Let them eat cake

 

 

They think it’s all over. It is now. Telly Addict #20 (isn’t that some kind of anniversary?) puts a smudge of flour on its nose for the final time, as The Great British Bake Off (BBC One) bows out. I’ve loved this show, for its civility, its self-sufficiency, its plurality – I’ve realised I prefer competitive shows where the competitors don’t automatically hate their fellow competitors, and in fact literally lend them a cup of sugar – and the Bake Off had this. Whether its indefatigable spirit can survive a move to commercial television, without three of its key players, remains to be seen.

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As a seasoned viewer, I think I can accurately state that this series was not a classic. It lacked a certain star quality – no Ruby, no Frances, no Ian, no Iain, no Tamal, no Brendan, no Howard, no Richard with his pencil behind his ear, and certainly Nadiya. And overall, even in the final, the baking standard was lower than normal, with disasters like Andrew’s pecans getting stuck to the wrong side of the brown paper and Jane’s iced decorative outer layer failing to find purchase on her cake. This was the final! But the biggest problem was nobody’s fault, as nobody knew when it was being filmed that Love Productions would sell the format off to the highest bidder and thus kill it. There’s nothing sadder than watching something that’s doomed but doesn’t know it, and that’s how this series felt. But you’ll have to watch Telly Addict to discover what really got my goat about it.

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We have a new Pope. He’s an American, he’s called Lenny, and he’s the part Jude Law has been waiting for, his whole career. The Young Pope (Sky Atlantic) has already provided perhaps the finest single moment of original drama on television this year, when Law’s Pope lights up a cigarette behind his desk and his chief Cardinal reminds him, in a forelock-tugging panic, that there is no smoking in the papal palace; it was decreed by Pope John Paul II. Jude Law takes a drag, and says, “There’s a new Pope now.” (The clip’s featured in Telly Addict.) He reminds me of nothing less than Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood in House of Cards. co-written and directed by the Oscar-winning Paolo Sorrentino, this is his first TV drama and he’s having the time of his life.

The dream sequences, which ought to be the last refuge of the creatively bankrupt, already feel germane to Sorrentino’s grand, provocative vision. Followers of his film work will know that he can do grande bellezza and consequenze dell’amore, but the pilot episode of The Young Pope was as long as a film, and there are eight more hours to come. (Episode 2 is just as dreamy and esoteric, but commanding.) The shock value seems the least of it.

I didn’t even like Sorrentino’s last film, Youth, which rang false in the English language. But I forgive him. For he is risen.

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I gave Humans (Channel 4) another try, having drifted away from the hugely successful series one. But it’s still not doing it for me. The cautionary robot tale based on a Swedish original retained around five million terrestrial fans and a million more watched it on partner AMC. But it still feels like a kids’ show that has been accidentally scheduled at 9pm. It’s written by alumni of the mighty Spooks, and cast with super-attractive, diverse young adults, and the soundtrack by Cristobal Tapia de Veer is insidiously atmospheric. But despite the gravity of the situation, I find it all so very polite. Nobody talks over each other.

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Delighted to recommend the second, already-cracking season of Australian tech thriller The Code (BBC Four, who seem to have rather snuck it out without making much fuss) created by Shelley Birse. Dan Spielman and Ashley Zukerman return as the investigative-hacker brothers who must cooperate with the authorities in Canberra in order to avoid extradition for what they got mixed up in, in season one. Massive props to series director Shaun Seet, who once again makes every location look stunning and otherworldly.

Oh, and the item on the coffee table was this.

thisisthis

This Is This, in fact. It was the fanzine I put together at a postgraduate in London in 1988, when all I wanted was to write about music and films and decided to stop waiting around imagining anybody would let me do that. So I did it myself, very much in the DIY spirit of the age, years before blogging and the Internet and social media. I wasn’t even sure if I still had a copy. It cost 50p in 1988. It’s now priceless. Thanks for watching and listening and reading. Comments are a bit thin on the ground on YouTube. I feel a bit sad about that. I love to have a dialogue.

