BUSHELL ON THE BOX
JULY 30. Why remake The Generation Game with Mel & Sue? The format needs warmth, wit and spontaneity, so that's three strikes before we start. The BBC's reanimation of the zombie corpse of Brucie's cult people show is the latest in a long list of unwelcome TV revivals. We've had Bullseye without Jim Bowen, Celebrity Squares without celebs, a dated Crystal Maze, a cut-price Blind Date... 3-2-1 hosted by Clare Balding may be just a hangover or two away. The line between laziness and sacrilege has never been thinner. Last year's Steptoe & Son abomination wasn't worth the scrap in their yard. Yet US TV takes great British dramas like House Of Cards and Criminal Justice and rejigs them with vision and flair. Why can't we? Here are ten classics that could be revamped, Netflix style:
Sharpe. The stirring adventures of the 95th Rifles battling Bonaparte. Promoted on the battle-field by Wellington, granite-jawed Richard Sharpe led his "chosen men" to victories for the best part of two decades.
I, Claudius. Outrageously sexy in the 70s, the original seems slow and claustrophobic today. It's ripe for revival. Just lose the dodgy syrups.
1990. A dystopian saga set in a future bankrupt Britain ruled by an oppressive "socialist" bureaucracy. Martial law is imposed and civil liberties go down the khazi... a perfect morality tale for the Corbyn age.
Robin Hood. England's most enduring folk hero is crying out for a modern revamp in the gritty spirit of Robin Of Sherwood.
Danger Man. Patrick McGoohan played tough, principled secret service fixer John Drake. A spy with a conscience is just as relevant in today's world as the turbulent sixties.
The Fear. A firm of young, sharp North London villains take on gangland's old guard.
The Adventures of Sir Lancelot. Loyalty, courage, chivalry, love, the Knights of the Round Table... what more do you want?
Hornblower. A bold swashbuckling naval hero in the Napoleonic wars. Ioan Gruffurd's solid version never quite hit Master & Commander heights.
Sexton Blake. Victorian detective tackling fiendish villains with his side-kick Tinker. As sharp as Sherlock but more two-fisted.
Scum. Who's the Daddy? A film, yes, but this brutal borstal saga could potentially be Britain's answer to Orange Is The New Black. Stress potentially. Let's not forget how irritating (Minder), disappointing (Prison Break), or useless (The Prisoner) revamps can turn out. But surely more worth a shot at reviving than Crosswords was?
KEMBER won Love Island. Woo-hoo! Kem and Amber shagged their way to £50K, which by my calculations works out at about a fiver a thrust. It was a blow for Camilla and a bigger one for Gabby whose showmance with Marcel was busted by a lie detector. Amber said Kem wasn't her type on paper. On paper no, but under a duvet it was a different story. Making money by having sex on TV is, like Shirley Carter's privates, a moral grey area. But their feelings for each other seem real and are likely to last for at least a week after the cheque clears. Love Island addicts are calling for a winter run although it wouldn't be the same in thermals. How about Love Island Rejects - for people too fat and ugly to make the real show? Or Ex By The Loch - similar to Ex On The Beach but one contestant's a serial killer.
*WOULD Camilla and Jamie have won if they'd been lustier? ITV2 should've tempted the bookish pair with a special Love Island library: Hard Times. Moby Dick. They Came Like Swallows. The Looming Tower. Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Anything by Cummings...
DAVID Thewlis is the stand-out star of Fargo. His V.M. Varga is chilling, a creepy, bulimic criminal mastermind with a voice like leaking evil and teeth so rotten they'd make Shane MacGowan wince. Some find the Minnesota crime drama a tad too in love with its own smartness. But even if you miss the nods to Coen brothers' films, every episode delivers something special. Like Nikki and her mute sidekick jacking Varga's mega-truck using a paperweight shaped like a grenade. Their subsequent meeting was almost as thrilling. The oily villain tried everything to outsmart her, from job offers to poisoned tea. But ex-con Nikki has details of his financial dealings, which are murkier than Swampy's annual bath. When his reluctant business partner Emmit Stussy confessed to topping his own brother, Varga had him cleared simply by having more random men called Stussy killed. Can bridge master Nikki out-smart the smiling snake? Which dodgy dealer will come up trumps? My money's on good cop Gloria having the last laugh.
