The Cutprice Guignol

The Sixth Year: American Sigh Story

Tag: entertainment

Doctor Who: Tenacity, Alcohol, Rollicks: In Summary

So, two days ago, Doctor Who came to an end (till FUCKING NOVEMBER ), with a stonker of an episode from the Machiavellian mind of Moffat. It’s difficult to sum up the episode in a few sentences (although I will admit that the first thing I remember from the episode was the title and the writers credit coming up and exclaiming, horrified, “JESUS, I’VE BEEN SPELLING HIS NAME WRONG ALL THIS TIME!”), because it so satisfyingly brought the first Clara arc to an end, let us spend some more time in the presence of the imitable Richard E. Grant, and delight in the lesbians-and-potato men sidekicks which shouldn’t work but do.

I will spoil nothing for no man, but here are the best things about The Name of The Doctor in ascending order: the increasingly hilarious Strax (“Surrender your women and intellectuals!”), the almost total absence of the kids from last week, the classic Moffat mind-bending plot, Matt Smith writing a formal and very convincing letter to the BAFTA committee to split the awards between him and SteVen next year, Jenna Louise-Coleman proving she’s the best choice of assistant since Sarah-Jane, a beautiful, truly touching and almost redeeming apparition of River Song, Vastra and Jenny having more girl-on-girl eroticism than me and half an hour with my Special Drawer, an appearance by a very lovely British veteran that had me almost spewing with glee, and an ending so superb you’ll want to watch it twelve times in a row with your eyes pressed to the screen till every frame is seared onto your brain forever.

It’s tempting to go for a big, wanky summary looking back over the last couple of months of episode, but I’ve had a better idea. Hop on iPlayer, get all the episodes set up, get some sort of vaguely classy spirits on the go, and get prepared to get pissed with my patented Doctor Who Drinking Game (I was going to try for a pun on Tardis, but I’ve done NOTHING BUT GIVE to you people on that front for weeks and I’m tired. I have a headache, alright? Stop jabbing it into the small of my back.),

1. Take one shot for every time the Tardis is shown in flight, crash-landing, or not liking one of the Doctors lady friends because she’s a Jeremy-Kyle level possessive bitch.

2. Take a drink every time Matt Smith delivers a line with reaLLY WIErd emPHASIS.

3. Take a drink every time a British institution appears onscreen.

4. Take a drink for every episode Clara is wearing a very short skirt of some description.

5. Take a drink for every secondary character actor you’ve seen in another British television show.

6. Take a drink for every time the Doctor is really touchy with someone he probably hasn’t even shagged yet.

7. Take a drink for every time the villain/alien is revealed for the first time in an episode.

8. Take  a drink for every time Matt Smith thinks he’s David Tennant.

9. Take a drink for every time the adventure music starts playing.

10. Drink continually till November 23rd when we get the blessed show back.

 

So now you’ve turned my brain inside out, fustrated me, delighted me, and ruined my liver. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

2.

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Doctor Who: Terror and Rather Delightful Inherent Sapphicity

So, last week, I was printing out some tosh or other (actually, it was a Betjeman poem that I wanted in hard copy to put on my wall, but that stays between us) when I idly pulled back the curtains of the print room to look at the mossy bank beyond. There, barely a foot from me, was a mother duck scrambling about with about twelve, teeny, fluffy, snuggly ducklings. I mean, glee doesn’t cover my reaction. I was standing there with a lopsided, beatific grin that looked like I’d found out I’d been cast in the Saw reboot. I was happy happy. But even tiny avian womb-hummers didn’t come close to making me as smack-facedly joyful as Doctor Who this Saturday. This weeks episode, The Crimson Horror, comes to us from The North (requiring Matt Smith to do a frankly erogenous Yorkshire accent), following the tale of the creepy Winifred Gilliflower and the strange goings-on in her institute. 

