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.
March 26. ANOTHER week, another bunch of wannabes trying to ride the reality train to undeserved fame... At first glance Rise And Fall felt like Big Brother re-jigged by Jeremy Corbyn. Contenders are split into two classes – the pampered Rulers in their luxury penthouse and the lowly Grafters doing all the work. But Grafters aspire to become Rulers not axe them. Ursula the Sea Witch, also known as Ramona, was the toughest Ruler by far. Think Monty Burns in drag with Simpsons bartender Titania’s assets. You suspected her plunging neckline was strategically designed to distract viewers from any accidental flash of cloven hooves. Ramona was billed as a “hospitality CEO”! Hostility, surely? She was such a natural exploiter, the wets voted her out. They missed the point. Only hard work can push the prize funds up to £100K. But Ramona forgot you need to know how to play the others to stay in the game.
Four Rooms wheeler-dealer Jeff Salmon is stranded among the grafters and isn’t chuffed about it. Especially as the first task involved electric shocks. They’re sleeping on rock-hard beds in a windowless basement and living off foul broth served three times a day, but wouldn’t you suffer that to avoid an ear-bashing from Cheryl? Sharp-elbowed Chezza dispensed with the quaint old-fashioned idea of votes and put herself first, pushing into the lift to a life of luxury. A career in politics surely awaits. There are echoes of Traitors and Crystal Maze, as well as Big Bro, jungle-style grub challenges and the Gen Game but at least there’s no backstabbing. On this show they come at you from the front.
*FACT. Nowadays the reward for hard work is often a pay cut. Unless of course you’re in the boardroom.
*HOST Greg James is nicknamed “G-Force” on cricket podcast Tailenders. Beautifully ironic. Any more laid back and he’d be sleepwalking. If anyone needs an electric shock...
BBC Brink’s-Mat documentary, The Gold: The Inside Story, had a lot more drama than their actual drama The Gold did. It wasn’t scared of showing us Kenny Noye’s callous side. The Gold’s writer Neil Forsyth painted double-killer Ken as Robin Hood, and multiple fraudster John Palmer as a cuddly country bumpkin. He watered down the vicious robbery, kept Noye’s brutality offscreen and wildly over-played his Masonic links. Forsyth also threw in a made-up woman detective and an unlikely Class War agenda. His nods to Dundee United had as little to do with south London as the show’s “Rotherhithe” accents. Good fiction but a long way from the facts.
*LOVED the real ex-cops on The Inside Story. Tony Yeoman said of armed robber Micky McAvoy, “It soon became clear that he wasn’t going to tell us the time of day if he had eight wrist watches up his arm.”
ON Sunday, ITV’s Grace served up yet another woman having her head caved in by a twisted pervert. Happy Mother’s Day! The rubber-suited wrong’un loved kidnapping and/or pouncing on victims and sexually assaulting them with a dildo. Suspects included an old-school sex-pest cabbie, a cocksure company boss and Brighton’s new top cop. Sid the sexist cabbie was also a ghost train groper. We knew he was bad when he used the word “woke” as an insult in an ITV drama. Boo, hiss! ITV’s villain the Sunday before was an English patriot gone bad. Double boo. How these right-on twerps hate their audience, especially white working-class blokes.
*WHAT Sid didn’t say on the ghost train: “That’s not the emergency brake, but don’t stop pulling it... ” He was in the RMT – Repulsive Man Tendency.
HOT on TV: The Night Agent (Netflix)... Riley Keough, Daisy Jones & The Six (Prime).
ROT on TV: Milf Manor (Discovery) – cougar cobblers... As Yet Untitled – as yet un-titillating.
SO a knock-out win for Marnie on The Apprentice. Sugar gambled on her proposed Grit & Glory boxing gym chain, despite grumbling that it “sounds like a boozer to me”. Rival Rochelle’s plan to expand her one hair salon nationwide was cut short. But her video shoot was fun. “Shall I do the blowing?” she asked, while the cameraman noted, “Start in and pull out”. Tsk. Some wretches would find filth in these innocent remarks. Marnie’s eloquence, drive and vision won Sugar over. Let’s hope she does for gyms what Rupert Murdoch is doing for Viagra sales. Me? I’m still dreaming of Victoria’s sweet box.
