Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Rare Bird

Some of you will remember Linda Sargent’s guest post about having Barnaby in her house. That’s Midsomer Murders to the rest of the world. The new Barnaby.

After a lot of waiting, A Rare Bird finally made it to our home screens a couple of weeks ago. I recorded it to watch with my own Midsomer fan, and we did so the other day. Daughter has seen some of the new Barnaby episodes, whereas I have long given up, and not ever seen cousin Barnaby in action.

At first I was glad it was someone other than John Nettles making a fool of himself, but soon I wished he was back. I have to assume they no longer wish to make a serious murder series. It’s gone beyond ridiculous, but with my foreign eyes switched on, I can understand why people across the world are so keen. It’s pretty, and it feeds our imagination as to what it’s like living in a cosy English village. Except one wouldn’t live for long, the way things are going.

So, a ridiculous tale featuring obsessed birdwatchers. The first victim was simply asking to be killed. Other characters were just odd. But it’s the police who are the strangest, and the new Barnaby is worse than his predecessor. Mrs Barnaby and the Barnaby dog are also weird.

Midsomer Murders, A Rare Bird

The blue-crested hoopoe is rare, but not as rare as those twitchers thought. Quite sweet, it was, when it finally turned up. Swan Lake, a pond, ballerinas, the village gigolo and a surprisingly sensible DS Jones (it must be the company he keeps) made up the rest of the episode.

What I find fascinating is how much effort goes into filming just a small part, as witnessed by Linda. The sheer cost of making a programme like Midsomer must be quite something, but then so are sales to other countries, I imagine.

Long may Midsomer live! (Well, you know what I mean.)

Where is NCIS UK?

Something has happened to NCIS in Britain. Or more correctly, nothing seems to be happening at all. There has been a pattern so far. Season X begins screening at home in the US. Some months later it appears on the non-terrestrial FX channel in the UK. When they’re done with it, Channel Five take over, usually with a season start in January, 16 months behind.

It’s not good, but it is something. Not all people have satellite television. And not all people live in America.

But so far I have seen neither hair nor hide of season eight on terrestrial channels. I happened to notice a query on Twitter regarding this a couple of weeks ago and happily replied that it should be starting any day now. Hah. As if. In fact, the original tweet was from someone who had asked Channel Five, only to be told they don’t divulge that kind of information.

Quite. Why would a television channel want to tell fans about their programmes? They might actually watch them if they knew. The Twitterer pointed out that R2 DVDs of season eight are already for sale in Britain. And that can only mean no one is about to offer it on the small screen.

I suspect that Five have lost (alternatively not sought to buy) their rights to NCIS. They are busy with old repeats on Saturday nights, and that’s good, but not terribly satisfying for keen fans.

Maybe it was felt there would be no one left to watch almost a year and a half later? Maybe it became too expensive, now that it’s the top US show? I tried an online search and got nowhere. I suppose CBS have no need to inform about what other countries do, especially after so much time has passed.

But what are fans to do? (I know. Buy the box of DVDs.)

Cast Promo Season 8 NCIS

Men who love women – Borgen style

Interesting the way they play with titles. Some men loved some women some of the time, but for the rest it was the usual misogyny. I’m surprised Denmark hasn’t already legislated equal numbers for women on company boards. Norway did.

And interesting how both men and women lie to get where they want to go. I did feel the unelected minister had rather a lot of degrees. Meanwhile, Kasper is good at his job, but not good at all when it comes to women.

It’s the children I feel for. They didn’t ask to be the children of the Prime Minister. Husband Philip is also being good. I expect if it had been anywhere else, they would at least have someone in to help with the chores. Father of the PM would like to, but he gets in the way, poor man.

Both of Sarah Lund’s dead detectives are still doing well, each in their own way.

