Silk, Tuesdays 9pm, BBC1

Now, I was looking forward to this new offering from dear old Auntie Beeb, a legal drama starring Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones, written by Peter Moffat. With a background in the law, he’s the chap who wrote the excellent North Square (which Channel 4 criminally dropped after 1 series – why, Channel 4, WHY?) and, more recently, Criminal Justice (which I have heard was excellent but looked far too grim and harrowing for me). Set in chambers in London, it follows defence barrister Martha Costello (Peake) in her quest to be made QC (the ‘Silk’ of the title). Martha is driven, passionate and prone to spouting the odd homily, e.g. “Innocent until proven guilty – four words to live by”. Her rival for this honour is Penry-Jones’ arrogant, coke-snorting Clive Reader, clearly a bit of a shit.

In this first episode our Martha had two cases, one involving a pregnant drugs mule and the other a man with plenty of ‘previous’ who was accused of aggravated burglary, plus a new pupil, Nick, to look after, all the while trying to impress judges and solicitors that might help her get Silk.

On the whole Silk was…………..quite good. Here, in handy bullet points, are the good bits:

  • The cast – Maxine Peake, as you’d expect, is great, and it makes a nice change to see Rupert Penry-Jones having some fun as the git of the piece (although thus far he’s not wholly unlikeable). I also liked Tom Hughes as Nick, and Neil Stuke as senior clerk Billy.
  • The pace – the hour didn’t drag, with Martha haring between chambers and court the scenes were quite short and helped to highlight how hectic her life is.
  • I’ve read (here) that generally the show is fairly realistic, and captures the high-pressure nature of the job. That certainly came across, with Martha only having one night to prepare for the two cases and with so much at stake.

Now for the not so good:

  • Some of the dialogue was a bit clunky: “Fifteen years you’ve been doing this, and you still believe”, the aforementioned “Innocent until proven guilty – four words to live by”. Oh purleese…..
  • It was a tad predictable, in both plot and character – the revelation that the fellow Martha got off from the aggravated burglary charge was guilty after all was hardly a shocker. The characters so far are pretty clichéd, ‘tough determined Northern lass’ and ‘privileged arrogant Southern posho’ types.
  • The bit where Nick stole a gown and wig, and when he told Martha about it she just rolled her eyes? Not remotely believable.
  • Peake’s/Martha’s inability to pronounce ‘burglary’ (she kept saying ‘burgulry’) really pecked my head.

I’ll tune in again next week, because I think there’s enough there to make for an enjoyable hour’s TV. I just don’t think I’ll panic if I happen to miss an episode…..

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Masterchef, Wednesday 9pm, BBC1

The new series of Masterchef kicked off last night, with a new set, new theme music, and a new catchphrase for Gregg Wallace: “Let’s get fatter!” (sure to go down well with the National Obesity Forum, that). There’s a new format too – this time the hopeful contestants cook individually (instead of in groups of 6). They get 45 minutes in the prep kitchen then a further 10 minutes to finish and plate up their dish in front of Gregg and John. In an X Factor-aping move they’re accompanied by assorted friends and family, and they get to cook their own creation (rather than concoct something from an array of mystery ingredients). In these early stages the judges select a final 20 – if John and Gregg both give the thumbs up the contestant gets handed an apron and is through to that final 20, if they disagree the contestant gets a ‘lifeline’ and can cook again.

They have retained a few things from the previous series – the voiceover woman, Gregg’s propensity to repeat whatever John has just said, and of course, the endless shots of contestants walking towards the Masterchef HQ (later, thrillingly, we’ll get to see them perambulating toward various London eateries).

The first contestant to face the judges is Paul, who dishes up mackerel wrapped in thin slices of white bread (he clearly watched the Great British menu last year, as this is very similar to one of the winning dishes). John and Gregg love it and duly pass him the apron of success. Charity, for some reason dressed for her culinary endeavours in a low cut black dress (trying to secure Gregg’s vote?), opts to serve a deconstructed trifle. My notes say DO NOT MESS WITH TRIFLE, and lo, a lesson is learnt. The result (that’s it on the blue plate there) made me hoot with laughter (and needless to say Charity is sent home).

