not a book, tv

Not a Book: What We Do in the Shadows

The fourth series is finally available to watch in the UK this week – via Disney + this time sadly and not on the BBC (yet, she says hopefully) and it’s one of my favourite tv shows so of course I’m going to write about it.

The show is a mockumentary spin off of the film of the same name that follows a group of vampires as they navigate life in suburban America rather than New Zealand. I’ve mentioned before that I have a slightly strange relationship with vampire and supernatural stuff but this is exactly on the end of things that I really like.

Lazlo, Nadja, Nandor and Colin Robinson are Staten Island’s resident vampires. With the help of their familiar Guillermo they try to stay inconspicuous and yet keep on top of the supernatural hierarchy. I was trying to pick a favourite character, but I couldn’t because they’re all great and every time I think I’ve picked one, I remember something brilliant one of the others does or says. As the series has gone on (and budgets have increased!) their world has increased in ways that I can’t really explain without giving huge plot spoilers, but I am very excited to see what happens this season given the way the last one ended. Tell you what; have the season four trailer, but seriously only watch this if you’ve seen the first three series and use it to increase your excitement levels. The rest of you don’t spoil it!

So in summary: The Office but actually more Parks and Rec in a way, but with horny vampires who incompetently try to take over the world. It’s very, very funny.

not a book, tv

Not a Book: Gaslit

Here’s the latest in my posts on prestige TV – I have watched the Julia Roberts Watergate drama and I have thoughts!

So Gaslit tells some of the untold stories of the Watergate saga based on the Watergate series Slate podcast Slowburn. The main focus is Martha Mitchell (played by Julia Roberts) who was the wife of the Attorney General and a celebrity socialite, but it also follows John Dean (Dan Stevens) the White House counsel, Frank Willis (Patrick Walker) the Watergate security guard and G Gordon Liddy (Shea Whigham) and his band of burglars.

In fact the actual burglary is a very small part of this story and over very fast but the fall out of it is huge. Obviously it took down a president – and to a point where most people don’t know that the vice-president was also a crook unless you’ve also read (or listened to) Bag Man or done some research of your own* – but it also impacted a huge number of other people, some of whom are sympathetic, some who are… not.

There are some fabulous performances in this. Julia Roberts is amazing as The Mouth of the South, Martha Mitchell. It might be the best acting I’ve seen her do. Dan Stevens is excellent in a slippery out for everything he can get to advance himself role. I was frankly terrified of Shea Whigham’s Liddy – and really need to go and do some reading to see if he was really that insane. And then there is Sean Penn who is absolutely unrecognisable – to the point where I had to check it was him moee than once – as Mitchell. As a whole it is quite bleak – you know it’s bad when you’re rooting for a cat to turn up alive – but it’s really worth some of your time if you’re even vaguely interested in American politics. It doesn’t have the (dark) humour that The Dropout has, but it is compelling and thought provoking.

Gaslit is on Starzplay, which you can get via Amazon Prime – I watched it all during my seven day free trial!

* it’s also a great trivia question – who is the only unelected president of the United States: answer Gerald Ford who was appointed to vice president after Spiro Agnew stood down.

not a book, tv

Not a Book: Luxe Listings Sydney

I worked my way through a lot of TV during my shingles situation, and today’s Not a Book is for one of the series I watched – which has a new season out this week.

We watched the first few series of Selling Sunset and then got fed up that it was turning into all drama and no property. Luxe Listing Sydney has – so far – resisted that urge and serves up plenty of expensive properties to gawk at with a side order of rivalries between rival agents. You’ve got Gavin and D’Leanne who work at rival sales agencies and then Simon who is a buyers agent. In series two we added another rival sales agent in Monica – and who knows who they might add in to series three, although the trailer is promising (more) Delta Goodrem…

Basically if you need a bingeable property show, with plenty of multimillion dollar properties, this ticks a lot of boxes. Although I couldn’t work for anyone on it except maybe D’Leanne!

not a book, tv

Not a Book: MotoGP Unlimited

It was the Japanese MotoGP Grand Prix today – time differences mean it’ll already be all over by the time this post goes up, but for today’s Not a Book, I’m writing about Amazon’s Drive to Survive rival – which focuses on the world of grand prix motorcycle racing.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the motorbike racing world, MotoGP is the premiere category in motorbike racing. The riders ride purpose built, specially designed bikes – as opposed to World Superbikes where they race versions of production models. MotoGP weekends also include two feeder series, Moto 2 and Moto 3, with smaller bikes and developing riders – a bit like Formula one has F2 and F3, except that the paddocks are all more linked – some of the MotoGP teams have junior teams in the junior categories and some of the riders themselves own junior teams. The first season of MotoGP Unlimited follows the 2021 season, primarily looking at the MotoGP action, but the other categories feature where the action crosses over.

