BUSHELL ON THE BOX
SEPT 17. Typical. You wait years to see a hot, wine-guzzling woman with mental health issues on TV and another one comes along a week later... Date rape is at the dirty heart of Liar. Did handsome surgeon Andrew “do a Bill Cosby” (allegedly) and slip poor Laura a pill? Or did the peachy teacher get so sloshed she couldn’t remember saying yes? My gut feeling is it’s more complicated than that. Laura’s sister Kate convinced her to date the charming widower, a colleague at the hospital. It started well... a meal on Deal pier, a fun, flirty night. He walked her home like a gent and would’ve called a cab home if his mobile hadn’t conked out. Laura invited him in and then... their stories differ. She says she asked him to stop. He says she told him to get a condom from her bathroom. Who’s lying?
The next day, he sent her a thank you text and Laura called the cops. Andrew was duly collared. But medical tests showed no sign of rape or struggle, and she hadn’t been drugged...
Reasons to doubt Andrew: he says he took Laura’s clothes off but she woke up wearing them. His wife killed herself. Maybe he’s not as perfect as he looks. Reasons to doubt Laura: She has a history of medication for unspecified mental problems. She was knocking back plonk all evening. Her brother-in-law Liam asked Kate if the cops know “what happened last time”.
Reasons to believe both: someone else could’ve been involved. Why her long chat with the cab driver if he isn’t significant? It’s unlikely ITV would wander into such a politicised area without a get-out clause. Complications: Laura needed a boost after breaking up with Tom, her childhood sweetheart. She has no idea he’s knocking off Kate. Her impulsive social media rant is bound to backfire.
What the show gets wrong: there’s no way Andrew’s son would still be in her English class if he’d been nicked and charged with raping her. What it gets right: Downton star Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd are perfectly cast as the main players. She has a knack for conveying different emotions simultaneously; he is wholesome respectability personified. Odds are Liar will keep us gripped. Just don’t tell Mr. Bates.
IT’S a tough gig doing stand-up comedy. You against the world, armed only with your wit, warmth and delivery. Or in the case of the turns on Live From The BBC, as armless as Monty Python’s Black Knight. I exaggerate slightly. Josie Long is likeable enough. She just hasn’t got an act. Instead she spent 30minutes telling us how right-on she is and banging on about her “Brexit grief”. No wonder the Beeb love her. Long offered no analysis or insights; and certainly nothing as low-brow as an actual joke. This petulant drivel might have been acceptable from a moody teenager, but not from a 34-year-old with the benefits of selective education and an Oxford degree. I made it through ten whole minutes of Oxford graduate John Robins stretching the details of his dull life supermodel thin before dozing off. Ivo Graham seems destined for future TV glory though... as a winning answer on Pointless. He went to Oxford too... are you seeing a pattern yet? You feel like shaking the whole privileged lot and screaming: “Listen, your opinions and life-style choices aren’t endlessly fascinating, you’re not Richard Pryor. Do your job, make us laugh or sod off.”
GEMMA is still breaking bad on Doctor Foster – demanding sex in nightclubs, getting as blitzed as a Blackpool hen party, and grilling her son’s best mate about Tom’s sexuality... a scene to curl the toes of every watching teenager. Gemma’s mates would surely stage an intervention. If she had any. She persuaded another GP to break patient confidentiality and then sent neighbour Neil to find out what smirking Simon was up to. Her slippery ex saw right through it and steered the poor goon into a marriage-wrecking casual hook-up. How much madder can Gemma get before she gets even?
PS. Why do women in dramas, even nutty sloshed ones, keep their bras on while having sex?
HOT on TV: Ioan Gruffud, Liar... Deanna Mussington, X Factor... Jodi Balfour... Black Lake (BBC4)... new Outlander (AmPrime).
ROT on TV: Len Goodman’s Partners In Rhyme – Len’s cranky, the show’s manky... Static – scrap it... Jordan “Rizzle” Stephens, Celebrity Island – totally shizzle.
