Tuesday, December 25, 2007

First turkey of Xmas

Christmas at the Riviera (ITV1, Christmas Eve primetime), by Mark Bussell and Justin Sbresni, fell a long way short. When is TV going to ask itself, when was the last successful two-hour comedy movie?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Oliver Twist - a pre-Xmas treat


Another BBC1 Dickens dramatisation hardly stirs the blood. Nonetheless, Sarah Phelps's five-part take on Oliver Twist was an unexpected triumph. For the first time we saw a convincing early Victorian rookery in all its tawdry, gaudy glory. The cast were, without exception, magnificent. Gregor Fisher and Sarah Lancashire made a fabulous comic double act as Bumble and Mrs Corney, matched by Tom Holland's genuinely alarming Bill Sykes and Sophie Okonedo's Nancy, spiralling towards an inevitable early death. Meanwhile the upper class included the splendidly psychopathic Julian Rhind-Tutt, very different from how we usually see him, and the stunning Morven Christie. Timothy Spall was Fagin, again very different from the Alec Guinness stereotype, but not perhaps the most successful experiment. However, the most radical element, and very successful, was the edgy, cranky, unashamedly modern music. Of course, thanks to the usual trailer at the end, I haven't been able to decipher the composer's name.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Series 1 finale, Heroes

What can you do? You build in every twist and turn you can think of but, ultimately, you have to bring them together. This Heroes attempted to do and, inevitably, there was a level of disappointment. Someone had to save the world. They could have done it with a tad more spectacle. Even so, this series has been the saving grace of the autumn schedules and we look forward (WGA strike permitting) to series 2. Now, an extended trailer for series 2 bolted on to the end of series 1 was a masterstroke.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Overview of various

Heroes finishes this week. Hoping for a great ending twist and am confident we will get one. The plotting throughout has been exemplary. A major success. In a totally different genre Cranford has proved to be a homegrown winner for the Beeb, heavily adapted from unfashionable material. Janet Street-Porter was moaning the other day about our distinguished older actresses having to make do with material like this, but I totally disagree. Where else would you get so many of them in one format and give them the chance to be genuinely funny? I for one never suspected Eileen Atkins could be so wickedly comic.

Armstrong and Miller are back after a very long absence. After shitty adverts for Armstrong and various acting gigs for Miller it is good to be reminded how funny and dangerous they were when they started out ten years back. Happily they are still very dangerous and unbelievably funny - the black and white RAF pilots who speak street and the dentist with his appalling anecdotes are just two examples. A massive hit, again on the BBC.

Dominic Brigstocke, however, is stretched dangerously thin. This week comedy buffs like me were treated to the same material on The Late Edition Live (BBC 3), The Now Show (BBC R4) and the truly godawful Saturday Night Live Again (ITV). What a duff idea was the latter. Lee Mack (agh!), Jimmy Carr (compulsory) and Ben Elton, reminding us why he swapped stand-up for writing. Appalling.

Otherwise, FX are showing the complete series to date of The Wire on Monday nights and C4 are doing The Sopranos from the beginning five nights a week. Both are welcome relief from reality shows, soaps and (dear God!) a 'new' series of The Green Green Grass, which continues to rival L for Lester as the worst sitcom ever made.