Sidse Babett Knudsen and Nicolas Woodeson in Borgen

The episode featuring the state visit was good in that it probably showed pretty much what it must be like having to be polite to someone with questionable politics. I suppose we thought Mrs Prime Minister would be able to withstand his demands, but it was so much more realistic this way. Let’s hope her devious solution also happens in real life some of the time.

Still suspect the PA of being more than fishy. Lucky draw indeed!

I wouldn’t mind some tulips, actually

The thing you never realise as a child, busy having fun on your birthday, is what hard work it is being a parent. First there is the day (or it could be night) when you meet, a point when the mother has generally worked quite hard for some time. When she gets home with her baby she tends to think that that’s the worst of it over.

But soon she discovers that whereas she would enjoy some praise for having produced such a fantastic baby and child, and perhaps be given flowers and chocolates on his/her birthday, it’s actually expected that she prepares a party for any number of little, or not so little, ‘hooligans’ on the same day every year. And so it goes on for almost two decades. Presents. Food. Cleaning. (At first I cleaned the house before the party. I soon learned that afterwards is enough, removing bits of chocolate trodden into carpets and stuff. And I’m not even going to mention the Whistle child who sprayed all our books with Ribena.)

But whereas I read on facebook about people’s children’s 18th parties that go a little overboard, we never had those. (Maybe they are still to come?) Son, who today is a bit older than 16, celebrated his 16th some years ago. It’s a party that still baffles me.

It was the first time I seriously thought the guests would be ‘grown-up’ and demand drugs and entertainment.

What I got was the same group of overgrown boys, dragging the same mud through the house they always did, playing tag in the garden. (Remember it’s the middle of January. It’s cold. It’s dark. Often wet.) I used to worry what the neighbours would think when hearing the adolescent screams. They might have been mere calves, but they sounded like fully grown bulls.

Pizza was eaten. I suspect some guests moved on to non-alcoholic beer, whilst Coke was still more popular.

And then they gathered round the piano and played Pachelbel’s Canon. And own composed requiems. (I blame GCSE music…)

Not sure if that was the year when the best behaved boy (and I really mean that) called me a witch. He had no idea how right he was. Just mortified when he realised what he had implied.

This year there is no party to prepare for. And still no reward for me. Unless I count the peace and quiet.

Borgen

At least she knew it was a Tupilak. I wouldn’t have, but when your mother is the Prime Minister of Denmark you know about Tupilaks, with or without souls. Not that good old mummy had time for shopping while in Greenland. I’m trying to decide if the curtseying secretary is inept, but kind, or if she’s a spy. Buying the Tupilak was almost more thoughtful than you’d expect an idiot to manage.

The art for the PM’s office was fun. It became a running gag, but I suppose it’s come to a natural end by now.

Very good to have the Greenland angle in an episode. Few people know much about it, and here the Inuit almost got a voice of their own, however brief. I wouldn’t mind more.

Greenland cemetery

Last week comments about Borgen were along the lines that it’s intelligent television. Maybe it is. Or maybe we are just getting too used to too much rubbish, and are easily pleased when something different turns up. I’m enjoying it, and so is the Resident IT Consultant, who had no hesitation in joining me this week.

A Wonderful Launch

I couldn’t have planned it if I’d tried. There was a certain magic in finding myself in the Ladies at the Lowry yesterday, having Connie Fisher and Lucy van Gasse singing over the washbasins. Wonderful Town co-star Michael Xavier very nearly followed me and Lucy in there, in which case I could easily have been serenaded by three top singers. Let’s just say I took longer over my business than I usually would have.

Connie Fisher, Michael Xavier and Lucy van Gasse

As it turned out I needn’t have concerned myself over missing the first launch last February, because Connie had been told to keep quiet for a month (she said that was very hard for her), so didn’t sing. So, there we were, for the second launch of Wonderful Town, the joint venture from the Lowry, the Hallé orchestra with Sir Mark Elder and the Royal Exchange Theatre. This event is now happily much closer, opening on 31st March.

