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Average as quiz shows go, but it has its good points.
As a big fan of general knowledge quizzes, I tune in to Eggheads even though I am not totally swayed by it. Even so, it is probably better than most BBC quiz shows, and that includes the irritating and past its sell-by-date Weakest Link.
Let's be positive to begin with and state the good points:
1. It has two of the best quizzers in the country, Kevin Ashman and Daphne Fowler.
2. It shows how lucky Judith Keppel got with her Millionaire win. She is well above average for her general knowledge, but if she had to go through the 15 questions on WWTBAM again, I'd place money on her not winning - even if she had another ten attempts. But fair dos and congratulations to her.
3. You can join in with the fun and answer questions before the rest of your family. Well, usually.
4. Occasionally the opponents really do have the Eggheads on the ropes, and there is a smidgen of tension as we await the outcome.
Now, since I'm struggling to think of the good points, here are the bad points.
1. Most of the questions are pretty easy, just to give the opponents a chance, and then hope one of the Eggheads will slip up. Also, the caliber of people on the public side is pretty poor sometimes.
2. The people going on to the show should really sort out their tactics better. Play Kevin on entertainment, Daphne on sport, although these pair are pretty good on everything anyway.
3. Judith and CJ are strange choices. Their general knowledge is well below the other three, but like I've said before - they are well above average.
4. Will Chris stop going on about trains and railways - and why do so many questions regarding his pet subjects keep coming up? Is he the question-setter?
5. The set is horrible - too much like the Weakest Link.
6. Kevin and Daphne are not given the opportunity so show their talent.
7. There are not enough questions, and too much talking.
Beat the Nation (2004)
Decent quiz, but not fit to lick 15-1's boots.
I was bitterly disappointed when 15-1 came to an end, and for some reason Channel 4 replaced it with this. Obviously the time slot of 2:45PM is still allocated to a quiz, so why not keep The G Man (William G. Stewart) in that half hour.
Anyway, onto Beat the Nation. In comparison this is a bit lightweight. You can read the other comment to get the gist of the shows details. It seems to be designed for a wider (dare I say it, more common) audience. The questions are easier and there are fewer of them, but you do get a few laughs here and there. The presenters, former Goodies, keep the humour present at most times, and you are surprised at how little the general populace knows.
Worth watching but 15-1 still rules.
Ever Decreasing Circles (1984)
After the first couple of episodes it grows on you.
Successful comedy writing partnership John Esmonde and Bob Larbey had already come up with the popular "The Good Life", and they teamed up with Richard Briers again for this series focusing on middle-class suburban eccentricity and strife.
Briers starred as Martin Bryce, a completely obsessive form filler, club joiner and committee organiser. His wife, Ann (Penelope Wilton) has somehow put-up with his irritating behaviour for some years - 14 in fact when it's revealed later in the series. According to Martin, and perhaps because of him, everything runs like clockwork in "The Close" - a leafy Home Counties estate where the houses have nice names. Martin's is called Brookes Mead.
Martin's life is changed however with the introduction of Paul Ryman (Peter Egan). Paul is an affable, charming and super confident chap who has a university degree (Martin hasn't) and runs a hairdressing business in town. Totally secure, he is not put off by Martin's horrendous attitude towards him and proceeds to help him out. It is this fact that frustrates Martin even more - because Paul can sort everything out just by calling one of his many "friends". The mere fact that Paul can make life seem so simple while Martin frets over every small detail makes their relationship a taut one. Still, Paul is such a nice guy he never shows a cold side to Martin. However, he enjoys flirting with Ann, and for a couple of episodes you wonder if they would get it on behind Martin's back, but surprisingly, Martin and Ann's marriage is very stable.
In the tradition of weird next-door neighbours are the dull Howard and Hilda Hughes (geddit), who are fully-paid up members of Martin's committees, flower-growing clubs and other silly schemes that you would only get in white middle-class English communities. They have a penchant for wearing matching Noel Edmonds type sweaters, with Howard always telling the same joke to his wife when he comes home to work in the evening. Stanley Lebor and Geraldine Newman are perfect in these roles.
This BBC sitcom proved to fairly popular with viewers, perhaps because the talented cast make their characters work so well. The first couple of episodes, straight off from where we see Martin using his infamous duplicator in his small upstairs office, are a little off-putting. It is down to the character of Martin, who is such an obsessive bore you can't stand much of him and have little sympathy for either. But he grows on you, and while he never truly gets on best mates terms with Paul, he accepts him as a neighbour as the series goes on. The viewers are in the same boat, as we accept all the misery is reaped on him by himself, and that we English share a kind of self-depreciating empathy with him.
The series ran for 4 seasons from 1984 to 1987, with an 80 minute closing episode in 1989. This had Martin and Ann moving away from The Close.
P.S. My favourite scene in this series is when Martin joins the exclusive Egremont Club. Martin and the man who introduces him to the club keep calling for the steward - but he is nowhere to be seen. In comes the smooth Paul who sits down and calls "steward" in the same manner, and the barman promptly appears.
The House on Sycamore Street (1992)
2/10. The series is a lot better than this lightweight silliness.
Anodyne nonsense from the tap-dancing - and in this episode, rapping, doctor sleuth.
