National Television Awards 2019 – Musings of an attendee…

Another National Television Awards ceremony has passed and it was an interesting, slightly controversial star-studded evening.

As an entertainment blogger with big love for all things telly and a working relationship and indeed friendships with a few familiar names from the small screen, I like to attend the awards whenever possible. I was a regular attender of the National Television Awards during the good old days when the Royal Albert Hall was the venue for the event. This year saw my third visit to the show since the move to the O2 and the extortionate charge to meet the celebrities on the red carpet came into being.

I’m often asked if it’s as good to be there as it looks on the telly and whether it’s worth paying for a ticket to go etc. The honest answer is that you do get a better view on your television at home, however I also believe that everybody should experience it at least once. Had the ceremony and set up remained the same as during Sir Trevor McDonald’s tenure – then I wouldn’t have hesitated to recommend that everyone with a passion for television pays a visit and indeed for a ticket, if they can. Every trip to the O2 for me has been widely different, however what stood out this time was the number of people in the audience who were going in and out of the auditorium at regular intervals and not during commercial breaks. This was disruptive to the evening itself for us members of the public. It’s no mean feat going up and down those stairs all the time either, they must have had a great workout!

The basic charge before fees for a red carpet ticket which includes a seat at the ceremony itself is £120. Prior to the move to the O2 it was free to attend the red carpet before and after the ceremony. There was a degree of scrambling which was kept under control by stewards, however on the whole it wasn’t a bad experience and helped to build up the excitement and anticipation before we piled into the venue itself. During commercial breaks inside the Albert Hall the nominees would make their way over to have photos with us and sign autographs too. It felt like we were all in it together, actors, crew members, directors, producers and us, the viewers.

As it’s an awards ceremony voted for by the public, back in those days it truly felt like the public got something back for supporting the various television shows. If you didn’t have an opportunity to see your favourite celebrity before the show or during, there was always a good chance that you would meet them afterwards. Indeed I was able to arrange to meet friends who were nominated and we’d easily find one another amongst the throng. On all three occasions that I’ve been in the audience at the O2 it’s been impossible to meet any nominees in my social and working circle.

So why the big change? Security risks are heightened of course due to a vast number of reasons and social media and all its pitfalls have also added to the mix. There are a few ‘fans’ out there who troll celebrity social media accounts and they could be loose cannons on occasions such as these I expect. It’s such a shame though because the event which I have always loved being a part of now feels like an us and them situation – those who are on TV versus those who aren’t. Separated and kept under lock and key by more security staff than you can shake a stick at – and you’d be wise not to shake a stick or you’d find yourself back on the tube before the stars were in their seats. Which wouldn’t be difficult! At the Royal Albert Hall the nominees were always seated well in advance of the show going live. At the O2 it’s almost more entertaining to watch the celebrities being herded in, rather like cats, than it is to watch the show. As you will no doubt have spotted on your screens this year, they are seldom in their seats ahead of the show being broadcast.

Although there is a notable barrier between Joe public and the television greats, there are a handful of stars who like to boogie with the warm up man and get the crowd ready to party. This year Brendan O’Carroll and Jennifer Gibney aka Mrs Brown and Cathy Brown were having a dance and cheering with the audience before Dermot came on to do his thing. Last year we had Ruth Langsford and Alison Hammond strutting their stuff. The various television theme tunes are blasted out and we can see footage from the red carpet to spark our enthusiasm. It’s after that I feel the show becomes something of a damp squib.

The positive side of the night for me personally is that I go with friends and we have a brilliant time. This year we were treated to a ‘red carpet’ make over by Bobbi Brown UK in John Lewis and Partners, Oxford Street ahead of the show and spent our time enjoying a good catch up. It is what you make it, and if you want to spend the big bucks to meet the stars on the red carpet, the opportunity is there. It’s not what we’re keen to do but it would certainly be an experience not to be forgotten I’m sure. You can book tickets for next year so if you feel it’s time to see what all the fuss is about and see the inside of the awards for yourself, book now: www.nationaltvawards.com/

Photo Credits: National Television Awards/ITV

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My Autumn Television Favourites

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons, it’s a far more welcome sight when it takes over from a glorious summer and this year, us brits have been spoiled, sunny days making staycations the holiday of choice for many. Television isn’t always at the forefront of our minds, when outside looks so inviting we tend to forget the box indoors.

