BUSHELL ON THE BOX
Jan 27. Tasters from the next batch of Ustreme shows: To paraphrase Lucy Frazer, the BBC are about as impartial as a tipsy Tiger Mum at school sports day. Culture secretary Frazer wants to make Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, responsible for checking complaints about the BBC's online content instead of letting them mark their own homework. Is she right? Yes and no. Yes, the Corporation's news sense sucks like a Venus flytrap. Like most broadcasters, they have been swallowed by a swirling vortex of banality, toxic group-think, and virtue signalling. Look how they ruined Question Of Sport. But is Lucy sure Ofcom would be any better? Ofcom is largely staffed by ex-BBC and media professionals who are just as likely to share the Corporation's muddled mindset. What Juicy Lucy needs is an independent ombudsman with a proven record of knowledge and sound judgement. I am available...
*I used to be on the BBC quite a lot but I got blacklisted for kick-starting a campaign to axe the licence fee in the late 90s. Which you could say is fair enough. But I still believe their strongest defence is to make shows millions enjoy, which of course they still manage to do occasionally. Traitors is a good example. It gets viewers invested in the contestants, it makes us feel superior to them, and it teaches us that the way to get on in life and make a shed-load of money is to stab people in the back... something you suspect is truer of real-life chief execs than anything we see on Dragon's Den. It's certainly true of that long-running soap WestEnders, also known as the Tory Party at war.
My all-time favourite BBC dramas include House Of Cards and Life On Mars, but I'd have to qualify the later ones. I loved the first Line Of Duty but it became more far-fetched than the Elgin marbles - and the H reveal was the biggest let-down since Rapunzel's hair. Happy Valley was terrific but the male characters were underwritten. SAS Rogue Heroes bizarrely made Paddy Mayne gay - he wasn't; and threw in a fictional female spy. Peaky Blinders started brilliantly but was sabotaged by bad research. They had Alfie Solomon talking about bayoneting Italians in World War I when Italy was on our side. The Selby mob took on the Ulster Volunteer Force in the late 1920s, except the UVF didn't exist as a criminal gang until 1966. And Sir Oswald Mosley was portrayed as an out and out Nazi at a time he was actually a Labour MP, suggesting that Tommy wasn't the only one hooked on opium... Loved the Selbys, especially Arthur, but that was just sloppy.
I did enjoy Luther but raised an eyebrow when he came out of a crime scene wearing a coat that had been soaked in petrol and lit up a fag. That was more of a fire risk than a walking tour of Iceland. Or getting on a London bus.
You know what winds me up? The Met office naming storms. A, because it's childish, b, because the names are so wishy washy. Storm Jocelyn? Leave it out. We've had storm Gladys, Dennis, Malcolm...Come on, if you must do it, scary storms need scary names. You wouldn't want to brave the wrath of Storm Fury, Storm Tyson or Storm Bastard would you? Or how-about Storm Chesney after Corrie's Chesney Brown, just to give you an idea how wet and windy it'll be.
They advised people to sleep away from windows. Were we supposed to build overnight bunkers? TV storm coverage frightens the life out of you and all that happens is your windows rattle. And you wake up to a free patio set. And if you're lucky a trampoline.
I also hate it when news channels send reporters to do outside broadcasts standing in storms. Why? Do they think we don't know what wind and rain looks like? Although in fairness, I was in Florida once and the fella reporting from St Pete beach got knocked off his feet by an eight-foot wave. The poor sap was wetter than Oliver Dowden. At least there was a point to that - £250 from You've Been Framed. They had floods too. One reporter got attacked by a shark. Not that unusual except he was in McDonalds at the time
Reacher is one of my recent addictions. In the books Jack Reacher is 6ft 5. In the films he was played by Tom Cruise, a bloke who's not tall enough to get on half the rides at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. In the new Amazon Prime series, he's played by Alan Ritchson, who's nearly 6 3 - a lot closer. And yes okay he's pumped up rather than just real-life tough, but Ritchson is imposing enough to pass as the real deal. Reacher, created by Lee Child, is a terrific character, a blues-loving ex-military cop turned lone wolf with a strong sense of right and wrong. For the poor and downtrodden he's an avenging angel, a modern-day Equalizer, for the twisted and evil he's a force of nature you wouldn't want to cross. Such a force of nature in fact it's only a matter of time till they name a storm after him. Take on Jack Reacher and you end up in a cell or in the ground. He doesn't care which. It reminds me of 70s and 80s shows. Enjoyable bloke-orientated action dramas. It isn't one of this uber-sophisticated shows with seven layers of meaning you'd need a degree in advanced meta-cobblers to follow (like say the second season of Westworld). It's well-plotted, well-directed and delivers satisfying endings like a Chinese massage parlour. It's a joy. And series two has been No1 on Amazon since it launched.
