Welcome to another week of great TV and you’re favourite round-up of the last seven days.
We kick off with Derren Brown and the start of his new series of shows simply entitled ‘The Events’. The hour long show on Friday was preceded by a ten minute special on Wednesday which was completely unknown to everyone prior to the event. It transpired that Brown was about to predict that week’s midweek lottery numbers, but not the bonus ball. This ten minute programme took place in a desolate warehouse with quite a decent widescreen TV but where it was plugged into is beyond me. Anyway predictably Derren’s predictions were all right, if he’d have got it wrong would anyone have tuned in for Friday? Imagine Derren Brown: Why it didn’t work. Friday night’s show was a bit of a let down after all the hype and smoke and mirrors that went down only two nights previously. At the start of Friday night Brown told us that he fused psychology, showmanship and magic then went onto play games of suggestion with his warehouse based audience. We also saw a video of Brown playing a game of chance with a rather amiable chap called Matt (no it wasn’t me), Matt had to undertake the task of stamping on 14 out of 20 polystyrene cups, one of which contained a knife. He then bet him more money to stamp on all but one, in the end of course it was revealed that there was no knife in any of the 20 cups and that Matt had to be in a state of fear so Derren could predict the six numbers that he would leave behind.
It was a good half an hour before Derren even got to his lottery predictions and he introduced us to his group of 24 people who were asked to pick some numbers at random then calculate the average by dividing by 24, because they then played these numbers they only got 1 out of the 6 numbers. We were told by Brown that this was because there was too much emotion, greed and wanting to win apparently prevents us from winning the lottery. So the group were asked to free write any two digit numbers and then these numbers were put together and averaged once again this time to get four numbers right. Then on the Wednesday in question they were asked to free write once again and use their collective sub-conscious to predict the lottery numbers which of course they did. In the last three minutes Brown gave us a second option which involved an insider in lottery HQ switching eight sets of regular balls to eight sets of weighted balls that Brown had made while Brown was hypnotising a security guard. This option Brown made to seem absolutely ludicrous but was it in fact the more logical solution? At the end of the day Brown was never going to reveal exactly how he won. The power of suggestion as presented in the first half of the show was meant to make us believe that his group of 24 actually did predict the numbers and then he presented the weighted balls idea for the more cynical members of the audience. However a third more popular theory is that on the Wednesday night Brown employed a split screen technique so as Brown stood by the T.V. watching the draw someone else was changing the blank balls with the winning lottery numbers so when Brown walked over to reveal his six numbers they were the numbers that had been revealed. So was his trick all to do with a second camera that was completely unnecessary? Brown always implies trickery and would this be his easiest trick yet? Probably but we will never know.
Turning now to something a lot more innocent than Brown’s trickery. To celebrate or rather commemorate the 70th anniversary of World War 2 starting BBC1 aired a five part drama over five evenings. Land Girls as the title suggests followed four girls who all moved to the country to help with the war effort and as this was a teatime drama everything that happened was as PG as possible. The four actresses playing the Land Girls included Christine Bottomely most recently seen in the dire Hope Springs and also Summer Strallen who was famously stunt-casted in Hollyoaks by Andrew Lloyd-Webber before she became his second Maria in The Sound of Music. Strallen played the hoity toity one who felt she was better than the manual labour being heaped upon her as soon as her and her married friend arrived in the village. Meanwhile Christine Bottomely’s character was the trouble-making tomboy who had been a land girl for several months along with her idealistic sister played by Jo Woodcock. It was Woodcock’s character who was central to most of the plot as she was the object of the affection of both an American GI and a local country bumpkin farmer. It was the GI who was more attractive as he was both American and sensitive to her cause about black soldiers having the same rights as the rest of the army, however after he’d had her a quickie with her he changed his mind and of course she fell pregnant. Meanwhile Strallen’s character caught the eye of the sensible much older lord of the manor played by Nathaniel Parker. As the week went on we saw the girls at different stages of the war dealing with loss and life in general with the war as a backdrop. As this was shown over five nights in the spot usually designated for The Weakest Link its main audience was obviously old people who share memories of being children in the war. For a teatime show it was alright it was quite broad but at the same time quite engaging, although Strallen isn’t great on T.V. Bottomely tries her best and Woodcock was very good. Meanwhile Parker and Mark ‘New Customers Only’ Benton provided some good weighty support the latter playing the local bumpkin comic relief. Overall a nice if flawed programme which demonstrated some of the things that were going on in lovely idyllic countryside areas of the U.K. during the war.