ARRAN took his sex-bot on This Morning. Samantha can talk philosophy and is apparently programmed with 1,000 jokes (999 more than Josie Long). His wife admitted they have “threesomes”, and that wasn’t even the creepiest bit. They let their small children play with it! (“Mum, what’s this leaking out of Daddy’s dolly?”... “Well it doesn’t taste like yogurt... ”)
*SAMANTHA is said to be come with “authentic female responses”. Unlikely. Unless those responses are: “That ceiling needs painting”, “Not tonight, I’ve got a headache”, “Here, do you fancy my sister?” and “Why should I do that? It’s not your birthday.”
*IT’S no surprise that BBC berks censored the Last Night Of The Proms, refusing to show the traditional rousing patriotic songs to viewers in Scotland and Wales. The Corporation clearly hate the idea of Britain (especially an independent Britain) as much as they despise the English working class. In which case why the hell are we compelled by law to pay for it?
SUBTITLE cock-ups. From Sky News: “Sky will be following the path of the destructive Harry Kane across Florida”. (Actually hurricane). From BBC News: “A police officer is being infected for gross misconduct” – George Alagiah said “investigated”.
*THERE was a lot of effort involved in How To Stay Young Forever. Exercise more, drink less, swerve chips... die of boredom. Rita Rudner’s solution is more appealing – just keep on having face-lifts until your ears meet. *MORE grief on EastEnders as Kush had a heart attack. Tsk. Anything to distract us from the soap’s biggest disaster – the ratings.
*BROMANS is Towie meets Plebs. Cocky modern lads in a coliseum – a great idea. Now bring on the lions.
SMALL joys of TV: Rick & Morty’s Ricklantic Mix-Up (Netflix). Laurel & Hardy classics on Talking Pictures. Marc Bolan: Cosmic Dancer (BBC4). Bojack Horseman. Sky’s Western Week. Taskmaster. The Other One. Jenny Campbell’s bizarre facial expressions on Dragons’ Den.
RANDOM irritations: The dismal standard of stand-up on the BBC. David Mitchell’s dreary, one-note bleating. The absurd over-reaction to Paul Hollywood’s fancy dress outfit – if he’d gone as Freddy Krueger would it mean he sympathised with dream-invading serial killers? Grow up!
SEPARATED at birth: Max Branning and the Mighty Mekon? One a hideous looking agent of unspeakable evil, the other used to knock about with Dan Dare.
TV mysteries: why is Brian Cox face aging faster than his hair? If you get stitched up by Watchdog, who do you complain to? And a Safe House is supposed by definition to be discreet, so why does ITV one stand out like an eager bridegroom on honeymoon?
*PRUE Leith told Kate she needed “the finger treatment” on Bake Off. For all possible punch-lines, see Jimmy Carr.
*BACKWARDS drama Rellik was yako. Just a bit too ykcimmig.
PAUL Hollywood was talking about cottage loafs on Bake Off when he said: “It’s all about making both the balls quite tight.” “You don’t want wonky balls,” added Liam, helpfully – which is terrible news for Captain Sensible of the Damned... as I’ll reveal in volume 3 of my Sounds of Glory book series if I ever get the time to finish writing it.
Sept 10. Doctor Foster is brilliantly addictive drama, but can we talk about the doctor? You wouldn’t be surprised if the G.P. after Gemma’s name stood for Generally Psychotic. The woman is nuttier than an almond and pistachio Bake Off show-stopper blitzed with peanut butter frosting. Consider the evidence. As soon as Gemma learns that her love-rat ex Simon is moving back to Parminster she breaks into his new house. She then gate-crashes his wedding reception, refuses to leave and sneaks off to poke around in his bedroom. Now I know he cheated on her with new wife Kate, knocking her up in the process, but that happened two years ago. Gemma is no more capable of moving on than an Easter Island statue.
