Reviews of "Any Human Heart," "The Trip," "Getting On," and "Misfits"
Bonjour tout le monde! That's French for GOD, WHY ISN'T THERE ANYTHING GOOD ON TELEVISION IN THIS GODFORSAKEN (Nicolas Sarkozy is President -- incontrovertible proof that JC's dad has truly left ze beeldeeng) COUNTRY?
Anyway, this is all to say that I'm on a short trip to gai Paris (hush up, everyone, with your smutty innuendo), here to visit my parents and -- shudder -- attend a ghastly conference for work. Writing about Alan Sugar isn't my day job, you know. If only.
What this all means is that I've been living it up in the city that sometimes sleeps, and have had precious little time to watch English television, and for that reason this column may be a little bit piecemeal. But before you all start kvetching: I'll be back next week with a forensic report on the return of "Peep Show," OK? Aren't we all incredibly excited about that?! Don't I just treat you like a tender lover should? Eh?! God I'm excited. So let's get to the TV shows, shall we.
Any Human Heart
I managed to catch this on Sunday, via my parents' pirated British TV in Paris -- which means, lucky reader, that you get to enjoy some of Paddy and Vicki Salmon's interjections, which is part of the whole experience.
This was the first episode out of four of "Any Human Heart," a lavish and very high-minded period drama retracing the life of Logan Mountstuart (the first of many ludicrous names which, a commenter sweetly reminded me last week, I'm ill-positioned to poke fun at) as he looks back upon his life, as an old man played by Jim Broadbent. The younger men playing Logan are Sam Claflin and the ever-engaging Matthew Macfadyen, who look nothing like Broadbent and even less like each other. That Macfadyen takes over from the wiry Claflin in the space of a year, when the character is seemingly about twenty-six or so, is one of several jarring moments, and a real mistake in casting.
Logan Mountstuart starts off as the young and hot Sam Claflin, then, as he enters Cambridge or Oxford university and decides he needs to get laid. It's not a very exciting storyline and it's told rather charmlessly as Mountstuart goes about meeting a caricatural 'horny dairymaid' character and getting jiggy with her all over the place. [Vicki Salmon: "Oh god! Yuck! I really didn't need to see that!"] Meanwhile, he also meets and falls in love with a fellow student, who goes by the name of Land Fothergill (see what I mean about the names? No-one is called Land. No-one). Cue more grim scenes of bad shagging and more protests from my mother. She rejects him after he publishes a bad book and he sets up with a THIRD woman [Paddy Salmon: "What's he going to do to this one? Bend her over a table? Do it in the fireplace?]
I really have little more to say about it -- there's tons and tons more plot, wherein Mountstuart meets famous people through his life in the early part of the 20th Century, including a really embarrassing scene where he meets Hemingway in a café in Paris because, of course you'd meet Hemingway in Paris; didn't everyone, in the 40s? The problem with this first episode is that it never really got a grip on my heart or loins -- I felt so tepid towards everyone and especially so towards Logan. His affairs are boring (bangs girl #1; besotted with girl #2; marries and is quickly bored with girl #3; besotted with girl #4) and just follow each other in quick succession without time to dwell on character. Meanwhile, Broadbent plays the old Mounstuart as an inadvertently funny old dithering man, raking his old photos and newspaper clippings up from his cellar and peering at them as if he had dementia and lived in a house full of crap. Macfadyen fares best, of the three, by injecting a little humanity into the main role, but the whole thing is so lifeless and polished [Vicki Salmon: "The wallpaper is beautiful, at least!"] that I kept hoping for a sudden landslide to engulf the whole cast.
This is the first of a few catch-ups with serieseses that I've mentioned in past columns. If you're not watching "The Trip," my influence is obviously not as potent as I like to think. For Christ's sake watch it. We're onto episode five by now, I think, and the whole thing has been a joy. There are so many things to recommend it (beautiful landscapes and insights into local history; astonishing imitations from Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon; a real sense of pathos behind the humour), but the camaraderie between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is particularly lovely. You get the sense that Brydon is always trying to impress Coogan, whose world-weariness often crumbles in the face of Brydon's bonhomie; it's heartwarming to watch. Coogan's sadness, playing himself as a man who has lost his way and his sense of identity, is sensitively and nakedly handled, and there was a wonderful moment last week when he shouted AHA across a valley, his old Alan Partridge catchphrase re-purposed as a desperate cry from the heart. The programme doesn't shy away from anything: Coogan and Brydon's hilarious scene a while back in which they trade well-meant and indulgently-received barbs about each other's appearance and talk about plastic surgery with unflinching honesty, is just one of very many finely judged moments in a programme which never shows off and is always surprising and delightful.
Catching up with "Getting On," everyone's favourite hospital-set comedy from the BBC (which is a great place for comedy right now), we find the three main women (a doctor, two nurses) still trying to work out the pressures of their daily life and increasingly turning to fighting with each other. There has been drunkenness (a nurse sits on a patient's bed in a shiny dress, late at night, and wonders aloud if the patient was secretly quite pleased when her husband died), there's been cruelty (a nurse refuses to feed her old school teacher, now a frail old woman), there's been poignancy (in particular a scene where an old woman crazily bequeathes to her brother an envelope full of sweet wrappers) and outright, nuts-to-the-wall hilarity (a boardroom scene in which everyone is condescendingly taught to 'ice the cake', i.e. provide better care for patients and colleagues; at the third mention of icing the cake I was already in tears and it carried on and on, relentlessly; up there with some of the more cringingly funny scenes in "The Office").
For Christ's sake watch "Getting On" -- it has been thoroughly inspired and is unlike anything else on television.
I wasn't able to see "Misfits" (which I reviewed favourably last week) this week so cannot give you an update, but thankfully my friend Max wrote two statuses on Facebook all about it, so without further ado or his permission I'll leave you with his words:
"To all you people who keep on harping on about how amazingly fantastically awesome this "Misfits" show is, I watched an episode of it and as far as I can tell it's basically "Heroes" for people who don't like exciting plots or engaging characters, but will label pretty much anything a work of genius if it's full of drama school pricks putting on lower-class regional accents."
"Ever the charitable soul that I am, I gave "Misfits" another shot. After another episode I'm still none the wiser as to who they are or what they do, or, crucially, what any of their "superpowers" are supposed to be. Apart from the guy who claims to be immortal, although since I didn't actually see him survive anything fatal, I'm not sure what purpose it serves."
I think he doesn't like it.
Caspar lives in London and bravely considers himself to be in his late twenties. He enjoys many things, the listing of which would make him sound like an unbearably pretentious douche.