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.
Aug 11. JADE Goody made Joey Essex seem like Einstein. The cheery South Londoner thought that Rio de Janiero was a person, Fats Domino was a Mafia don, ferrets were birds and Sherlock Holmes invented toilets. “Where is East Angular, is it abroad?” she famously asked on 2002’s Big Brother 3. According to Channel 4 she was Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain. But her short, tragic life was more a parable of modern celebrity, with its instant fame and shocking consequences.
“Reality” TV rightly horrifies millions of viewers. It makes role models of people with no talent, turns us into a nation of peeping Toms and brings out dark emotions – Jade was despised before she became a national treasure. Those Big Brother Eviction Night crowds were like Orwell’s Two Minute Hate turned into a weekly ritual. The insults hurled at Goody were what passed for public shaming before Twitter. Fellow contestant Alex Sibley recalled that someone chucked a brick into the BB garden with a note attached to it reading “Jade, die you pig”. But what did the ditzy dental nurse do to deserve such sustained abuse? Yes she was loud, prone to strip off and had an accent that would make a jellied eel cringe. And yes she did daft things, not least with fellow housemate PJ (“We have a problem, there’s been a blow job” was the quote of the night). But there was no malice in her.
Common as muck Goody epitomised the appeal – and the dangers – of reality TV and in the process polarised opinion more than Brexit. In many ways she was remarkable. It wasn’t her fault that she’d missed a lot of school. She’d spent her childhood as the lone carer of her violent, disabled crack addict mother. Aged six, Jade had saved her mum’s life by dragging her out of their burning flat. Her absentee junkie father hid guns under her cot. And yet despite all that she grew up to be cheerful and full of fun. Jade Goody was a working class woman who wanted a better life. Who can blame her for sipping from TV’s poisoned chalice? Even in death, five short years later, Jade helped raise awareness of cervical cancer. Despite being uneducated, she was smart enough to tuck away millions in a trust fund for her two sons.
TALK about them and us! On Wednesdays, cash-strapped BBC One viewers are advised to Shop Well For Less. At the same time BBC Two shows us pricy posh nosh on Remarkable Places To Eat. How many penny-pinching weeks would you have to suffer before you could afford the £200 tasting menu at Mugaritz in northern Spain? It included crisps made from sheep’s milk, with wild flower petal garnish, presented on volcanic rock and steak tartare covered in mould (really!). Yeah. Think I'll stick with paella.
TO quote its Honeycombs theme tune, Hold The Sunset has come right back and I just can’t bear it. John Cleese was a comedy god, first in Python and then in the sublime Fawlty Towers, one of the most perfectly crafted situation comedies ever made. It’s a tragic to see him – and a wonderful cast – sacrificed on cringe-worthy characters, dismal set-ups and anaemic jokes. Cleese must realise this is a dead sitcom, surely? Bereft of life it should rest in peace.
THERE weren’t many chuckles on Who Do You Think You Are either despite it featuring its first comedy double act – Jack Whitehall and his father, former showbiz agent Michael. Jack confided he was hoping to find there was no biological link between them, which seemed less like a joke after they discovered one ancestor had devoted years to opposing the public’s right to vote. Thomas Jones Phillips was involved in the violent crushing of the Newport Rising and testified against 19th Century Welsh Chartist John Frost who was transported to Australia for life. Jack was mortified. “I think I’d rather he had syphilis,” he groaned. But that was another ancestor, a travelling salesman whose philandering sentenced himself and his wife to die from it. A pleasant bunch.
HOT on TV: Christina Applegate, Dead To Me (Netflix)... the Shoalin monk kung fu qualifying exam, Sacred Wonders.
ROT on TV: The Tez O’Clock Show – tezts the patience... Hold The Sunset – faulty shower... I Am Hannah – I Am Underwhelmed.
*MY mate is running a Strictly Love Rat sweepstake. I’ve got Anneka Rice. An outsider, yes, but look at it this way, it’s a challenge Anneka.
*THEY arrived in Hell on The Good Place only to find the trains were delayed by three hours. Proof, if any were needed, that Lucifer works for South Western Railway.
*KEEPING Faith? I’ve lost it.
*EUPHORIA is an hour of self-loathing and bad sex. Like a Tinder date with a Slater sister.
*GORDON Ramsay’s son Jack came over as a nice kid on Born Famous. Must take after his mum.
*FACT: the GC’s new show Diva Forever comes up as Gemma Collins: Div on some TV EPGs. Incorrect of course, but far more accurate.
*SEAN Lock didn’t do too well at school, he said “I’ve got a gas fire at home with more certificates than me.”
SMALL joys of TV: Karl Urban’s London accent on The Boys – was he voice-coached by Dick Van Dyke? Gone Fishing. The Sid James Three Hats For Lisa clips on the Jade show.
RANDOM irritations: idiot man-child Roger on Hold The Sunset. Poldark recycling plots. Emily Maitlis. The way EastEnders actresses’ voices go posh when they have emotional scenes.
SEPARATED at birth: Angela Barnes and Olive Rudge from On The Buses? One much-loved, down-to-earth and hilarious, the other is Angela Barnes.
*THEY had metre-high parrots in New Zealand once. Blimey, how tall were their pirates?
