WPC 56

February 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Reviews

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The role of women in the workplace has provided much provocative televisual drama in the post-WWII era. The first series of the police comedy/drama WPC 56 focused on the work of woman police constable Gina Dawson (Jennie Jacques), or WPC 56, as the first female police officer to serve the Brinford community of Birmingham. In an industry dominated by men, Dawson finds herself initially serving her male colleagues instead. Despite the position this puts her in, she works with them to solve the central crimes of the series, which involve two missing boys, while also developing a budding relationship with her partner, Detective Inspector Jack Burns (Kieran Bew).

Series two opens with the episode “Cry, Cry, Cry,” in which a travelling fair sets the bustling scene for a foreshadowing crime. A couple engaged in a carnival game are quickly interrupted by an oddly suited man, watching from a distance. The man in the couple realizes they are being followed and a suspenseful game of cat and mouse ensues in a room of distorted mirrors. The couple escapes a mysterious shooting and encounters WPC Dawson, who asks about a girl in a photo, previously shown bumping into the woman. They are only able to direct her so far, which then leads Dawson to the fair owner, Brendan McCormack (Francis Magee). The missing girl’s name and age are revealed as Tracy Nicholls, who is 15. The owner is aware of the girl, who had a previous conflicting relationship with his son.

The office environment changes as the episode makes a significant turn away from the last series’ motif of sexism. The initiative not only involves a transformation of Dawson’s character but also an increase in recurring female cast members by placing more women in the office. Dawson’s step forward occurs as she returns a cunning remark to her colleagues when asked to bring them tea. Striving for gender equality while maintaining a realistic outlook of the times, the men still attempt to degrade her position.

Another aspect of Dawson’s character development is ironically DI Burn’s resignation. He reveals his wife has been released from the hospital and his family needs him at home. The male colleagues are rather indifferent, and some even suppress a celebratory reaction, while Gina experiences the detachment from her unrealistic expectations of their romance. The removal of Burns, however, allows Dawson to focus on herself and her career without distraction.

In place of Burns, new DI Max Harper (Ben Turner) wastes no time undertaking the duties of his predecessor. While the Brinford police force is assigned to maintain order amongst the “gypsy community” during the fair, Harper and Sergeant Fenton (Charlie De’Ath) investigate the death of a town Councilor. Harper later learns from Dawson that a redheaded woman accompanied the Councilor at the fair. This sparks the beginning of a partnership between the two.

Overall “Cry, Cry, Cry” may have juggled more crime scenes and new character introductions than it could manage. Although the pilot’s ambitious storyline left little time to process the events, the highlights of the episode include brief comedic moments with the aid of characters seemingly ill-fitted for law enforcement. Notably, Police Constable Tommy Perkins (Liam Jeavons), an awkward, well-intentioned pushover of the team, ends up in predicaments while trying to fit in with his colleagues. With more subtle humorous gestures, Desk Sergeant Swift (James Barriscale) serves as a loyal yet shallow assistant to Chief Inspector Briggs (Mark Healy), whose nameplate misspelled as Biggs, forms the basis of multiple office jokes.

After a successful first series, the future of WPC 56 series two remains optimistic and the desire to vicariously solve crimes through a leading female officer will only continue to grow.

Series 2 of WPC 56 starts on 10 February 2014 at 1415 on BBC One

Manhunt / Lone Target

February 5, 2014 by  
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Man vs. Wild’s Bear Grylls meets Jason Bourne in this new series on the Discovery Channel.

‘Manhunt’, also titled ‘Lone Target,’ follows the adventures of Joel Lambert, a former Navy SEAL, as he works his way through a number of wild terrains to a set destination, or extraction point. As an added suspense-factor, he must not only survive the unpredictable conditions of his surroundings, but he’s also pursued by elite military trackers. Joel is given basic tools and must use the natural resources around him in an attempt to complete his mission within 48 hours, all the while testing the strengths and weaknesses of his pursuers as well as his own.

