BUSHELL ON THE BOX
*This is an edited version of my TV column. The real thing, plus contests, goofs, lookalike pictures and more, can be found each Sunday only in the Daily Star Sunday.
Jan 17. THE Pembrokeshire Murders reminded us that TV’s Bullseye helped convict serial killer John Cooper. Footage of Cooper’s appearance on the darts-based game show blew his claim that he’d never had shoulder length hair. Although, sadly unaware of his place in true crime history, the great Jim Bowen failed to tell him “Super, smashing, your murder weapons and khaki shorts are safe…”
Jim often told contestants “You can’t beat a bit of bully”, but you could if you were detective superintendent Steve Wilkins and the bully was Cooper. Keith Allen was convincingly creepy as the rapist and murderer who crippled his own son and abused his terrified wife Pat. Luke Evans excelled as the granite-jawed cop out for justice for Cooper’s victims. The three-part story of his dogged cold case investigation started slowly but grew by the episode to a gripping courtroom climax. Jailed for burglary, Cooper was grilled by Wilkins’ detectives, nicknamed Rambo and Bimbo. Dimbo Cooper tried to lie his way out of it by shifting the blame onto his estranged son Adrian. He finally got out on parole in time to brutalise Pat who was clearly repulsed by him. She probably died of fear. “Bad things happen around bad men,” said Adrian.
In the end khaki shorts did for Cooper. Stolen from a victim they contained vital DNA evidence. In court, his lies disintegrated. Not since It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, have khaki shorts occupied us so. Jim Bowen used to tell contestants, “Look at what you could’ve won.” This was more a case of “Look at who we should’ve hung.”
*BULLSEYE helped nail a killer. Apt. Jim Bowen got away with murder for years.
*JUST as well Cooper didn’t win Bullseye. There wasn’t room in his cell for the speedboat.
*BACKGROUND checks into crime records are stringent on modern game show contestants. So nowadays Gino wouldn’t even be allowed to play the show he’s hosting…
MARK Kermode praised modern comedy films for their diversity. Could you get anyone less diverse than middle class public schoolboy Mark Kermode? And shouldn’t we be more concerned with how funny they are? Charisma-free Kermode moaned about 1959’s satirical masterpiece I’m All Right Jack. Its crime? Accurately reflecting the prejudices of its day. Tsk. Can’t have that in these babyish times. The po-faced wet blanket sucks the joy out of movies with his cliched views. The Beeb should let someone more diverse and engaging front Secrets Of Cinema. Andi Osho would breathe life and laughs into it.
AMERICAN Gods returned with Ian McShane’s Odin adored by new worshippers – a Viking death metal band fronted by Marilyn Manson and their rowdy audience. Humanity’s old gods are still locked in a to-the-death struggle with new ones like Technical Boy and ultra-violent sex-changing Ms World. Odin’s son Shadow Moon (no relation to Kat) is working with him, mad Sweeney is temporarily dead and bountiful sex-goddess Belquis is still hotter than a silver ant in the Sahara. Gloriously daft.
HOT on TV: Ian McShane, American Gods (AmPrime)… Luke Evans, Pembrokeshire Murders.
ROT on TV: Amy Schumer Learns To Cook – cheffing dreadful… A Discovery Of Witches – a load of old warlocks.
THE male fig wasp has a telescopic penis that’s twice its body length (A Perfect Planet). Eat your heart out, Naked Attraction! Granted fig wasps mate with their unhatched sisters but that’s the countryside for you.
*KIM Cattrall won’t be appearing in the new Sex In The City with Sarah Jessica Parker. Quite right – never look a gift horse in the mouth. The stories will be exactly the same except now when Carrie wants to bed Mr. Big she has to wait an episode for the Viagra to kick in.
*ON Lingo, Adil Ray asks contestants to supply four letter words. He wouldn’t like mine.
RANDY Tsar Peter gave everyone head in The Great – the decapitated heads of his Swedish enemies served up on a plate, that is. It brought new meaning to eating your swedes. Not sure on the etiquette though. Shouldn’t it be finger buffet first?
FAY Ripley told the whopper of the week on TV Showdown: “I’ve got the funniest man in the room – Josh Widdecombe.” She cracks me up. The show is Telly Addicts with simpler questions and more chat. Paul “Sinner-man” Sinha is a great quizzer but he makes an awkward host in Paul Sinha.
*US TV channel Nickelodeon showed a kid-friendly NFL game. Expect a C4 or BBC equivalent to follow, with commentary by a cartoon Greta Thunberg and a half-time lecture from Owen Jones.
