Category Archives: Video

“Remain Indoors” — Mitchell and Webb Saw It Coming

From the British Emergency Broadcasting System’s highest-rated (and only remaining) show, here’s “The Quiz Broadcast”.

Remain Indoors

Remain Indoors

Way back in 2008 – 2009, David Mitchell and Robert Webb, of the BAFTA-winning British comedy team called, uh, Mitchell and Webb, saw the dark clouds on the horizon. To prepare their TV audience for the worst, they began to run these short segments from the post-apocalyptic “The Quiz Broadcast” on their weekly show.

Now the Quiz Broadcast has become unexpectedly relevant again, ever since The Event made it  critical for many of us to

Remain Indoors

More David Mitchell

You may have seen David Mitchell on panel shows like Would I Lie to You? where he plays a posh urban sophisticate opposite Lee Mack’s Northern lout. I’ll post some clips when I get around to it.

He’s also currently starring as William Shakespeare in Upstart Crow, the cheerful and hilarious debunking of Shakespeare’s life and works by Ben Elton, who gave the world the infamous saga of the Blackadder dynasty. Here’s a look at the real Shakespeare:

Next from National Theatre at Home: Gillian Anderson plays Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire

This is a big one.

The National Theatre’s live-on-film series presentation that begins today will be the 2014 production of Tennessee Wiliiams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, with Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois and Ben Foster as Stanley Kowalski.

You can watch it free on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel, starting on 21 May 2020 and running through the morning of 28 May 2020.

Must admit that after seeing some of the teasers, I’m not in love with the set, and the accents are…disturbing. But Streetcar has a strong claim to the title of The Great American Play, so this is unmissable.

“Memories, Light the Corners of My Mind…”

(Of course I’m not serious. I’m using it sarcastically.)

Five or six years ago, I was walking down Saint Peter Street in New Orleans, on my way to the world’s best dive bar, Yo Mama’s Bar & Grill, which served the world’s greatest hamburger, the famous and much-missed Peanut Butter and Bacon Burger. (And as you can see, I’m still obsessed with Yo Mama’s and its burgers, and upset that they’ve left New Orleans and moved on to the Dive Bar Heaven in the Sky.)

About a block from the bar, I read the small plaque on the wall at the front of 632 Saint Peter Street, which commemorated the time in 1946 – 47 when Tennessee Williams lived there while he wrote Streetcar.

632 Saint Peter Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

The Great — Two Trailers and a Teaser

Opening today on Hulu is The Great, a not-at-all serious look at the rise of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. And I suppose that means I’m going to have to add yet another streaming service.

The trailers for The Great are amusing and the script is by Tony McNamara, who wrote last year’s delicious The Favourite. Elle Fanning plays Catherine and Nicholas Hoult plays Peter III, Emperor of All Russia, who had no idea what he was getting into when he wed his 2nd cousin Catherine, née Sophia Augusta Frederica. It was not a happy marriage. In her memoirs, Catherine called Peter “an idiot” and “a good-for-nothing” and several other names that don’t translate very well,

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult have both been actors since their pre-teens and have gone on to successful careers as adults, avoiding the pitfalls that ensnare so many young actors along the way. It’s reassuring to know that not every teen star is doomed to drunkenness, drug addiction, or turning into Corey Feldman.

Meanwhile, over at HBO, you can find another, somewhat more realistic portrayal of Catherine in the four-episode miniseries , with Helen Mirren as the Empress. While Mirrin herself was not a teen star, she’s still managed to have a reasonably successful career.

Tom Lehrer — “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park”

Outside, it’s a beautiful Spring day. Inside, I’m a few hours away from the start of my third month of “social distancing”, wondering if the lack of direct sunlight will give me a Vitamin D deficiency, or scurvy, or something worse.

Ah! A Remembrance of Springs Past.* How I miss the simple joys of the Cherry Blossom Festival, the National Cathedral’s annual Flower Mart, the various “Taste of…” street fairs from Georgetown to Wheaton, and poisoning pigeons in the park.

That’s Tom Lehrer, performing a song from his 1959 record album. More of Tom Lehrer. Lehrer entered Havard College at 15, and at various times taught at MIT, Harvard, Wellesley, and UC Santa Cruz. His courses ranged from mathematics to political science, to musical theater.

Many of his songs were the black-humoured musical equivalent of Gahan Wilson cartoons. A search of the net will take you to things like his nostalgic tribute to “The Old Dope Peddler” and to the somewhat twisted love song “I Hold Your Hand In Mine”.

He also wrote sharp musical commentary on the political issues of the day. His most productive musical period was in the late 1950s through the middle 1960s, and with the passage of ~60 years, a lot of his references have become obscure.  (Still, people smile at lines from Gilbert and Sullivan, more than a century after the subjects of their humour have turned to dust.)

