Category Archives: TV

The Great Interior Design Challenge Final 2017

Series 4 of my favourite cosy, slow television show painted itself off our screens last night after only nine episodes, six fewer than the previous series.

Daniela, a stylish photographer and mum of two, locked cushions with Oliver, a 49 year old hairdresser, redecorating three rooms each in a castle on the Kent coast. The 19th century castle was built by Lord Avery, inventor of the bank holiday and represented by a crest that depicted a pelican, “the symbol for caring and self-sacrifice” according to host Tom Dyckhoff. Pelican heraldry: you didn’t get topics like that on Bake Off (may God rest its soggy bottom).

Oliver’s rooms were much like himself: warm and friendly. A tiny galley kitchen was opened up by replacing some of the cabinets with open shelving that displayed crockery in a variety of textures and colours. An oversized clock raised the eye to appreciate the high windows. I loved the freshness of the colours and the sharp black and white laminate flooring. The bedroom was as opulent as requested – deploying a majestic palm print wallpaper in a burnished gold and moody turquoise, taken over the edges of the panelling to great effect. The four poster bed certainly created a mood of warm opulence; despite the presence of a chandelier and a walnut bedside table he still somehow made it look masculine. The study was a warm, welcoming room; a place you wanted to spend time although the colours were a little off to me, light blue with mustards and greeny cushions, hmmm. In fact, there was altogether too much blue in the latter stages of this competition. Oliver’s semi-final with Nicholas looked like it was being bankrolled by a dastardly Pantone salesman who only traded in the colour of sadness.

Daniela’s brief for her home-owners’ master bedroom was to create a spa feel. She created a clean room: dark stain on the fantastic parquet floorboards she uncovered underneath a drab carpet and crisp white, white, white everywhere else. I loved the glamour of the light fitting, created for around £45 by attaching fringing to a large circle of MDF. It looked great apart from the staples still showing at the top. The application of a ribbon to cover them would have sharpened the finish. The room was lovely but lacking colour, a little oomph.

The living room was dominated by a giant likeness of Napoleon which I am still deciding whether I liked or not. A bespoke, checked TV cabinet looked chic yet a little sterile. A large right angle sofa went down well with the home-owners and the overall affect was radical and inventive. Perhaps so inventive it left me a little unsure, but it has certainly stuck in my memory. I think Daniela’s mood boards were so glamorous and sumptuous I was expecting more of a wow factor.

The kitchen, again a tiny galley, was transformed with a metallic wallpaper on the cabinets to reflect the floor and give a smart illusion of space. There was a playful mixture of textures and materials including a cool marble effect wallpaper. The modern flash of dark orange glass on the exposed shelves was impeccable styling.

Daniela was fierce and won the trophy, as expected. No dinky dolls’ house trophy anymore. Like poor Sophie Robinson it has been traded in for something altogether sleeker. Previous full-time judge Sophie returned as a guest, feathers ruffled. She adopted the approach of a peacock and attacked with a maximum colour offensive: a TV-plasma-melting fuchsia mixed with a cerulean skirt. Plus giant scissor earrings. Sophie Robinson I salute you.

I still love this show but I wish the series had been longer to brighten more of my bleak January and I found the chemistry between original judge Daniel Hopwood and Kelly Hoppen unbalanced. She was too domineering and he too nervous of her. He and Sophie had a more equal chemistry but perhaps that will improve on future series.

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GIDC Final 2016

With a tsunami of creatives’ tears, The Great Interior Design Challenge 2016 brushed itself off our screens last night. Lucy and Sarah had three rooms each to transform in an 18th century neo-gothic stately home in Surrey. They were furnished with £4,000, 2 builders, 2 decorators, 4 days and a friend each for the mammoth task. Sarah’s homeowner asked for an elegant design, inkeeping with the period of the building. So naturally what she got was what looked like a modern, oriental hotel on paper, full of dark green – again! There were objections, tears, hugs, negotiations and eventually a compromise was reached. Sarah has always played quite fast and loose with the briefs and this time she pushed the client too far. However, the room she had to finish by day two (a dastardly surprise sprung by the judges) seemed to embolden the homeowner. She had asked for country house hotel elegance and she got it. The room was beautiful anyway and lilac walls, black accents, dark florals and a suitably opulently dressed bed created something quite wonderful, with a French/oriental feel.

