Some alcoholic, childish Friday Fun

First up is something that isn’t fun of itself, but that in the right hands and filled with the right liquid could be a huge amount of fun – I love handbags and I love wine, so these would be simply awesome:

That is the ‘Baggy Winecoat’ – a bag in which you can tote a box of wine. I’m assuming everyone’s been in a situation where they’ve thought to themselves “gosh, life would be so much easier if I had a bag for my wine box”, I know I have. It comes in a variety of colours, but sadly you have to provide the win yourself. Actually, over the summer I was thinking that in my future life as a vicar, a hipflask might be an important accessory – you know, just for those emergency, alcohol involving pastoral situations? But perhaps the wine bag would be easier to get away with? Something to ponder…

Try-hard segue time: you know who liked lots of wine and probably would have invested in their own Baggy Winecoat? Ally McBeal. Ages ago I found something which I added to my Friday Fun file, but hadn’t so far found a suitable outlet for – now, given what will be book-ending this feature, I feel it’s finally appropriate. I appreciate that not everyone will remember the great late 1990s TV series as fondly as I do, but the fact that someone had captured her facial expressions so perfectly made me chuckle a lot:

More Ally McBeal faces here. You know what else Ally McBeal liked, besides wine and making weird faces? Dancing babies. You know what I spent a not inconsiderate amount of time watching last night? Videos of dancing children (they’re pre-schoolers, so not strictly babies, but it’s still cute as). 
Who isn’t going to have their morning brightened by watching super cute twins dancing (and doing a bit of singing) in front of their TV? A hard-hearted mean person, that’s who! 

Keep your eyes on the boy on the right – he’s a right little mover and is definitely the one with rhythm. If you’re really in need of cheeriness, I highly recommend also watching Who Let The Dogs Out and Kung Fu Fighting – super cute! Watching these has also reminded me that I’ve got a copy of Just Dance for the Wii knocking around that I’ve never played with, so if anyone fancies emulating the twins, let me know…

Also, just to warn devoted readers that blogging may be light/non-existent for the next week as I’m off to France. No, not to play with scaffolding (sadly), but to have vicar school en Francais for a week. I don’t go to France for fourteen years and the I end up going three times in four months – typical!

Acceptable in the 90s

Over the last few days I’ve spent an unusual amount of time bonding with my sofa (so much time that I’m very aware of how many springs are now defunct and am currently pondering whether the purchasing of a new one is viable) and throwing myself into a time-warp – a 1990’s time-warp to be precise.

The DVD boxset is a beautiful addition to life. No longer do we need to reminisce about long-lost TV series – a few minutes online and they can be winging their way towards us. However, it can be a dangerous territory to enter, as it may lead to the shattering of our rose-tinted nostalgic memories with the realisation that more than a decade on, these fondly remembered shows really aren’t quite what we thought they were.

Last week I acquired the first seasons of two classic 90s series: Party of Five (1994-2000) and Ally McBeal (1997-2002) [the latter was a total bargain – £5 in Oxfam]. Whilst I was excited to be reunited with two old friends, there was a niggling concern in the back of my mind that perhaps I was about to be deeply disappointed…

The biggest risk was the post-feminist legal shenanigans of McBeal & Co. Despite controversy over its short skirts and uber-thin cast, it was still a favourite show of me and my friends while in Sixth Form and into university. [I cried so much the night Billy was killed off that my photography student flatmate used me as a model for a series she was creating on addiction – I played an alcoholic.] My theme song on our post-school mix-CD was Ally’s theme song [the still apt Tell Him], and our “we watch far too much TV song” was the Barry White tune the staff of Cage & Fish danced to in their unisex toilets (follow that link, it’s near perfection).

Not only was there the chance that I might not like it so much on second viewing, there was also the issue of its rather surreal moments – the inflating heads, gigantic tongues and dancing baby – amongst others. Any child of the 1980s who’s watched the classic BBC Chronicles of Narnia as an adult knows the pain of magical special effects looking tired and amateur in the cold-light of 21st century progression. Fortunately, they still work – at least I think they do, I’ve not got to the dancing baby yet.

