RSS

Tag Archives: historical fashion fix

S03E04

Well, from the records I’ve been able to find — birth certificates, that sort of thing — there’s a very strong possibility that you are descended from royalty!
*….* Of course I’m descended from royalty! I’m King!
Oh, so you knew?

The show bounces back from a rather stolid outing on a trampoline made of 100% pure endearing. This right here is the episode you show your friends, when they wonder what’s up with you and snickering madly at children’s TV. Trust me.

In this episode:

Song: Work, Terrible Work! — Ben, Mat and Larry as Victorian factory owners; the children’s chorus as their tiniest employees. (Parody of: Food, Glorious Food! from the musical Oliver!)

Recurring sketches:

Historical Fashion Fix — Gilbert the Middle Ages Peasant Becomes a Noble… Illegally (“C’mere, peasant, I’m arrestin’ you!” “What for?!” “That outfit — it’s criminal!” “Oh, that’s weak…”)

DI Bones: Historical Crime Squad — Caligula and the Mystery Assassins (“Oh, mother! What kind of sick man would attack a priest with a hammer?!” “…You’re really not getting the hang of this, are you?”)

Computer Game: Arena Fighter — The good news for Roman criminals: they were given a chance to battle it out in the Roman arena. The bad news? …Yeah.

Dominic Duckworth: HHTV Investigates — The Age of Chivalry… Not! (“Augh! He hit me with a fish!”)

Stupid Deaths — Knights Templar (One drowned in a latrine pit, and… “He made such a noise, that he woke all the Saracens in the camp! They swiftly surrounded and killed us!” “I have said sorry for that, y’know.”)

Words We Get From the — Greeks, part 2

Historical Headmasters — Spartan (“What? Stealing?!… Well done, lad!”)

George IV: Who on Earth Are You? — Hint: not somebody who was overly fond of his ancestors. Any of them. (“In an unusual twist on what normally happens on this show, the King of England has taken our historian into St. George’s Chapel, to prod some of his dead relatives. It’s all gone a bit weird, really.”)

One-offs:

Slimy Stuarts

The Happy Highwayman –“So, to summarise: You’re a Royalist, you’re down on your luck, and you don’t actually have any money. So then! Guess there’s only one thing for it!… *click* *EEK!* “…Here’s a bag of gold coins to tide you over.”

A Mug for the Royal Mug — Charles II has a moment of visionary clarity and strikes a decisive blow against tacky monarchist tchotchkes, thus earning him the gratitude of generations of Commonwealth citizens… that, and he was really looking forward to that ruby-encrusted statue.

Measly Middle Ages

Leech Catching a-Go-Go — A professional leech-catcher from the Middle Ages demonstrates how it’s done… involuntarily. Several times. While trying to explain to a sceptical pal how great his job is. (“Well, I’ll tell you what, Geoff: I think it sucks! Ha!”)

Rotten Romans

Are They Dead Yet? — So you’ve lost your gladiatorial match, and you’re lying on the ground convinced that this could not possibly get any worse… Then the guy dressed as the god of death shows up wielding a red-hot poker, and you remember: you’re Roman.

Field Notes:

