TV Review: Silent Witness Series 14

With Kieran Bew with his top off and Barbara Flynn breaking every singe person’s heart, Series 14 of Silent Witness is mostly excellent. We just need to talk about Harry…

“If you’re deliberately trying to annoy me, you’re succeeding”

Series 14 of Silent Witness is the first one that contains episodes that I actually remember from first time around, two of them in fact. One – ‘Lost – can lay claim to being one of the best ever stories that the show has produced. The other indulges in a fakeout that had me hook line and sinker at the time though as I recall, not my dad!

It’s a season that start off tremendously, the serial killer vibes of ‘A Guilty Mind’ and the decades-spanning effects of ‘Lost’ offering up a different take on forensics for once. But towards the end of the run, it is clear that a decision has been made (who knows by whom) to give Harry more to do and that throws things off balance. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 14”

TV Review: A Very British Scandal

Claire Foy and Paul Bettany headline some rather alternative festive fare in the BBC’s Christmas special A Very British Scandal

“Canapes and cock, is there anything else?”

A drama about the first major case of slut-shaming in the British media, a warning note about the dangers of dick pics, a harrowing example of how vicious divorce can get, the BBC really do know how to wish us a merry Christmas! A spiritual follow-up to A Very English Scandal, A Very British Scandal was written by Sarah Phelps whose Agatha Christie adaptations briefly threatened to become a welcome festive institution but instead, there was a pivot.

And make no mistake, this is still a high quality 3 hours of a miniseries, blessed with two strong leads in Claire Foy and Paul Bettany and taken from a true story (with the requisite dramatic license) that is eye-wincingly lurid. The 1963 Argyll v Argyll divorce case was groundbreaking in terms of the salaciousness and scandalous detail that it included that was then widely published by the media in a way that had never been done before, not least in revealing the existence of explicit photos showing non-marital relations. Continue reading “TV Review: A Very British Scandal”

Film Review: Dolittle (2020)

Sadly falling short of the ‘so bad it is so very good’ mark, this Robert Downey Jr-led Dolittle is just bafflingly, boringly bad

“That dog is licking the queen”

At that point where I couldn’t quite lift my arm to find the remote, I ended up watching Dolittle through apathy more than anything else, ending up rather transfixed by how bad it was and hoping in vain it would tip over into something camply enjoyable. Reader, it won’t surprise you to learn it did not.

The film’s troubled production history is no secret – substantial reshoots and a ballooning budget ensured it was a commercial failure.  But what is incredible is how obvious, and obviously bad, all the tinkering is. Having lost faith in original director and co-writer Stephen Gaghan – a left-field choice to begin with – the subsequent attempts to rework it are just the worst kind of butchery. Continue reading “Film Review: Dolittle (2020)”

TV Review: Trying Series 2 (Apple TV)

Rafe Spall and Esther Smith continue to be charm personified in the second series of Apple TV’s Trying

“No-one’s laminated my life story yet”

As Apple TV continues to try and meaningfully break through, its commitment to its original series is commendable. Ted Lasso is riding the slowburn train to award success and also getting a second series if somewhat more under the radar, sweet comedy Trying has also returned.

The show centres on thirty-something Camdenites Nikki and Jason and their efforts to grow their family. The first series tackled their (lack of) fertility and the start of their journey through the adoption process and this second sees them continuing to navigate this bureaucratic and emotional minefield. Continue reading “TV Review: Trying Series 2 (Apple TV)”

News: The National Theatre announces 2021-22 programming and launches National Theatre Together

The National Theatre announces new programming and launches a major new campaign for its future, National Theatre Together

The National Theatre has announced its programming until the start of next year with productions on all three South Bank stages as well as three major UK tours, two productions on Broadway, a return to cinemas, and a new feature film to be broadcast on television this autumn. In the week the theatre reopened for audiences again, six new productions were announced, and five productions halted by the pandemic were confirmed to return to the South Bank.  

It has also announced the public launch of National Theatre Together, a new campaign with people at its heart, highlighting the importance of creativity and collaboration with theatre-makers and communities, for young people and audiences. The campaign cements the NT’s commitment to the people of this country and will raise vital funds for the theatre’s ambitious recovery post-pandemic.  Continue reading “News: The National Theatre announces 2021-22 programming and launches National Theatre Together”

TV Review: Motherland Series 3

Series 3 of Motherland returns to give us more of the excellent parental shenanigans, led by the peerless Anna Maxwell Martin

“Another glass of dry white wine”

Despite losing Sharon Horgan from the writing team (she’s still onboard as a producer), the third series of Motherland remains in the safe hands of Holly Walsh, Helen Serafinowicz and Barunka O’Shaughnessy, who regale us with yet more tales of middle-class school gate shenanigans, led by brilliant performances from Anna Maxwell Martin, Diane Morgan, Paul Ready and Lucy Punch.

