Binge & Co

I’ve been waiting for me to say something about this season’s – which is nearly over – NCIS, et al. Maybe you have, too.

Somehow it’s been harder to watch. Not anything to do with quality; just that the spirit hasn’t been there. In me, I mean. Us. But in the last week I have discovered what was missing. Company, and a bit of bingeing. This is odd for someone who likes her peace and quiet, not to mention needs to save something for later and not watch it all now.

We watched NCIS Hawai’i together. The first episode, I mean. It was OK. I wasn’t majorly impressed, though, as it felt like your average US television show. After a long, long while, I watched episode two alone, as Daughter had stopped watching and the Resident IT Consultant clearly didn’t care for it. Decided not to watch any more.

The family watched the first couple of episodes of NCIS season 19. The mind boggles. 19! Wasn’t sure how they were going to get rid of Gibbs, but always assumed he’d get himself honourably killed, somehow. The Resident IT Consultant and I have watched on and off during the year. It’s been OK. Parker as ‘the new Gibbs’ is fine. He’s no Gibbs, but Parker is OK in his own right, and the switchover was done quite nicely, I thought. Keep expecting Christine Baranski to sweep through the door at some point, though.

And watching Bull has been down to me, all alone. When I have an evening with no company, I watch. It’s been an uneven ride, but on the whole it’s been good. Losing Benny was probably a sensible idea, although I don’t see how his rookie replacement can suddenly have not only become a lawyer, but to be quite so ‘experienced’. That’s fiction for you. They’ve gone down some darkish directions, but seem to find their way out of them again. At one point I expected the whole cast to be got rid of, one by one, Agatha Christie style. Loved the Christmas episode.

So, there we were, just before Easter, when I demanded company. So, while Daughter caught up with NCIS, I watched again. Season 19 came across as a lot tighter and better when watched in quick succession. And in company. Must do that again some day.

Daughter had watched all of Hawai’i on her own and liked it. Of course she did. So we are now watching it together at semi-binge speed. And you know what? I like it. It’s better for company.

In other words, we propped each other up. And bingeing isn’t so bad after all.

I now have Bull standing by, hoping for a quick traipse through season six, which I gather is going to be the last. That’s probably wise. Leave this party and find something new and fresh.

Old man NCIS will be back for its 20th year. Perhaps that’s a good round figure to end on? Because they are all getting older, and Parker is not that much younger than Gibbs. Too old, in other words. (As was the actress playing Victoria Palmer. What were you thinking?)

To hit or not to hit

I don’t follow the Oscars, nor did I watch the ceremony. I have seen that punch once. I had never heard of Chris Rock, and I doubt I would recognise him if I met him.

Whereas I don’t think people should go around hitting others, the more I think about what Will Smith did, I think he was right. At first I thought he should have used words, rather than a fist. But words could have been seen as scripted entertainment, and words could easily have gone unheard by some.

That punch, though, we saw that.

It’s not so much what Will Smith – an actor I neither particularly admire, or dislike – did for his wife, although it was far more admirable than much of what Hollywood stars get up to. It’s what he did for all of us, especially all the people belittled by comedians or just shouted at or laughed at in the street. We – they – have no comeback. We – they – scuttle away in shame, sometimes fear. Maybe our – their – day has been ruined (along with life in general). If it’s someone we love who is at the receiving end of this kind of thing, we stand powerless to deal with it.

Thank you Will.

Happy 86th, Roger!

We’ve come a long way since I thought Roger Whittaker was really old. That was in 1968, or thereabouts, and any man over twenty seemed ancient to a 12-year-old.

Now though, we are both quite, erm, well, young at heart.

Happy Birthday!!!

The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage

Just because you’re fat doesn’t mean you need to be the clown. I’m fat myself, and I understand about clowning around. I do appreciate when fat actors are cast. They are actors, after all. But in this National Theatre ‘mould’ of colour blindness, where black and white actors are cast ‘without thought’ as to the colour of their skin; why treat the [token] fat actor – the main actor – as though he needs to be a clown, when the character in the book is anything but?

Right, I shall get off that high horse for a bit now, because La Belle Sauvage, based on Philip Pullman’s novel, was quite a good play. After years in the wilderness of Scotland, followed by two years of lockdown, it was lovely to be in a London theatre again, even if it was for the filmed version of a National Theatre production, screened in our local theatre. Drama like that is different from film, and we must remember to do it again, now that the post-Covid reluctance of getting close to strangers is very slightly wearing off. (Next time we’ll pay for the seat next to us.)