  • Hello! Now, how did I manage to miss this episode? I mean, I didn’t actually miss it, because it turns out to be a personal Greatest Hits collection of all the sketches whose memory makes me go ‘Yeah! Hee! I should so watch that one again… now, which episode was that?” I kid you not: somehow it has never subsequently clicked that the ‘That DI Bones one with Caligula!’ and ‘The one where Larry’s catching leeches!’ and ‘Wait, wasn’t there one where George IV actually starts pulling tombs around?!’ internal dialogues all have the same source.
  • And somehow I just forgot altogether that there was a Fashion Fix featuring Mat and Jim falling all over each other’s naked chests. I feel specially bad about this one — not only on account of my apparently incipient Alzheimer’s but because the boys are working SO HARD to make sure this sketch is not only memorable, but full-on makes it onto Tumblr. They’re tossing in every last bit of fan bait possible, up to and including sniffing… well, everything above the waist, really. And as far as I can tell, it didn’t work.
  • This is a total shame, even if you skip the innuendo-fest. It is just so cute, how even the uber-bitchy FF host (“Smelling salts for the star! And a skinny mocha!” — seriously, I think they skipped the script & just sent Mat to intern with Free People for a week) can’t resist Jim the Woobie, who is in turn pulling out all the stops here, to the point where he might as well be an Eeyore illustration.
  • Literally every moment is worthy of a .gif — they even throw punny Larry in there, presumably as a last-ditch sop to the Hale groupies — but nope, it’s Baybond that’s inevitably become the thing. Were I Jim, I think I might be mildly insulted by this.
  • The universe — or at least Larry, evident author of the leech-catching bit — has however seen fit to reward our Howick with a rare character that isn’t karma’s chew toy. In fact he actually gets to deliver the punchline, and you can tell he is so appreciating this to the full, because he looks way happier than any man should to be delivering a pun that abysmal.
  • Mind you, Larry is at the same time doing full penance for his sins, not only here but in the Stupid Death; thus definitively proving himself either the world’s best sport or its most benign masochist. Either way, the resulting air of wounded dignity shining through the goop is ridiculously funny, especially when combined with the ability to simulate being attacked by leeches. How you would phrase this on a performers’ CV I have no idea, but I do think it deserves at least a line.
  • Meanwhile Mat’s also off in odd corners being funny, with full emphasis on the ‘ridiculous’ (and even fuller emphasis on the ‘falling over’). In fact he’s so excited apparently to be playing Charles II again, I caught myself involuntarily muttering “Down, boy!” Although really, he has a point — to the extent that the credibility stretch actually messes with the mirth a bit. Y’know, the man goes around dressed like that, he has a right to assume his advisors know he’s OK with blatant overkill.
  • Also, those wigs; interestingly enough Mat turns out to be the only one who can wear them without looking like he’s being slowly devoured by the Lion costume from the Wizard of Oz. (While I’m on, the Baynton nonchalance re: plastic wings glued to his temples is also impressive. I’d be batting at them compulsively within seconds.) Ben has a much more understanding relationship with the stiff Cavalier hat from the highwayman bit – something about the way it’s bristling along with his indignation tickles me mightily.
  • Oh, look, somebody’s figured out a way to combine Lawry’s total inoffensiveness with his psychotic bastardness in one sketch! Now that is clever — charming, even, in a weird making-personable-lemonade-out-of-a-lemon-persona way. Especially since, I don’t know what it is about HH villain characters and their villainous note-taking, but every time they pull those little pieces of paper out – shades of Draco in the ‘Historical Law’ bit — I cannot stop giggling.
  • Between all this, and totally wanting that cape, I am almost reconciled to the realisation that the show is just going to keep bunging variations on the stick-insecty theme at me until I give in. I will even concede that, despite his mildly dopey name, Sir Francis Guesswork proves a (comedically) sophisticated foil to George IV, as well. It also gives Ben a break for once — that royal-advisor smug of his is fully amazing, but looks like it might get painful to maintain after awhile.
  • Characteristically, Lawry does an especially fine job of looking totally grossed out… come to think of it, those coffins would be nigh-irresistible to a prank-inclined props team. Really, that whole genealogy sketch is just… whatever I was saying about lazy writing last ep, forget it, OK? Just a deliriously perfect blend of characters, subject matter and sheer non-sequitur dark comedy that is like nothing the show has or will ever manage again — just brilliant.
  • This is another way you can tell that the comedy is now the confirmed priority: sketches that are obviously about the writers playing with the character, not their historical value. There’s another beautiful example here in the beyond-hilariously-inspired pairing of DI Bones and Caligula — and can we all just take a second to be relieved that Simon’s back playing the latter? Apparently, His Imperial Loopiness got a brunet rinse for the occasion and everything.
  • (Oh, and the story about killing the priest instead of the sacrificial beast, are we all convinced that’s just the most gruesomely giggleworthy anecdote ever, yet? You in the back? Yeah, just wait…)
  • Anyway, so he’s already totally fun to write for, and on top of that someone’s taken a real shine to the dour DI, and/or has an affinity for American B-movie melodramas. They also, evidently, know what Mat can do with melodrama given the chance. The result plays almost as a parody of the duo’s usual Roman-sketch dynamic: Here, it’s Mat who forces Simon to underplay to him… which Simon characteristically turns into a chance to make Caligula even more deliciously unhinged. It’s all just immensely satisfying for the serious HH fan.
  • What? Yes, of course I remember there was a song. It’s… um, a very catchy song. Yeah. In fact, it’s a catchy song about the horrors of Victorian child labour which is in turn a takeoff of a catchy ditty about the horrors of Victorian-era workhouses. So the parody has a sort of recursive-meta-loop thing going on, which I enjoy because I’m Aspergers-y like that, and totally not because I am looking for ways to keep my interest level high enough to comment in the first place.
  • …At least, not entirely. Because, OK, those uber-Broadway numbers that end with everyone’s arms outstretched to the balconies are not really my thing, especially not the moppet-intensive kind. (I think Annie — the Albert Finney movie version — may have caused my snark instincts to develop prematurely.) Even the cue cards can’t really cut through my scepticism here. The fact that this is the approximately 9328th iteration of the theme (in fact it’s basically the very first sketch on Victorian child labour set to music) may also not be helping.
  • For those of you who do enjoy this sort of thing, though, go nuts with my full backing. It’s a great video. It’s beautifully produced, and entirely accurate — Oliver! Lite, now with 50% less simplistic melodrama. It also features Ben finding the absolute best use for this talk-singy smug ever… really, just one of the best uses for Ben ever. The man was born to play an old-fashioned Carnegie capitalist type, to the extent where any picture I have subsequently seen of him without muttonchops causes some faint melancholy.
  • I also very much like the way Mat’s coldly stern pose visibly dissolves the closer his contact with his teeny ’employees’ — very sweet. There’s no way to blame him; although this lot is extraordinarily adept at the song-and-dance stuff by the standards of kiddy TV — especially the little pickpocket — they are in no way over-rehearsed. The combo produces a charming effect similar to the actual kids’ voices used in the Peanuts specials.
  • Oh look, it’s another random recurring invasion of the present by the past: Historical Headmasters…. yeah, yay. This (spoiler alert) really should’ve been a one-off bit; this one is just a rehash of the Spartan song, only now with new extra-special weird in the form of NOBODY FREAKING CALLING THIS OUT AS WEIRD! I mean, c’mon now people! At least call a PTA meeting, or whatever you have over there!
  • Although… given the way the fluorescent lighting hilights the extreme plastic-ness of the ‘leather’ armour, it’s possible to imagine dude’s merely an escaped mental patient and everyone’s been advised not to disrupt his fantasy until the doctors get there. Which helps. Also, cute Bertie is cute… and so is Rattus’ little random Rembrandt outfit! ‘FleaBay’ — squeeee!
  • Oh… so that’s who Dominic Duckworth is? Apologies to whomever’s entry I deleted off TVTropes because I totally didn’t recognise the name. Even after the ‘hit me with a fish!’ line was used in S3 promos over here for the longest time. I will be having a stern discussion with my hippocampus shortly.
  • Right, so this is a decently clever bit — obviously so, to the point where I’m rather surprised it hasn’t been tried before this. The ‘Bible-Cam’, another nice touch. I do wish they’d sprung for a power tie or cufflinks or something on Dom, though. The set, on the other hand, is really making me wish the budget increase had kicked in before the Field of Cloth of Gold sketch…

