High brow and low brow drama leads this week’s TV line-up.
Well you get the latest Doctor Who entitled Let’s Kill Hitler where Rory, Amy and The Doc end up in 1930s Germany and end up saving Adolf from death at the hands of a group of people who travel in time punishing various war criminals for their dirty deeds. Their mission to kill Hitler is temporarily thwarted by the arrival of the Tardis gang and the last we see of him is Rory chucking him in a cupboard. Instead the war criminal that they are trying to bring down is the woman who kills the Doctor that woman being Melody Pond or was it River Song? Of course at the end of the last episode we found out that River Song was Amy’s daughter and that had been brainwashed to kill The Doctor something she tries to carry out in this first episode of in the autumn run of the current series but as we all saw in episode one The Doctor is killed in a different time period by a different person. There were also clues about The Silence as it was revealed they were a religious order who believe silence will fall when the oldest question in the universe if finally asked however we are yet to find out what that question is personally I think we’ve all gone a bit Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy especially if the answer to the question turns out to be 42. I had to watch this episode twice partly because I was constantly being disturbed trying to watch it on Saturday night and partly because there was a lot of plot going on which will inevitably be the catalyst for the next six episodes and the Hitler killing of the title was in fact a red herring to what the episode was really about. I have to say I really enjoyed this episode the themes of changing the past and identity were rife throughout the episode and the performances by Matt Smith and Alex Kingston in particular were utterly brilliant and I also liked the touches of humour in the script especially Rory’s line about a metaphor after he and Amy were shrunk into a giant robot version of her. Overall a strong start to this new run of episodes which will lead up to that moment at the lake and maybe reveal what question The Silence were talking about.
Much more civilised and grown-up drama in a piece written and directed by playwright and screenwriter David Hare most famously Oscar nominated for the scripts of The Hours and The Reader. Page Eight was originally screened as a film at the Edinburgh Festival it debuted on BBC2 rather than on the big screen. The story involves Bill Nighy’s MI5 agent Johnny who is best friends with MI5 director Benedict Baron played by Michael Gambon. When Baron reveals a document to Johnny and the Home Secretary it reveals that the Prime Minister and the US president may be aware of the torture of foreign hostages and when Baron dies Johnny is forced to stay one step ahead of the government and the MI5 agent who wants Johnny gone to consolidate a new branch MI5. In addition to this Johnny’s neighbour played by Rachel Weisz wants his help in getting the Israeli authorities to admit that her brother’s death wasn’t an accident. Generally the performances in Page Eight were spot on, it was nice to see Nighy in the lead for once rather than playing a supporting role and his scenes with Gambon were some of the best in the piece while Ralph Fiennes’ prime minister was also superb however Rachel Weisz’s character was limited due to her story and Saskia Reeves seem to struggle with the script in her role as the home secretary. I have to say that it was the script that let it down sometimes the dialogue felt too snappy and forced plus the themes of rendition and a ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK are a few years out of date. Having said that it was still good to have an adult piece of drama with a cracking lead performance on primetime TV it something that we see rarely nowadays.
Talking of grown-up drama we had more on Monday night courtesy of The Field of Blood a two-parter first broadcast on BBC Scotland earlier in the year it gained so much acclaim that it has been re-shown for the whole of the UK to get a glimpse. Unfortunately it has been given the post BBC News slot usually reserved for badly performing dramas, such as Sugartown and Outcasts, to be dumped in which would suggest to the regular viewer that it wasn’t worth bothering with. Which is a shame as The Field of Blood is a gripping piece about a murder of a small boy in a Glasgow town and how one lowly teenage copy taker tried to discover the truth. The drama explores the themes of 1980s journalism in which the news office is depicted as a boys world with the horrible McVie constantly insulting Paddy for being fat and leering over the only other female in the office the blonde ambitious Heather. Paddy’s investigations lead her to family members and uncovering links with an eight year old case unfortunately for Heather, Paddy uses her name to get her scoop and this sees Heather make the cardinal mistake of travelling alone at night to an abandoned car park. The Field of Blood was a well-made piece of television with a brilliant central performance from Jayd Johnson as Paddy the aspirational teenager who is told from all sides that she’ll never succeed in her chosen career path. The fact that the drama is seen through the eyes of a rookie rather than a hardened journalist makes this an even more intriguing story as Paddy learns things about herself along the way as well. Johnson’s performance is so good that she is able to hold her own against David Morrisey as the tough but good-hearted editor and Peter Capaldi who hardly features in this episode except to give a couple of glances. The piece also gives a good idea of the period we are in with a slightly dull-tinted lens and the smoky computer-less newsroom of the Daily News. All in all a promising first episode which will no doubt lead into a gripping conclusion.
As this was Bank Holiday weekend we got the inevitable schedule-filler and nobody did it better than Channel 4 who presented yet another of their 100 Greatest Lists show something which they claimed to have finished airing years ago. Having exhausted the areas of film, music and TV, Christmas saw the world of toys being explored by Jonathan Ross which was actually an interesting programme as we found out a lot of secrets behind how our favourite dolls and board games actually came about. This week we had admitted technophile Stephen Fry lead us through the world of gizmos in the 100 Greatest Gadgets a programme that came with bells and whistles on, literally as bells and whistles were two of the ‘gadgets’ featured on the show. In fact this programme really could’ve been called the 100 Greatest Inventions or the 100 Greatest Useful Things as all sorts of things were mixed together here from vegetable peelers to wiis to record players this was a compendium of everyday things. Personally I was expected lots of computers, iphones, microwaves and other electrical gadgets but in fact beating out everything was the humble lighter which is a great gadget as it gives us the ability to create fire, who knew? Stephen Fry leant a knowing voiceover and his links were well executed but the game I always play with these kind of programmes is to find the most useless talking heads. We had the usual slew of comedians I hate, Rufus Hound and Russell Kane this means you, as well as a heap of Blue Peter presenters however the most obscure presence had to be journeyman actor Perry Benson seemingly appearing due to the fact he plays a character called Gadget in the This is England saga. At the end of the day you know what you’re getting with these programmes however there was a lot less fascinating facts available here than in previous instalments of the 100 greatest shows and if they can’t find another interesting topic to cover using one of these formats maybe it would be best to leave it before we have to see the 100 Best Numbers between 1 and 100 hosted by Carol Vordeman.
