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Restaurant review: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Mon, 22/12/2014 - 22:01

By Neil Davey

“Life,” drawled Forrest Gump, “is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

There’s a certain irony then that the restaurant chain that span off from this Oscar-winning movie – and which shows said movie on endless loop on screens around each branch – doesn’t follow that principle. This is a case where you know exactly what you’re gonna get – and, to be fair, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Many will no doubt use the opening of this London branch – Bubba Gump Shrimp Co’s first of several UK outposts – as the starting off point for a long riff / Buzzfeed-style gallery of “Movies that should have spawned a restaurant chain”. We’re not going to do that (although man, we’d love to have seen Jack Rabbit Slim’s go global) or focus on how it’s set up shop in Planet Hollywood’s old location. Nor will we get too distracted by the whole shrimp thing: just pretend they mean prawn, alright? Other countries don’t differentiate like what we do…

Instead, we’ll focus on the food and drink offering, with the odd sidebar on the “aw shucks” Gump-themed décor for, as well as the movie on endless loop, the walls are adorned with famous Gumpisms, bits of memorabilia and assorted “faux-southern” touches. But hey, it’s a chain restaurant: if you want cosy originality go somewhere cosy and original.

In terms of the food, not so surprisingly the “shrimp” is the best bet. There’s a cult that’s evolved around the Coconut Shrimp and you can see the appeal. The fish is dense – with a fresher feel than you might expect from a global enterprise - the coating is crispy, and the sum of these parts is a thoroughly decent, generously portioned dish. Even so, how that’s become the cult dish rather than the Hush Pups is a mystery. The “hush puppie” is a staple of Southern States’ cuisine – it’s essentially deep-fried balls of cornmeal, often with a hit of chilli and / or onion. Here – you’ll never guess – shrimp are added. The result is a hush puppy with a satisfying texture that, when dipped in the spicy sauce accompaniment, is dangerously addictive. They also form part – the best part – of the “Run Across America” sampler (heh, see what they did there?), which also includes an artichoke dip and chips, spicy chicken strips, chilled shrimps and fried shrimps. The dip and chicken are fine, but the shrimp, not so surprisingly, are comfortably the best thing here.

That’s the moral you should take into the main courses as well. There’s a very good reason why it’s not called Bubba Gump Burger Co., and perhaps the less said about that, the better but seriously, chaps, just how hard is decent meat in a decent bun? Our fish course – Mahi Mahi, allegedly Cajun-spiced, served with a Bourbon sauce and rather cloying mash – was better but not a patch on the shrimp and at least it came with some shrimp, so that helped.

Drinks are mostly of the multi-coloured, neon variety but, if you ask (quite why they’re not on the drinks list is a mystery) there’s a decent enough selection of bottled beers, while desserts are crowd-pleasing favourites – cheesecake, brownie, bread pudding – typically adorned with a massive pile of that squirty cream. We doubt much is being made fresh but the Key Lime Pie had a decent zing to it and, as with most of the food here, came in a portion comfortably big enough for two.

Stick to the specialties and you’ll actually do alright, particularly if you’re part of a big group. To sound like Forrest Gump for a second, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co is what it is: a reliable enough chain turning out large platters of sometimes quite decent food to share. Just stick with the shrimp. After all, the clue’s in the name, right?

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Mon, 22/12/2014 - 10:32

The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies unwraps a bumper Christmas package

By Rich Matthews

The final chapter of Peter Jackson's trio of JRR Tolkien adaptations, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, stormed to the top of the last pre-Christmas weekend box office this weekend, with a five-day opening of $90.2m, besting even the most optimistic industry predictions by a good $10m. The wrap up chapter of Jackson's six-part Middle-earth saga, which includes 2001-2003's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Battle of the Five Armies has already racked up a mammoth $355.6m in it's first 12 days on worldwide release, putting well on track to match An Unexpected Journey's $1bn final gross.