Even better, it’s all still watchable. The jokes are funny – Elaine the crazy secretary is still hilarious (especially when wearing her face bra) and the legal cases bizarre. My only issue is that then, I aspired to be Ally – well, not exactly Ally, I fancied myself as a glamorous lawyer in Boston, not a desperate singleton. Now I actually am Ally – well the desperate (ish) singleton of a similar age; less so the short skirts, skeletal thin-ness and lawyer skills. Scary stuff.

And on to the rather less surreal and ever so much more gritty Party of Five. It’s lovely – sad, rather angsty and a tad unrealistic – but lovely. Or is it simply that I could watch Matthew Fox and his early 90s curtained hair for hour upon hour? Sure the fashions have aged (though I believe flannel shirts are making a comeback and I honestly think I’d do anything for a slightly needy, longish-haired man in a flannel shirt…) and music’s moved on, but this is good drama in a similar vein to early ER. It must be good as I watched eight episodes in the space of 24 hours.

Plus, I finally realised that the moment in the opening titles that I’d always thought showed Bailey and Charlie (the aforementioned Matthew Fox) washing a car is in fact them sanding some wood – even more manly [watching this again I see that it’s quite obvious what they’re doing – I was a fool, clearly]. For your viewing pleasure:

In conclusion, I’m happy to say that both pass muster in the new century – just as My So Called Life proved last year. (Honestly, it’s actually fabulously written and compelling.) Sadly, what really doesn’t is my old favourite of Dawson’s Creek – I’m not sure it’ll ever be a classic, but it will comfort me from time to time in my old age…

As a final tip, if you’re searching for some classic boxsets, check out the Guardian’s weekly recommendations. It’s a highly diverse list and contains plenty of gems you’ll have completely forgotten about.

Gone, but not forgotten

Having just taken a Sex and the City quiz (scoring a respectable 8/10) I’ve been reflecting on the dark month that was May 2004, when not only did SATC finish, but so did Friends. Around about the same time Dawson’s Creek bit the dust. (Oh how I cried during that episode! Has got to be one of the most depressing pieces of TV ever!)

No sooner had I finished mentioning this dark month to my colleague (who scoffed & didn’t seem to understand the trauma), than I found an article from the Guardian on the results of a recent poll to find the 10 most-missed shows.

It’s a bit of a dull list really, containing quite a few shows I’ve never bothered with – The Office, West Wing, Sopranos & Only Fools and Horses (my sister claims I’m a snob & don’t like ‘working class’ comedy, that’s a lie!!).

My own top 10 would look something like this:

1. Friends (Thankfully there’s 2 episodes on a day, but I miss new ones!)
2. SATC
3. Dawson’s Creek (though I do own all 6 series…did I just type that?? Oops.)
5. ER (It’s not officially over, but next season is it’s last. Besides, for me it pretty much finished when Dr Green left for the big ER in the sky.)
6. The Biz (little known CBBC drama about kids at stage school)
7. This Life (I especially liked watching it illicitly, aged 14/15 on the spare TV upstairs without my parents finding out!)
9. Gilmore Girls (Was hardly ever shown on UK TV so I’ve only really seen 2 of the 7 seasons, still, it looked good!)
10. Jewel in the Crown (As it was based on a set of books it couldn’t have gone on longer, but was amazing.)
11. Press Gang (I know, it’s a top 10 but I just remembered & it is great. Watching them again on dvd has been an enlightening experience, plus a teenage Dexter Fletcher….)

Incidentally, still on the theme of classic TV, apparantly the same survey also reveals that around 30% of people have “romantically fallen in love” with a TV character. Interesting turn of phrase!

Has to be said, only person I can think of that falls into that category is Clark Kent/Superman from the New Adventures of Superman – Dean Cain. Incredibly pathetic in reflection, but I was only 12. Although, now I’m re-watching ER from the start I may possibly be falling in love with a young(er) George Clooney!

Also, well done to all those Wikipedia TV dorks who spend their spare time writing episode guides & plot summaries to even the most obscure of shows! Ever need to kill a few minutes? Just look up your favourite show & read away.