Welcome black blog fans to a week of new comedy, crime drama and a former X-Factor winner singing an aria let’s get started shall we.
First up this week was a newcomer to the Sunday night crime slot for BBC and some competition for Scott and Bailey on ITV in the form of Jackson Brodie the brooding detective at the helm of Case Histories. Brodie, played by Jason Isaacs – and hello to Jason Isaacs by the way, is an ex-police officer who had some kind of breakdown and ended up working as private detective. He has a small shabby office and a moody secretary who is only really bothered about being paid. He is also estranged from his wife and his daughter’s visitations always seem to co-inside with him something inappropriate happening that a six year old girl shouldn’t see. When we meet Brodie the only case he is currently working on is helping an eccentric lady to find her missing cat which isn’t actually missing a job for which he isn’t being paid, once again to the chagrin of his secretary as she wants him to get some money from his work. In the opening two-parter Jackson takes on three cases but I can’t remember him getting any money for solving all three, which he did. The first was to help two sisters find their sister who disappeared 30 years ago he eventually figures out that the key lies with the third sister who is know living in a convent, after solving the crime Jackson hooks up with the prettier of the two sisters so maybe that’s how he received his payment. Phil Davis also promises money for Jackson’s help in solving the mystery of his daughter’s murder which itself was an ongoing police case and therefore clashed with former colleagues notably Louise Munroe who has a begrudging respect for his instincts but doesn’t particularly care for him as a person. Jackson’s third client asks for his help via the medium of sex and this time wants help in finding her niece something that he solves quite quickly due to a very contrived coincidence that ties in with the murder case. Case Histories did tick all the boxes in terms of crime drama – damaged lead character, clashes with the authority, the littlest hint solves the crime and everything is wrapped up in the end. Despite it being fairly conventional I really enjoyed it but I think this was mainly due to Jason Isaacs as Brodie bringing a wry humour to the character along with the pain that he is obviously feeling. The fact the brilliant Phil Davis was present also helped matters and the scenes in which Isaacs and Davis were on screen together were the best. It was a little bit over-the-top at times and I had to suspend disbelief but I never found myself getting bored during the two hours which is always a good sign. Time will tell if it can retain the momentum over the next couple of two-parters but it was definitely a fine start.
More crime drama this time on ITV1 who presented us with five nights of Injustice the multi-layered story involving an upper-class barrister and a working class copper whose lives collide several times. Just like Jackson Brodie, Injustice’s William Travers has had some kind of meltdown which has resulted him moving from the big city law firm and setting up shop in a sleepy Suffolk town alongside his former publisher wife who has been forced to take a job teaching English at a young offenders institute. Of course it wouldn’t be any fun if we just followed this man around Ipswich for five nights so he is forced to go back to London to help out his friend Martin who is accused of murdering his secretary. Running parallel to this is the investigation into a shooting at a farm involving someone who Travers may or may not be associated with. Leading the case is the sarcastic and hard-working DI Wenborn who clashes with Travers at court during the opening scenes. Wenborn isn’t really by the book snapping at colleagues, family and even a nice old lady. As this is a cop drama the weary old-timer is teamed with a the by-the-book bright-eyed Nick Taylor who isn’t quite sure about the methods that Wenborn employs in order to solve the case. To be honest to write any more would be spoiling it for people but suffice to say appearances aren’t all they seem and there is also a sub-plot involving one of the young offenders who has written a manuscript that he wants Traver’s wife to publish. I have to say after the first episode of Injustice I wasn’t very impressed but the second episode was where everything started to come together there was insight into the Newall case and also the identity of the man shot at the farm may have been revealed. I have to say I found it hard to watch when Charlie Creed-Miles appeared as Wenborn as he irritated me straight from the start. Apart from being a decent copper he didn’t have any redeeming features and I just didn’t gel with him as a character. Luckily James Purefoy and Dervla Kirwin saved the day as the Travers bringing a lot to their characters, hinting at a backstory and a reason why William shouldn’t go back to London. Nathaniel Parker was also impressive as the potential murderer Martin Newall and I also think the whole thing was beautifully shot. I just feel there wasn’t quite enough material to stretch across the five nights, maybe this could’ve been a three parter but after the first few I just wanted things to wrap up. But good for ITV for actually presenting some interesting, well-acted drama that doesn’t insult the audience’s attention and provides a great, if slightly stretched, story.