There is a lot of competition in the Christmas run-up, but The Hobbit has already seen easily seen off Ben Stiller's threequel Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (whose $17.3m was a huge franchise low, especially as it contains the last performance by the late Robin Williams), and hacked off Sony's update of Annie starring Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx (which took $16.3m to place third). At fourth, Ridley Scott's biblical CG-fest Exodus: God and Kings tumbled a hefty 67 per cent to fourth with $8.1m for a US tally of $38.9m and a worldwide total of $100.1m, followed closely by The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 with $7.8m ($289.2m, $350.5m).

The back five were made up of Wild ($4.2m, $7.2m), Chris Rock's Top Five ($3.6m, $12.5m), Disney's hit animation Big Hero 6 ($3.5m, $190.4m, $272m), underperforming Dreamworks spin-off Penguins of Madagscar ($3.5m, $64.2m, $198.8m) and Bollywood comedy P.K. ($3.5m).

Christmas Day (Thursday) sees a bumper crop of new releases, including Angelina Jolie's Unbroken, Clint Eastwood's Bradley Cooper drama American Sniper, Disney's adaptation of Broadway hit Into The Woods, Mark Wahlberg crime drama The Gambler and a limited release for Tim Burton's Big Eyes. Then, in the new year (January 3), Liam Neeson kicks his way back into the fray in Taken 3.

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Screenjabber Pubcast: Exodus, stage left ...

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 21/12/2014 - 18:37

Join Andrew Jones, Christa Ktorides, Doug Cooper, Mark Searby and host Stuart O'Connor in the pub for a quick chat about this week's big movie news – Sony pulling the release of The Interview – plus a review of the big new releases on offer in UK cinemas this week, and on Boxing Day: Annie, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Dumb and Dumber To, Big Eyes, Unbroken and Exodus: Gods & Kings. Merry Christmas!

You can listen to and download the podcast – or subscribe to it on iTunes ... plus you can follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook.

PubQuest: We're looking to take the Screenjabber Pubcast on the road, and want your input. Know a great pub in London we should visit to record the show? Drop us a line and let us know.

WriterQuest: We're seeking some more writers, particularly those who want to cover video games for us. Please get in touch if you're keen.

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Interview: Eduardo Sanchez

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 21/12/2014 - 16:02

Writer/director Eduardo Sanchez tells Screenjabber's Mark Searby all about his recent work on TV shows The Intruders and From Dusk Till Dawn. Eduardo also talks in depth about his movies Lovely Molly, Exists, Altered and The Blair Witch Project.

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That's Showbiz! With Jenny

Posted by Jenny Priestley | Sun, 21/12/2014 - 14:48

By Jenny Priestley

★ Carrie Fisher will star in the new Channel 4 comedy from Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney. She'll play the eccentric mother of Delaney's character. The series follows a couple who struggle to fall in love in London and will also feature Ashley Jensen as Horgan's "awful friend". Horgan and Delaney will attend a preview of the first two episodes at BAFTA on January 12.

Meanwhile, cast and crew from new BBC drama The Eichmann Show will be at BAFTA on January 19. The BBC Two film stars Martin Freeman and Anthony LaPaglia and is about the televising of the trial of Adolf Eichmann – one of the main architects of the Holocaust. No word yet on which cast members will be there.

Oscar winner Kate Winslet is in talks to play the lead female role in Jobs, the film about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. If she takes the role, Winslet will star alongside Michael Fassbender, who is expected to star as Jobs. Seth Rogen is due to play Apple co-founder Steve Wozniack. The film is being directed by Danny Boyle and is written by Aaron Sorkin.

★ JK Simmons is joining Tom Hiddleston in Kong: Skull Island. The film, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, focuses on the island home of King Kong. The film is due for release in March 2017.

★ Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart are to appear together on the London stage next year. They will star in a revival of No Man's Land – which they performed in rep in New York last year (and I was lucky enough to see). The pair last appeared together on stage in London when they collaborated on Waiting For Godot in 2009. No news yet on where and when they play will be staged.

The stage production of School of Rock will open on Broadway next December. The show has been created by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Julian Fellowes, so it has some serious talent behind it. The show is inspired by the 2003 film starring Jack Black and will feature songs from the movie as well as some new compositions. It officially opens on December 6, 2015.

