BUSHELL ON THE BOX
*This is an edited version of my TV column. The real thing, plus contests, goofs, lookalike pictures and more, can be found each Sunday only in the Daily Star Sunday.
Sept 13. RAY Winstone’s Sicily is a geezer’s guide to the idyllic Italian island. Sicily gave the world the Mafia but even the Mob’s greatest prophet, Cosa Nostradamus, didn’t foresee Ray turning up and making them offers they can’t understand. The Cockney film star’s version of the story of Odysseus made Danny Dyer sound posh. Apparently the legendary hero of Greek myth and “’is firm” went “to a little party in Troy, ’ad a tear-up”, and then got banged up by “a geezer with one mince in the middle of ’is ’ead.” Or a Cyclops as stuffier folk call him. (Actually Ody was Ulysses to the Italians, but I’m splitting hairs.)
Blaze helpfully translated Ray’s choicer lingo for non-Cockneys. Subtitles explained that “mince” is eye, a “bag of sand” is £1grand and “half a fanny” is a white lie, rather than say, a mid-op transsexual. The biggest drama was his pal Bruno Zoccola getting ripped off in a market in Palermo – “’e’s turned me over, ’e’s done me, £50 for a bit of fruit”. Peanuts compared to Ray conning Blaze into forking out for this tasty holiday with his mates – ex-market trader Bruno, “Joe the Tagg” and Matt Lorenzo, “the posh geezer” from TV sport. They fell akip at the ballet – “an education” said Ray (the lesson being: always swerve the ballet), swigged olive oil from wine glasses. And bought butcher’s knives – missing the chance for Ray to resurrect his immortal Scum catchphrase, “where’s yer tool?” They even met brave locals who had fought back against the Mob’s protection racket. I’m sticking with it for the scenery, the customs, and the language. It makes a nice change to hear real London accents on the Ned Kelly.
*TOP TV shows in Sicily (probably). 1) Blue Pizza 2) The Weakest Linguine 3) Keeping Up with the Cadaresians 4) Men Behaving Normally...
SUE Perkins had one great line on Along The Mexican-US Border. Tasting a salty “Kama Sutra sexy cream” cocktail in Tijuana, lesbian Sue quipped: “That’s a taste from long, long ago.” Come again? Fair play, she didn’t spit it out either. It was harder to swallow her bleeding heart speeches. Sue recognised genuine US concerns about illegal migrants and crime; if not the ruinous effect they have on working class wages. But she didn’t tell us that Bill Clinton and Obama both voted for Bush’s 2006 Secure Fence Act. Trump’s Wall actually started under Bill. Although the Chinese got their first, of course. These days, China’s Xi Jinping can’t see a border without wanting to breach it. Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan... But Trump is forever the BBC’s bad guy. Meanwhile moving stories about the borders in Iraq, Pakistan, Russia and North Korea remain untold.
HO! EastEnders is back! A shame, I was enjoying the peace and quiet. “Fresh start, clean slate,” promised Ian Beale, but it was pretty much the same old cobblers. Ex-robber Callum is now a cop, already covering up for his criminal boyfriend – “giving new meaning to bent Old Bill”, as some shocking reactionary would no doubt joke in the real East End. Ian has a Black Lives Matter mural on the side of his house, as so many Cockneys do. He’s bought the Vic and installed Sharon as the cuddly landlady (Shazza greeted Potty Dotty with a cheery broken bottle). In other uplifting plots, Ruby got involved in a half-baked insurance scam, and sexy Chantelle was subjected to bathwater torture by husband Gray (50 shades of git). It’s no spoiler to say she won’t last the month. As Mona Lott nearly said, it’s being so cheerful as keeps them going.
HOT on TV: Tricia Helfer, Battlestar Gallactica... Abbey Lee, Lovecraft Country... Generation Kill (SkyAt).
ROT on TV: Strike: Lethal White – strong character, lousy plot... Micky Flanagan’s Detour de France – encore de merde.
BILLIE Piper pleasured herself for seven minutes on I Hate Suzie, thinking of various lovers. Strumming away like a ukulele band, she was. It’s tough for a bloke to do that. You think of Billie, and inevitably Bingo springs to mind, followed moments later by fellow Banana Split, Drooper...
