THAT WAS THE BOX – January 2014 (Week Four)

By on 26 January, 2014

The Voice UK - Episode 3 TV Reviews

Last week on ‘The Voice‘, the judges all beat themselves up because they didn’t turn around for Miles Anthony who sung lovely, but for some reason they didn’t think him worthy of taking through. There were also the two rockers Lewis Clay and Jimmy Weston. Lewis sang Cryin’ by Aerosmith in tune – no one turned around. Jimmy wobbled his way through Desperado by The Eagles, and they turned around. They also missed out on 55-year-old Bob and his showbiz jazz hands. Luckily Mike Batt (of the Wombles) is interested, so there’s a happy ending. Kylie is still keeping ‘The Voice‘ watchable. But I wish they’d stop that ‘Stars in Their Eyes‘ clapping when the person has sung one note.


Call the Midwife
Yay! ‘Call the Midwife‘ is back. It’s perfect Sunday night nostalgia TV with just a touch of the misery thrown in. This is the first series not based on the wonderful books by Jennifer Worth, and are straight from the pen of chief writer Heidi Thomas. We still have Vanessa Redgrave’s rather morose voice-over, which sounds as though she is reading from an American affirmation, self-help book, but that’s all part its charm.

The nuns have moved from Nonatus House after it was blown up in the Christmas special and are now in a nice, newer surgery. We are slowly moving into the 1960s and the beginnings of proper clinics being used for the healthcare of pregnant women, instead of makeshift gatherings in church halls, as if it wasn’t very important.

Nothing really changes in ‘Call the Midwife‘. Some shouty, loudmouthed cockney mother will go into labour whilst the nice, middle class midwives deliver them healthy, remarkably clean babies. But the programme serves as a nice social document of recent history. Anyone over the age of forty probably has, at least, scant memories of the world looking like it does in ‘Call the Midwife‘. I certainly can remember my mother being given orange juice filled with sugar, at the baby clinic because it was apparently good for me! (and my future dentist). Similarly in this show, I always give a macabre chuckle to observe a heavily pregnant woman sitting in the street, smoking and no-one reprimanding her for it.

I’m sure the “Breast is Best” comment on Sunday’s show was an anachronism. Most babies born in the 50s-70s were bottle fed. It was the norm, so I’m not sure the nuns would be lecturing expectant mum’s on this subject. Also interesting is that, having read the Jennifer Worth books, I know how the character of Chummy has been built up in the TV series. I’m aware this is to give Miranda Hart a bigger part, and in her defence she plays the vulnerable yet steely Chummy well.

Like ‘Casualty‘, ‘Call the Midwife‘ normally has a subject of the day, and this week it was Cystic Fibrosis. A poorly developing baby was diagnosed with it, and it was rather sad to note that even though the show is set over fifty years ago, CF is still an illness that claims many young lives, even in 2014.

It is the characters that bring the heart to ‘Call the Midwife‘. Sister Monica Joan and her inane ramblings, Sister Evangelina and her ‘gawd blimey’ voice. Of the nurses, I find Trixie the most interesting. The dizzy blonde who encapsulates everything I imagine the 1950s to be like – all cocktail glasses and red lipstick. I’m not sure how much longer the series will be able to go on, but I would like to see it go from strength to strength, and with issues such as contraception and the legalisation of abortion around the corner, the show could become a real platform for women’s issues, with a strong female cast to ensure it has heart.


The Musketeers
It came as no surprise to me to read that ‘The Musketeers‘ had originally been developed to fit into the Saturday night action/adventure slot, usually filled by the likes of ‘Doctor Who‘, ‘Merlin‘ and ‘Atlantis‘. I’m guessing had they not decided to move ‘The Voice‘ to January (to avoid clashing with ‘Britain’s Got Talent‘ in the spring), indeed it would have been broadcast of a Saturday evening.

