Category Archives: Television/DVD review

David Desbois and GofT

For most of it I’ve had no idea about what’s going on; no idea whatsoever. I feel as if I need one of those family tree thingees, the sort some books provide to help out with tons of characters. I can’t get my head around those houses – House of Stark, House of Lanister, House of Baratheon and so it goes on. It puts me in a spin that I am so clueless. My lovely lady has no such trouble, but I don’t like to keep on asking for fear of spoiling it all for her with constant interruptions of, ‘What’s going on?’ So I’ve just sat back and let it wash over me – the whole glorious shebang with its, to me, mess of characters, hideous deeds, rapturous gore, triumphant and not so triumphant nudity and Machiavellian plotting. And I love it. I just love it. It’s the visuality, the immensity, the convolutedness. Is it the pinnacle of present day small screen viewing? After all, the experts now refer to these times as our golden age of television.

‘Game of Thrones’ is a marvel of the age, but it is only with this last released season that I have any notion of a handle on events as we close in on the final showdown. There is so much to relish – the dwarf, Emilia Clarke’s beauty, the stoicism of those guarding the Northern Wall, the White Walkers, those wildly gory weddings and the fact that, at any given moment, a major hero of goodness and chivalry can be hideously dispatched. I was talking to an acquaintance, just the other day, who has refused to watch any further seasons because they beheaded Sean Bean at the end of the first series. But anybody is considered fair game, as long as they don’t dispatch the dwarf. They wouldn’t, would they? Then there was the battle. You all know what I am referring to – the most amazingly choreographed clash that we have ever witnessed in our lounge rooms. The pile on pileness of it left me breathless. And then there are the dragons. I adore the dragons.

Canadian artist David Desbois has been caught up in it too. His regular job, appropriately, is in film and television. He plies his art part time, struggling to keep up with demand for his character work built around GofT and other iconic offerings of our popular culture. He, using coloured markers, creates collector card sets of the major stars of multiple series and franchises that may be readily viewed on deviantART. As well as his work on the behemoth that has emerged from George RR Martin’s sagas, he’s also come up with product from several other of my favourites, including my current obsession, ‘Dexter’, as well as ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Downton’. There’s also character studies for ‘Star Wars’, ‘Harry Potter’, the Marvel and DC comic super-hero gangs, together with much, much more. Check him out.

There will come an end, all too soon, for ‘Game of Thrones’ and no doubt I’ll feel the same way as I did when ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘Mad Men’ and the other series I became fixated on over the last decade ceased. After each, for a while, there is a tiny hole in my life, leaving me to seek something to plug it with. But I fail to see, I really do, how GofT will ever be bettered.

David Desbois on deviantART = https://daviddeb.deviantart.com/

The Blue Room’s Best Television 2017

According to the pundits we are in a golden age of television. Quality, quantity and multiple platforms make it so. Our personal viewing habits have been enhanced this year by the recent addition of Netflix and Stan to our own platforms. Already we have enjoyed ‘Riverdale’ (S1 and 2 – the Archie Comics for the digital age), ‘Stranger Things (S2 – I adore the kids), Billions (S2 – Wall Street machinations) and ‘Designated Survivor (S1 – ‘West Wing’ on steroids). SBS on Demand remains a cornucopia of delights – ‘Angelby’ and ‘Blue Eyes’ being engrossing shows viewed there.

There were still many old favouties we continued to savour on free-to-air, including ‘Cold Feet’ (7two), ‘800 Words’ (Seven), ‘Doctor Doctor (Nine), Offspring, Graham Norton (Ten), Michael Portillo’s train trips around the UK and US, ‘Vikings’ (SBS), ‘DCI Banks’, ‘Would I Lie To You’ (ABC) – the list goes on. Sadly we said goodbye to ‘George Gently’ (ABC) and ‘The Legacy’ (SBS) in ’17. The jury is still out on ‘Offspring’. The Doctor Blake Mysteries’ is, inexplicably, about to leave Auntie (the ABC’s constant quest to appeal to a younger demographic?) and cross on over to the dark side, but his Cornish medical colleague, ‘Doc Martin’, thankfully keeps rolling on. There was the terrific ‘Girl Asleep’ telemovie (ABC), as well as two excellent and moving episodes of ‘Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery’ (ABC), featuring Sam Neill and Colin Hay.

But there were standout shows, with these being the best to reach me the old fashioned way in the last twelve months:-

1. ‘The Young Pope’ (SBS) – it was a hard call for top possie, but this just pipped the following, possibly only because it was new to our screens. Jude Law was exceptional.

2. ‘Fargo’ (SBS) – just gets better and better. In Series 3 Ewan McGregor is terrific larking about relishing his double adventures in frosty Minnesota.

3. ‘This is Us’ (Ten) – sadly the struggling network cannot afford to renew this potential American classic with a heart of gold.

4. ‘The Handmaids Tale’ (SBS) – Elisabeth Moss has been touted as the first superstar of the television medium for the new century. What a CV – ‘The West Wing’, ‘Mad Men’, ‘Top of the Lake’ and now an out and out bleak masterpiece. Is this what the US will resemble post-Trump?

5. ‘Victoria’ (ABC) – Rufus Sewell steals the show as Lord Melbourne, but overall a biopic to relish.

6. ‘Unforgotten’ (ABC) – a police procedural with a stellar cast, including Nicola Walker, Sanjeev Bhuskar, Trevor Eve and Tom Courtney. More of it is coming. Let’s hope it’s here for the long haul.

7. ‘Simon Reeves Turkey’ (SBS) – he’s always compassionate, is this guy. In Turkey he demonstrates the humanity of the country which gives its refugees hope, so unlike our callous overlords who deprive them of even a glimmer.

8 ‘Back’ (ABC) – David Mitchell in rude form in the best new comedy of the year for my money. It’s coming back too.

9. ‘Spring Tide’ (SBS) – a pregnant lady’s tortured death on an isolated beach is the cue for more impressive Scandi-noir’

10. ‘Utopia’/’Rosehaven’ – just two words – Celia Pacquola

During 2017, with ‘The Crown’, we watched, on DVD, the most expensive television ever made, being wholly caught up in it. Season 2 is now showing on Netflix. Watch both if you can.