*IMAGINE Varga's dental check-up: "Upper right 6, filling, upper right 7, good, upper right 8, dripping cyanide, lower left 5, maggots... "
HOT on TV: Diana Rigg, Game Of Thrones... Kyle MacLachlan, Twin Peaks... Fargo.
ROT on TV: Paul Mason, Why It's All Kicking Off Everywhere - pretentious, self-indulgent cobblers, kick him off... The Mash Report - cheap, lazy and embarrassingly toothless BBC2 "satire".
POOR Morwena, forced to satisfy the unwelcome lusts of her unwanted husband, randy Rev Osborne on Poldark. The toe-sucking fiend's idea of foreplay is to say, "Wife, I think I shall avail myself." It's what men on The Handmaid's Tale call the good old days. My solution? One foot in his mouth, a toe up each nostril and then push and hold!
*R.I.P. Aunt Agatha. Evil George broke her spirit by cancelling her 100th birthday party on the pedantic grounds that she was only 98. The only thing blacker than the curse Ag put on the jumped-up creep is his own shrunken heart. Let's hope she haunts him.
*THEY should try a Taken storyline on EastEnders. Some burly blokes snatch Robbie Jackson by the swings. They hold him to ransom. Nobody pays. Nobody cares. We don't see him again. Everybody's happy.
*WALFORD General nurse to Sharon and Lisa: "Louise needs quiet." Viewers: "Don't we all?"
*WHY do Big Brother bother warning us to be prepared for "highly offensive language and adult themes"? That's all they ever have! You'd be more shocked by "Be prepared for highly articulate conversations and adult behaviour".
*IF a group of crows is called a murder, should a group of reality TV wannabes be called a motive?
RANDOM Irritations - those Real Housewives shows. They're not really housewives are they? The only rubber gloves these rich, bitchy airheads ever come close to are on the hands of their cosmetic surgeons.
SMALL Joys of TV: Euron Greyjoy's fleet, Game Of Thrones. Olivia's Love Island pool dive. The beautifully shot truck-jacking scene on Fargo. Doris Roberts, Everybody Loves Raymond. Long Lost Family.
SEPARATED at birth: Linda Carter and young Sue Barker? One made it to Wimbledon, the other has trouble finding her way back from Watford...
July 23. No disrespect to Nadiya, but her Food Adventure wasn't a patch on Arya Stark's on Game Of Thrones. Shape-shifter Arya dished up Walder Frey's two sons in a pie once in revenge for him slaughtering her mother and brother. Mmm. Frey Bentos. Talk about Murder She Roast! She then let the old tyrant tuck into it before revealing her recipe. For afters, she topped him.
In this season's opening scene, Arya assumed wicked Walder's appearance to serve poisoned plonk to dozens of his men. As she reeled off their crimes, their insides disintegrated like the plot of The Loch under close inspection.
Many more will die before Thrones ends. Its levels of bloodshed make the Wild Bunch seem restrained.
Every so often a show comes along that raises the bar for how great TV can be. Game Of Thrones is such a show. It's up there with The Sopranos and The Wire for its scope, daring and vision. Cynics write it off as just swords, sex and sorcery, and in fairness there's plenty of that, but there's ambition, intrigue, heroism and betrayal too, along with shocking inhumanity. Our brutal War Of The Roses and Arthurian legends inspired it. I once likened Thrones to a game of chess, but it's more like the multi-level Tri-D chess they used to play on Star Trek. So much is going on in so many places it makes the Brexit negotiations look like a walk in the park.
And now all the main pieces are in place for the end-game. There's Jon Snow in the North, literally a dead man walking but still more believable than his Channel 4 namesake.
Queen Cersei, who when she isn't banging her own brother, usually looks like she's just received bad news from her talking mirror.
