BUSHELL ON THE BOX
*This is an edited version of my TV column. The real thing, plus contests, goofs, lookalike pictures and more, can be found each Sunday only in the Daily Star Sunday.
June 28. THE best way to enjoy the new Perry Mason is to totally forget the old one. They’re not just chalk and cheese, they’re chalk and Cheddar Gorge. Raymond Burr’s Perry was a clean-cut, sharp-suited defence attorney whose silver-tongued court room eloquence rarely failed to get justice done. The only time we see Matthew Rhys’ Perry in court in this edgy HBO reboot is when he’s in the dock himself. He’s a scruffy, unshaven, hard-up gumshoe detective with a shabby raincoat, a trilby hat and mustard on his tie. Some say Rhys’s version couldn’t lace Burr’s boots. He certainly couldn’t afford them...
His hard-boiled Perry ticks every pulp fiction cliché, including a taste for hard liquor and a sex-life so vigorous his Mexican lover bonks him clean out of the bed. (Note to self: Cancun is nice this time of year). Yet this seedy, sub-Chandler world has plenty of appeal. Perry’s a war hero, a survivor of the Battle of Argonne Forest, turned Private Investigator and reduced to working for crooked movie bosses. On his first job, he stakes out over-sexed film star Chubby Carmichael (possible nicknames: Oliver Hard-on, Fatty Back-scuttle) who is at it with a Hollywood starlet. Their food-based lust brought new meaning to a fresh cream rinse. Not to mention pulled pork.
Perry is tough but not tougher than the film studio goons who work him over. He’s fighting a lot of battles at once. “So many windmills, so little time,” remarks Della Street, his secretary-to-be. The first crime was grotesque – a tot kidnapped, murdered and left with his eyes stitched open. Mason out-thinks the Tinsel Town cops. No surprise. The original Perry was as smart as Morse... and several stone heavier. I’ll happily swig a hipflask or two watching this one grow.
THE Luminaries is hard to follow, largely because you can’t see a ruddy thing. It might as well have been shot in a Kiwi coalmine. The jumping timeline doesn’t help. It begins with illiterate Anna Wetherell who migrates to New Zealand during the 1866 gold rush. She meets Emery Staines (I bet he does) on the last day of her voyage. Hold up, how big was that ship? How could you be sailing for weeks and not meet everyone at least twice? Despite having the chemistry of book-ends the pair are apparently “astral twins”. But they’re tricked apart and her purse is lifted by Lydia, a con-artist with a seedy séance parlour-cum-brothel. Anna knows she has her money but stays anyway (why?). Lydia hooks her on opium and prostitution. Then suddenly for no apparent reason Anna can read and has Emery’s memories. There’s a murder. She’s in the frame. “Middle of nowhere, middle of the night... a politician, a savage and a whore... sounds like the beginning of a joke,” says the local lawman. If only it had been...
*ANNA Wetherell – enigmatic or plain dozy? You decide.
THOSE EastEnders: Secrets From The Square were far too cosy. Where was the juice? Proper untold secrets include the Square’s on-screen lovers who also got it on off-camera (more than one couple). The famous face who turned up on the set too legless to speak, let alone act. And the puff-loving soap legend who raided the Minute Mart for munchies after dark. My favourite soap secret? The writers’ revenge on Peter Dean. The Pete Beale star had trouble with his Rs so they gave him a girlfriend called Rose from Rotorua – or, in Pete speak, “Wose fwom Wotowua.” Hilawious.
*THAT Den & Angie repeat was emotional, almost heart-breaking – especially for BBC bosses. In 1986, 22.4million watched the show. Last summer, 2.4m.
HOT on TV: Das Boot (SkyAt)... Margherita Mazzucco, My Brilliant Friend... Issa Rae... Mayans MC finale.
ROT on TV: The Luminaries – not very illuminating... 365 Days (Netflix) – fifty shades of dross.
SARAH Lancashire played a sick mum keen on bedding her 15year-old son on Talking Heads. The disturbing monologue, filmed in the Queen Vic kitchen, brought Barbara and Steve Owen to mind. Even Victoria’s bust blanched. That poor kid. Next he plays golf and ends up under pa.
AREN’T you sick of obscure dimwits on “celebrity” TV shows? My rule: you’re not a celeb if you don’t turn heads at a bus stop. And you shouldn’t be on a quiz show if you struggle telling your left foot from your right.
