The group meets on the 3rd Tuesday 11.00 am – 12.00 noon. *Contact Janet for more information or to join the group.
Group Contact is Janet Lander tel 07889 976 342
Each month we discuss two different television programmes, that have been chosen at the previous meeting. In addition, we aim to give recommendations to each other.
* Our next meeting is on Tuesday 19th December at 11am in The Hayloft. We will be discussing Scrublands (BBC4 and iplayer) and Time Series 2 (BBC1 / iplayer)
We met in November to discuss The Reckoning and Three Little Birds. Despite the bleak and often harrowing subject matter, we all felt that The Reckoning was very well done, and that Steve Coogan was superb as Jimmy Savile. It was chilling to see how his fame and charity work disguised his darker side, and we hoped that tightened up safeguarding procedures would reduce the opportunities available to predators like him today. We discussed the power of being a celebrity and how this can give a sense of entitlement. We liked the story behind Three Little Birds and enjoyed the period feel. However, some of us felt that it was trying a little too hard to encompass so many different stories through the three women, and that it might have been better if it had focused upon one or more of them in more depth. We wondered if there will be another series since it ended on a cliffhanger.
We met on Tuesday to discuss The Inheritance and The Long Shadow. Some of us had quite enjoyed The Inheritance, but on the whole we agreed that the story was far-fetched and the plot had just too many holes to make it seem plausible. The characters were not likeable and the script did not really do justice to the calibre of the cast.
The Long Shadow by contrast, was considered by everyone to be excellent. It focused well on the lives of some of the victims, and did not glorify Peter Sutcliffe in any way, deliberately limiting the number of times that he was referred to as the “Ripper.” The mistakes made by the police were hard to watch, as was the casual sexism and assumptions made by many of the officers involved. It was an engrossing series, and reminded us all of the anxiety that was felt at that time, particularly in the localities of the murders.
A small but enthusiastic group of us met in September. We discussed “The Woman in the Wall”, “The 1970s Supermarket” and “Alone”.
Only one of us had watched “Alone” and wouldn’t recommend it. They felt that it was not very interesting to watch, and that the contestants hadn’t been given enough training, compared to the USA version.. “The 1970s Supermarket” prompted a lot of nostalgia about crispy pancakes and Angel Delight, and a few winces at the thought of Spam and Smash. We were surprised that a few of the items are still on sale today. It was thought that the format of the programme could have been better – the voiceover and the TV chef were unrelentingly cheerful and irritating. It might have been better to have a panel to try out more of the actual foodstuffs.
“The Woman in the Wall” received a much better response, and some of us are counting the days until next week’s finale. We agreed that it had improved during the episodes, and that although the subject matter is disturbing, it is a very suitable topic to explore. Ruth Wilson’s acting was praised and we talked about how her past has affected her subsequent life and mental health issues.
In August we discussed Death on the Tyne, and none of the group thought that it was very good – in fact the words rubbish and dire were used!! Some members of the group felt that it had been funny initially, but that it had soon descended into outdated stereotypes, particularly around women of a certain age. We thought that the humour was very dated, and reminiscent of the Carry On films. We also felt that the storyline was weak, and that the programme could have been shorter. There were a lot of well-known actors in this episode, and some time was spent googling who was who! We noted that there were three standalone episodes in this series, but none of us were very keen to watch any more of them! Very disappointing!
In July we reviewed ‘For her Sins’, a drama from Channel 5. It received a mixed response that deemed it largely watchable but nothing new. In contrast Jay Blades ‘East End through Time’ was mostly enjoyed by those who watched it and members agreed they had all learned things about the area. Good, particularly for anyone with an interest in history. Not everyone had watched ‘Man called Mobeen’ but those who had generally had seen it from the start and enjoyed it.
In May we first discussed Rain Dogs, which was an eight part series on BBC1, starring Daisy May Cooper, Jack Farthing and Adrian Edmondson. Written by Cash Carraway this is a hard hitting drama with very dark underlying humour, that divided opinion in the group. We discussed the relationship between educated single mum Costello, her daughter Iris and her rich, entitled friend Shelby as they negotiate homelessness, poverty, abuse and mental health. We learned that the story was drawn from the writers own experiences and we questioned whether a second series could have the same impact. It was clearly a programme you either loved or hated with scores out of ten ranging from 4 to 9.
‘The Big Interiors Battle’ (Channel4) was less controversial with everyone scoring this an 8 out of 10. Although we felt the format was little different to other similar shows we enjoyed watching the room transformations and thought it was an ‘easy watch’. As the series still has two episodes left before the winner is revealed we speculated on both the tasks ahead and who would win the overall prize.
At our April meeting, we discussed Great Expectations and Radioactive. The new adaptation was not generally liked, although some said that it improved in later episodes. It was acknowledged that Victorian society was much more gritty than Dickens could have shown in his novels, due to censorship, but some of elements of the new interpretation seemed gratuitous and not related to clues in the novel. Radioactive was enjoyed by most, although the subject matter was bleak. The link between the Curies’ discoveries and later uses of radium, for good / bad was interesting, and thought provoking.
