The Fall [Series 1 & 2]

The-Fall12The Fall is a show that focuses on a serial killer who is committing sexually violent murders in Belfast. When he’s not killing young women he is a bereavement counselor, a husband, and a father.  Metro Police Superintendent Stella Gibson is a senior investigating officer who is sent to assist the Belfast police department as they’ve been unable to solve the case.  Being an outsider Stella faces a lot of hostility from the local detectives but she knows serials killers and is good at her job. The show essentially consists of the two hunting each other which makes for an interesting dynamic.

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Little House on the Prairie Season Five

In season five the Ingalls move from Walnut Grove to Winoka where Mary teaches at a school for the blind. Charles and Caroline are now managing the Dakota Hotel to make ends meet. The Ingalls end up taking in an orphan named Albert who causes a bit of friction between Laura and her Pa as she feels left out. Fear not, the family return to Walnut Grove to find it neglected and try and restore it to its former glory.

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Jonathan Creek Series 5

Jono-Creek-5Order DVD

There’s a few things I have come to like thanks to my mum: Jamie Oliver, Days of Our Lives, Revenge (TV series), fruit cake and Jonathan Creek. “Boring old English lady crap” I hear you say… no it really isn’t. It’s not amazing but it’s not shit either and after 5 series I’ve still never guessed the outcome of a single mystery. My lateral thinking skills suck.

Granted it has lost a bit of its charm over so many series and specials, this series should really be the last. It’s just not that good. I think this has to do with the normalisation of Jonathan. He’s not quirky anymore. Gone are the days of living in a windmill and being the brain behind a camp-y magician’s tricks. He had a crush on a chubby woman and now he’s got an office job and a hot blonde wife, Polly (Sarah Alexander, whom I loved in Green Wing). I wasn’t a huge fan of Maddie (said chubby woman played by Caroline Quentin) but they had chemistry whereas Polly and Jonathan don’t seem to have much at all. Polly also seems like a total killjoy. The lack of sexual tension between sidekicks from previous seasons is really noticeable as instead of acerbic banter we get boring husband/wife dynamics.

Another problem over the last few seasons/specials is that so many mini mysteries are crammed into each episode and it can sometimes be confusing or they simply feel like filler material. Alan Davies has said in an interview that the budgets have been cut severely and that he doesn’t enjoy playing the character due to harsh work schedules and lack of money and I think it shows compared to the earlier seasons especially in the quality of writing.

In this season Polly and Jonathan move to Polly’s recently deceased father’s massive house in the countryside. As soon as they arrive Jonathan is called upon to investigate an attempted murder of an actress and the new village they are in provides plenty of “mysteries”. Although in a bizarre move the first episode of the series solves the crime in the first ten minutes…and why do we need to watch the rest of the episode? Don’t change the format!

There’s still the odd bit of dark humour, a stand out “mystery” that was pretty funny was when a robot vacuum cleaner was responsible for vanishing human remains. Really only one episode out of three was good and I’d barely call it great.

Totally worth it for hardcore Jonathan Creek fans but the census among fans seems to be that the show has gone downhill since series three. I enjoyed the odd episode since then and loved Adrian Edmondson being in the show but it’s just not as good as the early shows. If you like the show for the mysteries then you’ll be satisfied, I still couldn’t guess any of them. My plea to David Renwick – Keep Jonathan weird. Bring back the magician.

The Richard Pryor Show

richard-pryorHaving established his reputation delivering uncompromising and often profanity-laden monologues addressing racial, political and other topical social issues, the late Richard Pryor was probably not the first person most people would expect to be given his own prime-time comedy/variety program, especially given the safe American television landscape of the mid-1970s, when feel-good sitcoms like Happy Days and brainless action escapism such as Charlie’s Angels and The Six Million Dollar Man dominated the airwaves, providing viewers with a welcome alternative to the harsh realities which waited for them outside their front doors (and often within their own four walls).

Still, Pryor had written scripts for episodes of Sanford and Son, The Flip Wilson Show and a Lily Tomlin special (for which he shared an Emmy), and was also a guest host on the first season of Saturday Night Live, so his transition to television star may not have seemed all that far-fetched. Unfortunately, the resultant show only served to highlight just how difficult it was to try and take Pryor’s raw, often incendiary, comedic talents and harness it enough so that it would be accepted by middle-class America without losing its edge or diluting its potency.

The Richard Pryor Show debuted on the NBC network on Tuesday, September 13, 1977 in the 8pm timeslot. It lasted a mere four episodes, a victim of network interference, poor ratings, and Pryor’s refusal to continue working on the show unless it was moved to its originally agreed-upon timeslot of 9pm. What remains over thirty years later is a patchy series which runs out of enthusiasm and steam even before its four episodes were up. Still, there are some traces of Pryor’s genius peppered throughout, as well as enough humorous sketches and up-and-coming faces (Robin Williams and Sandra Bernhard among them) to make it worth mining through.

