We’re heading into end-of-the-year “gong” season again, and for sports fans that means BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2013 – helpfully shortened to SPOTY. On Sunday 15 December our finest athletes, coaches and managers will brave a barrage of BBC roving microphones and Gary Lineker’s aftershave to review a year of sporting triumphs and near-misses.
Though this is the 60th anniversary of the SPOTY awards, the show’s diamond jubilee will be missing a bit of sparkle. Sue Barker, for so long the jewel in the crown of BBC sports coverage, has opted to “downsize” her commitments and retire from her SPOTY duties after 19 glorious years. (Don’t worry, tennis fans, she’ll still be anchoring the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage and flirting with Tim Henman.) Her place will be taken by glamorous Gabby Logan, whose legs will share the limelight with Gary Lineker and Clare Balding.
After the gold rush of London 2012 there was a risk that 2013 might have fallen as flat as the much-touted Olympic legacy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The England cricket team’s summer Ashes campaign may have been unconvincing, but no one could doubt the quality of Ian Bell’s batting or fast bowler Stuart Broad’s unerring knack of getting up Aussie noses. Justin Rose triumphed at the US Open in June; Chris Froome made it back-to-back wins for Sky at the Tour de France in July.
The crowning glory in another Great British Summer of Sport was Andy Murray becoming the first British male to win a Wimbledon singles title since Fred Perry in 1936. If that doesn’t win him the SPOTY award for 2013, I’ll eat a haggis.
I’ll be giving SPOTY 2013 a miss, for reasons I outlined last year. Instead, I’d like to pay tribute to the sports personalities whose loose-lipped, gaffe-prone, foot-in-mouth antics have kept the headline writers busy over the past 12 months.
Pulling no punches – David Warner
In June 2013 pugnacious Aussie opening batsmen David Warner narrowly escaped being sent home from the Ashes tour, after attempting to punch England’s Joe Root during a bar-room altercation over an improvised wig. Much hilarity centred on the fact that Warner only “caught the outside edge” of the baby-faced Root’s face. Five months later Warner was on target as he delivered the coup de grâce to Jonathan Trott, describing the England batsman’s second innings dismissal in the Brisbane Test as “pretty poor and weak”. He wasn’t being malicious – just honest – but Warner didn’t know that Trott’s batting was crippled by a stress-related condition. Trott flew home; Warner got beaten up in the press by various Aussie legends and England captain Alistair Cook.
Ernests Gulbis – no more Mr Nice Guy
Latvian tennis player Ernests Gulbis has a name that looks like a typo and a penchant for shooting his mouth off. He made headlines during the French Open in May, by condemning the world’s leading stars – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray – for their boring post-match interviews. He does have a point – these encounters between the press and the “Big Four” are masterclasses in the art of saying nothing controversial let alone confrontational. On the other hand, tennis careers are measured in trophies not bons mots. As this compilation shows, Gulbis (“I never practise that much”) is a top exponent of self-deprecating humour, but he’ll never win a Slam.
Sir Alex Ferguson wields a blow torch
In case you hadn’t heard, Sir Alex Ferguson (aka “SAF”) retired as Manchester United manager after steering the club to a 20th league title in April 2013. Fergie may have hung up his “hairdryer” for good, but he returned to put the boot into his former players with the literary equivalent of a blow torch. “David Beckham will feel like he has been ambushed, mugged and beaten up” claimed one newspaper as Fergie’s imaginatively titled Alex Ferguson My Autobiography lambasted Becks for putting celebrity haircuts before his footballing career.
Why 2013 sucked for Sir Bradley Wiggins
After the glory and adulation of 2012, cycling’s “modfather” Wiggo fell off his pedestal in 2013, losing his titles and his dignity. From his premature exit at the Giro d’Italia in May, to his ignominious retirement at the World Championships in September, Sir Brad was generally out of form and out of luck. As his feud with team-mate Chris Froome rumbled on, Wiggo put the finishing touches on his Annus Horribilis with an ill-timed sex quip at a Barnardo’s charity event. The Firecracker Ball was in aid of victims of child abuse but no one was feeling charitable about the cyclist’s lewd comment to the auctioneer. Sorry, Wiggo, but you’re the one who sucks.
Assem Allam puts his mouth where
his money is
They admire plain speaking in Yorkshire, but Hull City owner Assem Allam’s “I don’t mind them singing ‘City till we die’. They can die as soon as they want,” riposte at protesting supporters went down like a lead balloon. Assam, who’s sunk more than £60 million into the club, believes renaming it Hull Tigers will signify “power” and increased marketability. Perhaps he should take his cues from Chelsea boss Roman Abramovich, who keeps his gob shut when the peasants are revolting and leaves the quips to Jose Mourinho.
