The TV Week That Was: 1

29 Aug

Bear with me. I wanted to start this strand of weekly telly updates today, but it was probably ill-advised. My laptop is out of commission. And now I’m stuck with the ol’ PC, which would be okay except for two things: firstly, the internet is exceptionally slow and secondly, the keyboard is suffering from a defect and therefore some of the keys don’t work as they should. As a UK citizen, not having access to a pound sign is infuriating.

Still, on with the show. Having missed University Challenge and Panorama this week, I was still able to see the whole of the final episode of The Hospital (C4) in its entirety. This week: booze. And lots of it. Specifically, the issue of liver transplantation which caused me to make impressed/intrigued noises whenever any of the surgical procedures took place. This episode was more even-handed than usual, dealing with all ages rather than just young people (for which the series has come in for some criticism). Depression sets in with every passing episode though, and this time the nadir was a 20-something woman who’d already had kidney failure, but was out on the town just a couple of days after a major operation. Cynical as it may seem, I wouldn’t have felt any sympathy if she’d been told she had liver disease. It’s enough to turn you to drink. A drink of orange, that is.

At least straight after that I could enjoy the quiet joy of Grandma’s House (BBC2) which sees Simon Amstell in a “home” environment, as he battles against his strange and sometimes repulsive family in a futile quest to find something more worthwhile in life. In this episode there was a lot of Amstell’s aunt Liz, who can be the most funny element of this curious comedy series (although drama with comedic elements would be more apt). Oh, and an overbearing drama teacher who brings along her star student, who Simon is not-so-secretly in love with. Quiet, thoughtful comedy seems to be in vogue at the minute and it’s a great change of pace from some of the more family-orientated laughter-track fests that the Beeb usually splurges out on. For many though the constant shots of Amstell looking like a confused rabbit in the headlights and the obvious parallel that this is a Jewish Royle Family might put them off.

Part of me is ashamed to admit that I watched some of Ultimate Big Brother (C4) this week. I’m ashamed because a.) I don’t know many people who actually care about BB anymore and b.) because this is obviously such a shameless attempt to increase the longevity of a show that’s going to be executed, like turning your last words into a poorly-performed rendition of Macbeth. In all honesty though, I only tuned in to see what happened to Josie.

Ah, Josie, winner of the very last series of BB (er, aside from this one). She’s become a national darling and has caused people to spawn implausible tweets like “In the future we won’t be telling kids the story of Cinderella but about JJJ luv u Josie xxxx”. Okay, that might have been a bit long for a tweet but the point is clear: the love story between Josie and Australian beau John James is clearly a winner with viewers. Turns out that Josie left because she didn’t feel comfortable around her “celebrity” housemates. Apart from the fact that the majority of these people are D-listers, Josie was getting on famously with Ulrika Jonsson, so it couldn’t have been all that bad. Methinks she just wanted to keep a close eye on John James.

Aside from that, watching UBB is about as fun as watching paint dry. The only mildly entertaining segment was watching John McCririck in his desperate attempt to break free from the BB chains. The rest of the housemates couldn’t give a toss, and even awful Essex loudmouth Nikki Grahame is glued to the sofa, asleep. Coolio fell asleep in the bath. All the housemates bar Josie were asleep at a reasonable hour. A reasonable hour, people, that’s not what BB used to be about!! Seriously though, if Josie hadn’t evicted herself she would have won. Only that element of slight unpredictability is what keeps this even mildly interesting.

However, the gormless expressions of the UBB housemates is heavenly in comparison to the embarassing shenanigins of Edith Bowman on Reading and Leeds (BBC3). Where Bowman used to be the sanguine ying to Zane Lowe’s speeding-train-off-the-tracks yang of presenting, now she’s the annoying “Look at me I’m friends with Biffy Clyro” woman who feels it’s necessary to dance and yelp after every clip and express “How good are THEY?!” about every band. Poor Reggie Yates. He may seem wooden as a two-by-four but this is mainly due to the overbearing nature of his co-anchor. Bless him, sometimes even his facial expressions sigh with the morbid breath of a man who is dying inside. Now Reggie Yates and Lauren Laverne, there’s a combination: the cool of Radio One with the knowledge of 6 Music. Plus, Laverne keeps her composure and makes genuinely intelligent statements. Bowman particularly peeved me when she declared “One of the guys from Phoenix is the partner of Sophia Copolla and they have a baby together.” Okay, so not only can you not name the band member (Thomas Mars) but you say this as if it’s something no Phoenix fan would know. Insightful, real insightful.

At least we are treated to some nuggets of gold like the Beeb actually allowing LCD Soundsystem to play their long and nuanced “Pow Pow” in its entirety in the main programming. Oh, and then there’s the great acoustic sessions, including this gem from Californian band Warpaint sounding majestic:

Now if you imagine Bowman playing the light box in the same way as the drummer in sunglasses, at night, you’ve got a mental image of probably the most sickmaking person on festival telly. We’re on your side Reggie.

That just about leaves time for me to mention that I finally got to watch the first episode of Dexter (FX) after being away on holiday. Little happens apart from setting the new scenario that our favourite serial killer finds himself in. Oh and John Lithgow is completely creepy as the Trinity Killer. Lovely use of editing to play with our minds in the opening sequence though.

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