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TV review: Death Row; John Bishop's Sport Relief Hell

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 12:46 pm    Post subject: TV review: Death Row; John Bishop's Sport Relief Hell Reply with quote

div class="track"img alt="" src="http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.22.4/62377?ns=guardianpageName=TV+review%3A+Death+Row%3B+John+Bishop%27s+Sport+Relief+Hell%3AArticle%3A1721574ch=Television+%26amp%3B+radioc3=G2c4=Television+%28Culture%29%2CTelevision+and+radio+TV%2CCulture%2CWerner+Herzog+%28Film%29c5=Not+commercially+useful%2CFilm+Reviews%2CTelevision+Mediac6=Sam+Wollastonc7=12-Mar-22c8=1721574c9=Articlec10=Reviewc11=Television+%26amp%3B+radioc13=Last+nights+TV+%28series%29c25=c30=contentc42=Cultureh2=GU%2FCulture%2FTelevision+%26amp%3B+radio%2FTelevision" width="1" height="1" //divp class="standfirst"Yes, Werner Herzog's film about men on death row is bleak – but it's about life, too/ppFor Hank Skinner's final meal, he had three pieces of spicy fried chicken, two catfish fillets (pronounced feelays, this is Texas), a bacon cheeseburger, a larger order of fries, a salad with ranch dressing and little bowls of ground-up hardboiled egg and shredded cheddar cheese, onions and tomato sauce. All washed down with a pitcher of chocolate milkshake./ppMaybe he thought he could block up his arteries completely and stop the poison getting through. Because Skinner, a convicted triple murderer, was going to be executed after dinner. By lethal injection. He could see the room a few feet from his cell, the gurney (that's a horrible thing, isn't it?), the armboards and straps, the microphone, the window through which the witnesses watch. "I was literally looking at my death while Inbsp;was sitting there eating," he says. "Inbsp;wasn't bothered by it at all."/ppBut then, half an hour before he was due to die, the call came through on the special stay-of-execution phone. Hank could finish his dinner in peace, and with a new ravenousness – maybe he was more bothered about things than he was making out./ppFood features a lot in a href="http://www.channel4.com/programmes/death-row" title=""strongDeath Row/strong/a (Channel 4), this extraordinary film – the first of three – by a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/wernerherzog" title="Werner Herzog"Werner Herzog/a. Last meals, which are made by other prisoners, are prepared with care and love. For one, they know it's going to be the last thing this guy will ever eat (well, normally it is), so they want it to be as good as they can make it. But also they know that he's probably going to be in no state to eat it, so it usually comes back to them./ppSkinner talks about the usual prison food tasting of cardboard. And of food-related dreams – about avocados that he'd "kill for" he says, then laughs at the inappropriateness of the expression. And of being at the grocery store. "I'd get some sash cord and I'd tie two or three grocery carts together, end-to-end like a train, and then just fill 'em up and go to the … I don't need the express lane, I can take my time, I'mnbsp;free now, you know what I'm saying … to the cash register and just watch them ring that stuff up, ring that stuff up."/ppI guess when you're locked up and expecting to die, sensory memories with connections to freedom become a powerful antidote to the sterile confines of death row, the inhumanity, and the shadow of the gurney at the end of the corridor. Herzog teases out this detail, encourages reflection – about food, people, time, death; and about what happens on the 40-mile journey from the holding prison to the execution prison – what Skinner saw out of the truck's window, the other-worldliness, the noise of the tyres going over the joints in the bridge, the smell of the lake they drove by and the memories that the smell conjured up, memories of freedom./ppIt's bleak – of course it is, it's about death. Not a polemic against capital punishment (though it's clear where Herzog stands), but a portrait. He cranks up the melancholy and the melodrama with his own narration, delivered with that strange, almost machine-like German intonation: "Onnbsp;the drive in, the condemned catch a glimpse of the world out there one last time." He lingers on grey skies. And drives along lonely Texan roads, past desperate diners, bungalows, empty parking lots, to the town of Pampa where, in the winter of 1993, Skinner's girlfriend and two of her children were bludgeoned and stabbed to death, and where today a snow storm is approaching. There's something of a Steve Earle song about it all./ppIt's also a very human film, even humorous at times. And it's as much about life as about death. Skinner is still alive, his execution still delayed by a legal loophole. He might not make it to that grocery store, but there could be more spicy fried chicken, bacon burgers and chocolate milkshake./ppa href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01dwgsg" title=""strongJohn Bishop's Sport Relief Hell/strong/a (BBC1) lacked one thing: John Bishop. Well he was there, of course, but his journey from Paris to London – by bicycle, rowing boat and his own (rather creaky) two legs – was so incredibly arduous that he was mostly far too knackered to do what he does. Banter, comedy, chat, all of that./ppNever mind, there were others around for that – like Chris Moyles, Davina McCall, Frank "not to be confused with Hank" Skinner. A top effort from Bishop too, and it was hard not to feel moved when he finally staggered into Trafalgar Square./pdiv class="related" style="float: left; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px;"ullia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/television"Television/a/lilia href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/wernerherzog"Werner Herzog/a/li/ul/divdiv class="author"a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/samwollaston"Sam Wollaston/a/divbr/div class="terms"a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk"guardian.co.uk/a copy; 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our a href="http://users.guardian.co.uk/help/article/0,,933909,00.html"Terms Conditions/a | a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/help/feeds"More Feeds/a/divp style="clear:both" /

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