Hope you’ve had a good Bank Holiday Weekend and it seems that TV tried to cash in on the horrible weather we’ve had over our extended breaks.
This is because both BBC1 and ITV1 served up big style adaptations to capture viewer’s interests. Firstly ITV1 hired Peter Bowker, who has served up two of the BBC’s big summer dramas in Occupation and Desperate Romantics, to adapt Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Having studied the book extensively at A-Level I know the plot pretty well even though its coming up on about eight years since I read it. Knowing what I do, Bowker took several dramatic liberties to re-introduce literature to the kids. The first being he bought the story in midway, introducing Cathy and Heathcliff’s children before introducing the more famous characters. Having done that he completely eliminated the need for Mr. Lockwood, the new Wuthering Heights resident, from the programme meaning that one of the book’s most famous scenes that of Lockwood seeing Cathy’s ghost has been removed. The first episode highlighted Cathy and Heathcliff’s childhood relationship and how things change when Cathy’s father dies and her brother, who resents Heathcliff, returns. While Bronte was a little ambiguous whether Heathcliff and Cathy actually do the deed, Bowker shows the start of a very kinky scene however we don’t get to see the Yorkshire lovers in the act. The second show was a litle meatier with Cathy’s death on the moors and Heathcliff’s suicide (another bit of dramatic license from Bowker) both brilliantly done. Like in the book when the attention turns to the children the story gets a little drained which I suppose is why it was cut in two. Tom Hardy who has previously sunk his claws into playing both Charles Bronson and Bill Sykes tackles Heathcliff with reckless abandon flinching from vengeful to charming to crazy quite easily. Not as brooding as some of his predecessors have portrayed him this Heathcliff has been modernised for this audience. Similarly Charlotte Riley’s Cathy seems to be wearing this year’s Top Shop autumn collection. Riley just about manages to make Cathy likeable, a hard feat seeing as she is very fickle and strings men along as she goes. The supporting cast fairs better Andrew Lincoln manages to give Edgar Linton, oft considered literature’s biggest wet blanket, a little bit of backbone while Sarah Lancashire gives the best performance of the cast as housekeeper Nellie, in fact she is so good it almost makes you forget about the dire All the Small Things. Overall Bowker set himself an impossible challenge to adapt a large book in under three hours and therefore has to chuck a lot out of the window however his set pieces of the Cathy’s death and Heathcliff’s madness almost glosses over some of the earlier faults.
A lesser known book Frank Cotrell Boyce’s Framed was also adapted for the Beeb on Bank Holiday Monday. The story was written for children and is primarily seen through the eyes of 10 year old Dylan Hughes whose family run a petrol station which is about to go under and his father runs off to try and make some more money for the family. However the adaptation is told via the story’s main protagonist Quentin Lester, played by Trevor Eve, who helps to move the national gallery’s collection of paintings to a cave in a small Welsh town where Dylan’s family live. Lester and Dylan strike up a friendship when Lester believes that Dylan is interest in art when in fact he is talking about the Ninja Turtles. Of course there is the big cliché as Lester’s heart is warmed as a man who once loved paintings more than people learns to love the people of Manod. There are of course the kooks: the butcher who sees Elvis in his meat and the two spinster sisters who live up in the mountains one who is blind but drives and the other who helps steer and is played by randy old Doris from Gavin and Stacey. Of course there is a bigger plot as Dylan and his younger sister plan to steal one of Lester’s paintings to sell it to alleviate their family debt but everything is wrapped up neatly by the end and Lester finds love with the local schoolteacher played by Torchwood’s Eve Myles. This was cute colloquial fun, Trevor Eve does grumpy well and the colourful locals and the loveable countryside just made this seem quite quaint and cosy. Not for the cynical and probably should’ve been on earlier so the kids could see it but good nonetheless.
Autumn means it’s almost time to get the big selling books out for Christmas, hence a new Jamie Oliver show to tie in with his latest book. This time he has taken a page out of Stephen Fry’s book and jetted off to America to cook the way they cook. Later on he’ll be hanging out with cowboys and Indians in separate shows but for the first programme he was in L.A. hanging out with former gang members and learning how they put down the guns for spatulas as cooking helped them out. One man in particular had found God and although his wife had died he was still looking after his children one of whom was about to be baptised. Completely randomly he invited Jamie, and his entire camera crew, to the baptism and to the party afterwards. Jamie was so happy to be invited that he spontaneously decided to cook a big banquet for his new found friends. His idea of Mexican food involved adding chillies to everything and this saw him trying various flavours he’d never tasted however descriptions of taste over the T.V. aren’t that great if we can’t taste it we can’t exactly live through Jamie. That’s why when he got to taste and later cook with cactus we couldn’t relate with him because I for one have never tasted cactus before. This was almost 75% talking to and listening stories from various characters and only 25% cooking which means the book will be full of all these stories no doubt. Overall entertaining but Jamie should stick to the cooking rather than the road tripping aspect of his new show.