95% Accu-rat:

  • “Short tunics are very fashionable now!”… cue panicked blushing as every adult in the viewing audience starts realising why short tunics were fashionable, for men in particular… then realises their kids are looking at them funny… Well played, show.
  • So, Captain James Hind. What he was captain of is a bit obscure, but swashbuckling seems as good a candidate as any. OK, so the good taste in capes may have been exaggerated a bit. And the claim that he solely robbed Cromwell supporters seems only to have been made by the man himself as he was about to be executed for high treason, ie. supporting the Royalist cause — like Dick Turpin, he wasn’t above thuggery and murder when it suited him, regardless.
  • But in every other respect he was as flamboyant a Stuart-era character as ever twirled a moustache. His positively affectionate entry in the Newgate Calendar (the 18th-century’s answer to the True Crime Library) makes for excellent light reading, along the lines of the Scarlet Pimpernel: Hind has often been celebrated for his generosity to all sorts of people, more especially for his kindness to the poor, which it is reported was so extraordinary, that he never injured the property of any person who had not a complete share of riches.
  • Yep, that’s Charles II’s ‘s real face on the mug. Years of what back then would’ve been dubbed ‘debauched living’ will do that to you. He was in fact dark-complexioned enough (thanks in real life to that French and Italian background) that several of your more enthusiastically revisionist African Pride websites have dubbed him ‘The Black Boy King of England’ and insist that he was in fact black by heritage — where that heritage comes from gets a bit murky; there are the usual mutterings of ancient tribal migration into Europe and what not.
  • Short version: no, of course he wasn’t. He was however unusually tall for the era, standing well over six feet, and must’ve cut an imposing figure regardless (…ladies), which according to Wikipedia led to some real difficulty in finding disguises to fit whilst fleeing from Cromwell’s army. Stuffing him in an oak tree was among the more creative solutions.
  • Hey, did you know the real Caligula might not have actually been a native-born psychopath? He was the youngest son of a honest-to-goodness national hero, Germanicus, whose popularity was such that when he died suddenly it was (and is) widely assumed that Emperor Tiberius had him poisoned, to eliminate the possibility of a palace coup. Good ol’Tiberius — remember his paranoid streak? — then proceeded to execute Caligula’s mom as a traitor for being ticked at this. Then he starved her two older sons to death.
  • Caligula, on the other hand, he took something of a shine to, taking him into his household and *gulp* teaching him everything he knew. Despite which Little Bootikins was remembered by (an admittedly desperate, but still) populace mostly as a nice kid, and when he ascended the throne actually seemed to be living up to those expectations… right up until he mysteriously fell ill a few months later. Brain damage? Epilepsy? All anybody knows for sure is that that’s when the Perversity Parade started up in earnest.
  • Yeah, so, as I mentioned the last time chivalry came up, nobody actually acquainted with the human race — especially that section of it engaged in historical research should be real surprised that it worked much better as an ideal than as any sort of practical guide to human behaviour. Or, come to that, be amazed that a nice fresh fish would be considered a valuable prize in an era prior to refrigeration, especially the further inland you were.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Series Three

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

S02E10

Colchester, London, St Albans!
Everybody talk about — dead Romans!

One of the truly classic episodes, a marvelous marriage of inspiration and experience that — probably not coincidentally — debuted right around the time everyone started insisting they’d been intending to make a ‘family show’ all along…

In this episode:

Song: Boudicca — Martha as the legendary warrior Queen of the Iceni, Ben, Mat & Jim as her chorus-slash-stooges, Larry as a Roman centurion

Recurring sketches:

Victorian EastEnders — A Name for Seventh Child (“How’re we going to top this for his next birthday?” “Well, he’s going to be cleaning out the cogs in the new machine at the factory, so I don’t actually think we need to worry about his next birthday…”)

Shouty Man — New! Victorian Maid (“Make someone else do it, and the job is done! …And if your Victorian Maid should become ill, old, pregnant, lazy or otherwise problematic, we’ll replace it with a younger model! For the same low, low price!”)

Scary Stories — The Freaks (“I turned down a film premiere to do this, y’know…”)

Historical Fashion Fix — Celtic Farmer Readies for Battle (“I’m working my way into a Celtic warrior battle frenzy! I go absolutely bananas and then kill everything in my path!!” “Not. On my show. Sister.“)

HHTV Sport — Georgian Pinching Match (“I’m sure, long after people have gone off football, they’ll still be into pinching matches and greased goose grabbing.”)