And Daenerys, aided by Cersei's brother Tyrion, her Mongol-like warriors and her three B52-sized dragons.
The real threat to all of them comes from the Night King, his heart as cold as a penguin's proboscis, and his zombie hordes. The final battle will come down to fire versus ice - his permanent winter against Dany's flame-breathing beasts. But who will win?
Only one thing is certain. If you're not watching Game of Thrones, you're missing the greatest TV of the decade.
*SOME moaned about Ed Sheeran's small part (insert your own Gary Barlow joke here), but given the GoT death rate surely more pop stars should be encouraged to sign up?
It'd cheer me up no end to see Kanye West decapitated or Katy Perry ripped apart by a deranged Drogon. It'd certainly flush out her toxins.
THE ending of The Loch was as elegant as two drunks trying to fit a tripping gibbon into a sack. The plot staggered about like Peter Barlow in his drinking days. In fairness, there were a few laughs. It's just a shame they were all accidental... At one point, irritating celebrity psychologist Blake was whacked around the nut. As he lay pole-axed on the floor, blood gushed from the wound. There was so much claret he was in danger of drowning. Two minutes later he was up and about with just a small red mark on his head. Unlike Blake, I was in stitches... At the death, it turned out that the serial killer wasn't any of the suspects. It was Kieran, the teenage schoolkid who was mates with Evie, the cop's daughter. Only it wasn't Kieran, it was his older brother, Jordan. Like a bad soap, his mum was keeping the real Kieran sedated so he could impersonate him. Confused? You should be. The Loch Ness corpse was Jordan's first victim, his hither-to unmentioned psycho father. It would've been more believable if Nessie had done it.
At the death, the killer fell into deep water and sank without trace. Just like the series.
DOCTOR Who is to become a woman. That's another (police) box ticked. It's the Cybermen and the Daleks I feel sorry for. They thought the Doc was angry before but now she's back and she's got PMT. Seriously, I couldn't give a space-monkey's toss what gender the Doc is as long as the stories improve. No more infatuated inter-galactic lesbian puddle beings, please.
*JODIE Whittaker's dishy Doc will certainly change things. From now on teenage boys will be hiding behind the settee simply to conceal their excitement.
*THE female doctor's first episode will be two hours long. She'll spend the second hour saving the earth and the first hour doing her hair.
HOT on TV: Game Of Thrones (SkyAt)... Lee Selby... Sam Heughan, Outlander (More4)... I Know Who You Are (BBC4)
ROT on TV: The Last Leg - putting the limp in Paralympics... Liv, Love Island... The Loch - not so much Scandi-Noir as scandalously poor.
ITV's Fearless was murkier than a mud-wrestler's bathwater. Fuelled by pinko paranoia, Patrick Harbinson's script rumbled with dark conspiracies and unlikely levels of state surveillance. Linda, 15, died at a US airbase, a local div framed as a paedo, and only Helen McCrory's campaigning lawyer Emma could unearth the truth. But the finale stank like a Glasto porterloo. Linda had simply got run over while politicians plotted the Iraq war at the base. Her death was covered up to ensure war went ahead. The truth came with suicide and a car bomb. Except... what difference would a road traffic accident have made to global politics?
*RANDY Rev Osborne visited a brass on Poldark for an explicit toe-sucking session. He didn't go any further because she charges by the foot.
*LOVE Peter Kay, but wouldn't you rather see less Comedy Shuffle and more brand new stand-up from him? It's been a while.
RANDOM irritations: The Beeb's never-ending supply of right-on, Brexit-bashing middle class "comedians". ITV having the brass neck to repeat god-awful Babushka. The Fearless finale - more holes than Swiss cheese. Clare Balding turning the women's football story into a tedious rant.
SMALL Joys of TV: Poldark. Arya Stark's revenge, Game Of Thrones. It's So Easy & Other Lies (Sky Arts). Ozark (Netflix). Every cranky, cringe-filled episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (Sky Box Sets). Walking Dead re-runs on Fox. The Great Butterfly Adventure (BBC4)
SEPARATED at birth: The immortal Cowboy on Preacher and Mick Fleetwood? One associated with a notorious TV bloodbath, the other has never even worked with Sam Fox...