Aug 4. BRITISH TV has no monopoly on weirdness. Granted ITV once screened a live televised prostate exam. Who gave that the thumbs up? But as I write I’m watching a brand new US show called Holey Moley set on a giant crazy-golf course complete with eighteen foot high windmills, plus rotating foam blades, and uniformed mimes distracting contestants. It’s more Tripping Point than Tipping Point.
The number one show here is America’s Got Talent and even that’s bonkers. They’ve just had a lunatic with a semi-trained performing rat. The real contest Stateside though is the search for the next Game Of Thrones. Favourites are: The Long Night, which is HBO’s official prequel, penned by Jane Goldman and expected next year. Set 5,000 years before Thrones, it’ll cover the origins of the White Walkers, the story of the first men and Westeros’s original inhabitants, the fairy-like children of the forest who created the Wall.
Lord Of The Rings: 3,441 years before Frodo and co, the AmPrime saga features Gandalf and Sauron and will include Númenor – Tolkien’s take on the Atlantis legend. Due 2021. His Dark Materials: this lavish BBC/HBO co-production turns Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy into 16 episodes. Starring Ruth Wilson and James McAvoy, it’ll be first out the traps this autumn. Other contenders include The Wheel Of Time, (Loose Women with wands) and Cursed, which re-imagines Arthurian legends through the eyes of the teenager destined to become the Lady of The Lake. Mercifully no one has suggested Real Housewives of Westeros... yet. Monkey see, monkey do is the first law of TV. Poldark spawned Poldaft (Beecham House) and Poldyke (Gentleman Jack). So why has no one even tried to duplicate the incredible success of Only Fools & Horses? Smart, funny, popular sitcoms used to be at the heart of mainstream culture. TV is poorer for their loss.
IN other US TV news: Eddie Murphy is in talks with Netflix about a series of comedy specials. And while Patrick Stewart returns next year in Star Trek: Picard, William Shatner is fronting The UnXplained which sends eggheads around the globe to investigate inexplicable mysteries. Here are two of mine, Bill: why can’t there be a Star Trek: Kirk? And mathematically how come Seven Of Nine was a perfect ten?
THE show I miss most when I’m abroad is The Chase. Bradley losing it over foreign names like Fanny Chmelar and Dick Tingeler is long established as one of TV’s great joys. The contestants’ cock-ups are cracking too. No-one will ever top the nitwit who, asked what town New York, New York was about, replied “Chicago”. But genuine howlers include: that the only planet in the solar system that supports life is “Mars”. That the only British king to abdicate in the 20th century was “Charles Dickens”. And that Labour’s leader during both 1974 elections was “Margaret Thatcher”. The biggest dimwit was Hannah, a 19-year-old student who couldn’t guess which TV naturalist the ‘Attenborough-asaurus’ dinosaur is named after. She wasn’t a plant but she was certainly a cabbage.
KITTY Despard was spat at in London streets on Poldark for being black in 19th Century. A shocking scene, but was it fair on Londoners? Mike Jay who wrote their true story believes anti-slavery feeling was so strong back then that the Despards’ mixed marriage would have been celebrated. While my great-gran, born in 19th Century Poplar, said black people were seen so rarely in her childhood that locals would touch them in the streets for luck. Isn’t it time we stopped beating ourselves up about imagined crimes and concentrated on writing better dramas?
HOT on TV: The Boys (AmPrime)... Amber Gill, Love Island... Still Game – the most moving comedy finale since Blackadder Goes Forth.
ROT on TV: Killing Eve committing hari-kari... Britain’s Greatest Comedian – box-ticking bilge, Gold snubbed Peter Cook, Jim Davidson, Max Miller, Benny Hill and other genuine giants.
AS well as the 25th anniversary of the brilliant Friends, this year sees the 30th anniversary of Seinfeld, America’s greatest ever sitcom. It should have been as big as Frasier, but BBC2 threw it away. It’s now on AmPrime. Watch episodes like The Contest, The Soup Nazi and The Marine Biologist and see what you’ve missed.
*FIVE drama gems we should repeat: Fox, Out, Big Deal, Danger Man, The Champions. And why not re-make Sharpe, Hornblower and Adam Adamant Lives?
I’M always on the lookout for great Separated At Births. There hasn’t been a classic since Elton John and Nicola Sturgeon’s mum. Any gooduns gratefully received... especially of Boris. To me he looks like Little Britain’s Daffyd Thomas crossed with an Afghan hound.
*FAITH and her glum husband are a perfect match on Keeping Faith. She’s addicted to Chardonnay and he’s a whine merchant.
*I’M looking forward to the Mabuse pair on Strictly. Apparently she also has a sister.
RANDOM irritations: Weekend morning TV adverts – any alien race studying us from afar would assume that humans were a species of bloated, incontinent females plagued with thrush.
SMALL joys of TV: Mick Miller on ITV’s Comedy Years. Pip Torrens as Poldark’s Cory. Schitt Creek. Pawn Stars – happy tenth anniversary! I still can’t believe Bob Dylan appeared in season three.
LET'S hope ex-EastEnder Shaun'Fat Barry' Williamson was talking about a barge on Celebrity 5 Go Barging, not using Cockney rhyming slang when he announced: “I like it on the girls’ boat, it’s less smelly.”