I've been watching a lot of The Bill from 1990/1991 recently. UKTV Play had a load of it up there, and then the series I was watching suddenly said it was going at the end of May. The next series will go at the end of June. Each 'series' has about 100 episodes, which I can't realistically watch all of in a month, so I am picking out those that sound interesting.
It used to be the case that whenever you looked up a British actor you'd find they'd been on The Bill. But I keep being surprised at how many regulars were on it, playing different characters, before they were regulars.
And it's nice and simple. Maybe because I'm comparing it to Line of Duty where everyone was bent and everything was high stakes and guns were all around the place. Nothing that awful goes on in 1990/1991, most of the time, and if you need a police officer with a gun, you send Cryer out with one. Job done.
There are some things that have changed a lot. There was an episode about someone who was HIV+ and it dealt with all the prejudices people had against them (ie assuming he was gay and you can catch it just by being in the vicinity of him). These days, in this country, it's not really a thing any more. And there are a lot of episodes where they'll arrest someone just for having drugs for personal use.
And then there's the mental health. I've just been watching the Phil Young arc, which is desperately sad (he kills himself in the end). I've missed bits of it from having skipped episodes, but he clearly needed help. But as Cryer pointed out, you can't help someone who doesn't want help - and it wasn't as if people didn't try and help him. But it was amusing how split the senior officers were on the subject of stress and even whether it existed, never mind whether any of the officers were suffering from it.
What I am reading Wednesday and what I’ve been watching
Wednesday 19th May 2021 7:31 pm
What I Just Finished Reading No Job for the Little Girl by Rosemary Scadden. This was a pretty short book that I picked off my to read shelf when I was trying to read the book below. It's about Welsh girls that went into domestic service, mainly in London, in the 1920s and 1930s. And when I say girls, I mean 14 year olds. It's interesting, but it didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know.
What I'm Currently Reading Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon. I started this a while ago, picked up again to carry on and struggled both times. I'm on page 77 out of 430 ish, so I've given myself until about page 100 to decide whether to continue reading it or not. I feel like I could enjoy it once I got into it, but I'm struggling to get into it.
What I'm Reading Next
I don't know. Whatever I pull off the to read shelf.
What I've Been Watching
I've just spent about six weeks watching Line of Duty. Because I never had time to watch anything new. But now I do and the iPlayer had the whole thing. I nearly stopped a few times during the first series, at the end of the first series and at the end of second. It took me until the third episode to care about any of it at all. I enjoyed it in the end, it just took a while to get used to the idea that it was all one story and none of it was ever going to be wrapped up. And they're never going to fix the ergonomics - all their computer monitors are too low so they're always leaning over them.
I'm now watching Killing Eve, which I liked after 7 minutes. It helps that it's amusing. There's 24 episodes of that, so that'll keep me going for a few weeks.
It's really all gone crime around here. After reading one Daisy Dalrymple book I somehow ended up taking another off the shelf when I put that one back. I still like the time before they get married the best. And as much as I like Sakari, I miss Lucy.
I'm still watching Line of Duty - I'm up to series 4. But I have a big problem with it: ergonomics. They all have their monitors so low down/chairs so high up that they're all leaning over to look at stuff on the screen or read documents laid out on their desk. They really need someone to go in there and sort them out.
I'm also still watching The Bill. It's alternately good and frustrating. It really is better when it's an hour long, but some of the half hours are really good and some are a bit nothing. The trouble is, even when they're good, is that they're determined to have a B story. They're better off devoting the whole time to one story, but the biggest problem with the B story is that because the episodes are so short the B stories only get about three scenes. Which isn't long enough for them to be anything interesting. They either need to be a whole story or not in there at all.
It’s gone all police dramas around here
Saturday 17th April 2021 9:42 am
I completely missed out on The Line of Duty thing. I'd heard of it, knew it was a police drama and I like that sort of thing, but just had too much to watch to bother with something new. But now I don't have too much to watch and the whole thing is on the iPlayer. So I gave it a go. And nearly gave up halfway through the first episode.
