THAT WAS THE BOX – August 2014 (Week One)

By on 10 August, 2014

TV REVIEW: Great British Bake Off 2014 - BBC1



Okay, I have a confession to make. I have never watched ‘The Great British Bake Off‘ before. Largely because I find Mary Berry patronising and a bit smug, and also I cannot bake very well and it doesn’t hold much interest. But I thought I would give it a go seeing as so many people love it, and by the time Iain (who looks like Michael Fassbender playing Edwin Epps) started folding his Swiss ROLL, I was hooked. Okay, everyone seems like a parody of themselves – probably because there have been so many parodies; but Mel and Sue are such good fun, acting like naughty schoolgirls, nicking bits of cake and running off with people’s chocolate mousse, as well as all the innuendo that comes out of their mouths, that it’s good fun and light-hearted.

The contestants were a mixed bunch. At the moment the men seem to be better than the women, except for seventeen year old Martha who reminds us what a sweet, insecure and nervous teenage girl should be like, as opposed to that sour-faced misery magnet Ashleigh in ‘Big Brother‘. Poor old Claire seemed to like baking with chocolate, but all her dishes ended up looking like doggy doo. She tried her best, but I got the feeling she was more in it for the experience than to become a champion baker. Jordan, the token geek looked a bit grubby and I’d be a bit dubious to eat something he’s cooked and handled.

I can quite easily see why GBBO is so addictive. Most of us associate cakes and sweeties with our childhood and baking with mum, and there is something comforting about sugary food. Also, we love to see people trying, and failing. I shall be watching next week, I think it might be my new obsession.




SIBLINGS‘ (BBC3 – BBC iPlayer)

On paper, yet another flat share comedy about young people, sounds pretty lame, but I’m a sucker for comedy shows so I thought I’d give ‘Siblings‘ a go. And I loved it!!! The last brother sister sitcom thing I can remember is Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques (yes I’m showing my age), but ‘Siblings‘ was nearer to ‘Spaced‘ than Sykes. Charlotte Ritchie, who plays Hannah, at times reminds me of Jessica Hynes but Tom Stourton as Dan is nearer to ‘Peep Show”s Jez than Simon Pegg‘s Tim. But whereas Jez would do all manner of stupid things to impress women, Dan just wants a friend, and will go to any lengths – including pretending to be a wheelchair user and joining a disabled basketball team.

Hannah and Dan are so socially awkward, you feel the same way about them as you do Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, and you spend ages wondering what the parents could be like (until we discovered Mr and Mrs H were perfectly normal of course). That is what makes ‘Siblings‘ different. Normally there is the weird one and a normal one to balance them out. Both Hannah and Dan are weird. Hannah is ruthless and will do anything to hold onto her job – at which she does nothing, which culminates in her taking part in a threesome with her new boss.

The last sitcom I watched about two socially awkward freaks sharing a flat was ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme‘ which is personally one of my favourite sitcoms of all time, but I am aware that it was like Marmite, and I’ve a feeling ‘Siblings‘ is going to be the same.


TV REVIEW: Len Goodman Secrets From The Clink - ITV



Following in from ‘Secrets of the Workhouse‘, this is ITV‘s attempt at ‘Who Do You Think You‘ are (more of that later). Celebrities who were willing to admit their ancestors had been in prison were Len ‘seven!’ Goodman, Mariella Frostrup, and Johnny Vegas. Their relatives had all been at the mercy of England’s severe Victorian penal system, whereby it was considered to be an act of rehabilitation to walk on a treadwheel for eight hours a day like a giant hamster, or to walk from one side of the room to another carrying cannon balls. Readers of the Daily Mail probably sat watching and writing letters to David Cameron, recommending that young offenders sit turning a hand crank from morning till night or risk not being fed; but for most of us, these treatments are barbaric and unimaginable in today’s more enlightened society.

The reactions of the celebrities were interesting. I got the feeling Johnny Vegas was thinking ‘there but for the grace of God’ when it came to finding out about his great-great-great grandparents who both ended up in prison for fairly petty crimes. His great-grandmother was in prison largely down to vagrancy and heavy drinking, and nowadays would be given counselling for her grief and her addictions, but in an age when the poor were considered wholly to blame for their predicament, she was treated with scorn. Mariella Frostrup seemed quite relieved that her great great grandfather was imprisoned for fraud. Indeed like a lot of Victorians, who had no welfare state to fall back on, he had to sell his belongings in order to keep his family, and for selling more goods than the bailiffs allowed, he was banged up. Lastly, Len Goodman’s great-grandfather was imprisoned for assaulting his own father, and Goodman started off seeing it all in black and white. His ancestor’s behaviour was strange to say the least, and yet he didn’t seem willing to try to find out what was the reason behind his attacking his own father, and wrote him off as a villain. It was only as he discovered more about the harshness of the punishments that he would have had to endure, that he started to have a bit more compassion.

Next week a new batch of celebrities find out about their wayward forebears, and the following week we have Secrets from the Asylum, and given what I’ve read about Victorian Asylums, it will make the workhouse and the prison look like Playschool.


TV REVIEW: Who Do You Think You Are 2014 - BBC



I love WDYTYA. I know it’s contrived, and it’s hard to believe that no one discusses their family history with their nearest and dearest before they decide to do this programme and yet they go on as though they had no idea great granny Bertha was a Suffragette or whatever, but it doesn’t stop it being fascinating stuff. The new series kicked off with the wonderful Julie Walters tracing her mother’s family back to Ireland, and in a series of twists and turns, she found out that her great grandparents had been victims of Ireland’s cruel tenancy laws, whereby rich English landowners treated the people who lived on their farms like sh!t and would evict them as and when they felt like it. Julie discovered that by her ancestors kicking against the system that oppressed them, they helped change the Draconian laws that helped fester hatred towards the English, and indeed Irish tenants won the right to buy their own land.

This is such a great series because History is a fascinating subject and it’s good for people to have a celebrity as their ‘way in’ to make it interesting. It never gets tired, because we all like to have a nose around famous peoples’ lives, and it certainly gets us thinking about our own families.


About Karen Mason

Karen Mason is a London-based writer. She has published fifteen historical fiction novels and is currently working on her sixteenth. She is also an avid movie goer, with a particular preference for gritty British cinema and a weakness for Jason Statham films! Her music tastes stretch from Muse to the Cinematic Orchestra and she loves discovering new acts.

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