BUSHELL ON THE BOX
Sep 17. The shadow of the axe may make this last Big Brother series the best for years. The housemates are a bumper crop of nitwits. There’s Tomasz, a gender-fluid cleaner from Poland who looks like the love-child The Penguin and Peter Kay’s Geraldine never had. And Kay, 32, an artist from London who says things like: “I think I’m literally a Persian cat” (Grow up!). Kay loves “phallic art” which is handy as there are some prize plonkers here, not least Lewis G a bricklayer from Camden. A clear case of mistaken nonentity, Lewis G was the only one booed on the way in. His mum was a Playboy model and he claims to have had his first sexual experience in Hefner’s mansion. Possibly alone. It’s all been downhill from there. Lewis has 24-7 tattooed on his chest, both his birthday and his motto. Though 7-11 might be a better prediction of where he’ll end up working.
Anamelia is stunning. The self-styled “spiritual advisor” from Brazil via Sweden says she’ll never cop off on camera. Maybe gay farmer Cian can help her keep her calves together. He’s from Tipperary – not sure if he has a small holding – and arrived wearing a fake fur, describing himself as a “walking carpet”. Kenaley – “call me Kenny” – is a telesales assistant from Nottingham who “wouldn’t mind a bit of 50 Cent”. Well Lewis is definitely two bob. “If you don’t like me, suck my dick,” she said – which was hopefully bravado rather than yet more gender confusion.
Cameron, 18, is a Tory vlogger from Norfolk whose teacher likened him to an 80year-old trapped in a teenage body (not in the Yewtree sense). There’s also Zoe from Halifax who may be a Matt Lucas character, ex-footballer Isaac, posh lesbian Buddhist Brooke, Welsh Azeem and former petty crook Lewis F. Rangers fan Ellis has been booted out over historic tweets – why didn’t they check them out sooner? My favourite is Sian from Barnsley who arrived in a nuclear dress – dangerously close to fall-out – and stands out for two good reasons, she’s down to earth and would spend the £100K prize money on her mum. Tsk your minds. Big Brother began as a bold social experiment and degenerated into a launch-pad for bigheads, bores and wannabes who’d spit-roast their first-born for 15minutes of undeserved fame. But it struck gold more times than Yosemite Sam along the way. Odds on it’ll come back on ITV or Sky.
JOHN Paul Getty was the world’s richest man, and also the meanest. The billionaire oil tycoon was tighter than a tin of Siamese sardines. A social recluse, he lived with his harem in a listed Tudor manor house, hated his kids (“perfumed wasters”) and made all-comers use a pay phone. Trust tells the story of Getty’s “Golden Grandson”, John Paul Getty III and his shock abduction. Or rather it tells an unproven version of it which assumes the spoilt teenager staged his own kidnapping to con cash out of his skinflint granddad. True or not, it grips like Getty's hand on a ten bob note. Like Succession, the saga borrows heavily from King Lear. Donald Sutherland is magnificent as the wrinkly old fella who services his women with the help of injections in his own wrinkly old fella. George, his anointed successor, tops himself with booze, barbiturates and a barbecue fork he plunges into his chest... Getty briefly sees 16year-old Getty III as his new heir. But the kid is as screwed up as his father and uncles. He grew up in Italy, spending his youth snorting cocaine, womanising and racing motorbikes around Rome’s backstreets and piazzas. (As George Best said, the rest of his money he just squandered.) In the process he ran up $6K worth of debt to Mafia elements in the Eternal City. We meet the dysfunctional family in episode one, with Getty III turning up in jeans and t-shirt for George’s funeral. He promptly tries to half-inch a Henry Moore statuette. The dippy hippy surprises his penny-pinching grandpa with his knowledge of classical art. Getty agrees to give him $6K in return for spending six months working on one of his oil rigs. But a raunchy magazine photo shoot prompts him to pack Getty III off back to Rome where he gets snatched by the mob. If you’ve seen All The Money In The World, you’ll know the story goes “discesa” – downhill – from here.
CELEBRITY Ghost Hunt came with the disclaimer “This programme is for entertainment purposes only”. Just in case anyone believed Rylan Clark-Neal was going to seriously investigate the paranormal with probing intellects like Sam from Geordie Shore and Nadia Essex from, umm, Fulham. Show one served up faint groaning in a former Wicklow jail, which was more than most people heard on Celebs Go Dating – Nad’s old show. Maybe she was chasing the ghost of her P45. They blundered around in the dark, the way illuminated only by Rylan’s radiant choppers, waving pointless EMF meters (used to diagnose electrical problems not detect spirits). The scariest thing they encountered was a waxwork model of a convict. The show’s saving grace was Alex Gibbs. Her psychic abilities are probably no more advanced than Mystic Marcus’ were on This Morning but she doesn’t half light up the screen.
