BUSHELL ON THE BOX
DEC 30. IT was the year Ant decked his own career, Ed Balls got Tasered and Roseanne’s bad-taste tweet got her Barred by the joke police – although many felt it was quite Presidential. Stormy Daniels deprived us of a hurricane of Trump gossip by swerving Celebrity Big Brother. Tsk, she normally frowns on pulling out prematurely too. Octogenarian ostrich-jockey Bernie Clifton endeared himself to a new TV audience. And Pat Phelan finally croaked. But what else was hot and rot in 2018? Let’s celebrate the highs and lows of the TV year with my prestigious Bushell Awards for TV Achievement.
SHOW of the Year: They Shall Not Grow Old. Lovingly edited and stunningly effective, Peter Jackson’s First World War film was arguably the finest single documentary ever made.
Star of the Year: Jodie Comer, for making Killing Eve’s psychotic assassin Villanelle 2018’s most mesmerising villain.
Turkey of the Year: Mel & Sue’s Generation Game – wrong on more levels than Villanelle in an express lift.
Top TV entertainer: Michael McIntyre.
Top Drama: Informer. Runners-up: Save Me – terrific right up until the last episode. Succession. Killing Eve.
Flop Drama: Wanderlust. Runners-up: Troy: Fall Of A City (AKA Fall of the viewing figures). Collateral. Age Before Beauty. Girlfriends.
Biggest Hit: Bodyguard. It started brilliantly but you could’ve parked Gemma Collins in some of the plot-holes.
Best Drama Import: The Deuce. Runners-up: Get Shorty. Gomorrah. Fauda. Narcos: Mexico. Trust. The Americans. Barry. Preacher. Glow. Ozark.
Top Superhero series: Daredevil.
Most unconvincing criminal banker: James Norton, who displayed the emotional range of a paying-in book on McMafia.
Oddest death: Hugh on Poldark who passed away after being struck down by what looked like pepperoni pizza plague.
Most missed character: Jud Paynter, Poldark.
Most Disappointing Second Series: Westworld – the convoluted plot malfunctioned even more than robot Bernard did.
The Doctor Evil award for Worst Criminal Mastermind: Aidan Maguire, architect of the laughable EastEnders heist.
Worst EastEnders character: Marv the Entertainer. Runner-up: that ghetto pizza delivery boy. Worst Walford plot obsessions: chess and samosas.
The Pat Phelan Award for Out-Staying Your Welcome: Stuart Halfway.
Top TV Sex: David and Julia, Bodyguard. Worst sex: Wanderlust. Funniest/Yuckiest sex: Sally4Ever’s China In Your Hands scene. Top Sex Object (Literally): Harmony, The Sex Robots Are Coming.
Top fight scene: Daredevil v Bullseye. Best Revenge: Carrie v blackmailing hacker, Homeland.
Funniest TV show: Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule. Top black comedy: Inside No 9. Top Sitcom: Still Game (UK); The Good Place (USA). Best New Brit-com: Derry Girls. Biggest let-down: Hold The Sunset. Funniest TV moment: Ed Balls getting Tasered. Top comedy drama: The Marvellous Mrs Maisel. Runners-up: Atlanta. Call My Agent. Insecure.
Top Sitcom Monster: Doon Mackichan as Cathy Whyte, Two Doors Down. Last Leg award for Worst Satire: Frankie Boyle’s New World Order. Top TV comic: Jimmy Carr. Runner-up: Mick Miller. Worst in a crowded field: Nish Kumar.
Best entertainment host who wasn’t McIntyre: the Ant-less Dec. Worst show: For Facts Sake – stunk like Miriam Margolyes on a prune diet. Runner-up: Change Your Tune.
Annual Mel & Sue award for Most Over-rated Double Act: Mel & Sue.
Best entertainment segment: McIntyre’s Send-To-All.
Top dance: Faye & Giovanni’s Grease quickstep. Runners-up: Stacey & Kevin’s Jive. Worst dancer: Theresa May.
Top jibe: Jimmy Carr to Tom Rosenthal, “Tom you’re not Jewish. Someone needs to tell your face.”
Worst “Reality” show: Celebrity Haunted Mansion. Best: Love Island. Most missed star: Colin the wild pig who strangled himself on Celebrity Island rather than spend another day with Pete Wicks.
Joey Essex award for Brains: Hayley Hughes, Love Island.
Top quote: Olivia Attwood, “I couldn’t be a fire-fighter, my tits would melt.” (Celebs Go Dating)
Worst TV Quiz Show: Win Your Wish List. Worst Gameshow: The Wave. Best panel show: Would I Lie To You?
