Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Last night saw the seventh and final episode of Episodes, and it was a very strange experience watching it all the way through each of the seven weeks.

It was the tale of Bev and Sean, a husband and wife writing team invited to Hollywood to script an American version of their hit UK comedy series. The star in their pilot episode is Matt LeBlanc, playing himself. Bev was played by Tamsin Greig, of Black Books and Green Wing and Stephen Mangan, of Green Wing and Dirk Gently played Sean.

The series constantly teetered on the brink of smugness, with Tamsin Greig massively overplaying her middle class 'what is happening to me?' persona. Her habit of stretching every other sentence to emphasise seemingly uncalled for exasperation became annoying after episode one. At one point last night she even did a bizarre female version of the Frank Spencer oohhh what have I done Betty body twist and face pull. Very odd.

Stephen Mangan became equally annoying very early on with his constant expression of little boy lost in a great big world he doesn't really understand or belong in. How does somebody so disconnected from the real world manage to write anything with any credibility?

Matt le Blanc saved the day in just about every episode with an understated parody of himself as a Hollywood star, looking for his first vehicle after the hit series Friends. His performance was warm and highly amusing, not to say ironic.

As ever the writers seem to be to blame. It was a typical bland Islington tale of two middle class writers going to the States to find highly caricatured actors and studio executives. The humour was juvenile in the extreme, including jokes about the size of Matt LeBlanc's private parts. If the writers thought it was risque it wasn't, it brought an unnecessary element of sleaze in reality.

It was so caricatured and lazily stereotypical that if it had been set in Bolly rather than Hollywood it would have been condemned as racist. The writers have apparently never seen witty and intelligent US sitcoms such as Frazier, Rosanne or Cheers to name but three, and instead chose to lazily portray US TV as aimed at the educationally subnormal.

It was actually quite enjoyable you might be surprised to hear. A bit like a Chinese meal, the anticipation was there, it was quite pleasant during, then afterwards you wondered why? Typically smug BBC television I suppose.

The end showed the dumbed down pilot episode a great success, leaving the door open for another series, which I think I'll be giving a miss.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Common Cold: Poetry by Ogden Nash

It's that time of year when many people are suffering from sniffles and colds. So here's a particularly relevant poem by American poet Ogden Nash:

Common Cold

Go hang yourself, you old M.D,!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
In not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever's hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The F├╝hrer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!