Archive for ‘television’

February 4, 2011

Review – John Nettles leaves Midsomer Murders

Warning: the following review contains spoilers.

All good things must come to an end. We all know this. Yet when the end arrives we are often shocked. And so it is with John Nettles’ on Midsomer Murders. Nettles, who has walked the beat in the most lethal of the Home Counties since 1997, has decided to retire and hand over to Neil Dudgeon, who plays his cousin John. But Barnaby, a beloved character for millions of people, could not just be written out, and this was his exit, stage right.

The plot itself was well-formed, interesting and actually more psychological than is usual for Midsomer Murders, which is usually more interested in pitchforks and fetes than the inner recesses of the mind. While the episode did not peer in to Barnaby’s subconscious, it did explore interesting ideas around nostalgia, and holding on to the past, both through the subplot involving Barnaby’s father and, of course, the main plot surrounding the two murders that occur on the grounds of a health spa. (There is also an attempted murder which doesn’t quite go to plan, which brings the episode up to the quota of three corpses per episode). One of the murders is mildly surprising, yet it is not up there with the almost comical deaths in some previous episodes.

There are some star turns from the actors and actresses. Geraldine James, in particular, is fantastic as an estranged friend who longs for the past. Ronni Ancona, too, is amusing as the waspish, medicine-addicted first murder victim. John Nettles manages, yet again, to convey the dependable, principled, unimpeachable detective whom we have grown to know and respect over these past thirteen or so years. Jane Wymark now appears to be thoroughly comfortable with what we may call the ‘public perception’ of Joyce – that she is more deadly than the county itself. Barry Jackson and Laura Howard played small parts excellently, as Bullard and Cully, respectively.

The weak link in the character chain is perhaps the most surprising. Jones moved from being the poor man’s Lewis to the poor man’s Hong Kong Phooey. He was tripping up all over the place, missing evidence, harrumphing about like someone had stolen his breakfast. It was not the Jones we had grown to like, and it certainly was not up to the part of Troy. It was disappointing, but it did help to illustrate why Barnaby was replaced by Barnaby the younger, rather than Jones. Jones’ incompetence may have been a specific creation by the writers to ensure that we did not question the lack of progress for the young detective.

This was not one of the greatest episodes. It is not Written in Blood, with Anna Massey as a crazy, homophobic dynast. It is certainly not Judgement Day, with Timothy West as an endlessly loving husband (and pitchfork killings). Yet it is a good and well-written episode, and the send-off of Tom Barnaby is affectionate, warm, and interesting. It conveys the unique nature of Midsomer Murders in a single scene – that, actually, Barnaby is not Poirot, nor Frost, nor Morse. He is middle-class, middle-aged, has integrity streaming out of him and has a solid homelife. He shall be sorely missed.

January 28, 2011

What is 10 O’Clock live?


Two episodes in, and 10 O’Clock live still doesn’t quite seem to know what it is yet. Is it a comedy programme? Does it offer insightful analysis of the weeks biggest political stories? Does it just fill half an hour for politicos before flipping over to Question Time?

Yesterday Alistair Campbell was the main guest, being interviewed by a clearly nervous David Mitchell. Did we learn a single thing from it? No. The normally brilliantly funny Mitchell wasted 10 minutes asking predictable questions about the Iraq war. Campbell didn’t even break a sweat, Mitchell didn’t crack a joke.The interview summed up the problems with the programme. Whilst trying to be both insightful and funny, the section ended up being neither.

The main reason 10 O’Clock live doesn’t know what it’s meant to be is because it has too many presenters, who’s different backgrounds and styles often mean a clash, not a contrast. Jimmy Carr’s headlines were funny, as was Lauren Laverne’s sexism sketch, but they didn’t fit with a rant from Charlie Brooker, or a knowing opinion from Mitchell. The presenters are the TV satire equivalent of a manufactured pop band, thrown together by backstage producers for marketing expedience.

The programme probably needs time to find it’s feet, and may well develop and improve as the weeks go by. If it does it could certainly prove worthwhile light relief from the BBC’s more hackish political coverage. For the moment though it makes for quite disjointed viewing, and falls a long way short of being the UK’s answer to the Daily Show.

January 24, 2011

It was only a matter of time…parents brand US Skins ‘dangerous’


Skins (TV series)Image via Wikipedia

An American group of parents called the Parents Television Council, have branded the US version of Skins “the most dangerous television show for children we have ever seen”. They have even asked the US Government to investigate whether the use of 16 and 17 year old actors in the more explicit scenes is breaking child porn laws. The criticism has caused Taco Bell to withdraw and advertising campaign it was running during the programme, and producers to demand tone down of some of the more explicit scenes. Better not send them the DVDs of the UK version

The complaints were though fairly inevitable from a country that specialises in prudish indigence, and churned out generic teen (lack off) drama, but the notion that a programme could encourage child porn and pedophilia, as the PTC claim with Skins, is utterly ridiculous.

While US masterpieces like Greys Anatomy, The West Wing and  Mad Men are rightly widely praised, they simply don’t do teen TV in the same way over there. There teen drama comes nicely messaged and covered in bubble wrap, with a normally happy ending.

Furthermore, there was always a risk that tales of Bristol teen hedonism was always going to be lost in translation, but Skins US has already hit 3.3 million viewers for the reinterpreted series, which is not a bad effort.  MTV must be thanking the PTC too, as they couldn’t pay for better advertising for their newest imports!

Series 5 of the full frontal, UK, version of Skins starts on Thursday on E4.

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January 11, 2011

>Glee back with a bang

>The kids of Glee were back on E4 lat night, and it was really rather good. Extending their repertoire to current hits, the cast blasted through VN favourites ‘Empire State of Mind’ and ‘Millionaire’. The performances benefited from not having Rachel dominate last night, and the script was slightly less sickly than last season.

