Category Archives: Television

Off to France

So this is going to be a short and sweet post, because I’m busy getting ready to go to France for 5 months to work a ski season. (!!!) I am a bit excited.

I don’t know how I’m going to fare – I hate the cold (and it is going to be really cold), but I love France, and I love working abroad so hopefully it should be as amazing as everyone tells me it will be. I’m busy doing my final pack, getting all my big fluffy ski stuff to fit in one tiny suitcase, so I’ll leave you with this clip of Jake Wood and Janette Manrara doing the Samba on Strictly this week. Did it deserve the two tens it got? Maybe not, but Jake was twerking for heaven’s sake! So much fun to watch.

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My Favourite Episode: 30 Rock

MILF Island

Credit: Wikipedia

I LOVE 30 Rock. Just writing about it has caused a 30 Rock binge – I will not apologise. Alec Baldwin has just fantastic comic timing, and Tina Fey never fails to make me laugh; these two are the centre of the show and their on-screen chemistry is insane, I could laugh at them forever. The first two seasons of this genius show are some of my favourite television ever made, and so this made picking a single episode really difficult. In the end I went with ‘MILF Island’ (very closely followed by ‘Tracy Does Conan’), an episode so crazy, and so funny, that it just demands a rewatch (and a rewatch, and a rewatch…).

Some 30 Rock background: MILF Island is a fictional television show on NBC, and what I love so much was that it wasn’t a fictional show that came out of nowhere, arriving just for that episode – earlier in the season Jack mentions it being a hit summer replacement show (along with America’s Next Top Pirate, a show I am personally dying to see).

‘MILF Island’ the episode is set during the fictional finale, and everyone, bar Liz, is dying to see who wins. Unfortunately for the writing staff of TGS, they are unable to watch the show because Jack is on a manhunt: someone on the TGS staff gave a quote to a gossip columnist, saying that Jack “was a Class-A moron”, and he wants to find out who it was, and has enlisted Liz to help him.

The episode gives me everything I need from 30 Rock: twists and turns, a lot of Jack and Liz interaction, Kenneth truth bombs, the rest of TGS having Tracy pull them into a Lord of the Flies parody, Liz flirting (badly), and a hell of a lot of whimsy and craziness. It also has Tina Fey pulling diabolical faces – the world needs more of that just in general, in my opinion – and it makes fun of reality TV. What more could you ask for?

Diabolical Liz Lemon. Credit: Serial Mente

My sister and I are always trading Youtube clips from 30 Rock. It’s genius. ‘MILF Island’ is 30 Rock on top form, at the height of it’s game. For me it’s the best episode: what about you?

Agree? Disagree? Tell me below!

What I’m watching, reading and have viewed: Part 2

What I’m watching: The Fall

The show that follows a serial killer, and the police investigation that’s trying to catch him.

What’s it about? Gillian Anderson is a MET Detective Superintendent sent to Belfast having been assigned to review the investigation into a single high-profile murder, but who ends up heading the hunt for serial killing Jamie Dornan. You see both her investigation, his daily life, but also the things that do happen in a murder case that you don’t usually see on a TV show – the finding of the body, the heartbreaking call to 999, the simple logistics of attending a crime scene (“stepping plates where applicable”).

Why watch it? It is the latter point – the things you don’t usually see – that have drawn me into the The Fall. In most police procedurals, even those about people whose job it is to collect evidence from a crime scene, there isn’t much evidence of the procedure actually happening, it’s all about the mystery. I do like the pragmatic air this show has in that sense. On the other hand, The Fall is insanely creepy – Jamie Dornan has given me nightmares. Don’t watch if you’re going to be sleeping home alone.

What I’m reading: Harry Potter et le Prisonnier d’Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

It’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban … but in French.

What’s it about? If you actually need to ask what Harry Potter is about, I may have to ask where you have been living for the last decade and a half. Even living under a rock wouldn’t excuse you from not knowing about the phenomenon that is J.K. Rowling’s series about the boy wizard. The Prisoner of Azkaban is the third in the series though, really, you should know that already.

Why read it? The PoA is my favourite of the Harry Potter series – I adore this book. Reading it French then was a no brainer for me, as it would help me to know what is actually happening while trying to negotiate French idioms. (Who knew that to ‘pick’ a lock translates into ‘crocheting’ in French? Not me.) It’s also fun to see how the names and places that are so recognisable in English are changed in French – Snape is now Rouge, Hogwarts is Poudlard, and – my favourite – Hufflepuff transforms to Poufsouffle. A lot of fun.