HE’S BACK!!! Dominic Sandbrook presents the BBC2 series Strange Days: Cold War Britain, part of a season of programmes examining what the Beeb calls the “superpower stand-off” that began after World War II. “Red Dawn”, the first instalment in this three-part series, was packed with more incident, big personalities and creeping paranoia than your average 13-part blockbuster drama. There was no way this story could be anything less than enthralling. So why then did I find myself fixating on the shortcomings of the production and its presenter?
I had watched Dominic’s earlier series The 70s, so it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that he’s still busy overemphasising for Britain. His hammy delivery is the TV equivalent of peppering your sentences with italics and capitals and then ending them with a screamer (that’s an exclamation mark!). After a sobering reminder that Britain has been at war for “five of the last eight decades”, Dominic announced “It was a war that FRAMED all our lives!”. Just in case you didn’t get the point, there was the accompanying frame-shaped hand gesture to ram home his point.
You should also know that Dominic’s documentaries are best watched with a mobile device close by, so that you can Shazam the multitude of musical selections and add them to your playlist. Beginning with the silky smooth tones of Julie London singing “Our Day Will Come”, Strange Days kept throwing new tunes into the mix at the rate of about one every two minutes. Presumably, the programme-makers think that viewers have such a short attention span these days that all factual TV must be edited in the style of a YouTube greatest hits packages. That is sad.
From Winston Churchill’s 1946 speech in Fulton, Missouri about the growing threat of the Iron Curtain (“Don’t Fence Me In”), to the Soviet invasion of Hungary a decade later, Strange Days wove together a multitude of storylines. Dowdy postwar Britain was both in thrall to the “special relationship” with glamorous America and living in fear of what Churchill dubbed “the poison peril from the East”.
Not so much Very Reverend as incredibly deluded, Hewlett Johnson “fell in love with Communism in action” in the 1930s.
Then, as now, the British press were quick to turn on foreign visitors who abused the hospitality of our great nation. In November 1945, a tour by the all-conquering Moscow Dynamo football club began with cheers, flowers and record crowds turning up to watch the nimble Russian visitors play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But before long the newspapers rounded on these “secretive, surly and suspicious” Soviets, whose rough-house antics on the field were as troubling as their connections to the secret police. The visitors responded by accusing the home teams of being “stuck in the past” tactically. Well some things never change.
While the names of Cambridge spies like Burgess and Maclean are written in infamy, I must admit that I wasn’t familiar with another of the Soviet Union’s biggest fans, Hewlett Johnson. Nicknamed the Red Dean of Canterbury, the white-haired Johnson looked like one of those dotty vicar characters you see in Ealing comedies. Not so much Very Reverend as incredibly deluded, Johnson “fell in love with Communism in action” in the 1930s. He was convinced that the tyrannical Stalin was a benign figure, whose policies promised both economic and spiritual salvation. Johnson’s unwavering support was rewarded with the Stalin International Peace Prize in 1951 and perhaps a one-way ticket to Purgatory.
As a red-nosed Dominic Sandbrook stomps across a snowy Red Square, contemplating the unholy alliance between Johnson and Stalin, “Mad about the Boy” plays on the soundtrack. But to borrow a phrase from another Noel Coward song, I think “Mad dogs and Englishmen” would be a better description of this “strange romance between the Soviet tyrant and the Anglican priest”.
London has many museums, but until last week I didn’t realise there was one slap-bang in the middle of Hyde Park Corner. The elegant classical proportions of the Wellington Arch belie the Tardis-like properties of this overlooked landmark. Inside you’ll find the Quadriga Gallery, which is currently hosting English Heritage’s “Brutal & Beautiful” exhibition.
If you’ve seen the BBC4 series, Heritage! The Battle for Britain’s Past, you’ll already know that this year is the centenary of the 1913 Ancient Monuments Act – the point at which compulsory preservation orders and the “scheduling” of important national monuments came into effect. But you won’t find anything “ancient” in this exhibition, which covers a more recent period in the nation’s ongoing struggle to decide which parts of our rich and varied architectural heritage are worth preserving.
I expected a review of listed buildings since the Second World War to spend a lot of time focusing on concrete. Like many people I have a love/hate relationship with this most unloved of building materials. When I think of 1960s architecture in Britain I find it hard to get past images of ugly shopping centres and Owen Luder’s Gateshead car park (now demolished), which achieved cinematic immortality in the film Get Carter. But I have grown to love London’s Barbican Centre and housing complex – a concrete jungle alleviated by gardens, balconies and my favourite waterside terrace in the City.
“Brutal & Beautiful” does include a striking photo of the Barbican’s Cromwell Tower – flaunting its distinctive “upswept balconies” as it soars into a clear (and perhaps digitally enhanced) blue sky. But there are other late 20th-century buildings here that don’t smack you round the head with their “brutalist” credentials. There’s Sir Denys Lasdun’s Royal College of Physicians, which is described on the RCP’s own website as a “modernist masterpiece”. I’ve never been there, but with its Marble Hall and oak panelling (transferred from an earlier RCP building), it looks like the perfect marriage of light and dark, classical and modern.
