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.
May 29. THE Health Secretary was gunned down by a sniper on Silent Witness. The cause of death was pretty obvious, but Nikki Alexander still opened her up like a tin of pilchards. And – good news for Boris – she only had a can’s worth of cider sloshing about inside her guts, so we can be pretty sure she hadn’t been at a Number Ten party.
Odds on, with some careful stitching, she could still be promoted to the Lords.
Silent Witness has been running for 25years and hasn’t made much sense in any of them. London-based pathologists Nikki, Jack and Simone are in Liverpool where, as is traditional, they’re leading the murder investigation, trailing suspects and running rings around the Old Bill. They’re not just medics, they’re hawk-eyed CSI and ballistics whizz-kids... unlike the killer who, sniping with an SA80, hit a flagpole with a bullet which ricocheted on to find its target. Highly realistic.
As an anniversary treat, the Beeb brought back Amanda Wooden as Nikki’s predecessor Sam Ryan to delight us with her repertoire of shifty looks and pained gurning. Sam seems so guilty she must be innocent. Surely? She and her husband (who got clipped in the attack) have developed a health app to track everyone constantly. The big tech bastards! Nikki’s ex-husband, former Para Tom, is framed for murder by those ever-busy far-right extremists – the BBC’s villains of choice; on TV, nobody else harms a soul. No wonder poor Nik had a worried look on her face. Wait, she always has the same look on her face.
*JACK asked Nikki if they were “being handled?” Hours later they were handling each other. Pathologists do it deep inside...
*WITH a health app constantly tracking our every move, how long before we’d hear: “Warning! Warning! Mrs. Bloomers is reaching for a second doughnut, send in Jamie Oliver now!”
IF the TV news isn’t terrifying enough, Stranger Things is back with new frights, fresh murders, high school basketball and a demonical serial killer called Vecna. We also get possibly the scariest toilet moment since Jim Royle overdid the Guinness and vindaloo. Season four of Netflix’s superb 80s horror pastiche kicks off with a gory throwback to 1979 as super-kids were slaughtered in Hawkins Lab. But the feature-length episodes are set six months after the battle with Mind Flayer at Starcourt Mall. We get teen comedy, Kate Bush, adolescent angst and the Hellfire Club playing Dungeons & Dragons. Orphaned super-kid Eleven, now in California, has lost her telekinetic powers and is getting bullied – and that’s before the military come calling. It’s thrilling, funny and almost as frightening as inflation. In Hawkins, Indiana, the gate to the Upside Down rarely stays shut for long.
DOES Rachel Riley’s belief that producers often rig reality shows mean we shouldn’t trust Hunted? Eleven “fugitives” versus a team of ex-cops with full access to CCTV, drones, licence plate trackers, mobiles and your social media... it’s a wonder anyone lasts a day. Especially Amarinder who thought Cowes was a cattle show. The only way to win C4’s £100K is to go completely to ground – dump your phone, avoid ATM machines and CCTV cameras, and live off the land, SAS-style. If you were really smart, you’d also spend weeks prior to taking part leaving a trail of false clues involving phone calls and cryptic messages to friends in locations miles away from your actual destination.
HOT on TV: Ricky Gervais: SuperNature (Netflix)... Pachinko (Apple TV)... Stranger Things... Commando: Britain’s Ocean Warriors... Maxwell Thorpe.
ROT on TV: Silent Witness – needs an autopsy... The Essex Serpent (Apple) – slither thither... Sam Coates (SkyNews).
PISTOL reveals that the late ITV News At Ten anchor, Reginald Bosanquet used to frequent Malcolm McLaren’s Chelsea fetish shop, Sex. Reg got pally with punk icon Jordan, RIP, and would sometimes wink in code while reading the news to let her know he was wearing rubber pants in her honour. How unlike our current crop of po-faced newsreaders! How much happier would Sophie Raworth be with a strategically placed Japanese love-egg?
