Garry Bushell
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Feb 27. TO be a successful model you have to appear alien, according to The Model Agency. So it’s a shame Janet Street-Porter never tried the catwalk, because she looks like something that just lurched out from behind a rock on Star Trek... The agency only wants birds from Planet Beanpole. “They don't look like girls you went to school with or people on your street,” explained senior booker Paul. “They have to look like they were born in a different world.” In other words tall skeletal waifs resembling Munch’s Scream in a skirt. Paul brusquely told one 5ft 5 wannabe she was too short and then boasted: “No hostages today” - an admiral attitude when confronting terrorists, less so when dealing with teenagers armed only with harmless dreams.

Carole White, of Naomi Campbell diamond trial fame, and her brother Chris run Premier Agency. We joined them at their busiest time, just ahead of the New York season. New girl, India Farrell, 16, was set to be the smash hit of the year. She was perfect: strikingly beautiful but definitely other-worldly. Add a shade of blue and she could have walked straight off the set of Avatar. But as Carole explained “Your product is not a bottle on a shelf. It talks back.” And India was having second thoughts about the whole back-stabbing circus.

The agents had the raving hump – it was a lot of commission to lose. Annie (head of new faces) wept like a monsoon. India’s attitude was “jaw-dropping,” fumed Chris. “Outrageous.” But was it so hard to believe that a sane person who dipped a toe into this poisoned pool would think twice about plunging in? Much of the modern fashion industry is hateful, not least the barking mad attitude to female body shape – all flat-chests and no arse. It’s an odd mix of glamour, hissy fits, drama queens, hypocrisy and twisted values. At the agency, bitching about models being too fat or too old is common-place. It’s like a camp version of Sky Sports.

*THE Model Agency: less The Devil Wears Prada, more The Bookers Need Radar.

*SEPARATED at birth: Carole, The Model Agency, and Iggy Pop’s dummy? One scary, hard-faced and haggard; the other a dummy.

NEW comedy monster Agnes Brown is like Mrs. Doubtfire after ten pints of Guinness and a Chubby Brown swearing course. Everything is feck this, feck that and f*ck the feckin’ other. Irish comic Brendan O’Carroll plays the foul-mouthed Dublin matriarch whose humour is as broad as Beth Ditto’s arse. Here’s Agnes on fruit: “That’s a banana not a willie; it won’t get bigger if you squeeze it.” On marriage counseling: “We didn’t need a counselor, we needed a feckin’ referee.” And when the doctor tells grandad he needs a sample of his urine and his stool, Agnes explains: “He wants your underpants.” Mrs. Brown’s Boys is gag-based filth, as subtle as a hurley in the groin but as warm as a hot toddy. Oddly, English blue-collar comics like Jimmy Jones have cracked similar jokes for years but have always been deemed too risque to broadcast.

*OH gawd. Masterchef has brought in X Factor-style dead dads (“Dads don’t get any deader than this!”). It’s Britain’s Got Cooks now. For Britain’s Got Tarts, see Take Me Out.

My aunt’s cooking is also a tribute to her late parents. Everything she dishes up is cremated.

*JULIE was horrified to discover that Corrie’s Molly had used marathon running as a cover for shagging Kevin. “I sponsored her £2 a mile,” she moaned; which by my reckoning is an awful lot of six inches...

HOT on TV: Maria Botto (Mad Dogs)... Mrs. Brown’s Boys... Cilla Black (Benidorm)...  Episodes finale... 30Rock Live... The Chris Rock Show (Sky Atlantic).

ROT on TV: Giles Coren and Sue Bloody Perkins – smugger than Peter Mandelson in a hall of mirrors... clapped-out Question Time... Heather Trott - a fat lot of good; Trott off!

THE USA declared war on drugs in 1982, but on the evidence of Ross Kemp: Extreme World, Chicago has surrendered. Heroin is everywhere, even suburbia. Ross met junkies, dealers, hookers and cops. Needles went into veins, junkies had seizures and we saw inside a ‘chop house’ where pure smack was being cut with crap by topless women in surgical masks. I guess you know you’re too far gone when you don’t notice they’re topless... It was good as far as it went, but didn’t ask if the misery stems from the drug itself or the black market on which it is sold.

