BUSHELL ON THE BOX
DEC 9. THERE are so many mysteries on EastEnders it’s “doin’ my ’ead in”. Why didn’t anyone ask what Roxy Mitchell was doing in the jungle? She’s supposed to be pushing up the daisies, not jerking around with a cockroach up her jacksie. No-one has asked Kat what Ireland was like... not even her Nan. And naturally Kat’s neglected to mention that her lost son turned out to be a psychopathic killer priest. Why do so many Walford residents romp in khazis (Mel and Ray, Max and Fi, Martin and Stacey... )? Talk about bog-standard sex. When did little Tommy have his head transplant? Where does Ian Beale’s fire escape lead to? Direct to the seventh circle of Hell, maybe. His restaurant is ground level; the exit is 20feet lower. There are no steps leading back to street level. It was dark when Billy “Lonely Loins” Mitchell walked back to the party with a case of beer, so how was there still natural light inside the Slaters’ doss-hole? And why is no-one ill when there isn’t a GP in the cast?
We might also ask why, if the whole pub can debate rape, does no regular character ever advocate the return of death penalty for the Square’s many murderers? EastEnders boasts it reflects “real life”, but the writers – miserablists and snowflakes to a man – actually use the scripts to hammer home their own prejudices. The referendum result infuriated them so much that the Vic ran an EU-themed supper club week... like no known pub in East London. Drama should reflect the way the world is, even if we don’t like it. If it serves up life as we’d like it to be then it isn’t drama, it’s just cowardly propaganda.
When Julia Smith and Tony Holland created EastEnders, it genuinely captured a sense of the old East End. Characters like Den and Angie Watts and the Fowlers felt as real as Marie Lloyd or John L Gardner, as did Frank Butcher and the Mitchell bruvs (when they were mechanics, not semi-villains). I’m not sure who we’re supposed to like now. Alfie was always a wide-boy but running a rip-off funeral plan targeting hard-up locals is plain wicked. They’ve even started on the past, with a recent storyline suggesting Charlie Slater was complicit in Kat’s abuse. Misery rules, OK. The idea of a character making a success of their lives through hard work never occurs to them.
DANNY Dyer surprised many Have I Got News For You viewers. For starters he was in a suit and no-one was calling him “the accused”. Some objected to his accent. “Who’s this posh bloke?” said a Mr. Raymond Winstone of Homerton. Others hated his swearing, although when Dan suggested a snooty Times letter writer should “f*** off” he won me right over. He struggled a bit with the autocue but sent himself up gleefully claiming he’d been “stockpiling pies, fags and penicillin”. Dyer had some good gags too, including the claim that a Dutch Shepherd dog was “like a German Shepherd but with a more liberal attitude to drugs”. Merton disliked him so much he didn’t mug to the cameras once.
THEY had painted wolves on Dynasties. I’m not sure who painted them, but they were ugly enough to win a Turner Prize. No wonder they’re endangered. They’d have to be skunk-drunk to mate. The storyline was grim, gory and gripping; almost Shakespearean. Blacktip and her pack hounded her mother Tait but over-reached, losing cubs to hyenas and crocodiles. The soaps should pinch this. Grant Mitchell’s kid comes back to Walford, drives out Phil and comes unstuck. Two things irritated. Wild animals don’t have names. And Attenborough claimed they were “one of the last great families”. How does he know? He loves a bit of spin doesn’t he?
HOT on TV: Jessica Beal, The Sinner (BBC4)... The Marvellous Mrs Maisel (AmPrime)... Daredevil (Netflix).
ROT on TV: How To Spend It Well At Xmas – start by swerving this old tat... Dave’s Advent Calendar – pitiful... X Factor final – end of an error... Fortitude – bonkers.
TV Carols 2018. Corrie cast: Oh little street in Weatherfield, how did you get so grim? And (to tune of Oh Christmas Tree): O sweet Sally, O sweet Sally, you’ll be banged up till January. The I’m A Celeb version: Anne Hegerty, Anne Hegerty, our laziest celebrity... Other jungle faves: Dec’s In Thrall To Thighs of Holly. The First Noel... was straight out the door... EastEnders cast: O Come All Ye Unfaithful. Dennis: I Saw Mummy Bonking Ke-a-nu. Keanu: Away With A Minger.
