The Review of Life - Day 15 - Studio 60 on Sunset Strip Sun 29th Jul, 2007


I don't have a problem with smug. Arrogance is thinking, actually knowing, you are the dogs bollocks, when you may, or may not be, the dogs bollocks. Arrogance is annoying. Smugness is knowing you are the canines balls, because you actually are the canines balls.


Was just trying out my mockney jive, and have decided that is doesn't work for me. You live and learn.


All the reviews i have read of Studio 60 Sunset Strip hint at, go on and on, about its smugness, using this as a criticism, as a reason why it has already been cancelled in the States.


Any TV show written and devised by the creator of the West Wing, and with a great cast, is allowed to be a bit smug. Smug is knowing you can put the ball in the goal, and then putting the ball in the goal. Aaron Sorkin, the creator of Studio 60, knows where the goal is.


Was just trying out my football metaphors and have decided that they are going the same way as my mockney jive.


I do come into this with a bit of previous, and the first episode of Studio 60 would have had to incite racism and insult my mum to make me hate it, and even then i would have suspected that my mum asked for it.


I loved the West Wing, have an interest,from a completely non-geeky point of view, in the American comedy industry, which is the setting for Studio 60, and love the classic film Network which is heavily referenced in this first episode.


I have been waiting for this to arrive in the UK since last September, and know people who have already seen most of the series already, a series that will be the one and only because of its cancellation.


The show is about the making of this comedy show, and by all accounts the behind the scenes bits are great, but let down when there is a focus on the actual show within the show. The funny bits are meant to be a bit unfunny, problematic if your show follows the improving fortunes of a TV show.


This is probably why it didn't work, the smug thing has been mentioned in the press as being the reason, but the quality of the sketches in the fictional show must be a big part of the problem.


As punters we can suspend disbelieve to accept that people really do talk so elequently, can accept that every single cast member is gorgeous and every set looks as if it has been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and coloured in by Rockwell. We can deal with all that but coping with unfunny sketches in a sketch show seems to far to stretch.


I have only seen the first episode and it was the set up, and there were no sketches in it, which means i could sit back and just watch good looking people walking and talking fast.


I am not sure what i think of it being cancelled. Finding something new and great to while away the hours is always fun, and usually i would mourn the early cancellation of something new and great, but there is also something really satisfying, in a deeply ironic way, of a TV programme about a TV programme that was going to be cancelled but was saved by two writers who come in and make people want to watch it again, being cancelled because no one wants to watch it.


I need to draw a diagram for myself to understand that last paragraph. I am sure the writers of Studio 60 could have given me a script that would have made that point perfectly, and not only made my point but made me seem increasingly intelligent and sexually appealing.


Or maybe they would have just written the first sentence and not been asked to write anymore.



The Review of Life - Day 14 - Steak and Chips at The Garrick Sun 29th Jul, 2007


In the future, when the internet has ceased to exist, and the only remnants of the 21st century are these reviews, people will think that i am food obsessed. If you have not read “Introducing the Review of Life”, well i began it to have something to put on my website, and also to help me improve my writing.


The website is pootling along quite well, and while the writing may or may not be getting better (most of my creative juices are spilling towards my Edinburgh show) at least my ability to talk nonsense about different types of food is improving. Unfortunately my actual food knowledge isn't.


Went for lunch on Thursday with my ex-flatmates/friends/peers Russell Howard, Jon Richardson and John Robins. We went to the Garrick's Head in Bath, a fairly popular gastro pub. I don't really know where the term “gastro pub” stemmed from, it seems to be fairly elitist, suggesting food but no scampi, pub meals without pub people.


Where is wish my food knowledge was better is in my desire to sum up how great my meal was. It was a simple steak and chips, but possibly the best i have ever had.


I wish i had the knowledge to describe how it was cooked, or the cut of the meat, or the flavours used to enhance it, but my only way of qualifying my feelings towards this meal is to explain just how long it took me to eat, and i don't feel that that does it justice.


I was still munching away after the others had finished their lamb based things, and even when they were getting their coats on to leave. It wasn't tough meat, i did not take ages trying to chomp through gristle, and it wasn't another case of Olver enjoying quantity over quality, although there was a lot of it, i just wanted to savour ever mouthful.


