Thursday, 31 December 2015

A letter of Thanks and good wishes for the coming year.



What a Year it has been in Telly land and hopefully you have all enjoyed the little recaps and observations on the programmes I have featured on the blog this past twelve months? I  urge you to travel with me some more as we cruise gently into 2016!!

Crowd favourites were my Forever recaps, my explorations of how we waste food and energy and the blogs I wrote about the BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but which did you enjoy and  maybe share the blog with friends you think might enjoy it next year.

 This is really for you, the reader so interactions are expressly encouraged!

Thank you each and everyone for your interest in my random musings, it was a pleasure getting square eyes for you all  and I hope to write more interesting reviews  this coming year .

Much to look forward to 

Sherlock
The Three Musketeers
More Ripper Street

I hope you will join me!

Happy New Year, may your TVs ever be light, your books, page turners and your streaming sites legal!



xx


Sunday, 27 December 2015

Exciting literary confection in BBC "Dickensian" this Yuletide


What a thoroughly unpleasant fellow that Jacob Marlowe is, grasping Money lender, procurer of sexual services and a violent abuser to boot, is it any wonder someone tops him off in a dark alley way?


And so begins the first thirty minute instalment of the new BBC costume extravaganza starring many of our most beloved and reviled characters from the tomes of the incomparable Mr Dickens. Serialised in short gulps with double episodes shown across  the evenings on BBC One's Christmas schedule, this promised to be an absolute treat and it most certainly is.

Amelia Havisham is a beautiful  young woman, having just lost her Father, she is grief stricken but under instruct to remove mourning clothes the day after the funeral. The reading of the will leaving her the majority beneficiary of the family holdings much to the angry disgust of her half brother, sets off a chain of events that are pointing to how she ends up a woman frozen in time and likely to meet a fiery end.



The Cratchetts are poor and poorly treated by both Messrs Scrooge and Marley and there is a whiff of discord between both these "Men of Business" before Mr Marley meets a sticky end.



Little Nell is gravely ill at the Old Curiosity shop and Mrs Gamp is pouring the Gin most liberally down her own gullet. The Money lenders want their repayment in full and Bob is aghast they would try to squeeze them when someone is ill.



Fagin, Nancy and Bill are busy ducking and diving, poor Nancy the object of Marley's peccadillos and fists. Fagin is the architect of her misery sending her about like a commodity. His sausages to the urchins seem pale in comparison.



The show is a whose Who of Dicken's Characters and much commentary went on in the old family seat as it played out as to who folk might be before someone called them by name, it was like a fun parlour game from days gone by.  The script is tight and at times darkly funny and thoroughly immersive even in the short space the writers had for exposition. The characters are distinct and their roots on the page faithfully rendered.

With Twenty parts, I suspect we are to see much from this series, but so far so good, my Expectations are Great, so to speak!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Who do think you are kidding BBC ... If you think old England could ignore the Dad's Army docu drama?

We're Doomed - The Dad's Army Story , was a light and frothy affair filled with Nostalgia for the sixties and a fun cast in the roles of the household names who were inhabitants of our living rooms for nine seasons. The fact that there a feature film in the offing too in 2016 proves that his perennial favourite has not lost it's charm.
 
John sessions plays Mainwaring and Arthur Lowe himself with a kind of restrained unease that is beautifully displayed by his physical constipation on set.  His difficulty with lines and unease with fellow cast members  was sensitively  handled  and I rather like the pairing of him with Julian Sands as John Le messurier. Sands is always valuable in a cast and he plays Wilson with a similar flittish impatience to the man he plays. Seeing ian Lavender's incomparable Pike mimicked was odd, but it worked admirably.




Roy Hudd plays Bud Flanagan who sings the title song, with the greatest of reverence. A truly sentimental moment in TV theme history.


 
The honest worry that it might be "too soon" for a wartime situation comedy in the sixties was dealt with and the finished product was well worth the wait. The pairing of Croft and Perry would prove fruitful and this behind the scenes show a Gem ,was one that fans of Dad's Army could enjoy before sitting down to an episode or two of the real deal.

