happens when you dig too far. All the performances were excellent but when you cast an experienced cast like Stevenson, Jackson and Mr. Emma Thompson, Greg Wise as the stepfather then you’re going to get quality acting, similarly it’s good to see a great central performance from a talented younger actor like Lee Ingleby. While not one for people who don’t like it deep this was a thrilling piece of dramatic storytelling something that ITV1 seems to be getting right a lot lately.

Next Time: Jamie’s Ministry of Food, Coming of Age and Beautiful People

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