Sex, Lies and Love Bites: The Agony Aunt Story

March 2, 2015 by  
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In this one hour BBC special, Philippa Perry explores the world of agony aunts from 17th century Britain to the present day. Perry is an author, psychotherapist and as of September 2013, an agony aunt for Red Magazine.

With her quirky style, she dives into the topic with an enthusiasm and curiosity that flows from her to her viewers. I found myself fascinated by how advice columns transitioned from horse excrement in the 17th century to baking pies in the 1950s and sex questions in the modern day.

Perry, dressed in bright patterns and donning rimmed glasses, uses a variety of sources and brings on a history lesson in a fun but educating manner. She pulls from past and current agony aunts, historians and journalists. The most surprising thing to learn from the special is that agony aunts are not just only women, but men can also be behind the keyboard giving out advice.

Agony uncles, as they are called, exist and have helped to give readers a male perspective for centuries. On the other hand, while most readers and advice seekers tend to be women, a good handful are male. Men and boys write in about the same concerns regarding the opposite sex, giving a new perspective to who really uses advice columns.

Being more than just a history lesson, this documentary goes on to make itself relevant to present day. Though the golden age of agony aunts may have been in the 1970s, they are still a huge deal. People may now turn to Google for answers, but a majority still crave the attention of having a real life conversation with another person, even if it is on paper. Plus, it’s always entertaining for others to read of another’s woes.

I highly recommend watching this BBC special because it really captures the essence of human nature’s curiosity about problem solving and advice seeking. Perry’s sparking personality and valuable guests will keep you happily glued to the screen for 60 minutes.

Sex, Lies and Love Bites: The Agony Aunt Story is on BBC Four at 9pm on March `10

Arthur & George

February 24, 2015 by  
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Arthur & George is not your typical Sherlock Holmes story with a dashing detective and clear sense of the villain by the end of the first 60 minutes. This three part ITV series is yet another twist on the many adventures of the famous detective. Adapted from Julian Barnes’s novel, Arthur & George, it focuses on the only case that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever solved himself.

Barnes is an award-winning English author whose book has become the basis for the show. The adaptation is mostly faithful, but lacks the detailed stories of the two main men, Arthur and George. The show seems to give you the sense of who Arthur is, while George takes a backseat.

Martin Clunes (as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and Arsher Ali (as George Edalji) are the new faces of the Sherlock franchise. Besides the main actors, the show itself differs dramatically from the most recent popular adaptation of Sherlock produced by the BBC.

Instead of the modern day twist, the show refocuses on the author of the famous detective. In his lifetime, Conan Doyle was approached on numerous occasions to solve real life crimes, but the case of George Edalji was the first and last time he became a real life Sherlock Holmes.

Viewers are transported back in time to 1903 to solve the case of George Edalji and the Great Wyrley Rippings. The first episode explains how George was accused and later convicted of violently mutilating animals and threatening to attack a school, and after serving seven years in jail he’s out to prove his innocence. George isn’t out to seek revenge, only to clear his name and make sense of the judicial system that has convicted him. Arthur’s job, along with his servant Woody, is to clear George’s name or have theirs tarnished as well.

Viewers are left to decipher much on their own since there are no dramatic murders or quick calculating problem solving that unfolds on screen. They truly get to follow Arthur as he finds his way to the answers. In a sense, there is more of a connection with Arthur because though he is a clever man, one may see him as an equal rather than a superior. Often in other versions of Sherlock Holmes adaptations, Sherlock is built to solve mysteries like a superhuman. One can most often see this in the BBC version, with Sherlock being played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

It isn’t interesting in the beginning because the characters aren’t flashy and the crime committed isn’t outrageously horrifying. However, curiosity grows as the show unfolds. You find yourself starting to care about the characters and debating the innocence of George. Did he do it? Is Arthur clever enough or even capable enough to solve the crime? Or should he just stick to writing about his fake detective Sherlock Holmes?

