BUSHELL ON THE BOX
Feb 26. What if we'd lost the Battle of Britain? SS-GB imagines what Blighty would be like under the heel of the Nazi jackboot. A firing squad shoots Churchill dead, George VI is banged up in the Tower, the Queen Mum legs it to New Zealand... It's dramatic stuff, unsettling too. Or at least it would be if we'd seen any of it. All the main action happens off screen. Our hero, Archer of the Yard, is equally frustrating. He croaks, he mumbles, he rasps like he smokes 80-a-day... the bloke sounds like a tracheotomy waiting to happen. Douglas Archer looks way too young to be a Detective Superintendent. And because he's forced to work alongside Nazis ("the Herberts") he keeps his feelings buttoned up tighter than a nun's nightie.
The plot revolves around a murder in Soho's red light district. It looks routine, until Oskar Huth, a high-ranking SS Standartenfuhrer flies in from Berlin to supervise the investigation. Some Brits think Archer's a bigger dick than Cressida, accusing him of collaborating. But he argues that the Germans will be gone one day, and we'll get back to how we were. "If we let things fall apart now it's going to be difficult... The law is all we have and quite frankly I'm it." The law isn't all we have, though. There's the Resistance too – the great detective hadn't realised girlfriend Sylvia and Harry, his sergeant, are part of it. There's talk of plucky freedom-fighter John Spode taking out a Panzer tank with just a tyre iron (also off-camera.)
To date, we've had laid-back performances, muted dialogue, murky scenes, and a plodding pace that grips like a bald tyre on an ice rink. Things could pick up though. One-armed John is stalking Archer's son. And there's babeacious Barbara Barga, a classy blonde New York Times reporter who talks like she's in a 40s movie, is clearly more than she seems, and could easily inspire less mumbling and more fumbling. The promise of passion, intrigue, armed struggle and danger keeps the show watchable... for now.
*SS-GB mysteries: why haven't the Nazis brought back Edward VIII? Where's Sir Oswald Mosley? Why did a 1941 London air raid shelter sign show distance in metres? And most puzzling of all: how did Archer know about Big Bill Broonzy's 1940 blues classic Key To The Highway, let alone get hold of a copy?
*HOW Nazi victory would have changed our culture – top soap: Coronation Strasse. Top sitcom: Birds of a Fuhrer. Top pop show: The Old Horst Wessel Test. Top band: SS Club 7.
KATY Perry turned Trump and Teresa into giant dancing skeletons at the BRITS, allowing viewers to play spot the bonehead (her!). Katy's protest was slightly dampened when one of her dancing houses plummeted off-stage, but the show needs this kind of attitude. ITV are killing Britain's pop Oscars by making them tame, corporate and controlled. Where's the passion? The balls? The drunks? The days of Jarvis Cocker mooning Michael Jackson seem sadly behind us. In fairness Matt Healy of the 1975 did urge musicians to "speak out on social issues" but then, bizarrely, he didn't. The band ran knocking comments from reviewers as they played – "terrible high-pitched vocals... soulless robo beats" etc. It was like they were trying to put Simon Cowell out of a job. Just as well ITV didn't run the Twitter feed when Chris Martin was singing A Different Corner. It's fair to say The Voice judges wouldn't have turned for him. I'm not sure why ITV booked Skepta to perform and then muted him, or why Cowell gave him a standing ovation. It's unlikely that grime floats Si's Botoxed boat any more than the mighty Iron Maiden would.
DAYS after the Queen Vic's first Polish night, the pub was blitzed with "Poles go home" graffiti. But whodunnit? No regular character would be allowed to espouse such foul views in BBC1's "realistic" EastEnders, so could Walford's jealous Chinese community be in the frame? Never seen and rarely mentioned, the poor sods are currently held in a Corporation lock-up along with Big Mo, Lofty Holloway, Michelle's original head, Billy Mitchell's mail-stealing storyline and the Vic's missing pool table.
HOT on TV: Inside No. 9... Stan Lee's Lucky Man (SkyAt)... Malin Akerman, Billions... The Swingers.
ROT on TV: Tracey Ullman's Show – Tracey dull, man... EastEnders – I think the rats are writing the scripts... Jon Richardson's How To Survive The End of the World – few viewers survived to the end of the show.
