Saturday 27 January 2024

Oh my days! BBC's 'Traitors' now ended. Huge gap left.

 If you're not familiar with this programme's format - though you've almost certainly heard about it - I'll not here lay out details of what the programme is, because if you'd been already interested enough you'll have been watching it.

In my view, justifiably the TV sensation of the last couple of years - with the now just completed series being as maddeningly compulsive viewing as was last year's, leaving me bereft once more now that it's over. We're not even entirely sure there will be another series!

I won't even hint at any spoilers for this year's resulting winner(s?) of the accumulated £95,000 (US $118,000) prize money, nor any indicators as to the others who lost out by being 'murdered' or banished, despite my hoping they'd have gotten further - however, I actually have already laid a tiny clue as to one particular unsuccessful contestant I'd especially favoured. 

After 2023's 'baptism', I couldn't wait the too many months for the BBC to do another, so I watched on iPlayer the American and the Australian first series. And we were told that Australian second series is also now available to watch, so I'll shortly be going there. The American programmes used the same Scottish castle location and its grounds as the two British series did. As emCee/invigilator they had actor and gloriously camp Alan Cumming in the role, though that's not to take anything away from the superbly domineering (and a bit scary) Claudia Winkleman in ours.

This year's progs gripped me every bit as much as last year's though I did get rather more uneasy this time with the occasional increasing bitching between contestants which seemed to get downright nasty now and again - though they always insisted afterwards that in spite of the apparent hostilities they were all still friends. I've no reason to disbelieve them though when the arguments were happening I did sometimes get decidedly uncomfortable.

I wasn't going to do a blog posting on this subject but it's affected me so deeply, so rivetting it was, that I just have to relieve some of the weight from off my chest and get it out there. 

Okay, so now where's Australia Series 2?...........

Sunday 21 January 2024

Disappointed (again) by my favourite radio programme.


I've been listening to the weekly 'Desert Island Discs' (on BBC Radio 4) for over 60 years, and have ever found it a most absorbing programme. For those not familiar with its concept (though I have blogged on the subject previously) it's that a well-known personality/celebrity from any field (such as scientist, actor, musician, politician....). and of any nationality, is invited to choose eight tracks of music (not complete albums containing multi-tracks) to take with him/her to a mythical deserted island which will last, potentially, for the remainder of that person's lone life. In addition they may have one book (aside from the Bible and Shakespeare, which are given gratis) and just one single luxury i.e. something inanimate and of no practical value nor anything which increases one's chances of survival. Though since the programme began in 1942 advances in recording techniques have rendered it almost impossible for all the rules to be strictly observed and absolutely consistent throughout - thus complete symphonies/concertos etc are permitted (though one is expected to identify which particular movement or section) but not complete operas (only specific arias, ensemble sections etc), nor complete oratorios, plays etc. Nevertheless the concept remains unchanged - and, after all, it's only just an entertainment, a bit of 'fun'.

Now I was so looking forward to listening to that Wunderkind von unserer Zeit, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason - still only 24, the third of seven siblings, all talented and variously playing violin, cello and piano, some of them more than one instrument, though at the moment Sheku is the most celebrated, having already appeared at the Last Night of the Proms as well as playing, by royal invitation, at the wedding of Prince William and Kate. (One of Sheku's sisters will shortly be appearing in this town where I live to play a Mozart piano concerto with our local amateur symphony orchestra).

So I was most interested to hear Sheku being interviewed about his eventful life (so far!) interspersed with his eight choices of music. No problem with his music selections, but as to his talking, my God, I could hardly understand a word of it! I have heard him speaking on TV several times, but there at least one can follow lip movements, and besides there's additionally the option of turning on subtitles as well, which, to be honest, I do quite often use in order to get the fullest experience. But on for this radio programme I was lost so much of the time when I was desperately interested in what his answers to the questions about his life would be. What a let-down!

It's by no means the first time I've been disappointed in the same way by this programme. In 2007 the renowned, theatrical (mainly), actor Simon Russell Beale was the guest and that really was the worst I have ever heard for non-comprehension - entirely under-the-breath, semi-whispered mumblings!  I just gave up and switched off. So unexpected from an actor whose very being and livelihood depends on his words being heard and understood. I can only think that when some of them are in a broadcasting studio with a microphone under their very noses, they assume that every vocal sound they make will be picked up clearly. Well, it's not so!