In March we discussed Sort your Life Out with Stacey Solomon and The Piano. The group agreed that sorting clutter was a good idea and had clearly proved beneficial to the families involved, who had allowed their possessions to take over their homes. The general opinion was that Stacey Solomon is an engaging presenter, but some found the constant hugging annoying. Members shared how they had been tidying up recently, but drew the line at labeling! The Piano was a little more divisive, although everyone agreed it was wonderful to listen to the music, and that it celebrated piano playing really well. The musicians were brilliant and playing at railway stations is a wonderful opportunity for a performer and casual audiences alike. The judges were not liked and proved annoying, despite their fame in the music world, and the sad back stories of the performers were sometimes overdone. The eventual winner was outstanding and an inspiration to us all.
We met in February to discuss The Light in the Hall and 24 Hours in A and E – set in the QMC. Most people had enjoyed The Light in the Hall, although it was perhaps a little too long. We discussed the effect of the past crime on the main character, and thought that it was plausible that she should be so single minded in wanting to find an answer. Some members hadn’t watched the A and E episodes, fearing that they would be quite gory. Recent experiences there confirmed that the NHS is very overstretched and the Emergency Departments are dealing with problems that should have been sorted out at GP and specialist clinic level, if that option had been available within an acceptable time frame.
In January we had a very pleasant meeting at The Hayloft, which made us extremely welcome and served delicious cups of coffee. We discussed the Motherland Christmas Special and the first three episodes of Season 3 of Happy Valley. Although we agreed there were funny sections in the Motherland programme, most members did not like the mix of tragedy and comedy, and said they preferred last year’s. Happy Valley was a unanimous favourite and we would all have been tempted to binge on the whole series had it been available on i-player. The characters and script writing are phenomenal and absolutely riveting to watch. We enjoyed predicting what might happen in the next three episodes and various theories were proposed.
December meeting report (Janet): At the meeting we discussed The English and Castle Howard through the seasons. There were varied opinions about The English, some feeling that it was very good and realistic in portraying the violent nature of the Wild West. Others found it quite disturbing to watch and did not persevere. It was also noted that the plot was very complicated and hard to follow, and that Emily Blunt remained impossibly beautiful, well coiffed and made up! Everyone found the programme about Castle Howard interesting and noted how much everything depended upon constant footfall.
November meeting report (Janet): At our last meeting we discussed The House across the Street and Am I being Unreasonable? We all found The House across the Street hard to watch, mainly because the lead character was far too keen to intrude into the tragic events. It was a bold step to create such a character, and we talked about how some people might become too involved in other people’s lives in order to compensate for flaws in their own. Am I being Unreasonable is a very black comedy, which was enjoyed by most, despite its unconventional subject matter. It had the power to surprise us, and there were many comic moments.
October meeting report (Janet): We had another lively meeting on Tuesday. Most people had enjoyed Crossfire, although we didn’t warm to the main character. The tense atmosphere was well portrayed during the attack, but the flashbacks could make us again feel detached from the characters. Sue told us that she has actually stayed at the hotel – thankfully without incident. There was more disagreement about Make me Prime Minister, some of us thinking that it gave useful insights into political decision making, and others thinking that it was just a version of The Apprentice.
In addition, the following were recommended: Industry (now on second season, BBC2 and i- Player), Inside Man (BBC1 and i-Player), This England (Sky) and a podcast about the murder of Rikki Neave (Radio 4 BBC Sounds)
September: (from Janet) We had another lively meeting on Tuesday. ‘Marriage’ with Sean Bean and Nicola Walker had quite a Marmite reaction, although everyone agreed that the themes encouraged really good discussion. It was often an uncomfortable watch and quite a few long pauses were a little too much like real life – and didn’t provide much entertainment. Having seen both actors in different roles we did not feel that these were their best performances, although they clearly worked hard with what they were given. Worthy, but a bit dreary maybe. ‘Changing Rooms’ was more entertaining and Lawrence is back with his trademark ‘loud’ schemes. Having now watched the whole series i did feel that there must be a lot more money spent on the whole show and that the new rooms, although very colourful, might have a better chance of standing the test of time – except for the horrific red bedroom in the last episode, which might evoke nightmares!
In July we discussed ‘The Outlaws’ (both series available on catch-up) and the drama ‘Sherwood’. We all thought Sherwood was very interesting and it gave opportunities to think about past local events. If there is to be a second series it is not obvious which direction they will go in. The Outlaws was more controversial, most of us really enjoying it. Those who did not thought they should give it another go.
In June we watched ‘Here We Go’ and ‘Conversations with Friends’. Here We Go, is a new comedy written by Tom Basden with Katherine Parkinson, Jim Howick, Freya Parks and Alison Steadman. It takes a light-hearted look at the Jessop family as they navigate life’s everyday challenges observed through the lens of their son’s camera. Most of the group enjoyed it although the shaky camera work was a deterrent for others. Conversations with Friends divided opinion with some members struggling to engage with the programme beyond the first episode (of which there are twelve!) Those who stuck with it found some noteworthy moments although they were generally surprised by the ending.
When we met in May we had an interesting discussion about ‘Life after Life’ and ‘Inside Number 9’. Most people enjoyed Life after Life, although they found parts of it confusing, particularly when Ursula kept experiencing her life again. Opinions were divided about Inside Number 9. Some of the group were real fans of the three main writers and their comic/horror style, whilst those new to the series found them more difficult to understand and appreciate. The episode entitled Mr King, was thought by most to include some unnecessary elements.