Roger’s 85th!

Roger Whittaker is 85 today!

(Photo by Helen Giles, Köln 2009)

NCIS – And then there were, erm, not very many

left. At all.

The scriptwriters and those who decide what happens in NCIS ought to be ashamed of themselves. If the purpose is to remove as many characters/actors as possible before the end of season 18 and, one has to assume, the end of the whole shebang, there is no need to decimate the cast quite as harshly as this. Apparently they even omitted telling Emily Fornell that she was going to be no more.

Other – successful – television shows have ended after many seasons, with all or most of the characters still standing; some of them even living happily ever after. Or they could try repeating the bomb that that blasted most of the Navy Yard nine years ago.

But before that, please leave us with some characters left to watch. Even love.

One of the things that makes for a successful show, is the building up of many supporting characters; the ones who come back every now and then, and who we like and who add to the breadth of our NCIS family. The loss of three characters in as many episodes looks like carelessness.

We have devoted fifteen years to this. Yes, I know. It’s season 18, but we started late and went faster to begin with. Those years amount to a quarter of my life, and half Daughter’s life. Yes, we’ve done other things as well, but it’s a long friendship.

To start with we also rewatched many episodes. Less so now, because we are busy with other stuff. Returning to older episodes has always been an enjoyable pastime. But it’s harder to have fun with characters in the past, when you know that there will be a sad, or completely wasteful loss of their lives, later on. You can’t laugh at the ridiculousness of someone, if you know something that you’d rather not know about.

And to think that just the other day we were speculating about the speculations that Mark Harmon might semi-retire next season. We were discussing who could take over from Gibbs and make it work.

(The answer is Abigail Borin. She is [the only] well known and likeable character we have, who is still alive, and who is boss material.)


2011 was a good year. Well, we thought so, Daughter and I, as we reminisced about that early Eurovision quarterfinal, or whatever they call it, which we caught on our half term in Sweden ten years ago. With hindsight it appears most of the good songs that year were on on the night we watched.

Last night we watched this year’s Swedish final, because now you can get Svt online, and also after the fact (we forgot it was on…). So we had ourselves some late night singing and gyrating and mostly bad puns. Some of the songs were quite good, and some were not. Daughter was happy with the winner, who will travel to Rotterdam in May, while I would have preferred someone else.

But at least that someone else proved that singers with good voices still get the opportunity to compete. There were two Klaras. I think this one was the Klara with a C, so Clara. Plus guitar. And a much less outlandish outfit. Or there were last year’s winners, who didn’t make it all the way this time, despite all that gold.

Though, having said that, I didn’t watch as much as I might have . There was more or less uninterrupted strobe lighting for the two hours. Nicely done, but I wanted my eyeballs to survive.

And Mello, which is obviously short for Melodifestivalen, but sounds like a snack, was quite a revelation. Most Swedes I know watch every instalment, commenting on social media on everything, down to the frequency of the boy singers touching their you-know-whats (I assume to make sure it didn’t get lost).

The man who has run this show for the last two decades is Christer Björkman, who I seem not to have known back when we were twelve. But I did read about his Stockholm house in one of my recent house interior magazines, shown before he takes himself off to the States to give them their own Eurovision. (Yes, I know. But let them have  their fun.)

For Daughter there was Måns Zelmerlöw. He’s now been around long enough to almost count as a grand old man. Especially considering the winner last night was 19. Anyway, Måns is lovely, but I do wish he’d use his real local accent when he talks.

Once it was over, we sat and listened to some of the 2011 songs, one of which stuck in my head all night. The wrong one.

NCIS – not many left to kill





This might not be enough. But then there was no warning at all of spoilers when Daughter stumbled on the bad news for NCIS episode seven. Although I suppose one could have guessed some of it, by paying attention.

So, I firmly believe it was right for someone to die from Covid. It’s realistic and it might tell some doubters what’s what. It also only works if it’s a longstanding character, who you know and like. And from a practical point of view, it is often worth not killing the main characters. Although, consider the impact!

So we, and Jimmy, have lost Mrs Palmer, and their young daughter her mother.

We now have a veritable stable of what I call John Wayne characters; men whose wives are dead. It’s too much. Not only is there only one more wife who could be killed off – and I sincerely hope not – but there are no male equivalents. Neither Sloane nor Kasie nor Bishop have partners.