It might be just me, but I’ve long been of the opinion that the selection of television programmes reflects the fact that most of us won’t be lounging on the sofa at the end of a long day at work. However, with the change of season comes a change of TV shows and I am loving the full Sky Box planner. My top 5 must-watch programmes this autumn are a heady mix of variety and drama, take a look:

Strictly Come Dancing

When that glitter ball trophy’s up for grabs each autumn, I’m ready for BBC One to take over my television on Saturday and Sunday nights. I love everything about Strictly Come Dancing, from the judges (Shirley Ballas is a fantastic replacement for Len Goodman) to the inspired mixture of contestants from across sports, television, etc. I also have a thing for professional dancer, Aljaz Skorjanec! So the sight of him cheers me up no end as the dark nights draw in. I am sorry that he and Kate Silverton have been voted off the show, as not only does that reduce my Aljiaz time, but I also really like and respect Kate – she was coming on leaps and bounds. It’s the ultimate autumn AND winter telly, though and much as I miss Sir Brucie (RIP) you’ve gotta love Claudia with her one liners and dry wit. It’s a TEN from every member of the panel at Entertainment Views HQ.

Doctor Who

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor has stolen my heart and mind! She is everything I hoped she’d be and more. Sunday evenings are so much better for a dose of Doctor Who and together with her band of companions, the Doctor is rocking some exceptional storylines. Chris Chibnall should be congratulated for injecting verve, vibrancy and very current topics into the scripts. The Tardis has never been in better hands. The guest stars are brilliant too, Lee Mack was certainly a favourite (if not short-lived) addition in one episode and I can’t wait to see Phyllis Logan, I think she’ll be awesome as usual. Whittaker is my new favourite since the wondrous David Tennant took over the Tardis. If I’m not mistaken, their characterisation of the Doctor is similar.

I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here

Dingo dollars, Kiosk Kev (ahhh see ya later Kiosk Keith!) and a brand new set of celebrities for Dec and his newly appointed assistant, Holly Willoughby to play with! With Noel Edmonds has been the first camp mate to cause a stir, all seemed fairly settled in both camps until he became Emperor. Harry Redknapp is already established as one of my favourites, his stories are fantastic and he’s such a down to earth bloke. Anne Hegerty is doing a great job of raising the awareness of Autism and actually not handling jungle life too badly, although she does like to use the phrase ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ she has no qualms about it. Nick Knowles is proving himself to be a kind and useful sort of person and Rita Simons is so to the point, I love her. I haven’t picked a winner yet but there are a few who already deserve the crown. A superb line up this year!

There She Goes

This has just finished on BBC Four and it has been gripping yet hilarious drama. In fact it’s been the type of programme you feel it’s disrespectful to laugh at and yet that’s exactly what the script and performances are inviting the audience to do. There She Goes centres around a girl called Rosie who is learning disabled and although she’s age 9 she’s suffering from severe developmental delay. David Tennant and Jessica Hynes play her parents and they’re a great tag team, an ideal combination to take on a challenging drama peppered with light comedy. Watching their daily struggles, flashbacks to when Rosie was born and they were looking for answers and the brutal reality of the consequences of her impairment are at once cringe-worthy and life-affirming. It’s been a must-see series and if you can get it on catch up, I highly recommend you give it a watch.

The Apprentice

You’re fired! Good old Sir Alan is back with his straight-faced sidekicks, Karen and Claude (bring back Nick and Margaret!). Lord Sugar’s in search of a new business partner and as usual, there are a selection of candidates vying for the prestigious position and kicking each other when they’re down in a bid to be the one to win the prize. As much as there are always a number of candidates whom I find perpetually annoying, I always take a step back and remember that editing takes responsibility for the persona of each individual. Although the business world is dog eat dog and that is reflected in their behaviour. Some of the tasks have had me glued, the art gallery in particular was a fascinating watch and I had the fired candidate pegged from the start. Other weeks it’s not been so easy to guess. This series has renewed my love of the show, though and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Photo Credits: BBC & ITV 

Mystery Road ~ Television Series Review

Star rating: ****

A new BBC Four crime drama from Australia, Mystery Road is worth a watch if you enjoy this particular genre and fancy a fresh take on your standard whodunit.

