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.
APRIL 28. WELL I never saw that coming…and neither did John Corbett. The rogue undercover cop had his throat slashed by a gangster on Line Of Duty while he was attempting to free female hostages destined to become sex slaves. Stephen Graham as Corbett has been the stand-out star of this series and yet there he was dying in a pool of his own blood while Lisa McQueen snarled “You’re a rat John.” Maybe... We know he was a psycho with a hair-trigger temper but we still don’t know if Corbett was working for the crime gang or against them. Or if he was right about Superintendent Ted Hastings being “H”, the corrupt senior officer who is also a mob mastermind. Once again writer Jed Mercurio made Ted look as guilty as a cat with a mouthful of canary feathers. He even appeared to have ordered Corbett’s murder.
AC-12 were communicating with Lisa in the guise of “H” but Ted took over the typing. His ominous final words were: “I need you to bring all this to a close.” He also misspelt definitely as “definately” just as the real crime boss had done the week before. Ted had ordered Arnott (“the wee gobsh*te”) to kill John earlier too. Why was he so keen to shut him up?
In this episode we learned that Corbett was born John McGillis in Belfast. Ted’s estranged missus Roisin said her attacker – Corbett – spoke with a Belfast accent. And her injuries were consistent with paramilitary punishment wounds. Are the Troubles coming back to haunt ex-RUC man Hastings? And is Lisa undercover plod herself? We’ve seen her having wobbly moments since episode one. She’d worked out they had an informer in the ranks... but surely a good cop wouldn’t be complicit in killing John Corbett? These are the questions. Next week, more questions. Only one thing is for sure is this brilliant, gripping, twisted drama: Operation Peartree has gone properly pear-shaped.
MIRIAM Margolyes met mad Yanks who thought they could cheat death on Miriam’s Dead Good Adventure. Diet, exercise, self-freezing and religion were among the suggested remedies. Laurie in California (naturally) advocated “sex magic” and believed that “orgasms make you live longer” – great news for Strictly contestants. It also explains Ken Barlow. Her group session was hilarious. “Ooh-ahh” they chanted while touching themselves intimately (failing to add the “Cantona”... ) Laurie claimed she was “youthing”. Yet she looked like someone priests might reasonably chase after at midnight waving garlic bulbs, crosses and stakes. Miriam was reliably blunt but never asked once about over-population, or which of the oldies had had cosmetic surgery. Any more facelifts and there’s a good chance some of their ears would meet at the back.
*THE real secret to a long life? Enjoy a bit of olive oil every morning. Well, it always worked for Popeye.
WHAT would you do the night before Armageddon? Get blotto like Tyrion on Game Of Thrones? Or get your leg over like virgin Ayra who seduced blacksmith Gendry. Talk about forging a relationship. They were going at it hammer and tongs. Suddenly Winter wasn’t the only thing coming... This was the calm before the storm. Tomorrow the battle for Winterfell kicks off and many of our favourites are more doomed than Theresa May (though we’ll miss them more). Bold eunuch Grey Worm promised he’d take Missandei south for some sun. Goner! Big bird Brienne smiled for the first time ever when Jamie knighted her. Done for! Wilding Tormund must survive, though, if only to tell more tales about slaying a giant when he was 12 and suckling at his giant wife’s breasts for three months. No wonder he took a shine to Brienne...
HOT on TV: Lily Travers, Victoria... Trust Me... Line Of Duty... Veep... The League of Gentleman live... The Looming Tower.
ROT on TV: Sex Tape – pause, wipe, eject... Old Wife, New Wife – soul-destroying trash... Naked Beach – send for Jaws... Your Home Made Perfect – by changing channels.
FACEBOOK Watch paid Will Smith a fortune to work through his Bucket List. Well, he couldn’t pay himself, poor soul; he’s down to his last $300million. Every week, Will does something daring. He’s jumped out of chopper over the Grand Canyon and tried stand-up – much scarier – with advice from Dave Chappelle, one of the funniest men alive. What next? Finding a way to stop his missus spilling his secrets on Red Table Talk?
*SIMON Cowell a vegan? Cobblers. We’ve seen him on BGT. We know he’ll swallow anything.
*IF Si is a vegan, I wouldn’t give Sinitta’s old leaf outfit much chance of surviving Judge’s Houses...
