Chris Nelson’s weekly trawl through the schedules
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Chris Nelson’s weekly trawl through the schedules
Eoin and Chris shoot the breeze on Charlie Sheen, TNA, Soaps and Eoin gets ranty!
A slight disclaimer this week. The ‘Loose Women’ rant at the end of the show was due to a misunderstanding on my part, as the Hilary Clinton interview in fact took place on Sky News! However that doesn’t make it any less rant-worthy, so hope you enjoy!
Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story
BBC 2 10:45pm
Eddie Izzard is one of the funniest comics around, and his surreal stand up has been playing to packed houses for 15 years. He’s also a pretty fascinating guy; as serious offstage as he is silly onstage, hopefully this film by Izzard’s former partner Sarah Townsend will shed some light on why he does what he does and on how he shapes and performs his act.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
ITV 1 6:30pm
David Yates’ first turn in the Potter director’s chair is one of the series best entries; lean and pacy, with the young stars really growing into their roles and a real sense of a growing threat and a march to war, a superior blockbuster.
ITV 1 10:15pm
For my money, Joe Wright’s sumptuous adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel never quite recaptures the brilliance of its opening 40 minutes, but its pleasures are many and varied, from an extraordinary tracking shot of the Normandy landings, to the clever score, to the performances of James McAvoy, Kiera Knightley and – especially – Saoirse Ronan, who won her first Oscar nomination for this part, aged just 14.
Nosferatu the Vampyre
BBC 2 1:50am
I’ve been wanting to see Werner Herzog’s take on Murnau’s silent classic for some time, and MMM writer Michael Ewins’ mention of it in his first Analysis article has made me even more intrigued. Being Herzog and Kinski this is bound to have its fair share of crazy, but the images I’ve seen are beautiful and Nosferatu was always the most frightening of cinematic vampires.
ITV 2 8:30pm
One of the great Christmas classics, Joe Dante’s anarchic little movie basically has It’s a Wonderful Life attacked by monsters, and is exactly as much fun as that implies. It’s replete with Dante’s nods to B-Movies and director cameos (watch for producer Steven Spielberg) and packed with hilarious lines. The Gremlins are wonderfully brought to life with Chris Walas’ practical effects and, of course, there’s THAT speech about why Phoebe Cates’ family don’t celebrate Christmas. Really, what more could you ask for?
The Truman Show
MORE 4 10:00pm
Jim Carrey’s first dramatic role is still his best performance, and this film about a man unwittingly living his whole life on TV now seems disturbingly close to reality. The Truman Show is one of the first films that made me think about cinema, and it still affects me on a lot of levels; it’s hilariously funny, thought provoking and deeply moving (if you don’t cry at the end check for the presence of a heart).
ITV 4 9:00pm
Ah, Christmas. Tis’ the season for 80’s action movies. It’s easy to forget that Lethal Weapon (like Die Hard) is seasonally set, but the mix of action set pieces and tongue in cheek dialogue courtesy of Shane Black is a joy any time of the year.
ITV 2 11:15pm
For me, this adaptation of the 60’s TV series is one of the best rollercoaster rides of the 90’s. Harrison Ford is on top form as the wrongly convicted man searching for the one armed man who killed his wife, an Oscar Winning Tommy Lee Jones enjoys chomping scenery as the man trying to catch him, director Andrew Davis stages some brilliant large scale action and chase set pieces and the whole thing is just one big, satisfying, endlessly entertaining ride.
Last Action Hero
Channel 5 6:45pm
Talking of underrated 90’s action movies, this Arnie starring spoof is much cleverer, and much more fun than its reputation and box office take might suggest. Schwarzenegger is actually pretty effective as the action movie hero who first has to deal with a kid from the real world being sucked through the screen into a movie and then with crossing over into the real world. Charles Dance has an enormously good time as the bad guy, especially when he too enters the real world (“I’ve just killed someone, I did it on purpose”) and if it starts to try to fit in too many ideas towards the end of the film, that’s forgivable if only because of the earlier Hamlet spoof (“To be or not to be… Not to be.”)
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Channel 4 8:50am
This is a Christmas staple for me. The gags are funny, the puppetry is wonderful, Michael Caine makes for an excellent Scrooge, the Muppets all fit beautifully into their roles (I especially love Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker’s cameo) and even the songs are solid. It’s not the most faithful telling of the story, but hits all the important points and is endlessly charming and entertaining. This is one of the things I most look forward to about Christmas.
Channel 4 1:00pm
The other great alternate version of A Christmas Carol, starring Bill Murray as a Misanthropic TV producer who wants to put an orgy of violence on instead of the traditional Christmas show. Murray is at his sarcastic best, the ghosts are engagingly offbeat (especially Carol Kane’s turn as Christmas Present, who punches Murray into each new vision) and the TV spoofs are great. Best of all, there’s atypically unhinged performance from Bobcat Goldthwait as an underling Murray fires on Christmas eve.
