Two Times A Lady

Taskmaster returned for a fourth series on Wednesday, and this time around they’ve doubled the number of female participants to TWO!! Specifically, actress/presenter Mel Giedroyc and actress/comedian Lolly Adefope. Sadly, they’ve also decided to stick with an unwieldy total of five contestants, meaning that once again the teams will be uneven if/when they’re split into a-pair-and-a-trio for certain challenges… which I still find quite unfair/irritating, even though this is a comedy show, and they’re not really competing for anything of serious value. Tch!

Mel Giedroyc and Lolly Adefope ala “Taskmaster” (S4)Meanwhile, this series is inadvertently (?) bridging the gap between the BBC’s original Great British Bake Off (as represented by Giedroyc), and the upcoming Ch4 reboot, which will be co-presented by Noel Fielding. By a curious coincidence, they’re also the only two contestants to have brought overalls to wear for the challenges, rather than regular clothes (Noel even went to the trouble of personalising his yellow hazmat suit with black skeleton bones, which would have won him extra points for style if I’d been in charge of the scoring). Personally, I’m willing to give the new version of Bake Off a go, out of curiosity… though I’ll most likely record it so I can skip the commercial breaks. I do think it’s sort of hilarious that Ch4 spent so much money on filching the show without checking that the on-camera talent would be part of the deal… rather like buying a house based on a photo, and then discovering that it has no internal walls/floors/fittings. All they really ended up owning was the brand-name and the tent… and, imho, the tent is the stupidest part of the whole format, considering how often it ruins people’s bakes by getting too hot on sunny days. I’d much rather see them based in a proper kitchen, with air-conditioning keeping the room at a consistent temperature… though I guess that would take some of the drama/fun out of it for some viewers…?

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BRB-ing B99

[Contains cute-but-confusing photocopiers and SPOILERS!!!]

Chelsea Peretti as ‘Gina Linetti in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (S4)Back in January, Brooklyn Nine-Nine bowed out for a mid-season hiatus with an aggravating and seemingly arbitrary cliff-hanger, involving ‘Gina’ getting hit by a speeding bus at the end of the episode. It felt like such a cheap, attention-grabbing “gotcha” moment, that it made me seriously consider giving up on the show altogether… but then Chelsea Peretti announced that she was with-child, and I realised that there were extenuating circumstances behind this rather ham-fisted plot-twist. As strategies for covering up an actress’s growing baby-bump go, Gina’s new “halo” head-brace thingy is actually pretty ingenious, and is certainly preferable to the insufficient array of cushions and large purses that are often utilised in similar straits. I was worried they were going to confine her character to a hospital bed, or write her out entirely for a couple months, but thankfully she’s still lurking around the station-house (for now), as full-of-herself as ever, despite the short-term memory loss. Phew! Weirdly, this season has seen her evolve into the squad’s eccentric-but-wise voice of reason (“Gina Knows Best”, indeed!), which is a long way from where she started as an incompetent and corrupt kleptomaniac, so I hope they keep her in the mix for as long as physically possible, because the show would/will be a lot less fun without her.

Anyhoo, mazel tov to Peretti (and hubby Jordan Peele), and welcome back B99! I’m sorry I got so mad at you…

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The Big Bat Theory

Melissa Rauch voicing ‘Harley Quinn’ for "Batman & Harley Quinn" (2017)Obsessively checking Harley Quinn’s IMDb character page finally paid off this week, with the appearance of a new official title: Batman & Harley Quinn (aka “Hits and Giggles”), a straight-to-video animated feature co-written by Bruce Timm, co-starring Kevin Conroy as Batsy, and introducing spanky new Harley-voicer Melissa Rauch! I’m still not entirely clear on when and how it will be released, but there is a great extended-trailer/behind-the-scenes-blab on YouTube, and Empire have a short-but-sweet interview with Rauch concerning her accent. Apparently, the plot involves The Caped Crusader once-again recruiting our beloved clown-girl to help him foil a fiendish doomsday plot, which leads her into direct conflict with former gal-pal ‘Poison Ivy’ (voiced by Paget Brewster)… Oh-noes!

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Get’cha Ass On The Road

Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel a la “High School Musical: The Concert” (circa 2006)Working my way through the third season of Glee got me in a musical sorta mood… so when I saw multiple DVD copies of High School Musical: The Concert (2007) going for 50p in a local s-hand shop, I snapped one up and gave it a spin. Personally, I was never particularly taken with the songs from the original movie, I just enjoyed the jokes and the performances and the upbeat attitude… and I straight-up adored Ashely Tisdale, whose introduction seemed to get the biggest cheer from the audience here (unless my biased ears deceive me?). Considering the size of the crowds, and the coverage of the tour (more on which later), it seems kinda cruel that budding pop-star Tisdale and her screen-brother Lucas “Ryan” Grabeel were required to recreate their super-cheesy choreography so faithfully on-stage… but I’m sure that’s what the fans expected, and I still got a laugh out of the schtick, so fair play to them. Thankfully, Tisdale, Vanessa Hudgens, and Corbin Bleu were also given the opportunity to showcase some of their solo material, and get a little cross-promotion going, between the more familiar material. To be honest, I fast-forwarded through the bits where Tisdale wasn’t on-stage/screen, but considering how little I paid for it, I definitely got my money’s worth!