This time round, we deal with nits, school trips and catchment areas on the lighter side plus a touch of racism, cancer and divorce adding the requisite darker note that has been this series’ hallmark, making it more than just another featherlight comedy. The tightness of the core ensemble means that so much of it works so well but a real joy comes now with the well-judged reappearance of recurring characters. Continue reading “TV Review: Motherland Series 3”

TV Review: Four Weddings and a Funeral

The only real pleasure in this TV version of Four Weddings and a Funeral is hearing Alex Jennings say “Yes, I suppose you were somewhat of a basic bitch” with a straight face

“You’re insane and watch too much TV”

This lockdown has seen me sign up to too many free trials on various online TV services and so I’ve been ripping through some of the shows newly on offer to me. Over on STARZPLAY, first up for me was the TV adaptation of  Four Weddings and a Funeral which I’m not sure if I ever knew actually existed until now.

Created by Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton and airing in the US in the summer of 2019, the show is an inexplicable riff on Richard Curtis’ 1994 film. Ultimately it is nothing like the film, which is probably for the best,  emerging instead as a ridonkulous Jilly Cooper-esque rom-com in a fantastical version of London (and beyond).  Continue reading “TV Review: Four Weddings and a Funeral”

TV Review: Trying (Apple TV)

Rafe Spall and Esther Smith impress in British comedy Trying, helped by the likes of Imelda Staunton and Cush Jumbo

“Hitler?
‘Badminton?'”

Just a quickie for this, as I’ve only just started to actually have a look at what is on AppleTV since they decided to extend my free trial. Created and written by Andy Wolton, Trying is a rather sweet and very typically British sitcom that follows Jason and Nikki, a 30-something couple as they struggle to conceive naturally and decide that they would like to adopt. Led by Rafe Spall and Esther Smith, the show is lots of fun and is blessed with some wonderful supporting performances.

Forever skirting that comedy/drama line, Trying is unafraid of tackling some rather meaty issues. Infertility and what that does to a couple, the inequities of the adoption system, funding for ESOL classes… And even the simplest idea of how relationships grow and are tested by the act of self-reflection – how do you measure achievement when London property prices lock you into renting forever and opportunities to climb the job ladder are way too few and far between. Continue reading “TV Review: Trying (Apple TV)”

TV Review: Motherland Christmas special

Motherland continues to excel with this sharp-edged and scabrously funny Christmas special

“What absolute shite are you gonna panic-buy me this year?”

Whether the choice to ignore the pandemic was circumstantial or deliberate, it lends a certain piquancy to many of the scenes of festive revelry in Motherland. For as disastrous as they inevitably turn out to be, social distancing restrictions mean that we could only dream of being that close to that many people with an egg nog in hand. 

This Christmas special wisely doesn’t tinker with much as writers Sharon Horgan, Helen Serafinowicz, Holly Walsh and Barunka O’Shaughnessy cleave closely to their successful formula. Anna Maxwell Martin’s perma-harrassed Julia ricochets from domestic chaos to partying mayhem with her best pals Liz and Kevin in hand. Continue reading “TV Review: Motherland Christmas special”

TV Review: The Other Boleyn Girl (2003)

A BBC adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl is unforgivably shonky, even with Natascha McElhone and Jodhi May leading the cast 

“I believe beauty in a woman comes in many different forms”

Five years before Hollywood got their hands on The Other Boleyn Girl, writer and director Philippa Lowthorpe adapted a version of the Philippa Gregory’s novel for the BBC but I’d have to say it is best forgotten. Lowthorpe’s approach is admirable because or maybe in spite of its low budget, using handheld camera at times and confessional videos at others, it is clearly attempting to do something different for a period drama.

But it fudges it quite badly. Despite the atmospheric surroundings of Berkeley Castle where it was shot, the filming tricks are distracting rather than illuminating and sadly feel amateurish, leaving the whole production with an air of student shonkiness, particularly as it completely fails to conjure any sense of the royal court. Some shifts and adaptations of the story as written also feel a bit peculiar, the straightening of George and the excision of much political and religious context (which was already sparse in the book). Best avoided.