I'll tell you what else I can't stand - TV presenters who say 'Give it up for...' when they introduce someone. You're not American! Just give it up, you morons. Other annoying Americanisms: Gotten. Zed pronounced Zee. De-plane-ing for getting off an aeroplane. Can I get for could I have. And while we're on the subject, why call coffee regular when you mean medium-sized?
TV lust lists are the new in-thing. So here are five of my all-time TV pin-ups to give my age away: Elizabeth Montgomery on Bewitched. Emma Peel, The Avengers. Uhura on Star Trek. Jeri Ryan, Star Trek: TNG. Heather Locklear on TJ Hooker. As a teenager I always wanted to be in Pan's People. I didn't care which one.
My favourites of the new Gladiators are Fury and Sabre. I've love get them two in my bedroom... 've got a right heavy wardrobe needs moving.
More irritations: MPs on TV who are always gung-ho about sending British forces into other people's wars while successive UK governments starve the military of money. For all the tough talk, the British army is now the smallest it's been since Waterloo... We've had an allegedly Tory government since 2010 and in that time our standing army has shrunk from 113,000 to 70,000. Compare that to the 300,000 troops we had in the 1980s. The world is getting more and more dangerous, but there's no need for a citizens' army. Just invest properly in defence. Like Germany and Manchester City have.
The Top 5 weirdest TV shows ever: My Mother The Car. The Flying Nun. Flockstars. Naked Jungle. Man O Man. And a bonus one. Most Haunted: all these years and they've never once found a ghost. As my old sidekick Zoe Anderson said, They must be very good at hiding.
Things I've learned from TV... The houses of parliament are infested with rodents. And as well as the politicians they've got rats there too. They must have heard about the subsidised canteen.
You know what else gets me going? Streaming companies who make their shows harder to find than a leprechaun's pot of gold. Trying to navigate ITVX is like watching the Spinal Tap band trying to find their way to the stage in Ohio or a drunk trying to walk up the down escalator. And Channel 4 isn't much better.
Mysteries. Would a Pretenders tribute group call themselves the real Pretenders? If Crufts went skint, would they call in the retrievers? And If Cressida Dick married Anthony Head would their double-barrelled surname sum them both up?
Bushell on the Box is back – on Ustreme TV. Every Saturday I’ll post a transcript of one of the three episodes I record each week.
Jan 20 2024. Here’s a taste of show four: Oi Oi! Good evening culture lovers and welcome to Bushell on the Box, the show that does for bad TV what Ricky Hatton should have done a bit harder to Stephen Mulhearn on Dancing On Ice. I have it on good authority that ITV are now changing the title of Steven’s other show from In For A Penny to In For A Pounding.
The big news at the weekend was Gladiators was back on Saturday nights, and delivering 6.5million viewers for BBC1. A long way short of its 90s peak but still enough to batter ITV these days. Barney Walsh is a poor replacement for Ulrika Jonsson, but Brad brings giggles to the John Fashanu role. Smartly, the Beeb have left the format pretty much intact. Yes the mics were playing up at the start, but the challenges they’ve added are very much in the spirit of the old ITV show. It has the same magic mix of adrenalin, gymnastics, athletics, pugil stick combat and old-school wrestling, with plucky contenders to cheer on and bad guys to boo and hiss – the Wolf equivalent is a scowling Japanese bloke called Viper. Smirking bighead Legend is more full of himself than a self-catering cannibal. It’s panto plus pumped-up weightlifting gym bunnies transformed into larger-than-life lycra-clad comic book characters. Followed by the relentlessly cheerful Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, Gladiators felt like the old days of proper Saturday night entertainment was staging a late revival. About time too. But where are today’s Morecambe & Wise?