*BEST ever Ghost Hunt quote? Ollie Locke asking “Is there an alpha male screaming to come out of me?” If so, he wouldn’t be the first...
ROXANNE Pallett was the first to quit Celebrity Island, probably the most unsurprising exit since Boris Johnson’s wife voted Leave. Roxy had another one of her melt-downs around the campfire. Tsk. She, Monica Brown and Jo Wood do for women’s lib what Elon Musk’s spliff did for Tesla shares. Bodyguard does its fictional bit for feminism only to be undermined by “reality” show Dorises dossing about letting the blokes do all the hard work. At least Olympians James Cracknell and Anthony Ogogo were game. Pete the Pirate from Towie was great value too, though it’s hard to believe he really thought it was a good idea to leave their water behind. More likely it was a producer’s suggestion to inject artificial drama. Best booking? Julia Roberts’ self-centred brother Eric who repeatedly called Martin Kemp “Colin” and “Sam” rather than “that one-note soap actor bloke” like the rest of us.
HOT on TV: Trust and Donald Sutherland... Vick Hope, Strictly... The Deuce (SkyAt)... Alastair Cook.
ROT on TV: Celebrity Ghost Hunt – no celebs, no ghosts, but plenty of pointless hunts... Seatbelt Psychic – economy drivel... Question Time – even The Repair Shop couldn’t fix this bore-fest.
I LIKE Strictly Come Dancing. It’s like Dancing With The Stars, only without the stars. It doesn’t matter if we don’t recognise the contestants though. Come Dancing was a celeb-free hit for five decades before the Beeb killed it off. The format is cast-iron. Strictly is pure escapism, a glamorous carpet ride away from mundane reality. Even if when Susannah Constantine trips the light fantastic it’s neither light nor fantastic.
*SEANN Walsh said of Strictly: “I’m not here to make anyone laugh.” Of course he isn’t. Why start now?
R.I.P. Liz Fraser and Fenella Fielding. Such a shame we don’t have a weekly obituary show to remember these wonderful stars and the sunshine they brought into our lives properly. Peter Blake – Vince St Moritz in John Sullivan’s Dear John – died in July. Why not reshow all 14 episodes, BBC?
*MAUREEN Lipman sparkles as Evelyn on Corrie, but isn’t it odd that Fiz and Tyrone don’t remember her as Rovers relief manager Lillian Spencer? (See also Lorraine Stanley on ’Enders; now Karen, once the young Big Mo).
*WHEN they go to the ad break on Good Morning Britain, why doesn’t that “The Conversation Continues” strap-line include the words “... to be dominated by puffed-up loudmouth Piers Morgan”?
*FLICKING between Bake Off, MasterChef and Jamie Cooks Italy, I spotted a report that Britain has become the third fattest nation in Europe. Mystifying isn’t it?
*CELEBS In Solitary. Meltdown? Let-down. Next time, book Serena!
SMALL joys of TV: Athena Manoukian, X Factor. Maureen Lipman, Corrie. New Iron Fist, Netflix. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (AmPrime). Killing Eve. The Mighty Redcar. Craig Revel-Horrid. The Game Of Thrones’ classic Red Wedding episode repeated. Strangers – enjoyable hokum. The Art Of Drumming (SkyArts).
RANDOM irritations: Cringey sex and dull therapy scenes on Wanderlust. Nish Kumar – so far up his own backside he’d need the Thai cave rescue team to dig him out. Massacre At Ballymurphy – as balanced as Long John Silver on a unicycle in a tsunami.
SEPARATED at birth: Louis Litt from Suits and this hamster? One a chubby-cheeked rodent with prominent teeth and a cruel streak; the other’s a hamster.
TV Maths. Su Pollard + Dame Edna = Bake Off’s Karen Wright.
*BRITISH boffins are developing “smart trousers” to help elderly wearers stand up. Hopefully their celeb-rescue range includes BoJo strides that won’t drop in the presence of anyone you’re not married to...
