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Review // New Girl (Redux)

27 Jan

So when I reviewed the pilot episode of New Girl, maybe some people thought I was being unfair because it was only the first show. Lots of other people seemed to like it, but because I didn’t like the first episode. However, I’ve decided to give New Girl another chance and see how it has progressed through time (through five weeks, I think).

In this episode, Nick (I learned his name!) is going on a date with his overly-ironic co-worker Amanda but Jess accidentally walks in on him naked when she goes to ask him to turn his music down, and laughs at him before running off. She feels a bit bad, but Nick feels worse and rightly points out that Jess is so immature that she can’t even name his privates without making some kind of funny face or noise like an idiot. Meanwhile, Winston (I learned his name too!) has had a disastrous interview because he doesn’t know any current events from the past two years, on account of him being away playing basketball (or something like that). So Schmidt puts him to the task of researching every event from the past two years.

I have to say, the quality of this episode is much higher than the pilot episode. Jess, while still quite immature, seems more likable and down-to-earth than before. She can admit that she’s done wrong and sets about finding a way to talk to Nick who doesn’t want to be approached. Okay, this means that she makes a feeling stick and tries to pass it round, but at least she’s trying to reach out to others instead of being alienating like she was in the pilot. Meanwhile, on the mens side of things, Nick is a bit grumpy in this one but that’s understandable and his eventual body confidence leads to a pretty funny situation (if only because of his dodgy little dance, which is nicely surreal).

Plus, there’s a nice little bit of satire on how sarcasm can go completely overboard. Aside from this, there seems to be more of a sitcom situation here – whilst the pilot seemed a bit ragged in narrative, this episode is more tightly controlled in that typical sitcom way. To explain, now there’s a set up, a dilemma, and an eventually neat and warm resolution that tries to include a few laughs so its not too fuzzy. Still, it’s still slightly unbelievable that three single men living in a flat with Jess can’t be even slightly attracted to her: I know this sounds a bit strange, since I like my comedies to break the mould a bit, but surely this storyline is coming up somewhere? If there’s ever a final series, surely there’ll be some kind of romance storyline. It really would be a game-changer if that didn’t happen (and I will actually love it for that – a show that actually says men and women can just be friends!)

So to conclude… yes, maybe I misjudged New Girl. Maybe I won’t watch it religiously every week but if it’s a lazy, boring Friday with nothing on then I’d be fine with sticking New Girl on to see what’s going on with these mis-matched flatmates. Sometimes it’s good to realise that you’re wrong.


TV Review // Confessions of a Nurse

25 Jan

There’s an awful lot of people out there who want to be a nurse: mostly women, admittedly, but most of them don’t have that caring and loving streak that you need. Or the patience. Or the sheer willpower for that matter. I suggest that if you’re thinking of being a nurse, or are in the process of becoming one and are doing one of those college courses (like Latoya the healthcare assistant ends up doing in this first episode) then watch Confessions of a Nurse. It’s horrible really.

Admittedly, this programme does have the distinct whiff of ‘bless the NHS’ and focuses on the very angelic and caring nurses – and I bet we all know that there’s a lot of them out there that really couldn’t give a damn about the patients. Need we be reminded of recent Government reports in to patient care? Even one of the nurses here points out that most people think it’s an easy job because you have to do a lot of administration and they completely forget about the whole patient care part. So it feels like More4 are treading the line a bit here – they certainly don’t want to portray nurses like that, and for impartial spectators that would be a horrible experience where you’d never want to go into hospital again.

But bless ’em, it’s difficult to be mad at people like Latoya who are only paid £14,000 a year to decant peoples’ urine and change the contents of stoma bags. She works every shift she can to buy a car (which she eventually does) and wishes she’d stayed at college (which she eventually goes back to – ‘there’s only so many stoma bags you can change’, she explains). Sarah has received a £5,000 pay increase with a massive catch – she has to look after the entire hospital at night without neglecting her usual nursing duties. So when one of her patients is close to death, she knows she can’t stay in the middle of the night because her pager will go off at any minute. But she does manage to move out of her mum’s house and becomes the proud owner of a lot of Union Jack furniture. Meanwhile, Debbie is a staff nurse working in a nice ward… but she gets more than she bargained for when she’s transferred temporarily to an orthopaedic trauma ward. Suddenly it’s all kicking off and she has to deal with abusive patients and a number of language barriers. Then she goes home to a man who doesn’t ask her how her day has been – Debbie explains that she keeps home and work like separate in case he doesn’t want to eat his dinner afterwards.

