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Archive for the ‘20th Century’ Category

Bert MiddletonPreviously on The Village: Joe came home, seriously shell-shocked, which ended with him getting shot for desertion.

Old Bert watches video of the village’s World War I memorial being dismantled while he recalls the day and how the villagers insisted on being the ones to do it. Please tell me they reconstructed it. I mean, who the hell just takes down a war memorial like that? That seems so terribly wrong to me.

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Shell-shocked Joe MiddletonPreviously on The Village: Joe had a rough time of it at the Front, Caro got an icky new doctor, and John found God.

Old Bert fingers a marble, starts to talk about Joe getting ready to go back to the Front, and then drops the marble (he’s losing his marbles!) The music starts to get a bit concerned.

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village-483902808Hey everybody. I know I’ve been totally remiss this week, but I’ve been moving to a new flat. And even though this move (down two floors in the same building) was far less traumatic than the last one (Atlanta to Philadelphia to Scotland), it’s still exhausting, you know? And the new flat’s still chaotic, which drives me nuts, so if I’m a little bitchier than usual in this recap, I’m sorry.

Where were we? Right—Previously on The Village: Caro’s family took her baby away, which upset her quite a bit, as did George’s determination to march off to war, so she begged him to stay. Eyre was less determined to go—so much less so, he had to be forced into it. He went, giving Bert his camera, accompanied by Joe, who came back for a brief leave a fairly haunted man.

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The Village episode 3-Joe waits to go back to warPreviously on The Village: Caroline’s pregnancy was revealed, and for some reason, everyone assumed that John was the father. Apparently he’s the only man in this village to have ever cheated on his wife. Yes, that’s right, the whole thing revealed John’s big guilty secret: a one-night-stand with his sister-in-law that ended in pregnancy, suicide, and tears. In other news, Prof Douchebag got rejected from the army for being too short, and Martha plumbed new depths of obnoxious, meddling busybodiness.

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Imperial_State_Crown2This Week’s Question:

What piece of Coronation paraphernalia was stolen (and subsequently returned) in 1950?

Last Week’s Question:

The Declaration of Breda was signed by Charles II on 4 April 1660. What did it promise?

Answer:  The Declaration of Breda promised a pardon for all crimes committed during the English Civil War and the Interregnum by those who acknowledged Charles II as the rightful king. It did not, however, excuse those directly involved in the execution of Charles’s father, though that may very well have been news to them. The declaration also promised that anyone who bought property during the war and the Interregnum could keep it, and that the army would be paid what it was owed in arrears. But really, everyone was primarily worried about Charles going on a killing spree and taking out anyone who had even thought of being a Roundhead during those crazy years.

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The Village, episode 2Previously on The Village: We met some of the most miserable people in Britain. The Middleton family is dysfunctional as hell, which sends eldest son Joe first to the ‘Big House’ (where he has a brief encounter of the sexy kind with rich girl Caroline) and then to war, with his mother’s blessing. Younger son Bert developed a crush on the reverend’s daughter, Martha, who’s got a thing for Joe, and who is, herself, crushed on by one of the Big House sons. Father John is an alcoholic mess, apparently haunted by some guilty memory, and mother Grace is just trying to hold everything together.

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village_4839028It’s going to be interesting recapping this and Game of Thrones at the same time, because everything seems to indicate that they’re very, very different shows. Nearly polar opposites, in fact. GOT is huge in scope, swooping across the seven kingdoms, interweaving the stories of dozens of main characters scattered all over the place. The Village, by comparison (as the name indicates) is tiny, focusing on one tucked-away spot way out in the middle of nowhere, and the people who live there. This does not appear to be a plot-driven programme, and I’m expecting it to be fairly short on action. This is about people’s lives as they lived them. There is no tension and handwringing over an entail, little chance of a big battle scene, and the sex is distinctly untitillating. And that’s perfectly fine—I’m not saying that this is bad because of all that. Quite the contrary, it’s quite good in an almost voyeuristic sort of way—we’re just peeping in on some of the most personal moments of ordinary people’s everyday lives. But you have to approach it understanding that, or you’ll be bored to tears. It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds.

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Dancing on the Edge, photography by Laurence Cendrowicz/BBC/Ruby Film & TVRight in the midst of the early 2013 recapping, the BBC starting seriously ramping up its promotion of Stephen Poliakoff’s five-part miniseries, Dancing on the Edge. And even though I was juggling three shows already, not to mention an actual job and a life, I put it on my schedule and made a mental note to tune in when it aired in early February. After all, the promos promised scandal! intrigue! sex! jazz! And I like all those things. Toss in a rather glammed-up 1930s setting and an excellent cast and I was all in.

And then I watched it. God knows why. I’m still wondering why I stuck with it. I guess I was hoping it would all actually come together and pay off by the end. It didn’t. After the first episode, I considered doing recaps, but to be honest, I just couldn’t face it. I couldn’t bear the thought of watching the show slowly enough to recap it because watching it in real time was like watching slow motion. It was boring as hell, and for a show that seemed largely built around a murder mystery and a man on the run, it was sorely lacking in urgency, tension, or a real sense that anything was happening.