From the first episode the scene is set, and the location sets the tone of the drama, the team behind the show have certainly made the most of what Western Australia has to offer and it makes for some superb shots. The areas of Aboriginal land which were also used and added to the atmospheric approach which provided a very real overall feel to the television series.

The central character of Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson) came across as somewhat of an introvert in the loosest sense, my initial impression of him was that of arrogance and nonchalance – certainly not an instantly likeable individual. However, as he gets to work on the task in hand, investigating the disappearance of two farmhands (a backpacker and a footballer), it’s clear he’s the right man for the job. Thorough in the extreme and eventually works well with the local copper he’s paired with, Emma James (Judy Davis).

The six episodes, which were originally shown over the summer on the ABC network before their recent broadcast on BBC Four, culminate in a story within a story as the crime that is under investigation unravels another story. There is more to the community than meets the eye and it’s sure to turn you into an armchair detective.

The strong points of this drama are most definitely the solid characters, especially in the wider community, who each has their skeletons and whom it’s easy to care about. I also think that Judy Davis is a superb choice for the role of Emma James – a determined performance, quite fascinating characterisation too. Direction from Rachel Perkins is exceptional, she knows how to tell a story! I’m on the fence about Jay Swan, as the main man I wasn’t as inspired by him as I have been by previous detectives in other dramas. However, he’s an interesting person and engaging, there’s no denying that Aaron Pederson has captured the character well. He’s not stereotypical and that’s refreshing. 

Mystery Road is worth a watch, it’s a no holds barred, rough and ready piece of drama and there are a few edge of your seat moments too.

The good news is that you can own Mystery Road on DVD! Click the image below to get your hands on a copy:

 

Downton Abbey Movie ~ Is It Too Late?

I’m a self-confessed fan of the popular ITV series Downton Abbey, to the point of fan-girling, checking out the fandom activity and feeling fairly bereft when the Abbey closed its doors at Christmas back in 2015. News of a movie to enable Downton’s enthusiastic following to take another peek into the upstairs and downstairs goings on was met excitedly, by me and by fellow fans of the Fellowes drama.

However, as the years have rolled by with (from what we mere members of the public could tell) not so much as a sniff of a script and longstanding cast members almost continuously cagey when asked questions about a possible movie by the media, the question mark over the potential movie hovered precariously. As a blogger who predominantly covers theatre I was delighted to discover so many of my favourite actors from the drama series treading the boards. Phyllis Logan toured with Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’ which in turn offered a superb opportunity I might not otherwise have had.  I took a trip to Chiswick to carry out an interview and enjoyed coffee and croissants with Ms Logan while I was at it, she’s an actor who has been high on my radar since she played Lady Jane in Lovejoy. Her colleague, Lesley Nicol opened my eyes to fantastic and extremely worthy charities, so I was over the moon (bears!) to interview her for my blog, too. With the vast majority of the show’s famous faces being kept busy in various ‘jobs’ (just check out the credits that Lily James who played Lady Rose has wracked up!) the movie seemed a distant and not so urgent thought.

Phyllis Logan appeared in the UK tour of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter in 2016.

When the announcement of impending filming broke, not so long ago, and just over 2 1/2 years after the festive finale, my initial reaction wasn’t to jump for joy. What year are they planning on setting it in was top of my list of queries. Are we picking up straight after their new year celebrations therefore following Mr Carson’s (Jim Carter) journey of enforced retirement or will we pick it up long after life has changed for Downton’s inhabitants? I’m the first to admit that my over-active imagination already sees the Carsons living a different life and has Mrs Patmore paired off with widowed hanger-on, Mr Mason (Paul Copley).

