BUSHELL ON THE BOX
May 20. THEY’VE driven the rats off of South Georgia but will they ever drive the berks out of BAFTA? These awards ought to carry more weight than Sharon Mitchell’s smalls, instead they just prove how out of touch Academy bigwigs are. They can’t even find a decent host. Sue Perkins’ opening monologue hit Theresa May levels of feebleness. Sue was strong on man-bashing, but comedy clearly isn’t her business. She’d have got more laughs if they’d left her in the car outside barking at strangers.
Yet for all her virtue-signalling and digs at Weinstein – very topical... last October – it was Perkins who went down the “sexism” route, pretending to be turned on by the thought of Ashley Banjo in the buff. If she’d drooled any more when she met the Commonwealth gold-winning women’s netball team, the Royal Festival Hall would have charged her for cleaning the carpet. Sue called them the “women’s nipple team”. Imagine the days of fake outrage we’d have had to suffer if a male comedian had done that!
Peaky Blinders deserved its win, despite Adrien Brody’s hog farm levels of ham. Line Of Duty was ridiculously blanked – nothing for brilliant Thandie Newton or Adrian Dunbar. End Of The F***ing World was in the wrong f***ing race. It should’ve been in a separate Comedy Drama category with Better Call Saul and Black Mirror. Sean Bean was rightly rewarded for his role as turbulent priest Father Michael in Jimmy McGovern’s flawed but absorbing Broken, and Molly Windsor was wonderful in the brave and harrowing Three Girls. But Blue Planet II, The Vietnam War and Big Little Lies lost out. And The Crown’s Claire Foy was royally shafted, although Vanessa Kirby’s win proved Bafta can’t swerve Netflix forever.
Britain’s Got Talent scooped the Best Entertainment gong. Hmm. Did any of them actually watch it last year? Cowell looked bored throughout, the judges forgot names, the final was lacklustre, the singers shouted and the mind-readers fluffed their act... award-winning stuff indeed. Most of the entertainment contenders were as tired as our soaps, while the comedy runners and riders reflected how marginalised humour has become in these dreary PC times. At least Graham Norton won.
*CAROLINE Flack picked up a BAFTA for Love Island. Wow. She’s gone home with an Oscar, a Tony and maybe even an Emmy but never an award.
WERE you like me watching Psychic Suzie on EastEnders hoping somebody would strike a happy medium? Or at least nut her writer... In TV maths terms, Suzie was Mystic Meg + Del-Boy minus brains. She only had one revelation in the whole session – predicting rum-hound Patrick would be the next local through the door. Not exactly contacting the spirit of Dirty Den who is still buried in the cellar. Big Mo should have asked Vic regulars to join hands and contact the soap’s lost viewers. Or pretended to channel Pete Beale and told Kathy “Bwace yerself, tweacle, I’m back.” A genuine psychic, if such a thing exists, might have told us whether Jake Moon was alive or dead. Ditto Marge Green, who went on a world cruise in 1989 and hasn’t been seen since. They might also have warned poor doomed Shaki not to leave the ’ouse.
*STACEY, Sonia, Hayley... is that a snog-marry-avoid choice for Martin, or three good reasons to relocate to Hollyoaks?
*WALFORD mysteries: Why hasn’t Kat told anyone about her son, the psycho-killer priest? Why do the BBC think it’s okay for Walford women to sexually assault blokes? And, more urgently, where exactly in East London can you buy three shots for six quid? I’m only up the road.
WE have a new Duchess of Sussex! Hurrah! Frankie Boyle said: “You grow up wanting to be a Princess and end up sounding like a pub in Eastbourne... ” TV milked the royal wedding like a herd of prize Friesians. (As did the papers). On HIGNFY Richard Ayoade discussed the week’s Markle debacles concluding: “They’ve proved themselves to be a fairly dysfunctional family... but Meghan seems happy to marry into them.” It wasn’t all funny. Boyle, who now looks like a secular Ayatollah, claimed Royals tolerate wedding crowds because “in the event of a bomb they are there to soak up the shrapnel”, successfully plunging to new lows in bad taste. Boyle’s New World Order mixes scathing comedy with lame debate. The panel aren’t there to challenge Frankie’s bog-standard right-on views but to reinforce them. The distant whirling sound was just Lord Reith spinning in his grave.