IF They Mated: Amanda Redman + showroom dummy = Georgina on Riviera
WEIRD. On Supermarket Shopping Secrets salmon fillets were injected with fake flavours. "Some customers don't like a fishy taste," explained a Sainsbury's factory manager. Why don't they have a meat pie, then?
JUSTIN Sherring was talking about coaching Johanna Konta on a cold day when he said: "I had her on the court and the balls were going rock hard."
July 16. The Love Island castaways faced a new challenge last week – making sausages. They were beautiful. Thick, tasty, enthusiastically manhandled... and the sausages were just the same. Naturally the voice-over bombarded us with the wurst kind of references to squeezed meat and spurting sauce, mercifully side-stepping danger areas like hot dogs and black pudding. "Who doesn't like a big sausage?" asked Georgia, looking as innocent as Sid James in a harem. Sadly Theo's wiener failed to impress – odd that a bloke so cocky produced such a humble chipolata. He went on Friday but not before delivering the perfect put-down: "I've offended all of you to your face and behind your back, but in my defence you deserved it."
Liv was let down by Chris's squirting skills. Montana moaned "it was going all over my face". And Camilla ended up with the most sausage inside her – something that definitely won't be true of the series. In reality we know that Kem and Amber are the show's champion bangers, holding the Casa Amor record for relentless ahem stuffing, grinding and other pork related matters. They've "dusted" in every nook and cranny of the Majorcan villa, often without condoms. Scratchings, anyone?
People complain, rightly, that Love Island sends out the wrong message to its vast teenage audience – that to succeed you have to look a certain way, and shamelessly shag virtual strangers on TV. Yet the ITV2 show has left Big Brother choking in its lust. 2.5million are hooked on its soapy shenanigans. Why? They can't all be voyeurs. Partly it's the escapism, partly the Mickey-taking commentary, partly the casting and chemistry. Classy Camilla has morals as well as brains. Bad Jonny "pied" her for being "dull" and hooked up with Tyla, who hilariously dumped him for the same reason. She then copped the hump because he wasn't cut up about it... And he redeemed himself by sacrificing himself for her. Camilla is now cracking on with kind, gentlemanly Jamie. Marcel seems a top bloke too. He used to be in Blazin' Squad but I don't think he's mentioned it.
Against the odds Love Island has spawned genuine romance, for self-styled "Northern Adonis" Dom and Jess. So is it harmless fun, a menace to common decency or a bit of both? You decide. I'm watching for the laughs and the lingo. A show that gave the world "dick-sand" can't be entirely without merit.
*CHRIS on Liv: "I don't understand how her mind works." Mate, Einstein couldn't.
WAS it the phone call that pulled Kevin back from the brink of Erica's bed on Corrie, or the magnetic draw of Anna's cleavage? There was a time when Erica was irresistible. That time was the 1990s when she was Claire King in Emmerdale. Anna branded her a "cheap, nasty slut". Unfair! The woman rarely goes a day without necking a bottle of bubbly, and that ain't cheap. Elsewhere Eva is pretending she's carrying cheat Aiden's baby and bleeding him dry. Her outraged sister Leanne is egging her on; the same Leanne who had affair with Danny Baldwin, and whose dodgy demeanours include arson, blackmail and escort work... Hmm. Corrie was once renowned for its warmth and morality, but happen there aren't many folk on today's cobbles who Ena Sharples or Annie Walker would give the time of day to. Nowadays the soap's finest character is Pat Phelan, a murdering rapist. The Barlows are particularly rotten. Tracy killed, Daniel attempted murder, Adam is adding blackmail to assault and abduction... Peter the alcoholic adulterer is the pick of the pack. And now he's running the Rovers. It's like giving a pyromaniac a bottle of paraffin and a box of matches. Is ITV's message: read books like Ken and your offspring will go to hell in a handcart?
