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 June 18th at 11am in The Hayloft.  We will be talking about Rebus (BBC1) and Rob & Rylan’s Grand Tour (BBC2). Other recommendations were The Responder (BBC1), Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh (BBC4), A Small Light (Drama) and Fortune Hotel (ITVX)
We had another lively discussion in May. A few of the group had watched Pompeii: the New Dig and thought that the new discoveries were very interesting and gave extra information about what happened during the different stages of the eruption. However, it could have been a better watch with a more engaging presenter, like Mary Beard. After watching Big Zuu goes to Mecca, we felt that we had learnt a lot more about the processes and rituals involved in the pilgrimages to the Kaaba.  However, Big Zuu did not appeal to many of us, and his approach seemed very casual. It was good to see that the programme did try to balance this by showing the more spiritual approach of many of the other visitors.

The Twelve had a mixed reaction. Most people had enjoyed it, but thought that it was overlong and could easily have been condensed into fewer episodes. Just like the Murder Trial that we watched a few months ago, there was an over-emphasis upon the lives of the jurors and how they impacted upon their perception of the issues. The actual case itself was thought provoking, and there was some disagreement about the verdict and whether it was appropriate, given the lack of evidence. We talked about whether this kind of photography could be art, and we were all alarmed by the way in which the niece was involved. Although she  wanted to take part, she was only fourteen and it was clearly grooming. The behaviour of her parents in supporting it seemed dreadful.

We met in April to discuss Hemingway, The Life and Death of Lily Savage and Coma. Although only two members present had watched all of Hemingway, it was highly praised by them, and strongly recommended. It was a fascinating and very detailed account of his life and work, supplemented by many photographs and readings from his letters, novels and short stories. Despite strong reservations about his lifestyle and some of his interests, the best of the extracts still held great power and revealed a writer of genius. Everyone had watched Lily Savage, and were generally disappointed by its repetitive nature. Paul O Grady was a popular entertainer and many of us had found Lily Savage very funny, but the programme could have been much more interesting, and provided significant information about Paul O’Grady’s other interests, including his charity work with animals.

Some members had enjoyed Coma, but everyone agreed that the plot became increasingly unlikely. It had certainly induced anxiety as we saw Jason Watkins being befriended by Jason Armstrong’s scary gangster. The son who had been attacked was considered to be one of the most unpleasant characters that we had seen recently in any programme. Hopefully, there won’t be a series 2!

In March we discussed Prisoner first. Unfortunately, although it starred Sofie Grabol, (The Killing) the violent subject matter had put off many members . Whilst recognising that the issue is a serious one and needs to be thought about, it was felt that Time by Jimmy McGovern was easier to watch and also made us think.

The Jury: Murder Trial prompted much discussion, with many points of view being expressed. We were all taken aback to see that dominant characters seemed to have so much sway with the other jury members, and the difference in the verdicts was shocking. None of us has actually served on a jury, and it did not make us eager to try it. We did wonder how the participants were selected and if any were chosen for their dramatic value. Even so, it was a valuable experiment and very thought-provoking. Maybe the jury system has had its day and it was interesting to hear that other countries have different systems. The jurors seemed unqualified to cope with their task and in this programme they did not focus upon the evidence, often focusing upon their own experience instead.

February report: We met today and had our usual lively session. The first programme that we discussed was After the Flood. There was universal disappointment at its convoluted and implausible plot. It was felt that such a stellar cast deserved a better script.  Remembering the story was challenging for us, and the coincidences just piled up on each other. By contrast, we enjoyed Around the World in 80 Weighs. The subject of weight is a sensitive one for many people, and it was handled sensitively. The “tourists” engaged our sympathy as we learnt about their individual circumstances and their genuine desire to change their lives. Although weight loss was celebrated, the ultimate focus was upon improving quality of life through a more healthy lifestyle, diet and mindset. We would love to see a follow up programme in six months or a year’s time, to be able to catch up with the progress of each of the participants.

At our January meeting, we discussed Mr. Bates vs the Post Office and Vanishing Act. Vanishing Act, which tells the true story of Melissa Caddick, who scammed $40 million from friends and family, as well as rich clients, was not felt to be a very good drama. It was impossible to like the main character or understand her motives, and the actors seemed to have been chosen primarily for their resemblance to the real people. In contrast, the majority thought that Mr. Bates vs the Post Office was well acted, and also a very important piece of drama. It is challenging that although this has been an ongoing issue for over 20 years, it has required a drama like this to make it seem real, and to provoke such an outpouring of public outrage.

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!

We then discussed our second choice – The Sixth Commandment.  All members of the group felt that this was an excellent series, and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though parts of it were harrowing, especially the first episode.  We thought that it appeared to be a very realistic portrayal of the real life events that inspired the series.  We felt that the standard of acting was very high, especially by the main protagonists, Timothy Spall and Eanna Hardwicke.  We discussed the act of gaslighting, and how this was portrayed in the series.  We talked about Martyn’s role in all of this, and how he was coerced by the charismatic Ben into harmful behaviour towards others.  We couldn’t decide how much he knew about the whole situation, and if he was so desperate for love and attention that he couldn’t see what Ben was doing.  We wondered what Ben might have done next had he not been caught.  We also discussed how sad and lonely Peter had been, having been gay in a world that he expected to reject him, and himself not feeling loveable.
The series provoked a lot of debate about many issues.  A very good choice.

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.