Category Archives: Reviews

The Million Pound Necklace – Inside Boodles – Review

Luxury jeweller ‘Boodles’ is a family run affair with a pleasing company name. You can just imagine rich and fabulous ladies of leisure returning home to their husbands with a sweeping, ‘oh darling, I have just spent simply oodles at Boodles!’ and their husbands oddly replying, ‘darling, that’s totally fine’.

At ‘Boodles’, the customer service is impeccable. Read ‘nauseatingly sycophantic’. Rich housewives can spend the afternoon being fawned over, sipping champagne and trying on diamond bracelets, uttering clatteringly obvious things like, ‘oh this is just gorrrrrgeous’ while turning over their bony, tanned wrists over in the air.

The ‘Boodles’ customer, we’re told, is ‘someone who enjoys wearing jewellery’. They also seem to have expensive looking highlights, yachts docked in Monaco and I detected a Scandinavian look to a lot of them, but I don’t know if that’s important. Especially loyal customers are even allowed to borrow pieces from time to time, to wear on outings. Excuse me ‘Boodles’, but I enjoy wearing jewellery. Can I borrow something for tomorrow? I’m going to Sainsburys.

The programme focussed on Jody Wainright, son of ‘Boodles’ Chairman, and with the ridiculous job title, ‘Head of Stone Sourcing’, he looked like a cross between Bud Fox (Wall Street) and Ken (Mr Barbie). He announced proudly that he ‘love[d] emeralds’ (well who doesn’t?) and more than once during the hour long programme he likened the appearance of a huge diamond to a Fox’s Glacier Mint.

Jody started out by purloining a whacking load of huge emeralds and then the ‘Boodles’ team had a meeting to decide what to make them into. I would have suggested a City, for the Wizard of Oz to reside (naturally), but instead they went for a ‘suite’ of jewellery, with a ‘foliage motif’.

That done and dusted, another meeting was then called to discuss what could be next and Jody said he’d like to acquire a massive diamond. A really big one. Like a 14 carat. This went down very well with the ‘Boodles’ management team. ‘Good idea!’ *back slaps* I’m sorry, but I think I could easily get a job at ‘Boodles’ based on my observations of these meetings. ‘Let’s get a gigantic diamond! One HUNDRED carats!’. ‘Yes! I like the cut of your jib!’ Piece of cake.

Jody’s Diamond Dealer was Saul Goldberg, who had diamonds to sell. Why? I’m not too sure. On career day at school I must have missed the talk about becoming a Diamond Dealer, instead hearing only the option to do an apprenticeship in hairdressing. Goldberg’s back office looked like a scene from ‘The Merchant of Venice’. With the diamond cutter humming away in the background, Jody haggled for a handful of diamonds. ‘But what will ‘Boodles’ do with them?’ you ask. Hmm, I feel another management meeting coming on.

At the end of the programme, the emerald necklace was finished and hawk-eyed Jody inspected it closely, no doubt to see how much it looked like a Fox’s Glacier Mint. It passed the test, and for £2.8 million it can be yours. Available to buy from Harrods. I would, but I’ve already got a bag of Glacier Mints in my car.

Catch up on The Million Pound Necklace: Inside Boodles on 4seven tonight at 7pm

First published by TVGuide.co.uk

Louis Theroux’s LA Stories ‘City of Dogs’

Hooray for a new series from the documentary maker who first pointed out to us that Savile was a bit creepy. ‘I called my mother ‘The Duchess’. Here’s her wardrobe of clothes, just as she left them’. Shudder. Sorry, let’s not think about it. This three part series is about life in Los Angeles and this week it was ‘a journey through canine companionship’.

Now first, a warning. The programme contained upsetting scenes of dogs: bad, delinquent, street dogs, ‘weaponised’ dogs and dogs with ‘broken hearts’.