I haven’t visited Coventry either, but if anything was going to lure me to that corner of the West Midlands it would be Sir Basil Spence’s Cathedral, which features stained glass windows by John Piper and tapestry by Graham Sutherland. Can anything modern possibly rival the magnificence of those Gothic cathedrals that were lucky enough to avoid a direct hit from the Luftwaffe? Well the new Coventry Cathedral is Grade I listed, so its position as an icon of 20th-century ecclesiastical architecture is secure.
On a smaller scale, “Brutal & Beautiful” highlights some lovely examples of domestic architecture that will excite fans of mid-century modernism and cool Scandinavian interiors. I particularly liked the look of Peter Womersley’s Farnley Hey, in West Yorkshire. I’ve just found this listing, which values this four-bedroom “American contemporary style” house, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, at just £575,000.
If I could, I’d buy Farnley Hey and have its York stone flags and camphorwood interiors transported to the overpriced corner of west London where I currently reside. Unfortunately it wasn’t built to be moved – unlike the revolutionary pre-fab homes featured elsewhere in this exhibition.
Even better are the cluster of three houses at Turn End in Buckinghamshire, which feature in one of the exhibition’s three short films. Architect Peter Aldington created this mini-development in the 60s, with his wife Margaret and they still live in The Turn, where garden and living space seem to blend seamlessly into one. It looks magical – a reminder that great modern buildings have character, soul and are fit for purpose.
“Brutal & Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century” continues at the Quadriga Gallery, Wellington Arch until 24 November.
After last week I wasn’t sure whether to continue with my blog about C4′s Masters of Sex. There are too many TV recappers out there already, each with their devoted following of snarky commenters. It’s always more fun to just watch and not take notes – a lesson Dr Masters would do well to learn judging by last week’s episode.
So I’d decided to leave the subtext and the sniping to others, but then I saw the opening credits for episode two, “Race to Space”, and changed my mind. I don’t know who was responsible for this jaw-dropping sequence, but it’s the kind of thing those clever people at Digital Kitchen (Dexter, True Blood) might have cooked up. Among other things, it cheekily references one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films of the 1950s.
Movie fans will recall that Hitchcock raised a few eyebrows with the closing moments of his classic “wrong man” thriller, North by Northwest. As the newly wed Mr and Mrs Thornhill (Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint) get down to business on the upper berth of their cosy sleeper cabin, the speeding train is seen disappearing into a tunnel. It’s a suitably climactic sequence, though not exactly subtle. (Compare it with the formal elegance of the Saul Bass-conceived grid that displays the movie’s opening credits.)
No doubt the Master of Suspense would have appreciated the similarly suggestive locomotive shot that forms part of the title sequence of Masters of Sex. But you really have to watch several times (in slow motion) to appreciate the full range of phallic, tumescent, orgasmic and downright in-your-face sexual imagery on display here. You’d have to be as sexually unenlightened as Michael Sheen’s Dr Masters not to get the point of all those exploding champagne corks, rockets, fireworks and rapidly rising baked goods. The cute, copulating, wind-up bunny rabbits (more Durex than Duracell) also set the scene rather nicely.
Talking of Michael Sheen, does anyone else feel there is superficial resemblance between the chameleonic Welsh actor and that ruminating beaver that pops up next to his name?
There’s definitely a keen sense of the humour behind the production of Masters of Sex. That’s just as well, because in “Race to Space” things went from bad to worse for Masters and Johnson, both professionally and personally. The doctor was forced to relocate his sex study from the august surroundings of Washington University (in St. Louis) to a “cathouse on 3rd & Sutter” after someone blew the whistle on his extra-curricular activities. Hooker-with-a-heart Betty (the fabulous Annaleigh Ashford) strong-armed him into giving her a job as a hospital receptionist in return for her co-operation.
Dr (not-so) Masterful’s low moments also included getting arrested and being forced to watch his wife Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald) try to inject a little “va va voom” into the marital bedroom. She was also pretty miffed because the dumb-but-handsome Dr Haas (Nicholas D’Agosto) had been unceremoniously relieved of his duties as her gynaecologist. “Is this about your sperm count?” asked Haas, as these two alpha males squared up in the elevator and attempted to get territorial over Mrs Masters’s unmentionables.
It wasn’t all hearts and flowers for Virginia (Lizzy Caplan), who was still mulling over Dr Masters’s “unconventional arrangement”/indecent proposal from last week. He fired her in the mistaken belief that she’d betrayed him by blabbing about the study. Meanwhile, slap-happy Dr Haas offered her floral tributes and lame apologies to make up for last week’s brickbat, and there was further criticism of her parenting skills.
