I hope everybody had a good holiday. I know I did. A week at my dad’s of sleeping and doing nothing other than putting on 3 lbs of weight which (I hope) will fall off come January when things start getting hectic at work.
Apart from eating and sleeping, the only other thing I did was to put a Berocca energy tablet in my morning coffee by accident – and watch a bit TV and listen to the radio.
I didn’t watch a whole lot of TV, though. Mainly because the TV schedules were generally rubbish. I did download the whole of HBO’s Watchmen to my iPad Pro but ended up not watching it. I will. And I promise to finish off HBO’s Chernobyl too.
I did download and watch Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns from Sky Cinema which proves that you can get away with anything when an author is dead and buried and whose wishes you can stamp upon without fear of getting an ear-bashing every five minutes from them (also see the BBC’s recent version of A Christmas Carol – Dickens would be spitting feathers). Mary Poppins Returns isn’t too bad, but it struggles with a poorly developed first and second act that brings to mind the amount of story recycling going on in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The VFX are nothing special – especially in this day and age of audience members who’ve seen all this kind of thing before – and have probably figured out how it’s all done. The musical numbers vary between reasonably good to far too modern – a shame since Marc Shaiman is a favourite composer of mine. I also feel there are maybe one or two many songs for its own good. The third act, and the story’s resolution, is worth it – watching a 93-year-old Dick Van Dyke sing and dance without any difficulty is inspirational. And Angela Lansbury as the balloon seller is also a lovely tribute. As is the finale which actually does a decent job of building upon “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”. One final note – kudos to Disney for crediting Peter Ellenshaw (officially designated a Disney Legend) who designed the original Mary Poppins titles and matte paintings, for inspiring the filmmakers to adopt his style for the titles of this film.
I also downloaded Disney’s live-action Dumbo too. I’ve got to say I greatly dislike the stylistic direction that Tim Burton has gone in recent years. Indoor green screen galore with CG backgrounds has replaced physical location work and physical sets with virtual ones. With that many visual effects, it makes me wonder why Disney even bothered with a live-action remake in the first place – in the same way, I wonder why Disney’s The Lion King exists other than as a technical demo. I switched off after ten minutes. Couldn’t stomach the style.
The Undateables at Christmas (Channel 4) was a testament to the saying that there is somebody for everybody regardless of whatever physical or mental attributes you may have. The Undateables has been a shining beacon of positivity in the fog of an increasingly negative world. When two people come together, it makes me happy. You can shove your Love Islands up your bottom. This is the real deal.
This year, Richard, who hates Christmas with a passion, and won’t travel more than a certain number of miles outside his home in Surrey, should be able to find somebody if he really, really, really makes the effort. As for Daniel and Lily, I almost wept by how much these two love each other. Daniel is a whirlwind force of positivity, and having already proposed last year to Lily (which DID make me weep), he upped the ante considerably to lay on a surprise in which he appeared in the local panto as Prince Dan-Charming who is looking for his Cinder-Lily. Having brought her on stage, he then presented her with her own sparkly shoes. If this does not define the very notion of romance, I don’t know what is. I can’t wait to see their wedding – I do hope Channel 4 has been given an invite.
Leeds fan Ray and Christine – also favourites of mine – were also wonderful, with Christine surprising Ray with a trip to see his football idols up close and personal. It was a lovely thing to do, and I do hope they both tie the knot in the not-too-distance future. As for Francesco, I think Channel 4 needs to take him to Japan. His future missus has got to embrace the Japanese culture. In any event, I wish him only the very best of luck.
The BBC’s The Snail and the Whale was an animated triumph. A simple tale of a sea snail wanting to see the world was beautifully rendered by the team at South Africa’s Triggerfish Animation.
Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special saw a very welcome return after an absence of ten years away from the West and Shipman families. Ten years! And it didn’t feel as if a day had gone by since season 3 had ended. But many things HAD happened: Gavin and Stacey have had three kids. Nessa and Smithy’s son (Neil the Baby) is now a teenager. Smithy is seeing somebody else – with a view to getting engaged. Uncle Bryn is.. still Uncle Bryn. The camaraderie between the cast is still there – maybe even tighter than ever. Nessa and Bryn’s rendition of The Fairytale of New York was just perfect (and not shying away from THAT line – good – as uncomfortable it may make some people, you’re exposing the character in the song), and the uncomfortable meeting between Smithy’s new girlfriend and the rest of the family was a delight – especially when it came to Nessa’s Christmas presents. All in all, this was a perfectly crafted comedy which exposes just how good James Cordon and Ruth Jone’s writing really is. But we cannot – cannot, I tell you, leave it at THAT cliffhanger. But, as they say, leave them wanting more..
Mackenzie Crook was possibly always meant to play Worzel Gummidge. Combining his talents as an actor, writer and director, you’ve got yourself a Worzel that is equipped for the 21st century and all the environmental problems that it has brought us. Worzel’s conversation with The Green Man was spot-on – nature and human beings have got to work together. Yet Mackenzie’s Worzel is also the classic Worzel that Barbara Euphan Todd first wrote about all those decades ago. Although this Worzel is a very different Worzel to that played by Jon Pertwee, I love both interpretations of the characters, and after watching both hour-long episodes, I am rather keen that – if Mr Crook is happy to do so – the BBC commissions a full series.
The make-up by Neil Gorton’s Millenium FX is first class, though I’d probably consider animatronic heads for the some of the scarecrow characters to bring a bit more articulation that prosthetic make-up alone can’t quite reach. Nonetheless, the costumes and everything supernatural about our magical beings is nigh spot on. Aunt Sally’s wooden make-up and lack of a lower-body other than an open frame on wheels make for a delightfully spooky encounter in the first episode.
And finally, Tommy Cooper: In His Own Words was a repeat, but I could never tire of seeing him work. He was a comedy genius and loved him as a kid. I also remember watching his final performance live on TV (I would have been eight at the time) and being shocked that I actually watched the man die on stage. This TV show gave us a lot of good memories of the man, including a lovely tribute from his daughter.