Connie Fisher

The Leonard Bernstein musical was a lucky find of Mark Elder’s, who suggested it to the other participants after seeing it in New York. That was five years ago, and they have worked towards this moment ever since. Simply a minor thing like booking the Hallé involves waiting two years. For director Braham Murray it was ‘hell on earth’ since putting up a musical is like giving birth. He had to whittle 400 wonderful dancers down to 60 in three days. And by some miracle the main attractions all said yes when asked.

Michael Xavier

That would be Connie Fisher, Lucy van Gasse and Michael Xavier, who were in Salford to sing to the collected press and prospective major ticket buyers. With the help of pianist James Burton they sang four songs from Wonderful Town, starting with Ohio, and then A Little Bit of Love, 100 Ways (to lose a man) and It’s Love. Apparently it all ends happily, and the beautiful girl does not get her man. The other one does.

Lucy van Gasse

As well as these fantastic singers, for the first two weeks the lucky audience at the Lowry will get the full Hallé in the orchestra pit. All 65 of them, and Mark Elder conducting. For the 11 week tour round the country – and the third, recently added, week at the Lowry – there will be an orchestra of 17 with James Burton. (I had been worrying considerably about how the Hallé could possibly take several months to tour, and now I know they can’t. So, for the full works, the Lowry it will have to be.)

After more information on producing Wonderful Town, there was a Q&A session with the three stars. The press was a disgrace, not coming up with any questions at all, whereas the normal audience did just fine. There might be a CD. (Let’s hope there is.) The rehearsals take six weeks, in three different rooms; one for the dancing, one for the acting and one for the singing. For Thursday’s performance the singers had a total of one day to learn songs and lines.

Connie Fisher, Michael Xavier and Lucy van Gasse

As a reward for their wonderful questions the audience were served afternoon tea, although I gather they were to be held to ransom until they booked tickets from the mobile box office at the back. The press went along to another room for interviews and afternoon tea. The Lowry put on a great spread for us, and once I’d sorted my Earl Grey with coffee (easy mistake to make…) to be Earl Grey without coffee, all was fine. The coffee cake was wonderful, and I chatted up a former almost-neighbour, who was the lucky man getting Connie’s attention in 100 Ways.

The handsome Michael Xavier might be from Knutsford, and he might be your typical romantic lead, but the two ladies were by far the most beautifully dressed. In fact, I did wonder if they talked colour coordination before getting ready that morning? I suppose it’s the sort of thing I should have asked while we were all in the Ladies…

Daniela Ruah on the Late Late Show

with Craig Ferguson. The man is insane. I’m surprised they allow him on television, but I’m awfully glad they do, because he is refreshingly crazy and entertaining.

But I have to say that this time, with Daniela Ruah as his guest, he was surprisingly daring, even for a boy from Cumbernauld. Daniela has an unexpected background in London, with a French non-Welsh speaking boyfriend in Wales. She gave that as her reason for having escaped visiting Cumbernauld. (I can recommend the service area. I really can.)

Watch, and enjoy.

It’s all about me, me, me

I’m clearly alone in this. The papers are full of Michael Fassbender (I had to turn my Guardian Weekend over to avoid the cover photo), with innuendoes along the lines that we are about to see so much more of him soon. I have to agree with that. The clothes budget for Shame was lower than it might have been.

I recognise that Steve McQueen’s Shame is a marvellous film in many respects; well done, beautiful camera work and all that. Arty. Daring. Thought provoking. But I hated it.

There is something about the tawdriness of some people’s lives that just doesn’t make for entertainment in my book. Sex addict Brandon and his confused and damaged sister Sissy lead empty lives. It’s New York and it’s glossy on the surface. But there is also some appalling loneliness, with no hope for improvement.

Brandon is so self-centred, that no one else stands a chance. It’s ‘me’ all the way. Not even the fact that his sister needs help rouses him out of his blinkered life. He tries dating, and fails. His boss disapproves of his online promiscuity, but has low standards himself.

