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 26. THE Midwich Cuckoos packed in more surprises than Mary Poppins’s carpet bag. For starters, in one scene there was quite clearly a train running. Pregnant Zoe tried to board it but something held her back. And not an RMT picket line or the price of the ticket either. Her unborn baby wouldn’t let the mum-to-be leave the town. Like every other woman of child-bearing age, Zoe had been knocked-up by aliens during a blackout. Talk about close encounters. In this terrifying tale, ET surely stands for extra-testosterone. The creepy kids grow quickly, share a hive mind and spookily control their host-mums. They have, glow-in-the-dark golden eyes and telekinetic abilities that would blow Derren Brown’s brain. They kill a dog, and stop Amrita from driving her child away, setting off a cacophony of car alarms. Zoe’s spiteful sprog made her hold her hand over boiling water. Throw in soap and the Dingles would be terrified.
Sky’s take on John Wyndham’s 1957 sci-fi novel is fun despite being painfully slow. But the adaptation is predictably/depressingly updated. Hero Gordon Zellaby, an erudite elderly author, has become family therapist Susannah Zellaby. And the brats are fashionably diverse, weaking their impact. In the book and the films, they’re are all blond and blue-eyed. The sinister Village Of The Damned movie poster creeped me out as a kid. Think the Hitler Youth with super-powers or the Johnson clan on holiday. The concept was shocking then, but now we’re used to kids who go in for dangerous groupthink, browbeat their parents and embrace potty ideologies. Today’s snowflake youth are scarier than Wyndham’s cuckoos ever were.
*JODIE briefly made it to Croydon but said, “It didn’t feel right.” It never does, luv.
*ALIENS in the Home Counties! Strewth. Most shire folk aren’t even keen on people from the next village.
HOW many streaming channels can the market sustain? We’ve already got more choice than a Love Island lothario. As well as the big players, Prime, Netflix, Apple, Disney etc, we now have Paramount+. And, curse them, they’ve got cracking shows too! Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is a direct prequel to the Captain Kirk original, set just after “first contact”. It’s a heart-warming, nostalgic joy, with young versions of fan favourites like Spock and Uhura. Halo is all-action comic-book sci-fi inspired by a video game. The Offer dramatizes the making of The Godfather – an offer you can’t refuse. And no Bowie fan will want to miss The Man Who Fell To Earth, the sequel to the film. We might have to skip a meal to subscribe. Let’s hope the Frasier reboot is worth it.
*NOTE: “First Contact” refers to meeting aliens, but may also apply to speaking to an actual human being on a council phoneline – equally unlikely.
EVIL Robin Hood targeted golfers on Sherwood. It took him two arrows to hit Amy, leaving the 19th hole in the poor woman’s guts. But why? I reckon he’s a stickler for golf rules and was rattled by her taking a putt when it was clearly Jacob’s shot. Meanwhile second killer Andy scarpered into Sherwood Forest, which in real life is teeming with doggers these days. Less Merrie Men, more murky ones.
*THERE was regulation BBC Thatcher-bashing, natch, although oddly in a UDM village nobody moans about Scargill who wanted confrontation as badly as Maggie did. Why do villagers who worked through it hate the Met though?
HOT on TV: Blocco 181 (SkyAt) – hits like Beterbiev... Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+).
ROT on TV: Suspect – more ham than a Subway fridge... Ellie & Natasia – as funny as monkey pox...
STRIKES, inflation, polio, Scargill... it’s like the 70s & 80s all over again. What next, power cuts? Just as well Savile’s dead. Sadly 70s-style sitcoms have less chance of coming back than Rupert Rigsby.
*REASONS to be cheerful: the slim chance of seeing Jerry Hall on Celebrity First Dates. And with her alimony, let’s hope she’s paying.
*FACT! The BBC sent more people to Glastonbury than watch most BBC3 “comedies”.
*JESSIE Wallace was nicked for kneeing a cop in the knackers on a drunken bender. Appalling behaviour, yes, but more entertaining than DeadEnders has been for donkeys’ years.
*EYEBROW Twins: James Nesbitt & Charlie Cairoli?
*DID you clock McDonald’s bouncing Big Macs on McDonald & Dodds? More running scenes please.
*MARK Steyn is thrashing Piers Morgan in the ratings, possibly because the hushed-up scandals razor-sharp Mark deals with – vaccine deaths, grooming gangs – matter more than confected outrage.
