The Lost.

TV Fucks sake. Eight episodes of this woefully middling series (I've come to the conclusion I was initially too kind to Class) and now we're treated to one of the most pat reveals since the cliffhanger ending of the first episode of every old Who story with Dalek in the title. The Weeping Angels. Well, gee. Perhaps its for the best that this "arrival" business hasn't been hinted at for the whole series because then we really might have felt let down.  Then again, I still feel let down even though we were only made aware of it about half an hour before they emerged.  True, it's hard to think of another monster which might have had more currency, the Voord perhaps, but there's something really quite disappointing about having to sit through one of those scenes which is supposed to be some ruddy great revelation and then be reintroduced to a foe which has gone past the point of having made their point.

Who are these governors?  Cyril Nri is obviously not supposed to be reprising his shopkeeper role from The Sarah Jane Adventures, mores the pity, but as it goes so far they are incredibly dull, which means they're not some part of the Faction Paradox or breakaway wing of the Time Lords.  One of the key decisions taken in the Buffyverse has been to not entirely introduce its audience to the senior partners at W R & H, which has kept them deliciously mysterious.  Giving this lot a face and dress sense automatically diminishes them as does their astonishingly cliched if beautifully photographed locale.  In an episode already overstuffed, we're also being asked to care about yet another thing which isn't even in the expositional orbit of most of the main characters other than in a vague sense of the headmistress knowing some things.

Gah.  I'm cross.  Once again, Class fails to tip over into Torchwood's Miracle Day levels of awfulness, settling once again into being, yeah, it's OK.  You're not missing much if you don't watch it, and it has enough decent things in it if you're patient enough, but, shrug.  Rubbish without being downright awful.  The Lost is the epitome of what's been wrong with the whole series.  To repeat:  not enough time given over to making us care about the characters in a series which feels like a much longer stream of episode reduced to just the instalments focused on the main story arc.  Despite the revelation, a show set in the Doctor Who universe which largely ignores the benefits of that.  A lack of clear direction as to what the show is supposed to be having entirely ignored its initial mission statement of being about a group of precarious friends fighting whatever drops through the rifts in time.

Which isn't to say that bits of The Lost aren't just plain mediocre.  The opening teaser montage is frankly godawful, April's sub-Corrs dirge overpowering what should be some huge character beats in a way which suggests that we're watching the truncation of a much longer opening.  The unusual cynical motivating factor of parental murder.  Some of the performance histrionics are incredibly hard to take.  Even taking into the account the fact that people react to grief in different ways, crying simply isn't some actors forte notably when it reaches retching levels, especially when said actors range has otherwise extended to scowls and sarcasm.  The relationship scenes between characters are often rudimentary at best, lacking any sense of wit or reflection of real characters having believable emotions.

Despite the murders, budget limitations simply won't allow for the threat of the Shadow army on the populace to be properly extenuated.  Exactly how far this threat has spread isn't properly extenuated.  We're probably supposed to assume globally but this leads us to wonder why UNIT aren't dealing with all of this, or the remnants of Torchwood or the Attic Team or, well, you get the idea.  Given the level of danger involved, someone would and should have called the Doctor by now and here we are again with the shared universe problem.  It simply doesn't make sense for these teenagers to be left dealing with this threat in the manner with with the Doctor did, our suspension of disbelief unearned and the lack of any reference to him, even in the negative, at this moment, is frankly bizarre.  At least those other series have the good grace to try and explain his absence.

If there are any positives they're because Katherine Kelly has been perfectly cast even though she's now being hampered by a mystical pregnancy.  The all too brief training scenes between Quill and Tanya hint at a series which allows its characters to breath and simply enjoy one another's company, with such things working as a b-plot contrast to whatever the a-plot monster is.  You also can't argue with the show's impressive diversity, with not a single white cis male in sight; at a time when people who look like me even if they're nothing like me are in their racist ascendancy, it's genuinely important to have shows which represent the world as is could and should be and often is rather than pandering to the Caucasian patriarchal norm.  Much as I enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane last night, there's absolutely no reason why any or all of those three characters had to be from the same racial origin.

