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 26. THINGS you never expected to see on TV, number 197: former world champ Tony Bellew being pummelled by celebrity cushion storage expert Anthea Turner. Not to mention Brendan Cole, Joey Essex and five others. John “Awooga!” Fashanu was also in the melee, although if the producers had really wanted to hurt Everton fan Bellew, they’d have sent in Fernando Torres.
Much as I love Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, the producers were playing a dangerous game with the ex-cruiserweight champ – they wanted the “human hand grenade” to explode. “He’s got the breaking strain of a Kit-Kat,” observed Mark “Billy” Billingham. Maybe, but he’s a real achiever and is clearly troubled. Let’s hope the series helps him find peace. And if he accidentally chins Fash in the process, so be it.
Obviously most self-obsessed, shallow celebs could no more qualify for the SAS than Piers Morgan could take a vow of silence, but what a hoot. Hilarious highlights included Joey Essex ranking himself stronger than Bellew (well, he is from Millwall stock). His fear of “limescale disease” – understandable; it plays havoc with a man’s plumbing. And Ollie Ollerton telling Katie Price “You’d give an aspirin a headache.”
The training staff seemed to have it in for the nitwit formerly known as Jordan. She hyperventilated at the prospect of abseiling down a 150ft cliff, despite Ant Middleton assuring her “The worst thing that’s going to happen is your eyelash is going to come off.” (Wrong. She could have sung.) Later she told these war heroes about her tough life, failing to mention her own poor choices. As Katie rolled out her hard luck story, Jason “Foxy” Fox spoke for many when he snapped: “You can’t even ****ing stop talking now. Just zip it. “You might even enjoy the silence. We ****ing will.” Well said, Staff.
GANGS Of London hits like Kovalev. Stylish direction and vaulting ambition sets this brutal crime saga way above bog-standard Mockney gangster yarns. In the opening scene Sean Wallace (Joe Cole), out to avenge the murder of his London-Irish crime boss father, sets fire to a thug hanging upside down from the top of an unfinished skyscraper. Nasty yes, but it certainly killed off the Coronavirus. This is modern London, so Albanian yobs, Russian hoods, Iranian smugglers and Pakistani racketeers abound. There’s also ex-soldier Elliott (Sope Dirisu), an awesome presence whose final fight-scene was like something out of a slasher film. An impressive start and, despite the violence, a beautiful one.
IT was happy endings all round on Belgravia, except for John Bellasis who, after failing to drown nice guy Charles Pope, legged it to France. Not much of a hardship for a bed-hopping, wine-guzzling cad. Bellasis knocked up Susan but told her he’d never marry “the daughter of a dirty tradesman”. What a charmer. She turned on a sixpence and convinced her dopy husband Oliver she’d done it to give them a baby. Such selfless sacrifice. Oliver came good, Charles married Maria, and even John’s useless father the Rev Stephen was bailed out of his gambling debts. “Back in the game,” the old fool squawked as he realised he could carry on betting. What odds would he get for this show coming back? Pretty good, I reckon. Great cast, shame the script never surprised.
HOT on TV: Gangs Of London (SkyAt)... Camilla Beeput, Save Me Too... Money Heist (Netflix)... Fauda (Netflix)... The Vietnam War (PBS).
ROT on TV: Fred Sirieix – the luckiest man on TV; seriously (sirieix-ly?), what the feck can he do?... Big Night In – big wash-out...
HAVE you tried watch The Saint to cheer yourself up? The sets are hilarious. They use the same buildings to evoke wildly different countries – Germany, Mexico, Italy, Arabia... “Steel” doors and “stone” walls are wood painted streaky grey, and “outdoor” scenes have bits of foliage strewn about Styrofoam rocks. Roger Moore copped stick but only an acting giant could have kept a straight face in these circumstances.
*THE size of those sex-toys on A Very British Sex Shop! They didn’t just stretch the anatomy, they stretched credulity.
*THE never-aging Amanda Holden was dubbed “Benjamin Button” on Googlebox. Benjamin Mutton, surely?
ON I’ll Get This, veggie Sara Pascoe had to pick up the £412 bill, and £50 of that was Adrian Edmondson’s steak. Get in! That’s the way to play it, Ade. The show lacks needle, though. It needs a greedy fat git whose idea of a ten course meal is nine pints of Super Bock and the all-you-can-eat buffet. Over to you, Arg.
