BUSHELL ON THE BOX
March 18. Poor David Platt was plied with drink, drugged and then abused by boxing trainer Josh on Coronation Street. Was this wicked twist too much for a family soap? Some say today’s Corrie, with its cold-blooded murders and junkie vicar, is betraying the Street’s gentle history. They have short memories. Ernest Bishop was gunned down 40 years ago. Brian Tilsley was fatally stabbed. Samir Rachid was beaten to death. There’s been claret on t’cobbles for as long as I can remember. Steve Tanner, Elsie’s husband, died in a fight in 1968... decades before Richard Hillman’s reign of terror. Granted David’s dark fate seemed more Deliverance than Dukinfield but it does happen. The assault took place off camera and was less brutal than Toyah’s 2001 rape ordeal. The real story will be how the nightmare messes with David’s head; how he copes with the confusion, embarrassment and guilt. Let’s hope he eventually hits back at Josh like a Platt out of hell.
Fans don’t mind evil as long as it’s punished, which is why Pat Phelan has become a worry. Pat is a blinding character, a callous conman made believably human by Connor McIntyre. If Corrie hadn’t turned him into an executioner, Pat could have lasted years. Now most viewers just want him gone. Soaps had a strong sense of morality once, less so today. With writers under tremendous pressure to deliver ever more melodramatic storylines, Corrie is in danger of becoming an accelerating treadmill of angst livened up only by unfeasibly hot lesbians.
Churning out more episodes with fewer resources has watered down the soap’s traditional humour. “Medium” Rosemary Potter might be designed to fill the laughter gap (though more likely she’s a con-artist). But even a comedy psychic could run into problems here. She’s heard from Alf Roberts, it will be Richard Hillman next. Jez Quigley, John Stape and tram-slammed Alan Bradley could follow. Weatherfield has more ghosts than Yvette Fielding could shake a stick at. Here’s hoping Red Ida Clough comes through to unionise those factory workers.
*WHAT fresh hell can the writers inflict on Corrie folk? Spontaneous human combustion for excitable Dev... Gail abducted by aliens (and swiftly returned)... Carla eloping with a bearded TV critic? I’d have Steve cheat on Tracy with Michelle, and Karen come back for the hat-trick. The strain would kill him but what a way to go.
NICE to see the BBC’s Bruce Forsyth tribute (to see it nice). Shame it was so half-cocked. Why have telly exec Michael Grade going for laughs on the Palladium stage and reduce Jimmy Tarbuck to a talking head? Where was Brucie’s long-time buddy Kenny Lynch? Why have Alfie Boe and Michael Ball singing New York New York? Bruce never cracked the States and it was Sammy Davis Jr he idolised, not Sinatra. (Besides Ball and former BBC exec Jim Moir looked more Fat Pack than Rat Pack). Sammy tribute act Kenny Jones would have been a better opener than that under-whelming tap-dancer. Bassey and Alexandra Burke were brilliant; didn’t they do well? But Jon Culshaw’s Forsyth impression stank like Bruce’s lousy sitcom Slinger's Day. The comedy was weak. No-one mentioned the syrup or that magnificent Easter Island statue chin. Bruce wasn’t our “finest all-round entertainer” but he was a peerless gameshow host with a popular touch few came close to. Ironically he was never too keen on Tess Daly, or BBC bosses.
RICKY Gervais’s new Netflix show Humanity sets out to offend Christians, transsexuals and twitter warriors – and succeeds. There’s an AIDS gag in the opening minutes and a long section where he imagines himself being sodomised by Satan that makes David Platt’s torment seem like an over-enthusiastic prostate exam. Ricky tackles the backlash to his Caitlin Jenner joke – “Relax, I’ve changed... not as much as Bruce Jenner... ” And then claims to be a pre-op chimp known as Bobo. Half his act consists of Ricky hitting back at Twitter morons. So either he’s more thin-skinned than Donald Trump guzzling gooseberries, or he’s found the perfect way to generate new material. His message is simple: “You can laugh at bad things without being bad people.” True enough. And it’s made him millions. But sometimes we just want comedians to bring us sunshine. Quaint idea, I know.