It seems to be a thing about that era of telly where they can't keep the camera still even for a second. It makes it hard to tell what's going on and it's very distracting. It also makes me dizzy. I tried watching an episode after I'd been to the shops one evening and could only manage five minutes at a time.
It also took me until episode 3 to care about any of it at all. And then I didn't really care about AC-12, it was the other crimes that were keeping me interested. In fact the most interesting bit was the first 5 minutes of the first episode, which barely gets mentioned again. I carried on because it was all right and I hoped the camera work would improve in series 2 (it does) and because there wasn't much else on. And I wondered why people were so obsessed with it. I still don't know the answer to that.
I've also been watching The Bill from 1990, thanks to UKTV Play having all the episodes from the beginning to 1995 (when I'd definitely started watching it because some of the thumbnails have Jaye Griffths in and I remember her starting).
I have the DVDs with all the episodes from the beginning until halfway through 1990, so I started where they stopped. I am enjoying the nostalgia of a simpler time. And it's just easy watching. For one thing, they are yet to discover all the camera trickery.
If someone forced me to pick either The Line of Duty or the 1990s The Bill, I'd choose The Bill.
I am terrible at watching telly. I tape a lot, think I'll get round to it, but somehow the evening's gone and I haven't got to the telly-watching bit. And then a few months ago I started a sleep CBT and one of the things I had to do was to relax for an hour and a half before I go to bed. And I wasn't allowed to read. So I made an effort to get through all the TV I had taped.
Technically speaking I'm not quite there. I have an episode of Cats Countdown, three-quarters of an episode of Hypothetical and a half an episode of The Last Leg on there. But now most of the telly has stopped for Easter (and, really, until September) it won't take me long to get through those (and two of them are from last week).
I want to say I don't know what to watch, but I have some stuff on catch up I'm working through, I want to re-watch Yes, (Prime) Minister because I'm not 100% certain I've seen it all. And a lot of The Bill on DVD. I won't run out.
Although at some point I need to get Disney+ because I haven't seen the last two Star Wars films yet. But that's only free for a week so I have to time that carefully for when I'm sure I have enough time in that week to watch both films. (Although if I wait long enough they'll be on TV eventually)
Wednesday 27th January 2021 6:05 pm
This is all liadtbunny's fault. A small mention in a post sort of comparing it to The Avengers and the next thing I know I've watched all the episodes (at one a day - there's only 24) and have bought the DVD.
It did seem like The Avengers at the beginning with the Judge in a wheelchair giving them a mission. But he gets up out of the wheelchair and isn't in that many episodes (which is a shame, I'd have loved to have seen more of him being all manipulative). But it's more ridiculous than The Avengers (this is not a complaint). Wikipedia describes it as action comedy, which explains why one of the fight scenes is basically slapstick. In the same way The Avengers aren't avenging anyone, The Persuaders aren't really doing any persuading.
It's all about two rich men, played by Roger Moore (pre-Bond) and Tony Curtis. After being brought together by the Judge they investigate criminals and megalomaniacs, sometimes by assignment, often by accident. Also they become best friends who always have a go at each other. And there are fist fights and car chases. The plotters generally make everything far too complicated, so it's not a surprise they get caught. It's good to watch when you don't have too much of a brain and a good idea not to try and think it all through logically.
And this is the early 1970s, so all the car scenes have a background that is clearly not there. And sometimes clearly not right. And on one occasion managed to make the car almost disappear. It's endearingly old-school.
There's an episode with fencing in it, albeit sabre. But they were (more or less) properly fencing (followed later on by a combination of fencing and fist fighting). I felt a bit sorry for Tony Curtis after it because he was so sweaty afterwards - he had been properly kitted up and wearing a thick jumper. He must have been roasting.
Also guest stars all sorts of people who were around in that era. I was excited to spot Inspector Wexford. Richard Vernon made me reach for IMDB because I couldn't place him. I was thinking Yes, Minister, but when I scrolled through his filmography I managed to completely miss his entry for Yes, Prime Minister and Yes, Minister, and spot right below the Yes, Minister entry, that he was Slartibartfast in Hitchhiker's. It was days later when I realised he was Sir Desmond.
