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DEC 28. IT'D be wrong to say Christmas TV was such a disaster it could have been over-seen by the Environment Agency. But it was nothing to write home about. Her Maj aside, Downton deservedly won the biggest Xmas Day audience with a hefty dollop of heart-warming escapism. Yet it was watched by just 6.9million viewers. That's less than a third of what Del-Boy attracted just 14 years ago when Fools & Horses attracted a staggering 21.3m. Audiences have other distractions now – computer games, Netflix and so on; TV bosses were quick to blame catch-up services. But it was only seven years ago that 16.1m watched Wallace & Gromit. The real problem is we have lost the ability to make must-see popular comedy. There's a void at the heart of the festive schedules that soaps and soapy dramas cannot fill. Viewers want more than 'Twas Xmas Day at the Walford car-crushers'... Most of us grew up with the magic of Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies, the Trotters and Minder On The Orient Express. It isn't blind nostalgia that makes older viewers say festive telly was better then – we can see it repeated every year; the ghost of Xmas TV Past haunts Gold, Dave, BBC2 and C5. The first new sitcom on BBC1 was a lacklustre episode of Mrs. Brown's Boys transmitted at quarter to ten on Xmas Night. I like Brendan O'Carroll's foul-mouthed Agnes, but this year's script was worth less than the plastic bag it came in. This can't go on. Instead of ticking PC boxes, TV bosses must launch a search for brilliant new, broad appeal sitcoms, taking inspiration from Porridge and Steptoe rather than shows that recycle corny old gags. And why not pay our funniest living comedians to make Xmas specials – if Peter Kay can't tickle our collective funny-bone no-one can. The alternative is to accept defeat, accept decline, and lose the audience to Pie Face.


ROUGH justice on EastEnders as one beloved character met a scrap-yard crusher. Exit Fat-Boy, enter Flat-Boy. Elsewhere Shirley perched on the end of son Dean's bath. For one awful moment I feared the Cockney battleaxe might strip off and join him for a spot of forbidden "Oedipus Rex" – like Steve Owen and Barbara. Instead she tried to drown him. Harsh, but Mummy knows best. Shirl had caught Dean trying to force himself on Roxy (just "rough horse-play" according to outraged viewer James Wilmott-Brown). He'd then admitted raping Linda. On New Year's Day, Dean tried to repay the favour by submerging his Mum in a hotel lake – where better to find pond-life? It ended with Mick saving him with the kiss of life (you couldn't do that with Phil Mitchell, you'd pass out from the liquor fumes) and Dean getting charged with attempted rape. Bah. They should just have him spayed and neutered the creep. Philth had the soap's annual car crash, leaving Denny in intensive care. He also got diagnosed with cirrhosis (I'll drink to that). Kat and Alfie are back. He's got a "mass on the brain" which shocked everyone – Alfie has a brain? Who knew? In other tidings of comfort and joy, evil Lucas is phoning Denise. And the Beales are packing Bobby off to boarding school so he can come back in years to come as a teenage psycho. I'd have just bought him a course of swimming lessons with Shirley.


HOT on TV: Homeland finale... Downton finale... Kara Tointon, Sound Of Music Live... Fights of 2015 (Sky Sports)... Cara Theobold... Maddy Hill in a bridesmaid dress, EastEnders – scrubbing up well, girl (writes Simon Danczuk).


ROT on TV: Liz Taylor, Millionaire Party Planner – tackier than Benidorm... Jo Brand, Big Fat Quiz of the Year – big, fat waste of space (as was Claudia)... Walliams & Friend – mirthless & mediocre.


BBC1's Dickensian was a bold idea that turned out as appetising as Oliver Twist's gruel. Former EastEnders scriptwriter took Dickens's greatest characters and blended them into a big soapy mess. So Who Killed Jacob Marley runs alongside Miss Haversham and her love-rat conman, plus faces from Bleak House, The Pickwit Papers etc. If you've not read the books you're baffled. If you have, you're gutted.


SMALL Joys of Festive TV: Chas & Dave's Xmas Knees-Up. Peter Kay: 20 Years Of Funny. David Bowie & The Story of Ziggy Stardust (BBC4). Karen David in leather bikini, The Colour of Magic. A Gert Lush Xmas. We're Doomed! The Dad's Army Story. Prof Branestawm Returns.


RANDOM Yuletide irritations: contestants on Celebrity Mastermind who are clearly neither. News reports on the flooding failing to mention the EU directive that stopped river dredging. Tedious political lectures from privileged out-of-touch actors and celebs. EastEnders serving up the same old mix of death, menace and attempted murder because the soap writers lack the skill to tell life-affirming, heart-warming stories.