*Remember the old Gladiators referee John Anderson. “Contenders... ready? Gladiators... ready? Three, two, one ... ” These are also the words Ulrika Jonsson whispered in her lovers’ ears on date nights... allegedly.
*JET was always my favourite Gladiator. Every time I saw Jet I thought I’d love to see her taking off... what an undercarriage! I had to lift her up for a photo shoot once. All I’m saying is it was worth the hernia. And the bumpy landing.
In my opinion these were the Top 5 Greatest Saturday night shows of the 80s and 90s: Noel’s House Party. Beadle’s About. Blind Date. You’ve Been Framed. The Generation Game – with Brucie, and with Jim Davidson, but not Mel & Sue. Their version stank like a Glastonbury portaloo. There was also Big Break of course. And Bullseye with Jim Bowen, that was mostly on a Sunday but came to Saturdays in the 90s. They should bring that back with Peter Kay. Imagine the prizes. In one, garlic bread. In two, Brian Potter’s wheelchair... and imagine the star prize: A conservatory to go on the back of Peter’s mum’s new bungalow.
You know what winds me up? Round-dodgers in pubs, queue jumpers in general, spellcheck – it can’t bloody spell, unreadable text messages in TV dramas – show us the message on screen in subtitles you berks, and scenes where characters in TV soaps pretend to drink tea or coffee from cups that are clearly empty. Do they think we’re all idiots? It’s farcical.
Almost as bad as the round-dodger is the pub cheapskate. I don’t watch Corrie anymore because it got too ridiculous but the worst offender used to be Ken Barlow. Whenever someone bought Ken a drink in the Rovers, he’d have a pint of bitter. But when he bought himself a drink it was always half-a-pint. Tighter than a nun’s chuff, that bloke. I bet when his kids were young, he told them the gas meter was a moneybox. If he died holding a 50p piece you’d need a ring spanner to get it out of his hand.
You may feel we have too many police procedures, but they are out-numbered by TV’s over-reliance on quizzes, the majority of them half-baked. Most are either too slow (Tipping Point), too long (Family Fortunes, now double its original length) or too dumbed down like the “celebrity” editions of Mastermind where someone you’ve never heard of chalks up two points on their specialist subject...and the specialist subject is what I had for breakfast, Catchphrases ran out of catchphrase years ago. Pointless is more padded than a drag queen’s bra and University Challenge is over-stuffed with obscure questions about theoretical maths and fringe music that fall well beyond general knowledge. Enough!
One of the small joys of quiz shows are the idiotic answers. This week on The Chase when Brad asked in the bible who was the mother of Cain, Mark from Glasgow replied Sarah. It was of course Eve. Sarah in the bible was married to Abraham and gave birth to Isaac when she was 90! Her waters didn’t break but her dust did. That’s an EastEnders storyline waiting to happen! Where’s Dot Cotton when you need her? Kath of Kath’s caff can’t be far off. I’d hate to see the portrait in her attic.
I get fed up with quiz shows. They are wall to wall some evenings. The other day I went round my local to escape them and what did they have on? A poxy quiz night.
New TV rule: Any TV show with Celebrity in the title must remember to book someone we’ve heard of. I was watching Celebrity Mastermind and the only person I recognised was in the second row of the audience.
I’ve learned a lot about science from television, mostly from watching The Big Bang Theory. But did you know that according to string theory there are an infinite number of parallel worlds where anything is possible? So, on some alternative earth, Vladimir Putin is the breakout star of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Adam Hills is as funny as he thinks he is, and, most remarkably of all, I am getting married to Denise van Outen tomorrow. I won’t survive the honeymoon, but what a way to go.
String theory means on another earth EastEnders is actually true to life. Hard to believe innit. Nothing shows up the distance between real Cockneys and the soap’s writers more than St George’s Day. The Queen Vic has had special nights to celebrate everything from Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, to US Independence Day. Before the Brexit vote the pub devoted a whole week to an EU-themed supper club... The only time they ever had a St George’s Day party planned. It was an Alfie Moon scam...
