Prime Minister’s Questions – 26/01/11 “live-blog”

26 Jan

MAJOR NEAR-CATASTROPHE today as team meeting was scheduled slap-bang across my lunch-break and my beloved PMQ’s. Luckily catastrophe was averted with minimal grumbling and crying from me. HURRAH.

Mr Speaker, I would like to make a point of order about YOUR TIE.

12:00 Blimey, Bercow, that is one heck of a tie.

12:01 Dave offers commiserations to the families of the people who died in the terror attacks in Moscow, especially the family of the British man. Ewwwwww. Gotta love a bit of xenocentrism.

12:04 Ed asks for an explanation of the low growth figures. Tory benches erupt into people pointing and yelling at the Labour benches. Business as usual.

12:05 This is the first PMQ’s for Team Ed&Ed, of course, with Balls at his side as Shadow Chanc. Shall I make the “Two Eds are better than one” joke? Oh, go on then.

12:07 Ed points out that the economy was growing under Labour & now isn’t – the government benches don’t like that one at all!

12:08 Dave’s banging on about his inheritance again.

12:11 ZINNNNNG. Ed tells Dave off for implying he’s made the wrong decision in appointing Balls as Shad Chanc when Andy Coulson’s finally stepped down from his role at no.10 this week.

12:13 House is RAUCOUS today. Not sure what’s louder, Bercow’s yelling or his tie.

12:14 @AllanDLWilliams on twitter has just likened Ed Miliband to Bert from Sesame Street. Pahahahaha. I see it.

This might be a good time to mention my blog about how so many politicians look like Thomas the Tank Engine characters.

12:18 Jacob Rees-Mogg is never not hilarious, in the very worst way. Such a caricature of your classic wimpy-posh Tory boy.

12:21 Karen Lumley. Is that a Conservative MP with… PURPLE HAIR??? I am upset now, Morrison’s refused to hire me on the basis of me having green hair. Because, y’know, they’re such a CLASSY joint.

12:23 AAAAH TOM WATSON BEING A TOTAL BAMF, calling for a police investigation into the phone-hacking scandal over at NOTW. He’s my favourite Labour MP, because a) he’s a massive campaigner for digital rights & one of few politicians properly versed in the internet, and b) he once offered to “make some phone calls” to get me dug out of a snowstorm my car was stuck in ❤

12:27 Some nice words on autism there, though let’s not forget that there are huge cuts in the public services that support people with disabilities & their carers, particularly those with more “invisible” disabilities.

12:30 Dave adamant that he’s going to tax the banks more. That’d be nice, Dave. We’d like that.

12:30 Dave says he has a “warm feeling” whenever he thinks of Blackpool. Oh, god, me too. Mostly due to the other and more attractive David. I think I’m having a warm feeling right now.

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK, KIDS.

Being Human (UK), S03E01 (BBC3, 23rd January 2011)

25 Jan

It’s back! Hurrah! Now hopefully we can all just pretend that the US remake never happened (although from glancing at the internet, it looks like US fans and UK fans are already at each other’s throats like Mitchell on a bad day. Uhoh).

At the end of series two things were looking pretty horrific; Annie had been sucked into the beyond and got stuck there and submitted to endless administrative proceedures, Lucy got stabbed before she could quite manage to properly redeem herself, everyone’s favourite Kate Bush-loving baddie Ivan had been killed, Mitchell had been led astray by Daisy and slaughtered the entire contents of a railway carriage (bit Drusilla, that) and, worst of all, they’d left that lovely pink house in Bristol behind.

S03E01 finds our favourite monsters relocated to Barry Island, Wales. George and Nina are still together, but feeling the strain of both a diminshed sex life and trying to cope with their moody and reckless vampire housemate.  So far, so standard.  Still guilty after his secret massacring, and smarting after the loss of Annie, Mitchell throws himself into attempting to redeem himself by winning her back at any cost.  At first this seems mostly to consist of hoarding electrical equipment and staring at it intensely, but he soon decides to try and enter purgatory to rescue his damsel in distress. This is done with relative ease, considering the amount of time we spent waiting around for Annie’s door to appear in series one and two, and Mitchell hijacks a ride with a terminal patient at the hospital.  That’s the hospital in Barry that they’ve all conveniently managed to immediately get jobs at, despite the current job market and the cuts to NHS staff. But, you know. Suspension of disbelief.

