BUSHELL ON THE BOX
June 18. Bolting horses, candle-light curses, and Elizabeth a-writhing and a-screaming in bed... Just like she did nine months before with Ross. Yes, Poldark is back. Hurrah! But make that a muted hurrah because the good Captain has yet to chin anyone or leap between the sheets with someone he shouldn't. He didn't even take his shirt off. No bit on the side or on the scythe – however will his female fans cope? We've lost Jud Paynter too. Wife Prudie says she misses the old rascal "like a ruptured spleen", a slur which as I'm sure you'll agree, t'int right, t'int fair, t'int fit and t'int proper. Instead two old codgers were a-dying and Elizabeth was giving birth. Insert your own Call The Jud-wife joke here. It was like an 18th century version of Casualty – or as they call it in Cornwall, Casualty.
The series opener was brimming over with superstitious tommyrot, all "dark moon" bad omen mumbo-jumbo, like a naff edition of This Morning. All is not lost, though. Lashings of passion could relight the show's fire. Damelza's hunky brother Drake already has the hots for Morwenna, the new governess. And 'tis a fair bet that Poldark will go postal on someone soon. George and Cary Warleggan, two complete and utter bankers, are both eminently punchable. Grumpy Uncle Cary is blinding, though. His dislike of Elizabeth, "the brood mare", and Geoffrey Charles – "the Poldark brat... two words: boarding school" – liven up the show no end. Cary fails to see the men-folk's fascination with George's missus. Me too, it's not like Liz is Caroline, or that floozy from the Red Lion.
This third series comes with big questions: 1) Is baby Valentine's dad Ross or George? Duh! He couldn't be more Poldark if he'd sprung straight from the womb with a scythe and a six-pack. And dishy Damelza knows it. 2) So will the fiery redhead go looking for a revenge shag? The Poldarks may be reconciled, but Ross constantly neglects her. 3) Will Ross get it on with brunette Elizabeth again (he marries red, but prefers to pole dark). 4) Can Geoffrey Charles and Aunt Agatha undermine George's fiefdom of insecurity, snobbery and malice? And finally, we've already seen "fine gent" Ross fight, smuggle and ravish. How high can he raise the stakes and still keep his fan club?
HARROWING footage from the Grenfell Tower fire rightly dominated the TV news. Along with the horror and the terrible loss, you were struck by the quiet courage of the fire-fighters. Yet in London, fire stations have closed and counselling services cut. It's no way to treat heroes.
COMEDY is a tough business, one person on their Jack taking on an audience armed only with jokes, delivery and personality. Or in James Acaster's case, armed with nothing at all. Arrogant Acaster came out on stage on Tonight At The Palladium like he was doing the world a favour and served up a feeble orange squash routine that took seconds to run out of juice. On the night he had a much longer slot. This was the best bit! Odds on, he'll have blamed the crowd afterwards. When Seann Walsh died on his arse at the Royal he said it was because the audience were too posh. The thought that he just wasn't funny enough just didn't occur. Why does ITV insist on inflicting placebo comedians on us? The likes of Mark Watson might get away with their lazy shtick on panel shows or club gigs where they can swear a lot but viewers can see it for the emperor's new clothes racket it is. The public want down-to-earth comics who can generate belly-laughs, not wry grins and sardonic smiles from the smart-arse set.
*BRAD said they'd found illusionist James More on YouTube. Don't his bookers watch Britain's Got Talent then?
SEX, glamour, murder, cocaine... Riviera had all the ingredients of killer drama and yet somehow ended up as exciting as a rainy day in Walford. Set among the undeserving super-rich in the south of France, it's the story of naive Georgina whose billionaire banker hubby is blown up on a Russian super-yacht. Money laundering and art world sharks are in the mix, but the big mystery is why she's never learnt how to walk properly in high heels.
HOT on TV: Gabriella Wilde, Poldark... Mark Stanley, Broken... Naomi Watts, Twin Peaks (SkyAt)... The Americans (ITV Encore).
