Archives for posts with tag: relationships

This week I am in the same position as last week. Nothing new has come along to tickle my fancy and I am left with my habitual viewing. Thankfully, over the next few weeks there is a handful of new shows to keep me going. Years & Years looks promising and if the last few series are to go by Taskmaster has rediscovered its zeal. We UK viewers may even finally get series two of Killing Eve.

Until then though I am forced to be a creature of habit, one of which is First Dates. This is another show that has lost its innovative edge and instead felt very mainstream. This is not necessarily a bad thing so long as the viewer is still entertained. Having said that, it must also be wary of jumping the shark.

For the most part I still enjoy the show, even if I do find it slightly formulaic now. Cheesy pun introducing the couple related to their jobs, opening thoughts on why they are single, one of them gets to chat to Merlin the bartender, awkward introduction, meal, deeper revelations/sob story over mains, maybe a faux pas and/or something exceptionally sweet happens, decision of whether to see each other again.

Increasingly, it is the ones that go wrong that are worth the watch. I still remember my breath being taken away a few series ago when one half told the other they didn’t find the other attractive before even the mains had turned up, leading the dejected party to walk out whilst the other happily ate their steak and then managed to be rude to Fred (the ultimate cardinal sin).

Nothing quite so spectacular has happened this series, although there was the almost unbelievable stupidity of the guy who felt the way to secure a second date was to tell his prospective other half stories of all the times he got drunk with the lads and when she questioned whether he was boyfriend material responded with the now immortal line ‘geezers gotta geez’.

Some of the sob stories, sorry – background setting, are dull. Yes, where genuine tragedies have separated loved ones that is awful, but it feels increasingly like these are becoming the focus, rather than date itself. Some are still genuinely touching though, and all the better if there can be some positive framing.

My other frustration is the banter between the staff. Whilst it is used as a contrast to the dates and probably works for some people, for me it is a distraction from the stories we want to hear. Narratives are picked up and lost that makes them pointless – whatever happened to Sam and CeCe’s unspoken love?

But overall this is still a good way to pass the time. It needs more eccentrics (I love an older couple where both have reached the point in their lives where they are just themselves) and I have noticed a decline in LGBT couples recently. But these are minor points. It does the job, for now.

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I usually steer clear of ‘human interest’ documentaries. You know the sort; the people with obscure medical conditions, the ‘benefit porn’, the sensationalist personal lives. Too many of them are about gawping in the style of the freak show for the people partaking to feel any benefit. Even the feel good ones are morally dubious.

Yet I decided to give Bride & Prejudice a go. This was for two reasons: firstly, the trailer looked like, despite its pun title, it was going to be a serious look at some of the issues, and secondly, there was nothing else on.

Basically, the show is about couples getting married that face opposition from their families. This isn’t just the case of mum thinking bride-to-be is a money grabber or dad sensing your fiancée is a wrong ‘un. There are actual discrimination issues at play here.

The first episode featured three couples. Dee and John faced hostility owing to he being more than three decades than she. Simon and Rob were struggling with Rob’s parents not being able to face up to their son’s sexuality. Jaime and Sheeba faced a double battle with Sheeba’s mum, Faye, dealing with the disapproval of him being white as well as transgender.

It is the latter two stories that are currently most gripping, to me anyway. There are layers that add an emotional punch. Rob had been previously married to a woman and his parents had been front and centre at that wedding, but now want to hide at the back now he is marrying a man. Faye, meanwhile, feels betrayed that her daughter’s best friend is now to become her husband, the trust of allowing them to spend time alone as teenagers gone now that she feels there was more of an agenda.

What I find most surprising is how open Rob’s parents are and Faye is about their anti-LGBT views. Rob’s parents openly admit to being embarrassed about their son’s sexuality and refuse to discuss it or even believe it, as they don’t feel he fits the stereotype. Faye consistently refers to Jamie as ‘a transgender’ – not acknowledging him as a man or even a person, but rather categorising him almost as if he is a transformer, something inhuman.