Dancing On Ice is back and only Ricky Hatton makes it even mildly interesting. As skating goes, The Hitman does well to stay upright. The show itself has been dancing on thin ice for year. It was cancelled once and disappointingly revived. The only way to make it interesting is to put four Broughton space heaters under the ice, turn them on and unleash the piranhas. Stephen Mulhearn is the wrong choice to co-host.
Have you noticed that everyone who the BBC don’t like gets labelled “far-right”. Even when they’re not? Far-right conjures up images of Mosley’s blackshirts on the march and the BNP. But on BBC News we hear far-right applied to everyone from anti-ULEZ protestors to the good people who turned up to protect the cenotaph from being desecrated last year, including the sainted Allison Pearson. clearly not swivel-eyed fascists. Similarly, the BBC branded protesting Canadian lorry-drivers and now German farmers far-right. Anyone who wants to lower taxes or who supports free speech is, you guessed it... far right. It’s a lazy smear, a device used to close down debate. The political establishment do it too. If you think this you must be that. What they mean is these people don’t think like us, they don’t live in our very narrow little Hampstead bubble.
Here are my TOP 5 comedians we’ve seen enough of on TV: Rosie Jones. Nish Kumar. Eddie Izzard. Paddy McGuinness. Josh Widdecombe. If he’d done his marmalade routine at the Glasgow Empire he would not have got out alive.
A few people asked who my favourite separated at birth lookalikes are. I’ve had hundreds over the years, but my all-time favourite is still Rishi Sunak and Roland Rat. Identical. He also looks like the adult schoolboy from The Umbrella Academy.
You also asked for the best-ever Garry’s goof. It always used to be Ulrika Jonsson, then a weathergirl on TVam talking about snowfall, and saying I had a good eight inches last night. But she was surpassed when weightlifting commentator Pat Glenn told viewers: “This is Greg-or-i-ava from Bulgaria, I saw her snatch this morning and it was amazing.”
I made the mistake of telling my wife that Ulrika was in my fantasies. Am I in them too, she asked. Of course, I replied, you bring us a sandwich afterwards. You know what? It’s bloody cold in this dog-house
That was today’s show. Catch the next one, only on Ustreme for my thoughts on True Detective’s return to form. More rants, more goofs, more lists. And maybe a guest!
Jan 19. The Port Talbot steel plant has been sacrificed on the altar of net zero, with thousands of jobs to be lost, devastating the south Wales town. This human tragedy is built on very slippery logic because it’s nothing to do with green policies. We still need high quality steel for building and of course for weapons. So we’ll have to import it – thereby exporting the carbon footprint to Asia, and increasing it when you factor in transportation. If we had a government, or indeed any politicians who put Britain first, they would stop this insanity. Sadly we don’t. Sunak’s fake-Tories are useless and Starmer’s fake-Labour couldn’t be further adrift from working class values. See Drakeford’s appalling record in Wales and Khan’s war on tradesmen and small businesses. Our political class – the boys in the bubble – and the clowns in the blob, are intent on national suicide. It’s time for a small-c conservative revolution. Reclaim, reform, reunite.
Jan 13. Bushell on the Box is back – on Ustreme TV. The first three episodes were recorded today. Here are some selected highlights. Show one: Good evening culture lovers & welcome to the first of a brand-new series of Bushell On The Box here on Ustreme. As some of you may know I stopped writing my newspaper column after nearly 37 years just last week. It was gone. Finito! I blew it out like an Alaska Airplane window. I was semi-retiring. Apart from football and Seinfeld repeats and the odd episode of Columbo, I was going to stop watching telly and use all that free time to go to gigs and finish writing my latest Harry Tyler novel. And them the phone rang. It was Victoria Nash from Ustreme, who is like a Panzer tank in tights, and who told me sternly “Garry Bushell you can’t stop. Jim needs you on the front line of the culture war.” Well you can’t argue with Nashy so here I am. Although I don’t think we’re on the front line. I think we’re more like Rourke’s Drift or the Alamo, trying to hold the line against the vast forces of corporate group think, muddle-headed bureaucracy and weaponised self-loathing all around us. It’s David vs Goliath. The enemy have too much power and not nearly enough love for the tastes of their viewers. But great TV and popular comedy are causes worth fighting for. So I’m back, and I’m angry, and I won’t be pulling a single punch. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...