DAVID Baddiel's father considers the comedian to be a "f***ing idiot", a "babbling turd" and "an incomprehensible tw*t". Colin is said to be suffering from a form of dementia called Pick's Disease, but it's just as possible that he's seen his son's act.
*COLIN swears a lot, doesn't care who he upsets and says outrageously inappropriate things to woman. Does this mean Stephen Bear has Pick's Disease?
RANDOM irritations: Celebs Go Dating banning Bear for 24 hours instead of a more reasonable 24 years. ITV kicking off their nightly topical comedy show with David Walliams who's as topical as Giant Haystacks but not as funny. Jon Snow calling Doris Day "the late Hollywood star" – she's got more life in her than Channel 4 News, mate.
*MELODY Thornton was talking about first dates on Celebs Go Dating when she said: "I'm just trying to keep my knees together... I'm open to some fingering though." Well it's good to know she has standards.
*MELODY said: "If you want to make my pussy pop tell me that you love me." And if you want it to snap and crackle too, bring milk and Rice Krispies.
*THE size of Leanne's baby on Corrie! She was in that lift so long the poor kid was born eight months old.
*IMAGINE if Madame Tussaurd was starting now. "Celebs" come and go so fast, her waxworks would need built-in candle wicks for a quicker turn-around.
SMALL Joys of TV: Tom Waits: Tales From A Cracked Jukebox. Crashing (SkyAt). Andrew Ridgeley's passing resemblance to George Alagiah. Rita Ora naming Rag 'n' Bone Man as "best British BAKE through" act (for the three crack Madeira, see Pete Doherty.)
SEPARATED at birth: Fridolin von Spaun from The Nazis A Warning From History and Keith Waterhouse? One created Billy Liar, the other knew a far bigger one...
*PO-FACED students advocated banning men dressing in women's clothes for fun on Has Political Correctness Gone Mad? So goodbye pantomime dames, Mrs Brown and Lily Savage... It'd be laughable if PC wasn't so dangerous. It's thought control through the backdoor; a way of demonising views these fanatical illiberal liberals don't agree with.
FEB 19. In Walford, even Cupid carries a cosh. Poor Whitney had TV's worst Valentine's experience courtesy husband Lee. Days after he hit her, the gormless git did a moonlight flit leaving fit Whit to pay for their last romantic meal. He didn't even leave a goodbye note to fit the occasion. Something like: 'Roses are red, violets ain't bad/I'm moving on, have a crack at me dad'. Or: 'My account's in the red, no wonder I'm blue/I gave you Chlamydia & now we're through.'
It was all Mick's fault. He'd told his soppy son: "If you love her you should leave her" – advice that was in no way related to the possibility that he could be bumping bits with Whit himself any day now. Honest.
If you ended up watching Valentine-themed TV then your day must have gone seriously wrong. But maybe not as badly as the poor saps who got picked for Celebs Go Dating. Cue the usual reality TV morons competing for camera time. Cute Kelly suffered the indignity of having to go out with boorish berk Stephen Bear. Typical question: "How long does it normally take before boys get in your panties?" Tsk. And they say romance is dead. Bear snogged and swerved one date and abandoned another. His opening line to a group of girls was "Are all your minges shaved?" We're not talking Keats or Coleridge here, but if we were he'd probably think they played on the wing for Accrington Stanley.
Diversity's Perri went on his first-ever date with Charlotte, 19, taking her to a booze-free burger bar. "Who doesn't like a burger and a milkshake?" he asked. "Probably your date and anyone else over the age of eleven," quipped Rob Beckett, whose voice-over is the only thing that makes the series bearable.
Ferne McCann moaned about the "cut-throat" dating world. You were seeing a banker, luv, not Jack The Ripper. And Jorgie Porter showed why she's still single by making date Harry buy her lobster even though she had no idea how to eat it and ended up splattered. "If you want a doggy bag, just say", he joked. Cupid misfired more arrows over on First Dates, where Steve blew his chances with Elaine by insisting they split the bill. The moral, mate, in the immortal words of Chas & Dave, is always: Pay up and look big. (Get well soon, Chas).
*ONE in eight people under 40 met their spouses on-line, we're told. The other seven meet someone else's...