We met Cornelius Austen or ‘Dog Man’ who was a self confessed ‘pit-bull enthusiast’. Not the Hispanic rapper/singer-kind (wooo-eeee!), but the snarling, drooling, barking kind. Like a dog-themed Pied Piper, he cared for the abandoned dogs of LA, cruising round in his car and telling us, ‘there is no dog, I can’t get’. I bet he couldn’t get one of the Queen’s corgies. Or Lassie. When happening upon a particularly troubled dog, choking back tears, he translates for us the violent barking as, ‘I’m in pain. I have fleas. My heart is broken’. Dog Man himself was a friendly ex-gang member, who seemed the forlorn keeper of a broken heart. He’d lost his mother and father early on, and his relationship had recently broken down, seemingly in a dog-related dispute. She said, ‘all you do is help people with their dogs, and I’m tired of it’. We could sort of see her point. But Dog Man was undeterred – ‘I’m a dog man, and I’m going to be a dog man ‘til I die’. Girl, there’s just no reasoning with a man like that *Finger snaps in a ‘Z’*.

Then there was Malcolm, who kept a ‘weaponised dog’ for protection, under a sign that said ‘Beware of the Dog’. Somehow, the sign didn’t really emphasise the situation strongly enough. ‘Run for your life’ might have been more appropriate.

Retired fire-fighter Greg had a scary looking Doberman called Lexi whom he lovingly told, ‘I will never leave you’. He went on to tell us that he’d been abandoned as a child by his father. ‘Ohhhhh, ok’, we nodded solemnly, as a nation.

Max and Nancy were flaky, arty types who were the wholly unlikely owners of a little black and white nightmare called Casper. In the seemingly heart-warming story of how they came to own this dog they told us, ‘he was staring at us through the bars and (we) just fell in love with him’. On their very first family walk, they realised Casper had ‘some problems’. Seems like what they thought was the look of love was actually the look of, ‘I want to bite you to death’. As they cowered in the corner of their sitting room, it was clear that little Casper had completely ruined their lives. Louis pointed out that if a human behaved this way, they’d ‘be acting like a dick’ and to be fair, Casper was acting like a bit of a dick. Sadly, after attacking Nancy’s ankle, we learned that Casper had been put down and that they now had a much more suitable pet called Belvedere whowas much calmer and more like a cushion than a dog.

The South LA dog pound was a wretched place where dogs rarely came back out. Reminiscent of Death Row in Louis’s previous docu-series, ‘Miami Mega Jail’, dogs snarled and growled and one by one were selected for the long walk. It was sad to see these hopeless creatures, so mistreated that they were now too aggressive to coexist with humans. Kennel Manager Leslie said that all her staff take Xanax to cope with the sadness. Seemingly, whether you’re a dog or human being, a broken heart is a broken heart. Tune in next week for another likely sob-fest when Louis looks at how Americans handle death.

Louis Theroux’s LA Stories airs Sundays on BBC2 from 9pm

First published by TVGuide.co.uk

David Attenborough’s First Life – Review

While everyone else was having fun watching ‘The Voice’ Saturday night, I was learning about fossils. Well someone had to. They don’t make these programmes for fun you know.

Fortunately for me, this was the start of a two-part series which, if you didn’t catch it the first time round, is being shown again on BBC4. Ah, David Attenborough. Is there anything in this universe more wonderful than a series courtesy of this lovely old thing? He should have his own channel where his work is endlessly repeated like ‘Friends’. We love his reassuring voice, his witty narration and the way he shows us things we didn’t know existed. I think I’d like David Attenborough’s voice to be the last thing I ever hear, ‘Come towards the light, everything will be OK’. I certainly hope that while the BBC are sending him on these expeditions, they are simultaneously working out how to ensure he never dies. I noticed last night that he was walking with a bit of a limp. Gulp.

In ‘First Life’ David told us that he had travelled ‘around the world and back in time’ to make the programme. Nice work if you can get it. The standard camera shot when he says something is either of him crouching (which he’s a bit old for now) but increasingly it’s of him standing on a cliff, filmed from a helicopter. ‘Dave, we’re flying round again OK? Just keep standing there’.

‘First Life’ is a bit less exciting than the usual Attenborough documentary, mainly as all the creatures he describes have been dead for 3 billion years. And actually, they weren’t that great even when they were alive,. A slug, with one tubular leg. A piece of leaf. But nevertheless, it was an evolutionary start. Sort of like ‘Pop Idol’ ten years ago, as compared to ‘The Voice’. We’ve definitely improved.