Back when I finished watching all of Whose Line Is it Anyway? and considering what to watch, I came across the OC, thought, "I can't remember how it started", watched the first episode and then all the rest. All 92 (42 minutes) episodes.
I would describe it as being about a teenager from the poor part of California who ends up living with his lawyer in the rich part of California, and becomes part of the lawyer's family. Except it's really about a lot of other things and not enough of that.
I saw it when it was originally on, in the early 2000s. I definitely have a different perspective on it now. I'm now closer to the age of the adults in it, and am much more interested in what's going on with them and a lot less interested in what's going on with the kids.
It also really doesn't require a brain. In fact, removal of brain improves it no end. I ended up watching a lot of it during the heatwave - at that point I had exactly the right amount of brain required.
However, I still had enough brain to catch the glaring continuity errors. Like the main child characters are definitely 16 in season 1 and they're in their junior year at high school. In season 3, two years later, they're in their senior year and one character turns 18. Season 2 has prom. I've watched enough American TV to know how the years are numbered and there isn't a junior and a half.
Another character is stated to be 11 years old, two years previously. And then she turns 15. And drives a car. Also played by a different actor, but not the first character to have more than one actor.
It does have more gay characters than I remember US TV having in that time period (three, one of whom is in more than two episodes). But it does have terrible mental health. Which is probably also how things were in those days.
But season 4 has a rabbit.
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Whose Line is it Anyway?
Sunday 12th July 2020 12:17 pm
Back in December, when I was ill, I started watching Whose Line is it Anyway? on All4. Earlier this year I got into a pattern of watching it at lunchtimes when I worked from home. This week I finished all 136 episodes.
I did enjoy it, but sometimes it got samey. Watching a lot in a short time would expose the times they repeated a joke. Authors was good for being able to make lunch while watching it, because there wasn't much to see, but I often wouldn't know the authors they were spoofing and it was only really funny when someone did a silly author. And Film and Theatre Styles got old quickly, especially when they did it twice per episode. That was also not helped by me not knowing some of the styles. Hoedown/Gospel/March gets old after a while too.
My favourites when I watched when it was first on were Josie Lawrence, Tony Slattery and Ryan Stiles. They're still my favourites, but to that list I add Sandi Toksvig, who is really funny and really quick. I was pleasantly surprised this week to find her in an episode I watched, because I thought I'd seen them all (she wasn't in many).
There was a surreal point where I watch the What's the Matter with Tony Slattery? documentary and they showed some Whose Line clips, all of which were from the first series, which I'd just been watching that week.
During this time I also saw The Comedy Store Players, who had an hour's worth of one evening's performance that you could pay to watch in a 3 day window. All but one of those had been in at least one episode of Whose Line. That made me laugh so much it set my asthma off. It helps that they've been doing it a long time so they keep getting better at it and also that I'm not struggling for 20-30 year old references. And they had different games, so it felt more interesting.
As to what I'm going to watch during my lunchtimes now, I don't know. I've reduced them to 30 minutes, so I can just about get Whose Line in, but anything longer is trickier. Although I could made my lunchtimes however long I want at the moment, as long as I get 7.5 hours of work in each day. Or I could watch half of something at lunchtime and the other half after work when I need a lie down before starting on something else (watching something helps better than reading). I don't know.
Yesterday I read a headline that said one-sixth of British people wouldn't take the Covid vaccine when we have one. At first I thought this is just clickbait, but it was The Guardian and I was curious, so I read it. And it was all about how people who get their news from social media rather than traditional channels are the ones who won't have the vaccine. It told me how many people the survey asked, but not anything else. Like what question did they actually ask.
It reminds me of a scene from Yes, Prime Minster where Humphrey demonstrates how to get specific answers out of people in surveys.
