BUSHELL ON THE BOX

Feb 17. There were scary scenes on Celebs Go Dating as Gemma Collins momentarily attempted to act like a normal human being. On her date with Ben she even flirted, saying “I love a 32inch”. She was talking about TV sets of course. Or possibly hot-dogs. But for a moment it looked like they might click. Gulp. Can you imagine a Gemma Collins sex tape? Talk about 50 Shades of Greggs.



Instead the GC (grotesque clot) pied the poor sap off during their second date and stomped out. She’d asked what he’d do if he won the lottery. Ben replied that he’d take her for an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet – a shocking insult to a woman many believe to be the Essex equivalent of Mariah Carey. Oh hang on. Not many. Just Gemma. She told the show’s dating agents “Sometimes with the job I do, you think you’re Mariah Carey.” At least they had the decency to laugh. Remind me, what is Gemma’s job again? What exactly can she do? Does lolling about like a sentient blob of lard count?



We used to build stars because of their talent. Now we turn the talentless into “celebrities” on account of how obnoxious they are. And there we are back with Muggy Mike, a bloke who could lower the IQ of a room faster than the Chuckle Brothers.



Gemma’s Ben was nice but dull. Agent Nadia claimed “There isn’t an arsehole bone in his body”, which as Rob Beckett pointed out, must make walking difficult. Surely the producers put him up to turning up in an un-ironed shirt and ordering Tizer to get her going? Not that it takes much. All of these “stars” are damaged. Jonathan Lipnicki walked out on date Heather claiming she saw him as a child. He then threw himself face down on his bed, suggesting she was right. Tallia Storm is a monster in the making. The singer with the “resting bitch face” is more up herself than a well-greased contortionist. If she dated Muggy it’d end in the biggest “pieing” battle since Laurel & Hardy. This E4 series beats ITV2’s dull Survival Of The Thickest hands down, and is far more bearable than Celebrity Ghost Hunt. “Do you mean us any harm?” one twerp asked a passing poltergeist. Let’s hope so.



TRAUMA was nowhere near traumatic enough. It had no real twists and nobody to like. Dan’s teenage son Alex was stabbed and then died on the operating table thanks to a mistake made by surgeon Jon, who’d been drinking. But any sympathy we had for Dan went straight into the clinical waste bin when he stalked Jon’s family and held his daughter at knifepoint. Dan didn’t seem bothered about the scumbag who’d plunged a blade into his boy. All his rage was reserved for the minted consultant. Bitter and resentful, Dan ranted on about class like he was at a Momentum rally; although surgeons do generally earn their money... even the smug ones. They’re not bankers. The plot packed in coincidences, unlikely contrivances and Alex’s ghost. The only thing that rang true was the hospital management accepting Jon’s false account of the botched operation without question. I’m sure Dan would agree that TV dramas are generally more believable when not penned by privately educated right-on playwrights like Mike Bartlett and David Hare.



SOMETIMES it’s the little things that make dull shows bearable. With Dancing On Ice, it’s the commentary – the teapot, the death spiral, the butterfly lift followed by a prawn stag. Rob Beckett’s voice-over, scripted by Phil Kerr, is the saving grace of Celebs Go Dating. While slow-burn crime drama Endeavour is elevated by its unexpected references. They’ve had The Cordwangler’s Arms (a nod to radio classic Round The Horne), a copper called Fancy (recalling Fancy Smith from Z Cars), and a Mrs Lupin – a throw-back to Monty Python’s Dennis Moore sketch. Fred Thursday referred to “Pickman’s model”, the title of an H.P. Lovecraft story, and said of an Egyptian mummy “Here’s one for the teenagers” – an old Tony Hancock aside. Deep joy.



HOT on TV: Gomorrah... Troy: Fall Of A City... Altered Carbon (Netflix)... Carey Mulligan.



ROT on TV: Tallia Storm – let’s hope she blows over soon... Collateral –damaged... Survival Of The Fittest – Unloved Island... McMafia finale – From Russia with “meh”.



