Archive for the ‘Who Did It Best?’ Category

It’s that time of year again when thoughts turn to hearts and flowers and bloggers try to find a new angle on the Valentine’s Day post. Looking back I have explored telly couples who were obviously destined for one another and, on the flip side, other pairings that probably weren’t a very good idea. This year I’m examining that tried and true plot device, the love triangle, in which one character has to choose between two (and sometimes more) suitors. I’ve compiled five examples of this exhilarating yet often heartbreaking scenario and at the end I’m going to ask you to vote for the trio who you felt did it best.

Miranda, Gary and Mike from Miranda

Once the poster girl for lonely hearts, now Miranda’s facing an embarrassment of riches (or proposals, as it were)!


Ross, Elizabeth and Demelza from Poldark

This is what happens when everyone thinks you’ve died in a far off war and it’s best for your betrothed to just move on. And then you meet a fire-haired street urchin…


Amy, Rory and The Doctor from Doctor Who

Miss Pond has carried a torch for the Doctor since they met (as adults anyway). Despite the fact that she married Rory, it takes some time for her husband to believe she prefers him over the fascinating Time Lord.


Assumpta, Leo and Peter from Ballykissangel 

What to do when you fall for a priest? Get married to an old school beau, that’s what.


Gillian, Robbie and John from Last Tango in Halifax

Considering Gillian’s track record with men, you could argue this one is a love square or perhaps even a pentagon. But since Robbie and John are her only age appropriate suitors, I feel I this qualifies as a three-sided love affair.

image credit Courtesy of Ben Blackall/© Anthony and Cleopatra Series Ltd

image credit Courtesy of Ben Blackall/© Anthony and Cleopatra Series Ltd


Now you decide. Take our poll and have your Valentine’s Day say!





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This post has been in the back of mind for literally years, ever since I found out there was a sequel to my favorite British TV series of all time, Life on Mars. For those who haven’t seen LOM, first of all, shame on you. Here’s the premise in a nutshell.


What held up the writing was that I couldn’t find a way to watch Ashes to Ashes for the longest time. It wasn’t available on Region 1 DVD as Life on Mars was and no one had put it on YouTube. Those facts alone made me suspect that Ashes to Ashes wasn’t nearly as good as LOM. However, my on-line friends kept telling me that to completely understand Life On Mars and what happened to Sam Tyler you had to watch Ashes to Ashes where all would finally be revealed.

And then early this year, Hulu Plus added Ashes to Ashes to its growing stable of British programming. I deliberated for quite some time before I decided to shell out the $8 a month. Time got away from me for a bit but I finally freed up my schedule and delved into two dozen one hour episodes, the same amount of time necessary for the earth to rotate on its own axis. It may not sound daunting, but despite what I lead you all to believe, I do have a life outside of watching telly and it took a good few months to get through it all.

But once I got a few episodes under my belt, I became well invested in the story of the critically wounded police officer Alex Drake and her attempts to get back to her daughter Molly.


After watching Ashes to Ashes, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Once Alex got over her “you’re all imaginary constructs” phase, I really liked her character. I appreciated the significant development of LOM supporting characters Ray Carling and Chris Skelton. And if I’m not mistaken Gene Hunt was noticeably kinder and gentler, perhaps due to having and attractive female DI by his side.

Nonetheless, this post is about who did it best so in determining which series is superior, I thought it might be interesting to devise some head to head match-ups of varying elements of each show and see how they fare. It’s the best way I could think of to evaluate the merits of each in as objective a manner as possible.


Hallucinatory characters who show up to scare the bejesus out of us

Ashes to Ashes creepy Bowie clown image credit Kudos Film and Television

Ashes to Ashes’ creepy Bowie clown
image credit Kudos Film and Television


Life on Mars' creepy test card girl image credit Kudos Film and Television

Life on Mars’ creepy test card girl
image credit Kudos Film and Television


I think we can agree that clowns are universally considered frightening and the object of many a childhood nightmare. One of the most disturbing dreams I can recall in my whole life  involved clowns. Ashes to Ashes‘ Pierrot-style clown doesn’t fit the traditional stereotype as a fool, but instead a rather menacing character who at one point actually chases Alex Drake through the London streets.

Upon initial observation the test card girl, on the other hand, is just a lass with an ominous-looking clown doll. But we all know kids can be creepy as well; that’s why they cast so many in horror movies after all. There she’ll be, playing naughts and crosses on the TV screen with her companion when the broadcast day is done. (Yes, youngsters! There was a time when there was nothing shown on television in the middle of the night.) Then all of sudden she’s standing over a sleeping Sam Tyler saying something spooky.

