BUSHELL ON THE BOX
Aug 20. Noel Edmonds’s Cheap Cheap Cheap is comfortably the worst thing I’ve seen all year. And I watched every wretched episode of The Loch. The flop afternoon game-show is a two-bob version of The Price Is Right crossed with a laugh-free Open All Hours, which is as random as mixing Baywatch with Mastermind, but not as much fun. Basically it’s The Price Is Sh*te. Contestants get to guess which of three items – various supermarket beans, lottery tickets, meerkats etc – is the cheapest. The premise is so thin it makes Kiera Knightley seem chubby, so to distract us Noel is constantly interrupted by “comedy” characters. There’s Old Barry, who’s like Arkwright with joke teeth and no script, odd-job man Keith, dippy sales assistant Kelly and a ditzy bird called Marijana, whose name sounds like marijuana so she must be hilarious, right? Wrong. They’re all about as funny as D-I-Y liposuction. And even if Noel employed decent comedy writers (or sent in Marijana’s cousin Crystal Mess to liven it all up a bit) it’d still be a game about people trying to guess which branded toilet duck costs the least.
Players move up a money board with three “tools”/life-lines to assis... zzz... At one point even Noel lost interest, turning away and talking to the furniture, stoking hopes that either he or the commissioner would be leaving the set strapped tightly to Hannibal Lector’s trolley. But then he’s getting paid for this so how crazy can he be?
Noel is a superb broadcaster. Few people can host a live entertainment show as well as him, as House Party proved for years. Edmonds even managed to make a show about guessing what’s in a box exciting. But triple Cheap wouldn’t have merited a three minute section on Crinkley Bottom. Even if it was commissioned ironically, it’s hard to imagine stoned students giving a monkeys’ toss about such dismal fare. Seriously, it almost makes you nostalgic for Touch The Truck.
*DO you ever suspect some shows are made simply so the clips can be recycled in the future? On one of those programmes where smug nonentities mock the TV people watched before they were born. This, Flockstars, Naked Attraction, Don’t Scare The Hare... It’s tomorrow’s gold dust! C4 could film It Was All Right In The 2010s now.
THE Big Family Cooking Showdown is the Beeb’s half-baked shot at replacing Bake Off. It apes the format with minor differences: the contestants are families, they cook as well as bake, and there are zero innuendoes. No beautiful baps, tantalising moistness, or deep penetration... even a mention of “perfectly formed balls” passed without a giggle. In fairness it does come with a prime cut of ham, Italian chef Georgio Lacatelli. But it’s still yet another dull, formulaic show about people we don’t know prepping food we can’t eat, taste or smell. New ideas in British TV are at famine levels. And there’s still Britain’s Best Cook and Bake Off itself to come... We’re so tied up watching TV chefs none of us has the time to get to the kitchen. No-one ever stops to ask do we actually need another ruddy TV cooking show. Or why we don’t concentrate on things we definitely do need, like popular sitcoms, grown-up sci-fi, male-orientated action series and comedians with mainstream appeal? Too many cooks spoil the telly.
*CONTESTANT Betty reeled off the ten stages of cooking perfect risotto: “the base, the temptation, the buttering, the sigh... ” By coincidence, also the ten stages of Aidan getting off with Maria on Corrie.
I’M Dying Up Here revolves around LA comedy club Goldie’s, which in 1973 was the gateway to the career-launching Tonight Show. For Clay Appuzzo, getting summoned to Johnny Carson’s TV couch is the stand-up comic’s equivalent of climbing Everest. He storms it, but what next? After watching his triumphant TV appearance, Clay walks in front of a bus, leaving ex-girlfriend and fellow comedian Cassie in bits. Most of the stand-ups are “as stable as a Middle East cease-fire”. Their banter and bitching feels as authentic as their bad hair and big collars. Genuine stars graduated from Goldie’s, including exec producer Jim Carrey, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and David Letterman. Here even the unknowns sparkle. The show opens as abortions are legalised. Backstreet abortionists will be fuming, muses one. “Six months of veterinary school down the drain... ”
HOT on TV: Sven Nordin, Valkyrien... new Ray Donovan (SkyAt)... I’m Dying Up Here... Marvel’s The Defenders (Netflix).
ROT on TV: Len Goodman’s Partners In Rhyme – nothing funny, waste of money... Cheap Cheap Cheap – cack, cack, cack... No More Boys & Girls – bore off.