Purgatory for Mitchell is a long corridor with doors leading off it, each of them leading to different parts of his life when he’s done bad things. Forced to face the ghosts of his past, it’s not long until Mitchell has a full-on breakdown in front of his spirit guide Lia.  Who he killed, by the way, during that train massacre. He promises to give himself up in order to get Annie back, but Lia deems that it’s crueller to send him back out into the world, and then gives him Annie back to boot.  Because… well, she ships them. And now so do we. N’awwwww.

Meanwhile, George (after a lovely spot of crying about Mitchell’s departure, Russell Tovey proving once more that he can hold his role as both comic relief and emotional backbone of the show with ease) bumps into another man-dragging-a-chicken in the forest just before moon-rise and gives chase, only to lose him in the trees.  Instead, he finds himself himself surrounded by a group of doggers led by Rhys off-of Torchwood (whatever will Gwen say?!) and promptly arrested and thrown into a cell. Uhoh.

Then it’s all a race of time for Nina to get him released before he changes and rips his cell-mate to shreds, whilst she attempts not to change and rip the prison-staff to shreds. And then they have to try to find somewhere for them both to change, but ideally without ripping each other to shreds.  Luckily for them, the beast inside seems to have other things on its mind – I’ve a suspicion that we might well be seeing puppies later in the series.

All in all, it’s a good strong opener, with lots of dark comedy but none of the soul-destroying bleakness of the last series.  I hope it’ll continue in that vein; much as I loved series two, it did at times feel like being pushed face down into the soggy peat of the Marshes of Despair.

Oh, and Robson Green is in it. He’s a werewolf now.

New tonight: 10 o’Clock Live

20 Jan

Image credit: Channel 4
Starting tonight (at 10 o’clock! Live!), Mssrs Mitchell, Brooker & Carr and Miss L. Laverne will be on Channel 4 every Thursday (at 10 o’clock! Live!) casting a satirical eye over the news in their new topical news show, 10 o’clock Live. It’s…it’s on at 10 o’clock! And it’s live! Yeah!

Following the success of their alternative election night special, the quartet are getting together again to bring us a weekly dose of politics and punnery.

Reasons to try:

  • Satire’s always best in times of unrest.  Everyone’s feeling pretty disgruntled at the moment (grrr), so the timing’s exactly right for a new, strong, comedic look at politics. On which note, the next series of The Thick of It has no reason not to be brilliant.
  • It’ll contain what is essentially a lite-version of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe.  If you haven’t seen it before, then… who are you and please leave.  But yeah, if you haven’t seen it before, Charlie basically gives an acerbic look at the week’s news, raises his eyebrow sardonically and shouts a lot. And it is brilliant. Also; erm. Have you seen his. Hair. I mean, it’s. That’s some really good hair. Just there. On him. Yeah. Well done.
  • David Mitchell! Conducting interviews! With actual politicians! Everyone’s favourite mild-mannered but sort-of-grumpy comedian being mild-mannered but sort-of-grumpy. It could only be better if they got Matt King in occasionally to reprise his role of Super Hans to interview people. WHILST ON COKE. YESSS. Why aren’t I in charge of everything on the telly?!
  • Audience interaction! Lauren will be engaging with the twittersphere to get people’s opinions during the show. Hashtags ahoy! #10oclocklive

Reasons not to:

  • IT CLASHES WITH QUESTION TIME. What idiot has scheduled this?! There seems to be some sort of divide in our mentality, which says that you can only engage with politics on either a serious or a silly level, but not both. Why do I have to choose? I want to be able to engage in everything in my life as both srs bsns and comedy, please. And the more subversively I can mix the two, the better.
  • Jimmy Carr.

Prime Ministers Questions – 19/01/11 “live-blog”

19 Jan

Yowzers, almost forgot about this! Luckily m’colleague handed his headphones to me at 11:56 and said “It’s today, isn’t it?”

Yes. Yes, it is today.

[EDIT: Apparently it’s John Bercow’s birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MISTER SPEAKER <3]

12:02 I never really like how Dave frames “success in the health service” in terms of “doing better than the rest of Europe”, rather than “getting more people better”. In fact, I’ll rephrase that: I find it downright sinister.

12:05 Bit of a furore over Chris Bryant receiving “leaked figures” about the police service. “CALM DOWN!”, he shouts at the House (Isn’t Speaker Bercow here today? That’s his job, surely?)