Stranger than Fiction
Channel 5 6:55pm
This really should have been Will Ferrel’s Truman Show, but for some reason people didn’t respond in the same way to this engaging and funny story of a man who wakes up one day to find that his life is being narrated, and he’s the main character in an author’s story. There are a lot of very funny sequences here, many of the best involving Dustin Hoffman as a lierature professor trying to help Ferrell discover what kind of story he’s in, but the heart of the film is the surprisingly touching romance between Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal. A lovely and underseen film.
Channel 4 7:00pm
My love for this movie grow every time I see it, and in fact I think it’s probably Tim Burton’s best film. Burton is ideally suited to fairytales, and Caroline Thompson’s magical screenplay gives him a lot to work with. In his first collaboration with Burton, Johnny Depp is simply brilliant as Edward, giving him a charming naiveté and a gentleness that belies his initial appearance as a knife fingered monster. He’s well matched by Winona Ryder; soulful as his love interest and by Dianne Weist, whose kindly Avon lady is the one who brings Edward into the normal world. And surely there can be few more beautiful sequences in 90’s cinema than the one in which Ryder dances as Depp’s Edward carves and ice sculpture of an angel.
Channel 4 12:10am
It’s an odd time to be showing one of the great horror classics, but even though its not Halloween, that’s no excuse to miss this great Stephen King adaptation. Brian DePalma stays pretty faithful to the book, but adds real cinematic style. However, this movie belongs to Sissy Spacek, who is brilliant as Carrie, convincing at every possible level from the wallflower of the film’s first half, to the iconic image of the pig’s blood drenched girl taking her vengeance.
BBC 1 3:25pm
This film about an animated Disney princess who finds herself sucked into the real New York (and pursued by both her prince and the minions of her evil stepmother) would be pretty much worthless were it not for Amy Adams’ incredibly infectious performance. It helps, of course, that she looks like a cartoon come to life, but it’s the bright eyed wonder with which she regards and engages with everything that makes her performance, and the film, such fun. It’s completely predictable, and Patrick Dempsy is blander than bland as the love interest, but Adams makes Enchanted irresistible through sheer force of charisma.
The Winslow Boy
Channel 5 12:20pm
A real change of pace for David Mamet, best known for making swearing an art form in films like Glengarry Glenn Ross and Heist. This adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s play sees Nigel Hawthorne litigating to retain his family’s honour after his son is expelled from a private school for stealing. Mamet gets terrific performances from Nigel Hawthorne, Jeremy Northam and Mrs Mamet Rebecca Pidgeon, and the dialogue is as gloriously crisp as you’d expect.
Bridge to Terabithia
BBC 1 11:20am
You may want to sit down with you young children to watch this lovely film about two young friends (played by the remarkable Josh Hutcherson and Annasophia Robb) who create an imaginary magical kingdom in the woods behind their homes, because it’s not the Narnia like film it was sold as. It’s something much more powerful, and much more meaningful, but it does take one genuinely upsetting turn that the tinies will find hard to take. It’s a beautiful and emotional film, and tragically underseen and underrated. DO. NOT. MISS. IT.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
The Living Daylights
ITV 1 3:00pm
This underrated Bond movie stars my favourite Bond actor, Timothy Dalton, who brought a harder edge to the role 20 years before Daniel Craig and features on of the most beautiful of all the Bond Girls in the lovely form of Marayam D’Abo. The plot is the usual nonsense, but Dalton’s great and the set pieces work well (especially the pre-credits sequence), and what would holiday season be without Bond?
Welcome everybody to another edition of TTWTWB, and it’s time for an annual TTWTWB tradition, our review of the Royal Variety Show. As we’ll have a few videos, there won’t be a theme this week, but I do have something to ask of YOU for next week! As next week we’ll have our end of year review and a preview of next year, I’d like suggestions as to a song to use as the theme for that column! Either one that stood out from a TV show this year or one which sums up a certain part of or a certain show from the year. Give it some thought, the winner gets a mention and a Twitter mention. And maybe something else, we’ll work on that.
So then, Royal Variety. Music, comedy and that. It was nice to see in it’s rightful place on the BBC, advert free and with significantly less editing than when it’s been on ITV. I was immediately unsure though, how good it was going to be with Michael McIntyre as host/Emcee. Despite his burgeoning popularity, he is after all, probably the biggest name in UK comedy at the moment, and he has a massive fan base, McIntyre does commit a cardinal sin for TV comics by going way, way too over the top with a gag and running it into the ground and at the RV where the goal of the Emcee is to be entertaining in segues while at the same time not stealing focus, his habit of getting too hyperactive could have gotten old very quickly. Fortunately my fears were allayed early on with a very funny opening routine that didn’t overrun or get repetitive. I was also amused by the fact Tom Baker was doing the voiceover announcements. It’s marvelous what Matt Lucas and David Walliams can do for a career.
Before Michael McIntyre took the stage for the first time the show was opened by Kylie Minogue performing Better than today.
