Category Archives: Television

Twelve long years

I’m not generally a binger. But this past year I have binged a lot more – mainly on television shows of long duration – for various reasons. And for those reasons I haven’t managed to find the time, or perhaps more truthfully, the happy inclination, to bore you all with what I binge-watched.

Began with Downton Abbey, starting in the middle, where my co-binger happened to be. It was the episode with the pigs. Then I accidentally found myself moved on to Call the Midwife, where I was under the impression – very erroneous it turned out to be – I was only signing up for episode one. I left at some point in season three, but could be in favour of returning to it one day.

After that my recent and very sporadic watching of Gilmore Girls was reorganised into full blown proper bingeing, and it was quite enjoyable. It still is, because we’re not done yet, as the intensity of viewing has slowed down considerably, along with everything else, during lockdown.

Both these shows proved useful when I was presented with the film Spy, for the second time, and while I hadn’t exactly forgotten what happened, I was amused to discover that two of the main characters were from Call the Midwife, and Gilmore Girls respectively.

There’s so much I didn’t know.

We started the re-education of the Resident IT Consultant and myself by embarking on all the Star Wars films and all the Marvel films, some of which we’d seen over the years, but never quite ‘got’. We’ve been an embarrassment to Daughter, and I’m afraid that old age hasn’t improved us all that much. Still have more films to enjoy, especially Marvel ones, as I have discovered there are more than twenty films! (Between you and me, though, isn’t there a curious likeness between Thor and Star Wars?)

And The Mandalorian; wasn’t it just lovely? Baby Yoda, yes. But also the calm generated by a different kind of hero.

Three Ironman films is almost two too many. We also saw Big Hero 6, which bore some resemblance to Ironman, and not just because they both wear red. On the whole I found Baymax the better of the courageous, flying heroes. To prove we’ve really gone down the quality film route we watched Sister Act as a birthday treat for me, followed soon after by Argo, which might well have been my first Ben Affleck film (I didn’t even know it was him…).

Daughter did not take well to Life on Mars when we tried that, so it remains something for us oldies to watch on our own. It brings back that lovely brown-coloured glow. And it was filmed in Stockport, which has some bearing on things. Plus there was a brief glimpse of Roger Whittaker, as opposed to Marc Bolan.

And we finally got started with the fourth season of The Good Fight. Looks promising, but I can’t say more since Daughter needs no spoilers as she fails to catch up.

We took some time getting to the end of Bull, and when we did, were startled to find ourselves in a New York in mortal danger of a virus, but not that virus. It was downright eerie and weird, because they will have to revisit that idea if/when they get to season five.

It’s the 2nd of September, which we used to mark as both Culture’s birthday  -twelve today – and the birthdays of the Grandmother and the Gibbs, aka Mark Harmon. He is now 69, which is pretty old for a federal agent, methinks. The same age as the Grandmother was when NCIS began…

We are sort of looking forward to a possible start of season 18 of NCIS. We almost believe it will happen. If they can work out how to deal with the last four episodes that didn’t get made in the spring, and how on earth to work in the bloody virus? But where there’s a will…

The reason we would quite like to see them back, is that season 17 was generally a big improvement on the train crash that was season 16, and to some extent 15. Although those scriptwriters in California should get their atlases out every now and then. For McGee to get from work to Johns Hopkins he could drive. Or get a taxi. Sending him to the airport with a suitcase is overkill.

But more of the stuff with Palmer, please.

Staged

Thank god for some good quality, brand new entertainment!

We’ve not been up to watching just anything, and Disney & Co will only take you so far.

But Staged on BBC One was like discovering diamonds when all you were looking for was limp, used, teabags. We were feeling grotty, but trying to make the best of things with Indian food delivered to the doorstep, when our smiles grew wider and wider as we watched David Tennant and Michael Sheen quarrelling in their respective locked-down homes.

It’s a rare thing when both the audience and the performers are in the same – albeit different – boat. They got to see how the other actors lived, and we got to see how they live, and we – almost – met Michael’s neighbour, and we wouldn’t dream of trying to hide our empty wine bottles. Not that we have any, of course.

David and Michael, ably assisted, or not, by their director and their finance woman, their respective spouses, and sister, and three heavy-weight actors in some great cameo roles. I can just about see myself writing a drama and casting Judi Dench. Although I realise she’d have to turn me down.

All three of us would have said we’d want to watch it very soon again, were it not for the fact that the Resident IT Consultant never says stuff like that, so it was just Daughter and me. But we will. It was like medicine. For the virus.

And their hair grew as we watched. Or so it seemed.