Ashley Tisdale a la “High School Musical: The Concert” (circa 2006)I also found the short behind-the-scenes featurette to be quite an eye-opener, as Grabeel cheerfully talked us through the punishing schedule that the cast were committed to… performing a full two-hour show every evening, then spending another hour-or-so meeting fans afterwards, before driving through the night, and crawling into a hotel around midnight, only to get dragged out of bed again early the next morning for local promo interviews! Just a soul-crushing grind of late nights, early mornings, cramped busses, and “craft service” tables. Based on my limited experience as a movie extra, I suspect I would have gone stir-crazy after the first couple weeks… but Wikipedia reveals that the North American leg of the tour ran for two straight months, including most of the Christmas/Hannukah holiday, and comprised over 40 separate shows across the country! Considering how many times they must have rehearsed/performed those routines for the movie, then again for the DVD’s “learn the moves” featurette, and again for this concert tour… whatever you may think of the actual music, you have to admire that level of dedication and fortitude. Like I say, I would have been climbing the walls (or reaching for a bottle) after the first fortnight of adrenaline-crashes and road/cabin-fever, so the fact that they all seem to have survived the experience with their sanity and smiles intact, is just awe-inspiring to me.

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Quasi-GothWatch: Rachel-Berry-As-Tina-Cohen-Chang

Lea Michele as ‘Rachel-Berry-as-Tina-Cohen-Chang’ in Glee” (ep #3.20)I didn’t bother blogging about the second season of Glee, because I didn’t really feel I had anything new to say about the show, despite several gush-worthy guest-stars. To summarize: There are scenes that make me laugh (hard), there are scenes that make me cry, there are scenes that make me swoon, there are scenes that make me yawn, and scenes that make me cringe, all randomly jumbled up together so I never really know how I’m going to feel from one moment to the next… like a game of emotional roulette. It’s addictive, but also extremely frustrating, and generally leaves me wishing I could slip into an alternate universe where there was a firmer hand on the tiller, keeping the show on an even keel.

The only constant is my abiding and unquenchable crush on Lea Michele, which spurred me on through the third season (circa 2012), and was amply rewarded in ep #3.20 (“Props”), when a disgruntled and neglected ‘Tina’ (Jenna Ushkowitz) tripped head-first into an ornamental fountain, knocked herself unconscious, and dreamed about swapping bodies with the show-choir’s star performer, ‘Rachel’… leading to the brain-mashing reveal of Michele glowering away in Tina’s abandoned goth-y clothing and make-up. It was the perfect overlap of my interests/obsessions, and I loved every second of this weird (and disappointingly brief) reverie… not least because it finally gave Ushkowitz an opportunity to step up and shine, staking her claim as the show’s heiress-apparent. It was also fun to see Michele playing a more timid and gawky sort of character for a change, though I much prefer her in full-on “cannonball” mode, given the choice. Don’t tell her not to fly, dammit!

Lea Michele as ‘Rachel-Berry-as-Tina-Cohen-Chang’ in Glee” (ep #3.20)I’m really behind the curve here, and have no idea what actually transpired in the three seasons that followed the core cast’s graduation… though I do know that they followed Rachel to New York, so I won’t be dibbing out in that department, thankfully. Is there any chance that living in the big bad city convinced her to give up her much-loved show-tunes, and rock-out more often? Probably not… but I did get to hear her covering a (slightly censored) Halestorm track in ep#3.14, so that will have to satisfy me for now.

P.S. Oh, I also want to give a shout-out to Vanessa Lengies, who joined the supporting cast this season as ‘Sugar Motta’, a totally spoiled (and tone-deaf) brat, who somehow managed to convince her indulgent father to found a rival show-choir for her to rule over… which was a completely ridiculous and implausible plot-contrivance, but it did give the show an excuse to bring back Idina Menzel as choir-coach ‘Shelby Corcoran’ (hotcha!), and Lengies was very funny (and strangely adorable) as Sugar, despite the offensiveness of the words coming out of her mouth, so yay for all of that!

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“Does Your Rear-End Make Noise?”

