BUSHELL ON THE BOX
Feb 28. Two themes dominated The BRIT Awards 2016 – Adele cleaning up, and winners losing their bearings on stage. "I don't know where to look," said James Bay. "Which way am I supposed to face?" asked Coldplay's Chris Martin. "Wow, where do I look?" gasped one of Tame Impala – which was also a question in Dec's mind as that big bird with black stars over her breasts and a small downstairs carpet towered over him and Ant like a sexually-charged giraffe. She was three bits of cloth away from being the show's first streaker.
Where to look is a problem if you build the stage in the middle of the O2 audience and don't get anyone to point out the podium to stars who are either overwhelmed or over-oiled. Another problem is reaching the venue during rush hour. "Two hours!" moaned Alan Carr. "I had to wee in a bottle." And judging by the look on her face Annie Lennox took a swig from it. Annie's David Bowie tribute dragged on longer than Station To Station. At least Gary Oldman told some jokes. It took a Lorde to do Bowie justice (Lady Gaga please note).
No-one suffered a Madonna-style tumble, although Bieber did manage to smack himself in the kisser with his mic. The biggest danger came from befuddled drunks threatening to careen into Ant & Dec as they boldly broadcast live from the tanked-up audience. But enough about Simon Cowell. Their toe-curling chat with Coldplay was pure tumbleweed. Elsewhere Rihanna simulated doggy-style sex with Drake, or as I like to call him Lucky Bastard. Little Mix came in big knicks, so huge they could've housed pubes like Jess Glynne's haircut underneath.
Despite sounding flat, the girls also appeared to be lip synching... which was almost as puzzling as Bjork winning Best International Female. Or why Amy Winehouse was up for Best British Female Solo nearly five years after she'd died. If Amy, why not Joe Cocker? It was Adele's night as she collected four gongs and only swore once. "Not bad for a girl from Tottenham," she smiled. It's hard not to like a woman whose opening line was "Oh my God, I've gotta try not to fall over". One small point: wouldn't the show be improved by including a few more acts viewers might have heard of? Noel Gallagher's album outsold two of the best Brit band nominees last year, as did Jeff Lynne's ELO...
REALLY, Channel 4? There are really freaks out there who get off on "cataracts of the Nile"? This bizarre and obscure act, involving a gentleman relieving himself on a lady's most intimate parts, featured in The Great British Sex Survey. They're taking the piss, you'd think, but no, it's a recognised kink and we mustn't mock because "there is no normal". Not according to demented Flemish sexpert Goedele Liekens, anyway. The woman is so switched on even her name sounds like it's the Dutch for cunnilingus. Yet when the practices C4 assures us are perfectly fine include the use of giant wooden testicle stretchers then surely it's time to return to simpler pleasures and free British bedrooms from the curse of continental torture? It might even be an argument for Brexit.
*ONE weird fella liked dipping his old chap into maggots and creepy crawlies. They didn't go too deeply into that, it was a proper can of worms. Oh and what about the bloke who came dressed as a black latex Michelin Man? Imagine if his partner in the heat of passion dug her nails in too hard, puncturing his suit, and sent him whizzing around the room like a burst balloon...
*FACT: if your fetishes involve sadism, necrophilia and bestiality you're probably flogging a dead horse... much like C4.
THE Night Manager pits decent ex-army cove Jonathan Pine against dodgy Dicky Roper, an old Etonian arms dealer. Pine is the calm and collected manager at a posh Cairo hotel besieged by popular unrest. Enter femme fatale Sophie Aleka (Aleka a lot) the mistress of corrupt Egyptian playboy Freddie Hamid. As well as flaunting her cute little bow-wow, Soph asks Pine to photocopy his confidential documents, a shopping list of Roper's weapons ranging from nerve gas to Trident missiles. It's enough hardware to blast the Arab Spring into a nuclear winter. Pine leaks it to MI6 who tip off Roper. In quick succession Fred knocks Sophie about, she seduces Pine and British Intelligence let her die. Years later Pine is running a Swiss hotel when Roper (Hugh Laurie) turns up with an entourage (Corky! Frisky!) and Jed, a blonde with a penchant for bathing in front of people. If he doesn't bed Jed I'll be amazed. But will Olivia Colman's honest MI6 agent outsmart Roper? He's described as "the worst man in the world", but he's by far the biggest character on screen.