I wasn’t blown away by the lovely Ms Minogue, but upon reflection she really was the perfect opening act. She is obviously very well known, and so the recognition factor is high to the viewer. She always has an impressive stage show giving a great visual and she always gets great crowd reaction so it’s a great way to warm up the audience. The fact it wasn’t an awe inspiring performance though was a positive thing as it meant it wouldn’t steal focus or make the subsequent performances seem poor in comparison. It was a light, fun performance of a half-decent pop song and set up the evening nicely.
Following McIntyre’s first spell, we were given an unconventional treat of Ray Davies being joined by Paloma Faith for a performance of the classic Lola (L-O-L-A, Lola!).
Despite the bizarre pairing, their voices blended really well, with Paloma’s powerful, jazzy tone being ideal for Lola. As always too, Ray Davies seemed to get a real kick out of performing live, which he seems to revel in and together they produced the first really top performance of the night.
Following another McIntyre segue, we were treated to Britain’s Got Talent winners, Spellbound. They had a tough act to follow given Diversity’s tremendous turn last year, and they really delivered in kind.
The only complaint that could be levied at the production was the flicking of camera angles and a lighting/backdrop that stole focus at times, but the acrobatics were highly impressive and the choreography as tight as a drum. The dire flop that was George Sampson two years ago is being blotted out of memory bit by bit.
Up next was Lee Mack who I have to say was a bit disappointing. I’ve written in the past about the difficulties comedians face at variety shows, given that they only have a very short period of time in which to establish themselves, their comedy and get a routine over with a sufficient punchline to bring at least one big laugh before the end of their stint. It’s a situation that makes comedians hit and miss, and sadly Mack was a bit of a miss. I’m no expert when it comes to stand up comedy, but I remember Lee Mack when he first broke onto the TV scene having a style very similar to that of Tim Vine with quickfire gags. Now he seems to have moved into more an alternative comedy type patter. It just doesn’t work for me, and I know MultiMediaMouth head honcho Eoin is of the same opinion. It was the first of only a few low points for the show, and given his fame, probably the biggest let down.
Next we had Adele singing Rolling in the Deep (a performance I sadly can’t find a video of), which was another great, stripped back, bluesy song coming in the wake of her resurgence in the charts after Rebecca Ferguson covered her version of Dylan’s To Make You Feel My Love on The X Factor. I’m far from a gossipy columnist when it comes to weight and look, but Adele’s weight loss was quite noticeable and changed her appearance a fair amount. As she’s not an image dependent artist though I hope this is just personal choice and not an attempt to fit into the template that certain magazines and newspapers would insist is right. It was another really top class act for the night though, and one which Charles and Camilla seemed to genuinely enjoy judging by their expressions.
The moment that most surprised and delighted me came next, with the appearance of Michael Crawford! I’m an absolutely massive fan of his as an actor, singer and acrobat and so was delighted to learn he is taking up residency in The Wizard of Oz as the Wizard which I will have to go and see. He introduced the cast of The Wizard of Oz, led by Danielle Hope. The youth singers appearing as the Munchkins varied from about 11 down to REALLY tiny, but they were impressively tuneful for a large group of children which can be a bit screechy at the best of times. Danielle was better than I remembered her being on Over the Rainbow where she won the role, when I was quite disappointed she had won over contestants who had impressed me more, but she has really blossomed as a singer and performer since.
Oh yeah, and Toto was CUTE!
Our second low point of the night followed in the inherently nasty form of N-Dubz. Why they were even approached for the show pretty much baffles my mind, given their behavior in the past. The performance was alright, but nothing too impressive and I think we can just all be thankful they didn’t grab headlines with any more uncouth actions.
That was though immediately followed by a spectacular performance giving us another highlight for the evening. Russell Watson had an incredible return to form after his unfortunate and very forgettable soiree into mainstream singing a couple of years ago. Sadly I was unable to find a video of this either, but Watson, singing a piece from La Forza Del Destino while accompanied by dancers from the Royal Ballet. It was an incredibly atmospheric and dramatic combination and one which really blew me away. Top marks all round.
That was ably followed up by the lovely Sarah Millican who delivered the funniest material of the night. Indisputably the current Queen of UK Comedy, she is that rarest thing, a comedian (ienne?) who makes me laugh every time I see her perform. As discussed before, impressing at the RV is tough for a comedian, and she was smack on the money, letting her jokes and style speak for themselves. Highly entertaining.
Susan Boyle was up next, who will probably be a shoo-in for RV regular for as long as her popularity lasts (which I presume it will for a long time). She was good as always performing Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, a song which has departed so much from it’s originally intended subject (heroin addiction) it’s bizarrely funny. I could have really done without the choirboy accompaniment though.
Another comedian followed that in the shape of Jack Whitehall, who I find very funny when he’s on form, but he too can be guilty of going over the top in his delivery. Thankfully he was very good at the Palladium, only second in comedy terms to Ms Millican. He was witty, clever and did a lot to ensure his place, usurping Russell Howard as the top young comedian in the country.
Cheryl Cole performed her song The Flood (not to be confused with Take That’s The Flood) and didn’t disappoint. Cheryl is never going to deliver an incredible vocal, but she filled the same role as Kylie, only with the name recognition at a higher point currently. it was nice enough and she did at least sing live, given complaints about her miming on The X Factor.