ROT on TV: Riviera – Cote d'Azzzure... James Acaster – he'll never be as funny as his clothes... The Loch – ITV drama's latest loch-up... Wife Swap: Brexit Special.
AIDEN and Maria were at it in the gent's bog in t'Rovers on Corrie. Like Loo-ve Island it was. By heck, if Annie Walker were still alive the shock would've killed her. What next, Rita and Norris getting jiggy on a Ryan Air flight to Ibiza? The cheating pair came out, flushed, to be greeted by Eva and her mariachi band, sadly not playing Ridin' My Thumb To Mexico. Later Adam snapped them snogging in the ginnel. Kinnell, you'd think Maria would know better with all the practice she's had. The girl's dropped more flies than a bug zapper.
*JOHNNY Connor told Kate he was suffering from MS. Yes, Mundane Storylines.
*ON Fearless, maverick lawyer Emma is being watched by British security services because of her links to an iffy Syrian doctor. Their surveillance is so close that when she couldn't be traced for a few minutes they scrambled a team to confront her. If only. In real life the best way to swerve MI5 is to join a Jihadist mosque.
*JESS slept with Dom on Love Island after he wrote her a poem. I'll do the same for my own celebrity crush just as soon as I can think of a word that rhymes with Willis.
*DID anyone else see Karen Taylor on EastEnders and think blimey Britney Spears has let herself go?
*THEY had a cockerel playing keyboards on America's Got Talent. By my reckoning that's first famous cock with a piano since Liberace.
SMALL Joys of TV: John Nettles's death-bed voice on Poldark, so high it was as if the Grim Reaper had his knackers in a vice. Close-up magician Will Tsai (AGT). The Real Full Monty. Paul O'Grady. The Taylors on EastEnders – they're like the Jeremy Kyle show decanted into a skip.
RANDOM irritations: Amber on Love Island. Gemma Collins & co polluting Big Brother. TV's karaoke overkill. How many amateur singing contests do the networks need? Would it hurt to have one format for people who write and perform their own songs?
SEPARATED at birth: Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP, and this hillbilly from Deliverance? One associated with a bizarre backwoods sect fuelled by old-fashioned beliefs, the other plays a mean banjo.
June 11. Have we finally reached soap saturation point? A feeble 3.3million watched ITV's British Soap Awards. The night's glitter and glam couldn't mask the underlying whiff of decline and decay any more than Phil Schofield can disguise his bald spot forever. EastEnders won ONE gong. People were shocked – what had they done to even deserve that? The show has been going downhill faster than Johan Clarey ever since Sean O'Connor took over as exec producer. He's done for soap fans what the dementia tax did for Theresa May.
In fairness Enders woz robbed. Think how well they'd have done if the awards had played to their core strengths, with categories like: Most Tedious Finger-Wagging: the soap lectures us on everything from "sexism" to the evils of the free market, throwing casual Brexit bashing along the way.
Dumbest Episode: A 764 double-decker, never seen before, somehow careened into Bridge Street market. A dozen or so locals lifted the 13ton vehicle with unlikely ease. No-one died. The bus was bound for Barking, the writer was already there.
Worst plot: a toss-up. Was it Vincent supplying sperm to "sister" Donna, Gavin re-enacting The Shining or Louise posting dog muck through Denise's letter box? The muck was later recycled as Denise's GCSE/starvation storyline.
Loopiest Scene: locals stomping out of the Vic in protest at an old lady with dementia singing Spike Milligan's allegedly "racist" Ying-Tong Song.
Most Ruined character: Michelle Fowler. Runners-up: Jay Brown and Mick Carter (unless you bed Whit and kick out Shirl double lively, son).
Oddest twist: Steven Beale forgetting he's gay. Runner-up: Fat Pat's ghost turning up. She'd been dead four years but had still put on weight. Most Far-Fetched Romance: Michelle and Preston. Duffest doof-doof ending: Denise and her saucepan of pasta. Runner-up: Ian's "I'll put the kettle on." The drama!
