*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.

Dec 29. GAVLAR! Gavin And Stacey was exactly what Christmas TV should aspire to be. It was warm, family friendly, a bit daft and crucially it was funny – in parts at least. Lush, as they say in Barry. It’s been ten years since the last episode of this good-natured sitcom about Essex boy Gavin and his Welsh wife Stacey – both of whom are outshone by his pal Smithy and her fearsome friend Nessa, played by writers James Corden and Ruth Jones. After three kids (two cheekily called Harry and Meghan) the spark had gone from Gavin and Stacey’s marriage. While Smithy had his mysterious new love interest Sonia to introduce to the Shipman and West families, and to “Neil, the baby” – his 12year-old son with Nessa.

Corden’s Smithy is a force of nature, brimming with lust for life and with a song never far from his lips. But around snobby Sonia he changed into an anxious buffoon. The gathered kin could see that the woman, a fat-shaming horror, was kryptonite to Smithy’s Superman. The episode ended with a genuine surprise as deadpan Nessa got down on one knee and proposed to him. “I loves you,” she said. We melted; and it left the door open for another Xmas special. Belly-laughs may have been few, but terrific characters abounded, like Gavin’s mum Pam. “I’m not using Gwen’s towels,” she said. “No way, Jose” (pronounced Joe-zay). “It’s like drying yourself on Ryvita.” Uncle Bryn, still as excitable as a puppy, tried and failed to apply military precision to Christmas dinner. And the episode was full of small joys: Bryn and Nessa’s karaoke, her terrible tattooing skills, Bryn very nearly revealing what happened on that fishing trip with Stacey’s brother Jason all those years ago... Well done BBC1. At least they tried to make festive TV special. ITV just threw in the towel, serving up all their usual old tat with tinsel.

IT wasn’t all good. The Beeb’s misguided three-part reboot of A Christmas Carol was slow to the point of tedium. It opened with an urchin piddling on Jacob Marley’s grave – a perfect metaphor for what the BBC did to the story. Guy Pearce was too young and handsome to play miserly Scrooge and writer Stephen Knight’s decision to “improve” Dickens with a paedophile headmaster was as questionable as his f-word littered script. You won’t find the scene where the good Mrs Cratchit was pushed to the point of prostitution in the book either. The ghostly CGI was splendid and the cast strong but it wasn’t a patch on The Muppets Christmas Carol.

*THE All-Time Top Five screen Scrooges: 1) Alistair Sim 2) Mr Burns, The Simpsons 3) Albert Finney 4) Michael Caine 5) Mr Magoo.

YULETIDE was full of love, joy and festive spirit on EastEnders. I’m joking of course. The misery was relentless. Linda drunk herself into hospital, Mick collapsed, and Sharon was exiled from the Mitchell clan (count your blessings, luv). Meanwhile Martin Fowler has gone from a good-natured market trader flogging fruit and veg to a debt collector, robber, thug and now a murderer. Merry Christmas! I’m so glad I no longer force myself to watch this gross libel on Londoners. It’s lazy, predictable and utterly addicted to grief. No-one ever changes for the better in soap operas. There’s no redemption or aspiration; no loyalty and certainly no logic. Unfortunately ITV’s soaps ape Walford’s negativity too, squandering their traditional charms. No wonder their viewing figures plunge like Holly Willoughby’s neckline. I’m old enough to remember when Corrie was a bastion of down-to-earth warmth (livened up with occasional infidelity), and Emmerdale was about farmers.

