Bill reunites the Horrible Histories crew around Shakespeare and features a vivid if too brief turn from Helen McCrory as Elizabeth I
“Do you know Penge at all?”
Just a quickie for this as it just popped up on the iPlayer and it is one of the few Helen McCrory performances left that I hadn’t seen. Bill comes from the team behind Horrible Histories and as it tells an amusing version of the Bard’s arrival in London, it certainly raises a few chuckles. Written by Laurence Rickard and
Ben Willbond and co-starring them with Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas and Jim Howick, who between them play upwards of 40 roles, its gentle ensemble comedy aesthetic offers good family entertainment.
Plotwise, it wisely doesn’t make too much of meal of things, aside from the witty suggestion that Shakespeare spent at least some of his ‘lost years’ handing out leaflets dressed as a vegetable. Nor does it get too bogged down in self-referential Shakespearean humour, recognising first and foremost that jokes need to be funny (qv the guards, my favourite bit of the film). Walsingham popping up unexpectedly, the cockernee accents, border control, the laughs come thick and fast and not always from where you’d think. Continue reading “Film Review: Bill (2015)”
With its third instalment The Promise, Messiah loses its way a little bit given the high standards of the first two serials
“I wasn’t alone, other people were there”
The problem with doing things so damn well, is that you then have to live up to those standards. Messiah found itself in such a position after a first and second series that helped to redefine the serial killer genre and with 2004’s The Promise, it struggled to meet that bar. Written again by Lizzie Mickery, it suffers from the unnecessary compulsion to cleave to the template of prior series rather than having the boldness to step outside.
So with Ken Stott’s Red and Neil Dudgeon’s Duncan pasts having figured so heavily in the last two series, it isn’t hard to work out that it is Frances Grey’s Kate to have a go through the emotional wringer. It starts sooner than you might think with a daring opening sequence set in a prison that is highly effective. And as deaths of people involved start to mount up, long buried secrets prove the key to finding the killer and saving the day. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah – The Promise (2004)”
W1A remains entirely watchable in Series 3 but repetition sets in to blunt its comic edges
“It may be the future but it’s still the BBC”
Returning to W1A has been good fun, though watching its three series back-to-back, it is interesting to see just how much it wears its concept increasingly thin. Series 1 was a winner, introducing its cast of misfits all trying to navigate the bureauracy of the BBC and avoid doing as much work as possible but even by Series 2, the strains were clear to see.
John Morton’s Twenty Twelve, the show that kicked off this mockumentary mini-universe, had an inbuilt advantage in that it had a clearly defined end-point, the thing that everyone was working towards. By contrast, W1A has a sense of ambling on which, while perfectly pleasant to watch, means that a terminal case of diminishing returns sets in. Continue reading “TV Review: W1A (Series 3)”
Something doesn’t quite click right with Series 2 of W1A, as it struggles to live up to what has gone before though still remaining quite gently funny
“I don’t want to be dramatic about it, and I mean we all love Sue Barker, but I’ve to to say we are looking at a situation here”
I’ve loved going back to watch Twenty Twelve and my memories of the shift to W1A were that it was just as good, if not better. I’d definitely say that about the first series but having just gone through series 2, I found myself just a little disappointed. The bar having been raised so high, it feels like this collection of four episodes just doesn’t have the same zing that really grabs your attention.
In many respects, nothing has really changed. There’s still much comic currency in the exposure of the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the BBC and the determination of any middle-to-senior manager to avoid actually making a decision. But there’s also a slight sense of familiar ground being retrodden that dulls the edge – I mean once again any and every female is falling at the feet of Ian Fletcher, really? Continue reading “TV Review: W1A (Series 2)”
Series 1 of W1A hits the spot when its humour tends towards the gently absurd. And at any moment when Monica Dolan, Jason Watkins or Sarah Parish are onscreen.
“I’m sorry…I don’t want to be rude or anything but Ian is not Justin Bieber”
Following on from the success of Twenty Twelve, John Morton’s W1A scooped up its key personnel and shifted them from the bloated organisational chaos of the Olympics Deliverance Team over to the no-less-unwieldly bureaucracy of the BBC. So Ian Fletcher Hugh Bonneville) takes the scarcely defined job as Head of Values there, is saddled once again with Siobhan Sharpe (Jessica Hynes) as Brand Consultant and the whole thing is deliciously narrated by a super-dry David Tennant.
And to a large extent, the transplant is successful. The key to these shows is the quality of an evenly-balanced ensemble and W1A knocks it out of the park from top to bottom. Monica Dolan’s bruisingly plain-spoken comms officer, Nina Sosanya’s too-good-for-this-world TV producer, Rufus Jones’ hilariously too-rubbish-for-this-world counterpart and best of all, Jason Watkins’ director of strategic governance and Sarah Parish’s head of output both delivering masterclasses in avoiding making any decisions at all. Continue reading “TV Review: W1A (Series 1)”
“Benny Hill? Oh, for fuck’s sake…”
I started off Terry Johnson’s production of Dead Funny concerned that the comedy references on the pre-show curtain – Eric and Ernie, Carry On, Benny Hill – were outwith those to which my tastes naturally incline. Turns out what I should have been on the lookout for was an Alan Ayckbourn play in sheep’s clothing. And if that’s the way your preferences go, as it seems with the majority of the print critics, then this is the play for you.
Dead Funny was written in 1994 but is set two years earlier in the couple of days when both Benny Hill and Frankie Howerd shuffled off this mortal coil. At a time before the death of celebrities, particularly comedians, is marked with the sharing of YouTube clips and gifs of favourite jokes and comic scenes, ‘The Dead Funny Society’ marks the passing of their faves by reenacting their work. That’s all well and good for chairman Richard but his increasingly frustrated wife Eleanor who is desperate for a child. Continue reading “Review: Dead Funny, Vaudeville Theatre”
“You really put the w into anchorman don’t you”
Another of those random charity shop bargains was this double DVD sets of modern Shakespeare adaptations – ShakespeaRe-Told (I bet that was a smug day when that title was revealed!). The first disc features rewrites of Much Ado About Nothing by David Nicholls and Macbeth by Peter Moffatt shifting the plays to a modern context and employing starry ensemble casts.
Much Ado About Nothing has been relocated to a local news station in Dorset where Sarah Parish’s Beatrice is reunited with former colleague Benedick, Damian Lewis sporting an epic moustache – who never quite got round to getting together when they worked together before – on the news desk of Wessex TV. Hero is the weather girl, daughter of the station manager, newly engaged to Claude on the sports desk though Don from Visual Effects has been nurturing an epic crush on her too and so sets about a dastardly plan to break up the engagement. Continue reading “DVD Review: ShakespeaRe-Told – Much Ado About Nothing/Macbeth”