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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


March 25, 2008

Review: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency 1x1

Posted on March 25, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

In the UK: Sunday 23rd March, BBC1, 9pm. Series starts next year
In the US: HBO, but no airdate yet

Some TV programmes are easier to review than others. Some are a lot harder.

Take The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, for instance. I've not read the book or any of its sequels. But that's all right, surely? As the name suggests, it's a crime novel (of sorts) about a detective agency, and it's easy enough to judge a show on its own merits, just as you can judge The Tudors without having a degree in history – although it would help.

But another obstacle is the fact it's set in Botswana, which is where the TV series is shot. What do I know about Botswana? I know where it is, thanks to my recent, slightly pointless project to memorise the map of Africa. But I've never been there. I know some Africans, and quite a lot of my neighbours are from Africa, but none, to my knowledge, are from Botswana. I know nothing about its culture, its people, or its languages. I can rip the piss out of Lost for making London a tad too rainy and not putting a Belisha Beacon in front of Covent Garden underground station. But a TV show could stick a giant inflatable statue of Norman Wisdom in every town in Botswana, say he was their Prime Minister, and I wouldn't know if that was authentic or not without a good deal of Googling and Wikipediaing – although I'd have my suspicions.

All the same, let's give it a go with a little assistance from my viewing panel: my mother-in-law, who has read all the Alexander McCall-Smith books, and my wife, from whom she borrowed them and who is to reading books what I am to watching tele (but who spends the time she would have spent blogging reading more books instead of writing about them).

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March 25, 2008

Torchwood 2x12 - Fragments

Posted on March 25, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

 Torchwood - Fragments

 So there I am, bleating on about how you can always rely on Torchwood's show runner Chris Chibnall to produce an offensively bad piece of rubbish, when up pops Fragments, which can be described as lying in the "Okay" to "Pretty good" range of the writing spectrum.

¡Madre mia!

What's up! Have I entered some sort of parallel universe?

No, no, dear friend. Although at first sight it might appear that something hitherto unexplainable has just occurred, further examination will reveal that the natural laws of physics and writing are still in effect. 

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March 21, 2008

The Big Experiment: What's the message?

Posted on March 21, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Big Experiment

Feast your eyes on that. Hey? Hey?

Sorry about the poor picture quality - I had to scan it off the back of a DVD given away free with The Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago. It's a publicity shot for The Big Experiment, a reality documentary on the Discovery Channel:

A flagship six-part series that takes a class of teenagers from East London and explodes their misconceptions about science. With the help of three of the country’s most passionate experts, the group of 13 year-olds will be fast-tracked through their GCSE science. No ordinary Science lesson, the series sees them undertake anything from leaping off a 40-foot scaffold, suspended only by helium balloons, to climbing into a phone box to be struck by lightening.

The Big Experiment speaks to them in their own language, challenges them to take risks with science and brings the curriculum off the textbook and into the real world.

But will these kids make it though their GCSE and find science has the power to inspire lives?

Yes, apparently, if you stick cameras on kids an under-resourced East London school (always East London, isn't it? Never bloody Glasgow or Manchester, is it?), take them on trips and expose them to explosions and more, all financed with roughly the budget for the entire school year, they'll be more interested in science than they were before. Wow. What an experiment.

Anyway, my interest here is the three hosts. Now, much as I hate to make personal comments, particularly about people's appearances, I can't help but note that, to put it leniently, the woman (Dr Laura Grant) is a good deal more attractive than the two men.

There are two ways to look at this, initially, with typical knee-jerky liberalness:

  1. This is a disgrace. Science is above looks, it's only about truth. More importantly, now that the chains of patriarchy are being sloughed off, we shouldn't go back to the old double standards of a woman having to look good to be paid attention to, while men can look how they like and they'll still be respected.
  2. This is a good thing. More women are needed in science. By demonstrating that women can do science and still be attractive, more girls are likely to take up science.

Nevertheless, there is something that kneejerk liberalism will not automatically pick up on.

Continue reading "The Big Experiment: What's the message?"

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