Clowns, yeah. Philip’s book is not a funny book. Nor is it especially suited for children. Yet, there we were with Malcolm acting the idiot, and with children in the audience who presumably had not read La Belle Sauvage (nor had their parents), but perhaps had liked His Dark Materials. I see why the part of 12-year-old Malcolm had to be played by an adult. But this shy and intelligent and thoughtful boy has no business behaving like a junior James Cordern. Having started off like this, he can’t really go on to be the Malcolm from the next book, should they dramatise that as well.

The other parts mostly worked. And the sharing of roles within the fairly small cast worked fine. The actor playing Lord Asriel was perfect for the part. A pity the end had him act like an idiot. It was like Malcolm’s stupidity, there for cheap laughs. Not everything has to be funny; not even ‘a children’s play’ if that’s what it was.

The filmed interviews with the people behind the dramatisation were interesting. I’m glad Bryony Lavery, who adapted the novel for the stage knew the book well enough to know what an important task she’d been given. Her work on shortening this long novel into two hours on the stage was a lesson in what you can do. Having Nicholas Hytner direct was, as she said, a very useful thing.

The way they used modern tech to suggest a flood on stage was very clever. Apart from the odd table, I’d say that the stage was mostly empty of props. It worked extremely well.

And baby Lyra! Apparently they have five babies in rotation, actually on stage, playing the young Lyra. Although it seems that for the oven scene, there was not a real baby in the oven…

Setting aside the issue of fat equals funny, and of this being less Pullman’s book than we’d hoped, it’s good drama. We need more like this.

The Muppet Show

Yeah, because that’s what you were hoping to read about just now, wasn’t it? Well, it is what it is.

It’s become a sort of smallest common denominator thing for the Witch household. We need something to watch with meals, when we don’t feel like talking, and it needs to be a little cheerful, and not so long that you regret starting. Besides, you can always watch two episodes.

I used to love The Muppet Show! And now, well I think back to how starved of entertainment we must have been. It’s good. Some of it, anyway. Certain kinds of humour do not age well, however, including there being warnings before some of the episodes pointing out that [today] we might find them offensive. More baffled, I’d say. The first time we weren’t even sure what was meant to offend.

But the stars! Oh, the stars! I was going to say some of them I’d never heard of, but of course, since I watched all this 45 years ago, I will have seen them at least once before. The more forgettable ones I’ve… well… forgotten.

Kermit is fine, and I still identify with Miss Piggy, and while many of the muppets are less fresh and fun than they once were, they are OK. But the humans… Some of them would rather not have been there, and I quite agree with them. They could have made space for someone else.

Regarding some of them I have begun wondering how you could be a big star back then and have so little appeal. (On the other hand, it seems Daughter is far more tolerant, despite not being of an age where she watched ‘live’.)

Others again are both seemingly keen and also good star material. Some were famous back in the day, by which I mean I knew them as stars at the time, while others have remained reasonably famous all these years.

Some time in the 1990s I was still so keen that I went out and bought the videos. All of them. And they were expensive. I was also delighted when the new Muppet Show began, as I was sure they’d simply carry on from where they left off. But that was a bit of a disappointment.

It was Lena Horne the other evening. I had to explain her to Daughter as the Alphabet Song lady, but that didn’t help. She’s still good though. Great voice. And I’d forgotten the other Sesame Street number Lena used to sing.

There’s plenty more to watch. Some of the stars are worth waiting for, and some of the jokes still work.

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Happy Christmas!

13 long years

No, I suppose they weren’t really. 13 years can fly by if they want to.

Handily, one of my dreams before I woke up this morning provided a few extra episodes of NCIS. And no, I can’t recall what they were like. Just that I was sitting comfortably, watching them.

It’s handy, in that one of the reasons CultureWitch set up shop was so she could go on and on about NCIS. To begin with she did, but more recently it looks like she’s been busy [with other things]. Had tea and cinnamon buns with Son and Dodo at the weekend. Dodo was never a fan of NCIS when Son tried it on her, but it appears that he is gradually wearing down resistance. They are now on season nine, which for Son will be the umpteenth reviewing. And as he pointed out, you notice things when you return to the old stuff.