Now we came to the point I was dreading writing about…the performance by The Chelsea Pensioners. Now this comedy/musical/whatever it was supposed to be…I’m not quite sure what role it filled, and it puts me in the difficult position where I could perhaps be seen to be bashing said Chelsea Pensioners. I’ll just go on record, that is absolutely not the case. However, whatever the purpose of this act, it didn’t entertain or amuse, but I guess it fits the bill on a Variety show.
However, sweeping after that was probably the most impressive act of the evening, another one I sadly could not find footage of. Daniel Whiston of Dancing on Ice fame took the stage with an awe-inspiring combination of skating (on roller blades) and the Cirque-Du-Soleil ribbons to Kissing You by Des’ree, which just happens to be one of my favourite songs. If I can find video of this by next week, I’ll definitely post it.
Our penultimate comedian of the night was Micky Flanagan who also did a lot to raise his stock. With Mock the Week appearances and most recently a spot on Have I Got News for You, he’s currently turning into one of the hottest acts in the country and his routine raised a number of big laughs from the audience at the Palladium. A spot on Live at the Apollo and more mainstream acceptance should follow.
Then we had the longest performance of the night with an incredible medley from Les Miserables by the current cast, topped off by the current Jean Valjean singing Bring Him Home with 3 former leads from the show. I know not everybody is as enthusiastic about musicals as I am, but I fully recommend watching the whole medley here. It is breathtaking.
The penultimate musical performance of the night was Jamie Cullum with Rumer singing a favourite song of mine, Elton John’s Tiny Dancer. I was delighted to see that song performed given that it’s much lesser known than a lot of Elton John’s discography, and it was a well harmonized and really quite pleasing duet.
Our final comedian was next in what amounted to a very disappointing few minutes from John Bishop. Compared to the previous 3 comedians who had been lively and sparking, his material seemed very lackluster and delivered with very little enthusiasm. On the whole it was a good night for the RV comedians, but they were book ended by sub-par showings from the two,, arguably, best known of the night.
The headline act for the night was Take That who gave us two songs from their current album and were a fantastic live act as always. The Flood is a cracking pop song, although most of the attention was taken by the nearly nude dancers recreating the poses on the cover of the aforementioned album. It was a very peculiar stage show, that thankfully was cleared for the second song, an incredibly energetic version of SOS. It was a great choice to finish with the energy really leaving the crowd with a climactic, adrenaline soaked finale.
But those events are in the past and it’s time to look to the future! That future being this week’s television. Let’s see what the schedules have in store!
We kick off our highlights with the return of Monkey Life on Five. It’s not the most in depth show and nor it is going to win any awards for originality, but hey, it’s monkeys on television and who doesn’t love that!?
Our other highlight of the week is Close Up with Martin Scorsese, the first episode in a series wherein young artists around the world get a chance to observe and learn from masters of their respective industries and crafts. In this particular edition Argentinian film maker Celina Murga shadows Scorsese, which is an incredible opportunity for any person in the film industry. I’m always looking for and praising shows where new talent is showcased and this is EXACTLY what I meant, albeit at the very highest end of the scale. With the incredible amount of programming hours Channel 4 will have available with the end of Big Brother and E4’s airing of Friends I hope to see a lot more falling into this category.
So just the one lowlight for the week, the extremely unwelcome return of How I Met Your Mother. Essentially if Neil Patrick Harris is in something, I’ll hate it. It’s smug, self-aggrandizing and self-satisfied comedy with very few, if any, laughs. Ugh.
So that’s me for the week! Remember to send me your song suggestions for next week either in the comments below or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep your eyes peeled for a lot of great new content on the site including our now blossoming Film section and a new Game Show Garbage. Follow me on Twitter @ChrisNelsonMMM and the site @MultiMediaMouth and in the mean time, remember to stay safe.
Welcome everybody to a special and very sombre edition of TTWTWB. As you can see above, rather than our usual frivolities and rantings we’ll be dedicating this week to Emmerdale Series Producer Gavin Blyth who passed away on the 26th November only shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.
It’s difficult to know what to say when something like this happens, and I’m the first to admit I’m qualified neither in proximity or talent to write a detailed obituary telling people about his life. Suffice though to say that Gavin stood out in all his endeavours, as a journalist, photographer, script writer and producer throughout his life. The world of media and showbusiness can be a backstabbing place, and few people will be remembered as fondly or positively which is very indicative of his professional talent and personal warmth. Actress Lucy Pargeter who plays Chas Dingle in Emmerdale very kindly via Twitter gave her thoughts which summarise the impact he had.
“It’s just so hard to sum up in words what Gavin meant to us as our boss, what he did for the show and what and who he was as a man, dad, friend and talent. He was and always will be missed and impossible to be replaced! It’s such a sad loss for his family , us as a cast and the industry.”