*IF I want endless minutes of relentless self-abuse on TV I’ll watch Terry Christian on Question Time.
*FOUR people take part in Frankie Boyle’s New World Order – half the number it takes to write it and double the number who ever wanted Tramadol Nights back. The Beeb describe Boyle’s feeble mix of shock and insults as “satire”. It’s more like seeing an overweight monkey throwing its own poop at the watching crowd.
*THE scariest image on Lovecraft Country? Letitia’s lurid nightmare where Tic’s manhood turned out to be a living cobra. A literal trouser snake, with fangs... for the mammaries.
*THE BGT virtual audience aren’t allowed to drink while watching the live show. A shame. It helps.
SMALL Joys of TV: Steve Royle on last weekend’s BGT. American Pickers (Dave). Spooks re-running on Drama. Clarkson on Millionaire. Louis Theroux’s self-styled “alien conduit” Reverend Robert Short.
RANDOM Irritations: The endless glut of cooking shows – how many do we need? Cliché-ridden celebrity travel shows, where’s our Whicker or Clive James? Politics on BGT. Still no subtitles on Blaze shows.
TV questions: if you crossed Mindful Escapes with UFC fighters, would you get mindful violence? If Mount Etna erupts in Sicily, will Ray Winstone be petrified? Why does Strike limp with his prosthetic leg? He’d never make the Paralympics.
TV Maths: Me & My Penis + 100 Vaginas = Call The Midwife.
Sept 11. R.I.P. Dame Diana Rigg the classical actress who found fame as TV secret agent Emma Peel, the cat-suited action woman/dominatrix who bewitched the nation on The Avengers. Peel embodied Girl Power decades before it became a pop marketing slogan. Best known to younger viewers for her role as Lady Olenna Tyrell on Game Of Thrones, Diana (real Christian name Enid) was never happier than when she was on the stage. Born in Doncaster in 1938, she was two months old when the family moved to Northwest India for her father’s job as a railway engineer and grew up speaking Hindi as a second language. Back in England, she spent her formative years in West Yorkshire, later saying: “Yorkshire formed my character. I get straight to the point and say what I feel. I can’t help it, it’s genetic.” And we loved her for it. But not quite as much as I loved Emma Peel for reasons I wasn’t fully aware of at the time. One of the most iconic and enduring 60s TV images.
PS. In France, The Avengers was called Bowler Hat & Leather Boots. The Austrians knew it as With Brolly, Charm and a Bowler Hat while the Japanese called it Fashionable Secret Detective. Most Spanish speaking countries simply translated the title into their language, but in Finland, it was marketed as the rather duller sounding Gentleman Agent.
Sept 6. TV LIST shows exist purely to wind us up – as Britain’s Favourite Detective proved. There can’t be any other reason for them. On Sunday, ITV blanked some of the small screen’s finest dicks – D.I. Jack Regan, Lieutenant Theo Kojak, The Shield’s Vic Mackey – to concoct this monstrous miscarriage of justice. The result was as frustrating as every third episode of BBC1’s Sherlock. Superb telly tecs like Andy Sipowicz (NYPD Blue), Law & Order’s Robert Goren, CSI’s Gilbert “Gil” Grissom, Monk and Harry Bosch weren’t even in the running. Cagney & Lacey got through as “women who happened to be detectives”, but not Starsky & Hutch. And were Scott & Bailey really more impressive than Frank Pembleton from Homicide: Life On The Streets, arguably TV’s greatest black detective? Wouldn’t ITV viewers think more of Gene Hunt, or Bradley Walsh’s unmentioned Ronnie Brooks?
