Another week another light-hearted look at the week in TV
And of course nobody could escape the Olympics this week though I did give it my best try and I’ll kick off with the already much-covered Opening Ceremony. As the outlandish Beijing Ceremony was always going to be hard to beat artistic director Danny Boyle didn’t try instead creating a very British ceremony full of quirk, humour, political commentary and rubbish announcing. After getting out the more bland aspects of British life out early, namely cricket and kids singing hymns, Boyle was able to focus mainly on his steam punk vision of the industrial revolution complete with Sir Kene-th Bran-agh donning a top hat to play Brunel. Over the next ten minutes or so we rocketed through the industrial age, the suffragette movement, the Chelsea Pensioners and the pearly kings and queens as well as paying a very respectful tribute to our fallen war heroes though is you were in America you may have missed some of this due to NBC’s endless advertisements. Anyway this section entitled ‘Pandemonium’ certainly bought you right in to the action as the steel workers lit up the five Olympic rings to signal the start of the games but the best was yet to come.
Boyle managed to stuff all our cultural icons into the next few parts with James Bond, Mr Bean, Harry Potter and of course her majesty The Queen. Firstly we saw a section devoted to her majesty but not the stuffy sequence that some directors would’ve put together but instead we saw Daniel Craig in full James Bond get-up enter the palace for an appointment with Liz. As we saw The Queen from the back my mother commented – that’s not the real Queen look at her hair, but in fact it was and she seemed to take great pride in saying her one line opposite Craig before they were followed by the Corgis outside the palace and into a waiting helicopter. Though it was obviously not The Queen in the helicopter, in fact a man in drag, she still appeared in the arena wearing the same clothes as she had in the film because as he we know she’s a big fan of continuity. This was an interesting segment but it showed that there was no hard feelings from The Queen after the Jubilee Ceremony in which we tried our hardest to drown at least one member of her family.
What followed next was both a tribute to our greatest children’s literary characters as well as Boyle’s way of pointing out how awesome the NHS is as the invited guests for this section were staff and patients from Great Ormond Street Hospital however I was slightly worried that these kids should’ve already been in bed at that time of night. As the nurses spun the children round in their beds we saw them go to sleep but one of them had a book of Peter Pan open, which at the same time was being read out by JK Rowling, which seemed to unleash a torrent of ghoulish storybook villains. We saw large versions of Lord Voldemort, Cruella De Vill and Captain Hook to name but a few but luckily a gust of Mary Poppins were enough to see them off before a giant creepy baby was revealed in the bed to end this segment. Though this was meant to be a light-hearted look at what makes our nation great instead I found it all a bit creepy and with Mike Oldfield banging away on his Tubuluar Bells in the background accompanied by kids on spinning beds you’d almost think that it was a tribute to The Exorcist. After this we had Rowan Atkinson in full Mr Bean mode being part of Simon Rattle’s orchestra as they made their way through the Chariots of Fire theme, nothing much to say about this although it was very funny.
A tribute to the digital age and British music was up in which Boyle presented a narrative of two good looking teenage types meeting at a party then the guy finding her phone and trying to find her as she time-travelled through the decades dancing along with music from The Rolling Stones, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Happy Mondays and The Underworld, more on them later before finally hooking up as the chorus bizarrely chanted the West Ham anthem ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’. Though there was a good amount of spot the tune going on here, and I also applaud Boyle for including in this montage both scenes from Gregory’s Girl and the lesbian kiss from Brookside, there was also a lot to be annoyed at. Firstly the main gist of this seemed to be based around the girl changing her Facebook status from Single to In a Relationship now I’m not the biggest fan of Status Updates at the best of times but here it was just plain irritating also worth a mention was the fact that this girl’s house was suddenly able to open up to allow millions of party goers while in addition Dizzee Rascal pranced on her roof singing ‘Bonkers’. Following this we had a chill-out section in which the lovely Emeli Sande sung Abide with Me while we saw some lovely interpretive dance from a group of people all dressed in orange.
