BUSHELL ON THE BOX
July 26. Most modern chat-shows have all the depth of Ant-Man’s foot-bath.
It’s hard to imagine any current star opening up to Alan Carr about their “deep inferiority complex” as Kenneth Williams did with Mavis Nicholson.
Or Alan having either the interest or motivation to then coax his guest into confessing that he’d contemplated suicide. He’d have been too busy getting Ken to turn his nose up at a Slippery Nipple cocktail.
Peter Cook drank like Peter Barlow auditioning for the Pogues. Alan would have topped him up. Mavis asked him why.
“Boredom,” Cook replied, prompting Dudley Moore to ask why he let booze muck up their stage act. They never toured together again.
Gold’s The Interviews illustrates how much chat-shows have changed. They’re more about comedy now than serious conversation. Yet Graham Norton aside, few comics are up to the job.
Michael McIntyre was dire. He couldn’t have been any more up a guest’s arse if he’d played the rear end of their pantomime horse.
It never occurred to McIntyre to ask Nigella about her divorce or public throttling. Instead he grilled her lightly about baking.
Old pros like Aspel, Parky and Wogan had the ability to ask pertinent questions, and listen to the answer – a quality woefully lacking today.
They got viewers by the million but were culled for being unhip.
TV bosses went through a period of thinking anyone could host a chat-show, a theory disproved by a succession of diabolical flops: Charlotte Church, Davina, Lilly Allen, Antony Cotton...
Brian Conley is a superb entertainer, but like most performers he was far too self-centred to care much about the person he was interviewing.
Clive Anderson was razor-sharp but too combative. Wossy has been reined in for years. Piers Morgan doesn’t want to open guests up so much as break them down in tears.
Wogan was witty but didn’t feel the need to upstage his bookings. Besides how could you out-banter Billy Connolly or Les Dawson?
If your guest is entertainment platinum, you let ’em talk. But if it’s some reality TV twerp on their 15th minute of undeserved fame then you really do need Alan Carr and his bar.
We still have brilliant stand-ups of course, but nowadays the entry level for celebrity is set way too low.
*MY Top 5 chat-show ding-dongs: Parky vs Emu, Des O’Connor vs Stan Boardman, Russell Harty vs Grace Jones, Bill Grundy vs the Sex Pistols, Joan Rivers vs Bernard Manning.
ON Celebrity Masterchef, Gregg Wallace praised Rylan’s grub for “tasting like a High Street takeaway” – because nothing says gourmet dining like a McDonald's Happy Meal...
In fairness Gregg would probably be happy with a Findus Crispy Pancake and a tin of spaghetti hoops as long as they came with cake.
At least Torode maintains the facade of food snobbery. He bigged up Masterchef’s last winner for “taking something quite ordinary and making it special”.
The ordinary being octopus, chorizo, squab pigeon and lemon posset...
Good cooks are as scarce as famous faces on the celeb version. Sheree Murphy didn’t even recognise pork. Their real skill is to serve up howlers.
Scott Maslen asked Sam Nixon (no idea): “Do you think my dumplings are too big?” Rylan was discussing ice cream when he exclaimed: “I’m so happy with my balls!” While India Fisher informed us: “Back in the red tent, Chesney is still filleting his John Dory”. A task best performed solo.
THE gap between how the BBC see themselves and reality is wider than Gemma Collins in a hall of mirrors.
They see quality, we see Wimbledon 2Day. They see ground-breaking documentaries, we see Britain At The Bookies (one long plug for Coral).
Most BBC1 drama output is over-blown soap, although we do get three episodes of Sherlock every couple of years and if we’re lucky one of them will be worth watching.
Throw in their shamelessly biased reporting, entertainment flops like Prized Apart, the lack of must-see Xmas comedy and is it any wonder the Beeb takes more caning than sixties schoolboys?
THEY’RE rude, sometimes crude and often childish but everyone from Barbara Windsor to Scott Mills seems to love my Garry’s Goofs. So I’ve brought out my all-time faves in a book called Innuendo Bonanza.
There’s Brian Moore talking about Dutch footballer Johan de Kock: “De Kock has come up for this one, this could cause a massive problem”.
