BUSHELL ON THE BOX
Dec 10. Miriam Margoyles put the wind up everyone on The Real Marigold On Tour. Britain’s roving ambassador for flatulence terrorised an unsuspecting China. Her “jam-tarts” and bowel obsession hung over the show like foul-smelling smog. No wonder so many of the Chinese folk in her proximity wore facemasks. No-one will ever say the elderly actress is a breath of fresh air. Or a shrinking violet... as ever, everything was about Miriam. It’s quite a skill to upstage Rosemary Shrager and Wayne Sleep. But Margoyles managed it – she commandeered the best bed, shouted loudest and moaned constantly. Bobby George seemed shy and retiring in her company, although he was understandably keen to emphasise they weren’t a couple. “No way babes, no way.” And yet just when you thought the selfish old trout has a heart of granite, she teared up meeting a panda. “I didn’t expect it to just be there,” she sobbed. No, not in a Panda Base.
She was noticeably less well-disposed to children. It’s pandas good, kids bad for Miriam, who’s like an overgrown, over-fed child herself.
Our celebrity explorers were in Chengdu to find out what it’s like to grow old in China. This was a genuine eye-opener. The Chinese retire at fifty, but live rich lives singing, dancing, exercising and learning. China has thousands of educational institutions for the over-50s. And okay they also have shocking pollution and zero democracy, but they do get some things right. Chinese culture respects the elderly, and effortlessly mixes the traditional with the modern. Chengdu has a state-of-the-art tube system, bullet trains and an incredible 400 metre swimming pool with its own beach and Mediterranean-style village in a giant shopping centre. Naturally Miriam hated it. “This is a f***ing nightmare,” she moaned. “This isn’t a pool, it’s a disaster. I hate this pool.” Aside from Theresa May’s “negotiating” skills, nothing last week made me more ashamed to be English.
They complained about the food – “too bloody authentic” – and the tea, and thought the best way to communicate was to holler “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” at locals, who largely did. It certainly didn’t help translating “four” into Spanish. What was the logic? Any foreign lingo will do? This week, Cuba. What could possibly go wrong?
HOW do we know we’re not living in The Matrix, a geezer in a pub asked me this week? Well I’m pretty sure that if we were the TV would be a whole lot better. Have you seen the Xmas schedules? Cakes, sequins, soaps, midwives, two hours of Victoria, Mel & ruddy Sue... This year’s line-up feels like it was jotted down on the back of a feminine hygiene product by a couple of bored Loose Women during an ad break. Where are the jokes and where are the blokes? Granted we get a man in a dress on BBC1 at 10pm, but every channel has turned its back on the very things that made festive telly special – family comedy shows and brilliant sitcom specials. Sadly Del-Boy and Rodney now seem as distant as Morecambe & Wise. We don’t make big-hearted, genuinely funny “feck”-free shows anymore. Mainstream comedy has all but vanished from prime time, and we feel its loss. Especially at Xmas which should be a time of joy. Even Corrie is more about sad tidings than glad ones these days.
SKY Q makes me feel like I’m already living in TV’s future. I can record six shows simultaneously while watching a seventh, pause a show on screen and carry on watching it on an iPad... it’s superb. And telly will keep getting better. Coming soon: Personalised TV – where viewers vote on how drama plots develop. Holographic TV – early risers will wake up to a life-sized Carol Kirkwood doing the weather at the end of their bed in 3D, bringing new meaning to a ridge of high pressure. (Good Morning Britain’s Suzanna Reid would be just as welcome, although a full-sized Piers is definitely more Bad Morning Britain.) Then Virtual Reality TV will place us bang in the middle of the action on Game Of Thrones. You’d spend the series flinching from thrusting weapons, of one kind or another.
HOT on TV: Tom Hardy, Peaky Blinders... Susie Essman, Curb Your Enthusiasm (SkyAt)... The Grand Tour (AmPrime)... Matt Smith, The Crown (Netflix).
ROT on TV: Miriam Margoyles – rude, selfish, unlikable; can we have her in the jungle next year please?... Kirstie’s Handmade Xmas – a load of old baubles.