*ON Corrie Carla was shocked when Johnny told her he was her father. Understandable – in a dim light the bloke could pass for Fred West. I was more surprised when Nessa said "I like some length on a man". Saucy minx. No wonder she's smitten with sex god Ken, and his lovely long... locks.


*SPORTS personality of the year was a let-down. I had a tenner on Sepp Blatter.


*BBC1's Stickman had a plot that was plywood thin. The moral seemed to be: kids, never leave home.


*CLARE Balding is back on TV. Wow. It's almost impossible to get this woman in front of a camera.


SEPARATED at birth: Fungus the Bogeyman and Alex Salmond? One raised in damp, dark wasteland eating rotten food... and so was the other one. Runners-up: Oxford professor Allan Chapman and Max Wall? One talked about the Real Star of Bethlehem, the other was a real star of British variety.


*PETER & Wendy was well-cast but confusing. Why was Stanley Tucci playing Lucy's saintly surgeon and horrible Hook? And if Luce was Wendy why was her op mirrored by Tinkerbell's plight? Other Xmas TV mysteries: is "rich nutty fruitcake" a description of a Nigella dish or Nigella? Why does Stickman sleep on a bed of twigs? Weird. Will he ever become Branchman? And biggest of all: what was the point of We're Doomed! The Dad's Army Story?


MARIELLA Frostrup was talking about a Salmanazar champagne bottle on Celebrity 15 To One when she exclaimed: "I've never had one that big!" And to think she was married to Richard Jobson too...


REASONS to be TV cheerful in 2016: 1) Peaky Blinders series 3. 2) Deutschland 83. 3) Jon Snow reborn on Game Of Thrones. 4) New music biz drama Vinyl. 5) New superhero saga Luke Cage. 6) HBO's Westworld. 7) The X Files Revival.



Dec 27. IT was the year BBC News surprised us with reports of the "large hard-on collider". When Countdown's Rachel Riley handled two "erection"s with aplomb, and Bill Turnbull accidentally dropped the C bomb on BBC Breakfast. Daft clot. Other unpleasant C words included Lady Colin Campbell, Corbyn and Cameron – Lord Ashcroft's allegations brought new meaning to government porkies. The biggest TV event of 2015 happened off screen – the Beeb sacked Jeremy Clarkson after a "fracas" that shocked the nation. Quite right too! Why punch a producer when James May was standing right next to him? Against the odds, 2015 also saw some terrific telly. Let's celebrate them with my GAFTAs: Garry's Awards for TV Achievement.


SHOW of the Year: Fargo. Comedy of the Year: Catastrophe. Best Series You Probably Haven't Seen: Mr. Robot. Worst "Entertainment": Flock Stars.


Top TV Irritant: Perez Hilton for turning Celebrity Big Brother into one long, tedious row. Calum Best told him: "You're a piece of sh*t, no-one likes you and you'll probably never work in this country again"; harsh but on balance too kind. Runner-up: Farrah Abraham – not so sweet FA.


Top soap moment: Jo Joyner for "How's Adam?" (EastEnders live). Runner-up: Mad Jean Slater assuring her new gardener husband she'd "sprinkle your seeds of love". Biggest Soap Cobblers: the Corrie fire. Leanne and Kal grabbed Amy then stood chatting in the blazing inferno. It's a wonder they didn't toast crumpets. They then stopped for more rabbit on the rescue ladder. Best Soap: Empire – Hip Hop meets Dynasty. Worst Soap: EastEnders, for the endless Lucy Beale bore-in, the Bobby Beale cop-out, transvestite Les Coker, feckless men, feeble gangsters, Mad Jean, Fat-Boy & Donna, and Aunt Babe's love triangle. It's the only part of East London where people burn cash, tear up cheques and run charity half-marathons on Tuesday afternoons.


Best Drama that wasn't Fargo or Thrones: Homeland. Worst: London Spy. Runners-up: The Ark. Cucumber. The Casual Vacancy – Midsomer mangled. Dullest: The Interceptor. Most pointless remake: Lady Chattersley's Lover. Biggest Dramatic Dud: Fortitude – I fort it sucked. Runners-up: Broadchurch 2, True Detective 2. Best Historical Drama: The Americans. Runners-up: Poldark, The Last Kingdom. Best alternative history: The Man In The High Castle. Best single episode: the white walkers attack, Game Of Thrones. Best On-Screen Punch-up: Nolan versus Burton, Banshee. Best Off-Screen Tear-up: Aisleyne versus Farrah Abrahams (Bit On The Side). Best fighting Irishman: Conor McGregor. Most disturbing image: Fish Mooney gouging out her own eyeball with a spoon on Gotham and then stamping on it. Best naked walk of shame: Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones. Best Cop: Justified. Worst Cops: Cuffs. Most Defective Detective: David Walliams, Partners In Crime. Top Fictional Character: Lady Colin Campbell. Saddest TV death: Jon Snow, Game of Thrones (also First Annual Clara Oswald "He'll Be Back" award). Best sci-fi: Humans. Runner-up: Extant (Rosemary's Space Baby). Best horror: The Walking Dead. Best fantasy: Penny Dreadful. Worst: Atlantis. Best comic book action: a dead heat between Daredevil and Marvel's Jessica Jones. Runner-up: the much-maligned but mighty fine Jekyll & Hyde.