Questions. Is sex with aliens out of this world? Why are cops investigating Joe Lycett’s jokes when real crimes against comedy are committed constantly by box-ticking BBC commissioners? Why no repeat of Thomas The Tank Engine strike special, Trouble In The Shed, last week?
Small Joys of TV: Dennis Bovell. Bill Maher’s new rules segment. New Umbrella Academy. Hannah Tointon, Midwich Cuckoos. The Lazarus Project. Milton Jones.
Random irritations: Soul-sapping two-hour long murder mysteries with potty plots. This Is My House – this is utter cobblers, why do we care? Snowflake Mountain.
SEPARATED at birth. Helen Mirren at amfAR and Orlando Bloom as Legolas the elf? One was quite fiery... the other a famous fairy.
7 great Glasto performances: Bowie (2000). Springsteen (2009). Dolly Parton (2014). Ray Davies (2015). Oasis (1994). Neil Diamond (2008). Arctic Monkeys (2013).
June 19. IT’S been forty years since the Falklands Conflict, but for the combatants the memories never fade. Ten ex-soldiers, most from 2 Para, were interviewed on Our Falklands War: A Frontline Story. The terrible savagery of combat was recalled calmly but honestly by men who’d lived through hell. They spoke of kill-or-be-killed encounters, of bayoneting the enemy at close quarters, and of the stench of trenches caped in crap, guts and blood. These were things they’d never told their families but needed to tell someone. Nigel “Spud” Ely – ex-2 Para and ex-SAS – said no British military engagement since “can compare to what we did at Goose Green”.
Liberating the Falklands came at a heavy price though. PTSD hung over the BBC documentary like a fog that never cleared. When Sir Galahad survivor Michael “Iddy” Iddon came home, he lived in a trench in his garden for months. Terry Wood recalled comforting the Argentine soldier he’d killed as he lay dying in his arms. Ex Royal Marine Kevin Woodford spoke about losing his leg, unlocking memories of the day he nearly died that he’d buried at the back of his mind. Fellow marine Chris White thought he’d left Kevin to die and had contemplated suicide. Others still do.
But there was humour too. Former Scots Guard Robert Lawrence, whose story was told in Tumbledown, had been shot through the skull. “What was going through your mind?” asked the interviewer. “A 7.62 high velocity bullet,” he replied. They was no glory on the battlefield. Just grim determination. Corporal Tom Harley coped by deciding “I’m dead already” but he’d lived with the consequences of never feeling fully alive since. Shamefully there are still ex-servicemen sleeping rough on British streets. And men like them in Ukraine right now making similar sacrifices.
HAS gory Stranger Things met its match in The Boys? Squirm as super-powered Termite shrinks and runs up inside his boyfriend’s penis teasing the urethral walls... until an accidental sneeze makes him full-size again, ripping his unlucky lover apart from the inside. I haven’t seen anything so unsettling since Spartacus sliced off Sedulus’s face. Although Michael Gove dancing came close.
*WHY weren’t Joy Division on the soundtrack? Love will tear us apart...
WHO is murdering ex-miners on Sherwood? Given the BBC’s usual “balance”, you half-expected it to be the gloating ghost of Baroness Thatcher. But the well-cast drama has more depth than that. It’s set in a Notts pit village, me ducks, where ex-militant Gary Jackson makes no secret of his views. Miners who voted to work through Scargill’s doomed strike are still “scabs” three decades on. At a wedding, he tells the groom’s dad he should call his new daughter-in-law Maggie “cos tonight she’ll be screwing the working man”. The bitterness that has consumed him for decades ends when he’s taken out with a well-aimed arrow. Turns out the psycho Robin Hood is living rough in Sherwood Forest... and he’s not the only one. For the identity of “Little John”, see the ladies’ loo graffiti.
*QUESTIONS arising: are pit villages really so diverse? And more importantly if a pint of “mixed” is still £2.50, when can I move in?
HOT on TV: Jonny Bairstow’s century... Our Falklands War... Emma Appleton... Elvis: The Rebirth Of The King (BBC4).
ROT on TV: Savoy Hotel – check out early... Epic Gameshow – more dung than Elephant Hospital... Avoidance – avoid.