But none of this is enough.  The writer clearly wants us to be invested in the implications of opening the box and wreaking genocide on the shadows and there was some attempts at foreshadowing the moral dilemma in previous episodes but there's a reason why "Have I the right" works in Genesis.  The Doctor is an extremely moral person being asked to do a horrifying thing.  Here the Prince is essentially fighting against a mountain of selfish reasons not to.  He's already decided he has every right but numerous artificial narrative blocks are what's stopping him.  That makes him less than heroic - the script wants us to empathise with him even though he's generally come across as being a self-indulgent arsehole.  After a while it becomes actively annoying that he keeps delaying the inevitable, a blessed relief when he finally shoots Chekhov's gun.

Similarly we should feel something about the death of April.  But it's a female character suiciding herself so that a male character can do the heroic thing (even if, as we've discussed ...) which along with Quill's pregnancy somewhat undermines the show's otherwise "woke" qualities.  Plus since she is only one of the two younger female leads we have to know that she'll be brought back should the show be recommissioned.  And it's a cue for some more of that distracting histrionic acting.  Then having her resurrected in the body of the actual shadow king, whilst pleasingly bonkers in the Chibnallian sense, will obviously be resolved via some magic or other - transferring herself back into her own body, simply ending up there due to some undiscovered mental trap door or an external intervention.

There's a weird arrogance to all of this.  Class thinks its getting another series doesn't it?  Have they already been recomissioned thanks to the injection of cash from international investors?  BBC America have delayed broadcast which isn't a great sign and apparently the first couple of the episodes of the show didn't reach the top 50 on the iPlayer which means it's being watched by less than 185,000 viewers which given the first one has the Doctor's lengthy cameo, the lead character in what's supposed to be one of the cornerstones of BBC One's schedule over the Christmas and in the new year, something isn't working.  As I've said before, it's either poor advertising, a lack of interest from the people who should be, or the show not being good enough for people to want to recommend it to others.

Class will be on the iPlayer for another eleven months and there's still the television broadcast to come.  Perhaps it will find an audience now that it's entirely available to be binged through.  A second series could potentially be a better prospect.  Perhaps having run off most of the unrelatable backstory now, he'll allow his characters to become more likeable, less ambiguous.  The elements are here and if the intention is to embrace more qualities of the key mythology, that at least could make it feel essential, especially if they have any significance within the main series.  As it stands Class is a failed experiment, a self-defeating rudderless concoction presenting itself as a Doctor Who spin-off which for the most part is nothing of the sort.  Can you imagine if this doesn't get a second series?  What a stupid way to end things.

Christmas Links #4

The experts’ guide to a great British cheeseboard:
"You have to have a cheeseboard at Christmas. It’s the law, along with turkey, sherry and sprouts, even if you don’t like them. But no one expects you to put much effort into it; days before Santa’s due, many of us reach for a supermarket selection. “Stilton?” we say, squinting at the packaging. “Check. Cheddar? Check. Something grey that might be brie? That’ll do.”"

The Last European Christmas: On Brexit, Hodgepodge Dinners, and Finding Your Identity:
"Brought up in Scotland, with an Irish father and Italian mother, I’ve never felt British—“Heinz 57 Varieties” was the family joke. And despite living in England for years, it’s painfully clear I’m not English. The UK’s recent Brexit has left me feeling more out on a limb. Who even am I? For those of us who came up along with the EU these past two decades, and who have long been grateful for England’s vibrant melting-pot heritage, the vote is little short of jaw-dropping."

9 reasons why The Likely Lads made the best Xmas TV special ever:
"The centre piece of BBC 1’s Christmas Eve 1974 line up was a final TV outing for Bob, Terry and Thelma. A typically maudlin special, with some out of place obligatory 70s slapstick, its mostly set in the Fat Ox and Bob’s front room. The aspirations of Thelma and the Elm Lodge Housing Estate clashed yet again with Terry’s insistence that inevitably he was just looking forward, at Christmas time, to the past. He’s waiting for that match on Boxing Day lunchtime (Newcastle v Carlisle) to kick off when normality would return…"

The “perfect” Christmas doesn’t exist – so why are women still expected to provide it?
"I couldn’t help but notice a particular supermarket advert last week – I’m guessing this brand’s Christmas card from fourth-wave feminism got lost in the post. Mum cheerfully picks up the mince pies from the bakery, while gleeful Grandma is dispatched to the vegetable aisle. Later, around a packed family table, cheerful Mum’s still on her feet, carrying in the glazed turkey. And Dad? Well, he’s sat at the head of the table. Passively surveying the feast."