In the pilot episode of the series, “South Africa: Safari Survival,” Joel takes on the role of a poacher, crossing a wildlife reserve in South Africa while the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) employs tactics to stop him in his tracks. Former Australian Commander Damien Mander leads the IAPF and works alongside a team of ex-poachers turned trackers, all of whom are well-versed in the area and more importantly, the methods of tracking.

The camera frame alternates between Joel and his trackers with both sides guiding the audience through their decisions. Although making more rash decisions, Joel simultaneously avoids the dangers of wildlife and stalls the trackers through his knowledge of diversion. The IAPF uses high-tech equipment and transportation, which serves to their advantage despite Joel’s efforts. Tracking Joel’s footprints, referred to as spoors, the trackers demonstrate the extent of their experience and meticulous inspection.

What constitutes a successful capture is quite ambiguous, at least in this first episode. On several occasions, Joel narrowly escapes captivity as the trackers are well within reach of him. At one point, an IAPF member sees him but chooses not to chase after him due to an apparent lion presence, which we see none of during his final stretch. Along with fortunate, or perhaps misleading external factors affecting the outcome of the game, Joel’s plans of action are blindly self-serving and often questionable. It is difficult to step in his shoes in the moments when it clearly appears his journey is cut short.

Questioning the authenticity of adventure-survivalist shows is unfortunately common, the main issue in Manhunt (as in others) is that the show seems to place excessive emphasis on entertainment value, and therefore suffers from obvious accuracy issues which reduce the show’s enjoyment.

Manhunt / Lone Target debuts on Discovery Channel on Thursday 13th February at 9.00pm

POIROT: The Films

January 21, 2014 by  
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David Suchet’s portrayal of the Agatha Christie character Hercule Poirot has so firmly been established in our minds that it now seems impossible to imagine another actor in the role. Yet back in 1989, just before he made his debut as the great Belgian detective, Suchet must have known that he was stepping into some very well-worn shoes: he was, of course, by no means the first actor to play Poirot.

When the ITV series first began, the character had already been appearing on the big screen since 1931. Austin Trevor played him originally in the film Alibi, a role he reprised twice, first with Black Coffee that same year and then again with Lord Edgware Dies in 1934. Decades later, Tony Randall assumed the part in The Alphabet Murders (1965), which was more of a straight-up satire of the Christie novels rather than a genuine adaptation.  

But perhaps much better remembered are Poirot’s later incarnations, especially Albert Finney’s performance in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), for which he received an Oscar nomination, and a series of Poirot films released shortly after starring Peter Ustinov. The final of these, Thirteen at Dinner (1985), is especially notable, for it featured a young David Suchet in the role of Inspector Japp—a performance he later described as possibly the worst of his career.

Included on this Blu-Ray release are three of the films mentioned above: Murder on the Orient Express and two of the Peter Ustinov films, Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun. Titled rather ambiguously as merely POIROT, this collection has presumably been complied to capitalise on the ITV series, which came to an end last year. But if the collection is to be judged fairly, then equivocal marketing shouldn’t spoil one’s appreciation of these perfectly decent films.

The premise of Murder on the Orient Express should be fairly obvious to even those unfamiliar with the ITV series, the Christie novel or even Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train, which deals with much the same themes. Aboard the Orient Express train, Poirot is tasked with investigating the murder of an American business tycoon, Mr. Ratchett (Richard Widmark), a case in which almost every passenger could be a suspect.

The story is told brilliantly in the ITV series, due to the great moral dilemmas that arise as Poirot slowly comes closer to solving this mystery. Yet here Poirot doesn’t seem especially tormented at all; the tone of the film is instead quite comical, and many of the jokes feel unmistakably 1970s. Star power is really the film’s biggest asset: suspects are played by Ingrid Bergman, Michael York, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins and Jacqueline Bisset—five tremendous talents, who here seem disappointingly underused.

Albert Finney, on the other hand, receives plenty of screen time to demonstrate his take on his character. If David Suchet’s Poirot is eccentric and introverted, Finney’s portrayal is generally loud, brazenly dismissive and sometimes downright rude. If Suchet has taken his cues from either of these actors it is more likely to be Peter Ustinov; his Poirot is generally more likeable than Finney’s and chooses to solve his mysteries with an air of unconcerned nonchalance.