To the wonderful land of ITV2 whose latest game show seemed at first look to be just an excuse to plug the new Cadburys chocolate Stars Vs Stripes. However when I did some Google-related investigative work I found that Minute to Win It was actually a popular American gameshow that airs on NBC, has spawned loads of international versions and has both a board and wii Game to its name, strange then that it’s not airing on ITV’s main channel. The US version sees single players try cumulative one minute challenges to build up cash in the same way as something like The Cube but, perhaps due to it being sponsored by a versus type confectionary product, it sees teams of two competing in 60 second challenges building up points and then the winning team gets to play for some cash. Another reason for the ITV2 airing may be because it has a hitherto unknown host in Darren McMullen an Irishman who thinks he’s funnier than he actually is but the teams are led by two famous faces in Xtra Factor presenter Caroline Flack and Cockney Oddjob Man Joe Swash. Flack’s all-boy team and Swash’s Female quintet then compete against each other in six challenges which include trying to pop a balloon using a hat with a cork on it, eating cherries hanging on a string by blowing them and carrying oranges between your thighs and dumping them in a bowl. What worried me was that the humour was fairly risque for a pre-watershed programme with McMullen making references to blowing, supple thighs and givers and takers. In the end it was Flack’s team who won an initial five grand and then got more by throwing pancakes into a hat and then by linking six coat-hangers. As you can see Minute to Win It is a very odd show and as well as the challenges amount to no more than eight minutes there is a lot of padding while these are quite entertaining overall a lot of it relies on McMullen and he doesn’t really pull it off. At the end of the day Minute to Win It is okayish entertainment especially considering the channel its on but it’s definitely not a contender to be the next The Cube.
As most of you know the fifth birthday of the blog is only a week away and I am compiling a list of my favourite shows of that period and mostly they are shows that have been both popular and critically acclaimed. However one really popular show that I’ve never really ‘got’ is The Inbetweeners, everybody keeps asking me didn’t you know someone like that at college? Or weren’t you that stupid at that age? No and No well at least I don’t remember trying to punch a fish to death or being sick over a young boy. But suddenly they have one of the biggest grossing movies of the year and two of their number, Joe Thomas and Simon Bird, star in a one-off sitcom as part of Channel 4′s Comedy Showcase strand entitled Chickens. Chickens is set in a small village during the First World War where all the men have gone off to fight apart from Thomas’ contentious objector, Johnny Sweet’s unaware simpleton and Bird who can’t fight due to medical grounds when it was found out he was flat-footed. The main joke is that all the women in the village have branded them outcasts and they all live together in a cottage which is covered in disparaging graffiti. I did tried to come to Chickens with an open mind and indeed the only things it shares with The Inbetweeners is its two actors but I’m surprised that a third inbetweener didn’t get drafted into play Sweet’s character who is both dim and sex-mad. Thomas’ George’s story is the most compelling and interesting and offers up the most laughs in terms of the over-the-top headmaster at the school he works at and also the scene in which he is forced to cane a child to appease the mothers of the school. However Bird and Sweet’s routines ware thin quickly and the final gag which sees Bird urinating on a grave is seemingly inserted to appease Inbetweeners fans who have tuned in. The concept certainly shows promises but if this does go to a series, there has to be more going on than three men going round a village and constantly being insulted.
Going back to the fifth birthday list and a slight spoiler that somewhere in that Top 10 the brilliant Outnumbered will feature which, as a great birthday present, is back for a fourth series. The Brockman family are back with Pete constantly playing the Wii after resigning following an argument with a junior while Claire has to go back to work and daughter Karen isn’t happy about it. Outnumbered usually ends up with a big set piece and as talk turns to Pete’s uncle’s funeral you knew that something was going to happen. First it turns out that Claire laughs during grief and Pete has to give the eulogy and frets on whether or not to include his uncle’s gay lover in the speech. Meanwhile Karen worries that the uncle really isn’t in the box and Ben has some odd thoughts about reincarnation. Outnumbered always relies on the situations between the parents and the kids and how the youngsters at times run rings around them however in this first episode it was only Karen giving her mother grief about not picking her up in a great line involving Martin Luther King while brothers Jake and Ben spent most of the episode arguing about good wasps and paying with chickens. The joy of the show is the improvised lines of the kids which while still good don’t have the same originality they did back in 2007 which I guess happens with every sitcom but I think that this is a sign that the show needs to go out on a high soon or fear become the next My Family which also concluded this week. Saying this Outnumbered made me laugh a lot more than anything has done in a while and for now at least I’m happy that the Brockman clan are back.
What did you think of Outnumbered? Do you know the question The Silence need answering? Or do you have thoughts on any of the other shows? Leave your comments below.
Next Week: Red or Black?, Appropriate Adult, The Jonathan Ross Show and more