Regular readers of this column will know that in the last two years when it comes to my Soap coverage that a trend has developed. While Coronation Street has remained inconsistent and Eastenders has in the last year become an absolute joke, Emmerdale has gone from strength to strength. Fans of Soaps will know what I mean when I speak of the ‘conventions’ of those shows, where regardless of how good a storyline or a payoff to a storyline is, things always will come back to the same conclusions. Marriages will break up, affairs will happen regardless of the happiness of the married people, unlucky characters will always remain downtrodden and characters make the same dumb mistakes which leads to repetitiveness and banality, as well as having to go for cheap stunts for ratings boosts. Under Gavin Blyth’s production though, Emmerdale has consistently and regularly bucked those trends. I wrote in a recent column discussing his comments on the Queen Vic fire in Eastenders where he emphasised the need for big events to have consequences in a Soap Opera, and talked about the long lasting effects events in Emmerdale would have on the characters. This approach has played a big part in the outstanding quality of Emmerdale over an unprecedented period of time.
So often in Soaps, the big stunts associated with the foremost storylines are the focus of the show. They’re pulled off in a wave of self-congratulatory back-slapping but very little changes in their wake. On the other hand Gavin Blyth’s emphasis on the consequences of those big events and the long lasting effect they have on the characters lead to grounded, human and realistic storyline arcs. The histrionic melodrama was replaced by convincingly real performances and characters that viewers will instantly relate to. Those conventions mentioned previously are foregone as the rounded and complete personalities react and adapt in a way that feels organic and unscripted and not shoehorned into an overarching agenda for controversy or magazine front pages.
To use Chas Dingle’s current storyline as an example, what initially seemed to be a straight up revenge storyline has become something much more interesting. Like real people, the characters around have reacted and adapted. Carl, realising how he could have everything he wanted in a family, became a devoted fiance. Both families have rallied around and Chas is now reconsidering her actions. What was a standard Soap storyline has become something much more layered, interesting and engaging, which is a succinct way to explain Blyth’s effect on Emmerdale. His approach made shows more layered, interesting and engaging. Revealingly, I read in Alaisdair Steven’s obituary for Blyth here that in his stint as Assistant Producer and Story Editor on Coronation Street, he was responsible for the development of the character of David Platt which has been one of the most enduring and interesting long term aspects of Soaps in the UK for a long time now.
It’s difficult to summarise the full extent of his impact of course, and credit too must be given to the actors and actresses who have performed brilliantly, turning out great performances and making the absolute most of the storylines provided. We likely won’t know quite how much Gavin Blyth has changed perceptions of Soaps and perceptions of what can be done in a Soap until long into the future as other Producers put their own imprint on the foundations he has laid. Hopefully his influence will be held as the example, especially in stark contrast to the crash tv style currently favoured in Eastenders by Bryan Kirkwood, which would be a good and fitting way to pay tribute to his achievements in television.
The death of Gavin Blyth is a very sad loss and everybody here at MultiMediaMouth sends our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. I hope some comfort is provided in the knowledge that he was greatly admired in the industry (in recent times he has become a huge influence on my personal writing) and as a person. He will be greatly missed.
Usually at this point I’d do my highlights and lowlights for the week ahead, but that seems inappropriate in this article, so I’ll just list a couple of things to keep an eye out for.
The X Factor Final Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th
Dig 1940 Wednesday 15th
Next week we’ll have our preview of the television over the holiday season as well as a new feature from our Film Editor Sam Inglis. Send any feedback to chris@multimediamouth or in the comments below, follow me on Twitter @ChrisNelsonMMM and the site @MultiMediaMouth and in the meantime remember to stay safe.
I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! Welcome everybody to another edition of TTWTWB after a 3 week holiday hiatus! We’ve got the usual shenanigans for you, but first as always we have our theme, this week provided by Holby City (shocking, I know!). It’s a classic by Iggy Pop and The Stooges, ’Lust for Life’.
“So what does he have in store for us this week then?” I hear you cry! Well I *WAS* going to give you all a preview of my end of year awards and related paraphernalia until I saw a very specific trailer on ITV on Tuesday which made my blood boil in the kind of way only an unbelievingly moronic decision by ITV can do.
Even people who don’t follow sport will know that the England & Wales Cricket Team is currently down under in Australia competing in the first test match in the 2010/11 Ashes Series. It is, in sporting terms, one of the biggest and most prestigious events around. It’s popularity reaches far beyond the fans of the two countries that participate to cricket fans the world over. Despite this factor however, it remains as a TV spectacle on the Government’s ‘B-list’ of sporting events. The ‘A-List’ is a group of sporting events deemed important enough that they must be broadcast, at least in part, on free, terrestrial television. In that group are;
Winter Olympic Games and Summer Olympic Games
FIFA World Cup final tournament
UEFA European Football Championship
FA Cup final (in England)
Scottish Cup final (in Scotland)
World Cup and European Championships qualifiers (in the respective nation)
Commonwealth Games (in the respective nation)
Welsh rugby union Six Nations and internationals (in Wales)
Wimbledon Championships men’s and women’s finals
Rugby (Union) World Cup final
The Challenge Cup final (rugby league)
Cricket World Cup final
ICC World Twenty20 final
The ‘B List’ sports on the other hand can have their live coverage entirely on subscription based channels as long as their highlights are aired on a free to air channel which means Sky with their superior bidding power are able to put their full weight behind The Ashes, which they have done since 2006 when Channel 4’s impressive six year run airing home Test Matches, which along with the 2005 Ashes series went a long way to rejuvenating the popularity of Cricket in the UK.