This week geeky Henry Johnson (Cole Sand) had his nose in a comic-book Race to Space. His mom really needs to take inspiration from one of her more enlightened (female) colleagues Jane Martin (Heléne Yorke), who was reading Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in the canteen. “We’ll always have Paris.”
In my quest to recapture that elusive Mad Men vibe, I watched the pilot episode of Masters of Sex on Channel 4. This 12-part US drama from Showtime is about the pioneering research on sexuality conducted from 1956 onwards by stuffed-shirt scientist William Masters (played by Michael Sheen) and his trusty (or should that be lusty?) associate Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan).
Judging from the first episode, Masters and Johnson appear to be an awkward fit as colleagues in their clandestine sex lab – let alone potential partners in anything of a more carnal nature. She’s a twice-married mother of two with a refreshingly earthy attitude towards relations with the opposite sex. He’s a respected fertility expert and Nobel Prize aspirant, whose frequent “Nobody understands sex!” outbursts don’t preclude him being blind to the misery of his neglected wife Libby (played by Caitlin FitzGerald). It’s text-book case of physician heal thyself.
By contrast, Showtime and those masters of smut at C4 are a match made in TV heaven. Like those other titans of quality US drama at HBO, Showtime is a cable network that revels in its depictions of sex, nudity, violence, profanity and other behaviour that would have Mary Whitehouse spinning in her grave. Previous Showtime productions have included The Tudors (sex ‘n’ codpieces), Dexter (sex ‘n’ serial killing) and the recently returned Homeland (sex ‘n’ the crazy CIA lady). Channel 4, of course, is the natural home of any show that contains the word sex anywhere in the title – Sex and the City, The Joy of Teen Sex and Sex in a Box.
It’s always hard to judge a series on just one episode, but Masters of Sex does have a few other things going for it. There’s Michael Sheen, the Welsh actor with a penchant for playing larger-than-life figures like Tony Blair, Brian Clough, David Frost and even Jesus Christ (in the 2011 Passion Play). But it was Sheen’s uncannily accurate portrayal of the famously repressed Carry-On star Kenneth Williams in Fantabulosa! that sprang to mind as Dr Masters peered through a spyhole at a couple “in the act”. Later, as Masters tried to impress boss Barton Scully (the droll Beau Bridges) with the impressive attributes of his glass dildo (a supersized light saber), I waited for a Williams double entendre to break the tension.
There’s nothing wrong with Sheen’s performance here, but there’s also nothing yet to suggest that his repressed master of medicine Dr Masters will resonate with viewers in the way that Tony Soprano, Walter White or Don Draper have done. In the pilot episode it was Caplan’s resourceful, engaging and (yes) sexually liberated Virginia Johnson who cast a spell over viewers and the dim but handsome Dr Ethan Haas (Nicholas D’Agosto). She looked absolutely fabulous in her off-the-shoulder black party dress, until the jilted Dr Haas (“At the end of the day, all you really are is a whore!”) sucker-punched her in the face.
As someone who watched the first series of Mad Men and cringed at the sexist atmosphere in the offices of Sterling Cooper (as it then was), I was pleased to see the mid-50s era women of Masters of Sex standing up for themselves. (Yes, Virginia does smack Dr Haas-been, though he really deserved a swift kick in the gonads.) Dr Masters’s matronly secretary is played by the formidable Margo Martindale (The Americans, Justified) whose body language suggests that her boast – “I grew up on a farm. I’ve beheaded chickens!” – is not an idle one.
The first episode of Masters of Sex contained a fair helping of earnest speechifying about the importance of Dr Masters’s proposed sex research. Some viewers may have felt that this got in the way of the sex scenes and the unresolved sexual tension between Masters and Johnson. Still, there was plenty of humour to lighten the mood, as when a nervous participant in the research is advised, “He’s not watching you, he’s watching science”.
Michael Sheen may not equal Jon Hamm in the pulchritude stakes, but he does have some lovely Sanderson Dandelion Clocks curtains in his handsomely appointed mid-century office. I don’t know whether Masters of Sex will develop into a great drama, but I’m always happy to watch average TV that’s accompanied by classic, mid-century upholstery and a well-shaken martini.
(Masters of Sex continues on Channel 4 on Tuesdays at 9pm.)
The third weekend of September is always the best time of year to be in London. On 21 and 22 September, the annual Open House London event will see the city throw open its doors to anyone with an interest in architecture. For the price of an Oyster card and a few fortifying cups of coffee you can enjoy this celebration of London’s buildings in all their diversity.