The test card girl made appearances in both series of Life on Mars notably showing up at the end of the finale as well. The Ashes to Ashes clown faded out after the first series leaving Alex to be haunted by other less obvious but more nefarious demons. It’s a close call but I reckon the peculiar girl with the frightening rag doll wins this one.


David Bowie Song 

 Both series are named after David Bowie songs so this match-up is merely a matter of personal preference. Which do you like better, Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes?



My vote goes to Life on Mars since I’ve always liked the tune even before I saw the show. It’s also used to very good effect it in the climax of the last episode of the series.


Cortina vs Quattro

The guv in both series is DCI Gene Hunt and the possession he treasures more than anything else in the world is his car. In Life on Mars, Hunt speeds through the streets of 1970’s Manchester in his mint condition Ford Cortina.


In the 80’s, Gene has moved on to an Audi Quattro and seems even more enamored of this motor. So much so that the car becomes part of his vocabulary. Hunt is often heard to say “Fire up the Quattro!” and has even been known to use the make of his car as a verb.


On this one, I’m going to come down on the side of Ashes to Ashes. The Quattro is a character in and of itself and serves its master well. Besides I prefer the red of the Audi to the orangy-gold of the Cortina.


The Railway Arms vs Luigi’s

 After a hard day nicking villains, coppers need a place to unwind. For the  Life on Mars officers that place is the Railway Arms, a traditional pub for hardworking men. The barman at this establishment is Nelson, a native of Manchester, who puts on a Jamaican accent for the pleasure of his patrons. Nelson is something of a guide to Sam Tyler giving him advice that can apply to his 1970’s life as well of his struggle to get back to is own time.

Nelson and Sam at the Railway Arms image credit Kudos Film and Television

Nelson and Sam at the Railway Arms
image credit Kudos Film and Television


The Ashes to Ashes ‘ CID meet at Luigi’s, an Italian bar and restaurant across the street from the station. They maintain a substantial tab and wake Luigi up at all hours to serve them as if his place is their own private watering hole. Luigi has a soft spot for Alex and has been known to play matchmaker between her and Gene by placing the couple in the dark and romantic corners of his restaurant. He isn’t mystical like Nelson, but he’s a good friend to his local coppers.

Proprietor Luigi caters to the Gene Hunt's squad image credit Kudos Film and Television

Proprietor Luigi caters to the Gene Hunt’s squad
image credit Kudos Film and Television


I’m actually going to go with Luigi’s on this one for two reasons. Number one – Luigi’s does proper food not just crisps. Number two – he has an awesomely tacky mural covering one wall, an array of mediocre portraits of famous Italians from John Travolta and Frank Sinatra to Al Pacino and Sofia Loren.

And now for the tie breaker…

 Bromance or Romance?

DCI Hunt has very complicated relationships with his DIs on both series. Sam Tyler is smart, professional modern police officer plopped down in early 70’s Sweeny-land. Gene is accustomed to being the king of his castle and doesn’t care for Tyler’s newfangled methods or politically correct attitudes. Understandably there’s a bit of a clash when these two lawmen meet.

Alex Drake is in a similar situation but she has the advantage of knowing about the Sam Tyler case and so doesn’t spend so much of her energy in a total state of bewilderment. She too has frequent squabbles and run-ins with her superior officer; however, their encounters are quite often exacerbated by sexual tension. It doesn’t help that the women’s movement is almost thirty years behind what she’s accustomed to. Just look at what she has to wear!

When it comes down to it, I have to choose the bromance of Sam and Gene.  I found the Hunt and Tyler interactions more entertaining and, to be quite honest, the will they/won’t dichotomy between Hunt and Drake has been played out a thousand times before. I believe Gene taught Sam how to really live which is ironic (but I’ll stop there to avoid spoiling the ending for those who haven’t seen it yet). And Sam taught Gene how to be a better officer and a better man which, after what you learn in Ashes, really starts to make sense.

So there you have it. In my opinion, Life on Mars is the better show. That being said, I found Ashes to Ashes to be well worth watching and would recommend it highly, especially as a companion to its predecessor. Now it’s your turn to tell me what you think and possibly to inform me that I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’d love to have a chat about both series so please comment at will.

If you’ve not seen either show, both are available on Hulu Plus or Netflix DVD. I guarantee you’ll love them too.

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Welcome back to my Who Did It Best series. If you recall last time we talked about telly butlers. Fifty-two percent of those who participated in my poll voted Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson as the one who did it best, followed by the “other” category at twenty-four percent. I assume from the comments people offered, “other” includes Mr. Hudson from the original Upstairs, Downstairs and Magersfontein Lugg from the Campion mystery series. Jeeves came in third with nineteen percent and sadly I must conclude that I was the lone vote for Edmund Blackadder. He might not have been the best example of a dutiful butler on TV, but he made me laugh the most and that counts for something in my book.