NO surprises at the Baftas then. Stephen Fry's monologue was the usual laugh-free mix of brown-nosing and casual snobbery. The best films of 2016 were blanked. The first Trump pot-shot came about four minutes in. And all the "right" views were on display, with digs at everything from Danny Dyer to democracy. But what can you expect from a bunch of over-paid, over-privileged, quinoa-chomping, virtue-signalling, Brexit-hating, Botox-rating, group-thinking, puffed-up, self-righteous snowflakes with steam-cleaned muffs and egos bigger than Fry's gut? "We're with the people," declared publicly subsidised millionaire Ken Loach, who scooped my prestigious Wolfie Smith Award with his grim talk of "the struggle" (that's the class struggle, born 1917, died 1989). Runner-ups: Viola Davis, who brought up US segregation laws that were outlawed in 1965 – the year she was born. And the twonk who wrote Manchester By The Sea, a film so gloomy I had to watch a week's worth of EastEnders afterwards to cheer myself up. At least brilliant Mel Brooks got a fellowship.
RANDOM irritations: Those open-front dresses that flat-chested actresses like to wear – it's like Cheggers walking around with his flies undone. Luvvies moaning about losing EU film subsidies – if they made movies people wanted to watch they wouldn't need 'em. Tony Blair making the least welcome return to public life since Stephen Bear. TV drama's over-reliance on hot women on mortuary slabs.
JACK Bauer had more lives than a cartoon cat on 24, but sadly Kiefer Sutherland hasn't made the latest series. 24: Legacy has all the show's old elements – split-screen action, torture scenes, the countdown clock, an obligatory unknown traitor – but no Jack. The great man doesn't even get a mention. New star Corey Hawkins as stoic Sgt Eric Carter is a decent actor but the writers have given him bugger-all to work with. His six-strong Amry Rangers unit gunned down terrorist leader Bin-Kahlid six months before, and were given new identities. But they've been betrayed. Only Carter and one war-damaged buddy are left. The Jihadis are after Bin-Killed's top secret USB list of sleeper agents, including a suburban school-teacher (and possibly this show's script editor). It's watchable enough after a pint or six, but the dialogue is weak, the subplots seem dull, and Kiefer's charisma is sorely missed.
*JACK Bauer was last seen surrendering to the Russians in 24: Live Another Day. Post Trump, he's probably hanging out in Moscow enjoying quality Nage Komi time with Putin...
HOT on TV: SAS: Rogue Warriors... Dan Stevens, Legion (Fox)... Luke Cage (Netflix)... Emayatzy Corinealdi, Roots.
ROT on TV: Celebs Go Dating – you've met the Kardashians, now meet the Car-crashians... The Great British Skinny Dip – more duff than buff... The Kettering Incident – Zzzz Files.
TV questions: Why hasn't Duncan "Chase Me" Norvelle ever been on The Chase Celebrity Special? If you date a fake-celeb on a reality TV show, does that make you a fake-celeb too? And is receptionist Tom on Celebs Go Dating the campest man ever seen on telly? He makes Louie Spence seem like Spartak Moscow's Vasily "The Killer".
*RUSSIA'S Hooligan Army say they want to emulate British football casuals of the 1980s. Not in those clothes, girlfriends.
*REBEL slave Kunta Kinte was brutally mutilated on Roots. He ended up with a foot and a half. Blimey. No wonder Belle married him.
*NASTY Nick star John Altman will be doing a one-man show on Mothers' Day. Really? The only thing Nick ever did for poor old Dot was poison her.
SMALL Joys of TV: June Brown, gawd bless her! Mimic Mike Osman's spot-on Donald Trump send-up. Rob Beckett. Hogan's Heroes re-runs (ITV4). BBC4's Great American Rock Anthems. Caprice's revelation that "Some people could really appreciate a good screamer". Anna on First Dates – a ringer for Miss Brahms. One's from Are You Being Served, the other is more a case of why aren't you being serviced?
GARETH Thomas was talking about winter sports, I think, when he asked Davina: "Do you know the feeling when you get banged in the derriere everyday – you get banged and banged and banged."
