I love British comedy. Not all British comedy – I just cannot bring myself to turn on Mrs Brown’s Boys – but a lot of it. Sometimes, someone in the US also likes a British sitcom and then everyone starts to worry; at least if the person liking it is a producer. Episodes is a British/US collaboration on just this and it is marvellous.
Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Grieg) are a successful British writing team who have just won a BAFTA for their comedy Lyman’s Boys. Seduced by an American producer, they head to Hollywood to create an American version, and it is a disaster at every step – starting by replacing the main actor, Julian Bullard (played by the recently very sadly deceased Richard Griffiths) with youthful American star Matt Le Blanc (playing a wonderful fictionalised version of himself.
I loved it. It’s clever and witty and very hilarious. The cast is fabulous, not least the brilliant Daisy Haggard doing the most amusing faces as the head of comedy. I think the show is watching just for her reactions. Brilliant.
Niki Lauda and John Hunt were apparently famous for their rivalry as Formula One drivers in the 1970s. I wasn’t aware of this, but that’s not really surprising given my lack of interest in sport. Two men with similar backgrounds but different motivations, both wanting to be World Champion. I don’t want to give away any spoilers for those, like me, who have no idea of the events that occurred in 1976, but it makes for a very exciting story.
Yet. A bit like the Senna documentary, the rivalry interested me, but not enough to be totally engaged. When it came down to the wire, I really didn’t care who won. Perhaps it was that I didn’t really like either character. They both had the arrogance that is possibly required to be elite in a sporting arena. James Hunt, depicted by Chris Helmsworth, is reckless, hotheaded and annoying. Niki Lauda played by Daniel Bruhl, is calculated, precise and humourless (mostly. Ah, but when Lauda finds his humour, this was my favourite part of the film).
It’s definitely worth watching, and I think if you like cars and racing and especially if you are familiar with the story, you will love this film. For me, just a few too many cars.
Ah, Douglas Adams. Most people remember him fondly for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – indeed, I was obsessed with the original BBC TV adaptation as a child, and loved the books when I was older. Then, along came Dirk Gently – Holistic Detective. Two books – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul. When I heard that these had been adapted into a television series, I was very excited. Then to hear it would feature Stephen Mangan as Dirk Gently, I was even more excited. I thought he was fabulous in Green Wing, a series I really must watch again.
The pilot episode was pretty good. There was all of the insanity I remember from the books somehow wrapping up into a solution. However, the rest of the season didn’t work so well for me. The mysteries were interesting and a bit nuts, but I don’t remember Dirk Gently being as condescending and nasty in the books as he appears in the television show. In addition to this, there is an over-lying story of the character of Richard MacDuff as Gently’s sidekick/partner. In the final episode, MacDuff stands up to Gently, but I felt that there was no real justification to him having stayed with Gently for the previous episodes, or for him to suddenly stand up to him.
It’s a shame. I loved the books and had high hopes for the television show, but was very disappointed. Now, I want to read the books again, but I am concerned that I may have lost the love. Is it worth revisiting a loved book in the fear that it is not all you remember?