Thursday, August 13, 2009


Being Human and A Damned Good Thrashing

Two picks of the day: remarkable comedy-horror-drama-tragedy Being Human, coming to BBC1 at 10.35 tonight (far less scary than Question Time), if you didn’t see it on BBC3; and an old-fashioned gentleman’s duel in the Lib Dem blogosphere. I don’t say “gentlemen’s,” as there’s only one involved, the Lady Mark. But that’s not all – also in tonight’s linkspamtastic collection, the less endearingly Victorian attitude of our police to naked statuary, a self-pityingly deluded Republican Congressman (doesn’t narrow it down), what makes a good pie, what makes a bad pie, and even a chocolate recommendation. And all in bite-sized portions.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been rather more ill than usual, recurringly, and so haven’t blogged much – but I’ve still managed to read the odd post or news item and thought, ‘Ooh, I must write about that’. I haven’t, but I’ve been hoarding links with which to bombard you. Rather than going back a month or so, though, I can’t resist starting with the post that made me splutter on my morning Lemsip.

Inviting Mr Ahmed Outside

I can sometimes be a bit aggressive in my posts, but rarely will you find me so determined to utterly destroy line by line than when someone’s picking on a person I love. This can be unedifying to read (my spellchecker suggests “humidifying,” which is apt, too), but flying off the handle to defend your loved ones is sometimes difficult to resist. Witness the Lady Mark Valladares, who hasn’t always done himself favours in his combative defences of Ros Scott (I recognise my own faults in that style), but whose superb horsewhipping this morning is a perfect example of how to do it, and absolutely right. Go Mark! And go reader, to Irfan Ahmed – This Is Your Fisk! (the lovely Mr Quist gives an idea of what Mr Ahmed said before his latest ridiculous retreat).

Among the many posts I’ve not written in the last month or so is “Leave It To Me, Dear,” which would have replied to Mr Ahmed’s suggestion that women should get their husbands to tell them how to vote, sadly nowhere near his most stupidly reactionary comment. I still remember canvassing in a by-election about fifteen years ago where the ‘man of the house’ told me he was voting Labour and refused to let me speak to his wife, because she was voting the same way. Within a second of the door closing, an upper window opened and she murmured down, “I humour him, but I’m voting for your lot.” As good a reason as any to always canvass in ‘enemy territory’ (even if there’s only one name, it makes them worry – and I’ve had people with Labour posters up say they were voting Lib Dem before now, but felt they had to have the poster out of duty)… Still, Mark has far more reason to thrash Mr Ahmed, and besides, he reads Mark’s blog; I suspect he wouldn’t be a big fan of mine, because I’m the sort of person who reads Adam and Andy and recognises a lot of it from my life. And definitely best not tell him that I read Jesus and Mo

Oh, Put It Away – Officer

Still, at least Mark’s icily polite evisceration this morning only expressed a slight air of regret that we weren’t still in Victorian days of duels and horsewhipping. Our police haven’t actually caught up with the last couple of centuries yet. Last night, post-watershed, you might say, a man stood up to take his turn on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square – and took his clothes off for an hour. Or, in fact, for five minutes, not due to any complaints from the crowd (who supported him), but because the police have nothing better to do with their time. It’s art; it’s free expression; if there’s one place in London to permit something unusual to happen, it’s there; it hurt nobody; and it’s not going to frighten the horses, because not only are there no horses about, but if there were, there are far more startling sights all over London of an evening. Many of them on advertising hoardings.

Presumably it will soon be a policing priority to go round every naked statue in the capital and chisel on little fig leaves.

Moving up the state enforcement tree to MI6, Millennium brings the story that not only are they colluding in something infinitely more degrading than persecuting nudists, but they’re rubbish at covering it up.

Still, at least not even the Met or MI High are as barking as the US Republican Party, who are rapidly descending into a delusionally exclusive club for Birthers and Deathers. Even among their ranks, though, Sara brings news of a Congressman so monumentally lacking in self-awareness than people have been queuing round the block to twit him over the head.

Good Pie

I tried this a week ago, so a swift review – I really need another, or six – but if there’s a Square Pie shop near you, this month’s special is a Moroccan-inspired Lamb Tagine that’s really rather worth trying. Tender lamb, always excellent pastry (tasty and just soft enough, never floppy), with rather a rich taste. Perhaps just too big chunks of sweet potato, but still mouth-watering. And if they don’t have that in, there’s always their Lamb and Rosemary, which is full-bloodedly delicious.

Bad Pie

Paying more and premium packaging is sadly no guarantee of quality. Ever heard of Delisanté? Don’t bother. I picked up one of their individually wrapped dainty slices of Game Pie the other week, and though I knew it was overpriced, it looked tempting. Mostly pork, expectedly, but what I didn’t expect was tasteless, cloying pastry and – oh, how very ‘premium’ – the meat to consist mostly on one long, thick, twisted skein of gristle. I shan’t be trying any of theirs again…

Good Chocolate

Canary Wharf, not too difficult for me to totter to on some days, boasts both a Square Pie shop and a Waitrose in which to avoid Delisanté products, but sadly not yet a branch of Hotel Chocolat. I like a large variety of chocolate types, and have praised Hotel Chocolat’s lemon truffles before – as has Tom Baker – though some of their chocolates seriously overuse dull pralines… But quite often, I like a large amount of chocolate in one go, and that means a bar. White and dark both have a lot of appeal, though usually for me a whole bar at once means milk, whether it’s Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Green and Black’s Butterscotch Milk (the little nibbles of butterscotch really make it) or, I’ll now add, one of Hotel Chocolat’s Cookies and Crème Caramel Giant Slabs. Or, as they peskily appear to have deleted this just as I’ve discovered it, the White and Caramel Cookies Giant Slab, which is due to launch soon and looks extremely similar (the “caramel domes” on the top may have changed, as I’m sure they were little white chocolate spheres in the previous model). I’m inordinately fond of their chocolate gemstones, very moreish little castings of mixed dark, white and milk chocolate, and they’re set into the top of a large bar made of creamy white and – here’s the bit that really works – a stunningly tasty caramel milk chocolate. It’s lovely. Oh, and crushed chunks of cookie are set into it from below, as the gemstones are above. Try it, if you can find one of these giant slabs left in your local Hotel Chocolat shop – if not, pre-order the new version, then bring it round to share with me for a tasting and I’ll tell you if it really is the same.

