The Ricky Gervais Show – kicking Ducks where the sun don’t shine

The Ricky Gervais Show Title PagePsstt!? Do you want to listen in to a pub-chat? If yes, then bring your own beers and settle down to The Ricky Gervais Show.

The Ricky Gervais Show was initially made for radio, broadcast on XFM, before later making the switch to TV, being commissioned by and broadcast on HBO, and shortly after on British Television courtesy of Channel 4. It is currently re-airing on E4.

It is one of those shows like Seinfeld and Father Ted I could watch on an infinite loop or as easily dip in and out of containing as it does so many standalone comedy gems.

The title is perhaps now a misnomer. The original radio show featured Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant with little broadcast input from Karl Pilkington, its show producer. But over the years his input has increased and now is pivotal and the show could just as well be called the Karl Pilkington Show – if almost certainly not having the same ratings-pulling power.

In any case the show works because of the sum of the Gervais Merchant and Pilkington parts, not due to any one of them left alone.

The Ricky Gervais Show Studio CartoonEach show begins with the three of them sitting in a studio behind a desk as Ricky Gervais introduces all of them to us as we watch each morph into cartoon caricatures of themselves.

And better prepared as cartoon forms to inhabit the surreal fantasy world of their rambling imaginations.

Merchant and Pilkington are captured pretty faithfully if Gervais not quite his spit as having the distinct style and look of Fred Flintstone  – whenever we are shown his wife she too as the uncanny resemblance of Fred’s wife Wilma – I have not seen Ricky Gervais’ wife but I am betting she does not look very much like Wilma Flintstone! The cartoon-style of the entire show is in the spirit of Hanna Barbara if with an audience of adults in mind.

Three people in a studio is a cheap idea for a TV program and just shows you don’t need millions of dollars or even thousands of them to make engaging telly.

The Ricky Gervais Show - bar sceneAs previously suggested The Ricky Gervais Show is like listening into a bar-room conversation – but being teetotal is not a prohibition to appreciating it and certainly you don’t need to be dirty drunk to get the best from it either though a beer or two may better ready your spirits for it.

The subjects are often random and rambling, sometimes making a point, other times pointless, and the pointless subjects being none the poorer for having little purpose.

There is much laughter in the Ricky Gervais Show despite no studio audience present or canned laughter on tap, rather Gervais and Merchant, and Gervais in particular, are often unable to contain their mirth and sometimes even reduced to tears by the statements of Pilkington.

The last episode I dipped into was the Future episode from Series 2 which re-aired Sunday November 6.

Future as you might imagine was their musings and Karl Pilkington’s in particular of how the future might look, in particular the not-too-distant future, toward this century’s end. And their predictions for how the 21st Century might pan out were never going to be as high-minded and rigorously researched as those pondered in the current Channel 4’s science series Brave New World with Stephen Hawking.

The Ricky Gervais Show - Future episodeThe first of which was read out by Gervais from an academic study speculating what the world might be like in 75 years time and considering that androgyny could have become a common-place. And this being the Ricky Gervais show and in particular this being Karl Pilkington this topic is not taken up but completely digressed with him retorting that ‘this isn’t what I’ve heard (!)…I’ve heard that we’re all going to go ugly’! And this because ugliness will need to act as a form of population control – ‘we won’t want to do it with each other as much!’.

The Ricky Gervais Show - Karl GoogledPilkington then continues on how we have changed physically over time and how this will likely develop with parts of our body becoming like our appendix, redundant! Giving as an example our little fingers ‘who don’t do much compared with our other fingers’ and this being the boozy logic of a pub another body part is not offered up as a redundant example but the chat changes track with Merchant then suggesting that in the future we will become ever more integrated with technology (which does actually mirror a prediction in the first episode of Brave New World regarding remote mind control but I digress!) giving the example of a chip in our head to allow us to access the world wide web directly, or more specifically the human mind home page Google!

