Don’t Go Outside! It’s a Trap!

It’s summer, you and I both know that. We know that to the outside world we are supposed to be spending any free time we have between June and September hanging about in beer gardens, going to civilised little known festivals in Hampshire and standing around wearing fancy clothes watching people get married. But let’s be honest, all we really want to do is hunker down with a Cornetto and watch the BBC.

Obviously the Olympics is on non-stop which helps the work day fly past (what? – come on we are all friends here). But what about non sport related viewing? What about those programmes with crinolines, unspoken wanton desires and a few nice murders? Fear not! Here are three shows to keep you occupied when you just can’t stomach one more bike ride.

The Secret Agent

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Much like that bastion of Victorian industrialisation, good old Tate and Lyle’s Golden Syrup, The Secret Agent is a bit slow to get out of the tin (Christ, that simile was stretched further than a whalebone stay). However bear with it because it does tick along nicely in the end. There are a few tense moments of will they/ won’t they? Both of a romatical and nefarious nature. Toby Jones does well as the spineless Verloc, although generally speaking I think he does better in roles with a bit more bite, where he can exert a touch of menace. Vicky McClure, of This is England fame, is terribly compelling as his ‘making the best of a bad lot’ wife Winnie and there is one moment of tragedy which, if you have a particularly dark sense of humour like yours truly, you will find very amusing.

Versailles

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Just putting it out there, I am obsessed with Versailles. I haven’t been this hooked on a show in quite a while and it is not entirely down to the fact that I fancy everyone in it. That definitely plays a part, but it’s also just really blooming interesting. I’ve spent most of my studying years looking at the carrying ons of those other notoriously debauched lot – the Romans. But Louis XIV and his brocade clad court could easily put even the most bacchanalian Roman to shame.
In truth, I don’t know how many historical cues it really hits, but as a piece a dramatic skulduggery with lashing of ginger beer fraternal rivalries and romping about thrown into the mix, it made for a very enjoyable nine weeks.

The Living and the Dead

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Look! It’s grown up Merlin! But he’s a brooding ex-psychiatrist turned landed squire! And look! His wife is a complete badass! And there are ghosts! The Living and the Dead is like Cider with Rosie meets the Woman in Black. Colin Morgan (because presumably Benedict Cumberbatch is very busy) rolls back into his hometown to take over the reins of the failing family farm, all the while dabbling in some light psychoanalysis on a series of local folk who unfathomably keep becoming possessed. It is a bit slow in parts but the show still makes for good Sunday night telly while we await the Autumn schedule kicking off. Whereupon we can resume doing what every right-minded soul should do to round off the weekend – eat pie and mash in front of the Antiques Roadshow without fear of wilting like lily in an airing cupboard (bloody summer – harrumph).

All of the above are still available on the IPlayer, so you better call your friends and pretend that you have terrible hay fever and you can’t possibly spend the day playing Frisbee in London Fields. You are very welcome.

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Baby It’s Cold Outside, So Stay in and Watch TV

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So, it’s 2016! How did that happen? I took a little break over Christmas and New Year to spend time with friends and family so this is the first official Vintage Notebook Post of the New Year! How very exciting. I hope you all had a fabulous time with your loved ones and ate your bodyweight in Quality Streets. I started to write a fairly standard and if I may say, entirely predictable review of 2015 and then I realised that for one reason or another 2015 was a massive dick to lots of people I care about, myself included and I decided not to spend any more time thinking about it because I’ve paid it quite enough attention thank you very much. So, let’s look forward instead of back. What better way to get over the post holidays slump than cosying up with a bit of January TV (also we’re all broke and nothing happens during January in London anyway).

I thought that the recent Christmas TV offerings were the best for several years, with And Then There Were None a particularly strong contribution, being as it was more Shutter Island than Agatha Christie. New Year’s Day Sherlock was also pretty good if a little silly towards the end. The unwaking realties device reminded me very much of one of the short stories from the Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Moriarty that I reviewed last month, where (SPOLIER ALERT) Moriarty slows time while falling over the Reichenbach Falls and so lives for thirty years in his mind before he hits the rocks. SO good. I even quite enjoyed Call the Midwife which I’ve never watched in my life before because I hate babies and nuns. I’m kidding. I love nuns really.

But that was then, what now? Well fear not, because even though it may be time to recycle the Christmas bumper edition Radio Times there is still lots of lovely historical/period Tv on our screens throughout January.
The first episode for some of these have already aired over the New Year weekend but hey, we live in a catch up world these days, so hunker down and get ready to be transported.

♦ First up is Endeavour (ITV), aka young hottie Morse who stomps around 1960’s Oxford bedecked in a natty line of retro menswear, accessorised with a furrowed brow and grimly determined denial of personal pleasure beyond the odd pint all in the name of duty. The cars and the costumes all look great, although production probably saved a few quid in the sets seeing as how Oxford has looked exactly the same since 1460.

