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 15. STATE Of The Union comes in bite-size chunks, presumably so we don’t have time to nod off. God, it’s dull. Frosty physician Louise cheated on her unemployed husband Tom after his sex-drive went into reverse. We don't know why his libido went floppy. Possibly he had an allergic reaction to her being a condescending cow with snooty right-on pals. Their Brexit differences got a mention, inevitably. If only she’d relaxed on the backstop...
We do know that prim Louise (Rosamund Pike) shagged another bloke four times (just the one night then?). But oddly, Tom has yet to ask what every cuckolded male would: “was he better than me, was he bigger than me, did you end it or him (etc etc). And so far no one has advised her “physician feel thyself”. Each episode the unlikely couple meet in a soulless pub and bicker before seeing a counsellor. Even the great Chris O’Dowd can’t make it interesting.
It’s meant to be poignant but the dialogue veers from over slick to dismal, the “comedy” – Tom legged it before their first session – is feeble, and it’s hard to believe the pair ever had a thing in common. You’d have more fun spotting the continuity errors, like Louise’s remarkable self-filling wine glass. Sod therapy. Tom needs a mate in a proper boozer to tell him “Turf her out, son; she’s done it once, she'll do it again... possibly in a bathroom at a posh dinner party where she’ll forget her drawers”. In other words: Vote Leave. Short-form content is nothing new – Rob Brydon’s bitter-sweet Marion & Geoff aired 19 years ago. Danny Baker’s TV Heroes was another miniature joy. But nowadays quickie TV is everywhere from YouTube to Adult Swim, and it’s attracting big names and big money. It’s perfect for commuters and folk with ADHD, but even the best “snack” TV would struggle to compete with the pleasure of gorging on a 13-course box-set banquet.
THERE was an extraordinary comedy drama on this week, full of clowns, grotesques and self-serving prima donnas. The News, they called it. We saw cynical u-turns, hysterical accusations and MPs indulging in sub-student union protests... And what did TV’s bold satirists have to say on the matter? Not a lot. On The Mash Report, Nish Kumar laid into Donald Trump’s weather map (a six day old story) and, umm, Benny Hill. Scottish judges got a passing (neutral) mention, but remoaner Nish had nothing to say on The Speaker’s sickeningly self-indulgent self tribute. Satire’s job is to puncture the pompous and they don’t get more pompous than smirking Bercow. But then Nish is pretty puffed up himself. Maybe he missed it. Where’s the wit? Where’s the venom? There has never been a greater need for satire, yet there’s never been a time when TV satirists were so comprehensively useless.
*SUNDAY, 10.00 pm, Channel Five: When Comedy Goes Horribly Wrong. Sunday, 10.25 pm, BBC 2: The Mash Report. Coincidence?
THE glory days of soggy lady-fingers and irregular-shaped balls may be behind us, but Bake Off hasn’t given up on saucy innuendos altogether. This week Alice gasped: “It’s double the size! It’s all I could ask for” (ostensibly about a bap, but with Hollywood lurking about anything is possible). We also heard Paul tell a camp chap: “I can’t imagine you’re a bap kind of character” and Phil proudly exclaim “I’m a meat man”. There was talk of “kneading technique”, a claim that “Prue might be alarmed by the size”, and the revelation “I like quite a tight bun”. It can’t be too long until one of these master bakers serves up a nice moist crack.
HOT on TV: Top Boy (Netflix)... Russell Crowe, The Loudest Voice... The Capture... A Confession... Paul Anderson, Peaky Blinders.
ROT on TV: Temple (Sky1) – mental... The Rob Rinder Verdict – clown court... Virtual Sex – virtually no sex, and absolutely no virtue.
LADY Denham on Sanditon said “I do not need to meet a person to form an opinion.” Quite right, love. Just as we don’t need to see any more of this bizarre romp to know it won’t win any Baftas... Elsewhere a new character bowled up: Dr Fuchs! (He hasn’t yet!) Why not call it Carry On Austen and be done with it?