For those who want to ease into the stories of Sherlock Holmes, this is a great way to begin. It is slowly paced enough to follow and Arthur & George will give you context to the world of Sherlock. Even for an avid Sherlock fan like myself, this show is of interest because I get to see real life events unfold on screen. Fiction has become reality. Viewers will be able to explore a side of Sherlock they have never seen and understand the man behind the detective.

Arthur & George will première on ITV Monday, March 2nd at 9 pm.

The Book of Life

February 15, 2015 by  
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The Book of Life 1

When the Academy Awards were announced this year there were two main complaints: only white performers were nominated in the acting categories, and the The Lego Movie was not nominated for the Best Animated Feature. I would contend however there was another animated film that should have been considered, which was this – a film with a mainly Hispanic cast.

Produced by Guillermo del Toro (director of Pacific Rim, co-screenwriter of The Hobbit trilogy) and the directorial debut for Jorge Gutierrez, The Book of Life is a movie connected with the legends of Mexico, in particular the Day of the Dead. The story is told by a museum guide Mary Beth (Christina Applegate, Married… With Children) as she tells some troublesome kids on a school trip about various Mexican legends from “The Book of Life” which holds every story in the world.

The story begins with the wife and husband spirits of La Muerte (Kate del Castillo), ruler of the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba (Ron Perlman, Hellboy), ruler of the Land of the Forgotten. They visit a Day of the Dead festival in the town of San Angel where the two agree on a bet. There is a girl in the village named Maria Posada (Zoe Saldana, Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy) who is the subject of affection of two boys: guitar loving Manolo Sanchez (Diego Luna, Milk) and Joaquin Mondragon (Channing Tatum, Foxhunter and as it happens The Lego Movie), whose late father saved the town from bandits. Xibalba bets that Joaquin will marry Maria and if he does then Xibalba will become the new ruler of the Land of the Remembered. La Muerte bets that Manolo will marry Maria and if so she will stop Xibalba from interfering with the lives of mortals. But Xibalba plays dirty quickly by giving Joaquin the all-powerful “Medal of Eternal Life”, giving him great strength.

As the story roles forward Maria is sent to a Spanish boarding school, Joaquin becomes the moustachioed town hero, and Manolo keeps playing on his guitar, given to him by Maria as a parting gift, where he sings various songs including (strangely) the works of Radiohead and Elvis Presley. But Manolo’s father Carlos (Hector Elizondo, Last Man Standing) forbids Manolo from playing music, insisting that he must train as a bullfighter like all of his ancestors before him. When Maria returns from Spain, both Manolo and Joaquin try to win Maria’s affections. Both men have ups and downs, but then Manolo seems to have the upper hand – until Xibalba decides to cheat again by using a snake to seemingly kill Maria. Xibalba tells Manolo that she can rescue Maria, but he has to die first. Thus Manolo goes on a journey across the Land of the Remembered, the Cave of Souls protected by the Candle Maker (Ice Cube) who oversees the lives of the living, and then to the Land of the Forgotten.

There are many things that are striking about The Book of Life. For me, the first was when the film opened and tells you it is made by 20th Century Fox, which is odd given that most of the time when Fox talks about Mexicans it is normally on the news and about how they should be allowed into America.

The main appeal of the film personally is the quality of the animation. When the story is narrated in the museum, the characters are acted out using dolls. Thus the characters when animated take on a doll-like blocky appearance. You can see the thin rods that connect all the finger joints for example in the characters for example. Plus you have the mixture of landscapes: the tranquil city of San Angel, the bright carnival atmosphere of the Land of the Remembered, the dullness of the Land of the Forgotten and so on.

The other reason to see this film is that it features a lot of actors who are not really well to most people in English-speaking countries because they mainly work in Mexico, so this actually quite a multicultural film, with Mexicans and Americans working together. If there is a major problem with it, it is the lack of recognition by things like the Academy Awards. Both The Book of Life and The Lego Movie have been hard done by.