Historical Hospital — Dr. Isis, Egyptian not-quite-mad-scientist (ie., they got to him before he hauled out the fresh mouse halves.)

One-offs:

Measly Middle Ages

News at 1066 — As told via Bayeux Tapestry… *insert still-a-more-reliable-source-than ___ gag here* (“I must apologise for the time delay, but these scenes have taken awhile to embroider.”)

Bertran de Born: Now That’s What I Call Miserable! Vol.3 — Y’know, “I’ll turn their heads into a mush of brains mixed with links of mail…” isn’t really all that bad a lyric. Although I prefer his later work: Simon Cowell, Simon Cowell/Your trousers are too high, and everybody prefers Cheryl…

Slimy Stuarts

Royal Wedding by Proxy — “I now pronounce you… friend of the husband, and somebody else’s wife.” Just be grateful they left out the bit where the stand-in groom put a ceremonial leg in the bride’s bed.

Pistol-Packing Reformation — How simultaneously tough and incomprehensible are the Scots? Let’s have a minister try to introduce new C of E prayer books, and find out! (“Yer nae guid yoo! I’m no’ happy!”)

Gorgeous Georgians

Georgian Army Life — In which we learn they switched to picking up drunks from tavern floors after the failure of their previous campaign: ‘Be All That You Never Wanted to Be!’

Awful Egyptians

Cleopatra’s Beauty Regime — Which pointedly doesn’t include either wax cones or KISS-groupie wigs. Result! (“Because beauty is skin-deep… and has a beard.”)

Field Notes:

  • The familiarity-fest continues, and so, concurrently, does the inability to snarkily critique grow. Honestly, if I could somehow sum up this episode with a great big hug of affection and appreciation, I would…
  • …but that would make for a short article, not to mention those animated emoticon thingies are really annoying. Besides, it’s still interesting. Series Two can feel at times rather like watching an eager novice juggler; the shiny new ideas and sophisticated ambitions were there from the outset, but it took awhile for everyone — the writers especially — to get it all balanced right and clicking smoothly along.
  • This episode, basically, commemorates the moment at which that light bulb went off, and what we now consider the characteristic HH house style kicked in… and in case you doubt it, five little words: Larry the Historical Hospital doctor. Yep, they really had come a long way — all the way through to Series Four, when it’ll be time to make another leap forward.
  • For now, we begin — as all great epochs in HH creative history tend to — with the song, which has the distinction of being what tipped my interest in the show from casual to full-bore PVR series record. Not coincidentally, it works in much the same way as the ‘King of Bling’ does: inspiration flows into understanding flows into parody, all interlocking so neatly that the resulting brilliant cleverness comes across as essentially just a splendidly satisfying bit of entertainment.
  • Anchored by a debut lead vocal from Martha that can only be described as triumphant. All the more so, because very honestly, I had no idea she had it in her… although in hindsight, I bet that Historical Hairdresser does wield a mean curling iron. Still, up till now the really brassy stuff had all been handled by Sarah. But we’ve got Alice round to make capable work of the dainty feminine stuff since then — as demonstrated later on in this same ep, as it happens.
  • Having once got her way clear, Martha proves admirably deft in the handling — the accent hovers dangerously on the verge, but hey, details. Together with the songwriters, she injects real human credibility into the grrl-power cliches, and thus creates a character through whom viewers of all ages get a reminder that such basic aspects of badassery as the desire for freedom, fair play, courage and leadership… not to mention wielding a cool battle-axe… are entirely gender-neutral.
  • Interestingly enough, this ep is also — as per Tumblr — THE ONE WITH (theoretically) NAKED WILLBOND. Complete with “the flower [tattoos] were my idea” followed by strategic pastel watering can. The whole sketch is a sweetly naughty hoot like that. While never quite enough to overcome my initial amazement at the implications of such a scene in a kiddy show, the view’s certainly nothing a man pushing forty need apologise for. Especially once he loses what in North American would be defined as ‘the ultimate ’70’s pornstache’.
  • What I find even more fascinating now is that, while Ben’s proven previously to be entirely OK with sniffing and spanking, the getting (almost) naked is clearly terrifying the tattoos right off him. Then again, given that here it’s Mat who first sniffs the shoe, then sniffs Ben… the latter might merely be reacting to offstage discussion of ‘how best to shoot the scene’, featuring odd silences whenever he approached.
