Friday 15 December 2017

Outside the box

Girls Season 3
Girls Season 3
The Jump

Paul Whitington

Looking forward to celebrities coming a cropper on the Austrian Alps and the possibility of the Twin Peaks' record being set straight.

The Jump

Channel 4, Sunday

Winter sports reality show in which some poor celebrity is sure to get injured

Surely I'm not the only person who's tuned in to shows such as 'I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here' for the sole purpose of watching famous people suffer.

Let's face it, there's something very satisfying about seeing fading celebrities eating deep-fried termites and sticking their hands into boxes of rats in the vain hope of kick-starting their ailing careers.

There's a touch of this attention-seeking to Channel 4's new reality show 'The Jump', a kind of Winter Olympics for idiots, in which 12 celebrities (I'll name them shortly and you'll recognise about half of them if you're lucky) take on some of the most challenging winter sports known to man.

Actually, some are quite frightening because apart from relatively straightforward disciplines such as slalom skiing, contestants will also face rides in a bobsleigh and take on a live ski jump.

Participants include former cricketer Darren Gough and rower Steve Redgrave – athletes bound to have the edge over the other contestants Amy Childs, Ritchie Neville, Laura Hamilton, Henry Conway, Anthea Turner, Melinda Messenger, Nicky Clarke, Kimberley Wyatt, Marcus Brigstocke and Sinitta (I told you).

This motley bunch will repair to the Austrian Alps where they'll be trained by expert athletes Graham Bell and Amy Williams, and ski jumper Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards, who as you may remember was an expert at coming last.

Davina McCall and Alex Brooker present a show unlikely to be too po-faced.

Girls (Season 3)

Sky Atlantic, Monday

Lena Dunham's effortlessly hip 20-something New York comedy

When Lena Dunham's archly funny HBO sitcom 'Girls' first appeared in 2012, it was pitched, rather cleverly, as a kind of anti-'Sex and the City'. Created by and starring Dunham, the show follows the fortunes of four friends who go to New York looking for the kind of glamour they watched Carrie Bradshaw enjoying, but instead end up in shabby flats in Brooklyn, gazing wistfully across the East River towards the bright lights of Manhattan.

'Girls' is much more lo-fi and highbrow than 'Sex and the City', and is loosely based on Dunham's own experiences as a struggling young writer in New York.

She plays Hannah, an aspiring novelist in her mid-20s who in season one got a bit of a shock when her parents turned up from Michigan to say that they were no longer going to finance her literary endeavours. In other words, she had to get a job, and she ended up working at a Brooklyn coffee shop.

Season three kicked off on Sky Atlantic this week with the usual catalogue of minor disasters.

Hannah's a bit up herself, and has friends to match. Her best friend Marnie (Allison Williams) is pretty but neurotic and her love life is an ongoing melodrama. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is an airheaded bohemian who embarks on a disastrous marriage to a venture capitalist, while Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) started out as a frustrated virgin obsessed with 'Sex and the City'.

Hannah and her friends are not always easy to like, but they do seem real, and 'Girls' isn't afraid to deal with the more serious issues, such as abortion.

The show has been criticised for its racial homogeneity and its dubious feminism, but that is to miss its point entirely – it's a comedy, and a clever and funny comedy at that.


Sky Atlantic, Monday

Drama exploring lives and loves of gay people in San Francisco.

Another HBO show that kicks off on Sky Atlantic next week has strong echoes of 'Girls', but with a slightly more radical premise. 'Looking' is set in San Francisco and stars Jonathan Groff, Frankie J Alvarez and Murray Bartlett as three gay friends searching for love and meaning in the city by the bay.

In the past, gay men mainly appeared in TV soaps and comedies as flamboyant jesters, and were rarely the focus of attention. But Patrick, Agustin and Dom are placed centre stage in this comic drama in which straight people seem mysteriously thin on the ground.

Patrick (Jonathan Groff) is a reasonably successful 29-year- old video game designer who has never been in a serious relationship and who longs for love.

He and his slightly older and wiser friends, Agustin (Frankie Alvarez) and Dom (Murray Bartlett), all live in fashionably shabby apartments, smoke pot, go drinking and sit around discussing their various sexual exploits, just like Carrie and the girls did back in the day.

'Looking' is wry and affectionate in tone and has a mumbling, unscripted feel. The drama intelligently explores the complexities of contemporary gay culture and pulls no punches in its descriptions and depictions of sex.

But it seems more sheepish and less confident than the likes of 'Girls'. Patrick and the guys are very likeable, but maybe writer Michael Lannan was a bit too worried about making them so.

Twin Peaks

In pre-production

One of the weirdest, wildest and funniest TV dramas ever made.

TV buffs of a certain age were all a flutter last week when David Lynch issued an enigmatic casting call. His brief statement related to a 'Twin Peaks' promo, and added that he was looking for a "HOT Caucasian girl, brunette or redheads only, to play waitress – must have an amazing body".

And no doubt they did, but the message has left fans hoping that Lynch is planning to return to the cult 1990s show that was abruptly cancelled 22 years ago.

His promo seems to be related to a forthcoming 'Twin Peaks' Blu-ray box set, but Netflix has made it clear that it would back a new series – and Lynch himself has often hinted that he would like to revisit the iconic programme.

In ways, 'Twin Peaks' was a precursor of the current golden age of American TV drama. When the show started in 1990, it was unheard of for an A-list film director to work on the small screen, and the quirky eccentricity of his screenplays must have been a hard sell at the US network ABC – because, quite simply, nothing like 'Twin Peaks' had ever been attempted.

A kind of ironic murder mystery soap opera, it was set in rural Seattle and starred Kyle MacLachlan as the FBI agent Dale Cooper, who arrives in the small, idyllic town of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of the local teenage beauty queen Laura Palmer.

As he'd done in previous films such as 'Blue Velvet' and 'Wild at Heart', Lynch mixed cheesy irony and an underlying air of menace with consummate skill, and the series pilot remains one of the best pieces of television drama I've seen.

With a hypnotic score from Angelo Badalamenti and movie-standard production values throughout, the first series oozed quality and positively thronged with eccentric suspects.

However, halfway through the second season, ABC panicked about the show's declining ratings and demanded that Lynch reveal the identity of Laura Palmer's killer forthwith.

After a messy season ending that left fans feeling cheated, the show was cancelled and that was that.

But it now seems that Lynch may have plans to set the 'Twin Peaks' record straight. Let's just hope that a new series is on the way.

Irish Independent

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