Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

Parade’s End, BBC; review

Posted 27 Sep 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Books, Reviews

Just finished watching the uneven, enjoyable and often rather brilliant Parade’s End, the latest big-budget costume drama from the BBC, which is adapted from a series of Ford Madox Ford books which no-one has read. It was a nice big, sumptuous production with two of Britain’s most celebrated mouth-actors (Rebecca Hall’s curled lip and Benedict Cumberbatch’s downturned grimace), focusing on that period where a buckling society, faced with the violence of the first world war, finally became Modern.

Cumberbatch, as Christopher Tietjens – a noble, repressed Tory – is the last in the Parade; the last man to whom High Toryism means loyalty, fidelity and permanence, and Hall is his flighty, rather magnificent wife, whose machinations debase his reputation and chip away at his resolve. He stands resolute, absorbing her disgrace, and even resisting love, which arrives in the form of Valentine Wannop, a (disappointingly wet) Suffragette. In the end it’s neither his wife nor his love which dismantles his attachment to the past, but the War – which is of course the great, monstrous wave which sweeps everything away and heralds the arrival of the real 20th Century.

I loved this five-parter, but it was an odd affair. Part society satire, part love story, part treatise on tradition and modernity, and most powerfully a violent war-time farce, it is a drama where the tone ricochets from scene to scene, setting to setting, episode to episode. It has little of the elegance or method of Victorian drama, but showing as it does a period of enormous upheaval, that’s perhaps appropriate.

And the whole thing is carried beautifully by the cast right up until the final episode, which somehow just fails in its final third to voice the transformation effected upon Christopher, or rather to pinpoint with sufficient specificity just what frees him to evolve his principles. I wanted more on the destructive but transformative power of the war, of the levelling and the loosening of society which it provoked. In the end Parade’s End ended as a love story might – movingly, with some success; but shy of the revelation which Tom Stoppard’s script seemed to be building towards.

Still, really enjoyed it. A joyful reminder of how great the BBC is.

Not taken with Sherlock

Posted 21 Jan 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Reviews

Finally, a few weeks after everyone else, I watched the first episode of the new series of Sherlock last night. At first, I was very impressed – the casting is good and the programme is visually amazing, featuring inventive shots, snappy cutaways and neat directional tricks. Given all this and the fact that the premise of Stephen Moffat’s Sherlock remake is smart (the protagonist as a kind of Aspergers suffering techie), it would be understandable should the programme sometimes seems a bit too pleased with itself – but my god it’s only occasionally that humble.

The whole show – 90 minutes of smug, self-regarding tosh – seemed to me to be entirely comprised of set pieces triggered to deliver a 10 second clip for the accompanying advert; a short burst of violence here, a naked arse there, a never ending series of arch one-liners. And no-one in it remotely likeable.

I’m kind of surprised that so many people have been so very complimentary about it, but to me it seemed like event TV where the atmosphere and the gleaming surface was clearly prioritised over not only the plot but the characters too. Sherlock didn’t feel much in it to me, despite the fact that it supposedly dealt with his first stab of emotional attachment towards a woman. He brooded and snapped, and darted his eyes from left to right, right to left. But I got little from it.

There was still stuff to like – Sherlock and Watson’s relationship, the enigmatic Mycroft, the sour police sergeant torn between respect and disdain for a genius whose help he very much needs. But elsewhere – I thought it was very poor.

If you think differently, do put me straight in the comments – I’d be interested to know what you thought.

Missing Miranda

Posted 21 Oct 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

Me and Lyndsey went up to London at the weekend to watch an episode of Miranda being filmed; my first time to the BBC headquarters and I was very excited, even though it took us an age to get there – Sunday service meant that our train was routed via Lewes and the journey was interminable; an experience not helped by my decision to spend it reading Saul Bellow’s ‘Dangling Man’, a super little novel but counter-productive if one is looking to escape, rather than consolidate, a feeling of stasis and ennui. In the end I resorted to taking photographs out of the window.

