Thursday, 29 July 2010

Penguin Island

I sat down this morning with a heady mix of excitement and delirium, as I had just received news of a television show. Now, I didn’t have anything other than the title to go on, so I frantically searched iPlayer while idly imagining what the show would entail. After all, a name like Penguin Island inspires this in any reasonable, right-thinking man.

Disappointingly, however, Penguin Island, is not, as the name suggests, a blatant rip-off of the Orwell classic, Animal Farm, except this time with Penguins and a complex allegory about the pitfalls of a capitalist society, with Gordon Brown played by a penguin named Scott, Lehman Brothers bank played by a group of daredevil risk-taking penguins named, as a troupe, The Wings, and society’s gradual demise and collapse represented by the slow melting of the icecaps. Nor is it, in fact, a brief Batman-based spin-off, finally giving Penguin his own television show with an island he has bought with his copious amounts of crime money, only to be foiled by Batman in his plans to hold Russian missiles just off the coast of America (Oh, a Cuban missile crisis joke? How topical am I?). It is, sadly, neither of these things, and is in actuality, a show about penguins. Who live on an island. Tell me if you can’t follow this.

Anyways, the very precisely and teutonically accurately named Penguin Island is ostensibly a show about penguins, but to be honest, it’s taken the Meerkat Manor (Remember those heady days of television greatness?) approach, and turned it to penguins. So it’s a curious penguin-based soap opera as narrated by Rolf Harris, who is casually sidling in to sully David Attenborough’s unmatched excellence (And by extension, the BBC’s Natural History unit) with his voiceovers.

It features a star-studded cast, of Rocky, a typical telegenic penguin. And Spike, who is near identical. And Bluey, who is also pretty similar. And Sheila, a doppelganger for EVERY OTHER PENGUIN. Seriously, if you’re not a pretty serious devotee of penguins like Marg, who looks after the orphaned penguins and tells them apart by name (“Every penguin I’ve ever met has a different character, heehee”), you will just have to trust Rolf Harris’ voiceover. Which, being as it’s Rolf Harris, I would trust less than the Yorkshire Ripper upon finding him in a specialist hammer shop going “I’ll need four. I’m going to do a lot of…nailing”.

So we see Spike have sex with Tash. And then Tash, filthy little penguin slag that she is, runs off to frolic with Rocky. A fight ensues between Rocky and Spike, and after a certain point Tash comes out and starts hitting them both. This could only be more British if a bloke called Brian was holding Rocky back going “Leave ‘im Rocky! He ain’t wurf it!” They couldn’t make the show more like a soap opera if they revealed one of the penguins was an alcoholic mate-beating penguin.

This is a soap opera masquerading as a documentary, much like the penguin is a bird masquerading as a fish. However, while the penguin pulls this off with admirable aplomb, the docu-soap is atrocious.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Another simplistic joke

I saw a stationery coup the other day. Apparently they were going to overthrow the ruler. Of course, with a coup, there's no margin for error.

Shush, I'm funny, okay. I get it, you're laughing WITH me. Good.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Victorian Pharmacy

In a week dominated by the past in the form of a Take That reunion which finally incorporated Robbie Williams, you may remember, between tear-soaked heartbreak of Take That's initial collapse, and the pure ecstacy they surely brought to your life, that in the dark and distant past, I wrote about the spectacular "Victorian Farm Christmas". Well, if you're sitting there eager with delight, going "I love that show, but I'm not sure how much more we can examine the farming process from the Victorian era, having covered hay to the fullest possible extent", I have some tremendous news for you! There's a spin-off show, "Victorian Farm..acy", about, surprisingly, a Victorian Pharmacy.

This show follows the adventures of, and I fear you may have leapt ahead of me and worked out what this is already, but in the interests of stragglers, I'll continue. It's about a Victorian pharmacy, opened by Patrick Stewart lookalike and sometime television presenter Professor of pharmacology, Nick Barber, and his able and willing assistant, Tom Quick. Also featuring loosely is someone called Ruth, whom, I must admit, I took a pretty bitter dislike to after about ten seconds, pretty much solely for her love of inane chitter chatter. Thus, I spent the whole show making callous jokes about her appearance to myself, but people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and all that malarkey. But you're pondering to yourself, pontificating as follows, no doubt "The name Ruth rings a very faint bell somewhere in the deepest recesses of my nightmares. Ruth...Ruth...Good LORD!" you exclaim internally, only letting a single gasp indicate your true emotion to the world at large. "Could this be the very same Ruth from the initial Victorian Farm, brought in to make the change utterly seamless?" you doubtless wonder. Well, I have some simply stellar news for you, curiously avid Ruth-fans, she's back!

I jest, of course, there's no way you could possibly remember Ruth from that long ago, but perhaps, just PERHAPS, you're thinking "What I really loved about Victorian Farm was that everyone, regardless of location or pifflingly tiny role in the show, was fully clad in period dress. I think the show as a whole would suffer if they were to even let the facade that this were not reality fall for even the briefest of moments, and the magical element of suspense would surely have been cast asunder like a wax-plaster stuck to an elderly gentleman's chest". You may possibly be reminiscing about those great times of elaborate outfits. Luckily, they're still consistently in place, so you may stop reminiscing and savour their glory in televisual magnificence once more.

Anyways, onto the actual documentary element of the show, which seemed to focus on "Person A comes into shop exhibiting symptoms. Pharmacist recommends treatment, but then says "We can't use that, obviously, because it has opium in it". Interesting alternative treatment is made up on camera. It is given to the patient. The patient is then largely unhealed at the end of the show.", which was repeated for four people, all with varying degrees of cough. What I really ended up with in terms of knowledge from the show was "Victorians all had coughs, and as a cure, they all took opium. Also, they thought cold water was good for you".

That said, I alarmingly really enjoyed it. Perhaps it was Ruth having cold water poured down her back by a delightfully malicious old man, who was practically giggling as he did it. Maybe it was the vague seeping in of weird little facts and knowledge (Worcester Sauce is fermented and was initially a medicine, for example) that I now have in my head for Victorian-era medicine based dinner party anecdotes. "That's a funny story about Leeches, Dave, but you know they were used as medicine in the 19th century? So was Worcester sauce! No, really!" and, from there, inevitably, the dinner party is a roaring success.

Anyways, drink from the bowl of documentaries. It might taste horrible, but unlike most of the medicines on display in the show, it really is good for you.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


All caterpillars start out on the straight and narrow, but fall into bad ways and develop a cocoon habit.

A great pun for David Attenborough to use in his next documentary, no doubt. Okay, fine, I like it though, so he can take it or leave it. Probably leave it to be honest. It's up to you, David (I assume he searches the internet for puns based around possibly feature animals. He's got to think outside the fox. Another one for him.