Andrea McLean starting an all-male bike race on GMTV: “When I give you the horn, you have to go for it”.
And John Virgo on Ronnie O’Sullivan’s snooker skills: “Sometimes he follows through with such force he knocks the chalk out of his pockets”.
Philippa Forrester was cuddling a male astronaut for warmth during an eclipse when Michael Buerk announced: “They seem cold out there; they’re rubbing each other and he has come in his shorts”.
While Matt Baker was talking about Liverpool when he said: “No visit to the docks would be complete without a tug”.
My absolute fave was from Ulrika, back when she was a humble weathergirl: “I had a good eight inches last night”, she informed us. You can think she meant snowfall if you like...
HOT on TV: Camilla Shadbolt, Lookalikes... Witnesses... Danielle McCormack, Wentworth Prison... Lev Schriber, Ray Donovan (SkyAt).
ROT on TV: the Corrie siege... Gail Platt simpering... The Outcast – makes EastEnders look almost cheery... Sharknado 3 – Shark Weak... Hair – cut it!
IT was Jill’s turn to sample synth-sex on Humans. “Was that not pleasurable?” android Simon asked. “The angle of entry was optimised... ” The romantic robotic fool.
Later he told her estranged husband: “If you power me down now, Peter, I’ll be unable to penetrate your wife” (words which may or may not have been first quoted during the Andre/Price divorce case).
*WHY didn’t Croz, the Rolf Harris clone on Lookalikes, just dye his beard and go out as Colonel Sanders? He could still bang on about his extra leg (diddle-iddle-iddle-um).
*Z Nation isn't quite Zzzz Nation, but this gory zombie tale feels as stale as Saturday night telly.
*THE definition of optimism: adverts for yoga classes in Walford’s greasy spoon caff.
*RUSSELL Howard’s Good News? No he’s not.
SMALL Joys of TV: Rylan, Celebrity Masterchef. Ani’s group therapy sarcasm on True Detective. Hilariously rotten marching on Rookies, and Julia who makes it worth watching. When do they warn the new cops about the CPS?
RANDOM irritations: The BBC pretending they give a monkey’s toss about women’s cricket. Paul Mason’s inability to disguise his disappointment that the system hasn’t collapsed and left us eating our pets and scavenging the bins.
July 19. GOOD news! Selina Myer is no longer the US Vice President on Veep.
Bad news? They've made her President.
Yes, disaster-magnet Selina has bumbled her way to the Oval Office, which means that a totally inept clown is now running the USA (not for the first time).
It's like waking up to find the Chuckle Brothers in power here, or worse, John Prescott.
It also means that Veep's fourth series is faster and funnier than ever.
This savagely satirical comedy does for US politics what Netflix did for Blockbusters. It cuts through government cock-ups and cant like a chainsaw through blancmange.
Armando Iannucci, the man behind The Thick Of It, and his team pack the script with cracking lines. Like: "Mike trying to be healthy, it's like a potato trying to whistle".
Selina tells her PA: "Gary your inner child needs to grow an outer man". And says of meeting the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "I'm used to dealing with angry, dysfunctional men – i.e. men". While stressed-out Amy gasps: "I'm almost crying. I didn't know I could almost cry".
Brilliant Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the newly promoted Prez, who is officially the worst thing to happen to the country "since food in buckets or maybe slavery".
Naturally it all goes as well as Mr Bean directing traffic.
Selina's State of the Union address is accidentally sabotaged by her press secretary, leaving her facing a blank autocue. "There are no words... " she tells Congress, stalling desperately.
Money meant for an anti-poverty programme goes on a submarine project, "obsolete giant dildos" she moans.
Her daughter Catherine polls badly with voters so Meyer bullies her into abandoning an anti-bullying campaign...
At times the show's relentless drive can feel off-putting, but the quality of the writing wins you over. Colourful phrases such as "That goat's not going to scape itself", and "popped your cardiac cherry?" abound.
Best of all it feels possible, that the political class really could be this bungling, and that Selina's long-term vision might actually boil down to "Future, whatever."
Veep is a farce driven by anger. No-one does venom-spewing better than Iannucci, as Malcolm Tucker fans will recall.
My only complaint is: where is our equivalent for today's Britain?
