SLOUCH POTATO: 17/02/16

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The slouch is out there for Tom Pheby...


THE RETURN OF THE X-FILES
The channel was set to 5, the phone was turned to silent, the cup was brimming with hot coffee, the light was dimmed and the obligatory snacks were placed on the arm of the chair. This was no ordinary night in front of the telly, how could it be? The X-Files was back and this was an event to be savoured. It reminded me of that feeling when Russell T Davies resurrected Doctor Who in 2005, a mixture of nervous anticipation and anxiety. Then it began...

My Struggle, penned by creator Chris Carter, started with a ham fisted and slightly corny pictorial recap. Clearly this was for the benefit of new viewers or those fans too lazy to revisit DVD's from the original series. Tut Tut! When we got underway for real we had an alien craft crash landing back in Roswell 1947, followed by a quick cut to 2016 and a slick looking believer in the form of Ted O'Malley who seeks out the legend that is Fox Mulder and his old partner (in multiple senses of the word) Dana Scully.

Scully had been at the dressing up box, decked in a pristine theatre gown as an in demand doctor. She was and still is an extremely sexy and seductive character, a rare breed whose intelligence tends to make her doubly attractive, but Gillian Anderson has never had to try to hard.

Mulder, however, looks rougher. Hobo- ish even. He's still infectiously curious about the world, those that run it and the lies that they generate but he seems slightly none the wiser. Not everything changes though as he is still likely to chase rabbits down holes just to prove that rabbits go down holes. I would have liked a reworked Mulder, instead Carter just picks up where he left off.

Scully seems different, not just in a physical sense. Strangely refreshed, still  troubled and sensitive, no wonder when your man would rather dash off to the artic circle to see a bright light in the sky than bask in the comfort of the love of a good woman. Change was inevitable for Dana, she is older after all, she's also a woman of Science, a qualified doctor and a mother, although we never lay eyes on the offspring in this opening episode.

The story pulls itself along, but Mulder, given a fresh perspective and information, tends to bog the whole thing down. Despite his initial scepticism, he goes from 0 to 90 on the obsessive conspiracy-ometer, bulldozing everyone in his path. This was, of course, an element of his character in the previous series, but as 14 years have passed surely it's enough to dent anyone's enthusiasm and you'd be a little harder to convince this time around.

I sound like a wingebag but the arc now goes against its previous conclusions and that's quite a hard row to hoe. It's like the whole season of Dallas, when the Dead Bobby Ewing was simply in the shower for six months because his dippy wife dreampt the whole thing. Ah Hollywood, you deceptive temptress!

The tone of the show didn't feel right, the script seemed unbalanced, almost hasty. I so wanted this to be 'the big comeback' but it got tangled up very quickly, trying to fill the gap it left behind all those years ago. It tried to cram too much in, plus Mulder felt compelled to explain everything in great detail with mouthfuls of gibberish, technical flummery and monologues by the lorry load.

The audience is sharper than when The X-Files first appeared, we know about manipulative governments, black ops, corruption, secret programmes and cover ups. Where Mulder once sat looking down on the world, we've all managed to scramble up that hill too and are more cautious and sceptical as a result. Mulder is no longer the lone voice.

The advertising used one additional word to reignite the franchise, the truth is still out there, but sadly this time it's not working as well. Fingers crossed it gets better soon.


CELEBRITY APPRENTICE - TOP TRUMP
Because a certain Donald Trump is in the running to be the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States I thought it might be fun to have a look at Celebrity Apprentice. It's tucked away late at night on BBC One, and by the look of things must be several years behind its original US broadcast.

Mr Trump himself is a curious, slightly scary, undeniably bizarre individual with candy floss blonde hair. Imagine you could weave the sun's rays into a hat and make them resemble a toupee and you are halfway to Trump. He is also a charmless, bolshy, filthy rich entrepeneur who happens to possess a series of alarming prejudices and points of view.

Trump assumes the Alan Sugar role from the UK version. He's surrounded by a team of perfectly pampered, bronzed and toothy assistants/family members who flap around the billionaire whispering into his magnificent ear about how magnificent he is. The 'celebrities' who make up this season of the show are made up of people I barely recognise, but there was Debbie Gibson, a one time pop star for a nanosecond who took the bus to obscurity and never looked back, Lou Ferrigno, the former incredible Hulk and George Takei, Mr Sulu from Star Trek. Outside of those three - nope, no idea.


All the celebrities were fighting to raise cash for the charity of their choice, and in a delicious twist of irony Takei announced his was for The Japanese/American Museum. Now you may or may not be aware but after the bombing of Pearl Harbour President Roosevelt established internment camps for people of Japanese ancestry. Sixty-two percent of which were US citizens. If Trump were to ascend to the Whitehouse we may not only see a series of policies that are distinctly anti-Muslim but a return to these shameless containment camps for merely having religious beliefs, which I find more frightening than Donald Trump's hair.

