BUSHELL ON THE BOX
July 31. Celebrity Big Brother is back with an exciting new twist on their old format. For the first time ever more than half the house are completely unrecognisable. How could Emma Willis say the words "Fifteen famous faces" without blushing? C5 have created something entirely fresh here – the celebrity-nonentity, or Con-entity.
There are only five housemates most viewers would know: Sam Fox, Fat-Boy from DeadEnders, megagob Saira "Loose Women" Khan, James Whale if you have a long memory and Christopher Biggins. The rest are a desperate mishmash of reality wannabes, X Factor rejects, minor pop lightweights and Heavy D from Storage Hunters. I waited in vain for Sir Killalot from Robot Wars to turn up and pick off the stragglers.
The most slappable of them is squeaky nuisance Frankie Grande, who is said to be Ariana's brother but looks suspiciously like the android offspring of Max Headroom and Jedward. The self-styled "YouTube sensation" reckons he's a consummate entertainer, a claim that will be severely tested in the coming weeks. Then there's Grant Bovey from the yet to be commissioned Spouses of the Formerly Famous, and Bear from Ex On The Beach who believes the world is flat – his world will be if he upsets Renee, the Mafia missus.
TV is in serious danger of exhausting the available supply of recognisable celebs. The crisis is so severe half the people on Celebrity Mastermind lack their own Wikipedia page. Celeb MasterChef was reduced to hiring David Harper, who is barely famous enough to attract autograph hunters at a family reunion and who admitted his culinary skills stretched to "porridge and basic sandwiches" thus subverting the show's entire reason for being. CBB's bookings failure is magnified when we remember that previous series included Gary Busey, Jim Davidson, Jack Dee, Brigitte Nielsen, Barrymore, George Galloway and Germaine Greer... All a tad more renowned than Katie bloody Waissel, wouldn't you say? There are normal BB contestants who are better known than most of these numpties. An all-YouTuber series shown only on YouTube would be a bigger draw. *MOST likely to be first out: Chloe Khan and James Whale.
Most likely to mate: bisexual Geordie Marnie Simpson and Towie's testosterone-fuelled Lewis Bloor. Most likely to win: Biggins, a man who has turned a small part in a great sitcom and a talent for being a bit camp into a life-long career.
WHAT other titles did Channel 4 consider before deciding on Naked Attraction? Bell-Enders perhaps, or It's A Cock-Out? Possibly Spear Factor, Privates On Parade, Have I Got Nudes For You... They certainly won't have contemplated the truest one: Shameless Barrel-Scrapping. Sure it's faintly funny to see C4, once so prudish that they banned Carry On films, reducing cocksure nitwits to lumps of meat. But the show was balls-achingly dull. Talk about a slow nudes day! At least Naked Jungle had an assault course. You expect more (or perhaps less) from the makers of Dogging Tales. How about celebrity version with Chris Evans and Jo Brand? Or one featuring the over-80s? They could do a hidden camera interview show: Blow-Job Or No Job. Or Dale Winton's Glory Holes In The Wall. There's no bottom to this barrel. Alternatively they could always get back to their remit and concentrate on making innovative high-quality programmes that don't insult our intelligence... Too hard? You'd get thrown off Naked Attraction for that.
*GIVEN C4's current mindset it's a mercy Alan Carr's Grease Night was just about the musical.
*MATTY had an intimate elephant ears tattoo to enhance his manhood, will Cheggers go for the full field mouse?
*FANCY having to choose which penises to broadcast. The producers must go through thick and thin.
YOU can't get mugged down Memory Lane, they say, and yet the BBC's latest retro-pop documentaries fleeced us all. Their Arena special on 1966 swerved the year's big cultural news – the World Cup, Bet Lynch joining Corrie, Alf Garnett – to concentrate on LSD, Vietnam and obscure art movies. Surprisingly Danny Baker's People's History Of Pop was also more off-target than Ronnie Rosenthal's '92 open goal miss against Villa. The ever-engaging Dan made the case for 1966 to '76 as popular music's greatest decade. His anecdotes tickled the ribs but he clearly didn't write the script. The show covered glam but swerved Slade, Sweet and Wizzard. We got Black Sabbath but not Led Zep, Queen or Purple, Northern Soul but not Motown, Stax or skinhead reggae. And where were Creedence? An equally strong case could be made for 1976 to '86: The Jam, The Clash, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Iron Maiden, Madness, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, 2-Tone, Ian Dury, Dexys, Def Leppard, New Order, New Romantics, U2, Wacko Jacko... How could soul-loving Dan snub the years that gave us Boogie Wonderland, Celebration and Never Too Much?