As well as Injustice, ITV1′s other big show was Popstar to Operastar. We knew this was a big deal for them as the preview show was aired between the two final Britain’s Got Talents. The basic concept of the programme is that eight ‘popstars’ learn and then perform operatic arias and the public have to ring in to save their favourites. You may be forgiven if you can’t remember the first series that featured such greats as Darius, Marcella Detroit and one of The Nolans as it was hidden away on Friday nights when most people are probably out. This time its settled more comfortably on Sunday nights and leads into the very successful Scott and Bailey. Although I did mock the line-up of the last series at least they did have some relevant names with members of both McFly and The Saturdays performing however the only draw here for a modern crowd is Joe McEldrey who unfortunately has had to resort to reality TV after winning The X-Factor. Oddly of the eight contestants only four performed on the first show with the other four performing on show two, I feel it makes sense to split the contestants on Strictly or Dancing on Ice when there’s fourteen or sixteen people but when there’s eight there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for it. Joe claimed that he had to strip away everything he had learnt and start again, I can’t imagine he learnt a lot with Cheryl Cole as his X-Factor mentor apart from maybe how to become the Nation’s Sweetheart. Alongside Joe on the first episode was Midge Ure of Band Aid and Ultravox fame, I have to say I felt he would do well as ‘Vienna’ involved a lot of belting out of tunes however he was first to leave as he loss to Melody Thornton at the end of the episode. Melody who? Well she was one of The Pussycat Dolls, presumably one of the ones that sort of skulked in the background and occasionally did some sexy dancing. In her opening VT she wondered aloud if she could sing opera while I felt the bigger question was could she sing at all. But the best performance of the night, in my humble opinion, came from Cheryl Baker who sung a little out-of-tune but bought genuine heart to the song and didn’t seem to be worrying about her image presumably because she’s lost all dignity after those Jenny Craig adverts. Katherine Jenkins and Rolando thingy act as mentors and judges, which is surely a conflict of interests, Rolando is an oddball of a man with wild hair, wild eyes and a voice which seems to be in a different decibel with every word he utters. Katherine, on the other hand seems nice-but-dull and looked like she’d been taken too many of the complementary tablets that Gethin Jones gets by advertising Holland and Barrett. The other two judges are violinist Vanessa Mae and posh actor Simon Callow presumably the producers thought they were getting Simon Cowell and were slightly bemused when the star of Four Weddings turned up. The ubiquitous Myleene Klass returns as host but this time not accompanied by Alan Titchmarsh who is obviously too busy in the garden. My main problem with the programme is that I’m not sure who its aimed at. The usual X-Factor crowd would surely be put off with the majority of the songs being sung in either French or Italian and despite the presence of Joe would switch off. Meanwhile opera fanatics would probably be put off with the naff production values and the general whooping and booing from the studio audience, something I don’t think works as well on this programme. Personally I’ve not got a problem with it and think if it broadens the cultural horizons of a couple of audience members then it’s done its duty. Thankfully I’ve got through talking about Popstar to Operastar without make a joke about being able to tell my arias from my elbow. Oh damn!
We end with a trio of comedies kicking off with a rare pre-watershed offering entitled In with the Flynns which is apparently slightly based on the U.S. show Grounded for Life. The general premise of the programme is that the Flynn family who, as we are constantly told, are down-to-Earth working class and Northern. Dad Liam is a forklift truck driver and mum Caroline works on reception at a hotel. Meanwhile they have three children a stroppy teenage daughter who gets her tongue pierced to impress a boy, as well as two sons – one who was being bullied and the other who liked to eat out of bins. After watching the first episode I had to bring into question the parenting methods employed by Liam and Caroline because, even as sitcom parents, they were fairly inept. However they were missing all these things as they were working constantly and trying to afford a holiday away instead of staying in a caravan in rainy Rhyl again, spoiler alert: they end up in Rhyl again. In With the Flynns is definitely trying to be the new My Family but the interplay between Will Mellor and Nikky Wardley isn’t up there with the barbs thrown between Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker. I’m guessing the fact that this family are working class marks it away from the other recent family sitcoms and there definitely is a vibe of this happens to every family but I felt that it slipped into broad sitcom territory with a subplot involving granddad Warren Clarke’s romance with an ex-nun. The best lines and performance come from Craig Parkinson as the waste-of-space uncle who spends all day watching Deal or No Deal but unfortunately not even he can save the day here. While I’m sure some people will enjoy this I found myself getting bored and also seeing the jokes coming a mile off although I did titter at one about a giant magnet that was about it. And if a comedy isn’t funny then surely there’s no point to it. The one plus point is that at least it’s better than Life of Riley.