With this in mind then, it comes as no surprise that Sky Sports are proudly exhibiting the current series as a key part of their lineup for the winter. But what of the highlights? Well since 2006, those have bounced around. Initially Channel 4, continued their successful format in highlight form, fronted by Mark Nicholas with Richie Benaud with various other ex-professionals who had made up the broadcast team for live matches. Then for the last few years Five have had England match highlights as a key part of their primetime lineup, utilising largely the same style as Channel 4 with Nicholas et al.
Then very recently, something changed. While watching Sky’s coverage of the warm-up match against Australia A, I heard a familiar voice on the live commentary. That voice was Mark Nicholas, now of Sky. I was pretty surprised, why would Five drop him as the host when he was so well established? Then Tuesday night I had my answer. ITV happened.
Adding to their coverage of the Indian Premier League 20/20 (IPL) cricket (which was disjointed, ill informed and generally atrocious), ITV have acquired the Ashes highlights. So what have they done with this potentially huge ratings winner? With a sporting event deemed so important that groups have approached the Government asking for a reclassification of Sports so the Ashes are broadcast live on free to air television?
Stuck it on ITV4 at 10PM at night. On a channel that broadcasts 1960s and 1970s shows and had 1% of the viewing audience for October of this year. ONE PERCENT!! ONE!! How can ITV possibly justify that when aside from I’m a Celebrity, X Factor, Football and Soap Operas they have nothing of note of their main channel? I seriously have racked my brain for possible reasoning here and I can’t find it. Ask anybody on the street, hell, ask anybody who doesn’t work in scheduling for ITV4 who broadcasts Masters Tennis or English Premiership Rugby Union Highlights and I seriously doubt they would be able to tell you.
With that group along with other sports they have the rights to, including the Tour De France, British Touring Cars Championships and Grand Slam Darts, they have the making of a solid alternative sports lineup but they give it absolutely no promotion outside of ITV4 itself.
ITV’s approach to broadcasting, gradually turning into the HEAT Magazine Network has been essentially talking down to viewers for a long time, and their generally appalling sports coverage has long angered sport fans and this frankly baffling move has carried on this trend of treating sports and their fans terribly. It’s actually insulting to cricket fans everywhere, particularly those who look forward to this time of the year and arguably damaging to the sport itself at a time that should bring a boom.
So anyway, let’s move away from that negativity to a shockingly positive week with no out and out lowlights!
Longtime readers will know my delight at any show with live music and Inputoutput is the latest addition to this line of highlights. Channel 4 might have a very unusual choice of host in the shape of Rick Fulcher of The Mighty Boosh, but then this is an unusual programme, showcasing some unsual acts, including an Egyptian hip hop act!
Our next highlight is a very interesting offering from BBC2 in the shape of Ian Hislop’s Age of the Do-Gooders, where Ian Hislop looks at the ‘Do-Gooders’ of the 19th Century who did a lot to help repair the social problems of that period in an effort to show that the ‘Do-Gooders’ lambasted by horrible rags like the Mail are not the source of the problems that those papers will try and claim they are. I look forward to a balanced and intelligent show here.
As mentioned, no lowlights this week, but we have dusted off our occasional purgatorial section for two comedy offerings. Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights is the first of these offerings, and probably the one I’m looking forward to most, as I’m still a fan of Boyle’s dating back to his time on Mock the Week. However my concern for this show is based around the fact that I feel this will be Frankie Boyle totally unfiltered and that some of the content will be crude for the sake of it. Boyle does have the gift possessed by only a few comedians of being able to say something shocking and not have it cross the line into bad taste, but he is guilty of pushing the boundaries too often and if not properly reined, it could turn into a controversial mess.
Finally we have The Morgana Show, a new sketch show, something which causes me to stop and think for a moment. In the past a new sketch show would have been a thing to cause much rejoicing but let’s look at the current evidence. Aside from Armstrong and Miller, there hasn’t been a good one in YEARS and well, it comes to the point of once bitten, twice shy. After a horrible collection of recent shows which lacked the punch and impact that The Fast Show and Big Train (among others) had, it’s very difficult to get your hopes up. I will say though that the fact this isn’t on BBC3 (a graveyard for comedians) and the fact she is much less vaunted than many of the faces of similar shows does give me a little encouragement.
Well that’s me for the week Ladies and Gents, we’ll have another edition next Friday for you! Keep your eyes peeled for other great MultiMediaMouth articles, including our new Film Editor Sam Inglis’ new feature Why Haven’t You Seen… and the return if Game Show Garbage! Send any feedback to email@example.com or in the comments below, follow me on Twitter @ChrisNelsonMMM and the site in general @MultiMediaMouth and in the mean time remember to always stay safe!