*ROPER'S company is called Ironlast. Sounds like something he'd need to take to keep the young and delightful Jed satisfied.
HOT on TV: The Night Manager... Olivia Wilde, Vinyl (SkyAt)... Sarah Poulson, The People Vs OJ Simpson... Amanda Peet, Togetherness.
ROT on TV: Fresh Meat – poop show... Coldplay – the world's dullest rock band... Live From The BBC – Live From The Apollo with even less impressive "comics".
HOW many inside prison documentaries can TV make? There must come a time soon when Paul Connolly kicks open a cell door to find a bare-chested Ross Kemp arm-wrestling Louis Theroux and Trevor McDonald for snout and hooch.
*HAPPY Valley has had murders, a killer cop, a suicide, people trafficking and a psychopath. It's so grim, I have to watch EastEnders afterwards to cheer myself up.
*WHAT are shinier, Rachel Riley's legs or the two faces of David Cameron? That's the sort of question It's Not Rocket Science could answer instead of having white van men racing delivery drones (not a real contest, there were no traffic jams or parking problems.)
*IS Gavin on EastEnders wearing the same wig Mike Flowers wore for Wonderwall?
SMALL Joys of TV: Sport Relief darts. Alesha's legs. Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel, Planet's Got Talent. Cuckoo's opening fight scene. Sarah MacRae, Beowulf. Vinyl's romantic rear entry ladies loo quickie. Shane Richie as Moving On's womanising wide-boy, boldly playing against type...
RANDOM irritations: Heather Mills. Brexit scaremongering mis-reported as news. "Addiction" being used as an all-purpose excuse for doing something you know you shouldn't. Crap reconstructions on Inside Buckingham Palace. Lena Dunham on Girls – how about keeping your clothes on for a change?
Mary Berry was talking about a pie when she told Morgana Robinson: "You've got a very nice set... firm, well-filled." Yes but you just know the bottom's soggy...
SEPARATED at birth: Lorde and Claudia Winkleman? One released Pure Heroine, the other's presenting style requires the purest available morphine.
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Feb 21. Why get so het up about Stephen Fry's Bafta bag-lady quip? It was the only half witty thing he said all night and there was so much more to complain about. Not least the fact that Bafta keep booking this smarmy butterball to host. Fry hasn't been laugh-out-loud funny since his husband left nursery school, although this doesn't seem to diminish his smugness. He'll never lose weight – he's far too full of himself.
Rebel Wilson was better value. Aussie Rebel claimed she'd been "practising my transgender face" so she could win at future ceremonies. Talking about the Oscars race row, she said: "The Baftas have diverse members, and that's what we all want to see... diverse members... " She then told Idris Elba "I am sociologically programmed to want chocolate on Valentine's Day". Sadly the judges weren't, and Idris lost out to Mark Rylance in the Best Supporting Actor category. Even though there are waxworks whose faces are more mobile than Rylance's was in Bridge Of Spies. Sacha Baron Cohen returned to the diversity theme, quipping "It gives me great pride that every single year Bafta makes sure that at least one of the nominees for Best Actress is a Dame."
No-one else got laughs; the acceptance speeches were uniformly dull, Fry's monologue felt phoned in and alleged comedian Eddie Izzard didn't even try. He's much funnier these days as a political jinx. The euro, Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown, Jim Murphy... if Eddie supports you, you're cattled. These irritations are minor, though. Bafta's institutional snobbery is the real smack in the face for film fans. The puffed-up bigwigs clearly despise popular cinema. Mad Max: Fury Road didn't make the Best Film short-list, nor did its massively talented director George Miller. Oscar-nominated Sly Stallone wasn't in the running for best supporting actor in Creed. Star Wars: The Force Awakens wasn't even a contender for Outstanding British Film. What has the Academy got against success? Their attempts to target the yoof market were equally clueless. Their YouTube Red Carpet coverage was a technical disaster; their corny Valentine's Day kiss-cam failed to go viral. If they want to get talked about, why not book Ricky Gervais to host? And just for once, watch the same films as the audience do.