There has been talk of losing Sloane. She wants to run a bar in Costa Rica. Maybe. Personally I thought she looked more like she’s ill but is trying to hide it by talking about Costa Rica. I am probably wrong. It’d be ‘nice’ for a character to leave willingly, and while still alive.

They wore face masks at last, now that Covid has caught up with them. Possibly not always worn correctly as far as time and place is concerned, but this is fiction. It’s enough that they do.

We need more new characters being introduced. Not necessarily to kill them off, but the team can’t really spare anyone else now. And please keep Ducky on his computer screen, where he will be much safer.

Letting the side down

I have to admit to feeling disappointed, but greatly relieved we had already watched to the end of The Mandalorian. While I don’t like having past enjoyment ruined after the fact, it would have been worse watching Gina Carano in this wonderful series, knowing what we know now.

I had liked the fact that they made her role female, a fighting female, at that. And I liked seeing someone who did what she did without being impossibly stick thin or looking like she’d just come from her hair stylist. I felt she – by which I probably mean her character – did something for women.

Instead it seems Gina is just another crazy or brainwashed supporter of you-know-who (and I don’t mean Voldemort).

I was going to say, why don’t people learn to keep their unsavoury opinions to themselves, in order not to jeopardise their careers? But perhaps that would be worse; having someone like that hide behind a normal facade.

She’s not the only one for me, this winter, having just seen off someone I’ve known for over fifty years, someone almost exploding with indignation over how unfair life in the US will be [under ‘socialism’], and forgetting decent manners and any of the human kindness they previously possessed.

That’s what saddens me. That someone like you-know-who can ruin the lives of people like these two women, and anyone who had happened to like them. Before.

Deliver my Meze

I have no olive oil. Some time ago I took the executive decision to only stock one oil, and it’s not olive.

It would have been useful last night when assembling the Meze that had come all the way to Scotland from Arabica London. I know. It’s crazy and it’s wasteful. But my part of the world is a Lebanese desert, by which I mean, we don’t have the restaurants. And we’re obviously not allowed to go to them anyway.

After buying her brother a Meze selection for his birthday recently, Daughter extended her generosity and ordered one for me/us as well. It tasted delicious (if you don’t count the fact that I don’t care for Tabbouleh in general) and in the end we enjoyed a nice meal, the Resident IT Consultant and I.

I’d had no idea there was so much preparation to do, however, for what I erroneously had assumed to be cold dishes only. There was some heating, requiring a couple of oven trays. Even foregoing serving dishes and sticking with the plastic boxes, I still used up a lot of plates and bowls and spoons.

But the main problem was not the washing up, it was the lack of olive oil. And some other toppings and garnishes. Plus there was no dessert. These were all things that were meant to have travelled up north as well, only didn’t.

I guesstimated and substituted and went without. And as I said, it was delicious. But there was a sweaty period when I was juggling the unexpected chef tasks instead of sitting down to eat the result of someone else’s labours.

The Hummus was lovely, but the very best was the Muhammara. I’ll have to have that again one day. And in the end we were too full to eat dessert, so my Lidl Baklawa ersatz pudding brought out from the freezer was never wanted.

Back on form

NCIS are back, and in more ways than one. Three so-so episodes before Christmas and now another three in January. And they’ve been good. Some even downright exciting. Delilah is back, and she’s on a romantic holiday with McGee, who’s shrunk nicely into his beard.

When I say romantic, I mean romantic for those two. They don’t get their kicks in the ordinary way.

If anyone is reading this, could I respectfully ask that not all British actors are villains? It’s so obvious. Not all villains are British, but the other way round appears to be an unavoidable pattern. We don’t even get to ponder who the ‘unknown’ bad guy might be.

So we had the holiday in the sun, where obviously all the action shifted to McGee and Delilah.

Then at last it was back to the early taster of when Gibbs shoots McGee. We understand why, and that it can’t end entirely badly, but there was some nail biting as to the how on Earth?

Last it was the turn of Torres and Bishop to have their own locked in episode, being in severe danger, some fifteen years after DiNozzo and Ziva spent quality time in that cargo container. Again, we knew, but we didn’t know how.