RUHAL’S Dad Minesh is the star of Child Genius. The guy makes Antonio Conte seem laidback. He had the quote of the series too: “We’re all achievers. I used to play table tennis for Barnet Council.” Living the dream, mate. Some of these kids are genius level but you suspect the producers are more interested in their tears, and the half-crazy, camera-hogging mums and dads. Still, better a pushy parent than one who doesn’t care.
*ANNE Robinson on Tinder? A terrifying prospect. Although I understand she did get an awful lot of right swipes in Westworld.
*KIRSTY Gallacher was charged with being over the limit at 11.30am. That’s one way to get noticed by the Celebrity Big Brother bookers...
*JUST as well no-one asked “Where’s Leconte?” on Celebrity MasterChef. Odds are someone would’ve replied “Up there with John Torode like normal.”
*JULIA Somerville’s fish pie was “very tasty”. John told Gregg: “You and I would have dived into it.” Thank god Vic Reeves never had the next line.
*MY Family, Partition & Me claimed Britain “stood well back” as the poisonous stew of Indian independence exploded. In fact, our troops were not deployed because Nehru and the Indian Congress objected.
SMALL joys of TV: The Seven Ages Of Elvis (SkyArts). Psychedelic Britannia (BBC4). Untamed Americas (Nat Geo Wild). Rupert Everett, Quacks. Heather Small, The Chase Celeb special. Dipstick Paul Danan claiming Jemma-Lucy was “goating” him on CBB – butt out, chump.
RANDOM irritations: The self-loathing BBC blaming Britain for India’s violent partition rather than the Indian politicians who demanded it. People who pronounce aitch as “haitch”. Child Genius confusing memory with intelligence. Gemma’s midriff on Corrie – cover it up, luv.
*RE Quacks: historical accuracy is one thing, but aren’t sitcoms supposed to be funny?
SEPARATED at birth: Matt Preston and Mr Toad? One a narcissistic fop lording it about in a strange fantasy land... the other has never been seen on Australian MasterChef, even in a recipe.
TV maths: James May + Vinny “The Chin” Gigante = Georgio Lacatelli.
August 18. WHEN Bruce Forsyth recorded his Audience With for ITV he ignored all the famous faces at the front of the studio and made straight for the public at the back. This small gesture summed up exactly what made us love Brucie. He might have been a highly paid TV star, he might have lived on a golf course with his unfeasibly beautiful wife, but at heart he was still a garage mechanic's son from North London. Still one of us. Bruce's man of the people schtick was the key to his enduring success. He saw himself as a British Sammy Davis Jr, but to most TV viewers he was our greatest-ever game show host. No-one worked better with audiences or contestants. Bruce was like the sergeant major of light entertainment, somehow managing to combine kindness with mickey-taking and genial insults. There were funnier comedians, better actors and vastly superior singers. But few could combine those multiple skills so effectively.
Brucie was a one-man variety show, a throwback to the music hall, quick-witted and seemingly unstoppable battering us into submission with a succession of ridiculous unforgettable catchphrases. To some telly snobs he was vulgar and old-hat, but the admiration of younger comics such as Paul Merton and Frank Skinner helped keep him in the limelight. Bruce was 9 when he caught the showbiz bug after watching Fred Astaire on film. He threw himself into American tap, entering his first BBC talent show at 11 and going pro as Boy Bruce, The Might Atom three years later. By 30 he was a household name, taking over from the immortal Tommy Trinder to host TV's Sunday Night At The London Palladium. His hits – shows like The Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right, The Price Is Right and Strictly – outweighed misses like the naff sitcom Slinger's Day and Bruce Forsyth's Big Night. His professionalism and work ethic kept him going. Bruce's career was reignited by a 2003 edition of Have I Got News For You where he famously threw in a round of Play Your Cards Right using cards featuring Saddam's High Command. Strictly followed, as did ITV's Bruce Forsyth roast where Jimmy Carr pointed out that Bruce had just been knighted like many of his contemporaries. "Galahad, Lancelot, Percival... " No-one mentioned the syrup. He was a strange old stick, slightly prudish and set in his ways. Bruce wasn't a big drinker. His only drug was golf. All that mattered to him was his family, and sending the punters home happy... something he managed his entire life. R.I.P. Brucie. You were one of a kind. I do hope your tombstone epitaph reads: Didn’t he do well?