Dickensian (BBC). You may have caught the beginning of this epic twenty-five part Dickens mash-up from the BBC over Christmas, but if not fear not because they are all on the IPlayer and you’ve got ages to catch up! Dickensian is co-written by EastEnders ‘elder statesman’ Tony Jordan and much like the beloved Walford based soap, follows the complicated and intertwined lives of a large ensemble cast of characters within a small area of London. Except this bunch are a bit more bonnets and fob watches rather than bomber jackets and ermm, wristwatches. Long story short, Jacob Marley has been bumped ‘orf and newly minted Inspector Bucket is hot on the heels of his murderer. The Cratchetts are trying to make the best of life as ever, Mrs Gamp is on the make and Miss Haversham is being set up for her enviable heartbreak by the dastardly Compyseon, played by Tom Weston-Jones of Copper fame (who frankly I’d spend the rest of my life wearing a wedding dress and cobwebs for but that’s neither here nor there). It’s big, it’s ambitious and pretty much everyone in Dickensland is either wholly unlikeable or sickenly good, what’s not to like? Which is lucky because it will pretty much take us round to next Christmas at this rate.

War and Peace (BBC). The book that no-one has ever finished because it’s so bloody long has now been made into a big ol’ BBC drama! So we never need worry about reading it again! I have watched the first episode and basically it is perfect January TV viewing pleasure.

Deutschland (Channel 4) is a must watch for anyone interested in Cold War history. It follows a young East German border guard as he is coerced into a life as a spy on the other side of the wall. It’s got 80’s fashions galore and a killer soundtrack (applicants must like 99 Red Balloons).

Taking it really old school now with Beowulf (ITV) which howled on to our screens on Sunday. There are rugged men and monsters and allsorts. Well we’ve got to fill the time while we wait for Game of Thrones to come back. I’m kidding! It’s the oldest long English language poem in the world dontcha’ know? Have some respect.

Mr Selfridge season 4 hoorays back to ITV on the 8th. Truth be told I’ve never really got into this series, but I feel I should because it seems to have stolen everybody’s heart and has some lovely frocks.

♦ Another season 4 coming to our small screens on the 15th is Ripper Street, which Amazon picked up after the it was dropped from ITV. Love it or hate it (I’m 50/50 in that I love some bits and hate others). It’s back and full of Victorian glamour and mystery and yeah, I’ll probably watch it for the smart hats.

♦ Finally if you are in the mood for some historical Northern realness, Jericho gets biblical on all of our asses. It’s not really Old Testament historical, it’s set in 1870’s Yorkshire and dramatises a band of outcasts and misfits as they attempt to build a viaduct. Sounds a dull as weak Yorkshire tea I know, but it boasts Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife, Partners in Crime) as one of the leads and for that alone it’s worth a punt.

So, everyone sorted for the month? Good, now you get the duvet, I’ll stick the kettle on.

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Autumn/Winter 2015 TV Guide Special

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So as you should all be aware by now, if I were Queen on the 1st of September of each year, all outdoor activities would be outlawed, no-one would be made to leave the house for nights out across town that necessitated standing at bus stops in freezing rain and BBC costume dramas would play 24/7 across all channels, with perhaps a break for the Antiques Roadshow.

But alas, my army of robotic goth Miss Marples are still in the porotype phase and so I have yet to overthrow the British Government. Nevertheless! Failure to plan is planning to fail and so I have complied my top Autumn/Winter 2015 Sofa Surfing Countdown, should you wish to get in at the grassroots level of my cult of the cosy (fair isle jumpers and thermal socks issued as standard, please provide own teapot).

 

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13th October| River – BBC. Already past the premiere date I’m afraid, but it is the BBC so it is on the IPlayer for a whole ruddy month! Huzah! This may not be the most original idea on earth (troubled detective haunted by the past etc.) but it has Stellen Skarsgard in the lead role, who not only produces very beautiful children, but is also quite the actor to boot. The rather brilliant Nicola Walker is also on board, who frankly gives a good dollop of gravitas to any performance.

16th October| Mr Robot – Amazon. Also a little late out of the gate with this one as it premiered last week, but again, it’s Amazon so you can mainline it on one chilly weekend should you so wish. I’ve already seen it all and it’s fabulous.

20th October| American Horror Story Season 5 – Fox. The classiest horror around at the moment (perhaps apart from Hannibal) is the American Horror Story franchise. I loved the first series, missed the 2nd, got halfway through the third, haven’t seen fourth but really want to see this – because, well Gaga is in it.