With the Downton Abbey film’s release date now set for 20th September 2019, my humble opinion of a movie following long after momentum has been lost has shifted. I think it was the Instagram post from Michelle Dockery (the ever-popular Lady Mary – follow her: https://www.instagram.com/theladydockers/ to check out the post I’m referring to) that not only cemented in my mind that this IS happening, but also transported me back to the good old days when social media buzzed with anticipation of the next series of Downton Abbey. I recalled the Duchess of Cambridge visiting the set while the final series was in production, the excitement surrounding that was palpable. So maybe regaining some of that old Downton Abbey-inspired joy will be just the ticket for 2019?

One thing’s for sure, I’ve moved from sceptic to eagerly awaiting and hope beyond hope that Fellowes won’t let us down! In fact, I have one plea to make – do what you will with all of the characters but please let Mrs Patmore be happy!! Back in the day I would have begged for Lady Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) happiness, however unless a curve ball is coming our way, it seems that her future was looking rosy by the time we bid au revoir to the Crawley family.

Bring on 20th September 2019, then…

 

Photo Credits: ITV & Nobby Clark 

 

Vanity Fair ~ ITV

This wasn’t a television adaptation I expected to like, let alone enjoy and desire more of. William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic has not only been transformed into a glitzy ITV period drama with a subtle modern twist, there’s a cast of names and faces whom many television aficionados will be familiar with. As we linger on the past three episodes and dwell on the highlights of what has become, for me anyway, a must-watch series – here are a few of the many best bits so far…

Carousel

I love the carousel which opens the programme so wondrously and the appearance of Michael Palin as Thackeray. The carousel itself and the characters we see riding the horses is utterly symbolic of the story and tells a take just in that simple scene. A genius idea.

Olivia Cooke

In the leading role of Becky Sharp, she has me hooked. Those facial expressions wouldn’t be out of place in a theatrical performance and her every move proves that she’s sharp by name and sharp by nature. The chemistry with every performer she crosses paths with is electric, quite as one would imagine it would be for those who fell under Miss Sharp’s spell. The character is the epitome of a person who falls into manure and comes up smelling of roses, and Cooke carries that air of smugness which this ‘trait’ necessitates.

Clunes behaving badly

As much as I’ve grown to love the series, I had found it a little slow going to begin with, therefore the introduction of Martin Clunes in the role Sir Pitt Crawley grabbed my attention. Clunes looks like he’s having a whale of a time playing the villain and he’s predictably bringing plenty of humour to the role too.

Tour De Force

Frances de la Tour as Miss Matilda Crawley is as resplendent and batty as I know she has the capacity to play, another television favourite who looks as though they’ve had great fun with a well written role. Her humour and raucous laughter enhance the character and she plays brilliantly opposite both Cooke and Clunes.

Crawley’s a Crawler

Tom Bateman as Rawdon Crawley, a character so overtly benign it’s a wonder Miss Sharp didn’t see spot it a mile off as his lack of money is surely a hindrance. However, whatever her game, it appears that he and she have married for love and that crawler Crawley may be blissfully unaware of his secretly wedded wife’s motives.

Summary

There’s tongue-in-cheek humour and nods towards the classic story not having been taken too seriously, perhaps to attract and retain a younger audience. However, from the pop soundtrack to the perfect casting – this adaptation has surprised me in the best possible sense. I can’t wait for Sunday evenings and hooray for autumn telly! Vanity Fair has landed on our screens at just the right time.

Photo Credits: ITV

Bing Live! ~ Town Hall, Birmingham

Bing Live! continues its tour of the UK, check out all the dates and buy tickets here: Bing Live!

Star rating: *****

Bing Live! has long been a favourite of my four year old son, Cbeebies being his channel of choice and the young bunny having been a frequent ‘visitor’ in our living room over the past few years.

Seeing the rabbit himself come to life by way of innovative puppetry in a live show full of fun, frolics and Bing thing antics was a treat from beginning to end. Naturally, Flop was on hand to guide Bing as he met up with his usual circle of friends (Sula, Coco and Pando) to play dress up and be creative.

The toilet train is a prominent feature of course, and there’s a 15 minute interval to allow the smaller members of the audience to take a toilet train and refreshment break. In fact for the youngsters of all ages, the timing of the show is perfect. It’s just long enough to capture their imaginations and hold their attention.