LIAM "will do anything" to look like Katie Price. The 22-year-old smears his body with umpteen layers of fake tan every week and then scrubs it off with pan scourers and bleach. He also risks skin cancer by over-use of tanning beds – and yet he still looks nothing like the Franken-Price. Why are C5 encouraging this self-harming lunacy? Liam's story, told on OMG: Make Me A Famous Face, was more about low self-esteem and possible mental illness than extreme fan worship. Kim Kardashian lookalike Chloe wants butt implants for a perfect arse. Cue Shane who wants to be a Ken doll. Hopefully this will involve the removal of his genitals for absolute authenticity... and to stop him reproducing. OMG is cheap, exploitative TV. It sets up narcissistic nitwits for our amusement, like modern day carnival freaks – a hollow wallow in other people's delusions.
HOT on TV: Jo Konta... Nadal vs Muller... Catching A Killer... Ross Kemp – baldly going where most reporters fear to tread.
ROT on TV: OMG – oh eff off... Caroline Flack – Love Island's weakest link ... My Crazy Life – the Price ain't right... The Loch – still cock.
THINGS I'd like to see on First Dates: 1) Ejector seats. 2) Someone swerving their date to cop off with a hot waitress. 3) A couple who reverse genders between series and try again. 4) A bloke accidently matched up with his mother. 5) A rejected saddo leaving with a complimentary blow-up doll. 6) A desperate boiler turning up in a wedding dress. 7) A woman whose 17 kids by 16 fathers are watching through the window.
* IN The Dark is Broadchurch in the Peak District, right down to the out-of-town cop and the shifty cabbie. It's less barking than The Loch – which aspires to be Broadchurch in the Highlands – but feels a bit this'll-do. They can't even be bothered to get court procedure right.
*AH, The Loch. It's an enigma wrapped in a mystery and stored in a vault of Diazepam.
*LOVE Your Garden with Alan Titchmarsh? Only if we could mulch him. I'd love it more with Kelly Brook.
*DO shows like Extreme World over-hype the Ku Klux Klan? The vile sect has around 5,000 members. In the 1920s, it had four million.
TV Maths: Lukewarm from Porridge minus specs = Poldark's Rev Osborne Whitworth. One a weak, sleazy individual hanging about with the scum of the earth, the other was in one of our all-time greatest sitcoms.
*HOW To Holiday Better: don't go with Richard Madeley.
SMALL joys of TV: Mr Wrench, the deaf hitman from Fargo's first series, popping up on Nikki's prison bus in this one. The A-Team re-runs on Spike. Poldark's daring prison raid. Seinfeld, AmPrime. Peep Show's Super Hans playing a dapper forensic expert on In The Dark.
RANDOM irritations: TV nudity – it's putting flashers out of business. Really thick people on quiz shows, some are so dumb it's a wonder they managed to find their way to the studio. Frankie Boyle and his rotten guests coasting through his disappointingly toothless New World Order show.
IF They Mated: Young John Travolta + Stacey Solomon = Kem from Love Island.
July 9. The BBC is about as balanced as a one-legged tightrope walker in a force nine gale. Even Paxman says so. It isn't just its one-sided news coverage. It's its comedy output, its debate shows and every aspect of its drama too. You'd expect a series like Broken, penned by the great socialist screenwriter Jimmy McGovern, to beat up the status quo. But you get the same message hammered home on EastEnders – life sucks, capitalism is evil, the cuts are killing us.
In Albert Square, businessman Ian Beale is a hopeless skinflint while good folk eat food out of bins. (Although in fairness they do usually get a private room in Walford General).
The latest Doctor Who series bashed capitalists too. First, a loathsome racist toff fed small children to a chained-up monster under the Thames in order to produce super-coal to drive the Industrial Revolution. Boo, hiss. Two weeks later a space mining company used oxygen as a commodity and bumped off its staff once they'd outlived their usefulness. This, said the Doctor, led to the fall of capitalism and "then the human race makes a whole new mistake".