IF Live At The Apollo is meant to launch fresh talent, why subject us to comics like Nish Kumar who we see more than enough of already? And if it’s just a vehicle for great stand-ups then why not bring in older turns from the club circuit such as Martin Beaumont or Brian Higgins? Or even, god forbid, terrific old school comedians like Keith O’Keefe? There’s never room for Jethro. Comics get on if they have the right agent and/or the “correct” BBC approved views. But what gives our state broadcaster, paid for by all of us, the right to police who we can laugh at?
*THE X Factor final surprised no-one. Rak-Su beat Grace, although both will have hits. The big loser was ITV. The series was a ratings disaster, devoid of eccentrics and talking points. While BBC1’s big guns – Blue Planet, Strictly – always deliver, ITV’s bankers are fading. The network needs fresh blood, fast.
*FRANKIE Gaff told her Made In Chelsea mates: “I had all of these strong men planned for my big entrance.” Blimey. Remind me to weight train.
*PENGUINS faced the world’s “biggest wall of blubber” on Planet Earth II – elephant seals. The second biggest? Gemma Collins.
*US superheroes took on alien super-villains in a series of Sky One shows last week. The bad guys were from Earth-X – where the Nazis won the war. Image their top TV shows: Coronation Strasse, London’s Burnt, Birds Of A Fuhrer, Strictly Komm Goose-stepping...
*A FRIEND asked his wife why she watches Bake Off as she can’t cook. She replied: “Well you watched Masters Of Sex, didn’t you.”
SMALL joys of TV: Sea lions corralling tuna fish on Blue Planet II. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s curvaceous signer for the deaf. Michael McIntyre’s send-to-all segment. The Dancing On Ice trailer. Diane Morgan, Motherland. Gil Scott Heron clips on Gregory Porter’s Popular Music.
RANDOM irritations: Sinead’s unlikely love triangle on Corrie. Kez Very-dull Dugdale calling jungle buddy Stanley Johnson “white, old, male & stale” when he was ten times smarter and more bearable than her. Theresa May’s roll-over and surrender approach to negotiations.
*SEPARATED at birth: Karren Brady & Steven Seagal? One as tough as old boots, hard-faced with uncompromising views... the other is a Hollywood legend.
TV Maths. Far Right nut-job Jayda Fransen + pies + hair dye = Peter Kay’s Geraldine.
Dec 3. Shappi was kicked out of I’m A Celebrity first, a surprise to many viewers who’d forgotten she was there. Nice enough woman but like many modern alleged comedians, Shaps was about as funny as famine. Dec says the campmates “stink of campfire and BO”, but they still don’t reek as badly as the bookings. Joy-vacuum Keziah is the biggest waste of space since Hole In The Wall. While Jamie makes a rice & beans diet seem exciting. Big-headed Iain Lee is allegedly afraid of heights, which is okay as he’s never likely to hit any. Radio phone-in host Lee suffers from depression, we’re told. So why book him? Why not book someone properly famous instead?
The once-great show is in danger of going off like a vomit fruit smoothie abandoned in a billabong. Ant and Dec’s big news on Wednesday was that Kiosk Keith was back after a one-day illness. Whoopee-doo! No wonder viewing figures last week dipped to 7.4million – three million down on last year’s average. Things picked up when Amir and Iain scoffed the strawberries and cream they’d won in the Dingo Dollars challenge, telling their campmates they’d lost. When Lee confessed Dennis was fuming like a diesel truck, yet next morning the row just fizzled out. Amir was the instigator (although he was happy to blame Iain) but did ITV put them up to it? We know the producers tell the celebs what to talk about because most of them are duller than Howards End. The exceptions are self-styled “jungle Barbie” Toff and Stanley who are effortlessly likeable, even if old man Stan is the worst shot since Peter Devine. Does he have a secret though? According to the ITV subtitles Vanessa shouted “Man Hot Cock” at him – not bad for a 77year-old. Sadly there will be no Katie and Peter-style romance this series. Instead it’ll be remembered for booting out Jack in a storm of snowflake-fuelled angst. Big Brother-style secret missions won’t save it. It’s getting to the stage where I’m rooting for the cockroaches.
*GEMMA Collins wants back in. Let’s face it, she could do with the jungle diet. The woman’s expanding like the bill for Brexit.
