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.



June 13. WHAT is the point of the BAFTAs? Seriously? If they’re meant to celebrate excellence then why are they stuffed full of unwatched, so-so shows? I have no beef with Big Narstie, he’s an engaging rascal and it’s good to see him getting away with it. But top comedy entertainment of 2020? Come on. The judges must have been smoking as much weed as he does. An obscure poetry show was deemed best entertainment. Romesh won best entertainment performer for sitting in his garage and grumbling... Bradley Walsh mouthed “It’s a joke” to the camera in jest. But he was right. Of course, some wins were deserved – Lennie James’ cracking drama Save Me Too; Once Upon A Time In Iraq, so absorbing it was heart-breaking; the remarkable Inside No 9... Michaela Coel fully merited her gongs for the bravely personal, risk-taking verve of I Will Destroy You. But much of the night sucked like an Adult Material porn star.



Too many great shows were blanked. Where were After Life, Kate & Koji, and Des? Or strong imports, like retro-treat Cobra Kai and Cate Blanchett’s Mrs America? Blanchett was stunning. Casualty won, suggesting there’s a stealth award for just hanging in there. Diversity’s victory was, ahem, assisted by keeping heavyweight rival contenders out of the running. Even the ceremony lacked pizzaz – you’d find more atmosphere on the moons of Neptune. Richard Ayoade works on panel shows, but as host he felt as detached as the houses in Hampstead’s billionaires’ row. Irony and sarcasm he can do. Spontaneous wit, no. Next year, book Gervais to stir things up. This was a half-hearted, issue-obsessed, futile Covid-tamed version of an awards shows, with predictably dull speeches and winners awkwardly scrabbling about on Zoom. A wasted opportunity. The gap between the BAFTAs and genuinely great TV is large enough to park Big Narstie in sideways.



PRISON drama Time is like a bomb-proof Rolex – a really tough watch. Jimmy McGovern’s script captures the grim brutality of life behind bars. His HMP Craigmore makes Slade Green look like Maplins. Sean Bean plays mild-mannered middle-class teacher Mark, serving a four stretch for the drink-driving death of a cyclist. Stephen Graham is conscientious screw Eric whose own son is banged up elsewhere, making both vulnerable. Mark witnesses “jugging” – sugared boiling water being hurled over a suspected grass; the sugar makes it cling and strip your skin. And then makes the risky schoolboy error of winding up terrifying Scouse “jugger” Johnno. Time is bleak and authentic, with political points that hit home. People like self-harmer Bernard should be in asylums, not prisons. What happened to them?



LOKI, the Norse god of mischief, has his own spin-off show. But sadly, Disney+ have taken away his powers, which is like booking Meghan Thee Stallion for a gig and not letting her talk dirty. Or putting Floyd Mayweather through a pretend boxing charade. Oh wait, that happened. At the end of episode one, Loki was recruited by time cops to hunt down an evil, twisted version of himself. Hold on! That’s the Loki we want to watch!



HOT on TV: Box 21... Time – Shawshank for Scousers... Clarkson’s Farm (AmPrime)... Kevin Bacon, City On A Hill.



ROT on TV: the BAFTAs – as suspect as Mayweather Vs Logan... BBC3’s Shrill – less a scream, more a cry for help.



IS EastEnders getting funnier? Perhaps. Terry Cant loves his “bants” and I’m slowly warming to Violet. She called Karen “Fag Ash Lil”, Bernadette “a sack of spuds” and said, of Honey dating toy-boy Jay, “Standing behind the register? She should be on the register.” Blanche Hunt should sue.



*TOP 3 Albert Square facts: 3) No one knows where Walford Common came from... or where it’s gone. 2) 22% of viewers only tune in on the off-chance that Phil Mitchell might spontaneously combust. 1) Jean Slater? She’s a Wolverine in bed.



GOOD news, bad news on Brian Cox’s Adventures In Space & Time. Coxy reckons there’s at least one alien civilisation in every galaxy. In other words, triple-breasted Eccentrica could really exist! Hurrah! The bad news? It’d take millions of years to reach her... D’oh! Mind you, any aliens who find us would be so advanced, we’d be like ants to them. Best keep our nuts down.



*OUT of all the contestants on last weekend’s “celebrity” shows, I only recognised two faces – and one of them was my postman.



*SMOTHER was aptly titled. All the way through I felt like smothering the musicians on the soundtrack.



*IF BAFTA ratings get much lower, they’ll have to add themselves to the memorial montage.



*SO Zoe Ball was a llama. Blimey. That explains all those years of woolly-headed chitter-chatter.



Did anyone else watching the sickening crimes recounted on Fred & Rose West: The Search For Victims wonder why we ever did away with hanging?



Small Joys of TV: Derek Jacobi, Inside No 9. Anne finally snapping on Motherland. Loki (Disney+). Noel Gallagher: Out Of The Now. Black Space (Netflix).



Random Irritations: ITV stripping repeats. BAFTA’s political agenda. People opening up about their feelings on TV – we’re becoming a nation of cry-babies.



SEPARATED at birth: Paul Merton and Wetherspoons’ Tim Martin? One pulls pints, the other pulls his punchlines.




