March 17. The way people are over-reacting to the Midsomer
Murders row, you’d think that the local estate agent was Nick
Griffin, and exec producer Brian True-May resides in a cottage
called Dun-Lynchin’... True-May has been suspended and his TV
career is probably kaput because he observed correctly that
many Home Counties villages are white. But most small hamlets
are. That’s just a fact. English villages tend not to look like
Peckham High Street. Keeping the show white merely reflects
observable reality. Besides, what sane black person would want
to live in Midsomer? The village has a higher death rate than
Misrata, or even Weatherfield. Old-fashioned escapism is the
essence of the show’s charm – it still has a library, and even
more miraculously a working post office. But racist? No. Don’t
forget those 251 corpses were all white too. (The grave-diggers
are Eastern European, though – no-one else can keep up...)
*NEXT from panicking ITV: Midsomer Madrassas? Murder She Tweeted?
A Touch Of Frost & A Line Of Charlie?
March 13. IN a few million years the earth will be fried alive
by our dying sun. Sometime later, Brian Cox assured us, every
single star and every living creature will be as dead as Prince
Andrew’s reputation. Thanks for that, Prof. Welcome to The Wonders
Of The Universe, or as I like to call it Happy Hour; a show
for people who find EastEnders a tad too cheerful. Brian’s message
was simple: We’re all doomed! The “arrow of time” is heading
straight for the bulls-eye of oblivion. And everything humanity
has ever achieved will count for sod-all. It was like being
mugged by a well-meaning vicar.
On the bright side Brian had fun blowing BBC2’s travel budget.
We saw him up a mountain, on a Costa Rican beach, next to Patagonian
ice fields and building sandcastles in the Namib dessert. No
wonder he grins a lot. It was The Wonders Of The Licence Fee,
Wish You Were Here with a PhD. “Why are we here?” he asked.
“Where do we come from?” I don’t know, but you’d cheerfully
carry his bags for a seat on the gravy train. Even if his simpering
style does grate like a team of cheese chefs.
Cox wandered about like that guy on The Fast Show insisting
everything was “brilliant”; even Armageddon. He quoted numbers
huge enough to blow Vorderman’s mind and had a stab at explaining
‘entropy’, a concept summed up by that noted scholar Axl Rose
as “nothing lasts forever.” Some of it was nuts. Brian said
there was no law in physics to say the wind couldn’t build a
sand castle. Well there should be, cos it won’t. And he couldn’t
even begin to explain dark energy and dark matter (which make
up most of the cosmos) because science doesn’t yet understand
them. But he still insisted the future will be a permanent void
where “nothing happens and it keeps not happening forever.”
So the Universe is going to end up just like Jaywick Sands!
Great. Cox may be likeable and engaging to women and small children
but his message, frankly, was a kick in the nuts. Especially
coming from a bloke who once promised “things will only get
* JUST to clarify, Brian Cox presented The Wonders of the
Universe; Courtney Cox in a bikini IS a wonder of the universe.
*WOULD we take Cox seriously if his first name were Isaac?
PHIL Mitchell called Shirley the Terrahawk “beautiful” last
week, proving crack addition really mucks up your eye-sight.
Would she marry him? No as it happens, but who cared? He’s a
failed villain; a bullying grass who stole from his own family.
She’s a hard-faced, child-deserting, booze-sozzled skank with
all the charm of an angry Rottweiler. Shirl forgave Phil for
sleeping with his auntie, after quizzing him about previous
wives. “Sharon, what did she look like?” she asked. Miss Piggy?
Kathy was “classy”, he claimed. (Especially in lay-bys.) She
forgot his other brides, Nadia the bag-lady, Cruella Stella,
and Kate, the undercover cop (D’oh!). No mention either of Lisa,
who shot him, or his unlikely Swann-upping period with delicious
Dawn... He’ll be on top of Heather next. Frankly Phil’s character
is clapped-out. The soap needs a new alpha-male, pronto, and
it needs Zsa-Zsa back. She’d definitely be on Charlie Sheen’s
*TOP let-down? Shirley tossing an entire roast chicken at
Jay, and Heather not appearing from nowhere to jump up and swallow
HOW could The Story Of Variety miss out the 1990s? Michael
Grade, the genius who killed off Doctor Who, reckoned variety
died in 1984, but is now re-born through talent shows and Michael
McIntyre. It was a re-writing of history Joe Stalin would have
been proud of. Giants like Freddie Starr, Michael Crawford and
Barrymore (before the fall) didn’t even get a mention. Nor did
high-rating formats like Live From Her Majesty’s and Wednesday
At Eight. Tommy Cooper was glossed over with a still photo.