  • And this also happens to be the ep in which Shouty Man — whom, as you’ll recall, has already been inspired to the heights of creative shamelessness by this particular era — tosses his New! Victorian Maid onscreen. Blithely offering to replace ‘it’, should ‘it’ become inconvenient in any way. At which point I am a) reminded that the producer of this show is female and thus b) pretty damn sure the entire sketch selection is intentional. This is a (completely wonderful) adult satire concept that somebody noticed could be (barely) decently layered under kiddy knockabout comedy.
  • There’s something of the same flavour in the second EastEnders sketch, which carries on the unusual thoughtfulness from the first. Clearly somebody on the writing staff either did Dickens for their English degree (with a minor in Swift), or maybe just spends a lot of time in front of classic Doctor Who. Either way, it’s just nice to see the focus deepened a bit past the standard for once; rather the same pleasing effect Series Three will get by delving into Viking home life.
  • It doesn’t hurt here that Mat has a natural knack with kids that shines through even when he’s supposed to be being harsh with them, which here is made extra-engaging by another decent turn from the young actor in question — Bertie may be blonder, but this little guy has him soundly beat for sheer talent. It all sets up an effective backdrop of familial affection for the savage satire.
  • And speaking of effective… love, love love all around for Ben the pistol-packing Reverend, which can still make me laugh aloud lo these many viewings later. I’m never quite sure whether I should add or deduct points for this new trend of picking up an isolated incident and implying it’s characteristic of the larger picture… but damn, I’m so not willing to lose either Rev. Benjamin turning the page with his teeth or Mat’s Scottish accent. (Could probably dump Martha’s without tears, though.)
  • Pinching matches: Owwww! And also sort of… weirdly compelling. (Ooh, speaking of which, Jim’s got a blazer now! Very nice.) Did the contestants really wear the all-white ensembles? ‘Cos that’s kind of distractingly creepy, actually. Like, great, there’s still schoolyard bullying in the afterlife. Of course, they couldn’t show an actually authentic match, given where the real-life pinchers would’ve homed in on first go… still, I’m with Blazer-Wearing Jim; in a modern world where pro arm-wrestling is a thing, I’ve no idea why there aren’t entire pinching leagues.
  • Hee! Knew adding the BBC News package to the cable would pay off in parody content!… well, maybe not, but having the reference really does enhance the funny on the Bayeux Tapestry bit, which almost justifies the fee hike this month. Seriously, it’s just such a fun sketch, an unusually imaginative parody idea that effectively lightens the mood actually does work surprisingly well as a modern newscast… when I’m not being distracted by the hair.
  • Or Simon Cowell. So what, the gag is he somehow hung around medieval France scoping out the local talent? Would explain a lot about Il Divo, I guess, but still, kind of gratuitously weird. Otherwise, the minstrel sketch is all kinds of hilarious both on its own and as the unexpected-but-entirely natural payoff of all Mat’s performance experience to date. He really brings what could’ve been a stupidly goofy disaster to perfect, elegant life.
  • On the subject of subtle: Lawry is surprisingly not-annoying, not to say convincingly French, as Charles I’s stand-in… or maybe that’s just my relief at his sanity’s return talking. The concept of royal proxy marriage is not, actually, as Horrible as they clearly seem to be convinced it must be, but via generous helpings of modern logic — and of course Larry — they manage to turn it into a really funny, nimble festival of surreality.
  • The ability to skew historical normality through current perspective is one of the most powerful comic weapons the show has at its disposal… they just need to remember to use it wisely, perhaps.
  • “You horrible little man!” — yep, they’ve also learned how to milk Jim’s woobie-ness for maximum watchability. At least, I find this whole Georgian Army sketch adorable out of all proportion to what it deserves, esp. given the suspiciously clean, bright uniforms as compared to the icky food. At any rate, take heart, our Jim! At least your therapist will be able to make that yacht payment this month.
  • As a nifty adjunct to the gender-based interestingness… also, if you ever want to seriously compare sophistication levels between this series and last… just compare the two Egyptian beauty sketches. Martha looks genuinely great in the exotic makeup… but why are they suddenly making like they’ve never shown the false beard before? Not actually the kind of thing you need to hammer home over and over for fear it’ll be missed…

