Let’s talk televisuals..


30 Rock, NBC Thus 9.30pm(US), FIVEUS Friday 9pm(UK – starting Feb 20th 2009)
We come together, 'cause opposites attract

We come together, 'cause opposites attract

Many shows have tried to cover the production side of television and failed. For instance, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip had conceited dialogues and overly cheesy character interaction. And Kelsey Grammer’s Back to You was difficult to warm to, with boring characters and predictable punchlines. So it is refreshing to find a show like 30 Rock.

These days, many of us live and work in a multicultural environment. It’s becoming more of a rarity that birds of a flock fly together. So 30 Rock’s ensemble cast, has hit a very relevant nail on the head for our time.

Set in 30 Rockerfeller Plaza, it revolves around the production of a sketch show called The Girlie Show (TGS) starring quirky Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). TGS is a sketch show.

The main character is the head writer Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) who is still single in her late thirties, trying to juggle the demands of her cast and fellow writers and cope with her boss. He is  the ever ambitious, always trying to be ‘friendly’ , Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) with almost as much popularity as The Office’s David Brent. Sounding like the movie-trailer voice-over guy, his comic charm is emphasised by his deep, husky voice as he perpetually offers her witty constructive criticism. 

Y'all can see me on the tv!

Y'all can see me on the tv!

All of the characters become increasingly three dimensional through their budding but strange relationships. You will find it hard, not to be endeared by the friendship between Jack and the simple southern NBC page, Kenneth (Jack McBrayer). Both of them share a love for working in television and are the yin and yang of everyday management.

My main criticism is the delivery by some of the actors. Even though, it’s really funny and well written, it sometimes sounds stale and over-rehearsed. Almost as if they are waiting for some canned laughter to slip in there somewhere.

Saying that, I’ve yet to watch series 3 that promises many interesting cameos including Jennifer Aniston, Oprah and Steve Martin. Perhaps this award-winning comedy will excel itself, yet again.



True Blood, HBO (USA) and FX (UK)
"Delicious to taste but doesn't satisfy a true appetite"

"Delicious to taste but doesn't satisfy a true appetite"

Goodbye (and good riddance) to Buffy and Angel, we don’t need your shallow, try-hard, overacted reruns anymore. Vampires have got a whole new look with HBO’s True Blood and it’s dripping with an apt macabre and seriously steamy style. 

From the creators of Six Feet Under, this sexy new drama serves up a world where vampires are now citizens and living among us. This is thanks to a Japanese scientist creating synthetic blood called True Blood that is sold like a pack of beers in gas stations or a hot toddy in bars. Understandably, many are still apprehensive but there are the ignorant and nasty few who go that one step further.

Roses are red...

Blood is red, Veins are blue...

Based in  a small town in New Orleans, our story centres around a telepathic waitress, Sookie (Anna Paquin) who falls in love with her neighbour, a lonely vampire, five or six times her age, Bill. There are frequent murders occurring and the prime suspect is her horny, dumb brother, Jason. So she sets out to clear his name with the help of her new man.

The funny thing is, that True Blood is the real world sugarcoated in fresh blood, so to speak. It seems to reflect society with the moral issues it flags up. Such as the severe prejudice many hold against the vampires and the few that accept and protect them. V (vampire blood), the new trendy drug can take you to new psychedelic heights or repair you. So some humans will drain a vampire, just to get their fix or make some money.

The creators have combined an intricate fantasy world combined with the real one for you to get lost in. Enhanced by an above average cast and occasional slashes of timely humour, this is worth watching. Although not appealing to everybody, there are also quite a few vehemently graphic sexual and violent scenes.   But don’t get too high expectations. It’s not always that thrilling and the cliffhangers are often an anticlimax.

True Blood has already finished in America and has just been commissioned for a second series. Alas, UK viewers will have to wait until summer 2009 and that is only if you have FX Networks. Otherwise, box set recommended.



Outnumbered, BBC1, Saturday, 9.30pm
December 22, 2008, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Comedy, Impro | Tags:

Unlike America with their Friends, Will and Grace and other hits, us Brits are not known for our sitcoms. But every now and again we come up with a winner. Outnumbered focuses on your average, middle-class family called The Brockman’s.