What I’ve viewed: Wadjda

Watch a young girl negotiate the streets, her school and her home in Riyadh.

What’s it about? The first feature length film to come out of Saudi Arabia, this story follows Wadjda who desperately wants a bicycle so she can race her friend Abdullah, and is told by almost everyone that girls don’t ride bikes. She decides to enter the Quran reading competition in order to win the money that will pay for the beloved green bicycle she has set her eye on.

Why see it? This is such a heart warming and sweet film. All the actors are great, even – especially – the kids, and the story is so engrossing. The film is much more than just a sweet story, though, especially on repeat viewings. For example, in a country that seems to be so restrictive for women there are surprisingly few men in the story – three in fact, and and only one is a main character. It is worth seeing the film to watch how women are complicit in restricting themselves: for example, everyone tells Wadjda that women don’t ride bikes, but the shop sells girls bicycles, and Wadjda is desperately worried her chosen green one will sell. This is one example of a plot that is much deeper when you look past the simple story, and forget some of the pre-conceived ‘facts’ of Saudi Arabia.

Also, Abdullah is adorable. Watch just for the scenes between him and Wadjda.

Where I’m travelling: France. In less than two weeks I’ll be working in the Alps -I’m so excited/nervous!

Have you seen any of these? Does The Fall become even creepier? (I have trouble believing that’s possible!) Let me know.

Must See TV: The Graham Norton Show

If you’re from the UK then I’m probably speaking to the converted, but for me The Graham Norton Show is more than just the best chat show around, it is also must watch television. Every Friday evening (or Saturday morning if I decide, crazily, to leave the house on a Friday night) I sit down with my family to watch what I think is one of the telly’s funniest shows.

Norton just brings out the best in his guests. There are very few times that Graham Norton makes a bad show. Even if the guests get off to a slow start it is almost guaranteed that by the end of the programme they will all be laughing together, joking off one another and just altogether having a good time. Laughing together, you ask. They are all out at the same time? Yes, if you’re not familiar with the premise of the show, Norton has all his guests out for the full 40 minutes on his big red sofa, usually with some drinks involved, and that seems to just make the chat show better.

Take the latest episode for example. It starts off a bit slow, with everyone still getting used to their surroundings. Then Micky Flanagan talks about his wife’s ‘monkey feet’, Matthew McConaughey asks him a few questions, Ann Hathaway hugs Lena Dunham for warmth and everyone just starts to get along swimmingly.

Or look at one of the best episodes of all time, where Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Hugh Bonneville are on to promote The Monuments Men. They all get a bit tipsy and just decide to have fun with the show, which is what Graham Norton is after. He just wants his guest to have fun, because when they do, we do. It’s like the audience is in on a celebrity gossip fest, and it is so enjoyable. When Paloma Faith comes along to the Damon/Murray/Bonneville party it just gets even better (she also gives one of the best musical performances I think I’ve ever seen on the show).

By the by, I also love the idea of Hugh Bonneville watching The Graham Norton Show at home, sceptical about the going-ons behind the Big Red Chair.

From Mark Walhberg getting absolutely off his face drunk, to Freddie Flintoff telling funny anecdotes like when he went to 10 Downing Street, the show is always enjoyable. Remember when I said that sometimes on Friday night I might go out? Honestly, knowing that I’d miss The Graham Norton Show is one of the main reasons that keeps me in.

The Mindy Project: An Exercise in Confusion

I began watching The Mindy Project a few days ago after seeing it advertised multiple times on TV and hearing positive things about it around the web. I am now, however, over halfway through the first season, and I honestly don’t know if I like it or not. No idea. I like some of the characters and I enjoy the overall feel of the show. Perhaps most importantly I like Mindy Kaling and her character. It’s enjoyable seeing an Asian woman on TV – there are so few that’s it’s nice to feel like you’re getting some representation – and her attitude to her body is so refreshing in that she wants to lose weight but still feels confident and sexy without doing anything. So far, so good. However, I usually get bored halfway through most episodes, and have a moment where I ask myself: “Why am I still watching this show?”

I hadn’t actually switched off an episode until ‘Pretty Man’. It wasn’t that I wasn’t enjoying the episode, but I had become bored, and that’s partly what makes this show so confusing. I want to keep watching because I care about the characters, but because I usually don’t care about the plot I don’t know how to proceed. This isn’t a show that you binge-watch because you have an essay coming up and procrastination makes anything good, and it isn’t until after the essay is finished you realised the show is bad (hello, Smash). Nor is it difficult to watch (or, more precisely, binge on) because it’s so dark or deep like Hannibal – The Mindy Project will never be accused of being deep. This is a show I am at the same time both invested in and completely don’t care about.