*RICHARD Ayoade on that Eurovision invader: “He grabbed the mic for several seconds and shouted barely comprehensible gibberish... He came fourth.”
HOT on TV: Peter Mullan, Westworld... Missions (BBC4)... Gemma Chan, Humans... The Americans (ITV4).
ROT on TV: Sue Perkins, BAFTAs – the host with the least... Stuart, EastEnders – all the charm of an unflushed khazi... Lithuania’s Eurovision effort – musical Melatonin.
ROBOTS. They’re ungrateful buggers. On Humans, thinking androids known as “green-eyes” have turned to terror. On Westworld, self-aware cyborgs are also slaughtering their human oppressors. It’s enough to make you unplug the Hoover. Many sci-fi predictions become reality – the internet, bionic limbs, state surveillance. So it seems entirely likely that robots will rise up against us one day. Westworld boffins implanted their founder’s consciousness into a synthetic body too, making him a potential “trans-human”. If we ever become “species fluid” it’s worth remembering that dolphin appendages are remarkably large and can swivel at will. I pass on that info because girls, you’re worth it.
*SO Dave Collins really was Innocent. He didn’t kill his wife, his brother Phil did – his worst atrocity since Sussudio. For a while it looked like Dave’s neurotic sister-in-law might have topped poor Tara. Until you remembered this was ITV and she was female. It was always going to be a he-dunnit. The mini-series tossed in more red herrings than the Chinese fishing fleet, all as reliable as a Mark Carney economic forecast. No-one was particularly likeable; not even David. He may be innocent but his grim goatee made him eminently punchable.
*JON Richardson’s Ultimate Worrier isn’t funny enough. That’s a worry.
*WHAT Makes A Woman? Two X chromosomes. Next question.
SMALL joys of TV: Harry Enfield’s priceless Prince Charles impression. Atlanta. Bulletproof. Siren. Tom Ellis as Lucifer. Hardball. Innocent’s Melissa storming out on husband Tom – and Barnes Wallis thought he had the bouncing bombs! Talk about throwing a wobbly...
RANDOM irritations: Hectoring hypocrite Jamie Oliver – he should be driven off TV at the rough end of an artisan salami. Sinead Tinker’s dreary whining on Corrie. Sky Atlantic expecting us to care about an upper class smackhead blowing his inheritance on narcotics.
SEPARATED at birth: Benedict Cumberbatch as Patrick Melrose and Bluebottle from the Goons? One an unlikeable clot who was nearly “deaded” every episode; the other was dreamed up by Spike Milligan.
TV maths. Wrestler Jack Swagger + Mr Ed’s teeth = Rob Beckett.
JOHN Parrott was talking about snooker player Ding Junhui’s potting pace when he said: “He must have a hot date the way he’s getting those balls out.” Keep those goofs coming...
MAY 13. Jeremy Clarkson seems an odd choice to front Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Most quiz show hosts are on the contestants’ side. Clarkson seems to actively despise them. “The show’s not called Who Wants A New Loft Conversion,” he grumbled at one poor sod. And when Louise told him she’d “like to aim for £16,000”, Clarkson snapped “Why didn’t you go on Pets Win Prizes?” Um, possibly coz it was axed in 1996... Jezza doesn’t know much about light entertainment, poor love. In fact, the Ask The Host option seems specifically designed to show how little he knows about anything. Like which county cricket club has The Oval as its home ground. Or how many sides a stop road sign has. He didn’t know the bloke in Magritte’s most famous painting wore a bowler hat, steering Sarah towards a beret – she lost £7grand. And thought William Hague had been foreign secretary in 2016. (Some Tory!) Lynn took his guidance over husband Ian, her phone-a-friend, who correctly picked Philip Hammond, and dropped £31K. They’ll laugh about that... in 30years or so.
