Stockard Channing

Has it been a phenomenal summer of sport on the telly or what? First came all that European soccer, then the tennis, now the Olympic Games. Unbelievable!

All of which explains how Jen and I have finally managed to make massive inroads into our West Wing box-set. We're about half-way through season four at the moment, and we're totally hooked. I mean totally.

If you've never watched The West Wing, you really should. What makes the series so special is that every one of the main characters is both extremely likeable and extremely intelligent. You don't get that very much on the telly. And there are some fantastic jokes too. I'm not kidding, Jen and I have been literally laughing out loud at least once per episode.

One thing about The West Wing has been troubling me, though. The character of the First Lady is played by a very fine actress named Stockard Channing. Yes, that's right, Stockard Channing:

Channing

Stockard Channing (L) and Martin Sheen (R) as Mrs and President Bartlet respectively.

I know: where have you heard the name Stockard Channing before? It's been doing my head in.

I Googled her, obviously, and discovered that, in addition to playing First Lady Abbey Bartlet in The West Wing, Stockard Channing is perhaps best known for her role as Betty Rizzo in the film Grease. Which didn't particularly help, as I don't think I've ever seen Grease. Thanks for nothing, Google.

Then, after several days' frustration, it finally dawned on me why I recognised the name. Honestly, you're going to kick yourself…

Stockard Channing is the name of a motorway service station on the M5 just south of Bristol. I stopped there once for a comfort break and a coffee and blueberry muffin.

Holy crap. The poor, poor woman. She must have been teased mercilessly at school. What sort of person names their child after a motorway service station? (Apart from Charlton Heston's dad, I mean.)

Jen and I are pretty devastated that we're already half-way through The West Wing. So much so that we're starting to get a bit jittery about which landmark US TV series we're going to watch next. We already polished off The Sopranos during the last World Cup. We tried the first couple of episodes of The Wire, but couldn't understand a word anyone was saying. Which has left us in something of a quandary. The front-runner at the moment is the highly acclaimed Game of Cards. What do you reckon?

Vicky Who?… George WHO?

BBC: Vicky Pattison wins I'm A Celebrity 2015, beats George Shelley!

Paul redux

You might remember that around this time last year, I wrote about my nutty former school-mate Paul, who had just run from London to Dover, swam the English Channel, then cycled to Paris.

Paul is currently to be seen in BBC2's Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week at 21:00 on Sunday evenings. He's the one looking utterly knackered. I appreciate that doesn't help whittle things down a great deal, so here's a screen-grab of Paul doing the ‘Ruck Run’, so you all know who to cheer for:

Paul looking knackered

Paul looking knackered recently.

(I beat Paul at squash once, you know. That would have been before most of the other contestants on Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week were born.)

It has come to something

…when the most compelling thing to be found on television is a live video-feed of a patch of mud at the bottom of a pond:

Stickleback nest

A stickleback nest this morning.

Two Yorkshire residents watching telly last week

Me: Oh look, Tintern Abbey!
Jen: Yes it is!

595 clarification

I take it all you Gruts Gangers have been watching Happy Valley out of morbid curiosity as to what life is really like in Upper Calderdale. Good, isn't it? The show I mean. As, indeed, is living in Upper Calderdale.

But you shouldn't believe everything you see on telly. Five episodes in, and how many hippies, lesbians, or fat blokes with beards have they shown prowling the streets of Hebden Bridge? Zilch, that's how many. How realistic isn't that? Meanwhile, if Happy Valley is to be believed, we can't move for drug addicts, psychopaths, kidnappers, rapists, cop-killers, and (I'm not making this up) ghosts.

Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley

Sarah Lancashire searching for kidnapping murderers round the back of Jen's sister's house the other week.

I didn't realise, until I saw the scene where Sarah Lancashire and her grandson come out of Oasis, having bought a bag of sweets, that I actually saw them filming the series. (For the record, Oasis doesn't sell bags of sweets.)

But the real howler came right at the end of episode 5. The seriously injured psychopathic triple murderer and kidnapper climbs on the 595 bus at Tuel Lane and heads off to Hebden Bridge for, we all presume, a final showdown with an unsuspecting Sarah Lancashire.

But here's the catch… The 595 bus doesn't go anywhere near Tuel Lane in Sowerby Bridge. It runs from Hebden Bridge station, down Commercial Street, up Birchcliffe, around Dodd Naze, up Wadsworth Lane, past our house, then takes a sharp left down Nook Lane through Old Town and Pecket Well to the Crimsworth turning circle, then all the way back along the same route in reverse to Hebden Bridge station.

I do wish the BBC would check their facts before airing misleading nonsense about local bus routes.

Tony sleeps with the fishes

BBC: James Gandolfini, Sopranos star, dies in Italy aged 51

By way of tribute, the best opening title sequence ever (from, quite possibly, the best TV drama series ever):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XFyvNIyjyc