You don't have to love weak and feeble Theresa to point out that in reality market economies have raised living standards, increased earnings and been a fantastic force for progress. Even Marx praised the liberating power of capitalism – which means the father of Communism held it in higher regard than the Beeb.
As well as unprecedented economic growth, freedom and innovation, it's delivered lower child mortality, mass literacy, cheap travel, longer lives, fully stocked shops and indoor plumbing... All a mistake? No state-run economy has ever achieved a fraction of that.
Yet the BBC seems incapable of hiring writers who don't subscribe to the "commerce stinks" view of the world. You won't see a soap storyline about a poor teenager building a successful business through hard work, although thousands have, or a bright kid being held back by woolly-minded teachers. You won't see a pro-Brexit comedian on the Beeb, either. Bias is in its blood. Does it matter? Yes. The Corporation is supposed to be impartial. It's a cornerstone of its charter, and one of the key reasons we all have to pay for it or face jail. Across the board, the BBC is failing in its duty of fairness.
*BROKEN delivered a powerful broadside against gambling. It was shown on BBC1, home, for two decades, of the National Lottery...
DOCTOR Who. What was that all about? The finale made as much sense as a late night Trump tweet. For no apparent reason Missy and The Master murdered each other, despite being the same person. The ruthless Cybermen were rewritten as merely a different kind of human evolution. There was no proper ending, either. The dying Doc didn't even regenerate. We have to wait until Christmas for that. At least Chris Chibnall takes over from Steven Moffat as show-runner then. My advice? Concentrate on gripping stories instead of PC virtue signalling. The show isn't Guardian Readers of the Galaxy. Find new monsters to reflect today's anxieties – the Daleks were Nazis, the Cybermen were Communists. Where are the Islamists? Entice Neil Gaiman back. Ditch that sonic screwdriver/magic wand malarkey. And maybe even fix the Tardis cloaking device for an episode or two.
*THE best Moffat episode: Blink. The worst: Kill The Moon. The Curse of the Black Spot. Robot Of Sherwood. Flesh & Stone. The Pilot.
*TOP Shows on Tardis TV: Who Do You Think You Were. Who Do You Think You'll Be Next.
EAMONN & Ruth Do Dubai was nothing like Debbie Does Dallas (ask your Dad) and for that relief much thanks. It was more an hour long advert for the "Las Vegas of the Persian Gulf" with its mind-blowing hotels, opulent luxury and breath-taking woman-hating laws... Oh hold on, they forgot to mention them. The late Alan Whicker dared to ask Haitian dictator Francois Duvalier: "But Papa Doc, they say you torture people... " Eamonn had no time between dressing up as Lard-arse of Arabia and clowning about to mention Western rape victims who find themselves charged with "adultery" and banged up. You can be nicked here for a peck on the cheek. Yet our Holmes (definitely no Sherlock) preferred to ask penetrating questions like "Tell me about Dubai – how wonderful a place is this?" It looks stunning, a fishing village transformed into "a futuristic metropolis dripping with excess." But as the guest workers could've told them, there are other stories behind the facade.
HOT on TV: Joe Root... Katie Boulter... Konte v Velic... Carrie Coon, Fargo... Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid's Tale.
ROT on TV: The Windsors – crown fools... Eamonn & Ruth Do Dubai – all buttocks, Botox and brownnosing... The Box That Changed The World – more waffle than a US diner.
JOHN thought his luck was in when he found out that Sherry, 65, on First Dates worked as a dominatrix. But the chartered accountant blew it by making fun of her job. So now if he wants to endure pain and torture from a bossy boiler he'll have to watch Loose Women like everyone else. John, 67, was so full of himself he didn't notice Sherry cringing. "She's totally besotted with me," he boasted. Her verdict? "He's disrespectful and arrogant." Totally mugged off, as they say on Love Island. Her safe word? "Taxi!"
*SHERRY became Mistress Sophia after her husband left her skint. She was strapped for cash... as presumably are her clients.