*TWO versions of the 1970s: Sky Atlantic's Vinyl had cocaine, mobsters, punk rock and the New York Dolls. Back In Time For The Weekend on BBC2 served up space-hoppers, darts, Angel Delight, Chopper bikes and home brew; less exciting but far safer. Vinyl does for the music business what Happy Valley is doing for Hebden Bridge tourism. Directed by Scorsese, it's proper grown-up drama putting a cynical spin on the Big Apple's corrupt record company execs. The quality cast includes Bobby Cannavale as cranky coked-up label boss Richie Finestra, along with Ray Romano, Andrew Dice Clay and Ato Essandoh as brilliant bluesman Lester Grimes. James Jagger (son of Mick) excels as the junkie singer with punk band Nasty Bits (unlikely in 1973, a year before the Ramones started). It's superbly directed with authentic lingo, and yet two hours in Vinyl lacks a heart. Who are we meant to like here? It's an inspired idea in search of a story arc to match.
SWINGING was a big 70s trend but mercifully BBC2 avoided getting their families to act that out. "Right you Ashby Hawkins and Corens, remember the Robshaws? Car keys in the fish bowl please... "
HEROES is back, sadly without Claire the cheerleader who's been banished to another dimension (Nashville). Heroes Reborn revives the 2006 sci-fi saga that started brilliantly and slowly fell apart. Super-powered folk are now called "Evos" and are being hunted down by angry humans. So far, so X Men. Chief vigilante is Judith Shekoni who was Precious on EastEnders, and so has faced great evil before. A terror attack wipes out hundreds of super-bods and apparently explains Claire's absence (even though she was indestructible). Newbies include Tokyo-based Miko who becomes an animated female warrior fighting bad-guys in a video game dimension. And teen Tommy who has the power to suck people into the unknown, an ability first demonstrated by Divine Brown... Can it work? Ten years ago this was the only superhero show in town, now there's The Flash, Daredevil, Supergirl, Jessica Jones... If Heroes Reborn can't save the cheerleader, they'll struggle to save the series, let alone the world.
HOT on TV: James Jagger, Vinyl... Vikings (AmPrime)... Kiki Sukezane, Heroes Reborn (5*)... Trapped (BBC4)
ROT on TV: Stephen Fry, the Baftas – oily and over-rated... It's Not Rocket Science – it's not worth watching... One Child – zero credibility... The Last Leg – suitably lame.
JOHN Simpson turned the Bake Off kitchen into the biggest disaster zone he's ever visited. The veteran war reporter seemed shell-shocked as he bungled his way through the charity challenge. Geri "Ginger Spice" Horner cruised to victory; but despite Paul revealing that she was "getting a good rise to it" the show was woefully short of innuendos. I longed for Victoria Coren's magnificent muffins which distracted us from her nasal whine the other week. No idea what she cooked.
*THE People Vs OJ Simpson raises many questions. Chiefly what the hell's happened to John Travolta's boat-race? It looks like he's had it pressed against a radiator since his last hit film...which was some years ago. One complaint: Cuba Gooding Jnr is four inches shorter than OJ and looks nothing like him.
*ON Planet's Got Talent, a deranged daredevil was run over by a steamroller. Surely worth a celebrity spin-off once The Jump is dumped?
*THE big problem in India on Real Marigold Hotel was coping with the appalling smells. Mercifully Miriam's gone home now.
SMALL Joys of TV: Tom Cruise's face reaching cosmetic surgery overload. Daryl's bazooka vs bikers on The Walking Dead. Deep Throat and The Devil In Miss Jones showing on Vinyl's cinemas – porn had plots then. Shaun Ryder, Room 101. Saturday Night Takeaway.
RANDOM irritations: Lady Gaga's Bowie "tribute". Britain-bashing snob Emma Thompson. People who get "offended" on other people's behalf, as in the explosion of false outrage over Fry's bag-lady remark. Creeps who shriek "You can't say that" at anything they don't agree with.
SEPARATED at birth: Sam Smith and Action Man? One is plastic, totally manufactured and looks far tougher than it is... the other's a doll.
TV questions: did success in the naked fishing on 10,000BC depend on the size of your rod? Does Gillian Anderson have Botox so she can keep a straight face delivering her X-Files lines? And why call them Britain's Weirdest Council Houses, C4? Most were wonderful.