This then leads Pilkington to make the metaphysical point of whether we will any longer be us  – where would we end and Google begin…but we did not linger on this sobering thought long instead moving on to BBC Quiz Show University Challenge and how Pilkington in awe of how much knowledge these Degree students have and how in order to try and get at least one question correct he answers ‘Egg’ for each! And that rather than even trying to answer the questions asked by quizmaster Jeremy Paxman he instead tries to predict which of the university students will answer the next question correctly! As said this is the conversational logic flow of alcohol accept they are in a studio with tea or coffee the only liquid available!

The Ricky Gervais Show - Evolution of PantsNext up is Satellite Navigation and how poorer our lives will be now we can never got lost on our travels! Pilkington asking whether Columbus would have found America if he had had access to GPS, based on the reasoning that ‘he only found it because he got lost’!

The show then moves onto Pilkington being asked to make some predictions for the future. As this was Pilkington I knew only to expect anything – and I was not disappointed. The screen-shot at the foot of this post lists his entire ‘Top Five’ and I will merely focus on three of his fevered imaginings.

HIs first one was that trousers would stop being made! His rationale being that ‘kids today are wearing trousers ever closer to around their their ankles’! So naturally we will come to a time when we just won’t bother wearing them anymore.

His second prediction was that we are all going to get (physically) weaker. The basis for this being that ‘they used to say an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ but now we are recommended five fruits per day. This is an observation that may not resonate outside of the United Kingdom!

His final conjecture was that there will be more letters in the alphabet. This because we are running out of words (!), then citing ‘Bozwellox’ (and no this word is not made up but a recent addition to Shampoo!) as an example of desperation for a plausible sounding new word.

Finally Merchant asked Pilkington what he would do if he discovered this was the final day on earth, not just for him but the whole of humankind. Merchant himself first reflected that he may smash up a bar and darkly that  he might even murder a person as there would be no repercussions and it would be both his and the victim’s final day on earth. Gervais commented that he would still be depriving that person’s final eight or so hours on earth before looking to Pilkington for what he would do. Pilkington pauses.

‘I’ve always wanted to kick a duck up its arse’!The Ricky Gervais Show The Future

Brave New World with Stephen Hawking – 21st Century Machines

Brave new World with Stephen HawkingScience is as magic until it gets superseded and becomes a commonplace – consider the humble transistor radio overshadowed by television, the computer and the world-wide-web – yet to anyone from even a hundred years ago this pint-sized bit of technology would appear astonishing and unbelievable if not outright witchcraft.

This new science series Brave New World with Stephen Hawking currently airing on Channel 4 speculates where science might be taking us in the not too distant future exploring in its own words ‘the scientific breakthroughs that are transforming our lives in the 21st Century.”  What is the science of today that can astonish our jaded sated 20th Century selves?

And will their promises be delivered or disappointed? For those of us brought up on the BBC’s hope show Tomorrows World we thought we would be moving about by personal jetpack by now, with a cure for death thrown in and even more amazingly a robot that could iron our respective shirts and blouses – on all accounts we have been let down. Though to be fair (!) Tomorrows World almost certainly featured many more modest scientific innovations that are today near-ubiquitous.

Brave New World with Stephen Hawking is being broadcast as previously posted of a Monday evening before The Origins of Us airs on BBC 2. Each of the five episodes addresses a different subject. The opening episode is dedicated to Machines and subsequent episodes will dedicate themselves to Health, Technology, Environment and Biology, in that order. And this post is of that opening Machines episode.

Though Stephen Hawking lends his name to the series-title his involvement is one of overseer rather than presenter delegating that role to a wide range of international scientists who present their own featurettes of those subjects they think matter most.

He opens this opening episode by opining that “our lives have been defined my machines” citing Galileo’s Telescope, Watt’s Steam Engine and Bell’s Telephone before going on to state ‘that we now stand on the edge of a new era. Tonight we want to show you the five machines we think are the most important’.