Mick, Rick and the Garden Party

Imagine being booed off stage for presenting an audience with a cover of the Stones’ ‘Honky Tonk Woman’. Maybe it was the addition of a country twang that he gave the song, but the audience felt, with his long hair and refusal to stick to the formula of the evening, that the performer was out of line and they told him so in no uncertain terms. He fled the stage. The reaction was not as iconic as that given to Dylan when he swapped his acoustic guitar for an electric one, but with this performer it did give the world a song that has lasted down the decades, remaining a staple on classic rock radio world-wide. The song tells of a rocker who remained frustrated at the reaction to him that evening at Madison Square Garden.

I once saw Weddings Parties Anything perform live. It was at a venue, a pub I think, somewhere round my home town of Burnie. Due to come on at ten, if my memory serves me correctly, they eventually did so so much later. By this time many of the patrons were tanked and therefore seemingly intent on spoiling it for those of us who were there for the music. Mick and the lads – maybe there was a lass involved too – still did their their best to give us value for money from their rollicking fare, including their only major hit, ‘Father’s Day’. I guess you’d call them our own version of the Pogues, although I think Mick Thomas’ teeth, unlike Sean’s, were in much better nick. The Weddo’s were a pretty tight unit too and I doubt there would be any of the shambolic evenings in their history that the Irish collective are notorious for. Over the years, despite a lack of chart action, WPA’s famous Christmas shows at Richmond (Vic) venue, the Corner, have become legendary on the pub rock circuit. Despite the yobs that night and the lateness of the hour, I enjoyed their performance.

Something I also enjoyed, when I was much tenderer in years, back in the days when rock was young, was a certain television show, one in which the aforementioned entertainer on that MSG stage first had his name up in lights. When he first started out in it his music wasn’t to the fore – that developed as the show, stretching across fourteen seasons, wore on. He was on screen in all but the early days of the popular series – 435 episodes were produced in all. It was a contemporary of such wonderful fare as ‘I Love Lucy’, ‘Father Knows Best’, ‘Our Miss Brooks’ and the most legendary of them all, the hilariously poignant ‘The Honeymooners’. In contrast his show was supposedly a true take on what it took to be the US’s ideal family, headed by Ozzie, with wife Harriet. That was its eponymous title – ‘Ozzie and Harriet: the Adventures of America’s Favorite Family’. Most knew it simply as ‘The Nelsons’.

It began as a soap on radio in 1944, running until its move to television in 1952, starting a marathon that only finished in 1966. Ozzie and Harriet played themselves and until 1949, voice-actors their two sons. The real David and Ricky joined in then and the US settled in to watch, from their living rooms, the two lads grow up.

Today it would make for tame television, but back in the day the punters couldn’t get enough as the family involved itself with minor disasters and arguments that we all knew would be resolved by the end of the half hour. Ozzie was the slightly distracted, vague and amiable patriarch, Harriet his no nonsense and wise spouse. David was the sensible son, Ricky subject to flights of fancy – at least that’s my recollection of it. Critics reckoned later it truly was a show about nothing resembling any important issue of the day, was thoroughly WASP and insipid. Others likened it to an olden day ‘Truman Show’ – real people playing out their lives on national TV. The difference was that the Nelsons knew they were doing so – and in private, it wasn’t always to their benefit. As a result the two boys had nothing like a normal childhood.

The father, who died in 1975, was in fact a control freak who subjected his family to the demands of churning out the hit series; this taking priority over every other aspect of their lives. Ozzie had been a successful band leader in the thirties and was an out and out workaholic. Once he started in television he wrote the next day’s script through the night, cracked the whip on the long hours of recording and later, when his sons requested a desire to quit the series, they were bluntly forbidden to do so. They gave up any hope of attending college with their peers. They were famous – what else could they possibly want?

Harriet, pre-wedlock, was a nightclub and radio star whose future seemed very bright in her own right. She found fame, of course, but not as those who knew her, including Ginger Rogers, would have hoped. A trouper since the age of 13, Harriet Hilliard married one O Nelson in 1935 and gave up all her independent aspirations

Son Ricky’s profile grew on the show once he started strumming his guitar and showing the vocal aptitude to go with it. By the end of its years he was its real star with a huge teenage following. Eventually he found enough wriggle room to start building a life away from ‘The Nelsons’ as dad came to realise that, without his second boy’s input, his life’s work would go down the gurgler. It was his popularity as a musician that was his ticket to the independence that had been denied other family members. It was because he was television’s first teen idol. He had a string of hits in those pre-Beatle days when rock had blanded out. These included such ditties as ‘Hello, Mary Lou’ and ‘Travellin’ Man’. Eventually each episode of the family saga revolved around setting up a scenario whereby he could sing, usually at some frustration or other over a girl. Once the British invasion hit, though, his star waned; as did ‘The Nelsons’.

With his childhood effectively stolen by his over-bearing father, in his adult years the cracks started to show for Ricky, or Rick as now he preferred to be called. He experimented with drugs, busted up a marriage and generally entered a downward spiral – becoming a far cry from his public persona, as perceived by the public, from his television show. The legacy of it seemed like a millstone around his neck. As many did, as the sixties morphed into the seventies, he attempted to reinvent himself as a country-rock performer, putting together the Stone Canyon Band.

Rock revival by this stage was where some money could be had as well. It was something Rick Nelson usually eschewed, but in 1971 he accepted an invitation to appear at MSG, NYC, along with fellow stars from the 50s – Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Bobby Rydell. But Rick failed to do his homework. He didn’t realise this was a hits only show, so when he started to play songs off his latest album, including the Jagger/Richards cover, the crowd reacted negatively. Rick, piqued, pulled the plug and stormed off, vowing never to give any audience the satisfaction of him ever performing his old hits. It’s an interesting side story that his two sons, twins Gunnar and Matthew, who had a few hits of their own last century, now tour singing their dad’s songs as well as their own. And in any case, Nelson senior forgot about his vow in later years.

Such was RN’s funk after his disastrous meltdown that he decided to write about his feelings on the matter in lyric form. The result – ‘Garden Party’. For those in the know – now including your good selves dear reader – it is obvious what the ‘Garden’ bit refers to. The song became his first top ten maker since his golden years – and his last. Rick Nelson kept on playing for the rest of his short time on the planet, his life cut short by a plane crash in 1985. He was only 45. As someone who followed his countrified career after the demise of his parent’s television vehicle, this event greatly saddened me. But the legacy of these leaner years remains with a very fine song.

