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.

Being Human Series 3 Episode 3 : Type 4.

Sundays, BBC Three, 9pm.

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Another week, another episode of Being Human and another supernatural treat.

This week saw the introduction of a new type of supernatural being, a zombie. After seeing Sasha come to on the autopsy table we next saw her staggering drunkenly out of a nightclub. She spotted Annie on one of her late night walks and followed her home, shouting abuse with every step. This lead to the B&B turning into the guest house for “differents” once again, whilst Annie and Mitchell tried to find a way to get rid of her. Investigation at the hospital found that it was their fault that she existed – whilst Mitchell was rescuing Annie from purgatory no doors were appearing for the dead to cross over. The hospital had experimented on their undead but Sasha had managed to escape. Feeling guilty they couldn’t possibly get rid of her, so Annie had a new pet project. After an unpleasant run in with Sasha’s far from grieving boyfriend, Annie and Nina took her for a girls night out when death finally began to catch up with her, leading to some surprisingly touching death bed scenes. Whilst all this was going on Mitchell had to stop a vampiric “fang boy” stalker from re-enacting his infamous train massacre, George and Nina discovered they were going to have a baby, and Mitchell finally cottoned on to Annie’s true feelings for him.

Whilst this was a fairly stand alone episode, it continued with some of the themes already seen this series and furthered established storylines. My favourite moments were:

  • Mitchell and George’s discussion about Annie – I love the interaction between these two, and it was nice to see Mitchell being the unsure one.
  • Sasha – I found Sasha to be thoroughly irritating, just like so many girls I know like her. Her real lack of awareness of what had happened to her, and her continued belief in her appeal to men made me smile. I found her last few scenes very touching, and liked the way they showed that there was more to her than the image she liked to project.
  • The music – one of my favourite things about Being Human is the way they use music, this episode was brilliant for it.
  • Consequences – Being Human is brilliant about showing that people’s actions have consequences, this happened again this week as Mitchell and Annie realised that his heroic rescue had come at a price.

Three episodes in and I’m as hooked as ever. There’s still been no sign of Herrick, and I think we’re due for a little more time with McNair and son – it sounds like the series is only going to continue on it’s brilliant run.

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Baker Boys.

BBC One Wales, 9pm, Sundays.

There’s a tv gem that’s currently going unnoticed by most of the population. The reason? It’s being shown on BBC One Wales. I don’t know whether there are any plans to show it to the rest of the UK at any point, but it doesn’t matter – anyone can access it using BBC iPlayer or by watching it on the BBC One Wales channel on their digi boxes (if they have one). The first episode of three aired last Sunday, so now is a great time to catch up.

The drama is set in a small town in South Wales, most of its residents are employed by the local factory Valley Bara. The close knit community is hit hard when the economic downturn means the factory is closed down over night. With most people’s income reliant on the factory how will they survive without it?

The cast boasts a number of great actors, Eve Myles and Mark Lewis Jones are probably the two most familiar faces. Younger viewers may also be familiar with Cara Readle who apparently used to be in Tracey Beaker. I’m finding Mark Lewis Jones’ portrayal of the long time union man Pete particularly watchable.

I’d strongly recommend giving this one a go, it definitely deserves a wider audience.

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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: 

 

Being Human Series 3 Episode 1 : Lia

Sundays, BBC Three, 9pm.

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Well as series openers go I think last night’s Being Human episode was pretty fantastic. In the space of an hour they managed to make me laugh, cry and feel genuinely worried about what was going to happen to the characters I’ve grown to love over the past two series. On top of this they brought in a whole host of guest stars and introduced plot threads that look likely to twist throughout the entire season. Not a bad start really!

Plotwise I felt that there was a good balance between carrying on from the end of series two and introducing new stories. In short, Mitchell travelled to save Annie from purgatory but first had to face the crimes he’d commited in the past ably guided by Lia, who turned out to be one of his victims from the train massacre of series two. Once he was thoroughly guilt ridden he was allowed to save Annie but with the warning that he would be killed by “a wolf shaped bullet”. George and Nina had settled back into their relationship and were trying to prepare for the forthcoming full moon in their new surroundings. While George was scouting for suitable locations he managed to get mistaken for a dogger and locked up just hours before his transformation was due. Quick talking from Nina narrowly avoided George transforming in a police cell and eating Rob, spokesman for the doggers. Too late to find safe and separate locations to transform they settled for safe, and it seems turned to werewolf sex instead of killing each other. Whilst all this was going on to our regular characters we met McNair, a tough, manly werewolf who was kidnapped by a gang for a werewolf fight club. His son, yet another werewolf, turned up as the gang leader, a vampire, was taunting McNair and staked him to rescue his father. Mitchell returned with Annie, who still has Lia’s suggestion that they would make a wonderful couple and their getting together would be fate on her mind.

With so much going on in the episode it’s hard to pick my favourite bits, but I’ll give it my best shot!

  • Lia – I thought Lacey Turner was brilliant as Lia. The characters was interesting and well used, and she got to plant two potentially significant threads for the rest of the series.
  • McNair – Never did I expect to find Robson Green playing a role that I found so engaging. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of him, and his son, and finding out what their presence means for George and Nina.
  • George and Nina – I love the relationship here and am so happy to see them finding a way to make their situation work. There is such good chemistry between the actors and this makes their on screen partnership so wonderful to watch.
  • Annie’s return – The sequence when Annie returned home was beautiful. I found myself shedding a tear or two along with the characters as they welcomed her back.
  • Vincent – Paul Kaye’s turn as the vampire leader of the werewolf fight club was brilliant, I understand why Tom had to stake him but I do wish we could have seen a bit more of Vincent.
  • Bob – I always enjoy seeing Kai Owen on my tv, and his Being Human role was a wonderful change from his more familiar appearances as Rhys in Torchwood.

I’m looking forward to next week’s episode already. With the hints Lia was dropping and the two pairs of werewolves becoming aware of each other I’m sure there’s great stuff in store for us. Oh yes, and Herrick still has to make his return!

What did you think of the episode? What were your favourite bits?

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