It’s time to get your reality constructed and your Kling on as we look at another fabulous week in TV-land.
And we start with a double bill of programmes featuring biographies of famous women starting with Shirley Bassey. In Shirley we learnt of a life of Ms. Bassey pre-James Bond a one that started in humble beginnings and led to super-stardom. Starting with her birth and the subsequent arrest of her father, the Bassey family had to move to Splot where Shirley quickly found a talent for singing which was nurtured by her manager Mike played by Charlie Creed-Miles and encouraged by her pushy mother. Controversy was never too far behind as Shirley had a daughter when she was 17 who was given to her sister, Skins‘ Larissa Wilson, to raise and gradually her daughter didn’t look at her as a mother. Later on in the story she falls for Kenneth Hume an up-and-comer in the world of entertainment who promises Shirley the world including the role of Nancy in the Oliver! film. Kenneth and Mike clashed with the former reducing the latter’s role but Kenneth also had a secret in that he was gay something Shirley secretly knew about but brushed under the carpet after they got married and had a child. However when Kenneth reverted back to his old ways Shirley got rid of him but moved in her first daughter and had both of her children living under the same roof for the first time. For me the best thing about Shirley was the central performance by Ruth Negga, best known for her role as Nikki in Misfits, here she is able to run the gambit from nervous country girl to out-and-out diva. A lot of times in these biography films the lead just does an impression of the person their playing but Negga put her own interpretation on Bassey which made the programme all the more wonderful. The ever-reliable Sharp was also great as the mother and I quite enjoyed Creed-Miles as well however I thought the script could’ve made more of their relationship once Kenneth had come along. And this was the main problem I found the script rushed through things at times and in order to get Shirely’s big moments out of the way it had to forgo a lot of her relationships also some of the characters, especially Kenneth, were fairly one-note personas only on screen for a matter of time and then gone again. But thankfully Negga’s performance coupled with the period design and those fantastic songs, which the lead actress lip-synced, added up to a great one-off drama that should’ve been longer as I could’ve done with at least an extra twenty minutes to explore the wonderful character that was Ms. Bassey.
Moving on from a Ms. to a Mrs. in another exploration of a fascinating character however this was a documentary that looked at everybody’s favourite domestic Goddess, no I’m not talking about Nigella Lawson but instead Mrs. Beeton. The Marvellous Mrs. Beeton was presented by Sophie Dahl who, after convincing us that making soup could help fight depression, is back to give us the lowdown on Isabella Beeton and the legacy she left. From her early beginnings as one of many children and when her father died her mother re-married a widower who had four children of his own and was a steward at Epsom Racecourse where Isabella occasionally lived as a child. The programme then went on to look at her life as one of the new member of middle-class society and her life as a journalist as well as her tragic family life as she lost two of her four sons. But the main crux of the programme was delving into the Book of Household Management that made Isabella so famous and Dahl creates various recipes from the book including jams and pies and also meets up with some famous faces including Grow Your Own Drugs’ James Wong who helps makes Isabella’s remedies and Jilly Cooper at Epsom Racecourse, this wasn’t planned but they just ran into each other. The Marvellous Mrs. Beeton was sort of half-biography and half-Supersizers programme as the whole thing ended with a dinner party of some of Household Magament’s most famous recipes. I can’t say I didn’t learn anything as I had no idea that Isabella died at only 28 years old but had left a fabulous legacy behind her. Dahl was an easy-going presence and her love Beeton showed throughout so overall an uneven programme but one with a good heart.