The contrast is that for Rob’s parents it is all about status – they don’t want the gossip of having a gay son and feel it is not the done thing. For Faye, this is about her culture. She sees Sheeba’s choice of husband as flying in the face of respecting your elders’ wishes. There is still an element of fear of a loss of status, but it is on a bigger scale. It still makes her comments unjustified, but there feels like there is more of a context.

More couples are being followed as the season progresses but I feel it is these two that will hit home the most. There feels more at stake here than a disapproval over an age gap. It’s about how truly tolerant we are. This show suggests there is a longer battle to fight than we thought.

Honest declaration: I don’t like First Dates Hotel. To me it feels like a spin-off of a bankable hit that has been done to save coming up with an alternative idea for that timeslot without having to extend the original series. Of course, that is presumably the whole point.

Yet it is so flawed in so many ways. Let’s begin with the minor details. The TOWIE style chats round the pool are manufactured and insincere. The whole point of the show is to be real and sincere – these are everyday people embarking on a date, not playing out some constructed reality TV show.

Then there’s the bizarre set up of us then following the more successful couples on a second date the next day where they take part in a random local activity. This is pure filler so the show can have less couples and therefore save on the budget. Sorry for breaking out the cynicism here but it’s true. Nobody wants to see date two. If we did, we would be clamouring for the show Second Dates.

The worst flaw though is the storyline that dominated episode one and two, where the show really tripped over into some form of Made in Chelsea territory. The love triangle between Jada, Charlie and Kaylee was unusually exploitative for a programme that is normally genteel and about restoring faith in humanity.

For the uninitiated, Kaylee was set up on a date with Kieran (a bit-part player in this pseudo soap opera) but beforehand had a flirty chat with Charlie. Both fell for each other, and, as a result, poor Kieran had a damp squib of a date with Kaylee despite ticking many of her boxes.

Now the only barrier to true love was Charlie’s date with Jada. The editors seemed to have it in for Jada. She was portrayed as blunt to the point of rudeness, shallow and domineering. Yes, she was allowed to have a call with her glamourous nanna to humanise her, but that was the only conceit to niceness she was offered, compared to the almost angelic Kaylee.

And then the unthinkable happened. Charlie fell for Jada and picked her. Kaylee, unaware she had been vanquished, put on her best war paint and battle armour and strolled into the bar to find Charlie buying his new love a strawberry daiquiri. The tears that followed were uncomfortable to watch.

This is not what we tune in for – yes we expect dates to go wrong. But to see such a crushing moment played out was horrifying. People who want this kind of drama have enough other shows to lap up. Let those of us who want to see the best in humanity have our kind, soft, cuddly programme back.

Such is the power of Netflix, seasons may change their name to some of its biggest hits new release dates. Spring will become House of Cards, although quite how that will pan out following recent events we can only guess. Summer will be Orange is the New Black. Autumn so obviously is Stranger Things. And winter can only possible be named The Crown.

The Crown lends itself to the headlong rush to the festive season in the same way Downton Abbey did. No matter if the setting is high summer, there is something about the sumptuousness of the clothes, the stodginess of the food and the innate cosy feeling mixed with a dash of grimness of the architecture that it is always winter psychologically – both in positive ways and negative.

The Crown is possibly my favourite of all Netflix productions because, in its own slightly stodgy way, it tells us how the personal and political will always intertwine, yet appear to lead separate lives. A personal foible of a politician setting a train of events from which there becomes no escape. How those events can speed up or instigate social change, or at times try and be a last defence against it.

The first two episodes of the new season demonstrate this. Episode one may begin with a royal marriage on the rocks and be threaded throughout with suspicions of adultery, but it is the Suez Crisis that is a focal point and the vanity of those who instigated it. Already the Queen is faced with the challenging of being a stable fulcrum around which the men who serve her in government flail, grasping for power and a legacy.

Episode two sheds more light on the relationship between the Queen and Prince Philip, as the latter constantly battles to form his own identity. He is a navy man, happier in the company of men and physical pursuits, revelling in what one character calls ‘a six-month stag night’. Along the way, we see what formed him into an unemotional man who perhaps struggles with the idea of being part of a family. It takes the rumour of a private secretary’s own adulteries to remind him of his duty to his wife and children, and even then we still have not returned to the crescendo of emotions that opened the season.