*ARE rumours that aliens inhabit the Antarctic true, asked Ancient Aliens? Obviously not. But they still dragged this crap out for an hour.
SMALL Joys of TV: Wanda Vision (Disney+). Dee Snider in Cobra Kai. Tricia Helfer, BSG. Hugh Laurie in The Night Manager (BBC4). Life On Mars and Gene Hunt (Drama).
RANDOM Irritations: The twerps on the Drama channel censoring Jimmy Nail’s Oz on Auf Wiedersehen, Pet repeats. No subtitles for the deaf on Sky History. DeadEnders with its soul as black as Big Mo’s eyebrows.
SEPARATED at birth: Marilyn Manson and Nick Cage? One associated with dark tales of ghosts and vampires –, that’s Nick; Marilyn popped up with a matching haircut and shades on The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne.
TV questions: how do the cast of A Discovery Of Witches keep a straight face? Is there anyone alive who could take government Covid guidelines as a specialist Mastermind subject and do well?
CLASSIC Clanger: A BBC cricket commentator was talking about Alastair Cook being ruled out by the umpire for the last ever time when he said: “Do you think there’ll be a tear in his eye when the finger goes up?”
Jan 10. CHANNEL 4’s The Great should really have been called The Woke. It reimagines the story of Russia’s Catherine The Great as a heavy-handed feminist comedy. The blokes are mostly divs, especially her horrible husband Peter III, played by Nicholas Hoult as a dimmer version of Lord Flashheart from Blackadder. With Tsars in her eyes, naïve Cath dreams of a Mills & Boon wedding night – “The man caresses you softly... your bodies meld, your souls mesh... you fall into a black sky full of stars... and end spent and unified.” In the event Peter throws her on the bed and quickly pumps away while chatting about duck-hunting with his best mate Grigor. Then he tells her “Let’s hope my seed has found purchase, I must empty myself into you again soon.”
Smart, idealistic Catherine finds herself lumbered with a bullying man-child who burns down the school she opens to educate la-di-da court ladies and says things like “women are for seeding, not reading”. It’s as subtle as a Carry On film but nowhere near as funny. His first words to his bride-to-be are “You smell funny” – there’s no punchline. After their first breakfast, he orders a servant to “take the Empress to the other women to speak of hats”. Peter gives her a bear and shots it dead for fun, forces her into a threesome and, when she tries to escape in a crate, he has it dumped in a lake. These are the highlights by the way. Billed as “an occasionally true story”, it’s largely untrue, and disappointingly lame. The real Peter was 6ft 8, pox-scarred and German. He encouraged education. And Catherine’s remarkable 18th Century rise to power deserves to be told properly. Or at least in a way that’s less lazily reliant on swearing for cheap laughs.
THE Serpent jumps about like a frog on a hot plate. Two months earlier, four years later, half-past tomorrow... you need the Tardis to keep up. The leaping timelines suggest the writers lacked belief in the power of the story. Unless they just lacked faith in their ability to string it out over eight episodes. Either way it was hugely irritating. Dubbed “The Serpent” because he slithered away from the cops, merciless real-life conman Charles Sobhraj drugged, robbed and killed his victims, with the help of brainwashed girlfriend Marie-Andree Leclerc. They were mostly Western backpackers, all as green as Kermit, on the mid-70s Far East hippy trail. The show evokes the period and Bangkok beautifully. But you never quite get why Leclerc went along with Sobhraj’s sick murder spree. This series must be Chris Whitty’s favourite. Its message is: The world stinks! Never leave home! It’s the antidote to Michael Palin.
THERE were lovely moments on C5’s Jimmy Tarbuck night. Not least Tarby reminding Billy Connolly of the time he’d stayed over chez Tarbuck and, unable to find the bog, had piddled out of an upstairs window. Tarby claimed Billy had left a message in the snow and worse that it was in his wife’s handwriting. Unlike wonderful Les Dawson and Bob Monkhouse, Jimmy didn’t write his own material, so it’s a shame the documentary producers snubbed his gag-writers. They’d have remembered Tarby’s best line: “I love watching those ladies’ teams play beach volleyball. Someone said, ‘Did you see the Brazilians?’ I said, ‘I wasn’t looking that closely’.”
*TARBY on Tom Jones: “Tom sings It’s Not Unusual; I’ve seen it, it is.” (A Jackie Mason joke).
*WHY so little on Tarby’s brilliant manager Sir Peter Prichard and where was Liza?