IN contrast, Worzel Gummidge was a Boxing Day treat. Young city siblings Susan and John were stranded on Scatterbrook Farm – no Wi-Fi you see – where they stumbled upon a magical world of talking scarecrows. Worzel (Mackenzie Crook) mistakes them for fellow scarecrows because they’re wearing “a jumble of ill-fitting, oddball clothes so unsuited to the countryside”. He doesn’t crave “a cup o’ tea and a slice o’ cake” like Jon Pertwee’s Worzel, Aunt Sally isn’t his love interest and there’s sadly no sign of Saucy Nancy. But Crook’s turnip-headed hero, with a nest of baby robins where his heart should be, is easy to love. Rumours that Worzel had “gone green” were misleading. The show’s ethos is less Greta Thunberg, more Keep Britain Tidy. It has a very English quality, with lingering shots of the rural Home Counties landscape, the haunting folk music of The Unthanks and Michael Palin as folklore’s Green Man. The humour is gentle, the pathos unavoidable. Episode two, with its biker scarecrows, was funnier. A series should follow.

SEPARATED at birth: Worzel Gummidge and Freddy Krueger? One a far-fetched character who defies the laws of physics... and so’s the other one. Mercifully Worzel is less scary.

SMALL Joys of Festive TV: Alison Steadman as Pam Shipman, Gavin & Stacey. Marrow-headed Soggy Boggart and his scarecrow “bikers”, on Worzel Gummidge and India Brown as Susan. Parton – Here I Am. Lucy Beaumont. Holly Willoughby’s décolletage on Dancing On Ice. Brendan O’Carroll.

RANDOM irritations: A Christmas Carol – humbug. John Bercow’s unintentionally hilarious “Alternative” Xmas, an homage to hypocrisy. Swearing before the watershed on Christmas Day TV. ITV’s meagre festive offerings. Cinderella: After Ever After – more balls. Xmas cooking shows – an unwelcome buffet of broadcasting horrors from shouty Gregg to frantic Jamie. Chill out, you chumps, it’s only dinner.

BRENDAN O’Carroll is a great clown – his delivery, his wonderful Agnes Brown persona and the frequent bloopers all add to the joy of Mrs Brown’s Boys. But how much better would the show be if he had a writing team to back him up? Brendan’s Xmas special was loosely based on It’s A Wonderful Life, the classic film where an angel lets George Bailey see how others would have suffered if he’d never lived. Kevin “Curly Watts” Kennedy did the same for Agnes, except she was just replaced by snobby Hilary as a wind-up. A shame. It was a good idea crying out for an actual plot. Some nice lines, though. Agnes on their GP: “It takes two weeks to get an appointment with Dr Flynn and as soon as you see him what does he say? ‘Why didn’t you come to me sooner?’” And Winnie asking how long she has to wait after her op before she could have sex. Flynn: “That’s the first time I’ve been asked that by someone who’s had their tonsils out.”

CALL The Midwife dispatched the nuns and nurses to the Outer Hebrides where a grim-faced Presbyterian called their Xmas tree a “pagan monstrosity”. It wasn’t their finest hour, but Sister Monica Joan did have a spiritual encounter with a “white stag” moments before I did, the difference being mine was Welsh lager from a bottle. Cheers.

*SEE next week’s column for my verdict on the best and worst of 2019 TV.

Dec 22. YOU can always rely on EastEnders to supply the antidote to seasonal joy. And on Tuesday Phil Mitchell, the anti-Santa, started dishing up their traditional sleigh-load of Xmas misery. We got the lot – GBH, kidnap, attempted murder, false imprisonment, wheezing without a licence... Aging hard man Phil hurled Jack Branning into the Arches pit, doused him in petrol, tried to set him alight, and for good measure aimed an illegal shooter at him – all before the watershed. Don’t try this at home, kids. And guess what? Jack didn’t press charges because Ben promised him a Mitchell “favour”. Yeah, right. Branning, a cop since his glory days at Sun Hill, could batter them both.