*GHOSTS caveman Robin talks only in grunts and monosyllables yet still makes more sense than most guests on Question Time.
*HOW do Toby and Anna celebrate their anniversary? asked Lucy on Not Going Out. Lee quipped: “A two-minute silence?”
SMALL joys of TV: Laurence Fox, Victoria. Jamie knighting Brienne, Game Of Thrones. Tormund Giantsbane. Bodies (iPlayer). ITV3’s Carry On marathon. Not Going Out. John Lee Hooker: The Boogie Man (BBC4).
RANDOM irritations: recycled acts on Britain’s Got Talent. The cheesy set-up audience moments. Golden tickets wasted on distinctly average acts. David Walliams. And nitwits pronouncing H as “Haitch” not Aitch.
*WHYsack Emmerdale’s Shila Iqbal without even hearing her defence, ITV? Knee-jerk censorship is far more worrying than daft teenage tweets. See also the sacking of Roger Scruton.
SEPARATED at birth: DI Manning on The Bay and David Brent? One runs an office full of flawed, feckless characters... and so does the other one.
GILES on Googlebox was talking about his home not his proclivities when he told Mary: “I’m a humble cottager. I just like to cottage all day long.” Goofs like that can win you £35. See today’s paper for the address to send them to.
April 22 extra thought. Anyone wishing to consider an alternative opinion on the BBC’s Climate Change: The Facts should read Paul Homewood’s sober response. Maybe that colon is in the wrong place. Climate : Change The Facts?
APRIL 21. “WHAT do dragons eat anyway?” asked Sansa on Game Of Thrones. “Whatever they want,” replied Daenerys…The greatest show on TV is back and now it’s got gags as well as warring families, illicit love affairs and levels of backstabbing that make the House of Commons look like a convention of Care Bears. At times it seems more like a medieval Jeremy Kyle Show than an X-rated Tolkien. Malignant Queen Cersei gave Bronn crates of gold for a promise to top her brothers – lecherous dwarf Tyrion and Jamie (the brother-lover she’s pregnant by) – if they survive the coming war. And noble hero Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen, which means he’s currently sleeping with his aunt... and that he, not “Mother of Dragons” Daenerys, is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Confused? You should be. Thrones is the drama equivalent of the multi-level chess they used to play on Star Trek. But after eight glorious years, the wonderfully crafted characters are moving towards the endgame. Or as Bran Stark told Daenerys: “The Night King has your dragon, the Wall has fallen, and the dead march south... ” The bloody human rivalries, heavily inspired by British history and Arthurian legend, now pale into insignificance as the ruthless Night King leads his legions of undead White Walkers south. But it’s not all grim. Small joys of episode one included: Jon Snow’s first dragon ride – “You’ve ruined horses for me!” Tyrone telling Varys the eunuch: “You should consider yourself lucky, at least your balls won’t freeze off.” And Jerome Flynn’s Bronn frolicking with three feisty harlots. It’s Robson Green I feel sorry for. All he gets are fishing shows. It’s enough to make a man question his career choices. Although in both cases they never know what they’ll catch.
*ANYONE else think randy brute Euron Greyjoy is like an evil version of Toast of London?
TED Hastings looks so guilty on Line Of Duty he must surely be innocent. But debt has clouded the great man’s judgement. Ted seems to believe ex-DCI Moffatt’s company has inherited the debts of a failed property development and genuinely want to help original investors get their dosh back. I believe it’s called Gullible R-U. He’s also dallying with the formidable Gill Bigelow who must have had a lifetime of “Are you Big-below?” “Big enough” exchanges and who is surely a wrong’un. Elsewhere the cops closed down the organised crime gang’s council house brothel where they froze the sperm of their clients for blackmail purposes. Fiendish. And dangerous if kept next to the popsicles. On a hot day you’d never know what you’re guzzling.
ANYONE else spot the extra outraged spirits fuming in the background on Ghosts? There was Bob Black, creator of Rentaghost, Richard Carpenter, writer of The Ghosts Of Motley Hall, and Viv Stanshall who dreamt up trouser-less spook Humbert in Sir Henry At Rawlinson’s End... BBC One’s latest “sitcom” is Rentaghost with the jokes exorcised. It could run on CBBC if it wasn’t for the odd bad-taste remark. Stony-broke ex-midwife Charlotte inherited a crumbling country pile from a distant aunt and nearly died when the ghost of a trouser-less MP shoved her out of a first floor window. When she came round she could see dead people. It’s a familiar set-up (think Beetlejuice) with a terrific cast. It’s just a shame they forgot to make it funny. Next time augment Rentaghost with Renta-Joke.
