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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.


October 17, 2007

Review: Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure 2.1

Posted on October 17, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Oz and James' Big Wine Adventure

In the UK: Tuesdays, 8pm, BBC2

You couldn't have predicted that the first series of Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure was going to be a success. James May is very much the superfluous member of the Top Gear team. Sure, it wouldn't be the same without him, but sometimes it's barely noticeable that he's there, except when Clarkson and Hamster need someone to put down. Stick him by himself and it's a disaster, since it exposes his worst and most boring tendencies.

Oz Clarke is, of course, a very famous wine taster. But he used to get overshadowed by the “mad as a box of frogs” Jilly Goolden on Food and Drink something chronic, since he was relatively normal, despite being a former actor who'd appeared in Superman of all things.

However, stick them together on a wine tour of France in an old Jaguar, and it turns out you have TV gold. Since cars are notably more masculine and rugged than wine-tasting, May suddenly became the alpha male - even after talking about classical music and harpsichord playing, his ability to cut through the pretension of Oz Clarke made him several hundred times more manly and interesting than he'd ever been previously.

And since it was a wine show, Oz Clarke's expertise allowed him to maintain an equal footing with May; May's occasional return to car bore mode also allowed Clarke to gain the upper hand on occasion and to look down on May's unsophistication. By the end of it, a firm friendship and a new double act emerged.

Now comes a second series of the show. This time, Clarke and May are going on a tour of California in a majestic RV, with Clarke once again trying to instil in May a knowledge and love of wine that doesn't come easily to the petrolhead. While it doesn't quite have the charm of the first series, it's still an entertaining show that anyone can appreciate.

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October 15, 2007

Review: Women's Murder Club

Posted on October 15, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Women's Murder Club

In the US:
Fridays, 9/8c, ABC

In the UK: Not yet acquired. Any bets on Living?

“Ah, women,” the senior network executive thought to himself. “So beautiful, yet their heads are filled with thoughts of pink things and butterflies. Yet they are an important demographic since so few of them have jobs, and therefore spend their time in front of the television all day.”

He smiled benevolently at the young male network executives gathered around him at his Private Men's Club For Private Men. They were there to learn the important arts of programme development.

Leaning forward, he began to impart his wisdom. “Fortunately, there is a simple Formula for creating a television programme that all women everywhere will want to watch. Do not deviate from it. Do not change it. It must be the same. If we can fill an entire network like Oxygen full of shows made to this single recipe, we can do the same with ABC. The Formula is strong.”

He looked from eager face to eager face. “Take a genre, any genre. Women love crime, so that's always good. Take a group of friends, all of them excellent at their jobs, yet somehow not properly respected in their workplace by their male superiors and colleagues. Give them relationship issues then insist that they discuss their relationships at all times, even when working, to the extent they'd probably get fired in the real world. Women like the idea of female solidarity. They can identify with women who are practically perfect in every way, yet have problems just like you and…” He paused and smiled, “…well, not like me.”

Sycophantic laughter echoed round the room, opening up holes in the cloud of cigar smoke that surrounded them all.

“Then,” he said pointing dramatically and paused yet again for effect. “Make them work so hard that soon, all the men will realise their mistakes and learn to love them for the wonderful, beautiful, strong women that they are. Women love that rubbish.”

He reclined into his chinchilla skin armchair. His computer had already generated the next show to use the formula: Women's Murder Club. It was pure genius. Just like the last 70 shows to use the Formula.

Continue reading "Review: Women's Murder Club"

October 15, 2007

Third-episode verdict: Life

Posted on October 15, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Carusometer for Life2-Partial-Caruso

Life is here and it's pretty much as it''s always been. All TV detectives need a niche: Columbo was the working-class detective; Morse was the crossword-solving detective; Richard Griffiths was the pie-eating detective; and so on.

Life, looking for its niche, has opted for an amalgam: on the one-hand, Damian Lewis is the Zen detective. He doesn't necessarily want answers, since there are no answers, only questions. But on the other hand, he also wants to kick the asses of those m*th*rs who framed him and put him in prison for over a decade.

It's an odd hybrid, no?

It's also a little slow. Much like the Comic Strip Presents…' gourmet detective (two recipes and a murder each episode), we have one crime (usually a murder) and a little bit of the over-arching “kick their asses” plot each episode. The crime, like Raines before it, is never that spectacular but is instead supposed to make you think about life, victims and so on. The “kick their asses” plot is very much a drip, drip endeavour, with bare minimum amounts creeping out each episode.

There are a few of sparks of life in it: Adam Arkin continues to be of interest as the comedy relief former prisonmate who now handles Lewis' books - it's good to have some sort of personality to the show, when Lewis is busy trying to destroy his own; Lewis' occasional relapse into prison behaviour; and the show's general smartness, with the episodes all at least pleasantly thoughtful.

However, much like a long dose of meditation, it's very possible to fall asleep during Life, something that almost happened to me during the third episode, which crossed from thoughtful into merely boring. So you're going to need to be in your happy place to find joy in it, I suspect.

The Medium is Not Enough declares Life a two or “Partial Caruso” on The Carusometer quality scale. A Partial Caruso corresponds to “a show with two walk-on cameos by David Caruso as Buddhist detective. After unnecessarily shaving his head, he'll snarl all his koens, eventually trying to ad lib the phrase 'What's the sound of one finger pulling a trigger in the woods?'. Fortunately, the producers confuse him by telling him that 'Water which is too pure has no fish', forcing him to leave the set while he tries to find a salmon and a Brita water filter and leaving them the chance to hire someone else.”

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