(TV Mini-Series)

(2008)

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8/10
Lots of Laughs and a Little Cringing
Luce_Skywalker13 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A lot of people appeared to miss the point of this programme completely. No, it wasn't highbrow. No, it wasn't trying to be clever. No, it wasn't a satirical statement. It was good old-fashioned entertainment. Get off your high horse and join us down here.

So, for those who haven't seen it, it was a modern re-telling of the fairytale Rapunzel, although to say it was "loosely based" on the original would be over-stating it a little. It was set, inexplicably, in the world of competitive tennis and centred around useless-but-amiable Jimmy Stojkovic (played with almost palpable glee by the excellent Lee Ingleby), the source of constant embarrassment for his father (Shaun Williamson, or "BarryfromEastEnders" as he shall forever be known). Jimmy's father wants to be a great tennis coach and "a great coach needs champions otherwise he is just... a pushy father", so he concocts a rather bizarre stunt in order to convince Jimmy to dress in drag and enter the British Open as a girl.

Also in the Ladies' Singles is the long-haired Billie-Jean, nicknamed Rapunzel by her overbearing, overprotective, Miss Havishamesque mother. Naturally, Jimmy falls for Rapunzel, but of course can't reveal that he's Prince Charming rather than Princess Charming, as that would get him kicked out of the tournament and put his father in mortal danger. Or so he thinks...

Cue lots of laughs and a little cringing as Jimmy ("Martina" when his wig's on) and Rapunzel become closer and closer, and fend off unwelcome attention from a creepy pundit with a slightly unsettling interest in young girls (or what he thinks is a young girl) and an arrogant male tennis player with a patio-broom moustache who was Jimmy's bitter rival back home in the old Eastern Bloc.

The supporting cast, without exception, are brilliant, right down to the Eastern-European tennis commentator who can't stand Jimmy because he has "the most pathetic moustache I have ever seen" (Jimmy's indignant and frustrated reply: "It looks thin because it is BLOND!"), and Tony Way, who is fast establishing himself as one of Britain's comedic treasures, as Jimmy's brother who helps to transform Jimmy into Martina. He's come a long way since he played the mint-sharing paperboy in 'Spaced', and gets a lot of the best one-liners in 'Rapunzel'.

So, does Jimmy get the girl? Well, I ticked the 'Spoilers' box but I hardly think this counts: of course he does. A few years ago film- and programme-makers seemed to decide that we viewers can't cope with Brothers Grimm-style fairy tales and prefer instead the Disney variety, and they're not always wrong.

When it's made with as much warmth as this example was, when the actors throw themselves into their roles with such enthusiasm and when the jokes are as funny as these were; yeah, it works.

If you come to this expecting Chekhov, prepare to feel patronised. If you come to it expecting an hour of decent entertainment, good-natured stereotypes and plot holes you could drive a tractor through, prepare to leave with a giant smile on your face.
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6/10
Balls, anybody?
xAgelikiADDICTION11 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
'We are young, we are free, keep our teeth, nice and clean. Feel the sun, see the sights, feel allllriiiighhhhtt....'

  • Alright, Supergrass.


That was it basically. Alright, just, alright.

To put into more summary-reviewing terms, I was expecting this 'Rapunzel', shown last night on BBC1, to be the first of maybe a 6-part series, but instead it was just an hour long one-off, part of a series of shows that have 'modernized' fairy tales. For example, it's Cinderella next week.

Anyway, for the show itself. Again, alright. Alright if there's no decent films on television, if Big Brother Hijack's finally getting on your t*ts, and if they're still trying to flog curb chains on Bid-Up TV. It had the potential to be mind-blowing, but instead it was just a story of a rather plain, somewhat-snobbish looking girl, nicknamed 'Rapunzel', but actually called Billie-Jane ('BJ' for short, which is incredibly inappropriate as you'll see how the storyline unfolds); nicknamed that simply because of her ridiculously long hair. When BJ/Rapunzel was young, she was adopted by a wealthy widow, who is absolutely tennis-mad, and put all her energy into making Rapunzel into Britain's best female tennis player, because she never achieved it. A rather strange take on the fairytale, 'Rapunzel', I know, but it gets even stranger. Rapunzel of course, is an amazing tennis player, but she comes into contact with some rather strange men, most likely immigrants, one of them played by Sean Somebody-or-other, who played Barry in Eastenders. Yes, the fat one. The three immigrant friends are in trouble with some gangster people, and owe them tons of money, millions in fact, so to get the money, the character played by Barry comes up with this plan that if his friend enters Wimbledon, as a woman, so the gangster's won't recognise him, and wins, they're debt problems will be over! I'm sure he could have just got a job or something. But anyway the plot thickened! His friend, who's name I can't actually remember because he spent most of his time as 'Martina', a Russian, rather butch looking woman, with short brown hair (a wig) and over the top make up. She is set to play a set against Rapunzel in the fourth round, but as she is an unknown, Rapunzel takes pity on her and offers to practise with her, to give her the best possible chance. These 'practise' sessions soon become quite steamy, after they become more than just friends and then close friends, after Rapunzel gets turned down by a man, even though her mother has forbidden her from ever talking to men; and a 'lesbian' affair ensues, even though Martina is actually a man.

Anyway, I won't ruin it for you, but basically, the press find out, take a photo, and sell it to the papers, which ensues in a massive lesbian theme, and when Martina finally wins the tournament against the undefeated Rapunzel, he announces on live TV his true gender, and removes his wig. Rapunzel's obviously heartbroken, but a year later, they cross each others paths again, and miraculously fall back in love.

Overall? It was enjoyable. I couldn't be bothered to watch it again. Let's hope Cinderella's a lot better. And that Barry's not in it.
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