And instead of household names, Michael interviewed Maurice
Sellar, the obscure co-writer of the rubbish Reg Varney sitcom
Down The Gate. Down The Gate? Grade’s documentary-making career
just went down the pan.
*THE best revelation was that superstar tenor Mario Lanza
was a violent drunk who duffed up agent Peter Prichard, OBE.
There must be a song in this: The Great Caruso-weight.
HOT on TV: new Modern Family (Sky1)... Bradley Walsh (Law
& Order UK)... Better With You (5*).
ROT on TV: Piers Morgan – bluffer turned duffer... Love Thy
Neighbour – hate thy format... OMG! – stinks like Tim Healy’s
breath (allegedly)... Corrie’s fake-marriage saga – Xin when
THERE’S a new rule in Audrey’s salon on Corrie: pensioners
pay up front. Yes, poor Edna passed away in curlers on Monday.
I believe she asked for the John Stape special. If only dull
Xin would book in for a perm. The girl has as much warmth as
*NEW Audrey salon slogans: Dye With Dignitas, The Grim Crimper,
They Died With Their Roots Done, Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow...
*NATO update: Sophie Webster’s bedroom is still officially
*WHY bother re-casting Two & A Half Men? Just following Charlie
Sheen around with a camera would be so much funnier.
*JAMES Nesbitt made a better Monroe than James Franco, but
not as good a House as Hugh Laurie. And this is just a shameless
rip-off of House M.D. So what next from those great original
minds at ITV? Brutal gangsters The Tenors? Cheery sitcom Mates?
1930s drama Ealing Broadway Empire?
*MARTHA Costello, barrister, is pregnant on Silk. Clearly
she’s taken down the legal briefs and been tried in the box.
Sadly the show is just drama by numbers, a poor man’s North
Square. It’d be easier to believe in Elvis Costello, QC.
RANDOM Irritations: absurd X Factor advance hype. TV giving
failed politicians a second career. Anyone who claims to be
“passionate about cauliflower”. BBC documentaries using metric
measures instead of miles, how long before we get a jazz doc
on Kilometres Davis?
SMALL joys of TV: Jazzy B (Jamie’s Dream School). Starkey.
Melvyn Hayes (Benidorm). Graham Norton’s chat-show. Zach Galifianakis:
“I had dyslexia as a child; I wrote about it in my dairy.”
*FANTASY TV: Hawaii 38-DD; Washing Up with the Kardashians;
CSI: Charlie Sheen Investigates.
Separated at birth: Miranda Hart and Bernard Bresslaw? One
a big, clumsy masculine oaf, and... you’re ahead of me.
March 6. JAMES Franco at the Oscars... what was that all about?
He looked about as happy as John Galliano at a bar mitzvah.
Flat, disinterested, apparently on medication, the guy was a
bigger waste of space than Anne Hathaway’s entire show tune
segment. I’m not saying he was stoned, but if a bong could speak
it would say, “Hi I’m James Franco.” He made Dermot look like
Sammy Davis Jnr.
The Academy booked Franco and Hathaway as hosts to “reach
a younger demographic.” Anne in fairness put some effort into
it, largely by changing outfits a lot. But Franco? Sheez. If
he’d got any livelier a funeral would have broken out. At least
Gaddafi would have ranted. Compare and contrast his reception
with the way the audience responded to Billy Crystal, or their
reaction to old footage of Bob Hope saying: “Ladies and gentlemen,
welcome to the Academy Awards, or as it’s known in my house:
Youth in itself is not enough; you have to be able to do the
job. And awards ceremonies need an entertainer at the helm,
especially if they’re as long and dull as this one is. The ordeal
began with the traditional insert-hosts-into-movies bit, including
Back To The Future - an unwise choice, because if a time machine
had been available very few of the audience would have chosen
to endure this 97-hour snoozeathon. No pace, no surprises; Colin
Firth and his stirrings aside, the speeches were poor and the
music was worse. Randy Newman’s performance should be officially
recognised as an alternative to water-boarding. And with all
the great singers available, why indulge Gwyneth Paltrow? She
sang about “a four letter word.” Yeah, crap – and I cleaned
The funniest moment was unintentional: the orchestra getting
louder and louder in a bid to drown out Aaron Sorkin. Diana
Ross knows a song about this: You Can’t Hurry Luvvies. The biggest
talking point, other than Melissa Leo’s classy F-bomb was the
appearance of Kirk Douglas, 94. The small joy of seeing the
barely living legend here, and not in the montage, was outweighed
by questions like what’s the hell has he had done? Kirk’s stretched
face now looks less like Spartacus and more like ‘Scouse git’
Tony Booth with Mike Reid’s ears grafted on. A shocked Bruce
Forsyth is believed to have said: “Even I’m not that doddery.”
