BUSHELL ON THE BOX
Jan 29. Apple Tree Yard holds out the exciting prospect that British women in their fifties are secretly gagging for it; unless you're married to them, of course. Yvonne Carmichael is a respectable genetic scientist with two kids, a husband and a grandchild on the way. But all it takes is a sleazy bloke and a handy broom cupboard and she's at it like a Geordie Shore slapper.
She's just given MPs a talk about GM grub when a suave civil servant invites her to see Parliament's crypt. And it's here, in a cupboard in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, out of sight of the martyred saints, that Yvonne goes from Standing Committee to standing knee trembler.
Randy Mark Costley has one foot in a mop bucket, and half a foot in her. Kicking the bucket has never looked such fun. "It's a Royal Peculiar," he says, though I'm not sure if that's the crypt or the position. Later she writes "sex with you is like being eaten by a wolf", which sounds a lot bloodier and more painful than it looked.
After that she's hooked. They romp in a disabled toilet, leaving her flushed, and of course in Apple Tree Yard itself – now known locally as Grapple Me Hard. He talks her into going commando for a work do, and very nearly takes her up the alley in broad daylight.
Costley, clearly a serial adulterer, is addicted to high-risk public sex. Yvonne is shocking reckless too – at one point she brazenly mixes glass and plastics in her recycling bin. But the affair does wonders for her. She glows as she grows in self-confidence, until creepy colleague George Craddock violently rapes her after an office party. This presumably is why she ends up in handcuffs. Will Mark go full wolf on the charmless Craddock? Is he really a spy, as Yvonne suspects? Was their shagging caught on CCTV? Will her notes on the affair, filed on her home computer under "VAT Query 3" give new meaning to double entry book-keeping? And has she any idea that her academic husband is living a secret life as a gay man on ITV's Unforgotten? These are the questions, for the answers we'll have to keep watching.
*THE drama has been described as "slow-burn". Hmm. That must explain why Yvonne was Googling STD clinics.
*NOTE: Her hubby is played by Mark Bonar but Ben Chaplin's the one doing the boning.
THE lesser spotted 764 to Barking caused chaos in Albert Square, ploughing into the market from George Street. The poor driver had a heart attack but still managed to steer his double-decker down Turpin Road around two corners and a bend to smash into Bridge Street. What a tragedy! And what a wasted opportunity. No-one we knew died. With a bit more effort he could have taken out Babe, Steven, Ben, New-Michelle... I'd have brought Lucy Beale back to life just to kill her again.
*GOOD old Whitney. Like the bus that flattened her she's still got room for one more on top. Roll on Mickney!
*THE Cult Next Door was tragedy dressed as farce. Comrade Bala believed that China's Red army would "liberate" Britain in 1977. When it didn't happen, he told his small band of female followers that it had done but Peking didn't want us to know about it... Hilarious – except sicko Bala kept the brainwashed women prisoner and abused them for years. Will TV ever get round to Comrades Healy and Delta? Unless their hands are forced by a shocking news event – like the Lambeth slave house run by Indian born Bala, real name Aravindan Balakrishnan – the media seem reluctant to cast a light on crimes committed by practitioners of Marxism-Leninism. The cult of Comrade Corbyn is less criminal but just as doomed and deranged.
DEAR old Ken Dodd brought confusion to the National TV Awards as he stumbled over the nominations. Saving the day, Brendan O'Carroll quipped "To be nominated twice in the same category is amazing." It was the one moment of spontaneous fun in a ceremony that's as over-blown as it is underwhelming. Why does it take all ruddy night to remind us viewers love Ant & Dec and view Mary Berry as one up from Royalty? Some awards are deserved. Others, like Casualty scooping best drama, are like being told a Pop-Tart is tastier than a chateaubriand. Often familiarity matters more than quality. The organisers had to cook up a special gong for brilliant Graham Norton – he dubbed it an "NTA pity party". The script is bland, the speeches blander; the voting's flawed... Still, it's always a joy to see Holly Willoughby done up like a wolf's dinner.
HOT on TV: Emily Watson, Apple Tree Yard... Ciara Charteris, Endeavour... Graham Norton... Fortitude (SkyAt) – barking mad.