HOT on TV: World's Strongest Man final... Phoebe Waller-Bridge... The Somme: 1916.
ROT on TV: Alan Carr's Grease Night – the worst Carr crash since The Singer Takes It All... Grant Bovey – why?...Naked Attraction – Embarrassing Nobodies.
WHAT'S going on in The Living & The Dead? We're in 1894 Somerset, yet Nathan keeps seeing car headlights and a mysterious brunette with an iPad. So is the 19th century ghost-hunter actually a ghost in that modern woman's time? Or are they somewhere where the past and future exist simultaneously, like the Isle of Wight? Cromwell's roundheads have just turned up. Maybe they're all dead and stranded in some space-time purgatory. All I know for certain is that if the finale doesn't explain everything I shall track down writer Ashley Pharaoh and beat him around the head with a rolled up copy of Nigel Kneale's The Road script.
*DIRTY Den star Leslie Grantham has written a children's novel. Given his mucky internet activities, will he be going on a book-staining tour?
*RICKY Mitchell is so bloody glum... the kid's a Walford natural.
*THEY had a sex dungeon on Vikings. 50 Shades of Freyr?
SMALL Joys of TV: Brendan O'Carroll as Mrs Brown. Amazing Spaces Shed Of The Year. Strangest Bird Alive (surprisingly an ostrich, and not Eileen Daly). Helen Skelton mud-wrestling on Countryfile. Robot Wars. Saddam Goes To Hollywood.
RANDOM irritations: Gregg Wallace getting worked up over cornflakes. Dragons' Den installing a naff sub-Gogglebox "reaction room". BBC News persisting with the tedious "so-called Islamic State" line. Drippy hippies re-writing pop history.
SEPARATED at birth: Greg Davies in Man Down and Judge Doom from Who Killed Roger Rabbit? One a hopeless loser doomed to fail... and you're way ahead of me.
TV questions: after Naked Attraction will Take Me Out now do their own adult version, Take It Out & Shake It All About? Sam and Alex were evicted during Big Bro's Carnival task; can't they sue for funfair dismissal?
GOOF of the month from Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi who was talking about England's bowling when he claimed: "You can't control tossers".
July 24. What do we want from a spy drama? Action, suspense, intrigue, a gripping plot, sexual chemistry... Everything The Secret Agent lacks. Bowler-hatted anti-hero Anton Verloc looks more like a grumpy version of Fred the Homepride flour man than a villainous double agent. The story was inspired by a real-life attempt to blow up the Royal Observatory in 1894. Verloc runs a seedy Soho shop selling the Victorian equivalent of porn, sort of The Mucky Pictures of Dorian Gray, and despises his posh clientele as much as he does his mother-in-law. He's an anarchist and an informer, taking Russian roubles to pass on his comrades' plans, which don't appear to include having baths any time soon.
Unfortunately his arrogant new handler, Vladimir wants to up the ante. "England is in need of a jolly good scare," Vlad sneers. "To summon the country from its slumber... " Either Verloc's mob bomb the Observatory in Greenwich Park or, he says, the Ruskies will cut off his cash. Now Verloc's bollocksed. He needs Russian dosh like the script needs Russian doping, to hang on to Winnie, his much younger missus. But when he suggests direct action, his fellow plotters bottle it. Verloc is left with just one accomplice – the Professor, a failed lab technician who wanders around in a coat packed with explosives.
It sounds exciting but it isn't. The story, based on a Joseph Conrad novel, unfolds so slowly it could have been scripted by Chilcot. Our green, green grass feigns interest in Winnie's backwards brother Stevie who will doubtless be conned into taking part. The poor kid is so simple you could distract him from anything just by throwing a stick.
