Glee – Duets (E4, Mon @ 9pm)

•January 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“So frikkin’ charming”

LIKE Halloween and Christmas in most shows, the ‘Duets’ episode (along with Mashups and Single-Artist-Tributes) looks set to become an annual staple on Glee. Not quite the emotional punch of last week’s ‘Grilled Cheesus’ episode, but a good way to advance the storylines of some of the lesser-featured cast, including the all-star Arian pairing of newboy Sam and troubled Quinn. There’s a good mix of music (Mercedes and Santana), comedy (‘the Asians’, Finnchel’s competition-losing number) and drama (Dianna Agron continues to impress with her vulnerable performances). But the episode has its flaws – the ‘nuzzling’ incident with Brittany and Santana feels oddly unnecessary and Kurt’s ‘solo duet’ – though fitting plot-wise – is a disappointing song choice for such a great singer, and definitely feels like ‘one for the grown-ups’.  Still, an entertaining episode with plenty to have you heading to iTunes.

Highs and Lows: SAG Awards and Death of a Legend

•January 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The King’s Speech, Black Swan and The Fighter continue to lead the way in the awards season, while TV gongs went to Boardwalk Empire and Betty White, who beat popular favourites Glee‘s Jane Lynch and 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey in the Female Actor in a Comedy Series category. Click here for a full list of winners from Entertainment Weekly.

…But sad news this morning, broken by David Arnold on Twitter, that legendary composer John Barry has died of a heart attack. An extraordinary talent whose legacy is some of the most iconic scores in cinema history. RIP.

Dancing On Ice (ITV1, Sun @ 6.30pm)

•January 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment

IT’S hard to imagine that there wasn’t a tiny bit of joy felt by the producers when they realised they could kick the show off with a scar across someone’s neck (incurred during training) – just in case the terror of “The Ice Pick” had left the audience…well, cold. It’s tough to care at these early stages as the lesser known/less popular ‘stars’ get voted off, but special mention to Vanilla Ice: a pretty grim injury coupled with music he clearly hated actually produced a very sensitive performance. Sam Attwater already seems to have the show wrapped up but I’ve got a feeling Mr Ice will give him a run for his money in the popularity stakes. Which should keep the show’s pun-writers happy for a while yet.

American Idol, Eps 3+4 (ITV2, Thu @ 8pm / Fri @ 9pm)

•January 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Milwaukee + Nashville – Idol goes country

SSSSHHHHHH….whisper it……..[I actually quite like country music…] It may not be cool (east of the Atlantic and north of the Mason-Dixie line anyway) and maybe it’s something that’s coming with age, but there’s just something about what Joss Whedon termed “the music of pain” that really gets me. Surely every woman over the age of 30 has at least one (hopefully ex) partner she could happily dedicate this to?

But back to the show, and a young couple who sang together, got together, lived together, split up…and now audition together. And it’s actually quite sweet. If this was on the UK’s X Factor (as I dimly recall it sort of was in the last year or two) it would be handled in a slightly more mean, colder way – particularly on the spin-off Xtra Factor. Maybe it’s because I have to be cynical in my day job but I can’t help liking the gentler approach. It’s the genre – it’s not pretending to be Panorama or Dispatches. And Steven Tyler‘s surprising willingness to embrace the madness and soap opera of the show sees him rapidly turning from the Simon Cowell replacement to the new crazy Paula role. Who’d’ve thunk?  Next up of note: Miss Tennessee: “Stormi”. J-Lo pulls off the impossible – a realistic “no”, without sounding bitchy. Though she does sum up the audience’s response to the other two ‘yeses’ – “Seriously”?? Next up, a young adopted black girl with white parents. She’s got the narrative but not the chops, but the panel don’t seem to care. See you getting kicked out in the next round. Latoya “Younique” Moore – you know it’s never going to go well when there’s a montage of posing at the start and she’s brought her own cd. On the bright side, without the overpowering Simon Cowell, Ryan Seacrest gets to prove a quiet ability to (nicely) let the duff contestants hang themselves. Matt Dillard – 700 foster kids in 23 years?? Holy **** – I think that’s a different programme. Last up, 15-year-old Lauren Alaina…and the brain-tumour story has summer blockbuster written all over it. But finally: a proper country voice and, in the words of Steven Tyler, “beyondo cute”. A semi-duet, swelling music and I’m welling up just a little bit…but not in pain.

American Idol, Eps 1+2 (ITV2, Thu @ 8pm / Fri @ 9pm)

•January 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“To my melodic sensibilities it was very delicious” – Idol is back

IF anyone feared that the loss of Simon Cowell would sink the already floundering cruise liner that is American Idol, Steven Tyler may just be the rubber-lipped life-saver executives had dreamed of. His borderline-inappropriate flirting with the young female contestants helps bring the same edge of danger that Cowell’s abrasive comments did – so wrong it’s right, and saving the show from descending into the saccharine, all-American-Mickey-Mouse-Club-family-friendly-fare (which it’ll inevitably become by the final). Tyler and fellow new judge, Jennifer Lopez, work well on the panel. The chemistry is there, the female, sympathetic ‘mother figure’, physically uncomfortable at every “no”, and the cabin-fever hysteria over the worst of the worst. This season of Idol definitely feels like it’s ‘accentuating the positive’ more – possibly without Cowell’s barbs to drive it – but so far the panel shake-up is doing the franchise no harm at all.

10 O’Clock Live (Channel 4, Thu @ 10pm)

•January 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“Why does it take 4 people a week to do the work 1 Jon Stewart does in a day?”

LEAVING aside my EXTREME frustration with Channel 4’s decision to cut back The Daily Show to once a week (and thereby removing my last reason to watch More 4) I do grudgingly admire their decision to invest in a similar(-ish) concept for the UK. I’m a fan of all four anchors, so expectations were high, and to a great extent they were met. Charlie Brooker’s laconic, sardonic and dead-pan delivery – so finely honed through Screenwipe and Newswipe – are easily transferred. Jimmy Carr, with his well-groomed, be-suited image is perfect for spoofing headlines, in sections straight out of the Saturday Night Live playbook.

Lauren Laverne still needs a sketch that make the best use of her talents. She chaired the panel well, but her intelligence and comedic talents deserve more than what she was given here. But David Mitchell was the real surprise. Clearly hugely intelligent and well-informed (not to mention incredibly funny) he seemed the most visibly nervous. Whether it’s a ‘live TV’ issue or the fact he was left to do the serious interviews with little room for comedy. (Jon Stewart’s great genius is his lightness of touch with even his most formidable foes – and his ability to turn on a dime.) I’m sure the kinks will be worked out over the series. One note to Channel 4 though: an hour? There’s a reason The Daily Show and Colbert Report are 20mins – and why your audience dropped off half-way though.