ROT on TV: Stacy Francis – ear-ache in human form... Pippa Harris banging on at the NTAs, did she think she was at the Oscars?... Silent Witness – as true-to-life as Cinderella.
HAS Homeland lost its bottle? The action has moved to New York where a left-leaning female Democrat is President Elect. Whoops. Last season's attempted nerve gas attack on Berlin reflected the genuine menace of Islamist terrorists. Now ex-CIA agent Carrie is defending their apologists. And the mighty Quinn is the shell of the man he was; strung out on drugs, preyed on by lowlife parasites and tripping to the sound of the Cowboy Junkies' Powderfinger. Let's hope he turns a corner, and gets a better soundtrack, soon and that Carrie gets back to what she does best – blubbing, gurning and bedding inappropriate blokes.
*JOE Pasquale likened Gemma Collins to a fat pig on Loose Women. It was an outrageous suggestion, extremely unfair to pigs. At least they're bright and socially useful.
*NEW Rory McGrath TV shows: They Think It's All Leg-Over, One Man In A Bush, Chelmsford 1 to 3 years suspended...
*NO matter what train-line Michael Portillo travels on for Great American Railroad Journeys his garish clothes are strictly BR – bloody ridiculous.
*ONE bit of good news: no-one has unearthed a John McCririck sex tape... yet.
SMALL Joys of TV: Ronnie O'Sullivan's American Hustle. Stephanie Cole. Tipsy Rod Stewart at the Scottish Cup 5th round draw. Endeavour sharing a ward with Carry On Doctor, Fosdick ward, but sadly no Dr Tinkle. Chas & Dave, Further Back In Time For Dinner.
RANDOM irritations: Casting directors' obsession with the same, small over-exposed group of actors. Hysterical health scares reported as news. Eurovision – why bother? ITV nutritionist Hala El-Shafie's porky posterior – physician heal thyself!
SEPARATED at birth: Cameron from Spies, and a young Stephen Hendry? Snooker and spying, both take plenty of balls.
TV questions: should Apple Tree Yard sex technically be called rumpy scrumpy? Why do Sky repeat Micky Flanagan's Detour de France? In case you couldn't believe how ropy it was the first time?
JAN 22. Just when you thought "Celebrity" Big Brother couldn't get any worse, they sent in Kim Woodburn. The TV cleaner hit the house like the Ajax cyclone, randomly starting rows with the other nonentities. Cranky Kim, 74, dropped the f-bomb and accurately dubbed the housemates "a two-faced bunch of chicken-livered sh*ts". She goaded Nicola, calling her "a horrible girl" and Jamie an "adulterer". It was as if she'd spent the previous week swigging Cillit Bang.
The old dear has been digging out more people than a quicksand rescue crew. In the process she's come over like a pop-eyed lunatic... or, a cynic might say, like someone with a clearly defined plan to grab the lion's share of the camera time. Eventually Big Brother security carted her off.
With Kim squawking, Stacy screeching, Chloe seething and Jessica joining in, 90 percent of this show consists of mad birds shouting at each other. It's like Jeremy Kyle with added alcohol; all the sophistication of a Blackpool hen party without the chips.
Kim's war on sanity even over-shadowed the show's other rapidly evicted new nuisance Chloe Ferry, who is all gob and cellulite. As well as kicking off loudly, the delicate flower rubbed her naked buttocks on Jedward eejit John and made a discrete play for Calum Best by sitting on his lap and trying to stick tongue down his throat. Sexy? You wouldn't even poke her on Facebook.
Shirt-averse Calum is like catnip for women, apparently. At least four of them crave his tattooed body, making him the centre of the show's first-ever love pentagram – a suitably satanic symbol for a format that's going to hell in a handcart. But Calum's not really a celebrity. None of them are. TV has bent the term out of all recognition. Unable to find genuinely talented people to amuse or entertain us, they bombard us with insufferable wannabes and ranting buffoons. CBB has become an assembly line of disposable semi-recognisable emotionally incontinent no-marks. C5 can film their arguments and pretend relationships, like Bianca's showmance with Jamie. But they can't save this format. Reality TV is eating itself. We're bored with it. It's no coincidence that the fine actor James Cosmo, who has acted like a gentleman throughout, is currently the bookies' favourite to win.
