Archive for the 'TV' Category

Danish Murder Is Killing Me


Suited up with a fine collection of knitwear it's the Danish Sweeny


Bloody Danes. Just when you think you’ve run out of series to view and you’ll be forced to watch repeats of The Wire or The West Wing, along comes a new series from right out of left field. I mean I never expected to be spending late nights struggling to read 10 episodes-worth of subtitles as I rushed through the entire first half of top Danish crime show The Killing. But I did.

Like The Wire this is a superb slow burn, with both the crime and the lives of the various individuals involved unfolding languidly before your eyes. As you discover more about the crime your suspicions are pulled first one way then another. Small malfeasances are magnified out of all proportion before being instantly forgotten is they’re proved to have little or no connection to the crime. I mean where is the ex-crim poster van driver now eh?

And it has its own Bosche-like descent into madness as lead cop Sarah Lund follows McNulty down the rabbithole of obsession. You watch her home life disintegrate as first her son, then her boyfriend, then her mother are driven out of her house. Not bad considering it’s mum’s house she’s living in. Her life is so dominated by the case that even Meyer, the cop who has been brought in to replace her and who patently finds her irritating as hell, begs her to take a break “as your friend”.

The great thing about The Killing is that Lund’s obsession becomes our obsession. As we trawl deeper and deeper through the lives of the various individuals who’ve been dragged into the the gravity pull of the case, we too become caught. Who will win the increasingly corrupted council election? Is Copenhagen Mayor Poul Bremer really as bad and bent as Clay Davies? Will Theis and Pernille ever move into their new house? And who the hell did the killing anyway?

Archive for the 'TV' Category

Game On Brothers And Sisters, Game On

What We Will Learn From The World Cup This Week

It’s finally here, the Festival of Football, second only to the Spectacle du Tranpoline in the many things I must see this year. And I can hardly wait I am that excited. Not obviously about Engerland’s chances, because they’re about as likely to win as a blind Hackney Marshes pub team, but about the whole mind busting brilliance of the thing. It’s like counting down to Christmas when you’re six or so and you just know that the fat man is going to massively mess you up with sackloads of good stuff and you’re trying to stay awake so as not to miss anything, but somehow you fall asleep fully clothed hiding behind the door armed only with a cricket bat at 2am because you are that excited. It’s like we’re on the pre-flight check list and the co-pilot is mumbling his numbers to the captain, “Wheels” (“Check”), “Panini sticker album” (“Check”), “Including the incredibly rare picture of the Russian goalie with the red top” (“Check”), “And the now-deleted super-rare picture of Theo Wallchart” (“Check”). “OK we’re good”. And with that Kerpow! we’re off. And I aim to watch EVERY BLOODY MINUTE (although if Switzerland play as badly as they did last time against Ukraine, I reserve the right to play my joker and bunk off that one).

So this week is really about establishing the patterns. We will sit, like James Bond in Casino Royale, glaring at our screen, daring the players to outsmart us and play well without giving away their ‘tells’ and hoping they don’t spike our drinks with that datura lizard poison shit that paralyses in seconds. We’ll see who’s good, who’s bad, who’s on form, who’s not. For a whole week. After that, maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to address the key questions,  Could the French do worse than they did in 2002? (please), Which team will be the first to implode? (Cameroon, France), Will Maradona last a week before spazzing out at the media? (hard to imagine) Could ITV mouthpiece Adrian Chiles be more irritating? (harder to imagine) How long will the first match last before the commentary team apologise for the noise of the vuvulelas? (10 minutes). By the time the opening ceremony is over I will have completed my World Cup Wallchart based on nothing more than utter biased speculation and occasional random guesses. And then we will discover What We Have Learned after each match.

I can hardly wait.

On the subject of being six, there’s a weird apocryphal bit of social science for boys that states that the first FA Cup you remember will come “around about” your sixth year. You can therefore surreptitiously deduce a man’s age by asking him the first FA Cup he remembers, consulting your FA Cup Book For Boys and adding “around six”. Works every time.