With help of loads of paleontologists (I absolutely challenge you not to think about ‘Friends’), we saw how single cell organisms, without much going for them, became multi-cellular ‘Charnia’. A plant-like proto-animal, immobile, surviving mostly in the dark and on just bits of dissolved carbon. This made me feel nostalgic for my student days.

In Australia’s barrier reef, we learnt that sponges are alive. Did you know that? Wow, I think I’ve got some major apologising to do in the bathroom. To reduce a sponge to its individual cells, the paleontologists forced it through a sieve using a syringe, which apparently ‘seems brutal but is of no consequence the sponge’. OK, I’ve never done anything that bad.

Nothing gives you perspective like a documentary about fossils. Feeling a bit anxious? Think you might have screwed up at work? Concerned that you’ve piled on a few pounds over Christmas? Well this rock is 3 billion years old and this slug mashed into it, survived in the dark, at the bottom of the sea, by hoovering up bits of dust, so get a bloody grip. Life is sweet.

Creatures that look like bits of old chewing gum were never going to send your Saturday night into orbit, but it was still Attenborough. The teaser for episode two was, ‘there were about to be some animals’… OK Dave, I’ll give you one more chance.

Catch the second part of David Attenborough’s First Life on Saturday at 7pm on BBC4 – or if your Saturday is otherwise occupied, repeats are shown Wednesdays at 10pm on BBC4

First published by TVGuide.co.uk

Davina – Beyond Breaking Point – Review

Well, I’m utterly traumatised. This programme was a gruelling 60 minutes of Davina McCall trying to raise money for a worthy cause in Kenya. The cause in brief was explained to us through two people, the first a young woman, a drowsy baby slung on her back, who breaks stone all day in a scorching quarry for just a few pounds. The second a little girl, who spends long, hot days smashing rocks with a hammer to earn money, but who has a collection of tattered textbooks, from which she’s trying to learn on her own, hoping to become a doctor. Eeesh. OK Davina, say no more, go for it.

The darling of TV’s plan was to batter herself, both physically and emotionally, from Edinburgh to London, through rain, snow, up mountains, across lakes, cycling up 45 degree hills, and then we could donate to the Kenyan project. Oh it was awful. Why must charity be so cruel? Davina’s like our mum. Our big sister. Our best mate. So this was essentially the equivalent of watching David Attenborough (our much-loved national Grandad) being shoved into a bin by some bullies.

Davina’s husband Matthew, is even lovelier than Davina. All starry, blue eyes and a warm, soft beard, saying how proud he is of his wife. Oh, SOB. And she hadn’t even left yet. We prepared for tears and boy oh boy did Davina deliver them.

It was pretty much constant crying from the very beginning. Extra hormonal, it would seem, as the night before the challenge kicked off she told us that she’d just got her period. Slightly awkward for all the dads who were only watching for a bit of cycling. Shuffle. Go and make a cup of tea.

Day 1 was Edinburgh to Keswick and off she pedalled. I felt tired straight away. Hours of brutal pedalling into the wind, with ‘celebrity trainer’, Greg, pedalling furiously next to her on his skinny racing bike. We were told that his presence beside her was to ‘protect Davina from the wind’ but with that, Greg promptly fell off his bike and onto the wet road. Davina’s face crumpled for the 47th time that day. Poor Greg.

On Day 3 came the dreaded crossing of Lake Windermere. It seemed a misty and freezing prospect as surveyed from the jetty. ‘Fear has taken over,’ Greg warned us, as he climbed into his wetsuit. ‘I’m going to be ok,’ sobbed Davina. Greg gave her a firm clutch on the shoulders. ‘You’re going to be fine.’ 60 in metres into the swim, Greg swimming by her side like a faithful hound, Davina was in a right state. A few hours later, her near- lifeless body bobbed limply to the jetty and she was dragged out and treated for apparently terrifying-looking death symptoms. Shivering on her bed she croaked, ‘Is Greg alright? He said he was cold.’ Well I’m glad someone finally thought to remember poor Greg. Yes, thank you for asking, Greg’s fine.

By day 6, Davina was a bit less whiny. The sun was out and the massive-fringed Claudia Winkleman was there to cheer her on. Just the sight of that ridiculous fringe is enough to make anyone smile.