In its lyrics are many very interesting references, including a line name-checking one of his hits – ‘Mary Lou…She belongs to me’. Then there’s ‘Mr Hughes hid in Dylan’s Shoes’. This was a hark back to the times when George Harrison, who Rick believed was his friend, tried to go incognito around the world’s cities, calling himself Mr Hughes. At the time the ex-Beatle was working on a project that didn’t eventuate – an album of covers of tunes by his Bobness.

Went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name
No one recognized me, I didn’t look the same
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
People came from miles around, everyone was there
Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air
And over in the corner, much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes wearing his disguise
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
Played them all the old songs, thought that’s why they came
No one heard the music, we didn’t look the same
I said hello to “Mary Lou”, she belongs to me
When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
Someone opened up a closet door and out stepped Johnny B. Goode
Playing guitar like a-ringin’ a bell and lookin’ like he should
If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck
And it’s all right now, learned my lesson well
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself

These days ‘Garden Party’ is now the crowning glory of Rick’s career – the one that’s lasted. It has had innumerable people covering it including, in recent times, John Fogerty on his own excellent collection of covers, ‘The Blue Ridge Rangers Ride Again’

And the connection between Rick N and Mick T – it’s probably obvious by now. The Weddos man has knocked out his own engaging take on the classic.

On the local scene Mick Thomas has had a long and illustrious career, not only with his singing, but in writing for the stage as well. He performs as a solo artist and as part of bands such as The Sure Thing and The Roving Commission. He is a survivor. He’ll perhaps never regain the type of exposure ‘Father’s Day’ gave his band, but he has a solid following and his product still sells, standing up to critical scrutiny. But, of course, you’ll never hear him played on mainstream radio. Mr Thomas’ latest release is ‘These Were the Songs’, largely a retrospective of his work post Weddings Parties Anything. There are several covers, apart from GP, including a lovely, lovely version of Dylan’s ‘Most of the Time’; Thomas dueting with up-and-comer Ruby Boots. And as with Nelson, his inclusion of the former child-television star’s song is an up-yours too. It’s a thinly veiled criticism of the big players on the scene and their refusal to take Mick’s newer music seriously. And it is perhaps his fear that, along with ‘Garden Party’s’ songsmith, he will be regarded as essentially a one hit wonder. But with both that song and ‘Father’s Day’ on non-stop rotation somewhere and instantly recognisable, is that too bad a legacy?

Rick Nelson performing ‘Garden Party’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAHR7_VZdRw

Mick Thomas performing ‘Garden Party’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GhsEFluOUo

The Blue Room's Best Television 2016

There was much that stuck in the mind from the small screen in the past twelve months – and I hasten to add that what follows are the shows we, Leigh and I, either watched on free-to-air, placed on hard drive from that platform or, in a new development this year, accessed from our T-Box, which gave us ABC’s i-View or SBS’s On Demand. My goodness me, technology in this day and age!

There were individual one-offs that stuck in the mind. For instance, the hopelessness of the Syria debacle bought home to Simon Reeve, one of my favourites of tele-travellers, on a Greek island close to Turkey. He found himself confronting a column of refugees from that benighted country, knowing there was little he could do to ease their burden. When one man pointed to his cameraman and told Simon that that was his occupation before his nation became a hell hole, poor Simon was rendered speechless – as we all are over the atrocities from the senselessness that is still occurring as I type. It is bought home nightly to us on the news. It is an abomination.

There was the wonderful documentary ‘Richard Flanagan – Life After Death.’ In it, at one stage, the great Tasmanian author relates the cruel death of his father’s best mate on the Burma Railroad. He travelled to find the poor fellow’s grave in an Asian war cemetery shortly after the death of his dad; his father lucky to survive the obsentities he witnessed and endured as a POW under such a cruel regime. Flanagan’s reaction to the burial site was beyond description in words – it certainly made me shed tears over my own father who served, as well, in that terrible conflict.

There was Joanna Lumley’s finding herself also speechless in the tunnels of Okinawa where hundreds of young Japanese soldiers committed suicide rather than facing the shame of surrender to the Americans in the same war. Then there was the inspiring, empowering Australian Story on star Collingwood female marquee player Moana Hope. This was the tale of her rise to become an out-and-out superstar of the AFL Women’s League. The obstacles that she’s overcome to reach that point would inspire either gender.

But below, though, for my money, are the best shows that graced the small screen in 2016

1. The Missing (SBS) – you take your eyes off a child for a moment and it can change your life. This, James Nesmith’s character found out, in what turned out to be an edge of your seat journey after a little boy disappears whilst on a European holiday with his family. Frances O’Connor is exceptional as the mother, as was Tcheky Karyo, the French police inspector, who couldn’t let the case go. Returns for a second season with David Morrissey and Keely Hawes as the leads.

2. Dr Thorne (ABC) – adapted by Julian Fellows from the pen of Trollope, this, to my mind, was the best period drama since Downton. Helmed by a sublime Tom Hollander, it’s such a pity that it seems to be a one off.

3. Rake S4 (ABC) – perhaps the best season to date as Cleaver Greene creates mayhem in the courtrooms of Oz. In a role just made for Richard Roxburgh, the thought of Greene creating similar chaos in the Senate is delicious.

4. DCI Banks S5 (ABC) – Stephen Tomlinson, Andrea Lowe and Caroline Catz are the trio that head up this engrossing police procedural now into its fifth season. Is Alan Banks the saddest, most hang-dog looking copper ever?

5. The Bridge S3(SBS) – Although Kim Bodnia is sorely missed, we still have the socially inept Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) to keep us entranced as she commits faux pas after faux pas in her bulldog, single-minded approach to solving crime. Sadly the next series will be the last we’ll see of this unique creation.

6. Molly (7) – in this two-parter Samuel Johnson gets the Australian National Living Treasure down pat. Can’t wait for the promised bio-pic on the Easybeats.

7. Cold Feet (7) – this much loved series from the turn of the millennium is fast forwarded thirteen years, losing one cast member but none of its allure. James Nesbitt and the rest of the crew again shine as they navigate the pitfalls of the digital age.

8. National Treasure (ABC) – in this biting take on Operation Yewtree, Robbie Coltrane, supposedly exposed as a serial pedophile, is simply amazing. Can this man act or what?

9. Deep Water (SBS) – another police procedural, this one investigating the murder of gays in Sydney; quite brilliant in its moody depiction of the city on the harbour. And it’s based on the real events. Yael Stone and Noah Taylor return from American duty to play the leads – William McInnes is also at his mesmerising best.