12:06 Dave says the best way to calm down is to read Chris’ poetry. WHAT?? CHRIS BRYANT WRITES POETRY? ……..TO DAVE??

12:08 Probably not to Dave, to be honest. But we all love a good cross-party romance. Sooo star-crossed *SIGH*

12:10 Big cheers for Ed the second time he stands up!

12:11 House told off by a 10 year old child via the Speaker. Serves them right, if you yelled at each other like that in a classroom you’d end up stood facing the corner. Put them all on the naughty step, I reckon.

12:12 Ed asking for a guarantee that waiting times in the NHS won’t rise. Dave’s being… very evasive on this one. “He’s taking the ‘national’ out of the ‘National Health Service’ says Ed (good line there, I think; tidy).

12:13 From @MrUJOldfield on twitter: “Odds that Osborne will chunder during #PMQs 5/1. Odds that he’ll chunder after #PMQs Evens”.

12:14 Here’s some of Chris Bryant’s poetry:

Supine
by Chris Bryant

One arm stretched out behind my head, dipped back,
I push the other through the water’s swirl
And past my thigh before the next attack,
Propelling me, with languorous aqueous grace
I could not possibly repeat at pace.
The rhythm of the stroke, as lengths unfurl,
Calms down my daily work obsessions,
Inspires free-style inquisitive reflections,
About what happens when we all cut back.
Above me, on the polycarb’nate roof
A single leaf is twisting in the gale.
Each time I pass beneath, it spins above
And chases some imaginary tail.
When I return next week, will it be there?
And will the baths be open in a year?

12:19 Questions on Network Rail services in the winter. Does anyone REALLY mind if they have to stay at home when it snows, though…?

12:22 Linsey Roy (Lab) asking Dave for a rethink on EMA. Big protests in London today against it being withdrawn, of course. Sort of wish I was down there, not that I ever got it myself. Still, solidarity!

12:22 Blah blah blah, oh the mess we’ve been left.

12:24 Ooh, I am informed that Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee has just joined twitter @pollytoynbee. Get ‘n follow.

12:26 FILLIBUSTERING!!! I really need to look up what fillibustering is, really. Always sounds like a type of small hoover to me. Probably… probably isn’t?

12:28 Apparently Meryl Streep’s in the House today! Researching for her role as Thatcher in upcoming film. I’m a little torn on that one; love Streep, not such a fan of the Iron Lady.

12:30 Questions on how the Localism Bill will affect on-shore wind farms.  Good point, that. Hey, though, I like wind farms! And I have a field! They can put one in there if they like. It’ll be a good conversation point, like when you get a tasty new vase. Not that I’ve ever bought a vase, tasty or otherwise.

12:30 “The last government had 13 years! THIRTEEN YEARS! THIRTEEN YEARS!!!!!” How many years was that again, Dave?

And so we end much as we began. From @ganglesprocket on twitter: “#pmqs repeat ad nauseum”

Being Human (US), S01E01 (SyFy, 17th September 2011)

18 Jan

US remake lacks the bite of the original

Spot the difference: Josh, Sally and Aidan (US)...

...and Mitchell, George and Annie (UK)

Let’s get all the disclaimers out of the way first.  I am a huge fan of the UK version of Being Human, of Toby Whitworth’s writing in general, and (in particular) of Russell Tovey’s arse.  So it was not without trepidation that I approached this, the latest in a slew of UK-to-US remakes, which aired across the pond last night on the SyFy channel (and can I just – who thought that was an acceptable name for a television channel?!)

And I tried to keep an open mind, I really did.  I tried to view it on its own merits, imagining that I was a viewer who had never seen the original series before stumbling across the US version and deciding to give it a try.

But I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t let the UK version go.

So, since I can’t quite bend my mind enough to view the US version as a show in its own rights (and really, why should I have to? It hasn’t departed much from the original premise so far), here are some vague comparisons between the two:

The general set-up is much the same as in the original so far, though apparently some departures are planned later on in the series, and the possibility of even greater changes in season two, with the writers even suggesting they won’t watch series two of the UK show.

Aidan (Sam Witwer) is a vampire who’s trying to kick the blood habit, with a limited amount of success.  Cue copious self-loathing.  However, unlike his UK-counterpart Mitchell (Aidan Turner), Aidan doesn’t seem to lighten up much; he’s pretty much serious business all the time.  In fact, he’s everything you’d expect from a vampire given their current cultural status: he’s darkly attractive in a GQ sort of a way, he’s dreadfully intense and brooding, he has some degree of mind-control over the humans around him and he can move really really really fast (the latter two a departure from the UK series).  It’s almost a wonder he doesn’t sparkle in the sunlight.