On a lighter note, Trump announced the task - the 'celebs' are to create two living window displays per team, to advertise his Daughters Fashion and jewellery range. Ivanka Trump (which sounds like an unpleasant greeting that Trump himself may have experienced) would decide who the winner was by looking for three things; creativity, brand messaging and presentation. George Takei was eventually made project manager of his team but he had competition in the form of Clay somethingoranother, a former Pop Idol contestant. Both were obviously considered on their individual abilities and merits, however Clay was dubious about being offered the role.
"What? Because I'm gay?"
He asked.
"I'm gay! I'm gay."
Announced Takei.

It now appears being gay is a qualification.

Adam Carolla (?), a comedian (??) said...
"We elected George for three reasons. I'm going to admit it, firstly because he's gay, second because he's gay and third, gay."
Gay or not, Takei's window sucked, his team lost and he got the sack. Trump told everyone that he was a fine guy and human being, so this probably tells you more about this would be President. Not only does he look like his personality was extracted via syringe from his back passage but he also has the ability to dress failure up to make it appear like a victory by ignoring the obvious. But hey, that's what the job entails - lying! Not little insignificant lies but big glossy whoppers that made you hair stand up (maybe not Donald's).

Trump sat in his presidential chair in the boardroom and made it sound like he knew what he was doing and saying. Another tick in the tick box. And when handing out bad news he made it sound like he'd just pinned a medal on someone's chest. This guys good, but not in a good way.

I always worry about whose finger hovers over that red button, and Trump is the latest in a line of people I don't want in that position. I mean, what if that bird's nest on top of his head accidentally fell off onto the button?


BOOSHING THE BOUNDARIES OF COMEDY.
If you've ever drunk Baileys from a shoe or worn a polo mint on your eye as a fashion statement last week may be considered the best week of your life, for it appears that The Mighty Boosh duo of Julian Barrett and Noel Fielding are working together again. I'm using this news as an excuse to bury myself in series 1-3 of the comedy Barrett once described as "a cardigan full of ideas", and if that doesn't tell you what the Boosh is about then nothing will.

It's hilarious, absurd, disturbing and a little bit daft. Don't enter the world of Boosh if your idea of a good night in is an episode of Midsomer Murders whilst dressed in a tweed jacket sucking an imperial mint, or you may well implode. It's hard to imagine how the series ever got the backing of the usually stuffy BBC. It's even funnier to imagine Barrett and Fielding explaining the show or performing it to the mystified onlookers. Boosh is not a comedy of jokes, it;s a series of bizarre situations, inexplicable locations magnified characters and coconut girlfriends. It doesn't stop there, as we are treated to the Parka people, Old Gregg, The Hitcher, Dixon Bainbridge and even a real life Gary Newman who just resided in a shop cupboard. But be under no illusions, this is a vehicle for the two comic talents to dress up and cover themselves in make up or shaving foam for no particular reason.


Howard Moon, with his microscopic eyes, terrible shirts, cappuccino moustache and hair like brown smoke is a glory seeking explorer, jazz fan and would be musician. Vince Noir, is the shallow friend who dresses like a space age prostitute. A sinewy figure with the legs of a stork and rock star hair, he wears the contents of Liberace's laundry basket. Together they find themselves in such locations as exploring the Arctic tundra, shipwrecked or simply mucking out the Gorilla cages (one of which talks and even cooks). The sets are abstract and pure fantasy and look as if they had a budget of a fiver, but that makes it all the more appealing.

Since Boosh, Fielding has struggled and at times appeared a shadow of his former inventive self, whereas only Barrett's postman knows what he's been up to. But before we get to excited Fielding said they were looking to work on something together but never mentioned Boosh. Perhaps, like many a brilliant comedies, its time has passed and trying to go back to the well could prove disappointing.

If it is another series of Boosh I will be insanely happy. If not I look forward to a new creation that is equally odd and deliciously obscure. Either way I'm looking forward to the return of their own unique brand of humour, one which makes me laugh out so loud that I feel feint and want to go to the toilet.


DVD HEAVEN OR HELL
It was Valentines Day and the Missus suggested we watched a film. Fair enough, but had I known that it was a Richard Curtis film I may have suddenly contracted a mystery virus or illness to avoid being dragged into another unsatisfying rom-com. By the time I found out who was responsible for About Time it was too late.

My misgivings about Curtis go back to Four Weddings And A funeral which was a soppy, indulgent and at times predictable mish-mash of pathos, humour and the absurd. Yet it is also one of his better films. Curtis is an observer of love as a condition, he loves the premise, immerses himself in it and has covered it from almost every angle known to man, becoming immensely wealthy as a result. His subsequent films since Four Weddings have shown glimmers of promise without ever really satisfying, which for someone who is so undeniably talented is disappointing.