Claire Foy and Matt Smith embody the slowly changing personalities wonderfully. She, slowly gaining in confidence to question the men in power; him, relinquishing his need to control. And then there is the cast who surrounds them – Vanessa Kirby still steals the show as Princess Margaret, giving us this seasons must-have GIF for all party goers over the festivities.

There are no doubt faults, but quite frankly I don’t want to dig for them. For all the harsh realities that this show portrays – the limited status of women and the decline of Britain to name two – it is still a warm blanket that envelops you. This is why it is perfect winter viewing, it wraps you up and brings you comfort. Which is exactly what we need.

A recent Twitter thread piqued my interest. This is rare, as I rarely have time to click on links or open entire threads. But this was a subject I was passionate about, namely the argument that Friends should have finished with Rachel being with Joey rather than Ross as they were a better match. Cue much contention on my timeline. So here is my two pence worth.

One of the big arguments in favour of Joey is how he treats Rachel compared to Ross. They are on an equal footing- both recognise the other’s hotness but still have respect for each other. Joey doesn’t at any point stake a claim to her. Yes, the brief time they are together the plotline isn’t exactly sizzling, but that is more the fault of the writers never treating their coupling as one that would work. It would have been ten times better on screen if they had put the effort in and made their relationship the end goal.

Ross, meanwhile, is possessive. As the thread writer stated, he has had a crush on Rachel since high school and hated every guy who has dated her for taking what he sees as his away from him. His jealously is always about the threat of losing his ‘property’. Rachel is never treated as his equal. In fact, it’s his need to be superior over her that plays a big part in the initial break up.

To illustrate this point further, let’s compare his jealousy to Chandler’s regarding Monica. Ross always sees the guy dating Rachel as taking something belonging to him, and that she should only be with him. Chandler’s jealousy revolves more around Monica finding someone better for her than him – he never presumes he is her only option, that he is the only one she has a right to be with. Both of the times this happens, first with the funny guy at work and then with the soulmate, Chandler’s instincts are that Monica has found someone better for her. Ross never sees the other guy as better for Rachel.

Interestingly, Monica’s one big jealousy flare up over Chandler with Wendy is similar to Ross’s, in that it is very much driven by ‘he should be with me, not her’. This makes me wonder if rather than this behaviour being ‘Ross is a bad boyfriend’ and it is more a family trait the writers have woven in.

The defence of Ross seems to be that he is funny. Now, don’t get me wrong, the sofa episode is a piece of comic glory and he has his moments. But funny doesn’t excuse possessiveness. He wouldn’t be less funny if he treated Rachel better. Besides, most of the humour is based on him doing something dislikeable and getting punished for it: breaking into his ex’s apartment to get a shirt back, dating a student and then emotionally blackmailing her dad etc.

So where does that leave us with Rachel and Ross getting back together again at the end? Well, I always saw the show as the evolution of Rachel. We meet her as someone whose only ambition was to live off her husband’s credit card. Over ten seasons, she builds an amazing career, becomes independent and proves to be an excellent mother. Her rekindling of her love with Ross disrupts her move to Paris, which suggests that history is going to repeat itself and that Ross’s controlling nature will stifle her personal growth. Unless, and I hope this is the case, that they both still go to Paris, that Rachel gets her time to shine and that Ross has learned his lesson and takes the passenger seat for once. Maybe then they are right for each other after all.

One of the things that struck me about the 2016 TV BAFTAS was the disparity between the winner of the male comedy performance award and the female. The latter was won by Michaela Coel, a new talent who is black and edgy in her humour. Her win was packaged not only as a BME triumph, but one of women prepared to be ‘ugly’ to be funny. It is a source of wonder to me that men are never asked to sacrifice their physical appearance to be seen as comedy gold but women are – as if being pretty is a barrier to writing a good joke and delivering it superbly.

Anyway, the male winner was Peter Kay, a popular established figure. It was almost as if the judges were trying to balance the two out – Coel a critical darling that was still comparatively unknown to the British viewer, Kay an everyman figure of immense popularity. One for the broadsheets to show that British TV is diverse, the other for the tabloids to cheer on as a ‘people’s choice’.