Josh (Sam Huntington) is pretty similar to George (Russell Tovey), if I’m being honest, though without the voice that goes hilariously squeaky when he’s annoyed.  And the arse, of course; no arse action in the US remake, unfortunately.  Both are hapless nice guys – a bit scruffy, adorably awkward around women – who just happen to turn into a werewolf once a month.  Both also have a bit of a tendency to make everything about themselves rather than recognising that other people might have problems as well.  Too early to say yet whether Josh also has George’s anger issues, though he has gained a sister, which should be interesting and serve to broaden the cast a little.

The two of them decide to give living “like normal people” a crack, and move into a house in Boston together (interestingly, the US version seems to be going down the “everyone assumes they’re a couple because they live together” route, which I don’t remember happening in the original, so slash-happy fangirls should be pleased, at least).  However, it’s not long until they discover that the house is haunted by the ghost the fiancée of the landlord, who recently died there.

Sally (Meaghan Rath), said dead fiancée, is probably the character that’s suffered the biggest changes to her mythos; whereas UK’s Annie (Lenora Critchlow) can pick things up (see: her making of endless cups of tea), leave the house if she wants to, and interact with strangers as long as she’s feeling confident enough, the US’s Sally seems to be completely bound to the house (at least thus far) and is also a lot more insubstantial.  As in, she can’t touch anything at all, and she seems to be made out of smoke.  It’ll be interesting to see how the American show deals with the idea of the afterlife in this, given that they’re a much more religiously-inclined country than the UK

Despite the changes, the protagonists are still instantly recognisable as themselves (with the possible exception of Aidan, who could have stepped straight out of The Vampire Diaries).  But it just isn’t Being Human.  Oh, it tries to be, by reminding us of the title every five minutes; werewolf Josh (actor’s name) can’t stop harping on about how he just wishes he could be a normal human being with a normal house and normal friends for five minutes.  If anything, it’s actually the sitcom element that’s missing here.  They seem to have got the drama down pat; vampire Aidan (actor’s name) is as dark and brooding as you’d expect a member of the undead to be, and we’ve barely made it 10 minutes in before Josh is close to tears, sitting on a park bench and feeling lonely and ostracised from the world around him.  Full marks for angst.  But it’s the everyday humour and quirkiness of Being Human (UK) which always made it such a joy to watch; whatever the protagonists were doing, there were always moments of high comedy (see Mitchell and George’s strop over The Real Hustle).  It was because we at first learnt to laugh with these characters that we could then learn to cry with them, and I worry that that’s something which may have been lost sight of here.

All that said, it isn’t actually that bad.  At least, I think it isn’t actually that bad; it’s really very difficult to tell when you’re spending every moment comparing the two.  But, as a fantasy show about a ghost, a werewolf and vampire, it’s, you know… fine.  You can’t go wrong really.  Being Human (US) will do fine in the states as yet another supernatural drama for teens, but for those familiar with the original series, the show is a ghost of its former self.  JUST LIKE SALLY. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Etc.

Also, the soundtrack is really ANNOYING.


Being Human (UK) series three starts on Sunday. Hyusssssss.

Episodes, S01E02 (BBC2, 17th January 2011)

18 Jan

As suspected, yesterday’s episode of Episodes was a vast improvement on last week’s lack-lustre offering, with some great performances by actors from both sides of the pond, and none of the clumsiness of the first episode.

After selling the rights to their award-winning sitcom to smarmy TV exec Merc Lapidus, this week’s episode saw Sean and Bev forced into a meeting with Matt LeBlanc, whom the studio want to cast in their show in the role of the witty and erudite headmaster.  They agree to meet with him (“just as a courtesy”, the Americans insist) despite having massive reservations about his suitability for the part.  This is what we’ve been waiting for, really: seeing British comedy stars Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig interact with American comedy giant Matt LeBlanc, and the results don’t disappoint.

First, I should make a confession.  Joey was never my favourite character on Friends. In fact, Joey wasn’t even my second favourite character in Friends.  It would probably be more apt to say that I hated Joey; pitied and detested him with fire of a thousand suns.  If I had friends, he certainly wouldn’t be one of them.

