Category Archives: Television

Fredagsmys

We simply had no idea how out of touch we were.

The Swedish ladies of Manchester used to meet roughly once a month, usually on a Friday evening, at each other’s houses. There would be a lot of noise, because when 15 to 25 ladies have something to say, you can hear it. We would eat sandwiches – the classy, Scandi sort, obviously – and cake. Lots of cake. And there was coffee with that, until the day I joined and quietly asked for tea. There were moans, because Swedes drink coffee.

Within a few months most people drank tea.

Anyway. At some point a few younger, more recent arrivals joined us. I had been at the younger end until then, with our oldest member having arrived in England the day after Prince Charles was born… So, these were younger still, and several of them were married to Swedes, which meant less mixing of traditions.

Basically, we were doing what had been natural a few decades earlier. The newcomers couldn’t possibly come to gatherings on a Friday! And they asked what to bring, and when told ‘nothing’ asked if they couldn’t at least bring wine. Wine with cake? Perish the thought.

But the Fridays were a problem.

It seems that they had to sit at home with their families every Friday evening, enjoying some Fredagsmys. Except we didn’t know what this was. It took me a long time to realise that it was the modern equivalent to eating special food in front of the television on a Saturday evening, as we did in my time.

So OK, I got it then. But how were we to know? After all, when most of us were still in Sweden, we went to school or worked on a Saturday morning, and any happy frolics had to wait until after that.

Apparently – and I have undertaken A Lot Of Research – these days they eat crisps, and/or tacos and watch bad television, en famille. Mother-of-witch and I ate either some tinned mushroom goo, or prawns in white goo, on toast or with crusty white bread, and maybe shared a 33ml bottle of fizzy drink between the two of us. There might have been a few sweets. We watched the ‘latest’ BBC children’s half hour instalment of whatever they had, followed by Hylands Hörna, which was the show everyone watched on a Saturday.

Hence, our newcomers knew what they really couldn’t do. It was just that us oldies had few inklings of how things had moved on.

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We know that!

I love Tim Dowling. I just had to mention this. His column in the Guardian Weekend ten days ago was almost like a re-run of Daughter’s attempts with her pub quiz book and me.

Parents are amazing! Especially so since their children appear to have little, or no, concept of what makes for relevant knowledge.

At last Tim was able to show his sons what he’s made of! (Mostly old sitcoms, it seems.)

I know very little about some areas of pub quiz terrain. I don’t mind this. But how Daughter could believe, even for a minute, that the Resident IT Consultant or I would know 1980s pop music is incomprehensible. We’re ancient!

But ‘What is the name of the pub in Emmerdale?’ is a different kettle of fish. I’ve not even heard of many later television shows/soaps, let alone would know who’s in them. It’s just not important.

‘The Woolpack,’ I replied.

‘How the **** do you know that???’

Honestly. Children.

Threats and promises

Surely the least you should be able to expect is that someone will die?

If the blurb on the cover of a book says that people will die, then that’s what will happen. If ‘not everyone will be alive,’ I expect this to cover the good guys in the book. If it was only the case that a bad character snuffs it, then we are hard-hearted enough not to mind too much.

I mean, it’s obviously great if none of your beloved regular characters die in the course of the book, because you prefer them alive and kicking. And a little threat on the cover is not necessarily a bad thing; it makes you definitely* want to read the book, and you will be a little afraid, and then you will heave a sigh of relief when it turned out that they twisted the truth.

But should they lie?

You can write things in such an ambiguous way that the reader can’t be certain. They will think it’ll be all right, and they will hope. But they won’t know. When I write reviews I try and hint that you can’t be totally sure all will be well. But I work on staying truthful, and on there being no spoilers.

The thing is, if it’s a book not intended purely for adults, then most likely the characters you care about will live. There are unspoken rules.**

*I remember when the Retired Children’s Librarian told me she stopped watching NCIS halfway through season three. In fact, she switched off partway through an episode, because when the knives came out, she simply grew too frightened. To be helpful, I pointed out that they were unlikely to kill a main character just like that. The knives were a threat intended to worry you a little, and make you wonder how they were going to get out of this situation. Not if.

** I know. What about Lupin and Dumbledore, Fred Weasley, Dobby, or even Snape?

Help yourself, why don’t you?

It’s really simple. You have a Christmas ad to make. You look around at books aimed at young children and find something suitably sweet. You contact the author/illustrator and ask them to work with you in return for money.*

I’ve heard there is a fair amount of it available for the people who think up and subsequently make Christmas ads. I feel it’d be a nice Christmas touch to pay the author for their work.

It’s not quite so nice to steal someone’s creation and pass it on as your own, by saying that monsters under beds are so commonplace that no one, not even a former children’s laureate, can claim it’s actually theirs.