Lehrer stopped performing and retired from teaching long ago, but is still with us. He celebrated his 92nd birthday in April 2020. As he wrote on the 1997 release of a collection called Songs & More Songs by Tom Lehrer, “If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while.”

“We’ll murder them all amid laughter and merriment,
Except for the few we’ll take home to…experiment.”

*Yeah, I know we’re supposed to call Proust’s seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time nowadays, but I also still talk about dialing a phone and buying a record album [see above]. There’s a term for continuing to use an old word or phrase after it has been made obsolete by technology or the passage of time, but I’m too lazy to look it up on the computer google it.

Stream Both Versions of Frankenstein from the National Theatre (UK)

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Theatre (UK) has made selections from its magnificent collection of live-on-film productions available online, free of charge. Each show is posted to YouTube on Thursday at 7 PM UK time. That’s 2 PM on the US East Coast. Each show will be accessible for a full one-week run on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel.

The current program is a special treat. It’s the 2011 production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle, in which Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternated playing Frankenstein and the creature. Both actors won the Olivier Award for their performances.

National Theatre’s NT at Home series lets you compare the performances.

Watch Frankenstein with Jonny Lee Miller as the creature here.

Video No Longer Available

Watch Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature here.

Video No Longer Available

Starting on Thursday: Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo are Shakespeare’s fated lovers in Antony & Cleopatra.

It’s 2020, and Billy Porter Is Covering Buffalo Springfield’s 1966 Song, “For What It’s Worth”

I have a mixed reaction to this.

Musically, I like what he did with the song, but the issues, the politics, and the culture of 2020 are so very different from those of the late 1960s that the original lyrics don’t really work anymore.

And while I love me my Buffalo Springfield, I’ve sort of come to dread hearing those two opening notes of “For What It’s Worth”, because every time some hack film director needs a soundtrack for their big 60s montage, there it is.

The Original

“For What It’s Worth” hit the US Top 10 in 1967, peaking at Number 7. The song became one of the key anthems of the sixties youth rebellion against the War in Vietnam, the draft, the Nixon administration, oppressive conformity, police violence, repressive education, and pretty much anything old.*

That’s heavy lifting for a song that was written about a clash between police and demonstrators protesting a curfew imposed on some popular clubs in Los Angeles, but the Riot on Sunset Strip became a symbol of the generational chasm of the day.

Here’s a 1967 performance of the song by the original members of Buffalo Springfield, all of them looking impossibly young and thin and pretty.

*I find it amusing that the Boomers, whose unofficial motto was “Don’t Trust Anyone over 30”, are now widely blamed for everything wrong in the world by the under-30 Millennials, and that most Boomers don’t really care all that much about what Millennials think of them or of anything else.

Plus ça change….

Upload —- Official Trailer

This looks like fun.

Combine the setting for The Good Place with the last episode of Years and Years, and what do you get? Well, probably not anything as wonderful as those two shows, but something that looks like an enjoyable way to spend some time during this decidedly less-than-wonderful Spring.

Upload is a new sci-fi comedy set in the near future, when people can be “uploaded” into virtual reality environments. The series was created by Greg Daniels, who is known for his work on The Office, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Parks and Recreation, and King of the Hill.*

The show has a number of things going for it: A clever idea, some neat special effects, and Robbie Amell, who is one of the most likable actors working today.

Upload is set to premiere on Friday, 1 May 2020, on Amazon’s Prime Video.

*As I listed those shows, it occurred to me that I’d either given up on them long ago (Saturday Night LiveThe Simpsons) or never got into them in the first place (everything else). I can’t really blame the more recent shows themselves—the original three seasons of Arrested Development were so fantastic that they spoiled every other American sitcom for me in the 10 years that followed. I should really give Parks and Recreation another shot.

How One English Family Pwned the Quarantine

“A family from Kent who shared a video of their living room performance of a lockdown-themed adaptation of a Les Misérables song have become a sensation online. Ben and Danielle Marsh and their four children changed the lyrics of “One Day More” to reflect common complaints during the Covid-19 lockdown. They say the video, which has gone viral, was intended to give friends and family a laugh during this stressful time.”

—from The Guardian

God, I love the British, even when they do dumb things like voting for Brexit and paying any attention to Katie Hopkins.

The members of this family are probably descended from people who lived through the Blitz (7 September 1940 – 11 May 1941), Hitler’s attempt to cripple British war production and demoralize the country through air attacks on British cities. It didn’t work, even though more than 40,000 civilians were killed and more than a million houses were destroyed or damaged by the bombing.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” indeed.