Top Sex Object (Literally): Anita, Humans. Sexiest Baddies: the bald, naked witches on Penny Dreadful. Weirdest Sex: Nanna Love – 50 Shades Of Granny. Roughest: Jessica Jones. Most Awkward: Tracey and Connor, Chewing Gum. Newest Trend: Snooker Sex in soaps. Both Stacey and Shabs had one in off the Kush. Most Unsettling Bedtime Import: pegging – Google "Broad City peg" for the full eye-watering horror. Most Unnecessary This Morning segment: "vaginal facials".


Top Talent Show contender: Bupsi. Worst: Hypnodog. Worst presenters: Olly and Caroline. Top Judge: Craig Revel Horwood. Worst: Nick Grimshaw. Worst Judging Decision: X Factor dumping Seann "Miley Virus" Moore. First Annual Fifa Award for Totally Above-Board Decision Making (Honest, Guv): The X Factor. Runner-up: Strictly. Best dance: Jay and Aliona's Pulp Fiction jive. Runner-up: Anita Rani's bolero. Worst: Cheryl cavorting with Reggie and Bollie. Best TV band: Dave Arch & his Orchestra. Saddest showbiz death: ventriloquist Keith Harris (gorn 1947, guried 2015).


Worst Light Entertainment Flop Not Involving Shepherds: Get Your Act Together. Runners-up: Frank Sinatra: Our Way. You're Back In The Room. Worst catchphrase: "Release the sheep!" Worst celebrity series: The Jump – nothing happened for five days, then on the sixth Louise Thompson fell over... and they missed it. Top pranksters: Ant & Dec. Runner-up: Dale Winton's barber. Most Optimistic Title: Mel & Sue's Best Bits. Best entertainment host: Graham Norton. Worst: Clare Balding. Hottest presenter: Laura Whitmore.


Best Performance by an Inanimate Object: Catherine Tyldesley's bra. Runner-up: Ben Price. Worst syrup: Gene Simmons. Worst game-show: Prized Apart. Worst gong show: The National Lottery Awards. Runner-up: The NTAs (No Talent Available). Worst quiz-show: Pick Me.


Top TV Medic: Doctor Foster. Suranne Jones sparkled as Gemma Foster, GP (generally psychotic). She bribed a patient with drugs and stubbed out a fag on the woman's abusive boyfriend. If you get home visits like that on the NHS, what do you get from BUPA? Best Medical show: 24 Hours In A&E. Worst: Jeremy Kyle's Emergency Room. Top Medical Emergency: Earl Grantham's Alien moment on Downton Abbey.


Top Sitcom: Catastrophe. Runners-up: Veep. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Uncle. Worst: Boy Meets Girl. Runners-up: Pompidou – pompidoze. Mountain Goats. The Delivery Room – a midwife crisis. Top Satire: John Oliver's Last Week Tonight. Worst: Jeremy Paxman, Alternative Election Night – only Miliband had a worse time. Best Comedy series: Inside Number 9. Best comedy doc: Bob Monkhouse – The Million Joke Man. Best Stand-up: Amy Schumer. Worst: Bernard Righton – John Thomson has dragged out one lame non-joke longer than the Lucy Beale murder case. Most over-promoted alleged comedian: Sara Pascoe. Most over-rated: Noel Fielding. Worst Comedy Drama: Sun Trap (rhyming slang). Small Comedy joys: Peter Kay's Car Share, Danny Baker's Cradle To Grave, Last Man On Earth, Modern Life Is Goodish. Best comedy character: Peter Kay as Spud Baker (also Dick van Dyke Award for worst cockney accent.)


Best Reality: SAS Who Dares Wins. Runner-up: The Apprentice. Worst: 24 Hours In The Past. Best New Idea: Hunted. Worst: Drugs Live: Cannabis On Trial. Runner-up: Married At First Sight. Top winner: Vicky Pattison. Most Unnecessary Stunt: Ferne McCann gobbling a spider. Best speech: Bob Davro, CBB. Biggest Let-Down: Katie Price winning CBB just for turning up. Runner-up: when Vernon Kay asked Katie "Name something you put behind your ears" and she didn't answer: "My ankles." Worst-Researched Booking: Tila Tequila, CBB (also hottest Nazi). Biggest Passive-Aggressive Madam: Selina Waterman-Smith, The Apprentice. Top romantic, Lucy, First Dates. "My fanny's a-fluttering," she said. "Would I high-five his face with my minge? 100%!"