*SHOWS like Big Brits Go Large, celebrating the lardy, are surely doomed. Obesity will plummet as we’re all forced to start on the skipping diet... you skip breakfast, skip dinner, skip tea... just to pay the flipping gas bill.
*CHALLENGE Anneka is coming back. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to re-visit the two-bob make-overs she did years ago? If only to see if any are still standing...
*PRUE Leith’s Jubilee chandelier? The biggest mess this side of Norwich City.
*WE’RE supposed to sneer at Scott on State Of The Union – he doesn’t like poncy coffee shops or pronoun-obsessed trendies. But isn’t wife Ellen more irritating? Wet, virtue-signalling, overflowing with sanctimonious bull... Scott, take the divorce, mate. It’d be a lucky escape.
*TV DRAMA of the week? The final minutes of the Man City game. No contest.
7 greatest cherished childhood memories: Bewitched. Stingray. The Addams Family. Tiswas. Adam Adamant Lives! Mr Ed. Foghorn Leghorn.
Small Joys of TV: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney). The Handersons’ song, Nanna Stop Your Stealing, BGT. Prehistoric Planet. Inside No 9. Katharine Birbalsingh.
Random irritations: The soundtrack on Prehistoric Planet. All “ghost”, “haunting” and “alien” programmes. The endless onslaught of half-baked cooking shows.
TV Maths: Mr Burns + Sven Goran Eriksen = Peter Bone, MP.
May 22. MOST of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Celebration was magnificent. The superb horsemanship, the stirring pageantry... in fact, everything ITV had sod-all to do with. At least when the Sex Pistols rained on the Queen’s jubilee parade in 1977 it was deliberate. ITV were just clueless. How many turned off during their gormless 45minute “build-up” consisting of Phillip Schofield, pointless chitchat, and Tom Cruise plugging his latest film? Celebs delivered inane insights, like calling the Queen “a real geezer” – off with their talking heads.
The commentators never knew when to shut up. Why did Schofield feel the need to explain that a daredevil Azerbaijan acrobat going under his horse’s belly wasn’t an accident? Or that Omani horses faking sleep weren’t hurt? Grow up! I loved the Swiss Top Secret Drum Core, but why rabbit over them? Dame Helen Mirren’s re-enactment of Elizabeth 1st’s Tilbury speech was suitably rousing, but ITV cut straight to ads after it, killing the mood. Martin Clunes was wrongly captioned ‘Damian Lewis’ while ‘Herald’ Omid Djalili addressed the Queen as “Your Royal Highness” and not “Your Majesty” which she became in 1952 (the event they were celebrating). Omid did a decent job, but trailers for Love Island seemed misplaced. What was this, pomp, pageantry and... soft porn?
The splendid King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and the Household Cavalry Musical Ride recalled the much-missed Royal Tournament. Bring it back! (Not you, ITV). And treats kept coming. Who expected the Trinidad & Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra to tackle Dancing Queen? At the end we got “from Scotland” bagpipes and dancers, “from Northern Ireland” jiggers, “from Wales” Katherine Jenkins and a choir... And from England? Morris Men? Cornish sea shanties? A colliery brass band? Nope. Absolutely zilch. Still, Her Maj seemed to enjoy it. But then she couldn’t hear Schofield blethering on. Gordon the Gopher would’ve done a better job. So, in fairness, would the BBC.
JUST like The Terminator, Henry on The Time Traveller’s Wife zips through time starkers. Although you never saw naked Arnie befriending a young girl from behind a tree in the woods. The child was Clare, Henry’s future wife, which was beyond creepy. He knows her as an adult, but this was the first time she met him. It sounds like paedo paradise. Henry suffers from spontaneous time travel (like Billy did in Slaughterhouse Five) and can’t control his trips. When Clare beds him as an adult, he’s a cocky “secret asshole” who hadn’t met her before. His actual arse isn’t so secret – we see a lot of it – but there’s no story beyond their relationship. Turning up naked is a problem, so Henry steals clothes from the strangers he beats up. Tell me again why we’re supposed to like him.