The five scientists presenting are likely familiar to all of us who watch science on TV – though not a Richard Dawkins among them! –  having presented science shows previously on the BBC and Channel 4 – does ITV do science?

Brave new World with Stephen Hawking

Kathy Sykes – Look ma no hands

First up was Physicist Kathy Sykes (previously in Channel 4’s Genius of Britain) who describes herself as a Scientist and cautious driver as she presents the driverless car – or rather a car driven by a silicon not carbon life-form.

Much science fact incubates in science fiction and viewers of the 1980’s  fantasy hokum US TV series Knight Rider will be unfazed by a car that drives itself. We also already have aircraft that pilot themselves but aeroplanes at least have a relatively uncongested skyline to navigate, unchauffeured cars have the traffic nightmare of the modern highway to contend with.

I for one do not doubt the ability of technology to overcome the moving obstacle course of modern traffic and am mightily impressed with the science involved. However as someone who drives a car myself much of the pleasure is in the driving – in the same way that could I afford a chauffeur I would never employ one do I want my car itself taking this pleasure away from me. For much the same reason indeed that I drive a car with a manual and not automatic gearbox!  It may not be safer but it is more fun!

Brave new World with Stephen Hawking

Mark Evans – thought-waves

Next up was Mark Evans a Veterinary Surgeon and Engineer (who more modestly on his website describes himself as ‘Animal Doctor, Grease Monkey and Motor Mouth’!) and past presenter of Channel 4’s Inside Nature’s Giants, here exploring mind-control, and no not some Derren Brown hypnosis experiment but using our own mind to control the world around us. Literally using the power of thought to interface with electronic communication – called BCI – yes Brain Computer Interface!

To this end he was taught to propel a wheel-chair to go left and right, backwards and forwards, by the power of will alone. It did involve him donning what looked like a shower-cap with wires connected to his head. Again this was staggering science. And it was not just the power of thought but the machine doing some of the thinking for you – the machine augmenting us rather than we augmenting it…but perhaps there veering into science dystopia as utopia.

My own more mundane mind considered merely that I could switch my bedroom lights off before going to sleep without having to get out of bed, then the following morning I could open my curtains, again just by thinking it! I was pleased then that Mark Evans himself cited both opening curtains and switching lights on and off as practical examples of its use. Simple steps come before complex steps afterall. And to that end perhaps a future iteration of Apple’s Siri will require not voice recognition but empathy alone with its owner’s mind, and not having also to cope with all our endless local accents – though do we think in our accents? – and I digress.

Brave new World with Stephen Hawking

Jim Al-Khalili with iCub

The next feature was presented by Professor Jim Al-Khalili who introduced himself as a Theoretical Physicist. That’s a hard job-title to trump – I imagine even a High Court Judge, an Astronaut or a Brain Surgeon may feel a dip in their supernatural self-esteem having to introduce themselves to a Theoretical Physicist. He has the longest TV presenting CV of the five tonight including the BBC ‘s Atom and The Secret Life of Chaos.

He introduced us to to iCub – an infant robot – or baby-bot – sorry! – a robot designed to think like a human, but an infant not an adult one. So as to learn and develop towards its own autonomy, establishing its own sense of self. More mind-boggling stuff.

Though the science and theory behind this autonomous robot is high-minded and extraordinary I could not help but envisage that its practical uses may mean a darker future for it – if not as a robo-soldier or bomb-disposal worker then at best servant of all our mundane human needs.

Brave new World with Stephen Hawking

Joy Reidenberg

Next up was Joy Reidenbeg a Comparative Anatomist, and also presenter of Inside Nature’s Giants, who introduces us to an exoskeleton that can make the paralysed walk and a man lift three times his own weight.  Again this made me think of Science Fiction and again not even some prize-winning literary work or cinema classic but back to US Telly this time a decade earlier than Knight Rider to the 1970’s and sci-fi staples The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. And as with Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers this also arose not from some vain-glory pursuit to make able bodies even more able but from seeking to repair badly injured ones and make as new, if not better than new.