Lucy’s surpirse finsish room on the other hand – a dining rioom – was chaotic, the walls loaded with two different bird prints, stripes, crimson and grey.

The guest judge this time was Kelly Hoppen: a shot of her foot, clad in zeitgeist Versace, dangling out of the car testament to her taste and/or massive wealth. The guest judges have been interesting: the dynamic between louche, playful Daniel and warm, fastiduous Sohpie is so well worn that they seemed a bit nervous with the guests, eager to please. I found that quite sweet.

And so to the big final reveals which were… well, a little disappointing in all honesty.  Lucy’s drawing room was clean and sprightly in greys with a zing of acid green; I liked the silver leaf on the chimney breast which added suitable splendour. It was ok, it was nice. The bedroom was not for me, there was more acid green and it was plain. A double chest of drawers had been split asunder to create two giant bedside tables which was… something to do. Lucy was industrious and enegetic but her finish was not quite there, shown on the bespoke drawing room lampshade. Bespoke? I think it should have kept its mouth shut.

But we knew that Lucy was the lesser designer – I was expecting more from Sarah. The drawing room I found a little sparse, with white and emerald green and myriad animal prints. I know that doesn’t sound sparse, but it was a very big room. Kelly found it “spectacular” but I just didn’t see it, I found it plain, not lavish enough. The dining room was tasteful but it just didn’t have that “wow” impact I had been expecting and the music was telling me to have. I think the compromises Sarah had had to make ultimately compromised her schemes. She won though, deservedly so. In this series there always seems to be acres of talent between the winner and runner up. Not to diminish Lucy, she was a talented amateur, but Sarah was a professional: bold, confident, exciting. She was the clear winner ever since the futuristic putty room. Though I would have liked to have seen what Frankie would have done with the rooms of the final, I think he could have done something truly special. There was an element of grandeur missing from the rooms.

I’ve been much more taken with previous finals – where was the 3D wallpaper, the orange baize for a pool table, the 60s inspired green and white child’s room? I still love this series though and feel inspired to get creative myself.

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iPlayer gems

Sticking to the topic of TV, there are two shows on iPlayer at the moment that I strongly recommend checking out. The first is Frankie Boyle’s Election Autopsy, filmed at Wilton’s Music Hall with analytic/comedic help from guests Katherine Ryan and Sara Pascoe. To my friends reading outside the UK: Boyle is a divisive figure, his comedy is dark and uncompromising, cynical and challenging but he is also very funny and incisive, especially to those with a liberal/libertarian bent. Let me put it this way: if you have ever voluntarily listened to a Michael Buble album and haven’t vomited up your spleen, his comedy is probably not for you. If you find the world an often bewildering, hypocritical and ailing place he may be for you. His is dark lampooning for dark, bizarre times. Watch for the closing diatribe on Tory voters that leaves the audience unsure and uncomfortable.

On a lighter note, Murder in Successville is one of the silliest and therefore funniest things I have ever seen on TV. It is the surreal brainchild of 6’7″ comic hulk Tom Davis, a man reminiscent of Matt Berry blown up to 200% scale. Davis plays DI Sleet, a hard-boiled if hapless detective in Successville, a fictional metropolis populated by twisted versions of celebrities played by impressionist comic actors (Sleet’s boss is a whiny, petulant take on Gordon Ramsey). Each week, a celebrity is immersed in this world to solve a murder of a “celebrity”. They have no idea what to expect and their reactions to the bonkers world Davis has concocted is where a lot of the comedy comes from. The first episode featured Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing and made me weak in the belly with laughter. It would be pointless to try and describe it – I attempted with a friend who usually has a similar sense of humour to me only to be met with a look of bemusement bordering on alarm. I expect she thought I’d finally lost it when I tried to paint the scene of Davis and Laing tied together on chairs attempting to get to a plate of cheese.

