My Netflix this week: Strong as hell

Contains spoilers for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt


Happy happy weekdays
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Upbeat block-colour enthusiast Kimmy has been held captive in a bunker for the last 15 years but is now attempting make a grown-up life in New York with a fistful of cash, a brainful of late ’90s slang and absolutely no idea what an iPhone is.

Sidenote: I breezed through this whole series in a week, and really loved it. I like that it’s not full of cynical straight white guys. I like how thrilled Kimmy is with her crappy flat and thankless job. I like that some scenes are dark as hell without being sentimental.

Great after: A bad day. Trouble at work? Argument with your spouse? Have a martini and straighten your face, dude, at least you haven’t been trapped underground since 1999.

Short on time? Skip to: Oh, you should just watch all of it. Although I guess we liked episode 4 with Martin Short as a creepy plastic surgeon best of all.

YouTube taster for non-Netflixers: The addictive autotuned theme song. Chris and I have been shouting ‘They alive, dammit!’ at each other for a few days now.

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Catchin’ up wi’ The Broons

As a little kid I loved The Broons and Oor Wullie, so I was thrilled when Chris’ mum unearthed a stash of old annuals and gave us a Broons annual to take home.

It’s really weird to look at them as an adult. For example, I always assumed the Broons lived perpetually in the 1950s or 60s, but there are a few contemporary references dropped into these strips. Here’s Daphne at karaoke!


I’m guessing that either they didn’t want Daphne to say ‘sexy’, or the lyrics have been changed to avoid incurring the wrath of Rod Stewart’s copyright lawyers.

In other musical news, Marti Pellow out of Wet Wet Wet not only makes a cameo appearance but breaks the fourth wall! Also they call him ‘Marty’ Pellow! Despite being huge fans, Maggie and Daphne don’t react to Marti showing up, although they are suffering an unfortunate bagpipe-related accident at the time.


Confusingly, Granpaw’s girlfriend Annie Lennox does not appear to be related to the singer-songwriter.


I have been able to get some more clues on my own family’s long-running quest to find out how the Broons, a family of 10 living in a small tenement flat, could afford their But ‘n’ Ben holiday cottage. My dad theorises that they inherited it, which seems probable, but this strip reveals that it’s built on farmland. I thought maybe the farmer rented it to them, but Wikipedia insists that they own it. It’s a mystery.


Aren’t the drawings just gorgeous, though? Look at thon coos!


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Distracting things in Lord of the Rings

A belated happy happy new year to you! I was horribly poorly for most of December, so I spent much of our super-duper Christmas break weeping and watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy in bed. Don’t pity me; this is actually a pretty great way to spend Christmas.

Because I was so deeply bored, I took screengrabs of all the bits that distract me every chuffing time I watch these films. I am aware, of course, that they are all ridiculous.

Scary Hobbit prop

Ride like the wind, Arwen! Look, black riders everywhere! Frodo will never make it to Rivendell! Actually, that’s not Frodo. That’s… terrifying.

frodo and arwen

Bonus horse photobomb in the background, there. Nice one, horse.

Crooked Elven headgear

What I’m supposed to think: Arwen and Aragorn reunited! Truly, their love is as eternal as her beauty is ethereal. What an uplifting end to this whole Middle Earth bunfight. And everyone looks so clean. I wish I was an elf.

What I actually think: Is Arwen’s headgear a bit squint? I mean, it doesn’t look squint, but if you follow the line from that centre-dip to the little teardrop on her forehead, it’s definitely leaning to her left. Not that it matters, of course. But I bet they filmed this loads of times, and it’s the climactic scene of a multi-million dollar franchise, so you’d really think someone would make sure that thing was stuck in place or something. How did they get Elrond’s hair in that funky celtic knot? Is the cooker on? I’ll just go and check. I wish I was an elf.

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever listened to the dialogue in this scene. It’s mental chaos.

Arwen headdress


Orcs. They’re an army of crazy lump-faced killers who exist only to serve a giant disembodied eye. They leer! They fight each other! They walk like angry orangutans! But how are they so organised? Who sorts out the guard shifts? Who teaches them to march in such perfect formation? Where do they sleep? How do they decide who does what? If I was an orc, I’d like to be one of those troll-masters. I’d teach the trolls to do tricks in my spare time, then we’d start a circus act and be the toast of Mordor. No more battles for me!