SMALL Joys of TV: The Joy of Painting, with Bob Ross (BBC4). DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow heroes getting trapped in parodies of classic TV shows. Wu-Tung Clan: Of Mics & Men. National Enquirer documentary Scandalous! And Thatcher: A Very British Revolution.
RANDOM Irritations: Astrological twaddle on The Luminaries. Zoom choirs. The sorry state of Saturday night TV – we have idle entertainers and empty theatres, why not combine the two and bring us much-needed sunshine!?!
*MAKE your own Glastonbury experience: one bath, a ton of mud, one transistor radio in the next room. Enjoy!
*TV today tells you what to wear, what to eat, who to date... it’s like living with Pauline Fowler... or the Taliban.
*THE Alex Rider finale had more plot-holes than Glee. What kid has two school blazers? And how did Tom know which “Alex” to brain with that metal pole? Other than that, it was splendid.
SEPARATED at birth: The Bidding Room’s Adi Higham and Jono Coleman? One a jolly Aussie DJ and TV presenter... the other looks like he’s eaten him.
*SUBTITLE cock-up: Dara apparently saying “Conceive without disease” (rather than “scenes we’d like to see”) on Mock The Week.
June 21. WHAT about Maya Jama’s low-cut dress last weekend? Mama Mia! It may not Save Our Summer but it definitely made my week. Most current telly seems to be on a mission to depress us. If the news isn’t grim enough, feast on three nights of Novichok poisoning! So unexpected thanks to E4 for Big Brother: Best Shows Ever, especially for remembering Steptoe’s love-child Nikki Grahame whose “Who is she?” rant about Susie Verrico was funnier than Adam Hills will ever be. Big Bro began as a ground-breaking social experiment and stayed entertaining for years before degenerating into a cynical career launch-pad for talentless show-offs. The first housemates had no idea how they’d be perceived outside. It was extraordinary to re-watch the Nasty Nick Bateman affair as fellow contestants, led by series winner Craig Phillips, grilled him over his plotting. Nick wasn’t that nasty. He’d written down a few names to manipulate eviction votes. But that confrontation is still electric.
Memorable BB moments ranged from the funny (Makosi’s Jacuzzi “pregnancy”) to the feral – BB5’s boozy “Fight Night” when security had to separate Emma Goodwin and Victor “The Plumber” Ebuwa. Surprisinly this wasn’t one of their highlights... The lowest low was Kinga pleasuring herself with a wine bottle (possibly a Semillon). The saddest fall: Jade Goody, a likeable dimwit evicted in disgrace over 2007’s “Shilpa Poppadom” racism row, despite being mixed race herself. Best was Brian Belo, the super-fan who won BB8. Although I liked BB2’s Amma. In fact if I had an Amma, I’d Amma in the morning, I’d Amma in the evening...
Celebrity Big Brother surpassed the original, with jaw-dropping rows (Kim Woodburn), shocking lows (potty-mouthed Perez Hilton, creepy Ken Morley) and appalling lies (Roxanne Pallett). Sadly the shows new bosses at C5 over-stretched the format, ran out of stars and started evicting people for “thought-crimes”. Apt given the Orwellian theme but more disturbing than any of the controversies. Big Brother started well but it died of natural causes. Do not resuscitate.
*TOP Five CBB moments: 1) Jack Dee’s break-out 2) “David’s dead” 3) George Galloway’s cat 4) “Frank Carson’s dressing room” 5) Vanessa Feltz’s break-down.
PORTALS To Hell proved beyond doubt that terrifying demonic forces exist... but enough about Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. This spooky special saw their son Jack searching for proof of the paranormal in Portland, Oregon, with Katrina Weidman (she’s weird, man) and a two-bob “psychic” while his bemused parents watched. Hopes that Ozzy’s bowler hat would start spinning like Regan’s head on The Exorcist or that he’d be plagued by the spirits of bats he’d decapitated came to nowt. There wasn’t even a ghost, just the same old guff you get with Most Haunted – magnified noises, poor lighting, unlikely whispers, a producer with convenient scratches... All on a channel that dares to call itself “Really”...
*GHOSTS “can travel in heirlooms” we’re told. That’s an Antiques Road Show spin-off I’d like to see. Just think twice before wearing vintage bras or hand-me-down pants.