Other contestants of note are American Tim, who’s through with his cod tempura, and tattooed carpenter James, endearingly worrying about the consistency of his jus – happily, despite the fact the jus is indeed over reduced, he gets an apron. I also like Polly, with her “vibe that someone here likes a pud”. I’m pretty surprised that Gregg votes no to her peach upside down cake, especially as John likes it and praises the skill involved. Still, she eventually gets through after cooking pea mousse (WHY???) for her ‘lifeline’ dish. Ondine, possessed of the squeakiest laugh ever, goes through despite some knackered tuiles. Terry’s quail eggs surrounded by a hollandaise lake have John and Gregg in fits, while contestant John from Essex falls at the fonDONT hurdle – will people never learn?! Some familiar flavour combinations reappeared – scallops and black pudding, sodding minted pea puree – and some new ones made their debut: leeks with coconut and lime, anyone? Rather nice, apparently.

So, I hear you ask (indulge me), are the changes an improvement? Weeeeellll…..on the whole, not really. The hour really dragged (Gregg in particular took ages to deliver his verdicts, I guess because they’ve been told to ramp up the tension), and I don’t like the X Factoriness of seeing people sobbing on their rellies when they’re booted off. I’ve read that this new format is very similar to the Australian version, which is enormously popular. However, if it does mean that the preliminary round is over after tonight’s episode, then fine, because that always seemed to go on for weeks and it was always more interesting in the later stages anyway. I do kind of miss “cooking doesn’t get TUFFA than this!” though……

My TV week

Sunday

Confession time: I love Lark Rise to Candleford. Yes, it’s incredibly twee, and no, nothing much happens, but it’s just so soothing. Everything’s golden in Lark Rise (even though they’re all terribly poor). Having said that, I’m not sad that this series is the last – I think it’s run its course, and I’m finding Dorcas Lane monumentally irritating. Still, I’ll miss it’s bucolic charms and ability to lift my ‘end of weekend’ gloom. Being Human provides something of a contrast – I’m loving this third series so far (and I’m also loving Jenni’s weekly reviews :)).

Monday

I’m still watching Glee, although I’m afraid I can’t summon the enthusiasm to write a full review each week any more (as you may well have noticed. Ahem). I enjoyed the Duets episode (Will: “What’s a duet?” Brittany: “A blanket”), and this week’s Rocky Horror one was entertaining, song-wise, but from a plot point of view…pfft. I caught the first episode of Outcasts, the Beeb’s new sci fi series but have yet to see the second – read Jenni’s review here (I agree with everything she says).

Tuesday

CSI, again, of course. Last week’s episode, with a pvc-gimp-suited serial killer storyline that was gratuitously unpleasant and is clearly to be continued, was really disappointing. This week’s was better (no gimpery) but I’m not sure how much longer this show will be a ‘must see’ for me. I caught up with last week’s Brothers & Sisters, and spent most of that hour shouting at the telly. For some reason Norah is poor and in need of a job. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CANCER CENTRE? She and Sarah (and Kevin) ponder getting some cosmetic surgery. BLAAAH. Holly can’t remember who Rebecca is. WHY DOES HOLLY TALK LIKE THAT IT’S SO ANNOYING GAH WHY DIDN’T THEY JUST KILL HER OFF?* So far, this season has been a bit pants (and HOW schmaltzy was the end of the first episode? “Oh, we’re a bit sad that Robert is dead but he’s been more or less dead for, like, a whole year so we’ve had time to get used to the idea, let’s all laugh about the good times and hug each other”)…..but at least Crap Walker’s not turned up yet.**

*Nepotism, perhaps? **Tommy. And yes I know he’ll turn up like a bad smell soon.

Thursday

I was really looking forward to The Big C, and happily the first episode (yes, I know I’m a week behind) lived up to my expectations. Laura Linney plays Cathy Jamison, a 42 year old teacher diagnosed with terminal skin cancer. She decides to make the most of the time she has left, and this first episode saw her getting a pool installed in her tiny front garden, ordering “desserts and liquor” in a restaurant and pretending to be dead in the bath to get back at her son (the little shit had pretended to chop his finger off). Interestingly she decides not to tell her family about her diagnosis (although she comes close to telling her brother). Linney is excellent, and the script is spikily funny. I’m really looking forward to watching episode 2.

My TV week

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for a little look back at some of the things I watched this week…..