Now, I really, really dug this episode. It was the 100th episode broadcast since the revival in 2005, and it saw the centenary in with style; it was a proper rollick, allowing us another three-quarters of an hour with the lesbian lizard, her girlfriend, and the potato-head war machine from the Christmas special. The story was a prime example of how tight the writing can be on DW- oneliner after oneliner (“Oh, God, attack of the supermodels…”) and ridiculous throwaway sequences wrapped around what was, at it’s heart, a creepy and compelling story. The chemistry of the extracurricular trio with Clara and the Doctor was superb, as ever, because the writers haven’t quite cottoned on to it yet; as soon as they do they’ll be overused to hell and I want them to be a highlight instead of a third (, fourth and fifth) wheel. 

It was another good episode for a very smoochy Matt Smith, playing the fun Doctor for the first time in your ages, smashing things with chairs and getting a very nicely pitched scene with Rachael Stirling towards the end of the episode that provided emotional closure without souring the mood at all. Diana Rigg, who awoke every pubescent sexuality in the country, was great as the kind of demure psycho bitch Doctor Who specializes in, reveling in the grandeur of the setting and getting to do a funny accent on top of it. But this wasn’t an episode of performances, or monsters, or special effects; it was an episode of attitude, that attitude being “fuck it, let’s have fun”. More, please.

Not so good, though? Both the promise of the Cybermen AND child actors next week. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

Doctor Who: Tedium and Really Dark Industrial Scenes

Doctor Who this week continues a theme from early last season; the exploration, both physical, emotional and borderline sexual (I’m sorry, but there are far too many protuberant knobs and far too many lonely nights) of the Tardis. In this episode, Clara ends up trundling around lost inside the Tardis with the Doctor pretty much impotent (let’s call it a “usefulness semi”) to help her after yet another crash landing. AND this episode comes from the heaven-blessed quill of Sherlock scribe Stephen Thompson.

Without a doubt, the stellar circular plot was stronger than last weeks, but, sadly, the periphery characters-a three-brother salvage team in space-didn’t prove as likeable as Dougray and Jessica. Though the introduction of a straight-up android was pretty cool, I couldn’t get the image of Kryten of Red Dwarf out of my head. Luckily, Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman (looking very fetching in a dress I decided relatively quickly I couldn’t pull off) just get better and better as the series goes on, especially Coleman who has to carry the brunt of her scenes alone. And the slightly abrupt advancement of the Clara/Doctor plot was actually pretty decent, Matt Smith gratefully flexing his dark-Doctor muscles once again. The episode was gorgeously filmed, too-lots of balletic cameras up corridors and off-kilter shots creating that sense of the vastness and history of the Tardis that we’ve never really been physically privy to before.

This is a proper madman-with-a-box episode -the Doctor goes all kamikaze in his quest to recover Clara, ostensibly setting the Tardis to self-destruct and then hurtling around scolding the angsty Chuckle Triplets for the rest of the episode. My tone may belay my disappointment here, and I won’t apologize for it- yeah, the interior of the Tardis lived up to expectations spectacularly and the Silent-Hill-esque monsters were really cool, but there was lots of “OOOOOOH the Tardis has FEEEEEELINGS” and “OOOOOOH don’t annoy the TARDIIIIIS” which we knew already. Gives us some motivation-why? What drove her to it? And, by the way, “The Timelords were clever” won’t do. Maybe they’re setting it up for an even longer plot strand later in the series, but this was a prime bloody episode to advance it and they just kept it as-really- a perfectly serviceable adventure romp. It’s my own fault for expecting something more, but-hang on- a rift in space and time? Sounds familiar. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

Doctor Who: Timeholes and Romantic Developments Involving Spirits

I love ghost stories. Oh, I bloody love ’em. I have never been as scared as I was reading Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad, the masterclass in tension by MR James. Something about ghosts freaks the bollocks off of me, and this week Doctor Who offered up its first proper ghost story in yonks in the form of Hide. And it was top.

Right off the bat, the episode set itself up as a classic, haunted-house story-the muted colour pallette, whirly-crackly ghosthunting equipment, the constantly flickering candlelight- a media student’s wet dream in terms of production. There’s a lot to be said for an ever-expanding Doctor Whoniverse, but if you are going to fall back on an old faithful, at least make it a good one. One that does not involve the Ood and instead involves a ghostbusting duo made up of a charmingly awkward Dougray Scott, a ballsily vulnerable Jessica Raine and a shoveload of crackling chemistry, for example. Chuck in a nice little reference to The Haunting of Hill House, and I’ve got a massive Who-on.