*RE Anne Robinson on My Life In Books, shouldn’t that be My Life On Botox?

*BIG Brother’s Makosi has been arrested on suspicion of fraud. The first clue came when cops watched her on Big Brother.

*KATE Garraway, discussing allergies on Daybreak, revealed: “They don't do the prick test anymore.” Which I suppose explains how Adrian Chiles ended up on there...

*TOLD Only Way Is Essex dimbo Amy went to private school, Alan Carr ad-libbed: “I hope you kept the receipt.”

*BIG Love features a Mormon with three wives, one played by Jeanne Tripplehorn. Tripplehorn? That’s what he needs!

*AS we finally (!) rescue our people from Libya, spare a thought for British citizens stranded in another hostile environment: Walford. These poor wretches are either robbed or corrupted by evil hell-cat Janine, or terrorized by local despot Phil. Revolution is the only solution.

Mysteries: why wasn’t When Teenage Met Old Age a Peter Stringfellow documentary? Why did Cameron go to Egypt? At least Lord Strathclyde would’ve joined the Nile High Club.

SMALL joys of TV: The midget hit-man on Mad Dogs. A happy ending for Corrie’s Leanne after her Big Flat Dipso Wedding blessing disaster. Kate Walsh (OK!TV). An Audience with Ken Dodd. Distinguished broadcaster Michael Buerk being required to read the words “open a can of whoop-arse” on Louie Spence’s Showbiz.

RANDOM irritations: size-zero fashion freaks. Andrew Marr being paid £600K a year – that’s about £1 per viewer. Janine Butcher remaining unslapped. TV’s one-sided reporting of the busy-body campaign to drive up the price of booze. (I drink as much as the next man, as long as the next man is Shaun Ryder).

Feb 20. COMICS have a hard time fronting the Brits, so this year ITV hired James Corden instead. The result was one of the creepiest moments ever seen at the annual pop industry bash: Corden stroking Justin Beiber’s face and telling the sixteen-year-old: “You smell amazing.” He went on: “How old are you? Wow, look at your eyes.” It was like he’d been possessed by the spirit of Jonathan King. Just as well his sister Ruth wasn’t on hand with a bucket of lube.

JC did get one laugh though, when he described the new Vivienne Westwood-designed statuette as the “Stop Climate Change Brit Award.” I thought it looked more like it should come with batteries and a multi-speed setting, but eco-awareness was the key. Presumably that’s why James grinned his fat head off when Cee-Lo Green told him he’d flown in from LA by private jet... It’s hard to imagine a bigger ‘F You’ to the green lobby, unless he’d stopped off in China to open up a few new car factories on the way. It’s unlikely that Rihanna came by sailing ship either. Or that she was too chuffed when Corden charmlessly invited home viewers to take solo pleasure in her performance. You never got that kind of wit from Tim Rice. Or even RuPaul.

Over-all, it was a dull evening; even the voice-over woman sounded bored. Only the choreographers took chances. Take That, receiving their 197th Brit award, turned up with sixty dancing riot police presumably fresh from the streets of Cairo. Tragically they failed to either kettle Arcade Fire or turn water cannons on Fearne Cotton. Plan B staged a theatrical arrest-and-trial routine, where a cop ended up on fire. Shame Gaga wasn’t there in her egg. They could have poached her.

The blazing copper went down well. Very bold, very dramatic. How the industry bosses cheered. But will they be quite so happy when some toe-rag nicks their Bentleys?

There were no autocue disasters, no drunken disgraces, and nothing remotely like rock music. Tastes change of course, but it’s hard to believe the nation’s youth are hooked on such gutless pap. Simon Cowell’s narrow definition of what popular music should be has infected the whole industry. I can’t have been the only viewer who as well as hoping for a Jarvis moment, was also praying for a quick blast of Five Finger Death Punch.

*WHAT was Plan B’s plan A by the way? Was it to speak in a normal London accent?