Clarkson’s biggest clanger came on Friday. Alan said an ibex was a deer. “That is the correct answer,” said Jezza with great certainty. Except it wasn’t. An ibex is a goat. Woops. Some of the contestants seemed thicker than Benoit Blin’s accent. Sarah didn’t know where Checkpoint Charlie was, Emma hadn’t heard of Black Rod. Tom seriously considered the possibility that Blackpool Tower was in Hertfordshire... The studio audience weren’t much better. Eight percent of them thought you express anger by venting your intestines. It’s hard not to enjoy Clarkson’s spikiness, though. He hates Australia, finds the French “weird” and doesn’t indulge dimwits. It’s a bit like having Captain Mainwaring replace Bradley Walsh on The Chase and barking “Stupid boy!” at all-comers while knowing sod-all himself. The week’s biggest winner was amputee Gareth from Halifax who scooped £125,000 by correctly answering that the ruins of Urquhart Castle stand on the banks of Loch Ness. Gareth knew it because that was where he’d lost his leg. It was a magic, Slumdog Millionaire moment. Proper TV gold.
WHAT would the idealistic young rebels we saw on Vive La Revolution make of their modern day equivalents? The 1968 students fought for freedom. “It is forbidden to forbid!” they said. Today’s mantra is “You can’t say that!” Sex, or lack of it, sparked the Paris uprising. Students were initially protesting against restrictions that stopped males and females sleeping together. Today’s new puritans seem closer to Orwell’s Junior Anti-Sex League. The French student revolt escalated into a general strike. There were street fights, occupations. De Gaulle was ready to send in the army. Joan Bakewell told their story through old footage of good-looking young people, many of them smoking like kipper factories. Their slogans were playful: ‘Be realistic, demand the impossible!’ ... ‘Beneath the paving stones, the beach!’ Along with America’s anti-war movement, the revolting French inspired uprisings from Prague to Pakistan. (Although in The Shed, Chelsea fans chanted “Students, students, ha-ha-ha!”) The young lost the political battle but won the culture war. For a while. 50 years on, the control freaks are from the Left.
CHANNEL 4 took us down the rabbit hole on Genderquake with folk who self-define in a variety of bizarre ways. As well as trans-people, there was dippy Phoenix, 22, who called himself a “gender-fluid, non-binary, freaky alien child.” (ET, f*** off!). There was also Howie, a lesbian so hot Billy Mitchell is probably already en route, and trans-man Romario who snogged straight Filomena without revealing his/her back-story. It was just as well that Markus outed him as Romario is packing a prosthetic penis to rival the aroused giraffe on The Secret Life Of The Zoo. Get that out in public and there’d be Morris Men dancing around it. Tom (token straight man) summed up the sensible response when he said that if you’re born male and want to be a woman and it makes no difference to anyone “then who gives a sh*t?” Naturally C4 swerved the growing but taboo issue of trans-people who have their reassignment operations reversed.
HOT on TV: Sofia Helin, The Bridge... Vick Hope, Carnage (Sky One)... the Homeland finale.
ROT on TV: Iain Lee turning GMB into Bad Morning Britain... Eurovision – why bother?... Genius: Picasso – more corn than the Jolly Green Giant... Marc Wootton – even more irritating than Dan.
TV questions: Is Riot Girls best reviewed with water cannons or CS gas? Why was Genderquake set in Sussex and not Middlesex? How seriously can we take the BAFTAs when tonight’s awards are hosted by serial flop Sue Perkins, and when they’ve left out Harry Hill, the League Of Gentlemen and Peter Kay?
*ROBIN Williams said divorce came for the Latin word meaning to rip out a man’s genitals through his wallet. Watching the obnoxious divorce lawyers on The Split is more like having your soul plucked out and drowned in oestrogen.
*THERE are real lessons to be learned from Aidan’s tragic suicide on Corrie, the most obvious one being – never listen to Florence & The Machine. That dreary dirge pushed him right over the edge.
*WE’RE always told Paul Merton is a great improviser. Isn’t it time he tried improvising some different reaction shots on HIGNFY?
*TOWIE’S Gemma Collins was bitten on her private parts by a gnat. The poisonous effect was immediate. It caused redness, pain and fearful swelling... We don’t know what it did to her fanny.
