SLOUCH POTATO: From Maigret To MasterChef

. . No comments:
Tom Pheby dines out on last week's televisual offerings...


MASTERCHEF WITH THE ODD DISASTER CHEF
MasterChef is back with a bang and a group of contestants who have jobs that sound.... well, a little bit made up. Chris works for an altitude training company (yeah, right), and Cae is a professor of medical devices (a what?). A job which prompted Greg to ask "does that actually exist?" Yes, Greg the potato king showed similar disbelief to myself. I actually think I've seen him at a service station on the M25 serving up insipid coffee in a Styrofoam cup for the price of a small two bedroomed semi detached.

John (who's marvelously odd) goes for the business consultant title. If I had a fiver for everyone who claims to be a business consultant I wouldn't have to get out of bed in the mornings. Obviously the entire business community in this country relies on the efforts of people that look like semi retired Police Commissioners. Thank God for Yanique, she managed to get us back on track with the fluffy job titles, declaring herself to be a logistics administrator. Sadly, Julie was a nurse. Come on Jules, show some bloody imagination will you. She could have been a senior medical consultant or health administrator, but no, she was a normal, no frills nurse. What a sham!

John Torode continued his usual pan stalking, sniffing the air and pulling faces that resemble Buzz Lightyear on a secret mission. He assembled the group in the Masterchef kitchen and asked them to serve up a signature dish that reflects who they are as a cook. I feared the worst. Deep fried bullshit on the lightly toasted ears of a unicorn served with a mustard vinaigrette.

John, the business consultant (umm) continued to embellish his lies by claiming to think about nothing but food from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed..... oh, and during the day. Pack it in John, stop trying to make yourself sound interesting. Eventually, though, he got busy. Don't ask me what he served up but it looked quite nice and he subsequently went through without a problem.

Meanwhile, Yanique announced "You have to go big or go home", which was convenient because she did both, serving up something that looked like a boiled football sock on a bed of Cadbury's smash. Bye and don't bother applying again Missus!

Julie, who couldn't even be bothered to lie about what she does for a living, served up a plate which contained the contents of her waste bin. Two massive pieces of fish, stacked on a scaffold of vegetables and a tower of creamy tomato jollop. It would have served a family of four for two days, probably for both lunch and dinner.
"It looks as if you just shoveled it on the plate."
Torode observed. She probably had, but undeterred she managed to knock up a lemon curd tart thing with something else lemony and poncy. I thought they might have to use a forklift to get it in and out of the oven but it arrived in normal proportions which made me ill at ease.

I love this show, it's an absolute guilty pleasure. It's probably the most entertaining of all the thousands of cooking programmes that litter the channels and its due to the diversity of the contestants. I can't vouch for the credibility of their jobs but I can vouch for the entertainment.


DAVID GILMOUR: WIDER HORIZONS
Alan Yentob is one of those people that shouldn't be allowed to make documentaries. His programmes are slow, ponderous and uneventful. He seems happier to get something we already knew from someone we want to know better, and that in a nutshell is Yentob's problem.

David John Gilmour is a legendary singer songwriter from one of the biggest bands this country has ever produced, and has sold over 250 million albums. Pink Floyd were, and still are, a global phenomenon, yet Yentob makes one of its key components sound about as interesting as a box of damp woolen gloves. Gilmour is portrayed as a gently driven music professor who enjoys nothing more than a sing song around the camp fire over a bowl of steaming hot lentils.

The opening shot says it all, Gilmour walking through an open field away from the camera, then Yentob announces,
"We'll start with a nice easy one ...who is David Gilmour?"
Gilmour exhales, one suspects because it's one one of the worst opening questions he's ever heard.
"I wish I knew, someone who is driven by music."
Gilmour had an expression that looked as if he was regretting agreeing to any of what was to follow.

Yentob had the chance to rescue the floundering project when visiting all of Gilmour's recording studios in Sussex, Brighton, and also on a boat on the Thames that resembled a glass cathedral, but it's clear that Yentob was in awe of this musical genius and as a result all he did was fluff about whilst asking Gilmour a series of inconsequential and tiresome questions, stopping just short of asking him what he had for breakfast or if he preferred boxers or briefs.
Later they walked into yet another studio in leafy Sussex and Yentob predictably says,
"Explain to me what happens here."
The room was crammed with every instrument under the sun. I screamed at the telly "He makes fairy cakes there you idiot!" He didn't hear me of course but I felt better for the outburst. Sadly it wasn't the last.

David Gilmour: Wider Horizons could have been brilliant but it never went beyond average, even when the subject matter was spectacular. What a let down, Yentob! Get a different job.