This is perhaps best exemplified in Death on the Nile when he advises one suspect not to let evil into her heart. “If love can’t live there,” she replies, “evil will do just as well.” And then solemnly Poiriot quips, in a way Finney’s character never could have, “How sad, mademoiselle.”

The Ustinov films in this collection are almost equally enjoyable, though Death on the Nile benefits considerably from a fine performance from Mia Farrow, whose character I quote above. The atmosphere of both films trumps Murder on the Orient Express, largely for the reason that so much of the Ustinov films have been filmed on location: they’re simply much more aesthetically interesting.

Of course, Finney is inimitably brilliant in almost any film he stars, and the same was more or less true of Ustinov; but by contrast, Suchet’s Poirot still remains the definitive portrayal. Only he it seems is able to truly bring out the subtle eccentrics of the detective’s character. Nevertheless, this collection shouldn’t be overlooked for this reason alone: it will no doubt appeal to fans of the ITV series, who will surely find these films intriguing, if not thoroughly enjoyable.

4/5

POIROT: The Films are available to own on DVD now

Girls – Season 3

January 21, 2014 by  
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Now settled in as one of the powerhouses of the HBO elite (rising to the high bars set by Mad Men and of course, their pastiche-muse Sex and the City) Lena Dunham’s Girls is now already in its third series, with more nudity, cutting wit, and Richard E Grant!

We begin the series pretty much where we left off. Post-breakdown Hannah is now at the level of her relationship where Adam has to spend time with her friends, Marnie is slowly trying to move on from her second failed attempt at life-long lovings with Charlie, Jessa is in rehab, and Shoshanna is still happily just being Shoshanna.

The two episodes show Girls on good form, and the return is a very welcome one for Dunham after the show has been generating the star writer press attention in all shapes and sizes over the past few years. It’s nice to return back to the basics – especially as these 20 minute escapades are becoming more reflective as we drift into the third season. Embarking on a semi-road trip to pick up Jessa from rehab, it’s interesting to see a new dynamic with Adam strongly in toe. Whether or not we’re still supposed to like him, remains uncertain, but there is certainly a more tranquil feeling to the series this time around. Of course, with a wonderful coffee shop altercation with an old one-night-stand in episode one, this could all once again turn around.

Elements remain the same, albeit exaggerated. Shoshanna’s witless Sex and the City pastiche, is now teetering on the edge of becoming, well, a pastiche – with an overlay of naïve one-liners that sends warning signals the character could be overplayed into Joey Tribbiani territories of stupidity.

Richard E Grant’s cameo is welcomed, but unusual. Presented initially as an elderly Withnail father-figure for Jessa whilst she is locked in the ever turning wheel of group therapy, the appearance takes a peculiar turn. It is not long before inevitably, Jessa skedaddles from rehab.

Overall though, it is good to see the four girls back, in a more developed atmosphere, everyone in carthatic states, and Hannah’s writing career finally beginning to take off. (She is even invited for lunch with an editor where the tea cups are made of chocolate!) Things seem pretty rosy now for The Girls, but the question is – for how long?

Mob City

January 17, 2014 by  
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Novelty ties, continuous jazz, and Simon Pegg playing an American mobster; these are the stand-out features of an otherwise featureless series.

This is season one of Frank Darabont’s ‘Mob City’. As a man who has ‘Shawshank Redemption’, and ‘The Walking Dead’ to his name, one could reasonably assume, or at least hope, that his latest work would be of a similar calibre.

To read about the series is more enjoyable than to watch it; based in 1947 (with frequent trips back to the 1920s for contextual reference), it is an adaptation of John Buntin’s non-fiction account of ‘L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City’. The story features genuine historical figures (Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky) and follows the layers of corruption and morally ambiguous destruction in the city’s puppet masters: the Mob and the L.A.P.D.

We are told, by the unnecessary narrator, that where once the good guys wore the white hats, and the bad guys the black hats, he ‘lives in a world of grey hats’.

The series is monotonous and slow, with paroxysms of shooting and bloody violence. My lack of appreciation will likely be labelled as a misunderstanding of the Noir genre. Perhaps that’s fair; but if this is an exemplar of Noir, it says little for a genre that appears to embrace flaccid story lines, vacuous characters, and almost parodic cliché.