Score: 4/5

David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities

February 1, 2015 by  
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On Monday a select audience was lucky enough attend a screening of the first episode of the new series of David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities and afterwards enjoy a Q&A with the great man in London Zoo’s Komodo Dragon House.

The new show looks at some of the most fascinating and extraordinary feats in the natural world – a cheetah’s awesome speed, a salamander’s ability to regrow missing limbs and the amazing intelligence of an orang-utan. Each episode links two animals and shows the ways that vastly different species have evolved similar strategies for success.

In the first episode, Sir David explores two oft-quoted facts – that a flea can jump the equivalent of a human leaping over St Paul’s cathedral, and that a cheetah can run at 70mph.

It’s quite a low-budget affair, but that’s not necessarily a negative. Much of the episode is given over simply to Sir David talking straight to camera in various British institutions. At first one expects it to switch to some exciting footage of wild cheetahs in action or more exotic locales, but quickly the feeling fades. It’s a reminder of why Attenborough has passed into living legend status: he’s such an engaging and invested presenter that little else is needed. There’s a rather charmingly naff animation of a flea jumping over St Paul’s Cathedral – which we’re treated to twice – which presumably means that they blew most of the budget on getting the knight of the realm’s services.

In the Q&A afterwards hosted by Alice Levine, Sir David explained some of the thinking behind the show. It came from a desire to look at things in a new way, and explore the subtle links between seemingly completely different animals.

He fielded questions from the audience on a number of interesting topics, one of which was the difference in style between himself and more ‘daredevil’ presenters such as the late Steve Irwin:

Steve was a country boy and if you live in the outback you have a less precious view of wildlife than townies like me.  So Steve, from an early age, was jumping on the backs of crocodiles and wrestling them to the ground. I didn’t really enjoy watching him jumping on animals, but though I never met him I know that he cared deeply about conservation.

He was also asked about the attention lavished on the giant panda at the expense of other equally important conservation issues – many naturalists believe the Giant Panda is in an evolutionary bottleneck and should be allowed to go extinct. But not Attenborough:

Evolutionary biologists might well argue that the giant panda is on the way out. If that’s the case then the fundamental reason is that it has evolved to eat only bamboo and the human population in China has increased so much that its food source is disappearing. So if the panda goes now, that will be because we have caused it.

He even had an interesting answer to the dreaded ‘what’s your favourite animal?’ question which elicited groans from the audience, and ‘I think that’s code isn’t it, for terminate the interview – hit the ejector seat button!’ from Alice Levine. Just earlier that day he had witnessed the courtship dance of the ‘weedy sea dragon’, and assured us all that if we had never seen it, ‘life still has great treats in store for you!’

We also found out the one animal that he really cannot abide: rats. A recent visit to the bathroom in India, where a rat got a little intimate, was only the latest in a litany of murine crimes against him.

It was a great evening, and for an 88 year old to be still working so hard and be actively involved in his chosen field is impressive by anyone’s standards. The series is sure to be another fascinating trip through the wonders of the natural world, in probably the most experienced pair of hands on the planet. It’s an enjoyably low-key half hour spent in the warm and reassuring company of a true broadcasting legend.

Series 3 Trailer | David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities | Watch Channel

David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities starts on Watch on Monday 2 February at 9pm

Catastrophe

January 23, 2015 by  
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Rob-Delaney-and-Sharon-Horgan Catastrophe

The best way to describe Catastrophe would be as a ‘coming of middle age’ story. Two people forced together and compelled to make real adult life decisions. The show is also realistically rude, often walking the line between what we’re used to hearing on TV and what you colloquially say with your mates. It’s quite refreshing to see.

Watching Catastrophe‘s debut reminded me of this quote from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, in which she talks about pilots.

“Pilot scripts are particularly difficult to write because you have to introduce all the characters without it feeling like a series of introductions. You have to tell a story that’s not only funny and compelling but also dramatizes your main characters’ points of views and what the series would be about thematically.”

Catastrophe made it look easy.