ROBERT Rinder is to comedy what Gemma Collins is to the Olympic high jump, except watching that would be a damn sight funnier. Barrister Rinder might make an acceptable TV “judge” but he has neither the warmth, the timing nor the delivery to handle topical gags.
*FACT: Gemma Collins won’t be able to manage a Strictly pasa doble until she can manage to briskly pass a Greggs.
*CLARIFICATION: ARG is Gemma’s boyfriend. “ARGH!” is the noise most viewers make whenever she appears on screen.
*WHAT will BBC Parliament show for the next five weeks? One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest? Repeats of Freddie Starr's Madhouse?
*FACT: If Sharon Osbourne has any more facelifts she’ll have whiskers on her chin.
*ON “Celebrity” MasterChef Josie Long’s pizza started well but got into a disappointing mess... so, a lot like her stand-up.
SMALL joys of TV: Lord Ivar Mountbatten on Treasure Island. Life On Mars (i-Player). Anna Friel’s diabolical drunk dancing on Deep Water – book her, Strictly! Undone (Amazon). Dominic West, Brassic.
RANDOM irritations: Alleged celebrity specials scrapping multiple barrels with their obscure guest bookings. “Wider still and wider” on the Proms – who are they kidding?
SEPARATED at birth: Jennifer Saunders in Blithe Spirit and the late John McCririck? Two comedy legends; one loved horses, the other has flogged a few dead ones.
SEP 8. REMEMBER when celebrity chefs could wow us with their unexpected prowess? Think of Liz McLarnon’s fancy scallops, Matt Dawson’s mouth-watering sea bass or Angellica Bell’s perfect pear. Now Celebrity MasterChef’s John Torode tells contenders: “All we ask is that it’s edible”. Cue Joey Essex producing a banger that consisted of “just fat” and Andy Grant (no idea) whose gravy looked “like a pot of stock”. Memo to JT: can’t we ask that all celebs are recognisable too?
Oti Mabuse admitted she’d once given herself food-poisoning, bringing expectations hurtling down to earth like a badly tossed pancake. In fairness she handled the sausage challenge expertly – hers had “a little hint of cheese”, as many do – but ruined it by replacing gravy with a tomato salsa. Razor Ruddock was an early favourite. The former footballer scoffed at the idea that a bit of over-paid cooking on telly was “pressure” (and by the look of him he scoffs a lot). “Pressure is telling your missus you’re getting in a ten o’clock and you’re in the pub at half past four,” he said sagely. “That’s pressure. This is fun!” Dumb fun, in Joey’s case. He claimed he’d never heard of thyme and thought his cooking deserved a “Michigan star” (scar surely?) rather than a Michelin one. But Razor makes it watchable. “It’s like feeding time at the zoo here,” he quipped while serving meatballs to staff at ZSL London Zoo. Hottie Oti confessed “I’ve never worked with trout before” although she seemed to get on with Zandra Rhodes well enough. Surprises included Zandra’s bread and butter pudding which saved her bacon on the first night. And the size of Razor’s meatballs. No half measures for the big man. There’s still half a chance he could take out Gregg Wallace with a sliding tackle.
ON Sanditon, sex-crazed writer Andrew Davies threw in more skinny-dipping and had the vicar slavering over “blossoming” young women who he claimed were “ready to be plucked”. Tsk. And to think ITV banned Benny Hill! Clara – the trollop who, ahem, took Edward “in hand” – said she’d learned to do it when she was “too young to know a prick from a pencil”. Jane Austin must be spinning in her grave. Here’s my guide, Clara: one is graphite, the other is graphic; both get worn down with over use and both occasionally require a rubber. Elsewhere Lady Denham’s pineapple was both posh and rotten to the core... much like the bigoted old bag herself.
*WE’VE seen four arses on Sanditon so far, enough for a Mumford & Sons tribute act...
