Count Arthur Strong
“Let’s go and make this an unforgettable day for Michael,” says Arthur when his café compadre is called up for jury service. That he succeeds is, of course, only part of the story in this cast-iron classic episode. The wobbly vaudevillian wants to repay Michael’s generosity and is so overcome with a sense of bonhomie that he starts to have Brian Cox hallucinations.
Eggy, Birdie and a reluctant John the Watch accompany the Count to the courtroom public gallery, while Michael’s day is about to become memorable for all the wrong reasons. Co-writers Steve Delaney and Graham Linehan are masters of the misunderstanding and, as with all their finest outings, just toss a surreal snowball down the hillside to gather mass and momentum.
The fun of Count Arthur Strong is realising that there have been lots of little set-ups throughout, leading to one heroically clever pay-off. Even the theme tune is funny, sounding like an asthmatic Fattie Bum Bum.
Sharon Osbourne: the Dodgiest Deals in Rock ‘n’ Roll
Sharon Osbourne is unusually restrained as she surveys one of the most well-worn stories in the music business, the struggle between artists and managers and record companies to make the most money out of each other. Even while recounting her repeated kicking of a concert promoter in the crotch for trying to con Ozzy, there’s a measured approach that feels at odds with the tales of rock ’n’ roll skulduggery.
Stewart Copeland of the Police’s vivid description of how T-shirts are the industry’s cash cows is entertaining, while the record label boss who paid Little Richard half a cent for each sale of Tutti Frutti pleads in mitigation, “We didn’t pay much, but we paid what we owed.”
The Graham Norton Show
There was once a time when the name David Walliams would conjure an image of a man dressed as a lady, pushing Matt Lucas around in a wheelchair. Now Walliams has traded Lucas for Simon Cowell – “MY Simon” – he’s swapped the petticoats and parasol for a slick suit, a seat on the Britain’s Got Talent judging panel and a raft of bestselling children’s books. He’s wearing his author suit here to talk about one of them, The World’s Worst Children 2, but he’d best tread carefully. During a previous Walliams visit our Graham pulled out a letter from an eight-year-old who really didn’t rate Billionaire Boy.
A third and final season for the thriller, created by the people behind Damages, about family secrets and murder in the sweltering Florida Keys. Events at the end of the last run suggest the game could soon be up for the Rayburns. The show excels at creating an oppressive, tense atmosphere.
The Five-Year Engagement
Jason Segel takes on co-writer and leading-man duties in this entertaining romantic comedy, which sees him reteam with his Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek producer Judd Apatow and writer/director Nicholas Stoller. Although crude humour is guaranteed, these guys have a knack for marrying lowbrow gags with affectionate characterisation and some tidy insights into modern relationships. Here, they also benefit from having Emily Blunt as one half of a couple procrastinating over their wedding. She demonstrates a refreshing lack of neuroses, an easy rapport with Segel and does a priceless impression of Cookie Monster. The pair’s quarrels over career plans and living arrangements are funny because they ring true, stemming from the pressures of daily life rather than quirks of personality. But there are moments of heightened reality as well, like Segel’s regression from city sophisticate to caveman after following his girl to the Midwest. The laughs come easily throughout and, despite its dragged-out ending, this movie has characters you’ll enjoy spending time with.