Audience participation is encouraged and there are plenty of opportunities for everybody to get involved with singing and dancing. The puppeteers are highly skilled and talented individuals and it’s easy to forget they’re there as they subtly operate the television favourites.

There’s a vibrant set to engage the small ones too, with lots to see and a great view to be had from any seat in Town Hall, Birmingham. Highly recommended for little kids and big kids alike, this is one of the best shows for the tiny theatre-goer that we’ve seen.

Plebs Series 4 ~ Review

Plebs series 4 offers the usual hilarious antics and high-jinx, often wildly inappropriate and cringe-worthy antics and high-jinx! ITV2’s must-watch comedy has got it all going on again.

Stylax

This series we see the return of Joel Fry as Stylax – albeit briefly, no spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet, I’m a huge fan of Fry’s and Stylax was one of the best characters in my humble opinion. To counter-balance, Jason is introduced (played by Jonathan Pointing), he’s grown on me, it wasn’t ‘love’ at first sight, however Pointing is an engaging actor. The positive is that the regular writers, Sam Leifer and Tom Basden are still at the helm and their jokes are the making of the show.

Aurelius

Series writer, Tom Basden plays the role and I liked the way they’ve landed him at the centre of the darkest humour which borders on brutal (especially where murders are concerned) yet remains thoroughly comedic throughout. The script has been cleverly constructed and Aurelius’ continued involvement is a genius move. I’m equally impressed and intrigued by the return of many characters who previously appeared in the show. Recurring characters are the life-blood of a sitcom.

Roman Roots

The roman roots together with the silly, childish humour offers a hilarious sitcom which should still run and run. As long as the writers stick with what works and we don’t wave goodbye to too many beloved characters in the future, I’ll be a happy viewer. All hail Plebs!

Get your hands on a copy of the latest series on DVD (see the image below):

Entertainment Views Interviews: Creator of TV Series, Romper Stomper… Geoffrey Wright

Romper Stomper arrives on DVD TODAY!


A QUARTER of a century ago, a film about skinhead racists running amok in Australia exploded around the world in an orgy of violence, shocking audiences with its realistic take on neo-Nazi culture and making a star of its young lead, Russell Crowe. Now, with nationalism and racism on the rise around the globe, Romper Stomper is set to return for its sequel, this time as a powerful and daring TV series, with a distinctly modern take.

Generating both critical acclaim and controversy across the globe, Romper Stomper arrives as a compelling six-part series. Following its run on BBC Three, it makes its DVD bow on 18 June 2018 courtesy of Acorn Media International.

Original writer and director Geoffrey Wright has created a new world in and around Melbourne, one inhabited by right-wing extremists, anti-fascist revolutionaries radicals and a group of Muslims caught between them. He has also revived some of the characters from the 1992 feature, played by original cast Dan Wyllie (Love My Way), John Brumpton (The Loved Ones) and Jacqueline McKenzie (The Water Diviner). They are joined by Lachy Hulme (Beaconsfield), Sophie Lowe (The Slap), David Wenham (Top of the Lake), Nicole Chamoun (Last Dance), and rising star Toby Wallace (Boys In The Trees).

Told from multiple points of view, Romper Stomper follows Patriot Blue, a new generation of white supremacists. Into their midst comes Kane, a smart, young 22-year-old with a secret past and a plan to secure his place in the group. His street smarts and winning way with words soon see him rising to the top as his band of hardcore right-wing extremists come into contact with both anti-fascist hardliners and a trio of conflicted Muslims. And as their rivalry intensifies, a wider political thriller emerges…

Series Creator, Geoffrey Wright chatted to Entertainment Views about the television series. 

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Geoffrey. When you first wrote Romper Stomper (the movie) where had your inspiration originated from?

I grew up near a suburb called Pascoe Vale. It was here that a skinhead Nazi crim called Dane Sweetman murdered a man on Hitler’s birthday. It was a shock but then I noticed other skinheads with their swastikas, racist tattoos, and steel capped boots, on the local trains. I realised you didn’t have to go far to find them. Something had to be said about them so I began interviewing and recording kids who had been part of that scene but who were (more or less) out of it.  I couldn’t interview anyone still operating in it because they wouldn’t talk. From those interviews I assembled the script for the movie, compounding many events into a compressed time span.