JUST when you thought we’d had enough misery, BBC1 gave us The Salisbury Poisonings. Actually it was pretty good. The three-part drama was based on the attempted murder of a Russian double agent. Sergei Skripal, who’d spied for MI6, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok by agents from Putin’s G.U. unit. But there was hardly anything about the Russians. A tad perversely, the Beeb barely touched on why or whodunit, choosing instead to focus on the fall-out. We saw the dedication of Wiltshire’s Director of Public Health Tracey Daszkiewicz – smart woman, great Scrabble score – and the terrible injustice of Gracie Sturgess’ death. The cast were terrific, especially Anne-Marie Duff and Rafe Spall, and the direction deft; but it felt a bit like dramatising 9/11 without mentioning the hijackers.
HOT on TV: Maya Jama... The Salisbury Poisonings... Gangs Of London finale (SkyAt).
ROT on TV: You Are What You Wear – you aren’t what I’d watch... The Heights – new lows... Portals Of Hell – a large portion of ham.
BUDGIE has landed on Talking Pictures TV with Adam Faith as a chirpy Cockney spiv fresh out of the shovel (ask Mick Carter) ducking and diving around the fringes of Soho. The 1971 show predated Minder but ploughed a similar furrow, with the great Iain Cuthbertson playing Glaswegian gangster Charlie Endell. TPTV is an oasis of gems, including Rumpole Of The Bailey, Special Branch and The Adventures of Sir Lancelot from 1956. Any chance they could get around to 1969’s Big Breadwinner Hog?
*JASON Manford has got himself a driving job with Iceland. Wouldn’t it be great if Marcus Brigstocke got a driving job IN Iceland? Ten years should do it.
*COULD Michael Gove eventually follow ex-Tory Michael Portillo into TV when his political career is over? I’ve got just the format for him: Tunnel Of Gove, a dating show set on a theme park water ride, similar to the tubs at Dreamland. He’d have to wear a mask of course. Whether or not the virus is over...
SMALL Joys of TV: Budgie (TPTV). Banshee (SkyAt). The Interrupters’ brilliant Take Back The Power anthem on the Hillary documentary series (SkyDocs). The Bureau (AmPrime). George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. The Bill – The Early Years (UKTV Play).
RANDOM Irritations: Too Hot To Handle – too dumb to bother with. Over-graphic rape scenes on I May Destroy You. Virtue-signalling celebs rushing to support censorship. Free speech is the centre of a culture war and you privileged twerps are on the wrong side.
SEPARATED at birth: Jim Royle and Steve Wozniak from Celebrity Googlebox USA? One known for saying “My arse”... the other for getting off of his and co-founding Apple.
TV questions: Does Monika Bacardi go well with coke? Why does the Pointless trophy have points? Why is it women’s football but ladies gold? And as there are at least 20 repeats daily on BBC1 and 2, would they accept a photocopy of last year’s cheque for the licence fee?
June 14. NIGEL Havers is best known for playing conmen like The Charmer and Corrie’s Lewis Archer. Could The Bidding Room be his greatest scam yet? It’s just a procession of people flogging over-priced junk – an old harmonica, forlorn furniture, a battered chest of tin drawers, with missing drawers... think The Repair Shop meets a cut-price Four Rooms with a pinch of Bargain Hunt. Nice guy Nigel has worked with puzzling antiques before, but enough about Ken Barlow and Audrey. Here he greets the punters whose items are valued by expert Simon Bower in Jay Blade’s spare cap. They then pitch to a panel of bods who deal in collectibles, and almost always offer more. A clapped-out 1937 perm machine (looking like an aborted Cyberman) came with a Bakelite hairdryer and was valued at £80. Dealer James bought it for £400! “To me they’re sculpture,” he said. Nope. Just old tut, mate.
A post-war teddy bear, worth £70, went for £310. While the incomplete chest of drawers, described upfront as “industrial scrap”, sold for £350 – a ton more than it was valued at. Other bizarre objets d’arse included vintage phones, a set of scales rescued from a skip, and a useless iron key... The most unusual item was a broken 1930s resin figurine made to promote men’s long-johns that was as camp as a Style Council video. It was the only thing that didn’t sell. The Beeb claim this show is “tense” and “high stakes”. It’s actually slow and polite, and only warms up slightly when the haggling started. But it cheered me up because my loft houses more old tat than Steptoe’s yard. There’s an Ian Dury metronome, a broken Big Breakfast souvenir plate, a Bagpuss collection, a U2 demo tape from 1979... I must be sitting on a fortune. Pop round Nige, and bring your wallet.