Ripper Street Most Welcome Come-Back award: TFI Friday. Runners-up: Glenn, The Walking Dead. Kathy Beale. Linda Nolan. Least Welcome Come-Back award: Stars In Their Eyes. Best Baking Innuendo: Nadiya Hussain, talking about snake bread: "He's enormous! After doing him six times, the trick is to keep him small to begin with."


Top sporting goof: Bob Miller, commentating on an LA Kings ice hockey match, said of a player's stick: "He's standing in front of the net with about 8 inches of his shaft in his hand". Most unexpected Boat Race revelation: Zoe De Toledo saying, "I don't know if you can hear this at home but I've got the Oxford cox in my ear." Biggest Sport disaster: Wimbledon 2Day.


Best documentary: Scientology Going Clear. Most Chilling: Holocaust Night Will Fall. Best Rock doc: Beware Of Mr Baker. Worst doc: BBC2's Churchill hatchet job. Weirdest advert: Currys. Hollywood star Jeff Goldblum suddenly materialises from under a couple's bed! What was he doing under there? Why aren't they surprised?


Top Lookalikes: Ruth Langsford and Les Coker as "Christine" (AKA Rough Langsford). Runners-up: Perez Hilton and Tyrion Lannister; Nick Grimshaw and Rocky from Chicken Run, Dot Cotton and Norma Bates. Top TV name: Caleb Womble (producer, The Walking Dead). See, there is life after Wimbledon Common. Top Actor: Tim West. Runner-up: Mark Rylance. Top actress: Gemma Chan, Humans. Runners-up: MyAnna Buring, Lucy Speed. Feistiest blonde: Niska, Humans. Annual Gemma Collins award for Worst "celebrity": Gemma Collins.


Irritations of 2015: Olivia Colman's wandering accent on Broadchurch. Danny Cohen's politically motivated campaign against Clarkson. Katie Derham's wriggly nose. Luvvies dishonestly rewriting their own past at our expense – Lenny Henry, Emma Kennedy etc. Celebrity Big Brother's baffling addiction to obscure and obnoxious Yanks. The Voice's battle shows. Helen Wood (yes but you'd regret it).


Small joys of 2015: Let's Play Darts for Comic Relief. Phil Davis as Poldark's Jud Paynter. Singing In The Rainforest. Chas & Dave, VE Day Concert. Nadiya's face (Bake-Off). Stellan Skarsgard on River. Alison and Donnie's money dance, Orphan Black. Anita Rani's bolero. Don Draper's Coca-Cola moment, Mad Men.


Most ham-fisted propaganda: UKIP: The First 100 Days. Runner-up: The Great European Disaster Movie. Biggest political balls-up: C4's election night. Biggest Gob: Katie Hopkins (also Biggest Showbiz Fall Since Madonna). Runner-up: Charlotte Church – voice of an angel, brains of angel cake. Most Spectacular Arse: Kim Kardashian's, AKA Kanye at Glastonbury, displaying all the charm of a log-jammed portaloo. Man of the Year: Jeremy Clarkson. Woman of the Year: Vicky Pattison. Creep of the year: Oisin Tymon. Star Of The Year: Sharon Horgan, Catastrophe.


Goof Of The Year, James Parrack at the World Swimming Championship: "Koch out in lane four, Koseki hanging on to it for grim death... and remember, it's only a semi." Come back next week for my verdict on all the holiday telly!



Dec 20. Interviews week on The Apprentice is like watching people in blindfolds walk the plank over a shark tank – carnage is inevitable. Sugar's advisers shred their dreams with merciless precision. The best bit is when the poor puffed-up nitwits realise they've been rumbled and their business plans are about as much use as the Donald Trump guide to hair styling...


Richard Woods had the biggest public fall since Felix Baumgartner. It was brutal, unrelenting and thoroughly deserved as the bloke's about as see-through as Myleene Klass's trousers. Everything Tricky Dicky does has the distinct whiff of bullshit, and his business plan – for "an out-sourced marketing department" – did not disappoint. Even he had to concede his proposal had more waffle than a Belgian bakery. Then Mike Soutar sussed out that slippery Dick was already running the exact same "unique" business that he was pitching with his brother... and only making £17K a year. Woops.


Charleine was bright, beautiful and hard-working. "I will be a worldwide franchising brand", she announced. It was a bold claim undermined ever so slightly by the inconvenient fact that she owns just one hair salon in Plymouth. Ex-Tesco manager Gary dreamt of building "a global entertainment business" on the basis of "a mobile disco running predominantly in the West Midlands". Sugar prefers straightforward ideas, so it's no surprise that Joe the Spiv made the final, although his vision of turning his three-engineer firm into a gas-fitting franchise seems just as flawed as Charleine's.