Archive for the 'TV' Category

What We Learned From Japan vs Engerland

If You Can’t Be Good, Be Lucky

And let’s be frank, Engerland were by no means good. So not good that the vacuous tedium that was Engerland vs Mexico was rendered as a piece de resistance of footballing genius akin to Arsenal vs Barcelona or Inter vs Barcelona, which is such an insult to intelligence that frontal lobotomy begins to look like a realistic option. Fabio’s latest experimental line up seems more of a bizarre indictment of the internal wrangling within the Football Association than a legitimate, purposeful match-winning arrangement. And, being that this was the last friendly before the Wold Cup squad cut down, it was also an opportunity to view some of the less talented members of the Engerland team. So we had starts for the booking-their-places-back-home duo of Bent and Huddlestone and consolation prizes of tickets (but no appearances) for Warnock, Dawson and Parker. As a result the performance was abysmal. Admittedly there was less losing of the ball when passing, but only because it appeared that there was less attempted passing, unless you include the interminable shuffling of the ball between the back four, which was accurate only insofar as the Japanese couldn’t be bothered to chase it down. Any semblance of intelligence, tactics or understanding was entirely absent from Engerland’s play. And, once the Japanese had scored a super-soft set piece goal, Engerland’s only hope was to be staggeringly lucky. How staggeringly lucky is illustrated by achieving both our goals via deflections off Japanese defenders. Still, if we can’t be good (and it seems obvious that we have no idea how to be good) at least we’re lucky.

The Can’t Quite Be Good Enough Seven Have Nominated Themselves

It’s pretty clear (at a point just before Capello names his Can’t Quite Be Good Enough Seven) who is being dropped from the Engerland squad. Sadly they’re not being announced in a Strictly Ballroom way – with appropriately scathing criticism lashing their ears – but will be mollycoddled out as if they were the untalented children taking part in some politically correct school sports day. “Don’t worry you haven’t got a prize Darren, in our school no one gets prizes because we’re worried it might hurt your feelings”. In fact they wil go home with the bonus of a quiet chat from former Drug Cheat and now Captain of Engerland Rio ringing in their ears. He, it seems, knows what it is like to be dropped and wants to ‘help’ the Seven by reinforcing their non-selection. On second thoughts that does sound like cruel and unusual punishment.  Still it won’t come as a surprise to the Seven who will be the unplayed Parker, Dawson, Warnock, and Upson (because if you weren’t good enough to take part in the last two matches you really can’t be any good), along with the played-themselves-out-of-contention Three of Wright-Phillips, Huddlestone and Bent. The latter deserves special mention because it takes a certain degree of skill to be out-played by Emile Heskey, who only appeared as a sub for 15 minutes. At least Heskey looked like he was creating chances in the box, whereas Bent never looked threatening in the slightest.  Capello will have chosen to keep those players who look to be a genuine threat (Adam Johnson and Joe Cole), because, let’s face it, we need all the threat we can get.

Saddest Things About Engerland

OK, so it was only a set of warm-up games and unlike previous build-ups they were against well-chosen opposition, both of whom are going to the World Cup, but we’re still left with a catastrophic sense of impending doom. Not least because so many things that could have gone right didn’t.

  • Our wingers can’t beat defences – really disappointing given that Johnson, Lennon and Walcott are all fast, it seemed that none of them was able to get through a defense that wasn’t actively engaged in chasing the game. We had more joy with our full backs.
  • Rooney isn’t getting any service – our midfield and defence seem incapable of quickly recycling possession, getting the ball up to players in potentially dangerous areas of the pitch. Instead we prefer to pass the ball around the back (trading opportunity for possession) before losing it in midfield to a now-well organised and ready opponent. Rooney spent the last two games looking thoroughly isolated up front and having to chase back to even see the ball.
  • We don’t seem to have a midfield – I’m not sure where it went or how it happened, but it’s like one of those things that you don’t value until it’s no longer there. I’m not even sure we ever had a coherent midfield, but we certainly don’t now and if the return of the never-working Gerard/Lampard axis is any indication, no one has a clue how to sort this situation out.