Kicking off is what she does. Last series her crimes included bribery, assault and professional misconduct. After staging the most cringe-worthy get-together since Abigail’s party, the mental medic told Si she’d killed their son, Tom, goading him until he walloped her. Simon was found guilty of assault; he and Kate were forced to move to London, Gemma kept the family home and had custody of the boy. She got her revenge. She won. Or so you’d think... But Slippery Simon has somehow struck it rich, bought a seriously plush new drum and moved his family back home. So the cascade of madness and mind games is starting all over again. Gemma’s dating a patient, driving like Kirsty Gallacher the morning after and treating NHS guidelines on wine consumption with as much respect as she treats the Hippocratic oath and patient confidentiality...
Twice she got close to Si and felt his excitement, taking it as proof he still has feelings for her. Although getting aroused when Suranne Jones brushes up against you really only proves you’re a heterosexual male. Now, embarrassed Tom has fled to his Dad’s. Uh-oh. Gemma responded by mixing acids in a beaker, dropping in her wedding ring and watching it dissolve. A normal woman would’ve flogged it or binned it. But as we’ve already established Gemma Foster is not normal. There must be viewers in Broadmoor who think she’s a bit too unhinged. She’s already contemplating murder and is bound to go full Hurricane Irma on them soon. And yes, being cheated on must be heart-breaking, but Gemma Foster is no heroine. She needs counselling. Probably sectioning. Physician heal thyself.
IT was Disaster Week in Albert Square. That’s right, another one. They’ve already had a bus crash and a battered chip shop... now a gas explosion, arson, a shooting, a miscarriage... All they need is a plague of locusts to complete the set. Whenever the storylines start sagging like Lisa Riley’s Baggy Body Club, producers chuck in catastrophes to woo back viewers. This was the Square’s twelfth fire. They’ve suffered stabbings, gang hits, RTAs, a collapsing funfair... you’d be safer living in Qalamoun. Thursday was particularly nuts, with residents running into crime scenes and gassing in burning buildings, apparently immune to the smoke... Johnny’s ambulance was hit by a lorry (which promptly vanished). I think Bronson was driving it. But only Steven died, which means criminal master-klutz Max failed to bump off Jane. (No-one believed Phil would end up brown-bread. The old soak is like Luke Cage – as indestructible as his liver.) Disasters are a temporary fix though. To rebuild audiences the soap needs stronger core characters, believable plots and joy to temper the endless misery. The way things are now it’s a wonder they don’t just stick a diving board on the Queen Vic roof and have done with it.
*THEY had Ronnie’s carrots at Walford In Bloom. Most blokes preferred Roxy’s peaches... For the turnip see Mick Carter.
PEEP Show fans will love Back, largely because Mitchell and Webb play very similar characters. Mitchell’s Stephen is just as awkward, whiney and square as Mark, Webb’s Andrew is a more selfish and deluded version of Jeremy. It’s just not as funny. Stephen’s publican dad Laurie was (possibly) Andrew’s foster father, so his death reunites them as rivals, pitting under-achieving fogey against his smarmy conman of a foster bro. Writer Simon Blackwell relies mostly on swear words for laughs. This wouldn’t matter too much if there were genuinely sharp lines too. Or if the swearing were The Thick Of It level inventive. Just having someone randomly drop f and c-words is a c***ish cop-out.
HOT on TV: Tim Roth, Tin Star (SkyAt)... Bertie Carvel, Doctor Foster... I’m Dying Up Here (SkyAt).
ROT on TV: The Davina Hour – navel-gazing for self-obsessed nitwits... Diana & I – maudlin and dawdling... Cannonball – a splashing bore although Frankie Bridge sparkles even on the Blob.
SAD to see John Motson is retiring from commentating. Motty is rightly renowned for his encyclopaedic football knowledge. But I’ll also miss him for insights like: “Valencia’s very long balls make him quite a handful.” And that time Jamie Hand fouled Ian Cox during a Watford v Burnley match and Motson said: “The ref has given Burnley a free kick for a foul by Hand on Cox.” Motty’s verdict on Brazil: “The team are so good it’s like they’re running around the pitch playing with themselves.”