Well done BBC Two!


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The explosive and Shocking finale of one of the most gripping shows this year! London Spy!

 
Watching London Spy has been an emotional Rollercoaster I really was not quite expecting. The final instalment shown on BBC2 last night was just a brutal battering about the head. The fact that  Danny did not run screaming down the road screaming "WIBBLE WIBBLE"  is testament to his fortitude and strength.
 
After Scottie's untimely end, used as a cautionary tale to stop Danny and the Professors exposing the work Alex had completed on the infallible "lie detection" Logarithms we see Danny and Claire at the Funeral and delivering a beautiful speech. 



This is where the show has been a cut above other shows of this ilk, the lyrical nature of the dialogue particularly in the exchanges between Whishaw and the incomparable  even in the midst of the deepest pathos they were mesmerising and true. Adrian Lester's brief appearance to say his involvement was done was fabulously played, his brittle coldness seemed the perfect juxtaposition for Whishaws quiet all consuming grief for really the only parent in his life (more on that later).
 
Scottie left his home and car to Danny and from this base of Operations  Danny begins his single handed campaign to expose the truth.  Now if I was a member of the spy fraternity I would have just snipered him through a window and put an end to the whole thing, but no this particular group love a rather more insidious  route to a solution. Danny receives all of the manuscripts  he sends to a variety of international publications  back as sheaves of Blank paper and his emails disappear from his inbox.
 


Danny's day gets infinitely worse when his parents arrive on the pretext of his getting the chance a say goodbye to his terminally ill father.  They were so obviously there under duress that when Danny exposed them you were just pleased the painful pretence was not dragged out  any more unnecessarily. 

It became even more obvious why Danny and Alex might have been drawn to each other, their parents  were obviously not nurturing and loving. The family photo taken under the pretence of a final memory appears in his e-mails  again as an ominous warning that everyone he knows however tenuously is at risk. His own slow burning death sentence obviously not enough to deter him.  

What they do not seem to have factored in is that Danny's very loneliness is his biggest strength once they forced Scottie to his death, they lost their only bargaining chip. The disparate flatmates and Claire are tethers to his real life and enough for him not to spiral into a breakdown, but his resolve is now focused on one thing that Alex's Death not be in vain.
 
Danny decides enough is enough and returns to the Lion's Den that is Alex's Childhood home where Charlotte Rampling holds court like an evil queen in a Disney film. Colder than liquid nitrogen she sits in state with her pompous Husband rarely seen and better not heard, his disdain for Danny palpable. Frances sits Danny down and they finally talk openly at last. I rather wish they had left everything unsaid what comes to light  makes what came before seem relatively tame. Both wear talismans of their love for Alex around their necks, he the locked chamber containing the drive, she the key to his room which is reminiscent of the rooms the police always find on the tail of a mass murderer in US shows.
 


The walls are covered in mathematical equations in chalk on the black walls and glass screens. It seems Frances was a promising Agent scuppered by her Husband's incompetence and friendships resulting in three moles being exposed within their circle and their being ostracised by the "Company" so Frances hatches a plan to make her son the Superspy she was never able to be, his brilliance just a tool in her plans to excel by proxy. A spy of her making. This manipulation of a child only intensifies the feelings of sympathy for poor Alex, a pawn in the game controlled by others.
 

The revelation that the child was not even hers, but the brilliant toddler of her servant caught stealing and using this and her substance abuse as leverage to basically claim him as her own; all the while keeping the poor woman on as nanny is just dark and twisted and her co dependency on him to give her worth is chilling. The loneliness born of living in a home filled with such deceit and selfishness created the vulnerable stunted man that only Danny could save.



 It seems that saving came too late, Alex's truth algorythm had become too high profile and so he needed to be dealt with, so whilst Danny stands outside waiting for his lover for their planned weekend away, it seems poor Alex was locked in the box surrounded by GCHQ operatives in crime scene overalls with Mum one among them trying to convince him to leave for the USA under an assumed name, leaving behind all ties and links to the UK. He agrees but the ultimate tragedy is poor Alex's work is a total success and they KNOW he will not leave, will try to contact Danny and does not love or trust Frances to save him.




