Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: November 2016

Reboots, reunions, revamps, call them what you like - when it comes to TV shows, they don't always work.  In my November TV review I'm focusing on two much-loved TV favourites who have made a comeback over the past couple of months.

Firstly I caught up with the revived series of "COLD FEET" (ITV) which recently returned to our screens with its 6th series, 13 years after it made an emotional farewell.

This show was a phenomenon when it arrived on TV in the 90s.  But would it work in the 21st century?  The answer is a definite yes.  It is of course a testament to the quality of the writing and acting on this show, that it was no time before it felt like they had never been away.  And one very important thing hadn't changed - David remains one of the most irritating characters I can remember in a TV drama.

Cold Feet deserves the praise though - it's warm-hearted, funny and sad, mixing light-hearted and serious issues, but in the end it's just a lightweight, soapy relationship drama - an everyday story of Mancunian middle-class folk.  After the show's success with the critics and viewers alike, it wasn't too surprising to learn that the series has been renewed for another series on ITV.

However, contrast this with the rather shabby treatment by ITV of another lightweight drama series which also enjoyed ratings success over this summer.  Things were looking good for "Brief Encounters" after a successful first series. so it was expected that the 80s-set story of Ann Summers reps could be returning for a second series. However, ITV announced that they would not be recommissioning the show.  Like Cold Feet, it's a lightweight, soapy drama about relationships, and family, and it's also set "up north".  But the characters in "Brief Encounters" are more working-class, more "ordinary" than the reasonably affluent protagonists of "Cold Feet", and the series has not been given the chance to develop characters and storylines to the extent that "Cold Feet" was able to do over several series.  This to me says a lot about the television executives who dictate what appears on our TV screens.

One final mention of "Cold Feet" for a moment - and a very familiar face turned up in the final episode.  None other than Sanjeev Kohli, best known as the hilarious shopkeeper Navid, one of the best characters in "Still Game".

Which brings me on to the 7th series of a Scottish comedy institution.  "STILL GAME" (BBC1). The main characters, Jack and Victor, initially appeared in that other Scottish comedy institution, "Chewin' The Fat", before being given their own spin-off which ran for six series before Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan ended their partnership somewhat acrimoniously.

But time of course is a great healer and the consistent popularity of what is (in this part of the world) a very relatable comedy meant that the calls for a reunion just kept on coming, whilst we were all wearing out our copies of the DVD series 1-6 box set).  Eventually the gang reunited for a series of sell-out live shows at the SSE Hydro arena in Glasgow in 2014.  This was recorded live and televised by BBC Scotland however if I'm honest, I found it a huge disappointment watching it on TV.  I guess you had to be there.  What couldn't be argued was that there was still a massive appetite for this show, so it was great news when a long-awaited new series was announced.

Something else happened on the way to series 7: the show reached a much wider audience via Netflix.  Anyway, was the new series worth waiting for?  Well, yes, I would say, although there has been some criticism but I think that may be down to the burden of expectation which would inevitably result in disappointment.

Particular highlights for me were Isa's talking dog (episode 1), new arrival Methadone Mick's dental treatment and job interview (episode 3) and my favourite episode of this series, episode 5, when Jack and Victor tried some dog-sitting with Zeus and Onion and traded some "History Today"-style insults:

"Your dug needs a gastric band!"
"Your dug's an a***hole!"

The series ended on a slightly disappointing note for me but on the whole I didn't think the series was as bad as some people made out.  It looks as if this will be the final series as there will be another series of live dates in 2017 - which will not be filmed, and the title of the shows is "Bon Voyage" which suggests something quite final.

A quick mention for the latest instalment of "THE PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF POP" (BBC4) which covered the decade 1986 to 1996.  It was Lauren Laverne's turn to take us from Depeche Mode to the rave scene, the Hacienda, Take That, Blur and the Spice Girls.  A particularly poignant end to the show featuring Craig Gill, the Inspiral Carpets drummer, and his memories of Oasis.  Craig passed away in the week the show was aired; one of far, far too many losses to the music world in this hellish year.

I'm still struggling to get through the TV backlog - haven't seen series 2 of "Humans" or "The Code" yet whilst I'm slowly working my way through series 2 of "30 Degrees In February" and will review that in my December post.  And despite promising myself Netflix in November, well that still hasn't happened!

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