*DRUG up-date: after the show the audience tested positive
*OSCARS mysteries: is Christian Bale growing that beard for
a Brian Blessed biopic? Was Melissa Leo auditioning for Mrs
Brown’s Boys? Was ‘Winter’s Bone’ Shane Warne’s nickname for
Liz Hurley? And seriously, why wasn’t Christopher Nolan nominated
for best director?
HOW To Live With Women was more ‘aren’t-men-rubbish?’ cobblers
from the Beeb. Take one job-shy user, make him work for three
successful women, and voila, he’s cured. In fairness, layabout
Tom was as much use as Charlie Sheen at a temperance rally.
But when will TV get around to tackling those annoying female
habits like not ordering chips and then eating yours, inviting
Mum over during the football, wanting you to buy them chocolates
and then blaming you for getting fat? (Cont. divorce court)
THE Story of Variety recalled a lost world of scary audiences,
loony landladies and flea-infested hostels. It was a time when
comedy immortals rubbed shoulders with crocodile charmers, jugglers
and flaky memory men. The agents were ancient. Kenny Earl looked
like he got his wooden teeth second-hand from Elizabeth I. It’s
just a shame Michael Grade’s interviewing technique is so poor.
Less ego, Michael, more clips! More magic!
*GRADE insists variety has croaked. So the nine million who
watch the Royal are presumably ghosts... Bah! Put Conley, Bassey,
Pasquale, Longthorne, Adele, Davro, Freddie Starr and Paul Zerdin
on one Saturday night show with great spesh acts and see how
dead it is...
HOT on TV: True Blood (FX)... The Killing (BBC4)... Pollyanna
(Gadget Show, C5)... John Lydon (One Show).
ROT on TV: James Franco at the Oscars – putting the kak in
the Kodak Theatre... OMG! With Peaches Geldoff – oh eff off...
Outcasts – sigh-fi... How To Live With Women – more suspect
than Christian Bale’s accent.
THE X-Files is re-running from scratch on Sky Atlantic. Every
week Mulder sees ghouls and aliens but he can never prove it.
You feel like shaking him and saying “Fox, you moron, buy an
effing camera!” PS Didn’t Scully look different when she was
on Antiques Roadshow?
*GEORGE Michael has a lot in common with Mulder. He also spends
a lot of time out in the woods at night hoping to get sucked
up by something exotic and friendly…
*PHONE pest to Agnes (Mrs Brown’s Boys): “If you can guess
what I have in my hand you can have it.” Agnes: “If it fits
in one hand you can keep it.”
*SAM Womack coped with misery, slums and still-born babies
in Africa. It was horrible; it was like being back on EastEnders...
*HUMANS are still evolving, said Horizon. Jeremy Kyle’s guests
*MEMO to all contenders on The Biggest Loser: you’re still
*FANTASY TV: 1) I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, Chris Moyles
edition. 2) Jamie’s Dream School, with games masters Charlie
Sheen. 3) One Man & His Camper Man: Jimmy and Alan Carr together
HOT not on TV: Jim Davidson’s play Stand Up & Be Counted.
It’s funny and thought-provoking, so no doubt the Guardian will
demand military intervention any day now.
*JIM’S latest wife Michelle is charming and lovely but how
must it feel to know that some horrible, heartless swine has
opened a book on your marriage? Sorry about that.
RANDOM Irritations: actors who “don’t know what to say” when
they win an Oscar. You know you’re nominated, hire a writer!
George’s whiney voice on Being Human: man up, wolf-boy!
SMALL joys of TV: Arthur Haynes clips (BBC4). Mrs Brown –
living proof that Chubby Brown shagged Mrs Merton. Brian Blessed
– the actor Colonel Gaddafi calls “that crazy bloke.” His every
TV appearance should begin with the words: “Bring on the Kraken!”
SEPARATED at birth: Jasper Carrott and Vladimir Putin: one
an ageing figure of fun, the other a popular English comedian.