A new female football coach was used to continue the theme of being an outsider. However, the star was still Sue Sylvester, who continues to have the best script in teen TV. Reeling off one liners, Sue was only challenged in the comedy stakes by cheerleader Britney, who confessed to being lost in the sewers all summer when everyone thought she was on holiday!

Glee may be so cheesy you can smell cheddar coming out of your TV, but below the top layer it is very clever. There is no point hating or fighting Glee, it is only going to get bigger.

January 4, 2011

>Glee and Brothers and Sisters return this month

>The whole of VN Towers may stilll be in mourning and the cruel slashing of the Daily Show, but January will see the return of both the Glee show choir and the Walker Family on E4 and More4 respectively.

We left the Glee show choir after their regional sing off, having just received a reprieve to continue for another year (obviously.) We expect more top end one liners from Sue Sylvester, and can’t wait to find out who the guest starts are. Hard to imagine them beating Wicked ladies Idina Menzel and Kristin Cheneworth though…. Warm up your vocal chords for next Monday, 10th Jan!

We left the Walker family of Brothers and Sisters in less happy circumstances, caught up in massive car crash. Is outgoing Senator Robert Macallister (gorgeous Rob Lowe, ) dead or alive? We think we know now…) Who else is hurt? How will the family cope with Saul being HIV positive? The 4th season was a little disappointing, but the ending, and the continuing presence of VN fave Calista Flockhart,  means the 5th will still be must see. Brothers and Sisters resumes on January 20th.

December 29, 2010

>Skins 5 titles


At VN towers we have been getting quite excited about the prospect of series 5 of Skins. There is a whole new cast of characters once again, and today the new titles has been released:
Series 5 of Skis will broadcast from 10pm on E4 on 27th January.
December 16, 2010

>New Skins characters revealed

>E4 have just revealed the characters for series five of teen drama Skins. After two lots of pretty interesting characters VN is a bit disappointed by our first glance.  There is the cross dressing presumably lesbian character after the success of Naomi/Emily. There is the Sid-esque waster, and the pretty girl.

Not that it will deter us from watching, and it will be interesting to see how they use these characters.

October 27, 2010

>Skins USA trailer launched


Skins (TV series)Image via Wikipedia

VN was delighted to hear that the filming of Skins series 5 was well underway,  and reported that the American version was nearly good to go too. The programme will be broadcast by MTV, and the creator of the British version, Bryan Elsley, is in charge of this new offshoot. MTV have recently started releasing trailers:

What made the original UK version so brilliant is that it touched on characters and characteristics that our uniquely British. Elsley has compiled an all American writing team for the Skins trip across the Atlantic, and it looks like a lot of the stories will be based around those originally aired in the UK. Will American viewers tolerate the more, uhum, gritty, scenes that made the programme so groundbreaking in the UK? VN suspects that American’s will have never seen anything like it, and that those of us used to the original episodes will be somewhat unimpressed at the inevitable watering down that will take place.

Skins USA will broadcast from January 2011.

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October 14, 2010

>Karen Brady restores sanity on the Apprentice


Apphelp LogoImage via Wikipedia

For two weeks in a row, VN towers has been filled with the shrieking, egos, and pomposity of the new Apprentice candidates. Two weeks in a row we have found ourselves saying ‘thank goodness for Karen Brady’. The new intake are truly horrendous, seemingly deliberately so, and the programme has descended into X-Facor style farce.

Last week the boys went on a sausage fuelled testosterone fest around the streets of London. This week the girls decided to get catty.  The task was to sell a new beach product to a variety of big retailers. After days  of talking over each other, bickering, and poor decision making the girls portable book stand achieved a grand total of zero sales. When the sniping continued after they had been hauled back into the boardroom, their mentor Brady finally ran out of patience. She rightly informed the girls that they were representing women in business, and were, in short, letting the side down.

Women should not have to behave like men in business, or any other area, to achieve. Often the differing approach women take is their greatest asset. Sadly though, it is still the case that women need to prove themselves more than their male counterparts, in a variety of settings. It is not right that it is still so, but it is. Women like Brady have achieved what they have by combining hard work with natural ability. Unwittingly they became role models, and took that responsibility seriously. It must all seem for nothing when they witness the type of scenes shown in the programme last night.

The only female contestant to emerge with any credit last night was Stella English. She was asked to join the boys team, as one member was away dealing with family matter. She was also asked to be the team’s project manager. Her calm, firm approach won instant respect from her male colleagues, and stopped the over aggressive approach that had cost them the week before. Ultimately, she led the team to a very narrow victory.

However, the remaining women that stayed as a group on the Apprentice last night do little more than cause mass embarrassment, and confirm outdated and irrelevant stereotypes. They should be thoroughly ashamed.

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October 4, 2010

>Skins series 5 being made-YAY

>The hit Channel 4 series Skins will thankfully return for a 5th series. The official Skins Facebook group confirmed that it was currently being made, and that a US version is in progress too. It had also been previously announced there is going be a Skins film. The US version is under the command of Bryan Elsley who ran the first three series of the UK version, while Company Pictures, Stormdog Films, Film4 AND Cinemax are behind the film.

Character’s in Skins only last two series, so there will be no more Cook, Naomi, Effy or Emily this time around. Of course Effy stayed on from the first cast, and numerous theories had reached VN about who may survive this time round. We were initially backing that Karen, Freddie’s wannabe diva sister, would be there to avenge her brothers murder. However, the cast of Series 5 has been revealed without any hangers on, and this is what the newbies look like:

Picture form E4

It is pleasing that the producers have stuck to their principle of finding new actions. Sadly though we are going to have wait a few more months to see them all in action, as the programme is not commissioned to start until the new year.
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