Category Archives: TV

Match of the Day: as enticing as a romantic night in with Justin Lee Collins

I love the BBC. Whether it’s high-end drama, globally-recognised sitcoms or historical travelogues, Auntie makes wonderful programmes. The Beeb’s sport coverage is usually great too: you only have to look at its Olympics coverage for proof of that. But it keeps doing football wrong.

It’s clear Match of the Day’s shit has hit the fan now ITV1’s football coverage looks competent by comparison. Having poached Lee Dixon to join Roy Keane and Gareth Southgate for their Champions League coverage, the channel arguably has the best stable of pundits on the box. One caveat to this is the continued employment of toby-jug-faced presenter Adrian Chiles, but three out of four ain’t bad.

The BBC considers MOTD to be an entertainment show rather than specialist sports programming, and therefore it has no obligation to appeal to anyone with an IQ of above 80. It’s crammed with familiar faces like Alan Shearer, a man so devoid of charisma that he celebrated winning the Premier League in 1995 by creosoting his fence. Shearer is MOTD’s resident cod-psychologist; there to inform viewers just what is going on in a player’s head after a missed sitter: “He’ll be disappointed with that”, or a hat-trick: “He’ll be delighted with that”. Continue reading

TV Review: Fresh Meat Series 2, Episode 1 – Channel 4, 10pm 09/10/12

In the Venn diagram of television, the comedy-drama is posited in the hinterland between sitcoms and serious drama. In general, they’re not funny enough to be classified as a straight-up comedy show, and lack the requisite tragedy to operate as a melodrama. I found series one of Fresh Meat to be one of the rare examples of a show that worked as both. I was impressed with the way it captured the essence of the university experience: the collision of people from different backgrounds; teenage anxiety; casual promiscuity and experimentation in watchable and amusing way.

The ‘difficult second album/book/series’ cliché is used almost pre-emptively by misanthropic critics. It’s probably The Stone Roses’ fault, after the Madchester pioneers took six years to follow up their eponymous debut album due to contractual wrangles, and when it was released it was really shit. I’ll reserve judgment on Fresh Meat until I’ve seen a few more episodes, but I was a little disappointed with this opening episode, perhaps because my expectations had been so high. Continue reading

Interview: Hustle’s Robert Vaughn

BBC One’s conmen drama Hustle bowed out in February after eight series and 48 episodes. It’s remarkable the team of charlatans managed to swindle so many people out of so much money over so many years to be honest. One slip and the whole team would have been chucked in the slammer. Due to the programme’s enduring popularity and repeat-viewability, Sony Entertainment Television purchased the rights to broadcast the entire series.

One of the stars of Hustle is Hollywood royalty Robert Vaughn, who plays grifter and card sharp Albert Stroller. Vaughn appeared as one of the title characters in The Magnificent Seven and as Steve McQueen’s co-star in Bullitt, but his best-known role is the suave spy Napoleon Solo in the 1960s espionage TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I caught up with him to discuss his time on Hustle. Continue reading

TV Review: The Boy Who Can’t Forget – Channel 4, 9pm 25/09/12

British student Aurelian claims to be able to remember everything that’s ever happened to him. He can remember what he watched on TV on April 15 1997, as well as what he had for breakfast on October 27 2004, etc. With the inability to forget things that happen to him, Aurelian’s life is the complete opposite of Guy Pearce’s in Memento. His condition qualifies as the sort of freakish concept that Hollywood producers build $150 million sci-fi blockbusters around. The Boy Who Can’t Forget explores the lives of people living with superior autobiographic memory.

The idea of having a superior autobiographic memory is fascinating. You wouldn’t need to bother keeping a diary, and you’d never forget your mum’s birthday. It’s perfectly understandable that people would shell out for an automemory app if it was available to download directly to your brain from Apple’s iMemory store. Continue reading

TV Review: One Born: Plus Size Mums – Channel 4, 10pm 20/09/12

Channel 4’s prying birthathon One Born Every Minute ventured into the realms of fatsploitation when it returned last night with a weightier edition. One Born: Plus Size Mums confounds the viewer into a paralytic state of morbid curiosity, rubbernecking three obese mothers as they prepare to give birth.

Pregnant women often crave types of food during pregnancy but even so, alarming figures show that almost a fifth of British mothers-to-be are clinically obese. As well as the threat of their baby dying, these women face increased risks of haemorrhages, high blood pressure and deep vein thrombosis.

Not that police switchboard operator Jenna seems too fussed. “You go on about it and it makes you want to eat!” she laughs, inexplicably. “Go and get me a bar of chocolate!” Jenna, it turns out, weighs 21 stone and lives in Middlesbrough, so it’s no wonder she’s so blasé about the harrowing threat of deep vein thrombosis. Continue reading

The Great British Bake Off… How Hard Can It Be?

The Great British Bake Off continues to mesmerise us with its gastric delights later tonight, with this week’s episode seeing the bakers rustle up pies and beef wellingtons for the judges. But is this bakery malarkey really that difficult? I decided to find out, spending Sunday afternoon baking a Wellington to eat with my parents, who kindly offered to purchase the ingredients. I’d never baked anything before in my life, let alone a beef wellington, but how hard could it be?

I set about searching online for a recipe but my mum insisted I use one found in Delia Smith’s 1978 tome, Complete Cookery Course. Dubious about the relevance of a dusty 34-year-old cookbook in the contemporary digital world, I was soon on YouTube watching videos of American chefs demonstrating how to cook “restaurant-worthy” beef wellingtons. But whereas they were using ready-made puff pastry from Wal-Mart, I made my own pastry from margarine and flour. Continue reading