Ten Nightmares Before (And During And After) Christmas:
"Strap yourself in for a rundown of ten Christmas movies you definitely shouldn't be circling in the double Radio Times..."

Amazon users have flooded Donald Trump’s $149 “Make America Great Again” Christmas ornament with bad reviews:
"Despite the bargain price tag and the fact it’s made of brass (and finished in 14 karat gold), it has been getting mostly one-star reviews."

Norman, The Man Who Said That Pesto Is Exotic, Is Back In The “Bake Off” Christmas Special:
"In completely EXCEPTIONAL baking news, it has been announced that Norman, NORMAN, is returning to Bake Off for the Christmas special this year."

All aboard! Christmas trains keep holiday spirit on track:
"Forget sleighs. The ultimate Christmas ride requires a train, with tourist railways across the country adding more specially themed holiday excursions every year. “There’s just a psychological bond between trains and Christmas,” says Jim Wrinn, editor of Trains Magazine, who believes the connection comes from nostalgia for holiday train trips to see family and toy railroads circling a decorated tree. He shares some favorite excursions with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY. Be sure and check ahead before visiting, as many trains sell out."

Live the life of Ralphie with a Christmas stay in the house used in 'A Christmas Story':

"Watching “A Christmas Story” is part of the holiday tradition for many, a visit to the Cleveland house used in the filming of the movie takes it step further but how would you like the opportunity to go all out and go full Ralphie this Christmas Eve? It’s an experience that could be yours for a price."

10 Awesome Christmas Ornaments for U.S. History Buffs:

"What a wonderful variety of ornaments we can get to decorate our Christmas trees! Here is an array of ornaments perfect for any U.S. history buff, whether that someone is yourself or a loved one."

Christmas Links #3

Will Liverpool get a white Christmas? Odds fall as forecasts predict cold snap:
"Winter has definitely arrived, with Liverpool enduring some of the coldest days of 2016 so far over the last few days."

'It shocks people that I refuse to lie': what parents tell their children about Santa:
"Christmas is just around the corner, and with it comes excitement about the arrival of Santa. But academics Christopher Boyle from the UK and Kathy McKay from Australia warned against going too far when it comes to the Father Christmas myth. They said the Santa story can lead children to distrust their parents."

St Andrews Church Corbridge Christmas Tree Festival:
"Including organ recital - Friday 12:30 to 1:30pm"

Christmas at the Medieval Court:
"Though Christmas was very different in the Middle Ages, many of the pastimes and activities that we associate with it would have been familiar to medieval people. Feasting, playing games, singing, drinking around a fire, decorating the house with evergreens, and giving gifts, are just some of the traditions enjoyed in the medieval festive season."

Domino's just gave up on its reindeer pizza delivery plans for Christmas in Japan:
"Those reindeer turned out to be a lot harder to train than Domino's had anticipated. The American pizza company announced on Thursday it was abandoning its plans to use reindeer to deliver pizzas in Japan for Christmas."

BBC Christmas 2016 - Trailer:
"BBC Television invites viewers to celebrate Christmas 2016 in all its glory across BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four, with a bountiful array of festive delights from the nation’s favourite shows, alongside all-star names in brand new content especially for the Christmas season including ..."

BBC VT Xmas 1996 - Digital Wonderland:
"And now on to the headline feature! John Birt fans look away now as he gets ripped a new arsehole! Featuring a decent Mission: Impossible and Scooby Doo pastiches amongst its parodies in this multichannel parody of Sky." (thanks Darren)

President Obama sings 'Jingle Bells':

"Obama sang the Christmas carol at the White House tree lighting ceremony."

Supermarket solves 'mince pie gap' problem:
"Supermarket chefs have solved a culinary conundrum which has baffled Christmas cooks for generations … how to remove the ‘air gap’ from a mince pie. The pie’s lid usually rises in the oven, creating a space between the fruity mixture and pastry, which can cause the pie to sink when it’s bitten in to and leave customers deflated. But now Asda’s Innovation Chef Mark Richmond and his team have come up with a solution – and taste-tested more than 750 pies in the process – to close the gap in time for Christmas."