Best challenge: SAS Who Dares Wins. Best breakfast hosts: Morgan and Reid.
Best Documentary Series: Travels In Trumpland with Ed Balls. Most disappointing: Civilisations. Best Single Doc: Murder In Soho: The Freddie Mills Story.
Best sci-fi: Altered Carbon. Most Bonkers: Hard Sun. Best single episode: Black Mirror’s USS Callister. Most frustrating: Doctor Who – poor writing, PC plots and zero sci-fi saw it shed more than a third of its audience.
Worst live broadcast: ITV’s half-cocked coverage of Eugenie’s wedding.
Best natural history: Dynasties.
Biggest Soap puzzles: how did those Corrie thieves nick the factory roof without scaffolding? What was more watered down, the beer in the Rovers or the “concrete” Pat Phelan fell into?
Top Talent Show Judge: Craig Revel-Horrid. Worst Talent Show Investment: Robbie Williams. A £10million fee and he buggered off during the live finals.
Best Performance by an Inanimate Object: Kat Moon’s bra. Runner-up: James Norton, McMafia.
Best cooking: Laurence Harvey. Worst booking: Gemma Collins. Biggest fix: Rahul winning Bake Off. (Ruby woz robbed!). Best axing: Big Brother. Worst axing: Daredevil. Top Lookalikes: Simon Cowell and this Hawaiian feather god. Runners-up: Ken Dodd and Jacqueline from Benidorm.
Best True Crime: Making A Murderer.
Irritations of 2018: Microscopic subtitles. News outlets that take Twitter seriously. The BBC’s glaringly biased anti-Brexit propaganda disguised as news, drama and “comedy”. Absurd cooking challenges. Panel shows booking by gender quota rather than ability.
Small joys of 2018: Paul McCartney’s secret Liverpool pub gig on James Corden’s Late Late Show. Rob Beckett’s Celebs Go Dating voice-over. Iain Sterling’s Love Island voice-over. Lodge 49. Hunted. No Activity. Big Narstie’s weather forecast on GMB.
Villain of the Year: Roxanne Pallett. Most Shameless Love Rat: Jermaine Pennant. The Joey Barton award for Charm: Jamie Carragher. Top Actor: Chris O’Dowd, Get Shorty. Runners-up: Lennie James, Brian Cox, Hugh Grant, Donald Sutherland. Top Actress: Jodie Comer, Killing Eve. Runners-up: Keeley Hawes, Thandie Newton, Olivia Cooke, Sandra Oh. Top Skank: Kat Moon. Top Irritant: Sue Perkins.
Goof of the Year: David Corkill commentating on the World Indoor Bowls: “David Gorlay’s pushed it too much, look at where our rings are too red.”
Man of the Year: Harry Redknapp. Woman of the Year: Adrienne Warren. Robot of the Year: Maeve Millay, Westworld. Star of the Year (incorporating Chimp of the Year): David, Dynasties.
THE BBC won the Christmas Day TV battle, serving up the fun of McIntyre, the class of Strictly and the uplifting joy of EastEnders. Okay, maybe not so much the last one. For real glee, Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show was a rare example of warm-hearted family entertainment; a dying art. Exuberant McIntyre resurrects the spirit of House Party and seems to genuinely relish every moment. In a packed hour we saw unknown voice over artist Paige elevated to the show’s unexpected star after auditioning with Alan “Voice of the Balls” Dedicoat and Big Brother’s Marcus Bentley. We got Chris Kamara’s Send-To-All, Katherine Jenkins singing and an inspired hidden-camera prank featuring Margaret from York. Her husband had taken her to Le Gavroche were Michel Roux served them food half-inched from Margaret’s freezer by McIntyre. She was then filmed secretly slating her own cooking – “The chicken’s tough... really bland... I don’t rate this... ” Mark Gatiss’s ghost story The Dead Room was neatly done but for real horror you had to see Phil Mitchell murder A Fairy Tale of New York at the Queen Vic karaoke on EastEnders. Alfie Moon was the shock victim of the soap’s traditional festive death-plummet after Hayley shoved him down their stairs. He fell down the top four and then, defying the laws of physics, pulled off a sharp 90degree turn to tumble down the main staircase and hit his head on logs for the Slaters’ never-seen open fire. Laugh? I almost bought him a new shirt. Alfie seemed brown bread... until Boxing Day when he rose again and absconded with baby Cherry. Not once during the blazing row did he remind Kat, his ever-cheating missus, that they were on a break when he knocked up her cousin because she’d run off with another geezer... Why? It was almost as puzzling as their loft conversion, completed in under a week by unseen builders. Xmas comedy was thin on the ground, although by the time Mrs Brown’s Boys came on viewers were probably too blitzed to moan about feeble regurgitated old jokes – “big of me”/bigamy and so on. Best line? “Do you have a ginger julep?” “Jeez no, I shave it.”