Feb 14. What's the difference between The X-Files and The X Factor? One has aliens, weirdoes and sinister power-brokers... the other has FBI special agents too. Fox Mulder believes in all things paranormal; sceptic Dana Scully prefers rational answers. In the old days, he'd see ghouls and ETs every week but could never prove it. You felt like shaking him and saying "Fox, you moron, buy a flaming camera!" Eventually they realised they were fighting an evil alliance of alien invaders and human traitors. Earth was supposed to fall in 2012 but mercifully The X-Files was off-air by then. Now it's back, and a shocking new truth is out there. Turns out aliens aren't mankind's deadliest enemy after all, our own governments are. "Alien technology is being used against us by men," explained Fox, which is one way to untangle the mess the writers' made of the final seasons.
YouTube conspiracy nut Tad O'Malley lures the odd couple back into action, introducing them to Sveta, a Russian beauty who's been probed, poked, impregnated and had her foetuses nicked. She swears her kidnappers were all human and the scales fall from Fox's eyes. The X-Files were a ruse, he concludes, a con; they'd been hoodwinked for donkey's years! Scully accused him of being "on fire" with his new theory although Mulder seemed just as laidback as ever, delivering lines that hovered somewhere between deadpan and wooden. "I heard you were funny," Tad tells him. You heard wrong, mate.
In this new reality, ET came to Roswell in 1947 and the Yank military gunned him down. The US government then nicked the alien's kit, and have been using replica UFOs ever since to abduct their own people and experiment on them for the purpose of global domination. To Scully this is "fear-mongering clap-trap... so bogus, dangerous and stupid it borders on treason" until she discovers both she and Sveta have alien DNA in them. Though it Scully's case it's more likely to be Botox.
Sveta is zapped by a UFO, rogue scientists are bumped off, Smarmy O'Malley goes off-line and The X-Files are re-opened by FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner. The evil Cigarette Smoking Man is back too, now smoking through his neck. Not sure why as he speaks completely normally. It's all hokum, hogwash and as Scully says paranoia. But our rulers lying and scheming? We can all believe that.
*NO aliens in The X-Files! That's good news for Donald Trump. He hasn't got used to Mexicans yet.
WHAT an end to War & Peace! Tolstoy totalled more big name characters than Game Of Thrones. Only The Jump, now twinned with Casualty, poses such a threat to life and limb. Napoleon seized Moscow but couldn't beat the Russian Winter. Canny general Kutuzov starved the French out. And along the way we lost Andrei, two Rostovs, Nickolai and the incestuous Kuragin siblings. They didn't even manage one final, umm, f... amily reunion. Russian history gave us Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, but I'll never forget Hélène the Slapper. The woman brought new meaning to laying the table.
STREWTH, these ex-Corrie birds are tough. Look at Suranne Jones as Doctor Foster GP (generally psychotic) and Sarah Lancashire as can-do Catherine Cawood on Not-so-Happy Valley. Eileen Derbyshire's turn as a tooled-up Mafia moll can only be months away. Sgt Cawood is up against her arch enemy, sadistic head-case Tommy Lee Royce – the scumbag who raped and impregnated her daughter, driving her to suicide. Now he's safely banged up and harmless, except... a horrifically abused and murdered corpse found by Cawood turns out to be Royce's mum, meaning that our Cath's in the frame for homicide. Is Royce pulling the strings? And what is freaky felon-fan Frances up to? Only the blackmail element of the opening episode seemed weak. Married Detective Sergeant John Wadsworth, Downton's Mr Moseley, dumps mistress Vicky over the phone. She lures him to a pub, slips him a roofie, snaps them together in a hotel room, with him in her smalls, and then demands a grand a month. So now she's doing the shafting. But where would a lowly DS get a spare £12K a year? And why would he pay? Vicky can't prove their fling, he's clearly out cold, she booked the room... wouldn't he just nick her?
HOT on TV: War & Peace finale... Happy Valley... Annette Mahendru, The X-Files... AC/DC & The Story of Aussie Rock.
ROT on TV: The Royals (E!) – off with their heads... The Last Leg – lazy, gutless and rarely funny... The Keith Lemon Sketch Show – ditto.
