Time to get loved up with another week of TV.
It’s all about romance this week in all its different forms as unless you missed it it was Valentine’s Day on Tuesday. However but before we get to that we have the event billed as the British Oscars though The BAFTAs are never treated like their American equivalent. Once again my BAFTA night started at half past four in the afternoon when Sky News’ Red Carpet footage followed very swiftly by BBC News 24 as both had my favourite, and Britain’s best, film critic Mark Kermode commenting on the nominees. This was transposed by entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzmiba, who was a host on Newsround when I was young, asking inane questions of befuddled British institutions such as John Hurt and Colin Firth but at half six the footage stopped. Now that would’ve been OK if the awards broadcast started at seven but as is my constant moan every year we had till wait till 9 o’clock for the edited highlights and this year they didn’t even try to conceal that this wasn’t live as there were several dodgy edits. The event itself started with a bang as Tom Jones in keeping with the sponsors of the event, who were Orange, topped up the fake tan and gave a good rendition of Thunderball to celebrate 50 years of Bond though I would’ve preferred if they could’ve got Lulu or Sheana Easton in instead. The biggest plus point of this year’s ceremony was that Stephen Fry return to hosting duties after years of awkwardness provided by Jonathan Ross it was the QI host who demonstrated his witty and warm manner which was the perfect tone for this year’s awards. The big winner was The Artist which picked up seven awards including Best Picture, Actor, Director and Score with Jean Dujardin’s victory over George Clooney being the biggest surprise of the night while Senna’s win for Documentary and Editing were deserving especially seeing as The Oscars failed to recognise them in any way. Personally I was happy to see The Skin I Live In win Best Foreign Language Film as it hasn’t been nominated elsewhere which is an oversight despite me being a big fan of A Separation which will the award come Oscar-time. There wasn’t a lot of highlights, speech of the night went to Peter Straughn’s when he won for adapting Tinker, Tailor he evoked both smiles and tears while Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe were also quite amusing when presenting an award. My biggest query was why they left Martin Scorsese’s fellowship presentation till the end, I do realise that it is a big deal but if it were presented half way through the event it would allow Marty more time to shine. But as always I question the BBC’s decision to not air this show live all the problems with unacceptable pre-watershed content could surely be sorted out with a one minute delay or whatever and the usual schedules could be upended one week especially when all there is in its way is a repeat of Countryfile and a rather drab episode of Call the Midwife. Especially in this day and age when the results are up online before they’ve been shown on screen the BBC has to step its game up as I wouldn’t be surprised if BAFTA went to Sky if they were given an offer. So to sum up good awards show bad editing and scheduling by the BBC, shame on them.
So onto the week of romance and weddings seem to be in the air with Channel 4 especially getting into the mood with the latest series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. But I was surprised here because even though this was shown on Valentine’s Day there was very little focus on the weddings. In fact the only wedding was that of Delores Quigllan to her intended who she hadn’t seen for over a month as, in her own words, he had been door-knocking in Belgium. This pursuit presumably pays him enough to contribute towards her extravagant cat-themed wedding complete with custom-made cat dress and a cake that went over ten tiers into the air although Jill the cake maker admitted that most of these tiers were in fact polystyrene. I always find the most interesting character in these shows is dress-maker Thelma Madine who made both the cat dress and Delores’ pineapple dress for her pre-wedding party. Madine’s life would surely make a more interesting show than this which seems to still be going out of its way to show us how trashy these traveller girls dress. There seemed to be an almost creepy fascination in particular with the younger girls who wear the low-cut dresses as they prepare for their first Holy Communion which apparently is about receiving God into your life but these cousins wouldn’t know it with Nangirl admitting that she thought it was all about looking good. I felt particularly uncomfortable with the sight of a pre-teen getting a spray-tan and later on the priest had to justify this preening attitude saying it bought out the specialness in the girls, I’m not sure that’s even a word father. Continuing the creepy theme we saw traveller Ronnie try to organise a beauty pageant for the traveller girls which saw only four finalists among them was Sami-Jo a girl we’d followed and were sure would be the winner but then the prize went to the girl who looked these least tacky, which surely went against the whole point of the gypsy look. I really don’t understand the fascination with Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and why it gets the audiences that it seems to but I suppose at the end of the day it’s all about people looking down their noses at these people who seem to be happy with their lot in life but dress a bit different. If this is all one big joke at the expense of these seemingly decent people then I really don’t want to be a part of it and as I’ve seen it all before I won’t be watching again.
