Tag Archives: tv review

TV Review: Bad Education (BBC Three)

19 Sep

Image: New Statesman

Since the disappointing third series of Outnumbered, I’ve been searching for a new British comedy to sink my teeth into. Not searching very hard perhaps, distracted by trying to catch up on seven seasons of How I Met Your Mother, but searching all the same. So when Bad Education, Jack Whitehall’s latest comedic endeavour, appeared in my iPlayer recommendations, I decided to give it a shot.

Despite Whitehall being the star of the show, as posh and clueless history teacher Alfie Wickers, it is the supporting cast who really shine. His class, including flirtatious Chantelle (Nikki Runeckles) who spends her time dropping not-so-subtle hints about age gaps in relationships, outrageously camp Steven who attempts to come out during sex education class and wonders why no-one is surprised, and Joe (Ethan Lawrence) who constantly finds himself being talked into Alfie’s hare-brained schemes. Whilst they steal the show, Alfie moons after the boring Miss Gulliver (Sarah Solemani) and indulges in horesplay with Fraser (Matthew Horne), the school’s headmaster, who is so uncool that it’s actually painful to watch. The star of the teachers is terrifying deputy Miss Pickwell (Michelle Gomez), one of whose star moments involves taking her class to an abattoir on a school trip.

Some of Bad Education‘s jokes do fall flat, but those are the ones which are pushed too forcefully upon the audience. Those which were introduced a little more subtly, such as the wall display featuring Anne Boleyn and Princess Diana under the heading ‘Hot Babes Through The Ages’, did succeed in raising a laugh. In fact, the three episodes of Bad Education which I watched raised enough laughs that I will be watching until the end of the series. It’s not a patch on Outnumbered, but it’s enjoyable all the same.

All six episodes of Bad Education are available on iPlayer. Episode 1 expires on September 26.

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TV Review: Parade’s End (BBC Two)

12 Sep

Image: Independent

I’ll start this with a disclaimer. I may be the only woman in England not to have fallen head-over-heels in love with Benedict Cumberbatch. This is not to say that I don’t like the man, nor that I find him untalented. I just don’t see the appeal. However, this did not keep me from enjoying the first episode of Parade’s End, BBC Two’s new five-part miniseries, in which the aforementioned actor stars as Christopher Tietjens.

Parade’s End, which has been airing on Friday nights since 24th August, launches us headfirst into the Edwardian era and into the Tietjens’ tumultuous marriage. In an early scene, Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch) sits at the breakfast table making corrections in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and bemoaning the state of society as his wife Sylvia (Rebecca Hall) bemoans the fact that she is married to him. “If I killed him no jury would convict!” She proclaims, throwing a plate across the room for emphasis. Her dialogue is peppered with such deliciously catty lines and despite knowing that I ought to hate her for her shocking treatment of her husband, I just can’t bring myself to.

It is Christopher to whom I find it difficult to warm. Although Cumberbatch does a stellar job with the character, Christopher is far too stuffy and set in his ways, more content to be known as a cuckold than to divorce Sylvia (for her part, she is happy to remain with him, having become accustomed to the lifestyle which comes with having a husband). His budding romance with young suffragette Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens) also seems a little forced, although perhaps it will heat up as the series progresses.

This is a programme which demands your full attention; I first attempted to watch it on the train and found myself hopelessly confused, particularly in the opening sequence. But after a second viewing, uninterrupted by train announcements, everything slotted into place. For its rich details, stunning backdrops, and fast-paced dialogue, Parade’s End is certainly worth a watch.

Parade’s End is available on BBC iPlayer until Friday 28th September. 

TV Recap/Review: Private Practice Season 5 Episode 22 (Gone, Baby, Gone)

27 Jun

I’ve been falling steadily out of love with Private Practice this season, but I have been sticking it out, and given that the finale didn’t so much tug on my heartstrings as yank them out of my chest, I decided to recap it. I may recap the rest of the season at a later date, but this is going up first as I was practically writing it in my head whilst watching.

Gone, Baby, Gone features love triangles, court cases, impassioned speeches, and a lot of tears. And at the centre of it all…

Amelia gives birth

This was the cause of most, if not all, of the tears. At first she is determined to stick it out alone, refusing even to let Jake touch her in her determination to stay strong. I shed my first tear of the night as she tells him to take the baby away before he could cry, before remembering that brainless babies can’t cry. “Take him before he squeaks,” she says, and I let out a squeak of my own.

Outside of her hospital room, the rest of the doctors argue about her plan to donate her baby’s organs. Jake and Addison are supportive, but Sam is vehemently against the idea  and Charlotte is struggling, saying that she has to let the lawyers decide because she sees it as murder.  Addison is tasked with talking Sam around, but he isn’t interested, drawing parallels between the situation and their failed relationship. It’s Amelia who manages to persuade him, telling him about all the children that she’ll be able to save. “What I’m asking you to do is unimaginable,” she says. “But it’s also everything those other mothers can ever imagine. I’m his mom and I’m asking you to do this. If I can get there, why can’t you?”