Despite what you may have read in the “posh” papers, Open House London isn’t just for architecture snobs or fans of TV property porn (“Double your home and piss off the neighbours”). Veteran broadcaster Joan Bakewell writes of her enthusiasm for this event, which has been running since 1992, but then ruins it all with the fateful words “It attracts the kind of people who watch Channel 4’s Grand Designs”. God, I hope that’s not true.
I loathe C4′s Grand Designs and its smarmy presenter, Kevin McCloud. No doubt some of these home-owners do have unimpeachable taste, vision and a genuine desire to enrich their neighbourhood with great architecture. But against that you have to weigh the weekly parade of rampant egomania, selfishness and lack of fiscal responsibility that characterises many of these schemes. You wouldn’t want to live next door to any of these people, would you?
While high-profile developments like the Shard and Battersea Power always grab the headlines and draw the crowds, they’re not what makes Open House special for me. I’ve been going since 2007 and, as Joan Bakewell also points out, much of the fun lies in discovering what is just around the corner from you.
So while the Grand Designs groupies are queuing to see the next wave of penthouses for philistine Russian oligarchs, I’ll probably be closer to home checking out an architectural curio like Greenside Primary School in W12. It was designed by Erno Goldfinger (he of Trellick Tower fame), and features a colourful mural by Gordon Cullen. More important, my good friend Jo spent her formative years at this school.
Sadly Greenside was the only building I saw last year, in a weekend that started brightly and turned (literally) into a washout. But if you’re well organised and not deterred by bad weather or unreliable public transport, it’s amazing what you can see in London in just a few hours – without getting sucked into expensive tourist traps.
Two years ago I wrote about my visit to Kensington’s Commonwealth Institute, which was about to begin its transformation from a dilapidated 1960s icon to the shiny new home for the Design Museum. On the same day, I also enjoyed the panoramic views and quasi-Mediterranean atmosphere of the Roof Gardens above Kensington High Street.
Then it was on to the Leighton House Museum, the home and studio of Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton. Here, as the website enthusiastically proclaims, “East meets West” in the form of the extravagantly designed Arab Hall with its massive chandelier, mosaics, rugs and indoor fountain.
From Victorian eclecticism at its finest, we moved on to the Peter Jones store at Sloane Square, which is better known in my family as the place where Charlie (aged six) buys his LEGO. This branch of John Lewis is used to coping with enthusiastic crowds of Prada-toting bargain hunters elbowing their way through the Kitchen department. On this occasion, though, we’d all come to admire the glass curtain wall of this William Crabtree-designed 1930s building.
This year I’ll be volunteering at the William Morris Society in Hammersmith on Saturday, before heading south of river on Sunday. The Glasshouse, a Terry Farrell-designed residence in Petersham, was on my list last year, but now I’m leaning towards something a bit older, though equally eye-catching in its own way.
I visited Horace Walpole’s newly renovated gothic castle Strawberry Hill House on my birthday a couple of years ago. Though the gardens were still a work in progress and it was a dull November day, the house was magical. So even if it’s not sunny on Sunday, I think a return trip to Strawberry Hill will make Open House London 2013 a vintage year.
Ardent admirers of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy whipped themselves into a frenzy last week over the casting of British actor Charlie Hunnam as Christian Grey* in Sam Taylor-Johnson’s forthcoming movie. They vented their displeasure by starting an online petition that garnered more than 17,000 signatures in the first 24 hours. One FSoG fanatic commented that Hunnam “looks dirty and very unappealing”.
But aficionados of the badass biker saga Sons of Anarchy will probably wonder what they’re complaining about. As SAMCRO President Jax Teller, Hunnam looks as though he styles his hair with axle-grease, when he’s not busy mopping body fluids off his leather “cut”. In the no-holds-barred world of Kurt Sutter’s drama, Jax and his fellow Club members don’t settle their scores through online petitions or trolling on Twitter. Their turf wars with rival gangs are played out in a seemingly endless cycle of bloody violence, interspersed with bouts of unrestrained hugging. I love it.
Charlie Hunnam may not be sufficiently polished or tabloid friendly for FSoG die-hards, but Sons of Anarchy fans will be excited when the show begins its sixth season in the US on 10 September. It will be a while before the new SoA reaches TV screens in the UK, so here are a few reminders of why it should be worth the wait. Warning: there are spoilers ahead.
Abel is the name Jax has tattooed over his left nipple — a handy reminder of his elder son. Presumably he’s got “John Thomas” (his late father) inked somewhere on his nether regions.
Belfast was the location for the climax of season three’s abduction plotline. The death toll was astronomical, the weather was gloomy and Titus Welliver’s accent should have come with a government health warning.
Curtis Stigers & the Forest Rangers perform “This Life”, the Emmy-nominated theme for Sons of Anarchy.
Death in Charming is rarely from natural causes. Poor old Piney got it with both barrels in season four, after falling foul of Clay (the brilliant Ron Perlman). In season five brutality and ingenuity went hand in hand, as a snow globe, a piece of lead piping and a crucifix were all employed to lethal effect.