Finally, a shattered looking Davina ran across the Millennium Bridge and into the reassuring beard of her lovely husband. ‘I’ve got to stop crying!’ she shouted into the microphone. Yes. Yes you do. And can somebody please get Greg a glass of water?

Text the words FIVE or TEN to 70510 and donate that number of pounds to the women of Kenya. Go on Davina my girl. Well done.

First published by TVGuide.co.uk

Live from Space: Lap of the Planet – Review

Now, I’m a pragmatist. I know that in the scheme of things 90 minutes isn’t that long a time when you’re doing a lap of the ENTIRE PLANET. But settling down to ‘Live From Space’ felt like a lengthy commitment. Especially when ‘The Voice’ was on BBC1.
It got off to a great start with International Space Station (ISS) astronaut, Koichi Wakata, being interviewed in front of a massive sign that said ‘Hatch, EXIT’. All slightly unnerving and very cool. Impressive cloudscapes and recognisable landmass views made it feel exciting, like being on an aeroplane, but much better, as we were safely on our sofas.
However, within 4 minutes it was, unfortunately, just like being on aeroplane. My head pressing against the cold plastic window as I stared out at the clouds, I started fancying a gin and tonic. I was thinking about spending £35 on an aeroplane chicken sandwich. I was bored.
There was a massive delay with the live link. Again, I’m pragmatic, but it was a bit of a bore. Presenter, Dermot O’Leary did his best. ‘Koichi, what can you see right now?’ MASSIVE PAUSE. ‘Hi Dermot, yes I can still see the Andes’. Cut to blue sky, clouds, some dots far below. ‘Wow’, said Dermot. I was unconvinced, and I also had a strange inflight-urge to buy a teddy bear wearing flight goggles.
Strangely, the Twitter population seemed to be finding ‘Live From Space’ fascinating. Were we watching different shows? ‘This is amazing’, ‘Incredible’, ‘I’m transfixed’ they chorused.
Aside from tweets such as, ‘Show more northern lights you dicks’, Twitter did come up with some intelligent questions for @SpaceLive: ‘Do you have the concept of a day?’, ‘Can you see natural disasters happening?’, ‘How does your vantage point make you feel about International conflict?’ Sadly, Derm didn’t ask any of these. He did, however, ask the astronauts to do a few spins.
Best bits of the programme included an item on space junk and how it can smash up a space station (Hope Koichi wasn’t watching that bit), seeing the sun rise over the horizon and a moving account of 9/11 as seen from the ISS. There was touching footage of the commander playing the bugle for his dead friend that day. Always pack your bugle when going into space. You just never know.
Stephen Hawking was involved (of course) and had a terrifying prophetic warning, saying the human race are going to need a ‘Plan B’. By the end of the century he hopes we’re all living on Mars. What?! Errr, you guys go on ahead, I’ll catch you up.
With Stephen’s words of doom ringing ominously in our ears, Derm just breezed past it and cracked on. Keep it light guys. What a pro.
This programme really just confirmed what I have long suspected. Space is both infinitely magnificent and magnificently dull, all at the same time.

First published by TVGuide.co.uk

The Jacksons – A Review

The Jacksons. Not the Jackson 5, for obvious reasons (sob). Last night was their much anticipated (by me) reunion show in London. I’ve always been a huge fan of The Jacksons and when it comes to Michael I’m one of those crazy, crying, hysterical fans, so I was pretty excited to go last night but also apprehensive that it would be like watching a load of backing singers, flailing without a lead. Well I needn’t have worried…

The Jacksons Unity Tour
The show began with the obligatory warm up. A lady called Denise something or other, who told us afterwards that she’d be hanging around in the foyer, if we wanted to buy her CD. Sorry Denise, your singing was really good, but we’re Jackson fans.  It was a tough crowd and we were there for one reason only.