A different type of comedy now in Angry Boys the new offering from Chris Lilley probably best known for Summer Heights High which gained cult status after airing on BBC3 and the follow-up is on the same channel. As the title would suggest the programme revolves around Angry Boys in different walks of life and they are here represented by twins Daniel and Nathan who were both characters in Liley’s debut comedy We Can Be Heroes. Daniel is the more animated of the two and narrates most of the story as Nathan is both deaf and a little weird. Daniel does like to act the big man but at the same time is very protective of his brother and their dream of turning their farm home into a success like their late father would’ve wanted. The brothers aren’t happy when their mum moves in her new boyfriend and his gay dog and the poor man gets lots of abuse from the twins. We also meet the twins’ gran who just happens to be the most respected warden at a correctional institute for young boys. Gran is definitely going to be the most quoted and loved character of this series as she swans around the institute playing practical jokes on the boys, keeping her guinea pigs and making superhero-themed pyjamas for her inmates. In episode two we met S.Mouse the favourite rapper of the twins a privileged boy who needs to act like he’s from the streets in order to sell records including the ultra-successful Slap your Elbow. There has been a lot made of the language used in the show as it is very filthy and Gran is incredibly politically incorrect but Lilley always make sure to point out that there is a reason for it whether it be bravado or just the way they are. The thing I like about Lilley’s show is that all his characters are fully formed and aren’t just one-note caricatures. They worry about the future, are protective of their family members and just happen to be very funny at the same time.While its not as good as Summer Heights High the mockumentary style allows us to get to know the characters a little bit every week and that can only be a good thing. My only worry is that with every new character that comes into Angry Boys the whole story may get diluted and the twins and Gran may get lost in the shuffle but I’m just hoping that doesn’t happen and we get to see Gran crooning through another M People track on Friday Song Night.
And finally I’d thought I’d just write a little something about series 2 of Psychoville as it wrapped up last week. I have to say at the start of the series I felt it lost focus but the second half of the series, after the deaths of Joy and Robert, it really came into its own. Part of the reason for this is that the plot really kept you guessing for example who could’ve guessed the connection between Jeremy Goode and The Silent Singer and Edwina’s Locket or the fact that David would kill of the sinister officer working for Imelda Staunton. Speaking of David, I feel it was a good thing that the Sowerbutts almost had their own story this series although it was him that saved the day, Maureen’s cancer and eventual death was a sweet touch among all the deaths and Nazi heads. In fact the Oops Upside Your Head sequence after Maurren’s death bought a tear to my eye. I think everybody loved The Silent Singer because it was completely bizarre and it obviously shares some similarities with League of Gentleman’s Papa Lazarou. I think the secret to this series of Psychoville was the mix of compelling plot with the macabre humour that its been known for. Mister Jelly was also another character who was used wisely as he, and Tealeaf, were the only normal characters left and so it made sense for him to be the one to bring down the evil corporation. There were so many other great things I loved – the John Landis cameo, the fact that Lomax was Tony Hancock, Maureen’s funeral, Jeremy Goode kidnapping the dog and Peter Bishop the secret Nazi toyshop owner. The only thing I didn’t understand was the point of Hattie. Sure the stuff with Sharouz was funny but she didn’t really have much connection to any of the characters apart from briefly holding onto the locket but she served little purpose overall. My only wonder is now how they can carry on with most of the characters dead apart from trying to bring them all back to life with Jeremy and Edwina’s formula. Whatever the case I think that Reece and Steve have done themselves proud and look forward to see what weird and wonderful stuff they will come up with next.
Next time we will be looking at the controversial Terry Pratchett documentary, the new series of the always barmy Luther and new Channel 4 comedy chat thing The King Of..
What did you think of this week’s programmes leave a comment below?