Two new BBC3 sitcoms now and for the Beeb’s younger sister channel a bit of a rarity in a pre-watershed sitcom. Off the Hook could be described as a ‘yoof’ show as it followed young, loveable Danny on his first week at university as he moved into halls and discovered what life was like as a fresher. This being a sitcom Danny had various pitfalls to overcome the first being that one of his friends the incompetent ginger Shane had got in through clearing onto an under-subscribed theology course which he obviously won’t last long with. It is Shane who encourages Danny to follow the beautiful Becky around, the girl of his dreams who is very unattainable as she is classy and already has a boyfriend. The other characters are in the same flat as Danny and Shane and they are feisty Scarlet who has a crush on Danny and snogs him at the end of the first episode and Jay from The Inbetweeners here playing Fred a morose depressive who gets all the girls. Of course this show will draw comparisons with The Inbetweeeners as well as Skins but it has more of an innocent charm to it as it relies on suggestion rather than full on sexual scenes and too much swearing. Off the Hook is far from perfect but it has an enthusiastic young cast who are more than willing to try and work with the material that is available to them. This is for anyone who enjoyed reading Starter for 10 or enjoys the old-school coming of age films such as The Sure Thing with the great John Cusack.
Then we have Lunch Monkeys which appeared as a pilot named Admin several years ago. This involved the events in an Personal Injury Law Firm called Fox Cranford. The majority of the characters work in the admin department and therefore are mainly incompetent. There is scouse new girl Shelley who is an airhead and takes two hour lunch breaks, there are best mates naive Kenny and the thoroughly thick Asif. There’s also Tania who is a bit of a slapper but is the object of Kenny’s affections and Darrel who is a bit of a perv and fancies Shelley. The two familiar faces in the cast are Sian Reeves (another former resident of Hope Springs) and Nigel Havers. Reeves plays the admin boss who has delusions of grandeur and hopes to escape the administration section as soon as possible and work her way up to the top. Meanwhile Havers adds a bit of class to the proceedings as senior partner Mike Cranford who appeared in one scene where he was completely offended by Shelley. We’ve all seen Lunch Monkeys before the staff are lazy the bosses have ideas above their stations or are outdated weirdos. One of the lawyers has been sleeping with Shelley and now she is pregnant which almost adds on odd bit of drama to the otherwise broad comedy. Overall there are too many characters and not enough jokes for this wildly unoriginal sitcom.
Cameraman Ed Wardle must’ve been sitting at home one day watching Sean Penn’s awesome film Into the Wild and thinking that must be quite easy to make for real. So he called the people at Channel 4 who thought this might have been ‘event T.V’ So the two came up with Alone in the Wild a programme which features Wardle dropped into the Yukon Wilderness in Canada and live there for a month. The first episode dealt with settling in his new home as he had to cope with catching and cooking his own food. This mainly meant catching a lot of fish and then moaning about the taste of fish. In one section Wardle enjoys the sight of a porcupine climbing a tree and says he loves it and hopes he doesn’t have to eat it. Of course near the end he has to eat the porcupine and rather enjoys it. There are some carbon copy sections from Into the Wild including Wardle being obsessed with his belt buckle and showing us how thin he has got in the aforementioned film the central character has to make more notches in his belt and I wonder if Wardle will do this in later episodes. There is also a very odd section in which a plane flies above and after it goes away he has a bit of a man-cry. Overall Wardle isn’t that much of an engaging presence if this was the only cameraman who wanted to do it then maybe they should’ve abandoned the project. Most of the show involves him telling us he’s hunting or he’s climbing mountains or trying to run from bears. Obviously an interesting show there are still some cynics who will say that Wardle isn’t alone, there are extra camera people and that he has more contact with the outside than a little button he has to press to say that he is okay. So in conclusion good idea but executed with a dull central figure.
Next Time: Live From Studio Five and Peep Show