The European Union is every bit as comically grotesque as US politics but its absurdities are rarely tackled or even noticed by UK broadcasters.
Most British "satirists" can't see the wood for trees.
"I AM the brand," Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen insisted on Cracking China. "I am the product". And what a product he is.
Who could resist the charms of a pretentious, puffed-up buffoon with an ego the size of Pluto?
Well me for starters, but how about the Chinese or the Mexicans? LLB said if he couldn't break his homeware products abroad he'd be forced to endure the horrors of I'm A Celebrity on ITV. Bless.
You might think a cockroach shampoo and set is the least he deserves after a career spent vandalizing houses the name of interior design.
But then again if the Chinese took to LLB we'd never have to suffer the big girl's blouse on telly again. It's a tough choice.
When he gave his Shanghai distributor a signed picture of himself, I made my mind up though.
Sure he's sending himself up to a degree but at heart his undeserved self-regard is terrifyingly real. Bring on the creepy-crawlies. Bring on the jungle slime.
*I ALWAYS thought Holby City's Elliot looked like a surgeon designed by Build-A-Bear. LLB is more like some bizarre cavalier/spaniel crossbreed.
The Mexicans looked like they'd rather spend time with Donald Trump. He's not so much El Chapo as El Crapo.
THERE'S a hint of Emma Peel about Marvel's Agent Carter. Strong, smart, glamorous and witty, the very English Peggy Carter is a joy to watch.
World War II has ended, and Peg (Hayley Atwell) is working for the Yanks' Strategic Scientific Reserve.
Job one was clearing Howard Stark (father of Iron Man Tony) who'd been falsely accused of flogging deadly weapons to hostiles.
It's 1946 so naturally most of the blokes she works with see women as bits of fluff, fit only for answering phones and filing.
Carter copes with deft put-downs, pursed lips and tongue biting, but finally loses it with a big-mouth bore who slags off his waitress.
Holding a fork to the creep's brachial artery, Peg helps persuade him that he should find somewhere new to eat... and tip generously.
There are other strong women in Marvel's ever-expanding comic book universe – Black Widow, Sue Storm, Jean Grey – but charismatic Agent Carter is the first to get her own series. Proper girl power.
HOT on TV: Hayley Atwell, Marvel's Agent Carter (Fox)... Ray Donovan (SkyAt)... Jess, Love Island... Veep (SkyAt)... Yonderland (Sky1).
ROT on TV: Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen – not a patch on Jim... Hive Minds (BBC4) – no buzz... pirate saga Black Sails – mostly arrrhhhhssse.
ON Humans, Laura threw Joe out for having sex with their synth Anita. It wasn't cheating, any more than her using a toy would have been. Anita's an android; a machine. But a machine that looks like Gemma Chan is bound to make any woman feel insecure.
Married synth-sex enthusiasts would be best advised to have a customised one made with their wife's face.
And keep their Gemma hidden in the loft, with their Big Mo punishment model, for special occasions.
Probably best not to enable the "screams-like-Sharapova" option.
TEARS on Dragons' Den? I'm not investing in that. Farnaz Khan welled up when her unoriginal shaping garments got the bum's rush.
"It all started with big knickers and Clingfilm", she said (which is also how RuPaul started).
The new dragons revitalise the show, especially modest Touker ("I like your energy, you remind me of myself"). But the repetitive editing and lack of risk-taking still irritate.
SMALL Joys of TV: Deirdre's funeral, Corrie. Joanna Lumley. Ollie Reed footage, The Interviews (Gold). Ted Danson in Bored To Death (SkyAt). Storyville: Last Days In Vietnam (BBC4). BoJack Horseman (Netflix).
RANDOM irritations: Sob stories on Dragons' Den. NBC cancelling Hannibal. Josh Widdecombe hyped as comedy's next big thing when all the lousy bum cares about are variety packs and home-made jam.
TV Maths. Harry Hill + Harry Enfield = Touker Suleyman.
July 12. The couples on Love Island were playing a Kama Sutra game when Zoe snapped. "I've gone too far," the toothy model said, before fleeing in floods of tears. "My Dad's going to be so ashamed... "
Fair enough you'd think, except this was the same Zoe who had sex on the show with tattooed hunk Jordan Ring just days before...