SEPT 9. BBC’S Wanderlust was touted as “the steamiest TV ever”, presumably by someone who hadn’t watched telly since the early 70s. The opening episode was the biggest let-down since Rapunzel’s hair. Compared to Lady Chatterley, Bouquet Of Barbed Wire and I, Claudius, it generated less steam than a broken kettle... and none of those shows were this century. Zig and Zag had more sexual chemistry.
Wanderlust concerns a middle-aged, middle class couple whose love life is as lively as a grilled kipper. Joy is a therapist recovering from a bike accident, Alan’s a drippy teacher. Their awkward failed attempt at coupling provided the show’s only real laugh. When Joy brings up his technique, Alan snaps: “I’m not the one with the problem Joy. So don’t try and needle away at my craft.” “Your craft?” she grins. “Sorry, skilled woodsman” (a line that successfully topples his tree trunk). Later she tries to seduce him wearing what looks like Hilda Ogden’s old net curtain, only to be rudely rejected. A case of “therapist heal thyself” or, as she soon demonstrates, feel thyself... Toni Collette is terrific as Joy, but the characters aren’t particularly likeable and the sex is as coy as a Victorian nanny. It either happens off camera or stops while they’re fully clothed. Not exactly American Gods, then.
Teacher Claire catches colleague Neil pleasuring himself in the staff room over a women’s clothing catalogue. No internet for these crazy dudes. Who’s ever going to shake his hand after that? Claire, a proper stoner, tells Alan, adding: “I don’t know why he just doesn’t use the disabled toilet like the rest of us.” Blimey. No wonder they have a grip bar. One drink, a downpour and a failed jump-start later and they’re back at her place getting off to a Warren G soundtrack. Elsewhere Joy gets away from her dreary clients and cops off with a detective from her hydrotherapy class in her shed. It’s, umm, a toss-up who enjoys it more. The BBC clearly want us to ask if monogamy is outdated. (Any thoughts, Boris?) Aren’t more people likely to ask: Are tongue-tied degenerates like this really teaching our kids?
*TRUE story. A reader once emailed me inviting me to sleep with his wife. A sicko, right? I was shocked and appalled. I mean, he didn’t even send a photo.
BODYGUARD’S burgeoning casualty toll sadly includes Vanity Fair. A shame, Downton fans would love ITV’s classy adaptation. The posh snobs in the opening episode were nauseating, but that’s the point. Thackeray was targeting the 18th Century’s toffee-nosed elite. His story asks how low-born orphan Becky Sharp can get by in a Regency England where everyone “knows their place”. The answer is on her wits and cunning. Olivia Cooke sparkles as the sassy schemer who finds an unlikely ally in Frances de la Tour’s ferocious Aunt Matilda, a woman as friendly as a Kremlin away-team. Mistakes? There were a few, like electric light-bulbs on the fairground carousel eighty years too soon. But it looks the business and there are fine turns from David Flynn and Martin Clunes. Is there much difference between this snooty Georgian upper-crust world, obsessed with status and wealth, where Thackeray said “everyone is striving for what is not worth having” and our own?
HOT on TV: Olivia Cooke, Vanity Fair... Luke Kempner, Imitation Game... Ola, X Factor... Bodyguard.
ROT on TV: Press – not impressed... Wanderlust – as sexy as haggis... Eight Go Rallying – road to perdition... Naked Attraction – Bell-Enders.
BODYGUARD is such a wild ride you should probably wear a seatbelt to watch it. The show is is more whacko than Roxanne Pallett. Not for the sex – many famous folk frolicked with their minders, including Princess Di, Marla Maple and Alan Johnson’s missus – but for the storyline. The Home Secretary has been blown up and it looks like the bombers are either MI5, the Met or a disaffected aide. It’s nuttier than a Snickers bar. But as long as Budd keeps dropping his strides for Julia, the viewing figures will hold up. You won’t see such a perfect arse on TV until The Apprentice comes back.
*BBC Breakfast sent reporters called Bush and Balls to Parliament last week. Coincidence or Bodyguard review?
GEMMA Collins and hard work go together like Mr Magoo and observational comedy. Yet ‘celebrity’ master-pest Gemma got through her first MasterChef despite throwing orders about, drowning one dish in orange liqueur and deserting her post for a chat. Obviously it couldn't last. There is more chance of seeing Jamie Oliver scoff a deep-fried Mars Bar than of the GC ever reaching the final of anything... except maybe a contest for people who could easily pass for their own blimp. Zoe Lyons was lucky too, although I’d wager she’s no stranger to the mystery box. I’m sure she grinned when the chef told her “start plating”.