Can the British Peelers foil the dastardly plot? It doesn't look promising. Chief Inspector Heat is the nearest this show has to a hero yet when Heat discovers the Prof is a walking kill-zone, he does sod-all about it.
The strangest thing about this snoozy tale is that it's been made for TV at least three times before and filmed twice. It's become a kneejerk cultural reaction to the actual terrorism of the IRA, the Angry Brigade, and now Islamic State. Yet none of the adaptations have been much cop, largely because the novel is more an irony-heavy character study than a thriller.
*BEST-selling books in Verloc's Victorian filth emporium (probably): Moby's Dick, Madame's Ovaries, Jude The Obscene, Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde, Back Passage To India, The Adventures of Huckleberry Sin...
HENRY Palmer is The Rebel, an ex-Mod slightly off his rocker. Henry, 70, hates hipsters, bankers, soft cops and other PC nuisances. His mission in life is to kick the modern world right up its decadent posterior. On paper he looks promising, the grumpiest sitcom codger since Victor Meldrew. Unfortunately Gold have completely forgotten to make him funny. Widower Henry is a rebel without wit, and without a shred of cred. It'd be easier to believe the dope-smoking middle class grouch was an ex-hippy than a one-time beach-fighting tearaway. Episode one begins with Henry (Simon Callow) clenching an angry fist to the soothing sounds of Pink Floyd. His "rebellion" boils down to rudeness and vandalism. He sets an ATM machine ablaze, rams a shopping trolley through a supermarket window and slaps a wet cop about with a teddy bear. All the characters are as badly drawn as Lucian Freud's portrait on Fake Or Fortune. Finally in court, the beak recognises Henry from their posh school and lets him off on the grounds he's "suffering from depression"... exactly the kind of modern toss he should be rebelling against.
THE only reason to watch Eden is in hope that they'll turn on each other, Lord Of The Flies style. 23 dopes, including four imbedded cameramen, have been dumped in the Highlands where they must survive for a year through the harsh realities of winter, savage midges and stray SNP canvassers. There's a plumber, a cook, a life coach (?!?) etc. They all seem a bit dull except for "adventurer" Anton who is borderline bonkers and clearly thinks the rest of them are nitwits. As it happens he was right; building a solid shelter obviously did matter more than getting smashed on potato hooch. But Anton's temper, stubbornness and whiny diatribes show how rival tribes develop. Within weeks he'd built his own shelter, they nicked his grub... In earlier times war would surely follow, but so far the biggest drama was them slaughtering a pig for food (Is a bacon sarnie only okay if you don't know how it died?). A goat copped it too because the idiots forgot to fence off the chicken feed. If all else fails they could always eat the life coach.
*ROBERT the animal doctor copped off with Jasmine, the unfeasibly attractive yoga instructor. That shouldn't happen to a vet... Do vets do it doggy style, I wonder? On Love Island we'd have seen.
HOT on TV: Rami Malek, Mr Robot (Universal)... Danny Baker... People Just Do Nothing... Vikings (Lifetime)... The Late Late Show (Sky1).
ROT on TV: The Secret Agent – a load of old Verlocs... Jolyon Rubinstein – Dennis Pennis with a degree... Brexageddon – satire fail.
THEY'RE having trouble finding hits from 1982 for ITV's sex-toy themed Brief Encounters. How about: Hurts So Good, Up Where We Belong and Come On Eileen? Clarification: that "Mr Bushell" who was refusing to give Penelope meat without payment last week is nothing to do with me! My offer of free sausage to Sophie Rundle still stands.
*I'M no fan of Alastair Campbell but it's hard to top his verdict on BBC "satirist" Heydon Prowse: "Hey sunshine, you're a tosser".
*NEXT on Long Lost Family, tears of joy as Corrie's Michelle finally remembers she has a son.
*ON EastEnders Whitney told Lee "Not everything has to be negative". Has the poor girl has forgotten where she is? Walford's the one place even Pokémon won't Go.
*THE Joy Of Data? Too much information.