None of this is to do down Kay. He is an excellent writer and performer, with the same ear as Victoria Word for how words actually sound as well as the ability to show the slight absurdities of normal life. Car Share, which also picked up best sitcom last year, is a great example of this. The premise is simple: two co-workers get involved in a car share scheme and travel to work together. During their journeys, they discuss their lives, gossip about work and explore some of life’s odder moments. Of course, over time they discover they have feelings for each other, but never truly express them except in small gestures.

Kay’s co-star is Sian Gibson, playing the bubbly and naïve Kayleigh, the yin to Kay’s yang character John, a grumpy, no-nonsense manager. The conversations are zippy and worthwhile listening too twice if you can – the first time you are bound to miss a gem of a detail. Plus you have the little details that only people like Kay think of in a sitcom, like comedic road signs.

Then you have the secret third character, the radio station Forever FM. It’s essentially a parody of local commercial radio stations, where the music is squarely middle of the road and with adverts for companies accompanied by jingles or poorly thought through slogans. Worryingly, I find myself enjoying the music more and more.

It is also the source of one of my quibbles though. I find the where the characters pretend to be in music videos dull and a little cringey. I do wonder if this is Kay and Gibson’s way of filling thirty or so seconds when they aren’t sure where to go with the dialogue.

My other quibble is that, actually, I don’t want the characters to fall in love. I find it frustrating that we can’t have a man and a woman spending time with each other without it progressing beyond platonic. It would definitely lose something if they got together. For a start, it wouldn’t be a car share. It would just be a man and woman going to work together.

Despite this, it is still easy one of the best British sitcoms of the last few years. Keeping it simple has meant that they can just focus on the writing and the characters, the two things that matter. For once, being popular and a critical success are going hand-in-hand.

The departure of Downton Abbey has left a hole in the schedules. It was an interesting proposition for a show – a period drama that was indented to soap operas whilst providing a, albeit shallow, social commentary. It was easy to watch but damn good as well, the odd duff note buried beneath the warmth of the whole.

ITV are trying to repeat this trick with The Halcyon, a WW2 set drama in a fictional London hotel. Like Downton, social history is played with slightly to stop the audience feeling uncomfortable. For example, Asian and black characters mix into the rest of the cast with barely a slither of racial tension. There’s also the key ingredients of ‘will they/won’t they’ romances, baddies getting their comeuppance and the idea that family isn’t defined by blood.

But is it as good as Downton? Well, no. There are some excellent touches. For example, the gay relationship between Toby and Adil, which at first looked like a desperate attempt to be another diversity box ticked, has been given some life by introducing a blackmail plot, reminding us how vulnerable the love that dare not speak its name was. The horrors of the Blitz are also well drawn, the fear palpable, the sense of loss devastating.

Where the show falls down is that the different bits don’t come together as a whole. So many of the plotlines are dependent on relationships (Betsy/Sonny, Emma/Freddie/Joe, Garland/Peggy etc.) that anyone wanting the broader sweeps of life will be disappointed. Characters cluster round each other and don’t interact much beyond their circle. The joy of Downton was watching a world change but in a controlled way. At The Halcyon, time is frozen in terms of class.

Also, it wouldn’t kill the show, in spite of its setting, to have a bit of humour. The odd waspish comment here and there isn’t enough. It’s isn’t like they haven’t got the talent. Mark Benton is a great comic actor stuck in a secondary role.

Finally, the biggest love story is, sadly, dull. Freddie and Emma are supposed to be star-crossed lovers. What we have instead is two insipid people who have been given ‘depth’ purely based on their love for each other that can never be announced. I can’t help but feel Emma comes alive more around suave and abrasive American journalist Joe. It almost makes you want Freddie’s plane to be shot down somewhere so she can get over him and move on.

With some fine tuning, this show could really work. There are so many of the base elements there that a bit of tinkering is all that is needed – higher stakes, better romances, greater variety of plots. None of this is beyond the scope of a talented team. If there is a second series, I hope some of the changes are made. It would be a shame for us to check out feeling we hadn’t had the best of stays.