*THE DNA of Corrie’s DNA Secrets was shamelessly easy to detect: part Who Do You Think You Are?, part Long Lost Family. DNA-testing the soap’s characters would be more revealing. Simon Barlow looks Spanish – how did that happen? Gail resembles ET while her soap mum Audrey must surely be a distant cousin of Camilla.
THINGS I’d like to see on Fake Or Fortune: 1) The Baywatch Tapestry 2) Whistler’s Sister 3) Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Necklace. 4) Anything from Picasso’s really blue period...
*A NEW study shows people who own TV sets are less likely to have sex than folk who don’t. I have five tellies. It explains a lot.
* SALLY Morgan claims to have had sex every day for 25years. Someone tell her ghosts don’t count.
SMALL joys of TV: Jim McDonald back on Corrie, so he is. Frances de la Tour, Vanity Fair. Call My Agent (Netflix). Line Of Duty re-runs (Sony Crime). The Biggins round on The Imitation Game. The Chase contestants beating old Frosty Knickers to win £100K.
RANDOM irritations: Michelle Wolf’s voice – screechier than a chipmunk caught in a rat-trap. Hardeep with his shirt off on CBB, is he auditioning to play Chewbacca? Food described as “to die for” on MasterChef etc. Food isn’t to die for, family are to die for. Food is to eat.
SEPARATED at birth: Ruhal’s showstopper Bake Off biscuit and Rose West? One hard, utterly tasteless and should never have seen the light of day. The other’s a biscuit.
TV Maths. Vincent Franklin, Bodyguard + West Ham scarf = Alf Garnett.
RANDOM questions: do crabs think we walk sideways? How does Stuart Halfwit keep materialising in a locked pub? What are Josh Widdecombe’s audience laughing at? If Kirstie Alley gets any bigger should she change her name to Kirstie Super-Highway?
SEPT 2nd. CHANNEL 4 tried to axe Bake Off innuendo, but couldn’t swing their choppers fast enough. “What are you holding?” Kim-Joy asked Dan whose 3D biscuit selfie had him waving something pink and eye-wateringly large above his waist. “A baby,” he replied. “Oh I thought it was something else,” she muttered with a twinkle in her eye. For damage limitation, Paul Hollywood claimed it looked like “a massive prawn”. But she was probably thinking more of a slippery dick (a genuine fish – Google it, unbelievers.)
I still don’t get the nation’s love affair with Bake Off. I don’t mind the show, but if I never watched it again that would be great too. Their old recipe of smut – a feast of soggy bottoms, moist cracks and good forkings – made it easier to swallow. Without that, it’s just naff sketches and people we don’t know cooking stuff we can’t taste or smell, and probably shouldn’t eat without a ready supply of insulin. It’s sugar junkie porn. Yes it’s warm and cosy but do you really care? And if so, why?
This year’s contenders include two Indian guys, a gay dad and Manon from Brittany (as seen on The Box). It’s the Great Diversity Bake Off now. Naturally C4’s interpretation of inclusivity didn’t extend to Cockneys. A shame for the regional biscuit round as Peak Freans of Bermondsey gave the world the Garibaldi (in 1861) and the Bourbon (in 1910). Not to mention the Golden Puff, almost certainly Mr Humphries’ favourite. No Scousers, Geordies, or Glaswegians either, although four contenders came from Yorkshire. Straight white working class men are TV’s new untouchables.
Paul and Prue got the motley crew baking Wagon Wheels or “wheely wagons” as Manon called them. Seriously? Who makes their own Wagon Wheels? Imelda from Ulster was first out. Unlucky. She looked set to beat Terry until the jammy dodgy served up an impressive Brandy Snap selfie. I’d bet on the Breton to win. Star baker Manon took the biscuit. But Ruby’s a proper cracker and Briony from Bristol might just p-p-p-pick up the prize.
*BAKE Off mysteries: that monster zit on nuclear physicist Rahul’s face, is it radiation poisoning? Is Kim-Joy wearing a Groucho Marx nose and glasses set with the ’tache cut off?
*THE greatest-ever Bake Off innuendo? Nadiya on snake bread: “I’ve tried the snake loads of times and he just explodes. He’s enormous. After doing him six times the trick is to keep him small to begin with.”