The other thing Culture wanted to go on and on about was Roger Whittaker. He has sensibly retired. But not so much that he didn’t provide a brief telephone greeting to his fans via the German Fan page on Facebook a few weeks ago. I believe it was an ‘I am proving I’m still alive and well’ kind of message. (The German popular press likes exaggerating.) He said he was writing new songs. Maybe you can’t keep a good songwriter down. I doubt he will record, but would be more than happy to be proven wrong.

One of the comments Son made about NCIS is that when it began, Mark Harmon was the right age to be a federal agent. Today marks Mark’s 70th birthday – ☺️ – and he is really too old for this federal agenting. Perhaps the cliffhanger back in May was to herald Gibbs sailing into the sunset?

Anyway.

I’d be breaking out the cake and the 13 candles later, were it not for an actual invite to an actual blog related party. Garden variety, so we can breathe, but not necessarily on each other.

Not even if

Did you see the photo in the press – in my case The Guardian – of people enjoying themselves in a nightclub on the evening of July 19th? It didn’t take long, did it?

And then someone asked me if I’d come along to a concert in December. Doesn’t matter which concert, or where. Although, the fact that it’d take an hour to get there and I’ve never been before is somewhat anxiety inducing. But apparently the tickets were for unreserved seats. And not unreserved as in 50% capacity or anything. No, the full deal.

I really wanted to be helpful, to say yes, to sound positive. And maybe in four months’ time things will be really normal again. Not me, but ‘life’. I will hopefully be normal again one day. But I suspect not by December.

I wondered a little if it was because the act was not anyone I have a great deal of interest in. But I quickly came to the conclusion that not even if it was Roger Whittaker himself, returning for a late concert for his best fans, would I say yes.

Real life wives, rescue dogs and a screen husband

This is both late and early. I was going to muse on season 18 of NCIS, but took my time watching to the end. It wasn’t bad, but neither was it so riveting that ‘I couldn’t wait’.

To begin with I wondered if they were going to let the rescue dog be the way out for Mark Harmon, rather than just for Gibbs. It seems he’s staying, though, at least as someone outside the team. And the dog has already found another worthy owner. But seeing as it was Mark’s rescue dog that sort of did for the whole NCIS spirit, it made sense to introduce the loveable dog towards the end.

I think I mentioned that I watched the first two episodes of NCIS New Orleans, just to see how they dealt with Covid. And one way appears to have been to use Scott Bakula’s real life wife, Chelsea Field, to play his on-screen romantic interest. Means they can kiss.

When Pam Dawber wandered into Gibbs’s diner it looked like this was another Covid solution. So handy that actors marry other actors. If not for Covid, I feel there is unnecessary nepotism in this case. Shall we now wait for the younger Harmon son to turn up as well? But I like Pam. She’s a good match for Gibbs. And she has great post-Covid hair.

It’s definitely been a case of Ten Little You-Know-Whats for the team. With Bishop leaving and Gibbs permanently in his basement, it’s a team of two. It was rather obvious how they paved the path for Katrina Law to be the next female agent. But that’s fine. I like her so far, and there is the sympathy angle for Agent Knight. But it still felt like far too small a team, and McGee is no Gibbs. McGee is best as himself.

I’m assuming the news that Gary Cole is joining NCIS for a major role, means he will be the new Gibbs. Younger than Mark Harmon and older than Sean Murray, he looks right. I used to think Gibbs was irreplaceable, but this could be a working solution. I just hope Gary will be less rightwing than Diane Lockhart’s gun-loving husband.

The season end cliffhanger was less of a cliffhanger in those last few seconds. I feel we could have been deemed mature enough to wonder about Gibbs’s fate over the summer.

A good Good Fight

That was a really fun episode of the new season of The Good Fight. I’m talking about the second one. (The first one dealt swiftly and sensibly with all that has happened in the world since last time, and thereby also to many of us.) But number two was crazy.

At first it seemed like any episode of this 45th President fighting group of lawyers, but with Marissa wanting to train to be a lawyer and the firm hiring Carmen, another fresh new lawyer, they each got a storyline, which each brought a smile to faces unused to fun for so long.

I won’t say too much in case of spoilers. Harry Potter featured. So did Inigo Montoya, in a way. It’s always worth learning a new language, even if it in this case was unrealistic. We might speak two languages, but we don’t know all the words in both of them. But it was useful. And fun.

Also, I must learn more about the Grateful Dead.