WHY are our politicians such crap, asked Jeremy Paxman – who sneered, snarled and gurned through a rather toothless Channel 5 documentary that promised far more than it delivered. Paxo undermined his own stance by giving easy rides to the likes of Alastair “Dodgy Dossier” Campbell and Naz Shah, notorious for her Rotherham tweet about grooming gangs. Rory Stewart – half-man, half-meerkat – has all the “correct” views in place but clearly has little time for voters. Paxo covered the basics – MPs exist in an elitist bubble, the expenses scandal – but didn’t come close to reflecting popular anger. Our smug. arrogant political class have made a mockery of democracy for decades. Many modern MPs go into politics straight from their PPE degree without pausing to work in the real world. As Paxo did correctly say, few of them believe in anything... except themselves.
HOT on TV: The Capture... The Loudest Voice (SkyAt)... A Confession... The Butcher (History)... Untouchable: The Rise & Fall of Harvey Weinstein.
ROT on TV: High Society: Cannabis Cafe – first dopes... Sink Or Swim – sink... Nish Kumar, The Mash Report – nish funny.
BRITAIN’S Got Talent: The Champions is a strange beast. They’re not all champions, they’re not all British and it’s not a talent show. We’re watching professional acts, which makes the judges even more redundant than normal. The end product is a variety show padded out with pointless chit-chat.
*BOB Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse hooked more than a million viewers with Gone Fishing. No swearing, no virtue signalling, just two funny old pals pals (60 & 61 respectively) enjoying each other’s company in glorious surroundings.
*THE Reluctant Landlord? Meet the reluctant viewer.
*WHEN Motown legend Martha Reeves is on Celeb MasterChef, will she perform as Martha Reeves & The Pan-fillers? Sorry.
TOP 5 worst attempts at accents: 1) Dick Van Dyke – Cockney 2) Mel Gibson – Scottish 3) Brian Gleeson (Peaky Blinders) – Scottish 4) Kevin Costner – English 5) Robbie Coltrane (Frasier) – Brummie.
SMALL joys of TV: Clarkson hosting Millionaire. Stephanie Cole, Scarborough. Monty Python – Almost The Truth. Vintage footage of the Pony Trot dance on Sharon Osbourne’s Who Do You Think You Are.
RANDOM irritations: Konnie Huq’s deranged outbursts on Jeremy Vine’s show. Rolling news hysteria. Too many comedy actors in straight dramas. The BBC going down the Towie “celebrity” route.
PEAKY Blinders Facts Check: Oswald Mosley didn’t meet Mussolini or turn to fascism until 1932. His wife Cynthia was hanging out with Trotsky in 1930. Mosley quit Labour to form the left-wing New Party with six other Labour MPs in ’31.
SEPARATED at birth: Ellen Degeneres and Count Orlok? One the very picture of ancient horror, the other was in Nosferatu...
SEP 1st. AFTER seeing off the New York mafia, the Peaky Blinders are facing a new enemy – the Ulster Volunteer Force! It doesn’t matter that the UVF didn’t exist as a criminal gang until 1966. History is not writer Steven Knight’s business (ditto logic). Knight, who I like to imagine lives on the same mix of hard liquor and opiates as Tommy Shelby, deals strictly in impressions. His belligerent Brummie gangsters could take on the Viet Cong, Mossad or Spongebob Squarepants next and still look cool.
We’ve reached 1929, straight after the Wall Street Crash. Troubled Tommy is haunted by bad dreams and his happy home life is falling apart like an EastEnders plot. The only people interested in him are: a gay reporter, who Shelby has subtly Tommy-gunned to death in a Maida Vale lift; Sir Oswald Mosley, who was a Labour MP just like Tommy at the time (Mosley didn’t form the British Union of Fascists until 1932); and another new foe – the Billy Boys. “Hello, hello, we are the Billy Boys!” the Glasgow gang sing as they arrive to theatrically crucify Aberama Gold’s son. Peaky Blinders – the Musical may follow. They’re led by Mad Jimmy, played by an Irishman whose wobbly accent suggests he’s from the far East End of Glasgow... somewhere around Stavanger. Naturally there’s no historical record of the Billy Boys ever brutalising Midlands gypsies. Meanwhile Aunt Polly is channelling BAD tour Michael Jackson (and mentioning “the Oscars” five years too early). And the Shelby women – Tommy’s biggest problem – are acting like it’s the late 60s. It’s hokum, but madly addictive all the same. The best way to enjoy the show is to suspend belief and soak up its operatic blood-letting and artily framed shots as the lads swagger in stylish slo-mo to the authentic period sounds of Black Sabbath...