Steve “Phil” McFadden is one of the soppy soap’s giant stars – no-one plays drunk better than him. Even the Hulk thinks Phil has temper issues. But how long can Walford’s geriatric gangster keep winning? He’s been shot twice, survived car crashes and drowning. He’s been beaten to a pulp – once by his own bruvva; and if memory serves Jack punched him into that same mechanics’ pit six years ago. But trying to top a cop? If Phil doesn’t go down for that, it’ll be an affront to morality as well as justice. He must be banged up to show kids what’s right (and also to create a vacuum for a younger, tougher psychopath to fill.) Phil has his big showdown with Miss Piggy on Xmas Day. He knows she’s carrying another bloke’s sprog, although as all babies look like Phil no-one would’ve sussed if Sharon hadn’t blabbed... Imagine the grief that’s coming when he finds out it was Keanu! Glad tidings of comfort and joy? Not in Albert Square. Merry Christmas, folks!

*ARE all the plot ideas for Shirley Carter’s lost in the producer’s spam folder? All she does these days is drink and snarl. (Welcome to my world, Shirl).

STICKS And Stones may break some bones but the show was never going to smash any ratings records. Nice guy Thomas Benson was set up to deliver a car crash of a boardroom pitch by his plotting colleagues, fainting in the process. Like a bad week on The Apprentice, it was. But this tale of workplace bullying had more plot-holes than Syria. To swallow his suffering we had to believe that a 30-something professional geezer didn’t know how to use Wi-Fi. That scheming Isobel could change the time on his mobile and tablet without knowing his pass code. And that his car, parked after 10pm on a quiet street with no yellow lines, would be towed within minutes... The scene where he was coerced into touching his creepy rival Andy’s bare torso was more cringe-worthy than Galloway’s infamous cat impersonation. Moral? Never work in a Reading office. They’re even worse than the ones in Slough.

DID Scarlett go for those painted-on eyebrows on The Apprentice to distract Sugar from her iffy business pitch? They could have been on loan from Cruella de Vil. Scarlett had an uphill fight with her recruitment firm idea because Shugs already owns two. But if she’d gone with Marianne’s suggested name – Beaver Recruitment – she might have attracted Dan Osborne’s backing. I loved Thomas’s promo ad for Carina’s artisan bakery which had Jemelin as a hard-faced screw and Ryan-Mark where he belongs, behind bars. His orgasm-face as he ham-acted eating bread would give Stephen King nightmares. Pocket-rocket Carina triumphed. The other big winner was Lottie who “entered this process... to win an investment, not to make friends”. She may have failed the first part, but by the end she had fewer mates than Crippen.

HOT on TV: Sonequa Martin-Green, Star Trek: Discovery (E4)... Jon Voight, Ray Donovan (SkyAt)... Susannah Fielding... Watchmen finale.

ROT on TV: Sticks & Stones – flatter than the stage it should’ve stayed on... Inside The Xmas Factory – crackers... Agatha & The Curse Of Ishtar – bad, Dad.

DON’T you love an unusual nose? Jodie Marsh’s original hooter was like a strap-hanger’s elbow, Ellie Taylor has a delightful bum nose and Billy Cotton had a snout like an inflamed scrotum. Karl Malden was always the beak to beat, but Saru’s on Star Trek: Discovery tops the lot – he has a conk like a camel-toe. How no-one on that ship calls him Fanny Face is anyone’s guess.

*COMING soon from the BBC: Mary Beard On The Nude – one typo away from an image even bleach couldn’t scrub from your retinas.

SMALL Joys of TV: Ben Stokes, SPOTY. Fight scenes on The Witcher. The John Lewis ad with Excitable Edgar. Kick-ass kung fu action clips, I Am Bruce Lee. Sid James clips, Comedy Legends – yak-yak-yak.

RANDOM irritations: the endless pox of rolling news with nothing to say. Strictly judges drooling over Kelvin – if straight men carried on like that over a woman they’d be on a register. Andrea Bocceli’s duff mic on McIntyre’s show.

SEPARATED at birth: Catherine, Duchess Of Cambridge, and Britannia’s Queen Amena? One is trapped in a bonkers world of backstabbing and betrayal, the other is played by Annabel Scholey.

*WHEN ITV launched their skating show, did they book Gemma Collins to break the ice?

*TV producers want odd-looking, Orc-faced people for Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings series. Finally a new opening for Andrew Marr...