What story there was was this: an absurdly elegant man named Louis Lester (played by the absurdly elegant Chiwetel Ejiofor) has a jazz band named–you guessed it!–the Louis Lester band. While playing at a grubby London club one night, they’re briefly heard by music journalist Stanley Mitchell (Matthew Goode), who just so happens to have ridiculously good contacts in the upper classes (despite the fact that he’s clearly of the lower-middle classes himself. No, I don’t believe they ever explain how he met his rich friends). His friends include affectionate siblings Julian and Pamela (she played by Johanna Vanderham, best known to us as Denise in The Paradise, and putting in a very different performance here), Pamela’s buddy/personal stylist Sarah, who starts a thing with Louis, and rich guy Arthur Donaldson, who seems determined to see the band succeed. Once they acquire a pair of singers–Jessie, whose talent is about as substantial as her body, which means, not very; and Carla–they’re booked into a regular gig at a high-class hotel, where they get to shock the pearl-wearing dowagers with their scandalous jazz music. Along the way, they charm Lady Cremone, a reclusive jazz-lover (jazz having been really big with older women living in giant houses in the middle of nowhere) and get entangled with Walter Masterson (John Goodman), an American who’s sort of like the Richard Branson of his day, except rather menacing and without any of Branson’s charm. Things are going fine until Jessie gets stabbed, and because he happened to find her and because nearly everyone in this show is a complete idiot willing to overlook the fact that he has an airtight alibi, Louis gets accused of the crime and has to go on the run. Also, there are Nazis and Freemasons thrown in there, because why not?

I think the primary problem with this mini was that it didn’t seem to have any idea what it wanted to be, so it was trying to be a lot of things and failing at all. Was it going to be a mystery? An exploration of race in 1930s England? A glimpse at the emergence of jazz as an art form? A tense thriller? I’m not saying that a programme has to just pick one thing and only be that–indeed, the best shows explore many themes–but Dancing’s lack of focus meant it seemed to be spreading itself too thin, so no theme was ever very well served. We got glimpses of each of these ideas–for instance, the band is occasionally exposed to blatant racism, as when a spoiled brat at a birthday party demands to know why they don’t look like the pantomime negros he’s used to. There are also occasional nods to the fact that there was basically a global depression going on–but all of these moments simply go away and are never alluded to again, rendering them completely flimsy and too ephemeral to be worth any real attention. And some odd things, like a bizarre-looking woman who keeps showing up for the middle three episodes, simply disappear with no explanation or notion of why they were there in the first place. That’s not a red herring, that’s just sloppy editing and a slap in the face to the audience.

Slapping the audience’s face seems to be something of a specialty of Poliakoff’s. I admit, I’m not familiar with his other work, but from what I’ve heard, he’s one of those artistes who loathes his own audience and will not be tied down by such nonsensical expectations as plot and pacing. And that kind of thinking is fine if you’re sitting in your garret reeling off reams of poetry or splashing out paintings you don’t actually expect anyone to buy, but when you’re doing your work on the taxpayer’s dime, it’s pretty offensive. I don’t actually know why this man actually continues to get work as a writer and director, because if this is anything to go by, he’s terrible at both. The dialogue was painfully stilted, and the directing was utterly bizarre. I felt, at times, like I was watching a stage play, and not in a good way. The overly exaggerated mannerisms that are sometimes required so those in the cheap seats can see what’s happening do not translate well to television. Line delivery was often stiff and stilted, and nobody seemed comfortable with what they were doing. The pacing also dragged needlessly.

I felt a bit sorry for the cast, most of whom seemed to be doing their best with what they had. The true standouts were Ejiofor, who’s just so terribly watchable he barely has to try, and Vanderham, who was definitely the series MVP and took the typical poor little rich girl role and made her kind of awesome. John Goodman, on the other hand, was clearly phoning it in, not that I blame him, and Goode simply couldn’t pull off the lower-class accent he seemed to be going for.

On the plus side, there’s plenty of gorgeous period dress to feast your eyes on, and the music, while nothing groundbreaking or particularly great, is sufficiently pleasing and toe-tapping. It’s just a shame it’s all dragged down by the weight of everything else, which, bizarrely, feels incredibly heavy while actually being utterly insubstantial.

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26361 Previously on Mr Selfridge: All the spurned people on the show got together to work on a play, which I’m sure won’t be disastrous at all. Rose got a creepy stalker in Roddy, who insists she’s in love with him, and she seems to agree with that, which is gross. Grove started getting a bit closer to Doris, while freezing out Mardle, and Agnes decided to end her nonsensical fling with Henri.

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Call_the_Midwife_series_two__episode_eight___preview_pictures_and_predictionsPreviously on Call the Midwife: Chummy came back, all knocked up and Jenny lost Jimmy, for good, it seems.

JVO talks about how exciting things are at Nonnatus now that Chummy’s back and how everything just seemed soooo perfect. Nothing going to go wrong here! Chummy and the girls are washing baby clothes that Cynthia’s mother sent for Chummy to use. Chummy unwittingly puts one of the little cardigans through a wash wringer, crushing the mother-of-pearl buttons that came off of Cynthia’s mother’s wedding dress. Chummy apologises profusely for her fumbling.

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