*THE Halifax are using Wizard Of Oz clips in their ads to encourage folk to save for a home. Have they actually seen the film? Dorothy lives in a wooden shack that gets blown away in a tornado!
*ON Gotham crime has been licenced. They have official permission to rob us. A bit like the BBC.
SMALL joys of TV: Clarkson mimicking a chicken when a contestant set his Millionaire safety-net at £16K. Carnage – it’s Robot Wars for real as designed by Max Max. The Phil Silvers Show (Forces TV). The Episodes finale and John Pankow as Merc Lapidus. Sharon Horgan’s Jag ad . Mr Avila (All 4).
RANDOM irritations: Lazy Bank Holiday TV schedules. Sloppy martial arts on The New Legends of Monkey. Drippy fridge magnet “wisdom” on The Split. Jim Bell on Friday Night Dinner – a moronic caricature. The Money Supermarket Action Man ads.
SEPARATED at birth: Trump lawyer Ty Cobb and James Robertson Justice? One associated with a much-loved, long-running comedy; the other played Sir Lancelot Spratt in the Doctor films.
Royal replicas revisited: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Audrey Roberts?
ONE of the Monks team was warning driver Jason about the rival Hellraisers’ vehicle on Carnage when he screamed: “He’s coming up your arse!” “The more I look at yours the more impressive it gets,” added Freddie Flintoff.
MAY 6. They’ve added an option on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire: ask the host. That’ll be handy if any questions come up about throwing right-handers, ethnic slurs or the Saab variable compression engine. Fastest Fist First is the choice I wanted to see. Jeremy Clarkson doesn’t tease and torment like Tarrant but is he as good? We’ll find out after the break... in this case next Sunday. Britain takes TV quiz shows seriously, possibly because in a world of fake news and micro-celebrity dunces, they celebrate pure knowledge. Quizzes are totally democratic. Class, race and gender are immaterial. All that matters is what you know. Although what you don’t know often delights too. When Anne Robinson asked a Weakest Link contestant what word beginning with H in the Lord’s Prayer meaning blessed comes before ‘be thy name’, she wasn’t expecting the answer “Howard.”
We’ve had people who think Bob Dylan is Scottish, Captain America is real, and that the “ten gallon” associated with cowboys refers to whisky. But the real joy is winning. 17million watched Charles Ingram, an apparently nice but dim major in the Royal Engineers, luck his way to a million smackers on Millionaire in 2001. Ingram didn’t even know what language the Norman invaders spoke. Yet he always “guessed” correctly aided, a court later found, by his wife and a college lecturer pal who helpfully coughed after the right answers. It was the biggest quizzing scandal since a multiple murderer appeared on Bullseye 16years earlier.
Britain has produced 105 quiz shows of which Mastermind is the purest. TV producer Bill Wright, a former RAF gunner, based it on his experience of being interrogated by the Gestapo. Only Lydia Bright’s woeful performance on the dumbed-down “celeb” version was more traumatising. Lyds made David Lammy look good. Quizzes can be life-changing. Dark destroyer Shaun Wallace landed his job as a chaser after winning Mastermind, just like London taxi driver Fred Housego who enjoyed a long career in radio. Judith Keppel won £1million and the Eggheads gig after becoming the first to answer 15 questions correctly on Millionaire. A million quid for knowing which king married Eleanor of Aquitaine! See kids, those history lessons you moan about can really pay off.
*THE Top 5 UK quizzes: Millionaire, Mastermind, The Chase, 15-To-1, and The Weakest Link. I came second on the last two, but they won’t have me on Mastermind. Apparently the underwear of January Jones doesn’t count as a specialist subject.