HOT on TV: Game Of Thrones (SkyAt)... Stephen Graham, Line Of Duty... Aiysha Hart... Vikings (History)... new Bosch (AmPrime).
ROT on TV: Frankie Boyle’s New World Order – have I got narrow views for you... Sara Pascoe – as funny as piles... lame-brained David Lammy... MotherFatherSon – ReallyBadlyDone.
WHAT is the point of Frankie Boyle’s New World Order? The “satirical discussion show” serves up a weekly bombardment of bog-standard right-on opinions briefly bookended with weak jokes (eleven writers, few laughs). It’s as radical as Peppa Pig; less new world order more old school ordure. The guests all sing from the same hymn sheet – it’s taken two years to book a single person who is pro-Brexit. And Boyle who always sold himself as a fearless taboo-buster is happy to toe the accepted BBC line. What a sell-out.
*IN For A Penny? Out for a pint.
*SHAME Les Dennis wasn’t asked if he believed in God on Pilgrimage. He could have answered as Mavis Riley: “I doooon’t really know.”
*I HEAR ITV have made a documentary about their Morecambe crime drama to show if it gets re-commissioned. Until then they’ll be sitting on the doc of The Bay. Sorry.
SMALL joys of TV: Tiger Woods winning the Open – the greatest comeback since Lazarus. Mark Billingham, Celebrity SAS Who Dares Wins. Polly Walker as Line Of Duty’s Gill Bigelow. Earth From Space.
RANDOM irritations: TV news blanking last weekend’s big Soldier F demo. Dull documentaries about supermarkets. Just One Night. Behaviour deserving of capital punishment being described as “challenging”.
*THOSE Easter TV schedules in full: Not Particularly Good Friday, Highly Predictable Saturday, Extremely Lazy Sunday and No One Gives A Toss Monday. Well done, everyone.
SEPARATED at birth: Amanda Holden in a ventriloquist’s mask and Melinda Messenger? Both are no strangers to unnatural face additives but only one was born to be a dummy...
APRIL 14. THE Durrells is escapism, pure and simple. Gentle humour, cuddly critters, charming views... the show’s biggest fans must be the Corfu tourist board. ITV even throw in a splash of ’Allo ’Allo! “I heard you are running a bawdy house,” odd-job man Spiros told Louisa Durrell. He meant boarding house of course, but it’d be an easy mistake to make with Larry’s fake girlfriends swanning about in their 1930s brassieres. Cor-phew! as Sid James almost certainly would have said. Add that image to the show’s small joys, along with Ulysses the owl.
Louisa’s Mediterranean paradise lost its sparkle when her romance with Spiros went down the “toualéta”, so the struggling single mum is taking in paying guests. There’s cousin Basil, a “great idle walrus” played by Miles Jupp (type-casting?) who had the sight gag of the episode – when he complained his laundry could be “crisper” Luisa starched his shorts stiffer than over-toasted pitta bread. The second guest was a drippy Communist rebel posing as a writer (“Don’t try anything in Dorset,” warned Basil.) He’d attempted to assassinate a fascist but only shot him in the scrotum. Best check the Albert Hall for the remains.
The Greek cops came searching. “You can’t come up,” one dancer told them. “My girlfriend’s naked.” (Oh and is the beer free too? That’ll definitely keep them away... ).
After a sub-farcical escape, Corfu’s answer to Citizen Smith finally set off in a small motorboat to Malta... nearly 400 miles away. Another triumph for socialist planning... As endings go, Margo’s done neater haircuts. Some moan that the Durrells are too middle class. But the middle classes get a raw deal on TV – they generally “dunnit” in crime dramas. And frankly, right now this soppy sunny show is a welcome hour-long antidote to the steady diet of Brexit misery.
