Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: Archive edition - October-December 2011

You know how much I love BBC4, not just for its never-ending stream of Scandi-crime delights. I also love this channel because it broadcasts lots of great music documentaries and theme nights.

"PRINCE - A PURPLE REIGN" was, as you would expect, a documentary all about Minneapolis' finest, one of the most prolific, innovative (and dare I say underrated) artists of our time. There was only one thing wrong with this show - at one hour it was too short, it should have been at least three hours long! Nevertheless it was a treat, featuring interviews with Prince fans and collaborators. Whilst we're on the subject, a very similar BBC documentary from several years back was also broadcast recently on Sky Arts 1, which is also becoming a must-see channel for real music fans. Just as in the new documentary, the vintage "PRINCE OF PAISLEY PARK" didn't actually feature any input from the interview-shy legend but yet again there were lots of contributions from those who have worked with him over the years. And, needless to say, lots of fine, fine music too.

Just as you wait ages for a Prince documentary then two come along at once, so it was around Christmas time that there was no escape from a certain Mr Michael Buble. Who made a Christmas album, of course, so there was a TV special, "MICHAEL BUBLE - HOME FOR CHRISTMAS", which recalled the old-style TV specials from my childhood, when the likes of Val Doonican threw some tinsel over his rocking chair and treated us to some easy listening favourites. In the modern era it's all about the subliminal X Factor-plugging of course: Gary Barlow and Kelly Rowland were among the guests. The combination of Mr Buble and his cosy tunes was perfect fare for curling up pre-Christmas on the sofa.

We may have entered 2012 but in the parallel "TOP OF THE POPS" world on BBC4, we're now into 1977. A landmark year for music indeed. But don't expect wall to wall punk yet on TOTP - you're more likely to get something like "Grandma's Party" by Paul Nicholas.

The end of the year means lots (and lots) of list-shows, which I can take or leave as I get totally sick of the beyond-Z-list so-called 'celebs' commenting on the showbiz events of the year. We still love "THE MOST ANNOYING PEOPLE OF....." (BBC3) which annually does what it says on that particular annual countdown tin. The 2011 edition rolled around just after Christmas and didn't disappoint. Richard Bacon's commentary was very sharp as always, and the contributions entertaining.

Yet another list-show this time on Channel 5. "BRITAIN'S FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS SONGS" was a chart based on sales figures so there's no surprise that Band Aid topped the list. It was good to see how a lot of the old hitmakers look today. Dave Hill hasn't really changed, but the years haven't been so kind to Greg Lake, or worst of all my beloved childhood crush Ray Stiles from Mud. Oh well. We're all getting old.

"THE UNTOLD TOMMY COOPER" (Channel 4) took a slightly different insight from the usual biographical documentaries, as it used his life-long manager's diaries and correspondence to illustrate the dark and complex life of the comic legend.

Back to Christmas now. Generally the TV over Christmas wasn't anything to write home about, and I'm glad we'd stockpiled a few things to watch. Christmas Day of course is all about the one hour soap specials (predictable) one-off Strictly Come Dancing (which is always a bit lower league compared to its Premiership series equivalent, don't ya think?), and Top of the Pops (serious yuck!) so the only thing I really got excited about was the "DOWNTON ABBEY" (ITV) Christmas special.

I never thought I'd see the day when I looked forward to Downton, but that's how low my life has sunk :) It rattled along at a cracking pace, there were lots of loose ends conveniently tied up and a certain long-awaited happy ending of sorts. Or will it be a happy ending? Bring on series 3!!

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