First and foremost, there’s a thumpingly good plot at the heart of this episode-the Doctor and Clara arrive at a creepy old mansion to aid a couple of supernatrual investigators in sorting out their witch problem (no, don’t worry, they haven’t brought back River Song). Of course there’s more of a sci-fi spin on it, but screw that: HAUNTED HOUSE!

But there’s a lot more going on; including a brilliant speech from Clara about the nature of the assistant in the show, the deeply enjoyable humanizing of the Tardis like a big, blue HAL, and the continuing questioning of the Doctor as the be-all, end-all hero. In the last few series, there have been various hints at the Doctor’s fallibility; it’s a brave choice for such an iconic leading man, but it’s one I like very much.

A few solid performances from guestars Scott and Raines cement and sell the story-did anyone else finally feel like they were looking at all the Doctor Who ships for the next four months every moment they shared the screen?- and a kick-arsingly creepy monster turns into teatime television at it’s best. Hide was a very, very good episode; advancing a few themes without  letting it get in the way of the plot having a rollicking good time of it. Oooh, and you see next week? I got me the tingles I did.

But don’t think I didn’t notice how obviously you’re  setting up Clara and the Doctor for a bit o’ romance later in the series, though-I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

The Great British Television Revival

Britain, eh? Just sitting there, in the middle of the sea, getting the craic. My home and native land. What may not strike you about this teeny little craggy island drifting about like a philosophy student is that it’s television has suddenly become….well, very British.

You can’t click on anything on BBC iPlayer just now without being faced with some gurning “quintessentially British” personality or other fronting another show prefixed with “THE GREAT BRITISH” *insert seemingly arbitary activity here*. The Great British Bake-Off. Great British Railway Journeys. The Great British Sewing Bee, for Christ’s sake. Victoria Wood, grandmother of all British female comedians, can currently be found peering coyly out from the front page of iPlayer presenting a show about tea. The final of The Great British Bake-Off last season was watched by 6,743,000 people-just to put that in perspective, more people tuned in to watch Paul Hollywood make accidental double entendres about buns than live in the country of my birth. That’s mad, but also kind of understandable; I’d rather watch people baking than live in Orkney. It’s not just over here, either- Doctor Who, the gleaming jewel in the crown of the BBC’s schedule that’s celebrating it’s fiftieth anniversary this year, has been regularly broadcast in 48 countries-that’s means pretty much one in four countries in the entire world enjoying the exploits of a space cowboy with a light-up dildo.

So what’s brought this on? Well, we’ve got the obvious patriotic nonsense that’s we’ve been fish-slapped with over the last year-the Olympics, the Jubilee, the impending birth of a royal sprog. The whole year has been spent trying really, really hard not to talk about the Good Old Days-Christ, I’m surprised the Spice Girls weren’t strapped to a taxi emblazoned with “THE SUN NEVER SETS ON THE GREAT BRITISH EMPIRE”. As a nation, the BBC wants to think that we’re shakily saluting the flag with our eyes glistening with tears, and it’s reflected in their dredging up of every British insitution-cookery, industry, Stephen Fry- while we still care. And you know what? I’m alright with it.

Bloody hell. Anyway, next time: lols.

Talent and Relative Decency In Space

I’m angry just now. This is mostly due to the fact I slept in the most comfortable bed in the world last night: not only did it have the consistency of a cloud wrapped in a condom of love, but it had enough room to fit both me and one other full-sized human in it without one of them, say, waking up to find her boyfriend has rolled completely on top of her in his sleep and all unconscious six-five of him is now planking on her. Just hypothetically. And by the end of the night I had become quite emotionally attached to the bed; we weren’t thinking long long term but I had invited it to move in at the end of April. When I was made aware that I couldn’t live here till I died fat and happy years down the line, I was not best pleased. And now I’m back home, in my bed, feeling like I’m nipple-deep in dirty needles and Aberdonians. And furious.