The latest episode featured Dragon Deborah Meaden, who was surprisingly hilarious. Despite a gigantic disparity in stature, Meaden immediately took control and treated Davis like an errant buffoon with impressive deadpanning. Basically, please watch this. Davis is a comic colossus.

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TV Review: Masterchef final

Masterchef may as well be renamed Mastercaress, for the amount of hugging that went on. Especially with slight, sweet, eccentrically moustachioed Tony, who for some reason proved irresistibly huggable to everyone, especially the chefs. Although the show ended with an awkward three-way hug with Emma and winner Simon embracing and Tony lurking, trying to get in on it.

Another series, another monumentally sentimental, over-wrought final. They could have cut at least half an hour from last night’s final (BBC One, 8.30pm). Did we really need to see Simon fastening his sock suspenders? The winner was announced to a soundtrack of an excruciating cover of Take On Me, turned up obnoxiously high in the mix.

So, the final three each produced a three course meal in three hours and sat in front of John and Greg, who surpassed themselves in pouring hyperbole over the contestants. Although, to be fair, the food looked amazing. Emma cooked her signature Middle Eastern style with an essay of ingredients (sumac featured heavily) in her scallop starter, lamb tagine main and tart pudding. Tony unnerved Greg with his fish and fig starter combination, almost pulled it back with his “regal” guinea fowl and finished with a selection of parfait, the blackberry one turning out grey and looking more like something you’d find in a stationary cupboard than a Michelin-starred restaurant. Tony scored points with me by using alien-vegetable romanesco -google it, it’s awesome. I felt for Tony, he was fantastic but there were a few too may bum notes for him to win. In the end it was adorable-faced, Oldham-based data man Simon who triumphed and rightly so. His plates of octopus, pigeon and tutti frutti looked like works of art.

And that’s that. I enjoyed this week’s final episodes, where the contestants worked with bombastically eccentric Italian chef Massimo Bottura, who is always entertaining, and joined a couple of crazy Swedish pyromaniacs in their Stockholm restaurant. I’d be willing to see more of sexy Gustav and his smoked tomatoes on my screen. I’m astounded that Tony’s moustache survived the whole process. Yes, it’s well-trod television ground but it still entertains me, I think because of the high-camp seriousness with which everyone treats what is basically rustling up tea for two gluttonous middle-aged men . No one’s curing ebola here, but you’d never know that from the histrionics, gurning and sweating. And that’s just the judges. A drama-drenched production as always.

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Did you see…? Picasso: Love, Sex and Art

An interesting film on the prolific painter’s even more prolific love life, tangled with muses and strewn with broken hearts. He got around for a little guy – it shows how artistic genius and intensity of character can serve as better aphrodisiacs than traditional good looks. It describes his life-long artistic and carnal obsession with the female form and illuminates his work while also entertaining.


Did you see… The Big Painting Challenge?

We’ve had the Great British Bake Off, Sewing Bee, Allotment Challenge and Interior Design Challenge. Now we have the Big Painting Challenge (Sunday, 6pm, BBC One). Now I like all of the aforementioned, except the allotment one (I have killed two cacti. Cacti. One met a particularly undignified end after I accidentally tipped it out of its pot, basically breaking it, and it refused to recover, perhaps feeling that succumbing to the inevitable was preferable to a life with a cack-handed plant murderer. So, for the sake of our chlorophyll-filled friends I stay away from growing stuff and its affiliated programming) but was left unsure about this show. It is essentially Watercolour Challenge resurrected. While the others offer tangible ways of judging – for instance, if a cake can be used a doorstop it’s probably not good; if you can wear an item of clothing then the sewing’s worked – art is much more subjective. You can critique the technique but does worthwhile art always lie in the technique? There were talented people there, especially the soldier, whose first painting was best about halfway through the time, before he bungled it up by giving the statue a weird face. I felt very sorry for the first casualty, Melvyn. Being rejected for your creativity just seemed more of a personal insult than having your buns dissed. I also worry where this influx of hobby programming will end. It’s just about under control at the moment but I feel there may be an impending tidal wave of increasingly spurious ones. Great British Pickle Off? Great British Campanologist? Great British Ball of Twine? Great British Ship in a Bottle? The Big Whittle Off? Feel free to take any of these by the way, BBC – call me.