Additionally, poor Denise was hopelessly scuppered by the appearance of Peter Andre in the audience at the back. Pete tried to sneak in without notice, but word spread round the auditorium that he was there and before long there were camera flashes going off in his face and people scrambling to shake his hand. Oh well, it provided a bit of interest while we waited for the show to begin when finally, at 8:30… the lights went down, the four microphones appeared on stage and suddenly, there they were…

Subtly choreographed and effortlessly slick, it was immediately clear that these guys were old pros. Tito on guitar, looking thinner than you’d except, Jackie the oldest and quietest, yet somehow more charismatic than Jermaine (the usual peoples’ choice) and then Marlon. Super fans will tell you that Marlon used to get the belt from Old Papa Joe Jackson more than any other sibling – apparently for his failure to dance correctly. I watched very carefully to see if he screwed anything up and can tell you that I think Joe was a being a little bit harsh.

The set list was a fabulous mixture of 25 tracks: Old favourites like ABC, I Want You Back, Blame it on the Boogie and Never Can Say Goodbye combined with lesser known songs from their enormous back catalogue of albums such as Push Me Away and Man of War.

Sharing the singing was Jermaine, who took most of the high stuff, Marlon who gave it his best shot (bless him – WHACK) and Jackie, whose smooth tone is clearly made for back up but nevertheless, did a pretty good job. Marlon interspersed the singing with little speaking interludes, telling us his memories from The Ed Sullivan Show, or occasionally busting out a ‘Michael Jackson spin’ which looked about 0.1% as good as Michael, but maybe was one of those things that was probably Marlon’s idea to begin with and Michael probably pinched it, like brothers tend to do with your stuff.

What was especially nice to see, was how much the brothers obviously enjoyed doing the show. I guess 50 years of singing back up for your electrified, super talented brother and then finally taking centre stage, was bittersweet.

the jacksons unity tour

Of course, it was unavoidable that Michael Jackson would feature heavily in the show. But it was done not with mawkishness, but with ownership. The space left by Michael was filled with tributes, images, glittery costumes and songs and the concert was not only a beautiful memorial to a clearly much loved relative, but a spectacular showcase of the group’s collective talent.

Jermaine sang Gone too Soon, to a background of Motown clips, stills and later photos of Michael looking unfortunately, progressively more drowsy. The obligatory kiss to the sky and subsequent applause, that lasted just that little bit longer than usual, was heartfelt, not indulgent. This was and is a real family.

The musicians forming the band were introduced towards the end, where they each took their turn to show off. Needless to say, these guys were the very best of the best. From guitars, to drums, to percussion to keyboards, not only did they sparkle but they made the Jacksons shimmer against a back drop of jaw-dropping musical ability.

The two hour show ended with Michael’s hits Wanna Be Starting Something and Don’t Stop Til you Get Enough. The audience, who’d been on their feet for most of the show, were enraptured. The Jackson’s had them in the palm of their hand, which was a situation they were more than familiar with.

I’m glad I saw them live for the first, and what I suspect will be the last, time (Jackie is 61 years old, not that you could tell) and I can certainly see why they’ve stuck around for so long. In a boring era of transient, vapid and disappointing pop music, where a fast buck is more important than a developed talent, The Jacksons are real life singing relics from a time when music was really music. Ten out of ten from me and if you’re in Germany or Australia where the tour is rolling onto, I’d recommend catching this special moment in music before it’s over.

Beyonce Dazzles at Glasto

Old skool critics were worried that Glastonbury would not be ready for the jelly. Some were opposed to welcoming a headliner so self-evidently and completely bootylicious. Some would have preferred that the boss-eyed drone Thom Yorke had had more prominence, or that King Bono could have taken over the stage (world) and churned out more of his old hits while we swayed along obediently. But nevertheless, the Beyonce extravaganza was allowed to go ahead and by the end, it was hard to see how anyone, even the most serious of music listeners (it’s meant to be FUN you dreary bores), can have thought it to be anything other than a spectacular show.

She burst onto the stage like a golden fireball of hair and energy and at first appeared to have forgotten her trousers. We quickly realised with collective relief that the gold ensemble was actually designed to show off her ultra-thighs to their most intimidating and advantageous. Glitteringly gorgeous in her gold jacket and black spangled boots, Beyonce whipped up the crowd and had them on side from the very first minute, launching into fan-favourite Crazy in Love.