Here we saw two hitherto wheel-chair bound women able to stand up on their two legs with this exoskeleton in place and walk. This was the one scientific breakthrough featured that not only made me think ‘wow’ but brought a tear to my eye too.

Brave new World with Stephen Hawking

Maggie Aderin-Pocock

The final piece of scientific wonder was presented by Maggie Aderin-Pocock whose title was given as Astrophysicist and perhaps a title that does even eclipse Theoretical Physicist in the impressive sounding show-off stakes!

She introduced us to one of the worlds most impressive Telescopes the GTC – the Gran Telescopio Canarias – described as a Time Machine as it is powerful enough to be able to look as far backwards in time as to the beginning of the universe  itself. Its particular purpose was to discover Earth like planets – as it finds such they are catalogued and detailed.

And this viewer cannot but wonder are they populated by beings such as us, watching programmes such as this.

And whether our own planet Earth is the subject of a similarly searching alien telescope out their in the depths of space?!

And that as this is science we should never say ‘Let’s not go there’.

Chickens – Uncowardly Comedy

Comedy Showcase: Chickens - The CottageChannel 4’s Comedy Showcase returned for its third year Friday night September 2 with Chickens.

Channel 4’s Comedy Showcase is for new British comedy – a kind of piloting in which one presumes a good mixture of audience numbers and critical reception results in a whole series being commissioned. This was the successful fate for Free Agents, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, Phone Shop and Campus. Others such as The Eejits and Guantanamo Phil did not make it beyond their pilot.

Chickens is written by its three main stars – two The Inbetweeners Simon Bird (a younger David Mitchell) and Joe Thomas along with Jonny Sweet – he himself was in an episode of The Inbetweeners but you may know him better as a young David Cameron in When Boris Met Dave – the three chickens of the piece.

The music used for the intro and outro and punctuating the episode is Dinokza by the Elite Swingsters from the album Cafe Afrika.

Channel 4 Comedy Showcase Chickens Olivia Halinan

Olivia Halinan as War Widow Gwyneth

Chickens is set in a sleepy English village in 1914, the outset of World War I. It is populated almost entirely by its woman-folk for the remaining men are those unable or unwilling to fight for their country. In the case of Mr Armstrong the school headmaster played by Rupert Vansittart this is accepted due to his near-retirement age whereas for these younger three it is not. Cecil, played by Simon Bird, is not fighting due to a medical condition – he has flat feet! George, played by Joe Thomas, is not fighting due to conscientious objection. And Bert, played by Jonny Sweet, is not fighting well because he does not want to get killed! In his words the time to join the army is in peacetime! Adding ‘there’s never been a better time to be a single man in England’! Which later involves him flirting with a grieving widow Gwyneth (played by Olivia Halinan) at her husband’s funeral – in his words ‘two single people’!

The three of them live together and are outcast from the village – their home is daubed with graffiti such as ‘Chickens’ and ‘Cowards Cottage’! and they receive daily hate-mail and verbal abuse – the post-woman passes one of them their mail ‘Shame on you’ she says!

Later, on entering the village pub to find its management, staff and customers almost solely women, Cecil explains that the usual owner is away in France, ‘On holiday’ asks Bert before again being reminded ‘Fighting in the war’!

Chickens reminds us that the past really is a foreign country – views now out on our fringes being quite mainstream then. A more Old Testament view towards sexuality and punishment was in play.

Channel 4 Comedy Showcase Chickens

Barmaid, played by Jessica Barden

Cecil is told they are no longer serving beer so accepts a white wine – his sister Agnes, played by Emerald Fennell, enters and full of disgust for her brother calls him a ‘Fruit’ which he denies just as the barmaid serves him his white-wine – not sophisticated humour perhaps but good comedy timing.

