By Caspar Salmon | TV | January 27, 2011 |
By Caspar Salmon | TV | January 27, 2011 |
Hello everyone, and haven’t I got some great television for you this week! Oh I’m sorry, I meant: I haven’t got some great television for you this week! I’m going to be wittering on about two OK programs (one of which I hate) and one outright disappointment. And now, with your appetites all fully whetted for this stellar line-up, let’s proceed to the shows!
I’m new to “Being Human,” so I’ve got a little bit to catch up on, but as far as I was able to make out from hearsay it’s about a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire who all live together in the normal world. You know: the world that you and I live in, like normal people. Wouldn’t it be wack if there were supernatural beings walking around amongst us? Eh? God that would be wild.
In this opening episode to Series 3, the hunky Mitchell (the vampire one), played by hunky Aiden Turner, is hunkily trying to save Annie (the ghost one, played by Lenora Crichlow) from Purgatory, where she got dragged to at the end of last series. Meanwhile, the werewolf one (Russell Tovey, playing his character with all the usual Toveyisms) and his werewolf girlfriend are — er — well, they don’t have much of a plot this week. Bad luck guys! In summary: he gets arrested at one point, in an unhilarious misunderstanding whereby the cops mistake him for a dogger in the forest, and his girlfriend comes to rescue him as they’re both about to transform; it’s not a wonderful storyline. There’s also a completely bizarre cage-fighting subplot, which looks like it’ll bleed into future episodes; I’m not sure it has that much potential.
The whole vampire-going-to-Purgatory bit gave hunky Mitchell the chance to broodingly reflect on his past misdemeanors, in the company of a perky cockney Beatrice to his hunky brooding Dante de nos jours, played by Lacey Turner from “Eastenders” with the endearing air of someone who’s only just learnt how to act after years of being held in an Afghan prison. It was quite a good storyline which confronted hunky Mitchell with his past blood victims, and one which gave hunky Aiden Turner multiple chances to peer through his hilarious hairdo with his trademark troubled gaze, and look as if his character were going through some emotions.
I wasn’t that impressed with it, especially after falling for the zippy take on paranormal shiz in “Misfits” late last year. I thought that there was a fair amount of overacting (Tovey) and an equal amount of underacting (Turner), and the script didn’t always sparkle, particularly in the ‘comedy’ moments. There were a few sharp lines (“He went to Purgatory for you! Puts my boyfriend’s tattoo in perspective.”) and some nice visuals, but I can’t say it had me howling (werewolf pun) for more or that I’m dying (ghost pun) to sink my teeth (vampire pun) into past episodes.
Ten O’Clock Live
The most widely trumpeted programme of the year, which debuted last Thursday evening, was the new comedians-do-the-news show “10 O’Clock Live.” Seemingly taking its cues from such shows as “Have I Got News For You,” “The Day Today,” “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and the not terribly missed “The 11 O’Clock Show” (which nevertheless launched Ricky Gervais and Sacha Baron Cohen), this new prog aimed to skewer the news and all those lying bastard snooty sneering politicians and all those oily impardonable bankers, with well-aimed barbs and caustic, punchy vitriol. In the end, it turned out to be a rather underwhelming sort of awkward confection consisting of a couple of sketches (a dreadful “Come To Tunisia For Your Holidays” piece, for instance; oh ha ha ha, yeah, that really is the funniest that a sharp-eyed current affairs programme can do on the topic of a whole continent thrillingly starting to tear itself away from dictatorship; keep the incisive comedy coming guys) , two interviews (nervously handled by two people who have never interviewed someone before), a crap debate about banking bonuses, and lame ‘bits’ to camera by the three various men (such as Charlie Brooker’s oddly uninspired take on Sarah Palin), all competing to out-funny each other, with desperately chirpy segues and cement from Lauren Laverne who had thankfully been sidelined in her capacity as a dumb broad, so that the men could bring the lolz. The worst bits came when all four cohorts sat at an overly large table with their backs to a large proportion of the audience, awkwardly discussing current events like four not particularly learned mates chatting about monetarism down at the pub. It was mortifying at its worst and mildly discomfiting at its best.