SMALL Joys of TV: Stevie Wonder on James Corden's Carpool Karaoke Special. Jon Voight, Ray Donovan. Fleabag. Friday Night Dinner. Keith Richards: The Origin Of The Species. BBC4's Sinatra doc.
RANDOM irritations: ITV screening the first two parts of the Hobbit trilogy and then switching to Spider-Man last night (see also their habit of cutting to ad-breaks halfway through battle scenes).
FATHER & Secret Son: Michael McIntyre and Child Genius contestant Mog? One bright, posh and slightly irritating... the other's a kid.
*SADDAM goes to Hollywood on C4 tonight. Was he after weapons of mass distraction?
For a chance to win season two of Gomorrah on DVD, see today's soar-away Daily Star Sunday.
JULY 17. It's hard to remember a livelier month in British politics. We've had backstabbing, betrayal, Brexit, a Tory Prime Minister toppled and Labour pulling itself apart like a suicidal Pillsbury Doughboy. For satirists, it must be like winning the Lotto jackpot straight after the Pools come up. So where are all the jokes? TV comics should be churning them out faster than Long Lost Family generates tears. Yet after the latest tumultuous week, all Mock The Week managed was a feeble claim that Andrea Leadsom was Grayson Perry. Oh, and then Dara called her Angela Lansbury. (They didn't mention Angela Eagle's deserted press conference, so he missed the chance to mistake her for Anna Neagle.)
The first Mock after the Referendum nailed the BBC2 comedians' colours to the mast. Their targets weren't the establishment or corrupt Brussels powerbrokers, but Brexit supporters and campaigners. "Older voters should avoid stairs," warned Zoe Lyons menacingly. A week later, another allegedly topical comedian called Boris Johnson a "pr*ck". Well he might be, but that's neither funny nor insightful.
The hungry caterpillar that was British TV satire has defied the laws of nature by morphing into a dull-witted slug. The fearless tradition started by TW3 and carried on by Spitting Image and Bremner, Bird & Fortune has shuffled off sideways into oblivion, much like Stephen Crabb. BBC execs only want comics who share their prejudices. Hence the current crop of play-safe, middle class right-on stand-ups indulging in what Andrew Lawrence called "moronic liberal backslapping". So UKIP cops it, Sinn Fein doesn't. Have I Got A Clapped-Out Format For You savages Nigel Farage but gives the equally controversial Diane Abbot an easy ride.
Channel 4's limp The Last Leg is even more one-sided, putting Corbyn on a glittering pedestal while he presides over Labour's irreversible decline. An anarchic modern version of Spitting Image might paint Jezza as the captain of a ship he'd just holed who won't accept that it's sinking. Theresa May would be an all-grey version of Maggie who tears off her mask in private to reveal the even greyer face of... John Major. But there is no Spitting Image, and no broadcaster with the guts to make it. Peter Kosminsky recently claimed the BBC's point was to "speak truth to power". But the BBC is part of the power – who speaks truth to them?
THERE were blokes who paid women to knock 'em about a bit on Kinky Britain. Tsk. My ex sister-in-law would have done that for nothing. Corrie's Kirsty could be quids in. Angelo shelled out for a humiliation session with a female wrestler; presumably the dog lock followed by a slow, painful stretch plum. It's probably extra for the pump-handle and Big Splash... Was he rope hung, you ask? More like a piece of string, I'm guessing. Giant women are a big turn-on for some men, so at least Sharapova will still have a fan club when her fame dries up. Other obscure kinks involved Haribo bears, cheese and balloons, which sounds like a MasterChef invention test gone wrong (though Gregg Wallace would still scoff it). I get why lollipops and ice cream work, who'd turn down a mouth-watering Mivvi? But some fetishes are so bizarre you suspect someone's making this stuff up to hoodwink gullible C4 commissioners. Yes I do mean you, Human Pups. Bad dog, in your bed.
*HOW did geeky fetish filmmaker Hywel pull sexy blonde submissive Joceline? Was it a chain or a lead?