The big difference between the actual sports is that motorbike racing is much more dangerous than F1 is. Every year MotoGP has broken bones and injuries. In fact if you look across the three categories you’d probably say every weekend has a rider breaking something. There are a number of people in the paddock in wheelchairs as a result of bike crashes. And sadly sometimes people die – and I warn you that it happens in one of the junior categories in this season although you don’t see it happen, but you do very much see the effect it has on the riders.

Then I would say there are two big differences between the MotoGP Unlimited and Drive to Survive. The first is that while English is the first language of the paddock in F1, it is very much not in MotoGP. So the producers decided to let the riders speak which ever language they are most comfortable with – which means a lot of Spanish and Italian. Initially they released the series dubbed, but there was an outcry and they added a subtitles version (much better). This means you get a real sense of the riders and their personalities and the rivalries and friendships, which I don’t think you would have got if the producers had forced them to speak in English.

The second is that while Drive to Survive picks centres each episode around one story and follows it across a couple of races or even most of the season, Unlimited takes the season in chronological order. As someone who watches both sports all season long, I think the unlimited approach gives you more of a sense of what it actually felt like to follow along, whereas the DTS approach creates more drama and tension and gives you backstage shenanigans you don’t know about as the races are happening. Both approaches have their merits – DTS has come under fire for creating drama where there was none but it has also boosted F1’s profile enormously, made Daniel Ricciardo everyone’s second favourite driver, turned Günter Steiner into a meme and boosted Haas’s profile. I’m not sure Unlimited has done the same for MotoGP, but it’s only had one season yet so give it time.

I’m not sure it will convert fans the same way that Drive to Survive has, but if you’re a casual motor bike racing fan it’s definitely worth a look – and hopefully we’ll get a second season to see it get into its stride – MotoGP is struggling a little this year with how to deal with the retirement of charismatic sporting icon Valentino Rossi which could make for an interesting side story to the 2022 title fight.

Bonus photo: We went to the Silverstone race that features in the series – and here’s my best attempt at a photo of Valentino Rossi at the end of the race.

Happy Sunday everyone.

not a book, tv

Not a Book: Detectorists

Another TV show this Sunday – but this time not a new one, but an old favourite. It’s been really hot here in the UK this week, and sunny summer days always make me think of the Detectorists – of Lance and Andy wandering around in a field somewhere hunting for treasure.

Detectorists is the most gentle of gentle comedies. Andy and Lance are metal detectorists and members of a club for like minded people. They live in north Essex (near the Suffolk border) and are always on the hunt for the big find that will make their names and their fortunes. That’s it really. Some of the people in their lives don’t quite understand the appeal of spending their spare time scouring fields with a metal detector. There are rivalries with other metal detectorists. There are complications in their personal lives. But fundamentally no one dies or is at risk of dying and thus it is perfect. And the acting is perfect too. Toby Jones is great in everything he does (right back to the page in Ever After which was the first thing I ever saw him in!) and Mackenzie Crook wrote it as well as being in it. He is a detectorist in real life – and it’s got such love and gentleness about it as well as being really funny.

It started in 2014 but we watched it for the first time early in the pandemic – and we’ve watched it all the way through again twice now. It’s just so good and once you start watching it, you just can’t stop. A perfect low stakes binge watch. And there’s a new episode coming at Christmas which just makes me so happy, although I fear that some one may die/have died in that (if you watch it you’ll know who I’m talking about), but I’ll just be happy to have another hour or two in the company of the Danebury Metal Detectorists.

If you’re in the UK, you can find Detectorists on iPlayer – it says for the next four months. If you’re not in the UK, it should be available on one of the streaming services – Mr Google tells me you can buy it from all the usual suspects.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

not a book, tv

Not a Book: Hollywood Houselift

So this Sunday I have a comfort TV recommendation for you. Because sometimes you just need to watch something with very low stakes. And I like programmes about houses. And this is that.