Joe will take on Vana and "Playdate", her dull-sounding app that combines dating and gaming – a huge investment gamble. Will Sugs go for simple and solid, or take a risk? He probably picked his winner before filming began, much like Simon Cowell does – which would explain how Vana survived her oil-snack disaster. Like Cowell he also needs to re-think his team. Claude is far better as an interrogator than he is in the Nick Hewer role. Sugar's current advisers lack the bite of Paul Kelmsley (now sadly bankrupt) and the cold chill of the sainted Margaret. In fairness new recruit, Linda Plant got off to a good start. She might look like she fell asleep in a Botox death ray but Plant took down Richard as effectively as a Razor Ruddock tackle. "You say you're a trail-blazer," she said. "What's a trailer-blazer? Someone who does something first, yes? But you haven't done anything first, have you, Richard? Ever!" Ouch.


BIG news on Luther – he's got a new coat. But the scripts are still madder than a wet hen. Idris Elba is magnificent as maverick DCI John Luther, or as he pronounces it, "Loofah", of the Serious Crime Squad. Our granite-hard hero is on leave, living on a cliff edge – a metaphor as subtle as Anthony Joshua's right-hook – when two cops arrive to tell him that psycho-killer Alice Morgan is a goner. She's probably as dead as Clara Oswald, but heart-broken Luther is gutted enough to swing back into action, kidnapping a crime boss (Patrick Malahide) and cuffing him to a radiator as detectives do. This crackpot two-parter serves up yet another cannibal serial killer; Steven Rose, a hi-tech voyeur who goes to Stars In Their Eyes lengths to impersonate a woman's husband just so he can eat her heart. Like everything Luther investigates, it's more a case for the You-Can't-Be-Serious Crime Squad. But crazy fun all the same. PS. How did Rose shift that fridge back behind him and replace the grill while legging it down the ventilator shaft? He must be stronger than Malahide's bladder appears to be.


NIGELLA invited us to enjoy a "festive fork", which reminds me, I must get my ears checked. Sadly there was no stuffing in her Xmas special, and no turkey, but Nige did tell us how she "prevents shrinkage" (rarely a problem for her, I'd have thought). She also revealed: "I try and toss everything together as calmly and slowly as I can" – an image that momentarily distracted me from Simply Nigella's flaws. Because, other than base blokes hungry for innuendos – insert your own Nigella seeds gag here – who does this show cater for? You'd need a pantry the size of Doctor Who's Tardis to store the ingredients Lawson has on stand-by. And how many viewers have access to the cosmopolitan delis she relies on? It's great for North London, not so useful in South Armagh. Although granted many would love to munch on her savoury bundt.


HOT on TV: Idris Elba, Luther... Fargo... Anthony Joshua... Victoria Cross Heroes (PBS America).


ROT on TV: Reggie n Bollie – flatter than a Jamaican bammy... Biggins – the biggest ham this side of Masterchef... Andrew Graham-Dixon – as charismatic as a cup of cold custard.


WELL done Louisa! To no-one's surprise, the X Factor's teenage favourite beat Reggie & Bollocks (you can spell it "Bollie" if you want to). Their dismal demolition of Dylan's Forever Young wouldn't have got 'em through the auditions five years ago. It was like seeing Susan Harper come second on Masterchef after dishing up burnt scones. But producers had shafted any rival with a chance of beating Louisa before Sunday's final which seemed to drag on longer than the Star Wars movie hype. 1D sang their worst-ever dirge. Even Adele couldn't rescue it. Can Cowell's Mourinho moment be far behind?


*WE'LL get death, attempted murder, a car crash and a rape bid on EastEnders over Xmas. How ruddy grim. There are people in Syria saying we have to do something to help these poor bastards. Cranking up grief is easy and lazy, though. It takes real writing skill to craft uplifting storylines, and no-one would accuse Enders of that.


*ANOTHER Very British Problem at Xmas: lousy TV list-shows.


*HOW brave is Gregg Wallace on Masterchef? Those kitchens are bloody hot. Every time he's on air, there's a real risk his head might hatch.


SMALL Joys of TV: Ruth Wilson's lips. Dynamo A – Z. A Very Murray Xmas (Netflix). Max Wall clips on Legends Of Stand-Up (Gold). Tell Me Another (Talking Pictures) – anecdotes from long-dead showbiz legends like Colin Compton and Yootha Joyce.


RANDOM irritations: X Factor taking more than four hours last weekend to tell us the result most of had guessed after show one. John Thomson's tedious Bernard Right-on non-jokes. Brilliant Fargo ending tomorrow.


