NCIS: Los Angeles – A Bloody Brilliant Plan

To all my thousands of visitors who call in every weekend after watching NCIS: Los Angeles, I give you my Bloody Brilliant Plan.

As I’ve mentioned before, I gave up on Callen & co last winter. I am now 17 episodes behind. I decided on a new plan, which was to watch the latest episode, cold, with no inkling of what’s been going on recently. I felt it’d be interesting to see what a former fan would discover when revisiting old friends. Sorry that it’s last week’s, not the most recent episode.

It was amazingly British, or so they obviously thought. Let’s start on Hampstead Heath, where the balaclava-covered ‘villains’ broke into a house in London W8. But who cares? Didn’t look much like Hampstead.

But there is so much you can do with cockney accents and rhyming slang. They even had translations on the screen! If you can Adam and Eve it. (When will film makers make gold bars as heavy as they would be if they were real?)

Then back to LA, where the British villains don’t get put in the proper interrogation room, so we know they are all right really. Despite being British. Very pally. (Did some agent – the showbiz type, not the federal kind – ask if they could write something for one or two of their actors, so they could be in NCIS: Los Angeles?)

Before we even see the normal gang, we come face-to-face with Granger, who’s dead, just so we know about his daughter. This is a show that’s great with daughters. One of the cockney guys also had a daughter, which is what made him so OK.

The team are mostly as they were in January. Feisty, friendly, and dimmer than ten years ago. And I got the reference to clowns faster than Kensi did. But something appears to have happened to Eric and Nell. Instead we had Fatima, who was pretty good. She could do the work of both of them. I notice she’s in the cast list as agent…

There was absolutely nothing wrong with this episode, apart from the W8 thing. And that rhyming slang is less natural than they think, and gets tiresome. I’d say LA is still worth watching, for a bit of light entertainment. It’s just lost its sense of reality.

His Dark Materials – the BBC version

His Dark Materials BBC

No one could be more surprised than I am. But – so far – I don’t like His Dark Materials. Not one little bit. If I hadn’t read the books, I’d have no idea of what’s going on. If I hadn’t read the books I’d not be tempted to continue watching.

Having missed the first episode live last week I took to social media on Monday morning. I was upset to see that some people didn’t care for it. At all. But having time on my hands I read every status and every comment and came to the conclusion that more people liked it than not, and they’re people whose opinions I trust.

The Resident IT Consultant had liked it, and Son tweeted his approval. But then came the delayed viewing of Lyra’s Jordan, and separately from each other Daughter and I both found it wanting. She, charitably, said she’d give it one more chance. I have just done that, the second viewing, and, well, goody, they have already moved on to The Subtle Knife with some content.

Seeing as the first episode began with a scene from The Secret Commonwealth, I have to say we are getting a wide and varied diet here. We have a square alethiometer. And already Lyra has been told who her father is. Could have kept the suspense a bit longer, I feel.

Apart from Lyra, who’s very well played by Dafne Keen, they seem to have got most of the casting wrong. And there’s a definite lack of daemons everywhere. For instance, we’d never have been shown Billy Costa’s daemon last week if it didn’t have an important role to play later. Poor Ratter…

Meanwhile Lord Boreal is already climbing through windows.

Will I make time for episodes three and four? I am not sure. Can’t watch them live, but possibly curiosity will bring me to the television to catch up before the second half of His Dark Materials, by which I suppose we really mean The  Northern Lights, not the whole HDM, is on.

But oh, the disappointment.

(Co-published with Bookwitch)

Returning to their roots?

Hmm. Interesting.

Is NCIS attempting to return to the good old days? After my murderous outburst against Ziva’s sudden and illogical appearance, things are improving.

OK, third episode was a bit too much of navel gazing, or do I mean naval? But the last two weeks NCIS has begun to look rather more like it used to. The ending of episode five was almost textbook first two seasons.

I’ve quite enjoyed myself, and there’s been much less of the raging about how no one has looked at what they used to do. Someone might actually have done that. Still not keen on the new McGee, but even he has got less annoying.

Gibbs is back to being Gibbs, and Mark Harmon seems to have been sent packing. For the moment, anyway. Torres and Palmer and Kasie do well, and Bishop is OK.

I’m jinxing this, aren’t I? Let’s see what the next weeks bring. How about a ship or two? To remind us it’s the Navy.

Ziva must die

Surely?

Unless Gibbs – and then all the rest of the team – were having a Pam Ewing moment this week, NCIS needs some credibility here.

I was going to watch Bull, but came to the conclusion that he could be my reward and I’d better get NCIS over with. So I did.

Well, Gibbs was a lot Gibbsier than of late, which I suppose is a good thing. The newer members of the team who had never met Ziva were reasonably good as well. As was poor Palmer, down on the floor. But McGee has not improved over the summer.