LINE of Duty writer Jed Mercurio is throwing us more curve balls than an entire baseball season. Squeaky clean Arnott is misleading Fleming and covertly co-operating with undercover cop John Corbett, who may or may not have gone rogue. Meanwhile AC-12 boss Ted Hastings looks shiftier than Leslie Phillips in a sixth form girls’ boarding school bedroom. I’m not buying the idea that Hastings is H, the corrupt senior officer up to his truncheon in organised crime, though. How could someone this rubbish with money be a criminal mastermind?
*FLEABAG did wonders for sales of M&S pre-mixed gin and tonic. Game Of Thrones boosted Johnny Walker’s White Walker scotch. Maybe the Beeb should launch a Line of Duty Free hooch – you’d never know which bottle you could trust.
THE Radio Times’ “all-time” Top 20 sitcoms was meant to wind us up. No Porridge or Del-Boy in the Top 3? They must be round the twist. Oh, and Dinnerladies beat Hancock’s Half Hour, which along with Steptoe & Son didn’t even make the list! That’s like drawing up a Top 20 greatest British bands and blanking the Beatles and the Stones. We used to make smart, funny, popular comedies. Now we get dross like Warren which made Mrs Brown’s Boys look like Chekov. Don’t Forget The Driver is so downbeat and dismal it made me nostalgic for On The Buses. What makes BBC sitcom bosses laugh? An open grave?
*HOW about a series celebrating the brilliant Brit-coms Radio Times forgot: Phoenix Nights, Rising Damp, Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em, Yes Minister, Sykes, After Henry, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum etc, etc?
HOT on TV: Kelly Macdonald, The Victim... Karla Crome... Line Of Duty.
ROT on TV: Hard To Please OAPs – grumpy old rip-off... Urban Myths (SkyArts) – more fake news... Don’t Forget The Driver – needs to slam its foot down on the laugh pedal.
BIG shocks on Have I Got News For You as host David Dimbleby revealed that “Ian and Stacey have sex”. Human potato Ian Hislop and Strictly’s smouldering Stacey Dooley? Blimey. How did he Dooley that? It was another subtitle cock-up of course, the funniest perhaps since Carol Kirkland informed BBC Breakfast viewers that strong winds meant “some fairies are being disrupted”. She’d actually said ferries.
ODD to hear Andrea McLean talk about “entering your middle age” on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins. She’s 49! She must have ruddy good genes. And guts of course to take part in this. Louise Mensch was first out, injured by an awkward fall from a chopper and some serious, heavy-weight name-dropping.
SMALL joys of TV: Moon-walking mannequin birds on Our Planet (Netflix). The Fleabag finale. Tom Ellis as Lucifer. Bob Mortimer. The Siddiques on Gogglebox. Still Game (iPlayer). Hornblower (ITV4).
RANDOM irritations: Dave bothering to repeat recent Room 101s ruined by guests who lack wit and opinions. “Comedy” shows in sitcom formats that aren’t remotely funny. Dramas that over-rely on leaping time-lines.
SEPARATED at birth: young Charlie Chaplin and Victoria’s Prince Albert? One added floppy hair and a moustache to become a figure of fun. The other was Charlie Chaplin.
*THE curious thing about Curiosity is how Paul Martin has morphed from affable antique show host into hyperactive ultra-camp irritant.
TV questions: If Frankie Boyle is such a fearless taboo-busting radical why do all his guests think the same? Should Victoria’s Princess Feodora be addressed as Your Royal Heinous?
APRIL 7. LINE Of Duty is the hottest crime drama on TV and has been since 2012. Jed Mercurio’s brutal and brilliant cop corruption saga packs in more thrilling twists than the Blackpool Big One. In this latest series another undercover officer has gone rogue. Everything pointed to it being Lisa McQueen, who was clearly battling her demons throughout. But you can never second guess Mercurio. He’s such a master of misdirection he should be running the Magic Circle.
The real wrong’un turned out to be DS John Corbett, played by the superb Stephen Graham. Corbett has lost touch with his handler and is sanctioning the killings of other officers, including poor Maneet who had her throat slit like a halal chicken. Adrian Dunbar excels as Superintendent Ted Hastings, the sardonic boss of AC-12 who hates bent Old Bill with an Old Testament vengeance. Ably backed by DI Fleming and DS Arnott, Hastings has banged up the rottenest apples this side of a G.F. Newman novel including Lennie James as DCI Tony Gates and Craig Parkinson’s DI “Dot” Cottan. Keeley Hawes gave a career best performance as DI Lyndsay Denton. Writing and direction remain first class – what other series could turn a 23minute interrogation scene into an edge-of-your-seat drama?