95% Accu-rat:

  • So, Queen Boudicca — or Boadicea, which frankly I always thought was the much cooler spelling, but from my researches appear to have been soundly outvoted. The song does an excellent job of summarising the main facts of the case, although it’s actually not clear whether the lady really did poison herself in captivity.
  • Also, in keeping with the general policy of bowdlerizing most Horribleness associated with sexual violence and/or perversion, it tactfully doesn’t go into detail re: the ‘answer’ the Romans are thought to have made to her request to retain her kingdom: stripping and flogging Boudicca herself, and raping her daughters. Yeah, ‘turned this sister into one angry chick’ works pretty damn well.
  • General awkwardnesses aside, this particular Scary Story is working awfully hard for not much. Although the legend of the ‘pig-faced woman’, while almost forgotten now, was remarkably persistent back in the day — to the extent that it inspired one of my very favourite Wiki articles — the reality of existence for most ‘freaks’ was pretty mundane.
  • They weren’t necessarily, or even usually ‘made’ to exhibit themselves — most embraced it wholeheartedly, as a way to maintain their independent dignity and earn enough to keep themselves in comfort. (See Sarah Biffen for an excellent example.) Yes, this correctly strikes our modern ideals re: the disabled as horrifically misguided, but then it’s only very recently that their choice was something other than exploitation or starvation.
  • Which leads nicely into Bertran de Born. Actually a minor nobleman of the Limousin province of what would eventually be France, circa around 1178… which may explain why he wasn’t all that sanguine about existence generally; a nihilistic streak was pretty much de rigueur for the Dark Ages. Compared to Grimm’s tales, for instance, the Baron de Born sounds positively high on sunshine. At any rate, he developed his uniquely, uh, personal interest in battle poetry thanks to the shenanigans of Henry II Plantagenet in and around the region.
  • What makes all of this even remotely remarkable is Dante’s decision to immortalise him in the Inferno: According to his later vida (a romanticised short biography attached to his songs), Henry II believed Bertran had fomented the rebellion of his son Henry the Young King. As a result, Dante Alighieri portrayed him… as a sower of schism, punished in the eighth circle of Hell (Canto XXVIII), carrying his severed head like a lantern. So, uh, take that, Cowell!
  • Not that I’m condoning firing on your parishioners, but it’s indisputable that the medieval Scots — here seen being inspired to become ‘Covenanters’, ie. formally opposed to any head of the church but the Christ — handled religion within the same unique interpretation of ‘love thy neighbor’ that they brought to anything else. Apparently, a more famous incident in the prayer-book rebellion involved one Jenny Geddes flat-out hurling her folding-stool at the pulpit: “Daur ye say mass in my lug!” (Dare you say mass in my ear!).
  • So yeah, this whole thing with Charles I’s wedding is simply proxy marriage — a very routine part of aristocratic life at a time in which royal marriage contracts were extremely formal alliance-sealing things that also involved the transaction of huge dowries, and travel between countries was concurrently a huge honking peril-filled deal.
  • As noted, the big showpiece ceremony could always be held when the bride arrived; and of course the proxy ceremony would be held with all possible dignity, including the pretty dresses and whatnot. But the really important business was the fulfillment of that contract, leading to some extremely obvious indications that this was all purely realpolitik. At Marie Antoinette’s quasi-marriage, for instance, her older brother Ferdinand played the part of the groom.
  • It’s not exactly a secret either that being a Victorian-era maidservant wasn’t a bed of roses. There did exist a sort of hierarchy in which it was possible to gain some status; a personal ladies’-maid, for instance, was expected to be well-bred enough to know how things were done among the aristocracy, and perhaps to engage her mistress in conversation on same (similar to a male valet). Parlourmaids, being the first aspect of the home visitors saw, were routinely chosen for their beauty.
  • But if you were just another random house skivvy… yeah, your day began with ironing the family newspapers at 5:30 am and went downhill from there. Your whole life depended on the whim of your employers, because dismissal without a ‘character’ (in this case meaning ‘able to keep her mouth shut, up to and including that time my son got drunk and decided it would be fun to rape something’) meant you were effectively unemployable.
  • Finally… I regret exceedingly that I was unable to find anything further on either pinching competitions or greased goose grabbing. The closest I came was this rather more disturbing article on ‘goose pulling’ — basically the same thing, except with the goose alive ‘n’ honking. At least, erm, initially. Which actually makes a lot more sense when you consider it from a sporting perspective… and did indeed survive to the present day.
  • Albeit not, I hasten to add, in England, where it appears to have been in the process of dying out even as our sport-jacketed pals poked each other. Either that, of course, or those involved simply rechanneled their homicidal urges into inventing rugby.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Series Two

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

S02E08

But I need some new things! My boots… zey have so many holes in zem I… I don’t feel like I am vearing any!
Well, ah… you are not vearing any.
Huh? Oh… well, zat vould explain it.

More solidly reliable laughs — and of course winces — abound, as the revolution finally settles into ongoing reality…

In this episode:

Song: Learn Your Hieroglyphics — Mat as the Teacher

Recurring sketches:

HHTV Sport — Tudor Football

Dodgy War Inventions — No.28: Russian WWII Anti-Tank Bomb (“Woof!”)

Shouty (Wo)man — New! Georgian Fan (“The latest in mobile communications technology! Everyone should have one!… Except you, ‘cos you’re a bloke.” “Right, terribly sorry.”)

Fashion Fix — Georgian Peasant Becomes a Nobleman (“Well, at least I can’t look any more ridiculous!” ” “…I stand corrected.”)

Stupid Deaths — Sir Arthur Aston, Stuart army officer (Beaten to death with his own wooden leg… “Oooh, hey — I bet you were hopping mad!”)

Scary Stories — The Terror of Tedworth (“What is this, Scooby-Doo?”)

News of the Empire — Caesar Assassination Special (“A cracking good read!… Although it is all in Latin.”)

One-offs:

Vicious Vikings

Made-Up Marauders — An ancient raiding party discovers there’s more than one way of using face paint to terrify…

Attack on Lindisfarne — Vikings -vs- monks, round oh-gosh-an-awful-lot: in which a moment of clarity is achieved… for a moment. (“No, wait! I’ve just remembered… killing is really fun, and taking stuff from monks is very easy!”)

Terrible Tudors

Polite Mugging — Setting a monetary limit on which has predictably unpredictable consequences.

Woeful Second World War

Winter at Stalingrad — “Well… I sink you are in luck. I got zese boots in zis morning — good quality too, zey are Russian!” “How do you know zey are Russian?” “Zere was a Russian in zem.”

Gorgeous Georgians

The Eternal (Fan) Dance — The ‘latest in mobile communications technology’: apparently, propelling sitcom romance hijinks since 1785.

Rotten Romans

Crimewatch BC: Caesar’s Assassination — “No, really we want to kill them and burn down their houses, but I don’t want to say that in public, just in case they run away…” “See ya!” “…me and my big mouth.”