★ David Oyelowo is to star alongside Lupita N'yongo in the new drama Americanah. The film is based on the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and follows a pair of young Nigerian immigrants who face a lifetime of struggle while their relationship endures. The film counts one Brad Pitt among its producers.

★ Sarah Silverman is to star in a pilot for a new comedy series for HBO. The series has been created by Lucy Prebble and is described as a comic look at a pathologically honest woman having a modern mid-life crisis.

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Small-Screen Christmas Jabber 20-26 December

Posted by Louise Bolotin | Sat, 20/12/2014 - 13:00

By Louise Bolotin

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but not necessarily for watching TV. In between the seasonal repeats, one-star Xmas films and the Christmas specials of popular dramas, you have to pick through to find what’s worth switching on for. Here’s my bumper stocking for you.

Drama
James Corden’s comic thriller The Wrong Mans (Mon/Tues, BBC2, 9pm) returns for a two-part “series” co-starring his sidekick Matthew Baynton. It was a surprise hit last year and our anti-heroes now find themselves in Texas, working for a trucking company. But before long they find themselves embroiled with Russian assassins and Mexican drugs barons. And there’s a marvellous swipe at Top Gear. Norman Hunter’s Branestawm tales were hugely popular with two generations of older kids up to the 1980s. The first one, written in 1933, has been adapted for TV for the first time since the 60s. The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm (Christmas Eve, BBC1, 8.30pm) tells the tale of an absent-minded boffin facing off the council jobsworths who want to close his lab down and sell it off to a munitions factory tycoon. Fabulously anarchic, it was written by Charlie Higson and stars Harry Hill as Branestawm, supported by David Mitchell, Simon Day, Ben Miller and Miranda Richardson.

Christmas Day specials: Doctor Who (BBC1, 6.15pm), Call the Midwife (BBC1, 7.50pm) and Downton Abbey (ITV, 9pm). Salvation is in the air – the Doctor battles aliens in the Arctic and Santa (Nick Frost, left) saves the day, Chummy saves two pregnant girls who’ve been dumped in a home for unwed mothers and Bates tries to save Anna from the hangman’s noose.

David Walliams has a neat track record now in creating cosy family-friendly dramas for Christmas. His latest, The Boy in the Dress (Boxing Day, BBC1, 6.55pm), tells the story of Dennis, a 12-year-old, who is a talented footballer but finds his world opening up when he stumbles across a fashion magazine. He starts cross-dressing, even playing on the pitch in dresses and going to school as “Denise”. It’s a wonderfully lighthearted examination of the serious issues facing transgendered people, starring Jennifer Saunders, Meera Syal and Billy Kennedy as Dennis, with cameos from Gary Lineker and Kate Moss. Victoria Woods’ hit musical is adapted into a feature-length TV play in That Day We Sang (Boxing Day, BBC2, 9pm). Set in Manchester in the late 60s, middle-aged Enid and Tubby go to a reunion of the children’s choir they sang in 40 years earlier. As their childhood memories surface they embark on a tentative romance. The dialogue is classic Wood – acerbic asides and wry observations – and the story is told mostly in song. Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball head the cast.

Your box-set binge: Game of Thrones (from Sat, Sky Atlantic, from 9pm), seasons 1-4, three episodes at a time. Fans of the blood-thirsty fantasy drama should settle in for the next 12 nights.  

Music
Versatile entertainer, Sammy Davis Jr, could sing, tap, dance, tell jokes… and was a member of Sinatra’s infamous Rat Pack. Sammy Davis Jr: the Kid in the Middle (Sun, BBC4, 9pm) profiles the man and his career, set firmly in historical context. A civil rights activist, his lengthy relationships with white women were taboo in the 50s and 60s, but his conversion to Judaism after a near-fatal car crash rocketed him to superstardom. With contributions from family and former lovers, Jesse Jackson, Paul Anka and Engelbert Humperdinck, it’s followed by a compilation show of his BBC performances. Michael Bublé’s Christmas (Mon, 5, 9pm) has the popular crooner delivering festive songs and chat from Radio City Music Hall in New York. His guests include the legendary Barbra Streisand.