Charlotte has a revelation of her own as she sits with Addison, both of them afraid to go into Amelia’s room, and both of them reflecting on everything that’s happened this year. “This past year you and I both became mothers without ever giving birth.” Addison muses. “She’s going to give birth and not get to be a mother.” This reminds me why I love the rare moments that these two characters share, and Charlotte why she has to help her friend. She agrees to fight the lawyers over the organ donation issue, and ultimately ignores their decision, allowing Jake to harvest the organs. Something tells me the hospital could be facing a lawsuit next season…

As Amelia enters the final stage of labour, Addison finally plucks up the courage to enter the room. She ignores Amelia’s attempts to throw her out, and holds her as she gives birth. Amelia goes back on her previous decision, choosing to hold the baby. “He’s the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen.” She says. He squeaks. I sob.

But the tears aren’t over yet, as the baby goes into respiratory distress, and for a moment it seems like Amelia’s going to change her mind about the organ donation. But no, she decides to give my heartstrings a little more of a battering by letting him go, telling him his father’s waiting for him. She then speaks to Sheldon civilly for the first time all episode, and the pair reconcile. It’s almost a happy ending, right?

Elsewhere, another child was playing with my already fragile emotions…

Mason

Having seemed to have turned a corner in the last episode, Mason is sullen and silent again at the beginning of this one, due to a Mother’s Day event at school. Cooper catches Charlotte watching him sleep, and she tells him how much she loves him and how sad she is not to be able to take away his pain. “You take away my pain,” he tells her, and I remember why they’re my favourite couple on the show. Later, having spent the evening at the hospital, Mason is looking at the babies in the NICU with Charlotte whilst she tries to explain what happened to Amelia’s. It’s touching (and possibly a little weird) to begin with, but then he suggests that he start calling her “momma” and I dissolve once more. To think that I don’t often cry at television! I’m blaming my hormones!

There were a few storylines that didn’t make me cry though. They were…

Love and Prison

Pete spends most of the episode behind bars, whilst Violet grows increasingly frustrated at his refusal to act even a little contrite. Eventually, after a few choice words from Cooper about missing his son growing up, he  does apologise and iss granted bail, even expressing fears for the future. Unfortunately, it may be too little too late.

The Jake-Addison-Sam love triangle also comes to a head tonight, as she arrives home after some comfort sex with Jake to find Sam waiting to confess his love to her. Despite her attempts to get rid of him (Jake’s on his way with takeout), he’s determined to let her know that he’s now all in. He wants her, he wants Henry, and if the ring is anything to go by, he wants marriage. Henry just wants to chew on his toy monkey. Personally, I think that the kid’s got the right idea.

TV Recap/Review: Private Practice Season 5 Episode 14 (Too Much)

15 Feb

“Lucas wanted to know if his truck could fly…and it couldn’t so I bought him a new one.”

Violet should think herself lucky that that’s the only parenting issue that she has to face in this week’s episode of Private Practice, although she does also have to contend with Pete attempting to veto her relationship with Scott.  Exasperated, she goes to Cooper to discuss the problems, who tells her to tell Pete that it’s just sex. She does, and he tells her it stills bothers him. I’m sure I’ve said this in reviews before (I’ve certainly shouted it at the television screen enough times) but it’s a bit late to start caring now!! I would choose Scott and his sexy bare chest over Pete and his anger issues any day of the week (sadly, neither of them are offering as of yet, but I remain hopeful). But even with all that, Pete and Violet’s issues are relatively minor compared to some of the other events in this episode, such as…

The Crack Baby

OK, it may not actually be a crack baby. It may be a heroin baby. Or a some-other-kind-of-drug baby. The point is, it’s a baby with a druggie for a mother, and a sister who wants to keep him away from his mother at all costs (unsurprisingly, given her childhood experiences). But then the real mother turns up, having apparently got clean by locking herself in a motel room for days, and suddenly it’s war. And not even between mother and daughter so much as between Cooper and Pete, who have each chosen their own mommy candidate to back. Addison has a more practical response, she’s calling Social Services. To make matters worse, the baby has a whole stack of medical problems (again unsurprisingly) and needs urgent treatment. It all ends happily though, as the mom decides to stick around and care for both of her children. The more cynical among you may ask how long it will last, but I’m just a sucker for a happy ending.