Some complain about the authentic jargon – the OCGs (organised crime gangs) and the UCOs (undercover officers). I’m more worried Jed might be setting Ted up to take a fall. His divorce and money problems mean he’s living like Alan Partridge did in a lousy hotel. (Apt – as Corbett is involved in Operation Peartree.) The Ulsterman “makes Greece look solvent”. But it’d be a shame if Mercurio brought Ted down. His sayings are one of the show’s great joys. After all, Ted Hastings didn’t come up the Lagan on a bubble.
IF only our useless politicians could be grilled by AC-12... Laura Kuenssberg’s Brexit Storm charted the mess they’ve made of leaving the EU under a PM who’s caved in more times than a cartoon gold mine. May couldn’t negotiate free ice from a Coke machine. But did “storm” over-glamorise our shower of third-rate MPs? Most are more like a light drizzle – wet, irritating and easily seen off with a well-aimed brolly.
*GEORGE Clarke should cover the Commons. It goes from Ugly House To Uglier House by the week.
WE can rely on Britain’s Got Talent to unearth fresh and exciting new acts. Take ventriloquist Jimmy Tamley who’s just as impressive now as when he won ITV’s New Faces in 1987. Well, it makes a change from Cowell recycling turns from The Big Big Talent Show (Francine Lewis, Steve Brookstein, Paul Zerdin... ) Maybe Si should go back a little further. 1981’s Search For A Star discovered brilliant Joe Longthorne who never had the TV career he deserved. Even now, he’d storm it. Elsewhere we got the usual mix of imported acts (Japanese dancers, Russian gymnasts), cute kids, camp cobblers and fake emotion... I liked Siobhan’s Victoria Wood-lite ditty, teen opera singer Faith and that Dalek whose metallic features showed more emotion than Amanda ever could. But there was no gee-whizz factor here.
HOT on TV: Line Of Duty and Stephen Graham... Jenny Powell... Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (SkyAt).
ROT on TV: Georgia Steel, Celebs On The Ranch – 21 going on six... Jon Snow talking snowballs... Pose – soapy, ropey and way too dopy.
HOW long will Louie Spence persist with his OTT cavorting? Hasn’t he got any mates to tell him what a one-note embarrassment he’s become? Only squawking pony-obsessed Georgia Steel was more irritating on “Celebs” On The Ranch. Jenny Powell stood out amongst these halfwits being bright, capable and prone to saying things like “I’ve never actually experienced a genuine cowboy” and “I like to get dirty”. Just say the word... Jenny’s 90s kids show was called Gimme 5. It’s the least anyone could aspire to do.
*JAMES Corden wants sex scenes for fatties on TV. Talk about going the whole hog! Don’t we see enough of Gemma Collins as it is? Imagine her and Arg gasping those magic words: “Get off me... I can’t breathe.”
*PAT Phelan’s shoddy repair work caused Corrie’s factory roof collapse, then. Makes sense. But that doesn’t answer the bigger question: how did thieves half-inch the original roof in broad daylight without scaffolding?
*BEN Mitchell is back in EastEnders... with his sixth head. Blimey. That’s only one less than the number of actors who played James Bond. No wonder Dot’s worried about robots. Maybe Idris Elba could play him next. Or Jodie Whittacker.
*NO manners, Channel 4. They rushed straight in with Let’s Talk About Sex without a hint of foreplay. Would it have hurt to build up to it with shows about dating, dining and maybe a movie?
*ITV’s Loose Women will do a live version of the show at Birmingham NEC. Book early for broomstick parking.
SMALL joys of TV: George & Mildred (ITV Hub). Barry (SkyAt). Danny Baker. Tutti Frutti (i-Player). Bobby Davro on Good Morning Britain – he raised more laughs in four minutes than most comics do in 20.
RANDOM irritations: Fiona Bruce on Question Time. Six minute ad breaks in films on 5Star. Greg Wise – smugger than Angus Deayton in a room full of mirrors. Room 101 bookings lacking wit and opinions.
SEPARATED at birth: Victoria’s Princess Feodora and this cigar store Indian? One hard-faced and cold with an unsettling presence... the other’s more wooden than Prince Albert.