It’s mildly insightful, if a little wishy-washy. Everything comes out clean in the end and the nurses are typically bubbly and chatty, but it lacks a bit of drama – the closest thing we get to it is Sarah treating a patient in cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, this is acompanied by a slightly dull voice-over telling us what she’s thinking. The major thing is that nursing isn’t glamorous. It actually looks a bit dull if you take Latoya as a marker for what they’re meant to do. Perhaps Junior Doctors is more for those who want a bit of excitement in their real-life medical documentaries. But I missed that in favour of MasterChef. Floops.

Review // New Girl – Pilot Episode

6 Jan

I can’t be the only person out there who kind of detested Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer. Apart from being generally being a bit of an awful person, constantly leading poor old Jospeph Gordon-Levitt on before toying with him constantly, singing weakly to ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, dumping him harshly saying she can’t have relationships then getting married…. well, wasn’t Summer just a bit too quirky and unreal for everyone? Well brace yourselves: in New Girl she is Summer times a billion, moving the ‘quirky’ lever from endearing to a teensy bit unbearable.

In New Girl Deschanel is Jess, a young woman who finds out her boyfriend is having an affair, so she moves in (for some reason never really explained) with three single men of varying stereotypes. And they only let her move in because her best friend is a model. During this pilot episode, the guys decide to try and help Jess rebound, she has numerous failings before being led on by one of the guys’ workmates who abandons her in favour of a party, but the fellas are nice guys and go to the restaurant and act all quirky by singing/shouting the words of ‘Time of My Life’ from Dirty Dancing to cheer Jess up in true light-hearted comedy style.

The worstthing about this comedy is that Deschanel doesn’t attempt to break out of her role as the kookiest girl on the block – Jess is occasionally (very, very occasionally) quite human and vulnerable, but this is spoiled by her insistence that watching Dirty Dancing six times a day and waiting outside of doors in flared red dresses with hands on hips is normal behaviour. Now, I occasionally sing to myself, talk to myself and think crazy things (quite often asking very ridiculous questions that are pointless but seem good at the time) but in Jess these qualities are exaggerated in the extreme. Surely no-one would think that wearing dungarees constitutes a ‘sexy farmgirl’ look.

Alongside Jess, the rather 2-D men are quite appealing (despite the very set types of douchebag, angry gym guy and semi-geek). It’s a shame we don’t really know any of their names apart from Schmidt though – it seems as if Jess’s overbearing nature got in the way of me learning the names of Mr. Semi-Geek and Mr. Angry-Gym-Guy. Still, the best interludes of actual comedy and genuine wit came from the men, particularly the 30 Rock-style flashbacks and recollections. Mr.Gym-Guy had the best 20 seconds of the whole episode when he shouts encouragement at a customer in a very aggressive style. Aside from this, the men could actually live up to their own failings: Schmidt is more than happy to put money in the Douchebag Jar when he leers over Jess’s model friend, at least being able to admit that he’s a bit of a creepy wannabe-lothario. Too bad Jess couldn’t just admit that she was acting a bit too weirdly.

These incredibly short glimmers of hope gave the best impression of what New Girl could be – a kind of buddy-bromance-come-romance with witty insights and, y’know, funny jokes. Okay, this isn’t the type of comedy that has set-up punchlines, which is absolutely fine if actually done right with wit, but New Girl lacks that entirely. Then again, should we expect anything less from a show sponsored by a Nina Ricci perfume that uses a very flowery version of the already fairly flowery ‘Sunday Girl’?