REASONS to be cheerful in 2019: Game Of Thrones, Line Of Duty, Luther and Peaky Blinders!
Dec 23, TV comedy used to be as much of a Christmas Day tradition as crackers and carols. Hilarious specials – Eric & Ernie, The Two Ronnies, Fools & Horses – were the highlight of the viewing year. Now we seem to get any old tat with added tinsel. I’m seriously amazed that ITV haven’t commissioned a Jeremy Kyle Xmas show with livid love-rats in party hats yelling “Deck the halls? I’ll deck you!” And the kids screaming “I saw mummy kissing Mrs. Claus... ”
ITV’s Best Xmas Ever didn’t even mention the telly, possibly because historically the BBC had all the plums while ITV served up the duff. Alexander Armstrong presided over a lacklustre studio discussion of what makes the season Xmas wonderful. According to this drivelling mess, Britain’s favourite festive food is stuffing. Turkey wasn’t even an option... Yorkshire puddings were though; but not Christmas ones. Or mince pies. Faye Ripley plumped for pigs-in-blankets with added DATES (we always had “Eat Me” dates at home, but no one ever did). The studio audience’s votes were baffling. Had they been swigging eggnog... like the producers? There wasn’t a single carol competing to be Best Christmas Song – ITV swerved religion entirely. What’s God got to do with it? The Pogues’ poignant Fairy Tale Of New York beat White Christmas as “ultimate” holiday anthem. Hmm. Prue Leith chose the distinctly un-festive Stay Another Day, the song Tony Mortimer wrote about his brother’s suicide. Monster Yuletide hits from Slade, Wizzard and Greg Lake weren’t in the running.
There was no discussion of heart-warming films like It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle On 34th Street or A Christmas Carol. Mistletoe was probably banned on #MeToo grounds. No room either for crackers, nativity plays, mulled wine, the Queen’s speech or pantomime. In the 60s, BBC One screened pantos and circuses on Xmas Day; BBC2 had opera and ballet. ITV had wrestling... The biggest laughs came when Prue talked turkey. “What I like to do, which I don’t recommend unless you’re really keen on boning... ” she said to Adam Thomas’s giggles. Adding, to his delight: “You can get your butcher to bone your turkey.” Not a pleasant image, but still more fun than elf-eared Armstrong mangling All I Want For Xmas Is You... Best Christmas Ever? More like a sack of sh... allow seasonal dross.
THE Love Islanders reunited to reminisce about their heady summer of romance. Predictably the couples had lasted slightly longer than a snowman in the Sahara. Sam had dumped Georgia for being “unloyal”. “I don’t believe I’ve got to say that word again,” he said. “Unloyal”. Me neither mate, the word is disloyal. Winners Jack and Dani, the show’s great gift to rhyming slang, split up before the filming. Samira elbowed Frankie, and Ellie dumped cheating Charlie whose late arrival was as welcome as a gift-wrapped turd... Hayley – the foxy moron who thought Brexit meant “we won’t have any trees” – is still as bright as a five watt bulb. She reckons the EU stands for “Espania, maybe”. The lads were chanting “DBS” – Disinfect Before Shagging! Sorry, Do Bits Society. They can “do bits”, but not grown-up relationships. Scottish stewardess Laura is still slightly scary; she wears enough slap to stock a Max Factor counter (and if Max were there, he would’ve Factor). Remember Laura telling short-term date Paul she’d name their children “Arabella and Theodore”? Set bunny to boil. Even Harpo Marx lookalike Eyal rocked up – the drippy hippy who’d wanted to “find someone with depth”. Wrong show, pal. The only question Love Island successfully answered was Hayley’s “What does superficial mean?”
LORD Sugar is into women’s swimwear! Les Coker will be thrilled. Smart, determined Sian won The Apprentice despite picking Kurran for her team and allowing the deluded twerp to direct her promo ad. Naturally he compared himself to Scorsese in the process. (Possibly Sid Scorsese of Sevenoaks). Rival Camilla told her branding team clots to stay “the right side of cheeky” for her nut milk product. They came up with “Wipe your nuts” – feeble. Then “Grab your nuts”. “Crushing nuts” had already been acquired as a mission statement by EastEnders. “Nuts squeezed for your pleasure” would have suited saucy Camilla more. She lost, but on the plus side at least she won’t have to put up with Lord Grumpy-Chops all year.
*CAMILLA went for a 15% nut content. By coincidence so did the show bookers.