Make your holidays less human with the new Daft Punk ornaments:
"If your Christmases have been missing that slick electronic sheen and awesome talkbox/vocoder tricks of a particularly bangin’ Daft Punk track, then your extremely specific wish may have just been granted thanks to a new batch of holiday-themed Daft Punk merchandise. The band has sold Christmas ornaments in the past, but now they have a new set of miniature helmets that should class up even the crummiest of Christmas trees."

Christmas Links #2

Tinsel and Twitter: New Zealand's secret Santa matches social media strangers:
"The game was launched in 2010 by Hamilton man Sam Elton-Walters, who matched strangers on Twitter to send secret Santa gifts to each other in time for Christmas. Participants would drop hints of their interests and hobbies via tweets – or, more directly, write lists of gifts they would like to receive."

Netflix ‘Sense8’ Confirms Christmas Special Premiere Date:
"It seems so long ago that Sense8 offered any update on Season 2, or at least the Christmas special rumored to tide over fans until 2017. Now, Netflix has stealthily confirmed that new Sense8 content will arrive in late December, just in time for the holidays!"

25 Christmas-Not-Christmas movies for December:
"Everyone loves Christmas movies. Well, maybe not everyone, but certainly enough people to justify dedicating an entire channel to them and endlessly looping a few over and over around the holidays. This year though, maybe you'll want to watch something different, something illuminating a different side of the holiday. Not all of the 25 movies below are strictly Christmas Movies, but all of them have something very specific to say about Christmas."

BBC to broadcast behind-the-scenes Nutcracker documentary on Christmas Day 2016:
"BBC Two will broadcast a special 90-minute documentary following the process of staging The Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker on Christmas Day 2016 at 4pm."

Christmas isn’t being banned. But we should play along with those who think it is:
"Why aren’t we allowed to talk about Christmas any more? For that’s the question we’re all asking ourselves, surely, in between ordering the turkey and hanging the Advent calendar."

35 great alternative Christmas songs:
"Bored of ‘Jingle Bells’ and the same god awful Christmas songs every time you walk into a shop or turn on the radio? Find salvation with our pick of 30 Yuletide tracks to sooth ears. First up, it’s Cee-Lo Green and The Muppets."

Beaver walks into Md. store, finds only artificial Christmas trees, and proceeds to trash it:
"In St. Mary’s County, Md., at least one badly behaved beaver is ready for holiday shopping."

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree Elegantly:
"Anyone can throw some lights on a tree, but a beautifully decorated Christmas tree can light up the holiday spirit of everyone who sees it. Make sure your tree looks exquisite and classic by decorating with elegance. You'll need some planning time and a budget for ornaments, and then arrange all the decorations in order."

Five Plot Point Breakdowns: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
"1. INCITING INCIDENT -- In the little town of Whoville, the Whos joyously prepare for Christmas. The Grinch (Boris Karloff), who lives in a snowy mountain cave above Whoville, hates Christmas and wishes there was something he could do to make it stop. (00:03:33)"

Millard woman catches Christmas light thief on camera:
"A real-life Grinch is stealing holiday cheer from a woman's front yard, Millard resident Nicole Albers said."

Christmas Links #1

Transport For London's festive guide:
"If you're travelling in London around Christmas and New Year 2016, service changes, planned works and events may affect your journey. This page provides you with travel advice during the festive period."

Ignore the foodie scrooges: I love ​a​ ​high-street ​​eggnog latte​:
"I love Christmas drinks. I’m not talking about swirling aged brandy around a big, old glass or having a champagne tipple on Christmas Day; I’m talking about the Starbucks red cups, the Costa range in their Christmassy cosies and the heavenly, lethally sickly McDonald’s spiced-cookie latte."