*THE new X Factor is sponsored by Just Eat. Well, it never did Adele any harm...
*SIMON has apologised for Honey G. Still no word on Jedward, Bratavio or Rylan.
*SUBTITLE cock-up of the month: BBC Breakfast informing us that Cromer is “famous for its crap” – they’d actually said crabs. Other weird ones: Paul Danan translated as “Paul Barn Owl” and George Alagiah’s “Brian, thank you” becoming “Wipe macro”.
*AMAZON boss Jeff Bezos told Brian Cox about his mission to move earth’s industries to other planets. Strewth. Imagine the cost of Amazon postage from Pluto. Best all sign up to Prime, pronto.
SMALL joys of TV: Eddie Floyd and Sam Moore at the Proms. Tom Jones’s tribute to Otis Redding. Rock And Roll (Sky Arts). Dominique Moore, Quacks. Lee Mack. Cold Feet. The Money Supermarket ad spoofing Dirty Dancing with He-Man and Skeletor.
RANDOM irritations: X Factor judges not noticing when contenders sing flat. Corrie’s crackpot kidnap plot. Arrogant Remoaners constantly trying to subvert democracy. Man-hating Shazia Mirza, the world’s most miserable alleged comedian – what makes her smile, an open grave?
FATHER & Secret Son: Geoffrey from Rainbow and Owen Jones? One associated with bizarre puppets and childish communication, the other fondly remembered from kids TV.
TV Maths: Robert De Niro + moustache = Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen
*SOPHIE’s crack was found to be “a little bit rubbery” on Bake Off. It probably tasted okay, though, at a stretch.
SEPT 3. We can stop worrying about the Great British Bake Off – the innuendoes are safe. “We’re allowed an exposed bottom,” said contestant Yan talking about the chocolate mini-roll technical challenge. “If there’s an opportunity to keep the bottom exposed we should all embrace that,” Noel Fielding replied sagely, adding “I’m planning on taking my trousers off while Prue and Paul do the judging.” What? Mooncake time already?
The first Channel 4 episode also served up a “moist clutch”, spherical juice balls and a suggestively shaped champagne bottle top. Ol’ Blue Eyes Paul Hollywood had promised that the new Bake Off was “ten times better” than before – a ridiculous claim. To be ten times better a mechanical arm would have to come out of the telly to serve viewers freshly creamed baps at the same time as the judges tasted them. But it’s certainly an improvement. For starters Sandi is witter than Mel and much less frosty than Sue. Noel supplies a dash of English eccentricity, at one point eating a decorative marigold which he claimed tasted “like a clown’s nose”. He arrived with Sandi in a rainbow-striped hot air balloon looking like a Goth Willie Wonka. (Most places he goes the air is thick with cries of “Wonka!”, I’d imagine)
Finally – controversy corner – Prue Leith is a better broadcaster than Mary Berry. She’s just as skilful, just as fair, but seems more at ease in front of the camera. It’s a stark reminder that few contemporary TV folk are irreplaceable.
The baking itself was exceptional. Those showstopper illusion cakes were the sort of creations you normally only see in the final. A cake that looked like a watermelon, a bacon sarnie, a clutch bag, a stack of pancakes... No wonder Paul handed out two rare Hollywood handshakes. The downsides, for fans, are the ad breaks – but how else are they going to pay for it? And Noel’s narration – he sounds like he’s reading a dull book to a small, slow child. The producers should trust their judgement and cut him more slack. Still, a strong start. To paraphrase Sandi Toksvig, the assembled amateurs have nine more weeks to bring the show to a fruity conclusion. And who doesn’t want that?
