The Great Train Robbery and Gogglebox

Just as the news came through of Ronnie Biggs’ death than I realised the BBC had scheduled a drama on the event that just so happened to be airing tonight…too good an opportunity to miss Ithought; particularly as it has been written by Chris Chibnall who counts the excellent Broad church on his CV.

The resulting drama spread over two nights (the first showing things from ‘the robbers’ point of view and the next from ‘the cops’ point of view. For this not familiar with the story it is a good introduction to the events of August 8 1963 where a gang of well-organised criminals stopped a post office train carrying ‘spare money’ (quantative easing in 1962; who’d have thought it?) And stole an estimated £2.6 million pounds of loot.

The story is told through the eyes of master-planner Bruce Reynolds and you really get a feel for the pressure he is under with his decisions.

The dialogue between the protagonists is quite interesting; their preparations meticulous. But it all doesn’t quite go to plan and they have a rushed getaway from their farmhouse hideout (which they had to buy next to the ‘right’ bridge for the robbery) amongst other things, resulting in the arrest of many of the robbers.

The violence isn’t downplayed and their aggression is there for all to see, particularly in the brutal assault of the driver, Jack Mills, who never really recovered from the attack.

The whole ‘warts n’all’ affair is well documented but I do have an issue with the glamorising of a violent and brutal robbery. This certainly wasn’t the ‘victimless crime’ it has often been perceived in the light of Biggs’ trevails.

My thoughts are with the Biggs family at this time.

I needed some light relief so turned over to channel four to watch one of my favourite programmes, Gogglebox.

Gogglebox is a fun show where we get to see the comments that people make whilst watching various TV shows; it’s as simple as that!

Most of the households featured leave me in stitches; my favourites being Leon and June and Stephenie and Dom. Leon always slouches down in a ‘Jim Royle’ stylee making comments about knickers and what Miley Cyrus is up to; whilst Stephen and Dom are always nattily dressed and full of the joys of a drink or two on their guest house sofa.

I love Gogglebox; check it out if you haven’t already!

Olivia Colman special

Figure one:Would you mess with this lady?

Sorry for the gap between posting this post and my last one, an enjoyable sojourn in Costa Rica has meant I’ve been otherwise engaged for the past 3 weeks or so.  This week’s reviews are inspired by a coot chasing a mallard: no sorry, for a minute there I lost myself, I lost myse-e-elf.  No, this week’s reviews all feature Britain’s new darling and go to actress Olivia Colman.

Colman will be no stranger to fans of Channel Four’s Peep Show having played Mark’s horribly depressive girlfriend Sophie (though to be fair she wasn’t alone in heaping on the misery in a show that makes me laugh and despair in equal measure).  Since then, anonymity diminishing with every performance (recently winning a BAFTA for her nothing role in twenty twelve), she has established herself as a great ‘natural’ performer.  Even Hollywood has come-a-calling; starring as the Queen Mum no less in ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’.  I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed her performance, had the sound on a recent flight given me more options than Spanish or English with additional buzzing.

Colman’s performance in the excellent Broadchurch (last episode available ‘till 21 May) had her playing the local mop to David Tennant’s angry, resentful copper.  Upon the ‘big reveal’ of the killer (no spoilers here folks) she cried, got angry, cried some more, and eventually resolved to start a new life elsewhere (not a bad idea if you ask me; I haven’t seen a more sinister lot than the Broadchurch mob since I was last in St. Helens).  The performances were great, all the characters were well-rounded, and the plot kept you guessing right till the very end.  Though not as slick as something from across the pond like Homeland, Broadchurch, like Colman herself, had a quirky British milieu involving slowed down scenes and silence or depressing music (delete as appropriate).  I would recommend Broadchurch to anyone (after all, nine million of us can’t be wrong), however I couldn’t say the same about The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (available until mid June), another ITV offering (two, two programmes on ITV!!!!).  Olivia was definitely holding back in this performance, seemingly offering a ‘I’ll do it for a mate’ kind of performance alongside her Tyrannosaur director Paddy Considine.  By the way, if you haven’t seen Tyrannosaur, British film’s highlight of 2011, and can stomach a man kicking his own dog to death, I urge you to watch and enjoy Colman’s finest performance to date.  Considine gives a convincing performance as the lead in ‘Whicher’, the failed police officer who can’t quite take his nose off the scent of  some wrongdoing (also see Tennant, Broadchurch).  The plot found its way to a familiar outcome, but where the bent copper’s motive came from must have left even Mr Whicher scratching his head.  Too be fair, I don’t normally mind evilness for the sake of it (see Nashville on Channel Four; the father is hilarious), but this was too much of a gear change for me, and ‘Whicher’ just wasn’t dark or mysterious enough to forgive it.  Not a bad that ‘Whicher’ is particularly bad, just a bit of a come down after the excellence of Broadchurch and the book by Kate Summerscale upon which the original pilot episode of last year was based.