MURDER In The Outback tried to prove that drug-runner and self-confessed “rat-bag” Brad Murdoch was not guilty of the 2001 killing of British backpacker Peter Falconio in Australia’s Northern Territory. Disgraced former defence lawyer Andrew Fraser convinced himself that Murdoch was innocent. In his words, “he’s had the roughest end of the pineapple”. Fraser spoke the kind of lingo older readers would associate with the Barry Humphries character Barry McKenzie. Fraser described the Aussie terrain as being “a flat as a sh*t-carter’s hat”, McKenzie called it “as dry as a nun’s nasty”. Fraser had served five years for importing cocaine and had a £55,000 a year habit – not to be sniffed at. He attempted to discredit the prosecution case and Peter’s girlfriend Joanne Lees, but after four hours of “supposin’”, the questions were all left hanging. In another era Murdoch would have been too.
NAME of the month: Princess Camilla of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duchess of Castro. Too-Silly wasn’t a Monty Python character but one of Inside Monaco’s genuine posh twerps. Monika Bacardi could have escaped from a sitcom, possibly called A Rum Do. Was this a BBC documentary or Class War propaganda? It was often hard to tell. It was full of useful information like you can park your mega-yacht in the harbour for just £2K a day, and spend a night in the Princess Grace suite at the Hotel de Paris for a mere £35K. Whoopee-doo! New Monaco residents needed to have at least £500K in the bank just to live there. The hard-working staff seemed as reluctant to speak as the fawning Beeb were to ask proper questions.
HOT on TV: Patrick Robinson, Sitting In Limbo... Das Boot (SkyAt)... Alex Rider (AmPrime)... Iron Maiden (Download TV).
ROT on TV: Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer – roll on winter... Reality Zzzz (Netflix)... pompous Piers Morgan talking over anyone he disagrees with. How can Piers, a bloke who falsely smeared British troops, bragged about phone-tapping and got away with insider trading, have the brass neck to lecture the rest of us about anything?
A BETTER title for Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer would be Saturday Night Take It Away – Please! What a mess. Peter’s a funny guy but he’s not an entertainer. When the house band played Give It Up, the Beeb should’ve taken the hint.
*ITV’s Saturday night line-up is just as flaccid with Alan Carr attempting to revive classic game shows. Ironically, as soon as I hear his strangulated voice I count “3-2-1” and switch channels.
*CREEPY Leo on Netflix’s Reckoning spends more time in his shed than Jesse on The Fast Show. I keep expecting him to say “This week I have mostly been murdering teenagers.”
TV Question: Why do we say people have “passed” rather than died or passed away? It makes it sound like they’re on Mastermind... You’re 97, what comes next? Pass!
SMALL Joys of TV: Michaela Coel. Tom Davis. What We Do In The Shadows. The Titan Games. SAS Rogue Warriors. Ronnie Wood: Somebody Up There Likes Me. Hitsville: The Making Of Motown.
RANDOM Irritations: C4 thinking the 1966 World Cup final needed chitchat and Jo bloody Brand. Romesh abandoning his attempts at comedy for tiresome political lectures. The BBC’s inbuilt bias and institutional self-loathing.
TALENTED Michaela Coel bravely based I May Destroy You on her own experiences. Her character Arabella had her drink spiked on a night out. The next day her face was cut, her phone smashed and she had fleeting flashbacks of her rapist. Despite the fractured narrative the drama is powerful and unsettling.
SEPARATED at birth: Trump’s Attorney General William Barr and Elton John? Both familiar with tantrums and tiaras...
June 7. LONG Lost Family plucks our heart strings like a master harpist. Their Born Without Trace special upped the heartache with moving stories of foundling babies. David McBride was abandoned at two weeks old in a parked car on a Belfast driveway. Six years later, newborn Helen Ward was deposited in a phone box in Dundalk, 52miles south, on the other side of Irish border. Both had been left in red tartan bags, Helen with a bottle of warm milk by her side. Both were adopted by loving couples, one Protestant, the other Catholic. But the mystery of their birth haunted them for decades. Incredibly, through DNA testing, the producers discovered that David and Helen were siblings. Diligent research established that their married father had been a band leader from Dublin with fourteen other children. Presumably he was from the horn section. Their mother was a single woman – younger by 16years and unnamed at her family’s request – from a small village in County Kerry.
When the pair met for the first time, they sobbed and cuddled, not wanting to let go. They could barely speak. The parents are dead now, but they’d found each other, along with family members they didn’t know they had. “I know who I am now,” said Helen. David concurred, saying “I can move on with my life.”