SEPARATED at birth: The Brain, from Pinky & Brain, and William Hague. One's a scheming cartoon mouse with little prospect of success, and so is the other one.


*IF you missed last weekend's fine documentary on the Bay City Rollers why not watch it now on BBC och-aye player.


*MERRY Xmas to all my readers! And if you're still looking for quality gifts to buy, my novel Face Down is "officially the best stocking filler this side of Casey Batchelor" according to a spokesman for my wallet.



Dec 13. Why do ITV bother with the Royal Variety show? There is more chance of catching Donald Trump in a burqa than of them ever getting the line-up right. Musical acts make up two-thirds of the bill now. Where’s the variety in that? It’s a pop concert punctuated by a few blokes compere Jack Whitehall optimistically described as comedians.


There were no magicians, mimics, vents, acrobats or jugglers. The sole concession to the concept of varied entertainment came from incredible contortionist Iuliia Mykhailova and those dancing dogs. It wasn’t me who said Little Mix. The only difference between this and the BBC Music Awards is the Royal had more singers. And whereas the music stretched from veterans to teen sensations via the stage, the humour was confined to the kind of over-promoted, laughter-light stand-ups that TV inflicts on us all the time. If they had a joke between them I must have dozed off and missed it.


Romesh and Chris Ramsey might work well in clubs but they’re not mass entertainers. No-one will recall their gags at work the next day. They don’t have any. Compare and contrast their spots with previous ones from Lee Mack, Peter Kay or Micky Flanagan. Or make yourself really depressed and watch Bob Monkhouse from ’96. Joe Pasquale was sensational in ’95. Where was he on Tuesday? Or Davro. Where was Brian Conley? Sitting indoors fast-forwarding through the group who mimed, I should imagine. The public love these turns but TV execs, cocooned in perverse comedy snobbery, do not.


Iuliia aside, the highlights were Kacey Musgraves, Jeff Lynne and Elton’s veteran tambourine player Ray Cooper, 73. But why are Elton, 68, and Jeff, 67, revered while comic legends like Ken Dodd are snubbed by TV bookers? They only seem to have heard of Tarby and Ronnie Corbett.


It’s tragic that great old pros like Jasper Carrott, Johnnie Casson, Adrian Walsh and Keith O’Keefe are snubbed on the one show that should cherish them. The Royal is now so divorced from variety, it’s tempting to say scrap it. But it’d be even better if BBC1 showed ITV how it should be done. Assuming anyone up there knows.


SHOCK revelations on Las Vegas with Trevor McDonald! Did you know they have hookers there? That pretty ones make the most money? And that pimps can be nasty bastards? I dread to think what ITV’s ace reporter will uncover next; possibly that the Nevada desert is a bit hot. Trev went to one of the world’s most fun cities and sucked the joy out of it. His fearless report included the unexpected news that gamblers don’t always win. Blimey. Who’d have thought a place built by the Mafia might be a bit iffy... Wouldn’t it have been more useful to share the city’s real secrets? Like the downtown casinos where the slots are looser, the great rock bars, the free shows, the cheap transport, the deals you can get on the world’s finest showbiz entertainment... You can get pricey call-girls in London too, Trev. And in Brussels you’ll find knocking shops in easy walking distance of the EU Parliament...but no-one seems to want to expose that.


SHOULD we care that Ferne McCann ate a live spider in the I’m A Celeb final? Few complain when witchety-grubs are gobbled alive. It does make you wonder how far ITV will go to revive the show’s ratings, though. Gino killed and cooked a rat; where would we stand on slaughtering bats for our entertainment, or brush-tailed wallabies? ITV should even up the odds. Bring on the boxing kangaroos! And the next time an attractive woman, or Ferne, is made to swallow a bull’s penis, make it a live one. PS. I’m a Taurus.


*JUNGLE joys: Ferne’s trials. Yvette singing. Cranky Lady C. Dunc’s new hunk status. And Vicky’s brains, diplomacy and quick wit making her a deserving winner. Some say Vicky’s raunchy past should have disqualified her. “She had sex on my TV,” a woman complained. Hmm. I don’t mind if Vic has sex on my TV, but I think she’d find the snooker table is more comfortable.


*LADY C boasted she had “1,000 years of history” – the old Third Reich dream. But we can’t mix her up with Hitler. One is an absurd, irrational dictator, the other was Austrian.


HOT on TV: Iuliia, Cirque du Soleil... Natalie Gumede, Jekyll & Hyde... Homeland... The Last Kingdom finale... Louisa Johnson – to win, obviously.


ROT on TV: Turner Prize 2015 – turner it in... Capital finale – London stalling... Britain’s Oldest Crooks – Britain’s biggest crock... London Spy – was the plot devised by the voices in Jean Slater’s head?