*WOULDN’T you put up with the indignities of being hurled through time just to see proper comedians on telly, bobbies on the beat and banks open on high streets again?
TOUTED as “the new Normal People”, Conversations With Friends was the biggest wash-out since Mr Stink got hosed down. If the show moved any slower, it’d be employed by the DVLA. Cocky Bobbi and naïve Frances are student poets and ex-lovers out to bang on older married couple, writer Melissa and her actor husband Nick. It’s basically Open House: The Great Sex Experiment for semi-educated self-obsessed undergraduates. Naturally it’s unquestioningly woke as well as dull and barely sexy. Barbara Flynn’s Milk Woman on Open All Hours had far more erotic allure. If you get off on meaningful looks, stilted chat and uncomfortable silences, this BBC bore-in is for you.
HOT on TV: Dame Helen Mirren as Good Queen Bess... Tokyo Vice (Starzplay)... Das Boot (SkyAt)... Graham Norton at Eurovision.
ROT on TV: Future Food Stars – no stars, nothing to eat, no future... Conversations With Friends – you’d have seen more drama in Court 13.
RACHEL Riley claims Strictly is fixed. Perhaps. Who knows? Cynical producers often cook up “narratives” for reality shows, giving their chosen winner favourable edits. We might be hopelessly naïve to believe the all-female final of SAS: WDW happened completely by chance. And look how Britain Can’t Find Talent uses Ant & Dec and carefully selected “random” audience members with convenient microphones to tell us who to love and how to feel.
*RACHEL reckons Strictly gave her PTSD. Really? Strictly? Best steer clear of Dancing On Ice then, Rach. Not to mention Celebrity Tipping Point.
*AN odd bod told This Morning she wanted her alien lover to propose to her. Bad idea. A guy like that would always crave more space...
*LAUREN on Spreadsheet beds endless blokes she meets online. How times change. For that kind of action years ago she’d have had to put cards up in a phone box.
*BBC1’s Gentleman Jack blurb promised “serious cracks are appearing”. Blimey. I missed that scene entirely.
*BORED with dripping wet touchy-feely dramas? Try Reacher on Amazon – it kicks like Viera.
7 greatest TV horror shows: Twin Peaks. Salem’s Lot. The Twilight Zone. Stranger Things. Children Of The Stones. The Outer Limits. Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Small Joys of TV: Quality twists and star-studded casts on Tales Of The Unexpected (SkyArt). Rod Stewart, Real Time With Bill Maher. Pauline Black, 2-Tone doc. Sam Ryder, Eurovision.
Random irritations: Too much chitchat on The Terror. England getting the short straw at the Jubilee knees-up and Adjoa Andoh blanking the national anthem.
SEPARATED at birth: Iceland’s Elin from Systur and Princess Beatrice? One associated with a dubious and divisive institution... the other has never sung on Eurovision.
Classic clanger. Phil Spencer, talking about an industrial chimney eyesore, said: “I’m hoping this unsightly erection won’t mean hopes of a happy house go up in smoke.”
May 15. DOES anyone care about the Baftas other than the people at the Baftas? Sunday night had one clear message for viewers – this ain’t for you. Instead, it was an opportunity for brown-nosing bores who appear on the BBC and Channel 4 to tell us how “bloody brilliant” they both are. Winner after winner praised C4 for “risk-taking”. Yeah, because it takes real guts to nick a baking show and pretend twaddle like Open House: The Great Sex Experiment is a lofty “social experiment” rather than just soft porn titillation for the drunk, dateless and desperate.
All four scripted comedy contenders were BBC or C4 shows, boasted Holly Walsh, failing to add that hardly anyone watched them. (And they’re nowhere near as funny as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Schitt’s Creek or The Good Place, let alone sitcoms of yore.) Viewers search the schedules for genuine laughs as desperately as menopausal women hunt for black market HRT. But those in the Bafta bubble don’t care about shrinking audiences and peed-off viewers. It’s the great unwashed vs great unwatched.