DO TV sex scenes create unrealistic expectations? Jessica Jones's athletic exertions with Luke Cage broke a bed; vampire slayer Buffy and Spike smashed up a house. TV folk are at it on car bonnets, in graveyards, on a War & Peace dining table – and if that was the starter, roll on the mains. It makes Grant Mitchell knocking up bits of stray on the Queen Vic carpet seem almost romantic. Happy Valentine's!
*PEOPLE say the fact that intelligent aliens haven't contacted us proves they don't exist. Maybe so. Or maybe it proves they've watched Ex On The Beach and decided to wait until we evolve some more.
*ON Back In Time For The Weekend, mum Steph gasped "It feels so much bigger, it almost feels twice the size." She might have been talking about a kettle, but they didn't call it the swinging sixties for nothing.
*NO wonder Miriam Margoyles loved India, she's considered sacred there.
TV questions: why weren't Deirdre Barlow's glasses featured in Earth's Greatest Spectacles? Were Alexa Chung's legs inspired by LS Lowry? And if Endeavour's Inspector Thursday was fast-tracked, would he be Chief Inspector, Friday?
SMALL Joys of TV: Six Nations Rugby. Tommy Tiernan. Leroy C & his Motown Memories (Benidorm). Joseph Garr as Yury Becker (Lucky Man). Laughing yoga (Real Marigold Hotel). Marvel's Agent Carter.
RANDOM irritations: trailers that ruin episode endings. Beowulf's puny blacksmith. The X-Files dialogue making it more like The Exposition Files. Sarah Lancashire mumbling on Happy Valley. Naming storms, it's childish.
SEPARATED at birth: Eva Price and Pauline Calf, one a comical Northern slapper who's accommodated many a randy Manc wide-boy... the other is played by Steve Coogan.
Feb 7. Two EastEnders competed to become skeleton champion on The Jump. If one of them had been Dot Branning they might have had half a chance. Sid Owen gamely took on the show's scariest challenge, racing along at breakneck speed on a glorified tea-tray. Only Patsy Palmer's dreams of a US TV career have gone downhill faster. Sid hasn't moved so quickly since Albert Square was full of Bianca's blood-chilling screeches of "Rickeeeeee!"
The only possible strategy in this event is to lie flat and try not to die. One mistake, warned mentor Graham Bell, and he'd be "banging off the walls like a pound coin in a tumble-dryer"... which for some reason brought Roxy Mitchell to mind. In the event Sid was all over the shop like Aunt Nell's accent but somehow emerged unscathed. This is one celeb-reality show that involves genuine risk. Louisa Lytton fractured her wrist. Olympian Rebecca Adlington dislocated her shoulder. And there's always the danger that Davina's hooting and hollering will trigger an avalanche to bury that accordion band... with any luck.
The Jump shows how far desperate people will go for camera time (and I speak as someone who was once thrown out of a Hercules transport plane at 12,000 feet by ITV). How James "Arg" Argent must have wished his agent had sent him to Celebrity Big Brother rather than Innsbruck in Austria as he catapulted off his trolley at over 50mph. "He told us how hard it was," girlfriend Lydia revealed, mercifully without showing us the accompanying picture text.
This show's biggest let-down is usually the closing ski jump. The K15 was barely bigger than a playground slide but they've added nearly seven feet to the largest one now. If they sped things up as well they'd be laughing – we got ten minutes of action squeezed into a ninety minute show. While soap suds, reality numpties and genuine sporting achievers risked life and limb, CBB snoozed its way to a joyless climax. All the losers should be automatically transferred to the next series of The Jump. Gemma Collins might have tried a bit harder then. Let's see these bozos sweat for their screen-time. It's not so bad, if you happen to enjoy bitter cold and extreme pain.
THINGS we learnt from Celebrity Big Brother: Stephanie has skimpy, crusty drawers and skimpier, crustier morals. John Partridge is "an arsehole", Darren Day needs to man up, and Toxic Tiff craves "strong, hard, long penetration". I felt for her. The woman had more knock-backs than Kovalev's had knockouts. So why didn't Scotty T oblige? Either he's loyal to Megan or he worked out from the way Tiff screams in arguments that at the height of passion she'd shatter his eardrums. CBB had its moments – specifically "David's dead" and Tiff's "my vagina is crying out" (if only they'd sent in a ventriloquist so we could have heard it... or a lip reader.) But the series was sabotaged by walk-outs, some awful casting, and Big Bro's kid gloves treatment of rule-breaking layabout Gemma Collins, the most ludicrous creature this side of ITV's Beowulf. Gemma's TV career should be as dead as Lord Lucan after this, but there are a lot of fat lazy puffed-up people about and I suppose they eed somebody to follow.