ON Love Island, Gemma was paired with Davide until the producers sent in Effin’-Su to lure him away. She moved on to Luca, and then Gemma’s ex bowled in... what are the chances? It’s more orchestrated than a Putin show-trial. Long-term couples sitting around in their pants breaking wind and bickering about who spilt crumbs in the bed would be less glam but more realistic. Call it, Is This Love Island.
*I MISS Liam, who thought Elton John was two people – Elt and John. A future on daytime quiz shows awaits.
*PEOPLE say the hippo-faced goddess on Moon Knight resembled Jo Brand. Ridiculous. The hippo was funny. Not to mention likeable and easier on the eye.
*SHOCK news from Trent Bridge where the commentator said, of Jack Leach’s bowling, “Leach is struggling with his length here”.
*THE Abyss was on TV this week. A powerful machine sinking to terrible depths. You might know it better as Southgate’s England squad.
*REPORTS say sentient machines are evolving. Is that news? We’ve all seen John Peston.
TOUCHING moments on Pull Up A Sandbag (Ustreme), as Major General Julian Thompson spoke movingly to Denzil Connick about the Falklands and Colonel H Jones, VC. Ex-Para Denzil, who’d lost a leg at Mount Longdon, told his former CO, “We’ll always look at you as one of our best bosses... it was a pleasure to serve under you.”
Small Joys of TV: Joe Root reverse-scooping Tim Southee for six. Original House Of Cards with Francis “FU” Urquhart (BritBox). Midwich Cuckoos. Jerry Stiller.
Random irritations: Folk who eat, slurp, or suck straws noisily in soaps and adverts. Sky Sports’ aching wokeness. Gordon Ramsay’s lazy swearing – **** off.
Separated at birth: Simon Le Bon and Les Dawson? One a musical genius who delighted the nation, the other is the bloke from Duran Duran.
7 greatest TV documentaries: The Blue Planet. They Shall Not Grow Old. The Civil War. The World At War. My Octopus Teacher. Chernobyl. Once Upon A Time In Iraq.
Classic Clanger. Darcy Bussell talking to Debbie Magee about her dancing on Strictly: “I love how you keep that smile on your face when you are upside down with your hand between your legs.”
June 11. SHOULD women judge men by the shorts they wear? “No,” insisted Indiyah on Love Island. “It’s what’s inside that counts.” Dirty girl. So far none of this year’s beauties has found out what’s inside the blokes’ shorts, but all sense of decorum shot out the traps quicker than Ekin-Su did. Moments after he was paired with paramedic Paige, Luca Bish asked her, “What’s your favourite sex position?” You don’t get that on Bridgerton. Unabashed, Paige replied “the broken eagle” prompting older viewers to consult Google and discover it’s where a woman lies on her front with one leg bent and lets the bloke do all the work – sort of collapsed doggy. Bish, who sells fish, claimed his favourite was “summat oyster”. Hmm, Venice Oyster? That’s best experienced with a professional athlete. Maybe he just meant you slurp away from the wide end.
Half-Italian Luca was the early favourite – Paige was all “giggly and giddy” over him. But he was upstaged by full-Italian gym-Adonis Davide, sent in to split up the couples. “You’re happy I entered?” Davide asked Gemma seductively. I must have missed that bit. He picked her – bad news for gutted Liam, who’s since left. Not that she’d have gone for him. Gemma, Michael Owen’s 19year-old daughter, owns 12 horses. It’s unlikely his student loan would’ve turned her head. Love Island is all about those three Fs – fun, flirting and f... ifty grand prize money. Anyone in it for romance will get screwed, and not in a good way. To win, just find someone tolerable and hang on before Wreakin-Su swoops.
*WHO announced “I do love a shag” this week? Was it a) Tasha, Love Island b) Megan McCubbin, Springwatch c) Boris Johnson d) probably all of them?
*DAMI claimed to have “a birthmark-shaped heart on my penis”, not to be confused with a heart-shaped birthmark.
MUCH excitement on Cooking With The Stars! Dramatic music, edgy close-ups, flames, sweat and panic... all for a bloke making a mess of a lemon meringue. Oh no, we gasped, a kid we don’t recognise has put too much salt on a steak we can’t eat. The agony! The tension, the... hang on, what’s on Netflix? The kid was Woody, son of Norman Cook and Zoe Ball. So technically that’s cooking with the child of stars. Equally inept Joe Wilkinson beat him in the cook off, so Woody was toast... which he’d probably burn. Elsewhere Josie Gibson, a tasty dish herself, wanted to know “what goes in what?” She clearly hadn’t watched Open House. It’s hyped-up cobblers of course, but still more fun than Nonentity MasterChef.