The chips were big, the size of Aunt Bessie's frozen oven ready roast potatoes, but deep fried perfectly to have that wonderful crisp shell with the fluffy spud in the middle. There is nothing worse than a pale chip, apart from maybe a burnt chip, and these had a glorious golden glint, giving way to a cloud like interior.


The steak itself was stunning. I asked for medium to well done. I know purists feel that steak should be blue and introduced at distance to the flame, but i like the cook to actually cook.


It was tender, and shaped like steaks should be shaped, steak shape. I didn't have to fight it to cut and didn't have to struggle to digest. It knew my name was Mark Olver, it knew i sometimes have coordination issues with knives and forks and so it submitted to my desire and dove straight in.


Like i said, i wish i could describe tastes better. Steve Martin said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture, and i think that applies to me talking about tastes, or maybe my lack of ability to describe tastes is less two left-footed architecture moves, and more a symptom of the same laziness that made me quote Steve Martin.


Now, asking me to dance about food is a very different matter. And if you want me to dance about this steak and chips i will go and have to get my pom-poms, it was that good, a triumph in making something basic beautiful. I do not own pom-poms.



The Review of Life - Day 13 - Slingbox Sat 28th Jul, 2007


I like technology, but it scares me like magic scares me. There is a sorcery in there somewhere, a sorcery that technical type people don't want us luddites to know about.


I love my I pod, but how does it know that all those little 0's and 1's are the sound of Aretha Franklin.


I love my blackberry but it surely can't be possible to receive emails from the UK on my phone, on my bed, in LA.


Wireless internet is brilliant but what magical force allows me to use my laptop on a train; a train for gods-sake.


It's not the right, and must surely be the work of some shiny obsessed devil, but, in the case of my new Slingbox, to quote Marvin Gaye, how can something so wrong feel so right.


The Slingbox is the greatest gadget ever. The wheel cowers in it's path, and fire looks on jealously. The Slingbox is so brilliant it freaks me out.


It is a device that plugs into your sky+ (other ways of watching TV, while inferior, are available) and then into your wireless router, and enables you to be able to watch your TV anywhere in the world that has broadband.


It takes a while to set up, not just for me, although that would not surprise anyone, but according to the Slingbox community (finally i feel like i belong) lots of people have problems setting it up.


Not only did i have to sit on my bean bag for a few hours figuring out which holes needed which cables, but when all attached there is the added frustration of setting up the software and then doing something called Port Forwarding on my router.


The process took about 3 months, but i think it was worth it.


I am currently writing this in a cafe in Bristol and have Sky Sports News on as well, and if i wanted to i could watch Wallace and Gromit that i recorded the other night.


Now, i love it, but, without wishing to destroy the beauty of it, surely that can't be possibly. I know it is possibly, because i am actually doing it, but surely it CAN'T be possible.


I can turn my sky+ box on and off from here. I press a button on my laptop and the switch in my house instantly goes off. Like i said, i am in a Cafe, using their wireless network, and so the process goes:


Olver's finger to Olver's laptop to the cafe wireless network to the outside world to outer-space to Olver's router to the Slingbox to the Sky+ box, and then back again to show me it has happened


And all this in the time it takes to blink. And i have a fast blink.


I have not really worked out how useful the Slingbox is going to be. At the moment the only benefit i have found is to show Martha that it works. I am sure that when i go to Edinburgh for the month on Sunday (stay tuned for my Review of McLife during August) it will come into its own, but at the moment it is just technology for technologies sake. But then, when technology is this good then why not.







The Review of Life - Day 12 - Dexter Thu 26th Jul, 2007


The concept of Dexter is the epitome of high concept. Bloke who investigates serial killers is also a serial killer. This is the only reason i decided to watch, that and the fact that there were quite a lot of pieces written about it in the papers before broadcast, both here and the in states, and i am nothing if not a sucker for marketing and PR.


In fact, Dexter is all about the marketing and PR. The concept screams “WATCH ME”, and the posters, all bloody splattered red hint at style over content, and i fell for it hook, line and the other one.