TOMORROW’S World’s “science of Spiderman” special was more CBBC than BBC4. If they’d studied Spidey’s powers instead of his films, they’d have exposed the web-slinging Marvel superhero as a total fraud. Spiderman’s story makes as much sense as Fortitude. Young Peter Parker got his powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Only huntsman spiders climb like he does. But they aren’t particularly strong, agile or fast and they don’t build webs. Spiderman’s mechanical silk completely defies physics. But so do most superheroes. Superman’s origins don’t explain his flying or x-ray vision. Aquaman is absurd – when he’s on the ocean bed, how does his body stand the pressure? How much would The Flash have to eat to burn up that much energy? Even Gregg Wallace couldn’t scoff enough. The only way to enjoy these comic book creations is to forget logic and truth, and suspend belief. Much like PMQs.
*THE Secret Life Of The Zoo informed us a group of meerkats are called a “mob”. Makes sense... they start with insurance deals, muscle in on Corrie, and before long they’re dealing crack and pimping out squirrels.
*VIEWERS were shocked when This Morning discussed men’s testicles. Quite right. You usually have to wait until Loose Women starts to hear people talking balls.
*GAME Of Thrones has given fans a taste for mead. Not me, although oddly I often find myself hankering for a megalomaniac blonde with a hot pair of dragons...
SMALL joys of TV: Tyson Fury rising up from the canvas in the twelfth. UK’s Strongest Man. Money Heist (Netflix). Forged In Fire: Tournament. The Co-op buyers reaction to Camilla’s team’s sales pitch on The Apprentice. Hornblower repeats. Andre Rieu: Xmas Around The World. And Karen on Embarrassing Pets saying of her mixed breed Jack Russell and pug dogs: “I’ve got a lovely pair of jugs.”
RANDOM irritations: Vegans. The BBC comedy Stasi refusing to let us see repeats of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and The Goodies. People who complain about sex on TV but watch it on catch-up. Newsnight’s dismal decline. Intrusive, OTT soundtracks that treat adults like toddlers.
SEPARATED at birth: Theresa May and Mr Burns? One an evasive, manipulative villain with a dubious vision, the other is a character in The Simpsons.
TV Maths: Noel Edmonds + leather jacket = Animal from the Anti-Nowhere League.
DEC 2. WE had two sackings on The Apprentice, both thoroughly deserved. I’m not saying tree surgeon Tom was wooden but when he finally got the chop it was a miracle no-one shouted “Timber! If you cut him, he’d bleed sap. Tom made his live debut as a salesman on a TV shopping channel. “Was any of it awkward?” he asked. Just all of it, mate. “I feel like I put my personality into that,” he added, which was true coz every week Tom demonstrated he has the personality of tumbleweed.
Not that stroppy-chops Khadija was much better. Her first words on her live broadcast were “Oh sh*t!” Then it got worse. “This is self-inflating,” she announced, trying to flog a blow-up plastic lounger. “It’s not self-inflating,” said Camilla in her ear. “Okay, you do have to inflate it yourself,” Khad corrected. D’oh! It didn’t help that the lounger looked like an intimate female body part (and they’d already had one giant fanny this series – Frank Brooks). Or that Khadija had, in Lord Sugar’s words, “all the charm of a debt collector.” She looked “like she was in pain”, observed Shugs, whereas Tom “looked like he’d just walked in off the street”. When she threw to his teeth-whitening item, Tom half-froze. “Hey, how’s it going?” he asked, hesitantly, looking flustered. “We’re going to start at £49.99,” Camilla told him. “This is starting at £56.99,” Tom said confidently. Awkward? It was a blinking disaster. In the boardroom, Sugar sacked him with no discussion.
Rival presenters Daniel and Sarah Ann had far more screen presence and won despite producing an unusable promo video. This task didn’t quite scale the heights of cringe hit by Simon Ambrose years ago when he demonstrated how to screw legs to a trampoline and ended up fiddling suggestively with a small pole over his groin... But it did cost two candidates their places. Sugar, who is as cheerful as Mark Carney with piles these days, axed Trappy Jackie too. No-one mentioned that live TV presentation involves a completely different skill-set from being an entrepreneur. Or that this show has got more in common with the Generation Game than business ability. The first three tasks this series were shopping abroad, making a kids’ comic and cooking dodgy doughnuts... Not exactly Dragon’s Den. But who’s complaining? While X Factor wobbles, The Apprentice continues to deliver a fine line in utterly deluded dimwits.