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13 thoughts on “Let them eat cake

  1. I’m going to miss the BBC version of GBBO, but at least I’ll have The Code to fill in some of the void. Thanks for recommending it. I was “on the fence” but will give it a go. I’m already deeply engrossed in The Young Pope. What surreal sumptuousness!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It may simply be that we don’t see much imported Australian drama, so it feels a treat to watch something set somewhere you’re not sick of seeing. Canberra itself, but also West Papua in season two. And director Shaun Seet DRINKS IN those locations.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just watched this for your take on Humans, but it made me appreciate more how you can entertain about a program I would never have any interest in watching, I don’t know how many times you’ve featured the bake-off now and I don’t care, because whenever you do it’s clips that show it’s essence and commentary which savors it. I still have no interest in watching it , but come away with understanding of why someone would.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Then my time here on earth has not been entirely wasted! I do like to be fair about the shows I review. Humans is not for me, but I’ve clearly tried to like it! I would never dismiss anything out of hand or – heaven forbid – to make myself look cool. I’m too old for that.

      Thanks for your encouraging words, Martin.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think Humans has quite a few flaws, some of the family stuff in the first season was a bit unconvincing, but I’m a bit of a glutton for sci fi.

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  3. The Code was great, snappy, stylish, if confusing stuff. Great acting, but the politicians and business types all seemed universally nasty and competent, as opposed to just nasty, so a little unbelievable. It’s the only thing I’ve seen where TV or film graphics convey hackery even remotely convincingly, but still beautifully designed (probably less believable).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’m sure Sherlock wasn’t the first show to have text and emails hanging in the air, but it certainly honed the technique, and I think it’s stuck. I have a feeling the politicos in season one were a little less black-and-white, unless I’m post-rationalising.

      Can I just ask, since you’re all here: do you avoid commenting on the YouTube page because you have to sign up (with Google!) to do so? If so, I would totally understand. I’m just finding it hard to get a conversation going over there, and I used to enjoy the cut and thrust below the line at the Guardian.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You only see the YouTube comments if you open it directly, so many don’t see them playing embedded here. I like many I suspect, tend to avoid YouTube comments instinctively, which are generally populated by rabid nutters! You don’t see the comments here on your blog either if you don’t open the individual entry, which isn’t necessary to read it and watch the video. Yes, I miss you being on the Guardian too.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I’d agree with Mark (above), that I have the blog bookmarked so come here to look for the review rather than go to the youtube site. And it seems easier to post comments here rather than on youtube where you have to sign in. I assumed most people who followed you before at the Guardian would do the same, especially as there was a gap between that vlog finishing and the one on youtube starting during which the blog was up and running, but perhaps not.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your responses, Mark and Bongboots. I’m happy to have the conversation here, too. I understand that an embedded YouTube clip still counts to its “views” total, which is important if we want Telly Addict to continue into the New Year. Fingers crossed. As it happens, the comments under Telly Addict on YouTube have been 99% civilised and legible! The curse of knowing exactly how many views we’ve had is a blessing, too. There’s nowhere to hide.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Andrew,

    like others when I click on the link to the vlog I can’t directly open comments on youtube. I too miss the Guardian discussion but am of course delighted that you are still bringing incisive and witty reviews. I love the Code and all the more so because I started late on Season 1 and it disappeared from the iplayer before I could finish it.

    Here in Trump’s America (no matter how much I say or write it, it still seems unreal) we won’t get The Young Pope until January on HBO I think, and Humans comes back in February when the zombies on AMC are safely tucked back into their articulated trucks row wherever it is that they store them. I did like the first season of Humans but concede that it can be a little derivative and stilted, almost as if everyone was a bit roboty.

    One final thing, I asked ages ago (perhaps it was on the Guardian) if you were going to review Josh. I believe that season 2 is on the iplayer for a year or some such. I loved it. Terrific writing, great performances and nice sitcom set-ups to humiliate the principles. I hope you manage to get to it at some stage.

    Many thanks for everything.

    Like

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