10. Rosehaven (ABC) – some delightful Taswegian whimsy to round off the list, brought to us by Luke MacGregor and Celia Pacquola, the latter going from strength to strength in this acting caper. Come on Auntie – give us another series please.

HMs – The Secret, Tony Robinson’s Wild West, Italy 1992, Billy Connolly’s Tracks Around America, Undercover Bosses, Offspring, The Legacy, Janet King, Would I Lie to You, Graham Norton, The Third Leg, Hard Quiz, The Code, Modus.

GPs – House Husbands, 800 Words, Doctor Doctor.

The Satisfaction of a Secret Affair

See what I did there? Up above – with the title of this scribbling? I amalgamated the three television series under review – ‘The Affair’, ‘The Secret’ and ‘Satisfaction’ – to make a cogent heading. Clever or what? Do I discern eyes rolling?

But let’s commence at the basement and work our way up to the attic. Down in the cellar, by a long shot, belonged to ‘Satisfaction’. And let us not confuse this with the Australian series of last decade. Even if that one was set in a brothel, it is a darn sight better than this American travesty. The US product lacked any class – and was only marginally better than the execrable ‘UnReal’, which the Blue Room gave a massive thumbs down to on a previous occasion. Incredibly – as with the series telling of odious goings-on on the set of a reality tele show – ‘Satisfaction’ did garner a second installment. The pilot episode to this woeful production should have put me off. This consisted of hubby seeing wifey in coitus with a handsome young gigolo and such was his horror, he promptly decided to join that profession. We then see him pleasuring and catering to the desires of some unhappily hitched matrons. Tacky? You betcha. It is a bland, timid version of ‘Hung’. Naughty bits are not to be displayed at any cost, with the sexual action being as unbelievable as the plot. On top of this, the warring couple’s daughter (Michelle DeShon) feels it’s a good idea to sing about the affair of two of her teachers at the school concert. Then she promptly goes off to seek fame in the music industry with a black beau. I found I was fast forwarding this narrative thread as it gave me the irits even more than the nonsense her mum and dad were up to.

satisfaction

I suppose seeing your wife in a compromising position with a male escort could send a middle-aged fellow off into a doozy of a mid-life crisis, but Neil Truman (Matt Passmore), when he’s not penetrating other women, gets himself involved in a protest about a delayed flight, seeks counsel from a Japanese guru to get his head sorted and decides he is going to invent a website to guarantee personal happiness. As if. I must admit my interest in all these wretched proceedings did perk up whenever Katherine LaNasa appeared on small screen as the rich-bitch head of the escort service Neil worked for. It’s a bit of trivia that Katherine LN, at 22, was once married to 53 year old Denis Hopper – it didn’t last. In ‘Satisfaction’, to this male’s mind, she has being sexy down pat, but even her character was submerged in sudsy soap by the end. Of course, she had fallen in love/lust with the silly Neil. As wife Grace, Stéphanie Szostak has charm, but why in any way would she succumb to her empty-headed young paramour is anybody’s guess. Good in the sack I guess. Her decision to pose nude for a photographer – without any nudity, if you know what I mean – is totally out of whack with her previously zipped up, in public, character. The camerasmith, who captured her unclad form for posterity, also soon develops an attraction for Grace, despite the fact that he is dating her sister. This sets it up for more machinations in the next season. But don’t waste your time on this garbage as I did. It was cancelled after its second run of episodes. Just desserts. I can’t get that time back.

affair_2014_poster

Much more believable is ‘The Affair’. Again it’s an American series – but with two imported UK actors in the lead. Maybe that’s the difference with the above. Dominic West plays Noah Soloway; Ruth Wilson is the object of his illicit affection , one Alison Lockhart. Maura Tierney has the role of Noah’s jilted wife Helen. Far grittier, far more forthright and more grounded in the possible, this take on a male with a bad case of PPS (Peter Pan Syndrome) was nominated for three Golden Globes in ’15, winning two – Best Series; Best Actress. It is also an advertisement for its Montauk, Long Island setting; but its winning feature is that the story is presented from the perspective of both adulterers. And the tale they tell, once an associated murder investigation is underway, would seem to indicate that one or both are telling great big porkies about their relationship. Noah was once happily married – at least that was the outward appearance. His life, together with associated collateral damage, was thrown out of kilter by a waitress at a truck stop who possesses many dark secrets to her background – part of the attraction I presume.

Although my lovely lady wasn’t quite so enamored of this, I enjoyed this take on the disintegration of a marriage. It was commissioned for a second series and in this it is promised we will see the points of view on the events from the two cuckolded spouses. A third season started screening at the end of ’16 in the US. This was time better spent.

Now let’s go right up to the attic with ‘The Secret’, from Northern Ireland, featuring James Nesbitt. This one’s based on real events. In fact James’ sister was mates with one of the victims involved in the very sorry tale he helped bring to wider knowledge. This recently aired on SBS and was excellent.

secret

Nesbitt is also back on our screens, as well, in the marvellously rebooted ‘Cold Feet’; but playing a cold, calculating killer in ‘The Secret’, he pulls no punches. He takes us to the world of a god-fearing, Bible-bashing dentist Colin Howell. He develops the hots, big time, for Sunday school teacher Hazel Buchanan (a brave performance from Genevieve O’Reilly) – so big time that he is prepared to dispatch spouses to rid himself of the barriers to having his lustful way with Mrs Buchanan. He devised a very cunning plan – and it almost worked. It was nigh on ten years before the murderous couple were forced to atone for their evil ways – a period during which they both built separate lives for themselves. And just how much Hazel was involved, as her life unraveled, in what happened to said spouses is still open to question, thanks to the evil doings of her former lover. And Colin’s excuse for what he did in the end? Well it was what his god would have wanted.

It’s almost as riveting viewing as Nesbitt’s outing earlier this year in the ‘The Missing’ – coming back, minus the Irish actor, in ’17. ‘The Secret’, along with ‘The Affair’ and ‘Satisfaction’, is out now on DVD. But folks, I really wouldn’t bother with the last mentioned.

YouTube trailer – ‘Satisfaction’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2QARUk3oLQ

YouTube trailer – ‘The Affair’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPTtrScW3-E

YouTube trailer – ‘The Secret’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsYUBr8T6B8

le Carré Rules

Back in the day I was a le Carré man – did you know his real name is David Cornwell? I didn’t, so I just thought I’d throw that in there. Anyway, I felt ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’ was a rattlin’ good tale, so I stuck with him for a while. And for a time I was entranced by him in print – the way he disentangled the suspenseful webs of intrigue he wove into his narrative. But then, I guess, I must have struck an offering that palled and so went off him, moving on to other literary heroes.