You don’t need Miss Marple to work out that producers rig shows like this, deciding who we can vote for. The only surprise was they didn’t fix it for Marcella to scrape in. They did manage to book a narrator who couldn’t pronounce names properly, though. Poirot was “Parro” and Suchet “Shoe-Shey” according to Sheridan Smith (Sherry-down Sink?). Sherlock walked it, natch. Even though the scripts are fool’s gold. They jerk about like a dropped high-pressure hose, splattering in all directions but rarely making sense. The writers would rather show off how smart they are than tell us a decent story. Which is why, as ideal Holmes go, Cumberbatch isn’t a patch on Jeremy Brett. My favourite TV sleuth was Columbo whose scruffy appearance concealed an Einstein-sized brain. When he shuffled back in that rotten crumpled raincoat to innocently ask the killer, “Just one more thing... ” you knew the jig was up. But the greatest thief-taker of them all was Jack Regan. All together: “Get yer trousers on – you’re nicked!”
ALL Creatures Grunt & Smell, sorry Great & Small, is the antidote to modern day gloom. Set in 1930s Yorkshire, it’s the nostalgia-packed tale of young Glasgow vet James Herriot who’s never happier than when his arm is stuck up a cow’s cervix. Herriot faced a kicking horse, a fearsome bull, a Heather Trott-sized hangover and a boss about as happy as Victor Meldrew with a cap full of wasps – Samuel West on top form as Siegfried Farnon. But what amazed me most were his incredible self-cleaning trousers. Not a scrap of mud stuck to them. If only he’d had Dragon’s Den to pitch them on back then.
CORMORAN Strike could do with a Holliday... in particular, Robin star Holliday Grainger. The two detectives are so gormlessly besotted with each other on Strike: Lethal White that their unresolved sexual tension pushed the under-nourished plot to the margins. Even though she’s married (to a git) and he’s bedding lovely Lorelei. Tom Burke’s one-legged private eye was hired by an insufferably arrogant Tory Minister (well it is the BBC) – a blackmail victim who was quickly topped. Possible killer: anyone he’d ever met. A child was murdered years before (in the eye of the Uffington White Horse hill figure) but our love-struck duo found her body in moments after Robin took a tumble. Ho hum. Strike deserves smarter stories. It’s cliché city here, with cardboard-thin supporting characters.
*IF Cormoran Strike can’t afford a new coat, how the hell can he afford to rent an office in Denmark Street? If you were Strike wouldn’t you want to bang up the bugger who lumbered you with that rotten first name?
HOT on TV: Rachel Shenton, All Creatures Great & Small... Sofia Helin, The Bridge (BBC4)... The Boys (AmPrime)... Young Wallander (Netflix).
ROT on TV: Frankie Boyle’s New World Order – one Boyle even Dr Pimple Popper couldn’t burst... Little Birds – never took off... Me & My Penis – a load of old cock.
WHY put so many rubbish acts through to the BGT live finals? Dancing turtles, Bhim Niroula, Dario the Dinosaur... is Cowell trying to save variety or bury it? Great turns like Steve Royle and Hakan Berg should get their own ITV specials whether they win or not.
DID you clock Tarby’s hilarious Carnaby Street clobber on that rare full-colour episode of The New London Palladium Show (TPTV)? The designs were so loud you needed earplugs to look at them. No wonder Roy Orbison wore shades.
*MODERN oxymorons: BBC comedy. Factual programming. Reality TV.
*WITH guns blazing and a house blown up by a rocket launcher, Little Birds ended with a spectacular bang... unlike poor Lucy’s wedding night.
*C4 showed male erections on My Penis & Me. Must have been a pop-up studio.
*MY Penis & Me. Not to be confused with Your Penis & Me – the Roxy Mitchell Story.
SMALL Joys of TV: Harry Hill’s Casualty poem. The Who Live At Kilburn 1977 (SkyArts). Battlestar Gallatica (BBC2). Gold’s Fast Show celebration. Claude & The Boppers with their filthy Ice Cream Shop song on A Black Lady Sketch Show (SkyAt).
RANDOM Irritations: TV’s war on older sports commentators. It’s unadulterated ageism. The virus of ghoulish “medical” shows, full of unsightly corns (My Feet Are Killing Me) or facial cysts and boils (Dr Pimple Popper)
SEPARATED at birth (golden oldie): Billie Piper and Bingo. One a much-loved TV favourite with a huge following... the other wasn’t even in The Banana Splits.
*WAS Harry Hill’s Casualty poem a case of Tennyson elbow?