Dec 20. This is worth a look: a detailed study of the BBC’s inbuilt news bias by Craig Byers http://isthebbcbiased.blogspot.com/2019/12/guest-post-bbcs-official-festive-fifty.html

Dec 15. ROD Stewart bailed out of headlining the Royal Variety Performance with a sore throat. A shame. Rod gargling with Listerine would have been more entertaining than Robbie Williams desecrating Slade’s Christmas classic. Host Rob Beckett’s unlikely “not a double act” with professional sourpuss Romesh Ranganathan felt, as Rom said, “like a booking error”. Burke and Hare had more charisma. Beckett did better on his own, recycling his routine about his wife’s family and their taste for fancy tea: “The mother-in-law offered me a Red Bush. I nearly fainted.” Frank Skinner came on stage with his shirt hanging out giving the impression he’d just got lucky backstage with a chorus girl... or luckier with a contortionist. Another act got their biggest laugh by announcing “I did a poo and it was massive.” Quality entertainment.

The whiff of “will this do?” hung over the night. It was 75percent pop and musical theatre with no time for magicians, mimics or ventriloquists. Luke Evans sang well but looked like he was auditioning for an action film. Harry Connick Jnr came all that way for one song... We got a Cirque du Soleil contortionist (it’s never Zippo’s is it?), Austrian tumblers, BGT winner Colin Thackeray, and the cast of Mary Poppins (Mary wasn’t right). Come From Afar made me want to Stay Well Away.

Traditional variety bills build to a star-studded crescendo. ITV’s just peter out. The comedy headliners were unknowns Flo and Joan. They deliberately swerve funnier and more popular variety entertainers because they think they know better than the public – a mixture of arrogance and snobbery that’s led consistently to dismal failure. The Royal worked better when ITV and BBC1 took it in turns, providing a much needed element of competition because ITV are to variety what Dan Osborne is to fidelity.

APPRENTICE candidate Lewis Ellis pitched a tour business involving Croatia even though he’d never been a tour operator and didn’t know where Croatia was. Asked by Mike Soutar to identify it on a globe, digital marketing dope Lewis stuck a pin in Greece, about 600miles out, and then blamed the globe. “This is way before my time,” he moaned. (“Who are you, Galileo?” asked Daliso Chaponda on the after-show.) Lottie hadn’t bothered costing her pitch – a members’ club for snooty boilers in the countryside possibly called Tally Ho-peless. Pamela’s unique problem-solving products hit problems she couldn’t solve – she only had two products, one of which wasn’t unique. So it’s Carina, the artisan baker who can’t bake, versus recruitment specialist Scarlett in the final.

*LINDA Plant called Carina an “art-house baker”. Imagine the films! Doctor Strange-Loaf, Baker’s Instinct, The Last Temptation Of Crust...

ALL tin-pot dictators have giant self-portraits dotted around their palaces, so it was no surprise to see Simon Cowell’s boat race looming large over The X Factor: The Band. I don’t know wonder where he keeps his poison gas weapon – or Sharon as she’s known – but Si’s evil empire is crumbling. X Factor: The Brand took a terrible beating with that unloved celebrity series. The shorter scaled down “band” spin-off featured promising kids with decent voices who mostly aped established stars. There was an Ed Sheeran sound-alike, a Lady Leshurr, a Shawn Mendes... Surely we need actual bands – lairy youths with guitars and attitude – to kick the stale old music biz up the Khyber, free it from Cowell and make British rock great again.

HOT on TV: Glenda Jackson, Elizabeth Is Missing... comic Paul McCaffery... Kristin Scott's My Grandparents’ War.

ROT on TV: Robbie Williams – the Grinch was more welcome at Xmas... I’m A Celebrity – as dull as dingo droppings.

