Thursday, December 14, 2006

television reviews, if you want them

I feel strangely compelled to share some rambling and directionless views on a few things I saw on the television recently. This is part of my bid to get the BBC to offer me a job as the new Clive James or Ludovic Kennedy, though ideally without being as fat and bald, or dead, respectively.

Actually, I've just checked, and Ludovic Kennedy is apparently still alive - I do beg his pardon, unless of course he's died while I've been writing this.

Look Around You

BBC2 have been re-running the first series of this recently. I mention this only to point out that a) it's brilliant, and b) there is an interesting and instructive contrast to be drawn between series 1 - a tightly focused spoof of schools science programming in quick 10 minute episodes, and series 2 - a slightly less focused spoof of science programmes in general, and Tomorrow's World in particular, in more orthodox comedy show 25-30 minute episodes, and considerably less brilliant. The lessons from all this being, I suppose: just because you've had one great idea doesn't mean you can have another, and greater creative and editorial freedom and a bigger budget don't necessarily make for higher quality output.

Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure

Couple of things annoy me in a sort of low-level way about this one, though not enough to prevent me from watching it occasionally: firstly it's one of those reality TV "road trip" kind of programmes which invite us to buy into the whole idea of these two crazy English eccentrics tooling round the country in a Jag, camping in vineyards, sampling wine, having other assorted crazy adventures, etc. etc., conveniently forgetting that there's a 20-strong film crew following them around all over the place, a director demanding re-takes, etc. And I bet they don't really spend the nights under canvas at all.

Also, it's perfectly obvious from watching Top Gear on an occasional basis (as I do) that James May is actually a highly intelligent and cultured bloke in a way that his two co-presenters aren't, but he seems to have taken it upon himself to be a sort of Clarkson-lite (or Diet Clarkson, if you will) for the purposes of this programme. For comedic purposes no doubt, but it's mildly depressing seeing an obviously intelligent person pretending to be a knucklehead to appeal to the masses.

Which is not to say that I think his criticisms of wine poncery are unjustified, far from it. I bow to no-one in my love of wine of all kinds, but there is an awful lot of flannel talked about it - indeed talking flannel about it is now a thriving industry employing people such as Oz Clarke to enthuse about how this particular bottle of Chateau Aznavour tastes of recently-vacated nun's bicycle saddle. The most recent episode was a case in point: a lot of long-winded talk about terroir, which when it comes down to it is a fairly easy concept to grasp: the physical characteristics of the place of the wine's origin have an influence on how it tastes. Well, duh, as they don't say in the Languedoc. This is hardly a concept unique to wine - real ale production, a process with a lot of parallels to wine production, is another good example. That's why uprooting and relocating breweries seldom works; sadly the recent demise of the Smiles brewery in Bristol is a good example. Brewery bought up and relocated to Walsall, beer was never the same, punters stopped drinking it, pubs stopped selling it, brewery closed down. If we were as proud and fiercely protective of our real ale brewing traditions as the French are of their wine industry (and we should be), this sort of thing wouldn't happen.

Too Big To Walk?

I confess - I watched this for two reasons, neither of them very edifying or reflecting on me very well: firstly I was reclining on the sofa with a glass of wine and it was the best thing (of a fairly ropey bunch) on the TV, and secondly I had a sort of appalled fascination after seeing a couple of teaser clips earlier in the evening.

To be fair it was slightly less appalling and exploitative than it looked like it was going to be (imagine my disappointment!), i.e. a bit more concentration on the people involved rather than lingering close-ups of wobbly sweaty flesh (though there was a bit of that too). Needless to say anyone watching would spend a lot of their time shouting at the TV at the level of self-delusion, laziness and just, well, morbid fatness being displayed by the participants, but even among the parade of lard there were some interesting personality contrasts - particularly between Vincent from Brighton (32 stone, painfully self-conscious, completely dominated by his mother on the evidence of their brief phone conversation shortly before he opted out of the challenge and went home, probably gay - do I assume too much? Possibly) who you couldn't see getting out from under his weight problem without some serious therapy, and Adam from Newcastle (22 stone, bluff and beardy, positively keen on the whole outdoor challenge by the end) who seemed so relatively well-adjusted you couldn't quite understand how he'd got himself in such a state to start with - though his wife's penchant for serving up deep-fried lettuce can't have helped.

The Paul O'Grady Show

Not something I watch very often, I hasten to add; there's only so many couch-bound interviews between nondescript ITV soap stars and an ageing Scouse transvestite I can stomach. I was off work the other day and it was on immediately after Deal Or No Deal, so I watched a bit of it. I only mention it because Billie Piper was on, and she seems to be sporting a kind of slightly demure, severely bespectacled, but slightly sexy schoolmistressy look these days. I like it; even if she does still look just a little bit like David Coulthard. In a dress.


The Black Rabbit said...

re: "look around you"... that's spooky. There's a huge photo of that program in the Independent today (actually dealing with the demise of the televised open university).

re: wine. Anna's doing her best to try and educate me on this. But until I learn how to eat and drink slowly and control my gigantic, rampant, excessive COCK*, sorry, greed, there's little point.I MUST try harder!
Anna is no wine snob, thank god, but her and her famille DO appreciate good wine, as do mine, especially Nicola of course.
Me. Well. As wine (or any food or drink really), doesn't tend to even make contact with my tongue, as it is thrown down my throat at the speed of sound with a garden shovel, I just have no concept of 'depth of flavours', 'rusty prams', 'recently-vacated bicycle seats' etc...
It's embarrassing really, finishing my meal AND pudding AND a bottle of wine, AND cheese, port AND coffee before anybody else has had two mouthfuls of their starter. I could say it happens because I grew up in a large family, and you had to eat quickly or you didn't eat at all. But really it all comes down to pure, unadulterated greed.I am well aware of that!
So, to make a long story short(?), give me beer over wine. It's cheaper, there's more of it, and it tastes ok to me!
Jilly Goolden, Oz Clarke and ALL those dreadful 'wine experts' especially on Saturday Kitchen are not my favourite people in the world...

I thought I told you to be as controversial as you liked on my blog, as long as you weren't obscene - my ma reads it!
So I've retorted with a COCK ot two, in this comment!

ps. Off topic, but I DO like Monty Panesar's moniker. THE SIKH OF TWEAK! Class!

The Black Rabbit said...

By the way. Rather like watching a golf ball being hit in the distance, (you see it being hit, before you hear it, (speed of light vs speed of sound etc...)), when I eat, it is done in COMPLETE, uncanny silence.
I finish, belch and only then are onlookers ears assaulted by the crashing noises of me actually eating!(Only joking... oooorr am I?)
My new year's resolution (if I make one) would certainly be to eat and drink WITHIN the speed of sound, if only to stop scaring my fellow diners.


The Black Rabbit said...


D. said...

Chubby Chaser!

electrichalibut said...

COCK is OK, isn't it? The word, I mean? Surely no-one's going to be shocked by that, including our respective parents (my mum reads this too, or at least she claims to).

Anyway, if you didn't want me to mention it, you shouldn't have crudely drawn one on that astronomical picture of yours.