It’s not the nudity or the sex that bothers me. It’s that feeling of what lies behind. Or rather, what doesn’t. The ‘wrong’ actor (for me) doesn’t help, but it’s the sheer ugly hopelessness of it all which got to me. The Guardian interview with Michael Fassbender calls Shame ‘a brilliant exposition of loneliness in the city or a pretentious piece of navel-gazing.’ I know which one I think it is.

(At Cornerhouse from Friday.)

A Troels too far

Two dead detectives resurrected into Danish politics in the new series Borgen. (And you try and say that if you can! It’s not as simple as it looks. Maybe adopting royal style plums in your mouth would help.) Meyer as a rather aggressive television editor and Strange as husband of the future prime minister. (It’s funny. I took their division of labour within the family to mean that he was a househusband while she concentrated on politics, and then it turned out he was ‘merely’ a college lecturer while waiting for his turn at something real.)

Wasn’t sure at first what I thought. In the introductory five or ten minutes I could easily have stopped watching, but after that I was hooked. The Resident IT Consultant was tired and was only going to watch the first episode, but didn’t depart for bed until after the second. So there.

Borgen

I think we are looking at ten episodes, if my internet search is correct, with another ten following hot on the heels if we turn out to like this political backstabbing. And let’s not praise only the Danes. I hope you noticed that the television companies from Finland, Norway and Sweden were also involved. Somehow we always seem to share these things between us.

The Billie Piper lookalike reporter who might very well turn out to be pregnant on live television, is confusing me. Her ex has an unfortunate tendency to back the wrong horses. He’s both a bit of a crook and half decent. Or perhaps he’s just worried about his skin, rather than showing decency? When he did what he did, I was muttering DNA and fingerprints under my breath, but this was politics and not forensics.

Political party leaders on bikes is nothing new, but this felt more genuine. So did the comment that Her Majesty might be out buying cigarettes. Not convinced that the Mulberry incident was product placement. They just needed to shop somewhere decent but exorbitantly expensive.

Had to tell Daughter that her beloved La Cour from Rejseholdet turns up as a much older and worn out politician, with a shifty look. What’s worse, he’s called Troels. Are we about to have another bout of people going round calling for Troels? I was confused by the actors referring to him as Höxenhaven, when the subtitles said Hoxenhaven. Minor issue, but unnecessary.

As was the fact that the darkness of Forbrydelsen in that dreary month of November made for better visibility subtitles. Come back! All is forgiven. Seeing the light is all very well, but our Danish isn’t yet good enough to go it alone.

The thirteenth day

As I raised my blinds the other morning I noticed immediately that the neighbours opposite had removed their Christmas decorations as soon as New Year was done and dusted. I had half suspected they would. I know it sort of makes sense, what with people going back to work.

But I do feel harassed into doing the same, and I don’t WANT TO! (Sorry about the shouting.) I want to keep my stuff up until January 13th, as I was brought up to do. But, not wanting to be too difficult, I’m willing to adapt and clear the decorations sooner.

But I do feel this coming weekend is enough. I want to feel that Twelfth Night (and the subsequent thirteenth day) is permitted to exist. We’re not Russians, I know, but I’ve been cheated out of my third period of celebrating. Christmas is shorter here. Then there is New Year. After which there ought to be a Twelfth Night (5th January), but isn’t.

The good thing about going back to work after New Year’s Day was always that soon you’d be off again. And we could never have celebrated Favourite Aunt’s birthday so thoroughly without her day being a half day, and everyone having time for carting flowers around town and eating too much cake and chocolates, again.

When I emigrated I was aware of the different circumstances, but I was so sure I could incorporate that festive 5th of January into my new life. I just knew I was right. It took only one Christmas to see I was deluded, and perhaps another to give up. But after all these years it still feels as if something’s missing.