Jennifer Tilly as ‘Amy Hopkins’ in “Moving Violations”The first/last time I watched Moving Violations (1985) was back in the video-rental days, and while I’d forgotten pretty much everything else about the movie (which involves a group of suspended drivers having to attend a series of road-safety night-classes to earn back their impounded vehicles), one “joke” has stuck with me through the intervening decades: Two men are discussing a ditsy driving school classmate, and one comments that “she’s no rocket scientist”, just before the lady herself reveals that she works for NASA as a literal “rocket scientist”! Now, it isn’t a very good joke, but it was backed up by the visual reinforcement of her showing the male lead around a fancy control centre, before making-out with him in a zero-gravity-simulation chamber (the scene ends with their discarded clothes mimicking their off-screen love-making, via the magic of stop-motion animation, which was kinda cool)… plus the fact that the gorgeous geek-girl in question (‘Amy’) was played by none-other-than Jennifer Tilly, which is why I chose to revisit the movie this weekend…

Considering how crass some of the other disparate-group-of-people-in-training-to-do-stuff comedies were during that period, I was a little worried about how cringe-worthy this relic would be when viewed through my 21st century, thirty-something eyes… but it’s actually pretty inoffensive, compared to the higher-profile Police Academy series (with which it shared two writers). I mean, I wouldn’t say it was going to win any awards for character depth and nuance, but Amy isn’t exploited as a sex object, or made the butt of any stereotypical “bimbo” jokes either… she’s just slightly scatty, in an Einstein-forgetting-where-he-lived sorta way… and the sarcastic edge that Tilly adds to some of her line-readings makes the role a lot more interesting than it might have been “on the page”. That said, she’s still a pretty minor “obligatory love interest”, with the lion’s share of the screen-time awarded to her suitor, a smug smart-ass rebel played by John Murray, doing a shameless impersonation of his older brother, Bill. I didn’t realise they were related until I started researching this post, but it was pretty obvious that the role had been written with Bill in mind, and that their second-rate substitute was desperately trying to fill the great man’s shoes… which was pretty pitiful to watch, and seems even sadder in retrospect, knowing that it wasn’t just some random actor aping the man/legend, but his own flesh-and-blood, trying to sell himself as the comedic equivalent of tofurkey.

Jennifer Tilly as ‘Amy Hopkins’ in “Moving Violations”Overall, though, I quite enjoyed this movie, despite its juvenile sensibility, and perfunctory plotting. It builds to a sufficiently chaotic crescendo, and there are plenty of fun visual and verbal gags along the way, delivered by a (generally) solid cast that includes Fred Willard, Wendie Jo Sperber (as a strangely compliant hypochondriac), and Sally Kellerman (as the kinky/conniving judge who sets the whole thing in motion). I doubt I’ll ever bother watching it again, but I think Tilly’s fans should appreciate it as a one-time window into her acting past… if only to see how she looks with chunky glasses and a “period” perm!

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“Oh, What A Nice And Clever Girl You Are!”

[Contains an impromptu foam-party and SPOILERS!!!]

Wendy Padbury as ‘Zoe Heriot’ in “Doctor Who” (S6)As I’ve said before, I’m really not that keen on either the concept or execution of Doctor Who, despite having many friends who swear by the show, and admiring several writers who’ve contributed stories to the Who-niverse over the years (such as Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, and Michael Moorcock). On the other hand, I do have a chronic weakness for extreme cuteness, so when Wendy Padbury was announced as a guest for this year’s Comic-Con, I was so struck by the photo they posted from her “Companion” days that I immediately started seeking out all her episodes… only to discover that many of them are “missing”, presumed lost forever! Her character, ‘Zoe Heriot’, a perky young maths-prodigy from the future, was first introduced in the final serial of season five, “The Wheel in Space” (eps #5.35-40) (1968), but only two of the six episodes are held in the BBC archives, meaning that the rest of the story had to be patched together with repeating stills, muffled audio clips (recorded from the TV by fans back when they originally aired), and on-screen captions to fill in the action for home viewing… which is just a pain in the arse to sit through, so I skipped that, and plunged on into seasons six.