Erotic entertainment in Charming took a nosedive when the Cara Cara porn studio was torched in season two.
FX is the cable network that broadcasts Sons of Anarchy in the US.
Gun sales provided the Club’s main source of income until they got involved with the Galindo cartel’s cocaine operation in season four. Blinded by a fog of white powder and dollar bills, Clay failed to spot that his new “partners” Romeo Parada (Danny Trejo) and Luis Torres (Benito Martinez) were also in bed with the CIA.
“Happy” (David LaBrava) is the Club’s ironically named go-to guy for what Tony Soprano would have called “wet work” — terminating people with extreme prejudice. In real life, the multi-talented LaBrava is a Hells Angel, tattoo artist and co-writer of the season four episode, “Hands”.
Incest probably wasn’t what Jax had in mind, when he tried to get intimate with his half-sister Trinity Ashby (played by Downton Abbey’s Zoe Boyle) in season three.
“Junkie whore” is the affectionate epithet used by Gemma (Katey Sagal) to describe her ex-daughter-in-law Wendy (played by The Sopranos star Drea de Matteo).
Kozik’s last words were “You’ve gotta be shittin’ me”, as he was blown up by a landmine in “Call of Duty”. Actor Kenny Johnson previously starred as Lem in The Shield, where he was blown up by a hand grenade.
Lyla (Winter Ave Zoli) was the second wife of Opie (Ryan Hurst), though her career as a porn star was a constant source of marital disharmony.
Montages are the lifeblood of SoA, as in the “John the Revelator” epic that accompanied Donna’s funeral in the season one finale.
Nero Padilla (played by Jimmy Smits) is the brothel owner who has supplanted Clay in Gemma’s affections.
Otto Delaney (Kurt Sutter) is a jailed member of SAMCRO, with an eye patch, a high pain threshold and penchant for auto-mutilation. Don’t Google “Otto Delaney tongue” unless you have a strong stomach.
Patching over is the process by which one gang is taken over by another.
Q‘orianka Kilcher plays Kerrianne, daughter of Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) and Fiona and step-daughter of the evil Jimmy O’Phelan.
Reaper logo – worn with pride.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is referenced in the titles for the final two episodes of season four: “To Be, Act 1″ and “To Be, Act 2″. Elements of the show’s plot – including Gemma’s complicity with Clay in the murder of her first husband John Teller – have often drawn comparisons with the Bard’s most celebrated work.
Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff) is Jax’s long-suffering spouse and the mother of his second son, Thomas. If Dr Knowles had stuck to paediatrics rather than prison visits and Club politics, she wouldn’t be languishing in jail for her part in Otto’s brutal slaying of Nurse Toric.
Unser (played by Dayton Callie), was once Police Chief of Charming, but now spends his days in a caravan pining for Gemma.
“Vengeance is mine” would make an appropriate SAMCRO motto – if it wasn’t a quote from the Bible.
Warning: “This programme contains strong language, strong violence, drugs and nudity from the outset.”
eXpurgated – despite the show’s reputation for wall-to-wall profanity, the F-word is never used.
“You’re gonna die at the gavel!”. Opie failed to make good on his promise, as Clay survived the Clubhouse shooting at the climax of season four.
Zobel (Adam Arkin) was the cigar-shop proprietor, white supremacist and mastermind behind the campaign to run SAMCRO out of Charming in season two. He turned out to be an FBI informant.
* On 12 October it was announced that Charlie Hunnam had dropped out of the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Last week I picked up a book and got all the way to page two before I found these words, “. . . where today a continuous, broad pedestrian path has superceded the old quays”. I was so disgusted that I almost chucked the offending volume across the carriage (I was on a train at the time). It was only my longstanding respect for the printed word and consideration for fellow passengers that prevented Gillian Tindall’s The House by the Thames from ending up in the Thames.
I don’t care what Merriam-Webster or thefreedictionary.com say: the word supersede should have an “s” in the middle, not a “c”. (If you’re a proofreader, you’ll know that Googling a word to check the correct spelling is about as helpful as using a chocolate teapot to brew your favourite hot drink.) I’m also not convinced that we should tolerate this “variant” spelling simply because it’s been knocking around since the 17th century.
Even if we can reach a consensus (no, not concensus) on what the correct English spelling should be, does it really matter any more? As far back as 2008, The Daily Mail, reported the results of research by dictionary experts Collins into commonly misspelt words. Surprisingly, supersede came top of the list of words people frequently get wrong – along with inoculate, sacrilegious and liquefy.