BODYGUARD gripped like the Hulk in a temper – a suicide bomber on a commuter train, an attempted hit on a senior politician, a foiled terror attack on a school... Jed Mercurio’s script had more wild twists than Quasimodo’s braces. Keeley Hawes stars as hawkish Home Secretary Julia Montague, a woman tougher than Adrian Chiles’s liver. David Budd (Richard Madden) is the hero cop promoted to her close protection officer. They got extremely close very quickly, apparently without any protection. Cue soft focus fully clothed sex (or as Jermaine Pennant would call it “just banter”). Insert your own red box gag here. “She’s got you wrapped around her finger,” said Budd’s boss, who didn’t know the half of it. The drama is part thriller, part feminist fantasy. The train guard, the police marksman, even the head of counter-terrorism are female. Brooding Budd is tormented by his army past and fractured home-life. In the eye of the storm, he’s cool, courageous and entirely humourless. There’s a leak at the Met, Jihadists on the loose, and the lunatic hit-man was Budd’s ex-army buddy who hated war-mongering MPs. It was so compelling you willingly forgave the plot-holes.
ON Celebrity MasterChef, Jean Johannson (no idea) aspired to cook something that “looks okay and is edible”. Not exactly Angellica Bell, then. While Frankie Bridge was “trying to remember how lamb is supposed to look... ” Loyd Grossman must watch this and weep. Gobby Gregg praised John Partridge for “the flavour of your sausage”. Odds on he’s heard that before.
*TOO many cooks spoil the box, obviously. But other things niggle me. Like the way TV chefs assume we all have red wine vinegar, spiralizers and 'bouquet garni' at home. And the absurd dishes they knock up. Loin of sea trout? Do me a favour! Do fish even have loins? (For a gusset of crab meat, see Shirley Carter).
HOT on TV: Justin Willman, Magic For Humans (Netflix)... Bodyguard & Keeley Hawes... Ruby Bhogal, Bake Off.
ROT on TV: Corrie’s Jude – the biggest wet-blanket since Charlotte Crosby sprayed the sheets on CBB... Edinburgh Nights – mostly sh**e... whinging Miquita Oliver – she’s 34 going on 12.
DANNY John-Jules’s “racism” jibe at Strictly was daft. Ore Oduba won his series. Colin Jackson came second; Alexander Burke and Natalie Gumede were runners-up... Vick Hope won’t be first out this year either. Racism sucks, but seeing prejudice where none exists is tedious. Nadiya Hussain recently told Loose Women “there’s no space for a 5ft brown girl who wears a headscarf” on TV. Surely not the same Nadiya Hussain who’s had FOUR BBC series since 2015? Nad’s had more exposure than any other Bake Off winner.
*ON BBC Breakfast, weather wonder Carol Kirkwood said straight-faced: “And waiting in the wings are a clutch of fronts!” Not sure if she was still forecasting or handing back to the two dullards on the Salford sofa. Many’s the time I’ve called ’em something similar.
*DID you see the size of the plaster Sharon fished out of her handbag on Tuesday’s EastEnders? It was “for my heels”, she pouted. Heels? Strewth. That wouldn’t fit a human foot. Trotters, maybe...
*ON Upstart Crow, Ben Elton had Shakespeare say: “I’m not bald, I have a tall face.” Not as sharp as Clive Anderson’s original line: “I’m not bald, I’m just taller than my hair.”
*SIX older stand-ups who should be on TV: Martin Beaumont, Adrian Walsh, Keith O’Keefe, Johnnie Casson, Micky Pugh, Brian Higgins.
*APOLOGY: in a recent column I described Roxanne Pallett as “slightly loopy”. Having watched her on Celebrity Big Brother I am forced to admit that there is nothing “slightly” about it.
SMALL joys of TV: Vikings re-running from scratch on 5Spike. Peter Barlow’s miraculous self-changing hairstyle. Bondi Rescue. Emma the tattooed cop on First Dates Hotels. This Is Bob Hope (PBS America). Disenchantment. The History Of Comedy. Madeleine Mantock. Brilliant Brad Garrett, I’m Dying Up Here.
RANDOM irritations: Obviously empty take-away coffee cups on soaps. The bizarre and inexplicable laugh track on Upstart Crow. Corrie’s alleged Tina McIntyre lookalike who wasn’t. The BBC using our licence fee cash to fly Shirley Ballas’s pampered pooch business class.
*NEW categories for boozers: moderate, excessive, and Adrian Chiles...
SEPARATED at birth: Nick Leeson and Paddy Kirk? Is it only me who thinks disgraced broker Leeson is what Emmerdale’s Paddy would look like after a year on a Singapore prison diet?
TV Maths. Bjork + Michael McIntyre = Bake Off Briony.