10 items from 2017
Somebody on the point of bursting into flames from ungoverned anger has written in with a list of my perfidies, which include my still being alive when he has specifically indicated that he wants me dead. He holds me responsible for unforgivable frivolity in the face of climate change, and for my apparent indifference to the forthcoming nuclear war. And for having lived too long.
From internal examination of his violently aggressive prose, I judge him to be an Australian, so he will understand when I encourage him to insert his head in a dead bear’s bottom. This useful instruction, in a less polite form, I first heard 50 years ago from my friend Bruce Beresford, the Australian film director. Neither of us thought the expression any the less eloquent »
- Clive James
How did Coogan and Brydon become ‘the funniest couple since Laurel and Hardy’? As The Trip returns, we rank all their world-beating comedies to find out
Even though it’s squirrelled away behind a paywall, The Trip to Spain looks set to be one of the best shows of the year. As an idea, The Trip has now solidified into a format – Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon competitively impersonate celebrities in nice restaurants then go and be sad in their hotel rooms – that manages to capture the poignancy of middle age like few others before it.
Crucial to this is the partnership between Coogan and Brydon. Coogan is presented as pompous and self-congratulatory, straining to make something more of himself, while Brydon is a facile people-pleaser. Clive James called them “the funniest couple since Laurel and Hardy” a couple of weeks ago, and you can’t deny how special their chemistry is. »
- Stuart Heritage
Since The Wire, the actor has fought against being stereotyped. Now he’s tackling the UK’s diversity problem with a BBC takeover
Who wants to be that bloke who’s always banging on about diversity? Not Idris Elba, certainly. “It’s become a bit of a corny word,” he sighs. “People are just like: ‘Oh, stop talking about it.’” True, the endless reports, broadcaster targets and media representation surveys can be dull; though, crucially, not nearly as dull as yet another cosy British period drama or all-male panel show. And so, in January last year, big-time Hollywood actor Idris Elba was persuaded to give a “boring” (his word) speech at the Houses of Parliament. At the event, arranged by Labour politician Oona King, he called for a “change of mindset” among broadcasters.
Related: Idris Elba »
- Ellen E Jones
Louisa Mellor Mar 26, 2017
Few robots are left standing in the latest, ultra-destructive episode of Robot Wars…
This review contains spoilers.
It’s somewhat in the lap of the gods, the entertainment value of any given episode of Robot Wars. If they smile upon the arena, the spinners spin and the crushers crush and we all have a jolly old time of it. Every so often though, things just never quite get going. Drive motors burn out, bots are immobilised after a single collision, and it all ends not with a bang but a whimper.
When that happens, it’s the job of the production team to string out the pre and post-bout interviews and make up for the thrills absent in the arena »
The feature is based on Madeleine St John.s 1993 novel The Women in Black. The book was turned into a musical by musician Tim Finn in 2015, though the film is an adaptation of the novel, not the musical.
Set in Sydney in the summer of 1959, Ladies in Black is the story of suburban schoolgirl Lisa, who takes a summer job at a large department store where she works alongside a group of saleswomen who open her eyes to a world beyond her sheltered existence.
The film will be produced by Allanah Zitserman and Samson Productions. Sue Milliken. Beresford and Milliken have written the screenplay, and Morris Ruskin of The Ruskin Company will executive produce.
Beresford said he had been obsessed with adapting the book since being introduced to it by Clive James. »
- Harry Windsor
To collect an actor’s performances is still one of the best reasons for continuing the long search into infinity
As a Denzel Washington fan, I try to see every movie he has made. When I was still flying, I would watch a Denzel movie two or three times on the trot, just to study the way he timed a sardonic smile – even today, I time a sardonic smile at my granddaughter’s dog. But those of us who would once haunt the DVD racks to pick up a Denzel movie must reconcile ourselves to never seeing, on any flight entertainment system, one of the greatest performances of his late period. Starring as an airline pilot in Flight, he is not only meant to be high on alcohol, but the airliner is also meant to be on the verge of falling apart.
Long before it crashes, you realise that, if »
- Clive James
Innovative television producer behind BBC2’s Late Night Line-Up
The innovative spirit of BBC2’s Late Night Line-Up owed much to the creative skills of one of its senior producers, Mike Fentiman, who has died aged 78. His enthusiasm and wide range of interests fired up a whole generation of programme makers to create lively and often surprising television. He championed the new, pioneered the radical and irritated the BBC establishment.
The initial idea of Late Night Line-Up – broadcast every night from 1964 until 1972 – was to look at the evening’s output of the BBC’s two channels with informed and appropriate guests, and I was one of its four long-term presenters. People such as Ken Loach and Tony Garnett would discuss Cathy Come Home, while Clive James and Jonathan Miller appeared regularly as critics.
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- Joan Bakewell
After the first episode, I was wiping the blood from my ears with Kleenex
As if to prove that television’s appeal depends mainly on what it gives you to see, the BBC’s new headline serial SS-gb spends many millions giving you something you can’t hear. Some expert analysts say the show is quite audible, but other even more expert analysts point out that this is true only if you have a Woofendorf M-23 multiple takedown receptor within 10ft of your set and another within 10ft of your feet. It goes without saying that this elementary boosting equipment needs to be further enhanced with a Paxman P-36 growl-filter in your loft, to translate the German of anyone above the rank of feldwebel into double Dutch.
After the first episode, I was wiping the blood from my ears with Kleenex, but here’s the gag: I wouldn’t have heard it anyway, »
- Clive James
Pls Like (BBC3) | iPlayer
The Moorside (BBC1) | iPlayer
I occasionally like to think most of this nation’s problems could have been solved had the 19th century kept all the convicts here, with the rest of law-abiding Britain upping sticks wholesale to Australia. Instead, we gifted our criminals a few acres of beautiful farming headland, perfect weather, beaches and coral and rainforests and sat back smug with our snaggle teeth and righteous, rained-on foot rot. Fast-forward, and we got back, yes, Kylie, Germaine Greer and Clive James, but also those barkeeps whose perpetual birdsong – no worries, mate! – seems expressly designed to ratchet stress, Murdoch, Foster’s and the bloody Wallabies. Was that altogether a good deal? Cui, exactly, »
- Euan Ferguson
Were I a would-be TV presenter in search of a role model, Andrew Graham-Dixon would fit the frame. As well as wielding copious explanatory powers about art, he comes over as quite butch, with such non-effete features as a vigorously sane hairstyle and powers of elocution not even half as crazy as some other arty presenters we could name. In the opening chapter of his BBC mega-series, The Art Of France, he was not afraid of the bold statement: “Like every great country, France has always been a mongrel nation.”
This was especially bold because it suggested that Japan, for example, had never existed. Even today, it is almost impossible for a foreign artist, or indeed a foreign anything, to take up residence in Japan, whose intellectuals will tell you unblushingly that the »
- Clive James
10 items from 2017
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