Friday
14
December
2012

Tales of the Homeland

 

 

 

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.

Wednesday
28
November
2012

Woman’s Hour Power List

 

It’s a gratuitous pic of Lucille Ball! She is American and, sadly, deceased and therefore does not qualify for the Woman’s Hour Power List. Talking to Dawn Porter on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour today about the names of funny, living British women they should consider. (Listen Again from 26m50secs here.)

Obviously I could not put together a definitive list. And I was immediately annoyed that I forgot to say Sally Phillips (actress) and Sophie Clark-Jervoise (producer). It’s already been pointed out on Twitter that I missed Victoria Wood, Jenny Eclair, Emma Kennedy, Emma Freud, Gina Yashere, Shappi Khorsandi, Helen Lederer, Shazia Mirza, Sue Perkins. I am personally most irritated at missing out Nina Conti. And Su Pollard. (OK, maybe not Su Pollard. She truly is on her own one-woman power list.)

I tried to balance a strong list with time constraints — I knew I could only mention a handful of names. Here are the women who I name-checked during the pre-record:

In front of the camera: Miranda Hart, Sharon Horgan, Ruth Jones, Julia Davis, Jessica Hynes, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Sarah Millican, Jo Brand, Josie Long

New names in stand-up (not because they are immensely powerful – yet – but because this was just a good opportunity to mention them): Susan Calman, Sara Pascoe, Katherine Ryan, Celia Pacquola

Behind the scenes (commissioning, programme-making): Nerys Evans and Fiona McDermott (C4), Lucy Lumsden (Sky), Lindsay Hughes (Baby Cow). At the BBC: Cheryl Taylor, Jane Berthoud, Jo Sargent, Caroline Raphael

 Agents/managers: Lucy Ansbro (Peter Kay), Hannah Chambers (Jimmy Carr), Lisa Thomas (John Bishop), Dawn Sedgwick, Vivienne Smith, Debi Allen, Hannah Begbie, Caroline Chignell, Vivienne Clore

 Also: Maria Kempinska (Jongleurs), Nica Burns (Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Awards), Karen Koren (Gilded Balloon)

Who did I miss? Tweet me @vivgroskop and @BBCWomansHour. Or add your thoughts to Funny Women’s discussion here.

Monday
05
November
2012

On the wireless: Uncle Vanya reviewed

 

 

To BBC Radio 4’s Front Row to review Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre, starring Ken Stott (Vanya), Laura Carmichael (Sonya), Anna Friel (Yelena) and Samuel West (Astrov). To Listen Again click here from 24h08secs.

I struggled not to use the word “underwhelming”. But I hope I flagged up the brilliance of the performances of Ken Stott and Laura Carmichael. It’s worth seeing this production for them alone.

Was I there for the shenanigans with Sir Peter Hall? Yes, I was and only a few seats away. What was puzzling about the disturbance — caused, he has explained, by his being woken unexpectedly from a deep slumber towards the end of Act IV — was how long it went on. Laura Carmichael, closing the play with Sonya’s long speech, coped admirably. Ken Stott looked thunderous. I don’t think he was acting.

 

Above: From the original 1899 Moscow Art Theatre production of Uncle Vanya starring Stanislavsky at Astrov and Olga Knipper as Sonya.

Sunday
04
November
2012

Downton: Episode Eight

 

 

It’s the series finale. And how better to end a series than with… a cricket match? This wasn’t quite the cliffhanger we’ve come to expect from Downton Abbey. Last Guardian blog here. A lot of ends were tied up. But other threads were left dangling. Can Edith really face life with a man who can’t get divorced from his lunatic Mrs Rochester wife? How will Bates, Thomas, Alfred and Jimmy cope with working in the house together after everything that has happened? And is the secret of Her Ladyship’s soap finally about to surface? I would be very surprised if the announcement of a commission for series four (and possibly five) isn’t imminent. Meanwhile I will be jolly glad of a rest from this lunacy.

Sunday
28
October
2012

Downton: Episode Seven

 

 

Sybil (above): gone but not forgotten! The penultimate episode of series three was moderately pedestrian. Click here for review. What with Matthew and his interminably tedious theories about estate management, techniques and processes. He has become so boring, little wonder Lady Mary is not pregnant. She probably falls asleep listening to him before they can do anything. It wasn’t like this with Mr Pamuk.