In its favour, it does look good; from the heavy curtain of smoke indoors; to the wet streets outdoors. The shoes, the ties, the cars – they all look good; Jasmine Fonatane (Alexa Davalos) looks particularly good. It’s easy on the eye, and too easy on the mind. The characters are actors in dress-up, evoking no emotional investment and therefore no interest in their mysteries. ‘So damn beautiful. But only from a distance; up close, it’s all gutter’.

Mob City premieres on Fox UK on Friday 17 January at 10pm

The Spoils of Babylon

January 17, 2014 by  
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The Spoils of Babylon’ is the U.S. show, directed and written by Matt Piedmont, established Saturday Night Live writer and partner of Will Ferrell. It’s the unapologetically silly satire of ‘TV Events’ adapted from books such as ‘The Thorn Birds.’ Although if you haven’t watched these then don’t worry (or bother), as The Spoils of Babylon is a show of great satire in its own right; prodding fun at all of the TV and film clichés in the book, from the dying cough, to symbolic and hallucinating love scenes. No rock is left unturned.

Will Ferrell plays Eric Jonrosh, the oafish and self proclaimed ‘Legend’, ‘Novelist’, ‘Yachtsman’, ‘Fabulist’ and ‘Dreamer’, but most importantly ‘Director’ and ‘Writer’ of The Spoils of Babylon. A story of the young orphan Devon Morehouse (Tobey Maguire), who is taken under the wing of a poor-turned-rich oil driller (Tim Robbins), and his daughter Cynthia (Kristen Wiig). Their relationships are as complicated and bizarrely varied as Morehouse’s adoption suggests.

Toby Maguire gives a wonderfully varied performance as everything from a war hero to a jazz age junkie, while maintaining the exuberance the show flaunts. His pairing with an equally strange and diverse Kristen Wiig is a show highlight. And while the two lead characters require them to overplay the part (cue the despairing cries), they do this with such confidence and ease that you actually begin to believe that they are awful actors. Bravo.

Although, as is unlike the TV events it satirises or any comedy of the same type, The Spoils of Babylon looks strikingly stylish. Even if it was intended to be seen as something silly, this falls nothing short of ice cool. All the while adopting the style of the period/genre that they push through, taking clear inspiration from everything from Sin City to Breaking Bad.

While skipping through periods of television and movie history, The Spoils of Babylon bizarrely begins to subtly address topical subjects, supposedly as its TV event counterpart sort-of attempted. This varies from the attitudes toward women, to addiction, even touching on war ethics. And even if these moments really are blink or you’ll miss them, when noticed they provide a nice touch to what can be a bit of a hollow program.

For The Spoils of Babylon think less in the direction of big names or laugh a minute scripts which you may expect with the like of Will Ferrell, but for more discreet gags. And although at times it can fall slightly flat, it cannot be denied that this show is bursting with character, seen heavily through its razor sharp cinematography.

4/5

The Spoils of Babylon premieres on Fox UK on January 18 at 9pm

The Bletchley Circle – Series 2

January 7, 2014 by  
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Until somewhat recently, secrecy has shrouded Bletchley Park, its activities, and its staff. Nestled in Buckinghamshire, Bletchley Park played host to the Code-breakers of WW2; heralding the birth of the information age with the industrialisation of code-breaking processes, and the development of the world’s first electronic computer. Even lesser noted, is that the women who worked at Bletchley during the War far outnumbered the men (on a ratio of almost 3:1).

At the closing of the war many of these women, who had played an integral part in intercepting and deciphering military messages, returned to their former domestic roles; bound by the Official Secrets Act to reveal nothing about their wartime occupations.

It is here that the story traced in the first series of ‘The Bletchley Circle’ (written by Guy Burt) began. A drama founded on the possible pursuits of female code-breakers frustrated in their silent return to ham-boiling and house-wifery. In this series, we watched them use their honed analytical skills collaboratively, to ensnare a serial killer. It was greeted with a positive reception, becoming ITV’s best performing drama series (from a share perspective) in 2012, picked up by American channel PBS, and trended on twitter as #ladynerds.