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, and Len Goodman’s Big Band Bonanza (Tues, BBC4, 9pm) aims to show why this jazz style was such a massive phenomenon. Glenn Miller’s tunes kept up the Allies’ spirits during WW2, which Hitler found so threatening German “swing kids” faced arrest, but the style continued to thrive and is still popular today – a fascinating piece of cultural history. Tim Rice: a Life in Song (Christmas Day, BBC2, 9pm) celebrates one of Britain’s finest lyricists. Michael Grade plays host, longtime collaborator Andrew Lloyd Webber pays tribute and the stars lining up to sing his musical hits include Rufus Wainwright, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Tim Minchin, Laura Mvula and Roger Daltrey.

Arts
Actor Sir Ian McKellen sits for three finalists in Portrait Artist of the Year 2014 (Tues, Sky Arts 1, 8pm). The prize is to paint another thespian – Alan Cumming – for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and £10,000. Host Frank Skinner was not the best choice – he’s an irritating distraction, but it’s a tense and thrilling final. Julie Walters: a Life on Screen (Christmas Eve, BBC2, 9.30pm) profiles one of our most respected and talented actors. She scooped this year’s Bafta Fellowship, cementing her place in the national pantheon. Here she talks about her lengthy and versatile career. Regular collaborators Victoria Wood and Alan Bleasdale pay tribute.

Shakespeare’s classic romance is danced in The Winter’s Tale by the Royal Ballet (Christmas Day, BBC4, 7pm). This production was filmed at its world premiere earlier this year at the Royal Opera House. Edward Watson and Lauren Cuthbertson dance the lead roles of Leontes and Hermione. There’s more dance in Carlos Acosta’s Cuban Night (Boxing Day, BBC4, 7.30pm) – an exciting show starring ballet dancer Acosta that blends classical and Afro-Cuban dance styles. Filmed at the Royal Opera House, with the Royal Ballet, Ballet Rambert and the Cuban National Ballet.

Comedy
The inimitable Joan Rivers, who died earlier this year, had a sabre-tongued wit but her British “agony aunt” chat show (2004-06) wasn’t well known. The Best of the Joan Rivers Position (Sat, 5, 10.50pm) is a romp through the highlights, which includes Graham Norton discussing his sex life in explicit detail and Katie Price getting a dressing down. Also gone from us this year – Rik Mayall, who is remembered in Rik Mayall: Lord of Misrule (Sat, BBC2, 10.05pm). The archive clips are a choice selection of his best work – the rocket-fuelled physical comedy, surrealism, subversive satire and pompous punk wit – in Blackadder, The Young Ones, Kevin Turvey, The New Statesman, Bottom... Those lining up to pay tribute are a veritable who’s who of British comic talent – they include Michael Palin, Simon Pegg, Lenny Henry, Ben Elton, Alexei Sayle, Christopher Ryan, Tim McInnerny, Jools Holland, Ruby Wax and Greg Davies. Simon Callow narrates. Greg Davies’ splendid sitcom Man Down (Tues, C4, 10pm) almost didn’t get recommissioned after the death of co-star Rik Mayall but it’s back for a seasonal special in which Dan and and friends visit his aunt Nesta’s turkey farm.

Entertainment
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a panto. Oh no it wouldn’t! Storyville goes backstage in Panto! Mayhem, Makeup and Magic (Mon, BBC4, 9.25pm), following the am-dram cast and production team of Nottingham Arts Theatre as they put on their version of Puss in Boots. Heartwarming, like a fine mug of mulled wine. War Horse at the Proms (Boxing Day, BBC2, 5.25pm) is staged at the Royal Albert Hall, with a cast the includes the National Theatre Ensemble, the Military Wives, the BBC Concert Orchestra and Handspring’s marvellous puppets. This is a fine reworking of Michael Morpurgo’s children’s tale of Joey the army horse who gave service in WW1 in France and how young Albert, his previous owner, tries to bring him safely home.