Human hashtag Rob Delaney (widely known as one of the funniest people on Twitter) plays Rob, an American businessman visiting London. While Sharon Horgan (co-creator of the BAFTA winning Pulling), plays Sharon, a teacher. Their one night stand turns into a week of crazy sex until he flies home, she finds out she’s pregnant, he flies back and they decide to give it a go… and that’s all within the first five or so minutes.

Catastrophe moves with pace, it’s a narrative neatly built around its characters with a constant flurry of gags that are subtle and well delivered. The first episode gives a lot more than some shows do in a season.

After an unnerving trip to the doctor, where the word ‘cancer’ provides a few laughs, we meet Sharon’s ‘friend’ Fran (who Sharon actually hates), played by Ashley Jensen. Fran invites Rob and Sharon to dinner with her husband. This uncomfortable dinner helps us uncover even more about the true nature of these characters and their intersecting lives.

The first episode has done a solid job of setting the tone for the whole series, makes me wonder why the BBC turned the script down (they had initially commissioned a script from Rob, who invited Sharon to write it with him). It’s not only well written, but it also shows just how good an actor Sharon Horgan is, switching from comedy to drama with rare Thespian bipolarity. Sharon and Rob have great on-screen chemistry and that’s an important part of its charm. It’s not that much of a catastrophe at all really.

Catastrophe is available to watch on 4OD now

The Good Wife – Season 6

January 23, 2015 by  
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The Good Wife continues to defy expectations. A structurally rigid courtroom drama made by CBS and now entering its sixth season ought to be looking more than a bit tired and drab around the edges. Instead, The Good Wife hit its creative, dramatic and intellectual peak in season five and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.

The season launches with the arrest of Cary Agos, who finds himself swiftly charged with drug charges due to legal advice given to his client, Lemond Bishop. This turn of events is an interesting one. For all of the idealistic ambitions of Diane and Will, our lawyers have thus far been living a parasitic existence, taking sustenance and wealth from complicity with the dregs of humanity. Throughout the series, they have always maintained a level of detachment with their professional responsibilities to their clients providing a convenient buffer to prevent anything but entirely superficial moral self-examination. But now the two worlds have collided and it doesn’t take long before Cary and his colleagues are finding themselves vulnerable in unfamiliar murky waters.

As for the good wife of the title, season six starts with Alicia under fire from all sides. Her partner in prison, a start-up law firm to commandeer, clients to coerce and the nagging pressure from Eli Gold (Alan Cummings in Malcolm Tucker-lite mode) to run for political office. Alicia Florrick is a complex and interesting television creation. Florrick batters off her competitors through fair means or foul, represents the worst criminals in Chicago, indulges in an affair with her boss, grudgingly accepts a marriage of pure convenience and yet brandishes her self-proclaimed morality like a weapon. She is referred to as ‘Saint Alicia’, a moniker she publicly rejects and privately relishes. She acts disingenuously in the moment and justifies herself later. She lives in a morally ambivalent world and she is a morally ambivalent character.

Her flaws aren’t gaping or signposted. She is a truly human portrait. This sophisticated and intuitive character drawing is the true strength of The Good Wife and makes it one of the most humane and intelligent dramas on television, as well as one of the most culturally and technological savvy.

With Netflix and HBO redefining the way we watch television, The Good Wife is a dying breed. Watch it while you can, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

The Good Wife will be broadcast at 9.00pm on Thursday 29th January on More 4.

Up the Women

January 22, 2015 by  
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‘Millicent Fawcett who?’, mouths the women’s suffrage campaigner, Gwen. Yes, poor Margaret, played by Jessica Hynes, is still struggling to lead her team in the struggle for equal rights. Of course, this is made harder by her barmy Banbury-based suffragettes still struggling to understand what they’re campaigning for.

This is part of the charm of this studio sitcom which is set in 1910 and follows a group of women’s suffrage campaigners. Although the ditzy, and often clueless, women are fully behind Margaret’s campaign, they’re still women of their time, and some of them struggle to see the real benefits of women’s rights.