*KEN Dodd, Jim Bowen... it’s the end of an era, folks. What will the obits of current TV comedians consist of? Adam Hills’s smuggest virtue-signalling? Nish Kumar’s Top 50 Brexit sneers? Iain Lee’s best whinges and whines?
HOT on TV: Alexandra Burke... Mandy Patinkin, Homeland... Jane (NatGeo)... Save Me... Connor McIntyre, Corrie.
ROT on TV: Ashley Cain, Five Star Hotel – he couldn’t be more self-absorbed if he were made entirely of Regina Thirst Pockets... Alix Alfus, Made In Chelsea – the biggest drip since the snow thawed.
JOE Pasquale is mesmerising as accident-prone Frank Spencer in the stage version of Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em. His timing, delivery and gift for physical comedy make Squeaky Joe perfect for the role of the loveable but infuriating Spencer. Backed by a strong cast, including Sarah Earnshaw as Betty, the farce is stuffed full of disasters waiting to happen. If that eye-watering banister stunt ever goes wrong, Joe’s next job will be harem eunuch.
*ODD that Stephen Hawking and Ken Dodd died in the same week. One was renowned for his Brief History Of Time, the other was never brief and tended to ignore time completely...
*GOOD to see the bookie’s again on EastEnders. Next maybe they’ll re-open the nail bar, the snooker hall and the gym. Oh, and find the Queen Vic pool table. Better still the writers might remember one day that Big Mo is NOT STACEY'S NAN.
SMALL joys of TV: Ken Dodd clips. Paralympic snow-boarding. Vikings battle scenes. Bullseye re-runs on Challenge. Bobby Ball, Not Going Out. Here Comes The Summer: the Undertones’ Story (BBC4). Corrie’s Mary talking seashells: “My pink slit couch was very much admired”.
RANDOM irritations: George Clarke’s inability to pronounce the word architect despite being one. It’s not arch-itect. Mindhunters on Netflix, which is set in 1977, constantly playing songs from later years. Simon Schama’s non-stop hand waving – he should be directing traffic.
SEPARATED at birth: Noel Fielding and Zoot from the Muppets? One an endearing foam-headed figure of fun, the other is a Muppet.
HAIR Twins: the late Sir Ken Dodd and Robert Smith from The Cure.
*TWO ITV weather forecasters are pregnant – a warm front neither of them predicted. I experience a ridge of high pressure every time I see Lucy Verasamy.
March 11. Mary Beard is a smart, highly educated Cambridge professor, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be wrong. On Civilisations, Beard lurched from boring to bonkers like a bad soap opera. The maddest moment came when she claimed the Ancient Greek statue of Aphrodite had been ‘raped’. A young man became so aroused by the stone sculpture that he “forced himself upon it”, she said, leaving “a stain of lust” on its side. “That was rape,” she continued solemnly. “Aphrodite never consented.” She wasn't joking either. If true – and Mary preceded the story with “it was said” – then it certainly brings new meaning to splashing out on some artwork. But this would have been art vandalism, not rape... you can't rape stone.
More puzzling was Mary's claim that an historic Olmec statue called The Wrestler was as good as anything the Greeks produced. Beard thinks seeing Greek art as “a beacon of superior Western civilisation” distorts the way we judge the art of other cultures. This series wants to play down Western achievements and undermine Kenneth Clark's ground-breaking 1969 series Civilisation. Yet her argument is completely nobbled by the evidence of our own eyes. Compare and contrast The Wrestler with the Venus de Milo. The Greeks win hands down (sorry Venus). Most Olmec art is closer to Tony Hancock’s Aphrodite in The Rebel than the Artemision Bronze. All cultures aren’t equal. They weren’t then, they aren’t now. Where is the Chinese Beethoven, the Iraqi Bach or the Innuit Shakespeare? Let alone Kenya’s Leonardo da Vinci.