Glee, season 2 episode 3, “Grilled Cheesus”

You know, I think there’s a reason I’m not rushing to provide you with a detailed review every Tuesday morning, and that reason is a distinct lack of enthusiasm for this series so far. It’s just not lighting my fire. This week’s episode (full synopsis here) was really frustrating – there were some great moments but on the whole I found it REALLY ANNOYING. Here are my thoughts:

The Good Stuff

  • Kurt. He’s long been my favourite character, and Chris Colfer’s performance in this episode was great (I’m so pleased he won the Golden Globe). Kurt’s rendition of  “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was stunning and brought a tear to my eye.
  • “I did a book report on heart attacks if you want to give it the doctor. It got knocked down an entire letter grade cuz it was written in crayon” – Brittany
  • Grilled Cheesus
  • “You can’t prove that there isn’t a magic teapot floating around on the dark side of the moon with a dwarf inside of it that reads romance novels and shoots lightning out of its boobs, but it seems pretty unlikely, doesn’t it?” ” … Is God an evil dwarf?” – Kurt and Brittany
  • Finn’s constant expression of brainless bewilderment.

The Bad Stuff

  • Now, Glee’s not renowned for its subtlety I know, but boy was it heavy handed this week. I felt like I was being hit over the head with the God mallet.
  • The bit where Mercedes finally seems to accept Kurt’s atheism, then passive-aggressively tells him off for pushing her away (HIS DAD’S IN A COMA AND YOU PRAYED AT HIS BEDSIDE AGAINST KURT’S WISHES!) before badgering him to go to church with her – UGH. (Loved Kurt’s hat in church though)
  • The song choices (“I Wanna Hold Your Hand” excepted) – all dull as filing. They even managed to make me yawn through “Losing My Religion” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (one of my most favouritest songs, evah!).

 

CSI, Tuesdays, C5

Good old original, proper Vegas CSI. I love it. This week’s episode wasn’t one of the best – the vampires and werewolves plot was just silly and Max Beesley was rather miscast as the leader of the vampire gang – and I still miss Grissom, but it’s still one of my favourite shows.

How TV Ruined Your Life, Tuesdays 10pm, BBC2

I really enjoyed Charlie Brooker’s new show. This week’s target was fear, ranging from public information films (terrifying at the time, hilariously funny now – although I’m still scared of pylons and railway lines), via Crimewatch to today’s rolling news. The “When Pens Get Hot” sketch (a spoof on those natural disaster dramatised documentaries) was genius.

National Television Awards, Wednesday, ITV

I am a sucker for awards shows, even when I know they’re going to make me cross, as the NTAs did this week. Ant & Dec won, AGAIN. Eastenders won, AGAIN. Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith lost out to David Jason, and Waterloo Road beat Dr Who and Sherlock in the Best Drama category (WATERLOO ROAD!!). What is WRONG with people?

The Good Wife, Thursdays, More 4

I confess that I didn’t pay particularly close attention to last night’s episode (I blame Fruit Ninja), but I did like the character of Nancy Crozier – played by Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep’s daughter. They have the exact same mouth – look: 

 

My TV Week

This week I have mainly been watching….

Glee Season 2, episode 2 “Britney/Brittany” (E4, Mondays, 9pm)

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Thankfully I enjoyed this week’s episode (see here for synopsis) a lot more than last week’s season opener. It was fun to see Brittany S. Pierce (see what they did there?) take a more prominent role – wow, Heather Morris can DANCE. There were some great lines (my favourites below) and I’m happy to see Emma back, along with new boyfriend Carl, played by John Stamos. Hubba. However! I do have a few issues with this episode. I’m not that keen when the musical numbers are a straight copy of the original video (Brittany doing “I’m a Slave 4 U”, Rachel doing “Hit Me Baby One More Time” etc) – I prefer it when there’s a bit of a twist, as with Artie performing “Stronger” (even if it was cheesier than an explosion in the Wotsits factory), or when it’s a straight New Directions interpretation, like their performance of “Toxic”. Also, how annoying was Mr Schue this week? GOD. And I know we don’t watch Glee for intricate storylines but come on, a bit more plot would be nice.

Lastly, Britney’s cameo was so insubstantial they may as well not have bothered.