Face it, they've had a rotten year. EastEnders hasn't mucked up this badly since they went to Ireland and portrayed the locals as pig-thick drunks. Its mash-up of piss-poor writing and hectoring propaganda saw its viewing figures slump to just 4million in March. Corrie is wobbling too. Instead of moving it to six episodes a week, ITV should cut it back and give the show space to breath. Emmerdale deserved their win, but Corrie did dementia first. With squeezed budgets and extra hours to fill, soaps are compelled to crank up the trauma and recycle old storylines. How much murder and misery can one tiny, politically correct neighbourhood reasonably endure?
ON Love Island, Marcel from Blazin' Squad announced that he and Harley had "literally become a tag-team". Well some of those women do look like they might be a two-man job. Although quite what a "Big Daddy splash" might constitute in these circumstances is anyone's guess... Let alone a Jackie Pallo pile-driver. Presumably no holds, or holes, are barred. This amoral but addictive show is all about cheating. With a £50k prize, you can literally bed-hop all the way to the bank. Ten posers started the week on the sun-kissed Spanish island of Cystitis. Amber has already dumped Harley and "pied off" Kem. She's also confessed she once bedded two blokes in one evening. Her folks must be so proud. You wouldn't trust her to stay faithful if she got out of bed in the middle of the night to pop to the loo. The most interesting woman is Camilla, who gets rid of landmines for a living, and dresses modestly to work out. The fellas stopped lusting after bikini-clad babes long enough to comment that she was "wife material". Least interesting is Moaning Montana. Curvy Jess is clearly the main attraction.
VERONICA Lucan made extraordinary TV. She spoke with brutal honesty about her rotten marriage without a hint of self-pity. Veronica told ITV how her gambler husband Lord Lucan tried to thrash her depression out of her, becoming aroused in the process. "He would give me ten strokes with the cane," she said. "Well, he must have got pleasure out of it because he had intercourse afterwards." Notice the "he" and not "we". In Lord Lucan: My Husband, The Truth, Veronica, 79, revealed she's been estranged from their three children for 35 years. Interviewer Michael Waldman asked if her relationship with them had been cold. "All my relationships are cold," she replied. Lucan's glamorous world of speedboats and casinos brought no happiness. He tried to have her sectioned. When he bludgeoned their nanny, Sandra Rivett, to death, he thought he was killing her. She thinks he then topped himself. Veronica with her clipped upper class accent and glacial exterior was, a creature from another age; the stiff upper lip in a Harvey Nicks skirt. It's hard to think of anyone from younger generations reliving this horrendous story in public without breaking down in floods of tears.
HOT on TV: DAVID Thewlis, Fargo... One Love Manchester... Robin Wright, House of Cards (Netflix)... Emma Willis – the other Wonder Woman.
ROT on TV: PAUL Nicholls, Ackley Bridge – cack acting... Sara Pascoe – as funny as an in-growing toe nail... Tried & Tasted – tired tripe.
BIG Brother called a snap election on launch night. Emma Willis's smile provoked something similar... But not from big-headed Lotan. Their opening chat was as awkward as any Diana Abbott interview.
*THEY'VE got some dummies in there this year. And also mannequins. Not to mention the Hood from Thunderbirds calling himself Joe.
*"NOT everybody gets to come on Big Brother", claimed Chanelle. Maybe not, but most get away with it under the sheets.
RANDOM irritations: Big Brother claiming to have an "intelligence centre" – the show hasn't had any brains since series one. Election overkill. TV bosses giving up on old-fashioned ideas like balance and neutrality. Mishal Husain coming over like Corbyn's PR.
*WEIRD sex scene of the week: Lavender and the Inland Revenue woman on White Gold. She asked him to recite his tax details as he pleasured her by the bins. He definitely reached double digits.
*ADAM Hills is a very left-leaning comic, until he takes off his prosthetic foot. Then he topples wildly to the right.
*THE Lorraine TV studio doesn't need air-con. The woman can't ask a question without waving her arms about like she's guiding in a jumbo jet. Thank god it's not on a flight path.