WALFORD questions: why didn’t Masood just re-open his curry stall? In that market, there’s never a wait. Will Mas get off with Kathy next? If she goes without much longer, her g-spot will be declared a heritage site. Who shops in the Square’s Polish delicatessen? And why is Vincent suddenly such a wimp? When he arrived, he packed a gun and beat up Phil... now he’s petrified of a pensioner. It’d be more in character if he’d just bust a cap in Orinoco’s arse.



*NEXT week in Walford: Billy Mitchell picks something up in an Oxfam shop. Chlamydia.



THE X-Files dreamed up a virtual heaven full of hot-dogs, consensual sex and nightly Ramones gigs. Ridiculous – there wasn’t a single mention of beer or Nando’s. The brains of dead geniuses were being uploaded to a simulated world so they could work on helping the elite escape the coming apocalypse. Crazy, yes. But is it any more far-fetched than BBC2’s Collateral, box-ticking PC propaganda disguised as drama?



*HOW about Mary Beard fronting a historically themed TV dance show? Strictly Rome Dancing – they came, they saw, they congaed.



*ALL Together Now will definitely produce someone whose face is plastered over the papers. It’s just a question of which of the 100 is sectioned first.



*MEMO to ITV: when I said I wanted to see Antony Cotton on ice...



*PEOPLE don't die on Altered Carbon, instead their essence is loaded onto memory stack and installed in a completely new body... a technique pioneered in our soaps with different degrees of success.



SMALL joys of TV: Original Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) repeats (True Ent). Spurs’s great come-back against Juventus. Damned. Action sequences on Taken. Cathy & Colin, Two Doors Down. The bright, funny Scottish lasses on Celebs Go Dating.



RANDOM irritations: Jeremy Vine. Grown women with lickle girl voices. The soppy samosa storyline on EastEnders. TV news buying into Kim Yo Jong’s propaganda mission at the Winter Olympics. The continued existence of Ian Huntley.



SEPARATED at birth: David Strathairn and Eddie Jordan? One is in Top Gear, the other one shifted it by the kilo as Semiyon Kleiman on McMafia.



*TAKEN is patchier than Dale Winton’s make-up. But why not adapt classic British films like Quadrophenia and Get Carter for TV? A series about droogs set before A Clockwork Orange would sell worldwide.




FEB 11. LOVE Island loser Muggy Mike Thalassitis washed up on Celebs Go Dating with all the charm of an unflushed bog. “I’m going to play Flappy Birds until you’ve drunk that wine,” the big-headed berk told date Emma. Tsk. And they said romance was dead. Earlier “The Mugmeister” informed her: “I’m a handful in every way... sometimes I’m a mouthful.” Gee, Mr Subtlety, what can you mean? When he asked her in Greek “Do you want a cucumber up your arse?” Emma replied “W*nker”, also in Greek, suggesting she’d seen right through the self-absorbed piece of shish. But minutes later she was snogging him outside the restaurant, proving good looks and micro-fame will always trump personality and manners... Even if you’re as shallow as a toddler’s paddling pool.



Celebrity TV has produced many magic moments, but increasingly it’s just a vehicle for recycling the worst dregs of reality telly. And they don’t get much dreggier than Gemma Collins, 37 (stone), who described herself as “fun, obnoxious and intriguing” – one third accurate. “I’m not here to entertain anyone,” she ranted. Ain’t that the truth? Collins comes over as lazy, deluded and sulky with an unfathomable sense of entitlement – the perfect ingredients for modern TV fame. Naturally she’s a total hypocrite. Gemma walked out on Terry for suggesting she’s a diva even though that’s what she calls herself. She told a bloke off for calling her “love”, then called another guy exactly that. She’d rolled up late for that date and fished for compliments on another “I’m a babe, ain’t I?” Absolutely, hon. Just like the film.