The Crazy Sister

Actually, Sam’s sister (Corrine) doesn’t exhibit much craziness in this episode, although Sam tells plenty of stories about her, but that’s probably due to the cocktail of drugs that she’s on. After speaking to her, Sheldon decides to wean her off them and make a proper diagnosis, and I spend the rest of the episode waiting for her to flip. It doesn’t happen (maybe she’s not as crazy as they thought), but she and Sam do share a moment at the end of the episode when she tells him that his house reminds her of a place where they used to go on holiday. All together now: awwwww!

To be honest though, I’m not especially invested in this storyline, particularly as it seems to be being used as an excuse to get Addison and Sam back together. This, as everyone at least ought to know, is a phenomenally bad idea, but it doesn’t stop them having very hot sex. Jake, with his spooky mind-reading skills, figures out that this has happened and gives Addison his disappointed face. Maybe he shouldn’t have rejected her last week…

The Clever Plan

Charlotte’s babysitting for a worried Mason while Erica rests after her first chemo session, and the kid has worked out that he’s being lied to. She tries to distract him with macaroni cheese but, despite containing both macaroni and cheese, it’s not good enough for him and he runs away, trying to get to the hospital to see his mom. This is enough to get them to take him to see her, but apparently still not enough to get them to tell him the truth (“Mommy’s gonna be just fine!” Erica promises, in possibly the biggest lie ever to escape her lips). But they may not have to if Amelia’s plan works, because she thinks she’s found a way to cure Erica. And of course, it involves what we’ve all been predicting, a trip to Seattle to see her brother. In other words, it’s time for another crossover!

TV Review: Prisoners’ Wives

12 Feb

 

Image: BBC

After watching the first hour of the BBC’s new six-part drama series, I was left fundamentally confused. Admittedly, first episodes rarely show any series in the best light, but with this one I wasn’t even sure as to what genre it was supposed to be.

The basic premise is fairly simple: girl living in middle-class paradise, world falls apart when husband is is arrested for a crime that he (as far as she knows) didn’t commit, meets lots of eccentric characters whilst visiting said husband in prison. But will it go on to unravel the mystery of the husband’s crime, or is it just to consist of rather soppy character studies of the wives? From the watery drama which the first instalment delivered, it’s looking like the latter.

I didn’t exactly warm to the main characters either. Emma Rigby does the sweet and innocent act well enough as Gemma, but I quickly grew tired of her constant snivelling and all-round lack of intelligence, which didn’t help me empathise with her plight. Husband Steve does at least have the benefit of being played by Jonas Armstrong (also known as Robin Hood) but he says little and spends most of his time staring moodily into the middle distance, giving me little to go on as to figuring out his character.

It’s the other characters which actually make this worth watching, particularly Francesca (Polly Walker), who practically embodies the phrase ‘fur coat and no knickers’ but is good-hearted with it, driving Gemma home from prison visits and helping her with bathroom emergencies (when she isn’t seeing how much havoc she can wreak during visiting hours, that is). I am also intrigued about Lou (Natalie Gavin), who deals drugs by night, but does everything she can to make life good for son Mason (Oliver Hannam) during the day, including telling him that his dad is away building a top-secret football stadium. It’s these characters, who for the most part remain in the background, who make me think that there may still be hope for this series.

Not too much hope though, as a handful of interesting characters can only carry a dismal plot-line so far. It may not be good for a series to give away too much too early, but Prisoners’ Wives gives away very little at all which leaves me wondering if I will be bothering to switch on again.

TV Recap/Review: Private Practice Season 5 Episode 13 (The Time Has Come)

9 Feb

The sole patient

We seem to be averaging one patient per episode in Private Practice at the moment. However, our patient this week is unusual in that he is not there to bring out the doctors’ underlying issues. Rick is soldier who has recently returned from Afghanistan, where he was raped by his sergeant. After he attempts suicide, Sheldon spends most of the episode counselling him until he is ready to tell his partner, but when he does she reacts in the worst way possible, asking why he didn’t do anything to stop it. With Sam’s help , she comes back to support him, but the case is a reminder to us that rape is rape, regardless of whether it happens to a man or a woman. Well done, Private Practice, for making this episode about more than just the doctors.

The car crash

Actually, there are two more patients in this episode, but they’re Mason and Erica. After having a seizure at the wheel, Erica has landed the pair of them in hospital. Mason is terrified, Cooper is furious, and once again Charlotte finds herself playing peacemaker. She really has changed a lot this season, but I like the softer side to her. Anyway, she has a lot of peacemaking to do this episode as Amelia has some bad news: before Erica dies she could lose her sight and speech and become paralysed. (It’s at times like these that I have to suspend my disbelief; could they really not see this coming?) Cooper is upset and angry, but with Charlotte’s help he manages to convince Erica to fight. Cue miracle cure?