In a later scene to show that he is not wishy-washy George agrees to cane a ten-year old pupil. The pupil had forgotten his maths text book and the head sitting in on the class wishes him to corporal punish the pupil. It turns out he does not have a cane and has never used one on any of his pupils much to the disapproval of the headmaster. The headmaster lets the other parents know of this and they along with the other teachers share their disgust at this liberal approach to punishment! Likewise to prove his affection for his fiancee – or in their words ‘You’re not saying you will break off our engagement unless I beat a 10 year old boy’ – ‘That’s exactly what I’m saying’! And once he embarks on this punishment he gets carried away with it caning the pupil ever-harder – I felt uncomfortable watching this scene – not sparing the rod to spoil the child was made even less palatable by being made a joke of.

Channel 4 Comedy Showcase Chickens

Cecil’s sister Agnes

The hatred the village feels for these three ‘chickens’ is not abated when in the final scene the bar-woman announces that a new born baby girl will be brought in to the pub for them all to see, to the universal delight of the pub, all that is except Cecil, George and Bert, and they leave. Cecil who had been drinking pints of water in the pub due to their own home water being polluted needs to relieve himself and does so on the common only to discover along with much of the rest of the village that he is urinating on the memorial tree of the recently deceased soldier and hero husband of Gwyneth!

The comic timing and general acting of the three chickens is very good, as is the supporting villager cast.

These Chickens have legs. And wings. Sorry! I hope a series is made.

Next in the Comedy Showcase is Coma Girl.

Four Rooms – Deal or No Deal? – Deal!

Four Rooms Channel 4Four Rooms the new Channel 4 show in which members of the British public chance their valued – and they hope valuable – goods with four professional dealers. A sexed up Antiques Roadshow (unless you had a soft spot for Michael Aspel and now Fiona Bruce!) – where there is no pretense here that the seller is deeply sentimentally attached to their family heirloom or prize purchase and is only there to find out about the item’s social history and with only a very vague passing interest in its current market value, and then only for insurance purposes!

No, those showing their wares on Four Rooms have come to sell and will be asking the highest price they have the chutzpah to chance. Likewise the valuers in Four Rooms are dealers and if they like what is being hawked they will be making as low an offer as they have the brass for. The catch in Four Rooms is that the dealers can only be seen one at a time – each in a separate room – that’s right four dealers, four rooms – and if no deal is made there can be no returning later, tails between their legs, if they don’t get a better offer from subsequent dealers

Four Rooms Emma Hawkins

Emma Hawkins

The earlier comparison to Antiques Roadshow is also off the mark in that much of the items are not antique – though at what age does something become an antique?! All mod cons are on show too, antiques for an age yet to come – they hope.

In addition to the standard antique fare of furniture, jewellery, ornaments and paintings are toys, stuffed animals, fashion, pop art memorabilia and complete off the wall items like mummified mermaids and Ghanian coffins!

Also are items that would otherwise have far less value were it not for the fact they were once owned by someone of fame or infamy. One episode I saw included a suit worn by Sean Connery in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice followed by two jackets (couture at that by Moschino and Dolce & Gabbana) worn by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in the 1990’s born British fashion comedy series Absolutely Fabulous – a show incidentally long overdue a repeat run. Neither of these sartorial items sold.

Four Rooms Jeffrey Salmon

Jeffrey Salmon

The Channel 4 website for Four Rooms details all the items featured and the prices fetched for the successful deals.

Before the bartering begins the seller preambles with an explanation of the item/s on offer and why they are now selling. Sometimes they try to pull on the heart-strings advising they have lost their income or had an accident – alas this is wasted breath as the dealers have lizard hearts. Some contestants are more upfront such as one selling a collection of Vivienne Westwood couture hats to finance a new bathroom of gold plated taps and rococo stylings!