Episode 1 (13/9/77): In the debut episode, Pryor takes aim at Clint Eastwood’s The Man With No Name spaghetti western anti-hero, as well as the then-new phenomenon of Star Wars, with a send-up of the cantina sequence where Pryor is the bartender to a host of oddball aliens (many wearing Rick Baker make-up and old tunics from Planet of the Apes). Pryor tells one grotesque alien that he looks “just like a nigger from Detroit I know”. A more provocative sketch has Pryor as America’s first black president holding a press conference (and becoming violent when a white southerner enquires about the possibility of hiring the President’s mother to wash his windows).

Episode 2 (20/9/77): This episode starts off pretty well, with a great, cutting sketch set in a 1926 Mississippi courtroom, where a young black man is being prosecuted for having relations with a white woman. Dressed as a white Colonel Sanders-type, Pryor as the Prosecutor is overshadowed by Robin William playing the defence lawyer, who gets his client off by establishing that the woman is of easy virtue (and is then subsequently lynched because he managed to prove a black man innocent). The only other moment of real creative note appears at the end, where Pryor comes out as the bat-winged singer of the rock group Black Death – a hybrid of KISS/Black Sabbath/Parliament and pre-Spinal Tap lunacy – and tops off his act by destroying the set and killing his audience of adoring fans with a bizarre fog ray gun.

Episode 3 (27/9/77): A very laboured episode, by now Pryor’s disinterest in the format and material was clear, with a joke about script censoring leading to a series of vague and half-developed skits about cavemen and inept car repairmen. Only real memorable moments are a B&W sequence where a woman describes her first lesbian experience, and a lengthy improv set in a surreal circus, which nicely highlights Pryor’s sentimental side.

Episode 4 (4/10/77): Thankfully, The Richard Pryor Show managed to finish on something of a high, with an episode which, while lacking any truly great moments, is at least consistently amusing, with sketches that send-up the shower scene from Psycho, Zorro (Pryor is a vigilante known as El Negro), the Titanic (Pryor as a lone occupant on a life raft who drags rich survivors aboard then proceeds to rob them) and Taxi Driver (with Robin Williams providing the voice of a pistol in a gun shop). Other moments of fun include a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde bit, and an appearance by American Indian comic Charlie Hill, who of course sets his sights on the early settlers (“Pilgrims came to this country 400 years ago – as illegal aliens”).

Punchline’s three-disc release of The Richard Pryor Show certainly gives fans everything they could possibly want, with extras running the gamut from outtakes and deleted scenes to the original May 1977 NBC Special which eventually led to the series getting the go-ahead. There is also a booklet containing the scripts for unfilmed sketches and, the highlight, the complete uncut 44 minute ‘Roast’ segment from the final episode, where Pryor mostly sits with his head down, nervously puffing a cigarette as – in a send-up of the famed celebrity roasts hosted by Dean martin – the regular guest stars on the show get up and heap praise or ridicule at his expense.

Ultimately, The Richard Pryor Show captures the star at neither his angry best nor his drugged-out worst – like so much of American television, it is for the most part mediocre stuff, and no doubt suffered because of Pryor’s limited involvement in the writing (he is credited only as a writer of ‘additional material’). Still, it stands as an interesting misfire, a rare nugget of Seventies US television trying to go against the grain, and needless to say an absolute must for lovers of its star.

Extras:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Improvs
  • Q&A Segment
  • Complete 44 Minute ‘Roast’ Segment
  • ‘Mudbone’ Monologue
  • Booklet

Available on R4 DVD from Punchline.

Save with Jamie [Series One & Two]

Save-JamieMadman’s release of Save With Jamie includes series one & two, each consisting of six parts, and is a four disc box set with a 539 minute runtime.

With most of these recipes you essentially have to spend money to save money (eg. buy one big chicken as opposed to a pack of pies) but he does make the dishes go a long way by providing one really good main serve and then creating leftover meals. The good focus of this series is that the meals are of good quality and will keep you full and deliver nutrients as opposed to buying cheap items such as pies and sausage rolls which are stuffed full of additives and preservatives.

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The Legacy

The-Legacy-DVDI’m pretty much up for reviewing any Scandinavian film or television series and when I saw that this show was from the makers of The Killing and Borgen I had to check it out. I’ve taken a stance of reading very little about the things I review so I can watch it with an open mind. Naturally, not knowing anything until reading the blurb, I assumed this would be another among the many Nordic crime wave shows.

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The Fall [Series 2]

The-Fall-2I love British crime series although lately they’ve really started to become crappy by jumping on board the whole exploitative missing kid genre. The Fall was one of the better shows of recent years and I was greatly anticipating series two. What makes the show so awesome (apart from Gillian Anderson) is that it totally feels like a show that could have come straight outta Scandinavia despite being set in Northern Ireland.

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