HOT on TV: Springsteen On Broadway (Netflix)... Lenny Henry, The Long Song... Simon Callow, A Christmas Carol... Kevin Clifton & dazzling Dooley, Strictly.
ROT on TV: Best Xmas Ever – worst show of the week... Romesh’s Look Back To The Future – jingle hell... David Baddiel singing – David Bad-Deal... Celebrity Call Centre – wrong number.
FORGET First Dates, real sexual chemistry blossomed on Mary Berry’s oddly named Christmas Party. Awe-struck Mary admitted she was in bed by ten every night to watch newsreader Huw Edwards. She mentioned that he stands feet apart at the start of each bulletin, squeezed his bicep (“It’s very hard”), flashed a leg and said “You’re just like my husband!” All we were short of was a “This just in” from Huw. Get a room guys, or at least a larder.
*NEXT week in soaps: death, betrayal, recriminations, heartbreak... have yourself a merry little Christmas...
*NEXT year, a Pets At Home delivery lorry ploughs into Bridge Street market bringing Walford a long-overdue plague of locusts.
*PIERS Morgan has been battling man-flu on Good Morning Britain. Headaches, nausea, a general feeling of malaise – that’s what you get from watching him.
*DANNY Dyer’s mum was an English teacher. Odd that she never taught him what self-parody means. Dan seems to think effing and jeffing is a substitute for wit. Hard to believe his school ma’am ma put up with all that Lord Mayoring back home.
SMALL joys of TV: The Undiscovered Peter Sellers. Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All. Steptoe & Son Xmas special. Richard Pryor: Omit The Logic. Grizzly Bear Cubs & Me. Sunderland ’Til I Die (Netflix).100 Years of King’s Carols. Lee Mack’s Not Going Out live episode.
RANDOM irritations: Sports Personality of The Year – own goal after own goal... the god-awful version of Three Lions, the awkward fact that nothing came home, the Beeb blanking Ronnie O’Sullivan yet again. It should’ve been Cook not Anderson & Froome not Thomas.
SEPARATED at birth: Nicola Sturgeon and Muscle Man from the Regular Show? One a two-dimensional cartoon character who has seen better days... the other one is Muscle Man.
TV questions: has Alexander Armstrong ever turned down a TV booking? Is the technical name for Lord Sugar’s sex life grumpy-pumpy? Hey, Mary Berry, how can it be a Xmas party if your guests never meet?
*SEEING Anne Hegerty as Ginger Spice in a Union Jack dress on the Celebrity Chase Xmas Special, Bernard Cribbins quipped: “You’ll never get her up the flag pole.”
*RUSSIAN-run TV station RT broke the rules on TV bias. Don’t they all?
DEC 15. IT was interview week on The Apprentice, the laidback episode where Sugar’s young hopefuls enjoy gentle consultations with his caring advisors. Who am I kidding? It was brutal. Their business plans got ripped apart like an antelope calf caught by hungry hyenas on Dynasties. Dodgy Daniel said he’d devised a hangover cure but couldn’t market it as that because of Britain’s “draconian” advertising rules. Yeah, that truth in advertising thing is a real bummer. Although formidable in tasks, wide-boy Dan has a few honesty issues. For example he’d claimed on Amazon to have sold “over one million units” of this slop – more than 20 times the actual sales. But the good news was he had flogged the franchise in Dubai. Great! They’re renowned for their booze culture in the Emirates. Maybe try Saudi next, mate; their cops cure the old “Kat Moon flu” with 300 lashes and a year in the slammer.
The former banker channelled the spirit of Jade Goody to ask: “Is Australia in Asia?” D’oh! Claudine Collins told him, “You sound like a prize imbecile”, which was putting it mildly. Law graduate Camilla took it hard for her Carry On-style nut milk sales pitch and “provocative images” (probably why I liked her.) “It feels so good to have nuts back in my life,” she said. “I’ve missed them.” What a minx. Sadly, after three months knocking out nut juice by hand in her kitchen she’d made the grand total of... £1,297. £155 a week. You’d earn more waiting on tables.
Stroppy Khadija copped it too. Linda Plant wiped the floor with her cleaning business proposal, “pipe dream” projections and plans for a swanky London office. “You haven’t even conquered Peterborough yet,” Plant snapped. Sugar said Khad “could just shout at the germs and they’d run away.” Sian thought students would shell out £50 for her posh bikinis. She also wants to put big sleeves on swimwear. “You’d drown,” said magazine mogul Mike Souter, aghast. Sabrina had more waffle than IHOP. But her tennis events business – run by over-booking tournaments and cancelling them – was deemed a double fault. Only Camilla and Sian survived. So it’s luxury swimwear versus nuts-for-sluts filth tonight. Oh well Camilla, if your nuts get crushed, I will cashew. Shugs would’ve made a lot more dosh with drinkers’ chum Daniel. Cheers!