My heart sunk when the opening “treats” trailer included sub-standard submarine saga Vigil, aka Voyage To The Bottom Of The Ratings, and little-viewed poetry snooze-athon Life Of Rhymes. It’s hard to take the Academy’s commitment to “excellence” seriously when toss like Married At First Sight gets nominated. And great shows like Clarkson’s Farm, The White Lotus, and Dopesick are totally blanked. Unforgotten and Mare Of Easttown were nominated but wrongly pipped at the post. Actual highlights included Billy Connolly’s fellowship, Time scooping Best Miniseries and deserved wins for Sean Bean and Jodie Comer. Stephen Graham and Big Zuu flew the flag for working-class talent, so under-used now. Accepting his Entertainment Performance gong, Zuu also correctly asked Bafta “Are you mad?” because, after all, he fronts another bloody cooking show, and a vegan one at that. TV needs red meat drama just as much as it needs smart working-class input.
RIP Dennis Waterman, forever loved for his roles in The Sweeney and Minder – two of ITV’s greatest-ever shows. As Det Sgt George Carter, Waterman and his volatile Flying Squad “guv” DI Jack Regan tore up the rule-book to catch armed robbers “bang to rights”. In less violent Minder, he played two-fisted Terry McCann, ex-boxer, unrepentant “bird-bandit” and reluctant enforcer for car-dealing spiv folk hero Arthur Daley. These stories from London’s seedy underbelly were lapped up by millions who had no direct involvement with blaggers, hoisters or conmen but who recognised their authenticity. We bought into the world of lockups, “earners” and drinking clubs – some of us even drank in them. Let’s hope Dennis is enjoying a few light ales on the “on the slate” now in Cockney after-life paradise. Few modern dramas can dream of having such a lasting grip on our memories.
ITV’s soul-sapping non-event The Games started with the biggest tsunami of groundless hype since the Talk TV launch. And yet all it delivered were ex-soap stars and “reality” refugees competing in sports they weren’t very good at. Some viewers might have wondered which contestant had had the most experience with the Men’s Hammer. (Careful! – Ed). But did any really care if Mel B’s daughter could out-run Paddy McGuinness’ missus? Coleen Vs Rebekah would’ve given it more edge. What a woeful, puffed-up waste of time. What were ITV thinking?
*THE Games were feeble, yes, think how easily they’d be livened up by the simple addition of Squid Game’s killer doll.
HOT on TV: Derry Girls: The Reunion... Commando: Britain’s Ocean Warriors... Ben Stokes.
ROT on TV: The Games – lamer than Keyser Soze... Romeo & Duet – less fun than a Labour work do.
GOOD luck to Ncuti Gatwa, but it’ll take more than great acting to revive Doctor Who. With ratings collapsing like a dying star, the Beeb need to make radical changes quicky. Here’s how: Swerve boring companions, create better villains, deliver real frights, and hire Jay Blades and co to fix the Tardis – all that space-time power and they can’t even repair the chameleon circuit! Also, ditch the sonic screwdriver/magic wand, axe boring Cybermen – bring in sexy Cyber-women instead. And, crucially, tell better stories.
*WHAT about Colin Firth on The Staircase? A lot of actors have to kiss ass to get a part. Firth got a part and then had to kiss ass.
*DON’T confuse Romeo & Duet with Romeo & Juliet. One’s a hopeless doomed tragedy, the other’s Shakespeare.
*A BETTER ad slogan for Piers inspired by his dismal viewing figures: Piers Morgan. Don’t love him, don’t hate him – perfectly happy to miss him.
*ASKED what he thought of Morgan interviewing the Taliban, Ricky Gervais quipped, “I’ve lost all respect for them”.