Favourite lines:

“How can you get caught between the moon and New York City? They’re like a hundred miles apart” – Finn

“The other day he made me buy the green grapes and the red grapes at the market, and then we just mixed them together in a bowl and we just ate them. It was madness! Sheer madness” – Emma

“I don’t brush my teeth, I just rinse with soda after I eat. I was pretty sure Dr. Pepper was a dentist.” – Brittany

“This room looks like the one on that spaceship where I got probed” – Brittany

“I’m actually kind of happy about it. Then I don’t have to fantasize about what song I’d sing at your bedside if you were in a coma” – Rachel (On Finn not being in the football team)

Episodes (BBC2, Mondays 10pm)

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Now, I originally intended to write about this after the first episode last week. But, having watched said first episode I was unimpressed, and grumpy about it, so I thought I’d spare you all a miserable post and watch the second episode before committing my opinions to the internet. And now, after having watched the second episode…..I still think it’s rubbish. Well, ok, maybe ‘rubbish’ is a bit harsh. Tamsin Grieg and Stephen Mangan are great, and I like the premise. I love Matt Leblanc, but it feels like the writers haven’t decided if his character (a version of himself) is meant to be likeable or a complete arse, and he seems constrained and uncomfortable in the role. And it’s just not funny – I wasn’t expecting it to render me helpless with mirth but I laughed perhaps once in the first episode and not at all in the second. So the upshot is I’m STILL grumpy about it. Harumph.

10 O’Clock Live (Channel 4, Thursdays, 10pm)

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Channel 4’s new weekly live comedy ‘n’ current affairs show started last night, and on the whole I thought it got off to a very promising start. I loved David Mitchell’s take on Jeremy Hunt’s plans for local TV news and Charlie Brooker’s ‘Sarah Palin for beginners’. Mitchell’s tackling of David Willetts on university fees bodes well for his future encounters with politicians, I think, and the presenters seem to have an easy chemistry with each other. Rather less successful was the ‘World News Now’ section, which fell flat, and Lauren Laverne seemed to be falling into the ‘token bird’ role with not much to do. I’m not Jimmy Carr’s biggest fan but as he’s not the main focus he was bearable. I hope that having got the first show under their belts they’ll be a bit less nervous next week – if they can relax into their groove I think the show will appear less hectic. There’s been a lot of comment online about the wisdom of scheduling the show against Newsnight and Question Time, but I do hope it holds its own.

What have you been watching?

Glee, Season 2, Episode 1: Audition

Mondays, 9pm, E4

With much anticipation and excitement we’re back at McKinley High for season 2 of Glee. Hurrah! Something to cheer us on gloomy Monday evenings – I don’t know about you but for me this is VERY welcome.

After the disappointment at Sectionals at the climax of season 1 New Directions are even more unpopular – their budget is cut and no one’s put their name down to join up. Their attempt to recruit new members doesn’t exactly go according to plan – the two students who do show an interest, Sam and Sunshine, eventually decide not to join – Sam sees how unpopular it would make him and Sunshine is poached by Vocal Adrenaline as a result of Rachel’s jealous machinations (more on that later). I suspect we haven’t seen the last of them though. The Cheerios budget is also reduced in favour of the football team, much to Sue’s horror so she and Will briefly join forces in an unsuccessful attempt to get rid of the new coach, Shannon Beiste (pronounced ‘beast’, obviously). Finn is dropped from the football team after trying to help Artie win Tina back (she dumped him for Mike Chang’s abs over the summer), while Quinn returns to the Cheerios after suggesting to Sue that she can secure funding from a church group by being their spokesperson for teen abstinence. Sue demotes Santana to the bottom of the pyramid as punishment for her summer boob job in a scene containing my second favourite Sue line: You’re demoted to the bottom of the pyramid, so when it collapses, your exploding sand bags will protect the squad from injury. Now take your juicy, vine-ripened chest fruit and get the hell out of my office”

There was much to enjoy in this season opener – the aforementioned scene with Sue and Santana, the introduction of Sunshine (so cute and tiny you could put her in your pocket), and Rachel’s struggle to process this threat to her self-percieved position as the best singer in New Directions (culminating in her giving Sunshine the address of a crack den instead of the correct one for try-outs), the fact that Finn called Rachel on her behaviour (showing a strengthening of their relationship), and my favourite Sue line, on checking her pager, “Oh! It’s time to feed my gimp.” Ha!