Maybe I’ll just watch until the end of the first season and decide. Or, like I did with Grey’s Anatomy for a while after it became bad, I’ll just watch it because maybe, just maybe, it will get better.

Strictly’s Back!

Yay! Strictly Come Dancing is back on my telly, and it’s safe to say I’m so happy. I don’t really like any reality TV: I don’t watch the X-FactorBig Brother (Celebrity or otherwise), I’m a Celebrity…, etc., etc., but I love Strictly. Maybe this is because it doesn’t use the contestants for laughs and just to make fun of them, or it just might be because I love dancing (the more likely option, to be honest). Either way, I’m glad it’s back – the lead up to Christmas just got a lot more dance-y – that’s a word! – and awesome.

After seeing the first two shows I’m going to guess that Frankie will win, and that Jake Wood will have deserved to have won (it’s the same every year, isn’t it? There’s the winner, who has the public eating out of their hand, and the one who deserved to win. See Abbey Clancy and Natalie Gumede, or Darren Gough and Colin Jackson. I can’t complain though, I am usually happy with the result). It can, of course, all change by next week, not to say by the final. Either way, I’m looking forward to some great new dances from some unexpected celebrities.

Also, Jake Wood was amazing last night. I never thought I would find him attractive, but he looks good when he dances. Let’s admire his crazy moves.

Are you happy Strictly‘s returned? Or are you more of a X-Factor fan (crazy people!)? Let me know.

Revisiting old friends, Part 1: Mad Men

As part of my relaxing and enjoying new found freedom there were so many new things I wanted to read and watch. On my list were many films from the IMDB Top 250 list, with so many books that I was looking to become invested in. Instead Suite Francaise has remained untouched and I have delved back into Life of Pi and Mad Men. On the weekend I’ll talk about Life of Pi, but now I’ll look at the first season of Mad Men (SPOILERS below.)

In fairness, I had been meaning to re-watch Mad Men. Now on its seventh series I wanted to go back to the beginning and see all the moments that had resulted in this final batch of episodes (by the by, I really enjoyed last Sunday’s episode, which reminded me of probably Mad Men‘s most widely praised episode, series 4’s The Suitcase). I’ve flashed through the first series, seeing a few of the best moments for me in the process. The cut from Ken teasing Paul about his play to the party performing it, Peggy and Pete’s strange relationship. The abundance of Trudy. Don talking to Harry about the Carousel. Joan.

However, I didn’t realise that I missed season 1 Betty. Now, in season 7, we only get glimpses of Betty; in series 1 barely an episode goes by where January Jones doesn’t show. She’s a more detailed character simply as a result of being there more often, more nuanced, and her sense of frustration, dulled when not encountered regularly, shines through. That she doesn’t know why her hands shake, why she is unsatisfied, was half explained in her recent episode where she visits the farm with Bobby – she thinks she needs to be a housewife, that “they’re [the children are] the reward”, but that just isn’t the right place for Betty to be. Some men and women thrive from being at home all day, looking after children and tending the home, but Betty Draper (or Francis) is not one of them. That she thinks she can’t be anything else (a result of society and her upbringing) is depressing, and the episode where she tries to return to modelling but is thwarted by Don and his head-hunting competition was so sad to watch – this blow to such a person’s confidence meant she wouldn’t be able to try again, her self-esteem is just too low. Her taking it out on her neighbour’s birds was thrilling yet upsetting to see.

Also, seeing how Don was able to manipulate her, especially through his contact with her psychiatrist made me pity Betty even more. When Betty found out, my heart broke. Yes, she’s self-centred and can be childish, but she also isn’t allowed to grow, constantly controlled on all sides (which is still true to an extent now, with Henry trying to temper her conversation on politics in the fifth episode of series seven).

One further note: Betty is constantly being derided as being childish, but what character in Mad Men is not childish at some point or the other? Don making Roger throw up after he flirts with Betty, like a child annoyed that someone played with his toy. Pete all. the. time. Betty is a constantly ridiculed and sometimes hated character, but, rewatching the first series, I can’t understand how she isn’t seen as sympathetic – she is stuck in the wrong time period and confined by its boundaries.

Have you seen Mad Men. Let me know what you thought in the comments.