I've also been rewatching The West Wing. I got through series 1-3 and then stopped three and a half years ago. I re-started from the beginning of series 4 and am now halfway through series 5. There was recently an episode talking about the muclear threat. Which reminds me of this scene where we prove that Hacker would never press the button (it's the way he says "Picadilly?!" towards the end that really gets me)
I started a second round of 100 days of code at the beginning of February and today is my 50th day. Since I now have more time to learn stuff, the list of stuff to learn has grown longer - I shrunk it when I started this round because it was too long. But the list of things I could learn is never-ending. But I found this week, when I overdid it, that I can't do more than an hour on weekdays.
I also have a lot of TV to watch. I added up the number of hours of TV I have on my PVR and it came to about 64 hours. If I watch an hour a day, it'll take me until late May to watch it all. And that doesn't include more stuff being on (not that there is much, since it's nearly Easter and most things stop until September).
I've also been rewatching all of Whose Line is it Anyway. I've seen all of series 7, 8 and 9. But I'm still not halfway through. I worked out that at one a day it'll take me until the end of May to get through them all. Except I'm not watching one a day, I'm watching one at lunchtime if I'm working from home. So it'll take longer than that to get through them all.
And I finally got round to writing down all the films that have come out in the last couple of years that I haven't got round to watching yet. So maybe I will at some point when I cam fit them in.
Whose Line is it Anyway?
Saturday 22nd February 2020 8:15 pm
When Missy died I learnt the best thing to do is to always have something to watch/listen to, then it's harder to think. So after Sammy died I was on the look out for podcasts and found one called Rule of Three, where comedians talk about a comedy thing they love. Cariad Lloyd did one talking about Whose Line is it Anyway. One of the things she mentioned was that it was all on All4. When I was ill I re-listened to bits of the podcast and thought that it was the perfect thing to watch because the cameras do not move. And you only get 12 minutes at a time before there's adverts (and when I first started watching 12 minutes was all I could get through in one go).
And I've discovered all sorts of things I never knew about it at the time.
The game I remembered most was World's Worst, where they step off the world's worst step. One of the reasons I remember it so well is that the last round on Mock the Week - scenes We'd Like to see - always reminded me of it. Turns out the person in charge of/who set up Whose Line did the same with Mock the Week. And when Mock the Week began it had a lot more in common with Whose Line than it does now.
When it was originally on I didn't like Greg Proops. I felt like he'd taken over Tony Slattery's part as the person who is guessing on Let's Make a Date and Party Quirks. It turns out that Greg was before Tony 'left'. (It turns out that Tony was fired because he was self-medicating for his bipolar disorder with drugs and alcohol and it didn't go well. It's really sad.) And there were plenty of other people who were the guessers. And Greg is funny. I don't remember/didn't notice at the time how antagonistic he and Clive Anderson were to each other. I found a video of Greg guesting on Clive's talk show, which was 8 minutes of them insulting in other - occasionally getting some questions and answers in.
I knew Stephen Fry had been in it. I have a vague memory of having listened to one of the radio episodes. I've only seen him in one episode so far but he not only refused to sing in the Hoedown but he didn't even talk in time. In comparison, in the last series of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue he sung without complaint - although it would have been in bad taste to complain. His singing is fine - it's perfectly average.
Sandi Toksvig is great in it. Which is not a surprise. But she's a rare short person in it - most of the other performers are around six foot, if not more. Her voice has not changed at all since the early 90s. She did a game of Authors where her author was a cake baking book. Particularly ironic as I watched it the same week she announced she was leaving Bake Off.
There were some interesting people in one (or two) episodes. Graeme Garden was in an episode in series 1. He did ok - it felt like they were all feeling their way through it. Somehow he doesn't look any different 30 years later. Ardal O'Hanlan was in an episode and he wasn't great. Eddie Izzard was good - but another person who looks even shorter next to all the tall people.
When it was on I really liked Ryan Stiles for the same reason Cariad Lloyd did - the physical comedy he did. This time I am particularly liking Josie Lawrence, Caroline Quentin, Sandi Toksvig and Tony Slattery.