We live in strange TV times. We’ve got singers who can’t sing, actors who can’t act. And comedians who aren’t remotely funny... we’ll get to that soon enough. Our TV schedules are full of quizzes that are largely so-so, copycat cooking shows, fake reality formats, and soap operas so over-abundant, melodramatic and misery addicted that they’re about as true to real life as Stranger Things, which is far more entertaining. But every now and then a show comes along that reminds us just how much television can still matter... Mr Bates Vs The Post Office was the first great drama of 2024. The ITV four-parter, written by Gwyneth Hughes, blew the lid off the long-running Post Office scandal. In a true story worthy of Kafka, 736 British postmasters were prosecuted for crimes they did not commit because of defective Horizon accounting software. Lives were ruined and, in some cases, shortened as senior Post Office staff covered up for their bug-ridden system sending investigators likened to the Gestapo to persecute these good hardworking people. Millions of viewers were rightly outraged and the government was galvanised into action. You might ask why it took a TV series to make politicians tackle this shocking miscarriage of justice. It’s a good question. I’m no fan of Ian Hislop, a rather pompous and self-amusing chap, but in fairness his fortnightly Private Eye have been reporting on the scandal for years. I think it shows the power TV has, power to expose misjustice to millions, power to get us all talking and indeed to speak truth to power. I don’t think there has been a television drama this effective in making an impact since Jeremy Sandford’s Cathy Come Home in 1966. Maybe time to revive The Wednesday Play...
I’ll tell you what winds me up: mumbling actors, lazy swearing, bad lighting on dramas, the over-whelming din of pumped up background music, constant recaps of things we’ve just seen, rolling news with nothing to say... and don’t get me started on that grandstanding buffoon Sadiq Khan, a bloke who is more up himself than a well-greased contortionist. Did you see the fireworks on Old Year’s Night? For the first time ever, it kicked off with “The Mayor Of London presents”. Bigging himself up at our expense. Pillock. It cost more than £4million quid but was badly organised for the frustrated ticket-buying crowd, and oddly for this virtue signalling berk we’ve yet to see figures for the night’s carbon footprint. What the Mayor of London really stands for is a sustained war on small businesses and working-class tradesmen in the outer suburbs, that and the horrendous rise in knife crime that has happened on his watch. The mayor of London presents: bankrupted plumbers and blood on the street.
The great goofs start here. Dear old Prue Leith on The Great British Bake Off was talking about a piping bag when she said: “Quite often I need two holes so that I can squirt... when you meet that little bit of resistance that means it’s full.”
I was going to give up drinking this month but then I looked out the window and thought, well if nature isn’t doing dry January why should I? With rain pouring down, rivers bursting their banks and half the country twinned with Atlantis, ITV couldn’t have picked a better time to screen After The Flood. They could have picked a better script though. It started well but the rookie detective on the first day of her training course would secretly download evidence and break the law of it was hard to swallow, as were her fella and his OTT family. In two words: a wash-out.
Are you watching The Traitors? I can’t be arsed with the challenges but I love the bit where they all sit around that round table and absolutely convince themselves that they know who’s a traitor and who isn’t with absolutely no evidence whatsoever. And we let people like this sit on juries! I’ve seen four people go so far this series, and only one of them was a traitor and she only got caught out because two other traitors turned on her.
A woman in the butcher’s asked me whether they might do a political version of The Traitors. There already is. It’s called Today In Parliament. All that backstabbing and bluffing. It’s second nature for our clapped-out political parties feathering their nests as the country goes down the gurgler.
I’ve been watching TV as a job for over half my life. Money for old rope, you think? Maybe – if you only watched the good stuff. But for every Minder there was a Minipops, and for every Cheers a Kate O’Mara’s Triangle (not as promising as it sounded). 80s TV was another world. Who could forget Del-Boy Trotter, JR Ewing and Daisy Duke’s shorts? British TV punched above our weight. The Yanks had The A-Team, but we had Auf Weidersehen, Pet. They had Dynasty, we had Arthur Daley. Even EastEnders felt authentic back then. And no US late night host got close to Spitting Image’s savage wit – 80s satire had proper teeth. Where are the laughs now? On Ustreme of course. Keep watching, next episode I’m talking TV comedy with my guest Victoria Nash... Cheers
Jan 7. THIS is my last column for this fine, upstanding organ. I’m really sorry to go. The boss said he wanted me to have a happy ending, so while I’m waiting for the masseuse to turn up, here are some cherished memories and farewell thoughts...