Onto something different now as Stephen Fry returns with a new programme Planet Word in which he explores… well words. The first programme in the five part series, entitled Babel, is sort of introductory piece looking at various uses of language, how we learn words and what happens to us if our brain stops us from using the words we want to. Firstly he meets Ruby a toddler who is filmed over a year and bit by bit we see her development from making incoherent sounds to forming them into small words and then being able to make these words understandable. Fry also meets Darmont Spears a man who is also teaching his baby to talk but to use a different language altogether – Klingon. Fry learns about the Klingon vocabulary as he cameos in a Klingon Language version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I think Spears’ idea to raise the child with the Klingon vernacular will come back to haunt him as his child gets older and starts spitting over everyone while trying to pronounce those words. Fry then has a brain scan and I for one thought he would break the machine as the doctors tell him to keep talking about MRIs it seemed like he’d reverted to playing a game of Just a Minute and any moment Paul Merton would buzz into challenge him for repetition. Fry later looks at the diversity of sign language and teach me things even I didn’t know about every country having different signs for things and also showing us some sign language theatre. Once again Stephen Fry has picked a topic that interests him and is enthusiasm is infectious as I find myself drawn into Planet Word. I loved everything from watching animal communication to the Klingon world to the development of Ruby and beyond. While this was a fairly generalised look at linguistics and general communication I feel that the coming weeks will a bring a more focused edge to the programme and if it is as engaging as show one then I will definitely be watching.
From high culture to incredibly low culture now as we end the blog with a double bill of the newest phrase on the TV block – constructed reality. Firstly a show that I wasn’t at tall taken with the first time around but buoyed on by both my brother and my cousin I thought i would give Made in Chelsea another try. It didn’t really take me long to grasp the relationships from the first series to now I remember the relationship between Spencer and Caggie which has since disintegrated after the latter has buggered off abroad. Hugo and Millie are now together however it’s not long before rumours of his infidelity spread and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was playing away as he comes across as a bit of twat. I do quite like Francis, who didn’t do a lot in episode one, who wanted to set up a scholarship to teach young men proper grammar a decision he made after being mugged and noticing that the young lads committing the crime didn’t know their whos from their whoms. Of course everybody’s favourite Made in Chelsea cast member is beautifully-coiffured bisexual Ollie Locke the poshest of the bunch by a country mile he was dating Gabriella but spilt with her to try and discover if he wanted to date boys for a bit. However he has magically found himself a new girlfriend Chloe Green, daughter of Tophsop owner Philip, a decision that has split Cheska and Binky’s friendship between Olly and Gabby but maybe their real dilemma should be over their stupid names. Another heir to a fortune is McVities brat Jamie who has returned from his travels and is told that he needs to stop his frivolous spending or he will be cut off from the family money. To be fair I think all the characters should be told this because to me their far too wealthy. For me the best thing about Made in Chelsea is the way it is shot its glamorous clubs and expensive sports facilities are all shown off to the highest extent. But again my main problem is that I can’t connect with any of the characters, with the possible exception of Ollie, so I’m sorry to my relatives but once again Made in Chelsea doesn’t float my boat.
And that’s mainly because I’m staying loyal to the show that returned for its third series that being The Only Way is Essex or Towie to its devotees. Of course I like to feel partly responsible for the show getting its BAFTA Audience Award earlier in the year and the large amount of ratings it is attracting since receiving that accolade. There has been a bit of a shake-up down Essex way with the departure of Amy Childs who has gone on to bigger and better things, or at least appeared on Big Brother, and the breakdown of a couple of central relationships. Yes both Mark and Kirk have split up with their respective Laurens who are now living together in Chez Lauren while Sam and professional div Joey Essex have also gone their separate ways. It also seems that new businesses failing in their first year doesn’t seem to have stopped the Essex girls with Jess opening her own lingerie boutique, what happened to her girl band?, and Lydia opening a shop which I think is some kind of bakery. After the influx of new cast members in Season Two, Season Three seems to be keeping things light – there is a new love interest for Lucy in Mario, Joey’s sister Frankie pops up from time to time and diminutive underwear modelling twins Dino and Georgio also seem to be game for a laugh. The main difference between Towie and Made in Chelsea is that Towie doesn’t take itself too seriously it is bright enough to give some people headache and tacky as hell and that’s why I like it. The characters are also fairly endearing from hapless Arg, to brainless Joey and lovely old Nanny Pat with Amy gone and Sam’s role reduced there isn’t anyone I particularly hate. I also love some of the new relationships being explored the two Laurens haven’t shared much screen time together neither have Maria and Mick or Joey and Kirk and it seems that all three couples will be during series three. A the end of the day Towie really hasn’t given us anything particularly new but then again it doesn’t have to and it has stayed as ream as ever.