Speaking of interrupted nocturnal encounters, this was tonight’s big excitement: Matthew’s cack-handed seduction of Jimmy. Did he employ the flesh-coloured leather-gloved paw of doom? We cannot know. Predictions for series finale: Thomas is forced to leave the house. Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes finally get it on. And Lady Edith writes one newspaper column and then quits. What a waste of time that was. The column. And the series. Never mind. It’s only our lives we’re wasting.

Sunday
21
October
2012

Downton: Episode Six

 

 

And so we are at Episode Six. An unusually polished outing, this one. Click here for this week’s blog. (Warning: spoilers.) Finally the Bates business has been resolved and Anna can stop writing seven letters an hour. Even better: Thomas is making ill-advised overtures to Jimmy, egged on by O’Brien. What is she up to? I felt less angry than usual with Uncle Julian this week. Which can only be a form of progress. I’m sure, however, that service as normal will be resumed next Sunday.

Saturday
20
October
2012

Downton: Have You Been Watching?

 

 

“Hello? What’s that you say? We’re over halfway through Series 3 and so it’s time for one of those Guardian Have You Been Watching? blogs? Indeed.” For Downton Abbey, the story so far, click here. Warning: spoilers. Downton is really having a moment since last week’s narrative bombshell. This post is today’s Most Viewed on the Guardian’s TV pages. Last week’s series blog was 5th Most Viewed on the entire Guardian website, had tens of thousands of hits straight after transmission and a record number of 300+ comments (see here). How on earth is Uncle Julian going to keep the momentum going until the end of the series? Isis the Labrador surely holds the key.

Tuesday
16
October
2012

Lena Dunham and Girls

 

 

 

Reviewed HBO’s Girls starring Lena Dunham (above) on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row. Listen here from 23h20 and see a rubbish picture here. Girls is most definitely not rubbish. In fact it is brilliant, extraordinary even. Very difficult to pack a description of the first three episodes into three minutes of radio. I didn’t even get to mention how much crazy, weird, dysfunctional sex there is. Or how edgy the humour is: date rape, abortion, STDs…

Masses will be written and said about how this is a new dawn for “wimmin’s comedy”. It sort of is. With Judd Apatow as exec producer, of course – how else would this have got made? But the best thing is, it sort of isn’t. It’s just a great, original sitcom which just happens to have been written, created and directed by a new talent who just happens to be female.

I got annoyed they even called it “Girls” because it really isn’t about the “Girls” at all. It’s about what it’s like to be young and goofy and hopeful and despairing and trying to be good at sex but failing miserably and not having any money and wondering if you will ever do anything or become anything or be anyone and then going out and getting drunk with very unsuitable people. That is not just a “girl” experience. That is life. They also take opium! Is that a New York thing?

 

Picture by David Shankbone at Tribeca Film Festival.

Sunday
14
October
2012

Downton: Episode Five

 

 

Oh my word. Julian, what have you done? Episode Five blog here. I don’t want to say too much here because I’m becoming aware that spoilers are starting to ruin everyone’s enjoyment (if the Stockholm Syndrome that is watching Downton can be described as “enjoyment”). But this was a jaw-dropper. It was obvious something was going on because they didn’t release a preview episode to reviewers this week. But this I was not expecting. I may have to meditate on the memory of Mr Pamuk to recover my composure.

Sunday
07
October
2012

Downton: Episode Four

 

 

I make no apology for the gratuitous and random use of a picture of MR PAMUK (above) of Series One fame. RIP, amorous Turkish gentleman. 

In the real world we’re on Series Three and it’s Episode Four (click here for blog: beware, spoilers) and, frankly, things are starting to get rather dull. So much so that they’ve had to introduce two new characters – The Handsome Footman and The Cute Kitchen Maid – just to liven things up. Oh, and some burning of Irish aristos in their beds by that ex-chauffeur chappie.

Plotwise Julian Fellowes seems to take two routes: (a) introduce major narrative threads and then tie them up almost immediately without bothering to develop them (such as Matthew’s will-he-won’t-he inheritance from Ginger Lavinia’s father) or (b) spin minor narrative threads and throw everything at the wall and see what sticks (the Ethel prostitution/adoption storyline, “Tom” as crazy Irish revolutionary, Sybil as suffragette).

I’m exhausted and we are only halfway through this series. Most importantly, though, WHERE IS SHIRLEY MACLAINE?

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