I LOVE those cute, dumb cartoon characters that make fools of themselves on TV: Homer Simpson. Peter Griffin. Brett on The Apprentice... Brett was brilliant! He made up his own words (“Iconify”?!) and described his team’s raw vegetable muck as “vegan-free”. Shame he went and Vana stayed. Her product was the oiliest thing in that boardroom since Mergim’s hair.


*SUGAR told the boardroom he’d come across a lot of Garys and Richards, adding: “I haven’t come across many Charleines.” For all possible punch-lines, see Dapper Laughs.


*IN a shock EastEnders development, Kath revealed that Ian once wore “trousers, suspenders and a flat cap”. Either the writer meant suspenders as in the Yank term for braces, or Les ain’t the only one with unlikely transvestite tendencies. Elsewhere Phil’s Dad was reinvented as a murderer but Bobby’s still as twisted as Jane’s ankle. Soap kids are very educational. They help explain why tigers eat their young; and why granddads live on the moon.


*KATHERINE Ryan sparkles on panel shows; but her Live At The Apollo routine was closer to mental illness than comedy. Canadian Ryan seems to think all white people are posh and it’s okay to hate us – no wonder the self-loathing BBC adore her. *CAVIAR at £24K a tin (World’s Most Expensive Food)? For that kind of money I’d want to eat it off Nigella’s naked breasts, very, very slowly. *NIGELLA was talking about Thai basil when she announced: “I have to have a bit now.” Lucky Basil!


SMALL Joys of TV: Rollermania (BBC4). Peep Show. Tripped. Sky1’s Flash/Arrow team-up. Ciara Renée as Hawkgirl. Dot Branning’s accent. World’s Weirdest Homes. Nashville Unleashed (Showbiz TV).


RANDOM irritations: Gail Platt’s voice. The Tyson Fury furore. The BBC Music Awards – two ruddy hours for a paltry five gongs. The BBC giving flood statistics only in metric measurements. False claims that the Cumbrian rainfall is “unprecedented” going unchallenged on TV news reports. The Royal Variety line-up – like Monty Python’s café selling spam, spam, spam, baked beans & spam... only the beans were off.


SEPARATED at birth: Jeff Lynne and Chas Hodges? One a much-loved old codger responsible for a string of fine hits... and so’s the other one.


*PREY? Pah. I pray great casts like this get more plausible scripts.


Dec 6. The US TV show Cheaters is about people getting caught having affairs. “Over here it’s called Strictly Come Dancing,” quipped Stewart Francis. The Canadian stand-up was the highlight of Live At The Apollo, a series that’s become as hit and miss as a tanked-up darts player in a blind-fold taking shots at a moving target. Turns get booked more to meet quotas than because they’re any good. Usually there’s a gay comic, an ethnic one, an Irish one... Some are promising. Al Porter, who as well as being gay and Irish is from the backstreets of Dublin, oozed charisma and one-liners. Typical gag: “My dad said, ‘I thought growing up with the lads around here would have hardened you’. I said it did!” But most are dire. Take the likeable but joke-free Noel Fielding, who is to Spike Milligan what Cheryl Cole is to Maria Callas, or Jason Byrne rambling on about gastric flu and ending on a fart gag. Laugh? I nearly bought myself Temazepam.


There’s more chance of Lady C getting the Nobel Peace prize than of seeing a straight working class English comedian on telly. This stems from the late 80s comedy “revolution” when a new wave of middle-class university graduate stand-ups (mugs?) came to the fore personified by that hectoring, lecturing comedy social worker Ben Elton. TV bosses, who shared their right-on views, axed much-loved but “old-hat” working class funnymen. It was the comic equivalent of Pol Pot’s Year Zero. Even Les Dawson got the chop. Despite this depressing new orthodoxy, the turns viewers love rather than tolerate are still generally from blue-collar backgrounds: Lee Evans, Peter Kay, Micky Flanagan... all masterful turns, all down to earth. (Michael McIntryre is an honourable exception).


Older gag-telling stand-ups still exist, but TV producers won’t acknowledge them. It’s partly through prejudice, partly ignorance and partly the fear that the old guys might not be on-message, politically. State-approved telly comics merrily bash Farage but rarely take a shot at the EU or the climate change racket or the absurdities of Diane Abbott. Gold’s recent Legends Of Stand-Up series deliberately avoided clips of Jim Davidson, a genuine comedy giant but not PC, y’see. Yet Jim left all that Chalkie stuff behind donkey’s years ago. (They also dumbly missed out Max Miller, Mike Reid, Norman Collier and a shed-load of other greats, but hey-ho.)


Viewing figures for BBC sitcoms have been falling like in decline for decades too. Shows that attract an eighth of Del-Boy’s audience are considered a success. No wonder the Beeb are re-shooting old hits; they can’t make new ones.