Don’t get me wrong here: Zooey is lovely and endearing in the right circumstances. Summer was a character, not the real Zooey (obviously) but she wasn’t a Deschanel creation – New Girl was created by Deschanel. Could we just have more of She & Him? They’re the acceptable Zooey level: whimsical yet comforting. New Girl could have been a great comedy, but it lacks the charm that Deschanel puts into her musical career.

Mercury Prize 2011: Nomination Predictions

18 Jul

It’s that time of year again and although it’ll be another couple of months before the winner is actually announced by Jools Holland, it’s still fun to predict who might appear on the 12-strong shortlist. The question is, can any of these candidates follow in the shoes of last year’s winners The xx and actually bag that trophy?

Theoretical Shoe-Ins

PJ Harvey

There is no way on this earth that an LP that has been so highly praised and applauded by such a range of critics won’t get on the list. Frankly if ‘Let England Shake’ isn’t named as one of the 12 best albums of the year then something has gone wrong in the space-time continuum. Harvey might well be the first artist to win the prize twice. She has been nominated many times and a second win will seal her place as one of England’s great artists.


21 caused a bit of a splash when it landed earlier in the year. Okay, “bit of a splash” is like a massive understatement. Everyone seemed to go wild for her handwritten ballads and laments, and while they’re nothing new conceptually, a bossa-nova version of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’ wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it could have been. Oh and there was that performance on the Brits where James Corden nearly cried live on air. She’s such a big hit with the public and the critics alike that if she does bag that nomination she’ll be a bookie’s favourite.

Wild Beasts

Smother continued right where their second effort Two Dancers left off: capturing the spirit of the lake poets in beautifully crafted songs that are a lot dirtier and earthy than Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto voice would have you believe. They might divide people but their excellent skill at composing a winning and literate ballad makes them a favourite among critics, and that’s all you need to bag a spot on that list.

The Horrors

Like Wild Beasts, expect The Horrors to grace the list two years in a row. Their latest effort Skying delivers a blast of late-80s dark pop reminiscent of the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen, but with an uplifting and, whisper it quietly, anthemic feel. They’re almost too clever and off kilter to take their anthems to arenas but they’re quickly cementing their status as one of Britain’s best bands. It’s a long way away from the days of Strange House.



SBTRKT’s downfall is that his self-titled debut album, while being brilliant for its scope and appeal, is perhaps a little too non-committal. SBTRKT is a beautiful dance album to listen to but the desire not to be pigeonholed as ‘dubstep’ ‘ambient’ or ‘electronic’ respectively means the panel could find the effort a little disjointed. While it all makes perfect sense to me, the subtle changes in style might not be to everyone’s taste.

James Blake

Dubstep, personified. Blake took the spirit of previous nominee Burial on his debut album and makes the genre his own. However, is Blake’s use of silence as sound and the sparse, almost uncomfortably detached nature of his work alienating to those who might prefer some meat in their music? Only time will tell.

Katy B

Nice things get said about Katy B. Lots of nice things. She’s pop with a twist and the Mercurys like things with a twist. However, ADELE is so likely to be on the list that the panel might not want another “pop” artist in there. Somewhere the idea that putting odd, potentially interesting or lesser known acts keeps up the appearance that the Mercurys still have indie cred. It’d be a shame for Katy though: she’s the slightly unglamorous popstrel it’s okay to like.

Anna Calvi

Like PJ Harvey, only a bit more grandiose. Potentially the occasionally overpowering nature of her powerhouse songs could be a stumbling block on her road to a nomination, but Calvi is forging ahead in a genre that has already been tried and tested and putting a little bluesy spin on things. The epic magnitude of her voice alone is arresting enough to make anyone sit up and listen, so don’t be surprised if she becomes a bit of a dark horse.


Shoegaze rock gets brought into the 21st century kicking and screaming on Yuck’s self-titled debut album that is a joyous listen, even if it is nothing new. Potentially though, the idea that it is traditionally American bands that create this particular brand of rock music that could work in Yuck’s favour. They are doing something for a British band, if that makes sense. The cross-atlantic sensibilities means they could be a worthy outsider at the very least.

The nominations come out tomorrow!