Field Notes:

  • So, here we are in the phase of reviewer’s nostalgia I like to call Holy Crap, That Song is Totally Schoolhouse Rock… followed closely by Wait, They Have Schoolhouse Rock in the UK?!
  • Sadly, no. However you lot were learning basic educational concepts in my childhood, it clearly didn’t involve adorable animated characters cavorting to fun, catchy, clever contemporary tunes. But damned if this isn’t exactly how Bob Dorough et al. would’ve approached hieroglyphics had they been on the curriculum… and, y’know, Mat’s entire onscreen persona is more-or-less being a cartoon character… so it all never fails to totally bemuse me every time.
  • Once I do eventually get around to appreciating it on its own merits, I’m captivated all over again. The song is impressively tight lyrically, and the kids are professionally adorable without once sliding into obnoxiously precious — I cannot emphasise this enough, as a rare luxury for an adult watching a kid’s show. And, yes, despite some rather obvious disconnect between the robust vocal and the visual, Mat performs the authentic living daylights out of an entire jazz/rockabilly number dressed only in a towel and some fake eyebrows, and I’m honestly not sure if the first or last part of that sentence is more impressive.
  • But seeing as it’s fast becoming a potential elephant in the reviewing room: Frankly, I’ve never seen the appeal of HH au naturel, regardless of who’s currently going topless. They’re all, well, people I’ve spent months writing a blog about, but if they’re going to act as spurs to the *ahem* imagination, I generally need a bit of extra costuming to get well started. Will say, though, that Mat’s physique is neither grotesque or alarming; he simply has no surplus body fat whatsoever, which I do actually find more aesthetically interesting than your standard six-pack. Really.
  • Also, it totally enables him to be an absolutely hilarious parody of your typical fashion guru, which, given the self-parody already inherent in the genre, is no mean trick let me tell you. Gok Wan isn’t really a thing over here, but my leftover neuroses (from a brief-but-tumultuous stop in a fashion buying office) say thank you anyway, show, for taking such a satisfyingly satirical whack at the industry. And I do mean satisfying, on all the levels. One other lovely aspect of Mat’s physicality: his entirely un-self-conscious ease within its ambiguity.
  • Oh, and he can write funny, too. So can Ben. Their collaboration on the Lindisfarne sketch is an intriguing experiment; being simoultaneously more sophisticated humour than your standard HH outing and less adept at merging the facts into same. Interesting too that it’s clearly coming from the performer POV — everyone gets their chance to shine — but isn’t adapted to anyone’s specific schticks as established thus far, not even their own. This frankly is not at all how I would’ve imagined them writing themselves, but hey, it works, and that remarkably unselfishly. In sum: your effort shows real promise, boys, I’ll keep it on file and look forward to seeing more.
  • Ben is less successful as a full-on cosplay-at-the-Comicon-style Badass Viking Warrior, just because, well, Ben. It’s going to be a few more episodes at least before the image of him threatening to ‘spread’ the enemy clears my brain. S’okay, though, it’s not like it was a wildly innovative sketch to begin with or anything. Except that Lawry appears still to be stuck in psycho berserker mode…
  • …ie. the sort of mode you really don’t want to be telling someone who’s in it that they’re also highly convincing as a circus clown. Which really, I hasten to add, doesn’t have to interfere with the other at all. Makeup and balloons and little squirty buttonhole and just possibly a machete… or, oh yeah, the bloody Caesar-assassinating knife from the Beware the Ides of March business… oh boy. Can’t sleep, Viking clown will maraud me.
  • But enough of all this chipper playfulness. It’s been nearly a season-and-a-half since anyone — in this case meaning ‘Jim’ — froze to death in the unforgiving wastes, so time to visit everyone’s favourite award-winning wuss in Stalingrad. Seriously, if he’s really freezing, why the hell is he making such a fuss? Especially over a fur coat? What, they don’t have thrift shops in Germany? I’m willing to excuse a lot when Ben and Jim are together onscreen (the little ‘vacation’ thing has all the hallmarks of another Willbond improv bit, and if so, all the points), but in this case the funny’s so obviously out of sync with the reality it undermines both aspects of the sketch.
  • Still, even taken at face value, you’ve gotta give the producers massive credit for sticking to their commitment to more character-based comedy this series, even when going for the noir jugular. That Horrible doesn’t just mean gross is as important a lesson as any for the kiddies to learn — that, and of course the sheer fabulousness of a German accent, thank you Benjamin. The languages degree was not in vain!… although if you find your parents getting a little cranky over it at Christmas dinner, this might be why.
  • Not even kidding, though: we are witnessing an HH linguistic milestone on the order of Mat’s Gallic stylings, here, and it will be just as rewarding, if not even more so. Because boy howdy, does this man love his his Teutonic vowels, and all the gloriously unctuous implications inherent therein. You can practically see it glowing off him through the snow and everything. (It’s not the first time he’s broken it out, of course, but the full effect got a little obscured previously on account of NAZIS! and so on.)
  • Oh, and speaking of uncompromising bleakness… Animated or no, I notice they didn’t make-believe the dog survived that Russian bomb project. I do not wish to go all PETA-particular on the reality, but geez, show, it might once in awhile be worth remembering that you’re aimed at a segment of the population who probably haven’t yet dealt with the death of a hamster, let alone adorably oblivious Old Yeller here. Come to that, their parents likely aren’t gonna be too happy with you adding to the therapy bills either.
  • Meanwhile, Jim totally redeems himself in the Tudor Football bit — later remade of course for Sport Relief, but I must confess to much preferring the original, just because Jim’s determined-athlete face continues to be just that hysterically realistic. If I hadn’t already known he was a football fanatic in real life, I’d so be able to tell, especially as played off Larry’s perfectly-judged media importance.
  • Overall — just as a suggestion, you understand — great stuff to whip out on YouTube next time your ‘Merican pals get especially boring re: how sissy European football is compared to the NFL. I know I was very nearly impressed enough to stop snickering every time a European player starts feigning ULTIMATE VIOLATION at a feather touch… kidding! I swear!
  • Not exactly devastated, I must admit, that the Shouty Woman concept wasn’t repeated. Martha does her level best — and so, bless him and his solemn silliness once again, does Larry — but this bit works mostly as proof that the concept owes its success as much or more to what Jim brings to it, as the idea itself. Mind, it also works nicely as an audition tape should Martha ever decide she wants to star in a Georgette Heyer adaptation. That is some pro fan-fluttering, right there.
  • You can tell it’s a talent, because Katy doesn’t pull it off quite as naturally in the followup bit. (All concerned do however fully pull the sketch itself off, in a manner that indicates a firm grounding in ancient ‘Britcoms,’ as still being rerun over here on PBS). Where she really excels, costuming-wise, is in wearing that gorgeous steel-blue Tudor ensemble; I have no idea how authentic it is, but regardless it’s my favourite female outfit of the entire series. Of course, I have a soft spot for the Tudor costuming generally. Those flat velvet tam-y things the men wear: DO WANT.
  • Stupid Death sidekick watch: we’ve gotten as far as the X-Factor idea, but not the actual skeletons. We’ve also gotten to the point at which the corpses are freely allowed to talk back, argue, and just generally comment along the lines of actual audition hopefuls. Which means we’re basically just having lots of totally random Simon and friends interacting every few episodes or so. I approve.
  • Lots of love also for the Crimewatch BC sketch; obvious enough, but with some real cleverness tucked in around the edges of the execution. “Kirsty the Younger” — nice touch that, as is the ‘forensic’ bust. Also, yep, absolutely gonna be checking under my bed for rampaging Lawrys tonight…