DID you catch Jo-Ann on last night’s X Factor? Her rendition of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2U was really moving. It could’ve cleared a pub in under two minutes. Clichés came thick and fast: Tone deaf lamb to the slaughter? Check. Simon stopping an audition to ask: “What else have you got?” Check. The over-sexy contender? Check – a Sinitta lookalike stripped down to her bra and pants (not checked). The wannabe who doesn’t look like a serious contender but sings like an overweight angel... Kayleigh found love through internet dating. “I told them I was 5-8,” she joked. “I left the “one” off the front of it.” Vocal group Rak-Su had promise, as did Jack & Joel and likeable Sam Black, 27, who belted out Runaround Sue, a song 29 years older than he is. Grace, 20, from Blackburn is an early favourite. She wrote original song Roots after being told she’d never rise above the club circuit. Maybe have a word with Steve Brookstein about that... The show aspires to “find the next pop superstar”, but is more likely to settle for the next Leon Jackson. As long as it’s not the next Honey G, we’ll probably suffer it. Off-camera the search for the next Dury or Weller or Robert Plant continues.
NORTHERN zombie hordes breached the Wall in the closing moments of Game Of Thrones. It was a bit like last orders in Benidorm. The Wall had protected mankind from invaders for thousands of years. Constructed of ice and magic, it was 700 feet tall, 300miles long and thicker than Kirk Sutherland. And the Night King’s bad dragon blasted a hole through it in minutes – a stunning scene that must’ve reduced Donald Trump to tears. So where was Jon Snow while the enemy upped the ante? Eagerly upping the auntie... Turns out Jon’s real Dad wasn’t Ned Stark – it was Dany’s brother Rhaegar! Talk about rolling your own. Who do they think they are, the Lannisters? All this Long Lust Family stuff will have to be put on hold now that Winter has finally arrived in Westeros. And here’s what really hurts: there are only six episodes to come next year before the final battle.
HOT on TV: Marvel’s Defenders (Netflix)... Holliday Grainger, Strike... new Narcos (Netflix)... Educating Greater Manchester.
ROT on TV: Tim Vine Travels In Time – not far enough... Partners In Rhyme – Wonkey Donkey without the fun... Top Of The Lake – six hours wasted.
ON Victoria, the Queen apologised to Albert for being rude about his helmet. She meant his military design, of course. She can’t keep her hands off the other one... The ITV show is a strange hybrid of history and fiction. Vic was a plain Jane, not a great beauty.And as for her wanting to shag her priggish husband days after giving birth... What is she, Wonder Woman?
*KELLY Brook is to play a corpse on Midsomer Murders. In a related story the queue of men volunteering to play forensic examiners currently stretches from Angels Rise to Upper Warden.
*DO families really cook together like they do on The Big Family Cooking Showdown? I suspect Everybody Loves Raymond is more accurate. When Debra baked rolls, mum-in-law Marie told her: “I like them... the burnt parts give them some flavour.”
*NEARLY a third of us would have sex with a Westworld-style robot, says a survey. Not Gregg Wallace. He’d probably hold out for a sentient cake-vending machine.
SMALL joys of TV: The incredible moth man metamorphosis on The Mist. The parking dispute on Twin Peaks. Lucifer (Fox).Mountain: Life At The Extreme. Harold Lloyd clips (SkyArts). Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
RANDOM irritations: George Lamb lasting a pitiful 23hours on In Solitary. If they’d made it a room full of mirrors he’d still be in there. Alan Yentob sucking the joy out of everything he covers. Tej – TV’s dullest dragon.
SEPARATED at birth: Flo on Bake Off and Vera Duckworth star Liz Dawn? Runners-up: Bake Off’s Steven and Will Young.
TV Maths: Joan Jett + Mr. Punch = Noel Fielding.
*WALFORD mysteries: how did skint Mick afford that posh Klosters trip? Who in the Vic eats falafel & hummus or guacamole? And who makes it??
*STRIKE: The Cuckoo’s Calling had promise but was nobbled by plodding direction. The editing was poor too – in one scene a geezer loomed up behind our flea-bitten private eye and then just vanished into thin air. It was Sean Meo all over again.
TONI Minichiello was commentating on Holly Bradshaw’s pole vaulting technique on BBC1 when he said: “It was too soft. The harder she makes the pole the higher up it will go.” Works for me.