And the four reptiles – sorry dealers! – are Gordon Watson an ex-Sotheby’s auctioneer, with a stated interest in 20th Century Design and perhaps the most conventional of the quartet. Next up is Andrew Lamberty a Chelsea dealer with an interest in furniture and also 20th Century Design. Then there is Emma Hawkins a glamorous young dealer with an interest in taxidermy. On her website she styles herself as Taxidermist/Interior Designer – in that order! Finally there is Jeffrey Salmon a forthright art and design dealer with an occasional penchant for whipping out a pair of dice and offering you a ridiculous choice – one price high and fantastic for the the seller the other price low and fantastic for the buyer.

Four Rooms Andrew Lamberty

Andrew Lamberty

The haggling proceedings are all watched over by the show host Anita Rani.

Four Rooms has enough legs I feel to be commissioned for many more series. The dealers are telegenic, as are the items on offer. Both vie to be the star of the show.

The star though is the buying and selling itself – the venal haggling masquerading as polite negotiation.

Often we witness the line between need and greed crumbling. Whatever a seller initially states as a price they would be happy with, if that price is offered they will usually decline it now thinking to themselves they could get more. Usually they don’t which I guess is a poetic justice – certainly enjoyable TV for the schadenfreude in us the viewer!

And if on the other hand they are first offered a price lower than what they were wanting and decline it and subsequent offers are even lower they will often end up settling for a price much lower than the original higher offer. All in a day’s trading!

Antiques is now a genre on TV, so numerous are such programs, that it is to Channel 4’s credit that they have in Four Rooms commissioned a show that revitalises it. Antiques Roadshow may inspire you to look for one of your antiques to deal, Four Rooms may though inspire you to become an antiques dealer.

The Unsins of the Flesh …the Genius of British Art – Victorian Nudes


The Genius of British Art Flesh Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson

Flesh was a revelation to me. Flesh was part of the Channel 4 2010 series The Genius of British Art presented by English author Howard Jacobson. I had bought the clichés about our Victorian era too – that it was provincial, prurient and prim, the eternal ambivalent marriage of sensual repression and hypocrisy.

That if I wanted to see the joys and the projected sins of the flesh I had to look to the wider European continent – to Italy and France in particular…that our British shores were barren ones.

When it was all around us all this time. The nude in British art began in the Victorian era in the 1820’s with William Etty, and Queen Victoria was a keen collector of such art herself. Though not entirely clear whether an embarrassed and shameful regal secret – at least from her subjects.

The Genius of British Art was a six part series examining various facets of British Art – Royal Portraiture,  the Common People – that’s we the prole subjects again – our Imperial exploits and the art  of war all the way forward to Modern Art in the anarchic forms and sensationalist works of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin among other art misfits.

The Syrinx Arthur Hacker

The Syrinx Arthur Hacker

It was this episode though Flesh that I found most revealing and rewarding. The other episodes were more familiar both in their content and context, this episode on the otherhand was full of artists and art  unknown to me.

This was Flesh in art both longing and longless.

Howard Jacobson makes a distinction between British and French depictions of the nude – for the French it is enough to be for its own sake, at hedonistic ease with itself. The British on the other hand if they must show flesh must provide it a moral context

We don’t just do the fires of love today. We think about the ways we will feel tomorrow.

This breezy and thoughtful prose reminding that it is a writer – and a novelist at that – who is presenting this program and this colourful narrative style made this program an especial pleasure. If you were not able to see this program but just read his narrated text the visual picture it would likely conjure up in your mind would not do disservice to the actual visual content.

He starts with the claim

If you want to understand a culture see how its art tackles the subject of sex.

And goes on

It is only in our Art that we tell the truth.

And then

I paint with my penis the French painter Renoir is said to have said. The too-too moralistic British so the story goes paint with everything but.

And with this pithy summation of the perceived distance between British and French Art the program proceeds to demonstrate otherwise, debunking at every turn.