DVD HEAVEN OR HELL
It's safe to say that when Pixar first came to the animation scene it was a domain inhabited fairly exclusively by the global giant known as Disney. The Mouse had an established a trusted brand and an undeniable track record of considerable success. As a result of their phenomenal turnover Disney managed to exert a stranglehold on the genre and everyone thought, me included, it would stay that way. This was despite losing its way in the mid 70's, when Disney's attempts to churn out a series of modern classics saw them produce a number of substandard and slightly dreary films. This lack of imagination and direction meant we ended up with shockers like Robin Hood, which was about as duff of a Disney film as you could wish to watch, and those awful Herbie offerings. From there, it just got worse. They dabbled with non-animation films, believing that they could conquer that area too, but the massive gamble cost them dearly and seemed to detract from what they originally did best. However, a handful of ex-Disney employees would change the landscape a few years later with their ambitious and revolutionary computer animation. Naturally, Pixar wanted to find someone with a foothold in the industry, someone with the connections to promote and distribute their films worldwide. So who better to snuggle up to than Disney. Discussions between the two companies took place. A deal was struck that would prove beneficial to both, but for Disney it would be a masterstroke.

Disney executives must have been thrown into a blind panic when they were first shown an animation short called Tin Toy, and were then presented with the idea for Toy Story. It must have dawned on them that they were no longer the force they once were and that they had fallen behind in the technology stakes. Disney's representatives must have taken a nanosecond before deciding to throw their considerable muscle behind the project. No doubt this conclusion was based on the age old 'Tent Analogy', which means 'it's better to have Pixar inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in'.

Of course, Disney will claim that they were equally responsible for the subsequent hit, because they asked for various changes to the script and direction of the film, but I'm fairly convinced that John Lasseter and co would have still made the movie that changed animation forever.

Toy Story was a sublime piece of cinema. It is, without doubt, a movie in a class of its own. This innocent yarn which features a Sheriff 'Woody' doll and other assorted toys has become a timeless classic, something that only Disney used to produce.

The animation is slick and vibrant, the characters are well rounded, and the script caters for both children and adults alike. Toy Story has since become the template for all subsequent animation movies from all the new animation companies who have come to the forefront in recent years - but Pixar still does it far better than any of them. They have the ability to tap into subjects that kids adore and they are able to give the characters depth and personality that is generally lacking in similar films.

Over 20 years since its release, Toy Story still holds up incredibly well. It's a film that you can safely say will captivate the kids for the entire duration. Consider all the animated features you have ever seen and you will surely admit that Toy Story is still the best.

Hey Howdy Hey, to DVD heaven and beyond.


MAIGRET FALLS INTO HIS OWN TRAP
You would have thought that someone had hung Prince Phillip's pants from the flagpole outside Buckingham Palace, such was the reaction when certain quarters discovered Rowen Atkinson was to play Maigret. It ranged from total astonishment to disbelief and disgust. I suppose it's similar to having a naked Mary Berry in a love scene with George Clooney... but maybe not. Damn it, I'm stuck with that image now for the rest of the day.

Quite why the former Mr Bean and Johnny English star stirred up such feelings is a bit baffling, he's not Lawrence Olivier granted, but when I first found out he had been chosen for the part I was far from contemplating jumping off a bridge, and after a spell I thought he may actually be able to pull this off. Why? Because Atkinson is well known for his approach to any type of role. He is efficient and ruthlessly obsessive, known for his rehearse, rehearse, rehearse approach, and so it was highly likely that he would make the most of the opportunity.

Atkinson is not just a man who pulls silly faces, as we all know that honour belongs to Jim Carey, whose entire career depends on facial gymnastics. So as long as Atkinson can keep control over his features it's only polite to overlook the odd 'Beanisum'. I was warming to the idea. Yes, I thought, Atkinson could make a decent job of this, although he has big shoes to fill because of Maigret's former incarnations included Rupert Davies and Michael Gambon. So, having built up the anticipation levels higher than an Amy Winehouse bouffant, I awaited 'Maigret sets a trap', which as a title is a little bit rubbish!

The story is set in 1955. Maigret is investigating the deaths of four women, killed over a period of five months. All the victims have been viciously stabbed. Maigret is up against the clock to bring the culprit to justice before he strikes again. Like many out there in TV loungeland, it took me at least three ad breaks to relax into it. The script was a incredibly sluggish early on, but Atkinson showed flashes of promise as the strangely introverted, solemn and brooding detective, whose only vice appears to be a pipe that hardly ever needs refilling.

The clues didn't really stack up and the pace was that of a sumo wrestler being pushed in a three wheeled pram trying desperately hard not to spill a bucket of custard (bring back It's a Knockout!!). Then there was the collection of English accents, one assumes that was intentional to avoid everyone in the cast slipping into 'ello, ello' territory. Then we had the confusing mixture of French and English. French signs were all over the place, yet there was an English menu on a restaurant A-board - make your minds up! And finally, one additional small visual gripe. Did we have to have the camera looking down so many staircases/stairwells? We saw Maigret heading up (twice), people scurrying beneath, cars on the move. My advice is don't wear an idea out, especially one that isn't that original.

Those points taken into account, I certainly want to see more. There has been a shortage of cerebral detectives on TV since Morse left us, and Endeavour or Lewis  is hardly a suitable replacement. True, we still have Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock, but his outings seem to be almost rationed due to the demands on the two leads and their cinematic successes, so we do have room for another bright soul with handcuffs. Atkinson can only improve, but he has proved that this role could be as big as anything he has done in the past, even bigger perhaps, giving him a brand new audience and fan base.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Warped Factor
Daily features, news and reviews from the world of geek!