I feel very similar  in fact, to the way I felt at the start of the last few Doctor Who seasons. I thought Freema Aygeman was a disgrace, Matt Smith was far too young to play the Doctor, and David Tennant wasn’t (swoon) Christopher Ecclestone. Something just wasn’t right. But, hand-on-heart, I loved this seasons rollicking opener, The Bells of Saint John.

Introducing the new assistant Clara Osmond, played by sexy Bambi Jenna-Louise Coleman, this episode focuses on something dodgy in the Wi-Fi  in a Black-Mirror-style techno kiddy thriller. I mean none of that in the disparaging sense; I found, for the first time in years, a few scenes to be genuinely tense, mostly due to a fabulously pinched Celia Imrie basking in the delight of a classically villainous Milf-from-hell role. And I’ve never liked any assistant straight off the bat except Billie Piper, but Coleman was surprisingly inoffensive  which is exactly what she needs to be right now. Let the Doctor do his thing and show off while the assistant gasps away and is alternately maternal and spunky-plenty of time to characterize  her later.

Shout out to a supremely entertaining script from Stephen Moffat aided by some cracking direction from Colm McCarthy-this episode set a gold standard that, with two episodes penned by Mark Gatiss and one by legendary Neil Gaiman coming up in the next few weeks, looks set to be continued. But tonight wasn’t about what was to come in the rest of the series; it was tea-time self-contained adventure that was all nicely resolved in forty-eight minutes- clapping-my-hands-together-and bouncing-up-and-down throwaway reference to U.N.I.T the icing of the Tardis . It was, in short, Doctor Who at it’s best. Apart from their continuing bastardization of the theme song. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

18 To Death

Don’t ask me how. Don’t ask me why. I’m even a little hazy on the when. But at six this evening I woke up with an intimate knowledge of a show made up entirely of bad qualities: Canadian teen sitcom 18 To Life.

You probably haven’t seen or heard of it; this isn’t because it’s some niche, underground hit that’s just waiting to make it into the big time, it’s because it’s so shit that the entire earth has made a collective blind spot and crammed the whole putrid affair into it in a box marked “Never open again, ever, not even for a joke”.

The plot revolves around Tom and Jessie, a teenage couple who’ve grown up together and get married just out of high school on a dare. Aside from a premise so contrived as to act as prime evidence that nothing new ever happens on TV, you’d think it’s main audience would be hard-right anti-sex nuts furiously not masturbating to the chastity and promotion of marital bliss. But the show strikes an uneasy balance between indescribably awkward innuendo and crashingly unsubtle social tension between her bleeding-heart liberal hippy parents and his fascist units. It’s like The Good Life meets oh God just kill me.

The situation isn’t helped by the humiliating lack of chemistry between the newlyweds. Because teenagers like nothing more than some totally hot sex within the legal boundaries of marriage (that is, after all, how Skins found it’s success), they’re constantly forced to assume the position and rut as if a demented David Attenborough were  jabbing them with a cattle prod offscreen. The adult cast also constantly bent over the nearest freestanding surface to engage in ever-more kinky sex- as the shows ratings lapsed and the, presumably by this point demented, producer decided the decaying sex lives of two middle-aged couples would hit the spot. It’s embarrassing for all involved; though all the actors are sufficiently attractive, they and indeed every other element of the show find themselves overshadowed by the magnificent arse of the woman who plays Jessie’s mother. Seriously. It should have it’s own spin-off; I’d watch.

The frustrating thing is the insistence that the marriage is legitimate; they got married ON A DARE. The last thing I did on a dare was try and fit a whole packet of Pan Drops in my mouth at once. Although it took me a fair few minutes to dislodge a particularly stubborn sweet from my gullet, a lifelong commitment it was not. Aside from the fact they are a terrible, mismatched couple who live in their parent’s attic, they seem to spend a good forty percent of the show throwing strops over their parents totally legitimate attempts to intervene.