Evening all, and welcome to another edition of TTWTWB! We’ve got our usual medley to cover today so we’ll get straigt down to business! As always we open with our theme for the week which is the incredible No, Really with the song ‘Rust’.
And now to business!
Last week we looked at Monday-Thursday, so this week we’re going to take a three day weekend and look at Friday through Sunday!
I know last week I said I was going to leave Soaps out of the equation, but I just wanted to mention that Friday evening’s television starts with the third 2-hour block of Soap Operas in a week. Now I generally enjoy Soaps, at times I love them, but I do genuinely think that three nights with 120 minutes of Soap is really pushing it and by the end of the week is just plain overkill. I understand that they’re ratings winners and so forth, but there is a great deal to be said for quality over quantity and not burning your audience out. Really with Wednesday being such a dirge of television until 9PM, I feel a strong case could be made for spreading them more evenly so as not to be effectively beating the viewer over the head with melodrama.
Anyhow, 9PM on a Friday is probably the most jammed slot on television right now. New Tricks, Paul O’Grady Live and The Mentalist are all good-great shows and make for difficult choices. Usually at Chez TTWTWB we watch New Tricks live while Sky +-ing The Mentalist and catching up with Paul O’Grady on ITV Player during the week. New Tricks in particular stands out as the ‘can’t miss’ programme in this choice, with great writing, tremendous acting from a fantastic cast and a brilliant sense of pathos too. Brian (Alan Armstrong) on Twitter remains one of my favourite sub plots of the year and even the former weak link in the show, Dennis Waterman turned it on a few weeks ago with a performance that I really didn’t know he had in him, adding an impressive dramatic edge to the at times slightly caricatured Jerry.
The Mentalist has also impressed me with a much needed fleshing out of Simon Baker’s lead. They have hinted at his family and background before in flashback form, but now much more about his personality and his love for his murdered wife has been shown and the show is much stronger for it. More than anything I think it will benefit the non-Red John episodes by giving them an extra emotional punch.
Paul O’Grady Live as I mentioned a few weeks ago has remained pleasingly untouched by ITV as it sticks close to the format that had brought so much success before. A highly enjoyable show that is firmly rooted in ‘light entertainment’ is a good compliment to the dramas that are on other channels at the time.
At 10PM Law and Order: Special Victims Unit gets my vote and is another show that has evolved characters effectively. Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay’s on screen chemistry is irresistable and last week I was totally blown away by the performance of Ice-T as Fin Tutuola, as the rapper-turned-actor reminded me of just how capable he is of delivering a winning performance. The dark subject matter never fails to shock and move, but at the same time avoids falling into gratuitous detail which is refreshing when so many new dramas go straight for the cheap reaction. It still feels unusual watching the show on a Friday when it’s previous slot has always been a Saturday night, but that is an extremely minor objection to be taken up with Five, not SVU.
Friday night closes out with WWE Smackdown and Later with Jools Holland, two shows on totally opposite sides of the cultural spectrum but both equally winning entertainment.
Effort A* Can I give a higher grade than that? The number of top shows is obscene!
Achievement A* The quality comes undeniably thick and fast
Saturday is no less jam-packed than Friday, and it manages to keep it up over a longer period, thanks in part to the two main ratings winners for the night, Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor. Elsewhere in the evening is Merlin and Casualty with the light relief of Harry Hill’s TV Burp providing the cherry on top.
Strictly and X Factor are the ‘live’ shows for me, as the others get Sky +-ed (is their a correct grammatical phrase for that?) for later viewing when things have calmed down and can be fully appreciated. Plus I would hate to miss the running commentary from all and sundry on Twitter relating to these shows. I’ll state from the off though that both shows could be comfortable 30 minutes shorter and lose nothing. The amount of hot air, previewing and fancy dress applied to Strictly and TXF does begin to get tiresome to an extreme degree. Still, at their core they remain wildly entertaining shows, well worth the watch. TTWTWB favourites are Patsy Kensit and Pamela Stephens on Strictly and Matt, Rebecca and controversially Katie on TXF.
The crown jewel in the evening though is Merlin. I never fail to be impressed and wowed by the impressive performances from Bradley James and Colin Morgan, James in particular breaking out in the episode where Morgana was revealed to be Uther’s daughter. More elements to the Arthurian legends have been introduced (such as Gwaine’s arrival and the aforementioned reveal), and the use now of Morgana as a constant foil for Merlin means the drama is more consistent and less reliant on the premise of the guest in the episode. I honestly can’t say enough good things about this show. Additionally, we’ve had one of the greatest visuals in television history this series, that of Richard Wilson slapping the bald head of Anthony Head. You don’t need context on that one, just picture it and smile!
Casualty continues on in fine fettle too as the constantly moving parts being a new storyline loop following the conclusion of the school shooting storyline. After that high energy storyline, things have been brought very much back down to earthy, human drama with the reveal of Kirsty’s abusive, apparently housebound husband and Charlie having been left ‘holding the baby’ after Shona’s desertion. On top of that, the reveal of Ruth’s husband being homosexual (which I can proudly say I called 2 weeks before the event) gives that arc a much needed direction. With the strongest cast and best run of storylines that Casualty has enjoyed in a very long time, I look forward to seeing what happens in the coming weeks and months.