A Euro-evening with Mr Norton

We should have more of this. It was actually both fun and enjoyable. Unless that’s the same thing?

Last night’s replacement for Eurovision was far better than the real deal. I’d thought it would be, but it was good to be proven right. There was no avoiding Graham Norton, or Mr Norton, as he was addressed by the polite ladies in Rotterdam.

He behaved much better, most of the time. (But there is still room for improvement.) First we had the reminiscing of the past, playing an odd and partly predictable selection of oldies and occasionally goldies from the last 60+ years of Eurovision. It was nice to see [some of] them again. I remembered what my problem with ABBA in 1974 had been. Embarrassingly large group, embarrassing clothes, and the surprise of them suddenly singing in English. Plus the winning, except that wasn’t bad so much as a surprise. Katie Boyle looked like Mrs Thatcher’s prettier sister.

And then they won again, in Saturday’s ‘contest’. Daughter was torn between ABBA and Måns Zelmerlöw but luckily she was allowed to vote for more than one.

Then came the more ‘real’ Eurovision, with two hours of this year’s hopefuls, directed by three nice people in Rotterdam. It was lovely! I feel I got to know them so much better than through the ‘postcards’ they usually have. We saw many of them in their homes, and we enjoyed counting the pieces of IKEA furniture, or noting who seemed to have none.

We fell in love a couple of times; the lovely young Italian man and the charming cheeky chap in Austria among them. We’d not have seen any of this without the worldwide calamity that caused the change of programme.

Björn Ulvaeus appeared and spoke wise words as Eurovision’s grand old man. We discovered a UK winner from 1997 that neither of us remembers ever having heard or seen. It was good. And wow, hearing it sung by all the 2020 singers at the end..! Discovered a UK non-winner wearing an interesting dress, or vest, as I would call it. Again, a good song.

To finish a great evening, we had an hour of Eurovision A to Z presented by someone who looked like a Russian millionaire, with good teeth. That was fun, too. More memories to be revisited, and new ones made.

Four and a half hours later we rose from our armchairs, with some difficulty. Even the Resident IT Consultant had remained, and looked like he enjoyed it too. That’s never happened before.

Too old to Disney?

The house was freezing cold a few evenings ago. Daughter felt like ‘watching something.’ Having been recently set up with Disney+ it might have been me who suggested a Disney film. What with what’s happening in the world we sort of need light and fluffy. She wondered what film I’d be prepared to watch, and having very swiftly decided none of us were right for Bambi – all things considered – we looked through what they had. I settled for Frozen.

Daughter found it hard to believe that I’d want to watch it, but having missed it so far (when Offspring are old enough to do Disney without the parents) I felt I might as well educate myself. After all, there’s been enough about Frozen in the media for years.

Even the Resident IT Consultant was up for it, and having cranked up the thermostat a bit so we would be warmer than Anna, we had a lovely time. It’s true, it is a nice film. (Not at all like Moana.) And who’d not want a Sven in their life?

The next evening, we continued on the F-theme, with Freaky Friday – served up with fish & chips, delivered from the chippy in town (seeing as we can’t eat out). Many years ago I failed Daughter on two counts, by promising something was definitely going to happen and then due to unforeseen circumstances it didn’t. There were two such things. First, we never made it to see Freaky Friday in the cinemas, so had to make do with the DVD later on. The second was the meal of fish & chips that failed to materialise on holiday in Penzance.

So this was truly a killing of two Fs with one stone. Freaky Friday is a good film. It’s easy to overlook these things; light entertainment and Disney.

On social media I admitted in a Disney-thread discussion that someone had felt I was too old for Disney. I suspect it was Son. I suspect he meant little by it; mostly thinking I only ever watched because I had small children. Once. But he’s old now, and doesn’t seem to mind still watching. Hence his getting Disney+. Hence me sharing watching it.

NCIS – The North Pole

We saved this ‘Christmas episode’ of NCIS until the one who hadn’t yet caught up had departed, and while we could still muster up some Christmas cheer. Except, well, yes there were Christmas decorations. But it was not cheerful.

And either I’m getting old and slow, or the scriptwriters are upping their game considerably. I didn’t see much – any – of this coming. Despite me noticing the staircase as being a copy of Gibbs’s and wondering if it was going to be used in the same way again, seeing as Ziva was back. Again.

Well.

And there was a decent red herring, as well as a really strong clue, had I actually been awake for the first half of the season. I suppose most of us fell for that double bluff.

It’ll be interesting to see where they can go with the fallout from this. They could ignore it, and continue as if nothing had happened, as on other occasions in the past. Or not.

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.

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.