Clark said. “We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs.” For proof see the modern art racket or indeed most BBC output. When TV gets round to Civilisation: The Decline & Fall, self-loathing, right-on intellectuals will be in the dock. They've poisoned our culture for decades.
*IF statues can be raped, where does that leave American pies? The Justice for Crusts campaign can't come soon enough.
*THE Greeks were filth-hounds. They decorated urns with randy satyrs balancing goblets on their man-hoods. You don’t see that on Britain’s Got Talent! A shame as Amanda might enjoy it. Walliams would join in.
*AA Gill once said Mary Beard had corpses’ teeth, disastrous hair and embarrassing clothes. Since then she's found a hair brush, and acquired a fine selection of Tom Baker era Doctor Who scarves. Why she wears them in the baking heat of Egypt and Central America is anybody's guess. Maybe they match the thermal socks.
THE Great British Celebrity Bake Off was full of warm-hearted joys. Harry Hill’s showstopper biscuit scene featured him and the Duchess of Cornwall on holiday. Camilla had buried him up to his neck in the sand, Harry claimed; although they'd later fallen out over Duty Free allowances. Hill also served up “Bald Lucky Cupcakes” based on his own head, with handwritten IOUs inside, including a copy of Mary Berry's birth certificate... printed on the original vellum. Likeable Roisin Conaty couldn't cook to save her life. Her beach bar showstopper looked like it had survived a tsunami. She sieved icing sugar down the sink and her crêpes suzettes were spot-welded to the plate. “It’s like something a drunk person might make after watching Bake Off,” Roisin conceded. Paul Hollywood said her gingerbread was the worst he'd ever tasted. Martin Kemp mucked up too, cooking his butter cream instead of cake mixture. The innuendo came with Bill Turnball's Wycombe Wanderers-themed cupcakes. “Your balls look good,” Paul told him. Saucy. The Stand Up To Cancer charity show ended on a sad note. After filming Bill was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Donate if you can.
THE Oscars lasted for four whole hours, which is longer than some UKIP leaders. In a nice touch, host Jimmy Kimmel offered a Jet Ski prize for whoever gave the shortest acceptance speech. Phantom Thread costume designer Mark Bridges won, but it would’ve been Allison Janney if only she’d stopped after that terrific opening line: “I did it all by myself.” Gary Oldman scooped a much-deserved Best Actor gong for his portrayal of Churchill. The downside was the endless montages, including a best-bits montage of the night's earlier montages... although I might have dreamt that. It was so late by then, breakfast TV had started. Top Movie went to The Shape Of Water, about a cleaner who pinches an alien fish-man from her place of work and has passionate sex with him in the bath. Talk about It Came From Beneath The Sea. The film brings new meaning to choking on a fishbone. In the States they call it Grinding Nemo.
HOT on TV: Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman (SkyPrem)... Save Me (SkyAt)... Great Celebrity Bake Off... Joy McAvoy, Two Doors Down.
ROT on TV: Marcella - nuttier than Nutella and much harder to swallow... Civilisations – muddled and muddle-headed... Married At First Sight – off at first viewing... Collateral – Hare-brained.
GRUMPY celebs rubbed urine on their faces on 100 Years Younger In 21 Days. It definitely works - you look younger from a distance and the stink keeps people away. I'd have been more impressed if the men laid on their backs and applied it fresh in a fountain. If it’s piddle for the face, I can’t wait to see what they use to thicken their hair...
*A BBC boss says they need to join forces with commercial rivals to keep British TV alive. Cobblers. They just need to commission smarter shows than All Together Now and Troy: Fall of the Viewing Figures. Dire drama Collateral had clunking dialogue, dodgy politics and more sermons than Songs Of Praise. Every wrong-un was either in the army or ex-military – the rapist major, the captain turned assassin, the middle class people smuggler... Carey Milligan was its one saving grace.
*THE latest gangster farce fizzled out on EastEnders. Ageing godfather Aidan left by tube. Very classy. Can you imagine Harold Shand with an Oyster card? Hilariously, Mick and Linda had been so terrified they decided to leg it on Thursday, but still found time for a slow dance. But why did mob-handed Aidan ever need to recruit a bunch of Walford mugs for his robbery?
