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January 21, 2013

Reviews: The Carrie Diaries (The CW) 1x1

Posted on January 21, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Young Carrie Bradshaw from The Carrie Diaries

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, The CW

Sex and the City? Remember that? It's a little known HBO show that's practically vanished into obscurity now, so just in case you need reminding, it featured four female 30/40-something best friends, including one Carrie Bradshaw, a columnist for a New York tabloid who writes about sex, dating and relationships in that city. Hence the title.

Based on the books of Candace Bushnell, it was notable for its giving a women a rare forum of their own to discuss their attitudes towards sex, men, relationships, shopping, jobs, family, friendships, social occasions, vacations… Life basically.

It was also notable for being if not always massively explicit with its sex, at least being explicit with its dialogue about sex.

So what should we make of The Carrie Diaries on The CW? Yes, it's again based on books by Candace Bushnell, but since her books never resembled Sex and the City too much, that's not much of a recommendation.

It also features a 16-year old Carrie Bradshaw so is set during the mid-80s - horrifyingly enough, that's over 20 years ago now and yes, the maths on that do not add up in the slightest - making it less relevant to the typical audience of The CW, who are in their mid-to-late teens and early 20s.

There's also no Miranda, no Samantha, no Charlotte - yet - just Carrie, so perhaps the most important group of female friends in TV history isn't going to make an appearance or have much to do with the show.

And just to reiterate some of those facts again for a final point, it's on The CW, it's going to be watched by teenagers, it features a 16-year-old girl as its lead - exactly how sexually explicit in thought, word and deed do you think it's going to be?

In short, just how much of a pale shadow of Sex and the City is this show going to be?

The quick answer is very pale, with little that's remarkable or interesting to draw you in. Even the Twin Towers have been erased from the 1980s New York skyline just in case they upset anyone.

Having said that, despite all the worst fears you might have had about it, The Carrie Diaries is still perfectly acceptable fare. Here's a trailer. You may notice Freema Agyeman from Doctor Who in it. You may also notice she's lost all trace of acting ability since.

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January 17, 2013

Nostalgia Corner: Shelley (1979-84, 1988-92)

Posted on January 17, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Hywel Bennett as Shelley

Once in a while, a show comes along that epitomises an era. Whether it's The Rag Trade, Citizen Smith, Only Fools and Horses or The Young Ones, these shows depict something truthful about a certain part of the population and become almost instant hits as a result.

In the UK in the late 70s, unemployment was a serious political issue. Under Labour it had reached the unheard of figure of 1 million and under the Conservatives, it was soon to reach 3 million. 'The Dole' - aka unemployment benefit - was both a godsend for those who were poor and out of work and a bugbear for those who saw it as a way for skivers to get paid to not work.

And onto this scene came Shelley. It starred Hywel Bennett as the eponymous James Shelley, a professional layabout, an over-educated, underemployed loafer with a PhD, living in a grotty bedsit in North London, dedicating his life to not working and escaping from people who think he should be, such as the Inland Revenue. And Fran (Belinda Sinclair), his girlfriend with whom he lives and who thinks he should settle down and start working. Then there's his bank manager, his landlady, the Labour Exchange… The list goes on.

But the anti-establishment, cynical Shelley - a sort of cross between Wolfie Smith and Tony Hancock - would rather dedicate himself to not working and pondering the philosophical implications of existence than to earning money the traditional way.

Created and then written by Peter Tilbury for three series before Drop The Dead Donkey creators Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin took over for another three, the show was massively successful, mainly thanks to the performance of Bennett, but also because Tilbury knew exactly what it was like to be on the dole in a grotty North London flat. And then there was the theme tune by Doctor Who theme tune composer Ron Grainer.

Eventually, all good things had to end and Shelley waved goodbye in 1984. But that wasn't the last we were to see of him. In 1988, Shelley returned in The Return Of Shelley, after having moved to Saudi Arabia to teach English. Here, in scripts written once again by Hamilton and Jenkin, he has to get to grips with his now-yuppified old neighbourhood and all the other changes that have occurred in his absence. Fran has had enough, so the single Shelley ends up by himself, although the show did have a regular female presence in the shape of Caroline Langrishe (Pulaski).

For the show's final two series, which reverted to being just Shelley, he moves in with David Ryall's Ted for an unexpected spot of philanthropy - Ted’s house, in which he has lived his whole life, is the only one left in his street, the others having been demolished to make way for a leisure centre, so Shelley moves in to help Ted with his fight against the developers who want to demolish it.

Unfortunately, after 10 series, Shelley's stay had grown unwelcome. It was a different age, and Shelley was a relic. It was time to call it a day. But never has one layabout put in so much effort into not making an effort.

Here are some clips and if you like it, at least some series are available on DVD.

January 11, 2013

Review: Cracked 1x1 (CBC)

Posted on January 11, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Cracked

In Canada: Tuesdays, 9/9.30NT, CBC

Imagine a world where cops are armed but they never shoot anyone. Imagine a world where the mental ill are treated with respect, even when they kill people. Imagine a world where there's an entire police unit dedicated to investigating crimes committed by the mentally ill so that they can be helped and treated.

No need to imagine. That world is Canada.

Allegedly.

'Inspired' by real-life incidents, Cracked sees Canadian police officer Aidan Black (David Sutcliffe) get a touch of PTSD and start doing inappropriate chicken impressions. When he returns to work, still not quite right - 'cracked' even - he's given a chance to help on the newly formed Psych Crimes Unit, where he's to work with psychiatrist Daniella Ridley (Stefanie von Pfetten), another cop (Luisa D'Oliveira) and a psychiatric nurse (Dayo Ade) in helping to investigate crimes committed by the mentally ill, and then, using his unique insight and compassion, talk to them a lot.

And while on the one hand it's a delight to have a show that doesn't think banging everyone to rights or shooting them, particularly if they're mentally ill, is a good idea, it doesn't half expose the fact that for most drama, something has to happen for them to be interesting.

Here's a trailer.

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