*CAPTAIN Kirk star William Shatner is divorcing again. At 88 it’s getting harder for him to go where no man has gone before, boldly or otherwise. Maybe he’s just keeping up with the Cardassians…

*THE All-time Hottest Star Trek women: Seven of Nine. Deanna Troi. The Orion slave-girl. Kamala. T’Pau. Uhuru. Saavik (continued the Holodeck)

*DAVE Gorman showed us magnetic pants on Terms & Conditions Apply. They’re supposed to revive a bloke’s libido but how would you unzip your flies?

*ITV’s jungle needs better casting, fresh trials and bigger rows. Book Schofield and Langsford and wait for fireworks.

*DEC is sexier than Ant according to researchers. Maybe so but neither of ’em is Jimmy Nail.

*DUNDEE cops found cardboard rather than bread in a toaster on Alibi. Out of habit Nicola Sturgeon blamed the Tories.

SMALL Joys of TV: Lucy Worsley. The Grand Tour. Bob Monkhouse – The Last Stand (iPlayer). Petula Clark, RVP. Country Music by Ken Burns. Pauline Laird, The Apprentice – the boardroom Blondie.

RANDOM irritations: ITV’s feeble Royal Variety show not risking a sniff of a Prince Andrew gag. Those slappable Gold Digger characters. Jac Jossa’s undeserved victory on the dullest ever I’m A Celeb.

GRETA questions: how many trees had to die to produce that Time magazine with her on the front cover? Does Greta, 16, even know what a magazine is?

SEPARATED at birth: Caitlyn Jenner and Steve Tyler? One sang Dude Looks Like A Lady, the other doesn’t.

Dec 11. R.I.P. telly legend David “gwapple me gwape nuts” Bellamy. The Bouncing Botanist made important shows like Paradise Ploughed until the Beeb axed him for expressing doubts about man-made climate change. Dissent is “verboten” at today’s BBC.

Dec 8. LORD Sugar’s fragrance task on The Apprentice gave Lewis Ellis a chance to truly stink. Marketing man Lewis was entirely to blame for his team’s defeat. He spelt parfum as “parfam” on the packet and independent as “indepedent”; then lumbered it with a picture of a blonde “with her shorts up her bum” staring at an ice-topped mountain. He could have called it essence of ass.

Lewis was sweating like Prince Andrew couldn’t as he struggled to dream up a slogan before finally hitting on: “Determined. Push boundaries, move mountains.” Yeah. Eat your heart out, Don Draper. “I wouldn’t buy it, it looks cheap and nasty,” said his own team leader Pamela. The citrus fragrance she and Dean hit on was way better than rival Carina’s whose “empowering” concoction was so overpowering it should have come with an antidote. The heady blend of sandalwood, jasmine, rose, lavender, cucumber and rhubarb sounded “like a Jamie Oliver meal” according to Sugar. It had “everything but the kitchen sink,” sniffed Karren, adding, “Smells like the kitchen sink though.” Sugar reckoned the bottle “looked like one of Pat Butcher’s ear-rings” – actually, more like a Dyson hair-dryer. And Carina had to ditch Lottie’s strange Dynasty style 80s power couple promo shot completely. No-one spotted that they’d spelt breathe as “breath” on the packet.

Lewis only survived because his business plan must be marginally smarter than Dean’s. On Wednesday the final five face Sugar’s interrogators. Let’s hope know-it-all Lottie gets roasted like a Christmas chestnut. What would a Thomas Skinner perfume have smelt like? Pie and mash, probably, with the brand name Bosh! He’s much missed. Thomas was the only candidate with an ounce of business flair. But this “process” is more to do with finding a management suit than an entrepreneur.

*BEST rejected fragrance: Passive Aggression by Lottie.

THE War Of The Worlds might do better in America – they pardon turkeys there. The dreary three-parter was so lousy you felt like rooting for the Martians. And even they weren’t right. How did those three-legged crab critters (shamelessly nicked from Starship Trooper) build and fly spaceships? They had limbs like metal strips. How did they operate their war machines? That wasn’t the Beeb’s concern. Sci-fi isn’t their business. All these privileged twerps want to do is lecture us about our “evil” past. Our heroes, trapped by the scrotum-like Martians, watched an invader suck the insides out of a sickly Surrey matron and wet George’s only response was to make a speech. “Don’t you think this could be our fault, Englishmen?” he asked with all the toxic self-loathing of a Guardian editorial. Then, after a Martian slaughtered his brother, he decided to “go and reason with it”. How we cheered when it topped him.