Hipster Nativity Set:
"It’s crazy to think that the Wisemen followed a star in the sky to find Jesus, rather than using Google Maps, but who are we to judge? These Wisemen arrive to the birth of Jesus in style, rocking their favorite hipster outfits, and tricked out segways." [via]

Grinch Christmas Cookie Recipe:
"It’s cookie season and this year delight your kids by serving Grinch Christmas Cookies with this ultra fun and adorable “3 sizes too small” green heart cookies. Easily made, this cookie brings the season alive with one of my very favorite icons, The Grinch! Even better, this cookie recipe that includes boxed cake mix and cream cheese, means for a delightfully delicious cookie that is excellent with a glass of milk or just on its own. The thing about some Christmas Cookies that you see out there is that the decorating itself can be hard and time-consuming. These are absolutely not. Just with a little food dye and a little heart to represent the Grinch and you are on your way!"

An Impassioned Defense of Extremely Bad Christmas Movies:
"Listen: The world is a desperately sad and dispiriting place at this particular moment, and we all need to make time for self-care. This year, three beers and and the new Frank Ocean simply will not do. You need more. You need the highest-possible dosage of cheese. You need the Christmas-themed TV movies you can only find way the hell up on your cable dial, between the home shopping channels and the religious stations."

Christmas pudding pricier after Brexit hits pound:
"Britons are facing a jump in prices for traditional pudding ingredients as the Brexit vote has sharply weakened the pound. However, the cost of Christmas dinners is almost unchanged from a year ago despite a rise in pork and vegetables."

This epic Christmas display won’t light up this year due to neighbour feud:
"A Minnesota family’s popular holiday display won’t be turning on the lights this year, because one neighbor didn’t like it."

6-Year-Old Sells Artwork to Buy Christmas Gifts for Kids in Need:
"Thanks to the kindness of one 6-year-old, almost 400 kids in need will be receiving Christmas gifts this year. Jedd Winebarger of Castlewood, Virginia, has raked in hundreds of dollars by selling his artwork and using the profits to buy presents. “I love to help children and see them happy like me,” Jedd said."

Hiking group plans to place new Christmas tree atop Camelback Mountain:
"Shortly after hikers and city officials solved the mystery of why a 15-foot Christmas tree was removed from the summit of Camelback Mountain less than 24 hours after it was placed there, the leader of the group responsible for the tree says they will put another tree on the mountain and believe they will be allowed to keep it there."

We review the weirdest Christmas crisps:

"This year the supermarkets have gone a bit crazy with their crisps. Rather than the usual festive bit of snow on the packets, Tesco, M&S Kettle's and Tyrell's have gone ten steps further and created some flavours you would not expect to see in a crisp. Or, in one case, popcorn."

The Christmas Moment.

Christmas Most years at around this time I have a Christmas moment, a dislocated feeling, a bit warm but always with deep recognition, that Christmas is coming. It's either a snatch of music or seeing a decoration in the street or hearing two people talking about a present they're going to buy or a festive film on television (here's what happened in 2012). Sometimes it's simply a commercial which on the one hand leads to a sense of betrayal because the Christmas moment has been manufactured, but now and then it's just what I've needed. See if you can spot the moment during this Wes Anderson directed H&M advert when the Christmas moment happened:

On one level this feels like one of those YouTube "What if?" parodies (What if Wes Anderson Directed X-Men? etc). What if Wes Anderson directed a Christmas advert for a clothes company? But at this point Anderson seems entirely cognisant of his stylistic tropes to the point that he takes advantage of the viewer's understanding of them to intensify the effect, especially the camera pan which replaces a shot/reverse shot. But it works otherwise. I've shown this to someone who has never seen a Wes Anderson film before and she was enchanted.

If only this film existed.

About Having decided to rest the My Favourite Film posts for December, there was a gap where the logobar for this blog should go. After deliberating on a few film related choices, and don't think I didn't momentarily think about trolling you all with a shot from Love Actually, Hugh and Martine waving, I settled on this instead.

It's a shot of the nativity scene that was in my bedroom two years ago.  Here is the whole of the image:

Probably a few things to unpack here.  The embroidered "happiness" symbol was a present from Mum about fifteen years ago.  Yes, that is a Motion Picture Spock.  The three wise men, Mary, Joseph and lone Shepherd Mum and I made together when I was still at infants school which I've used every year since.  An old hand painted Christmas card.  A snowy scene featuring the Cantina Bar from Star Wars and just off to the edge the wing of an angel designed by Quentin Blake which was printed in The Guardian's G2 supplement.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.