THE Royal Variety Show attracts world-class singers, amazing acrobats and the best West End shows. There was Adrienne Warren, the Hamilton cast, Andrea Bocelli, Take That, breath-taking Circus 1903 with their life-sized elephant puppets... And bang in the middle of it, a comedian cracking fart jokes. Very classy. Not just one gag either; Ed Gamble’s whole spot ploughed this flatulent furrow. You’ll see kites that are less dependent on wind. Ed wasn’t the only gamble that didn’t work... the comedy “headliner” was unknown Kiwi Rose Matafeo spouting gibberish. There were more laughs in the brief memorial clip of Ken Dodd. Rhod Gilbert came on and shouted at us, Lost Voice Guy did his limited thing. We got mimics in a panel show format for no apparent reason... Only Rod Woodward hit the spot. Host Greg Davies started well but was clearly under-rehearsed. Compare his performance with Brian Conley in the 90s and weep. And where’s Brian now? On Celebrity Antiques Road-trip last week... Go figure. ITV’s irrational hatred of variety comics hurts the show and it hurts the business.
STRANGE bods, the Beeb. They turned a blind eye to Savile then conspired to ruin the reputation of blameless Sir Cliff Richard... ITV’s Cliff doc was filmed while the veteran star was taking on the BBC (and South Yorkshire plod) for invading his privacy. You felt his pain. Hurt by false accusations, this humble, reserved and sincere man was understandably suffering. We saw Cliff’s Algarve home, his friends and his fans. The doc also charted his incredible career that began with Move It, the 1958 smash hit that saw him dubbed “the British Elvis”. He’s notched up No 1s in seven decades, released 104 albums, embraced Christianity and gone in and out of fashion... Even if you hate his music, that’s remarkably impressive. Surely worth a Cilla-style drama series, ITV?
*SIR Cliff, Sir Rod, Sir Mick, Sir Elton... when will the great Noddy Holder get knighted? Baby, baby, baby...
HOT on TV: The Good Place (E4)... Adrienne Warren... Skade, The Last Kingdom (Netflix) – hotter than a gift from Alfie Moon... Patriot (AmPrime).
ROT on TV: Katie Price: My Crazy Xmas – the Price ain’t right... This Is My Song – well keep it to yourself... Through The Christmas Keyhole – down the puerile plughole.
DIDDY Dec was on fire for the I’m A Celebrity final. What does the winner get, he asked, “after all these years it’s still a crown made of twigs. Even Take Me Out gives them a holiday.” He had some neat digs at Nick Knowles too, describing him as “so good at DIY he even gravelled his voice”. Let’s not be daft about Holly, though. She’s a lovely woman, highly accomplished at changing clothes and reading autocues, but she’s not funny. Let’s have Ant back where he belongs next year.
*A THRILLING end to The Heist. I haven’t rooted so hard for a bunch of robbers since Robin Of Sherwood. The show taught us a lot: never do a bank job unmasked, never splash the loot like a lottery winner, don’t taunt the cops, and remember if all is lost there’s still an outside chance of getting frisked by Aleicia.
*I ALWAYS said a woman would have to be nuts to hook up with Ian Beale. And here’s Jean Slater to prove it...
*HAVE you seen that advert with Jenny Eclair next to the words “bothersome vagina”? Harsh. I always found her quite funny.
*THE BBC’s Xmas TV “highlights” apparently include an All Together Now festive special. And there was I thinking torture was illegal.
*DO you ever watch Catchphrase and think, “Money for old rope... ”?
*MEMO to Corrie’s Chesney: only 9 more shop-robbing days till Xmas.
*ON Doctor Who, the Doc stopped Graham from topping the alien creep who’d killed his missus. Instead they banged the bad guy up in solitary – forever! Isn’t that crueller? A few weeks ago the Doc stopped a rogue businessman from shooting giant marauding spiders, preferring to lock them in a sealed room where they would slowly starve to death. A dubious morality. This dippy pacifist Doc is surely no relation to the Doctor who killed Daleks and Cybermen? The Daleks called him “the Destroyer of Worlds”...
SMALL joys of TV: The Sound Of Musicals (BBC4). Amazing Spaces: Winter Wonderland. Circus acts on Daredevils & Divas. Chas & Dave’s Xmas Knees-Up. World’s Strongest Man. Anne Hegerty asking Keith Allen: “Do people in the street shout ‘Fat Les!’ at you? They do me.”