But in Britain we love to have a good moan and grumble about our broadcasting and this year’s hate was directed to amiable BBC Radio DJ Trevor Nelson who was initially bought on during the musical montage to pass his commentary on the piece. While he did describe Boyle’s Trainspotting allies as ‘The Underworld’ generally he was able to comment on musical styles such as informing us of the importance of grime music to the local area when Dizzee Rascal performed. Then Nelson stayed out there for the entire rest of the event including the parade of the nations which was dull enough without hearing his inane comments but here’s a sample for you. Nelson’s comments on Fiji amounted to, ‘That’s my favourite flag’ while he also unloaded the nepotism shouting ‘there’s my sister in the back’ and later ‘I’m just going to wave at my cousin. General comments also included ‘this is like a lesson there’s so many countries you’ve not heard of, ‘it’s so colourful out there’ and ‘it’s getting quite chilly really’. As much as I think Nelson’s a great guy I think maybe they should’ve let Huw Edwards and Hazel Irvine handle this section before maybe bringing him back to talk about The Arctic Monkeys.
As I’m aware that this review of the ceremony is almost as long as the event itself I’ll quickly mention The Monkeys, Paul McCartney, the classy collection of flag bearers and the nice touch of having future Olympians picked by Olympic veterans running the torch into the arena. Meanwhile David Beckham drove a boat around and Paul McCartney left everybody on a high by singing Hey Jude. I think like me most people felt the ceremony began to drag once all the countries came out but then that is a necessary evil while the odd inclusion of Trevor Nelson in the commentary box was something we all could’ve done without. Overall though this was a very British way to mark a special occasion and I think that Danny Boyle has done us all proud.
Though I’m not a fan of sports generally I have dipped in and out of the events all week thanks in part to the red button service which allows me to watch inordinate amounts of my favourite Olympic event – Beach Volleyball. I’ve been fairly lucky as well in that I’ve witnessed a lot of the gold medal winning efforts kicking off with Thursday’s shooting which I was able to catch the tail-end of, if I’d probably watched it from the start I would’ve lost interest, and I was quite impressed with young Peter Wilson’s efforts before switching over to see the canoe slalom teams take home the Gold and Silver medals. I’ve also been wowed by how violent the women get in the Handball and how all the lights on the suits of the fencers make it all look a bit like Tron. The general criticism has been that some of the presenters have been the best and to an extent I would agree especially after seeing Jake Humphrey mess up about three times in the space of a minute. Luckily though Claire Balding has been the star of the show, and has already been praised by so many critics I feel like I’m a little late to the party, but I find her informative, witty and warm it’s like my favourite aunt is telling me about certain events without once patronising me.
I’ve also, against my better judgment, been drawn to Channel 5′s woeful incarnation of Big Brother as it approaches it’s final week we saw a double eviction in which the frightful Becky Hannon was evicted before Irish beefcake and bully Connor essentially stole half of the prize fund from his supposed best mate Luke in the final of The White Room where the two have been living in sort of a mock asylum all week. Connor emerged into the public holding his briefcase in a completely white outfit and I at least thought that he looked like he’d just returned from the snowbound level in Inception. With only two weeks left we are still left with seven characters including some I can’t namely horrid Essex girl Ashleigh, nicknamed Trashleigh by some of the more hateful Big Brother fans, as well as her on-screen love interest Luke S a very sleazy lad who I have little time for even though he’s from my home county. There are also some I could take or leave including prissy posh boy Scott, nice but dull Scot Sara and Indian beauty Queen Deana which only leaves two possible finalists in woman-turned-man chef Luke A and my personal favourite American convict turned lecturer Adam. I do like Adam though I think the fight for winner will be between Luke A and Sara which I’m fine with as they both seem like decent sorts though as always I only have a passing interest in the show and am just looking forward to the celebrity series now.
Finally we have the return of BBC2 crime comedy-drama Vexed which starred Toby Stephens as chauvinistic detective Jack Armstrong. The first series of the show was critically panned even though I personally quite enjoyed it however that was mainly due to the interplay between Stephens and Lucy Punch unfortunately though she has moved on to bigger and better things meaning Armstrong has a new partner. Step forward Miranda Raison’s Georgina Dixon who is more focused and less neurotic than Punch but at the same time is far less entertaining as she is constantly getting the best of her foolish partner. I feel that this episode, in which the dynamic between Dixon and Armstrong had to be established, wasn’t a fair indication of what this new series will be like but if it is then we’re in trouble as there was little focus on the boring central mystery but instead in seeing Stephens trying to see how low his voice could possibly get. Though Raison was fairly impressive there was little merit to Vexed however there is hope as the second episode does look like this show could be on the up.
Have you been watching anything other than the Olympics? If so what was it? Leave Your Comments Below.