THERE was wild talk of Ian Wright facing “sixty scorpions in the helmet” on I’m A Celebrity. Ouch. And there was me thinking it’s been less sadistic this year. Mind you, the pop-themed “Ants and Decks” trial with Roman and Caitlyn getting showered with creepy-crawlies was pretty gruelling. I particularly liked Liver On A Prayer which I believe was also the name of Andie’s chicken liver pate dish on Come Dine With Me.

*WHAT will last longer, Minty’s tan or Jac Jossa’s marriage?

HOT on TV: Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel (AmPrime)... Giri/Haji finale (but maybe not the ballet)... Annabel Scholey, Britannia.

ROT on TV: The War Of The Worlds – the waste of the licence fee... lop-sided Googlebox politics... The Turner Prize – turn it in.

WE’RE getting our Xmas leftovers early this year, Romesh’s Arctic jaunt was a repeat from last December. The surly comic did uncover a shocking crime though. Did you clock the prices they charge for booze? £70 for a dozen cans of beer and two bottles of bog-standard plonk... as my grandad used to say “at least Dick Turpin wore a mask”.

*ANOTHER X Factor spin-off starts tomorrow. Why? Viewing figures for the celebrity one dropped like an express lift. Give it a rest.

*GOOD though The Irishman is, it drags on way too long. The worst scene is when “young” De Niro batters a shopkeeper. The CGI de-ages him but he still moves like a Last Of The Summer Wine conga line.

*NISH Kumar getting booed was hilarious. Finally he makes us laugh.

*SAD England cricket legend Bob Willis has gone. I suppose now they’ll be playing for the ashes.

SMALL Joys of TV: Johnny Cash clips (Country Music). Stanley Baxter’s Best Bits. The sign on ITV’s brothel: “Please use rear entrance”. Kate Garraway’s cleavage. Undercover Billionaire. Andrew Neil interviews.

RANDOM irritations: BBC drama’s half-arsed student politics. Mark Rylance’s hand-wringing apology for unspeakable Japanese war crimes. The pox of televised leader debates. Gormless EastEnders scripts.

FATHER & Secret Son: Frank Skinner and Gold Digger’s surly Patrick?

TV mysteries: Do festive baubles give Francis Sultana a raison to exist? If Tiger Woods went on MasterChef would he bake The Pie of the Tiger? When did Majorca become Mallorca? Spanish TV still calls England “Inglaterra”. And why are we forced by law to fund the BBC running Britain down?

Dec 1. WORKING in a brothel is “just like working in a chip shop,” said Kath on A Very Yorkshire Brothel. Which certainly explains the size of the staff, if not the lack of decent crackling. The cheery, chunky hookers look like they’d waddled in from a seaside postcard. Their humour was similarly down-to-earth and salty. They do business in the Fantasy Room – presumably so you can fantasise that your “masseuse” is size 14 or under. There’s a Naughty Boy’s Room too, though “boy” is pushing it. They’re sustained by a trickle of elderly customers and a steady supply of takeaways. Munching on a McDonalds here has no filthy connotations.

We met big, brassy Lily Loves-It, a fake French maid powered by real French fries. No idea what services Lil provides but odds on her “handmade Xmas” would differ significantly from Kirstie’s. For a tenner you could probably slap her rump and ride the waves. One old boy told Lily she had “a nice little bottom” which is much like praising Gisele Bundchen for her pert hooter.