Onward and upward. This time I’m asking you to consider the enterprising local shopkeeper.

Dead Parrot

How not to handle a customer complaint image credit BBC

You know you were thinking of  Michael Palin as the inept and quite possibly dishonest pet shopkeeper in Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch.

Small business entrepreneurs must bring every bit of consumer psychology, organization and persuasiveness they possess to the sales floor everyday in order to make a profit particularly in today’s world of quick and cheap superstores and on-line shopping. From books to novelties to the neighborhood grocers’, all these vendors have an uphill battle when it comes to keeping their business viable.

Now it’s time to take a look at our match-up for British telly shopkeepers and discover their tricks of the trade…


Albert Arkwright (Ronnie Barker) – Arkwright’s is a small neighborhood grocery store in Doncaster and is the setting of the classic sitcom Open All Hours. Its proprietor and namesake is a master salesman and a tightwad as well. Just ask his beleaguered nephew and errand boy Granville (David Jason).

Arkwright makes it his mission to see to it that no one who walks through the door of his shop leaves without making a purchase. His true genius is in his ability to convince people to buy the items he needs to move most.



Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) – Black Books is a chaotic, disheveled looking establishment. Shop owner Bernard Black has no discernible customer service skills nor does he seem to have any desire to sell any of his disorganized stock. His assistant Manny (Bill Bailey) does his best to help the shoppers, but Bernard’s rude manner and total disregard for his business is impossible to overcome. Or is it? Perhaps it’s all a brilliant ruse and Bernand is employing reverse psychology tactics on his customers with no self-esteem. Why else would people keep coming back to put up with his abuse?



Miranda (Miranda Hart)- If you had inherited a decent amount of dosh what would you do with the proceeds? Miranda thought it would be fun to buy a joke/novelty shop with hers. Apparently her interest in running the place wore off fairly quickly because she’s left the day to day operations of the business to her far more organized best friend, Stevie (Sarah Hadland). And thank goodness because if she were stuck in the store all day we’d never get to witness all the Miranda-ish shenanigans she gets up to such as fashioning friends from fruit and using alternative appliances to wash her unmentionables. That being said, Miranda doesn’t shy away from enthusiastically greeting her customers when she encounters them in the shop.



So there you have it, my candidates for the telly shopkeepers who did it best. I didn’t consider department store moguls like Mr. Selfridge, but might do so in a future contest. Whose shop would you want to frequent? Which character has the ability to sell ice to an Eskimo? Vote for your favorite or write in your own choice in the comment section.


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As you know, when I watch telly it’s more than just for entertainment purposes. I take what I see and formulate impressions and opinions about culture in the UK.  As a step forward in my education, I have put together a number of  head to head (to head) competitions so that you, the readers, can tell me which is the best representation of a particular profession, institution, etc.

Our first match-up involves the very British occupation of butlering and the nominees are…


Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) – Downton Abbey’s butler isn’t only in charge of the footmen and valets in the house, the wine and other spirits, and the very formal goings on in the dining room. He is the moral compass for all those who work below stairs, he is a kindly uncle figure for the Grantham sisters and on very rare occasions he shows a glimpse of his softer side.



Jeeves (Stephen Fry) – While technically a valet, Jeeves is Bertie Wooster’s only domestic employee so I assume he does slip over into what are traditionally butler’s duties as well.

At the end of the film, Gosford Park, Helen Mirren spoke these famous lines. “What gift do you think a good servant has that separates them from the others? It’s the gift of anticipation. And I’m a good servant. I’m better than good. I’m the best. I’m the perfect servant. I know when they’ll be hungry and the food is ready. I know when they’ll be tired and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves.”  That is Jeeves in a nutshell…that and he’s far more intelligent and accomplished than his rich and foolish master.



Edmund Blackadder  (Rowan Atkinson) – In Black Adder the Third, Edmund Blackadder has descended from royalty to aristocracy to the lowly station of the Prince Regent’s butler. He doesn’t just take care of domestic concerns for the extremely dim and self-involved Prince George. Blackadder is, for all intents and purposes, the Regent’s caretaker who must be constantly one step ahead, keeping him out of financial, political and physical harm. He also, very wisely, pens George’s love letters.



Now it’s your turn. Vote for who you feel is the best representation of a British manservant. Or if you feel I’ve slighted a worthy TV butler, please write in your candidate or mention him in the comments section. Thank you in advance for participating in my research.


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