Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Most of the energy and delight in this series comes from seeing Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi's characters laying into one another with bitchy queeny comments. They both loving hamming it up, and to an extent sending themselves up. Their forever thwarted female friend, played by Frances de la Tour, provides a nice counterpoint.
Most of the enjoyment comes from their delivery of the lines, rather than the script. For this reason, it will be loved by some folk, and hated by others.
McKellen's character is an aging actor, whose career is less than stellar (he was voted the twentieth most popular Dr Who villain - something like that). They have a decrepit dog, Balthazar, which is most of the way to death. They all live in a house that looks like something out of Rising Damp or a bad seventies sitcom in which the curtains are hardly ever opened. McKellen's mother seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that her son is a raging queen who lives with a man. It's fairly set bound, and doesn't move around much, but all of this, including the retro flavour, is deliberate.
On the downside, the theme music is totally inappropriate, and the Ash character is a stock in trade attempt to bring in a young guy. (He can't act either) He only really works when the older characters including Frances de la Tour, all get crushes on him.
The Job Lot (2013)
That's Your Lot In Life
It was inevitable that this programme would draw comparisons with "the Office" and "Vicious" (in which it appeared in a double bill.
The first scene has Russell Tovey's character Karl complaining that he has an Art degree, and that he "shouldn't be reduced to this". You think he's a job seeker, but in fact he's "reduced" to working in this sterile ugly job centre.
It's actually quite watchable, and better than the average ITV sitcom.
The most amusing characters are Trish, the neurotic, anxious manager (who has just been through a divorce, and tries to steal her chocolate labs Ferrero and Rocher back from her ex-husband) and the bitchy Angela, who works to rule, generally undermines the others, and throws her weight around. The security guards are laughable - one's a tiny woman, and the other's a nut with military pretensions. Then there are the bizarre job seekers, one of whom is like an English Rab C. Nesbitt, and an undercover agent who attempts to catch benefit cheats. Only trouble being that he's bearded and Asian, and sticks out like a sore thumb in many environments.
Yes, it's another sitcom about tedium, but it's quite fun. I think it suffered from being on too late at night and was overshadowed by its admittedly better sibling "Vicious", but it's worth a look.
Patchy - for completists only
I love the Alan Partridge series, but this was, well, patchy.
There are some good lines in it, but some elements are overplayed, e.g. the robot interviewer (Digital Dave), and "real life" interviewer Ray Woolard, who is clearly out of his depth and being manipulated by Partridge. There *are* a few laughs here, but not many compared to "Knowing Me, Knowing You", or "I'm Alan Partridge".
Also included are clips from Partridge's "Ramble in the Countryside", an attempt by Alan to show himself off as some kind of rural gentleman. (Presumably to help placate the farmers he annoyed on his radio show.)
The feature includes some clips from other Alan Partridge enterprises (including "The Day Today"), but it fails to impress overall.
And so the BBC decides to jump on the Scando crime bandwagon! What you get though is something a bit more British, and less ponderous.
The result is a reasonable crime drama set in Shetland. the actors turn in a reasonable performance, but the only Shetlander, and the only one with a Shetland-sounding accent - Steven Robertson - got put into a supporting role. He's a really good, underrated actor, and I would like to see more of him. Dougie Henshall is the lead, and works well on the small screen. But that's it - reasonable... not particularly good or bad, but "reasonable".
The story itself is okay, but it could have done with better pacing and direction. There's no real tension as such, although it's not too predictable.
As you might expect, the landscape (or should I say "seascape"?) is very much the real star. One thing though - this was set around about New Year, yet the days appear to be long and sunny... anyone who knows Shetland, knows that they're extremely short and dark at that time of year!!! Worth seeing if it's on TV, but not worth looking out for otherwise.
Doors Open (2012)
Badly paced, and almost colonial
At least half of this badly paced and poorly written crime caper could have been cut. Most of the first hour drags... the "heist" is mildly entertaining, but doesn't make up for the rest.
All the educated, middle class people, apart from Douglas Henshall's character are English, or have English accents. And all the schemies/working class people have Glaswegian ones. (Apart from some Geordie criminals!) Edinburgh is not like that, and it seems all too reminiscent of the Alasdair Gray row. Is Scotland colonised? Well, watching this, you'd well think so. Apparently almost all Scots live in council house schemes, are football obsessed and don't get involved in the art world. The hegemony implicit in this is outrageous!
Mysterious Two (1982)
I got the chance to watch this twice on an obscure cable channel. Otherwise it's very difficult to get hold of (it didn't appear on IMDb for a number of years).