WHAT is TV’s obsession with sending celebs on holiday? The BBC dispatched Anton Du Berk & Giovanni Pernice to Sicily at our expense. It’s not clear what they add to recent visits by Ray Winstone, Stanley Tucci, Amanda Holden, Alan Carr-crash, Gino, James May etc etc.
*C5’s Challenge Anneka finally has a real challenge – finding some viewers. Under a million tuned in for episode one.
*MILF Manor is tackier than 70s Soho. It’s no Babes In The Wood. More old babes after wood.
*THEY issued bear repellent sprays on Race Across Canada, sorry, The World. If they work on Stephen Bear, the UK will be a much better place.
SMALL joys of TV: Will Hay films on TPTV. Norman Potting, Grace. Dolly Parton night, BBC4. Sidcup’s singing cabbie on Starstruck. Clive James re-runs.
RANDOM Irritations: Celeb travelogues. Grace & Sunday night viewing going together like a hot bath and a plugged-in toaster. Unforgotten griping but forgetting to grip.
TV Maths: BBC reporter David Sillito + neck bolts = Herman Munster.
Goof of the month: ABC weathergirl Karen Rogers was talking about having a pint in both hands when she introduced colleague Jess, saying: “And here’s another woman who likes to be double-fisted in a different way.”
March 19. THEY’VE done pet food on The Apprentice but their business plans were even more of a dog’s dinner. One by one, the final five faced Lord Sugar’s forensic interrogators only to see their dreams tank like the Silicon Valley Bank. By the end, only Tim Davie had more egg on his face. The interviews were so tough, Baroness Brady left two of the candidates in floods of tears. But the damage was entirely self-inflicted. Dani – the genius who’d squawked “What’s St Paul’s?” – didn’t know the difference between turn-over and profit, and planned to splurge the bulk of Sugar’s £250,000 on hair extensions. Linda Plant branded Dani’s mermaid USP “rubbish”. Mike Soutar rightly said her vision of reaching “millions of customers” for £10K was “completely unrealistic”. Hugh Grant aside, she had the week’s worst interviews.
Jolly trolley-dolly Victoria’s plans for an Instagram-based pick-and-mix sweets business, with zero funds set aside for stock and apparently no staff, were correctly dubbed “absolutely absurd” by Claude Littner. Claude also dismissed Rochelle’s hair saloon roll-out (today Milton Keynes, tomorrow Belgravia!) as “not ambitious but ridiculous”. Megan’s vision, for a daytime sweet shop cum night-time cocktail bar, was “about as crazy as it gets,” said Karren. While Marnie had no secured location or realised loans for her proposed boxing gym chain. Overall, their ideas were as feeble as BBC management.
Victoria was first out, the blue of her eyes matching the clear blue water between her plan and reality. She was followed rapidly by Dani and her Piella Bakewell lips, and then Megan. At the death, Sugar chose wannabe boxing gym magnate Marnie and “pipe-dreaming” hair salon owner Rochelle for the final – upper cuts versus feather-cuts... I’d plump for Marnie, but there’s a case for swerving both. This year’s candidates were about as good for business as Hunt’s budget. Like James Norton naked, the key to this show’s survival is not hard. All they need are contenders with entrepreneurial nous.
THE last Endeavour was all you’d want from the Morse franchise – smart, witty, moving... We found out why Fred Thursday was ghosted in later stories – he killed a biker to save his druggie son. “I know thee not, old man,” said a horrified Endeavour, quoting Falstaff. There was a clever crossword joke from pathologist Max DeBryn – “sooner or later we all end up six down and two across”. (Morse and Lewis were named after a crossword solver and setter respectively). Touching moments included Morse’s daydream snog with Joan, and the scene where John Thaw’s old Morse, arriving in his Mark 2 Jag, looked back in the rear-view mirror at Endeavour leaving, who did the same. An ale-swigging grump who could never keep a woman proved popular for decades. Wow. That’s just like Ian Beale’s life. Plus popularity.
*WHY not bring back Burnside? All of the beer, none of the Latin.
*FRED on Morse: “You’d find something suspicious in a saint’s sock drawer.”
I WANTED to love A Town Called Malice with its Paul Weller cameo and The Jam and The Clash on the soundtrack. But Nick Love’s new series is more comic book romp than gritty south London crime drama. None of the “Bermondsey” accents are right either. Still, it’s hard not to root for young lovers Gene – non-criminal son of the once dreaded Lord family – and barmaid Cindy who flee to the Costa. It’s already clear that she’s the one you wouldn’t cross. If you’re in the market for stylish 80s escapism with casual clobber (Ellesse, Fila, Sergio Tacchini), cartoon gang wars and the depth of a Fry’s Raspberry Cream, this is for you.