But I’m back now, hooked again on le Carré. This time it’s not his tomes. It’s the filmatic adaptations thereof. The first of these, recently, for the big screen, was ‘Bridge of Spies’, with Tom Hanks. Leigh and I caught it on DVD sometime after its cinema release, so when I read the excellent reviews for ‘The Night Manager’, I was soon purchasing it on the same format. Unfortunately we do not have immediate access to non-free-to-air television.

night-manager

And yes, what a yarn that was too. It appears that the producers of it felt, in their wisdom, to make some changes to JlC’s original as he wrote it way back in the dark ages – 1993. Our version commenced with the Arab Spring in Cairo. There was another change as well – his male Burr became Angela, played by a gloriously pregnant (in real life) Olivia Coleman – one of my favourites after her regular stints in ‘Rev’ and ‘Broadchurch’. She’s an operative in the higher echelons of MI5, or some such, possessing a strong suspicion that above her some of her superiors are not exactly playing the game according to the rules. Our eponymous night manager, played by Tom Hiddlestone, Taylor Swift’s latest squeeze in case you’re interested, is handsomely debonaire. He runs the after hours show at the Egyptian capital’s Nefertiti Hotel. He’s drawn into a web of intrigue via the beautiful Sophie (Aure Atika). Alas, she’s the current squeeze of shady Freddy Hamid (David Avery) who is buying arms from the world’s most evil man, Richard Roper. Here we have Hugh Laurie (‘Fry and Laurie’, ‘House’) having great glee playing a nasty bastard. Sophie has secret documents that the UK government would be incredibly interested in possessing as they implicate connections between Roper, a covert arms dealer, to prominent Britishers. Sophie is desperate and needs the assistance of the night manager, Jonathan Pine, to photocopy them – immediately entangling him in messy conspiracy. And he falls in love/lust with the lustrous lady, despite knowing full well her dangerous connections. She is soon dispatched for her treachery by Roper and his crew of scruple-free thugs. Then there is a hiatus and we rejoin Pine much later at an exclusive alpine resort where Roper and his entourage come to stay.

night-manager-Tom

Now I suspect some of the joy Lawrie had in making this television series was down to his fictional squeeze, played by our own Elizabeth Debinki. His icy blonde and statuesque Jed is stunning in various revealing costumes. She sort of knows that evil is afoot in Roper’s camp, but doesn’t confront it until she too falls for Pine. My, this actress is luminous up there on the screen and no wonder she has two men in raptures over her. It is hard to take one’s eyes of her. I certainly wanted to hit the rewind button when she was on view. And, speaking of camp, ‘Rev’s’ Tom Hollander, plays Lance, one of the uber-crim’s main advisors and the most unsavory of characters. He eventually falls foul of his boss as events reach their crescendo.

‘The Night Manager’ is A-grade stuff, thoroughly engrossing and just made for binge watching. Le Carré’s original here was adapted by David Farr, the writer for ‘Spooks’ – a series I’ve never watched, but intend to once I work my way through ‘The West Wing’ and ‘The Sopranos’ – if life is so long. And as for Ms D, can’t wait to see her in ‘The Kettering Incident’. For the eagle eyed, evidently the great man himself, le Carré, puts in an unacknowledged appearance in ‘The Night Manager’ as a diner.

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Perhaps not quite the rip-snorter that the above is, as it turned out, next I was off to the movies to see ‘Our Kind of Traitor’. Based on a 2010 novel by the author and directed by Rebecca White, again dirty business is going on as couple Perry (Ewan McGregor), an academic, together with Gail (Naomie Harris), a barrister, are on holiday in Morocco, being drawn into another web. Here they end up getting involved with charismatic money-launderer Dima – a stellar performance by Stellan Skarsgård – yes, poor pun I know. He’s a right scene stealer in this – and of course there are dodgy connections with the English upper echelons in this too. Trouble is, Dima’s having second thoughts, is about to go whistle-blower and the Russian mafia are hot on his tail. For reasons I didn’t quite get, it seems our couple are the only souls that can help him escape their clutches, with, for them, this quickly taking priority over resurrecting their floundering relationship. Who knows, perhaps they thought a little cat and mouse with the mafia would be of benefit. Soon, again for reasons I didn’t comprehend, Dima becomes Perry’s hero, so much so he is willing to risk life and limb for the turncoat – anything, I guess, to avoid saving his marriage or returning to the stifling world of English academia.

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Still, for all its leaps in logic, ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ is well worthy of a viewing on some format now its cinema run has concluded. It does pale against the previous adaptations such as ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ and ‘The Constant Gardener’. Five television series and ten films have been made of le Carré’s books – that just leaves around a dozen or more to go. Hopefully, another take on his oeuvre is not too far away.

Trailer for ‘The Night Manager’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-ZcaKdvML8

Trailer for ‘Our Kind of Spy’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5k4FBGtbMs

Trippin' Back Through the Decades

Now Martika was the best of them, so reviewer Michael Dwyer assured me. Of the coterie of one-hit wonders now working their way around Oz, including to this wintery isle, her ‘…powerhouse pop-rap-soul managed to elude the clutches of kitsch to simply sound great. She looked great, too, in her bike shorts and bob. But maybe tunes like ‘Love…Thy Will be Done’ and ‘Tin Soldier’ were always bigger than pants and hair.’ He was not so impressed with the rest of the troupe of semi-has beens from the period, but still gave their show a healthy three and a half stars. And I suppose, for us of the Countdown generation, ‘Totally 80s’ would succeed in taking us back – back trippin’ through time.

Now when the ads for the show appeared on my little screen at home, ad nauseam, over a countless number of weeks, interrupting the footy, I never for a moment thought of heading off to Wrest Point, their venue of choice here. But maybe I should have done. After all, they packed out St Kilda’s venerable Palais. According to Dwyer they evoked ‘…where the 1980s lives in collective consciousness: as an almost satirical world of what-were-we-thinking fashion crimes, good-humoured self-deprecation and songs so bad they’re…well, obviously you had to be there.’ Yes, probably. I’m sorry I now missed their Hobart gig – it would have been fun.