Why do you feel now is the right time to revisit it?

With the rise of the Alt Right in the USA, the election of Trump, and  the coming of Brexit, it felt like the far right was less shy about making its presence felt. The far right was selling itself as a viable political force, not a fringe dwelling oddity.  It seemed like the moment had come when someone like Hando in the old film would look around and think ‘Mmm, this is more than interesting’.

What can the audience expect from the TV series and how will it compare to the film?

The audience can expect a new generation of extremists trying to ‘top’ or live up to the expectations of the old. They can also expect new players like ‘Antifasc’, our take on ‘Antifa’, who are the far left opponents of the Nazis and at least as physical and combative as them. There’s also some exploration of identity, whether it’s inherited or open to choice.

What are the challenges of bringing this to the small screen?

The challenges are working with sometimes very large numbers of people in very short shooting schedules, not that the film had a long shoot, either.

What do you feel the strengths of the piece are?

I think it tackles difficult material in a medium too given to political correctness. From a technical angle, it’s a well designed show that tends to avoid predictable execution in terms of camera and sound. I think it makes the most of today’s bigger screens and better sound systems. That doesn’t happen enough in TV.

Do you feel that writing and directing have an easy symmetry?

Do you mean writing and directing the same work? They can have a very clean and satisfying symmetry but directing off someone else’s writing is good too. On the series I wrote two episodes but only directed one of those I wrote. The other episode I directed was written by someone else and that can be liberating because you have (literally) fewer preconceptions. However, I do get anxious watching others direct something that I wrote.

What advice of you got for budding writers and directors?

Try and capture some kind of truth about human beings, be memorable in the process. If your work isn’t memorable it’s not worth doing.

Finally, why should we all tune in to the series?

Too much of the western world is worried about causing offence, you won’t get that fear in this show. Besides, we have some great young actors, Toby Wallace, Lily Sullivan, Markella Kavanagh, and Sophie Lowe; and some great established stars in Jacqueline McKenzie, Lachy Hulme and David Wenham.

Huge thanks to Geoffrey for his time and insightful answers – make sure you all look out for Romper Stomper which was released on DVD today. 

A Very English Scandal ~ Episode Two

The second instalment of one of the best dramas to grace the screens of BBC One (since Call The Midwife disappeared until Christmas) was even racier, more scandalous and has been cast so superbly it’s resonating for all the right reasons.

Jeremy Thorpe (the incomparable Hugh Grant) is still on the warpath and baying for his ex-lover, Norma Scott (Ben Whishaw) to be killed. He’s let another friend and admirer, David Holmes (Paul Hilton) in on the plan he’s in favour of and he’s very clear on the way in which it should be carried out. Peter Bessell (Alex Jennings) isn’t at all keen on the idea and feels that he’s found a perfect get-out clause when it’s brought to his attention that Norman has fathered a child and he’s getting married. It’s a short-lived marriage though and not long before Scott finds himself in the arms of flaky ‘neighbour’ Gwen Parry-Jones (Eve Myles) who sets her sights on helping Scott to frame Thorpe for his misdemeanours. However, first there’s the tragedy of the sudden death of Mrs Thorpe in a car accident to deal with. Followed by Thorpe’s calculated second marriage to Marion (Monica Dolan) which is another shrewd politically motivated move.

I was delighted by the arrival of a new friend for Scott, aptly named Edna Friendship (Michele Dotrice), a character to be reckoned with, who offers bed, board and job to the vagrant when he arrives back in Devon. Too close to home for Thorpe who continues his quest to have his ex murdered. The assailant is selected and not entirely confident with his task, Andrew ‘Gino’ Newton (played by Blake Harrison of The Inbetweeners fame) is not the right man for the job at all, in fact.

The performances continue to be outstanding, it’s got more twists, turns and dark corners than the streets of London and it never ceases to amaze me what Thorpe will stoop to next. The mere idea of even a portion of this ‘story’ being factual adds a whole new dimension and must-watch factor to the series.

Catch up on episode two here: A Very English Scandal Episode Two

Episode Three airs on BBC One on Sunday 3 June at 9pm 

 

Photo Credits: BBC Pictures

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