*DID anyone in SE1/SE16 use “gavvers” for the police? That’s gypsy lingo. Sort out the “Lang Lang” chaps.
HOT on TV: Constitution Hill, Cheltenham... the final Endeavour & Shaun Evans.
ROT on TV: Comic Relief – as funny as famine... Oscar speeches... Love Island – flaccid to the climax.
JIMMY Kimmel showed Bafta how to host awards nights with a flurry of decent gags at the Oscars. “If anyone commits an act of violence during the show, you’ll be awarded the Oscar for best actor,” Kimmel claimed, referencing last year’s slap. Noticing James Cameron was AWOL, he added, “You know a show is too long when even James Cameron can’t sit through it... “How does the Academy not nominate the guy who directed Avatar? What do they think he is, a woman?”
*GOOD old Brendan Fraser. I hear he had to lose 8stone to play The Whale.
*DID you see those obese fat fetish freaks on Sex Actually? Talk about everything everywhere all at once.
*THOUGHT of the week: “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy doughnuts,” Marcus Dante, The Equalizer.
*DAVID Attenborough told us not to mow the lawn until July. Good man. Picture that conversation: “No darling I’m not lazy, I’m just very green... and that bloody dog can walk itself as well.”
SMALL joys of TV: Lucy on The Piano – heart-warming and brilliant. Paula Yates footage, Paula. Wild Isles. Camila Morrone as Camila, Daisy Jones. Queen Latifah’s fight scenes on The Equalizer.
RANDOM Irritations: Better’s wetter ending. Andrew Neil’s “comedy” bits. Endless one-sided politics in ITV dramas, Unforgotten, Endeavour... is Gary Lineker writing ’em?
SEPARATED at birth. Dilksy, SAS: WDW, and Lord Voldemort? One a terrifying super-human monster, the other’s in Harry Potter...
March 12. A GANG OF spiteful student snobs got their kicks from beating up the hard-up and helpless on Endeavour. Odds on their kids are now running a British Gas debt collection agency... The swaggering Oxford toffs, called The Debonairs, were led by posh psycho Viscount Henley, a bloke so toxic he could’ve been developed in a Wuhan lab. Two were Lords, another was an Honourable – all as full of themselves as a suicidal Pac-Man. They were like a Starstruck version of Alex’s droogs from A Clockwork Orange. They wore white suits, masks and mascara (wot? no codpieces?) and, to a soundtrack echoing Kubrick’s banned classic, laid into the first murder victim – a vagrant who turned out to be an ex-soldier sleeping rough. (Some things never change).
The plot had more threads than Elton John’s old syrup. The Clockwork creeps and the dead tramp weren’t even the biggest stories. Closure on the show’s Blenheim Vale boys home abuse scandal, dating from series one, is looming. Young Morse is opening up that can of worms, giving tonight’s last-ever episode a fitting finale. He was having the grounds dug up when ACC Bright said Division had ordered him to close the investigation down. But, Bright added, “They’re not here, and I am.” More bodies emerged – the corpses of Joe Landesman and Brenda Lewis. Then two corrupt country cops roughed up Morse, ruining his last chance to woo Joan Thursday away from Strange... When he arrived late at the Eagle & Child (aka Bird & Baby) the only thing left of her was her perfume. No wonder older Morse was so glum. We can only hope her dad Fred gets a hero’s ending. Elsewhere Box shot a would-be killer and scarpered. DS Jakes returned, and a dead artist’s paintings suggest the Blenheim scandal goes all the way to the top.
*LOVED the in-joke of the very luvvy luvvies in a (fictional) early 70s TV crime drama revolving around affable pipe-smoking DI Jolyon Jolliphant. The great Sir John Gielgud once played a Jollifant. Hopefully, no slur intended.
DUBLIN Narcos related the rise and fall of Irish drug lord Larry Dunne, the scumbag who introduced heroin to inner-city youth. His brother claimed Dunne had been done up like a West Cork kipper by the Irish cops. “He never had a chance,” he moaned, which is true – largely because Larry was as guilty as a cat-burglar collared with a bag of stolen swag. Soaring unemployment meant kids “took to heroin like a duck to water,” testified one survivor. The heroes were protesting parents and the “Mockies” – plucky plod who posed as junkies to nab the vermin selling death to working class teens.