I don’t get The Casual Vacancy at all. I think maybe JK Rowling’s writing is best seen through the prism of fantasy as the village of Pagford and its inhabitants do not bear resemblance to any England I’ve ever known. I guess that it means to be social commentary, but if you are aiming for that, and for realism, then if the dial is even a millimetre out it may as well be miles out as the viewer’s belief is gone.

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Ender-geddon: Sequins and sociopathy

EastEnders celebrated 30 years of the misery and melodrama it does so well with an exhausting extravaganza of sequins and sociopathy in a week of live shows. It could rightly be termed a “kitchen sink drama”, in that they threw everything but the kitchen sink at it. Albert Square stalwart Dot was carted off by the feds, and presumably into retirement, after turning herself in for the murder of her irredeemably bad son, Nick Cotton (a modern day Sweeney Todd with a penchant for smack and Superkings). She didn’t actually kill him, rather she let him die of an overdose of the heroin she had scored for him while he was holed up in the burnt out shell of Kat and Alfie’s old home for reasons too convoluted to even try to explain. Suffice to say, Nick’s nefarious deeds in this, his umpteenth reign of darkness, included faking his own death, trying to kill his son’s fiancée, seducing Mrs Doyle off of Father Ted and deeming a Swiss roll a suitable place to stub out a fag butt (the swine). And that was just in the last few months.

There was the by now de rigueur unexpected birth in an inconvenient place as Kim went into labour two months early in the Vic’s loos, having been induced by a poisonous screeching match with Denise. In a circle-of-soap-life moment, Sonia did the delivering. That is, after she had recovered from the indignity of having had her face shoved in the wedding cake (oh yeah, there was a wedding going on) by an outrageously drunk Kat, who lurched round the square variously puking, seducing and bawling, mostly all at once. Double Cockney Danny Dyer marauded about like a murderous gorilla in an elegant coat after seeing Dean had returned. Dean had a psycho beard and a mind to blow the Vic up from the cellar but was stopped by Mick’s boot. On his throat. Nancy tried to approach the police dealing with Dot to say “there’s a body” – er yeah, you’re going to have to be more specific there Nancy – but to no avail, they’d taken down Albert Square’s big don and that was enough for them.

Old faces returned in Christian, Tanya (whose face after fumbling one of her first lines was the textbook definition of stricken panic) and raspy-voiced temptress Kathy. And finally, there was a flashback to Lucy’s final night where she stomped around in a suit arguing with everyone: an inexplicable altercation with Billy over fish, an incomprehensible argy bargy with Ben and Jay about Miami… Denise had a go, as did Abi Branning. Enders strayed into the realm of experimental post-modernism by pushing the limits of how many times one actor can turn round and say “oh, it’s you.” Lucy had had the world’s most poised descent into drugs hell – wearing a chignon with not a hair out of place and suspiciously competently applied eyeliner (more of Rainie please to show how it’s really done) but apparently had been enough of a pain to end up being bludgeoned to death. The culprit turned out to be… her 10 year old brother Bobby. I’d been suspicious of him ever since he did a creepy reading from Winnie the Pooh at the wedding. It seems the little guy had absorbed all the tumult the lovely Square had to offer: the slanging, the shouting, the many, many, many murder cover-ups, the cheating, the lying and the terrible, terrible furnishings and had become this century’s answer to Damien off of The Omen.

I was left with a few questions such as, what was Phil up to, scurrying about on the side-lines of this high-octane nonsense? Why is Linda’s surname Carter when she and Mick aren’t married? Will we get to see more of drunk Kat? What was Billy going to do with all that fish? And will there be so many murder cover-up intrigue plots that eventually Enders will just have to cover all of itself up and be half an hour of blankness?

It was brilliant, ludicrous, insane stuff. I was surprised, and perhaps a little disappointed, that the fireworks at the end of Friday’s episode didn’t take out the Vic. Thank you for entertaining me for all these years Enders but now I need a lie down.

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