RANDOM irritations: Crass continuity announcers ruining the end of poignant dramas. Xmas TV specials that aren’t remotely special. Doctor Who’s babyish plots and weak sci-fi – ex-ter-min-ate Chris Chibnall as show-runner. British soldiers with beards in 20th Century dramas.
SEPARATED at birth: Carl Palmer and Dick Emery? They had a lot in common. You can’t listen to ELP’s Love Beach album without thinking: “You are awful, but I like you!”
*MEMO to Apprentice Camilla: only 9 more nut-squeezing days till Xmas.
BEN Shepherd was talking about the arcade machine on Tipping Point when he said: “Belinda, that’s a cracking top shelf you’ve got there.” Keep those goofs coming to the address at the top of the page.
DEC 9. THERE are so many mysteries on EastEnders it’s “doin’ my ’ead in”. Why didn’t anyone ask what Roxy Mitchell was doing in the jungle? She’s supposed to be pushing up the daisies, not jerking around with a cockroach up her jacksie. No-one has asked Kat what Ireland was like... not even her Nan. And naturally Kat’s neglected to mention that her lost son turned out to be a psychopathic killer priest. Why do so many Walford residents romp in khazis (Mel and Ray, Max and Fi, Martin and Stacey... )? Talk about bog-standard sex. When did little Tommy have his head transplant? Where does Ian Beale’s fire escape lead to? Direct to the seventh circle of Hell, maybe. His restaurant is ground level; the exit is 20feet lower. There are no steps leading back to street level. It was dark when Billy “Lonely Loins” Mitchell walked back to the party with a case of beer, so how was there still natural light inside the Slaters’ doss-hole? And why is no-one ill when there isn’t a GP in the cast?
We might also ask why, if the whole pub can debate rape, does no regular character ever advocate the return of death penalty for the Square’s many murderers? EastEnders boasts it reflects “real life”, but the writers – miserablists and snowflakes to a man – actually use the scripts to hammer home their own prejudices. The referendum result infuriated them so much that the Vic ran an EU-themed supper club week... like no known pub in East London. Drama should reflect the way the world is, even if we don’t like it. If it serves up life as we’d like it to be then it isn’t drama, it’s just cowardly propaganda.
When Julia Smith and Tony Holland created EastEnders, it genuinely captured a sense of the old East End. Characters like Den and Angie Watts and the Fowlers felt as real as Marie Lloyd or John L Gardner, as did Frank Butcher and the Mitchell bruvs (when they were mechanics, not semi-villains). I’m not sure who we’re supposed to like now. Alfie was always a wide-boy but running a rip-off funeral plan targeting hard-up locals is plain wicked. They’ve even started on the past, with a recent storyline suggesting Charlie Slater was complicit in Kat’s abuse. Misery rules, OK. The idea of a character making a success of their lives through hard work never occurs to them.
DANNY Dyer surprised many Have I Got News For You viewers. For starters he was in a suit and no-one was calling him “the accused”. Some objected to his accent. “Who’s this posh bloke?” said a Mr. Raymond Winstone of Homerton. Others hated his swearing, although when Dan suggested a snooty Times letter writer should “f*** off” he won me right over. He struggled a bit with the autocue but sent himself up gleefully claiming he’d been “stockpiling pies, fags and penicillin”. Dyer had some good gags too, including the claim that a Dutch Shepherd dog was “like a German Shepherd but with a more liberal attitude to drugs”. Merton disliked him so much he didn’t mug to the cameras once.
THEY had painted wolves on Dynasties. I’m not sure who painted them, but they were ugly enough to win a Turner Prize. No wonder they’re endangered. They’d have to be skunk-drunk to mate. The storyline was grim, gory and gripping; almost Shakespearean. Blacktip and her pack hounded her mother Tait but over-reached, losing cubs to hyenas and crocodiles. The soaps should pinch this. Grant Mitchell’s kid comes back to Walford, drives out Phil and comes unstuck. Two things irritated. Wild animals don’t have names. And Attenborough claimed they were “one of the last great families”. How does he know? He loves a bit of spin doesn’t he?
HOT on TV: Jessica Beal, The Sinner (BBC4)... The Marvellous Mrs Maisel (AmPrime)... Daredevil (Netflix).
ROT on TV: How To Spend It Well At Xmas – start by swerving this old tat... Dave’s Advent Calendar – pitiful... X Factor final – end of an error... Fortitude – bonkers.