‘You are witnessing my dream!’ she informed the delighted crowd of muddied onlookers. ‘Tonight, we are ALL rockstars!’ to which a cheer rose joyfully from the crowd – Not really true though is it Beyonce? YOU are quite clearly a rockstar. You have a gold jacket and a voice that can melt the coldest heart, but we’re not rockstars. I’m at home in my PJs with a cup of decaf, and they haven’t had a shower since Tuesday and are gearing up for another night with their heads in the slurry. Oh well. As if realising this fact she suddenly shouts ‘I want you to forget all your troubles and lose yourself in this music!’ and with that she begins to perform ‘Single Ladies’.

The ‘Single Ladies’ routine is memorising. We already know it is from the music video. As Kayne famously insisted it is, ‘the greatest video of ALL time. Of ALL TIME’ – However, I do think poor Kanye was just another statistic in the consequences of Beyonce’s power-thighs. We secretly thought that famous dance routine was maybe all done with clever editing and some mirrors, but now 170,000 eyes are fixed on the ultra-thighs as they whirl around and jerk this way and that and then,  ‘Ladies! Put your hand in his FACE and SING, wuh oh oh, oh oh OH oh oh’. Well this sure got the audience going. Men, who had so far been quite enjoying things, suddenly fell ashen as 100,000 women started giving their faces some major Gloria Gaynor attitude.

Quickly though, it passed and Beyonce went on to perform Naughty Girl (good) and then Baby Boy with a peculiar guest appearance from Bristol rapper, Tricky. This was the only part of the show that seemed to go massively wrong. Tricky looked like he had just been given some horrifying news and then been pushed through the stage curtains. ‘Mr Tricky, we’re afraid the Inland Revenue are repossessing your house and your cat has been found in the washing machine…it was on ‘woollens’. We’re very, very sorry’. He completely froze up. I think he perhaps wasn’t quite ready (career-wise) to contribute to a Beyonce mega-concert and looked a little sick and not a little COMPLETELY paralysed with fear. She did her best to help him along but after around 2 minutes of mass audience cringing, he disappeared from the stage… Probably to have his head kicked in by Beyonce’s management team.

Bee ran through all her big hits and it was a very good reminder of just how many of them there actually are. ‘If I Were a Boy’ showed off her  vocal talent. There was more audience participation fun with ‘Irreplaceable’ and then a jolly medley of Destiny’s Child hits. At one point she went off stage and her back up group, ‘The Mammas’ sidled to the front of the stage, like the three hyenas from Lion King, purring and muttering something about the men in the audience looking ‘damn fiiiiiine grrrrl’ – the men folk spent the 90 minute set in the most confusing and paradoxical state of being encouraged to dance, look at Beyonce’s memorising power-thighs and then being told that they were replaceable and to hit the road. Such is Beyonce’s message. Poor Jay Z’s head must be spinning.

We assumed Beyonce had disappeared off stage for some kind of outfit change, or maybe to get some trousers, but when she emerged in the same gold jacket we guessed she was actually just being given oxygen or possibly was having a heart attack.

No matter. Beyonce doesn’t need to change outfits to keep our attention. She then sang an utterly beautiful cover of Etta James’s ‘At Last’ which she’d historically performed at the inauguration of President Obama – and lest we forget that fact, there was footage of the special moment on the screen to which the Glastonburyers would cheer their approval whenever Obama flashed up. ‘Yaaaaay! We approve of your president! The vibe is very chilled here at Glastonbury! Nuff respect to the brothers and sisters!’
Next it was quirky current single ‘Run the World’ – Nothing to say other than, ‘who run this mutha? GIRLS’.

And then to finish, an understandably (after all the love she was getting) quite emotional looking Beyonce was guided down the stairs by an extremely cautious security guard, whilst singing ‘Halo’ and came to the railing to touch the willing hands of some very wide-eyed fans. Some wide with pure adoration, but most wide from dropping so much acid since they’d arrived on Wednesday.

So to conclude, from my PJs and behind my cup of decaf, Beyonce was outstanding and by that I mean literally that she stands out. Streets ahead of her peers in the industry and clearly from a different planet to the rest of the world’s 28 years olds. A planet where ultra-thighs laugh in the face of trousers and men cower behind rocks crying, with question marks floating above their heads. Who run(s) the world? Ummm…looks like it’s definitely Beyonce.