Mum, Sue (Claire Skinner) is a stay at home mum and a part-time PA. Dad, Pete (Hugh Dennis) is a full time history teacher. They deal with their three children Karen, Ben and Jake with typical patience, tolerance and love. And watching them keep this up is a big part of the hilarity. The rest of the time they are dealing with the most self-obsessed sister of all time, Sue’s Dad who has dementia and many other obstacles in the way of family bliss.

outnumberedWhether you like children, have children or are children you will be able to identify with this family comedy. Partly improvised, it is intriguing to anyone to watch these children’s raw creativity. And the pure entertainment comes from watching the actor’s playing the parents respond. On quite a few occasions you can see them struggle not to corpse.

As good quality as The Office, it’s filled with irony and proves the fact that sarcasm is definitely not the lowest form of wit. Not surprisingly, Outnumbered comes from the creators of Drop the Dead Donkey and is just as sharp at portraying realistic relationship dynamics.

The final episode is on BBC1 on Saturday 27th December but if you want to watch the whole series, just check out BBC Iplayer.



Britain’s Got The Pop Factor… And Possibly A New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice

I have a strong suspicion that Peter Kay made a bet with Simon Cowell that the general public will buy into absolutely any gimmick at Christmas time. The Bolton Comedian hasn’t written anything in four years and then all of a sudden comes up with this one-off spoof of all the talent shows on television.

It was about time somone took the piss out of the mass of civilian-entertainment series we have on now, from X factor to Strictly Come Dancing. But what a letdown this was – it could have been so much more. 

You all know the secret behind legendary spoofs such as Spinal Tap and Best In Show is how deadpan the actors can be in ludicrous situations. But the performances in Kay’s attempt were stiff rather than satirical. This includes the judges Dr Fox, Peter Waterman and Nicki Chapman and the host, Cat Deeley – what was she thinking??

Celeb cameos Paul McCartney, Lionel Blair and Rick Astley gave little enhancement but were, actually, not the highlight. The most entertaining part was the medleys. For instance Geraldine sang Born to Run which turned into Born Free, then Free Nelson Mandela…ella..ella…ey…ey..under my umbrella…and then….well look at the youtube clip below. The funniest thing about the entire event is the title. The saddest is Geraldine’s album already on sale and her dull single, ‘The Winner’s Song’ appearing at number six in the charts.

If you’re in a bad or grumpy mood and want something to moan about, download this.



Dawn Porter; Geisha Girl, Channel 4, Tues 10pm
October 14, 2008, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Documentary, Reality Television | Tags: , , , ,
Excuse me for being so rude; it was not me, it was my food

Excuse me for being so rude; it was not me, it was my food

Part of Dawn’s consistent charm is her genuine struggle to overcome these hardcore challenges she sets for herself.  This time it’s to learn the life of a giesha girl in just one week. To do so she must go through rigourous training requiring a high pain threshold, resilience and determination.

If you’ve ever read Memoirs of a Geisha, you’ll have images of a lonely life away from your family with harsh training. Modern geisha is similar but without the brutal beatings and solitude. Dawn, or shining chrysanthemum, as she’s known, describes it as being similar to the army.

You can see her point which makes you respect these immensely subservient but perfectly disciplined women very much.

Dawn seems very uncomfortable from the start. The first stage is kneeling – it hurts Dawn so much that she finds it hard to get up. The Geisha ladies help her up and it looks like they’re really bonding. But as she concludes from her week’s journey, it is more a case that this is a sisterhood where they all support each other – it’s in their nature.

Unlike the novel where she is forced into this life, these girls want this lifestyle. Why? Dawn says, “….to live a dream and become a piece of living art.” This brings her to raise the question of what the men are wanting from the geisha world.

She talks to an American man who is an avid fan and client. He enjoys it because there is no disappointment – he knows he is not getting lucky – but falls in love each night anyway. He shows a thick file of name cards – he says he doesn’t own a house because of them. The enjoyment is all about the wooing for him. Admittedly, as a single girl myself, this was nice to hear. Where I’ve always thought men were just about sex – this made me happy that actually men do like the wooing too.