*JUST think: if you’re home drinking, watching old sitcoms and moaning that life’s so unfair, the lockdown is probably the closest you’ll ever get to being a final year student.
SMALL Joys of TV: Hubble: The Wonders of Space Revealed. Ted Rogers, Palladium (Talking Pictures). Emergence (Fox). Corrie’s Liz McDonald popping up on the EastEnders Zoom chat – the funniest moment on the otherwise woeful Big Night In. Rake (Netflix). Mandy Patinkin, Homeland. Vikings (History). Bosch (AmPrime).
RANDOM Irritations: After Life – there are just too few laughs, and the ones we get are all shock-laughs like the old lady saying the C-word – be still my aching sides. Live At The Apollo using words like “fantastic”, “amazing” and “fabulous” to describe turns who are feeble, amateurish and fatuous. HIGNFY – woefully exposed.
TV Maths: Belgravia’s James Trenchard + shades = Mud’s Les Grey
*WHO will cough up for the first TV corona drama?
*KATIE Price said: “I’m living proof that I’ve got thick skin.” Yeah, but half of that’s foundation...
*THE Restaurant That Burns Off Calories? The show that turned off tellies.
CLASSIC Clanger. Danny Murphy was talking about goal-keeping when he said: “David de Gea is so good one-on-one – he stays so big for just so long.”
April 19. QUIZ was a welcome reminder of a time when only TV bosses were traumatised by people coughing in public. Over three nights, ITV dramatised the story of Charles Ingram, the “Coughing Major”, who tried to con them out of a £1million on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Or did he? Ingram was found guilty but writer James Graham thinks he was more framed than Holbein’s The Ambassadors (the answer to the £125K question).
In parts, the show had the feel of an Ealing comedy, with a shed full of quiz fanatics – called The Syndicate – working out how to beat the system. Except they had nothing to do with the Ingrams... Funnier was ITV boss David Liddiment, in real life stiff and quite priggish, being played by a blokeish actor two stone heavier. Entertainment chief Claudia Rosencrantz was suddenly Irish, PR Ruth Settle changed colour and “Chris Tarrant” looked more like Les Dennis in a hall of mirrors.
Bosnia veteran Ingram was portrayed as a “Tim-Nice-But-Dim” type, although he has a Masters degree. Unlike his steely wife Diana and hard-up brother-in-law, Charles wasn’t a quiz anorak, though. His general knowledge was patchier than the Villa defence. Ingram was pushed into taking part and lucked his way to victory. Was he helped by coughs from a quizzer accomplice and Diana, a woman so cold their house would never need a fridge? That theory only stood up when all the other coughs and studio noises were filtered out. Neither show-makers Celador nor ITV wanted to pay out. Plod were called, it went to trial, the rest is history. Our hearts bleed for ITV. Cheating folk out of money is their job. They were fined £5.75mill in 2008 for conning US! What a series that’d make. Just Ask The Audience.
BILL Maher’s Real Time shows that topical comedy can still sparkle. From his backyard, Bill likened Los Angeles to “a movie where all human life has been wiped out, except for gardeners... ” LA’s notoriously grid-locked 405 is now eerily empty. “Some people are looking at porn, I’m looking at pictures of the 405,” Maher joked. US government advice includes ‘keep your hands busy’. “Just what teenage boys want to hear,” he quipped. “‘What are you doing in there?’ ‘I’m warding off the Coronavirus!’... ” To beat C-19, Bill said: “Just assume everyone is infectious – the same warning they give to contestants on The Bachelor.” He delivers perfectly timed gags to an obviously fake audience, adding to the fun. Compare and contrast with downbeat Nish Kumar churning out witless drivel.
GORE blimey. Villanelle, the world’s sexiest lesbian serial killer is back on Killing Eve. Harriet Walter impresses as her equally ruthless Russian handler Dasha, a former gymnast with similar psychopathic tendencies. Sadly the script felt limper than Dasha’s first victim, and there was a bit too much of Eve moping about like she was auditioning for DeadEnders. She’s been through the wringer more times than Steptoe’s long-johns. On the plus side Jodie Cromer is still magnificent, and we have a new use for paprika. Don’t try this at home, kids.