ON My Worst Job, Bill Bailey revealed he'd once got sacked for refusing to wear a tie. How steeplejacks, trawlermen and those lightweights in the emergency services must feel for the poor love. This was lazy TV, riddled with lacklustre talking heads who'd mostly worked in telesales or offices. If C4 had looked beyond the usual mob of two-bob rent-a-gobs – fashionable comics and over-rated actors – they might have found celebs with decent anecdotes. Ozzy Osbourne worked in a slaughterhouse. Billy Connolly was a boilermaker, Sean Connery a milkman and Bobby Ball a welder... At least two BBC faces are former rent-boys. Luckily for them they didn't have to go through The Job Interview. "I see you have an extremely glowing reference here from the head of the Co-Op... "
*AT 15, a careers adviser asked comedian Ellie Taylor "Do you like working with wood?" Tsk. Jimmy Savile got everywhere back then.
HOT on TV: Jennifer Lopez & Ray Liotta, Shades Of Blue (Sky Living)... Mr Robot (AmPrime)... Andy Murray... Jack P. Shepherd (Corrie).
ROT on TV: Trainspotting Live – plain loco... Child Genius – child cruelty... Evan Davis – even worse on Newsnight... Euro 2016 final – the poorest finish to a major contest since Leadsom quit.
THE EastEnders writers keep doing for continuity what The Question Jury does for faith in the British justice system. Lauren is suddenly a web designer; Paul and Ben are undertakers (no training required, apparently) while Paul's Mum looks so much like him she could be his transsexual future self. Naturally he didn't clock it.
*SHIRL'S new hair-do is half-Maggie, half-Terminator and all-scary. There's probably a fetish club for that.
*ANYONE else think "Pokémon Go" is what Jamaicans would shout at Walford's randy nitwit Lee Carter?
*TRAGIC scenes on Corrie, Craig completely wasted that kebab. Kylie's end was heart-breaking of course, but at least it means we'll get Psycho David back...
*SHAME Len Goodman is leaving Strictly. Who can we rely on now to supply Oksana with a well-deserved "seven"?
*TIME is an illusion, according to Brian Cox. Especially Question Time.
SMALL Joys of TV: Steven Berkoff, Man Down. The Vikings attack on Paris. Long Lost Family. Captain Beefheart, Old Grey Whistle Test: 70s Gold. Lateysha's post-eviction wardrobe malfunction. Oz re-runs. The Out-Laws. People Just Do Nothing.
RANDOM irritations: Big Brother's Annihilation Week failing to involve hungry tigers or enraged Spanish bulls. Tennis commentators who never shut the feck up. The BBC's bizarre belief that we need 90minute episodes of semi-Celebrity MasterChef.
SEPARATED at birth: Varys, Game Of Thrones and Buster Briggs? One's a scheming eunuch; the other is likely to end up that way...
TV questions: does Lateysha leaving Big Brother count as a double eviction? Isn't Trainspotting Live what Southern Rail commuters are forced to do week in, week out? Why did MasterChef book Laila Morse to cook steak when Kara Tointon has the perfect rump?
*A FAN of Victoria Coren once penned a filthy fantasy about her with the rude bits written in Latin. Or as Up Pompeii might say: rumpo, nymphe, cum boobus maximus.
*A KINKY reader wrote to me asking if I'd bed his missus and "review her". I was absolutely appalled. He didn't even send a photo.
TV Maths: Syd Little + Stan Hardman (Nearest & Dearest) = Theresa May's husband Philip.
July 10. What was Sam Mitchell wearing for Peggy's funeral on EastEnders? Some people have morning breath, Sam had mourning breasts. Her blouse plunged lower than Top Gear's ratings. Aunt Sal was far more respectful. She came as Andy from Little Britain...
Monday's sad, end-of-an-earache Pegxit episode began with great dignity. Ray Davies sang Days, the traditional black funeral cart-horses appeared and the Vic was blitzed with pictures of the pint-sized publican in happier times, largely before this sorry soap existed. Dot drew her curtains out of respect and Patrick took off his titfer as the hearse passed, as men always used to do. Even Poxy Roxy wore black drawers.