Dawn Porter; Geisha Girl is an enjoyable hour, with little snippets of Geisha history from the world wars; pretty kimono’s and the delicate hair jewellery; and our Brit chick doing her best to keep up. Dawn begins this Japanese journey coming across as an obnoxious winge-bag but leaves the openminded learnaholic that we all love. As she says herself it is a fascinating week. But I wonder how it helped her on her quest to find true love.

One hilarious highlight is when she describes herself as a giant oversized geisha monster as we see her sit down next to an ickle Japanese business man (little Dawn being twice his size). When she admits that she’s not enjoying it, is uncomfortable and now even in a bad mood with the camera man, you can sympathize. I mean I don’t know about you but I can’t even handle heels!



Cutting Edge: The Virgin Daughters, Channel 4
And they called it Papa love

And they called it Papa love

To most Europeans a purity pledge is an unusual occurence. In fact, some would consider it a small cult practice. But actually one in six American girls make the promise to remain a virgin until their wedding day, or even wait for their first kiss. And this cutting edge documentary talks to some of the fathers and daughters before and during a purity ball in Colarado Springs.

They seem more like vanity pledges for the father than a pledge of abstinence for the daughter. One father explains, “Wouldn’t it be great to say that you’ve only ever kissed one man?” Honestly? No! Then his daughter explains the process she will have to go through: find an appropriate guy…bring him back to meet her father…have chaperoned dates or if they are lucky, spend time alone as long as the parents are in earshot. Like a stag, you wonder if the father would only approve of someone who won’t threaten him.

One of the mother’s makes a good argument – she doesn’t want her children to catch sexually transmitted diseases or get cervical cancer. It doesn’t justify the control and restraint over these children but it is easier to see her logic than her husbands.

Father and daughter sign the pledge

Father and daughter sign the pledge

Until you hear Jessica’s story – a girl who didn’t manage to stick to her pledge and eventually got pregnant. Her story is heart wrenching, especially when she innocently explains how she had sex (at 19), “It just happened.” Making the important point: sex is natural and if you try and deny it to consenting adults, there could be consequences.

If you take for granted that we live in liberated times (especially women) then you should catch this on the Channel 4 website (click picture for link). If you ever moan that your dad doesn’t give you enough love or attention – WATCH THIS! When you see the eerie, cringeworthy way the fathers looking adoringly into their daughters eyes, you will never complain again.



Have I Got News for You, BBC1 and Dave

 

Here they come, the informative ones

Here they come, the informative ones

I have a confession – I’m in love with Ian Hislop. Please don’t cringe but it’s true. Despite his short body, nik nak head and smug facial expressions, I find him very sexy. He is the James Bond of brains. You know that he could talk his way out of any bad situation with his charisma, intellect and sense of humour. He is also committed, being the only person to appear in every single episode of Have I Got News for You. Anyway – gush over!

For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s another top British celebrity panel show. The format: a satirical look at current affairs. Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye and Paul Merton, comedian are regular panelists whilst the host changes each week and has included everyone from Brian Blessed to Jeremy Clarkson.

Just ending its 35th series, our resident political mockers are partnered each week with a guest panelist from the world of journalism, politics or comedy. This is great because obviously these three schools offer a very different perspective on the world, so very episode is original.

One of the best rounds is The Odd One Out. This consists of four pictures that are all connected in some preposterous way, except one of them is (shockingly) the odd one out. For instance, you have the Cheeky girls, Sacha Baron Cohen, Prince Charles and Vlad the Impaler. The odd one out is Sacha Baron Cohen because he had rented property in Transylvania (to film Borat), the rest own property. Another great one is when all of them have been attacked by a dog except for one – he had been killed by his dog.

Have I Got News For You is one to watch with your partner with a nice cuppa tea. Grown out of Newsround? This is actually a great one if you want/need more know how on politics but just haven’t got the attention span for the news yet. So, if you’ve just got out of Uni and need to rear yourself off Teletubbies, flick on to Dave and give this a go.

For the slightly older members of the hard working tax-payers (in your 20s and 30s), this will lighten your news-filled anxious head. Or maybe you’ll merely appreciate the basic function: it’s hilarious. Here is a recent montage of Ann Widdecombe as guest host.

Trivia: HIGNFY is to be rebranded into the UK version of the US website the Onion.

More Trivia: The BBC has signed it up for 38 series.