*EXPECT big changes on Clarkso’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. It will start with Fastest Fist First, then punters can Slag Off The Audience or Fill In A Friend.
*WHAT a show that is. Imagine making £32,000 for a few minutes work. But I guess Jezza’s worth it.
*THOSE Endeavour in-jokes keep coming. A suspect on Sunday lived in Sebastopol Terrace – Eric and Hattie's address in the classic BBC2 sitcom Sykes.
SMALL joys of TV: Harry Hill. Lee Mack. Tiffany Haddish & Maya Rudolph at the Oscars. New Nashville. Geoffrey Whitehead, Not Going Out. Electric Dreams. Bill Maher roasting news outlets that let a handful of ‘outraged’ morons on Twitter make headlines.
RANDOM irritations: Matt Forde’s lousy Trump impression. ITV4 censoring Minder repeats. Seven Year Stitch. Pat Phelan failing to drown in concrete and become a real hardened criminal. Smug UK broadcasters pontificating about US gun law when our cities are awash with knife murders.
SEPARATED at birth: Keith Allen, Marcella and Fu Manchu (plus a pinch of Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid)? One a cartoon villain who inflicted great evil on the world, the other has never even met Lily.
TV maths. Gregg Wallace + creosote - glasses = Strax from Doctor Who.
March 4. ITV promised to make celebs 100 Years Younger In 21 Days. If they could do that for June Brown, it’d be incredible. She’d probably pass for 47. I’m kidding. The Dot Cotton star is a force of nature. She's 91 and the last time I saw her out, she was dancing on the tables. Even now she looks healthier than Shaun Ryder. Happy Mondays star Shaun, 55, was considerably less happy on Tuesday after tests revealed his caner life-style had left him with a “body age” of 73. Junk-food addict Sandra Martin fared even worse. She’s 55, with a brain age of 86 – a major blow to anyone who’d assumed a diet of pizza, chips, KFC and Chinese takeaways was the elixir of youth. This show is basically Real Marigold on a health kick, mercifully without Miriam.
Sherrie Hewson, Sid Owen and the rest were packed off to a “rejuvenation clinic” in Sardinia where a pleasingly strict female nutritionist known as Thor told them to enjoy a little olive oil every day. Well it always worked for Popeye. Unusual treatments included snail slime, which is said to have anti-ageing properties. So lucky snails trailed over famous faces, including the great Roy Walker’s whisky-reddened cheeks. Oh Roy, it’s good but it’s not right. It’s claimed we get collagen from the molluscs but what if they absorb what’s in our blood in the process? It might explain why some fell off.
ITV didn’t question the science behind the treatment. It’s a temporary fix. Egg whites work just as well but wouldn’t be as humiliating. And that’s what shows like this are really about. Hence the coffee enemas. The snails didn’t seem to bother Shaun. Unsurprising considering the number of times he must’ve come to the morning after in a cabbage patch. But he wouldn’t exercise, blaming a pea-sized lump in his testicle (possibly the result of excess melon-twisting). June was most game, showing off her yoga and her bloomers. She has smoked every day for 72 years and is still going strong. Don't try that at home, kids... Health advice is generally sound. But sometimes it’s all in the genes. Like Shaun’s lump.
*SHAUN has a pea-sized lump in his testicle. Most male politicians have two. No wait, they are their testicles.
*FACT! Pat Phelan has the body of a 30something. It’s Andy’s, but the Corrie cops haven’t cottoned on yet...
*FACT! Russell Grant is 50per cent fat. The other 50per cent consists entirely of hot air, BBQ sauce and astrological bulls**t.