Aug 13. Sarah Harding and Jemma Lucy went into full Jeremy Kyle show mode on Celebrity Big Brother. “You two-faced little bitch!”... “You little f***ing slag!”... “Why are you diving in like a f***ing c***?” Talk about Fire and Fury! Donald Trump wouldn’t tweet this stuff. It was like Derek and Clive without the laughs. As the vile exchange heated up, Sarah told the Ex On The Beach nobody: “I do not shag on TV for a living.” Jemma hit back: “Well we know what you do off TV, and that’s a f*** load of drugs” – a bit rich as footage of her snorting white lines appeared online last week...
“Little slag face” Sarah had copped the hump because hunky nonentity Chad-Who had been chatting amiably with Jemma and YouTube Trisha, who walked on Friday. Only the subtitles made their bust-up bearable, as “F*** off you little bitch” became “Fudge-macro off”. Sarah was reduced to tears, again, telling Big Bruv that the Manc skank felt threatened by her fan-base (not to mention her actual achievements). It’s possible Sarah had assumed from the show’s title that she’d be in a house with famous people rather than a rag-bag of low-rent zzz-listers. She’s clearly not equipped psychologically for this kind of hoo-ha. Her diary room meltdowns suggest that her inner Sinead is not far from the surface.
Some have speculated that Derek Acorah’s séance opened the house to negative forces. Grow up! Del-Boy is as authentic as Christopher Lambert’s mystery accent in Highlander. He claimed to detect a little girl, saying “I smelt urine” – me too, mate, and you were taking it. Acorah was slung off Most Haunted for contacting the non-spirits of Rik Eedles and Kreed Kafer – anagrams for Derek Lies and Derek Faker. Yet C5 is happily perpetuating his parasitic career, with idiot contestants falling for it and university graduate Helen Lederer clapping the corners of the room afterwards to get rid of “bad energy”. Fudge-macro off!
You’d have thought Del having Jordan-Who strip to his pants to encounter a spirit called Malcolm might’ve suggested that the bad energy was generated entirely by the production team. Everything about this show from Acorah to unstable wannabes booked purely for their propensity to kick off reeks of cynicism and the continued erosion of broadcasting standards. But if we watch it, what does that make us?
*JEMMA was filmed apparently snorting cocaine from a friend’s bare backside. That’s shocking. That’s very nearly taking crack.
*KARTHIK went on Friday. He may be a double reality show loser but he’ll always be remembered... in any list of TV’s most irritating monobrows.
THE most sensational TV of the week was the Lannister army’s doomed stand against the Dothraki hordes on Game Of Thrones. Jamie’s shield wall should have worked against the Mongol-like invaders, but he hadn’t counted on Dany’s black dragon, Drogon who rained fire on his infantry clearing a path for her whooping warriors. Incredibly, his men didn’t break and run. Bronn injured the great beast with Qyborn’s “scorpion” spear launcher and bold Jamie charged like a suicidal St George into a burst of fire – saved by Bronn. “Your people can’t fight,” a Dothraki told Tyrion, although their light cavalry could never have beaten the Lannisters’ heavy infantry alone. Fighting Drogon with arrows was like taking on a Panzer with a catapult. Even more incredibly this wasn’t the show’s greatest military encounter, that was the Battle of the Bastards, followed by Blackwater and Jon Snow’s defence of the wall in the Battle of Castle Black... While British TV doggedly scrapes the bottom of the barrel, Thrones continues to show how thrilling, imaginative and epic modern television can still be.
*JON Snow on Dany: “I believe she has a good heart.” Davos: “I’ve noticed you staring at her good heart.”
TRUST me, BBC1’s new medical drama Trust Me stinks like a rupture colostomy bag. Jodie Whittaker plays an NHS whistle-blower, who moves to Scotland to impersonate an A&E doctor. Credibility was on life support halfway into episode one. But at least we now know why Jodie was cast as the new Who. Her ability to pretend to be the Doctor in an unconvincing storyline is proven beyond doubt.
HOT on TV: Issa Rae, Insecure (SkyAt)... Naomi Watts, Twin Peaks... Poldark finale.
ROT on TV: Al Gore, The Last Leg – the world’s biggest hypocrite... Top Of The Lake – plot-holes the size of moon craters... Love Island rip-off Make Or Break? – break!
MORE on US TV: the hottest new show is The Defenders which unites Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist in one dysfunctional superhero squad. That’s on Netflix this Friday. On The Gifted an ordinary couple are forced to go on the run from the government when they discover their kids have mutant powers. It’s basically the X-Men without any X-Men (launches October). While Deception has a former magician cracking crimes for the FBI... don’t tell Jonathan Creek.