I exaggerate.  But, to my mind, Joey was always the least rounded character on the show, apparently having only three note-worthy character attributes: 1) He ate a lot, 2) He had sex a lot and 3) He was not very clever.  In fact, I’ve just clicked onto the ‘Joey Tribiani’ Wikipedia page, and, lo and behond, the very first sentence in the ‘Personality’ section reads, “Joey is characterized as a simple-minded but good-natured womanizer who loves food.”  It goes on (in great detail, in fact), but I’m just going to assume it says the same things over and over again in slightly different ways.  Much like Joey himself, in fact.  How you doinnnnnnnnnnnnn’?

Did I mention I wasn’t a fan of the spin-off?

This may or may not have led to a certain degree of assumption made by the audience (me) as to the character of LeBlanc himself, and to his range as an actor; which, of course, is exactly what the Episodes team were relying on.  They’ve been quite clever here, at first cementing and then breaking down our preconceptions about LeBlanc.

At first meeting, over dinner, LeBlanc seems obnoxious and rude; a Hollywood clod who’s more interested in texting on his phone than observing social niceties with a couple of relative nobodies.  He does have some glimmers of potential even here, though, which show him unexpectedly outmanoeuvring our protagonists.  Bev is obviously surprised by his knowledge of Alan Bennett, and in rebuke of Sean’s claim that their show “isn’t History Boys”, he swiftly replies (my favourite bit, this), “Ok, so it’s History Boys meets you saying it’s not History Boys”.  Both parties leave the meeting unconvinced.  When they meet for a second time, however, during a glitzy dinner party at Merc’s, he sweeps our protagonists off their feet with a gushing and insightful critique of their show, obviously impressing them (and us!) with his intelligence and charm.

Bev, in particular, seems won over and a little star-struck by LeBlanc, spending half the party gazing at him with doe-eyes as he describes how much he adores his little children.  For a moment, it looks as though the two are going to really hit it off, with Matt confiding in Bev his insecurities regarding playing the role and she admitting to her fears about the same.  Things quickly go off the rails, however, when Matt mistakenly gets the idea that Bev’s going to rewrite his part to be a lacrosse coach instead, and Sean and Bev watch in abject horror as they must once again watch their original idea being twisted out of all recognition.

If episode one came across as clunky and rushed, episode two feels as though the show’s really hit its stride, with none of the awkwardness of last week’s episode.  Unless, of course, you count the awkwardness that’s rife in this particular type of naturalistic comedy; watching smooth-talking American TV producer Merc pretending to hang himself through boredom whilst his blind wife extols the virtues of charity is a particularly cringe-worthy moment, as is LeBlanc’s unbridled amusement at the thought of children with Tourette’s.  Whilst there were still no huge laugh-out-loud moments, the jokes were clever and well-timed, with some great one-liners (“Oh, he’s totally wrong, but he has such nice hair”).  It’s great to see the characters becoming more sympathetic, too;  I felt genuine concern during Sean and Bev’s row in the car, and not just because we already know that their experience in America’s due to splinter their relationship before the end of the series.

Overall, this was a belter compared to last week, and I’m glad I stuck with it.  It feels like the show still has places to go, but I suspect it’s going to deliver on that, and from murmurs online it looks like it’s due to become hopelessly meta which is never a bad thing.  I still think it would benefit from being slightly longer (45 minutes, perhaps?) but that’s a minor quibble.

Lovely bit of swearing from Tamsin Greig at the end, too.

(My review of Episodes S01E01)

Skins US Remake – Teaser Trailer

18 Jan

Oh good god.

Well this looks awful. Although at least they seem to have remained fairly true to character-types/ dialogue, I suppose. Some obvious changes; Sid is Stanley, Cassie is black. I’m not precisely sure who the blonde tit who’s so happy about having a party in a warehouse is supposed to be? I’m guessing she’s “the slutty one”. Except Michelle was meant to be the slutty one. Maybe they’ve got two slutty ones, just to out-do the UK version.

Also, cheerleaders *makes aghast face* BECAUSE YOU CAN’T EVER HAVE A SHOW ABOUT AMERICAN TEENAGERS WITHOUT CHEERLEADERS, GOD-FOR-FUCKING-BID.

I’ll watch it anyway, obviously.

Going to get on the Being Human US remake when I get home tonight. Creeeeeeepy.