*DID you spot the options on the shopping channel’s production consoles? “STRAP ON” and “STING”... they could have made a completely different show.
*SUGAR: “A self-inflating lounger? Sounds like Piers Morgan.”
VIC Reeves’ Big Night Out hit our screens in 1990 like an explosion of comic chaos. Crackpot characters such as Judge Nutmeg, Graham Lister and The Man With A Stick could have come straight from a psychiatric ward. You can still reduce a generation to hysterics just by shouting “What’s on the end of your stick, Vic?” It was zany, surreal, profoundly silly... and now it’s back, as Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out with Bob Mortimer rightly given equal prominence to Vic, AKA “Britain’s top light entertainer”. It started with the daft duo singing insults at a couple eating dinner, and throwing in groaners like “How do you prepare your turkey for Xmas?” “We just tell ’em straight, you’re going to die.” Highlights included Lister’s return to Novelty Island, slo-mo corned beef munching and Vic pulling open his face to reveal a chiming church bell like a Dali painting made flesh. But 28years and several stones on, the show doesn’t feel quite so invigoratingly bonkers. I laughed at George Meatmarket’s yodelling backside but I’d had a few by then. Still if they bring back Judge Nutmeg next week all will be right in the world. All together: “Spin, spin, spin the wheel of justice, see how fast the bastard turns... ”
ON I’m A Celebrity, Holly said sheep brain is “a delicacy in some places.” Harry Redknapp shot back: “Not in Stepney it ain’t.” He’s got a point, hasn’t he? MasterChef constantly serves up cobblers like “caramelised nut garnish” and “edible flowers”. I’d be more impressed if they showed us how to home cook a McRib. Sod “soft-boiled celeriac”, let them try their hand at the grub we grew up with – pie and mash, bread and dripping, stewed eels, pease pudding and saveloys... or was that just me... and Harry?
*THEY had an X Factor themed trial on I’m A Celeb. Why not? It’s been torture for years. Even with her gob clamped open Emily sounded better than Jedward. (See also Storm Lee, Diva Fever, 2 Shoeszzz etc etc... )
HOT on TV: Farang: Dead Man Running... Fleur East... The Last Kingdom (Netflix)... Dynasties: Lion... Get Shorty – an overlooked gem.
ROT on TV: Ben and Katie, A Very British Country Home – pampered pinheads... Death & Nightingales – death might be quicker.
DID you see the Lindy Hop-athon results fiasco on Strictly? The panicking judges exhibited the mathematical clarity of Diane Abbot on Melatonin, and Shirley seemed to think “Charles and Diane” were a competing couple. Best laugh of the series.
*THEY have EIGHT executive producers on The Little Drummer Girl, and not one of ’em noticed it took five weeks for the action to kick in...
*FIVE things slower than The Little Drummer Girl: sloths, melting tar, Joey Essex’s brain, Brexit, C4’s The First...
*REAL-life MI6 agent Alexander Wilson seems to have taken the name of James Bond star Roger Moore as an instruction. Mrs Wilson bigamist Alec had enough wives to stock a sheik’s harem. He was the spy who loved “me”, “me” and “me too”.
SMALL joys of TV: UK’s Strongest Man. The Walking Dead’s Evolution twist. Bradley Walsh claiming he thought Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms “was about his accident with a combine harvester”. Classic Les Dawson clips on The Truth About The Menopause.
RANDOM irritations: BBC drama’s weird addiction to characters giving preachy speeches in the middle of action scenes (see Doctor Who, Sherlock etc). Talking heads talking tosh on BBC4’s Stevie Wonder doc; great clips though. Cringey Kristina on First Dates.
SEPARATED at birth: This Arn Anderson doll and, umm, me? One an awesomely fit fighting force, the other was a TV wrestler... Cough.
LIP twins: Ruth Wilson and Count Duckula?
TV Maths: Russell Brand + Stetson hat = Weird Al Yankovic.
*PEOPLE who’d make better Question Time hosts than Fiona Bruce: Andrew Neil, Nick Ferrari, Camilla Cavendish, Chloe Westley, Agnes Brown... Still, it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been Gemma Collins.
*DEAR Corrie: free Sally, jail the producer.
RANDOM questions: Why are rappers always Big or “Li’l”? Aren’t there any medium-sized ones? Should a dead hippo be called a hippo-posthumous? Is religion a threat to our traditional Xmas celebration of rampant consumerism? And what ever happened to that thrilling samosa storyline on EastEnders?