The commissioning of a second series, therefore, seemed natural. What seemed less natural was the progression in story-line; would these four former-Bletchley women become a super-sleuthing, crime-solving dream-team? Thankfully not. The series has avoided becoming a period-Midsomer Murders, and has instead made use of the wealth of plot-lines available in a 1950s, post-war setting. This is a thriller, not a murder mystery.

It’s now 1953, a year has passed, and the series opens with a former Bletchley worker (Olivier Award nominated Hattie Morahan), incarcerated in Holloway prison, waiting to be hanged. It is a shocking reminder of the barbarism that continued in England into the 60s and sets the tone for a series that examines the parallels and divergences of social issues at play, then and now. The woman, Alice, is to be hanged for the murder of an eminent Scientist; she offers no defence throughout her trial, and yet her Bletchley colleagues do not believe she is guilty, and set out to prove her innocence. Over the second series, the women encounter the British involvement in chemical weaponry, human trafficking and displacement. These themes transcend the period in which they are set.

Beyond the gravity of the content addressed, the predominant theme is the role of women in society. The four protagonists share the frustration and isolation as a result of their wartime work ending; significant as a period of being valued for their intelligence. Paradoxically, being women has played an important part in their investigatory success; they exploit prevailing prejudices to operate below the radar of people’s expectations. The series is not intended to confront a battle between sexes, but it presents an interesting role reversal to the usual gender placement; as Rachel Stirling (who plays Millie) proudly notes, the women are not there “to look pretty or ordinary”.

In the year that has passed between the first and second series, there are notable character developments. Lucy (Sophie Rundle) has left her marriage to an abusive man and is working in a clerical position in Scotland Yard, Millie as a translator, and Jean (Julie Graham) continues as a Librarian. Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin) demonstrates reluctance to reunite with her former colleagues and embark on another perilous adventure; still reeling in the aftermath of the danger posed to her young family previously. The relationship between these women is complex and nuanced, and provides much of the substance of the drama. As Julie Graham (Jean) put it: “the conflict between the women is rounded and real; it’s not Josie and the pussycats”.

The second series premieres on the 6th January, and will consist of two self-contained stories. It is a period-drama without being constrained to historical clichés. It is very well written, the characters are well developed and brilliantly portrayed, and the issues confronted are as pertinent today as they were in the 50s.

The Simpsons: Season 16

December 27, 2013 by  
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It might have lost some of its edge after Season 10, but there are moments in Season 16 of The Simpsons that hark back to the show’s golden years. Released on DVD for the first time this month, The Simpsons: Season 16 is a worthy addition to your inevitable Christmas box set binge.

The longest-running US TV series ever at 25 seasons (nope, we don’t know where the time’s gone, either), it’s been eight years since Season 16 of The Simpsons originally aired on TV. Now, viewers can revisit Homer becoming an ordained minister (‘There’s Something About Marrying’), Marge cheating in a baking contest (‘All’s Fair in Oven War’), Bart starting his own t-shirt company (‘Fat Man and Little Boy’) and many more of the beloved yellow family’s capers on a brand spanking new triple-disc set. Themed around popular recurring character Professor Frink, the DVD includes such extras as a trio of bonus episodes, deleted scenes and a table-read featurette.

When Season 16 hits the mark, it’s a riot. Episodes like ‘Don’t Fear the Roofer’, which sees Homer befriend a mysterious man that the rest of the family believe to be imaginary (voiced by Ray Romano), and ‘The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star’, in which Bart is sent to Catholic school and taken under the wing of a charismatic priest (Liam Neeson), are The Simpsons at its inventive, satirical and hilarious best. There’s also the ever-reliable ‘Treehouse of Horror’ episode, which manages to be one of the most entertaining in the show’s history. This installment features excellent parodies of The Dead Zone and Sherlock Holmes, and a wonderfully bizarre segment where a shrunken Simpsons family are sent inside Mr. Burns’ body to rescue an accidentally-swallowed Maggie. Yep – at times, it’s like being back in the nineties again.