HOT on TV: new Cobra Kai (Netflix) and Vanessa Rubio... Spiral (BBC4)... Would I Lie To You?
ROT on TV: Pooch Perfect – dog rough... The Great – history for snowflakes... Doctor Who – exterminate.
THEY had daleks in Downing Street on Doctor Who, which brought Chris Whitty to mind. The cloned Dalek shells were being used as mobile water cannons. So where exactly did they keep the water? The puffed-up kids’ show likes to lecture us on issues, but can’t even get the science right. How can something as aerodynamic as an upturned bucket remain stable in flight?
RICK Stein’s Cornwall, Cornwall & Devon Walks with Julia Bradbury, Susan Calman’s Grand Day Out In Cornwall & Devon... What next? Bradley Walsh Buys the West Country? The risk of bumping into Calman will do for Cornish tourism what Poldark’s Lt Hugh did to Demelza on the sand dunes.
RE C5’s Fifty Years Of Game Shows: Bruce Forsyth wasn’t the first host of Sunday Night At The London Palladium. That was Tommy Trinder (followed by Hughie Green and Robert Morley). And Beat The Clock was only a segment on it, not a stand-alone game show. They missed six of those.
*SPINACH gives you better orgasms, we’re told. No wonder Olive Oyl was happy.
SMALL Joys of TV: Eze’s wonder goal against Sheffield United. Amazing Grace. Beat The Chasers. That lone flamingo chick on A Perfect Planet. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (Drama).
RANDOM Irritations: Tom Allen’s new show ripping off Mark Steel’s In Town. New Year’s Eve TV – as lazy and turgid as Xmas telly. Alex Jones. Scandi noir – enough already.
SEPARATED at birth: James May and Father Jack? One a wild-haired good-for-nothing who rarely makes much sense. The other was a character in Father Ted.
Jan 3. IT was the year the world faced a blood-chilling virus imported from the Far East – but enough about The Masked Singer. Covid-19 wasn’t all bad, for starters EastEnders was off-screen for nearly three months. The ailing soap coped with restrictions by making couples kiss through sheets of clear plastic. Which made sense, you’d have to be sheet-faced to snog Phil Mitchell. As the pandemic bit, viewers embraced big-hearted comfort shows like The Repair Show driven by decency, skill and compassion. But what was hot and what was rot in 2020? To celebrate the stunning highs and lousy lows of this difficult year, here are my prestigious Garry Awards for TV Achievement.
REALITY show of the Year: Tiger King – the stranger-than-fiction story of charismatic zoo owner Joe Exotic – a life of big cats, bad mullets, bitter accusations and murder plots. To call it a jaw-dropping freakshow would be to undersell it. As one leading tiger observed, it was “grrreat!” Joe is currently serving a 22years in a Texas penitentiary after trying to hire an undercover Federal agent to assassinate his nemesis, Carole Baskin.
Biggest Talking Point: Normal People and the fizzing on-screen chemistry of its young stars. Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal made Marianne and Connell’s mumbling and fumbling feel steamier than a Swedish sauna. Granted the show turning into a plodding bore, but when they first sparked you could feel the intensity. It reminded older viewers of the purity and urgency of young love. A thrilling romp down memory lane for anyone married for years and lucky to get the occasional begrudged fumble after weeks of begging... I’d imagine.
Turkey of the Year: The Wheel. This slow and suspect quiz averages a miserable eleven questions an hour. Even McIntyre couldn’t turn it into TV gold.
Woman of the Year: Matilda De Angelis as Elena in The Undoing. Socially uninhibited, curvier than Silverstone, tragically murdered. Man of the Year: the inspirational Captain Sir Tom Moore. Star of the Year: the irrepressible Billy Bailey.
Word Of The Year: “Mee-cro-wah-vay”. Twerp of the year: Nigella, for saying it.
Top Actor: David Tennant, Des. Top Actress: Cate Blanchett, Mrs America. Runner-up: Dolly Wells, Dracula.
Top Drama: Top True Crime Drama: Des told the grizzly story of Scottish serial killer Dennis “Des” Nilsen, aka the Muswell Hill Murderer, over three gripping nights. David Tennant was mesmerising in the title role. Looking like a hybrid of Robert Peston and Louis Theroux, Tennant brought the callous creep to life, confessing his crimes in a flat monotone, like a tranquillised man reciting a shopping list. Nilsen had killed and butchered 15 victims, blocking his drains with their remains. But he still complained about hostile press coverage, saying “nobody mentions my years of public service... my work with the unions”. More than anything the show underlined the banality of evil.