Everyone is a real send-up of archetypal characters from 19th and early 20th century literature, and although stereotyped to the nth degree, it works well with Jessica Hynes’s style of writing.

The show is rather ridiculous, and it’s certainly leans more towards the writing of Graham Linehan, than the surreal satires of Chris Morris. Jessica Hynes performs excellently, as do the rest of the cast. However at times the jokes can seem straight out of a sitcom from the 1990s, and although there were some real gems back then, their lines just don’t seem appropriate for the modern day, nor the 1910 setting of the sitcom. Thankfully this is fairly sporadic, but it really stops the show from reaching its peak.

After nearly a two year break, not much has really changed, although there appears to be no sign of Adrian Scarborough as of yet. The wonderful Rebecca Front will be returning as the grumpy antagonist, a woman who is so against the women’s suffrage that she proclaims to have ‘married for everything but love’.

A nice addition to Series 2, even if only for a single episode, is Tom Stourton, who is most recognisable from various BBC3 comedy ventures, and being one half of comedy duo Totally Tom. Ryan Sampson is also back as Thomas, the only male member of the team, who often proves to also be the only truly committed person to the cause.

Overall the offers some some good fun, with silly characters that all bounce off each other well. Jessica Hynes has done a fine job of satirising such a serious part of history, and it offers a nice change from the mob of chat show and stand-up based comedy of recent BBC times.

Up The Women will be on BBC Two at 10:15pm, on Wednesday 21st January.

Cucumber | Banana

January 22, 2015 by  
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Freddie Fox as Freddie

Cucumber, a spiritual sequel to Russell T. Davies’s seminal 90s comedy-drama Queer as Folk, explodes onto the screen in a flurry of vivid colours. This is the way to celebrate a subculture on television – loudly and proudly, with bold visuals, frenetic editing and a thumping soundtrack. It is so exuberant and unapologetically in-your-face that it instantly makes most contemporary films and TV shows about gay characters seem quaint, insipid and mealy-mouthed by comparison (Matthew Warchus’s critically-acclaimed Pride looks particularly tame next to Cucumber). Welcome back Russell, adult British drama has sorely missed you.

One of a trio of interconnected series focusing on sex and love in 21st Century Britain (with E4′s spin-off anthology drama Banana and web documentary Tofu), Cucumber follows 40-something frump Henry (Vincent Franklin) as he navigates his way through a mid-life crisis and sexual reawakening following the breakdown of his long-term relationship. As Henry leaves the safety and comfort of his domestic “fortress” and begins to take risks, he rediscovers his joie de vivre with hilarious and heart-warming consequences.

So far, so American Beauty. What differentiates Cucumber from other coming-of-middle-age stories though is not only its focus on gay characters, but a mischievous sense of humour and a willingness to laugh at itself while exploring serious issues. For example, Henry’s isolation within the gay community is illustrated by having his junior colleague Dean (Fisayo Akinade) inform him that “No-one says ‘hashtag’ out loud anymore, it’s a bit BBC3”, and the validity of gay marriage, a bone of contention in Henry’s relationship, is questioned with the line “We don’t need to get married…we’ll lose weight, we’ll both be sexy and we’ll be fine”. As a result, material that could feel po-faced and pretentious in the hands of a lesser writer instead feels fresh, relevant and, above all, hugely entertaining.

Davies is a master at constructing scenes which hide great emotional complexity behind a veneer of cartoonish farce, vulgar jokes and full-frontal nudity. Halfway through the pilot episode, Henry makes a lengthy speech about Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds that is simultaneously a statement-of-intent for the show, a defiant two-fingered gesture to homophobes everywhere, and a revealing insight into the character’s emotional life (and the lack of excitement, passion and sexual fulfilment in his relationship). That Davies manages to accomplish all of this with one of the silliest and most foul-mouthed monologues ever broadcast is extremely impressive and only adds to Cucumber’s camp charm.