It's by turns quite dated and cheesy, and oddly creepy and atmospheric. We never do really find out what's going on. In that sense, it's quite close to "Picnic at Hanging Rock". Two cult leaders start indoctrinating people, and one by one they start disappearing. The lesson here, perhaps is about giving yourself over to the unknown, particularly when you don't know what its intentions are.
Basically this film is a reaction to the various UFO sects that have sprung up over the years (especially in the decade or so before the film) - Heaven's Gate, Raelians, Share International ("Maitreya"), George Adamski, the Aetherius Society etc, and also some of the tragedies resulting from New Religious Movements in general, e.g. the Jonestown Massacre, the Manson Gang etc. As it turned out, the film demonstrates a real concern, as there have been many more such tragedies since then. It's also about the souring of the hippie/New Age ideal, about peace and love distorted and gone horribly wrong.
Hingin Aboot in Nyowcassell
This is an episode which doesn't really go anywhere in more ways than one. The lads spend their time in Newcastle, biding their time, and getting into trouble with the local radgies. It starts with the lads in passport control, and ends more or less the same way. There's a few cheap laughs in here e.g. Ally's gym.
We do catch a glimpse of another side of Wayne, but in the end, he just can't help himself. This and Barry's tap dancing and snooker skills just about bump this episode up one point for me.
All said and done though, this episode's a bit of a filler. "Marjorie Doesn't Live Here Anymore", at least dealt with Oz's trying to be a dad. This is just "hingin aboot the toon."
High Point: Barry's tap dancing... classic.
Low Point: The hairstyles in Cannibals. Certain things from the eighties don't deserve to be remembered.
Look out for: Barry's snooker trick shot. The fight in Cannibals Moxey can certainly handle himself.
Mentioning the War
British TV has long had a bit of an unhealthy obsession with Hitler and the Second World War. It hardly ever faces up to the fact that most modern-day Germans weren't even born when it happened, that they sincerely regret what did happen, and that Germans are ordinary people, not just some kind of cut-out villains. It's inevitable that Auf Wiedersehen Pet, which revolves around a gang of English builders in Germany would have to run up against this at some point.
In this episode, the War is brought up by a couple of disconnected events. Neville, one of the Newcastle lads, makes friends with one of the German builders and gets to meet his family. At one point, Neville is left alone with an old man who can't speak English, and who turns out to have been on a U-boat which sank a ship that Neville's relative was in. Now in a lot of British comedies let alone serious dramas this situation would be dealt with cack-handedly, using sentimentality, making some kind of jingoistic British point, or exposing the old man as some kind of closet Nazi or mass murderer. Instead, AWP deals with this as a matter of fact, and doesn't use it for cheap laughs or point scoring.
A lot of British people remember "The Germans" episode of "Fawlty Towers" for all the wrong reasons. What most folk forget is that the German characters in it are actually Basil Fawlty's victims, and that it was mainly sending up his own bigotry and xenophobia... not making fun of the German tourists. Now if there's one character who's as stupid, blinkered and pig headed as Basil Fawlty in this episode, it's Oz whose stupid remarks constantly threaten relations between the English and Germans on site. However, unlike *that* episode of "Fawlty Towers", it's always clear who's being laughed at.
High Point: This is the first episode we get to see Moxey, and he's only allowed into the hut because he's got a darts board! Low Point: Oz's idiocy, although it is funny.
Look out for: The extra man in the hut who appears in several scenes. and appears to have had some extra dialogue; Neville on German TV.
Neville was a Carpenter
I have a soft spot for Auf Wiedersehen Pet, because I used to work on building sites, and I've spent a lot of time in Germany as well. The lines in this are so well delivered, that they sound exactly like the things real people would say, and they don't sound scripted at all. I've met people who could have stepped right out of it. I've experienced things that could have been in it. But the jokes are probably better than a lot of the real "banter" I've heard.
Auf Wiedersehen Pet was always a comedy drama or comedy/drama, and the first episode is more drama, than comedy. It's mainly a set up, but there are still some great comedy lines in it. Some folk say that it's very male-orientated, which is true, but there always were strong female characters in it, and we get to see a few of them too.
I've always loved this series. I never got to see it when it was originally broadcast, but I've seen it many times since. It's certainly one of the best acted and best written British sitcoms of the eighties. Most of the other sitcoms of the time have dated horribly, and were usually set in comfortable middle class suburbs in the Home Counties. AWP was different from them, in so many ways. It showed what many ordinary people were going through at the time.