The TV Week That Was #11

27 Nov

This week I’m turning cultural. Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to be cultural all the time according to my blog title but this time… It’s high culture! But if I told you that Chekhov could be funny, would you believe me?

Well remarkably Chekhov: Comedy Shorts (SkyArts) has found a way to do just that. The Bear starred Julia Davis as a widow who’s been mourning over the death of her husband and won’t go out of the house. She’s visited by a man, played by Julian Barratt, collecting up debts who insists she pays him before his house is repossessed. Cue a fast-paced battle of wits – and the sexes – which makes half an hour feel like ten minutes.

The best performance is given by Barratt who fits his role perfectly. The little soliloquies and mumblings worked brilliantly with his style, familiar to anyone who has seen him do something similar in The Mighty Boosh. But to be honest all the actors (all three of them) do really well with their material, and you’d never know you were watching Chekhov. It was high-culture made completely accessible.

In slightly more lowbrow TV, Raising Hope (Sky1) is a quirky family comedy focused around a hapless twenty-something loser who is bundled with a baby after having a one night stand with a mass-murderer.

Yep, it sounds ridiculous. But this is from the creators behind My Name Is Earl, and in a similar vein it follows a bunch of trailer-trash people who underneath it all have hearts of gold. Admittedly, the indie style and very quiet humour probably isn’t for everyone and it isn’t as in your face as a Modern Family but it’s still very charming and inoffensive, making it a lovely winter warmer.

Finally, a double bill of Robert Webb. Firstly, he continued his role as the chauvinistic lothario Jez in Peep Show (C4). Again, this is a comedy not to everyone’s taste. But for those who buy into the first person cameras and internal dialogues it’s a real treat: sometimes crude but always funny. This week’s best bit: the fleeting glimpse of Sophie’s face as a midwife checks her progress. That split-second was comedy gold.

Following directly on from Peep Show was Robert’s Web (C4), an irreverent look at the news from the perspective of the Internet. Some of the material was genuinely funny – I always love laughing at the comments of Daily Mail little Englanders – but other bits missed the bullseye somewhat. Still, Peep Show is a hard act to follow so maybe seen at a different time the show would have been more humorous. If I record it next week and watch it when Peep Show has left my funny bones then maybe I’ll laugh more…

The TV Week That Was #10

7 Nov

Isn’t false advertising just a bit horrible? There you are sitting in front of the box when the most dazzling brilliant thing comes up and claims to be able to do all of the housework, shopping and go out to work for you, but as soon as you buy it you realise it’s only actually capable of eating batteries and getting in your way. Well this is what happened with Wallace and Gromit’s World of Invention (BBC1).

The adverts made out as if it was a series of half-hour shows where the dynamic duo would invent things and we’d watch it go wrong, ready for Gromit to save the day. Er well it turns out that we were actually given a Blue Peter-style kids program. At 7:30pm. The duo “presented” the programme that barely had them in it, and was actually fronted by two annoying and patronising humans who were all like “ooh look at the weird fly-trap clock isn’t it amazing kiddies?”

This is going to sound weird but Wallace looked uncomfortable. Okay, he didn’t look it but Peter Sallis’ usually lively vocal performance as the hapless inventor was mysteriously subdued and stilted,implying “I really don’t want to be here.” It was a bit of an advertising disaster. This is why I hate BBC1. They bloody ruin everything.

On to more insightful things now. Remember on of the first TV Weeks That Were? I talked about The Hospital, a rather depressing yet funny account of the goings on in a er hospital. Well a new series has been made, this time dedicated to the police force, called Coppers (C4).

Oh it was all good fun. Admittedly some of the cases that came through the custody centre were a bit sad, particularly when the officers showed you before and after mugshots, but some of the comments and antics of both the police and the detainees was hilarious. Some of the camera-work was immense as well: talking shoes! Well not really but a conversation between two inmates was filmed to look like their shoes were talking to each other. It was brilliant. There isn’t actually a lot more to say about the programme other than it was insightful, didn’t take itself overly seriously and was the right mix of funny and tragic. Next week: two demented traffic cops who like to imitate the sound of the siren and use speed counters on boys on bikes.