OVER on Celebs Go Dating, Gemma Collins – the real Beast from the East – took two blokes to the show’s Cape Verde final. Why two? Simple – two dates, two dinners. The monstrous madam had left would-be lover Laurence stranded at the Eurostar terminal with a bouquet in his hand for their Paris date. She didn’t even bother to text. And the idiot took it! Lol’s such a doormat he makes Theresa May look like Putin. Collins had him waiting on her hand and foot. “He can see past the star,” she said, modestly referring to herself; perhaps in the scientific sense of an over-blown ball of gas you wouldn’t want to get too near. Posh simpleton Sam “Two Birds” Thompson took an extra date to West Africa too, but neglected to tell either about their rival until it was too late. Cringe. Naturally innuendo abounded. Emilia was talking about Sam inviting her when she confided: “It’s quite big I feel.” Ollie Locke was scoring Jason out of ten when he said: “I’m going to give him eight and a half.” While Malachi was probably referring to spilt grub when he told chirpy London Hughes: “I feel like getting down there and having a bit of a nosh.” If her table manners are anything to go by, things could get messy.
PENELOPE Cruz as Donatella Versace? Janice the Muppet can’t have been available. Cruz’s casting in The Assassination Of Gianni Versace is as realistic as Jenna Colman playing Victoria. Hulk Hogan without the tache looks more like Donatella. But Ryan Murphy’s take on the murder of Italian fashion designer Gianni – gunned down at point blank range at the gates of his oceanfront Miami mansion – looks the business. Darren Criss plays Andrew Cunanan, the spoilt user who targeted older, rich gay men to subsidise his life-style. This series isn’t as hot as Murphy’s gripping The People Vs OJ Simpson, but Criss breathes life into the lying fantasist turned serial killer. Even if he does looks disturbingly like Henry the sex-robot.
*WHAT next from TV's casting clouds: Tom Read Wilson as Ray Winston or Stormzy as the young Max Mosley?
HOT on TV: Save Me, and Lennie James (SkyAt)... Josefin Asplund, Vikings (History)... Gomorrah (Fox)... Electric Dreams.
ROT on TV: Hold The Sunset – a faulty shower... MasterChef – like Groundhog Day with ovens... Giles Coren – known as Mr. Humility to all students of irony.
“DUE impartiality” is enshrined in the BBC’s charter, yet a pro-EU bias is evident in everything from Nish Kumar’s tedious “comedy” lectures to the Corporation’s increasingly selective news agenda. And we pay for it! Now they’re hiking up the licence fee. But why should we be compelled by law to fund this one-sided propaganda? A few great shows – Blue Planet, Line Of Duty, Inside No 9 etc – can’t compensate for their shameless partisan stance and endless dross.
*HALF the modern composers at the BBC Proms “must be female”, we’re told. Why? Composers, like comedy show panellists, should be judged on their merits not their gender.
*THE thought of mayonnaise on chips horrified Christine on Two Doors Down. Told it was a French innovation, she replied: “They also sh*t in a hole in the ground, it doesn’t make it a good idea.”
*HEROIN may not be Billy’s only problem on Corrie. The junkie vicar’s home has clearly been infiltrated by aliens...
*RANDOM questions: When will the war on plastic target Chloe Ferry? Why don’t science and technology feature in Civilisations? They drive progress far more than sculptures do. Is Kip Glaspie the daftest TV name since Selwynn Froggitt? Is she called Kip because Collateral makes you nod off?
SMALL joys of TV: Jo Joyner’s wedding dress cleavage, Shakespeare & Hathaway. Vintage Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (AmPrime). Tony Hadley, Benidorm. Loudermilk (AmPrime). Carrie’s brutal revenge on her hacker sex-pest, Homeland – not so much #metoo as #screwyou and #havesummathat
RANDOM irritations: TV publicists calling every so-so historic drama “the new Game Of Thrones”. Snow-mageddon panic. Boss Kate Oates ruining Corrie with endless grim storylines – killer builders, a junkie vicar, male rape... what’s next, a Norris Cole snuff movie? Gertcha.
SEPARATED at birth: Jacqueline from Benidorm and Ken Dodd? Both experienced joy with the business end of a tickling stick... but only one of them is keen on Diddy Men.
TV maths. Jade Jones + bigger hair = Shangela, RuPaul’s Drag Race.