HOT on TV: new Fauda (Netflix)... Helen McCrory, Quiz... Bill Maher’s Real Time (SkyCom).
ROT on TV: I’ll Get This – I’ll swerve it... the “Ask the host” option on Millionaire; I like Jeremy Clarkson but general knowledge is not his field. Jezza would struggle on Tipping Point, too many lead fumes over the years.
ON I’ll Get This, five pampered celebs scoff over-priced posh nosh and play parlour games. The loser foots the bill... out of their generous fee (paid by us). How it must amuse anyone stuck indoors waiting for their Deliveroo pizza. On the show, Rachel Parris (private school and Oxford) revealed that she’d once “s*** her pants”. Move over Noel Coward there’s a new wit in town. The poop was presumably re-cycled as a Mash Report script.
YOU hear many unsettling things on the news, but I was stunned by Sophie Raworth’s shock disclosure. How surprising, I always thought she was quite alluring.
THINGS I’d like to see: someone on Dragons’ Den pitching a start-up company to help start-up companies shut down. A seedy-looking bloke turning up on The Repair Shop with a worn-out sex doll... and a lovelorn woman asking Will to buff up her money box...
*HAND sanitizer must be at least 60per cent alcohol to be effective against Coronavirus but, in emergencies, any Shirley Carter body fluid will do.
*DEATH, doom and disease on the TV news. Tsk. And to think “20:20 vision” used to sound like a good thing...
*PLEASE note: DEVS is a puzzling and pretentious Silicon Valley sci-fi thriller, nothing to do with Alahan’s corner shop on Corrie. For DIVS see Ex On The Beach.
THE Top 3 authentic Lost Relics of the Knights Templar: 1) the Holy Gail of Platt; 2) the Papal bull (with attachable Papal cow); 3) The Saint statuette, based on the best-known Templar, Simon...
SMALL Joys of TV: Captain Tom Moore. Elvis: The Rebirth of the King. Steve Royle, BGT last weekend. Dolly Parton. Ozark. Run. Sisters In Country. Outside Edge repeats, ITV3. What A Performance.
RANDOM Irritations: The History Channel still not putting subtitles on their shows. BGT judges pushing other judges’ buzzers. BGT filming “random” people in the audience who just happen to mic’ed up.
April 12. CAN mainstream TV channels have a word with themselves? They’ve got a captive audience desperate for entertainment and they’re serving up a crock of crap. It’s taken three weeks for the BBC to work out it might be a good idea to pack Saturday night with comedy repeats. What about the other nights? Last week we were treated to misery-enhancing documentaries on terrorism and Belsen, and extended coronavirus reports that added little to our knowledge. The docs had merit, of course, but time and place chaps. People are worried sick. We want proper escapism, something to take our mind off of our anxieties and fears. No wonder The Repair Shop – warm, calm, life-affirming – is pulling six million viewers and there’s been a surge of demand for Dad’s Army and Fools & Horses.
The mainstream schedules are like one great long advert for Netflix. But TV bosses have killed primetime comedy so what have they got? Gavin & Stacey once a year, endless re-runs of Peter Kay clips, the duff “satire” of HIGNFY? Mr Winner and Alma’s Not Normal have promise but there’s no new Peep Show on the horizon, let alone the next Porridge. Even if comedy execs commissioned cracking new writers, PC producers would kill their ideas dead. Poor old Eddie Large didn’t even get a tribute show. The guy got 20million viewers on a Saturday night, surely he deserves a proper send-off? It’s an absolute disgrace that we only see comedy’s living gold on naff reality shows or in the obituary columns; and worse that TV Tarquins have no-one to replace them with. Joe Pasquale storms it in comedy clubs. Where’s his TV special? In times of crisis we need big-hearted comics and warm-hearted sitcoms to lift our spirits. Especially if you’ve just pulled a muscle trying to keep up with Joe Wicks.