IF Britain’s Got Talent why does Cowell stuff the show with imported professionals? We’ve seen Dutch illusionists, Vietnamese acrobats, Belgian dancers, a Canadian magician, a Maltese singer, an Australian circus pro, a prop comic from LA, a Japanese nutcase... Oh and a singing Irish priest who’s already had a platinum album... Do his scouts just sit in an office watching playbacks of other countries’ talent show finalists? Yet without the foreign contingent, the show would just consist of cute kids, sob stories and average singers. Even the better British turns aren’t what they seem. “Retired” Jenny Darren, who claimed she hadn’t sung rock since 1981, released an album last year with musicians from Iron Maiden, AC/DC, UFO and Wishbone Ash. Scatty magician Mandy Muden was on Bradley Walsh’s The Big Stage years ago. There was nowhere for her to go after that and sadly there still isn't. Last night's gee-whizz acts were Korean quick-change pros Ellie and Jeki (Simon most have forgotten seeing him on America's Got Talent), and knife-throwing Malaysian Andrew Lee, a finalist on Asia's Got Talent. You may recall seeing Donchez, the singing AA man, on GMTV.
STEVE Bochco who died last month was the genius behind ground-breaking dramas like Hill Street Blues, LA Law and NYPD Blue. His fictional cops swore, drank, joked and mucked up. The greatest was tough-talking New York detective Andy Sipowicz, a bigoted bag egg who became the show’s heart and soul, despite being saddled with miseries that would make the Platts weep. Bochco’s tough, realistic style opened the door for ER and arguably the Sopranos. He showed that great TV could compete and even over-shadow the movies. Just don’t mention Cop Rock.
HOT on TV: Joel Kinnaman, Altered Carbon (Netflix)... Rachel Evan Wood, Westworld (SkyAt)... Homeland.
ROT on TV: True Horror – shockingly poor... High & Dry - low and wet... The Split – BBC drama’s latest gift to rhyming slang... Invitation To A Royal Wedding – revealed about as much as a nun on a hen night.
BRITAIN’S Best Home Cooks is the BBC’s latest attempt to fill Mary Berry’s big Bake Off hole. It’s basically MasterChef meets The Apprentice. Ten contenders share a house and are told what dishes to rustle up... so they’re not at home and they’re not cooking what they’re good at. D’oh! How they qualified to take part is anyone’s guess. Two of them couldn’t even poach eggs. Asked to make the “ultimate burger”, Tobi served up a steak sandwich. Still at least he didn’t stick peas in it. Lab technician Pippa stormed the opening round, leaving her rivals looking as happy as Jamie Oliver in a Frosties factory. There was good knife work, expert sieving and for extra grating they threw in Claudia. The innuendo quota was low – Mary enthusing over “the wonderful flavour of nuts” was as good as it got.
IF a butcher’s ads saying “Have your rump tenderised before you leave” and “big-breasted birds” merit police attention, are our TV stars safe? Will killjoy cops come for Bradley Walsh the next time he cracks up over Gobblers Knob? Or haul off Bake Off contenders for leaky crack and soggy bottom related offences? Seaside postcards aren’t a crime yet, but give ’em time. They’re already nicking YouTubers.
*BE careful what you wish for, Corrie fans. Misery junkie Katie Oates is leaving but if the alternative is “comedy” like gormless Jude’s gift-shop saga, then the Street is more doomed than Aidan Connor.
*SO, a “mountweazel” is a bogus entry in a reference book, and not as previously thought what Stacey did to Max Branning last Xmas. Thanks for that, Only Connect.
*QUOTE of the week from historian David Starkey: “You look at Wallis Simpson and you think – why bother?”
SMALL joys of TV: The Brush Strokes opening credits playing on Cunk On Britain – repeat it, BBC! Taskmaster. Al Pacino in Paterno. Henry Winkler in Barry. Mountain. Mira Sorvino definitely not taking off Gwyneth Paltrow on Modern Family, honestly.
RANDOM irritations: Royal Wedding overkill. Kale. Corrie’s Jude – duller than a wet weekend in Whitby. The ugliness of The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes. ITV continuing to waste The Americans. Netflix’s The Stand-ups – except for our own Gina Yashere.
SEPARATED at birth: Curly Simon from Corrie and this Steve Hewlett dummy? One a strange, foam-headed creature with a tendency to back-chat, the other is a ventriloquist’s puppet.
TV Maths. Ant + Corrie’s Billy = Gotham’s evil R’as al Ghul.