However…..perhaps because I was so excited beforehand, I don’t know, on the whole I was a bit underwhelmed by this episode. The songs (with the exception of Rachel and Sunshine’s fab rendition of “Telephone”) were a bit blah – I loved “Empire State of Mind” when it came out but I’ve now heard it around 452 times. The whole “Sue and Will team up to defeat the Beiste” story line held promise, but felt underpowered – making the subsequent HERE COMES THE MORAL moment (where Will realises that ostracising someone is Not A Very Nice Thing To Do) even less subtle than usual.

Still, I’m very glad it’s back, and I’m sure (I hope) that forthcoming episodes will be sprinkled with more of that special Glee magic that I feel this one was missing. What did you think?

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Strictly Speaking: the grand final!

Awww, look at them! So, yes, Kara and Artem were victorious on Saturday. Yay! I’d love to be able to do a proper recap but I’ve got a house to clean, presents to wrap and an ENORMOUS amount of telly to watch. So here are my slightly condensed thoughts on the grand final (imagine the bullet points are tiny little glitterballs). Let me have your thoughts in the comments!

  • HOW cute was it when Kara and Artem got all emotional in their VT? When Kara started crying I must admit I started to tear up a little. I blame my Strictly cocktail (vodka, Cointreau, Chambord, cranberry juice and a twist of lime. ‘Tis delish).
  • I was really looking forward to the show dances this year. I actually thought that Matt and Aliona would win it with theirs, so I was a bit surprised when it wasn’t really much cop. Yes, Matt is great at gymnastics. WE KNEW THAT ALREADY. It would have been nice if Aliona had choreographed a routine that included some actual dancing. After all, as Mike said, it’s not called Strictly Come Gymnastics, is it? And did they glue that cap onto his hair?

  • Kara and Artem’s show dance was very ambitious, too much so it transpires as Kara tore a ligament in her arm while doing a backflip. OUCH. How she managed to even finish that routine, let alone perform two more, I don’t know (I imagine the painkillers were super duper strong). I did like the routine, despite the mistakes, as Artem included a lot of dance content alongside the acrobatics. Although, as much as I love Don’t Stop Me Now, perhaps a slightly slower song *might* have eased the pressure somewhat?

  • Now, I’m a sucker for anything with even a hint of Dirty Dancing-ness, so I’ll admit to squeeing when Pamela and James started dancing to The Time of My Life. And, yes, it was a lovely routine, performed beautifully. But! It didn’t feel like a show dance, it felt safe. There were a few lifts, and I certainly wasn’t expecting the same level of acrobatics as from the other finalists, but it lacked pizazz. I wish they’d thrown caution to the wind!

  • Despite finishing the first half top of the leader board Pamela and James are out first. I was really looking forward to seeing their Argentine tango 😦
  • I wasn’t keen on Matt and Aliona’s paso, probably because I detested the version of Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood that they used (love the Nina Simone original). They reprised their Viennese Waltz, and finally Craig was happy with Matt’s thumbs.
  • Kara and Artem’s waltz was lovely, if a little tentative due to Kara not being able to bend her arm and being in PAIN. They performed their American Smooth again – I LOVE that routine, and at last they got a ten from Craig. Len, of course, was still unhappy with the lack of time spent in hold. Next year the Strictly powers that be really need to make sure the judges are consistent in penalising rule infringements (see also Craig’s illegal lift pernickerty-ness), and that the pro dancers are given an official rule book.
  • All the couples, bar the finalists, return for a fun, lively group dance. Patsy! I’ve missed her. I WON’T miss seeing Widdy flung around the dance floor.
  • I was so convinced that Matt would win that when they announced that Kara had won I was positively jubilant. I may have done a little dance of my own on the sofa 🙂 I love how Artem stood back to let her lift the trophy (shame she only had one working arm!), and how emotional he was. Oh heck, I just love Artem.
  • So, that was this year’s Strictly. Despite a fairly lukewarm start I’ve ended up loving it just as much as ever. I’m so pleased Kara and Artem won (in case you couldn’t tell) – it’s the first year since Alesha that the person I’ve wanted to win actually has 🙂 I leave you (until the Christmas special, of course) with my favourite picture from the final. Altogether now: awwwwwwww!