TV Carols 2018. Corrie cast: Oh little street in Weatherfield, how did you get so grim? And (to tune of Oh Christmas Tree): O sweet Sally, O sweet Sally, you’ll be banged up till January. The I’m A Celeb version: Anne Hegerty, Anne Hegerty, our laziest celebrity... Other jungle faves: Dec’s In Thrall To Thighs of Holly. The First Noel... was straight out the door... EastEnders cast: O Come All Ye Unfaithful. Dennis: I Saw Mummy Bonking Ke-a-nu. Keanu: Away With A Minger.
TOMORROW’S World’s “science of Spiderman” special was more CBBC than BBC4. If they’d studied Spidey’s powers instead of his films, they’d have exposed the web-slinging Marvel superhero as a total fraud. Spiderman’s story makes as much sense as Fortitude. Young Peter Parker got his powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Only huntsman spiders climb like he does. But they aren’t particularly strong, agile or fast and they don’t build webs. Spiderman’s mechanical silk completely defies physics. But so do most superheroes. Superman’s origins don’t explain his flying or x-ray vision. Aquaman is absurd – when he’s on the ocean bed, how does his body stand the pressure? How much would The Flash have to eat to burn up that much energy? Even Gregg Wallace couldn’t scoff enough. The only way to enjoy these comic book creations is to forget logic and truth, and suspend belief. Much like PMQs.
*THE Secret Life Of The Zoo informed us a group of meerkats are called a “mob”. Makes sense... they start with insurance deals, muscle in on Corrie, and before long they’re dealing crack and pimping out squirrels.
*VIEWERS were shocked when This Morning discussed men’s testicles. Quite right. You usually have to wait until Loose Women starts to hear people talking balls.
*GAME Of Thrones has given fans a taste for mead. Not me, although oddly I often find myself hankering for a megalomaniac blonde with a hot pair of dragons...
SMALL joys of TV: Tyson Fury rising up from the canvas in the twelfth. UK’s Strongest Man. Money Heist (Netflix). Forged In Fire: Tournament. The Co-op buyers reaction to Camilla’s team’s sales pitch on The Apprentice. Hornblower repeats. Andre Rieu: Xmas Around The World. And Karen on Embarrassing Pets saying of her mixed breed Jack Russell and pug dogs: “I’ve got a lovely pair of jugs.”
RANDOM irritations: Vegans. The BBC comedy Stasi refusing to let us see repeats of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and The Goodies. People who complain about sex on TV but watch it on catch-up. Newsnight’s dismal decline. Intrusive, OTT soundtracks that treat adults like toddlers.
SEPARATED at birth: Theresa May and Mr Burns? One an evasive, manipulative villain with a dubious vision, the other is a character in The Simpsons.
TV Maths: Noel Edmonds + leather jacket = Animal from the Anti-Nowhere League.
DEC 2. WE had two sackings on The Apprentice, both thoroughly deserved. I’m not saying tree surgeon Tom was wooden but when he finally got the chop it was a miracle no-one shouted “Timber! If you cut him, he’d bleed sap. Tom made his live debut as a salesman on a TV shopping channel. “Was any of it awkward?” he asked. Just all of it, mate. “I feel like I put my personality into that,” he added, which was true coz every week Tom demonstrated he has the personality of tumbleweed.
Not that stroppy-chops Khadija was much better. Her first words on her live broadcast were “Oh sh*t!” Then it got worse. “This is self-inflating,” she announced, trying to flog a blow-up plastic lounger. “It’s not self-inflating,” said Camilla in her ear. “Okay, you do have to inflate it yourself,” Khad corrected. D’oh! It didn’t help that the lounger looked like an intimate female body part (and they’d already had one giant fanny this series – Frank Brooks). Or that Khadija had, in Lord Sugar’s words, “all the charm of a debt collector.” She looked “like she was in pain”, observed Shugs, whereas Tom “looked like he’d just walked in off the street”. When she threw to his teeth-whitening item, Tom half-froze. “Hey, how’s it going?” he asked, hesitantly, looking flustered. “We’re going to start at £49.99,” Camilla told him. “This is starting at £56.99,” Tom said confidently. Awkward? It was a blinking disaster. In the boardroom, Sugar sacked him with no discussion.
Rival presenters Daniel and Sarah Ann had far more screen presence and won despite producing an unusable promo video. This task didn’t quite scale the heights of cringe hit by Simon Ambrose years ago when he demonstrated how to screw legs to a trampoline and ended up fiddling suggestively with a small pole over his groin... But it did cost two candidates their places. Sugar, who is as cheerful as Mark Carney with piles these days, axed Trappy Jackie too. No-one mentioned that live TV presentation involves a completely different skill-set from being an entrepreneur. Or that this show has got more in common with the Generation Game than business ability. The first three tasks this series were shopping abroad, making a kids’ comic and cooking dodgy doughnuts... Not exactly Dragon’s Den. But who’s complaining? While X Factor wobbles, The Apprentice continues to deliver a fine line in utterly deluded dimwits.