THERE’S something missing from Daisy Jones & The Six. For starters there’s five musicians, not six. The fictional band are based on Fleetwood Mac – Riley Keough’s Daisy is their Stevie Nicks. And although there are great performances, it comes across as a decent tribute act with good to so-so songs. It should be wilder and funnier, and dozy Daisy should be more than a drug-crazed nuisance. The central aggro is between her and guitarist Billy Dunne. Is he a control freak or does she need roping in? Who cares? Stripped of the book’s ambiguity, the series is clichés-by-numbers, more hack than Mac.
HOT on TV: Victoria Goulbourne, The Apprentice... Suki Waterhouse... Endeavour.
ROT on TV: Funny Woman – more howlers than Hancock’s WhatsApp... Beyond Paradise – beyond bearable.
CHRIS Rock did for the Sussexes what Liverpool did to Man United.On Selective Outrage, Rock ridiculed Megs for claiming the Royal Family were racist – “just some in-law sh*t”. And turned his sights on everything from virtue-signalling corporations to gender identification – “I’m rich but I identify as poor, my pronoun is broke,” he joked. It wasn’t his greatest set but it had golden moments.
*WHAT was funnier on Starstruck last weekend? The fat Ed Sheeran or the Bette Davis lookalike claiming to be Judy Garland? One “Judy” looked like she’d wandered in from the ’Allo ’Allo! gestapo.
*THE Bay is now an odd mix of high drama and dull soap. I miss DS Lisa Armstrong whose karaoke bar sex brought new meaning to It Only Takes A Minute. Talk about you have the right to remain randy.
*DANNY Dyer’s Cheat catchphrase is “Do you want to say the C-word?” Watching it, I very much do.
*SHOULDN’T Better’s full title start with, “It Doesn’t Get Any... ”?
*HOW about a spin-off, Married Sex Actually? Just months of pathetic begging...
*NOW you can pay to stay at Downton Abbey, shouldn’t they try that in Midsomer? £200 a night with your deposit back if you survive a week...
*IS Sinead Keenan the shortest TV cop ever? She’s five inches shorter than Frost, and he was tiny. Coming soon, Warwick Davis as Lofty Large, Borrower of the Yard...
*QUOTE of the week: “He looks a bit confused to me, like a baby on a topless beach” – Lord Sugar.
7 greatest TV dogs: Hong Kong Phooey. Muttley. Scooby-Doo. Lassie. Ethel’s Little Willie. Rin Tin Tin. Frasier’s Eddie.
SMALL joys of TV: Dean Martin, King Of Cool. Close-up magician Dani DaOrtz. Anton Lesser in Better. Dionne Warwick clips. Orla Brady. Chewing Gum re-runs (Gold).
RANDOM Irritations: The dramatic re-enactments on Dublin Narcos – crock, rot & two scraping barrels. Ant & Dec’s Take-away rapidly losing what’s left of its charm.
TV Maths: Russ Abbot’s Vince Prince minus drape jacket = Endeavour’s Ronnie Box.
Classic Clanger. Steve Cram commenting on the 200m race at the 2005 world athletics championships: “Pumping away, Marlon Devonish has got the Olympic champion inside him.”
March 5. IT was always going to be hard to forget Unforgotten. Hard to forget DCI Cassie Stuart’s shocking death too. And even harder to replace her. Yet ITV may have done it with their stroppy new DCI. Jessica “Jessie” James comes across as a proper cow-(girl) to her new colleagues. When the series starts with a new cold case – a small corpse stuck up a Hammersmith chimney – Sunil “Sunny” Khan wonders if it’s a Victorian child. “Dick Van Dyke’s little brother?” quips Jessie. Talk about super-callous, fatalistic, DCI atrocious!
After all, it could’ve been a midget cat-burglar or Santa’s lost elf, Nora Chance.
Poor Sunny is still grieving for Cassie, sitting by her grave and absent-mindedly buying her a morning coffee. Jessie coldly tells him their job “isn’t therapy”. Tsk. Even her hair has a bad attitude. She winds Sunny up, saying she intends to change how the team works. Ancient cold cases cost too much; only modern murders matter now. When they discover the chimney stiff is a recently deceased adult female, Jessie seems resentful. Sunny finally snaps and puts her in her place, revealing that top brass “f***ing begged me” to take her job.