*AT least Bafta had a little incompetence. Rosamund Pike and Dominic Cooper coped so badly with autocue problems that even Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood were laughing at them. Hey Ros, you’re an actress, love; would it hurt to learn the lines?

*ON MasterChef, a female contender revealed: “I’m experimental at home with my husband.” Talk about over-doing the sauce! Somewhere Richard Keys was asking who’d smash her potatoes... The show’s been given an X Factor (Eggs Factor?) make-over, complete with tears, fake tension, and anxious relatives. It’s an awful lot of fuss about knocking up a bit of tea.

*GREGG was excited by the idea of cooking fish in a thin layer of bread. It’s an entirely novel concept that culinary experts like to term ‘fish-fingers’.

*HERE’S how bad EastEnders is: even their fat bird isn’t jolly. Poor Heather Trott’s life is going right down the Benghazi: broke and desperate, unable to keep her baby warm, living off biscuit crumbs, tempted to steal from her friends, overcome by carbon monoxide fumes... Truly you’d need a heart of stone not to laugh. Tuesday’s episode was meant as a savage indictment of life in Coalition Britain. Except why exactly is Hev so hard-up? She does three jobs, one of them cash in hand; she gets money from Darren and is entitled to benefits, tax credits and income support. Surely that’s not all going on cheese and Wham memorabilia? Asthmatic Hev abandoned George and caught a tube to her Mum’s old flat. Then she ran all the way back. It was part Mike Leigh, part Fit Club audition. Miraculously she reached her baby before Ronnie had time to swap him for a dead one. Even more miraculously, the cash Shirley had pinned to her front door hadn’t been swiped. There have been worse episodes, but not many. Judging by the shaking, the cameraman had to down a quart of gin just to get through it.

*HEV’S life was endangered by a dodgy old boiler. Insert the Shirley gag of your choice here...

HOT on TV: Stephen Graham as Al Capone (Boardwalk Empire)... Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)... Robson Green (Being Human)... Jane Danson and Chris Gascoyne (Corrie).

ROT on TV: MasterChef – more over-egged than Lady Gaga... The Brits: pop’s gift to rhyming Slang... Heather’s torment (EastEnders) – like “Dickens for today”, we’re told; yeah, Bleak Ahse.

*LADY GaGa arrived at the Grammys inside a giant egg. Why didn’t Madonna think of that? She was always over-easy.

*Beth Ditto had a similar costume: a giant Scotch egg perched on top of a wheelbarrow full of chips. Unfortunately by the time she got there the entire ensemble had mysteriously vanished...

*TREME? Wonderfully made, but not for me. If I want trad jazz, indecipherable accents and rambling stories I’ll go to Ronnie Scott’s.

RANDOM irritations: Jimmy Carr’s laugh. Graham Norton’s laugh. 10 o’Clock Live’s lack of laughs. Stephen Fry getting Led Zeppelin walk-on music at the Baftas. Fry’s hair – if he’s that smart, he’d buy a sodding comb. Sally Bercow – berk; Kathy Lette – worse.

SMALL joys of TV: Jodie playing Twister (EastEnders). Lorraine Pascale’s hot buns. Eggheads featuring a team of sexual health nurses and one of the answers being “Clapometer.”

SEPARATED at birth: Terry Scott and Kat Moon? One a popular big-faced clown; the other Terry Scott... One’s screen partner was Whitfield, the other’s is just whiffy. Alfie’s worn the same clothes for eight years.

*SO refugees fleeing doomed planet earth on Outcasts remembered to pack vinyl records and confetti, but forgot: lipstick, blusher, pastel-coloured clothes, walkie-talkies, and a sense of humour... They would have brought along one of those old-fashioned gramophones with the large horn attachment, if anyone in the cast was worth having a large horn for.

*THOSE Corrie Valentines in full. Leanne to Peter: ‘Oh Pete, I’m always thinking of you, no matter who I sleep with.’ Nick to Leanne: ‘Valentine, would you be mine – if I paid you?’

*UGANDA is officially the World’s Worst Place To Be Gay. The best places? San Francisco, Hampstead Heath, the House of Commons, Children’s BBC...

