Sunday, February 20, 2011
What's that smell coming off my telly. Outcasts, Secret Diaries & Master Chef
Natural World which as best as I can figure, is designed to make you cry as early as possible before they tell you the dread situation the ( monkeys, tigers, Iraqi marshes etc...) are in, could be reversible if only we as a civilizations aren't complete gormless twats or greedy self indulgent yuppies. All that's missing is the web site where you can donate cash or volunteer help. A tiger called broken tail, started the gut wrenching journey with the story of a dead tiger who's demise is expected to lead to more sanctuaries and the linking of said sanctuaries to the famous tiger highway. We then moved on to The chimps of the lost gorge, in which we find out that chimps are increasingly cut off from other chimps what with the shrinking jungles of Uganda, rounding the evening off the true story of Elsa the Lioness and the Miracle of the Iraqi marshes which were less tear inducing. Good thing too, as the tissue box was by now empty. These films are beautiful hour long compendia of misery and doom highlighting the knife's edge on which most of the "canary in a coal mine" animals and habitats are existing on. There are only so many tears one can cry and for my wife's sake if not my own, we switched to something more cheerful like budget cuts in review.
Outcasts. Word of advice, never get so pre sold on a programme that you'll be disappointed if they don't have fireworks shooting out their arses. Maybe if I had not been so starved of decent adult science fiction, I might have appreciated the more subtle characterisations of Outcasts, but as it is, I was too distracted by the one dimensional loonies and psycho killers who are dropped into the more delicate narrative like anvils onto a soufflé. First sledge hammer was the highly unhinged and unsympathetic Mitchell who decided not to murder all the ACs. Was it absolutely necessary to make a potentially interesting character who could challenge President Tate, into a barking mad killer who lives in place with a population of one? Having got rid of the only natural opponent to the established leader of New Australia, the writers introduce the vacant eyed even more stark raving mad Julius Berger. Besides casting an actor who's such a "Hitler's wet dream" as a Jew, the forced nature of his rise in prominence and the fake religion he espouses is both unsettling and regrettable to me. His so called faith is forced and reminiscent of the sort of cult worship you only see in the truly lost, yet it is portrayed as mainstream. Berger is made to evolve far too quickly and his inclusion in the colony's power structure is so unrealistic that you feel like the production team added Berger in the last minute and had to alter entire sections of story to make him fit in. The other thing that truly and deeply annoys and bores me to tears about Outcasts is for the zillionth time we destroy the Earth in a Nuclear and ecological disaster. Maybe it's the fact that I'm just off a month of watching all of North Africa rise as one to dump it's dictators and tell the West to stop treating them like some kind of dispensable pawns who would otherwise impact on the greater self interest of the industrialists bankers and other greedy bastards that have led us to the brink of disaster in the name of profit and ideology, but I'm frankly tired of the End of the World is nigh stuff. How many more times must we use the same tired old premise of eradicating life on Earth to make so called adult science fiction. This was old hat when Space 1999, a far superior programme in my opinion, hit the airwaves in 1975. I fondly recall the lovely shape shifter Maya who gave a young man in the 70's some hope that not all aliens were ugly or evil. Several recent attempts in America and the UK have tread on this well beaten path with about as much success as Peter Andre at a Lesbian convention, and yet they persist in trying this route. At least when the Daleks took over the Earth you had the compelling and truly scary picture of Nazi Germany loosely disguised as emotion free killer pepper pots. In Outcasts, the people are boring, the town looks like Gazza city but without the spark of life even an under pressure population has. And precisely how will they maintain a series let alone a few if no new people will ever again show up? To quote a mate, "Oh here come some more people we didn't tell you about last week". Even the ACs (clones) are a bit hard to swallow. We're led to believe they were exiled in the barren tech free hinterland for the last 5 years or more. So how is that Ruddy has such well groomed hair and perfectly maintained 5 o'clock shadow? It would be easy to buy into if I was told they were slightly less shambling zombies who don't age or rot, but they are humans of some kind. Even Ruddy's jeans are in better nick than mine after one year of wearing, clearly he's shopping at Harrod's or Maison Zombie by Gucci. So other than the sudden and unexplained re emergence of Earth, the sudden unexplained appearance of total strangers like on old Battlestar Galactica, sexy shape shifters (Space 1999) or actual indigenous inhabitants who have been on Carpathia for millennia, there is no way you can sustain this longer than a single series.