EVERYTHING I Know About Love claims to be based on real life. Yet four women rolled down a grass bank in Primrose Hill and not one of them got a fox poo facial or a discarded hypodermic up the Aris. It’s basically Sex & The Soppy, based on Dolly Alderton’s time as a booze-guzzling graduate house-sharing with three middle-class mates in Camden in 2012. Huge house too. Sigh. How handy it must be to have minted parents. Hard-drinking Maggie falls for bad boy musician Street who says things like “I think Larkin got it right”. True, good old Pop. But is Street perfick or a callous heartbreaker? Maggie sets up his marathon man flatmate Nathan with her best mate Birdy. It vaguely recalls BBC1 series Take Three Girls, except they shared a London flat, didn’t snort cocaine and one of them was actually Cockney.
*LOVED the kebab shop disco. Hope they play songs by Doner Summer.
HOT on TV: Jon Bernthal, We Own This City (SkyAt)... David Starkey on the Jubilee (GB News)...Hacks (Prime).
ROT on TV: British Soap Awards – like handing out gongs for best shipwreck... Celeb Karaoke Club – dawning of a new earache.
WHAT’S up with Simon Cowell? He built a career on blunt honesty, so why the Mr Nice Guy act now? Talent shows need at least one straight-talking judge. It’s part of their DNA. Even likeable BGT winner Axel Blake should’ve been told his material and charisma fell well short of his delivery. Cowell seemed befuddled and was clearly cowed by the rowdy studio audience.
*DAVID Walliams promised to quit BGT if Born To Perform were voted out. Still waiting...
*SOME cracking highs at the jubilee Party At The Palace, not least the light show. But Celeste was pancake flat as she murdered What A Wonderful World. The joyless dirge grated more than Rod wrecking Sweet Caroline. No wonder Prince Louis covered his ears.
*WHAT about the Queen and Paddington? Magic. Of course, her Maj is used to cuddly creations with strange appetites and a tenuous handle on reality... insert your own BoJo gag here.
*ANYONE else notice the growing number of public sector workers on daytime game-shows? When they’re not WFH they’re SOQ – Skiving On Quizzes.
Small Joys of TV: Street graffiti bursting into animated life on slow-burn Disney saga Ms Marvel. Johnny Cash on Later. Jim Davidson on Farage At Large – the funniest ten minutes on telly.
Random irritations: Gareth Southgate. The BBC using the Irish tricolour to represent Northern Ireland at the big Jubilee show – surely deliberate. Top Gear rarely getting out of neutral.
FATHER & Secret Son: The Doors singer Jim Morrison and Toby Wallace on Pistol?
June 5. SIMON Cowell has done for talent shows what Andy Cowell’s stag do did for marital bliss. You can’t blame viewers for deserting Britain’s Got Talent in droves. It’s morphed into The Voice plus sob stories, imported speciality acts, and really diabolical turns. Those dancing dinosaurs should’ve been buzzed off at their first audition. The Witches conjured up nine minutes of ham building up to the anti-climax of a tame rat in a box. Granted Amanda Holden running off after grasping something fierce and hairy was a TV first. But how is that an act? It might’ve worked better if the judges had played it straight instead of trying and failing to be funny. They axed some hopefuls for “not improving” between shows. Well, they haven’t! These puffed-up clowns are barely qualified to judge karaoke night in the Albert. They didn’t even realise mimic Ben Nickless was doing Freddie Starr’s old speeded-up-record act, with a pinch of Bobby Davro and Duncan Norvelle’s sixty voices in two minutes.
Is BGT rigged? Perish the thought, but if Cowell really believed Mel Day would make tonight’s final “amazing”, why put the veteran soul singer on first? Only one act who performed in the first four spots made it. Singers Maxwell Thorpe, Tom Ball and Lauren Allred, along with Axel Blake, all appeared last. Remove the suspicion, ITV, have the running order drawn live at the start.
