(Just so you know, I’m not going to review every Top Gear episode, but I had strong enough opinions of this episode to warrant a My Thoughts blog.)
The first episode of this new, eighteenth series of Top Gear was to be, for many once-loyal fans (myself included), a make-or-break episode. Cock it up, and we’d lose interest and leave it to suffer a plunge in ratings.
The producers (to whom the TG brand is worth millions) and presenters knew this very real threat. Though part of a joke, Jeremy Clarkson made no secret of the controversy that’s followed the disastrous Christmas India special, opening the show in simple terms: “Now, even though this programme has taken a terrible battering in the newspapers in recent weeks, we have made every effort we possibly can to make sure this series is unaffected.”
Indeed, the preview tape looked similar to those of the old series, with beautiful photography, great co-presenter chemistry, and a wide range of upcoming films included. But as the first episode progressed, it became obvious that it was not all ‘same old same old’. In addition to the addition of a plinth in the studio for the Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust from Series 14, there were far greater changes in programme feel.
In recent series (and most noticeably in that Christmas 2011 episode), the style of the main films has felt hideously patronising, where it seemed we were meant to fall for the blatantly-staged, unfunny ‘accidents’ (many of which, like the crude ‘Eat English Muff‘ and ‘Sh IT For Your Company‘ train stunts, were merely repeats of virtually identical stunts from previous series).
BBC Films, 105 minutes
When I saw a film called Nativity on the BBC iPlayer earlier today, I sat down to watch it on our internet-connected television in the living room. One by one, the rest of the family joined me in watching this hilarious, 2009 movie.
The plot for Nativity! is, to say the least, basic, with two rival schools competing for a five-star review of their Christmas nativity play in the local paper. But despite the pretty inevitable ending, the film’s not boring – it’s much quicker to get going than Son Of Rambow (another film aired on the Beeb this Christmas), for example, and much funnier too.
The film begins with three drama students – Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman), his girlfriend Jennifer Lore (Ashley Jensen), and their friend Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) – dressed as elves, waiting in the wings for the Midlands Academy of Dramatic Art Christmas production. Fed up, they briefly describe their plans for the future, with Lore hoping to go into producing, and Maddens hoping to teach, met by an unimpressed look from his two co-stars: "Those who can’t act, teach," they say, "and those who can’t teach, teach primary."
Due to internet connectivity problems, this post was posted after the advertised date and ‘backdated’.
This evening, a choral project that I’ve been a part of since last September came to an end, though the real climax was a couple of days ago at the Royal Albert Hall. Taplow Youth Choir (something I’m very proud to be a member of) were given the opportunity to appear in the BBC Proms alongside other youth choirs from across the country, in a one-off performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah. The 1846 oratorio was to be conducted by Paul McCreesh, starring two professional choirs (the Gabrielli Consort and the Wrocklaw Philharmonic) and a huge orchestra.
Throughout the year, we’d worked on a few of the sections from Elijah and even performed some of them on our highly successful tour of Catalonia. However, there was still a great deal still to learn, so towards the end of the summer term each participating choir had a few several-hour-long rehearsals with Mr McCreesh on its own. Finally, on Thursday (25 August), fresh from collecting my GCSE exam results, all six choirs arrived at the Watford Colosseum to begin the final rehearsals.