When researching this matter, I found a cartoon that poses the same question about Reavers, and also a page with a sentence that I misread as ‘Orcs generally hate Elvis’, which only deepened my confusion.


That is all.

Edited to add: Chris tells me he always notices Aragorn’s beard glue in the squinty-headwear scene. Interesting.

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Do it anyway

Chris phinChris left his job on Friday; here he is on his final walk to the office! We were initially terrified of this, but now we’re feeling pretty great. We’ve done everything the way all good 80s kids were ‘supposed’ to for the last few years, and it hasn’t especially worked out for us, so now we’re doing things our own way.

I have no doubt that Chris will be completely fine, career-wise. He is literally the hardest working person I know. At art school, he used to stay up all night putting together fantastic graphic design projects, then he’d go to his critiques, volunteer as a student rep at various deeply-dull meetings, and go out and do a shift at the restaurant. He is relentless. And really, really clever. That’s not bragging, really, it’s just a stone cold fact.

I’ve been celebrating our new chapter by Fraggle-dancing to this in the car. Try it!

When I was a kid I really wanted hair like Red Fraggle. Actually, I still do.

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My Netflix this week: Big girls’ night in


I’ve been working crazy-long hours, so I’ve only managed to watch two things on Netflix this week. That’s still two more things than many people with actual serious adult responsibilities get to watch, so I can’t really complain.*

Wednesday night alone
Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors

Gwyneth Paltrow both catches and misses a Tube train, then leads two parallel lives that involve such Nineties issues as haircuts, cappuccinos, unwritten novels and PR careers. Worth watching if only to see Gwyneth drink a beer and make a sandwich, which these days, I assume, could only be done with CGI and a motion capture suit.

Sidenote; I was an impressionable student when this movie came out, and I went straight to the hairdresser and got my hair cropped just like Gwyneth’s. I was already rocking the John Hannah eyebrows, so I looked more awesome than you can possibly imagine.

Great with: Beer, sandwiches, positive mental outlook.  (DO NOT attempt if you have recently missed a train or have a tendency to disappear down the imagined corridors of missed opportunity.)

Short on time? Skip to: 7:22 “Everybody’s born knowing all The Beatles’ lyrics instinctively… they should be called The Foetals.” John Hannah, you’re great.

YouTube taster for non-Netflixers: Cheer-up date. This scene has it all – the haircut, the eyebrows, and she doesn’t drink the milkshake. A relief, somehow.

Fashion flashback
Pretty in Pink

Pretty in pink

A parade of dizzyingly coiffed youths argue and date and go to their prom. Er, that’s really it. I suspect this film is more enjoyable if you didn’t spend the 1980s in the pre-internet Western Isles, where one could only dream of such statically-charged glamour.

The fickle winds of fashion make it easy to miss the subtleties of plot; for example, one oddly-dressed character has an amazing makeover…

pretty in pink makeover

… and I honestly didn’t realise it was supposed to be an improvement until Molly Ringwald cried happy tears. Confusing.

Short on time? Skip to: 7:49. I wish I worked in ‘Trax’.

Great with: A low-level James Spader obsession. That magnificent bastard.

YouTube taster for non-Netflixers: Try a Little Tenderness. This is what life was like before smartphones, kids.

Enjoy! Or if you don’t fancy these, here are some more Netflix inspirations. And let me know what you’re watching on Netflix this week; I (obviously) need help.

*I totally can. I could complain your ears right off, given wine and time and a sturdy  kitchen chair. And bungee cord.


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Three things I’ve learned from Downton

It’s possible I’m posting too much about television at the moment. Which in turn suggests that I’m watching too much television. But! None of my team at work watch Downton Abbey, and I’ve got no one to dissect it with. Except you. Lucky old you.

Warning! Contains spoilers for, oh, every Downton Abbey ever.

Lesson 1: When invited to dinner, shut up and enjoy the poussin

downton abbey miss bunting

We need to talk about Bunting. You know – mouthy teacher lady, wears annoying hats? I suspect the writers of Downton Abbey want us to find Miss Bunting’s constant brutal honesty a charming and sassy personality quirk, but sadly she comes off as a complete psychopath.

