I mean never in my wildest dreams when I was writing yesterday’s post did I think that the UK would win the jury vote and end up second overall. Last time this happened I was at school! Congratulations to Ukraine and congratulations to Sam Ryder. May this be the start of a Renaissance for the UK in the contest. Oh and Mika’s medley was epic too!
It’s been a few months since I posted one of these, but given that the days are all blurring into one again with the sameness and we’re back in lockdown here, I thought I’d drop in another set of recommendations for things to do to survive the Coronavirus. Today: it’s TV. There’s not necessarily a bookish link to all of these – they’re just things that I’ve liked – and so if you enjoy the sort of books that I write about, you might want to check out.
Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent) – Netflix
And this first recommendation is the reason that I’m posting this this week – because the fourth and final series drops on Netflix today (Thursday). Call My Agent is a French TV series about a talent agency and their stars. The French title – dix pour cent – refers to the ten percent commission that agents take from their clients. Each episode has a different French actor or personality playing themself with a fresh drama to solve, but the heart of the series are the agents – Andrea, Gabriel, Mattias and Arlette (and her dog Jean Gabin) who almost cause themselves as many problems as they solve (see Andrea’s affair with the woman from the tax authorities) and their assistants Noemie, Hervé and Camille. It’s funny, but it’s not a sitcom. It’s a drama, but the stakes aren’t life or death or traumatic. It’s just a rollicking good journey through the world of celebrity. I can’t wait to see what the final series has in store for the gang – and how it all ends.
Staged (BBC iPlayer)
The first series of this (which the clip above is from) was out in Lockdown one – and now they’re back with a second. David Tennant and Michael Sheen basically bicker over zoom for 20 minutes as they try to rehearse a play. Oh and it has great cameos. Series two is on the iPlayer now, I’ve only watched the first episode so far (because of getting all caught up on Call My Agent before the new series) but it seems to be picking up where it left off, but even more meta! I know some people find this just too theatre-luvvie and in jokey, but I’m a theatre nerd who is missing going to see shows so much so I guess I’m smack bang in the target audience. The episodes are short so it’s a nice bite sized watch. The only problem is that it may be over too soon.
Bones (Amazon Prime)
From one extreme to another – if Staged might be over too quickly, there are 12 whole series of Bones, adding up to nearly 250 episodes. I started watching this in September, after catching a couple of episodes on a tv channel and getting a little bit sucked in – probably due to my teen crush on Boreanz’s Angel on Buffy. Initially i was watching it while Him Indoors was doing other things. Then he got hooked and insisted that I didn’t watch without him. We’re now midway through the final season – as it’s one of those shows where it’s really easy just to have it on running episodes back to back for a whole evening. It’s a comedy drama crime procedural – Bones is Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) a forensic anthropologist and she gets paired up with FBI agent Seeley Booth to help him solve murders. As with all these things you need to not think too hard about whether any of this could actually happen – especially when it comes to investigating cases that they have a personal interest in, but it makes me laugh and although there are a lot of gross looking bodies around, it manages not to be too gory or too far down the psychological thriller end of things. It does go overboard sometimes – the episodes where Booth and Brennan go undercover as Buck and Wanda Moosejaw make my teeth itch – but the unresolved sexual tension in the first half of the show’s run is *really* good.
Pride and Prejudice (BBC, but available on Netflix)
And an old favourite to finish: I’m not sure that there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard of the Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle Pride and Prejudice adaptation. I’ve watched it umpteen times over the years – when it first came out, then we owned it on video, I think at one point both my sister and I had it on DVD and if I happened across it on TV (UKTV Drama used to reshow it fairly regularly) then I would stop to watch. For me, it’s one of the ultimate comfort watches. I’ve already watched it twice through since Coronavirus started and Lizzy is about to read her letter from Jane about Lydia on my third watch through. The BBC showed it again earlier in lockdown (I think as part of the educational offer) which I recorded on the TiVo and means I can keep it handy. It’s also on Netflix – but it’s a *really* grotty print – it’s grainy 4:3 and the one I’ve got recorded looks much better, even if they’ve zoomed in on it to make it 16:9.
I’ve been back to a few of my other old favourites too – Miss Marple, Inspector Alleyn but you already know all about my love of those and one of my guilty favourites – Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team which is currently being repeated on ITVBe and should be everything that I hate, but I somehow love. I have a whole series sitting on the box waiting for Little Sis to return from China so we can have a sleepover and watch it together. It’s that sort of TV.
Anyway, if you’ve got any recommendations for me, pop them in the comments, otherwise – stay safe!