Leading a talented cast, Vincent Franklin excels as Henry, playing him as part David Brent, part Freddie Mercury. He’s ridiculous, infuriating and loveable in equal measure and, if Cucumber were less explicit, one could easily see him becoming an iconic British character in the mould of Basil Fawlty or Del Boy. Cyril Nri brings great warmth and humanity to the role of Henry’s loving but frustrated boyfriend Lance, while Con O’Neill adds sardonic grit as Henry’s drunken best friend Cliff. Other notable supporting characters, including Henry’s co-worker Dean, carry over into E4 spin-off Banana.

Perhaps inspired by the success of his Doctor Who franchises Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, Russell T. Davies has created Banana as an anthology-style companion series to Cucumber which fleshes out minor characters from its parent show and tells self-contained short stories. If the episodes of Cucumber form a visual novel, then the episodes of Banana are its colourful, hyperactive appendices.

Banana shares so many similarities with Cucumber, including its cast and writer, that it’s initially hard to view as a separate series in its own right. However, there are definite differences: it’s shorter (each episode clocks in at roughly half the length of a Cucumber episode), faster-paced, and focuses more directly on issues affecting “the Grindr generation”.

The first episode centres on Dean as he engages in a series of casual hook-ups organised through social media, battles premature ejaculation, and tries to survive in Manchester on a shoestring budget. In a funny reversal of cliché, Dean’s real struggle is not to be accepted, but to be an outsider. His parents are so tolerant that they annoy him and his efforts to define himself as someone who has overcome adversity are mocked by his friends, who see him as a fantasist trying to be interesting. He has difficulty connecting with others not because he is gay, but because he is human. It’s clever stuff, again showcasing Davies’ ability to delve beneath the surface of stereotypes to reveal deeper, hidden truths.

Much has changed for gay people since Queer as Folk first aired in 1999 and Britain has become a far more inclusive society. It is therefore unsurprising that Cucumber and Banana lack the anger and aggressive polemic of that show. However, what Davies’ new series may lack in edge, they more than make up for with style, wit and sense of fun. Being gay hasn’t looked this cool since Vince and Stuart rode off into the sunset fifteen years ago.

Cucumber begins on Thursday 22nd January at 9pm on Channel 4. Banana begins on Thursday 22nd January at 10pm on E4.

The Real Housewives of Cheshire

January 9, 2015 by  
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The Real Housewives of Cheshire

If you’re looking for insight into the lives of the ostentatiously rich and peripherally famous, and you find the cast of Made in Chelsea too intellectually stimulating, then you might like to try The Real Housewives of Cheshire. It features a whole host of nearly identical women who share an interest in ‘looking good’ and buying costume jewellery.

The obvious breakout star is Lauren whose observational aphorisms on bourgeois life could have been written by Luis Buñuel on heavy-duty pain medication. She doesn’t speak so much as make barely coherent pronouncements in a tone of voice that suggests that what she’s saying is not only hugely significant but also incredibly profound. For instance, her take on her succubus-like relationship with her husband’s bank account; “our marriage is a game and I have to play the game correctly to get…the diamonds.” On Cheshire itself she says; “I’d put Cheshire on par with Camilla, Prince Charles and…the Queen.” That sounds to me like gibberish, but then maybe I just don’t get Lauren. I don’t understand why she strode down the high street, scowling and clutching a gigantic live bunny rabbit or why she thought flapping around in liquid nitrogen in her pants was a good idea either. Presumably she knows what she’s doing. She went to private school, apparently.

Aside from Lauren’s surrealistic input, the main entertainment comes from Dawn and Magali who have fallen out over matters too tedious to describe involving a boring party in a tent. Magali describes herself as “A bubbly person, very straightforward – but there’s another side to me. You cross me…you don’t want to cross me.” Immediately, Dawn sends her a disproportionately abusive text message about nothing of importance – thereby crossing her and prompting Magali to let loose the hounds of hell. As in she does nothing apart from whine about it for a hundred years and compares sitting at a table with a bunch of other inane housewives to the Romans’ persecution of the early Christians. She’s a tough cookie, that one. MILF on MILF action has never been so pathetic.