Christmassy stuff
Children will lap up On Angel Wings (Christmas Eve, BBC1, 4.15pm), the nativity story magically retold by author Michael Morpurgo, in a charming animation. Michael Gambon and Juliet Stevenson star. Carols from King’s (Christmas Eve, BBC2, 5.25pm), from the University of Cambridge, is the first of two traditional carol services. Christmas Carols on ITV (Christmas Eve, ITV, 11pm) is hosted by Aled Jones at a church in Manchester. The Queen addresses the nation on BBC1 at 3pm in her traditional Christmas Day speech, while Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message (1.50pm) is delivered by Sharon Osbourne.

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Screenjabber Podcast: The Battle of the Three Critics

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 14/12/2014 - 11:12

Join Andrew Jones, Amon Warrman and host Stuart O'Connor for a quick look at this week's big movie news – including the new trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road, as well as the Sony server hack – plus a review of the big new release on offer in UK cinemas this week, The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies.

You can listen to and download the podcast – or subscribe to it on iTunes ... plus you can follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook.

PubQuest: We're looking to take the Screenjabber Pubcast on the road, and want your input. Know a great pub in London we should visit to record the show? Drop us a line and let us know.

WriterQuest: We're seeking some more writers, particularly those who want to cover video games for us. Please get in touch if you're keen.

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That's Showbiz! With Jenny

Posted by Jenny Priestley | Sat, 13/12/2014 - 18:16

By Jenny Priestley

★ Pedro Almodovar will attend a special screening of his 1988 film Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the BFI on January 11. Coincidentally, that's the night before the new musical based on the film officially opens at the Playhouse Theatre, starring Tamsin Greig. I don't suppose it would be a huge leap to expect the Spanish director to attend the first night.

★ George Clooney is working on a new TV series set at a Hollywood film studio during the 1990s. Apparently it's a dark comedy looking at the movie business through the eyes of the studio bosses running the studio. At the moment Clooney is in talks with various TV networks but I would expect them to jump at the chance to work with the Oscar winner. Clooney will produce the show but we don't know at this stage if he'll appear in the series.

★ Stephen Fry has been confirmed as the host of the BAFTA Film Awards in February. It'll be his 10th time as host of the awards.

New films starring Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez, James Franco, Ewan McGregor, Greta Gerwig, Jesse Eisenberg, Saoirse Ronan, Ryan Reynolds, Peter Sarsgaard and Lily Tomlin have been announced among the premieres at the Sundance Film Festival. George Lucas will also make his festival debut when he joins Robert Redford to discuss the power of independence in film while Lena Dunham, Kristen Wiig and Mindy Kaling will be talking about the changing roles of female characters on both TV and in films. The annual festival runs from January 22 to February 1.

★ Kevin Costner is expected to be honoured with the Career Achievement Award at the Critics Choice Awards in Hollywood on January 15.

★ Maureen Lipman is joining James Dreyfus in the new stage production of Harvey. The play opens at Birmingham Rep on February 6 before touring the country ahead of a West End transfer. Lipman will play Veta, who tries to get her brother, Elwood P Dowd (Dreyfus) committed rather than risk the family’s reputation.

★ Jeremy Irvine and Phoebe Fox will announce the nominees for the London Film Critics' Circle Awards at a special event on Thursday December 16. The duo are on the publicity trail to promote their new film The Woman In Black: Angel of Death. They'll also be at the Apple Store on Regent Street that evening to discuss the film.

★ Game of Thrones fans, Westeros needs you! Fans are being invited to submit artwork, songs, photographs, recipes and stories to be part of a new official compendium of the show. All submissions must pertain to events that took place during series one to four of the TV series (so you can't include anything from A Dance with Dragons). Fans whose work is chosen will receive a copy of the book with their name listed as a contributor. To find out more visit the website. The book should be released in 2015.

★ Susan Sarandon and Kathy Bates are to star in the English language debut from acclaimed director Xavier Dolan. They join Jessica Chastain and Kit Harrington in the film, which is called The Death And Life of John F Donovan. The film tells the story of fictional actor John F Donovan — famous for playing a superhero — whose life and career are turned upside-down when his private correspondence with an 11-year-old fan is exposed and made to look indecent by a gossip columnist. Filming's due to begin in the spring.

★ Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons have been announced as cast members for the second series of Fargo. The new 10-episode series is set in 1979  and follows young State Police Officer Lou Solverson, recently back from Vietnam, who faces an all new “true crime” case. Filming is due to begin in January with the new series expected to air in the autumn.

★ Ryan Murphy is busy casting some big names in his two new TV series. First Cuba Gooding Jr and Sarah Paulson will star in American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson. Gooding and will play Simpson with Paulson as prosecutor Marcia Clark. The series is expected to debut on FX next year. Meanwhile Jamie Lee Curtis and Emma Roberts will lead the cast of Murphy's other new show Scream Queens, which he's making for Fox. The 15-episode anthology series revolves around a college campus that is rocked by a series of murders.

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Expendables Reunite: An interview with the old crew

Posted by luke | Fri, 12/12/2014 - 18:03

As The Expendables 3 makes its way onto DVD and Blu-ray in the UK, her's an interview with "old school" stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren ...

Can you tell us a little bit about the latest installment of The Expendables?
ARNIE:
“This is the ultimate action film,” says Schwarzenegger, who has starred in nearly two dozen. “But it also has a great emotional rollercoaster ride and interesting characters. Sly really knows how to tell a story and how to use each actor’s talents in the best possible way.”

How did it work having more big names than ever before?
TERRY:
“We have Rocky, The Terminator, Indiana Jones, The Transporter, Mad Max, Desperado and Blade,” former NFL football player-turned-actor, Crews says. “It’s Stallone’s version of The Avengers. It’s the biggest roster of action screen icons ever assembled, and these guys depend on brute strength, brains and determination to get the job done.
ARNIE:
“There was no fighting about who had more lines or more close ups. It’s really an ensemble piece that allows everyone to shine. We all have our own talents and to bring them all together was fantastic. There was a little bit of competition maybe, because everyone wanted to do their best and I think that was really good for the film.”

Tell us about Sylvester Stallone’s talent for creating these larger than life characters
JASON:
“He creates real characters with soul and heart,” Statham notes. “Superheroes in capes are great, but Sly writes about real heroes. He’s played a hero for his whole career. No one does it better.”
DOLPH: “Stallone has a knack for knowing what audiences like. He’s created a group of different, accessible and colorful characters that you can feel for. Adding all these new names brings another layer to it. When I am playing a scene with Wesley Snipes or Harrison Ford, I am going to work a little harder.”

Dolph can you reveal if you guys do these stunts yourselves?
DOLPH:
“We really can do this stuff,” he explains. “I was a karate champion. Jason was an Olympic diver. Stallone has done a lot of training. Arnold, of course, was Mr. Universe. Terry Crews played pro football. We got the MMA champ, Randy Couture, not to mention the new people. We have a lot of people with real skills. When Terry picks up a hundred-pound Gatling gun with one hand, that’s him doing it and I think that adds a certain reality to the whole experience.”

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Small-Screen Jabber 13-19 December

Posted by Louise Bolotin | Fri, 12/12/2014 - 16:48

By Louise Bolotin

Drama
Frances McDormand heads the cast as the eponymous Olive Kitteridge (Sun/Mon, Sky Atlantic, 9pm), HBO’s mini-series of Elizabeth Strout’s Pultizer Prize-winning 2008 novel. Set in a fictional coastal town in Maine, the gentle but very watchable tale focuses on the life of Olive, a misanthropic retired schoolteacher and her strained marriage to pharmacist Henry, as she copes with depression, bereavement, jealousy and her fractious relationships. Charlie Brooker’s superb dystopian series returns for it’s Christmas special – Black Mirror: White Christmas (Tues, C4, 9pm). Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, Oona Chaplin and Rafe Spall star in this creepy morality tale about “blocking” people in real life as well as social media and the detrimental impact of gadgetry. Brooker is an expert in throwing up tough questions about modern life – unmissable.

Stephen Fry and Kiefer Sutherland star in Marked (Thurs, Sky Arts 1, 10pm), a quirky and heartwarming festive tale. James is a debt-ridden dead-beat dad and husband at breaking point. Desperate for cash, he agrees to do a hit for his unpleasant next-door neighbour on his wife’s secret lover. But things aren’t quite as they appear and James unexpectedly encounters the last person he expects to see – Father Christmas. Seasonal fluff, but great to see Fry back in a comic role at last and he sparks off Sutherland beautifully in their big scene together.

