Saga and Sofia

*UPDATED! Watch the last clip below only if you’ve seen the whole of the final series!*

 

We can now bask in a fourth series of The bridge on BBC2, more noir than ever.* It’s one of the great dramas “like ever“.

I realized it’s obligatory for TV cops to be damaged, but it remains a mystery to me how Saga could get, and keep, a job that demands such skills of personal interaction, at least a feigning of empathy (contrast the equally magnificent Sofie Gråbøl in The killing—no less troubled, but not hampered by Asperger’s).

This interview with the divine Sofia Helin is one of the best bits of acting since Klaus Kinski playing himself, as she transforms her personality at the flick of a switch:

And we can relish many more interviews with her on youtube too.

This clip is a tad niche, but her diction is a revealing aspect of Saga’s personality:

And a drôle, not to say macabre, language lesson:

To imbibe the passion the series generates, try Twitter #THEBRIDGE4, and the BTL comments under the Guardian recaps.

But don’t take my word for it—here’s a critique of an earlier series from Philomena Cunk, where she explains the technicalities of foreign languages:

The theme tune complements the mood. Its lyrics have defeated most people—here are some fine mondegreens:

BTW, I note that the timbre of the singer is akin to that of Henrik’s voice!

*Watch the clip below only after you’ve seen the whole of the final series!*

Here’s a tribute to the Saga–Henrik relationship:

 

*Meanwhile if you have a month to spare right now, the first three series are also available! Not to mention The killing

Inspiration: women’s football

WFA

How wonderful to see the Women’s FA Cup Final on BBC1, showing that progress continues despite misogynistic reactions around the globe. The schoolgirls who, this time last year, wrote those brilliant letters to the FA (“We aren’t brainless Barbie dolls”) will be delighted—not a pink fluffy football in sight.

Among numerous posts under the gender tag, see e.g. “Little Miss Mozart“; Vera and DorisCunk on femininism; You don’t own me; and how men moved the goalposts for women’s football in medieval China.

I dunno, they’ll be demanding control over their own bodies next”.

A selection of recent posts

 

To help navigate through a plethora of recent posts, this is just a selection of some of the more substantial ones:


For more, click on MY BLOG in the top menu and scroll down…

Two geniuses

 

It’s all very well me swanning off to China (see flurry of posts since 14th March) and Germany, but one has to keep up with the domestic news. OK, the Windrush affair is shameful, but on a lighter note:

  • The imminent departure of Arsène Wenger from Arsenal has finally produced the tributes he deserves (for his classy send-off, see here). Football will never see his like again. And if you haven’t noticed my post on Daoist football, then DO!
  • And meanwhile in the snooker, the gorgeous and inspired Ronnie is back in action!!! I’m getting this in early (his next match is on Friday), as one never knows, but beholding him is always a thing of magic. Whether or not he progresses further, here’s my occasional reminder that you just have to watch his 147 maximum break from 1997—I will accept no excuses.

And I have another episode of Cunk in Britain to catch up on too!

Cunk pulls it off again

YAY!!! Much as I love China, you can’t beat coming home to a new BBC TV series of Philomena Cunk (now immortalized with her own tag on this blog!)—this time reflecting, topically, on the history of Britain, in a noble tradition stretching way back to the mists of time with 1066 and all that.

All the trademarks of her inimitable style (scripted largely by Charlie Brooker) are here, not least her fatuous interviews with bemused experts.

Episode 1 takes us through Britain’s early history:

Dinosaurs came in many flavours, just like kettle chips.

On the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset (“the second crudest hill in British history, after Benny”):

Before Snapchat, hills were the best way to distribute dick pics to a wide audience.

I’m very keen on “middle-evil” (cf. “femininism“), and intend to adopt it. Admiring the Bayeux Tapestry, she observes:

It’s just like being there—but in wool.

I’ll need several viewings, as by the time I’ve scraped myself off the floor in tears of helpless mirth I’ve missed yet another bon mot.

Episode 2 does for the Tudors [is that it?—Ed.]:

Hampton Court Palace—a building so impressive, it has to be accompanied by harpsichord music.

Drake—the first person to circumcise the globe.

As a Puritan, Cromwell outlawed popular entertainment—effectively turning the entire country into BBC4.

Holding further earnest interviews with the likes of Alice Roberts, Ashley Jackson, and Shini Somara, all suitably shell-shocked:

How did Sir Walter Raleigh invent the potato?

she moves boldly on to Horrorshow Nelson (unable to clap, possibly a prototype for Rod Hull and Emu) and Napoleon Cumberbatch.

The third episode, helpfully called The third episode, takes us on a heady journey right up the 19th century,

a time when British creativity was at its peak, bringing us everything from great works of art to great works of train.

Again hapless experts find themselves fielding probing questions like

If Shelley’s one of the greatest poets in English literature, how come nobody gives a shit about him today?

Who was the man from Nantucket that By Ron wrote about in his poem?

She moves deftly on to the novels of Jane Austen,

filled with words it’s almost impossible to care about.

And the “Industrial Revalation”:

Workers did long, thankless hours with no breaks and low pay, in a squalid and threatening environment—conditions unthinkable today to anyone who isn’t a junior doctor.