If these lardies of the night seemed familiar it’s because C4’s 2015 A Very British Brothel was shot at the same Sheffield City Sauna run by Kath and daughter Jenni. ITV had two new pegs: the women are campaigning to legalise brothels. And Kath installed a sex-doll called Samantha – probably the production team’s idea. Their place is obviously safer than working the streets and more of a giggle than the German ones they visit next week – they don’t have slogans like “A blow job is better than no job” there. Legal knocking shops are also taxable. You may be a dirty old sod but you’re doing your patriotic duty.

*POSSIBLE spin-offs: Celebrity Big Brothel, The Sex Factor, SAS: Who Bares Sins...

“I’M like the Bionic Woman,” Elton John told Graham Norton, referring to the bits he’s had removed or rebuilt – including his hair, now a peculiar auburn thatch. “I don’t like being bald, I look like Shrek,” he said. This Elton wasn’t the absurd comic monster of Tantrums & Tiaras. This Elton was funny, honest and self-aware with the touchiness dialled back. Names were dropped like thongs on Love Island. He talked about swerving Andy Warhol while hoovering up cocaine with John Lennon in a New York hotel suite; and his mum telling Michael Jackson he needed “a bloody good meal”. Then there was the time Elton told Rod Stewart he looked like “Dusty Springfield in a nightmare”. Filming restrictions cramped the director’s style. The interview was shot in the star’s French mansion but the angles were so tight it might as well have been filmed in a caravan in Cromer. Yet the clips and hits reminded us that underneath the pomposity, old Reg from Pinner is a genuine national treasure.

JUDGE Nutmeg returned triumphantly on Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out. “What do we want?” “Justice!” went the chants. “What are the charges?” “Trumped up!” What a loss he is to the Supreme Court. Reeves & Mortimer are reliving their glory years on this BBC4 show. We got Milligan-esque bell-ringing, spud-driven ghost-hunting, daft songs and dafter jokes. Bob: “I went to a vasectomy clinic cos I didn’t want kids. It didn’t work... when I got home the kids were still there.” Fact: MasterChef could only be improved by Gregg swallowing a ladleful of Vic and Bob’s mashed potato cooked with nitro-glycerine balls.

HOT on TV: The Irishman (Netflix)... Milly Alcock, Upright (SkyAt)... Kelly Macdonald, Giri/Haji.

ROT on TV: How To Spend It Well At Xmas – jingle hell... The War Of The Worlds – the bore of the week.

ON The War Of The Worlds, Weybridge station has been destroyed making zero difference to Southwest train services. But at least invaders have stopped falling from the skies. Martian craft are like giant Christmas puddings that set fire to people – we’ve all been there, over-doing the brandy. H.G. Wells’ satire on colonialism has become the story of a single mum and her dim boyfriend who keep losing each other, with a heavy-handed climate change guff thrown in. Mars Attacks was scarier.

R.I.P. Clive James, a wise, warm and witty man; a fine broadcaster and the writer who turned television criticism into an art form.

*PEOPLE say Gold Digger’s work-shy Ben and bra-less Julia have nothing in common. Not so! Neither of them has any visible means of support...

*THEY had an over-priced battery-powered mug on How To Spend It Well at Xmas. But enough about Schofield.

*IT was Wife Swap week in Walford. Old hat! The Mitchell brothers pioneered that in the 90s.

*TWO Strictly bods are said to be enjoying a “shock romance”. How is it a shock? It happens every year.

SMALL Joys of TV: Iorek, His Dark Materials – the CGI polar bear out-acted the cast. ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas. 8 Days. Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out. Michael McIntyre’s Big Show. Ladhood.

RANDOM irritations: Bruno Tonioli. TV news over-relying on pointless vox pops. Liz Bonnin’s biased and laughably flawed anti-meat propaganda. The BBC’s inability to book balanced studio audiences.

*KIRSTIE’S Handmade Xmas: not to be confused with the Handmaid’s Tale Xmas. It’s way more excruciating.

THOUGHT of the week from Gregg Wallace: “All that choke’s got to come out, otherwise you’re left with a mouthful of hairy fibre.” He was talking about preparing artichokes, but take from it what you will.


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