*OINK! Man Loves Pig was about actual porkers and not Phil and Sharon on EastEnders. It was "narrated" by Dorothy, an English saddleback who finished up as bacon. Many viewers were hoping for a different ending – The Pork Shank Redemption.
*IT's gay season on Channel 4. As opposed to what?
SEPARATED At Birth: Gemma, 19, from First Dates and this cartoon beaver? One a cute, simple creature... and so is the other one. Runner-up: Gemma's date Jack and Towie's James "Locky" Lock.
SMALL Joys of TV: Dustin Brown's full-stretch diving volley against Sousa. Michelle Gomez and John Simm, Doctor Who. Vintage rockers Babe Ruth and Stone The Crows on Totally British 70s Rock. Joe Pasquale on Loose Women. Stax legend Steve Cropper on Rock 'n' Roll Guns For Hire, along with Earl Slick and Bernard Fowler.
RANDOM irritations: People burning money in TV dramas – when does that ever happen? People who wear spotty ties with striped shirts. Summer soap storylines. Sara Pascoe – if she's the funniest woman the BBC can find it's high time to re-glaze the glass ceiling. TV maths: George Warleggan + magistrate's wig = Joan Crawford
TV questions: is Doctor Who's Missy really dead or just on eternity leave? Will that art forger on Riviera get done for Monet laundering? Who said: "The big challenge is getting your last finger in"? Hairy Biker Dave Myers talking about cake tins or any bloke on Love Island?
July 2. The opening episode of Outlander felt slower than a Scotsman paying for a round in an English joke. But stick with it. Things will hot up like a Scotch bonnet up your sporran. Outlander has Passion! Danger! Sublime Scenery! And a side order of time travel. Basically it's Goodnight MacSweetheart. Or if you prefer Poldark with plaid and extra shagging.
It starts in 1945 with British army nurse Claire Randall enjoying a second honeymoon in Inverness with historian husband Frank. They've been kept apart by the war and are keen to make up for lost time. Touring the dirty ruins of the MacKenzie fortress, Claire suggests he should give her a bath. Frank replies "Why Mrs. Randall, I do believe you've left your undergarments at home" before, ahem, yodelling in her canyon of love. You didn't get that on Secrets of the Great British Castle.
There's talk of pagan sacrifices but the first proper weirdness occurs when Frank catches a ghostly Peeping Tom loitering outside their hotel. Then Claire touches an ancient standing stone (a Jagger?) and is mystically whisked to 18th Century Inverness where British redcoats are clashing with Jacobite rebels. She assumes it's a film-set but the bullets are real. Enter ruthless Captain Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall of His Majesty's 8th Dragoons, her husband's forefather, and also his dead-ringer. If that isn't a big enough shock, the blackguard tries to rape her.
Claire, played by captivating Caitriona Balfe, is saved by the rebels including dashing kilt-clad clansman Jamie. She may be "a lady of gentle birth" but she's no simpering damsel in distress. Claire's strong-willed, capable and by the end of ep one she's brought 20th century medicine, knowledge and female swearing to 1743. 20th century shagging will surely follow. It won't be long before Claire's enjoying a Jacobite rising of her own. Insert your own Highland fling/kilty pleasure/blowing-his-bagpipe references here. Her healthy sexuality is what stops this drama from sinking into Mills and Brigadoon territory. Inevitably the English are portrayed as the villains. But odds on some of the Sweaties will prove equally keen on violating our sassy Sassenach – never trust a MacKenzie, I say. Based on Diana Galbaldon's novels, Outlander serves up atmospheric fish out of water fun with lashings of romance.