But then again I have done a little trippin’ back through the decades myself in recent weeks – back to those times Molly ruled Sunday nights at six o’clock – in my recent viewings. So let’s go to the start of the ‘Countdown’ era in the 70s with ‘Vinyl’ – an HBO series that makes those times come alive with gusto. If you’d think, on watching it, that it has a similar vibe to the glorious ‘Boardwalk Empire’, that would be down to the involvement of Martin Scorsese and Terrence Winter in both. Throw in Mick Jagger in the mix off-screen and one of Nucky’s off-siders as its rip-roaring, coke snorting star and it would seem there would be a recipe for success. This was truly sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll on a stick with lashings of nudity, violence and wonderful music thrown in and I thought it was grouse. Sadly, the American viewing audience didn’t take to it and nor did the critics. After initially commissioning it for a second season, HBO pulled the plug before filming got underway. But it stands okay as a one off and is well worth a gander.

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Bobby Cannavale is the fulcrum of the show and is hot wired throughout. He is eminently watchable. He radiated charm when he was not high on illegal substances or booze, but out of control otherwise. He’s the head honcho of American Century Records trying to keep the company’s head above water. He makes a play for various artists such as Led Zepplin and even the King, but with the latter he’s no match for the Colonel. He also passes on a certain Swedish quartet as being of little talent, but does sign up a band fronted by a charismatic drug addict played by Mick’s son James, doing a good take on his dad. Ray Romano is excellent as one of Richie Finestra’s (Cannavale) lieutenants with Olivia Wilde and Juno Temple very fetching as Finestra’s put upon trophy wife and a savvy, young go-getter trying to make it in a man’s world respectively. Political correctness is thrown out the window with all the mayhem that goes on. There’s bloody murder; greasing of palms, including payola; as well as lavish ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ type parties, seventies style.

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Especially enjoyable for my lovely lady and yours truly was guessing the rock icons as look-a-likes performed takes on their hits. It’s a terrific ride and the doped-up Cannavale in full flight is a sight to behold. Could it have been that fly by your pants back then? Fair bet it was and it’s truly worth seeing all laid bare on the small screen.

Now if you have fond memories of another time and place, enjoying the smuttiness of fare of the ilk of ‘Porky’s’ and ‘Animal House’, then ‘Everybody Wants Some’ may be for you. Set in the early eighties, this take on the genre from esteemed director Richard Linklater (‘Boyhood’, ‘Before Sunset’), is more modest, in all ways, than the over the top ‘Vinyl’. Here we take a peek at the lives of a group of baseball jocks as they arrive on campus to settle into a frat-house. Classes are still a few days off so its party time. For a great party one needs copious drink, pot and what else? Oh yeah – girls. So our lads head off to check out the local talent and hopefully pick up some willing ladettes to entice back for some wild times. That duly occurs. As the Guardian states in review, ‘…, the air is thick with testosterone, Aramis after-shave and the musk of well-used jockstraps.’ There’s a pumpingly good sound track going with it and as the boys explore the local dives, we are cannily introduced to the musical fads of the day. It does contain a modicum more depth and character development than its aforementioned forebears, but I suspect this will not go down as one of Linklater’s better efforts.

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From the same decade, but from across the Atlantic, we have ‘Sing Street’, a joyous movie that I really, really liked and my Leigh adored – so much so I was out buying her the soundtrack the following day. From the same people who gifted us, last decade, the gem that was ‘Once’ (remember it – a little battler of a movie that made a more than tidy profit on the sniff of an oily rag budget), ‘Sing Street’s’ director, John Carney, is again on song (terrible pun). It is another paean to the pleasures of Irish music. If we can imagine a mix of the guys from U2 starting out, the Commitments plus, as one critic pointed out, even a bit of ‘Gregory’s Girl’ from way, way back, you get the feeling of this uplifting affair. Its the story of how a group of lads – yes, more lads, but a tad younger – get together in high school, form a band and the rest is history. Well, not quite, but that’s beside the point. It’s a lovely, lovely journey this indie takes us on and it’s so amusing to watch our lead, Conor/Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), take on the personas of his latest musical heroes with his appearance – the Cure, Duran Duran, Elvis Costello, Spandau Ballet, Wham, Hall and Oates, they’re all involved. The object of his affection and his muse, Raphina ( Lucy Boynton) is quite luminous. She plays a lost soul and the ‘older woman’ who gradually succumbs to Conor’s charms. His older brother, Brendan, is an inspiration for much of what happens as well. In this role Jack Reynor is a scene-stealer.

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So, how to sum up? It’s true that ‘Vinyl’ looks as though its had squillions spent on it and it’s worth taking the plunge and doing some binging, but for my money (boom-boom), it is outdone by ‘Sing Street’ as pure entertainment. ‘Once’ was a one-off (oh dear), never to be repeated classic, but ‘Sing Street’ lines up pretty well against it. But you be the judge. ‘Vinyl’, on DVD, is out there now and the other two will not be too far off on some form of small screen platform. Did I enjoy going back to those times of flares and platform shoes through these means? You betcha.

Trailer ‘Vinyl’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5wbEaqMjKU

Trailer ‘Everybody Wants Some’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6raUs0CiCQ

Trailer ‘Sing Street’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYk2Vx1z6lk

Unreal = Unreally Awful

Yes, I felt like the guy going into the chemist to buy condoms and selecting half a dozen other items he didn’t really need in the hope that it would cover up the fact that he was buying prophylactics when he fronted the sales assistant – invariably a pretty young thing. Except I wasn’t in a pharmacy; I was in JBs, my preferred provider of popular entertainment.

I’d read the review of it in the Age. As it turns out I wished I hadn’t. The reviewer must have been off in la-la-land when he viewed it. What I watched was something truly awful, appallingly boring and quite tasteless in places. But his (I figured such was the subject matter it wouldn’t have been a woman) positive and articulate review had led me to buy this travesty. The only salve was when I fronted the sales counter with it I did in fact have other product, far less lurid – product that I did, in fact, intend.

When I initially located the DVD of the tele-series on the shelves I took a step back. I almost left it in its place, I was so put off by the cover. But, I thought, as the Age gave it a thumbs up, it would be silly for me to miss out on a worthwhile few hours of entertainment because of a little embarrassment about outward appearances. Sure enough, I had to hand it over to one of JBs delightful young ladies who welcomed me to be served with a radiant smile. And she didn’t bat an eyelid at what I proffered – I even received another winning smile when I thanked her at the completion of the transaction. Phew!

