Friday, January 20, 2006

 

That Porno Jazz Thang, And That Hippy Rock Stuff: A Little Tellyblogging

Two notable TV programmes were aired tonight, one part of a series, and one a one-off, but they were both worthy of comment.

The first was 'Hotel Babylon', on BBC 1, which is the first in a series. I have never read the book upon which it is based, but if it's anything like as throwaway as the TV programme, I bet it's the sort of thing you'd leave on a train. Basically, it's about the inner workings of an expensive London hotel.

I'd tell you more than that, but that was as much as I could work out. For the life of me, I can't see what this programme is trying to do. The trailers and the first ten minutes seemed to augur an hour long dosage of very soft porn, but then it changed into a serious drama, but then there were weird bits of Carry On-like comedy interrupting that, and it was all over the shop.

Over the last few years, I've generally resented increases in the licence fee, and I still think it's too expensive, but in fairness, if it means that the Beeb can create some new sets for their original dramas, then all to the good. I'm not joking - almost every single set appeared borrowed from 'Hustle.' It was all lush, deep red furniture, and artful moodlighting, while people with ludicroudly sharp suits strode around purposefully, marking sardonic remarks to one another.

I'm also not sure what the point of the thing is. Ok, I realise it's throwaway entertainment, but shouldn't it have some sort of a message? All it really seemed to say was that hotel workers are poorly paid, unless they're in management, when they earn loads, and get to screw over the poorly paid ones. That's, you know, deep.

It's not awful, or, indeed, anything like. Tamzin Outhwaite appears hellbent on proving that she's the top actress at playing brassy women of the ball-busting kind, and though some of the lines were positively cringeworthy, some of them were pretty witty, in the sort of Wildean, this-would-never-happen-in-real-life-but-I'm-enjoying-suspending-my-disbelief-for-a-minute style.


Outhwaite is equally angry in her last big TV outing, 'Red Cap.'

The part of the programme that of most interest to me, however, was the music (hence the title of the post.) I don't know when it was that slutty jazz made it back into the mainstream, but I'm all for it. The music appeared to more or less entirely consist of elegant little riffs on the saxophone, suggesting, to me at least, a special sort of affluent misbehaviour, not least because it is exactly the sound that was used on the soundtrack for 'Elmore Leonard's Gold Coast', which I've covered before. More of the soundtrack for next week, then.

'Tony Blair: Rock Star' followed it on Channel 4. This was a documentary about his late teenage years, and that whole Jagger-wannabe thing he had going. It was enjoyable enough, but I couldn't help feeling it was an opportunity wasted. All of the interviewees were people who knew him at the time, which was alright for most of them, but there were clearly a few with an axe to grind. I also have to question the wisdom of how the re-enactments were shot. They were technically ok and everything, but if they were to be believed, Tony only ever wore one jacket for about six months.

I reckon if they'd had just two talking heads, that would have been better. You know what I mean - one could say he only bangs on about that stuff now because of the politicians' disconnect with the voters, all that sort of thing, and the other could have argued it was sincere, and affected his philosophy now. It didn't have to be that - just something a bit more than chatting to his old mates.

Still, the re-enacted session of 'strip spin the bottle' was classic embarrasment TV. Couldn't be faulted, that.

Comments:
I thought the scene of young Blair being caned at school in his final year was pretty squirm-inducing. Still, anyone who greases their hair with butter deserves everything they get...
 
Butter?!?
No matter, I'm somewhat glad these particular shows haven't appeared stateside.
Knowing our vampiric programming directors, however, that hotel one will be reborn with a new American name and an inferior execution.
 
That Manni is a doofus though isn't he?
 
Paul - That scene was just yuck. Words failed me at the sight of that.

SafeT - I'm certain that the hotel one will appear on BBC America, if nothing else.

Mark - Certainly is.
 
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