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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.


September 18, 2013

The Wednesday Play: The Changeling (1974)

Posted on September 18, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Helen Mirren in The Changeling

One of the most famous - and best - plays of the English Renaissance is The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley. First performed in 1622, it has two parallel plots, one tragic, one comedic. The main plot involves Beatrice-Joanna, Alonzo (to whom she is betrothed) and Alsemero (whom she loves). To rid herself of Alonzo, Beatrice uses De Flores - who loves her - to murder him. The other plot involves Alibius and his wife Isabella. Franciscus and Antonio are in love with her and pretend to be a madman and a fool, respectively, in order to see her. Lollio also wants her.

To preserve the element of suspense, I won't tell you which is the comedic plot and which is the tragic one.

In 1974, Anthony Page directed a version of the play for the BBC's Play of the Month strand that starred Helen Mirren as Beatrice-Joanna, Brian Cox as Alsemero, Stanley Baker as De Flores, Tony Selby as Jasperino and Susan Penhaligon as Isabella. Needless to say, it's pretty good, and it's today Wednesday Play.

If you like it, buy it on DVD - it's one of the Helen Mirren at the BBC collection, which also includes The Apple Cart, Caesar and Claretta, The Philanthropist, The Little Minister, The Country Wife, Blue Remembered Hills, Mrs Reinhardt, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cymbeline and The Hawk. That's 17 hours for £12.50, which I reckon's pretty good…

September 17, 2013

Mini-preview: Back In The Game 1x1 (ABC)

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

Back in the Game

In the US: Wednesdays, 8.30/7.30c, ABC. Starts 24th September

After the past couple of years' disastrous attempts by ABC to try to get men to watch its shows - bizarrely, through terrible programmes like Work It and Zero Hour - ABC is this year once more reverting to its two core strengths: female viewers and luke-warm comedies.

This year, apparently, women who appreciate luke-warm comedies are into domesticity. We've already had a look at The Trophy Wife, in which a former party girl settles down to a life of comparative drudgery, tending to the needs of three step-children; now we're going to have a look at Back In The Game, starring Psych's Maggie Lawson as a woman who gets divorced from her cheating husband and together with her son Donny, move back in with her father (James Caan from Elf. Yes, that's the credit I'm going to list him with). Caan is a former pro baseball player who ruined Lawson's life with perpetual baseball practice and indoctrination after her mother died, so Lawson has decided never to bother teaching Donny baseball.

But now Donny wants to impress girls, so it's time for Lawson to bite the bullet and teach him - and since the current little league coach Dick (Ben Koldyke from… shudders… Work It) thinks Donny sucks, Lawson decides to run her own team full of no-hopers (fat kids, weird kids, gay kids, etc) rejected from the main team.

And like The Trophy Wife, it's okay. Caan's not really trying but is fine nevertheless, funniest when he's proposing some ridiculous piece of over-the-top violence to wrongdoers; Lawson is trying for all she's worth and doing a good job of it. The writing plays with gender and other stereotypes and subverts them, it has a good line in putdowns and is occasionally smart. Mandatory Brit Lenora Crichlow (Being Human) hams along nicely as Lawson's rich new best friend; Koldyke hams along more entertainingly than he did in Work It.

It's still not exactly a laugh a minute, but it's a lot more promising than last year's pilots (The Neighbors, Malibu Country, Family Tools). I'll stick with it for a while, at least.

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September 12, 2013

Mini-preview: Trophy Wife 1x1 (ABC)

Posted on September 12, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Trophy Wife

In the US: Tuesdays, 9.30/8.30c, ABC. Starts September 24

A trend I hoped had died off over the summer with NBC's abysmal Save Me appears to have resurrected itself over on ABC with Trophy Wife. Following on from the less than sisterly GCB and Nashville, we have yet another show about female in-fighting. However, this one builds on that foundation with this new trend: "Party girls must reform!"

Here, we have the usually somewhat plastic Malin Åkerman (Watchmen, The Proposal) as a woman who literally bumps into Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, Studio 60, The Good Guys) while at a party. Despite quickly not literally bumping into Whitford's weird, nightmarish two ex-wives and three children, Åkerman marries Whitford and rather than carrying on her fun and exciting ways, decides to become a loving step-mother to the children.

Except they don't really want her, neither do those two ex-wives and she's not really very good at it. Cue kids being scummy to new mummy then learning a lesson by the end of the episode; cue ex-wives being bitchy to new wife and slowly starting to bond with her; cue our heroine slowly becoming a better mother.

Yawn.

It's not all tedious and reactionary, though. Whitford, who chugs along on 50% in case he visibly outclasses the rest of the cast, is a delight as always. Åkerman, who also produces the show, seems to have learnt that while acting with words probably isn't her strong point, she's actually a very credible physical comedic actress. As a result, much of the actual laughs from the pilot aren't from the situations or the dialogue - which, while a little more original and smarter than most shows', still aren't exceptionally funny - but from Åkerman's clowning. There's not huge chemistry between the two of them or any of the other characters, but it's a pilot, so give them time.

Might be worth a shot but I wouldn't recommend it.

PS Doesn't ABC have a tough time coming up with titles that are actually representative of their shows? Cougar Town, GCB and now this, which isn't actually about a trophy wife?

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