*HOW to make CBB more fun:1) Evict losers via giant circus cannon. 2) Fill the house with people we actually recognise (unlikely). Or 3) Give it an Agatha Christie theme: on opening night one micro-celeb is murdered. The remaining housemates must work out who the killer is before they strike again. Sick, yes, but think of the ratings.
BACK In Time For The Weekend showed how Britain has changed since the 1950s. It wasn't so much the Spam and rationing as the gender roles. A woman's place, as IT consultant Steph Ashby-Hawkins discovered, was in the home cooking, cleaning and washing etc (the good old days, John McCririck might say... ) Daughter Daisy, 16, was expected to follow suit. Meanwhile dad Rob built furniture in his man-shed (What? No pub? No football?), and son Seth, 12, had the time of his life camping under the stars. Bereft of mobiles, these poor deprived souls actually had to make conversation with each other. They went to church on Sunday, ditched gaming for jigsaws and played the piano instead of watching telly. Actually this wasn't strictly true. Sales of TV sets shot up for the Coronation in 1953, and by 1957 Blighty had nearly 20m adult viewers. I was born in '55 so all I remember about the decade are Spangles, smog and Noggin The Nog. I know, I know, filthy habit. But not as bad as Muffin the Mule, which is borderline depraved.
*THE big 50s TV hits were Sherlock Holmes, medical drama Emergency Ward Ten, Come Dancing, and talent show Opportunity Knocks. So not much change there... They also had Sunday Night At The London Palladium hosted by the wonderful Tommy Trinder. It was straight forward variety and a smash hit. There is no reason on earth why a modern variety show, produced and directed by experts, couldn't rule the entertainment roost again. We have the talent, but where would we find the experts?
HOT on TV: War & Peace battle scenes... Michelle Keegan, Drunk History... Jessica Ellerby, Benidorm... Bitsie Tulloch, Grimm.
ROT on TV: Vera – plodding... Sugar Free Farm – not so sweet FA... The Last Leg Goes Down Under... Beowulf: Return To Shieldlands – return to drawing board, do not re-commission.
ED Balls's ski-jump sponge showstopper looked incredible on Bake Off but it was outclassed by Kimberley Walsh's Mount Kilimanjaro. Magnificent, demanding, tasty, exotic, but well worth the effort... that's Kimberley, I'd imagine. I don't eat cake.
*BOOK Nigel Farage next. TV needs a new Keith Floyd.
JUST as well Walford folk don't watch much telly. Think of all the difficult questions: "Oi, ain't that Sam Mitchell on Big Brother?" "What are Ricky and Ruby doing on The Jump?" "Why is Donna the dwarf helping the Old Bill on Vera? Is she a grass or what?" At least they would still believe Dirty Den is dead... unless they happen to receive Bulgarian TV via satellite.
*KIM told Denise Fox: "I remember when you used to be fun." I must have missed that episode.
*MALE nudity on War & Peace? Why the fuss about such a little thing?
*RE The Nightmare Worlds Of H.G. Wells: does Ray Winstone think the H.G. stood for Heavy Geezer?
*CATS vs Dogs: Which Is Best? I wonder if Harry Hill has a view.
SMALL Joys of TV: Wheel Of Death acrobats, Planet's Got Talent. John Challis, Benidorm. Saucepot Jude Calvert-Toulmin, Come Dine With Me. Molly's one night stand reveal on Extant. The Most Dangerous Band In The World – The Guns N Roses Story (BBC4).
RANDOM irritations: CBB resurrecting Russell bloody Grant, the man who puts the arse in Aries. Excessive hugging on The Voice. A two-second flash of hampton on War & Peace exciting more comment than Anatole getting his leg sawn off.
MOTHER and Secret Daughter: Fat Pat on EastEnders and Danniella Westbrook?
SKY News weathergirl Nazaneen Ghaffar was talking about impending snow when she announced: "I am expecting about eight inches." And no doubt a mounting ridge of high pressure.