Curtis has become the Barbara Cartland of rom-com and has no shame about being so. Why not? It's a lucrative market. He does, however, surround himself with actors and actresses that are incredibly versatile and gifted, with the talent to pull off the impossible, engage the audience, lend credibility to the piece and ultimately bring home the bacon. None more so than the excellent Bill Nighy who steals almost every single scene he appears in with consummate ease. He's your banker when making a film of this kind, someone who understands his own abilities but is able to do what is necessary within a group, often making it seem easier for others or extracting performances from his co-stars which they never knew they were capable of. Bill does that here in Love Actually

Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is an unremarkable, confidence shy and awkward 21 year old, who discovers that the men in his family can travel through time. I suddenly became a lot more interested by this golden nugget of story-line, however, Tim initially has only one use for this amazing, life changing gift - to find a girlfriend. This rather dented my enthusiasm from moments earlier.

The first part of the film has him going back and forth to meet the ideal woman (that would be Mary played by Rachel McAdams) and to correct his inept attempts to woo her. McAdams does what she can with the part and early on is a joy to watch, but her role soon becomes watery and irrelevant, which is a shame. It's abundantly clear that About Time is heavily influenced by Groundhog Day, it doesn't compare in enjoyment value and is without the brilliance of Bill Murray, but it has charm and covers aspects that the Harold Ramis film left untapped (perhaps for good reason).

There are laughs to be had and Gleeson makes a good fist of the obvious Hugh Grant role, managing on occasion to sound exactly like the floppy haired romeo. It's poignant and intermittently sad at times, in all the right places. It tries to deliver its messages without making the audience feel too nauseous in the process but it just misses the mark of other superior flicks with a similar theme.

About Time has its faults but it does enough to leave an impression, even if it falls short of originality.


FRY HOUNDED BY PUBLIC AND PRESS.
Stephen fry came in for unprecedented stick after hosting this year's BAFTA'S. The comedian, writer, presenter and actor dared to make a joke when he referred to costume design award-winner Jenny Beavan’s appearance.
"Only one of the great cinematic costume designers would come to an awards ceremony dressed as a bag lady”
He and Beavan have been close friends for a great many years and I'm pretty sure she appreciated his innocent, witty banter. Yet it appears that the public and press forgot to plug in their sense of humour processor and as a result Fry was unfairly roasted alive. He has subsequently deactivated his Twitter account, which is a sad and sorry state of affairs.

When you consider some of the comments made by Ricky Gervais and Frankie Boyle, Fry's little offering appears almost banal. Isn't it sad how people are willing to hang a talented man out to dry, even when aware of his sensitive nature. Fry's acerbic wit and flippant comments were a few of the reasons that the public took him to their hearts but now it seems they no longer care for his delivery. This is the kind of ridiculous horse shit that is enough to make anyone slope off to a country where they are better appreciated for their talents.


MAY THE BEST HOUSE WIN
It seems that 90% of daytime television is now devoted to shows about either cooking or houses. This one features four homeowners who take it in turn to visit each others houses and give marks according to design, comfort, hospitality and the viewing experience. Yes, I know, telly has come to this.

First up its Ian and wife Laura who were really impressed with their own pad and kept harping on about the history of the grade II listed gatehouse.
"It's a lovely historic house"
Laura kept the history theme going in ever other sentence,
"We love the history behind it"
Yeah, you keep saying. Traci observed from the outside
"I love the grovely road"
She meant gravely or gravel, I think. Without correcting herself she headed off inside to a receive a fake and overly enthusiastic welcome normally reserved for the postman. Later Allan assumed the role of master of the obvious by announcing to the others the purpose of each room. In one containing a sink and a host of appliances he informed everyone, "The Kitchen". There are no flies on this guy. In truth, Ian and Laura's house was a bit like walking into an historic charity shop, crammed with furniture from yesteryear and collectibles that you only get to see on a visit to your Nan's, but the biggest surprise was reserved for Jacks gaff.

There was a suggestion by Ian that J (as he liked to be known) was something of a dark horse, he wasn't sure if he was married or not but all became clear on entering the bolt hold of the early thirty something.
Hanging snake skins, a human skeleton (that was just the hallway), various assorted specimens in formaldehyde, a horses skull, a mounted swordfish and an aquarium in the cellar. Yep, J was definitely without a girlfriend or spouse!

On to Traci's house. She's an interior designer who had the furniture of a ten bed mansion squeezed into a nondescript three bed property situated in a close. An unimpressed Allan noted that it was like a gypsy caravan, which was a bit harsh on gypsies. He was also bemused by the amount of cushions on the bed and suggested that a cushion shovel might be the best way of clambering in. Old Allan, he's a joker!

Off to Allan's then, a sprawling seven bed new built with an immaculate garden, quirky bed made from washed up timber and a guitar in a net. Unsurprisingly, he and his wife Anna scooped the best house award, getting themselves a bundle of cash. We were left with a shot of Allan sitting smugly on a wall sipping tea.  

This is what the public want?

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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