Apart from Lauren, the imported pros all conveniently flopped (as usual). Italian Andrew Basso – one-time West End escapologist – seemed to self-sabotage by blackening his water tank with milk stout. While the judges choose likeable teenage comic Eva Abley over Japanese magician Keiichi Iwasaki (a global Got Talent veteran) largely because she’d had several pops at Cowell – a tip for the Paris Police Pepper-Spray Ensemble, should they appear next year. We’re used to BGT being a self-indulgent, over-blown farce, but tedious is unforgiveable.
*AMANDA said Eva, who has cerebral palsy, had “funny bones”. D’oh! For funny boners see... (Cut! Ed).
THERE were some magic moments on Are You Being Served: Secrets & Scandals, not least Mrs Slocombe telling Captain Peacock “I do not respond to any man’s finger.” Another time, she told him “You’re lucky to have me at all, I had to thaw my pussy out before I came” – talking, of course, about her cat Tiddles. The C5 doc recalled that the show only made it on air because of the terror attack at the Munich Olympics threw the BBC’s TV scheduling plans out the window. Powered by Carry On-style innuendo, it became a comedy phenomenon. It ran for nine series with an audience high of 22million viewers, and Mr Humphries’ “I’m free” became a national catchphrase. Naturally BBC bigwigs hated it. But how we loved talk of Betty’s sticky drawers and Peacock asides like “You certainly caused a stir in the trouser department”. So did Miss Brahms if I recall.
DANNY Boyle has done a superb job re-telling the story of the Sex Pistols, the punk band who inspired a movement and briefly kicked the old rules into touch. And yes, Pistol is cartoony in parts, but the setting is perfect, and the blend of no-future nihilism, nostalgia, laughs and gritty 70s reality works a treat. Bowie looms large, not least because Artful Dodger Steve Jones helped himself to a car-load of Ziggy Stardust gear for his band The Swankers... who became the Pistols with the addition of flawed genius Malcolm McLaren and hypnotically vitriolic frontman John Lydon. Pistol has energy, a cracking cast and a terrific soundtrack. There are factual errors – skinheads didn’t chase the band in 1976, Teds and normal geezers did; Bazooka Joe had female backing singers, and there’s no record of McLaren testifying for Jonesy in court. Glen Matlock gets a bum deal too, but the series captures the danger, excitement, sex and savagery of an era that kicked open the doors for a new generation of working-class talent. As Manny Cohen nearly said, never mind the quality, feel the myth.
HOT on TV: Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen... Sydney Chandler, Pistol (Disney+)... The Boys (Prime).
ROT on TV: Bake Off: The Professionals – over-cooked... Mo Gilligan’s Lateish Show – likeability is not enough... Silent Witness – bored listless.
ON This Morning, Richard Madeley asked Joe Pasquale if Some Mothers Do ’Ave ‘Em couldn’t be made today because Frank Spencer is “autistic”. Eh? Frank was well-meaning and big-hearted, even if his natural optimism was thwarted at every turn; but nothing about him suggested autism. It wouldn’t be made today because it ticks no boxes and is far too funny. PS. Joe is superb as Frank in the touring show. He’s so good, you forget Michael Crawford.
*PRINCE Charles and Camilla visited Walford. So, a divorced geezer with a problem son, a trappy daughter-in-law and a shamed bruv... he fitted right in.
*WHAT other shows could the royals brighten up? Gogglebox? Drawers Off? He’d make a grand Dr Who.
*HOW could Charlie go to Albert Square and not ask to see the portrait in Kathy Beale’s attic?
*LETDOWN of the week: Attack Of The Zeppelins not featuring a single frame of Kelly Brooks, in slo-mo or otherwise.
Small Joys of TV: Jubilee TV. Night Sky (Prime). Scum (Britbox). Are You Being Served clips. Elvis, Viva Las Vegas. Axel Blake, BGT. California Dreamin’ (SkyArts).
Random irritations: Poor sound and sob story overkill on BGT. Iffy “art” on Drawers Off. Newsreaders who can’t pronounce “platinum”. Midsomer Murders getting doddery.
TV Maths. Owain Wyn Evans + Bowie thunderbolt = Jay Brown as Ziggy on EastEnders.
7 Greatest Sitcom Women (UK): Mildred Roper. Sybil Fawlty. Mrs Slocombe. Yvette Carte-Blanche. Else Garnett. Hyacinth Bucket. Nellie Pledge.
Classic clanger. Garry Herbert, World Cup Rowing: “I want to see the British crew’s length. I want to see it flowing and coming at the finish... it’s all about quick hands.”