If anyone out there followers my Twitter feed then you’ll know that instead of watching The Walking Dead (FX) at 10pm on Friday I saw it at 11am on Saturday. Because I hate horror. And try to avoid it like the plague.

But hey this was the next big thing in TV (in a good way not in The Event way) and I had to give it, as they say in the north, a right good go. Cue me feeling increasingly uncomfortable as Officer Rick Grimes (some British guy who I can’t remember the name of) stumbles through a hospital to… (dons spooky voice)… Find something horrible round the corner. Or a completely eaten human body to be more precise. So far the series hasn’t got more grisly than that so I’m effectively in the clear. Right?… Right?!

Well we’ll see. The show is beautifully filmed and atmospheric and the zombies are… realistic, not that I know what a zombie would really look like. My beef with the show so far is that it bears more than a striking resemblance to 28 Days Later: guy wakes up in hospital, no-one around, staggers around clueless for a while, finds friends who save his life, turns out he hasn’t been scratched or bitten so they’re okay. Still, it’s really good telly and no-one should be denied the choice between kids TV and a zombie-apocalypse.

The TV Week That Was #9

30 Oct

Call me silly but I can’t help but love a bit of nonsensical fluff: I’ve sat through all sorts of pap that quite frankly isn’t very groundbreaking but it’s fun and throws up a few laughs. This is exactly why I love Desperate Housewives (C4).

This season, Bree has split from Orson, Lynette has to deal with her college roomie Renee (Vanessa Williams, aka Wilhelmina from Ugly Betty), Susan is coping with her money problems and Gabby must face up to a teeeerrrible seeecret (in a ghostly voice “whoooo”). Oh, and Paul – that bloke who got put away for a murder that never was – returns to the lane with a new wife. So very little has changed for the women of Wisteria Lane: they’re always facing a crisis and they face it well by doing one of two predictable things. They either rally around stuffing down one of Bree’s cakes or break down in tears/ over-react in some other way. But it doesn’t matter because I watch the show for its hilarious lines, mostly from the despicable but witty Gabby. Don’t judge me…

Despite this love of fluff – and I include Heroes and Lost in there – I really couldn’t take The Event (C4).

Well I’m sure some persistence might have paid off but I couldn’t be bothered to sit through another programme that takes itself far too seriously, has dodgy acting and characters who you couldn’t give a stuff about (everyone knew the best thing about Heroes was the tag team of Hiro and Ando. The Event barely musters half of that). Oh and it had a disorienting flashback-every-two-seconds format that was just idiotic. At least you could keep track when Lost did it. Get the impression that I didn’t like it (flashback to a scene of me picking nail varnish from my fingers while the plane crashed)?

Distinctly less disappointing was Child Genius: Five Years On (C4). My first thought was “holy crap has it really been that long?” My second procrastination was about how some of these kids weren’t geniuses, they were just poor children being bossed around by their parents.

Take the Indian brothers: their parents kept piling on maths and physics textbooks on them like there was no tomorrow, even forcing them to take them on holiday. ON HOLIDAY FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. They had gained several A-Levels between them but to be honest I just felt sorry for them: their folks practically bribed them with 25p every time they studied for an hour. A childhood robbed.

There were some genuinely gifted kids, one of them being artistic talent Kieran, who has sold paintings for thousands. He is truly gifted because he’s had no training and has only been working with pastels and watercolours for a couple of years. Their parents don’t know a jot about art. That’s real talent for you. Perhaps the most poignant moments came when the programme caught up with their original geniuses though. Aimee is as loud and proud as ever but Dante is far more modest. Some of them have completely gone in their shell. Bless them.

Finally, I can’t express how shocked and appalled I was by Joan’s treatment on Mad Men (BBC4) this week. The way Joey talked to my favourite character (she’s the only decent one: strong, fairly humble, works hard and is respectable) – it was enough to bring the feminist out in me. I won’t repeat it. It was vile. Trust Mad Men to bring chauvinists like that to justice – but was is a good thing? Joan doesn’t think so…

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