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As to that cover. To the fore were three attractive people completely starkers – two young women and a guy. Their top bits were hidden by some strategically placed writing exclaiming, ‘Everyone will be exposed.’ More on that later. Across their groins they held what appeared to be mini-television devices.

And it was on my last sojourn to Bridport that I extracted the first disc and placed it into my son’s system. It was one of a selection of viewing entertainment I took up to the north-east to fill in the long hours away from Leigh, doing a gig I otherwise thoroughly enjoy. What could be better than being in that delightful village by the sea with some animals I adore? Not watching ‘Unreal’, that’s for sure.

I should have realised from the get-go and stopped after the first episode. But I kept on, doing due diligence as the review was so praising of the offering. It must get better, mustn’t it? If anything it got worse and even more ludicrous the longer I persevered. Eventually I gave up. Prior to its viewing I had been working my way through another season of West Wing (only one to go now). The contrast between it and ‘Unreal’ couldn’t have been broader. I should have known any product requiring front cover titillation to sell its wares would be below par – and this was dodgy, big time.

So imagine my surprise when, picking up my preferred Yarra City organ of the press one morning recently, I found it to be encased in a wrap-around spruiking the virtues of season two of the odious show. ‘What! They’ve renewed it!’ I was stunned. The accolades on this once august newspaper’s front page told me how much it had been loved by the critics first time around – so presumably the Age hadn’t got it entirely wrong (just me) and that it had won the Peabody Award – whatever that was. Excitingly, ‘Unreal’ was about to be fast-tracked to Stan for only $10 per month. But more surprises were in store for me. The following week’s Green Guide, in that very same paper, had a feature article on the new season – it really was getting some traction. And to my surprise it was written by a woman. She, Kylie Northover, commenced by describing it as ‘…a layered, brutal, comedy-drama exploiting the relationships of its female leads -…- (as well as) the art of manipulation, the quest for love, and even mental illness.’ Did Ms Northover actually watch the garbage dished up in the first execrable instalment? To give her credit – at no stage did she give her personal opinion of its quality. Best left unsaid.

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Now the premise of ‘Unreal’ is that it is an exposé of the background machinations that go into making a reality dating show. There seems to be a plethora of these on the box lately– the one this follows most closely is ‘The Bachelor’ franchise. But we have many to choose from. There’s ‘The Farmer Wants a Wife’, ‘Seven Year Itch’, ‘Kiss Bang Love’ and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Haven’t watched any of them, but I did love the fictional contribution on the ABC – ‘It’s a Date’. Even SBS has gotten in on the act, broadcasting Asian examples, as well as one conducted completely in the nuddy with no coverings of the naughty bits. Maybe, just maybe, if you were a fan of this genre then ‘Unreal’ may have some appeal. But I bet most, like me, would not be able to see it through to the end. Take my word for it – every aspect of this morass of a show is cringeworthy.

In the show we are voyeurs, a word I’ve chosen carefully, to the happenings making a television product called ‘Everlasting’. A range of beautiful (of course) women are gathered together at a mansion to vie, in every way possible, for the attention of a rich English twat of a bachelor. We soon discover his background is more than a bit dubious. Naturally, the production staff invent all sorts of ploys for their victims to act on to get between the sheets with their quarry, seemingly with scant regard as to how their brainwaves could play out to the detriment of the contestant. It’s all rather grubby. The selling point, it seems, for the new series is that the stud at the centre of the action is – wait for it – black.

Now, back to that cover. These days nudity, along with violence and sex scenes, are an accepted part and parcel of many of the series we all enjoy. In ‘Unreal’ there wasn’t a hint of the former, at least in the episodes I waded through. Maybe they were leaving it for the climax, I don’t know. There were sex scenes, but the actors involved were very careful to cover up and they were, in any case, well, unreal in terms of their believability – laughably so. So, was the packaging for the whole sorry affair false advertising? Of course it was just a play on words – the exposing had nothing to do with the body in this. Ms Northover claims that it is ‘…at its heart a feminist program.’ To me this show is doubly offensive for the way it manipulates its own actors and is in no way a positive take on what I understand to be feminism. Give me strength. The acts the cast are required to carry out are decidedly non-feminist.

‘Unreal’ is trash. Give it a miss.

Cuffs, Babylon and Assorted Brit Fare

I understand they can’t all be a ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘Broardchurch’, ‘Call the Midwife’ or ‘Doc Martin’ – sadly there’s just one more series of that latter gem to go. I understand that for the cost of one quality drama perhaps three or four reality/panel/quiz shows can be put to air – most of those being pure dross on the cheap. But, still, it’s somewhat deflating to have enjoyed the first season of a new series only to read, usually once you’re right into it, that the powers to be have deigned not to re-commission it for a second. ‘Cuffs’, recently shown on ABC, as well as ‘Babylon’, watched on DVD, were both subject to this indignity.

I doubt it will happen with these two offerings, but occasionally the clamour of public disappointment will cause a change of heart. This happened here in Oz with the excellent ‘A Place to Call Home’, picked up by Foxtel. In Britain, the fans refused to allow Michael Kitchen and Honeysuckle Weeks (love the name) to go away when last century’s second great conflict finished. ‘Foyle’s War’ was bought back to sort out matters when the Iron Curtain went up.

I would have thought both ‘Cuffs’ and ‘Babylon’ would be worthy of a second chance. They certainly right royally entertained my lovely lady and myself. Both contained lashings of action (‘Cuffs’ preference for police chases on foot rather that in automobiles was welcome), humour (very black in the case of Danny Boyle’s ‘Babylon’) and interesting back-stories involving the major characters of each.

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It was hoped ‘Cuffs’ would become the new ‘The Bill’. Reportedly the cast were distraught at its axing – most would have to look for new work to keep the wolf from the door. It was set in the faded gloss and glitter of England’s equivalent to the Gold Coast, the poor luke-warm substitute that is Brighton. ‘Cuffs’ displays plenty of this city’s underbelly. ‘Babylon’ was, to my mind, the somewhat better offering. An American whizz-kid (Brit Marling) is brought in to run the public image of Scotland Yard. She’s all for change and transparency and is championed by the Commissioner (James Nesbitt). The actor is in much demand and presumably had to juggle this with his remarkable work in ‘The Missing’. He’ll be replaced by David Morrissey in the latter for the second round of episodes, but at least ‘The Missing’ is coming back. In ‘Babylon’, it’s ‘Game of Thrones’ style as the Commissioner doesn’t last the season. This in itself may have been a part-cause of its demise. The result, in any case = more actors out of work.