Sadly, though, the dud episodes that appear in this collection prevent Season 16 from being one of the show’s classics. Super Bowl-themed ‘Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass’, for example, is nothing short of a mess – crammed with unnecessary celebrity guest stars and jokes that fall flat, the episode is almost entirely void of a tangible plot. Religious spoof ‘Thank God, It’s Doomsday’ and Bart-centred ‘Pranksta Rap’ may contain the odd great gag, meanwhile, but are ultimately forgettable – something no one could accuse those golden-era episodes of being.

The Simpsons isn’t the groundbreaking, controversial series it once was, but it remains a cut above the majority of other TV sitcoms. While it certainly has its low points, Season 16 can be superb entertainment, and is well worth picking up on DVD to snigger at on the sofa over Christmas.

The Simpsons: Season 16 is out on DVD now

Death Comes to Pemberley

December 27, 2013 by  
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Right, the Christmas Season is upon us.

You don’t need to be told this as you are in the midst of it. In fact you’re probably over the Festive Season before it has even begun. With the endless ads seeming to starting earlier each year (fffs this year they definitely started in October), Christmas movies and tinselly, baubley crap adorning the office and shop windows.

So, as I say, you may not need to be told the obvious, but me? For some reason I’m in fucking China and with less than a week to go, it’s only just dawned on me that it’s Christmas.

Just as I was thinking this I got a call from the Editor. Like some kind of TV Santa Claus (TV as in Television not transvestite, though who’s to judge? I am writing this in a nappy, listening to the Ozric Tentacles, sucking on a petrol can) he sensed my unease.

So there I was, be-diapered and high skyping my surprisingly attractive man as woman boss (think Bugs Bunny, in a dress but drunk and more slutty) complaining about missing Christmas and being home sick, when like the go-getting young lady man I have come to respect he immediately knew what to do.

“Why don’t you review a bunch of Christmas Specials? “ he slurred through lipstick stained teeth and last night’s mascara running down his cheeks, martini in one hand, cigar in the other.
“Put a few decorations up, get some sherry in, you can get sherry can’t you?” He asked, lazy hands weaving silver tinsel into his hair.
“I always have sherry, Sir” I replied.
“Atta boy” He smiled kindly at me through my laptop. A smile etched with hardship, delirium and too many cigarettes.
“If you have Christmas Specials and sherry sugar tits, then you can have Christmas. His smile grew weary as he emailed me the list of Christmas shows on offer.
“Merry Christmas you young scamp” he signed off blowing me a kiss.

So two days ago, I sat down with a bottle of cream sherry, a fresh can of Esso’s finest and a makeshift Christmas dinner, consisting of duck neck, owl soup and pickled veg and begun my Christmas Television marathon.

First up was ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’, an adaptation of crime author PD James’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice.

P&P is exactly the kind of high end soap opera masquerading as literature that bores me to tears but I am a sucker for a sequel and this one also being murder mystery, meant it might break the tedium of traditional costume drama. I have also just finished the ‘Anno Dracula’ series by Kim Newman, (sequel to Bram Stokers ‘Dracula’) so I was well up for a much delayed literary follow up.

It opens with Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennet) heroine of P&P, on morning duties. This comprises of swanning round the village, visiting the smorgasbord of classically handsome young men who populate the area. Seriously, if a dashing chap is your cup of sex tea, then you’re in for a treat with this show. However, if it’s the female of the species that gets you hot and bothered then…well…not so much.

Once the morning perambulations are complete, the show drops into cruise control and not much happens. Tens of minutes pass where we are treated to heaving, breathy shots of Pemberley House, its gardens and surrounding countryside. All coupled with long dramatic pauses from the cast and not much else.

It’s all very nice but there is only so much high definition, soft focus and made for 3D composition that I can stand. After a while it becomes less drama and more advert for National Heritage.

Anyway, at some point in the first episode some bloke is murdered. Not much else happens before that; Darcy walks around looking serious and saying little whereas Elizabeth goes on her sex tour of the village.

Once the death happens, the two classic lovers instead of working together, take their own separate journeys into discovering the killer. Elizabeth pretty much by being inquisitive and asking questions and Darcy by being a pompous dick.