SO EastEnders boss Sean O'Connor left because of its soppy storylines and dismal ratings. What took him so long? The soap's such a car crash even Richard Hammond couldn't walk away from it. Last week's big action was Dot tripping over her cat. The poor woman hasn't looked that lifeless and traumatised since her wedding night. To add insult to injury, O'Connor brought back gormless Robbie Jackson as market inspector giving barking mad management talks to bemused stall holders. Be still my aching sides. Of all the characters he could have resurrected, why Robbie? Why not psycho Sean Slater? Or Janine Butcher – now there's a dangerous pussy for you. Or how about Phil, preferably cleaned up? He's supposed to be this great hard man, yet people are walking all over his family, tormenting Louise, slapping Sharon... Don't they know who he is? The writers clearly don't. New boss (also the old boss) John Yorke must AXE the deadwood, STOP Mick Carter being such a wuss – let him find his inner geezer. And LET someone clock that Honey is the best-looking woman in the Square. He should jack in the soap's tiresome, ishoo-led preaching too. Under O'Conner, we were weeks away from half of Walford High going up chimneys, and the other half going down with rickets.
*DESMOND Dekker's You Can Get If You Really Want brightened up the soap. The song's upbeat optimism is the complete antithesis of the soap's core message though. The only "it" you can get from EastEnders is depression. And viewers, you can get it even if you really don't want it.
OF course Catweazle was at Glastonbury. Despite being the most capitalist enterprise on earth, the music biz has dressed to the left for decades – it's good for takings. But it's odd that BBC "satirists" never mock the absurdity of well-heeled rebels waving their clenched fists from £6,000 luxury yurts. Or the irony of freedom-loving punters cheering a politician totally devoted to increasing state control and bureaucracy. People forget a Labour government banned pirate radio, that Labour councils banned punk and that the old "socialist" states of Eastern Europe clamped down on rock with a vigilance only the most reactionary of mullahs could love.
*THE Beeb worship Jeremy Corbyn with such devotion, it can't be long before his image turns up miraculously on a slice of MasterChef pizza.
HOT on TV: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Fargo... Camilla, Love Island... Sean Bean... Caitriona Balfe, Outlander (More4).
ROT on TV: David Dickinson's Name Your Price – two bob... Naked Attraction – Bell-Enders... Dean Gaffney – as welcome as a blue shark off your holiday beach.
GLOW tells the story of real US TV show, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – an oxymoron up there with Bolton Athletic, military intelligence and affordable housing. Given the choice, a man might opt for a headlock over wedlock with most of them. Stand-out characters are Alison Brie's Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress, and Sam the cranky, chain-smoking, coke-snorting director. Ruth's bid to join the troupe is on the ropes until best mate Debbie finds out she's been body-slamming in the bedroom with her cheating husband. Their showdown in the ring convinces Sam to make Debbie his star and Ruth her evil nemesis. Glow is watchable but little more. As entertainment, it's strictly flyweight.
THERE'S something monstrous lurking at the bottom of The Loch, just out of sight. It's probably the plot. It's unfathomable. The Loch is part Broadchurch, part Dexter; great scenery with gruesome killings – a man's brain extracted through his nose, a heartless corpse floating in Loch Ness... They've got the forensic psychologist interviewing suspects and taking over press conferences. Unpleasant cops question uninteresting suspects about uninvolving murders... it's a brand new mystery format – a Who cares Who-Dunnit?
*NO wonder Corrie's Aidan was torn between Eva and Maria. Maria almost certainly would put more effort into bedtime. Eva looks like she'd lay back and think of Burberry handbags. Any chance they could slug it out in a mud bath?
*AFTER that Horizon report, how long before rush hour commuters see a driverless car overtaken by a rider-less bicycle?
SMALL Joys of TV: The Foo Fighters at Glastonbury. Mac Davis's classic song It's Hard To Be Humble opening Fargo. Preacher (AmPrime). Toots & The Maytals playing on Corrie.
RANDOM irritations: Pitch Battle having more rounds than a Geordie Shore pub crawl. TV's political one-sidedness – it's now so ingrained in everything the BBC does they probably don't even notice it.
*TV questions: does Fargo's Sy Feltz have a brother called Fuzzy? Why no cottages on Britain's Greatest Gay Buildings?
SEPARATED At Birth: Nicola Sturgeon and the young Aled Jones? One presented Escape To The Country, and one who the country can't escape from...
TV Maths: Rebecca Fenton + curler = Rebekah Brooks. One linked to unspeakable evil... the other is one of Piers Morgan's killer women.