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The demographic I am a denizen of, one of a certain age, love our fodder of the best of British on Auntie. Occasionally we’re outraged when favourite staples are purloined by the buying power of the commercial networks, only to have the flow of their story-lines completely buggered by mundane ads being shouted out at us. But now there’s a new player on the block as well, making the pickings for our ABC even slimmer. Foxtel’s BBC First has now the budget to get its hands on the newest product coming out of Pommy Land. At the time of writing, this pay channel was offering Le Carre’s ‘Night Manager’ (Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddlestone), ‘Capital’ (Toby and Gemma Jones), ‘Shetland’ (Anna Chancellor) and ‘Dickensian’ (Stephen Rea and Caroline Quentin) to its fortunate viewers. Sure, some of these will make their way to free-to-air later on and be released on DVD, but it’s the changing of the guard, isn’t it? I wonder how many of these will be renewed for another season?

After all, quality and the tastes of the great British (or Australian) public do not always go hand in hand. Pity that.

The Blue Room Best Television 2015

1. I’m excited. Ben Pobjie is excited – excited for those of us who, unlike him, have not seen the finale yet. It’s on tonight. I’ll be riveted. Leigh and I have binged watched the hard-drived previous episodes leading up to what we expect to be its, no doubt, explosive and perhaps somewhat weird conclusion. How weird? We can hardly wait to find out – but I’ll let Ben take over:-

Imagine how big a towel an actor would need to mop up their drool after being told they were up for a role in Fargo (SBS1, 9.30pm). There are many ways in which this show breathes the same air as the Coen Brothers oeuvre that spawned it, but perhaps the greatest one is its ability to write its characters ineradicably into your mind. Look at Ed Blumquist, the hapless butcher who in this season of Fargo has found his dreams of a peaceful life as husband, father and small-town butcher shattered by a combination of appalling luck and being married to Kirsten Dunst. Ed, an ordinary decent twit in well over his head, is played by Jesse Plemons, who rose to fame as Breaking Bad’s chillingly polite monster, Todd. Plemons plays pudgy, befuddled Ed with enough stupefied innocence mixed with burgeoning rat cunning to make even his terrifying portrayal of Todd take second place on his career highlights reel.
But in Fargo, damn near every character is as unforgettable and magnetic as the next. Season two’s moral centre is Lou Solverson, inhabited by Patrick Wilson with a stunning stillness, the quiet and incorruptible decency that bad guys underestimate, but is a relentless tide of justice that all the evils of the world can’t hold back. Fargo’s epic morality tale places Lou as the light on the horizon, the heroic gunslinger of a hundred westerns, come to clean up the town. But Fargo’s genius is the ability to make you cheer for bad guys as much as good, and as much as we love Lou, we might love Mike Milligan even more.
Bokeem Woodbine is the mob enforcer taking on the world with boundless confidence, effortless style, and a rarely shown but unmistakable sense of burning resentment, a desire to prove himself and stick it to the world.
Vengeful anger bubbles away beneath the surface of one of the coolest characters in the history of fiction. And then there’s Zahn McClarnon as the implacable angel of death, leaving a trail of corpses chasing his own revenge; and Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist, the beautician seeking to be her best self amid a bloodbath. They all come together in Wednesday’s finale, the explosive release of Fargo’s unbearable tension. It’s Shakespearean, it’s biblical, it’s the Coens and Tarantino and John Ford crashing together to make something as good as TV can be. Plus … maybe aliens?

The first season was excellent, but the second has taken excellence to a whole new level. Nothing else on free-to-air tele came close to it this year – and there was some darn good viewing to be had, even if one had to search to find it at times. Commercial television continued to show its total disregard for its clientele with inconsistent programming and late starts. Worryingly, ABC and SBS also had a few issues with the former problem – and all those repeats everywhere! So Fargo, Season Two was the stand-out of the last twelve months, but let’s see what followed it in the Blue Room’s opinion.

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2. The Killing Season (ABC) – Rudd and Gillard battled it out for the historical high ground and by the end of this I knew who my money would be on – sorry Kevin07. The Libs promised government by adults in return for our vote but instead we got a buffoon. Neither of the previous two were that, at least. Sarah Ferguson’s stakes rose even higher due to her incisive reporting on this – I didn’t dare leave my chair.

3. Witnesses (SBS) – The French try their hand at Scandi-noir and the result is a most accomplished police procedural. Thierry Lhermitte and Marie Dompnier are compelling as the two investigators seeking to unravel what was behind the placing of disinterred bodies in suburban homes.

4. Wallander (SBS) – As magnificent as Sir Kenneth B was in the UK version, nothing – not even Branagh – is a match for Krister Henriksson in the Swedish original. SBS aired the third series this year – I must invest in the first two. Never has Kurt Wallander looked so shambolic and crusty as he battled crims and the vagaries of an ageing mind.

5. The Principal (SBS) – Alex Dimitriades was great in the lead, yet another flawed figure, trying to get a school on the skids back up and running. Tyler De Nawi, though, stole the show in his role as the most hard done by student under the sun.

6. Grantchester (ABC) – Pleasingly a second season of this comfy village police procedural has been commissioned. Terrific to see Robson Green back on our screens in a drama centred around a priest who cannot but help giving his assistance to solving crime, wanted or not.

7. The Secret River (ABC) – The book is unsurpassed, but this visual version, a long time coming, certainly did it justice.

8. Rachel Khoo’s Kictchen Notebook/ Gourmet Farmer Afloat (SBS) – tied in the obligatory foodie’s slot. These have to have a guernsey as so much of my tele watching is spent on those offerings with culinary formats.

9. Esio Trot (ABC) – Dustin Hoffman and Dame Judi delight in this take on the Roald Dahl classic.

10. Hipsters (SBS) – Hidden away on SBS2, this featured Samuel Johnson, at his quirky best, taking us into the badlands of bearded living in inner suburbia world-wide.

HMs – as always Downton Abbey and House Husbands, but also The Fall (S2), Broadchurch (S2), Toast of London (S1+2), Kitchen Cabinet, Tony Robinson’s World War One, Renovation Man, Mad as Hell, Glitch, Utopia, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, The Last Leg.