Viewers know that James is cold, cack-handed and abrasive because her marriage has just gone down the Swanee. Husband Steve dumped her that morning. She loved him – he’s listed as “My Gorgeous Hubby” on her phone – and she’s shell-shocked. Odds on she’ll come good. Other threads include a mugger with a smack addict girlfriend, a Parisian warehouse worker and cabbie, a dying Tory grandee, and alky Ebele who beats up her chef hubby. It has the makings of another unforgettable run.
*WE got bog-standard Tory-bashing in Chris Lang’s script. I’m not complaining, they deserve it. But odds on you’ll never see a frustrated Londoner in a TV drama moaning about Sadiq Khan.
ON Sex Actually, Alice Levine met Alex, an oddball Yank “married” to Mimi, his “synthetic wife”. To each their own of course, but weren’t C4 even slightly troubled that sex-doll Mimi was schoolgirl-sized? With a merkin? Mimi was A.I. – like Arnie in The Terminator – and consequently could hold a better conversation than anyone on Towie. As Alex pumps away, she probably whispers sweet words of encouragement – like “Hasta la blister, baby”. And “Oil me bits”. Soon she’ll gain consciousness and take savage revenge on humanity with a synthetic aubergine. No lube.
*ALICE visited a Berlin “cy-brothel” starring Frau Schmidt, a synthetic teacher with breasts like zeppelins. The dolls’ orifices are cleaned out after use, say the owners, but what if they forget? This could become the biggest biohazard since Chernobyl. Forget Chat-bot, cue Clap-bot.
*WE saw a bloke pinned under a grossly obese blonde, which begs the question, whatever happened to Arg Argent?
*FUN fact: dial the digits of her vital statistics and you’ll get through to the alien invasion fleet.
I THOUGHT Fred Thursday would be killed off on Endeavour, but it’s going to be worse than that. The great man was never mentioned on Inspector Morse, so his career must end in disgrace – probably connected with “bad business” back in The Smoke. Either that or Win’s never-changing sandwich rotation pushes him over the edge. Fred was unsettled by the brutal murder of old Cockney snout Mickey Flood – nailed to the floor with his tongue ripped out. Mentions of “Landesman” and Blenheim Vale boys’ home sex abuse scandal hark back to Landesman Construction – run by Vince Kasper and East End hoods, the Fletchers... bad business indeed.
*MORSE mysteries: what’s happened to WPC Shirley Trewlove? What’s going on with Bright’s beatnik barnet? Did the Chief Super grow it so Anton Lesser could play ex-cop Vernon Marley on Better?
HOT on TV: Michelle Hurd, Star Trek: Picard (Prime)... Unforgettable & Sanjeev Bhaskar.
ROT on TV: Liaison (Apple) – the biggest mess this side of Princess Kate’s pancakes... Django (SkyAt) – skint Eastwood.
HAS there ever been a worse product on The Apprentice than Anti-Venom? The exfoliating face scrub dyed users’ skin green, like a DIY Hulk kit. It came in a snake-themed tube that looked, in Sugar’s words: “Like a Brussel sprout sitting on top of a turd”. It didn’t even exfoliate. The candidates all claim to have business in their blood. What a shame it’s not in their brains.
*KENNY Noye killed PC John Fordham by stabbing him ten times in a frenzied attack. But in keeping with their bizarre decision to portray Noye as Robin Hood, BBC1’s The Gold kept the brutal murder off-screen. Moral cowardice or cynical manipulation?
*KATIE Price’s Mucky Mansion? Messy, past its best, bits falling off, not a lot in the attic... and the mansion’s not much better.
*SUBTITLE clangers: “Arch Bitch of Canterbury” (archbishop), “knicker-less sturgeon” (Nicola), “rain along the Nazi ghosts” (northwest coast).
SMALL joys of TV: Worf’s return, Star Trek: Picard (Prime). Crown Court (TPTV). The huge gulf between the judges’ comments & tragic reality on Starstruck.
RANDOM Irritations: TV news falling for Rishi’s Windsor Framework con-trick. Launched with more noisy spinning than The Wheel, it had all the substance of a VR hologram.
SEPARATED at birth: David Coverdale & Shirley Carter? One is harder than Iron Man’s fist, the other’s a geriatric rock singer.