The performances of the adult cast are patchy at best though essentially irrelevant due to the aforementioned rear end.  Though the writing has flashes of being kind of amusing and smart, it’s completely undermined by the complete lethargic apathy of everything else. Boxes are ticked, audience demographics are fed and the whole thing is as passionless as Jessie and Tom having a blank-faced quickie over the breakfast table. Long live television.

I’m In Love

About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Guy Fieri wore his sunglasses on the back of his head. Second, there was a part of him, and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be, that thirsted for briscuit. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

Yes, sorry to hit you with it right there in paragraph one, but I’m in love. It feels so good to finally come clean and say it: I know some of you will find this difficult to accept. Some might say our love is impossible because we’ve never met and have apparently nothing in common; to those naysayers, I say I too was once as cynical. Then- well- what can I do? I saw him and everything went away. I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love. I’ve doodled Mrs Louise Fieri everywhere and have perfected the art of deep frying every meat under the sun as this seems to act as a siren call to my beloved.

Guy Fieri presents Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, a show where he pootles around America checking out local eateries. I discovered it in a petulant argument with my best friend wherein he wanted to watch a Trivium playlist on a music channel, I didn’t, won control of the remote control and stroppily hammered a few buttons, bringing me face-to-screen with the man of my dreams. My obsession grew when I was horrendously, humiliatingly ill for a week, charmed by Fieri’s endless enthusiasm and refusal to take the dainty little bites every other food presenter does. Even though the food turned my already unhappy stomach, something about the way he chowed down a specialty burger drenched in cheese stirred something in me I thought would be asleep till I met Helena Bonham Carter in person. In my fevered state, I began to picture us driving round the USA, getting hands-on in the kitchens of local diners, then getting  my hands on him in the back of his convertible like a gastronomic Bonnie and Clyde.

He’s completely unpretentious about food, guzzling hot dogs, fries, seemingly endless burgers and a frankly disturbing amount of pancakes. Although I am almost certain that pure grease pumps through his veins, there’s something genuinely endearing about his wild enthusiasm and positivity over food which is usually viewed as slurry for the masses.  A gastronaught he is not, having apparently mastered the art of unhinging his jaw to fit an entire meal in it at once (a skill I’m certain I could find use for elsewhere), but he knows what he likes and has somehow convinced someone to pay him to film it. That’s more proactive than my last three romantic interests combined.

So there it is: I’m in love with a man a man who thinks fine dining should come with wipe-down tablecloths and neon lights. I regret nothing.

 

 

 

A little bit married

I was enjoying a casual afternoon with a good male friend today. We got lunch, I sat and flicked through magazines while he got a quick trim at the barbers, then popped to Argos to pick up an inflatable bed for a visitor next week. Over coffee and idle leafing through of The Observer, we had to acknowledge that we were- in the most grimly platonic, middle-aged way possible- a little bit married.

This got me to thinking about platonic marriages on TV. Secret, unspoken matrimonies between presenters  and stars that dare not speak their name. Here are my favourites.

 

1. The Doctor and Captain Jack

The lurid sexual tension between Christopher Ecclestone and John Barrowman notwithstaning, the Doctor and Jack are obviously in love. They’re the couple at the dinner party who bicker the whole time with a twinkle in their eye. Jack would get a bit too tipsy and the Doctor would sweep him away before he made too much of a scene. I always hoped to see a DW-spinoff with this as the main plot.

 

2. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

If ever I was to ship a couple, it would be this one. Berryhood display such constant, raw chemistry that I assume the other presenters are only employed to fill airtime as they made brutal love over the apron holders. With her matronly air  and his washed-up gigolo looks, Berryhood are going to be the next Brangelina.

 

3. Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams

Ever since I was young and sat in front of BBC Breakfast before school every morning, I’ve prayed for a wedding between the two brilliant presenters. Despite their constant playful flirting, Bill and Sian had a great respect and love for each other to such an extent I have and will continue to measure all my relationships against theirs. Romance incarnate.

It probably won’t be any good.

The above. This site exists because I dream of one day eating toast off of plates and using cutlery to consume curry. I’m a seventeen-year-old journalism student and this blog will mostly consist of film reviews, music reviews, and other hangover distractions. Hope you enjoy!