I don’t know about you, but I find I can go for months or even years without employing any of the “problem” words in the preceding paragraph. But that’s no excuse for those knuckleheads at Random House’s Pimlico imprint (publishers of The House by the Thames), because they’re supposed to employ proofreaders to weed out mistakes. You can’t rely on authors to get these things right, and you should never put your faith or stake your professional reputation on a blunt instrument like the spellchecker in MS Word.
Spelling still matters to me because it’s an issue of credibility. When I spot an error that early in a book it makes me think that the publisher didn’t employ a very good proofreader. That affects my view of the author’s competence and makes me not want to read on.
When I worked at Radio Times we had a reviewer who insisted on writing Martin Scorsese as “Scorcese”. I can understand how Alejandro González Iñárritu and his clutch of accents might pose a few problems, especially for non-Spanish speakers. But if you can’t get the name of America’s greatest living film director right, you’ve no business calling yourself a journalist.
Last week I got an email from the Rex Features online picture library asking me to participate in one of those tedious user surveys that all companies seem obliged to carry out at regular intervals. Often they try to entice you into taking part by offering the chance to win an iPad or whichever Apple device happens to be flavour of the month at the moment.
Unfortunately, the person who sent the Rex Features email didn’t try to appeal to my highly developed sense of iEnvy. More worryingly, he/she had spelt the word survey (survery, survrey) incorrectly throughout.
Perhaps it’s an age thing (I’m approaching my half century), but when someone writes to me about a survey and can’t even spell the word, it sends me into a state of lexicophraphic shock. So disbelief gave way to irritation, and I consigned the offending message to the trash bin.
Yesterday that same fate almost befell a more important item of mail. I’m talking about real mail – the type that comes in an envelope and gets dropped through the letterbox by the postman. Well that’s what should have happened.
In this case, a letter from my freeholder enclosing a cheque was sent to me without any stamp or franking. Royal Mail helpfully sent it back to the sorting office and informed me that there was £1.50 to pay. The envelope had no return address on it and it was only the reference visible through the “window” that alerted me to the fact that this wasn’t another unsolicited missive from an estate agent.
When I finally got the letter home, I noticed an intriguing variation on the spelling of my surname (see picture above). I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. If you can’t even manage to put a stamp on an envelope, you can hardly be expected to achieve consistency in spelling a complicated name like Straughan.
Kerry Packer is an unstoppable force of nature, who spews out expletives and dispenses wads of cash at an equally alarming rate.
BBC presenter John Inverdale continues to attract almost as many column inches as our new Wimbledon Champion, Andy Murray. The Guardian alone could probably fill a 24-page supplement with scathing condemnations of the man who obviously felt Marion Bartoli wasn’t slim, glamorous or sufficiently Eastern European to grace Centre Court last Saturday. To borrow a withering put-down from Judi Dench’s “M”, Inverdale is a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur”. But those who think it should be “all ova” for him at the Beeb are going to be disappointed. He’ll be flaunting his reptilian charm, “helmet” hair and dubious taste in shirts on the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon 2014.
Inverdale would probably have fitted in well at Kerry Packer’s Channel Nine, back in the even more sexist, misogynist and prehistoric 1970s. As the Great British Summer of Sport rolled into the Ashes series, Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, smashed its way onto BBC4, a channel usually associated with high-minded documentaries and subtitled movies.
This two-part Australian miniseries covers a turbulent period in the history of cricket, when overbearing, foul-mouthed media tycoon Kerry Packer (played by Lachy Hulme) went to war over TV rights with the stuffed-shirt administrators running the game. He procured the services of top players like Ian and Greg Chappell, Rodney Marsh and England captain Tony Grieg, with promises of big financial rewards. In doing so, he created the short-lived World Series Cricket – a brash, lucrative and star-studded rival to the existing international cricket competitions.
You don’t have to know much about cricket – let alone Australian cricket – to appreciate this show as low-budget sporting melodrama of the highest order. Lachy Hulme summons the spirit of the late Larry Hagman in the role of the TV mogul everyone loved to hate. Backed into a corner by a cadre of national cricket boards and the ICC, Packer is an unstoppable force of nature, who spews out expletives and dispenses wads of cash at an equally alarming rate. Sir Alex Ferguson’s “hairdryer” treatment would look like a mild dressing down compared with watching Packer go ballistic at his business partners John Cornell (Abe Forsythe) and Austin Robertson (Nicholas Coghlan). I’ve never seen a salad tossed (or hurled) with quite so much venom either.
Talking of dressing, lovers of 70s fashion will revel in the parade of big collars and even bigger moustaches on display in almost every scene. Packer was clean-shaven, but just about every major Aussie cricketer of that era had an impressive thatch sprouting above his upper lip, through which he sucked prodigious quantities of beer. The problem is that the ‘taches and the dodgy wigs become indistinguishable after a while. Apart from Brendan Cowell (The Slap), who plays wicket keeper Rod Marsh, none of the actors Howzat! in were familiar to me. Thank goodness Tony Grieg had a South African accent (ironically he’s played by an actor called Alexander England), otherwise I might have been even more confused.