The priceless look on Gibbs’s face when he arrived at McGee’s with all those computers…

Please keep this up! We need something good after all this time.

Photo © CBS

Trains, Brains and Automobiles

‘Is Anne Hegerty still alive?’ asked Daughter as we watched the first part of The Chasers’ Road Trip: Trains, Brains and Automobiles. She felt there was a real possibility that not all three Chasers would survive Mark Labbett’s driving of that Winnebago in the American Midwest.

And yes, he did scrape the kerb quite a lot. Anne winced as they hit yet another unfortunate piece of US road edging. I could tell she was trying not to be too harsh on the driver, but I know that feeling. See past the bumps, kind of thing, and hope to survive.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘I think she was this morning. She posted the link on social media, alerting me to the programme’s existence. So probably.’

As for the Resident IT Consultant, who very rarely watches STV, he came in to join us for ‘a few minutes’ but when the hour was over, he was still there. Same went for the second part this week, where yet again he was coming for a few minutes. At least this time we knew he’d stay, and it did seem as if Anne was alive.

Daughter finds Mark Labbett really annoying. I quite like him, while acknowledging he is rather annoying. And then there is the more normal Shaun Wallace, although I haven’t quite grasped what it is he does every morning. Not sure it is normal. Nor were those shorts… I mean, really!

Some of you may recall my admission on here that I have never watched The Chase. I still haven’t, so Mark and Shaun are completely new to me. But I like intelligent – or clever – people. Even those who fail the Mensa test.

In Trains, Brains and Automobiles the three travel the ‘world’ to pit their abilities against those of [so far] animals and children. And so far they’ve fallen short most of the time. But that’s as it should be. Entertain us as we discover that small humans are not stupid. Nor are small monkeys. Or dolphins.

For me it’s been good to watch a mainstream television programme and enjoying it. This happens far too rarely. I might even have a go with the real deal, The Chase, one of these days.

Photo © ITV

From one M.A.S.H. to another

There was a time when M.A.S.H. was an important weekly occurrence in the CultureWitch house. Had it been now, it would most likely have turned up somewhere to stream. I suppose it might now, even. I haven’t looked.

But back then, in the late 1980s (so you can tell I was already watching old episodes) I managed to fit in welcoming our firstborn between one Wednesday and the next. It was the last ‘fun’ I had before heading off to the hospital in the night, and when Son and I arrived home a week later, M.A.S.H. was our first point of call before we both went to bed.

Happy 85th Birthday to Alan Alda!

Dumbing down?

What kind of a start, I mean, ‘Christmas’ episode, of Doctor Who was that? Apart from the possibly meaningful release of lots of new Daleks, it was mostly mush.

I’m all for feelings, but then I want to feel those feelings; not having them spoken about as though we need stuff explaining to us. It was all touchy feely, with few resolutions.

Captain Jack eyed up several of the Doctor’s fellow travellers. Why? And what was he doing there? His brief stint a year ago was OK. A bit fun. But this felt pointless, and I say this as a fan of the good Captain.

So we’re losing two companions. I’m not impressed by the advertised replacement, but as Daughter said, we’ve generally liked them once they get started. Let’s live in hope.

But it felt vague and bland. The bright spot, surprisingly enough, was Chris Noth. I almost felt as if I was meeting a much missed old friend. Let’s have him back. He was camper than Captain Jack.

And what’s with this season’s Christmas University Challenge? Those were no celebrities or famous people. Mostly. They were people doing jobs after having been to university. Mostly. Despite the questions feeling somewhat dumbed down, I was intrigued by what these people don’t know.

Geography is one subject they didn’t pay attention in. But let’s go for Svalbard at all times. Has to be right at least once. And and, I’m so old! I must be. There are things one knows through having lived through a period when those things happened. The man who graduated in 1967 turned out to be valuable. As did anyone with a useful hobby. Like an interest in football.

I did find I could cheer the Courtauld Institute team, though, and we loved Kate Fox from Loughborough. Hers was not just a funny face, but there was knowledge behind it.

And I have to say we did not dumb down at all, having our nut turkey and brussels sprouts accompanied by the Downton Abbey film. Good food and good trustworthy entertainment with the right amount of tears, even on a second viewing. And the dowager duchess will lick the stamps herself!