Another disgraceful mutterer is the lavishly over-praised Sir Ian McKellan, though only when talking 'normally'. I've seen him live on stage several times and there he can project when called to, though hardly ever elsewhere. I used to have a video of that 'Othello' production of a few decades ago, with a superb interpretation of the title role given by opera singer Willard White, whose every word was as clear as a bell - even though he'd never acted in a 'straight' play before, having only appeared in sung operatic roles. However, for me, McKellan as the villainous Iago (actually given more lines than Othello himself!) let down the entire production with his shamefully mumbled deliveries, so unfair to the rest of the cast. I chucked the video away!

I cannot claim that my hearing is anything like perfect. At my age it would be absurd and a complete lie. There must be some deterioration, even if I'm not aware of any significant loss in my everyday life. But when I don't catch something on the radio (and I'm very much a lifelong radio addict) it does bring me up sharp - though it doesn't really happen that often.

So as to Sheku's D.I.D, I'll give it another shot on BBC iPlayer, but I really shouldn't have to be doing this. 

Slow hand-clap, Sheku - and, please no encore! 

Wednesday 3 January 2024

First Happy NY kiss on TV from NY - draws anger and hate.


As I usually do early on New Year's Day, at 5 a.m (our time) I tuned in to watch Sky News TV broadcast from New York's Times Square to catch their celebrations - with the obligatory relaying of 'Ol' Blue Eyes' belting out "Start spreadin' the Noos....." Great stuff! But at the climax moment I was very pleasantly and very surprised to see the first visual kiss of 2024 being a gay one - and the camera lingered. When it was over my considered reaction was "Surely not! I must have been mistaken." and then thought little more of it - that is until this morning when I read that there's been oh-so-predictable outrage in certain American circles. (Oh, the horror of it!) The decision to show the two men physically bonded together in osculation must have been decided in advance. It's hard not to think otherwise. There was no quick change to a camera shot showing the kissing of what would be deemed a more 'acceptable' M-F couple. I think what we saw lasted at least 20 secs, possibly half-a-minute, before it turned to other similarly affectionately embracing couples. And what makes this particular first couple even worse (if that is possible!) is that this at least one of this pair seemed to be - God help us! - of mixed race!  Will there be an inquest as to how on Earth this got through? I don't see why there should be though doubtless there'll already be clamours for one.

The pictures were broadcast on CNN and ABC amongst others - and it seems Sky News used the same source. I'm only sorry that after it was over I was quick to dismiss my observation as having likely been mistaken. Now that I know for sure that I wasn't wrong I can only see it as very welcome progress. And I'm equally happy that many countries around the world will also have taken the same broadcast, no doubt causing a flurry of panic in those many countries where such images give rise to imprisonment - or even far worse. Russia maybe? - though certainly not on the 'official' Kremlin (= Putin) -controlled, anti-American channels. Would surely have given Pres. Putrid a heart attack, though I trust it wouldn't have been terminal as I'd dearly love his royal highness to live long enough to be a centenarian - though totally incapacitated, unable to move, speak, even indicate what he wants - poor chap! And fancy being the one who's delegated to changing his nappy every few hours! (Tee hee!) Must be at least as bad as having to change BLOTUS'.......erm, diaper - if it's not being done already - maybe by Rudy Giulie? But I digress. (Got a bit carried away with my hopes for the coming year). 

Anyway, to return to the subject in hand........

I haven't seen in a real-live New Year since 1990. Always been alone since then, retiring around my usual time of between 8 and 9 p.m. but inevitably woken up by the sound of fireworks. When they began I checked on the cats and found each, as expected, cowering in wide-eyed terror - one under the bed, another in a cupboard, and a third at the bottom of the stairs, where it's darkest. And they don't move until they're sure, or hope, it's all over, though the odd errant distant bang or pop sends them scurrying back to their hidey places again. 

The last New Year 'seeing-in' that I experienced and mentioned above, was 1990 in Amsterdam. In those years I had an annual routine of being at the critical time in the 'Eagle' leather bar (near the Royal Palace and on the edge of the red light district) where, at midnight, ABBA's track of 'Happy New Year' was always played to announce the arrival of the magic moment - interrupting the various intercourses or mutual consensual fumblings going on in the (purposely) dark spaces and toilets, though it probably made no difference to those already engaged and busy in such!  😄

Anyway, here's wishing my handful of blogpals (of whom I feel ever so privileged to have, every single one of you) all the very best for 2024, including all the money that you need - plus a bit more - and most important of all good and ruddy health to all of you! Cheers!!!!


(Added later - 5 Jan).........

This couple's comments on the anti-gay reaction to their televised kiss here...........