Also back was man-boy choirmaster Gareth Malone for yet another series of The Choir. This time instead of getting some kids to sing he was trying for a whole town specifically South Oxhey in Hertfordshire. Malone is invited there by a lovely female vicar who is one of many lovely vicars who had contacted him since he got a lot of teenage boys to form a choir. As he researches South Oxhey he finds out that the estate was intended to be a Cockney Utopia but now it is mainly abandoned shops and the main town centre is a bleak wasteland of hoodies and despair. South Oxhey’s only promoter is boxing coach, barman and all round skinhead Matty who thinks that it is a lovely place especially the abandoned golf course, I think the word abandoned says it all. Gareth goes around the town flyering, pestering old folk, boxing and even getting drunk and dueting with Matty on Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. Although he doesn’t think he’ll get a hundred he gets over two hundred including Matty and other faces. For a programme like this though we need people like Matty who have ‘stories’ so there are choir members like Fred who has just lost his wife and is look for new friends, Carly who is fed up of being Carly the mum and sees the choir as a way to gain a new identity and Dee who is initially shy as since she has come to South Oxhey she has been the victim of racism and even though she sings in a gospel choir outside of the area she lurks at the back during the first choir rehearsal. Later the choir practise ‘Higher and Higher’ and after several female members have a go at the solo its left to Dee to nail it dead on. Thanks to Gareth, Dee has regained her confidence. The choir have their first performance in the shopping arcade and they’re worried no-one will show up but in the end most of South Oxhey can’t resist the cameras and come along to support their fellow Oxhians. Even Matty, who quit the choir after he felt it didn’t represent South Oxhey, was impressed with the turnout and I’m guessing he’ll return later on. Meanwhile this is all on Gareth Malone who is one of the most engaging TV presences even though he looks about 12 he’s animated and mature and just a thoroughly nice middle class chap. I’m just waiting for the final episode where there is the emotional pay-off.
As I mentioned at the start the summer is over and it was made official by the end of the summer T.V. Goliath Big Brother. This year’s was possibly the longest ever and the penultimate series that Channel 4 will ever air, it was also the first that I hardly followed apart from the first two episodes and Friday’s finale. I found this year’s edition quite alienating from the beginning because of the fact that none of them were housemates to begin with and they did crazy stuff like stepping on glass and changing their names to become housemates. Anyway the final five were Sophie who was Dogface for most of her time in the house thanks to a name change, Siavash the Iranian party planner who spent the majority of the final weeks moping around, David a late-comer who was very Northern and very gay, Charlie another gay this time from Geordieland and completing the gay trio was Rodrigo the Brazilian doll who was obsessed by The Queen and was the first official housemate. And in the final he was the first housemate out which was surprising as he was very popular thanks to his naivety and his Queen obsession which came to a head when he met a Queen lookalike and thought it was the real thing. Rodrigo was prone to temper tantrums usually caused by Charlie who came fourth as Charlie usually took a prank too far and Rodrigo proved he was the fiery Latino but the two usually ended up kissing and hugging. The big surprise of the night was David coming in third, he was a late-comer and spent most of his time sitting at the bus-stop smoking area with Brummie lesbian bully Lisa although he did manage to soften her. Although David was stupid and irritating he was also very innocent and I think that’s what the public liked about him.
It was down to Siavash, who was wearing next to nothing after Big Brother confiscated his clothes and Sophie. In the end it was the Nantiwchian glamour model who triumphed but why? At the end day Sophie was a natural girl, she was beautiful but also vulnerable and only came into her own after her in-house love-interest Kris had left. She formed a close bond with Rodrigo and was also able to stand up for herself but at the same time not take herself too seriously. It was quite right that a woman won this year’s series as on the whole women were seen as dominant, a complete contrast to this year’s testosterone heavy Celebrity Big Brother. The two biggest characters and public hate figures were women firstly Noirin who dominated the first eight weeks thanks to her flirtations with several housemates and her infatuations with others including Sree, Marcus, Tom, female boxer Angel and most notably Siavash who she kissed several times until Big Brother cruelly bought her cocky American ex Isaac into the house and broke Siavash’s heart. Noirin was booted out by the public several days after the Siavash incident and her hate figure role was taken on by Bea one of the late-comers from Week 6. Bea was introduced as a free love hippie type but ended up being the most two-faced manipulative and uppity housemate in the show’s history even bringing loveable Freddie down with her. Elsewhere there was macho Brummie Lisa, tough Russian boxer Angel who went on a hunger strike, ballsy Sophia and single mum Saffia. In fact the only two women who weren’t that strong were easily led Karly and dull Hira. Meanwhile the men were drippy (Freddie), stalkerish (Sree), all mouth and no trousers (Marcus), young and foolish (Cairon), stupid (David), juvenille (Charlie), stroppy (Rodrigo) and Siavash who started out strong but ended up unsure of himself and refusing to nominate to make himself look good. The only decent examples of manhood international playboy Kenny and muscleman Tom left the show in just over a week. For the penultimate series it tried its best but the opening night shock was just a bit much for me. As Channel 4 have one last series I think they should go back to basics, normal people, social experiment and less big-stunt casting.
Next Week: Derren Brown: The Lottery, Land Girls and Alone in the Wild