*NEW BBC subtitle cock-up: “The Taliban have decreed all women should wear the Bercow.” (It was burqa).
7 greatest old-school Westerns: Bonanza. Gunsmoke. The Virginian. The High Chaparral. Alias Smith & Jones. Cheyanne. Have Gun – Will Travel.
Small Joys of TV: Lee Mack & Chris McCausland, Baftas. Ministry Of Offence (GB News). Callan (Great! TV). Norman Potting – the saving grace of ITV’s Grace.
Random irritations: C4 ruining SAS:WDW with sob stories. BBC birdbrains hitting us with Britain’s Top Takeaways after lecturing us endlessly about healthy eating.
SEPARATED at birth: Rob Newman and Moon Knight’s Arthur Harrow. One seemed to have everything and then vanished for all eternity... so did the other.
May 8. WHAT about “The Witch” on Britain’s Got Talent last weekend? Blimey, I thought, Anne Robinson has really let herself go. Poor Amanda Holden was so scared her face almost moved. At one point The Witch crushed an apple showering the judges’ desk with cockroaches – a huge shock, yes, but also the only review they deserve. You wouldn’t trust these clods to judge cakes at a county fair. Every naff act is “amazing”. They’re so self-obsessed that anyone who mentions them goes straight through. The show has become a glorified panto.
Being a BGT talent scout is the cushiest job this side of the civil service. Most of Cowell’s best finds were discovered by watching old episodes of The Big Big Talent Show. Steve Brookstein, Paul Zerdin, Steve Hewlett and Francine Lewis all came from the 90s ITV show. “Unknowns” this series include Loren Allred, who had a Top 30 hit in 2017 and comedian Axel Blake who had real promise but already has a special on Amazon Prime. And where did they spot purple-haired soul singer Linda John-Pierre – in a club, or playing Mabel in the Mecca bingo TV ads?
The best of the rest are recycled – French dancers, Austrian acrobats, an Italy escapologist... how is that Britain’s Got Talent? The series is padded out with dancers, choirs, heartstring pulling and cute youngsters. Some, like 13-year-old ventriloquist Jamie Leahey, are terrific, but they should have their own Kids Got Talent spin-off. Where are the adult new faces? Where are the stars?
*THE Witch, Titan the Robot, the dancing crow... do you get the feeling Cowell is now faking acts as well as emotions?
*7 greatest comics discovered on talent shows: Les Dawson. Victoria Wood. Jim Davidson. Freddie Starr. Lenny Henry. Marti Caine. Joe Pasquale.
WELL, she’s no Ray of sunshine, is she? DI Rachita Ray is ITV’s latest glum copper, conceived and commissioned it seems just to show-up the constant micro-racism that blights her life. Rach is surprisingly thin-skinned for a 40-something detective. Everything rattles her... getting mistaken for a shop assistant, being called by the wrong rank or given the wrong lanyard, being asked if she’s bi-lingual...She has the hump more than a Bactrian camel. Agenda aside, the drama was cliched (smart cop surrounded by berks), unlikely (her DCI boss sat in on interviews and went on night jobs) and predictable. Ray’s too-nice DCI fiancé was an obvious wrong’un – twist one in the Jed Mercurio playbook. The actual crimes – murder and people smuggling – played second fiddle to ishoos.
*RAY’S bedroom scenes were odd. You’d find Egyptian mummies wrapped less securely than Parminder Nagra was. Were her fellas turned on by her pharaoh-mones? (Sorry!) They must have really had to bend it like Beckham.
*WHO said “honour crime my arse” this week? Was it a) DI Ray about a misdiagnosed murder, or b) Saucy pillow talk on Open House?