Putting her experience in researching “femininism” to good use, she ends with a paean to the suffragettes:

Women were thought of as simple creatures who could give birth and raise families, but couldn’t be trusted with something as complicated as drawing an X with a pencil. Today it’s unthinkable that a woman wouldn’t able to vote—unless she was really hungover or… in her slippers and it was raining…. Emmerdale Pankhurst thought women could be more than just wives and mothers, so she deliberately only had five children, leaving her loads of time for politics.
One suffragette, Emily Davison, threw herself under a horse to get the vote. But the vote wasn’t under a horse—it was in a little wooden booth in a primary school, though to be fair, women wouldn’t have known that.

Episode 4 is a penetrating analysis of the turbulent 20th century, beginning with King Edward—

who despite his name, wasn’t a potato, but a man.

Interviewing the game Howard Goodall about Land of ‘ope and glory, she asks

If you sang it in, like, Portuguese, would it still feel British, or would that just fucking ruin it?

Along with the sitcom Brush strokes, which makes several lengthy and baffling cameos throughout the series, Ashley Jackson is one of the star interview victims, fielding questions like

Why did they call World War 1 “World War 1”? It’s quite pessimistic numbering, isn’t it? Or did they just know it was the start of a franchise?

and

Why did neither side think about mud wrestling?

Cunk addresses the early days of BBC television:

The show got a record audience of 400—the sort of viewing figures BBC4 still dreams of.

Boris Johnson doesn’t come out of it lightly either.

Ms Cunk covers the NHS:

Once the NHS arrived, if you were poor and you got sick, you weren’t on your own any more—you were in a crowded waiting room full of other sick people.

Robert Peston gets sucked into discussing whether the NHS might give out free crisps, observing patiently:

I don’t think many people would argue that you can’t have a decent life without free crisps.

Episode 5, The arse end of history, is the icing on the cake, taking us right up the present—

a time when the archive footage goes colour at long fucking last, and some things you might actually have heard of, happened.

The only form of expression women were allowed was wearing pointy glasses.

Were miniskirts actually shorter, or did it just appear that way, cos people’s legs were getting longer?

With his love of yachts, classical music, and church organs, Edward Heath seemed to be a real man of the people.

Howard Goodall comes in for some more probing questions:

What was the difference between punk rock and … just being angry—but without a guitar?

* * *

The series is essential viewing. Having been led astray by Chinese culture from an impressionable age, I’m deeply grateful to Ms Cunk for her authoritative survey of British history. Surely the BBC must soon commission a series in which Chinese history is mercilessly subjected to Cunkification, and so-called sinologists meet their inevitable fate.

Cunk on Christmas

Following her probing accounts of Shakespeare, and “femininism”, what better seasonal viewing than the immaculately-researched historical overview provided last year by Philomena Cunk—herself touched by the divine:

Besides the usual bewildered expert interviewees, she consults some “small adults—which are known as children”, who also manage to keep a straight face.

… Jesus Christ—an icon who was almost as revered back then as Beyoncé is today.

Civil war is like a real war—but not abroad, so it’s cheaper. […] According to the Puritans, Christians shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, ‘cos it’s not in the Bible. Instead, they should be inside a church (which isn’t in the Bible), reading the Bible (which isn’t in the Bible).

At Christmas 1914 there was a brief ceasefire—the fighting stopped, soldiers got out of their holes and joined together in a place called No Man’s Land, showing that even at moments of peace, men will still divide into two sides, and try to beat one another.

She consults a hapless Jay Rayner:

I don’t understand bread sauce […] Bread, and sauce, are two completely different things, aren’t they?
[I’ll leave you to listen to the dénoument]

As ever, it’s not what you say but the way that you say it—her delivery and expression are faultless (see also The art of the voiceover).

Ms Morgan also leapt into print with equal facility (here).

 

Philomena Cunk

Cunk
As another cautionary tale for fieldwork interviewers, how delightful to find Diane Morgan back on our screens, after her deadpan incarnation as “professional TV dimwit” Philomena Cunk.

Among innumerable aperçus, here’s her exegesis of Benefits Street:

They weren’t claiming benefits like MPs do, but a different type of benefits that they weren’t entitled to, because they were poor.

Her Moments of wonder series contains some classics, like her potted history of “femininism”:

—not least her helpful comment on Emily Davison throwing herself in front of the king’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913:

They [women] did this partly to highlight how unfair it was that women didn’t have a vote but horses did. And also because, being women, they really liked ponies.

On Shakespeare (“Did Shakespeare write boring gibberish with no relevance to our world of Tinder and peri-peri fries—or does it just look, sound and feel that way?”):

Among her hapless interviewees (watch from 24.19), she consults the valiant Ben Crystal, co-author of the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, testing him on a list of words that Shakespeare, er, might or might not have made up:

cuckoo?
ukulele?
omnishambles?
mixtape?
[fumbles ineptly with script]
sushi?
titwank?

—a list surely on a par with the names in Rowan Atkinson’s roll-call. Another perspective on Shakespeare is offered by the series Upstart crow.

Diane Morgan now has a hilarious role in the new TV series Motherland, written by the equally brilliant Graham Linehan and Sharon Horgan. I’m reliably informed that it’s horribly well observed:

I really want the children to be brought up like I was—by my mother.

It looks as if a Chinese version might be in order, though I’m not holding my breath.