Steve McFadden excelled as Phil, swinging from grief – walking out of the church rather than finish his Mum's eulogy – to relief when he learnt that Peg had saved him from his violent dad by grassing him up. Except this dramatic twist was nonsense on a stinky stick. At the start, both bruvs loved their old man. As with grandad Jim, the abusive father back-story was back-dated as an after-thought to crank up the misery. Besides, it's hard to see how the writers can persist with this "Mitchells never grass" toffee when Phil ratted on his own son last year, and has been tipping off "the Filth" about rivals for donkeys' years.
There were nice touches. Like Phil quoting Peggy's "Get out of my pub" line in the Vic, and the director cutting to Sid James's voice on Kathy's TV set. Talk about Carry On Croaking. But the episode seemed strangely undercooked. We only caught a brief glimpse of a tearful Grunt loitering in some bushes; he didn't interact with anyone, presumably because his appearance was filmed weeks before the rest of it. Albert Square is supposed to fester somewhere near the Blackwall Tunnel, yet that cemetery was surrounded in leafy Buckinghamshire greenery clearly miles from the inner city. The Cockney songs at Peggy's wake grounded the show in real London culture, but by Tuesday it was back to fantasyland with Looney-Tunes Gavin taking Kathy hostage and chasing his sister to her death. Ho hum. Isn't it time they tried something more believable like alien abduction or Dot Branning, table dancer? All together: "Get yer fags out, get yer fags out, get yer fags out for the lads... "
*THOSE Peggy Mitchell highlights in full: 1) Successful head transplant (1994) 2) Beds Elephant Man Harry Slater (2002) 3) Orders Archie's assassination, completely out of character (2009) 4) Develops undiagnosed dementia – why else would Clean Up Walford campaigner Peg think Fat Pat, the ex-brothel madam who wrecked her marriage, was her best pal?
"ALLOW me to introduce... The Stallion," said Steph as she produced a vibrator the size of an angle grinder on Brief Encounters. "Is that a food blender?" asked Bunny. Blend food? It could shatter concrete... It's Sheffield, 1982. The recession is biting and men are being laid off, but instead of blokes stripping the women start flogging Ann Summers gear. It's not so much The Full Monty as The Droll Panties. Like most oestrogen-driven dramas, the fellas are feckless, selfish, or otherwise useless. Hard-up Steph cleans for Pauline, the butcher's neglected wife whose idea of fun is knitting tea cosies in the shape of macramé owls. It doesn't take much to persuade her to host a saucy party. Stuffy councillor's wife Bunny Matlock is horrified – Bunny rejects rabbit, shocker – but Steph's wares get the other old birds buzzing. Her husband thinks selling sex-toys makes her a hooker (Dildo Slaggins, perhaps), and hooks up with his best mate's missus. It's quite a business though. And if Steph builds it, they will come.
*BLUE Peter bring-and-buy sales and Vauxhall Cavaliers get the period right, but the soundtrack jumps about (Vienna 1980, Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey '81... ); the fashions look 70s and the morals seem more 1950s.
*THE best marital aids? Ear-plugs.
EVER fancied dating a celebrity? Or even Richard Blackwood? John, 68, was surprised to meet a woman who looked "extraordinarily like Esther Rantzen" in the First Dates restaurant. Sadly the Irish lawyer blew his chance of showing her his oddly shaped vegetable when he told Rancid, 75, she was "splendid company... for a lady of your advancing years." Whoops, but hey John, that's life. Do we need Celebrity First Dates? The original works because it's guileless. Most celebs are only here for screen time. Towie's Jessica Wright, who had a book to plug, never let her guard down once. When date Tom revealed his love of narrow boats you knew The Only Way Was Elbowed. Why isn't bright, beautiful Miss Wright already somebody's Miss Right? Is she too high maintenance? Or is she just saving herself for Hiddle-Swift style media "romance"? Blackwood's clueless encounter was as doomed as Kylie Platt, he got his date's name wrong twice. Celebrity Sex Box would be more insightful. I reckon Rachel Riley has mathematical sex – subtract clothes, divide legs, add lover and multiply. I'd settle for a night on the holodeck with Seven Of Nine.
HOT on TV: The Living & The Dead... Justified (Spike)... Ray Donovan (Sky Atlantic)...19-2 (Spike).