BLINDFOLDED and strapped to a wall, I strained against my shackles until... POP! A knife burst a balloon by my left ear, and then another exploded to my right. Gulp. The late great Freddie Starr was using me for target practice and the one balloon left was between my legs. It was traumatising. I lost half an inch of hair, three suit buttons and without going into too much detail, I’m now circumcised. Just one bizarre by-product of being a TV critic for 37years. I was also gunged 15 times by Noel Edmonds (who kindly Gotcha’d and NTV’d me too), thrown out of a Hercules at 12,000ft by ITV, and hypnotised into chatting up a broom by Paul McKenna live on Children In Need. The next morning a friend left a hairbrush on my front door claiming it was the lovechild.
In 1996, Bushell On The Box became an ITV show. For fifty episodes, my home in Eltham, south London, was flooded with Gladiators, comedians, soap stars, actors, bands, Page 3 girls, Melvyn Bragg and Lenny McLean. Even fearless campaigning reporter Roger Cook rocked up at my door investigating alleged crimes – purely for laughs. What hurt most though was going two rounds with world welterweight champ Lloyd Honeyghan courtesy of the Eurythmics in December 1986. I had Lloyd worried though, he thought he’d killed me.
*ONE reader in the noughties wrote asking me if I’d sleep with his wife. I was outraged. What kind of person did he take me for? He didn’t even send a picture...
IN my 37 years as a TV critic only two people ever tried to sue me. Both were DeadEnders stars. Tsk. All I did was ask readers to decide who had more personality, the actor in question or a plank of wood. Albert Square felt authentic when it started but went downhill like a run-away toboggan. There isn’t space to list everything it gets wrong – so I wrote a book about it, 1001 Reasons Why EastEnders Is Pony. No wonder the cast pinned my photo to their green room dartboard... In fairness it’s produced classic characters: Frank Butcher, Kat Slater, the Mitchells. But they’ve now got more living dead than True Blood. The Beeb won’t save it by letting writers load the scripts with their own achingly trendy Guardianista views. Phil Mitchell backing down from the resident drag queen? Gertcha.
*THIS job can be genuinely risky. The CID gave me 48hour protection after serious death threats from book-burning fanatics in 1988. And then my effigy was burned in Covent Garden. But that’s mothers-in-laws for you.
Greatest Garry’s Goof. For years it was Ulrika Jonsson, then an ITV weathergirl, saying of snowfall: “I had a good eight inches last night.” But she was surpassed when weightlifting commentator Pat Glenn told viewers: “This is Gregoriava from Bulgaria, I saw her snatch this morning and it was amazing.”
Top lookalike. We’ve had hundreds, but my all-time favourite is still Noel Gallagher and Parker from Thunderbirds. Were they separated at birth? Yus me lady.
Best Subtitle Boobs: Princess Eugenie’s wedding commentary: What a beautiful breasts (dress)... absolutely fitting her. Racing commentator: The horse has gonorrhoea (gone to the rear – the jockey didn’t look too hot either).
I’VE loved TV all my life. At its best, it unites, excites and delights us. It takes chances and creates characters we either love and relate to, or love to hate. My earliest telly memories, apart from Twizzle and Torchy the Battery Boy, were of the neighbours crowding round my nan’s old box TV set to watch Quatermass, and the 1966 world cup final all in black and white. I saw the first ever Doctor Who in November 63, and still remember laughing at The Telegoons, Charlie Drake in The Worker and Harry Worth. I lived through the first golden age as a viewer – the brilliant sitcoms of the 60s and 70s, the ITC action shows (The Avengers, The Prisoner), the gritty and brilliant Euston Films series etc. But was a professional review for the second golden age, ushered in by The Sopranos. For a while, the small screen was more interesting and daring than the movies. The HBO series, starring James Gandolfini as complex New Jersey mob boss, Tony Soprano, set a high bar for drama that has yet to be beaten. In its wake we got cracking US shows – The Shield, The Wire, Ozark – and thrilling fantasy and superhero sagas like Game Of Thrones and The Boys. Here, Life On Mars and Line Of Duty reigned, followed by early Peaky Blinders, Black Mirror, Top Boy, The Last Kingdom, Happy Valley and Luther. We still punch above our weight. If the BBC could rein in its writers’ tiresome self-loathing we might even out-do the Yanks.