Feb 13. Hermione Norris plays stern security chief Stella Isen in new sci-fi series Outcasts. Not the kind of ice-cold Stella you’d need to get through BBC1’s latest let-down.

Outcasts is as frustrating as flying to the moon and finding you’ve left the landing ladder at home. Yet the premise had promise. Thirty years from now, Chicago has been destroyed (the Bears had it coming), earth has gone down the gurgler and a small group of humans have colonised the distant planet of Carpathia. Unfortunately they’re dullest, most humourless humans this side of the accountancy club at a bureaucrats’ convention.

Who are we supposed to like? Surely not Liam Cunningham’s charisma-free President Tate? Planet Carpathia, played by South Africa, looks the part. But the characters have the personality of space debris. Mad Mitch the rebel had spark so they topped him straight away. Berger is a rip-off of Battlestar’s Baltur. Collectively they have more secrets than a Masonic lodge at MI5, but none of them are engaging. Everyone looks as drab as the ideas feel. The clothes are all grey or olive, which would make a gypsy wedding here damn near impossible. The women even forgot to pack make-up, although Stella did bring her brain-reading machine, if not her brain...

The best TV science fiction reflects modern concerns – eco-disaster, state surveillance, suicide bombers etc. Here, we’re back with nuclear annihilation (that old chestnut). Clunky script, ham acting, flat direction, flatter dialogue... the closest they got to humour was a flatulent cloned pig on a lead. And irritations abound, from that dozy kid reciting “Tyger Tyger burning bright” – no wonder tigers eat their young - to the useless security team surrendering their weapons to a mob of rogue kidnappers (their equivalent of the Others from Lost). Compared to the guts and vim of Joss Whedon’s Firefly it’s feeble fare. RMS Carpathia was the steamship that rescued hundreds of Titanic survivors. In this case BBC drama is the sinking ship and Outcasts is going down with it.

*TOP five under-rated TV sci-fi series: 1) Space: Above & Beyond 2) Lexx 3) Earth-2 4) Nowhere Man 5) Sapphire & Steel

GRACE Park as undercover cop Kono is the best thing about the new Hawaii Five-O. She turned up in a bikini, and on her first mission stripped down to her underwear. At this rate it won’t be long before we get to see the Park’s adventure playground. Despite having the depth of a surfboard, this reboot of Jack Lord’s classic crime series was a huge hit in the US. It has banter, beach shots, and bigger bangs than a Beijing fireworks party. They’ve spent more on explosives than Ahmadinejad. The new Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) is a steely Navy officer recruited by Hawaii's governor to clean up the island. His elite crime-fighting unit includes him out of Lost, her out of BSG and the annoying short-arse agent from Entourage. It’s easy-on-the-eyes escapism, with scenery Judith Chalmers would come out of retirement for.

BIG Fat Gypsy Weddings continues to bring new meaning to the expression gypsy camp. Last week’s innovation was a baby with painted toenails. Top that, Jordan! Some modern girls, their heads turned by feminism and Sky Sports, might not consider getting married in a dress the size and style of a carnival float to be adequate compensation for a life-time of cooking, cleaning and knocking out sprogs. But at least gypsy women haven’t got to fight the likes of Paddy Doherty to earn respect. Bare-knuckle boxing is a big part of male traveller culture, along with tight white vests which are apparently formal wedding attire. There haven’t been so many geezers in vests since they had a casting call for West Side Story in Little Italy. Many of the men wanted their faces pixilated “for business reasons”. To speculate on what kind of business they might be in would only invite prejudice. But one thing you’ll never see is a big fat gypsy tax return.

*CAN we learn anything from travellers? It’d certainly liven up William and Kate’s nuptials if our Royals arrived ‘vested-up’ and dragged a few anarchist protestors round the back of Westminster Abbey for a ‘straightener’.

*THE average traveller life expectancy is fifty years. How sad, how shocking. Three more decades of Cher Lloyd...