ROT on TV: Life Stripped Bare – bunch of arse... Charlie Doherty (Big Brother) – more OTT than Zaza's penalty... Lorenzo Richelmy, Marco Polo (Netflix)... Boy Meets Girl – sitcom with a silent "h".
HERE'S something Brian Cox never tells us – what has his agent got on the boss of the BBC travel budget? In the first episode of Forces Of Nature, the Prof visited Nepal, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Florida and Canada. The furthest Patrick Moore ever got was Nottingham for Celebrity Squares. Cox is the Judith Chalmers of science now. And although it made great spectacle you wondered if his jet-setting was strictly necessary. Gravity still works in Grimsby and honeybee hives are just as hexagonal in Hextable.
*LOVE how Dev's voice shot up octaves when he woke up with Mary on Corrie. If he'd come to with Rita only dogs and Joe Pasquale would've heard him.
*GEMMA Collins: In Therapy? Frightful. Suggest Gemma Collins: In Solitary, no cameras required.
SMALL Joys of TV: Slo-mo tennis replays upsetting femi-nits – more please. Wales fighting to the end. Human towers in Catalonia (Forces Of Nature). Secret World Of Bob Monkhouse. Angela Griffin in a French maid's outfit (Brief Encounters).
RANDOM irritations: Brian Cox, admirable in many ways, but why does he talk like we're all 12 and he's tripping? He's like that gormless twit on the Fast Show who thinks everything is "brilliant". And why does he tell us distances in kilometres when most viewers think in miles? Gertcha.
SEPARATED at birth: Mesit Ozil and Marty Feldman? One a weird-eyed legend who made us chuckle... the other one still does.
TV maths. Rylan + better beard = Olivier Giroud.
July 3. We saw real horror on TV last week: Joe Hart’s goal-keeping... Lateysha’s meltdown... “Christine” Coker’s heart attack... All far more unsettling than The Living And The Dead. This snail-paced drama started like a creepier Poldark; Poldarker perhaps. It’s 1894 and Victorian shrink Nathan leaves London to take over the family farm with freckly Charlotte, his photographer missus. Somerset yokels sing songs, knock back cider brandy and enjoy lusty knee-tremblers up against trees. It’s like Glastonbury with ploughing. But there’s something nasty in the vicarage. Harriet, the Rev’s teenage daughter gets possessed by the spirit of local murderer Abel North and the show becomes Cider With Ghostie... or so we’re meant to think.
Bad Harriet feeds a duckling to pigs, stands gormlessly in ponds and speaks in the voices of the dead: Nathan’s first wife, his son and then evil Abel, who sounds surprisingly like Donald Duck (Aw, phooey). To the pioneering psychologist, she’s just an everyday schizophrenic going through puberty with a gift for mimicry that would put Rory Bremner to shame. Things hot up when Harriet tries to drown randy housemaid Gwen (tsk, it’s not a good ducking that she needs...) Before Nathan realises baptism will drive out the ghastly ghoulie, Harriet tries to snog him by his wife’s grave, and we hear a plane overhead. A lazy error, I thought, until he gazes up at its vapour trail. That was far too blatant to be a continuity cock-up.
Later he sees an odd light in the next room coming from a modern woman’s iPad... as previously drawn by his son. These deliberate time-slip elements are intriguing. Especially as writer Ashley Pharaoh also gave us Life On Mars. Other themes include the march of progress. Ghouls aside, the big threat to the farm-workers’ lives come from Charlotte’s new-fangled mechanical plough. “It’ll take our jobs as it’s already taken my pride,” moaned John the ploughman, shortly before topping himself under it. Charlotte is also far feistier than Victorian women were meant to be. If you play join-the-dots with her freckles it probably spells liberated. There’s a ghost of a chance this spooky saga will come good.
*THE Living & The Dead? In Albert Square they’re interchangeable.
CORRIE going to six episodes a week next year is pottier than Sarah Platt. They can barely justify five. It’s a lazy move from ITV who’ve neglected or more likely forgotten other primetime weekday entertainment formats. The Street has been weighed down by soppy storylines and recycled plots for some time. “Who laid Leanne?” is a re-boot of “Who shagged Kat?”; itself a variation of “Who knocked up Michelle?”, only with no mystery as we already know it was Steve – and he’s turned into a hammy slapstick clown. Do we really want the grand old soap, once revered for its wit and warmth, to end up swinging wildly between disasters and bad sitcom? It’d be smarter to reduce it to three weekly episodes and invest in the writing and acting talent.