SMALL Joys of TV: Roy Larner. Dolly-Rose Campbell, Soap Awards. Frankie Boyle. Lady Lucan – so chilly she makes Anne Robinson seem as warm as toasted crumpets. James Corden on The Late Late Show. Trevor Noah, The Daily Show.
SEPARATED at birth: Paula Malcomson, Broken, and J.K. Rowling? One involved in a barely credible fantasy... the other created Harry Potter.
*ALL the comedians under-performed in the BGT final. Here's why: it's easy for a singer to belt out another song. But comics have a day to craft a fresh three minutes of sharp material having already used their best gear in their audition and the semi. It's not a level playing field. Years ago talent shows had act doctors – experienced comedy writers – to offer advice. Comic doesn't like comics though. The resulting mess was broadcast last weekend.
*I DREAMT David Icke directed a political version of Bigheads. When they took off their masks they were all lizards... except Theresa May who was made of straw.
Chin Twins: Douglas Carswell and Laura Kuenssberg – one a bizarre creature with an obvious political agenda, the other a former MP.
June 4. Friday night and two desperate duds were struggling to win over the watching millions. Away from Question Time, though, one Britain's Got Talent act smashed it straight out of the park. Step forward stand-up comedian Daliso Chaponda from Malawi – the place "where Madonna adopted all the babies," he said, adding: "I miss my little brother... "Angelina took my sister." As a black man on stage he joked "200 years ago this would have been an auction". Ouch.
Matt Edwards is the show's great find. He looks like Jim Carrey crossed with Robbie Williams and combines the fidgety energy of Lee Evans with the daft magic of Joe Pasquale. With the right team around him he could be a sensation. But the real stand-out performance came from Amanda's nipples. It says something when Holden's peanut-smuggling generates more press than the acts. It certainly over-shadowed the scandal of TanBA and others being quietly dropped for unconvincing reasons. And the irritation of David's "judging". If a fella had come on stage and taken a dump in a bucket, as long as he was wearing mascara Walliams would "absolutely love it". The man has no critical faculties whatsoever.
Some acts shouldn't have passed their auditions, let alone reached the semis. Dizzy Twilight? The Hoop Guy? That balloon-twister? Strewth. Jay Wynn lumbered out in a robot suit and just stood there singing Feeling Good like Michael Buble with laryngitis. It was like seeing a Transformer morph into a clapped-out Skoda. Niels Harder's tiresome camp magic act was more slight of mind than sleight of hand. And don't get me started on Angelicus Celtis changing the words of Jerusalem. As for the kids, am I the only one wondering if they're fulfilling their own dreams or their parents' ones? Ned did well with the gags dad Liam wrote for him. But they made him sound more like a cynical adult than a cheeky nine-year-old. Issy, 8, has real star potential but her talents would be better nurtured away from the hothouse of overnight fame. Too much too young can be just as disastrous as too little too late.
As usual singers, dancers and musicians dominated this series. Yet largely the public backed other kinds of performers. It was heartening to see mind-readers, magicians, mimics and knife-throwing maniacs go down well. Even in this age of talentless "reality" TV, people still crave skilled entertainers. TV bosses must create formats to showcase and build professional turns, and drop their snobbish hatred of gag-telling comedians. There is room on TV – and always should've been room – for all types of comics. We've suffered enough substandard student stand-up, and enough karaoke marathons too. Let variety mean variety and let entertainers bring us sunshine. It's what they do.
*JAY Wynn might have worked better if he'd come out as Iron Man and performed Barry Manilow. Who could resist 'Iron Manilow' singing Copacabana? Now that's an act.
*SO a small comical figure it was hard to take seriously, an annoying bint making way too much racket, and a rubbish robot whose tough outer shell concealed a weak inner core... BGT really did mirror TV's political debates...