Why does “celebrity” TV reward these arrogant, big-headed creeps? Because it works, I guess. But E4 are definitely scraping the bottom of the nonentity barrel here. Tongue-tied Jonathan Lipnicki, a stand-offish Ollie Locke... this was more like Dullards Go Dating. Olympian Jade Jones struggling with a personality-free suitor was like pulling teeth. While posh simpleton Sam Thompson behaves like an over-grown 12-year-old. “They don’t call me Fun Time Sam for nothing,” he claimed. Or at all. Dating agency receptionist Tom Read Wilson is so camp and posh he makes Tom Allen look like Bill Sykes. “I’d love to be in Tom’s head, it must be like a Disney Store in there,” said Rob Beckett, whose mocking voice-over remains the show’s one real reason to watch.



THE point of satire is to mock, ridicule and subvert the powerful. But current TV satire only targets Brexit. Matt Forde called Michael Gove “the lowest form of vermin” and jokingly linked BoJo to “a history of syphilis”. Yet he gave Lord Adonis – a pro-Remain Blair advisor turned unelected life peer – the easiest ride this side of Peppa Pig World. He even let Adonis get away with claiming that a thumping 1.26million majority was “very narrow”. Similarly Nish Kumar’s dismal Mash Report is still fighting the Referendum on behalf of aggrieved middle class Guardian readers. Theresa May deserves every shot she takes but so does the EU. Our smug TV satirists have never tackled its corruption, financial incompetence and contempt for democracy. They’re toothless on Corbyn and useless when tackling the genuine insanities of our hypocritical, Twitter-cowed modern world.



CELEBRITY Ghost Hunt should be called Dunces In The Dark. It’s basically I’m Famous & Frightened for the less famous and more frightened. All the greats were here – Marnie, the Geordie Shore bedwetter, Bobby the Towie hairdresser and Marcel from Blazin’ Squad. Rylan led this pack of twerps into an underground nuclear bunker in Essex, which was “haunted”. Of course it was. Kelvedon Hatch also provides paintballing and zip-lining services. It’s open to the public, so sightseers will be familiar with the resident “scary” mannequin of Baroness Thatcher – “she was our prime minister, the first one ever”, explained Bobby. Did someone hang themselves here? No. As far as I can see no-one ever died here at all. So why are “ghosts” hanging about? Everyone who’s suffered Most Haunted will know the drill. Lights go out, sounds are amplified and subconscious self-suggestion kicks in... “I’m being watched,” squealed Bobby. Yes mate, you’re on camera. Although gawd knows why. In fairness, the show must’ve inspired many to reach out to the other side. In my case Vikings on the History Channel.



HOT on TV: SAS Who Dares Wins... the Hunted finale... Anthony Watson... Hull’s Headscarf Heroes... Vikings.



ROT on TV: All Together Now – all forgotten soon... What Would Your Kid Do? – change channels... Girlfriends... Celebrity Ghost Hunt – fairground ghost-trains are scarier, more fun and mercifully are over much quicker.



THAT EastEnders robbery plot in full: Sharon stole the money from Ben who stole it from Aidan’s gang who stole it from Aidan’s ex Ciara, Steve Owen’s previously unmentioned (Irish) sister. Ciara threatened to tell Mel’s son Hunter (her nephew) the truth about Steve if Mel didn’t recover the dosh – even though she had nothing to do with the theft. Cue Mel skulking around the Square for weeks like a woman looking for Dalmatians to make a coat out of... It’s the biggest load of old pony this side of a French restaurant fridge-freezer.



R.I.P. John Mahoney, the brilliant Blackpool-born actor who made Martin Crane utterly believable in Frasier. Grizzled ex-cop Martin was a world away from his poncy sons. When Niles called food “to die for”, Marty snapped back “Niles, your country and your family are to die for, food is to eat.” Mahoney’s portrayal of the crotchety codger anchored the sitcom in reality. Let’s raise a cold one in his honour.



*RAGNAR was caged, chained and guarded by scores of Saxon soldiers on Vikings. How would he get out of that? He didn’t. There was no rescue raid, no David Blaine style escape. Ragnar was beaten, tortured and then dropped into a snake pit to die. A sad demise for the show’s pivotal character but an exit Corrie could consider for Pat Phelan. Soon please.