FEB 12. There are only two real reasons to watch The Jump – the joy of D-list celebrities breaking limbs. And the ever-present threat that one week over-excitable Davina McCall will trigger an avalanche. The biggest danger though is to the viewer. Anyone who watches this terminally dull show as it transmits is at real risk of being bored to death. Channel 4's take on the Winter Olympics squeezes five minutes of alpine action into ninety minutes of over-hyped TV. Bobble-hatted Davina gurns and shouts throughout to try and inject energy into the proceedings but not everyone plays along. Josie Gibson (Big Brother winner, 2010) refused to take part in the final jump-off adding anti-climax to the show's many failings. "Josie is not going to jump, which means it's a no-jump," Davina helpfully explained. Bristol blonde Josie refusing a jump? There's a first time for everything.
Then there was Sir Bradley Wiggins. "I was a successful Olympian, now I'm skiing like a prat," he said, which pretty much sums up the series. Asked why he was taking part, the cycling legend quipped "It's just to piss off the Daily Mail". A noble ambition; maybe try wearing a John Bercow facemask tonight too, mate, it could only help.
Sportsmen naturally try hardest with dire consequences. Last year Beth Tweedle fractured two vertebrae, Rebecca Adlington dislocated her shoulder and Linford Christie pulled a hamstring. And yet tragically no-one thought to book Nick Kiergyos...
Joining Wiggins instead are Robbie Fowler, Louis Smith, Jason Robinson, Jade Jones, Gareth Thomas and Kadeena Cox. Non-sporting contenders include Caprice, unfunny comedian Mark Dolan and Spencer Matthews who describes the show as feeling "like a holiday". No doubt a well deserved one from whatever it is he does. First out was celebrity urine swigger Vogue Williams who nobbled her knee training for the ski cross and was replaced by Amy Willerton. The hardest worker here is commentator Barry Davies who has to make Lydia Bright from TOWIE taking on Emma Parker Bowles (Camilla's niece) sound halfway exciting. In its defence the show is the antidote to the tedious Health & Safety lobby. If C4 made it shorter, transmitted it entirely live, preferably in a snow storm, and threw in tripwires, it'd be tons more fun. They could also twin it with 24 Hours In A&E.
*TO put the "thrills" in perspective, Jason's winning jump was 14.95metres; the world record, held by Norway's Anders Fannemel is 251.5m.
THE SAS began as "a band of vagabonds, rogues and misfits" whose members were "eccentric, resilient, intelligent... and in some cases borderline psychopathic". The Regiment was formed in 1941 by Lt David Sterling, known as "the giant sloth" and described by his superior officers as "irresponsible and unremarkable". How wrong they were. On SAS: Rogue Warriors, historian Ben Macintyre told how Sterling's Special Air Service mounted suicidal night raids behind enemy lines in the North African desert. Half of his courageous pioneers were lost on the first mission, but the unconventional heroes persevered. Parachute drops were replaced by Long Range Desert Group vehicles, nicknamed "the Libyan taxi service". Jock Lewes's improvised bombs brought havoc to Axis airfields. And Blair "Paddy" Mayne wrote off more enemy aircraft than any fighter pilot, but was accused of "over-callous execution of the enemy"... the Nazis being renowned for their adherence to the Queensbury Rules... It's a shocking injustice that this supremely brave man was denied a VC. We should put that right posthumously.
APPLE Tree Yard started with sleazy Mark Costley giving genetic scientist Yvonne a private tour around Parliament's chapel. Yes they crept into the crypt... copped off... and crept out again. Overcome with lust, they shagged Boris Becker style in a broom cupboard (in fairness bigger than most London hotel rooms), and recklessly up alleyways... He treated her like a rambling rose, unsuitable for bedding but perfect for rooting against a wall. Then, shockingly, evil George raped and stalked her. Yvonne asked Mark to warn him off. Instead he stomped him to death. Costley wasn't rotten to the core but he was definitely a few pips short of a Red Delicious. The worst Yvonne did, apart from cheat, was believe her own spook-"f***king" fantasy. Those who complain she acted irrationally can't ever have known the way passion mangles reason. And they certainly can't have experienced an affair, which combines risk and thrills in an irresistible stew of secrets, guilt, and heart-thumping, pulse-quickening desire. I should imagine.