Presenters Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell handle this tough job with sensitivity. They’re uniquely qualified. He was adopted at four days; she was abandoned by her mother. We can forgive ITV’s melodramatic pregnant pauses. Although I did wonder why the parents had a six year pregnancy pause. Typical band leader, relying on the rhythm method. On Tuesday we learned about Simon Jeffery, who’d been left in a pub in Greenhithe, Kent, in an old corned beef box; and Fi Beazer, who discovered her father had been living with her mother and his wife! Beat that Corrie! This was genuinely heart-warming TV that gripped like Homer Simpson’s fingers on a donut.
*IMAGINE carrying on with a band leader. Every time he wanted sex he’d tap your arse and say “On three... ”
WE’VE seen stand-out acts on Britain’s Got Talent this year – a Swedish comedy magician, an Israeli mentalist, a Norwegian escapologist, Russian spoon players, a scary/barking Belgian contortionist... Maybe ITV should change the title to Britain’s Got No Talent... Here’s Some We Imported. In fairness, we do excel in deluded amateurs. Like the lobster guy with the ukulele, the Trump impersonator in pink tights and the woman who sang Minnie Riperton’s Loving You to a pair of unsightly dolls. They have found promising comics – Steve Royle (from Phoenix Nights), Croydon’s own Nabil and Scouse Baptist minister Allan Finnegan. ITV should create regular variety shows to develop the best turns and encourage home-grown talent. I’m bored with “celebrity” culture. Let’s build stars again.
COMEDIANS: Home Alone is a good idea, it’s just a pity it involved cameras. BBC2’s chronic comics should’ve stayed indoors and kept themselves to themselves. The 15minute car crash was a mixed bag of DIY skits. Rachel Parris lip-synced to Blur’s Parklife while husband Marcus Brigstocke goofed about to Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You. If only he could. Rhys James reeled off one-liners which were clearly original, crisply condensed and completely chuckle free. It felt like George Carlin with his funny bone removed. Kerry Godliman’s “fun mum” was just feeble. Who was this aimed at exactly? People who’d never seen the internet?
HOT on TV: Janelle Monae, Homecoming (AmPrime)... Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Netflix).
ROT on TV: Alan Carr’s The Price Is Right – the host isn’t... BGT’s yoga woman – less “Om,” more “OMG, why?”
BEN Mitchell was stone deaf about four heads ago. Then the EastEnders writers forgot and he got by without hearing aids for years... until the producers revived it as an “ishoo”. Cue the big riverboat snooze, and cue Monday’s episode “as heard by Ben”, i.e. “as unwatchable for most”. A signer turned up the week before and now everyone knows sign language. Truly Walford is the home of miracles. Pete Beale came back 7inches taller and no-one noticed. It was nothing compared to the Vic being made “pub of the year” months after ’Unter got shot dead there. Deaf awareness is a fine cause. Trust Enders to nobble it.
*KILLING Eve’s Villanelle tried to murder Dasha on a golf course with a driving iron. It was shocking. She should have used a pitching wedge.
*ISN’T Alan Carr’s game show remake a remake of Ant & Dec’s Game Show Marathon remake of old game shows – which ITV axed? I quite like Carr but he always sounds like he’s talking with a mouthful of (Cut! – Ed).
SMALL Joys of TV: Tiger Woods: Back (SkyDocs). Tom Jones At 80. Celebrity Googlebox USA. Philharmonia (All4). Not Only But Always. Ainsley Harriott’s shirts. Bradley Walsh: Happy 60th Birthday.
RANDOM Irritations: The One Show theme tune. TV signers for the deaf who build their part with bizarre gurning. And for reasons I can’t fully explain the confused.com C4 breakfast man.
R.I.P. Michael Angelis, best remembered for playing Chrissie Todd in Alan Bleasdale’s brilliant Boys From The Blackstuff – made in the 80s when TV drama actually concerned itself with working class men.
TV questions: when will Long Lost Family track down Les Battersby and Vicki Fowler? Why exactly did gay Ben Mitchell care if Lola had slept with giant Peter Beale? Why do really stupid people go on TV quiz shows? Are they so simple they don’t realise how dim they are?
SEPARATED at birth: Kellie Maloney and DIY sex tape queen Cindy Gallop? Both can be pretty frank at times.
CLASSIC CLANGER. Martin Clunes was talking about romantic gestures when he told Lorraine: “I remember the time I gave my wife a pearl necklace in the morning.”