*CBB in subtitles – Kim: "You're all carrots!" (Cowards). "Nicola's a little pitch" (Bitch, but I wouldn't mind playing keepie-uppie in her goalmouth). "James can't have an adult session with Jedward" (Conversation, hopefully).
WALFORD Disaster Week kicks off tomorrow. What took them so long? It's been literally days since the soap's last double death. A bus crash will spark Enders' greatest catastrophe since the hilarious fairground fiasco of 2004. Who will survive? Who cares? This place is so grim even the undertakers packed up and scarpered. Aunt Babe is due to sling 'er 'orrible 'ook soon, but I hoped she'd go via a more traditional route, like a ducking stool. The odious old boot slipped rat droppings into Kath's café coffee, although it might as well have been shavings from her own dark soul. Babe's breakfast ales are small beer compared to her past crimes. She blackmailed the Cokers, poisoned Stan's trifle, bullied Abi, slapped Sylvie. She's even sold babies. Yet Mick forgave her cos she's "fam'lee". Yawn. Mind you, I'd forgive him if the big lug gave Whitney what she so clearly wants.
*ENDERS had Burns Night a week early. Ian Beale – originally descended from a long line of Cockney costermongers – "toasted the haggis". So there is absolutely no reason on earth why the Vic can't have a St George's Day knees-up in April, aside of course from for the BBC's customary self-loathing and contempt for all things English.
THE Sherlock finale was the biggest waste of 90minutes since Watford V Middlesbrough. It was all smoke and mirrors. The terrified child on the plane wasn't real, nor was the killer clown. Moriarty was pre-recorded... And there definitely was glass between Holmes and his unfeasibly controlling sister in the wide shots. The writers mashed up bits of The Silence of the Lambs, Fort Boyard and Bourne (Sherlock and Watson leaping through windows to escape a conveniently delayed-action grenade). It had everything... except actual sleuthing and a coherent plot. Mary Watson returned yet again at the end – I never liked her when she was alive, she's even smugger dead.
*SHOULD the Beeb go back to Conan Doyle? In the books Doctor Watson reports "a sudden ejaculation caused me to wake up". So he wasn't dreaming of Mrs. Hudson, then...
HOT on TV: LEE Mack... Jimmy Carr... Quarry (SkyAt)... Joanna Scanlon, No Offence... Taboo.
ROT on TV: LET It Shine – ain't it sh*te?...Martin Kemp – judge dreadful... Sugar Free Farm – you'd find more life on a Silent Witness slab... Jack Dee's Inauguration Helpdesk – hopeless.
MOST British TV attacks on Trump have the impact of a flan flung at an M1 Abrams. Trump's Dirty Secrets revealed no secrets whatsoever. BBC1's John "Shouty" Sweeney heated up some toothless smears. While Meet The Trumps was inspirational rather than damaging. It told how the Donald's penniless German grandpa Friedrich made his fortune in the USA through sheer hard graft and determination. TV commentators assume Trump will be a disaster, but what if his policies work? However will the poor lambs cope?
*THE Obamas and Trumps shared a car on Friday. And you thought Rick Parfitt's three-wife wake was uncomfortable...
TV questions: will C5 give Kim Woodburn a new show, How Clean Is Your Mouth? Why is the Halifax so concerned with US cartoon characters like Top Cat and Scooby Doo? Have they nothing to offer beloved home-grown creations like Minnie The Minx, Lord Snooty and the Fat Slags?
ITV took the rise out of clean-up campaigner Mary Whitehouse on Endeavour – no target too soft for these boys. Mary was always ridiculed, often rightly, but looking at the moral cesspits trawled by ITV's Club Reps and Love Island is it possible she might have had a point?
*THE show's biggest unsolved mystery: how did Morse play a Wagner album at 45rpm?
SMALL Joys of TV: Friedrich Trump's incredible life-story. Andy Carroll's stunning over-head goal against Palace. Susannah Reid. Ninja Warrior UK. Luke Kempner. BBC4's Status Quo Night. Spy In The Wild. Sound Of Musicals.
RANDOM irritations: big bold Jamie O'Hara taking on really tough opponents on CBB – Jedward and an old lady. Raging fool Stacy Francis. Sport pundit blather. Sky gutlessly scrapping their Wacko Jacko comedy.
