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.
April 5. IF you need a jaw-dropping freak show to get through another week of captivity, get your claws into Tiger King. To quote one much-loved expert, it’s grrreatttt! The Netflix documentary series centres on Joe Exotic – a real-life oddball from Oklahoma with a mullet, two husbands and more big cats than Longleat. The larger-than-life hillbilly is at war with animal activist Carole Baskin, owner of the grotty Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa, over his roadside zoo. Their feud, with side-helpings of greed, envy and threats, underpin the wildly watchable show.
Carole campaigned to persuade shopping malls to cancel Joe’s tiger-petting events. She seems reasonable except she’s alleged to have fed her second husband, Florida millionaire Don Lewis, to her tigers. Other bizarre characters in this stranger-than-fiction saga include Kevin ‘Doc’ Antle, who has a harem of devoted female interns and an “institute” devoted to rare big cats in South Carolina. Both he and Joe seem to have a cult-like hold over their staff who work long hours for little money. Missing limbs abound. When a tiger mauled Kelci’s left hand she chose to have it amputated so she could get straight back to the zoo rather than wait months for surgery. Their work really can cost an arm and a leg.
Would-be country singer Joe, born Joseph Schreibrogel, is a charismatic lunatic currently serving a 22years in a Texas penitentiary after being convicted of trying to hire an undercover Fed to assassinate Carole. He was also found guilty of violating the Endangered Species Act. Ironically he’s ended up in a cage himself. Meanwhile Joe’s heavily-inked ex-husband John Finlay has had his teeth fixed and gone straight. His second husband shot himself and Don Lewis is still missing.
I DON’T want to spread alarm, but can we be sure Chris Whitty is entirely human? The Chief Medical Officer barely blinks in his 20second Coronavirus address. It’s freakish. I’m not saying Whitty’s an android or a lizard; that would be daft. But the possibility of alien infiltration can’t be dismissed lightly.
THE first series of Save Me was superb... right up until the wash-out ending. But never mind. Save Me Too shows every sign of being equally unmissable. Lennie James conceived and co-writes the gritty saga and is utterly believable as feckless rough diamond Nelson “Nelly” Rowe hunting for his estranged teenage daughter Jody. He’s sworn he’ll wear that rotten yellow puffa jacket until he rescues her from organised paedophiles. The characters and setting feel real in a way most dramas (and certainly most soaps) don’t. Lesley Manville has joined as Jennifer, wife of Gideon Charles, the sick “auctioneer” who runs the sex-trafficking ring. Or ran it. Charles didn’t last the episode, and Nelly was seen wiping the blood from his knuckles after he found him. Next?
LAST week, DC’s comic book heroes from parallel earths teamed up to stop an anti-matter wave from destroying the “Arrowverse”. Or something. More interesting was the revelation that Superman and Lois Lane have a kid. How is that possible? Surely no normal woman could bed Krypton’s finest. The guy has super-speed, think of the friction burns. And what if he got carried away? If he blew in her ear in a moment of passion her head could end up in the Sea of Tranquillity.
*TV’s Top 3 superhero sagas: 1) Daredevil 2) The Punisher 3) The Boys.
HOT on TV: Tiger King, Netflix... Lennie James, Save Me Too (SkyAt)... Tom Bell, Out (TPTV).
ROT on TV: Ruby Rose, Batwoman – out-acted by her utility belt... The Steph Show – it stiffed... Meghan Markle: Escaping The Crown – Vice TV evading the truth.
*NAUGHTY “Mrs Oliver” is over the side with randy love rat John Bellasis on Belgravia. She claimed she was going to Isleworth to buy an apple orchard – he savoured the Pink Lady, she clearly loves the Cox. Bellasis is such a player he’ll be after the blonde in the Thomas Sanderson sponsorship clip next.
*IT was Denny’s funeral on EastEnders. They sure know how to lighten the mood. The poor kid would have been 14 this year. Think of what he’s missed out on: fathering a child, his first murder, getting hooked on crack... and then next year his 15th birthday party.
*KATIE Price has signed up for Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins. Maybe she thinks it stands for Shag A Squaddie. No “troops enter Jordan” jokes by request.
SMALL Joys of TV: Alice Eve, Belgravia – and Adam James as Bellasis the cad. The late, great Charlie Drake & Henry McGee, Palladium (TPTV). Paul Ritter. David Brenner (SkyCom). Caity Lotz as DC’s Sarah Lance, and her crime-fighting costume. I’m guessing only the super-righteous get to undo that zip.
RANDOM Irritations: The Mash Report – even Jay Blades couldn’t repair this witless “satire”. Jim on Friday Night Dinner – why would anyone put up with this monumental pest? The Real Michael Jackson – flogging a dead nonce...
MOTHER & Secret Daughter: Nancy Bloom, Celebrity Murder Mystery... and Whitney Dean on DeadEnders?
TV Questions: Would we take Brian Cox so seriously if his first name was Isaac? Why do so many BBC regional reporters have lithpth? Sorry, lisps? Why is BBC Two’s series called Pilgrimage when it’s basically an atheists’ holiday? And seriously, why don’t we have signers for the deaf on the TV news when politicians address the nation? The Scots and Welsh do.