23rd October| Hemlock Grove Season 3 – Netflix. Gosh it seems like only five minutes ago I was obsessed with the first series of this and now we are on to three. It’s good, moody and spooky – and again features a Skarsgard of the beautiful variety so there’s that.

26th October| Scream Queens – E4. Basically Glee meets American Horror Story – and what’s not to love about that? It’s a modern spin on the classic whodunit with a university sorority house at its centre. Well Kappa Kappa count me excited.

28th October| Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries Season 3 – Alibi. Yes you read that right, only season three! It feels like there are about a trillion episodes of Miss Fisher, well there certainly are on my catch up. If you haven’t indulged in this Australian crime caper series yet, you should. It is early Poirot-esque in its fun, high kicking style. The episodes are quick, the characters great and the all-important outfits frankly f-ing fabulous.

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Sometime in NovemberTHE BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDGE! Ok, so deep breath. You met the Bridge, you fell in love and became mildly obsessive with The Bridge. It was wonderful. You would spend hours together, not seeing your friends, just chilling on the sofa and being happy together. And then suddenly, the dream ended. You didn’t know it was coming. The Bridge gave you no warning. You were about to introduce The Bridge to your mum for Christssake! But one day it was just gone. You heard rumours that The Bridge would never come back because The Bridge had had some internal struggles and a few of The Bridge’s cast had moved on to see other people. It was a really tough time and you consoled yourself with cookie dough ice-cream and a rebound fling with the UK reboot of The Bridge, but deep down you both knew you were only together because the UK Bridge reminded you of the original Bridge. You moved on. It was hard, but slowly you forgot the pain and began to love again. Just when you were in a happy new co-dependant relationship with Narcos – suddenly you hear that The Bridge is back in town! Your world is turned upside down as all of those old feelings rush back to the surface. So yeah, The Bridge season three is starting on BBC 4 sometime in November.

20th November| Man in the High Castle – Amazon. So I forget when, sometime last year I think, Amazon ran a pilots competition where you could watch the pilot of several proposed series and vote for your favourite to be made in full. I voted for Man it the High Castle, because it was A. beautiful and B, fabulous. Beautiful and fabulous – all you need in life. I’m happy to say it won (I’d like to think that it was all down to me, but I couldn’t possibly comment), and it starts up in full on 20th November. Man in the High Castle is an adaptation of the 1962 novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick. Basic premise – the Nazis won and America is split into German run East coast and Japanese owned West Coast as multi character perspectives take you through an Orwellian dystopia of occupied post WW2 America – jolly then.

25th December| Sherlock Christmas Special – BBC1. For months now I have been running up to strangers in the street, grabbing them by the collar and screaming into their faces “DO YOU KNOW WHEN SHERLOCK IS BACK ON???”. Maybe not literally, but certainly mentally. Sitting in coffee shops I scan the seated crowds and mutter in a hissed whisper into my latte, ‘someone muuuuust know somethiiiiing’. Well now we all do. The Sherlock Christmas special is airing on Christmas Day and it is set in ye old Victorian London town. I have no idea how Gatiss is going to pull this off but I have utter faith in him. Heck, I’d have faith in him to lobotomise me if he thought fit, ‘yes Mr Gaitss, whatever you think will make me happy’.

TBC| Over Christmas BBC4 will be running a series of stage to screen theatrical performances – one of which will be Imelda Staunton’s acclaimed performance of Gypsy. Cannot. Wait. I’ve heard such very good things.

 WARNING – YOU WILL HAVE TO LEAVE THE HOUSE TO SEE THESE, BUT DON’T WORRY, MOST CINEMAS SERVE COFFEE NOW.

16th October| Crimson Peak. del Toro, Hiddlestone, Victorian horror story – come on, there is no way you shouldn’t see this film this Halloween season.

26th October| Bond baby Bond. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhpectre is released next week and I for one am ready to be both shaken and stirred. Gosh, I’m sorry about that. I didn’t know I had that level of cheesy in me.

18th December| Star Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaars! Tickets went on sale yesterday and guess which lucky little duck snagged herself some IMAX tickets for opening Friday? Well not me, actually T was the one with his figure on the pulse. But he got me one! So I’m going, and ain’t no one gonna stop me. Except for maybe snow. Snow might stop me. And rain. And a strong breeze.

5th February| Dad’s Army. Jumping right passed New Year to next February, the new Dad’s Army film is released. 10 house points to any reviewer who makes it through a write up without saying ‘Don’t panic – it’s actually quite good’.
And that’s shallot for now. I think I will do a more detailed Christmas TV and film guide nearer the time, once I’ve done the obligatory sit down with a highlighter and the bumper Radio Times ritual. So keep them peppers peeled for that. Right, now where’s my onesie?

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