7.30pm, Friday December 21st, C4
Evan Williams and director Wael Dabbous travel to the small Burmese village of Wet Hmay in this episode of Unreported World. The villagers there are fighting for the preservation of their homes and their way of life as mining companies flatten the nearby mountain range extracting copper.
We get a sense of how things are changing for Burma and its people, but yet how far they still have to go. Since emerging from a 50 year long military dictatorship, many are reaping the benefits and freedoms that are now slowly being established, while many others still are facing the threats of big business.
The village of Wet Hmay is facing just such a crisis. The mining company has already turned 3 of the nearby mountains to rubble in a range that began with 33. The plan is to flatten them all in the search for copper whilst they dump the waste products on the villagers’ land and farms.
At least half of the village has been relocated to another town, but the rest have resisted intimidation and threats and remained to fight for the preservation of their history and their future.
We follow the lives of Aye Net and Thwe Thwe and their family and friends as they organise the campaign against the mine and the Generals of Burma that allow it. They are gaining support and, where they once may have been imprisoned for many years, the changes in the political structures of Burma have allowed them a limited amount of free speech.
However, the campaign is still a great struggle and even with support they risk their life with every protest.
Williams and Dabbous adopt an impassive style of documentary: they seek to watch and give us the facts rather than their opinions. The mining companies and their tactics are indeed seen as the big bad wolf of the story, but we are left to our own thoughts as to the balance of history and traditionalism over industry and sustainability for the future.
It is an interesting documentary that will get you thinking, but isn’t too heavy at only 30 minutes long. Not the cheeriest of programmes considering its only a few days to Christmas, but excellent if you’re looking for an educational escape from the endless Christmas specials and the random films that think that shoving the word ‘Christmas’ into a title make it watchable once a year.
Monday 17 December, 9pm, Channel 4
Channel 4 shatters all my illusions about Santa in part one of their new documentary Bad Santas. Luckily, for children still wanting to believe that Santa is real and does in fact take time out of his busy schedule to visit them in a toy shop, the programme is being shown after the watershed.
Phew. For the rest of us though, we get answers to that age old question – just where do Santas come from?
James Lovell is the very enthusiastic managing director of the Ministry of Fun, or the MoF which sounds way more badass. The MoF trains and hires out Santa Clauses over the Christmas season through their famous Santa School. We follow James and some new recruits as they get trained up as possible Father Christmases. However, these aren’t your usual jolly rotund fellows, but a bunch of second chance Santas that each has a serious history of being on the naughty list.
A good one to watch if you’re feeling slightly cynical about Christmas – you can laugh at James and his professional Santas attempting to instil some Christmas spirit into a hardened bunch of ragamuffins who reminded me of the evil Santa in Miracle on 34th Street.
Also, considering the subject matter, the sob stories in this one could have been atrocious, but mushiness is thankfully kept to a minimum with only a few “I’m doing this for my kids” thrown in.
Aside from the odd pun here and there, it was mainly the complete randomness of this programme that had me laughing. Watching elves skip merrily about town is one thing, but who knew that watching 30 people dressed as Santa Claus hohohoing and shaking their bellies would be so funny. Cringe moments also had me squirm-laughing as they tried to teach the bad Santas how to act, and then had them role playing with the impartial elf judges in a slightly creepy fashion.
The love child of Thelma’s Gypsy Girls (C4) and The Santa Clause, it is perhaps not the slickest of documentaries, but it has a sense of fun and silly seriousness that made it endearing, watchable, and perfect for the season.
Highlights include: Santa secretly drinking during Santa School lunch time and then unconvincingly lying about it; James’ awesome Santa tie; the classic learning-to-be-Santa montage; and Santa Johnny Sausage showing us his cigarette sandwich.
We women are complex, but our list for the perfect boyfriend is simple: do whatever we say.
Being cute helps too of course.
Matthew Crawley – Downton Abbey
Dashing, rich, gorgeous eyes, lovely smile, and blonde: Matthew is all you would want in a man. He’s such an excellent boyfriend he gets into rather a muddle trying to be an honourable suitor to two different women at once. Perhaps only Downtonites will understand that this actually isn’t sleazy.
He gets major boyfriend points for saving the in-law’s fortune, for being all manly fighting in World War 1, and for maintaining the lovely but extremely high-maintenance Mary. I may have to take this title away from Matthew if Dan Stevens does indeed leave in series 4 – don’t do it Dan!
Ted Mosby – How I Met Your Mother
Ted is that rare and wonderful thing: a cute guy that actually wants to be in a relationship. Really, REALLY wants to be in a relationship. But poor T Mos never seems to be able to hold down a girl as his sickening sweetness has girls unable to hold on to their lunch and running a mile.
However, to all those who are watching Ted tell his abnormally long story, he’s a total cutie pie that will always have you saying “aww, I’ll go out with you Ted”.
Eric Northman – True Blood
Stone cold fox. Literally. The cold part, not the fox part. Well there had to be a vampire on this list somewhere! He’s the gorgeous bad boy with a heart (though it’s not beating) that all we girls want.