When we got – finally – up to White City we found that, of course, the recording had been cancelled at the last minute; no explanation nor forewarning. It was maddening; others had apparently reacted tearfully, but something about the long journey had prepared me for the fact somehow. We had, in the end, a nice evening regardless, wandering through Covent Garden eating ice-cream. We eventually found a pub off Leicester Square which, to our mutual amazement and joy, had Brew Dog Punk IPA on tap – making up at a stroke for the earlier disappointments. (Until the long journey back).

Anyway, here’s the view at East Croydon, on our way in.

Save 6 Music

Posted 17 Mar 2010 — by Jonathan
Category General

I can’t tell you how much I love this.

Adam Buxton, who is mounting an impressive one-man campaign to save the nation’s treasure, the wonderful 6 Music, continues badgering away at the periphery of the Castle, pointing out the vitality and uniqueness of the station, and providing some lovely laughs along the way. In his latest post over at his website, he speculates:

“I wonder if Thomo and the nabobs at the castle have ever bought something they love from a small outlet because they know that it’s likely to be more special than it would be from a department store? They Mastodon! I mean, I’m not much of a discerning shopper but at Christmas I go into Soho and buy my dad (who is a booze snob) a bottle of Cognac from Gerry’s because I know they will recommend me some phenomenal item that will keep my Pa delighted for a good few months. They’ve never failed me once. Sure, I could get a bottle of Courvoisier from Sainsburys or Oddbins and my dad would be very grateful but he wouldn’t roll his eyes and eulogise about it the way he does with the more offbeat stuff from Gerry’s because the supermarket bottle is always the same.

I don’t know how good an analogy that is for 6 Music, but I think you get what I mean. Breaking it up and farming off the popular bits is missing the point completely. It’s a little corner of the BBC that is prepared to take all kinds of chances because they know their listeners won’t immediately get frightened and confused they way they might if it was a more mainstream channel. Certainly, Joe and I wouldn’t have been hired let alone afforded the latitude we have been anywhere else in the Castle.

It seems that campaigning and complaining about these kinds of decisions seldom gets results but wouldn’t it be amazing if they did reconsidered? A truly modern corporation! The BBC Trust are reviewing the situation til May 25th and one would hope they will read every message they receive, either pro or anti the proposed closures so do get in touch.”

All sound, intelligent, stuff – but Adam’s not content with talking sense. He’s recorded – in the persona of the Goblin King himself, David Bowie – a song urging the Beeb to s-s-s-s-save 6 Music.

Click here to listen

Simon Armitage

Posted 18 Jan 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Books

When I was a teenager I used to listen religiously to Mark Radcliffe’s Radio 1 show, and I remember being staggered and delighted that he regularly found time to include poetry in his format, and wish I still had all the tapes I used to make of Simon Armitage reading his own, and others’ poetry. I vividly remember an occasion where he read the poems of Charles Simic, and think it was a real turning point in my developing love of literature.

Here’s Simon Armitage reading ‘Snow Joke’ back in 1991. If anyone knows of an audio archive of his poetry, please do let me know.

jonathan ross and mark kermode

Posted 08 Jan 2010 — by Jonathan
Category General

Do I care that Jonathan Ross is leaving the BBC? Well, of course not, given that I hardly ever watched or listened to his programmes, but I mind a little in the sense that the baying, myopic tabloids which made such a prolonged and nauseous protest against him have been handed their victory.

I actually think that Ross is a very talented and likable presenter – although by no means flawless – and he has been treated very shabbily by the BBC over the last couple of years. He should have walked when they made him pre-record his radio show.

Either way, his parting does create one point of interest – and that is whether the BBC will appoint the one obvious, deeply intelligent, stand-out candidate to replace him on Film 2010 or, well, or someone that isn’t Mark Kermode. He would be a fabulous appointment – he’s already responsible for one of the best podcasts, if not the the best, that the BBC make, and would, I suspect, immediately transform BBC1′s flagship film programme from something I never watch, to one of the best programmes on TV. I hope they do it.