HOT on TV: Reggae Britannia... Paz de la Huerta (Boardwalk Empire)... Forgotten Heroes... new 30 Rock (Com Central)... Mick Miller... Forgotten Heroes... Mad Dogs (Sky1).

ROT on TV: Outcasts – lost in space... Prison Break – it’s jumped more sharks than a Sea World dare-devil... Konnie Huq Under Pressure – not as much pressure as our patience... Belle de Jour - Bell d’End.

*FIRING rude Jason Gardiner wouldn’t improve Dancing On Ice. The only way to do that would be to release into the rink a large, angry, half-starved polar bear.

*KERRY Katona says the show is “a journey.” Eh? She’s going round in circles carried by someone else and going nowhere fast. That’s not a journey. That’s her life.

*FIVE per cent of women are allergic to semen, according to The Joy Of Teen Sex. The technical name for these women? Lesbians.

*HUSTLE is being sued by a writer who says they nicked his plot. The series was of course based on an original idea Tony Jordan had while watching Ocean’s Eleven.

*There was an embarrassing Welsh woman on Being Human: drunk, scantily-clothed and potty-mouthed... it was like Charlotte Church had never gone away.

*MARTIN Fowler star James Alexandrou enthused about cannabis on BBC3. Finally we understand why Martin fancied Sonia. He was stoned!

*A hip-hop star sadly died after having her bottom injected. Who knew Michael Barrymore still had those parties?

SMALL joys of TV: Madagascar. Show of Hands (Andrew Marr Show). The classic Hawaii Five-O theme tune, by the Ventures. Quality repeats: Sopranos (Sky Atlantic), Arrested Development (FX).

RANDOM irritations: The three old trouts on C4’s teenage sex show – as sexy as Macbeth’s witches. What are Ruth Corden’s qualifications exactly, btw? Other than a love of lube, probably with chips.

*Separated at birth: Alan Carr and Bingo - one a goofy, cloth-brained figure of fun, the other a Banana Split.

Feb 6. When the US government banned booze in 1920, it opened more doors for businesses than Dragons’ Den. One early winner is Boardwalk Empire’s Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson, the crooked treasurer of Atlantic City, who runs the seaside resort as his private fiefdom. He has a bent cop brother, and a finger in every racket – as well as several obliging show-girls. Vowing to keep the city “as wet as a mermaid’s tw*t”, Nucky opens a distillery inside a funeral parlour, and smuggles in whisky from Canada. Before long blood is flowing like casino hooch...

Boardwalk Empire is every bit as good as the advance hype suggested. With Scorsese directing, Terence ‘Sopranos’ Winter writing, and brilliant Steve Buscemi as weasel-faced Nucky, expectations were higher than Charlie Sheen on a Las Vegas bender. And HBO haven’t let us down. This is epic story-telling, rich in atmosphere, cinematic in feel and bursting with more awkward characters than the Chinese alphabet.

Prohibition created the modern gangster – Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and Arnold Rothstein all feature here. It was a golden era for political hypocrisy too, we first see Nucky charming a women’s Temperance Society meeting, which is much like a top anarchist addressing a convention of Royal wedding planners. He takes a shine to Irish immigrant Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald); so much so that when her drunken husband knocks her about once too often he has him topped. The corpse ends up with the catch in a trawler net – so he was literally sleeping with the fishes.

The show has sex, violence, bedroom farce and nudity. (Memo to producers: no-one wants to see Nucky bare.) It’s also awash with small period details like midget boxing, a vaudeville comic, and incubator babies as a tourist attraction - “see babies that weigh less than 3lbs – 25 cents” Everything about this sprawling character-driven jazz age drama is a joy. It’s TV at its best. And when could you last say that about a BBC series? We kid ourselves that British drama is the best in the world, but for more than a decade the Yanks have set the pace. Maybe if the Beeb blew less dough on BBC3 dross they’d have managed to knock out more than three episodes of Sherlock.

*WE saw a snatch of a Fatty Arbuckle short film on Boardwalk Empire. Odd that Fatty’s shorts were the biggest draws in Hollywood...