IS Poldark going soft? His wife cheats on him with Huge Armitage and he doesn’t batter the bounder. His starving people get ripped off yet instead of joining their righteous revolt he protects Evil George’s grain... Bah, humbug. Ross will stand for Parliament, though. Imagine his manifesto: 1) Shirts? Optional! 2) Cliff-top gallops? Compulsory! 3) It’s not rape if I know she wants it...
*RICHARD Clay kicked off his drippy Utopia: In Search Of The Dream series at Watford’s Vicarage Road ground. Where better to begin? he asked. Judging by last season, Stamford Bridge, Anfield, the Etihad...
*NEW TV show suggestions: The Crystal Meth Maze. Question Time On The Beach. America’s Next Top Moron... And how about Marriage Island? It’s like Love Island but the sex tails off dramatically.
*DUMB quiz show answer of the week from Cash Trapped. Brad: “What famous diary writer was born in 1633?” Helen: “Anne Frank... that’s wrong, it’s Adrian Mole probably.”
*SO, a Bussell on Strictly, a Bogle on CBB, and a Burgle on Fargo. For the bungle see that flash of boobs on the BBC news... sadly not involving Emily Maitlis.
*EDEN? Bored Of The Flies.
SMALL joys of TV: The stunning dragon attack on Game Of Thrones. Rowella out-smarting Poldark’s toe-curling toe-sucking pervert vicar. Laurel & Hardy: Their Lives (Sky Arts). Roy Hudd, The Chase Celeb Special. The Agony & The Ecstasy (Sky Arts).
RANDOM irritations: Diana overkill. Soap’s bizarre obsession with bundling people into boots. Corrie losing the plot with creepy Will, Michelle’s kidnapping and Steve’s proposal. The on-going wussification of former geezer Mick Carter on DeadEnders.
SEPARATED at birth: Wild Alaska park ranger John Neary and Paul O’Grady? One has to work with bear crap, the other has never seen a Blind Date script...
Celeb Maths. Dave Letterman + Meatloaf = the late Glen Campbell.
MONTY Don was talking to his golden retriever Nell on Gardeners World when he said: “You’re hot aren’t you? Hot, panty girl.” Keep sending in any goofs you spot. I pay £35 for the ones I publish.
Aug 6. Celebrity Big Brother had the lowest launch night audience in the show's 16-year history. Possibly because TV's idea of what celebrity means is now stretched thinner than Casandra's face on Doctor Who. Few of these clods would cause more than a half-hearted stir in your local. They're mostly the usual mix of reality show rejects, unknown Yanks and unlikeable wannabes. Like Chad Johnson, an estate agent from Oklahoma, who got kicked off some nitwit US show for soiling his pants. Classy. He thinks he's God's gift to women, which would certainly be true if the almighty wanted women to have a second arse.
Early favourite is Shaun Williamson aka Fat Barry out of EastEnders (out of EastEnders for thirteen and a half years if you're counting). Shaun's first night mission was to look like the most nervous housemate ever, something he achieved before they even gave him the task. Then there's Sarah Harding, booked presumably in the hope she'll get sloshed and slag off Cheryl. Paul Danan, who in reality TV terms, has been round the block more times than an Uber driver with a broken SatNav. Likeable but deluded Sandi Bogle who weakened Googlebox by leaving it. And self-styled "psychic" Derek Acorah who is threatening to "expose a presence" in the house with his spirit guide Sam. Hopefully the presence of a charlatan... Most Haunted sacked Del-Boy for faking, which is a bit like getting kicked out the Mitchell family for being a thug.
Apprentice loser Karthik brings his monobrow, mob wife Marissa Jade brings MILF hotness and Helen Lederer brings questions like "Didn't she used to be... ?" (Yes) and "Will she ever be funny?" (No). The most well-known contestant I don't know is YouTube sensation Trisha Paytas who has a voice like cat's claws on a blackboard. Then Brandi Glanville, whose actor husband dumped her for LeAnne Rimes, speaks fluent fecking graffiti.
Some of these people would deep-fry their grannies for undeserved fame. They'll inevitably over-shadow relatively normal housemates like Posh Sam and X Factor's Amelia Lily. Throw in barely stable Jemma Lucy and loud Jordon Davies and sparks will fly like Russell Mael from a circus cannon. But normal Big Brother trawls the same shallow "reality" waters. They had seven contestants who'd already been on TV in their lost flop series, so what separates the two brands? CBB once booked household names, top comedians and genuine stars. These days it's more a case of: No celebrities - why bother?
