Watched #04

The sets for The Musketeers (BBC1 Sunday, 9pm) have been built in a former monastery 30 miles north-west of Prague, and the hope is they’ll stand for at least three years. They probably will. There’s a feeling of prudence behind this 10-part drama series, a kind of show that’s been built – maybe even focus-grouped – specifically to prosper. This means, as ever, a ‘bromance’ underpins the narrative, there are bad baddies, sexy heroes and those women who aren’t lucky enough to be a fusion of both – a sexy baddy – are just ballast; things to be conquered or fought over. Poor Constance first has to submit to D’Artagnan’s overtures, then the boys have her dress up as a prostitute to distract some other boys. I liked the theme music a lot.

Mr Selfridge  (ITV, Sunday 9pm) is quite different in its take on gender politics. Although Jeremy Piven’s orthodontically impressive shopkeeper is the marquee name, characters such as Aisling Loftus’ Agnes and Polly Walker’s Delphine are allowed to be far more interesting. The arrival of Aidan McArdle, all but reprising that nasty piece of work he played in Garrow’s Law as the formerly errant Lord Loxley, curbs the autonomy of Lady Mae, but that feels like a temporary dramatic barrier, something that will prompt her to exercise her considerable powers.

I hadn’t watched the show before – it’s one of the ways  this weekly review affects my habits. I have to notch up things to write about. Maybe, then, it was all nuance for the knowing, but there seemed to be little or no incident. Lots of portentous lines: “These are uncertain times…” and: “Trouble’s brewing, all this talk of war”. A very wise-after-the-affair remark too: “The power has shifted to the captains of commerce.” And then a newspaper headline: “Archduke Franz Ferdinand Assassinated”. What could this all be leading to?

My rule about sitcoms is no character should ever be considered funny within the fiction of the comedy. It’s why I could never take to Paul in Ever Decreasing Circles or Chandler in Friends. Andy Samberg as Detective Jake Peralta in Brooklyn Nine Nine (E4 Thursday, 9pm) considers himself a laugh riot. Every zinger dispatched with a wide grin. It’s not as annoying as I make it sound, though. Only on its second episode, the series has a loose confidence that makes it feel like it’s been around forever and now everyone’s up for messing about. In addition, Joe Lo Truglio, as Detective Charles Boyle, has been precision-built as a flat-faced comedy foil. True, there is a predilection for the current stand-by of characters setting up their own punchline by queuing a comic ‘flashback’ clip, but it’s an easy watch, which, mostly is enough for me. A handy show to fill in a gap.

It’s always fascinating when a TV show comes along that’s molded in the inverse shape to another programme. The Taste is an example of that, its UK producers having to continually ask the question, “What wouldn’t MasterChef do?” Now there’s The Great Interior Design Challenge (BBC2 Monday-Friday, 7pm) which continually looks over its shoulder – a long way back – to Changing Rooms. One way it steps out of the shadow is in employing Tom Dychkhoff as host. A former lieutenant to Kevin McCloud on whatever that More4 Grand Designs fanzine show was called (I know, the thought of that now seems incredible), he provides an essence of credibility, even though in the actual process of amateurs redecorating other folks’ homes, he’s a ghost who pops up only when no one else is around. Monday’s episode, set a couple of streets up from Dennis Nilsen’s old home in Muswell Hill, saw Tom materialise on stairwells and in doorways using fun words like “mullions” and “pargeting”. But when the action got busy, judges Daniel Hopwood and Sophie Robinson rather let the side down, using the language of Graham Wynne and Linda Barker before them, talking “on trend”, “pelmets” and “up-cycling”.

While would-be designer Helen offered up a hand-painted MDF headboard as “a little bit of me”, she did that standard generic designer-y thing of framing a piece of sheet music. Plus she unveiled her mood board for a new bedroom as “this is your ‘ta da’ moment”. James, though, proved more persuasive. The 38-year-old asset manager was interviewed in his own home, in front of a fireplace, adorned with logs wrapped in a bow-tie. Unlike his rivals, his ‘scheme’ (that’s what you call them) was presented on a paper board with the smallprint ‘James Gostelow Design’ and when he arrived to do the business, he was wearing a gilet with the collar turned up. Despite giving “edge” to a chandelier power cable by wrapping fabric around it, he – and Helen – lost out to Sarah, despite the fact she didn’t manage to get the seat cushions completed for her window seat. That, the judges said, was “tragic”.



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