But before there’s the wedding there’s the proposal and we saw this in another Channel 4 show the aptly named The Wedding Proposal. This followed three men and one woman as they had made the decision to propose their significant others and more than that agreed to let the whole process be filmed. To me the jeopardy had been set up for all the proposals firstly there was Steve who had been together with his partner Claire for five years and had almost left it too long to propose. In opposite to this Joe had only met his Canadian girlfriend Raelee three or four times since their first encounter so the proposal would definitely of come out of nowhere. I suppose in theory Jade’s proposal to boyfriend Andi during a tour of Anfield Football Club was the least risky but then again there’s always the fear that male pride could get in the way. The person I was most fearful for was Dave who to me came off as a bit delusional and his decision to find a West End Show musical to stage seemed a little odd I honestly felt a little sorry for girlfriend Kelly if I’m honest As Claire and Steve both worked as ski instructors he simply took her to a desolated part of the snowscape where they’d be alone while Joe had hired a flashmob choir which was a good idea but his choice of song was Lionel Richie’s Easy which as his friend rightly pointed out was a break-up song. After most musicals said no to Dave he eventually got Ghost to give him the greenlight which was obviously great promotion for them knowing that they were the only place in town for romantics to go possibly doubled their box office in the run up to Valentine’s Day. But then that’s just me being cyncial and if you haven’t watched it then I don’t want to ruin it by saying who said yes and if anybody turned down their offers. At the end of the day this was a cute little show but one that really struggled to stretch over an hour but then I still shed a little tear during several of the proposals so at the end of the day I suppose I’m a bit of a big softy.
But what did I watch myself this year on Valentine’s Day? Well I went to BBC4 which had an hour’s worth of duets from across the years that have been broadcast on the BBC but this was followed by a great documentary about kissing hosted by Jo Brand. Anybody who saw Brand’s great programme on crying last year knows that her sardonic style lends itself well to subjects which people sometimes take very seriously. Brand’s problem with kissing is that she’s never found the need to lock lips with partners and is often disgusted when she sees couples locked in public displays of affection. Throughout the show Jo looked at the history of kissing and why she had such a problem with displaying her feelings in this way. She visited Big Brother’s Judi James who was running a workshop on how to do the business air kiss and also an acting group to improvise a scene that involved a screen kiss. The more fascinating scenes were the discussions she had with her mother in which she revealed that they never really shared any information about her personal life for which her mother is grateful as she would’ve been embarrassed. This was a fascinating insight into a person who we always associate with having a dry wit and being extremely sarcastic towards other people but is there something else behind this facade. Though we were close to Jo changing her mind about kissing and the reasons behind it, she did indeed see some of its benefits when chatting with a gay rights advocate, but in the end the programme had to end with a comedy skit. This annoyed me a little bit as I felt Jo had turned a corner and opened up about her true feelings she almost spoilt the programme a bit by ending it in a flippant manner. That’s not to say I didn’t laugh and indeed Jo Brand on Kissing was possibly the most enlightening and hilarious programme I could’ve watched on Valentine’s Day I just thought it could’ve ended a bit more profoundly but then that’s not really Jo’s style is it?
Somebody who doesn’t really care for all this romance and kissing is Sicilian Police Commissioner Salvo Montalbano who just is happy to get down to business and women are happy just to drop their drawers for him. Salvo is the central figure in Inspector Mantalbano the latest European import for BBC4 to air in the Saturday night 9pm slot following the Scandinavian hits Borgen, Wallander and The Killing. However as far as BBC4 would have you believe that this is a new transmission in fact some of the Montalbano episodes were broadcast on the channel well over three years ago. But it seems now that European dramas are the new fad so this episode, originally aired in its homeland back in 1999, is going to count as the beginning of a new series as far as the Beeb are concerned. In this episode, entitled The Snack Thief, Montalbano had to deal with the murder of a prominent businessman as well as a body found on a fishing boat. The snack thief of the title is a little boy whose mother was the man’s mistress and he may well be the key to Montalbano solving the murder. However this being Scicily there are a lot of bold women and a lot of big bowls of pasta for Salvo to devour before he can get round to catching the killer. For me Salvo Montalbano is an amalgamation of a sexy Poirot and Ross Kemp as he has the brooding nature of the latter and the crime solving powers of the former. Though it is only twelve years old it still feels incredibly dated as one scene in which Montalbano struggles with a handheld video camera while today he could just use his mobile phone. While the Scandinavian exports had some depth to them and were different to anything we’d seen in our own dramas it seems that Montalbano is a very standard murder mystery programme. It does have a commanding lead in Luca Zingeretti and the Sicilian landscape is perfectly captured but other than that there is nothing very much to admire here so roll on the next series from Scandanavia as it seems that the Mediterranean just isn’t the place to find a new cult drama.
Next Week: The Brit Awards, Upstairs Downstairs and Pramface