In the 1980s, nearly 30,000 people from the UK had to go to work in Germany to make ends meet. AWP is about a group of seven English builders who work in Düsseldorf, and the culture shock that they experience. It's also about the relationships between them and their families, each other, and between them and the Germans. They are forced to live in a wooden hut on site, because the hostel's full, and at the weekends, they get into all kinds of trouble on the town. Although there are frequent references to World War Two, the show avoids stereotyping the German characters themselves as being some kind of Nazis. True, the German gaffers are a bit too serious (many Germans are in real life), but the Germans are treated as human beings throughout the series.
It's also one of the few shows I can think of which shows the full variety of English working class people as well. There isn't much attempt to poshen up their accents, or have them all speaking like Londoners. Three of the characters use Broad Geordie all the time, one's from the West Midlands, and another's West Country. They're just shown as they are. Oz is a rough diamond, whose Gateshead accent and blinkered attitudes lead to a lot of misunderstanding. Wayne is a chirpy Cockney who spends half his time listening to music, and the other trying to seduce women. Dennis manages to solve everybody else's problems, but has trouble enough with his own. Barry my favourite is a kind of bizarre (and occasionally boring) Brummie philosopher, "the Prince of Trivia". Neville is deadly serious, a loyal husband, and someone who wants to be somewhere else all the time. Bomber is a larger than life Bristolian, who keeps on losing his money through gambling, partying and womanising, in some kind of attempt to regain his youth...
The characters are some of the most memorable on British TV. They're all lovable in their own way. Even Oz and Wayne are good guys in the end up. They're the best mates you never had.
It's sad to think though, that at least three of the main actors are dead Gary Holton (Wayne), Pat Roach (Bomber) and Vera. Before this programme most of the cast were unknowns Pat Roach (Bomber) had appeared in "Raiders of the Lost Ark", and "Barry Lyndon" already, and was a notable wrestler, but he was the exception. But by the time the series had ended, the seven actors were all stars. They went on to greater things. Jimmy Nail became a successful solo artist, selling a million albums and appearing in "Spender"; Kevin Whateley got the sidekick role in "Inspector Morse", and his own series in "Lewis" and Timothy Spall has gone on to serious roles in stuff like "The Damned United", "The King's Speech" and "Pierrepoint" etc. Tim Healy (Dennis) hasn't made such a big impression as the other ones perhaps, but he's still instantly recognisable, and has done some good work. Gary Holton, like I said, was taken from us too soon, as a result of bad lifestyle choices...
And if you want to know why they're famous, watch this! Anyway, enough of my guff.
High Point: Just great to see this legendary series coming together.
Low Point: Exposé, the band that taste forgot (who dress in baseball gear) Also no Moxey! Christopher Fairbank fans have to wait til the next episode.
Look out for: Dennis giving building advice to Dutch custom officers; The German building site (now known as "Eastenders"' Albert Square!); A German bridge that looks suspiciously like one in Newcastle (and in Sydney).
No Tax Please, We're Strikers
One of the big ironies of Series Two of AWP was that Arthur Pringle, the pub landlord, often made a a more formidable villain than Ally Fraser. He was also a lot funnier. In "No Sex Please", Arthur has a dastardly plot to get one over on the lads, but when they find out who was behind it, they leave him a nice surprise going-away present.
The lads' strike action proves effective, forcing Ally Fraser to cave in, and use proper building materials. Fraser is also forced to waive Dennis' debt. But when Ally comes up with the offer of a few weeks' work in Sunny Spain, which the lads find impossible to resist... In the meantime, some of the lads return home, and some of them remain at Thornley Manor. The last lot, Oz included, try the impossible pulling women at the Barley Mow. Barry forces Hazel into a non-ultimatum, but Neville is onto "certainties". Dennis bumps into Marjorie, who has a message for Oz...
This is a so-so episode, AWP by numbers. It does have its moments though: Oz lectures Barry on how to handle his fiancé, "You should have laid the law doon man, bang, early on, y'knaa. You know the way you deal with Alsatians.Terrorise the little bastards when they're puppies, and then when they get older ye get nae beef from them." Barry replies quite rightly that this is insulting to women, and that "you turn complex human relationships into bloody Crufts!" Or Moxey's admission that "It's funny you should say that about footballers... 'cos the only older woman I ever had, looked like Billy Bremner."
The subplot with Mrs Chatterley isn't convincing. She doesn't seem like the type to be married to the customs officer character. It's a good idea badly done, which is unusual for AWP.
High Point: "Wall Meet Again"
Low Point: I would have liked to see Harry Blackburn get more dialogue.
Look out for: Barry's personal grooming; Howard's snack offer.