*MY favourite memory of Eddie Large was during the AIDS crisis in the 80s. He came on stage parodying Julio Iglesias and crooned “To all the girls I loved before, there’ll be a leaflet coming through your door... ”
THEY killed off Max Piotrowski on Homeland. Jalal Haqqani gunned down our favourite tech nerd in cold blood shortly after his dad was executed. In an unlikely Easter reference bearded Taliban leader Haissam was shot by Afghan president Gu’lom’s firing squad and then rose again for a second hail of lead. Terror boss Haissam was no Messiah, but he genuinely wanted peace. With two episodes to go the big question is will Carrie and Saul make it to the end? She’s on the hoof with Russian spy Yevgeny, Saul is undermined by hawk-like John Zabel who has the ear of weak, vacillating US President Hayes. The show-runners have already killed off Hayes’ predecessor. Anyone could go – I’ve never forgiven them for topping the mighty Quinn in season six. Semi-rogue CIA agent Carrie is about as stable as uranium. If she were any crazier she’d be wearing a tinfoil helmet to ward off “5G radiation”. Yet all hope of Afghan peace is riding on her. It can’t end well.
HOT on TV: The Countess & The Billionaire... Costa Ronin, Homeland... Westworld (SkyAt)... Twin.
ROT on TV: Gordon, Fred & Gino’s pointless ego-trip... Hitmen – terminate... Liar – loopier than a wet hen.
ON Hard Men: Street Justice a Manchester hood told how he’d been gunned down on his motorbike by a rival with a machine-pistol. One bullet went through his left leg, took off the top of his penis and then shattered his right testicle. The technical name for this? A Salford sex-change...
SORRY to read on BBC News subtitles about the sad death of “Pudsey Galore”. The woman may have led a criminal gang but her son does a lot of good for Children In Need. R.I.P. Honor.
*THE authorities reckon we’re “safer at home”. Tell that to William on Westworld going nuts in the house where his wife committed suicide, tormented by visions of the daughter he killed by mistake in the theme park...
*I’M still concerned about how Lois Lane had Superman’s son. The poor woman. Imagine how hard he must have kicked. And you thought cystitis stung.
*THE new Batwoman is a lesbian, so girls when she invites you to experience the batcave, prepare to set the batarang to vibrate.
*THE Rev. Richard Coles was “shot” in the first fifteen minutes of Celebrity Murder Mystery. Presumably because he asked to be.
*ON Inside The Factory Gregg Wallace visited a bakery that makes 180,000 pasties a day. That was his tea sorted then.
SMALL Joys of TV: Alesha Dixon’s legs. Classic comedy films every afternoon on BBC2. Rising Damp Forever. Kenny Rogers: Cards On The Table. Cosmos: Possible Worlds.
RANDOM Irritations: Sky Atlantic’s cavalier approach to CSI repeats, first they go from season 6 to 8, bypassing series 7 entirely, then they jump from episode one to ep 4. Why? Is SkyAt run by the twerps who wrote Liar?
SEPARATED at birth: young Dominic Raab and Colin Swindells? One a wooden performer in an unconvincing role... the other is in Sex Education.
TV questions: do Giant Lobster Hunters ever catch crabs? If Sheila Ferguson had grilled suspects on Celebrity Murder Mystery would they have cracked under the Third Degree? Mundane news outside broadcasters – is your journey really necessary?
CLASSIC clanger: Andrea McLean was starting a men’s bike race on GMTV when she told competitors: “When I give you the horn, you have to go for it.”
April 5. IF you need a jaw-dropping freak show to get through another week of captivity, get your claws into Tiger King. To quote one much-loved expert, it’s grrreatttt! The Netflix documentary series centres on Joe Exotic – a real-life oddball from Oklahoma with a mullet, two husbands and more big cats than Longleat. The larger-than-life hillbilly is at war with animal activist Carole Baskin, owner of the grotty Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa, over his roadside zoo. Their feud, with side-helpings of greed, envy and threats, underpin the wildly watchable show.
Carole campaigned to persuade shopping malls to cancel Joe’s tiger-petting events. She seems reasonable except she’s alleged to have fed her second husband, Florida millionaire Don Lewis, to her tigers. Other bizarre characters in this stranger-than-fiction saga include Kevin ‘Doc’ Antle, who has a harem of devoted female interns and an “institute” devoted to rare big cats in South Carolina. Both he and Joe seem to have a cult-like hold over their staff who work long hours for little money. Missing limbs abound. When a tiger mauled Kelci’s left hand she chose to have it amputated so she could get straight back to the zoo rather than wait months for surgery. Their work really can cost an arm and a leg.