He’s always saving Sookie in one way or another and he has that element of danger that makes things ever so exciting. He is also apparently very talented in the bedroom, as True Blood, thankfully, continues to demonstrate to us in abundance.
Seth Cohen – The OC
Geek chic takes on new meaning in Seth Cohen. While the show focused on brooding Ryan and his many many issues, I was focusing on cutie pie Seth. He made nerd the word through his comedy genius and grand romantic gestures to win over Summer. He’s always thinking of both his mates and his lady, even when she is being a bit of a mare. Also, I love his curly hair.
Gavin Shipman – Gavin & Stacy
A cute Essex boy at heart, Gav moves all the way to Barry in Wales for love of his life Stacy. He’s one of the boys but will always choose ho’s over bro’s. Good on you Gavlar!
As women we know what it takes for a bloke to be a good boyfriend. We also know that it doesn’t work the other way round and men do not know what makes the best girlfriend: we do. We’re the ones being the girlfriend after all so we have the inside scoop.
My best girlfriend’s of TV all seem to have similar traits: the ability to be ass-kicking and awesome; and an enduring patience, essential of course, for dealing with every man-drama thrown at them. Said man-drama may involve vampires.
Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy has to be in my top five best girlfriends. She manages to juggle her love life with her slightly important world-saving responsibilities, and tackles the crossover with ass-kicking feistiness while of course spewing out an awesome one-liner. Despite her vampire killing destiny she gives old Angel (a nice vampire with a soul) a chance, and falls head over heels. However, when the pair finally make like a carpet and shag, Angel loses his soul and turns back into being the super evil villain vampire he was in times past. That’s gotta mess with a girl’s head. Buffy battles with her heart and her responsibility to saving the world, and, despite desperately loving him, she succeeds in sending Angel to hell. She’s an independent woman who will stick up for her man unless he happens to be evil and threatening the world with ruin. Kick ‘em to the kerb honey! Read more
Channel 4, 9pm, 29 November
The rich and the famous. Good Charlotte got it right – they’re always complaining!
Charles Gordon-Lennox has a very long list of titles to add to his reasonably long name. He also has quite long hair. However, it isn’t his rather sexy hair that has him on our TV screens, but his semi-interesting life running Goodwood and all the many things that happen there to make him money – which he says he so desperately needs.
If you happen to have watched the last series of Downton Abbey (I feel the loss quite keenly), then you will be well aware of the money problems associated with running country estates. Well, Charles shows the Crawleys how to do it: crack open a couple of motoring festivals, whilst allowing Channel 4 to jump on the aristocrat bandwagon by doing a documentary of you doing thus, and all will be hunky dory. Read more
C4, Friday 23rd November, 11.05pm
Channel 4 looks to some lesser known comic talent in their new four-part series 4Funnies (formally Comedy Showcase).
In Dr. Brown, the first episode, classically trained clown and mime artist Phil Burgers (awesome name by the way), and director Andrew Gaynord (also a brilliant name), try to make us laugh through 25 minutes of sketches and surreal silliness.
25 minutes: I laughed twice. If we are to do the math (yes I am a geek) then that adds up to about 15 seconds of laughter which in total is about 1% of laughter out of the entire 25 minutes. That’s not good maths.
The show contains a mishmash of different sketches making use of eccentric characters in ordinary situations with some intensely surreal piano-violin music thrown in. As I watched it was fun to name each weird character Burgers played: for example there was skater dude Burger; crying Burger; angry bacon Burger; and foreign naked hypnotising Burger. But that is where the fun ended – I really just didn’t get it and just didn’t find it funny.
However, in order to be balanced and not one-sided I will tell you the bits I did find funny:
Funny moment number one involved a Burger, a toilet, and a very simple well-timed joke featuring toilet paper. Well, we British love a bit of toilet humour don’t we.
Funny moment number two (number two – lol) involved an athletically dressed Crying Burger jogging hysterically through the streets and sobbing whilst downing protein powder and the like. Not entirely sure why this was funny but I couldn’t help laughing at the silly repetitiveness of it all.
The weird thing is I felt that Burgers was actually quite good. The sketches weren’t funny but I found myself at least wanting to laugh at Burger and his eccentric intensity. His Dr. Brown creation worked so well on stage it won him the Edinburgh Comedy Award this year: his physical skills make him perfect for live performances so I’d be intrigued to see the difference that it would make.
All in all I’ll give Dr. Brown points for being unusual and innovative, but if you are an episode in a series called 4Funnies, you’ll have to make me laugh more than just twice in order to faithfully do what it says on the tin.
Although I am not one of the 10 million people tuning into see minor celebrities and random politicians eat stick insects and roll around with bugs, even I can’t escape the countless headlines I see on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! and its contestants.
On Monday the newspaper stand shows me Helen Flanagan getting slagged off for being rubbish at Bush Tucker Trials and then on Tuesday she is slagged off for finally winning one – clearly just an excuse to print a picture of a blonde in a bikini…
So the votes have been counted and The United States of America has indeed been declared sane. If you haven’t heard then you’ve probably been living under a rock or in the Shrieking Shack or somewhere else signal deprived.