I’D like to apologise for my review of 10o’Clock Live. I said it would get better. It hasn’t. The show fails on every level. David Mitchell isn’t up to serious interviews; Newsnight’s pugnacious Matt Frei would have been a much better bet. Laverne is window-dressing. Brooker’s a young Victor Meldrew without the wounded charm. And Jimmy Carr got his biggest laugh from an Aussie cyclone gag that had already done the rounds as a text joke. You’d find more meat in a Taco Bell burrito.

*WHAT would the old Jimmy Carr have said about gypsy weddings? Would he perhaps have offensively suggested that they only insist on church nuptials so they can check out how much lead there is on the roof?

DISTURBING scenes on TV last week as a hated dictator clung to power. But enough about Phil Mitchell... Elsewhere on clapped-out EastEnders they’re trotting out yet another prostitution story. Whitney is turning tricks for £50, just like Janine did. And Marissa, and Kelly and Mary the punk... Walford has more hookers than a bunga bunga party. The fragrant Glenda took cash for sex. Fat Pat ran a brothel... family viewing it ain’t. The BBC defends this sordid fare by saying it happens. But the rest of the soap’s old cobblers (characters always getting private NHS rooms, all-day hospital visiting, car showroom parties with scantily-clad totty in January...) happen nowhere. And things that do occur - like girls being beaten for dating outside of their faith - are never featured. Janine has killed, poisoned, kidnapped, cheated, bullied and is now a pimp. She’s like Mubarak in a skirt. In real life, she’d have been lobbed in the Thames wearing concrete boots yonks ago.

Why would anyone pay for sex in Walford when all the girls give it away for a bag of crisps and a J20?

RANDOM irritations: TV news readers pronouncing Suez as “Su-ez” instead of “Su-iz”. People on talk-shows who say “I’m taking it one day at a time” – how else do they think time works? You can’t say, “February’s a bit chilly so I’m going to take a week from August.”

HOT on TV: Boardwalk Empire (Sky Atlantic)... new Entourage... Laura Linley in The Big C (More4)... Tom Sellick (Blue Bloods)... Human Target (FiveUSA).

ROT on TV: Primeval – as much fun as a Velociraptor in a petting zoo... A Farmer’s Life For Me – televised pig swill... How TV Ruined My Life – how Charlie Brooker ruins our telly.

DALLAS is coming back! But with any luck we’ll wake up in the shower and find it’s all a terrible dream...I loved JR but Larry Hagman is 79! He used to be in oil, now he’s mostly in Deep Heat. Linda Gray is returning as Sue Ellen too. JR will still have his ten-gallon hat. She’ll still have her five-gallon hip flask.

*TV shows we should revive/remake: The Comedians, The Tomorrow People, The Crystal Maze, Hazel, Blake’s Seven, The Protectors, The Persuaders, Widows, Frank Ross Is Out, The Good Old Days....

*THE Daily Politics asked: “Do we really need Black Rod?” I don’t know but Carol Jackson seemed to enjoy it.

*BREAKING wind is now a misdemeanour in Malawi. If this catches on here, it’d mean the end of the Royle Family. Jim would have to stick a cork in it... PS if farting is a misdemeanour, does following through come with a jail term? Or would a gas chamber be more apt?

*TOM Barnaby has “energy centres,” according to Midsomer. Really? Any more laid-back and he’d be comatose.

*TOOL Academy? Isn’t that TV slang for Glee?

SMALL joys of TV: the Jersey Shore bitch fight. Lucy Verasamy (Daybreak). Monkey waiter Fuku-Chan (Turning Japanese). Japanese punk comics Gamorjobat. Tony Gubba claiming to detect a “Jerk chicken plank” on Dancing On Ice, not to mention a “Lucifer dipping spin.” Do the Mighty Boosh write his scripts?

*PAXMAN couldn’t outfox EDL leader Tommy Robinson on Newsnight; so I wonder how he’d cope with a re-match on their turf – round the back of the Hatters ground, three falls or a submission.

*SEPARATED at birth (spotted by Charlie Brooker): President Murabak and the Count from Sesame Street. One a cloth-headed Dracula-like clown, and so’s the other one.