 
What is inferred is the success of this left Alex to be sacrificed in the name of national security to be used as the final lever to ensure that in the event he had shared his experiment with Danny, that he would be implicated and discredited. The coolness which this was implimented was sad and horrifying in equal measure. His struggles and cries from within the trunk are shocking and heartbreaking. 
 


The burning of the Maze by Alex's real mother in a final act of defiance against the way her life and that of the son she obviously loved (or why else stay beyond his death?) has been steered and authored  by the cold establishment, is symbolic of the way being made clear. Danny and ultimately Frances have nothing to lose anymore and the titles run as they drive off with slightly maniacal intent to bring the establishment down.
 


Did we get resolution? No
 
Will Danny Prevail? Highly doubtful.
 
Was this televison above the pale, acted with conviction and nuance very rare even on the BBC , Yes Oh yes!!

Should Ben Whishaw win every award possible this season? Most definitively!
 
 
        

Thursday, 3 December 2015

London Spy - Revelations abound as the tension grow in this espionage tale.

London Spy has kept up the standard of it's oppressive and scary descent  into near madness and despair for poor Danny. Given a phone in last week's cliffhanger he is directed first to  a hotel where clothes are laid out for him, made necessary by the full body immersion demanded by the voice on the other end, dressed in a rather snazzy suit, Danny is directed past Alex's Faux home where police still stand guard and then onto the restaurant where he and Danny first shared Breakfast where Danny is forced not only to confront quite a sleazy little French Escort and the realisation that Alex strayed.



Danny had told him to see other people, but his devotion to Alex had meant a longing hope that he had been true. Remembering a discussion on the beliefs of both men in soul ages Danny suddenly has an Epiphany about what the combination on the locked  cylinder might be.




With his success held quite literally in his warm hands he dashes to see Scottie and finds him in a terrible state, drunk as a Lord and deep in the depths of a depression so deep it is life threatening. Odd that, considering he had managed his illness successfully for thirty years without incident. Together they decide perhaps Scottie's medication has been tamper d with and so to be on the safe side, Danny procures some from a less than legal source and Scottie declares himself to the journey they have begun together, determined that pressures and fear will not alter their course, wherever it might take them.


Calling in his friend Claire again to persuade Alex's mathematical tutor to assist them in deciphering the formulae on the Lightning drive, Danny learns that she was was his  "beard" to hide his( at the time) illegal homosexuality from the world. Cementing a complex relationship, just less than lovers, much more than friends, they have been there for each other since their early twenties.


Professor Marcus Shaw played with taciturn emotionless dry demeanour by the wonderful Adrian Lester is tremendous. He thought Alex too special to demean himself with throw away things like society or love, that his work, so revolutionary , was the only life Alex should nurture is slowly forced to admit respect for nice guy Danny.



What has all the cloak and dagger been all about?  

What does the drive reveal? 

What had Alex discovered that resulted in his murder and the slow agonising destruction of Danny's life? 

Let us not forget that he has been purposefully infected with the HIV virus after all. Scottie is also a shadow of his former self. The answer is that Alex can now reveal every powerful man or woman on the planet in every lie and twisting of the truth they have ever made his formula can reveal lies and of course every powerful person has to some extent built their power on falsehood and untruths or half truths. No country can exist, no security be enforced if all the dirt can be laid bare after the application of mathematical equation.

Danny is summoned to the police station and told without any preamble he will not be charged. "They" have finished with him. Life will neve be the same though, reputation in tatters, life altered irreparably and forever looking over his shoulder.





The truth is our not so merry Foursome does not expect to survive long.  Meeting clandestinely at the strange cabaret Bar they frequentSadly this proves tragically true as in a cruel mirroring of the opening set piece, Scottie is passenger in a taxi he cannot escape and tells Danny to look for a note. He arrives at their woodland too late and the full extent of the danger he is in is starkly apparent.