Florinda by Winterhalter

Florinda by Winterhalter

With artists such as William Etty, Arthur Hacker and Walter Sickert such myths and prejudices get dispelled.

And it was not just the home-grown English artists and their nude subjects but the naked bodies portrayed by other European artists that the Victorians took pleasure in, again including Queen Victoria, herself commissioning many paintings with naked subjects, such as ‘Florinda’ by German artist Winterhalter, which hung pride of place in her office as she went about her daily business.

Patricia Preece by Stanley Spencer

Patricia Preece by Stanley Spencer

Flesh also looks at the genre of Fairy Art but this is no out of place diversion as the Fairy Art is no sentimental chocolate box banal expression of the physical and metaphysical human and not so human form but rather as outward projections of deeply felt but mute inner thoughts and sexual desires. The safety to explore all sorts of dark desire under the mask and metaphor of witches, changeling’s and other goblin pixie monsters.

Later Jacobson’s prose gets ever more climactic as he describes Stanley Spencer’s painting of his second wife Patricia Preece (who in fact it seems only married him for his house and was herself a Lesbian and continued to live with her lover Dorothy Hepworth and so a painting also of unrequited love) ending in eulogy

If there is a more cruelly voluptuous piece of painting anywhere in art I don’t think I could bare to see it.

The latter part of the program brings the British portrayal of the Nude in Art up to date – in his words current artists almost mocking the naked form ‘the end of the body in Art’ in Jacobson’s typically forthright words pointing out the 1997 work Pauline Bunny by Sarah Lucas which he admires for its conception rather than its treatment of flesh – a disillusionment rather than a delighted celebration of the human body.

John William Waterhouse - Hylas and the Nymphs

John William Waterhouse – Hylas and the Nymphs

Suggesting that we Brits today are far more scared and timid of the body and sex than we were in these Victoria times of a century and a half ago.

The recently departed Lucien Freud was not lingered on long nor Francis Bacon (perhaps Freud’s spiritual cousin) but then the focus of this program was the nude in unlikely places and times – this being in the provinces and in the Victorian era and not where we expect and know we can find it, certainly not in the abundant arena of the here and now.

This program is a cerebral pleasure but mostly like the fleshy subject itself it is a carnal pleasure – not so much to be contemplated as consummated.

And Howard Jacobson should be given a commission for a whole series about British art – or any Nation’s art for that matter!

Desperate Housewives – Death on Wisteria Lane

Gabrielle Solis Desperate Housewives Come on Over for Dinner

Gabrielle Solis – Spotted Ghost from her Past

The final episode of Series 7 of Desperate Housewives Come On Over for Dinner aired in the UK on Channel 4 and E4 this July – and inevitably for at least one cast member it was a fatal ending.

You might expect the highest body counts on TV to be in urbanscapes of high crime and low hopes like Shield or The Wire, or even a hospital city-based drama like ER. But no the highest proportion of murders per capita is Wisteria Lane – no coincidence perhaps that its narrator is herself a ghost of that place.

In the UK we have Midsommer Murders set in a seeming rural idyll in a Mid-England Shire and where again the per capita murder count is far higher than London based crime dramas such as the now deceased The Bill and the very much living Luther. Should you live in Midsommer then death will be sure to visit you soon and if not you then your loved ones or neighbours.

Desperate Housewives Series 7Desperate Housewives is the USA equivalent of these Suburban Murder stories.

I imagine the house-prices in Wisteria Lane are much lower than similar sized homes in nearby neighbourhoods.

In the penultimate episode And Lots of Security we see the appearance of Gaby’s step-father who she believed to have been dead and whom also raped her when a girl. Gaby’s step father Alejandro is played by Tony Plana – you may know him as another much more benign and cuddly father Ignacio Suarez to Ugly Betty. And the second Ugly Betty cast member to have shown up in Wisteria Lane following Wilhelmina Slater still resident as Renee Perry. Perhaps America Ferreira herself will yet find herself in Wisteria Lane.

