Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hard to resist Tina Charles and River

Tina Charles belting out her 1970s disco hit “I Love to Love” while a big old Mercedes saloon drives through the dark streets of London during the opening credits of River – 90 seconds is all it takes to fall this terrific show.

If there’s a better, more unexpectedly warm and engaging opening scene to any TV series in recent memory, I’d love to see that too.

Stellan Skarsgard stars as the aloof, enigmatic and haunted Detective Inspector John River – who plays perfectly against the more outgoing but equally enigmatic and haunted Nicole Walker who co-stars as DS Jackie ‘Stevie’ Stevenson.

Both River and Stevie may be haunted by the past, but when they are together there is a light in their eyes that is enchanting. When they're apart, River’s demons feel startlingly original in a TV detective context.

In fact, all of the relationships feel genuine, with a supporting cast of fully fleshed out characters, not just cardboard cut outs.

I won’t say much more for fear of spoilers – but this is a most original, emotionally engaging, sometimes unsettling but altogether rewarding TV experience.

River is a couple of years old but screened only recently on ABC TV and is still available on Netflix. The Guardian’s review does it justice (and I agree - 6 episodes feels far too short!)

Many of the best crime shows seem to run sweet but short series – think Idris Elba in Luther, and Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock. Together with River, all 3 are as much about the lead characters and their relationships as they are about crime solving.

For me the ultimate short-but-sweet series was Deadwood, cruelly cancelled in its prime. But that’s a story for another time. Right now, thanks to my new love affair with Spotify, I can sing along with Tina Charles whenever I want!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

King Arthur with Jax Teller and geezers - love it!

Jax Teller as King Arthur – what perfect casting. Knights with geezer accents – what great fun. A new take on the legend of King Arthur – why the heck not! So what’s not to love about Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword?

Answer: Nothing! Well, some of the special effects go on a bit long, but if you’re a fan of Guy Ritchie, you’ll love his take on King Arthur.

Great action sequences, entertaining dialogue where mates take the piss out of each other, a medieval sword with Jedi Knight lightsaber properties, and did I mention there is Charlie Hunnam reprising his Jesus-like role from Sons of Anarchy as the anointed King Arthur?

(Don’t get me started on the doomed but strangely lovable characters that inhabit the sinister bikie world in the FX TV series Sonsof Anarchy, particularly its doomed flawed antihero Jackson Nathaniel ‘Jax’ Teller…. but please do read this article on antiheroes.) 

If you’re a King Arthur tragic like me, you just have to see Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

To qualify for my King Arthur Tragic Club, you’ll need to have fallen in love with the Lerner and Loewe musical at a formative age, and to have made a pilgrimage to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall to confirm that the legend is real.

I was about 10 years old when I first saw the 1967 film version of Camelot starring Richard Harris (watch this charming interview with Parky) as King Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guenevere and Franco Nero as Lancelot.

It was the songs that got me…. riding my bike to school singing ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’, in the flush of young love.


And I still sometimes sing there theme song about a land where “winter is forbidden until December, and exits March the 2nd on the dot!” (I fell in love with the Richard Harris version, but take a look at Richard Burton – wow!)

At 25, my first overseas trip included a visit to Tintagel Castle. I don’t remember much about it now, but I do remember eating genuine Cornish pasties and Cornish clotted cream (separately). 

Even if you’re not a card-carrying member of my King Arthur Tragic Club, you should see King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

Download it, stream it, borrow it, buy it, but see it - it's terrific, rollicking British fun. Then Visit Cornwall!