JAN 15. THE BBC are baffled because Sherlock is losing viewers like Hull City lose away games. But even Clouseau could work out why. The stories are fool's gold. They jerk about like a dropped high-pressure hose splattering in all directions but rarely make much sense. "Look how clever we are" is the writers' constant sub-text, yet they're not smart enough to serve up satisfying plots. Their Sherlock is more superman than sleuth. His incredible powers allowed him to work out which shrink Watson would see weeks before he even chose her. Sherlock's previously unmentioned sister Eurus did the same so that she could impersonate the real therapist. Holmes also arranged weeks ahead to be picked up from her address within minutes of Mrs. Hudson kidnapping him and delivering him there.
Mary, Watson's dead ninja missus, was hanging about in John's imagination throughout, much like Stevie on River. The baddie was serial killer Culverton Smith, a multi-millionaire who'd spent fortunes on charities and nothing on his teeth. Smith's sinister plans to murder "anyone" were revealed during a visit to Baker Street by his daughter Faith. Except it wasn't Faith, it was Eurus disguised as Faith. Bizarrely Holmes can distinguish cats' hairs at twenty paces in darkened rooms but didn't clock his own sister...
Eurus just happened to be in possession of Faith's incriminating notes... How did she know about Smith? "A mutual friend put us in touch," Eurus said briskly, adding that Culverton himself had given her the notes. It was a helluva small and unconvincing peg to hang 90 melodramatic minutes on, most of which involved Holmes tripping like no-one on smack, crank or opium has ever tripped before.
Smith was like a cross between Shipman and Savile; disposing of his victims in a hospital mortuary. His weakness was a need to confess, using a memory-inhibiting drug to wipe the slate clean. Sherlock put his own life in danger, at Mary's pre-recorded request, to snap Watson out of his misery. Nick Hurran's directing was the best thing about the episode which ended with Eurus apparently shooting John in the face, although of course she didn't. There's no suspense because we know it's just another ruse, a tiresome con. Sherlock is the dramatic equivalent of Honey G with a Masters degree in bull-shine. The occasionally great show is disappearing up its own backside like a well-greased up circus freak.
*EURUS is Greek for east wind. For bad wind just fan the scripts.
SHARON is shocked Phil's the daddy of Denise's baby on EastEnders. She's not alone, it's a medical miracle. On his booze in-take, most blokes would be as floppy as one of Johnny Carter's pizzas. "Just when things were starting to get better," moaned Shazza, apparently forgetting that two of her husband's cousins had both drowned the week before. In Walford nothing gets better. Ever. Lee Carter is such a lost cause I'm waiting for Eddie Izzard to join his fan club. And New-Michelle just confessed to bedding an under-age boy in Florida. She probably kicked his guide dog too. Tsk. Tampa is a place, luv, not an instruction.
NEVER mind Sugar Free Farm, how can we get Gemma Collins-free TV? A week on the ITV show left the great dullard feeling "moody... cold... no energy... " so very much condition normal. Why do TV execs believe the nation is besotted with this lazy, lardy, self-obsessed nonentity? Even watching "the GC" being forced to scoff the muck that passes for grub here can't compensate for the irritation her bloated sense of entitlement generates. The woman's about as welcome as a Lewisham councillor on a Millwall supporters' away coach. At least Joe Pasquale is funny. Joe described one revolting veggie concoction as "like licking an allotment". He also noted accurately "I'm surrounded by idiots". On camera and off, mate.
HOT on TV: Kym Marsh & Jane Danson, Corrie – streets ahead of Meryl Streep... No Offence... Michaela Coel, Chewing Gum... Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events (Netflix).
ROT on TV: Celebrity Big Brother – the other La La Land... Stacy, Austin, Jedward & Speidi – a golden shower, in the Trump sense (allegedly)... Dr Who spin-off Class – class dismissed.
HOT not on TV: Lily Savage in panto at the Palladium. Side-splitting.