SMALL joys of TV: Roger Allam, Endeavour. Rob Beckett’s Celebs Go Dating voice-over. Siobhan McSweeney, Derry Girls. The thrilling Superbowl. The Inside No 9 finale. Maltese: The Mafia Detective. The X-Files. Lucy Cox, Dragons Den – I’m still seeing double.



RANDOM irritations: Boorish Terry Christian on Question Time – one Christian who proves the Romans had a point. The way Gemma eats on Corrie. The Pat Phelan storyline dragging on longer than Brexit. TV OD-ing on karaoke – where are the openings for new music? Tracy-Ann Oberman’s inability to pronounce Cunard – it’s not “Koonard”! You’d have thought one of the three producers on QE2: The World’s Greatest Cruise Ship would have noticed.



SEPARATED at birth: Bad Ape and Evan Davis? One a disturbing and slightly bonkers nonhuman life-form... the other rescued Caesar in War For The Planet Of The Apes.



TV questions: Why are there no Kodiak bears on Animals With Cameras? They put the “I” in Kodak after all. Why isn’t Gemma Collins on The Undateables? Is Dale Winton auditioning to be Richard III? On Corrie, how on earth did Carla’s kidneys pack up before her liver? How long before Jeremy Kyle is a guest on his own show?



TV maths: Orinoco + beard = Aidan McGuire. Both are wombling free.



*EUROVISION: You Decide? If only we could! Vote out.




Feb 4. Lily Allen, the House of Lords, the Met Office and anyone who takes it seriously... So many things are crying out to be consigned to Room 101 it seems a terrible waste to book nice but dull panellists. Steven Moffat popped up on Friday even though he’s not a celeb, he wasn’t funny, and his pet-hates were lamer than Gregory House. The former Doctor Who show-runner should be banished to Room 101 himself on the strength of writing Kill The Moon alone. Moffat’s banal bug-bears were sandy beaches and not being in touch with his own Scottishness. Hardly Spike Milligan demolishing Chris Evans or Bob Monkhouse steaming into the French. His fellow panellist Rochelle Humes nominated “people who don’t take a bag on a night out”. Yeah, thanks for that, Roch. I think Anne Robinson’s Queen of Mean title is safe.



Sharp, smart Frank Skinner is Room 101’s saving grace, when he isn’t sneaking in BBC-approved pops at Brexit that is. But the panel-show format waters down the programme’s impact. It worked far better with one witty, outspoken guest. Jimmy Carr was easily worth thirty minutes of Frank’s time. So were Paxman and Frankie Boyle. Jerry Sadowitz would elevate the show to a whole new level. Or get it pulled off air. And what a shame The Fall’s Mark E. Smith popped his clogs before anyone had the sense to book him. We’ve got Josh Widdecombe, Nish Kumar and Geri Horner in the coming weeks just to prove that these days most Room 101 bookings are more suited to be being in it than on it. Marcus Brigstocke, Sue Perkins, Janet Street-Porter... These absurd irritants have all been guests! Why? They should have been fast-tracked to a distant corner if TV Hell with a soundtrack of Davina Sodding McCall squawking endlessly on a loop-tape for eternity.



*THINGS that should be in Room 101: dumbed-down Celebrity Mastermind with its parade of mince-think micro-celebs, Miriam Margolyes, Barry Scott, soaps with no moral compass... And the fact that no-one at the BBC seems aware that George Orwell’s Room 101 was supposed to house your worst fear – not some minor moans.



*JIMMY Carr recalled a classic heckle. Ken Dodd was going down a storm at Glasgow Empire when a disgruntled Scot yelled: “It’s all very funny if you like laughing.”