The break-up issues

At least we have a reason for the doctors seeing so few patients today; Addison and Jake are at a medical conference. Addison is in the wallowing stage of her break-up with Sam, eating everything she can get her hands on, and later drinking the hotel bar dry. Jake tries to snap her out of it, flattering her ego by calling her “the Meryl Streep of maternal-fetal medicine,” which she takes as an invitation, turning up at his door for sex. He rejects her, and a hilarious scene ensues in which she rolls around drunkenly on his bed asking why he doesn’t want to sleep with her. One of Jake’s heartfelt and perfectly-worded speeches (this guy is nothing if not a smooth talker) about her not being over Sam yet is met with the response: “But is it also just a little bit because you saw my vagina in a medical way?”

“Did I ask you for sex and then cry?” She asks the next morning upon waking up in his bed. But her antics the previous night aren’t up for discussion, and Jake is being the perfect gentlemen. He’s even ordered her a bacon cheeseburger and rescheduled her presentation. Seriously, the man is so perfect it’s almost annoying!

The hypocrisy

There are more Violet/Pete issues this episode, Pete not being especially happy to have walked in on Violet kissing Scott. I’m sure I used to like Pete, but I can’t remember why, because all he seems to have done this season is be a jerk. While Scott is being supportive (and sensible, suggesting that Violet might actually want to move out of the house where she’s suffered trauma after trauma), Pete wants to yell about Violet finding a new squeeze. Uh, excuse me? Do the words elevator sex mean anything to you? Still, perhaps we should be grateful to Pete for making a scene, as it meant that we got to see Scott shirtless. And that, in my opinion, can never be a bad thing.

There was also a surprise twist at the end of the episode as, while Addison tells her therapist that she “likes to know what’s coming”, we see Sam picking up her sister from the county jail. Shit is about to go down!

TV Recap/Review: Private Practice Season 5 Episode 12 (Losing Battles)

8 Feb

Let’s begin with a random scene which had very little to do with the overarching story lines, but which made me giggle: Sheldon and Sam setting up on-line dating profiles. With input from the rest of the doctors. In my opinion, this episode is worth watching for that alone, but there’s also…

The surrogates

It’s time for Plan B in Addison’s quest for a baby, surrogacy. But she isn’t making it easy for herself, and Jake is annoyed with her for being unwilling to consider the potential surrogates (“Have you been giving yourself hormone shots again?” He asks). You can hardly blame her though, when you see the candidates who he has lined up for her. The first is admittedly not too bad, albeit emotionally detached, but the second is insane. When asked what her favourite part of the last surrogacy was, she replies that she was given the placenta, and then a tree grew over the spot where she buried it in the garden!

There’s a surprise twist in the surrogacy story when Amelia offers to be Addison’s surrogate. She wants to do a completely selfless thing, she says (which makes me start thinking about whether doing something because you think it’s completely selfless makes it less selfless, but I’m possibly overcomplicating things). Addison tells her that she can’t be her surrogate, as she hasn’t yet figured out who she is, but I can’t help thinking that this isn’t the last we’ll hear of this idea. (However, this may just be another case of me overcomplicating.) This is, however, the last we’ll be hearing of the baby storyline for a little while, as Addison tells Jake that she wants a break from the baby search.

The woman from the airport

Remember the woman who Violet was talking to in the season premiere? No, neither did I, but luckily Violet did, because she turns up this week completely battered after what they assume is a beating from her husband, David. He soon arrives on the scene, by which time Joanna is unconscious, and Addison is legally bound to give him a say in her treatment. He wants her to have a hysterectomy (she was pregnant at the time of the attack), and when Addison manages to finish the surgery without taking this step, he starts an argument, saying he wants her moved to a different hospital. Before he can have that arranged though, the doctors sneak Joanna out of the hospital and into Violet’s house.

Pete isn’t happy with this plan (finally showing some concern for his wife, perhaps?) but Violet is more concerned about a conversation which she had with Joanna just after she woke up. Rather than reporting the attack, Joanna has decided that a more logical course of action would be to kill David. And Violet is right to be worried because later, when David breaks into the house, she does just that, stabbing him multiple times until he’s dead. Violet saves her yet again though by telling the police it was self defence, and then sidesteps Pete (who seems to have finally realised that he cares about her), instead running straight into Scott’s waiting arms.

The treatment plan

After Erica’s revelation last week, Cooper is desperately trying to get her to fight, or at the very least to sign custody forms so that Mason isn’t taken away from him. When Amelia tells her that all she can offer is radiation, Erica rejects it outright, but Cooper tries to convince her, saying that six months would give her one more birthday with Mason. Erica goes to see Amelia privately and asks what she would do in her position, and Amelia admits that she wouldn’t take the treatment. Later, Erica gives Cooper the custody papers, telling him that she has accepted her diagnosis and he should too. With the help of Charlotte’s astute observation that he feels guilty for being grateful that Erica got sick because it brought Mason to him, Cooper breaks down. Harrowing stuff, and they haven’t even thought about telling the kid yet!