The worst thing for me was the braying audience, upbraided on two occasions by a harried-looking David Mitchell (who really should stick to “Peep Show,” in my view) for bringing a pantomime vibe to proceedings. It was all about populist booing and clapping, jeering at fucking bankers and cheering at the brave vigilantes fighting for our plain, decent, upstanding rights. I can only hope the show relaxes a little, allowing the four comedians to banter in a more easy way with each other and getting some unscripted loveliness to bubble about in the mix, because this first outing was cripplingly rigid and self-satisfied.
Finally, starting an umpteenth series this week, the ever popular “Top Gear” returned to our screens, fronted as ever by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, those three well-known men, happily passing judgment on style, aesthetics and coolness while sporting, in this instance, a green velour jacket, light blue jeans and moccasins (Clarkson), a Topman jacket, bad jeans, bad hair and a wooden necklace (Hammond) and a brown leather jacket, a mauve paisley shirt and the worst hair of all (May). They all look extraordinary. I have lived in this world for thirty years now, and have never met a single man who looks anything like these three.
So yes, my secret is out: I am not “Top Gear“‘s target audience, and I find the whole thing fairly bemusing when I don’t find it outright offensive (of which more in just a second). Since I don’t drive a car and never have done, and never had as a boy that fascination with cars that most boys do have, I don’t even understand what these guys are talking about most of the time. Horsepower? I have no idea what that is; I would guess the force of the engine, but it’s a close thing. I’d guess a chassis is the car’s arse, mostly from terrible innuendo by bad stand-up comedians, and I would have no idea which pedal was which. So I hope you all appreciate my sacrifice.
I found this first episode alright. It did the trick, just about, although as I understand it the “Top gear” formula is well-worn: get at least one of the men to do something silly; do a big stunt race; get their weird anonymous driver in a mask to test drive something; deride a minority; announce some ‘news’ about cars coming out soon; get a celeb to drive something. I’ve seen it before and often found things to infuriate me, and this episode didn’t fail in that respect - as Clarkson et al aren’t thick and take a mean pleasure in troll-baiting effete, well-thinking, middle-class liberals like me - but there were also some bits to enjoy. The three buffoons look berserk but they do enjoy a real camaraderie and seem to delight in each other’s company; their banter feels extremely scripted (as are SO many of the show’s gags), but they are quite a genial team, overall. Clarkson is a massive prick, of course, but that can’t be helped. Another thing I found to enjoy was a pleasingly anarchic style to the show, particularly in a wildly surreal sequence where Clarkson tested the new Skoda (a subject of much derision, but which looked to me like it probably served its main function of getting from A to B very well). This bit saw him riding it over bumpy terrain while a tattoo artist attempted to draw a rose on a poor fellow’s shoulder, which was quite funny, and they also landed a helicopter on the car to test its endurance. But the best bit came when Clarkson said, “But is there room for Sienna Miller in the glove compartment?” - which is already a good enough line on its own - and opened up the compartment to reveal a smiling Sienna Miller for a split second cameo. Very good.
Where the show falls down — for me, that is; I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t hold its charms for people who like driving or who can look beyond some heavily contrived comedic set-ups - is in its terrible unreconstructed politics. Some of it is deliberately done to anger - well, to anger me, basically - but some of it is entirely unintentional, such as an astonishing moment today when Clarkson, fawning over a car that costs £105,000 (!), said, “”You’ll actually be able to say to your wife, shall we take the Interceptor tonight darling?” He honestly didn’t do it on purpose: his boyish, gleeful instinct, and the best scenario he could possibly think of, was being a man driving a woman around in a car. He didn’t consider women driving, or men driving men, or men driving on their own; it was pure unadulterated old sexism. Women don’t get a look-in on the show, and why should they? Women come in three categories on “Top Gear”: fun girls who drive wildly, enigmatic girls who drive sexily, and wives.
There was a dreadful bit, too, where the presenters gamely discussed for two embarrassing minutes, whether there was an alternative to cars in today’s world, and found that - phew - there isn’t. Take that, icebergs! Having accepted this totally dubious premise without batting an eyelid - disgustingly dismissing public transport as the province of murderers (which is revolting, even as a joke) - they then briefly discussed how to save the planet, and didn’t come up with anything. Oh god, it was so cringe-worthy. I bet in 50 years’ time, as the world is crumbling about our ears, we’ll watch this debate on terrible TV screens like in “Wall-E”, and shake our heads at these fools who were singing while the ship went down.
Caspar Salmon got chatted up on public transport just last night, which has never happened to him on a car journey.