While I write, coughing and spluttering and wondering what shape my beloved will be in when he gets in this evening – he’s been back at work today, and though I always tiresomely outcompete him for illness, I worry – BBC3’s been showing Doctor Who on The Impossible Planet. Rather a fabulous and scary episode (causing much panic at the time, not necessarily for the reasons you’d expect), with lots of touches of older Who stories, Alien and a feature film feel thrown in, great music, Cthulood monsters and a fantastic vocal performance from Gabriel Woolf, possessor of arguably the most chillingly villainous voice in the world: “Don’t turn around…” The second episode, on tomorrow night, loses its way by comparison, but it’s got the finale of Torchwood: Children of Earth following, so worth a look. I notice this episode particularly because it’s from the same year – 2006 – that Toby Whithouse’s Doctor Who story was first transmitted, and though that reintroduced Sarah Jane Smith, oddly enough he’s not yet written for her spin-off series that’s followed. He has, however, created his own rather-more-than real show, and it’s Being Human that’s ‘promoted’ to BBC1 tonight.

Being Human

So, a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost go into a house-share… Wind back a year and a half, and Being Human was one of several pilots commissioned by BBC3 that might lead to a trendy new drama. Brilliantly, they decided which one to commission as the ‘success’ before they’d aired, and Being Human wasn’t it. Except… That Being Human was the pilot episode that grabbed people’s attention, saw petitions launched in its favour and won a climbdown. So while its first series comes to BBC1 for a repeat tonight, and a second series is already being made for next year, the pilot the BBC3 high-ups assumed would be a smash and was instantly commissioned for a full show… Has never been heard of again.

Being Human isn’t just an inspiring fable that quality will out, though. I have to admit, I was a little wary of the series before it started: out of four ‘regular’ cast members seen in the pilot episode, three of the actors were replaced before the show returned for a full run earlier this year. And each of the changes made our heroes prettier and the villain less so, which made me distinctly wary of the level of brain-downsizing that might have been the price of the recommissioning.

I needn’t have worried.

So, again, a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost go into a house-share… And it’s brilliant. Fortunately, they kept Russell Tovey as the slightly hysterical lead, even though he doesn’t get his kit off quite as often as he did in the pilot when changing into a wolf in impressively An American Werewolf in London effects – and I got used to the recast ghost, who does become multi-layered and very endearing, as well as the recast vampire, who’s… Well, actually, he’s about as pretty as the last one, but less pretentiously Pete Doherty-meets-Lestat. And, ironically, more hairy and wolfish, which as far as I’m concerned makes him much sexier. Still, Aiden Turner’s an impressive actor as well as a hot one, as you may have spotted if you’ve been watching BBC2’s hilarious art sit-com – er, I mean bio-drama – Desperate Romantics, in this week’s episode of which he and Rafe Spall (sadly with nasty beard, but you still would – as for him in The Chatterley Affair and Wide Sargasso Sea…) tussled with their tops off. As the upwardly mobile prostitute muse puts it,
“You boys, you boys. Why don’t you just poke each other and leave us girls alone?”
Er, where was I?

The key villain, leader of a rising vampire band, is now nowhere near as sexy as Adrian Lester was when playing him in the pilot, but he grows on me, too – a dowdy messiah with a grubby charisma, he’s actually very well-chosen (and does some excellent work in the Doctor Who audio trilogy The Key 2 Time… But more of that tomorrow).

Watch out, particularly, for the fourth episode – probably the most harrowing-to-watch piece of TV I’ve enjoyed all year. The final two pack a serious punch, too (see this slightly spoilerish first-broadcast review from Costigan). We’ve recently been watching it again on blu-ray on Sunday nights after a double bill of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And Being Human can hold its head up. Funny, moving, disturbing, with four superb leads, give it a try – it takes an impressive talent to shift so confidently between sit-com, thriller and horror story.
“I’ve got this friend… He says the human condition, human nature, being human… Is to be cold and alone. Like someone lost in the woods… It’s, ah, safe to say that he’s a ‘glass is half-empty’ kind of guy. I see nature differently. I see the ancient machinery of the world, elegant and ferocious, neither good nor bad, it’s full of beautiful things, unspeakable things. The trick is to keep them hidden – ’til the right moment.”

If you don’t fancy all that, of course, Dave (oh dear) are showing Passport To Pimlico tomorrow afternoon. Be careful not to take it as a blueprint for cocking a snoop at your current joyless Labour Government: nowadays they’d all be whisked away under anti-terrorism legislation before you could say “Jack Straw”.

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I just have to say I'm a fan of Being Human and its cast.

And a very big soft spot for Aidan Turner ;)
You made a slight mistake in your article. The correct name for this programme is "Russell Tovey's Arse Stars In Being Human".

Just remember for next time.
Yay! An Adam and Andy link :)
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