QUICKSAND made a welcome return to our screens on Corrie. Hurrah. Traditionally, we only ever saw it in westerns, along with Monument Valley, men called Red and geezers fighting on the tops of trains. Nick Tilsley's ordeal was horrible yes, but in fairness the quicksand never sucked as badly as the Who-Pushed-Ken storyline. In the event, he wasn't swallowed whole by the hungry sands. Experts believe Nick kept afloat long enough to be saved by virtue of being made entirely out of wood. Black-hearted Nathan would have sunk a whole lot quicker – and even the coastguards would have stood around cheering. Corrie claimed their stomach-turning grooming story was "Rochdale inspired". So perhaps we should expect a posh white vicar turning suicide bomber and a Buddhist FGM scandal in the months ahead. White groomers exist of course, but that isn't what happened in Rochdale, or Rotherham, Halifax, Oxford, Dewsbury etc. Drama, even soaps, should reflect What Is. And if Corrie haven't got the guts for that, they should just bring back Reg Holdsworth and Curly and have done with it.
*A washed-out bloke sinking to a slow agonising death... isn't that the perfect metaphor for anyone marrying Michelle?
BGT's live week began with the sponsor's Ramones spoof followed with a snatch of Queen. An occasional blast of Zeppelin lifted proceedings too. But no current band remotely like these ancient rock gods ever appears on mainstream telly. We desperately lack modern equivalents of Whistle Test and Revolver; weekly shows that look beyond the tarnished singles charts. Harry Hill once joked that his favourite programme was Later with Jools Holland, adding "I just wish it with on earlier with a different presenter." It's the show's booking policy that irritates me. I've never seen Maiden or Rancid on there. Green Day haven't appeared for more than 10 years. Only groups deemed "hip" by the producers get the call, generally ones that reheat old soul and funk. Yet hot young acts abound outside the pop mainstream. Why not create a show that can skip between Roger Waters and promising undiscovered bands like Buster Shuffle, the Graveltones and the Novotones? Let 100 flowers bloom!
HOT on TV: Fargo & Mary Elizabeth Winstead... Kevin Spacey, House of Cards (Netflix)... The Handmaid's Tale.
ROT on TV: Paula – appalling... Redwater – dead in water... Paul Hollywood's Big Continental Road Trip – flop gear... The Kennedys: Decline & Fall – just decline.
TV does for political debate what BA did for carefree Bank Holiday breaks. BBC1's was particularly grim, with its loaded audience, mindless sloganeering and politicians from parties most of us can't vote for. It helps, I find, to imagine the participants as their look-alikes. Comrade Corbyn is obviously Catweazle, Grey May has the stoop of Mr Burns, while Tiny Tim Farron looks like Red Ken shrink-rapped. Diane Abbott is Bo Selecta's Trisha Goddard. Paul Nuttall is Eddie Hitler.
*THINGS they never debate: 1) rocketing national debt 2) the coming energy crisis caused by "decarbonisation" 3) shocking armed forces cuts.
WHICH luxury item would you take to a desert island? Jazz legend Ronnie Scott chose a life-sized blow-up doll of Faye Dunaway. Springsteen picked a guitar, pianist Arthur Rubenstein a revolver and Norman Mailer "a stick of the finest marijuana". To celebrate Desert Island Discs' 75th anniversary, BBC4 repeated the 1982 Arena documentary on this simple, enduring show. The hardest part is picking the eight songs you can take with you. Just eight? It's not easy, try it. And then you have to whittle them down to one...
*LES has made Billy Mitchell a full partner on EastEnders. Wait till Billy hears about the board meeting. "I've got Christine here, Mr Mitchell, and she's insisting on seeing a Wilma... "
*DAVID Davis is "the Noel Edmonds of British politics", said Eamonn Holmes, who remains the Mr. Blobby of Good Morning Britain.
SMALL Joys of TV: Tony Walsh "Britain's angriest small business owner" (White Gold). David Thewlis (Fargo). Alexander Siddig's prosthetic conk (The Kennedys). Dougie Jones "Mr Jackpots" (Twin Peaks). Linzey Cocker. Arena: Loretta Lynn.
RANDOM irritations: The poor quality of political debate. Seriously, if this is the best we've got bring on Doctor Who's alien monks. Politicians getting a tougher ride on Woman's Hour than The One Show. Broken – yet more bleeding heart BBC balderdash.
TV Maths: Christopher Biggins + Sue Pollard = Niels Harder, BGT.