THE Handmaid's Tale was set in a USA where female fertility rates have dropped faster than Love Island underwear. A Puritanical cult seized power, women were banned from working and fruitful ones were forced to become broodmares. Cue some of the most joyless bedroom scenes this side of Dot Branning's honeymoon. Commander Fred raped heroine Offred (June) regularly, with her head resting between his barren wife's thighs, often while quoting the bible. Boo hiss the horrible Christians... In the finale, Ofwarren (Janine) faced death by stoning. It was decent fantasy drama, sort of Brave New World with wimples. But it wasn't, as some hysterical feminists claimed, a terrifying picture of what the US might become under Trump; more how life might look under Sharia Women kept down with 17th Century zeal... enforced uniforms... rigid gender divides... FGM. Stonings have occurred this decade in Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan, but never New England. Isn't it dramatic cowardice to play "What If?" games while turning a blind eye to What Is actually happening? A way of hammering Western men, and Christianity, while ignoring the noxious reality of fanatical regimes around the world.
HELLO Blighty! I'm in the USA on your behalf selflessly checking out the new TV shows heading our way. All our yesterdays seems to be the overwhelming theme. Classic sitcoms, Roseanne and Will & Grace, are being revived - even though Dan was killed off in the Roseanne finale. And Dynasty is rebooted in October, but without Joan Collins... which is a bit like Dallas without Larry Hagman or Wise without Morecambe. A new Star Trek franchise (the sixth) launches next month. Discovery is set ten years before Captain Kirk's adventures and will doubtless swerve his demanding love-life. A shame. The Captain's log was never livelier. The Orville is Seth MacFarlane's comic send-up of space adventure shows - let's hope it's not a lame duck. The best TV I've seen out here was the Yank women's soccer team's amazing three goals in nine minutes come-back to beat Brazil.
*BLONDE midfielder Julie Ertz scored the winner. I love her name. It's up there with Jeremy Irons, Bear Grylls, Will Rogers, LeAnn Rimes (no it doesn't) and Wesley Snipes in the top ten of stars who sound busy. We'll leave Whitney Cummins out of this.
*THE weather forecast every morning here is "warm and muggy" - it's like being on Love Island. Without the dicksand.
HOT on TV: Marissa Jade (CBB)... Moeen Ali's hat-trick... Preacher (AmPrime)... Old People's Home For 4 Year Olds.
ROT on TV: In The Dark - as turgid and dreary as a New Mills FC home-game... Derek Acorah - as much use as a cactus dildo.
SUBTITLE cock-ups are one of the great joys of modern TV. Like Russia's Sergey Lavrov becoming "so gay lover of", and BBC weather reporting that "Miss Dan Fogg" could be found in Scotland. Recently ITV2 subtitles suggested that Harley on Love Island had said: "I've come in Hitler" (actually "I've come in here, like"). While MP Andrew Gwynne informed BBC Breakfast that Labour were "a dim aquatic party". He said democratic, although there's definitely something fishy about McDonnell...
*THE worst ever? When BBC subtitles claimed "a giant salami" had hit tragic, tsunami-ravaged Fukushima.
TV questions: are Paul O'Grady's "golden envelopes" on Blind Date twinned with the prizes on Blankety-Blank? Does the EastEnders stage-door have a sign saying "SHUT IT!!"? Why are those two great Corrie characters, Willie and Diddy Eckeslyke, often mentioned but never seen?
*IN The Dark... it finished last week. I still am.
*WHY isn't ITV2+1 ITV3?
RANDOM Irritations: Nish Kumar's self-satisfied smirk. The Poldark dream sequence. People who dress their dogs. Bonnie Langford and Jake Wood - just no. Dara O'Briain getting laughs by repeating what another comic just said in a slightly different way on Mock The Week
SMALL Joys of TV: Carol Kirkwood's warm front. Shaun Williamson mucking up his CBB secret task by speaking back to the voice in his ear. Evil George on Poldark, Cornwall's most punch-able man Olenna's "I offed Joffrey" confession, on Game Of Thrones. Daughters Of Destiny (Netflix).
SEPARATED at birth: Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick and Martin O'Neill? One known for working with sick animals, the other has never even been seen at the Aviva Stadium.
Celeb Maths: King Kong's Adrien Brody + nose job = Alistair McGowan.