An animated version of Wendy Padbury as ‘Zoe Heriot’ in a reconstructed episode of “Doctor Who” (ep #6.06)Five of the S6 serials, “The Dominators” (eps #6.01-05), “The Mind Robber” (eps #6.06-10), “The Krotons”* (eps #6.19-22), “The Seeds of Death” (eps #6.23-28), and “The War Games” (eps #6.35-44) are fully extant… “The Space Pirates” (eps #6.29-34), is another unwatchable, mostly missing mish-mash… while the third, “The Invasion” (eps #6.11-18), was only lacking two episodes, which were replaced with animated reconstructions, accompanied by a remastered audio track. I have to say, in many ways I preferred those animated episodes to the live-action ones, because they had more atmospheric cinematography, more reliable special effects, and more stable camerawork! They also spent less time lingering on Zoe’s (admittedly very eye-catching) bottom in her short skirts and skin-tight sparkly cat-suit, so I guess we can call that a “win” for Feminism… unless you’re the sort of feminist that endorses short skirts and skin-tight cat-suits as “empowering”?** Personally I found the way that Zoe was dressed, posed, and framed in the earlier episodes to be fairly exploitative… for example, the “cliff-hanger” ending of ep #6.06 had her laying across the TARDIS console like a chanteuse on a grand piano, with her posterior presented to the viewer, as the camera revolved around her in sweaty-palmed slow motion (this was then repeated at the start of the following episode, to help refresh our memories). Of course, in the interests of full disclosure (and absolution?), I have to confess I loved every second of it… and even re-watched it a couple times… but I know that doesn’t make it right! Gah!

Wendy Padbury as ‘Zoe Heriot’ in “Doctor Who” (S6)As for her actual character… well, she did do an awful lot of damsel-in-distressing, but then her male equivalent, ‘Jamie’ (Frazer Hines), also got injured and captured and frozen and face-swapped on various occasions, so they were probably quite evenly matched on that score. That is the role/fate of Companions in this series, regardless of gender… to ask ‘The Doctor’ (Patrick Troughton) (aka “The Second Doctor”) questions for the sake of exposition, and to put themselves in peril, so that he can heroically rescue them, and save the day/universe. Thankfully, she did get a couple of spotlight scenes, such as when she single-handedly defeated the “Karkus”, a muscle-bound comic-strip-villain-come-to-life, using a succession of Kung-Fu flips, in ep #6.09 … gleefully destroyed a computerised reception desk by spouting nonsensical programming language at it, in ep #6.12 … earned the admiration of a roomful of military types by quickly calculating the exact co-ordinates/trajectory necessary to ensure that their meagre supply of missiles set off a chain reaction of explosions to destroy an invading alien fleet, in ep #6.17 (note how one male extra is unable to resist sneaking a glance down at her backside as she bustles between them seeking data)… bravely volunteered to exploit her petite size to squeeze through a maintenance duct into the central control room of a moon-base, to turn up the thermostat and incapacitate the invasive Ice Warriors, in ep #6.26… and then (sort of) rescued The Doctor from a prison cell, and smashed a vase over the head of an unsuspecting baddie who was about to report them, in eps #6.35-6. Go Zoe!

Wendy Padbury as ‘Zoe Heriot’ in “Doctor Who” (S6)Although some characters were quite condescending to her, The Doctor was always praising Zoe for her intelligence, and hyping her computer-beating brain to others. True, he did get exasperated with her at times, and a little petty competition crept in from every now and again, but he clearly recognised and treated her as an intellectual peer, despite her immaturity. Trivia sites suggest that the three main cast members got along very well off-screen, and grew very close over the course of the season, and I think that warmth and familiarity comes across quite clearly on-screen as well. I couldn’t really give a fig for the stories, which were often rather samey and drawn-out, but what kept me watching was my fondness for the characters, and my enjoyment of their interactions. Unusually, all three actors decided to jump ship at the same time, meaning that the grand finale featured a very sweet group goodbye, wiping the slate completely clean for the following (full-colour!) season, in which Jon Pertwee was introduced as “The Third Doctor”. The trio was briefly reunited in The Five Doctors (1983), but Zoe and Jamie only got a couple minutes of screentime, deep into the second hour of the feature-length episode, and were really only fibbing phantom versions of themselves, so it’s barely worth the bother… although the Raston-Warrior-Robot vs. Cybermen fight scene was pretty awesome, I admit.

Wendy Padbury as ‘Zoe Heriot’ in “Doctor Who” (S6)Fun fact: Padbury is now retired (aside from convention appearances, obviously), but for a while she worked as a theatrical agent, representing several Who actors, including Colin Baker (aka “The Sixth Doctor”), and she’s also credited with discovering a young fella named Matt Smith (aka “The Eleventh Doctor”) at the National Youth Theatre… though whether she used some sort of stolen alien brainwashing device to “process” him into wanting to join the series, I can’t say.

———–

* In my head, I can’t stop saying “croutons”… and I’m sure some of the actors mispronounced it that way as well! I was also amused by the varying pronunciation of “Cybermen”, which reminded me of that bit from Friends where Chandler and Phoebe discuss “Spider-Man”: It’s not his last name. It’s not like “Phil Spidermun”. He’s a spider-MAN!

** Only this morning, I saw a pro-women-in-sports advert, bearing the “This Girl Can” slogan, that included a prolonged close-up of a young lycra-clad bottom gyrating into the camera, so… I really don’t know how I’m supposed to react as a wannabe-male-feminist. Gah, again!

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