Call me old-fashioned, but isn't that slightly more likely to embarrass her family than acting out positions from the famous Hindu shagging manual fully clothed?
Later she moaned that Jordan, AKA The Hulk, "didn't stick up for me once", although the very next night she gave him bedtime relief, so he must have done at least twice... The shy and retiring church-going blonde then told the other women "I just gave Hulk a hand-job", sparking a discussion about technique which was quite funny in spurts.
It could be her specialist subject on Mastermind – talk about "I've started so I'll finish". (Apparently the secret is in the twist, and if you go bust you lose quickly. Or is that blackjack?)
It must be a source of great pride for her Dad. "That's my girl, she won't fake the Reverse Cowgirl, but when it comes to taking matters into her own hands... "
The tanned contenders coupled up for one last time last week, which left newcomers Ben and Poppy suffering from premature evacuation.
Love Island is basically Big Brother on a beach (but more fun). And okay it might be crass to get groped in the Balearics on camera, but it's still less dodgy than appearing on C4's Married At First Sight.
Their experts paired up strangers on the basis of shape, DNA, psychology etc. (Didn't the Nazis try that?)
Couples meet at the aisle, tie the knot, and then give it five weeks. Odd, yes, but some women will do anything for cake.
It made a mockery of the traditional way of marrying a stranger – legless in Las Vegas.
The big question was: would the newly-weds shag on the night? "For some it would be a slow burn," we were told. Mercifully there are clinics for that.
*IF you marry this fast do you get the seven day itch?
*THAT Karma Sutra game would have been much funnier if ITV2 had thrown in made-up positions to baffle them. The Bridge is one thing but how about the Grexit (a slow, painful withdrawal)? Or the Skinny Cheryl (beautiful and virtually weightless, but there's a strong chance something might snap at any given moment).
PETER 'Ginger' Baker could never be mistaken for a ray of sunshine. Cranky and cantankerous, the legendary drummer once slashed at bassist Jack Bruce with a knife for playing during his solo.
Ginger took exception to the people "dickhead" director Jay Bulger was interviewing for Beware Of Mr Baker and whacked him on the hooter with his cane.
But Bulger's gripping film did the ill-tempered south Londoner justice.
Jazzman Baker was the greatest drummer ever to perform on a rock stage. Off-stage, he was in Eric Clapton's words "seriously anti-social".
Catapulted to stardom with Cream, Ginger has lived an extraordinary life spanning heroin, four marriages, three kids, hookers, groupies, polo ponies, and an abiding love of African rhythms.
He had little time for his contemporaries. John Bonham "couldn't swing a sack of shit", he growled. The Stones were "not good musicians", Jagger is dismissed as "effeminate...a stupid ****"... Not a nice bloke, but a genuine superstar.
VIRGIN Atlantic: Up In The Air didn't mention the hidden perks of being a trolley dolly – landing someone rich and famous.
Danielle Bux bagged Gary Lineker, Kayte Walsh copped Kelsey Grammar... it sure makes the £12,500 per year starting salary look sweeter.
Even I got banged by a Virgin stewardess once; my knee, her drinks trolley...
ITV's trainee flight attendants were likeable enough, but the documentary was a lazy clone of BBC2's BA doc. It needed more turbulence, more insight, more Branson.
Company finances were largely swerved. Understandable – last year Richard must have been giving sick-bags to his shareholders.
Still, those £200K bogs in Upper Class looked comfy and roomy. They must give you plenty to think about when you're mile high.
HOT on TV: Emily Berrington as Niska, Humans... Beware Of Mr Baker... Jess, Love Island... A Song For Jenny... Sons Of Anarchy (Netflix)
ROT on TV: Evan Davis – heaven help Newsnight... dog-kicking toe-rag Jay on Benefits By The Sea... Man Down – as funny as thrush.
ON Humans, Joe succumbed to temptation and had sex with his android house-maid Anita. Urgh. Imagine getting intimate with a cold, unfeeling machine. It'd be like going to bed with Anna Soubry.
Anita is very lifelike. She has synthetic breasts, like most women on reality TV. She's also capable of holding life-like conversations and expressing opinions, but as Tim Hunt might say there must be a switch to turn that off.