NUDE bathing, incest and, ahem, manual relief in the woods... I’m not sure ITV’s “Randy Town” version of Sanditon is fully in tune with Jane Austen’s vision. But then her unfinished novel has been adapted by sex-mad Andrew Davies, a man who could reinvent Songs Of Praise as an orgy. Lord alone knows what he’d make of “Thy rod and staff, they comfort me”. Davies gave us Mr Darcy in a wet t-shirt. We can only hope Anne Reid keeps her bloomers on here.
PERMISSION to breathe a sigh of relief, sir! Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes were a joy. Using the original scripts, Gold remade three long-lost episodes that the BBC wiped in the 70s – an act of cultural vandalism comedy fans will never forgive them for. After the pig’s ear BBC4 made of their 2016 classic sitcom remakes, expectations were low. These were respectful recreations, though. The original cast are irreplaceable, but Robert Bathurst, Kevin McNally and Timothy West did brilliantly. (Not so much Kevin Eldon and Mathew Horne as Corporal Jones and slippery spiv Private Walker.) It’s a testimony to Croft & Perry’s writing that the show still works so well. Recognisable characters, strong direction, a terrific cast, memorable catchphrases and scripts that were funny without being crude gave Dad’s Army universal appeal. The Beeb are too obsessed with box-ticking to make a sitcom like this now.
HOT on TV: Ben Stokes... Rose Williams, Sanditon... Rue Bennett, Euphoria.
ROT on TV: Celebs On The Farm – stinks like a pig pen... Kevin Eldon turning Dad’s Army’s Corporal Jones into a caricature... Diva Forever.
SO farewell Poldark. It was a nice touch to have Robin Ellis, who was TV’s original Cap’n Ross, play the judge who banged up the treacherous bad guys. At the death, Ross’s life was saved by his arch enemy Mad George Warleggan. It was a decent end to a lacklustre series. But that’s it. No more cliff-top gallops, tin bath sponging or topless scything... Um, one small question: why is it okay for media women to mourn the loss of Aidan Turner’s sweaty chest, but “offensive” for blokes to fondly recall Daisy Duke bending over her Plymouth Roadrunner?
*WILL there be spin-off shows? I’d give Caroline Penvenen one... written by Andrew Davies, guest starring Jud Paynter.
*IT’S all well and good using Del-Boy to teach people English, but the easiest lingo to learn is EastEnders London. You can get through a whole week with “awlrigh’?”, “woss goin’ on?” and “fam’lee”.
*THEY had a “stag sumo” in the Vic. Isn’t that Sharon’s job?
*DO you ever watch Audience With re-runs and count all the dead people? No? Just me then...
* “WHAT’S an ass?” asked Joey Essex on The Chase celebrity special. Mirror, someone! Quick!
*ACCORDING to the Discovery Channel, boffins have found the smallest thing in the universe, smaller even than protons or quarks… I’m guessing it’s Gemma Collins’ talent.
SMALL joys of TV: Warrior fight scenes (Sky1). Widows (Talking Pictures). Topboy (Netflix). Jerry-Jane Pears. Pilot Weekend (TrueEnt) showing the first-ever Hart To Hart and Charlie’s Angels.
RANDOM irritations: The BBC’s dismal treatment of Red Rock. Sanditon’s CGI. The Secret World of Las Vegas sharing amazing revelations like people go there to drink, gamble and get married. Who knew?
TV Maths. Young Brian Conley + moustache = Matthew Horne’s Private Walker.
TV mystery: why can’t moneybags Paul Merton afford a cap that fits?