Tag Archives: BBC

A world of words

If you enjoy language, deep thinking about humanity, or any kind of provocative thought, I encourage you to watch a new five-part series on BBC 2, Stephen Fry’s Planet Word.

In the BBC’s impenetrable wisdom, it has chosen not to show the series on BBC America yet, nor in the near future. There is, after all, only so much time left after one has scheduled the required doses of Gordon Ramsey’s various series and long-ago episodes of Star Trek: Next Generation.

Fortunately, we Americans can currently find the episodes posted online…. Continue reading A world of words

“What is it like in your funny little brains. It must be so boring.”

If you’re reading this tonight, Sunday night October 24, you still have time to get to your TV and set your DVR for this show: Sherlock on PBS.

Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock (trailer)

And if you are reading this Monday or later and missed it, you can catch one of the many repeats. Which you’ll want to do, so you’re set for the next two Sundays, when episodes 2 and 3 are broadcast. Or in the worst case, preorder the DVDs.

This new Sherlock series is amazing. It was produced by the BBC and broadcast over the summer in Britain. I watched it via (illegal) YouTube uploads, 15 minutes to a segment, the moment they were available. Clever, fast-paced, funny, suspenseful, high-stakes, beautifully shot and edited, with characters that you like instantly and care about.

My friend Christina, who clued me in before the BBC’s original broadcast so I’d be on the lookout for it on the Internets, described Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes as the “adorable bastard child of Doctor Who and Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.” This is just about right, assuming that child had been raised by Gregory House.

Please watch and tell me what you think of the show. Then let’s all band together to get the BBC and PBS to show future episodes in a much more timely manner. Three months’ delay is far too a wait for great television.

I got chills; they’re multiplying


Jedi, originally uploaded by PhillipWest.

Monday night I started to feel a little ill: chills, tiredness, headache. Tuesday I was focused on making it to and through meetings and a presentation at Refresh Pittsburgh, all of which were quite engaging and interesting.

But by Tuesday evening I could tell that all was not well — or more specifically, that I was not well. Despite all the colds and flu viruses and other forms of illness circulating, I’d survived most of the winter largely unscathed. But this could not last.

I’m not too bad off. Vehement coughing, lung congestion, off-and-on headaches, off-and-on fever. Now a little head congestion has kicked in too, to spice things up. Could be worse. In any case, I’m playing it safe, resting a lot and drinking echinecea tea and watching television.

This turns out to be a nice thing, this sitting and resting and not thinking too hard.

I just finished watching "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (not bad, very dated, kind of OK for a slow night if you don’t hate musicals). Now I am embarking on the first of three parts of that BBC version "Pride and Prejudice" with Colin Firth and … well, I don’t know or care who else, they’re a bunch of other people who do a nice job being around Colin Firth. (Oh yeah, that girl who played Sapphie on "Absolutely Fabulous" is the wayward sister.) I’ve seen this production before — more than once — so there are no surprises, only the perfect re-enactment of a drama that ends happily.

I’m sure more than a night or two of downtime wouldn’t work for me. (Amusing turn of phrase, that, isn’t it?) But the occasional cold serves as a reminder that there’s more to life than accomplishing lots of stuff. And, uncomfortable though a cold always is, a nice reminder it can be.

(About the picture: I searched Flickr for a photo of tissues to help depict my current state, and this Jedi popped up. He doesn’t particularly apply to my post, but I thought he was cool.)

The barman sketch


I’ve been a longtime fan of Hugh Laurie. He’s such a wonderfully charming fool in Jeeves and Wooster, and he’s brilliantly nasty in House.

This weekend I’ve been watching episodes of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, a sketch comedy show he and Stephen Fry did on the BBC in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It follows a bit in the footsteps of Monty Python but adds several twists, including musical numbers (mostly by Laurie).

The clip above highlights Fry and Laurie’s impeccable timing.

Humor is painful


The DVD I currently have from Netflix is that of the BBC television show The Extras, Season 2, Disc 1. I’ve had this DVD sitting on my coffee table for weeks. I love this show, but every time I think I should go and watch it, something stops me.

That something is my hatred of pain. It hurts to watch this show, just as it hurts to watch episodes of the BBC’s The Office. The first time I tried to watch that program (programme?), I got about ten minutes in and had to stop. I liked the humor, but I winced every time Gervais’s character, David Brent, said anything awkward — which was about every 20 seconds. Eventually I got through the first episode, and somehow I built up a thick enough skin that I could enjoy the rest of the series.

I don’t watch the American version of The Office either, because I never could get started with it. If I could just get going I’d love it, but I have to steel myself.

I liked the first season of The Extras very much. Tonight I wanted to post something about it, and on YouTube I found the above clip from an episode I haven’t yet watched (because it’s sitting on my coffee table, spurned).

Here’s a funny thing: I watched about ten seconds of the clip and stopped it. Closed the browser window. My entire insides were wincing in embarassment. I know it’s going to be hilarious to see how it plays out — but can I stand it?

Still, I can’t keep that DVD forever. I’m going to get through at least one episode tonight, even if I have to pause the disc every few minutes and leave the room for a breather. Wish me luck.

UPDATE: I got 10:34 into the episode before having to pause and leave the room. This is episode 2 of Season 3 — the one excerpted above. I was pleased to be able to stand the bit with the guy asking for change, but next scene with Maggie asking for an autograph was awesome. I love her in proportion to how clueless she is. Funny, funny stuff, but relentless. OK, once more into the breach, my friends.

UPDATE #2: I fortified myself with a cocktail and made it through the rest of the episode. Which was awesome.

I like The Extras more than The Office because it retains that awareness of social taboos and hypocracy and adds awareness of the current star/celebrity culture, yet all the while allows the protagonist (Ricky Gervais’s character, Andy Millman) to be more sympathetic, kind of a tragic figure. In this second season in particular, he has traded in his integrity for a little bit of success, and Life does not let him forget it for a moment. There’s poignancy in his self-awareness of what he has done and how he has trapped himself: a pure tragedy in the classical sense.

Also, the show is damn funny. The guests each episode are awesome. Apparently, each one was a fan of the original Office, and each skewers his or her perceived image. This season started with Orlando Bloom as guest. I’m not a fan of Mr. Bloom — he was appropriately cool and efficient as Legolas in Lord of the Rings, but too girly for my tastes as Will Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean series — but I like him so much more having seen how he carried himself here. It was like seeing a star make fun of himself on Saturday Night Live (back when I watched that show).

About this episode, I’d read previously that Gervais asked Bowie to write a song for the episode, something on the lines of "Life on Mars." Bowie responded some way that reminded Gervais what gall he had in asking for such a thing, but then came up with a Bowie-esque song that’s perfect.

And from that scene, the show goes on to one that is so sad, and even more right on the money.

No matter how hard I find it to sit through the wincing, terrible minutes, The Extras pays off every time.

And big props to Ricky Gervais for putting himself and every personal fear a show biz professional might have up front and center, every time. I know it’s a show, I know it’s not real, but that has got to hurt. It’s emotional boxing. And he’s the champ.