Flop Drama: The War Of The Worlds – 101 Dull Martians. Runners-up: Roadkill, The Singapore Grip.
Top Nostalgia Trip: Cobra Kai, The Karate Kid characters joyously updated.
Top revival: All Creatures Great & Small. Flop revival: Spitting Image.
Best import: The Undoing, a murder mystery wrapped in a disintegrating marriage shrouded in luxury. The Manhattan based drama had more red herrings than the North Korean fishing fleet. The only disappointment was that the killer who did for beautiful Elena Alves turned out to be... the middle-class white man, as it seems must always be the case in these PC times. Runners-up: Fauda, Get Shorty, Ozark, Mrs America.
Best costume drama: Bridgerton. Most baffling drama: The Luminaries – harder to follow than the Flash in a thundersnow storm. Most daring: I May Destroy You. Most expensive dud: A Suitable Boy. Best chess-related drama: The Queen’s Gambit.
Best TV-eats-itself drama: Quiz – a welcome reminder of a time when only TV executives were traumatised by people coughing in public. In parts, ITV’s dramatised the story of Charles Ingram – the “Coughing Major”, who tried to con them out of a £1million on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – had the feel of an Ealing comedy, with a shed full of quiz fanatics called The Syndicate working out how to beat the system. Except they had nothing to do with the Ingrams... Ingram was found guilty but writer James Graham thinks he was more framed than Holbein’s The Ambassadors (the answer to his £125K question). Bosnia veteran Charles was portrayed as a “Tim-Nice-But-Dim” type, although he has a Masters degree. Was he helped by coughs from a quizzer accomplice and wife Diana, a woman so cold their house would never need a fridge? That theory only stood up when all the other coughs and studio noises were filtered out. Neither show-makers Celador nor ITV wanted to pay him. Plod were called, it went to trial, the rest is history. Our hearts bleed for ITV. Cheating folk out of money is their job. They were fined £5.75mill in 2008 for conning US! What a TV series that’d make. Just ask the audience.
Worst Fake History: The Crown for twisting truth and turning Mountbatten’s murder into “poetic” Provo propaganda.
Top Gumshoe Detective: Perry Mason. Top Crime Drama: Save Me Too. Top Cop Show: 24 Hours In Police Custody. Top investigator: FBI agent Doug Mathews, McMillion$.
Top Bonking Bankers: Industry, which also gave us the Top Irritant, Kenny Kilbane, and the most eye-catching lingerie courtesy Yasmin Yazdani.
Top Fictional Fight: the Chinese market battle, Warrior. Top Real Fight: Fury vs Wilder. Top near fight: Tony Bellew and Ant Middleton, Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins.
Top Comedy: Curb Your Enthusiasm. Top comedy drama: Urban Myths: Les Dawson’s Parisienne Adventure. Top black comedy: After Life (UK), Dead To Me (US). Top sitcom: The Good Place. Best new sitcom: Kate & Koji. Worst: Mandy. Biggest let-down: King Gary (’kin lousy). Biggest misfire: Sara Pascoe’s Out Of Her Mind (and out of her depth) Worst Sci-Fi Comedy: Avenue 5 – the laughs were lost in space. Runner-up: Space Force. Best animated comedy: Rick & Morty. Best Topical Comedy: Bill Maher’s Real Time Worst: The Last Leg and The Mash Report (dead heat). Top panel show: Would I Lie To You?
Biggest Soap Disaster: The tragic death by dishwasher of beautiful Chantelle on EastEnders at the hands of her horrible hubby Gray. At least this storyline had an important lesson: never ever stack a dishwasher like that. It’s always cutlery blade down. Biggest EastEnders cobblers: Ian and Sharon going from marriage proposal to wedding in 16 minutes flat. Hottest Soap Woman: Fiona Wade, Emmerdale’s Priya Sharma.
Top TV Sex: Marianne and Connell, Normal People. Weirdest sex: Letitia’s erotic nightmare on Lovecraft Country where Tic’s manhood became a living cobra – a literal trouser snake, with fangs... for the mammaries. Most violent: Stormfront and Homelander, The Boys. Most unsettling: male rape, I May Destroy You. Most prolonged self-gratification: Billie Piper on I Hate Suzie. Runner-up: Terry Christian on Question Time. Worst sex crime: anal rape by stiletto, Lovecraft Country. Randiest drama: Industry. “Eat out to help out” meant something different at Pierpoint & Co. Most unwelcome imagine: Iris, 80, on This Morning talking about her first night with her 35-year-old fella: “We used an entire tube of KY Jelly. I couldn’t walk the next day; saddle sore wasn’t the beginning of it.”