HOT on TV: Legion (Fox)... SAS: Rogue Warriors... Nicola Walker, Unforgotten... Roots (BBC4) and Malachi Kirby.
ROT on TV: Simon Brodkin – the poor man's Mark Thomas... C4's Fake News Week – phony entertainment... The Great Pottery Throw Down – crackpot re-commission.
IS Simon Brodkin really "Britain's Greatest Hoaxer", as C4 claim? The production company obviously think so but then his agents run that. Lee Nelson star Brodkin briefly renamed Philip Green's yacht "BHS Destroyer" and then left his team to get nicked. Neither Sir Shifty nor his bank balance was affected. He scattered swastika golf-balls at a Trump press conference, which would only make sense if the Donald were an actual Nazi. And infiltrated Britain's Got Talent posing as a rapping rabbi, an idea nicked from The Simpsons and nowhere near the maddest act auditioning last year, or even that day. He got found out within hours.
*NICK Knowles's ex Jess is looking for a new fella. In the meantime presumably she'll have to rely on good old DIY SOS.
*HELEN Flanagan is back on Corrie as Rosie Webster. Hurrah! If only the script called for her to be struck dumb so we could enjoy her beauty without having to endure her "acting".
*FACT: half the people who watch Casualty are in care homes with no batteries for their remotes. 20% are concussed. 5% are dead.
*VICKY Pattison is to host Blind Date. If the girls are anything like Vicky it'll be a blinding date.
*DANNY Dyer wants to be Doctor Who, but only if the Time Lord uses his full name – Doctor Who-Wants-Some-You-Slags?
SMALL Joys of TV: The New England Patriots' Superbowl come-back. MacGyver. Quinn's revenge, Homeland. Discovering Janis Joplin. Lucy Porter, 4ft 11, claiming that the first time she saw her husband properly was when he went down on one knee to propose.
RANDOM irritations: EastEnders imagining the Carters would be grilled by detectives and banged up over night for selling breakfast beer. Lee Carter's clearly empty briefcase. The sad decline of Modern Family. Tracey Ullman being consistently let down by her writers.
TV questions – who buys all those Racing Posts at the EastEnders Minute Mart? We haven't seen inside the Turpin Road bookies for years. Who's walking Ken Barlow's dog Eccles on Corrie? What the feck is happening on Fortitude? The Moorside – what was the point?
FEB 5. On Tuesday, people walked out of a London pub because an old dear with dementia put on a Chinese accent during a quiz night. Not in real life, obviously, but on EastEnders. Poor Sylvie told Vic regulars: "My name is Suzi Wong, please listen to my tong" before attempting to sing the Goons' Ying Tong song. Half the pub left in protest at this "racism" and the terrible affront it might have been caused to the soap's imaginary Chinese community. Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that Walford has never had a regular Chinese family – real discrimination, surely? – who on earth thinks this would happen in an old-fashioned East End boozer? Sylv might have been heckled; she might've been indulged, or quickly rechristened Sum Tim Wong. But self-respecting Cockneys wouldn't have acted like soppy students rushing to their "safe place".
Great drama reflects What Is. Bad drama is what the writer believes Should Be. BBC drama doesn't mirror reality; it tells us what to think. So Enders characters attack private healthcare and public schools. In one recent episode Denise claimed "half the country is at food banks". Hmm. I can't recall the locals having anything to say about illegal immigration. But if they did they'd be for it. The Vic will have transgender khazis before the spineless saps tackle a real issue like Jihadi brides. All their Muslims hang out in pubs.
Their disdain for the English is at Emily Thornberry levels. They've had parties for Burns Night, Diwali and even US Independence Day but the only time St George got a look in was as part of some feeble Alfie Moon con.
Relentless misery constantly undermines the soap's claim to "reflect real life". Amnesia follows tragedy. Ronnie who? Roxy what? They've gone awfully quiet about Disaster Week too, almost as if it were just a cynical stunt slotted in to win a soap award. A forgettable road-crash, which by coincidence is a perfect metaphor for the show.
In possibly the greatest affront to reality, the mangled railway bridge was completely repaired off-camera over the weekend. The structural engineers did all their work, the police accident investigation team were satisfied, the tower scaffold came and went, and damaged stalls were replaced as if by magic allowing them to move on to the next big drama – the Vic's leaking roof. Why doesn't lifelong pub landlord Mick know any friendly/decent builders? Why isn't he insured? Maybe Sylvie's friend can bankroll him, the Chinese millionaire Cha Ching. That's it, I'm done. I've been Dickie Ticker. Thank you and goodnight.