ROSE: Do let’s invite Miss Bunting to dinner!
EDITH: Who? That woman who harasses Papa about his inherited house and well cared-for staff and ethically-run estate?
ROSE: That’s the one. I’m trying to fix her up with Tom, mainly because she’s the only non-toff we know who isn’t a servant or dead.
GRANDMAMA: Won’t she cause an embarrassing scene? Like last time, when she ruined the fancy anniversary party with her mockery of soldiers? Or the time before that, when she insisted that Branson took her ‘up the gallery’?
ROSE: Piff and nonsense! I’m going to tell Cousin Cora, then we can gather round the new wireless and invent krumping.

But within 15 seconds of the dinner gong, there’s Bunting, sniggering at the liveries and humiliating poor Papa before he’s had a chance to enjoy Mrs Patmore’s mysterious ‘savouries’.

Go home, Bunting, no pudding for you. EVER.

Lesson 2: Never ever boff a toff out of wedlock

downton kemal pamuk

Kemal Pamuk? DEAD. Military guy who impregnated the maid? DEAD. Edith’s boring editor man? MISSING IN NAZI GERMANY.

If you visit Downton Abbey, gentlemen, keep your trousers on.***

Lesson 3: The 20th century had the most badass gadgets

carson decanter downton abbey

From Bates’ gory limp-curing brace to Ethel dusting ‘vapours’ from the electric sockets, Downton really embraces the exciting innovations of the day. Just look at Carson’s incredible decanting machine. Look at it!

Er, I’m all out of steam. There’s a post-industrial revolution joke there somewhere; you’ll just have to make it yourself. I’m not your bloody mum.

***Related: Do you think Thomas is trying to ‘cure’ homosexuality with his creepy box o’ vials?

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My Netflix this week: Lovely horses, gingerism & more

I love me some Netflix, and always have several movies or shows on the go that I watch in short snatches throughout the week. Some would say this is a lunatic way to use Netflix, and in many ways I’d agree.

The only sad thing is that I spot lots of bloggy types and tweeters recommending ace things to watch on Netflix, only to find they’re only on Netflix US and I’m all left out.*

So this month I’ll do a few posts on what I’m watching on Netflix UK. If you’re a knackered sub-editor in your mid-thirties who likes rom-coms and can’t handle Breaking Bad, I’m sure it’ll prove really useful.

*Case in point: Gilmore Girls. Get on it, Netflix UK! I need them fast-talkin’ ladies! How did Lorelai eat so many burgers and stay thin? What happened to Mr Medina? Enquiring British minds need to know.

Saturday night wine
Tim Minchin & The Heritage Orchestra Live

Tim Minchin Heritage Orchestra

Gothic Australian piano scarecrow Tim Minchin performs at the Royal Albert Hall with a fantastic hipster orchestra. Hilarious atheism, incredible swearing, spectacular hair, ‘free jazz’ intervals and a seven minute cheese-themed funk odyssey.

Great with: Wine, chicken, knitting, insomnia (it’s 2.5 hours long)

Short on time? Skip to: 1:12, ‘Prejudice’

YouTube taster for non-Netflixers: The Pope Song. Get through the initial tsunami of swears and you’ll love it. Except you, Mum, don’t watch it.

Midweek malaise
Father Ted series 1-3

Father Ted ChristmasTiny cows. Forced tea-drinking. Ecumenical matters. You already know about Father Ted, so I’ll just share the harrowing information that this show will be twenty years old next year. Twenty!

Great with: Tea, fathers. You will you will you will you will YOU WILL.

Short on time? Skip to: Everyone’s favourite – Song for Europe (S2Ep5)

YouTube taster for non-Netflixers: Ah, go on then.

Sick days
You Can Count On Me

You Can Count On MeLaura Linney and Ruffles are orphaned siblings who share a house for a while. That’s really it. I mostly like it because how often do you see a good depiction of a brother-sister combo in films? Almost never! Do Hollywood screenwriters only have same-sex siblings? What’s going on? Don’t even get me started on Luke and Leia.

Great with: No witnesses to your suppressed weeping.

Short on time? Skip to: 59:28, smoking on the porch with an amazing scene-stealing moth.

YouTube taster for non-Netflixers: Uncle Ruffles tells it like it is to the least-creepy Culkin.

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