*THE Jeremy Kyle Show started ten whole years ago. So teenagers on that first edition are probably grandparents now. Or just getting out of jail...
*MAD Jean had gardening-themed wedding vows on EastEnders, telling hubby Ollie "I sprinkle your seeds with love" – a line that prompted the unsettling and previously unheard sound of Shirley Carter laughing.
At least Jean won't have to face the fuchsia all alone. (© Benny Hill).
*WALFORD mysteries: Was gardener Ollie the first man to stimulate Jean's clematis? What could Stacey's secret key possibly open? We know it's not her chastity belt. And where's Sean Slater anyway? I reckon he's hiding in plain sight in the one place no-one in Britain will ever see him – on the Victoria Derbyshire Show.
*GRAVEL-throated Deirdre Barlow started her last day singing in the shower, a scene Harry Hill would probably have recreated with an over-dubbed blast of Satchmo...
The only positive from her death is Corrie might now dust off sex-god Ken for one last fling. Brace yourself Audrey.
R.I.P. Anne Kirkbride who made Deirdre such a classic character.
SMALL Joys of TV: Les Dawson clips (The Interviews). Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin's car-wash routine (Family Guy). UnREAL. The Autistic Gardener. China From Above (Nat Geo). Idris Elba: No Limits.
RANDOM irritations: The Ashes pre-match "entertainment". Hannah's voice (Love Island). Simon Cowell cancelling X Factor auditions; I'm sorry for his loss but whatever happened to "the show must go on"?
CAROL'S split with demented lesbian boss Helen on Episodes left their TV network office feeling "like Frozen without the songs".
The series finale's spoof gameshow – contenders spending 17 weeks in a box – seemed worryingly possible. Touch The Truck was real and far worse.
SEPARATED at birth: Mason Thornhill (Vicious) and Carl from Up? One bitter and cranky, but essentially lovable; and Mason? Well, two out of three ain't bad.
July 5. Ronnie Corbett was a barman when Ronnie Barker first met him in a London pub. "The bar was deserted", Barker recalled. "There was no-one in there at all. And I heard this voice say 'Yes?'
"I looked over the counter and there he was... standing on a box."
The Hobbit-sized Corbett told similar gags about himself: "I spent the first two years of my life on a charm bracelet... I was a lumberjack on a mushroom farm...
"I'm the only UK citizen with a full-length photo in their passport."
Despite Corbett's lack of inches, the Two Ronnies were true giants of British comedy. Gold's The Interviews allowed them to tell their story in their own words via chat-show clips intercut with their greatest moments.
There was the immortal Four Candles sketch, classic lines from Porridge, and spoof news items such as:
"The search for the man who terrorises nudist camps with a bacon slicer goes on. Inspector Lemuel Jones had a tip-off this morning but hopes to be back on duty tomorrow."
Like Kenneth Williams the week before, the show was a feast of nostalgic fun, all the better for letting the stars speak for themselves.
Shy middle class Ronnie Barker was a terrific character actor and a superb comedy writer, a master of wordplay, puns and cross chat. He and Corbett were grammar school-boys thrown together in the Oxbridge-dominated BBC.
Despite dragging up for TV, both disliked wearing women's clothes and preferred innuendo over crudely explicit gags – "they go over my head", Corbett joked.
The Ronnies didn't travel as well as Benny Hill, although they did make a series for Aussie TV. But their clever patter made them second only to Morecambe & Wise in viewers' affections.
Will Gold now do the same service for Benny, who has been unfairly stigmatised by PC prudes? Let's hope so. Hill's comedy was also sautéed in seaside postcard sauce, mixing wordplay with slapstick, song, mime and parodies. In the meantime, it's the immortal Les Dawson this Wednesday.
*RONNIE C: "Tomorrow we'll be talking to women who like Nicholas Parsons." Ronnie B: "And also to a parson who likes knickerless women".
AH Wimbledon. The tension, the skill, the innuendos... cue big weapons, meaty balls and "tremendous penetration".
Granted there's too much swearing, but that's largely from outraged viewers saying "Have you seen this f***ing Wimbledon 2Day crap?"