Would-be country singer Joe, born Joseph Schreibrogel, is a charismatic lunatic currently serving a 22years in a Texas penitentiary after being convicted of trying to hire an undercover Fed to assassinate Carole. He was also found guilty of violating the Endangered Species Act. Ironically he’s ended up in a cage himself. Meanwhile Joe’s heavily-inked ex-husband John Finlay has had his teeth fixed and gone straight. His second husband shot himself and Don Lewis is still missing.
I DON’T want to spread alarm, but can we be sure Chris Whitty is entirely human? The Chief Medical Officer barely blinks in his 20second Coronavirus address. It’s freakish. I’m not saying Whitty’s an android or a lizard; that would be daft. But the possibility of alien infiltration can’t be dismissed lightly.
THE first series of Save Me was superb... right up until the wash-out ending. But never mind. Save Me Too shows every sign of being equally unmissable. Lennie James conceived and co-writes the gritty saga and is utterly believable as feckless rough diamond Nelson “Nelly” Rowe hunting for his estranged teenage daughter Jody. He’s sworn he’ll wear that rotten yellow puffa jacket until he rescues her from organised paedophiles. The characters and setting feel real in a way most dramas (and certainly most soaps) don’t. Lesley Manville has joined as Jennifer, wife of Gideon Charles, the sick “auctioneer” who runs the sex-trafficking ring. Or ran it. Charles didn’t last the episode, and Nelly was seen wiping the blood from his knuckles after he found him. Next?
LAST week, DC’s comic book heroes from parallel earths teamed up to stop an anti-matter wave from destroying the “Arrowverse”. Or something. More interesting was the revelation that Superman and Lois Lane have a kid. How is that possible? Surely no normal woman could bed Krypton’s finest. The guy has super-speed, think of the friction burns. And what if he got carried away? If he blew in her ear in a moment of passion her head could end up in the Sea of Tranquillity.
*TV’s Top 3 superhero sagas: 1) Daredevil 2) The Punisher 3) The Boys.
HOT on TV: Tiger King, Netflix... Lennie James, Save Me Too (SkyAt)... Tom Bell, Out (TPTV).
ROT on TV: Ruby Rose, Batwoman – out-acted by her utility belt... The Steph Show – it stiffed... Meghan Markle: Escaping The Crown – Vice TV evading the truth.
*NAUGHTY “Mrs Oliver” is over the side with randy love rat John Bellasis on Belgravia. She claimed she was going to Isleworth to buy an apple orchard – he savoured the Pink Lady, she clearly loves the Cox. Bellasis is such a player he’ll be after the blonde in the Thomas Sanderson sponsorship clip next.
*IT was Denny’s funeral on EastEnders. They sure know how to lighten the mood. The poor kid would have been 14 this year. Think of what he’s missed out on: fathering a child, his first murder, getting hooked on crack... and then next year his 15th birthday party.
*KATIE Price has signed up for Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins. Maybe she thinks it stands for Shag A Squaddie. No “troops enter Jordan” jokes by request.
SMALL Joys of TV: Alice Eve, Belgravia – and Adam James as Bellasis the cad. The late, great Charlie Drake & Henry McGee, Palladium (TPTV). Paul Ritter. David Brenner (SkyCom). Caity Lotz as DC’s Sarah Lance, and her crime-fighting costume. I’m guessing only the super-righteous get to undo that zip.
RANDOM Irritations: The Mash Report – even Jay Blades couldn’t repair this witless “satire”. Jim on Friday Night Dinner – why would anyone put up with this monumental pest? The Real Michael Jackson – flogging a dead nonce...
MOTHER & Secret Daughter: Nancy Bloom, Celebrity Murder Mystery... and Whitney Dean on DeadEnders?
TV Questions: Would we take Brian Cox so seriously if his first name was Isaac? Why do so many BBC regional reporters have lithpth? Sorry, lisps? Why is BBC Two’s series called Pilgrimage when it’s basically an atheists’ holiday? And seriously, why don’t we have signers for the deaf on the TV news when politicians address the nation? The Scots and Welsh do.