Another chance to see: United (Sat, Drama, 9pm). Chris Chibnall’s TV film about  Manchester United's "Busby Babes" and the aftermath of the 1958 Munich air disaster. Stars David Tennant as assistant manager Jimmy Murphy and Dougray Scott as Matt Busby.

Factual
In an hour-long special, Panorama scrutinises the world’s biggest company in Apple’s Broken Promises (Thurs, BBC1, 9pm) and it’s not a pretty sight. An undercover reporter films inside a Chinese factory turning out the iPhone 6, and there’s an investigation into the hazardous Indonesian tin-mining industry, where children mine for one of the metals that makes a smartphone work. Conflict minerals and production line conditions raise uncomfortable human rights issues for Apple, whose luxurious HQ in Cupertino, California, is a world away.

Music
The divine Miss M belts out her big hits and new material in Bette Midler: One Night Only (Mon, ITV, 9pm). It’s her first-ever UK TV special, somewhat belated after nearly half a century in showbiz. In between her Grammy-winning bestsellers, she cracks jokes, shares memories and shares gossip and chat with host Joanna Lumley. The Joy of the Bee Gees (Fri, BBC4, 9pm) profiles the hit-making trio of brothers and their extraordinarily lengthy career. From the 60s pop hits to superstardom with their Saturday Night Fever disco soundtrack and the solo careers, it’s all here. Surviving sibling Barry Gibb is interviewed and there’s a fabulous array of luminaries chipping in to analyse their success – songwriter Guy Chambers, rock critic Alexis Petridis and even that old punk John Lydon. It’s followed by a Bee Gees clips compilation from the BBC archives. And the unlikeliest duo ever, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live (Fri, BBC1, 11.55pm) (above) work their way through a set of jazz and swing standards. Bennett was previously well matched with the late Amy Winehouse but it’s interesting to see how Gaga reconnects with singing rather than aiming to be a walking art installation. A shame it’s been dumped in the midnight slot, when it’s worthy of an earlier airing.

Comedy
We had a taster last week of the nominees and now it’s time to see the gongs handed out in The British Comedy Awards (Wed, C4, 9pm). There’s an impressive list of contenders, among them Lee Mack, Katherine Parkinson and Matt Berry, whose Toast series is also nominated. Other shows lined up for prizes are Rev, The Wrong Mans and Monty Python Live (Mostly). Jonathan Ross hosts and there are more laughs and awards on E4 straight after.

Entertainment
Last week, on BBC Question Time, Russell Brand dubbed Nigel Farage “the poundshop Enoch Powell”, rather accurate in my view. But when Steph and Dom Meet Nigel Farage (Mon, C4, 10pm) the politician gets a much softer ride. The two posh Gogglebox stars grill the Ukip leader during a booze-filled evening. Hideously compelling, whatever your views on Ukip, so book that seat on your sofa. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood get cooking in The Great British Bake Off Christmas Masterclass (Tues, BBC2, 8pm), with an array of sweet festive treats including a mouth-watering ginger cheesecake. TV goes introspective with The Fight for Saturday Night (Wed, BBC4, 9pm), in which Michael Grade explores how TV stations go head to head for the all-important ratings battles. So far ITV is winning, although X Factor has been nudged out by Strictly, and there’s a look at the BBC’s recent turkeys. Tune in to find out the ingredients of a hit entertainment show.

Sport
The betting odds are on for either Lewis Hamilton or Rory McIlroy to win Sports Personality of the Year (Sun, BBC1, 8pm) – Hamilton took F1 championship for the second time, while McIlroy won two major golfing championships. Clare Balding shares hosting duties with Gabby Logan and Gary Lineker, live from the SSE Hydro in Glasgow.

| Small-Screen Jabber 13-19 December | | delicious | digg | reddit | newsvine | google | technorati- | Louise Bolotin's blog | login to post comments |
 
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