It turns out the the US version was a 'family show' so they censored all sorts. It's hilarious given that All 4 ask me to confirm that I'm 16 before every episode, the first one I watched at Christmas had naked people in Newsflash, and at the end of one game of Party Quirks where Tony didn't guess two of the quirks he told Clive to F off.
It also turns out that they started making more Whose Line in America in 2013. Amazon Prime has a random selection, where the description of who is on it doesn't match the episode. I made the mistake of starting with 'series 5' which all had guest stars, none of which I've heard of and none of which are improvisers (or necessarily any good at improvising). Series 6 was better but it took me a little while to get into it. It was the Science of Laughter episode on The Infinite Monkey Cage that helped me understand why the audience seemed so excitable.
In Britain if something is funny we laugh. If something is really funny, or really clever, or more often both, we clap. In America if something is funny they laugh. If something is really funny they cheer. And they're really into cheering. When a game is announced they like (eg Scenes From a Hat) they cheer over Aisha's whole explanation. In comparison, an announcement of Mornington Crescent on ISIHAC will get a brief "Yay".
I also remember hearing a while back that on Red Dwarf they try and cut out all the clapping. Whereas in American sitcoms they'll leave it in. The Science of Laughter also pointed out that you laugh more when other people laugh. So a live audience laughing will make you laugh more. But a live audience clapping (or cheering) doesn't do anything for you.
I rewatched the Menagerie and realised it's really just a tale of friendships - of Spock and Pike and Spock and Kirk.
Spock plans to take Pike to Talos IV. He has it all worked out with the Talosians to take over the Enterprise and distract Kirk long enough to get Pike there. He tells Pike he has it well-planned and he does. That part at least.
Going to Talos means the death penalty and Spock commits mutiny, which is not exactly going to do much of his career either. Those parts are not so well planned - he pretty much relies on Starfleet feeling sorry for Pike and understanding why Spock does it, once he explains. He is also perhaps relying Kirk putting in a good word for him. He risks a lot for Pike, which speaks to the depth of their relationship.
What makes it interesting, is Kirk's reaction to all this, once it's all been explained. He says:
Mister Spock, even if regulations are explicit, you could have come to me and explained.
Spock says he didn't because he didn't want Kirk to face the death penalty too, which Kirk doesn't get the chance to respond to. But it does tell us that if Spock had gone to Kirk with his plan, Kirk would have helped him. Kirk didn't even know Pike - they only met once. So it speaks a lot for the depth of Kirk and Spock's relationship that Kirk would take on the same risks, just to help his friend help another friend.
Kirk points out at the end that Spock has been very emotional about it all. Of course Spock says it's all logical, but really, it's not. The planning Spock does it logical, but initiating it is entirely out of emotion.
I'm struggling to find the time to post much. The three evenings a week I am in look like this:
6pm get home
7-9pm 1 hour coding plus 1 hour doing things I need/want to do (not necessarily consecutive or in that order
9-10pm feed Sammy and watch TV
10pm go to bed to read
Two nights a week that 1 hour free I have includes half an hour of doing things I need to do (eg food shopping). I end up leaving most things for the weekend and then don't have time to fit everything in.
But I am doing better at the coding thing, now my rules are to do 10 minutes to an hour and no more than that, except on weekends when I can go up to two hours.
And I am watching more TV. This is partly because I have Netflix for a month to watch Discovery, and it turned out to be another free month, no idea why, but I'm not complaining. I have got through it quicker than I thought I would, partly because I have had some time with no energy to do anything other than watch TV that doesn't require a brain. And partly because it's not as bad as the first series (which is not hard).
I have two problems with Discovery this series:
They're obsessed with spinning the camera round and can barely keep it still for two seconds, so it becomes more something I'm listening to than watching
Last series there was one character I liked, one I hated and the rest I was meh about (well, by the end of the series - there was another I hated at the start). This series has one character I love, who I suspect is not going to be in series 3 (if there is one) and two I hate. They keep teasing that the characters I hate are going to die/leave the series and then they don't.