Top Entertainer: Steve Royle, Britain’s Got Talent. Worst entertainment flop: Mo Gilligan’s All-Star Happy Hour – funny bloke, shame about the technical chaos. Runner-ups: SOS: Save Our Summer. The Fantastical Factory Of Curious Craft, Alan Carr’s The Price Is Right (the host wasn’t). Best entertainment hosts: Ant & Dec. Shame Britain’s Got Talent lost its way. Worst song: Bhim’s I Wanna Love You Every Day, BGT. Most Pointless Talent Show: Little Mix: The Search. Best TV dance: Bill Bailey and Oti, Rapper’s Delight. Biggest Old Fanny: The Goop Lab.
Worst TV cooking show dishes: Nigella’s banana skin curry, and her mashed-up fish fingers served in gunge. Best culinary innovation: Nigella’s “double buttering”. (For triple buttering, see Last Tango In Paris).
Best Documentary Series: Once Upon A Time In Iraq. Runner-up: The Vietnam War. Most Uncritical: Castro Versus The World, turning a blind eye to the thousands Fidel executed or flung into labour camps. Best Sport Doc series: The Dark Side Of The Ring. Runners-up: Tyson Fury: The Gypsy King, The Last Dance. Best Single doc: The Mole: Infiltrating North Korea.
Best political interviewer: Andrew Neil, smart, precise and deadly. Worst: Andrew Marr – he doesn’t have guests; he has idiots who try to interrupt him while he’s talking.
Funniest news blunder: Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis saying “Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson joins us down the line from Hell.” (She meant Hull).
Best Family Fortunes exchange. Gino: “Name something you give your partner as a gift.” Kayleigh: “I’m so sorry, Dad – sex!” (It was up there too!)
Biggest TV Pleasure: The Repair Shop – caring and life-affirming. Least real “reality” show: Selling Sunset. Most heart-warming format: Long Lost Family. Best Feel-Good: Bake Off. Best TV Quiz: Mastermind. Worst: The Wheel. Best challenge show: SAS Who Dares Wins. Best breakfast TV hosts: Piers “Chunky” Morgan and long-suffering Susanna Reid. Worst day-time horror: The Steph Show.
Best sci-fi: The Mandalorian Runners-up: The Umbrella Academy, Devs. Best Superhero saga: The Boys Best fantasy: Good Omens.
Best Performance by an Inanimate Object: Maya Jama’s dress, SOS: Save Our Summer. Runner-up: Chris Whitty. Best natural history: Our Planet.
Irritations of 2020: Zoom dramas. Indecent exposure becoming a genre. Cancel culture. Being lectured with trite right-on bullshine by dramas, soaps and Sky Sports. Alan Carr’s joyless Bullseye revival. Soccer Aid sacking Clive Tyldesley. Too Hot To Handle – too ropy to bother with. The Masked Singer judges’ ludicrous guesses – Dame Helen Mirren, the late Natalie Cole and deceased genius Miles Davis were mercifully never involved in this entertainment travesty.
Small joys of 2020: Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure. Great British Bake Off’s cake lookalikes. Baby Chimp Rescue. Magic For Humans (Netflix). Maya Jama’s cleavage – mama mia! Harry Hill’s medical drama poem. Gangs Of London fight scenes. Rob Beckett’s Celebs Go Dating voice-over. Emily In Paris (Netflix). Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing.
Top Lookalikes: Rob Beckett and Mr Chuckle Teeth (The X-Files). Runners-up: William Burr & Elton John. Top maverick: Laurence Fox. TV Name of the year: genuine Gambian conman, preying on older women – Peter Badcock.
Hottest bride: Kelly Brook, Midsummer Murders Top Blonde: Juno Temple. Top Sex Object: Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina-scented candle. Top question: What goes best with Gwyneth’s “vagina eggs”, penis toast or hot sausage? Hottest Nun: Gemma Arterton’s Sister Clodagh (Black Narcisus). Talk about o come all ye faithful.
Top Campaigner: Marcus Rashford. Top Goof: Joe Lycett asking, “Excessively boning, is that a good idea?” He was talking about a garment support technique on Great British Sewing Bee.
Non-shock of the year: The Duke and Duchess of Wokeshire throwing in the towel. But at least they can now play themselves on The Crown. Runner-up: Phil Schofield, gay? Who’d have thought it?
FOR MY OTHER AWARDS FOR 2020 SEE HERE.