Boiled down to the bones; The Real Housewives of Chelsea is an hour long recording of a bunch of women talking about nothing and wandering in and out of shops. It’s brilliant.

The Real Housewives Of Cheshire will be airing on ITVBe on Monday 12th January at 10pm.

Count Arthur Strong

January 7, 2015 by  
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When making a second series of a television comedy show, there is always a chance of having ‘difficult second album’ issues. With Count Arthur Strong, which is due to return to our screens in January, I am pleased to say that doesn’t appear to be an issue, much to my delight as a big fan of the first series.

Count Arthur Strong began its life on Radio 4, featuring Steve Delaney as Count Arthur Strong, a variety performer who, although thinks he is very talented, is not actually very good at performing. The character was created by Steve Delaney, based on people he has known from his childhood, and ran successfully on the radio from 2005 until 2012.

Count Arthur Strong moved away from radio to the realms of television, with a comedy genius picked up along the way, in the form of Graham Linehan. The television version of Count Arthur Strong has the mark of Graham Linehan all over it, from the visual gags, the strong plots in each episode, and the live audience. There are hints of his former work in Father Ted and The IT Crowd, and also hints of Fawlty Towers in Count Arthur Strong, noticeably in series two.

Steve Delaney has created a wonderful character, whilst Graham Linehan has helped build upon with the new setting and the variety of secondary characters, making the transition from radio to television work very well. As both Delaney and Linehan write the script, with Linehan directing and Delaney performing as Arthur, this is certainly a successful 50/50 collaboration.

Although the character has been around for years and the radio show was an established hit, it was still a gamble bringing Count Arthur Strong to the screen. Some of the radio fans appear to have been unhappy with the transition. I have never heard any Count Arthur Strong on the radio, so I don’t know how different the radio show is to television series, but I know that seeing Count Arthur Strong has made me want to seek out the radio episodes. I am sure it has had the same effect on other fans of the television series.

Although the show certainly has Count Arthur Strong at the centre of it all, the character of Michael Baker, the son of Arthur’s former showbiz partner Max Baker, cannot be overlooked as a mere secondary character. Played brilliantly by Rory Kinnear (son of Roy), a Shakespearian actor who we often see it dramatic roles. Who can forget the brilliant and terrifying first episode of Black Mirror? This is a great role for Kinnear to show his comedic abilities, and gives us a great platform for a character to interact with Arthur. Both characters bounce off each other, as does Arthur with the other regular characters in the show, which brings out the humour and makes the series laugh out loud funny.

Having a regular haunt, in the form of Bulent’s Cafe, is another staple of Linehan comedies. This gives Arthur free reign for his unintentional chaos, with the characters surrounding him, and also gives the show a slight retro feel to it. Count Arthur Strong in some ways looks as if it could be a sitcom from the 1970s.

Series two does not disappoint, and fans of the first series will enjoy this as much, if not more, than what they have already seen. With seven episodes, the plots are still as tight and still as funny as what we have already seen. Episodes two and four are particularly strong, with Arthur interacting with characters who are not regulars, putting his comic abilities at the centre of the episode.

Certain critiques of the show have said that the humour is too simple, but I don’t think this is the case. It is clear that Delaney and Linehan have put a lot of work into their writing, to make the scripts work well in showcasing Arthur in a variety of situations, in making the episodes flow smoothly and in adding a great amount of sadness in addition to humour. The final episode is certainly the most moving of series two, proving that a comedy can have just as much heart as humour within in. The ability to make your audience feel great sadness and suddenly jump to humour very quickly is not an easy one to do.

With big laughs and old-school humour, the transition of Count Arthur Strong from radio to television appears to have been a success. I hope series two will introduce many new fans to Count Arthur Strong. BBC, series three please!

Series 2 of Count Arthur Strong will begin on Tuesday 6th January at 10.35pm on BBC1.

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