I want to fall in love with another TV programme. Since the end of the West Wing and Alias i have dated several series, including House and Battlestar Gallactica, and while i have had some enjoyable times with these, the desire to see them again and again, like with my long past true loves, is just not there.


I was hoping, naively, that Dexter could be the one. Well made, well acted, well written but glorious production values, but shallow. I have no interest in the life of a serial killer. Now, if Dexter was a surreal killer my interest could be piqued, wandering around stabbing people with 19th Century architecture and strangling them with Boyzone, but a cold ruthless killer tracking down cold ruthless killers just seemed like an overdose of coldness and possibly a lack of ruth.


I watched two episodes i had Sky plussed on Tuesday night, and have decided to give up. The format seems to go: Bad person does something bad; really bad person taunts Dexter by doing a bad thing; Dexter finds the person who did the first bad thing and does bad things to them; Dexter trys to find the person who is doing the really bad things.


That is a lot of bad things. I suspect that the viewer is meant to watch and then question how easily we are desensitised to violence, and question the way we begin to empathise with Dexter, even as he does really bad things. Too many bad things. Far too many.


Most of the characters are a bit horrible, not just the killer types, but the rest of the supporting cast, and with all these bad things going on i needed a little bit of balance. Dexter was like a porn film, but replacing the sex with lots of blood and mess. I could only see each character as someone who was going to kill or be killed, and that was not enough.


I need to feel engaged with the characters before i commit to a new relationship, and Dexter felt like nothing more than a one night stand. We spent some time together, i laughed and gazed at how gorgeous it was, and then went and watched an episode of Prison Break.

The Review of Life - Day 11 - The Jacket Thu 26th Jul, 2007


I like buying clothes and just rubbish at it. I tend to employ the quantity rather than quality approach (see yesterdays Review) with the idea that if i but lots of things at least some of them will look ok.


Sales are the answer to my dreams, lots of cheap clothes and so i can make as many sartorial mistakes as usual without spending too much money.


I keep wandering around trying to find clothes i might want to wear for my Edinburgh show. I have decided to stop worrying about my jokes, and focus on things i can buy from shops. It is a lot easier to find a shirt that fits than a good joke.


At the moment i have an odd compulsion to buy dress shirts. I don't really wear dress shirts, but i have found in the last several months that one of the few things to make me look vaguely handsome is a shirt under a v neck jumper and the dress shirt has a lovely stuff neck to peek above the jumper.


On Monday (i am slowly getting back up to date with these reviews, damn you Ainsely Harriot) i went to Bath with Martha, mainly to have a change of scenery, and if Bath offers nothing else it offers scenery. It is a nice city, but underneath it's pretty façade, there is nothing there. There is very little soul to Bath, lots of tourists, one of the fast food places i have ever been to, some pretty things to look at, but very little to actually do. Apart from shopping.


I found no shirts i liked, and no trousers i needed, but i did find a jacket.


I have never bought a jacket. I have bought hoodies, and zip up things, and a fleece or 7, and cardigans, but never a jacket. I have bought jackets with suits but never a jacket on its own.


I tend to sneer at people who wear jackets, in the same way that i always whisper “Prick” when i see someone wearing a skinny tie. Some people are allowed to wear jackets, older men, doctors, and TV presenters, but normal people should be discouraged.


That is why i am so ashamed to admit i bought one. And like it. It is blue, from French Connection as was £30 reduced from £100. I know, the gayest thing i have ever written. And not gay in the “young person” sense of the word meaning rubbish, i mean in the actual homosexual meaning of the word.


It is navy blue, with a lighter blue stitching around the lapel, and hangs just below the waist.


I bought it and have warn it around my house, to the corner shop and back, and once while in my car, but i have not yet mustered the bravery to wear it out and about.


I worry that people will see me and think what i think when i seeing people wearing jeans and a jacket. Prick. And maybe that is why i bought it, to get over my prejudice of a simple item of clothing. Maybe wearing it, and being comfortable in it will give me a sense of empathy with other people who wear “fashionable clothes”. Or maybe people already see me, and the clothes i wear and think “Prick”.







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