BBC2's new highlights show is woefully short of the one thing fans want: action.
Only half the programme is actual tennis play, the rest is Clare Balding chatting awkwardly to guests in what looks like a cheaply assembled Ideal Homes garden stand.
The first edition was more panned than sea-bass, so for show two they had a big innovation, they let the Balding and co sit down.
I only tuned back in the hope she might goad John McEnroe into an explosive rage with her inane questions. Balding is a great broadcaster but she's no Graham Norton.
FUNNIEST Wimbledon 2Day moment? When McEnroe told Clare:
"It doesn't hurt as much when it goes in, I can promise you that." Let's
Hope he was talking tennis shots.
*MY all-time favourite Wimbledon commentary howler came from Martina Navratilova. Angered by a ringing mobile phone, Martina snapped: "Haven't these people ever heard of vibrators?"
WOULD it have hurt to make the last-ever Top Gear more of an event? We just got Hammond and May in an empty studio. There were no guests and no audience... Just a giant elephant to represent absent bad boy Jezza (the show's best gag, and also their fattest booking since James Corden).
"Hello and welcome to what's left of Top Gear," said mournfully Richard before introducing two so-so new films.
Clarkson was as smart, grumpy and opinionated as ever. "Why are we even doing this?" he moaned when asked about road-testing classic cars like the "absolutely horrible" Fiat Spider.
"Nobody buys a classic television. They don't say 'You have to bang it on the top to make the picture work, you have to get up to change the channel... ', so why buy a classic car?"
I'm not saying BBC2 should have had Clarkson in a denim mankini chortling through a Top Ten of his most offensive moments (although that would've been more fun).
But why cobble together such a half-baked send-off for a show that made the Beeb so much money? They can't be that peed off with Jezza, they offered him his job back.
HOT on TV: Zawe Ashton and Sacha Dhawen, Not Safe For Work... Anna Friel, Odyssey... the Jonathan Strange &Mr Norrell finale – spell-binding.
ROT on TV: Kanye West – all the charm of a "log-jammed" Glastonbury portaloo... Wimbledon 2Day – more faults than Djokovic... Child Genius – child cruelty.
*SHIRLEY Carter said of grand-daughter Jade "I'd like to know what books she likes to read." Hold up, you cry, when has Shirley ever read a book? Well, I can tell you. Shirl's secret Walford library includes: Livers & How To Punish Them, 101 Ways To Abandon Your Kids, and her own self-published autobiography, I Am Zelda – Feel My Pain (A Terrahawk's Tale).
*NEXT on EastEnders – Lee is depressed. Of course he is, he's in EastEnders.
SO a return bout for Gail and Eileen on Corrie, a catch-weight contest obviously. It started with Gail (a "sour-faced little shrew") bombarding her hefty opponent with beauty products in mum Audrey's salon, and ended with them grappling on the cobbles.
At one point Eileen tried to chin her but couldn't find it. And okay Carla vs Michelle in a vat of mud would have been more fun. But you had to grin at Eileen wearing a washing basket as a protective headgear.
Gail should go for a paper bag or two. Not for fighting, just whenever she's out in public.
*THINGS are hotting up on Falling Skies. The human resistance have taken out the Esphenis war-ship, and our boys in the 2nd Mass mowed down a shed-load of alien skitters in a gymnasium.
I haven't seen that kind of carnage in a gym since the USA basketball team smashed Nigeria at 2012 Olympics.
*DONALD Trump's been sacked from Celebrity Apprentice but his hair will be back on TV just as soon as BBC1 re-commission Pets Win Prizes.
*I HEAR the Danczuks' big love split made the TV news. That sounds like a selfie too far.
SMALL Joys of TV: Charley Uchea's denim hot-pants (Big Brother). Spitfire – The Birth Of A Legend (PBS). Rock 'n' Roll America (BBC4). Kylie Olsson, Download (Sky Arts). Christopher Lee Night (Horror).
RANDOM irritations: the BBC's uncritical Glasto overkill. TV conspiracy shows swerving anything of genuine importance. Corrie's Julie Carp (apt anagram) storyline.
SEPARATED at birth: the old Ben Mitchell and a Minion? One a peculiar yellow creature who served evil... so is the other one.