HOW moving was Messages Home: Lost Films Of The British Army? The documentary featured unseen footage of our “forgotten” 14th Army filming dispatches for their loved ones before fighting the Japanese in the Burmese jungles. These brave Lancastrians were facing some of the most vicious battles of World War II. But they never let their families see their fear. One said of Japan’s war leader: “Tojo can’t shake a man oo’s served his time on t’Corporation bus.” The men were stoic and cheerful, keen to reassure their kin they were “in the pink” – a far cry from the weepy, preening kidults who pass for blokes on reality TV today. Frank Miller was in the Chindits operating far behind enemy lines. He told his folks he was in the catering corps. The fighting was brutal, often hand-to-hand; the mental scars permanent. Our Boys turned the tide but many survivors wouldn’t speak of the horrors they saw for years.
HOT on TV: the England rugby team... Amelle Berrabah, Celebrity MasterChef... Messages Home: Lost Films Of The British Army.
ROT on TV: the England football team... Roy Hodgson... Glenn Hoddle... Most Haunted – as gormless as it is ghost-less.
TUESDAY’s EastEnders slipped in a topical scene filmed that morning covering Brexit, Cameron and England crashing out to Iceland. It was a neat touch, and a bold one. But did they attempt something even bolder when randy Carmel told Buster “I need some salmon”? Salmon & prawn is Cockney rhyming slang for horn... which she does need. The problem is fishmonger Buster is already keen to juggle Shirley and Kathy. There may be turbots ahead.
PS. Danniella Westbrook is accused of performing a sex act on her fella in a chauffeur-driven limo. It’s all a terrible misunderstanding! When he asked for a “G&T” he meant gin and tonic not a Gillian Taylforth.
ON MasterChef, Gregg told smiley Sugababe Amelle her veg was “sympathetically cooked”. Eh? Did she tell the broccoli “Sorry for the stir-fry, guys. It hurts like buggery but I feel your pain.”? With clumps of her rice bouncing like rubber balls and Laila Morse garnishing her prawn cocktail with a carrot top, Simon Webbe would’ve had to do something spectacularly daft to get the boot. Cue the Jacob’s crackers... woops.
SIMON was talking cookery when he gasped: “Massaging my meat... nice!” No wonder his band were called Blue.
THOSE Euros bombshells in full: 1) Tony Pulis: “Ibrahimovic has tried to pull him off and come across him”. 2) Jermaine Jenas: “The big question, can Dele Alli burst himself on the international stage?” 3) Rio Ferdinand: “From the first minute to the last it’s open your legs and get what you can.”
*BBC Breakfast News told us not to forget “what a wonderful night it was for Iceland”. Seems they’ve forgotten who pays their wages. Muppets.
*THERE’S still an old red phone box in the village on Emmerdale. Good to see not all councils are closing public lavatories.
*KATE Quilton found that red wine can boost the memory if you drink 13 bottles a day. In a related story, Carla Connor now has total recall.
*WALFORD’s favourite dogs 1) Wellard 2) Little Willie 3) Roxy Mitchell...
SMALL Joys of TV: Shark Week (Discovery). Squeeze at Glastonbury. Laila Morse. Chris Kamara, Murder In Successville. The High Sparrow getting barbecued on Game Of Thrones. Steve McLaren’s reaction to Iceland’s 2nd goal, Sky Sport.
RANDOM irritations: Ellie Goulding’s voice. Lateysha’s descent into babbling lunacy. Jonathan Ross using Thronecast to moan about the Referendum. Petulant luvvies. Football pundits making excuses for England’s dismal showing.
SEPARATED at birth: Abel North and Enoch Powell? One an ancient voice of terrifying doom... the other a character on The Living & The Dead.
*ARYA baked Walder Frey’s sons in a pie on Game Of Thrones. What pie? Frey Bentos. (Sorry).