And of course Harry Hill needs no introduction or explanation. Other than this;
Effort A* Jammed close to splitting with great shows
Achievement A* The best Saturday night lineup in a long time
Sunday has a much more genteel feel to it, as it should as people wind down for one last time before the new working week begins. The evening starts with Strictly results and X Factor results before a significant change of pace.
Downton Abbey, rather like Wuthering Heights last year, I have to admit too me utterly by surprise. While in all the previews I saw it looked glossy and wonderfully made and the fact it was written by Julian Fellowes should have tipped me off that I would enjoy it, it being on ITV concerned me. This, lest we forget, is the channel that before Wuthering Heights hadn’t had a good high-brow drama in years and other than Cold Feet and Life Begins hadn’t had a show with any sort of emotional weight for as long as I can remember. This is the channel that managed to screw up a production of Dr Zhivago starring some of the highest rated young actors in the UK. It’s easy to see in that case, why I might have been apprehensive about Downton.
My premeditated scorn however was misplaced. REEEEEEEEEEEALLY misplaced. Downton is one of the finest drama productions I’ve seen in a long time and one that will be genuinely fondly remembered for years to come. A simple but coherent and realistic premise has allowed for some incredible characters to develop, actors giving tour-de-force performances and breathing life into a very relatable and engaging story that has progressed wonderfully. The performances of Maggie Smith, Rob James-Collier (who has really elevated his name), Joanne Froggatt and Brendan Coyle all stand out, but really there isn’t a black mark to be found anywhere. This is a candidate, and a very strong one, to clean up at my end of year awards.
Effort B It’s all a bit thin on the ground, only length of shows saves it from a worse grade.
Achievement A* Pretty spectacular results though!
So having seen my current TV weekend watching, is there anything new worth watching kicking off this week?
We kick off our highlights for the week with the return of The Armstrong and Miller Show. With the media attention shows like Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show have garnered, this offering from Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller, now entering a third series on BBC One, appears to have slipped under the radar. This is a real shame because the standard of the sketches is pretty high and definately less reliant on beating the viewer over the head with a catchphrase. Managing to blend the intelligent and the ridiculous extremely well, this is well worth a watch, especially to have an intentionally funny show to compliment Harry Hill after the unintentional comedy much of a Saturday night provides.
It appears to be a week for undersung returns, as Kirstie’s Homemade Home returns for it’s own third series. Although the bubble appears to have burst on property related shows (see what I did there?), this has always been a strong offering as it gives a unique and alternative premise to the shows generally fitting in the property genre. Utilising Kirstie Alsopp’s personal talent for arts and crafts design to help change the look of homes in the same way she apparently remodelled her own is a great, simple premise for a TV programme and one which will start you looking thoughtfully at your own furniture.
Our third highlight for the week is a potentially fantastic offering. Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention is a combination of a number of ideas knitted together in the way only Nick Park and Aardman can. If everything clicks into place, we could be treated to a brilliantly witty and genuinely interesting showcase of inventors and inventions, and at the very least we’ll have some great Wallace & Gromit claymation moments. Almost guaranteed an audience too, due to the popularity of the characters ‘hosting’ the show, the BBC could have a big winner on their hands here.
But with those highlights out of the way, we now have to consider the darker side of the week ahead. Prepare to shudder.
We kick off our lowlights with a controversial entry, James May’s Man Lab. Apparently ignoring the rule that any non-Braniac related vehicle (pun unintended) for a Top Gear host will result in an unprecedented amount of suck, here we have another attempt to move the irreverent Top Gear style into a different style of show. I’ve seen a few previews and read the write-ups and I just feel the very ideas behind the show, whether comic or otherwise, are outdated and going to result in an unfunny, potentially chauvanistic and boorish mire. It will inevitably be successful, but it really shouldn’t be.
Our second lowlight? The Middle. It’s one of the worst shows ever made, and I don’t exaggerate with that. It’s truly disgustingly, offensively unfunny with frankly stupidly one-dimensional characters. Don’t watch it. Just don’t.
Woah! That’s a big fish. Unfortunately, that is the extent of the meaningful dialogue in Extreme Fishing with Robson Green. It’s disappointing that this dull and shallow (damn, the puns are coming to me today) offering is what Robson Green is best known for at the moment, particularly given how he reminded us what he can do in a dramatic role in the superb Joe Maddison’s War.
We close out our lowlights for the week then with The Big Bang Theory. Crass, crude at times and with very few laughs, this is one of those inexplicably successful shows that will probably run and run with no real appeal.
So that’s me for the week, and in fact for the next 2 weeks too, as I’m off on holiday! Hooray! I’ll be back for the week beginning 20th November, so in the meantime, check out the rest of our great content, particularly the fantastic run of film reviews we’ve hain the festival season from Eoin Mason and our other great writers. Send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below, and remember to always stay safe!