*DID you spot the options on the shopping channel’s production consoles? “STRAP ON” and “STING”... they could have made a completely different show.
*SUGAR: “A self-inflating lounger? Sounds like Piers Morgan.”
VIC Reeves’ Big Night Out hit our screens in 1990 like an explosion of comic chaos. Crackpot characters such as Judge Nutmeg, Graham Lister and The Man With A Stick could have come straight from a psychiatric ward. You can still reduce a generation to hysterics just by shouting “What’s on the end of your stick, Vic?” It was zany, surreal, profoundly silly... and now it’s back, as Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out with Bob Mortimer rightly given equal prominence to Vic, AKA “Britain’s top light entertainer”. It started with the daft duo singing insults at a couple eating dinner, and throwing in groaners like “How do you prepare your turkey for Xmas?” “We just tell ’em straight, you’re going to die.” Highlights included Lister’s return to Novelty Island, slo-mo corned beef munching and Vic pulling open his face to reveal a chiming church bell like a Dali painting made flesh. But 28years and several stones on, the show doesn’t feel quite so invigoratingly bonkers. I laughed at George Meatmarket’s yodelling backside but I’d had a few by then. Still if they bring back Judge Nutmeg next week all will be right in the world. All together: “Spin, spin, spin the wheel of justice, see how fast the bastard turns... ”
ON I’m A Celebrity, Holly said sheep brain is “a delicacy in some places.” Harry Redknapp shot back: “Not in Stepney it ain’t.” He’s got a point, hasn’t he? MasterChef constantly serves up cobblers like “caramelised nut garnish” and “edible flowers”. I’d be more impressed if they showed us how to home cook a McRib. Sod “soft-boiled celeriac”, let them try their hand at the grub we grew up with – pie and mash, bread and dripping, stewed eels, pease pudding and saveloys... or was that just me... and Harry?
*THEY had an X Factor themed trial on I’m A Celeb. Why not? It’s been torture for years. Even with her gob clamped open Emily sounded better than Jedward. (See also Storm Lee, Diva Fever, 2 Shoeszzz etc etc... )
HOT on TV: Farang: Dead Man Running... Fleur East... The Last Kingdom (Netflix)... Dynasties: Lion... Get Shorty – an overlooked gem.
ROT on TV: Ben and Katie, A Very British Country Home – pampered pinheads... Death & Nightingales – death might be quicker.
DID you see the Lindy Hop-athon results fiasco on Strictly? The panicking judges exhibited the mathematical clarity of Diane Abbot on Melatonin, and Shirley seemed to think “Charles and Diane” were a competing couple. Best laugh of the series.
*THEY have EIGHT executive producers on The Little Drummer Girl, and not one of ’em noticed it took five weeks for the action to kick in...
*FIVE things slower than The Little Drummer Girl: sloths, melting tar, Joey Essex’s brain, Brexit, C4’s The First...
*REAL-life MI6 agent Alexander Wilson seems to have taken the name of James Bond star Roger Moore as an instruction. Mrs Wilson bigamist Alec had enough wives to stock a sheik’s harem. He was the spy who loved “me”, “me” and “me too”.
SMALL joys of TV: UK’s Strongest Man. The Walking Dead’s Evolution twist. Bradley Walsh claiming he thought Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms “was about his accident with a combine harvester”. Classic Les Dawson clips on The Truth About The Menopause.
RANDOM irritations: BBC drama’s weird addiction to characters giving preachy speeches in the middle of action scenes (see Doctor Who, Sherlock etc). Talking heads talking tosh on BBC4’s Stevie Wonder doc; great clips though. Cringey Kristina on First Dates.
SEPARATED at birth: This Arn Anderson doll and, umm, me? One an awesomely fit fighting force, the other was a TV wrestler... Cough.
LIP twins: Ruth Wilson and Count Duckula?
TV Maths: Russell Brand + Stetson hat = Weird Al Yankovic.
*PEOPLE who’d make better Question Time hosts than Fiona Bruce: Andrew Neil, Nick Ferrari, Camilla Cavendish, Chloe Westley, Agnes Brown... Still, it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been Gemma Collins.
*DEAR Corrie: free Sally, jail the producer.
RANDOM questions: Why are rappers always Big or “Li’l”? Aren’t there any medium-sized ones? Should a dead hippo be called a hippo-posthumous? Is religion a threat to our traditional Xmas celebration of rampant consumerism? And what ever happened to that thrilling samosa storyline on EastEnders?