TWO Doors Down is that rare thing, a watchable sitcom. Set in suburban Scotland, it has a wonderful cast of grotesques with Doon Mackichan excelling as the monstrous Cathy. Every week long-suffering Beth and Eric invite her and Colin round for a get-together only to be gate-crashed by tactless neighbour Christine. On Burns Night, Eric assured Gordon, his son’s English boyfriend: “Scotland’s renowned for being one of the most welcoming countries for foreigners.” “That’s true,” agreed Colin. “Very few get attacked for no reason.” Gay Gordon is also a veggie. Cathy asked: “Because you feel sorry for animals... Or do you just like the attention?” The feel is closer to a Mike Leigh comedy of embarrassment than a Mrs Brown’s Boys although the language can be just as ripe. “Just think about it,” said Colin. “At this moment there’ll be Scottish people in every town, in every country, in every corner of the globe getting f***ing hammered.” Cheers!



*COLIN described Rabbie Burns as “a romantic hero”, adding: “All the experts agree he rode just about every lassie he met.”



IT’S almost worth spreading the word that Topless Darts is coming back just to wind up hardcore PC puritans. F1 grid girls, Friends repeats... there’s nothing that won’t send these fruitcakes into a frenzy. Some even called Mick Carter on EastEnders “racist” because he asked Masood – former boss of the Argy-Bargy curry-house – for Indian recipes. Eh? When sulky Andrew on CBB was “offended” by Ann Widdecombe’s views, his foul-mouthed rage helped propel the old dragon into the final. Free speech is an alien concept for the perpetually outraged zealots. They’re book-burners in waiting, out to control what we think, what we say, what we can laugh at and even what jobs we can do. So why give in to them? They’re precisely the people who should be offended.



HOT on TV: Gomorrah (SkyAt)... Altered Carbon (Netflix)... Lydia Wilson, Requiem... Six Nations Rugby.



ROT on TV: Geri Horner – no spice... All Together Now – yet another karaoke calamity... toothless “satire” Unspun – unwatched, unloved and unfunny.



CREEP of the week: Philip Glass, a Texan hunter who shot a young African elephant on Trophy and then high-fived his guides. The first bullet didn’t kill the poor pachyderm, nor did the second. The adolescent elephant lay groaning in agony while the bold hunter smoked a fag. Such a big man. Glass then slaughtered a young lion and wept over his corpse, although that might have been because he remembered the $50,000 price tag. If karma is real, let’s hope that on his next safari he’ll be gorged by an angry rhino, then humped by a passing silverback and left to rot as his twitching body is consumed painfully and slowly by botflies.



*PIERS Morgan interviewed Donald Trump. Yes, that boastful, self-obsessed, divisive and faintly absurd figure... chatted with the US President.



*SLANG-loving Mick Carter was roughly “Andied” on EastEnders (Andy-Capped = kidnapped). Or was he “Wattsied” (WhatsApped)? Or “Chillied” (chilli beef wrapped)? I give up. If only he’d had it on his Bromleys.



*ITV’s “inspirational” Britain’s Favourite Walks lasted two and a half hours but in fairness the show inspired me to go on one of my own – a half-mile stroll, via a picturesque A-road underpass, to my local.



*ARE Gemma Collins and Arg really loved up and inseparable, or just trapped in each others’ gravitational pull?



SMALL joys of TV: Zulu (Sky Select). Two Doors Down. The interrogations on SAS: Who Dares Wins. Last Leg subtitles informing us that Boris Johnson had been “kissing people off in government” – they actually said pissing but you wouldn’t be surprised.



RANDOM irritations: People on The Chase who describe their dumb guesses as “educated”. People who instantly buzz in and take a wild stab in the final chase without waiting to see if anyone else actually knows the answer. The Americans being buried after midnight on ITV4.



SEPARATED at birth: Ian McDiarmid as Britannia’s King Pellenor and Bernard Hill as Theoden in Lord Of The Rings – one associated with TV’s greatest fantasy epic, the other is hamming it up in Britannia.



*CORRIE queries: where is the Weatherfield branch of Costa Coffee, how much did that product placement cost them, and why did Dave Platt bring back empty cups?



TV maths: Gary Windass + fancy dress = Bjorn on Vikings.





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