THE Sex Robots Are Coming was creepier than a 1970s edition of Top Of The Pops. I felt for poor sad-eyed Tine when husband James described his sex-doll April as “the perfect girl”. Mercifully she missed him saying he wouldn’t know who to choose between her and it... Prototype robot Harmony certainly put Philip Schofield’s Luvabella – “the hi-tech doll that responds to touch” – to shame. But the C4 show raised more questions than it answered. For instance, will sex-bots lay back and puff on an e-fag afterwards? And will pranksters be able to programme them with hurtful banter, like “Is it in?”, “Is that a rash?” and “I’ve had better.” Perhaps we’ll be able to order celebrity versions. I’m thinking primarily of a Nigella-Bot repeating innocent phrases from her show, such as “Just right for drippage” and “I give it a squelch in my hands briefly and then roll it into a sausage shape.” Well, it’d work for me.
*FACT! Harmony was sent from the future to terminate John O’Connor with her fiendish mechanical lady-parts.
THE Punisher is about vengeance and the brutal retribution. Frank Castle deals in death sentences for scumbags. Castle (Jon Bernthal) is an ex-Marine who turns vigilante after his family are murdered. Like Death Wish’s Paul Kersey, he’s a good man made savage avenger by fate’s fickle finger. Although slow in places, The Punisher is merciless when it gets going. Fearless Frank takes on robbers, the Mob and bent government agents, breaking necks and drowning wrong’uns in wet concrete. Corrupt cops cross him at their peril. He makes “an eye for an eye” seem like sopping wet liberalism. Around him are Dinah Madine from Homeland Security, Curtis from a veterans support group and Micro, a hacker who starts stalking him. Haunted by memories of his lost loved ones, our brooding hero takes his frustrations out at work demolishing walls with a sledgehammer... until he’s forced into direct action. You might question his morality, but Castle exists in a black and white world where the guilty can’t be allowed to get away with hurting the innocent. He’s a Dirtier Harry. An anti-hero you can root for.
HOT on TV: Jon Bernthal, The Punisher (Netflix)... Nadiya, Strictly... The Marvellous Mrs Maisel (AmPrime)... Claire Foy, The Crown (Netflix).
ROT on TV: Kez Dugdull, I’m A Celebrity – she’s a nonentity, get her out of there... A Baker’s Life – half-baked... Wallis: The Queen That Never Was – a good tale nobbled by ham-dram reconstructions.
OLD Val sized up Paul’s offering on Paul Hollywood: A Baker’s Life and sniffed “It’s small... I thought it might have been bigger.” Let’s hope she meant his roulade. Sadly the show didn’t properly reflect Paul’s life. He admitted “baking is not my only passion”, but there was nothing on his fling with Marcela, that kiss with Candice, or barmaid Summer... The randy master-baker just banged on about racing cars.
*MTV are bringing back the original cast of Jersey Shore. Conan O’Brian quipped: “Can you believe it? Every single cast member was available.”
*GREAT news about Harry and Meghan’s wedding. That’s another series of The Crown guaranteed, then.
*CARMEL on EastEnders said sex with her was better than a fish-finger sandwich. Yes, the drooling and slobbering, the messy vinegar spurt, the lingering smell of herring... but sometimes you just prefer a butty. Sadly for her, Max preferred played Sild With A Kiss with Fi. In other fish-related news, Ben discovered Things Could Only Get Batter and the Carters were stuck between a rock salmon and a hard plaice.
SMALL joys of TV: Arthur Shelby! Lost In Space re-runs (Horror). Bushra’s “toe-curling” pitch, The Apprentice. The octopus v shark on Blue Planet II. Lee Mack, Would I Lie To You. Arena: Ken Dodd. Snowfall. Beard-loving Nicola on The Chase – remind me not to shave.
RANDOM irritations: The BBC’s Sara Pascoe overkill. The Drama channel skipping nine series of The Bill. Over-powering orchestral scores on documentaries and dramas. Yet another rotten villains plot on DeadEnders. Anyone under 40 who writes an autobiography.
*SEPARATED at birth: sex-robot Harmony and Amanda from Motherhood – one a beautiful air-head who’d leave a man feeling slightly disgusted with himself... and so is the other one.
TV Maths. Todd Carty minus comb = Kevin Eldon.
A PUNTER was talking about a glass bowl on Dickinson’s Real Deal when she told dealer Alison Chapman: “I can’t imagine blowing something that size!” Send me any goofs you hear. £35 for any I print.