Take out your diary, circle Friday and then set your record button for the heart of the tv schedules. It’s a busy night.
First, you have a big decision to make: Two films, representing opposite ends of the cinema world, clash. Both are great -for different reasons as you will soon find out.
First up is the tremendous German film The Lives of Others (Fri, 12.05, BBC2; ok five past midnight on Sat but who’s looking?). This claustrophobic gripping story is set in a neurotic 1984 East Germany. Stasi agent Gert Weisler (played by an angsty Ulrich Muhe) is told to spy on a famous East German playwright who is suspected of western-leaning dissent.
But the real reason why the creepy Stasi bosses want the writer bugged is a top East German politician has his eye on the author’s girlfriend. Weisler the spy is being used. He’s a mug in a paranoid world.
Slowly the Stasi agent becomes engrossed in his victim’s world and disillusioned by his bosses, his own life and the work he is doing. He tries to help the object of his espionage. But, this being 1984 amoral East Germany, it goes ballistically wrong.
Actor Ulrich Muke is perfect as the uptight unthinking spy who slowly awakens to another way of living, even going so far as to rebel against the horrible Orwellian culture he exists in. It is a gem of a movie and should not be missed.
But let’s skip merrily and wildy to the other end of the film scale. This movie is up against the one and only National Lampoon’s Animal House (Fri; 23.10. ITV1). I mean, if this is isn’t the most stupid, sexist, funny, whacko, beer-sodden movie of a generation, then what is?
The John Belushi vehicle, out in 1978, spawned a whole genre of college campus down-and-dirty scripts. But this is the trashy mother of them all. Belushi and company gross out the college, the audience and probably most of the critics of the time. But you have to admit, it makes everyone laugh.
National Lampoon, of course, made a world come alive with their series of comedies during that era, many of them with one time great Chevy Chase. But Animal House, which led seamlessly for Belushi to the Blues Brothers gem, is a one-off comic gross out. German spy Gert Weisler should have moved to this fictional college frat house to lighten up.
Well, that’s it for this week. except for one thing.
I have been given great wodges of money to write about movies on Brit TV. But there is one TV show on this Friday that cannot be ignored.
it is the magnificent Gogglebox. (Fri; 21.00, Ch4). Nowhere have I seen a show that draws upon the great range of people that make up this blessed isle. This is the premise: Channel 4 slapped a bizzilion cameras in the living rooms of willing families around Britain. They’re of various colours, races, classes, sexes, ages, intelligence and open and closed mindedness. They are Britain.
Then they film these households as they watch and react to a wide range of tv shows on the box that week. It is a hoot and, slowly, as you laugh and moan with them and at them, you realise you are one of the hooting and moaning masses. We are them.
Gogglebox is a joyous romp, hilariously and cheekily narrated by Catherine Aherne. G’wan. Give yourself a treat and meet my favourites, Leon and June, the retired teachers from Liverpool who never miss a beat.