Kerry Packer may have been generous with his cash, but it looks as though the producers of Howzat! were on a much more restricted budget. Though the drama hops between Sydney, Melbourne and London, even the most inattentive viewer will be laughing at the clumsy transitions into archive footage, to give the impression that real locations have been used. I particularly enjoyed a sequence at “Lord’s”, where we cut between close-ups of Packer and his cronies to long-shot footage of some other blokes having a chat in the middle of the hallowed turf. Numerous shots of London buses are supposed to add to the authenticity, but look as unconvincing as the (new) £10 note that Grieg hands to an irate taxi driver.
As with the British media’s coverage of Wimbledon 2013, Howzat! is resolutely male chauvinist in its outlook. Women are there solely to look decorative, answer phones and fetch snacks. When, like Packer’s long-suffering secretary, they only achieve a Marion Bartoli level of attractiveness, the boss is not impressed.
Kerry Packer may have started a revolution in the cricketing world, but I’m not so sure attitudes towards women have moved on much since the mustachioed mid-70s.
In honour of its 40th anniversary, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has come up with a great slogan “40 Love”. It’s a shame that in those “Forty years of breaking barriers”, some of the game’s top players haven’t mastered the art of being civil to each other – on or off the court.
Yesterday’s Wimbledon semi-final between fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska and the marauding German Sabine Lisicki was one of the most exciting, high-quality women’s matches I’ve seen for years. Mind you, that’s not saying a lot. As the women’s game has cranked up the volume in recent years, I find the incessant yelping has a detrimental effect on my health. But the Radwanska/Lisicki had all the ingredients you need for a great tennis contest – contrasting styles, fluctuating fortunes and mid-match meltdown by the German that was painful to behold. The only soundtrack was provided by enthusiastic spectators on Centre Court, who were enjoying the rare sight of a women’s match that didn’t suck.
Lisicki eventually prevailed in a 9-7 third set. She was (understandably) jubilant about reaching her first Major final. In the BBC commentary box, an excited Simon Reed demonstrated that he understood the concept of impartiality almost as well as his older brother Ollie Reed used to master the art of sobriety. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a memorable semi-final was soured by Radwanska’s grudging handshake and rapid departure from Centre Court. She had lost; she was disappointed; she wanted to be back in the locker room.
The bad news for Radwanska is that in this age of Trial by Twitter, an ungracious exit can hurt you almost as much as a double-fault or a service return that sails over the baseline. So it wasn’t long before their brief moment at the net was being disseminated, dissected and condemned by fans, tennis insiders and those who just can’t resist a good cat fight.
On BBC2′s Today at Wimbledon, Lindsay Davenport described Radwanska’s reaction as “unsportsmanlike”, while Martina Navratilova said it was “disappointing” and recalled that she’d never avoided looking her conqueror in the eye. Radwanska’s own misfiring attempt at sarcasm when questioned about the end of the match – “Should I just be there and dance?” – didn’t help her cause either.
The news cycle and the tennis world will quickly move on to other triumphs and disasters. In today’s men’s semi-finals we’ll be clocking the speed of Jerzy Janowicz’s service not measuring the froideur at the net. The big story will be about the continuing dominance of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, or perhaps a breakthrough for Janowicz or Del Potro.
The message seems clear: men’s tennis is about athletic achievement, while the women’s game is just a sideshow to all the bitching, backstabbing and possible gamesmanship. Earlier this year, Victoria Azarenka’s Australian Open victory was overshadowed by her apparent panic attack during her controversial semi-final match against Sloane Stephens. The build-up to Wimbledon was accompanied by a spat between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova over comments that the American made in an interview with Rolling Stone. Was Serena having a pop at Maria’s relationship with Grigor Dimitrov? Who cares.
Watching the other Wimbledon semi-final yesterday, between Marion Bartoli and Kirsten Flipkens, was Bartoli’s new coach, Amelie Mauresmo. In a perfect world, Mauresmo would be remembered for her glorious one-handed backhand and for being one of the most stylish exponents of the women’s game. Sadly, the 2006 Wimbledon champion’s name is also synonymous with some thoughtless comments made by Martina Hingis in 1999. Perhaps something got lost in translation, but German reporters suggested that Hingis had said of the openly gay Mauresmo “she is half a man”.
Maria, Serena, Victoria, Agnieszka and the rest enjoy the vast financial rewards of a game that was put on the map by Billie Jean King and the other pioneers of professional tennis. Now it’s time they grew up and showed some professionalism and respect in their rivalries. They’re being paid like the men, so they should take a good look at how champions like Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray behave when the battle is over. Otherwise the slogan for the much vaunted WTA should read: “40 Love/Hate”.