And when found out, it’d look a lot better if you admitted to making a mistake and offered a belated payment for the stuff you took.

Or, you could not. A bit like John Lewis and the monster under the bed, ‘inspired’ by Chris Riddell’s Mr Underbed.

If the Christmas ad was intended to spread goodwill and all those other things, I’d say it failed this year. If John Lewis wanted us to think nice thoughts about them, they also failed.

I’ll go and watch Mog’s Christmas again. That was a nice one. Judith Kerr was credited for her work. I suspect she might even have been paid for it.

*I’d be happy to make suggestions.

Strike on TV

Why, oh why, is it more all right to attack J K Rowling than many other authors?

I liked The Cuckoo’s Calling as a book, and having watched the television series I will admit to having liked that too. Other people have either enjoyed it, or not. This is normal, and an exchange of views is healthy, and happens with many crime series on television. For instance, I didn’t like The Bridge, but am happy that many others did. They are not wrong, but neither am I.

But if you liked – or more importantly, didn’t like – Cormoran Strike, then for some reason it seems to be down to J K Rowling and her successes and her money. The BBC don’t seem to get a mention. And I have seen little discussion as to whether Tom Burke acted well, or if Holliday Grainger was a good Robin. (I think she was. I like Robin in the book, and could easily have been let down by the wrong actress.)

Cormoran Strike

It wasn’t an outstanding crime effort. But it was enjoyable enough. Better than Midsomer, or Branagh as Wallander. It was not realistic, but it doesn’t have to be. The characters moved between attractive London spots, walking down the kinds of streets I and many others associate with London.

In fact, what it is, is an excellent export for viewers in other countries. Those who go crazy over all things English. I know, because I am one of them, or was, and what I watched just now is exactly the kind of thing fans of England like.

It looks like J K was involved in the production of the series. I could see that this would make people gripe again, along the lines that money will buy you anything. Maybe. But what I felt quite strongly was that the screenplay followed the soul of the book, unlike many similar ventures where you are disappointed if the film version bears far too little resemblance to a beloved book.

Also thought it was good to have actors who are not so well known that you see their past roles as you watch.

But you know that pseudonym, Robert Galbraith? Noticed on social media that some people had no idea who he really is. So it would seem that the irritating fame hasn’t reached every corner of the country.

Kermie?

What a difference a day makes.

On Thursday I felt slightly annoyed with Steve Whitmire, when I read that he was retiring as Kermit the Frog’s puppeteer after 27 years. I remember at the time that I was astounded by how someone else could take over after Jim Henson. I mean that they could sound pretty much the same; not that someone else needed to do the job.

But I thought that it might be tiring to do voices every day, year after year. And that Steve had something else he wanted to do. It’s a ‘free’ country, after all.

And on Friday I learned that he’s been fired, and that he’d very much like to remain as Kermit.

I know, it can be hard to know who’s right and who’s being economical with the truth, but a man who has kept quiet about his fate for nine months, and who refrained from screaming and shouting in his blog post about what had happened, strikes me as the likeliest injured party.

After all, it can’t be easy going up against Disney.

As the Guardian points out, Steve is the only one many fans know as Kermit. I’m old enough to have been there when it was Jim Henson, but I too have watched a lot of Steve’s Kermit.

I expect his successor will do a good job, as it’s unlikely they would pick someone who was rubbish at it, and they can’t really kill Kermit off. But still. I’d have liked to see and hear Steve reach retirement as our beloved frog. Then I’d be happy about him being replaced.

The Demon Headmaster – Total Control

The Demon Headmaster is back! Yes, Gillian Cross has written another book about the man with the scary eyes.

Back in the day I used to semi-watch the Headmaster on television when we got home from school. That will be why I feel I know the man so well, while never really understanding what he did or how and why. I only knew he was creepy as h*ll. Actor Terrence Hardiman did a great job of frightening at least this parent.

So it’s his face and eyes I saw as I read this new school horror. But do you know what? It is better to read. Now I get what he was and what he was trying to do. And why the children at his schools acted all funny, but also why he needed to be outwitted.

Gillian Cross, The Demon Headmaster - Total Control

In Total Control we have siblings Lizzie and Tyler returning to school after an absence, and finding the place transformed. Their new friend Ethan has become a super soccer player and all the other children excel at something, including their old bully who has become quite polite and charming.

Once Lizzie works out that this is all wrong and it must be stopped, we have a race against a hypnotist Headmaster; someone who appears to be able to read minds and is always a few steps ahead.

It’s scary. Yes. A bit. But also exciting, and hilarious.

I should have read the books much sooner.

And no, I will not look into your eyes.