The Simpsons, Simon Singh says, is “arguably the most successful television show in history”. It may also be the most allusive: it sometimes seems as if every aspect of the show is a knowing reference to something else. And sometimes it seems as if everything else is an unknowing reference to The Simpsons. The first time I saw Tully Marshall’s performance as the sinister head of Nitro Chemical in the 1942 film noir This Gun for Hire, my immediate reaction was: “It’s Mr Burns!” A similar thought occurred to me watching Rupert Murdoch testify to the Leveson inquiry. Given the depth, or at least the breadth, of allusion in the show, and its long-running appeal (it has been on air since 1989), it’s little wonder that there have been so many books along the lines of The Simpsons and Philosophy, The Psychology of the Simpsons etc.
During its third season, Boardwalk Empire went from being a great show to an excellent one, but this upturn in quality did not lead to an upturn in UK press. Critics don’t seem to trust it. I keep seeing the word “slow” where, to me at least, the show is steady and complex. It has more characters at play than, for example, a Breaking Bad or a Homeland, and all of them are deemed worthy of exploration, as layers of power are traced back to their sources. Everyone is answerable to someone further up the food chain.
The patch between Boxing Day and New Year is something of a culinary no man’s land. A time of making the best of what is left from the feast, a smorgasbord of pig’s ears turned into silk purses and bouts of gentle invention. It is also a time to play. To spend more time than usual in the kitchen, cookbooks out, radio on – making brioche, perhaps, or embarking on a sourdough starter, a chance to master croissants. It is certainly the only time in the year I can devote an entire afternoon to making crumpets.
Josef Leitz Eins Zwei Dry Riesling, Rheingau, Germany 2013 (£13, Salut Wines; £14.99, Laithwaites) Was 2014 a vintage year for wine? For Europe, the proof will come in the tasting next spring. When it comes to how wine was bought and sold in the UK, 2014 saw consolidation of the trend towards specialist independent merchants – with a flurry of new openings, it’s never been easier to find interesting bottles in a high street near you. Many newcomers double up as bars or restaurants, so you can try wines like the superbly incisive Eins Zwei Dry Riesling by the glass at Manchester newcomer Salut Wines for £4.90 before you commit to taking a whole bottle home.
In the beginning Richard Hammond created the heavens and the Earth. And the Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of Richard moved upon the face of the waters. And the Hamster said: “Let there be light” – and there was light …
Attack the Block director Joe Cornish is in the frame to direct the next Star Trek movie, the third in the recent series of reboots masterminded by JJ Abrams. Due to his commitments on Star Wars, Abrams recently confirmed he would not return to direct Star Trek 3 despite the success of the second instalment, Into Darkness, and Cornish has now emerged as the frontrunner to replace him, according to Deadline.
‘The best way to seduce someone,” Madonna wrote in 1992 in her book Sex, “is by making yourself unavailable.” What excellent advice, I have been thinking these last few weeks while a woman I know has been posting endless sexy selfies and kid pictures on the internet. Along with updates about what a rebel she is, what an “unapologetic bitch”, and with so many #hashtags thrown in that it’s like trying to read sentences written in Alphabetti spaghetti with added hedgehogs.