Critics' Choice

By Jonathan Ross Cerys Matthews Ellen E Jones
Author: Jonathan Ross

Jonathan Ross

Jonathan Ross is a comedian, talk show host, film critic and one of Britain's most successful broadcasters.

Author: Ellen E Jones

Ellen E Jones

Ellen E Jones is The Independent's TV critic and a columnist for The Independent on Sunday and The i Paper. She runs regular review writing workshops and mentoring programmes for young journalists, yet still finds time to squeeze in a solid four hours of TV-viewing a day.

Author: Cerys Matthews

Cerys Matthews

Radio 6 Music broadcaster, MBE, author, songwriter and former singer with the band Catatonia, Cerys Matthews has got music in her bones. She's passionate about all kinds of sounds so let her inspire you too.

Jonathan Ross says...

This might not be a fashionable or indeed cool admission to make, but I like Jason Statham. In these unpredictable times he’s dependable. While the rest of the world goes crazy, I know that I can rely on Jason. Jason won’t let me down. He’ll be a tough, no nonsense, morally untarnished hero with a six-pack of steel and a mad-eyed stare that can out-run, out-drive and out-jump every other character on screen. He’ll deliver a no-nonsense performance as brisk and streamlined and muscular as his own impressive torso, as straightforwardly uncomplicated as his round smooth head. He might not promise much, I’ll give you that, but he will deliver.

Now, there may be some among you who think that starring in movies such as Crank: High Voltage or The Mechanic doesn’t require a lot of talent. But I’d respectfully argue that you are wrong. It used to be that action movies were rebuked and reviled for their simple plots and lack of subtle characterisation. But then it seems critics wised up to what audiences already knew: it’s about good, honest escapism. They delivered exactly what they promised, and only those who were looking for them to be something that they were never meant to be came away disappointed.

Action movies, like their stars, should be celebrated for what they are and not compared to different cinematic experiences where, inevitably, they will fall short. We don’t beat up on dogs for not being as agile as cats or as slippery as snakes, do we?

So let it be with Jason Statham. Those who criticise his performance in The Fast and Furious series for lacking depth and sensitivity only make themselves look silly. What did they expect? It’s in the title. It’s not called ‘The Smart and the Sensitive’ or ‘The Deep and the Dreary’, is it?

My one small caveat when it comes to JS is that he never, ever gets beaten. To really enjoy a good action film you need the hero to get crushed before they bounce back triumphant. I had dinner with Sylvester Stallone one night, and he told me he had this very conversation with Jason who ignored his advice. But who are we to argue with the juggernaut that is The Stath? He has become his own brand – he parodied his onscreen persona brilliantly in the Melissa McCarthy vehicle Spy, where he played a British agent who was everything James Bond isn’t – vulgar, foul-mouthed and a bit on the simple side.

The whole point of the Furious movies is that they are big, loud and fun. And in this month’s The Fate of the Furious Statham has the most fun of all. So reset your critical faculties to ‘uncomplicated’ and sit back and enjoy the ride.

Cerys Matthews says...

I fell in love with radio aged 14, under my duvet where I hid with my brand new cassette and radio player, in the company of Adam and the Ants and the Del Fuegos.

Ah, the escape, the freedom and adventure! Radio offers a whole new world at the twist of a dial. It’s a format still as popular today among all generations, despite the emergence of competing platforms.

It’s clear why – the best radio has no peers. It is company, ritual and friend. It gives so much, yet asks so little of you. It enters your world without disturbing your daily tasks, and connects with your inner voice. PJ O’Rourke said how much he likes to argue with it and Canadian author Douglas Coupland loves the intimacy of the format. “The moment people hear your voice, you’re inside their heads – you’re in there laying eggs,” he says.

Radio transformed my American road trips when I lived in the USA. My car would swing along those vast freeways blaring out the sounds of WWOZ New Orleans 90.7 FM, blasting jazz tunes straight from the crescent city. If I fancied a little Southern crunk from Nashville I would turn to 101.1 The Beat, the city’s home for hip hop and R&B mixed up with great morning shows, news and current affairs. Then straight to Washington based NPR for its classy mix of culture and arts, much like the UK’s BBC Radio 4. Take some time to explore your radio dial for such goodies as Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW Santa Monica and France’s FIP radio for brilliantly curated music shows taking in jazz, blues, pop and world music. Perfect for your drives through the Dordogne.

And best of all, you can now you can tune into most of these stations from the comfort of your own home via the internet. But you don’t miss out on board either! We have a huge selection of radio shows available today. There’s an exclusive taster session in The Best of Soho Radio, London, from a station that describes itself as “furiously independent”, promising an unrivalled mix of genres, from pop to punk via reggae, soul and funk. DJs on the roster include my old Rough Trade Records stablemate journalist Pete Paphides, James Endeacott (Unlock your Mind), Gary Crawley (punk and new wave) and legendary DJ Norman Jay MBE.

If you’re feeling a bit more chilled, join Jarvis Cocker, who returns with his maverick and mysterious Wireless Nights, exploring the human condition after dark with stories of night people. And, last but not least, one more to mention – join me on the Chitlin Circuit, where I feature the likes of Count Basie, Little Willie John and Little Richard. Good Golly Miss Molly!

Ellen E Jones says...

Here’s a golden rule of television for you: a show should never be more fun to make than it is to watch. It’s not that we begrudge telly folk their jollies, it’s just that great TV should feel like the only all-expenses-paid, round-the-world trip you can take without even opening the front door. When it feels more like you’re stuck politely scrolling through someone else’s iPhone holiday snaps, something has gone wrong.

Saint Judith Chalmers be praised, then, for it seems that after years of wandering the travel programme wilderness, TV has finally come up with the perfect viewing itinerary. First stop: gently poke fun at the universal desire to ‘be a traveller, not a tourist’.

In Better Late Than Never, four ‘seasoned’ US celebs in Hawaiian shirts travel round Asia doing their best to reinforce, then upend, then reinforce again, the most unflattering clichés about loud, brash Americans abroad. Henry Winkler is the nominal gang-leader (fitting since he used to play the Fonz in Happy Days), but his travel companions are just as important to the mix. There’s William Shatner, best known as Captain Kirk from Star Trek, former heavyweight boxing champ George Foreman and NFL star-turned-sports commentator, Terry Bradshaw. All four are mostly to be found racing through the streets in overpriced tuk-tuks and bellowing at the top of their voices. Viewers will find their antics amusing; the locals definitely don’t.

In these new better-than-the-brochure shows, a willingness to look foolish is good, but a willingness to look totally miserable is even better. That’s the speciality of Travel Man, fronted by Richard Ayoade. Each week, he takes a different comedian pal along on a city break (Helsinki, Lisbon and Naples have all featured so far), aiming to do all there that’s worth doing in a snappy 48 hours. Constitutionally averse to holidays and ever in search of the next disappointment, Ayoade never dallies anywhere long enough to try our patience. The result is a format that’s as entertaining as it is informative.

It would be much easier to envy Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in The Trip, they’ve already toured the best restaurants in the Lake District and Italy and now they’re in Spain, exchanging masterful impressions while sampling Michelin-starred menus. Yet lifestyle envy never interrupts our enjoyment of this delicious and daring show, because Coogan’s prickly ego never gives him – or Brydon – a moment’s peace. You’d almost pity them. Until the camera lingers on a spectacular shot of the sun setting over the Alhambra and you remember that, whatever the downsides, making travel TV must surely be a glorious way to spend time. Almost as much fun as watching it.