Another in my occasional series of posts about things that have been getting me through the Coronavirus, and this is one that dovetails with my love of middle grade books, despite the fact that I’m no longer a middle grader – and in fact am easily old enough to have a middle grader of my own!
If you’re my sort of age, The Baby-sitters Club was up there with Sweet Valley High as a series that you binge-read from the library. Or at least it was for me. The books – with the building blocks logo and the house with the illustration of the story in the window were instantly recognisable. It’s hard to remember so many years later, but I’m fairly sure I read almost all of the first 50 books, and all the early super specials as well as some of the mysteries. So, I was excited – but also a little trepidatious – to see that Netflix had adapted it. How do you update a series written in the pre-internet, pre mobile phone world so that it works for children today?
As it turns out, they’ve done it really, really well. The personalities of the girls are the same – but Dawn is Hispanic and Mary Anne is biracial. Stacey still has diabetes, but now she has an insulin pump rather than having to do injections. There are mobile phones, but Kristy and Mary Anne still have flashlights to signal between their houses – because Mary Anne’s dad is so overprotective. Would modern parents really trust a bunch of barely teenagers with their kids? Well the series does try and address that. It’s got a strong focus on social justice, which I think is both true to the original books and inline with what the kids today (!) are interested in and it has enough easter eggs in there for the grownups too – like the handwriting on the episode titles being the “right” ones for each girl from the original books, Alicia Silverstone as Kristy’s mum, Kevin from Brooklyn 99 as Mary Anne’s dad. As grown up, sometimes it was all a little bit ott but I’m not the target audience- and i find that with a lot of children’s shows. It was perfect though for watching while ironing. And low-stakes drama is about all I can deal with right now. At the end of the series Mallory and Jessi were introduced, which means I’m hoping there are plans for a second series – but obviously these strange times we live in could have thrown all that up in the air and mean that the cast age out faster than expected.
Anyway, you can find the Baby-sitters Club on Netflix – and I’m off to read one of the new Babysitter’s Club graphic novels which have been adapted by Raina Telgemeier.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been having some problems concentrating on books at various points during the Current Situation, so I’ve been watching a lot of TV in those concentration lapses. As I watch news all day every day at work, I don’t watch news on my off days, and tend to favour non-news TV. I thought today I’d mention some of the bookish things that I have watched, along with all the Drag Race, Tiger King, My Lottery Dream Home and Great British Menu.
Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict
A couple of years back I read Judith Mackerell’s The Unfinished Palazzo, about a house in Venice that was owned by Luisa Casati, Doris Castelrosse and Peggy Guggenheim. When I wrote about the book in my Rich People Problems nonfiction post last year, I said I would happily read more about any of them, which is true, but Peggy is the one I ws really curious about. So imagine my delight when I found a feature length documentary about her on BBC Four the other week. And it turns out, she’s just as interesting as I thought she would be – and possibly as much of a nightmare to be around as I suspected too. I am still definitely in the market for a good book about her – but this was a very good watch. Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is available to watch for people in the UK (with a TV licence) on the BBC iPlayer for another nine days.
Becoming Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama’s memoir was huuuuuge when it came out – huge to the point were a year on it’s still not out in paperback and there’s still a hold queue for it at my library. Now Netflix has a new documentary that follows her on the tour she did to promote the book, which saw her talking to huge arenas and small groups. If you haven’t read the book (and I haven’t yet) it is a really good insight into her life and her story. I assume if you have read the book, it does the same but even more so! It’s got bonus appearances from Barack Obama, and for the news junkies like me you get to see behind the scenes of some of the TV interviews you may have seen her (and her mum) do at the time of the booklaunch. This one’s on Netflix now.
There’s a lot of theatre that has been on YouTube or TV during the lockdown, but this has been one of the most interesting to me. This is an adaptation of Angela Carters book about two ageing music hall stars, the unacknowledged daughters of the most famous Shakespearian actor of the day. I read the book two years ago, and while it is very good it didn’t really strike me as a show that would be easily adapted for the stage – despite the fact that it is about the theatre. But Emma Rice has done it and now we can all watch. I haven’t got to the end of this yet, but I’m really enjoying as much of it as I have watched. Wise Children is available to watch for people in the UK (with a TV licence) on BBC iPlayer until at least the start of June.
Howl’s Moving Castle
I read the book the other year, but I saw the film first and it has a special place in my heart because of that. All of the Studio Ghibli stuff is available on Netflix now, so if you haven’t seen them already, now is your chance. I’m planning on watching it again – but this time with subtitles instead of the English language dub.
Voila – a few ideas from me. Please put any suggestions you have for me in the comments – I will run out of Drag race soon…