This is basically a group of famous people getting bits of their houses redecorated by Jeff. I’ve never come across Jeff before, but he had a reality show on Bravo that followed him flipping houses and doing interior design projects and he also presents a radio show on satellite radio station in the US.

In the first series, Jeff renovates a pool house, a couple of gardens, a bathroom and dressing room and a dining room and family room and more for various people you may or may not recognise depending on which pop culture you consume (like Anthony Anderson from Blackish, Ashlee Simpson, Wilmer Valderama). Jeff has a group of people who work for him and an engagingly irreverent way of talking about his clients that reminds you that he knows exactly how ridiculous it is to be spending $5,000 on towel rails and robe hooks but is doing it any way!

It’s basically like Selling Sunset had a baby with Christina on the Coast or the design bits of Flip or Flop, but with no drinks party or brunch bitching. So more design and more houses. I’m sure it is very staged but it’s not staging fights or drama, and the people working together all seem to actually like each other. Which you can’t say about many shows like this…

You can watch Hollywood Houselift on Freevee – which used to be called IMDb TV and which I get for free bundled in with Amazon Prime. It has a few ad breaks but it makes me so chilled that I can cope with it. I’ve watched all six episodes that have been released so far and there are new episodes each Friday…

Happy Sunday!

not a book, tv

Not a Book: Ghislaine Maxwell documentaries

**** Content warning: child sex abuse ****

So with the sentencing of Ghislaine Maxwell due to happen this week, today’s post is a round up of some recent documentaries and related content. Obviously the content around the court case is incredibly grim and distressing, so all the warnings.

I’m going to start with House of Maxwell, which is a three part documentary on the BBC – which you can find on iPlayer. This looks at the Maxwell family – from the rise of newspaper baron Robert, through his mysterious death, the financial scandal that emerged after his death and subsequent legal action through to Ghislaine’s reappearance in New York and everything that followed. If you don’t know about Robert Maxwell and the Mirror group pensions, this is a really good place to start. I was only little when he went missing from his yacht, and didn’t really know much about the detail or the court cases that followed, so it filled in a lot of background for me. This is more a look at the Maxwell family than at Ghislaine specifically.

Epsteins’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell is the opposite. It does cover some of the same ground with the family history, but mostly focused on how that impacted on the young Ghislaine and moves on (relatively) quickly to the New York Years and is much more about Maxwell and Epstein’s relationships and what the allegations are against her. This another three parter or at least it was in the UK where it was shown on Sky Documentaries, but I think in the US on Peacock it may have been shown as one three hour doc. This was first broadcast in 2021, and when I saw it earlier this month it had two sets of closing statements – one explaining all the people who had been asked to comment or be interviewed and their responses and the fact that the trial was happening and a second about the verdicts. No doubt the ending will be getting an update this week. Definitely the grimmer of the two – as you would probably expect.

There have also been several podcasts on or around the subject – I’ve listened to some but not all of Power: The Maxwells from Puck, which has a simialr focus to House of Maxwell – in that it’s looking at the family not just Ghislaine. I also have the Maxwell season of British Scandal from Wondery cues up ready to listen to – just as soon as I have time!

I have started but haven’t finished – yet – the 2020 Netflix Jeffrey Epstein documentary, Jeffrey Epstein: Flithy Rich. It’s the grimmest of the lot – we only made it forty minutes into the first episode before it all got too much, so I’ll have to do it in chunks when I’m in a resilient mood and go in prepared. What I’ve seen of it is (obviously) a harrowing watch very much focussed on his victims and their experiences in their own words.

If you just want to read articles – which feel less harrowing (to me at least) that watching or listening, then there is plenty to chose from – although a lot of the big investigative pieces are behind paywalls or partial paywalls – so in the main I’m linking you to indexes here so you can see what there is and pick your stories yourself rather that use up your free articles on my links. Vanity Fair has done a lot – you can see their topic indexes on Ghislaine Maxwell here and Jeffery Epstein here, but as they also did a big profile piece on Epstein in 2003 which there are various conflicting accounts about as this New Yorker article explains. The New Yorker also has topic indexes for both Maxwell and Epstein. New York Magazine also has topic indexes for Maxwell and Epstein. No paywall for The Guardian – again there’s an index for Maxwell and Epstein.