This schism in their relationship represents an underlying theme to ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ and P&P i.e. should we marry for love or for duty, this is rammed home at all possible moments.

The second episode is more of the same but without even the revelation of a murder…so it plods along for an hour sighing, looking forlornly out of windows and being wet. Looking gorgeous though, always gorgeous.

At some point Penelope Keith pops in for a rather pointless cameo, and though she does liven proceedings for 3 or 4 minutes, it is not enough to distract from the shows numerous failings in script, direction, casting and Trevor Eve’s ponytail.

The third episodes starts off much like the others, but about half way through the editors realise they don’t have to continue padding this out and finally start telling the story.

This story is quite entertaining if a little predictable and would have made for good TV if they had cut it down to 2 or even 1 episode. But, it’s a Christmas extravaganza and no doubt the BBC’s big thing for Christmas, which makes it rather disappointing. On the other hand its unchallenging nature and themes of love and honour, duty and family, against picturesque English countryside and architecture make it a perfect food coma tele. Not for me though, for my Gran. My dead Gran.

Well that’s the first special done, next up it’s the ‘Bletchley Circle’ or ‘Catchphrase’ Seriously he wants me to watch ‘Catchphrase’. I need more petrol and maybe some duck tongue.

2/5

Death Comes to Pemberley is on BBC1, at 8pm on the 26th December

Adventure Time

December 9, 2013 by  
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Adventure Time: The Complete Season One

Since this series began on the American Cartoon Network channel, Adventure Time has gone on to become one of the most loved animation series of the decade. The series has built a devoted following amongst both children and adults, and has won a number of awards including a children’s BAFTA. Finally, and just in time for Christmas, the UK has received the DVD release of the comic adventures of Jake the Dog and Finn the Human.

Our heroes live in the post-apocalyptic and magical Land of Ooo, home to many races and creatures of all shapes and sizes. Jake (John DiMaggio – Bender from Futurama) is a viola-playing dog of magical powers, allowing him to manipulate the shape of his body at will. 12-year-old human boy Finn (Jeremy Shada) is his best friend and adoptive brother, with the two living together in a giant “Tree Fort”. Finn has an overwhelming desire for justice, helping out anyone in trouble.

The series follows the duo meeting the residents of Ooo and the various kingdoms within it. These include visits to the Candy Kingdom to help the scientifically minded ruler Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch); defeating the dastardly schemes of the Ice King (Tom Kenny – the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants) who keeps kidnapping princesses in order to marry them; and contemplating the strange and tricky behaviour of Marceline the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson – Love Actually).

There are many things that give Adventure Time its appeal. For starters there are the characters which make it so entertaining, with the relationship between Jake and Finn at the centre of the story. As the series has progressed, the relationship develops too, and indeed Finn is getting older unlike most cartoon characters. When the series began in 2010 he was 12, but know he is now 15 in 2013. What will happen to him when he becomes an adult is anyone’s guess.

The humour is also wonderful. Firstly you have the somewhat surreal ideas they are created. For example one of the stories sees the pair free some businessmen frozen in an iceberg who they hire to make their adventuring more efficient. Another sees Jake’s imagination going out of control and starting to make impossible things real, meaning he and Finn must battle with Jake’s overdeveloped creativity. A different tale sees Finn being attacked by a monster with only an approximate knowledge of many things (he knows he is hiding behind a rock – he just doesn’t know which one).

The comedy is also rather subversive. This is what gives the show its adult appeal. While it would be tempting to make just a silly show for kids, the ideas that appear in Adventure Time appeal to people across the board. Where else can you expect people to be attacked by whywolves?

Adventure Time is a wonderful series that by rights should have a broader audience. It’s a fun show, and while there are plenty of things on telly that are comic, fun itself tends to be lacking. If there is a downside, it would be that this DVD release is lacking in extras. Also, once you finish watching the last episode on a disc it is best to take the disc out of the DVD player straight away; otherwise you will find yourself skipping around 20 anti-piracy warnings in different European languages.

4.5/5

Adventure Time: The Complete Season One is released on DVD by Warner Home Video.

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