Finally, Colman popped up on the Graham Norton show (available until Tuesday 21 May).  She was her affable, kooky self and also let us know that she was currently happy to be based in the UK.  It always amuses me how we are supposed to be ‘impressed’ by how rooted someone is when they say this, after all despite the best efforts of the coalition, Britain isn’t Afghanistan quite yet.  She was on alongside Lord Sugar (awkwardly unamusing as ever) and Hugh Laurie (I can do music don’t you know?!).  I do find the awkward banter between guests on the Norton couch quite funny, though it must be said I very rarely watch.  Past my bed time I’m afraid.

Welcome to ‘put thy feet up’

Figure 1: The new television!

Figure 1: The new television!

To celebrate having a little bit more time on my hands (and a new television) I’ve decided to start a blog recommending certain TV programmes I’ve been watching.  This will entail me writing humorous reviews of interesting, stimulating, educational programmes available to catch-up (at the time of posting anyway) so you can indulge anything that takes your fancy.  I may also write about  anything rubbish I’ve watched just to prevent you from sharing the same fate!

This week I watched Pop! The science of bubbles (available until 18 April), A history of Britain (available until 13 April) and ‘Crossing England in a punt: river of dreams’ (only available today: sorry: )

Figure 2: According to her website, Dr Czerski likes hot chocolate.

Figure 2: According to her website, Dr Czerski likes hot chocolate.

I initially stumbled upon Pop! The science of bubbles thinking it was going to be a late posthumous tribute to Michael Jackson’s beloved chimp.  I was somewhat disappointed to discover that the programme was actually going to be about bubbles.  But before I had chance to feign a yawn and say ‘is it that time already?’ self-styled ‘bubble physicist’ Dr Helen Czerski had already sucked me in with her effusive-Coxian ‘aren’t bubbles brilliant’ delivery.  Dr Czerski even sounds a bit like she’s from the same school as PBC (both in subject and in St. Oswald’s, Oldham), though at least he has galaxies with which to enthuse his baying audience with, poor Dr Czerski has to rely on mere bubbles. Ah, but what wonderful things those bubbles are!

I’m sure I’ve seen Dr Czerski before (on a programme about seasons with rent-a-naturalist Kate Humble) and I thought she had an engaging style.  She doesn’t disappoint as she tells us why bubble bath makes the bubbles stay longer (reducing surface tension of the water), why champagne tastes best in narrow glasses (they produce more bubbles), why bubbles are better than Mr Muscle (bubbles + sound = power), and how bubbles can be used to target specific drugs where needed.  Dr Czerski even dropped in a bit of her own research counting bubbles in the ocean (rather her than me).

Dr Czerski also teases us by showing she can dive (seriously- as in Tom Daley) and would easily win the next series of Splash if only she was more famous and Splash wasn’t such a critical nightmare.  Using the ruse that bubbles cushion your impact on the water (no s**t Czerski) she began a series of professional-standard dives from the 3 metre (I think) board.  Just when I thought she was about to reveal all of her scret past upon swimming up to the camera on the edge of the pool she said, “That went better than I expected after six years”.  That’s it!  I, and the other 10 people who watched were certainly screaming ‘more info’ at the tele.  Sadly no more was forthcoming and she quickly went on to discussing more themes of a bubbly nature…

A history of Britain with Prof. Simon Schama is a great watch.  If you didn’t catch it first time round (maybe still in short trousers?) you’ve now nearly missed it again as we’re up to the French revolution and the elite in Britain realise that the revolution isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  People read Rousseau and want freedom, but the elite decide they can only have it up to a point.  Schama revels in telling us about Mary Wollstonecraft’s grisly end and how Thomas Paine avoided the chop by a careless prison guard.  We’re all glad we’re not French.  The end.

Figure 3: A punt

Figure 3: A punt.

Finally, I caught ‘Crossing England in a punt: river of dreams’, where Tom Fort walked, rowed his punt (incorrectly according to AC), and sailed his way down the River Trent.  Although annoyingly/ endearingly referring to the river as a person (an abandoned child in Stoke; a middle-aged tyrant in Nottingham), Mr Fort was a capable host in describing a journey down a river I know reasonably well(ish) but have no inclination to ‘punt down’.  Driving down the A50 is enough excitement for me; I’ll save the punting for another day.

I also listened to Jarvis Cocker interview Sir David Attenborough on 6 music (what a marvellous man) and listened to some angry Northern folk complaining about the poor service they’d received on their roof repairs on  ‘The Peoples Thatcher’.  Southern folk seemed quite happy with the service they’d received from said Thatcher; can’t please everyone all the time…