June 6. THERE was a terrible moment last week when “Bradley Walsh” started trending on Twitter. Dear god! Please don’t say we’d lost Brad! Mercifully no. The mere suspicion that the great man was jigging about dressed as a rubber chicken on The Masked Dancer had excited the birdbrains. But what on earth made ITV think we’d want to endure strictly dumb dancing for 90minutes every night? At least with The Masked Singer you had half a chance of guessing the celebrity from their vocals. What chance have you got with dance? You’ve only got their legs to go on. You might as well have Masked Ventriloquists.



Jonathan Ross plays along, making demented guesses: Prue Leith, Meghan Markle, Richard Branson... He knows it’s cobblers but clearly needs the cash. Well, his Gucci handbags don’t come cheap. But even when the losers are unmasked, most viewers were stumped. Beetroot was Dita Von Teese, rubber chicken was Eddie Edwards. All the big names. Viewing figures limboed under 3 million, suggesting the country was finally developing herd immunity to this mutating TV virus.



ITV found a (baffling) winning formula with The Masked Singer and now they’re flogging it to death. Will The Masked Comedian follow? Could work, with audiences judging stand-ups by their gags alone. The drips on The Last Leg would drop like flies. Netflix are reviving Sexy Beasts (masked dating). Pretty much any successful TV format – home makeovers, cooking shows, gardening – could be rebooted with contenders in disguise. And why not Budget broadcasts? A few chancellors in my lifetime should have worn masks when they mugged us in broad daylight with eye-watering taxes. Denis Healey did, John McDonnell still might if Keir gets the push...



*Llama in his mask looked like Julian Clary, but what a shame Carwash wasn’t Sia... or Cousin Itt from the Addams Family.



*THE US Masked Singer had T-Pain, we had Sue Perkins – t’pain in t’arse.



SAY what you like about Piers Morgan but he’s no Andrew Neill. He’s not even a James Corden. His cynical schtick is to make his Life Stories guests blub. Tears for Piers. But what does that prove? You’d need a heart of stone not to well up talking about the death of your sick mum. Sir Kier Starmer seems a decent man. We found out he likes a pint, supports Arsenal, and probably dabbled in drugs in his youth. That was shocking – a Gooner!?! But what does the Labour leader believe? How would his vision for Britain differ from Boris’s? How would he pay for it? Does he grasp exactly how far he’ll have to distance himself from fashionable views to win back traditional Labour voters? Right now, Cummings is a more effective opposition leader and he’s bonkers.



*BEST exchange – Starmer: “Mum and dad rescued donkeys.” Piers: “Is that what made you become leader of the Labour Party?” For the ass, see Owen Jones.



*PIERS didn’t question Sir Keir’s claim to be grammar school educated, or mention that his school went private when he was fourteen.



JODIE Turner-Smith is a cracking actress, but did Channel 5 choose her to play Anne Boleyn just to distract us from the stilted script? With all that controversy, who’s got time to notice the constipated dialogue, cartoony Cromwell and sub-Wolf Hall plotting? See also Anne snogging Lola Petticrew’s Jane Seymour. (And if I could see more of Jane Seymour, I’d let Jane see more of me). Still, now actors are playing other races, bring on Simon Gregson as Kunta Kinte and BBC repeats of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. If it’s okay for Jodie to portray a white woman from Norfolk who could possibly complain about Michael Bates as Rangi Ram?



HOT on TV: Cynthia Erivo, Genius: Aretha (Disney+)... Mare Of Easttown finale... Liverpool Narcos.



ROT on TV: Anne Boleyn – wolf balls... Lisey’s Story – an avalanche of over-acting.



ON Roast Battle, Brennan Reece told Kiri Pritchard-McLean her privates looked like “Chewbacca with a cleft palate”. Rude yes, but refreshingly un-PC. Kiri laughed. Good for her. In fairness, she was never going to top it.



*THE Motherland women continue to flirt with me. “Garry with two Rs,” mused Anna Maxwell Martin’s besotted Julia. “So much softer, sexy, super... ”. Yeah, yeah. But I’m playing hard to get. After seeing her on Line Of Duty, only a hardened masochist would risk the chill of her disdain.



*JUST 22per cent of a Greggs sausage roll is protein, according to C5 doc Inside Greggs, but it’s still ten times meatier than Yesterday, Today & The Day Before.



*DID you see Piers Corbyn on the anti-vax doc? Strange man, yes, but with his wild hair, eccentric clothes, potty theories and conviction he’d make a bloody good Dr Who.



IS Beat The Chasers fixed? Don’t put it past ITV. Gregg Wallace triumphed last weekend, but only after the chasers missed/threw easy questions. Despite calling himself a proud Englishman, Gregg didn’t even know when St George’s Day is.



*AMATEURS have no chance on Beat The Chef. How can you cook some poncy nonsense on your first attempt better than someone who’s been knocking out braised goat placenta with truffle oil pasta for decades?



Small Joys of TV: King Otto. Adrian Dunbar, Inside No 9. Alec Guinness, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (BBC4). Sweet Tooth (Netflix). Playing For The Mob (ESPN Player).



Random Irritations: TV guessing games. Wooden gangsters and cliched dialogue in Before We Die. Reality TV “stars” endorsing dodgy debt write-off schemes.



SEPARATED at birth: Deborah Meaden and this podling? One a small, bartering creature who lives on seeds, roots, and berries, the other is from The Dark Crystal.



Classic Clanger. David Lloyd was talking about a cricket ball gauge when he said: “The umpire has got his ring piece out to check the size of the ball.”




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