BBC - The Musketeers - TV Reviews.
With a cast of hunky guys who look as though they’ve come from an 1980s pop video, I’m pretty sure the programme will pick up a lot of female fans. There is enough swashbuckling and bed-hopping to satiate teenage boys, but it’s the eye candy element that is going to be its selling point. The storyline was pretty thin – a bunch of n’er-do-wells were posing as the Musketeers and committing murders – one of them being of D’Artagnan’s (Luke Pasqualino) father. He goes looking to avenge the death, but in the ends joins with the Musketeers‘ to find the real culprit.

Peter Capaldi plays the sinister Cardinal Richelieu. He does excel at playing this sort of character, and I find it rather concerning that he won’t fit into the role of the Doctor later this year. If ever a person had a face to play a baddie, it’s Capaldi. Every time he comes on screen in ‘The Musketeers‘, he evokes a cold shiver, and thus far is probably the most interesting character on the show. But it’s early days. Episode one left us with a few cliff-hangers and unanswered questions. and I will be tuning in next week.

One thing I do find puzzling is why, just lately, when historical France is portrayed, why do the actors adopt regional English accents? Exactly the same applied to ‘Les Miserables‘. I’m not expecting, hammy ‘allo ‘allo style accents. Just ordinary accent-less voices will suffice.


Mr Selfridge
I confess I wasn’t overly keen on series one of ‘Mr Selfridge‘. I found a lot of it style over substance, the dialogue too modern, Selfridge too ‘American’ in an age when wealthy Americans would do all they could to make themselves more European. Guess what. Series two appears to be exactly the same. Jeremy Piven, who plays Harry Selfridge overacts for most of the time, and most of the female characters are twittering and annoying. Especially Miss Hawkins, who I’d quite like to slap.

ITV Mr Selfridge - Series 2 - TV Review
The only prospect of salvation is in the form of Polly Walker who is playing Delphine Day, a sort of EL James of her day. Walker is a good actress who normally brings gravitas to her roles, and hopefully Delphine will bring a little depth to the show. I originally hoped the brilliant Katherine Kelly would do this as Lady Loxley, but last season, she was often reduced to nothing more than a young version of the Dowager in ‘Downton Abbey‘ – spitting out barbs and being generally witty, but having no real exciting storyline. Hopefully things will pick up for her this series with the introduction of Lord Loxley, her rather horrid husband.

One thing that always ruins ITV dramas for me is the amount of commercial breaks. I counted at least four in Mr Selfridge, which means as soon as you’re getting into a story, it breaks. Like ‘Downton Abbey‘, the programme looks beautiful. Everything looks sumptuous and the attention to detail is wonderful. But there’s only so long that one wants to look at something that’s very pretty that doesn’t do very much.

Most amusing part of the whole episode for me was when Miss Mardle (Amanda Abbington) told Mr Grove that she was going to be taking some time off away from the shop. I couldn’t help but think she was going to time travel to 2013 to meet and marry an ex-army doctor, who now fights crime with his junkie genius pal.


Coronation Street
I don’t normally talk about soaps, but I thought I would have to pay tribute to the touching storyline which saw the death of Hayley Cropper. I have always loved the way Corrie portrayed Hayley. Had she gone into ‘Eastenders‘ instead, she would have been a tragic character, no doubt marginalised and tortured by the ignoramus around and probably looking like Grayson Perry. But Corrie dealt with the subject of transsexuals with its usual humour and warmth. Hayley was a character we immediately took to, and it was an act of genius to pair her up with Roy. They were both misfits who found it hard to fit into society’s norms. But together, they were one of the most loveable couples ever to grace soap. Hayley was the heart to Roy’s cold logic, and it worries me (stupid I know – it’s not real), what is going to happen to him now Hayley has taken her life – before the last stage of her cancer, where she feared she would lose the identity she fought so long for.

Roy and Hayley Cropper - Last Scene, Coronation Street - TV Review
I once read that the fact that Roy and Hayley couldn’t marry because she was once a man, helped give the supporters for gay marriage, a voice. After all, viewers who may never have met a gay or transsexual person would see two people as ordinary as Roy and Hayley and question why they didn’t have the same rights. And after all – with public support, it is easier to pass a bill. Let’s hope with Hayley‘s final storyline it opens the debate on the terminally ill’s right to take their own life.


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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