WHY TV bosses get it wrong:
*They neglect their audiences in pursuit of an imaginary audience who aren’t remotely interested in them.
*Wrongly believing only young people matter, they replace old pros with trendy plums and viewing figures plummet.
*To get anything commissioned by the BBC, pitches must survive focus groups, various over-paid execs, and meet potty PC requirements. Fools & Horses would not be commissioned now.
*Their devotion to “woke” hokum stifles creativity and makes a joke of TV shows and adverts alike. If you believe the ads, a straight white couple can’t even buy a three-piece-suite or a Lotto ticket these days.
I STILL fondly remember Elsie Tanner and Ena Sharples having a blazing row on the Corrie cobbles in 1965. It was almost as scary as the first Doctor Who. Things change of course, but the journey from Eric & Ernie to Paddy McGuinness, Peter Cook to Nish Kumar, light entertainment to pro-celebrity sewing, and Victoria Wood to Rosie Jones has all been in one direction and it hasn’t been up. We have too much “reality” TV and nudity, too many “celebs” we haven’t heard of, too much preaching, too many female corpses on mortuary slabs and nowhere near enough laughter.
Funniest show this century: Harry Hill’s TV Burp. Followed by Curb Your Enthusiasm and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Best Non-US sitcoms this century: The Office, Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, The League of Gentlemen, Peep Show, Gavin & Stacey, Call My Agent, Derry Girls.
Comedy Joys: The Mighty Boosh. BoJack Horseman. Catastrophe. Chewing Gum. Still Game. Inside Number 9.
*WE’VE had terrific dramas this week: Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, The Tourist, Truelove... So that’s suicide, loss, violent kidnap, terminal illness, assisted dying... Happy New Year? Pass the razorblades.
What the stars called Bushell:
Roy Hudd: “The Max Miller of the press.”
Bob Monkhouse: “A terrific writer, the sharpest TV critic in Britain.”
Barbara Windsor: “Simply the best.”
Bradley Walsh: “His writing isn’t suitable for vegans, it’s too beefy.”
Jonathan Ross: “The man who puts the GB into GBH.”
Elvis Costello: “You used to be a great writer, what happened to you?”
HOW I’d reboot British TV:
*Put someone working class in charge of comedy commissions.
*Scrap box-ticking and build mainstream sitcoms as a matter of urgency.
*Scrap the licence fee. It featherbeds failure.
*Create comedy vehicles for proper comics and revive sketch shows.
*Cut soaps back to two episodes a week, ration shock and violence, build believable characters and ladle in earthy humour.
*Invest in talent not reality nitwits, we need entertainers.
*Take talent shows away from Simon Cowell.
*Give us more male-orientated drama, and less middle-class melodrama and true-crime.
*Any show with the word ‘celebrity’ in the title should try booking some.
TV’s All-time Stinkers. Naked Jungle. Naked Education. Don’t Scare The Hare. Flock Stars. Beat The Crusher. Sing If You Can. Len Goodman’s Partners In Rhyme.
*THIS is my 869th column for the Daily Star Sunday, and the 1697th since Bushell On The Box began in 1987. As well as the ITV series, the column has spawned a boardgame, a DVD, two books, and weekly segments on C4’s The Big Breakfast, Nuts TV, and Virgin radio. It was spoofed by Viz as Bluto On The Box. I’ve been with the Star for 16years. The small team who put this paper together are among the most genuine, hard-grafting people I’ve ever known. I’d like to thank all of them, and also all of you, the readers – especially those who sent emails and goofs. Even the insults had a certain zing. Cheerio.
*WATCH my Twitter feed to see where Bushell On The Box is going next. It’s not a newspaper.