NO disrespect to Bobby Moore, but ITV calling Tina & Bobby an "epic love story" is like CBB claiming to have an all-star cast. It's a love story, for sure, but a bland one... until Tina finds out Bobby is over the side, presumably. Worse it doesn't begin to feel real. You can feel the 80s in every aspect of Stranger Things. Quarry could have beamed direct from 1970s Memphis. But Michelle Keegan doesn't look or sound remotely like a 1960s Essex Girl. ITV can't even be arsed to make the dialogue authentic.
HERE'S how dull Celebrity Big Brother is – two housemates walked out before they even reached the first eviction. One was Brandon Block, which was surprising – I'd forgotten he was in there. Ray J, was equally flaccid; still it was nice to put a face to the sex tape.
*CBB subtitle cock-ups. Jamie: "I'm a bra" (I'm Libra). Voice-over: "Jasmine is giving Jamie a massive arch" (a massage, but then again... )
*HOSPITAL was frank, unflinching and genuinely disturbing. This NHS eye-opener should be required viewing at the next Cabinet meeting.
*C5's Celebrity 100% Hotter was a total let-down. No flame-throwers.
*THEY had a "pop-up party package" on Dragons' Den, mercifully not like the one Peter Barlow is slipping Toyah on Corrie.
SMALL Joys of TV: Joe Pasquale. Sword, Musket & Machine Gun (BBC4). Frank Skinner, Room 101. Bowie At The BBC. The Man In The High Castle (AmPrime). Peter Jones's new Dragons' Den nickname – Jerkin' Jones. He'll never live that down, hopefully.
RANDOM irritations: Angie Best, health pest. Tom Hiddleston boring for Britain at the Golden Globes. Soap characters drinking from obviously empty tea and coffee cups. BBC bosses kidding themselves that they can create a new Netflix – you'd need quality shows for that, chums.
SEPARATED at birth: Gregory Porter and me (according to several readers). One noted for his gentle manners and fine singing voice, the other's a Yank with an eccentric line in headwear.
TV Maths: Rylan + decent beard = Oliver Giroud.
JAN 8 2017. I wasn't expecting to love ITV's take on The Voice, but they've made the show come alive. It has more pizzazz than the BBC version, better judges than Simon Cowell and higher standards too. The coaches kept their backs turned on singers who would've sailed through to The X Factor live shows. And in truth whose judgement would you trust more, living legend Tom Jones's or Louis Bloody Walsh's? Jennifer Hudson's verdicts carry more weight than Latrice Royale's smalls; Cheryl could barely carry a note in a bucket.
Crucially, the show is less cynical and stage-managed than Cowell's circus; and far less reliant on hype and tripe. Jennifer supplied the show's manifesto when she told contestant Jason Jones "You're unique – and that's what the world needs". Bang on. And that's unique in a good way, not in the Jedward/Diva Fever sense... Some "critics" claim TV talent shows can't hope to find world-beating performers and so only joke acts matter. This perverse logic led to the pox of Honey G and is remarkably ignorant of the international stars these formats have produced over the years, not least Oscar-winning powerhouse Jennifer Hudson herself.
What The Voice lacks in "novelty" cretins it makes up for in warmth and wit. Will.i.am was on fine form, flirty and funny. Even Tom gave us an unintentional chuckle when he moaned, of Rachel Rose, "for me she pushed too hard". (Surely a life-time first?) Gavin Rossdale seems a bit of a wet blanket, far too intent on justifying himself... so it's just as well producers have stopped the coaches spinning round to console the rejected singers. They now leave without kind words, buoyed only by gung-ho audience backing. The crowd booed when Jamie Grey got the bum's rush.
Contestants ranged from bits of kids like Mo and Diamond with Stax in their veins to gigging duo Into The Ark, all tattoos, battered vans and heavenly harmonies. The format still has inbuilt flaws, chiefly that it's far harder for contestants in later shows to get through as the coaches get choosier. The real test will be if ITV can create a star, something the Beeb patently failed to do over five long series.
STREWTH, EastEnders really splashed out on the Mitchell sisters' tragic farewell, bumping them off in a posh hotel pool. Talk about drowning your sorrows... Both women had been looking forward to a nice, long wedding night dip, but not like this. Roxy, blitzed on booze and Bolivia's finest, jumped in but didn't come up. A real shock, it wasn't like Poxy to struggle with lengths... Ronnie dived in to save her and was weighed down by her own wedding dress. Bosh! Jack's dream of several weeks of happy marriage sank like a malignant dumbbell. As did Max's dream of the easiest lay this side of A Very British Brothel. Poor Ronnie. It seems like only yesterday that she was giving birth in a coma, killing Carl and stealing Kat's baby. As Oscar Wilde once said, you'd need a heart of stone not to laugh.