Cote de Pablo has clearly forgotten how to act Ziva in the six years she’s been gone. She at least has experience of her character, whereas neither scriptwriters nor directors have to have been around all that time, so legitimately know very little about former Agent David.

The plot – ‘to be continued’ – has quite a few holes in it. But if Ziva is not killed, any writing out of her character will need to be convincing. After all, how is DiNozzo, and Sr, going to change their lives around again? DiNozzo is busy as Bull, and the whole gang really can’t just come back to the Navy Yard as though nothing has happened.

Dry and sunny

On more recent occasions we have opted to shop, or merely browse, at the Scottish Antique & Arts Centre outside Doune, and then got in the car to have tea somewhere else.

But then, it can be nice to sit down with tea and cake after a successful shopping expedition, and it was a warm and sunny afternoon, so Daughter and I trooped into Café Circa. Usually the eats are fine, if a little expensive. The service tends to be off-hand, but you can prepare yourself for that. So to be told it was so late we could only have coffee and cake – i.e. not lunch [at quarter to four] – was not as friendly a greeting as I’d have liked. And with only one table occupied, I’d have liked a ‘better’ table for the two of us than the small one they led us to.

As the nice looking coffeecake turned out to have chocolate in it, I ordered a scone, which usually is a very reliable item at Café Circa. Strangely, it was pointed out to me they also had Banoffee pie. Daughter ordered a Victoria sandwich.

We tucked in, while the staff cleared the decks and began to put things away and cleaned the floor. (It was still half an hour to closing.) The scone was dry, and the butter and the tea did nothing to revive it. The cake was also dry, and the butter-cream so sickeningly sweet that Daughter gave up. I had a taste, and it was overly sweet with a nasty, artificial flavour.

I had no intention of complaining, but as the girl who took my money actually asked, I said it was ‘quite dry, actually.’ She was sorry to hear that, said it was fresh that afternoon, and left it at that. I didn’t want money off, but it’d have been a nice gesture.

I’m wondering now if the Banoffee pie suggestion was meant to be a tastier option, or if it was another item they desperately wanted to shift before the last customer was broomed away. It’ll be some other café next time. Or we just go home.

Not love, actually

Geneva is very beautiful. So why have I had problems falling in love with it?

After four years of travelling to Geneva – to visit Daughter after she moved there – I haven’t really taken to it. Yes, once you get to know it a bit, and you know to turn left when exiting airport arrivals, and you can find your way around, and you know to say bonjour all the time, except when you should say bon soir, it feels, well, familiar, on a limited basis.

And it looks so good. The lake. The mountains. The jet. Lots of things look good. The view from Daughter’s balcony of the steamer on the lake.

I kept thinking the love would come at some point, and then I realised Daughter was about to leave and I still didn’t love it. Nothing had popped up that was love. Like a little, yes. Because it’s beautiful.

The penny finally dropped, just before what I think might have been my last visit a few weeks ago. Geneva is like Karl in Love Actually. That impossibly handsome man, who nevertheless left me totally cold. Because good looks do not equal love. I’d prefer Gavin, the PM’s bodyguard, who sings Christmas carols so beautifully.

It’s funny, though, because you can fall for a place, even in the first minutes there. Take Llandudno. Or you love the place because you belong there, or you’ve spent much time there and learned to love it.

And it doesn’t help how many times the Swiss say they don’t speak English – is it possible to go through school in a western country and not study the language for at least a few years? My non-existent French does not suddenly spring into full-on French when they say no. The wise among them then decide that their English might be poor, but not as bad as the French I don’t speak. I was informed at school that they all speak German, too. Seems not.

But it is beautiful there. And I’m glad I’ve been. It’s just not love.

Lake Geneva

Poor Elvis

I struggled to think of something to watch on television the other night. I was alone, and could do what I wanted, but suddenly I could think of nothing. Dug out an episode of NCIS from last year, to see whether it was as bad as I remembered.

Then, as it ended, and the television turned onto BBC Four again, I discovered a sad old man playing the piano and singing. He looked a little like Elvis.

It was Elvis.

It looked like the programme was just starting, so I remained where I was, deciding I could watch this. It was really sad. Enlightening, too, but mostly sad.

I’m an age where Elvis always existed, and while I liked his singing, I had despised the way he kept embarrassing himself towards the end. That’s the folly of youth, for you.

Now I know what happened to him, and how this handsome man went downhill so fast in the end. I vaguely knew that the ‘colonel’ was not good for him, but had not really grasped quite how not good he was. Seems like Elvis was a slave, and like all slaves he clearly had a breaking point.

Having ignored most of the ghastly films, I was unaware of the effect these had had on Elvis. I mostly remember the music after, for a few years, before the poor man was made to perform like a monkey, day in and day out.

It’d be wrong to say it was an enjoyable programme, but it was good. Now I know better. And I was happy to ‘meet’ Roy Hamilton, Elvis’s singing hero. Perhaps I ought to find more accidental programmes.