95% Accu-rat:

  • Right, I have finally been inspired to check into this business with Julius Caesar and his supposedly huge honker once and for all. The consensus of a quick Google Image search appears to be that it was indeed as ‘Roman’ as all get-out — what today is more commonly described as ‘aquiline’ — but not hilariously massive or anything. Let’s face it, when attempting to get yourself nominated as Dictator-for-Life of the known Western Hemisphere, ordinary-looking might have passed, but ‘adenoidal goofball’ would’ve been a major handicap.
  • Although a relevant passage from Shakespeare doth portray a man perhaps a mite slow on the uptake: Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear. Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March. Caesar: What man is that? Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March. And while we’re on the subject of Mr. ‘Not lazy with the phrasey’, it turns out ‘Et tu, Brute?’ was shamelessly fudged from the reported ‘Kai su, teknon?‘ [You too, my child?]. That is, if he said anything at all, which is doubtful…
  • At any rate, for the really interested here’s an excellent scholarly summary of the reasons why Caesar had to die, and in the process gives an idea of the ancient version of a preventable tragedy: Later that night, his wife Calpurnia dreamed of his body streaming with blood and tried to prevent him from leaving the house. The priests (haruspices), too, found the omens to be unfavorable. Caesar hesitated [to go to the Senate] but was persuaded by one of the conspirators… Even as evidence of the plot became known, there were attempts to inform Caesar, but either they were too late or ignored.
  • Things I love about the Internet, vol. 3214: you’re never more than a quick Yahoo Answer away from someone who not only has clearly researched the concept of Viking war paint, but tried a potential recipe out on himself. Sounds pretty much the equivalent of what’s shown here — a sort of eyeblack meant to throw the warrior’s gaze into deep, ominous shadow, thus at the very least anticipating the covers of death metal albums by several centuries. Mind you, it turns out the classic ‘whiteface’ clown dates away back to Ancient Greek comedy… I dunno, folks, I just don’t know.
  • At least there are no Bozo derivatives in the full version of the Terror of Tedworth; unless of course you count the folks who fell for it at the time. Basically it appears to have been the seventeenth-century version of the Amityville Horror, glaring red-eyed apparations and all.
  • You know the most humiliating lack of foresight in the Soviet anti-tank dog deployment? (Yes, of course Wiki has an entire indepth entry on the whole project.) Even more so than the story as given here, which specifically involves the wannabe four-footed ordnance picking up on the distinctive smell of the Soviet petrol, among several other obvious signs that this was a Really Bad Idea? They left themselves wide open not only to German sneers that the Russian soldiers were so afraid to fight they sent dogs in their place, but the accompanying propaganda photos of cute mutts the Germans claimed to have rescued from becoming squishy shrapnel.
  • On the other hand, damned if it didn’t work, sort of: There are however documented claims of individual successes of the program, with the number of damaged tanks usually being within a dozen. For example, at the front of the 160th Infantry Division near Hlukhiv, six dogs had damaged five German tanks; near the airport of Stalingrad, anti-tank dogs destroyed 13 tanks. At the Battle of Kursk, 16 dogs disabled 12 German tanks which had broken through the Soviet lines of defense near Tamarovka, Bykovo… Apparently it really was a dog’s life, out there.
 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 17, 2013 in Series Two

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,