More choice comments from the Guardian’s TV blog where Downton is no. 2 on the website’s Most Viewed (second only to Dr Who). The overall verdict is that last night’s outing was disappointing — but that’s only to be expected from a series that jumped the shark a long time ago. It’s amusing to me: Downton is hugely commercially popular and pulls in massive ratings. And yet you only hear people complaining about it. Out of 100+ comments there are only two people defending Uncle Julian. Although, to be fair, most of the carping is affectionate.
Typical stuff: “Glorious madcap populist schmaltzy dross.” “The second someone said about Matthew driving back from the hospital, we knew his goose was cooked.” “I think Fellowes is now putting in the anachronisms deliberately, to take the piss.” “Downton started out as a rather interesting kind of spin-off from Gosford Park, but now it’s definitely Dynasty in costume.”
Love this comment about Branson’s reference to having “been on a learning curve”: “Ah yes, the learning curve. One of the best Downton anachronisms ever, and saved by Julian Fellowes right till the end, in order (I don’t doubt) to lull his audience into a false sense of authenticity. Could someone please compile the greatest anachronisms and put them out as a separate DVD?” I may well consider doing this…
The Royal Baby has already made Muppets (and plebs) of us all. Writing in today’s Independent about what will surely be the biggest news story of 2013: The Royal Baby. I hesitate to add more column inches to the millions already dedicated to this subject. And the irony of saying “Stop talking about Kate and that baby” in a piece about Kate and that baby is definitely not lost. Which is why I have not used a picture of Kate Middleton to illustrate anything on here.
But I felt it needed saying. In early December we had no business knowing about a pregnancy of between five and eight weeks’ duration. Nor about her hospitalisation. Nor seeing the photos of her coming out of hospital. Nor of hearing about every cough, splutter and heave.
“The Palace must have decided that speculation would have been traumatic and widespread and, possibly, dangerous. Really? Worse than the feeding frenzy that resulted anyway? After everything that happened with Princess Diana, has no one learned anything?”
From today’s Notebook in the Independent, Putin’s advice to Russians: have three children! “It’s always a brave move to suggest there’s an ideal number of children. It’s also rather foolish. If there’s one area of life where there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all, then family size is definitely it.”
And from the motherland to the Homeland… a rant about Claire Danes in Homeland and why women don’t necessarily make better undercover agents than men. One fictional portrayal of a woman doing something well does not mean the patriarchy is under threat… Nor do spurious assertions about wimmin being able to “multi-task” amount to anything more than lazy reverse sexism. You don’t need to be a spy to work that out.
Today’s Mail on Sunday column has a go at the new research on drinking in pregnancy. “Now you can’t have a glass of wine – not even a small one. Coming to a laboratory soon: urgent tests on the barmaid’s apron. Heaven forbid mums-to-be get a whiff of that.” One of the best pieces I’ve read on this subject is by Zoe Williams in the Guardian in 2007, the last time extensive new research came out about drinking in pregnancy. Not much has changed.
Also: Rihanna — they must be queuing round the block to duet with you, so why would you choose Chris Brown? Plus: Petraeus, morality and time-wasting. Why third class travel is a third class idea. And the horror that is the knitted beard cosy. Although if it stops foul liquor getting into their mouths, maybe we should issue them to all pregnant women. Just in case.
Twenty years ago I lived in St Petersburg for a year. It’s still one of my favourite cities. Maybe even the ultimate favourite. Very excited that my 2012 travel essay on going back has made it into St Petersburg: City Pick — “perfect gems of city writing”. Published today by Oxygen Books, £9.99. Click here to see more.
The guide features pieces by over sixty writers including Gogol, Nabokov and Truman Capote. This is a bit embarrassing for them. Their elegant tributes to the city sit alongside the rantings of this one-time “vodka-swilling student”. (Thank you for that, sub-editors.) But they are dead so they cannot mind.
An excellent literary guide if you’re planning to visit Russia. They also do Paris, London, Dublin, Venice and others. Armchair travellers can click to see the essay, Back to St Petersburg, originally published in High Life magazine here.
Plus, I highly recommend “Liking” the I Heart St Petersburg Facebook page. Although the photographs they post are so beautiful that they just make me want to move back there. Which is a bit inconvenient at the moment.
Covering for Suzanne Moore in today’s Mail on Sunday. Respect is due to France’s First Lady Valerie Trierweiler. Menage a six? Phew. Don’t really care what she has got up to in the past. But if she looks this good on it… I’ll have what she’s having.
Also: why Boris Johnson is the political equivalent of Jedward. Or Rylan. If the voting age is lowered to sixteen Boris has a serious chance of becoming PM. People will vote for him for the same reasons they vote for “joke” reality TV contestants: because they know they shouldn’t. Worrying.
Plus: Pussy Riot – one down, two to go. The GCSE fiasco continues as 45,000 resit their exams next month. And 34DD is apparently the new bra “average”? You wish. No. It’s just the PR people making tits of us again.
“Gloriously eccentric” (Telegraph), hits “sour, sweet notes” (LA Times) and “a big American story with big American themes” (US ELLE), May We Be Forgiven is A.M. Homes‘ first novel in over six years. She has been away working for TV, writing for The L Word and developing pilots for CBS. I have missed her — although her 2007 memoir The Mistress’s Daughter was so good it pretty much made up for everything. (Don’t read the Amazon reviews, they’re deranged. Must have read a different book.)
Click here for Observer review of May We Be Forgiven. It really is the best thing I’ve read this year. Also must-reads from A.M.Homes (real name Amy): In a Country of Mothers, This Book Will Save Your Life and Music For Torching. Don’t read The End of Alice unless you like really dark stuff.
Typewriter pic by Raul Hernandez Gonzalez.
Standing in for Suzanne Moore at the Mail on Sunday. Click here to read. This week: the charity Rethink Mental Illness says one in five GPs report patients contemplating suicide over the new “fitness to work” assessments. This is just the start of a brutal benefits crackdown. Tory bullies, this is not the time to stick the boot in…
Plus: Nicki Minaj versus Mariah Carey on American Idol. May the best bitch win. Jerry Hall for Strictly champion. Obama’s lacklustre debate performance. And Caroline Thomson, the female BBC Director General that never was. Instead a man got the job and made her redundant. Nice.
From online comments, on the one hand: “Great leader article.” “Time for Cameron to resign.” “Disabled people are easy targets.” “This week we will see just how nasty the Tory party is.” “They are kicking the poorest harder than even Thatcher or Major.” On the other: “What a naive and silly article.” Plus, there is blame for “professional breeders who come from other countries” (!) and “too many people claiming to be depressed or have a bad back or whatever who are simply making it up.”
But the most popular comment (people can vote for and against) comes from a single parent of a mentally disabled adult who risks having his benefits cut. So there is some compassion out there…
Very excited about being a judge — just like Simon Cowell! — alongside Peter Serafinowicz at Literary Death Match on Tues 23 Oct, 8.15pm, at House of Wolf, Islington. Stupidly excited. Stupidly. Maybe too stupid to actually speak which might be a bit of a hindrance for judging. Early bird £5 tickets selling out fast here.