Mark Sloan (Dick Van Dyke) has to unravel a mystery when he deduces that an old plastic surgeon friend didn't commit suicide by jumping off a building. No, even though he was under pressure and in debt, leading the ever short-sighted Steve (Barry Van Dyke) to the easy deduction of an accident, it's Mark's knack of sleuthing that gets them involved in a murder investigation.
Fans of the Diagnosis Murder series will want to catch this pilot, with Cynthia Gibb and Steven Caffrey in the roles taken up by Victoria Rowell and Scott Baio, but newcomers will wonder what the fuss is about.
Trois couleurs: Blanc (1994)
8/10. Not perfect, but worth watching.
The second part of Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colours" trilogy, this one represents white.
Much of the whiteness comes from the bleak snowy landscapes of post-Communist Poland, where the central character, Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) finds himself. How he gets here from his marriage annulment in a Parisian court is pure farce. Talk about living out of a suitcase.
Part of Karol's determination against adversity is to gain some kind of revenge on his ex-wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy), and the scheme he dreams up involves faking his own death.
Part droll comedy, part satire, this is full of clever details and quirky moments, although the story does lose focus from time to time. Zamachowski puts in an engaging turn as the downtrodden man destined to be one of life's runners-up.
Panic Room (2002)
5/10. Not a patch on Se7en, The Game and Fight Club
David Fincher came up with some of the most arresting visuals and ideas in the 1990s - Se7en, The Game and Fight Club, but this dark thriller doesn't reach the same high standards.
It is a watchable affair nonetheless, with Jodie Foster as a recently separated mother searching for prime New York apartment block space with her 10-year (roughly) old son (Kristen Stewart). The apartment is spanking brand new with all the mod cons, including the all important "panic room", a kind of impenetrable safe for humans. This comes in handy when their quarters are invaded by a group of professional burglars (Billy Bob Thornton, Forest Whittaker and Dwight Yoakam).
A battle of wits ensues, but it becomes increasingly hackneyed and silly, particularly the bit with the gas pipe. It has plenty of tense moments, but the daft plot lets it down. The gloomy visuals add a certain degree of class, however.
If you have seen Desperate Hours and many other films of this type, then you will pretty much know the routine.
Murder by Numbers (2002)
3/10. Yawnsome thriller with irritating flashbacks.
Hard to believe that director Barbet Schroeder once did the majestic and very funny Maitresse (1976), and now only seems to do "by the numbers" Hollywood thrillers.
This is very lightweight John Grisham material, crossed with the plot of a TV movie. Bullock is Cass Mayweather, a feisty and independent crime investigator specialising in serial killers. Ben Chaplin is her reserved police partner Sam Kennedy, and together they make an uncomfortable duo. Not good, when two unbalanced college maladriots (Gosling and Pitt) decide to send them on a wild goose chase - by planting very clever and misleading forensic evidence at a crime scene.
Fair enough, but while Bullock and Chaplin fail to create any sparks, we also have to endure a several dull overly-melodramatic flashbacks illustrating an important event in Cass's history. Then of course there are the frequent shots of a cliff-side log cabin where there's absolutely no doubt the OTT ending will be set. Oooh... the atmosphere.
Watch any episode of CSI instead. It's to the point and far more exciting.
Another film that "cheats", but I still liked it
As I stated in the summary, this is yet another one of an ever increasing number of films that cheats its audience. I mean the way in which a film deliberately blurs the line between fantasy and reality makes it less accountable for its plot, narrative and conclusion.
Still, I loved Fight Club and I liked this. You are supposed to be wonder if the events the central character finds himself him are real, or perhaps just a dream.
It begins as a conventional romance, a statement on the insecurities of men and their loneliness. The woman who enters this sad man's life seems too good to be true, and that is what holds the audience - we know something isn't quite right about her past.
As you have read from the other comments, this has a graphic and shocking ending. But the relevance of this is not made clear. The director however, is perhaps one step ahead of us in this respect, but one thing is for certain and that is the next time you feel run down, a shiatsu session may be a little off-putting.
Top of the Pops (1964)
The Good Old Days
I may be only 25, but I already feel like I'm way too old for TOTP. That is a real pity because up until the early 90s it felt like this was a national institution would be stay with me forever.
I guess most people think that, but the way in which TOTP has lost its importance is startling and sad. Of course, the current state of the music charts is mainly to blame, and the fact that there are dozens of music TV channels now.
I don't know what it was like in the 60s and 70s but you can't argue with audience figures of 15-16 million, while it now gets 2 million if it's lucky.
The shows I remember in the 80s were fun, colourful and lively; where the performers and the audience were out for fun. However, it now seems cynical, trashy and monotonous. I mean who can forget when The Brat performed "Chalk Dust" with a mock tennis court and umpire judge, and then of course there was the classic "Jocky Wilson" moment with Dexy's Midnight Runners.
Perhaps because I am a 80s child and remember when the charts were interesting, i.e. songs climbed up the charts to a position which (usually) justified the song. Now anything can go straight in at number one if they have appeared in a TV programme, or it's been played in a nightclub in Ayia Napa, or features some anodyne blonde blue-eyed rubbish boy band.
Anyway, I should stop moaning and remember the good old days.