HOW would you feel if your 65-year-old mum took up nude modelling? Anne's kids wouldn't even appear on My Mum's Hotter Than Me. Embarrassing Parents would be a better title. Stripper Aimi, 42, made son Harry cringe with her crude chat. "Would you f*** me in that?" she asked the director. Ah, the gentle art of seduction. While Margarete, 50, constantly upstages her daughters. "All my lad mates say 'I'll bone that'," revealed Rihanna, 19. She must be so proud. The women rely on cosmetic surgery. Fake boobs, fake lips, fake fannies... and they're on reality TV... chasing real men. I'm all for people feeling good about themselves, but when self-obsession and showing off reach this level surely friends would stage an intervention? Unless they're fake too.
IN a rare moment of inspiration, Celebrity Big Brother put housemates on trial for "failing to deliver" and "disappointing the nation's expectations". Jedward were "ridiculous and childish", Kim "nasty", Nicola "paranoid and argumentative", and Calum, who'd be hard pushed to deliver newspapers, was accurately described as "boring". Fun, yes, but the wrong people were in the dock. Where were the producers who booked this feeble line-up? It's a mighty long fall from Gary Busey and Germaine Greer to the re-cycled reality TV scrapings that pass for celebrities today. Viewing figures were plummeting like Nicole Kidman's dress at the SAG awards before they sent in Crazy Kim Woodburn. Kim makes Trump protestors seem calm and rational. Her response to criticism – "They crucified Jesus as well" – was the quote of the series. Followed closely by her claim that her housemates were "filth... scum... vile" and "chicken-livered sh*ts". What a loss she is to Songs Of Praise. Coleen won. Of course she did. She's the only one regularly on telly.
HOT on TV: Sarah Rafferty, Suits... Six Nations rugby... Diane Parish, EastEnders... Emma Downham, Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week.
ROT on TV: Adam Hills – as funny as a rusty prosthesis... Hunting Hitler... Kim Woodburn – nuttier than a Willie Wonka Crunch Surprise.
HARRIET Harman reckons Doctor Who should be re-born as a woman, but given the BBC's self-loathing wouldn't it make more sense to bring in a Dalek? These proud aliens have been demonised and persecuted for decades simply for rejecting Western values. They deserve a break. Cultural diversity demands it.
*SO farewell Peter Capaldi. His Doctor whipped Daleks and Cybermen but just couldn't beat the lousy scripts.
*HOW about Jimmy Carr's TARDIS – Tax & Rates Dodged In Style?
*IF Yvonne's Apple Tree Yard lover is a spy he's the world's worst. Mark went to duff up rapist George in broad daylight and left her sitting outside in the car. If he's killed him, will Yvonne go down for it? It wouldn't be the first time...
*A NEWLY-discovered human ancestor is described as "a tiny bag that was all mouth". Wasn't that Janice Battersby?
*GREG Davies is descended from the first Prince of Wales. Wow. And if Who Do You Think You Are? had searched harder they might even have found the beanstalk his grandad fell off.
SMALL Joys of TV: John Thaw's widow Sheila Hancock playing a tarot card reader who knows Morse's future on Endeavour. Louie Spence telling Kym Marsh "I think you could take the big one darling." He was talking about the chaser's cash offer on The Chase, but then again...
RANDOM irritations: 3D TV getting the heave-ho before Nicola McLean Day has even been tried. Modern phrases in historical dramas. Tracey Ullman's dated spoofs. BBC News being more wound-up about US immigration policy than the slaughter of Christians across the Middle East.
SEPARATED at birth: Neil Oliver and Baldrick? Both deeply associated with history. And if Baldrick had Oliver's barnet, Melchett might have married him.
TV Maths. Mr Punch + blonde wig = Stephanie McGovern.
TV Quiz: who served up raw springbok liver washed down with gastric juices last week on TV? Was it a) Heston Blumenthal b) The Colonel, on Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week or c) Jedward on CBB for a laugh? Answer b, but given time...