Desperate Housewives - And Lots of Security

Gabrielle confronts Step Father

In the final episode Come On Over for Dinner Gaby’s past has caught up to haunt her where she lures her step-father to a clearing and confronts him at the point of a gun. This appears to us to have done the trick but he re-appears in her home when she is all alone bar her two young daughters. This time she is unarmed and he sets upon her again to repeat his terrible act – but fortuitously her husband Carlos returns home to nip this act in the bud by grabbing a lead-based candlestick-holder – always much more than a near-redundant household ornament! – and hits him hard on the head with it. It turns out that Carlos has done more than knock out Alejandro, he has killed him.

Desperate Housewives Come On Over For Dinner Gabrielle Step Father

Step Father confronts Gabrielle

During this episode a dinner has been thrown for Susan and Mike Delfino, in honour of their returning to their Wisteria Lane home, but with a difference in that each course takes place at the home of one of the guests. Desert is to take place at the home of Gabrielle and Carlos Solis yet it is child-abuser Alejandro who has got his just desert. The remaining residents though are on their way. Bree Van De Kamp is one of the first to arrive and on discovering the dead body and following their explanation suggests that she herself will be the fall-gal or at least help cover-up this murder for them. And why this seeming selfless gesture? Because her son Andrew was responsible for the death of Carlos’ mother Gloria several years earlier in a drunken road accident which she herself had covered up to prevent her son being sent to prison. This led to Carlos and Bree being estranged and this neat-story outcome allows them to become unestranged again.

Desperate Housewives Paul Young

Paul Young

In the previous episode Then I Really Got Scared Felicia Tilman behind the wheel of her car, on the run from her past crimes catching up with her, sees an urn containing her daughter Beth’s ashes fall off the passenger seat to the footwell and on moving to recover them loses sight of the road and veers into the path of an oncoming articulated lorry which totals the car and the end of the line for Felicia.

And the ashes of her daughter were they from natural causes? As if! – she had committed suicide in the Everything’s Different Nothing’s Changed episode by shooting herself in the head so as to provide a kidney for Susan Delfino feeling her life was worthless and this giving of her life to save another her one last chance at salvation.

And from what crime was she fleeing – from her near murder by lethal injection of Paul Young – who was only saved by the good fortune of neighbour Susan Delfino interupting her in the act. And why was Felicia Tilman attempting to murder Paul Young? Because as regular viewers will know he had murdered her sister. And why had he murdered her sister?! Because Felicia’s sister had murdered his wife Mary Ellis Young, the Ouija voice-over of every Desperate Housewife episode.

Also remember Larry Hagman’s brief appearance as Frank earlier this series when Lynette Scavo’s mother Stella re-marries Frank, himself a serial betrother, only to later expire while visiting Lynette’s family to have a family photograph taken and where ‘Cheese’ were the last words ever to be uttered from Frank’s lips! – at least death by natural causes!

Desperate Housewives Felicia Tilman

Felicia Tilman – be very afraid

And lest you have forgotten in Series 6 there was Eddie the Fairview Strangler and his serial killer trail of death and destruction – not strictly on Wisteria Lane but on an adjoining suburban street. In this sixth series were also the Witness Protection couple Angie and Nick Bolen and her ex-boyfriend and eco-terrorist (as too she was) Patrick Logan (played by Torchwood‘s very own John Barrowman). In another episode in this series a pilot has a heart-attack and the plane descends towards a built-up neighbourhood – naturally it should be Wisteria Lane!

And then in Season 5 Serial Killer Dave Williams.

I shall not list and catalogue all the other death and destruction in Wisteria Lane – save to remind you of the Tornado which laid waste to the whole of Wisteria Lane in Season 4.

I look forward Season 8 (commencing in the USA on ABC in September 2011) just be sure to note that if there is a new character on the Lane there is a more than even chance they have a murderous past to conceal or a murderous future before them.