On the plus side, we do have at least two goalies who look half decent. God knows they’re going to be busy if Engerland take this kind of form into the World Cup.

Archive for the 'TV' Category

Aunt Julia and the Surreal Nature of The West Wing

There’s a moment in Mario Vargas Llosa’s excellent Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter where your whole notion of the boundaries between the world, the book and its various fictional realities starts to go to pieces. Where the Scriptwriter’s various soap operas, which interspersed the main story of the novel, start to intertwine and characters start appearing, albeit peripherally, in the wrong stories. It’s as if the cement certainties you had when you started reading have been dissolved and are rotting away, leaving bits and pieces of the various spaces the characters (and you) occupy to bleed into one another.

Terrifyingly, these are the people who you want to run the government rather than the people who do

I mention this only because I’ve been getting into The West Wing – all seven series of it – and it’s been an interesting ride. It seems to start off almost as if the original pitch meeting was “it’s like Friends, but in the White House and with fewer laughs” only for it to develop into a Runyonesque political commentary. So there’s the spunky, irritating John Hughes chick who’s a little bit kooky, but somehow endearing and lovable (not lovable or interesting enough to make it to Season 2 though); the President who initially comes off like a cartoon Dubya Bush, but ends up redefining American politics, getting things done and achieving stellar approval points; the various policy makers who amazingly also manage to get things done and who seem to shed their initial personality quirks (like inadvertently sleeping with hookers for instance) as the seasons progress and somehow manage to make the country better; the ‘comedy couple’ who initially start as a parody of husband and wife and end up representing the humanity of the series; and the Press Secretary, who starts off all spin and flippancy, but ends up Chief of Staff, thereby defining the show’s move from spin parody to political seriousness.  By the end of Series 7 you’re left with a profound sense of the importance and gravitas of American politics. So much so that the entire final season, way the best of the bunch, is devoted to the campaign to replace the President. And it’s so enthralling, that you’re happy that one entire episode is a televised debate between the two candidates and that two are devoted to the election day itself.

But the moment that cracked it for me, the moment I saw through the glass and into the disturbing, reality blurring space beyond, was when characters from The Wire began to bleed through into individual or multiple episodes. Cedric Daniels, in a moment of pre-Wire policing, is a detective who is supervising a death scene. His wife (or possibly ex-wife by then) Marla is apparently moonlighting as the principal of an elementary school (could this explain her frigid relationship with Cedric during the early series of The Wire?). Assistant State’s Attorney Rhonda Pearlman obviously cut her teeth working for the Republicans up on the Hill, doing deals to secure appropriate legislation and judicial appointments prior to banging McNulty and then Cedric Daniels. Maurice Levy puts in a pre-corrupt lawyer appearance as a harassed White House adviser (obviously showing that eventually the profits of crime do entice individuals away from the honest legal system). Not even the Barksdales are immune from a little moonlighting from the running of their drugs empire. In case anyone was concerned about Brianna’s exact role in the Barksdale’s ever-expanding criminal empire and what she spent her time doing, it’s clear that she spends most of her non-crime minutes organising secret polling for political parties – the political equivalent of  highly deniable black ops missions.  I was relieved that the likes of McNulty, Bunk, Snoop and Omar didn’t make appearances otherwise I really would have been confused (or the plot of The West Wing would have taken a seriously violent turn).

It’s not that the appearance of characters from one series in another is that disturbing, after all Marcie from Alias and Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica also make appearances (and we don’t really think it is Commander Adama), it’s just that you could believe that the rarefied world of Washingtonian politics and the crack-fuelled underbelly of Balitmorian law enforcement could collide in just such a surreal way. After all, if Major ‘Bunny’ Colvin can almost get a job running the security at Johns Hopkins (before incinerating his career prospects by attempting to legalise drugs) and President Bartlett’s daughter Ellie can study there, it’s not a great leap of faith to imagine that the two narratives could somehow link and intertwine.