Yes, Barack Obama avoids the stressful business that would be moving out of The White House and gets to keep his job as President of the US. Awesome. But, however trendy and “cool” Obama appears, he will never be as kick-ass as some of those fictional film presidents.
As much as I fantasise about Obama hopping in a jet and shooting down some Aliens, I really don’t think it’s going to happen. Therefore, I look at the Presidents you really need in a crisis: kick-ass fictional ones.
President James Marshall – Air Force One
Political Slogan: “Get off my plane!”
Played by a gruff and sexy 90’s Harrison Ford, President Marshall is the just perfect combination of presidential power and pure badassness in this action classic. Despite being a honest (shock horror) politician, his casual saving his family and the world from the awesomely evil Gary Oldman, earns him top position. Election winning moments include: taking a secret dump, a fuel dump that is; saving the better half of the hostages; escaping the falling plane on a zip-wire with a badly worn harness; and killing the head terrorist with nothing but a parachute, a strap, and an open door. Read more
BBC2, Friday 16th Nov, 9pm
David Attenborough takes a personal tour through 60 years of making nature documentaries in this three part series. In this, the first episode, Attenborough looks back at some of his favourite encounters with all creatures great and small (and green stuff too) and how technical innovation in photography over the decades have aided in the development of wildlife filming.
If you ask me, the only nature documentary worth watching is one with Dave in it. Yes I’m going to call him Dave. His instantly recognisable voice provides gravitas with an infectious enthusiasm that is hard to resist, and even this – a documentary on documentaries for goodness sake – is in no way boring. Not excessively exciting, but yes, definitely not boring
Don’t be expecting animals making babies in every shot or anything like that, but Dave leads us through 60 years of wildlife filming advancement with many a quaint chuckle. And some sexy show motion shots too of course. Note the bat anecdote where Dave remarks upon the amazing way that bats won’t fly into each other or him before a bat promptly flies into his face. Maybe it was just a stupid bat? And then there’s the always funny toilet flower story…
Despite the fact that most of us are reasonably familiar with the basic innovations in filming as they are seen on everything from Traffic Cops (thermal imagining and airborne steady cameras) to Casualty (fibre optics up peoples bottoms etc), it is very interesting to see the before and after effects on wildlife filming. For example, a very young black and white Dave has to describe the colour of a chameleon, and we also see him desperately running after animals in the dark with a torch.
This series is pretty much a way of trying to make use of old nature footage and make Dave look epic. Well it worked. Dave braves the embarrassment that is watching and broadcasting really old footage of your posh younger self wearing groovy flared jeans, and we get to see the best bits of 60 years of spiffing nature documentaries rolled into a nice 3 hour series. Also, it’s always great to see national treasures pissing of sexually charged animals: in this case a hover fly falls in love with a pea.
With only the promise of a Christmas episode to ease our suffering, Downton leaves our screens for what we can assume is another year.
So since a good year or so has passed in Abbey land I thought I’d have a look on what progress we’ve made along the road to happily ever after.
Thomas comes out
Thomas and O’Brien stopped being BFFs over something to do with the posh clothes which led to O’Brien encouraging Thomas into some stealth snogging on sleeping Jimmy who in turn roughly chucked Thomas out of his room and out of the closet. Everyone embraced the rainbow skittles style and Thomas ended up staying based solely on his skills at batting for the other … sorry I mean the same, side. Meanwhile, O’Brien heard the word ‘soap’, went all wobbly, and threw up the white flag. Who wants to bet that detective Anna will soon unearth the truth about the soap of doom.
Crazy servant love pentagon holds up the cooking
So Daisy loves ginger Alfred; ginger Alfred loves comely Ivy, comely Ivy and oddly gloved Thomas loves musical revue Jimmy. So Jimmy loves no one but maybe himself, and no one loves Daisy except her dead husband of half an hour and his dad who feels like giving her his farm. Daisy’s in for some dough (get it!), so I’d go with her ginger Al. Only the man-on-man aspects of this sexual shape got vaguely sorted out so expect some romantic servant stuff under the mistletoe.
And other stuff too
Ethel has fallen down and is working as a prostitute. Cousin Isobel tries to help by saying ‘prostitute’ a lot, giving Ethel a hand giving her kid away, and then giving her a cooking job with a side order of scandal. However, she seems to be off again to stay near her son but what will poor Isobel do: she has no cook and has been proved wrong by Cousin Violet. Oh the humanity.
Cousin Violet says a brilliantly pithy remark every five minutes, and sticks her nose in everywhere. Her nose has magical healing powers as it manages to heal a marriage, save Branson from car fixing, and reunite Ethel with her son amongst other things. God love that nose!
Cora’s American mother pops in for the wedding and almost out-drolls Cousin Violet. Not quite though honey.
Mrs Hughes has cancer for about five minutes leading to her becoming a wee bit liberal and buying a toaster, whilst Mr Carson goes all goo-goo eyed in a very respectable and platonic way.
A curly headed Rose threw some youth in at the last minute as she threw herself at a married man and did some awesome twenties dancing.
And not forgetting my favourite character of all: Mr Molesley finally had all his dreams come true with a move to the big house. Now I want him all married up and happy … oh Daaaaisy …