ONE way Big Brother ruled in Orwell's 1984 was to mangle the language. "War is peace", went the slogan. "Freedom is slavery". Celebrity Big Brother clearly adopted this doublethink for their new mantra: Stars are nobodies, nobodies are stars. Various dirt-bags, irritants and losers have been dredged up as "all-stars" to take on "new stars". The result? The house is over-run with gobby Yanks, known only for being on previous CBB series – except for Ray J who's famous for a sex tape. There's Jasmine Waltz (the budget Megan Fox), "Speidi", Austin Atlantic and cartoon-voiced Stacy Francis, who briefly made the live shows of X Factor USA. Stacy looks like Diana Ross... on an all-pie diet. Then there's a footballer, a footballer's wife, a footballer's widow, a footballer's son, a footballer's step-daughter... Which leaves James Jordan, DJ Brandon Block apparently styled by Jim Royle, Coleen Nolan claiming her sisters were "the English Von Trapp family" (only if it's rhyming slang), and respected actor James Cosmo. Which begs one question: how badly does he need the money?
*ALWAYS watch CBB with subtitles on. Joe Swash on the after-show became Joe Sugg Wash, Brandon Block was "bum-caner of the year" rather than caner. While Jasmine's f-letter outburst got mangled into: "Shut the FA Cup up".
HOT on TV: Jennifer Hudson, The Voice... Quarry (SkyAt)... Tom Hardy, Taboo... Lip Synch Battle UK.
ROT on TV: Sherlock – sh*t-logged... Silent Witness – drama as bleeding-heart propaganda... Revolting – lame satire... Delicious – tasteless... Robson Crusoe – unchained malady.
WE knew that Sherlock's Mary Watson had a secret past but who knew she had super-powers? Rogue spy Vivienne shot Sherlock point blank, yet Mary leapt in front of him after she'd pulled the trigger. She was literally faster than a speeding bullet.
*NO Offence is just as far-fetched, but the script sparkles with energy and earthy wit. Outside of Gotham, no cops are like DI Viv but she's fun to watch... clothed. Unclothed, less so.
*MRS Brown was funnier at New Year. Winnie: "I just saw Dr Flynn pulling it off". Agnes: "You should report that".
*THINGS I'd like to pitch on Dragons' Den #97: a universal sigh translator so blokes can understand precisely what they've done this time to upset the missus.
*FOR security reasons this review of Spies is encrypted. It can only be deciphered over candle light while standing on your head and whistling Jerusalem. Then eat it. (Moscow Rules).
*LET It Shine? Let it wait.
SMALL Joys of TV: Kara Tointon's bum, The Halcyon. Terry "The Tel-minator" on The Chase. Travellers (Netflix). Lee Mack, Would I Lie To You. Pop Quiz: The Comeback. ITV's classic Morecambe & Wise clip show, shame they felt the need to lumber it with Miranda and banal talking heads.
RANDOM irritations: Evan Davis, redundant and annoying on Dragons' Den. Big Brother's wimpy voice. The awkward banter on Pointless. TV constantly rewriting the past. The Queen Vic's absurd Twelfth Night do, and planned "EU-themed" supper club. Gertcha.
FATHER & Secret Son: Red Ken and Tiny Tim Farron? One's a political buffoon whose plans range from daft to demented... and so is the other one.
TV maths: wide-mouthed frog + wig = Sian Lloyd.
TV mysteries: why is Mike Baldwin's son so tall? Mike was 5ft 6! (6ft 5 when standing on his wallet). Adam looks like he's fallen off his beanstalk. And why does no-one hit on Honey in EastEnders? She's pretty, she's classy, she's the only Mitchell woman Jack hasn't knocked up... oh gawd, have I spoken too soon?
LET'S hope Jamie Olivier was talking about cooking turkeys when he told Cliff Richard: "It's very nice to start with the bum up and get the fat rendering."