Master Chef! Thousands of people have auditioned to be on MC and we'll be be bringing that down to the 20 we need for the series starting tonight. Oh Dear.... Then a stream of vaguely interesting "regular" folk and their families in the studio, are made to watch each other cook for 45 minutes until they meet John Torode and Gregg Wallace in the judges room. At least we're spared the full details of every auditionee's cooking, but still we get the full spectacle of nans, mams and bairns banging on about how it would mean the world if "insert name of desperate hapless amateur" got an apron. The then less than appetizing array of dishes served up for Jaunty Roads and Pudding boy to struggle with seems to go on for ever, punctuated by the occasional manufactured conflict over a perfectly fine plate of food. They then look for "interesting" see loonies and nutters, to included to round out things, meaning that the more traditional cooks who aren't 100%, get dropped and the experimental ones are passed through. The vegan woman who makes faces will be fun when she has to cook something that doesn't have roots attached to it. Having seen this stage of the American Master Chef last year, I can honestly say that as uninspiring as the food was at times, even the cat sick de-constructed trifle was still better than the endless mac and cheeses, mock Mexican , appalling deep fried southern food and not bouillabaisse on offer in the US version. What the UK version only hinted at but was in full flower in the US one, was the begging, crying, jumping and posturing we were spared. And yet it was still too much. We could have had more cooking and less maudlin reaction shots more at home on X factor than Master Chef. If I am to even choose one of these people to cheer for, I am hard pressed to find more than two who seem anywhere close to being good enough for Master Chef. Just when did cooking become the new way out of the ghetto? Aside from a few laughs I had the expense of some truly awful cooks, I can't say this was the Master Chef I was expecting. I wanted skill on display, I wanted invention tests that took the cook out of his or her comfort zone from the start, I wanted some exceptional candidates. Instead we got 25 year mum from Reading who cries, Gastro pub Pete who serves raw fish, Scary Cockney James, who was on the verge of talking about a "field of ponies" and selling himself that much, Miss Swansea Alice, Nutter Mark with his tofu fish and chips and some guy named Dan who may be the only one who knows how to cook. The number of recipes nicked from celeb chef cookbooks and last years Master Chef Pro was awe inspiring. One of the plates looked like it had been copied badly hundreds of times since they saw it first last year ( boules de Berlin in case you were wondering).
just doesn't get any tougher than this. Gregg and John will be hard pressed to find a top 5 anywhere near good enough keep us interested well into the finals. The new format has sacrificed all the elements that kept us foodies glued to our screens from the first candidate to the last plate of food. It may have worked in Australia and the American version was geared at the great unwashed who as always, wanted to see equal doses of pathos and the great culinary traditions (such as they are) of the deep South yet again prevail over anything that passes for food in New York. The new series of the revamped Master Chef UK is off to a bad start and looks to be on a collision course with foodies who will vote with their off switches just like when we stopped watching the fatally flawed The Restaurant. If it doesn't get better fast, I will be finding even more time to watch something else on BBC4 or maybe from my vast collection of unwatched recordings for "when I have time". Master Chef was the last refuge where the skilled went to become more skilled and provide viewers with enough thrills and information to insure their own food rose a notch or two. This new version owes more to Ready Steady Twat than it does Master Chef. I just hope Gregg and John are getting hazard pay for the food they are about to eat, I like them and want them to be around for the next proper Master Chef, you know the one after this mess.
To paraphrase Prince Charles, "The things I do for my readers". I don't want you, dear reader leaving this space totally down hearted, I can continue to recommend The Danish crime thriller The Killing on BBC4 and for the more historically minded, C4's Rome wasn't built in a day. In this fly on the wall documentary we follow a group of builders who use traditional Roman methods and materials to build a Roman villa for English Heritage. Much more interesting than you'd think and the final result is something you'll want to get in your car and visit.