*STEWART Francis: “Why was I forced to resign as a gynaecologist? I’d rather not go into it... ”


THERE was a Western feel to last night’s Doctor Who, a show-down in a desert with the Doc drawing a line in the sand with his boot. Odd to see peasants on super-advanced Gallifrey living in hovels, though. Why haven’t the brainy Time Lords made their deserts arable? And why do they wear those big heavy clothes? They must sweat like a 12 year old trying to follow these plots. Under Steven Moffat, the show’s more about the writers’ egos than thrilling escapism. All talk, no action. Chat, chat, chat... Half this series consisted of actors standing around explaining the plot. People die but don’t die. Poor Clara copped it twice – once apparently topped by Daleks; then by a death-raven. (Don’t Google ‘Clara smashed by black bird’, though, completely different image). Finally she legged it with immortal Me. And we learnt who the Hybrid is. Probably. Sorry to sound vague. Doctor Who is more puzzling than Only Connect these days; it’s sonically screwed. Doctor WTF. You need two viewings and a Mensa level IQ to follow the story.


CAN you blame Lady C for quitting I’m A Celeb? The belligerent old boot was on the war-path for longer than Sitting Bull. She and “fat blob” Tony Hadley bickered like Itchy & Scratchy. Even Labour Party bods thought blimey they argue a lot. And with her allies getting picked off, Lazy C had to walk before us “oiks” kicked her out. Duncan called her a “self-obsessed, stupid woman banging on and on”. Maybe so, but it was so dull without her, they devoted ten minutes of Thursday’s show to the riveting saga of who spilt some hair conditioning. PS. Tubby Tone: henceforth known as Spandau Buffet.


*BEFORE quitting, Lady C said: “George should be informed that Duncan and Tony have been pumping each other up.” Well as long as they don’t scare the emus...


*FERNE was on her back, strapped in and facing a large snake. Tsk, you can take the girl out of Essex, but...


HOT on TV: The Catastrophe finale... Heida Reed, Toast Of London... The Murder Detectives... The Last Kingdom.


ROT on TV: Kirstie’s Home-made Xmas – a load of baubles... London Spy (fifth week running)... David Lammy, This Is Tottenham – lame... The World’s Most Expensive Food – the unwatchable in pursuit of the inedible.


NIGELLA’S appeal baffles critics angry at her simple dishes. But some enjoy her entirely innocently talk of stalks, seeds, cumin, “old rag pie” and “sticky bits at the bottom” over a hot soul soundtrack. I say let her carry on pulling pork until the juices run. And cue Barry White.


*SCOTT quit The Apprentice with dignity, resisting the temptation to say: “Oi Sugar, you can’t fire me from a job I haven’t got, you plum. Oh and by the way, why do the Beeb pretend your office is in the City, rather than Brentwood? And when’s the last time anyone bought a ‘bluddy’ Amstrad emailer?”


*PIERS Morgan gave Lorraine Kelly a cushion with his picture on it. “Now I can sit on your face,” she replied. There’s an image to put you off your kippers.


*TWO blokes pitched their chocolate anus mould business on The Money Pit. Urgh. Mercifully the bottom fell out of the deal.


*STRICTLY fixed? No! We’ll be questioning election results in Nigeria next.


*BOMBING Syria will require “a large Adrian Riley”, according to BBC News subtitles. Or a large amount of money. You decide.


*GOOSY Lucy is on EastEnders. Hurrah! By coincidence that was also Max’s pet name for foreplay with Ian’s daughter...


SMALL Joys of TV: Susanna Reid’s twinkle. Jon Hamm, Toast Of London. Rachael Sterling. I’m Not In Love: The Story Of 10cc. Jethro Tull’s Locomotive Breath on Fargo. Shed Simove on Dave’s The Money Pit. Good Old Days (BBC4). What A Performance (BBC4).


RANDOM irritations: X Factor’s over-blown pomp masking its underwhelming reality. Rita Ora’s gushing verbals – she’d baffle Doctor Who’s universal translator. C4 spending £4mill on golden handcuffs for Alan Carr and not a penny on his elocution lessons.


SEPARATED at birth: Lady C and Arsen Wenger? One an aloof, often criticised and occasionally irrational figure loved by loyal sportsmen... and so’s the other one.


*WHAT A Performance recalled Victorian entertainers Dan Leno and Marie Lloyd. But instead of having modern turns like Frank Skinner do their act, why not re-run the 1982 series Turns which had actual footage of Music Hall greats like Gus Elen in action? It was wonderful for two reasons. Firstly it was a real window into Victorian London, and secondly, like Gus, for breakfast I wouldn’t think of having tea, I likes me ’alf a pint of ale.







Garry Bushell