THE BFI’s list of ‘100 BBC shows that changed TV’ included several that inspired most of us to change channels. They missed Spike Milligan’s Q5 (predating Python), Come Dancing which of course begat Strictly, Alf Garnett who put satire into sitcoms, and Carroll Levis & His Discoveries, Britain’s first talent show. Noel’s House Party (snubbed) was a bigger influence on other programme-makers than Ghostwatch. And why have AbFab but not Fools & Horses? Why are drunk middle class women more significant than a working class sitcom that became a national institution? The BFI also included C4 productions so where was Big Brother? Nothing changed/ruined telly more.
*WAS ITV’s Bushell On The Box a gamechanger? A slightly unhinged nitwit in his house ranting and bantering at the TV... You’re welcome, Googlebox.
HOT on TV: Taylor Vs Seranno (DAZN)... Real Time with Bill Maher (SkyCom)... Winning Time (SkyAt).
ROT on TV: Agatha Raisin – no Raisin to watch... The Pentaverate... The Great Home Giveaway – go away.
SHOCK developments on Grace as lonely-loins Roy found a girlfriend and actually cracked a smile. The two things might have been related. Roy and pathologist Cloe haven’t done the deed, so there have been no soft groans of “Amazing, Grace” yet. Presumably he’ll need medium Harry to check out her aura first. Here’s hoping she’s possessed by the spirit of Gene Hunt from John Simm’s past life on Mars...
*THE Man With The Penis On His Arm sounded like a BGT golden buzzer act. Don’t confuse him with The Woman With The Dick On Her Arm – that’s Jeremy Kyle’s missus. I liked the bloke begging his surgeon to “throw me a bone”.
*BOBBY Davro. “I turned on the telly and found myself watching Naked Attraction with my daughter. What a shock. I didn’t know she’d done it.”
*CANADA will add “moon crimes” to its criminal code. That means we’re just years away from CSI: Sea Of Tranquillity... Not to mention space dating show, Satellite Of Love, and Moon’s Got Talent – recycling acts from around the galaxy.
*ANNE Robinson is leaving Countdown to spend more time in her New York house. 30,000 New Yorkers have already signed a petition...
*RICHARD Osman might take over. So a Pointless presenter could replace a charmless one...
*THEY resurrected Egyptian gods on Moon Knight. I kept hoping to see dog-headed Anubis drinking out of the khazi.
Small Joys of TV: Sister Michael, Derry Girls. Miles Davis: The Birth Of Cool. Left Right & Centre (Ustreme). Alesha Dixon’s smile, among several other things.
Random irritations: Ten Percent lacking the double-dealing and backstabbing of actual showbiz agents. “Comedy” travelogues. Rob & Romesh on The One Show.
TV Maths. Eric Morecambe minus pipe = The Hollies’ Bobby Elliott. Two legends of 60s and 70s popular culture but sadly only one is still touring.
Classic clanger. Eurosport pundit Adam Blythe on a rider in the Amstel Gold cycle race: “He’s got that excitement between his legs.”
May 5. THE BBC are squandering millions on research into why they’re losing viewers. I’d have told them for nothing – they have trashed every reason we ever used to love them. Their “impartial” news is hopelessly biased, their sport coverage is threadbare and 95per cent of their comedy just isn’t funny. When Simon Day tweeted a list of great BBC comedies in their defence, only one had been made in the last 15years. It’s a mighty long way from Eric and Ernie to Frankie Boyle’s bile-spewing New World Order. Today’s BBC bosses imagine it’s their job to tell us what to think. You can’t watch or listen to their shows for more than 15minutes without being scolded for some alleged thought-crime. Their dramas are mostly dire or drearily “woke” and their current affairs coverage is about as well balanced as a tanked-up Johnny Vegas on a high wire in a force 9 gale. They’re so busy ticking minority boxes they’ve forgotten the majority.
The BBC embrace every facet of identity politics, no matter how daft. They loathe Tories, obviously, but also despise working class culture, comedy and values. This begs the obvious question: if they hate us so much, why should we pay for them? Especially when they blow our licence fee dosh on online expansion, absurd salaries, needless relocation and this pointless research. Their defenders judge them by their noble intentions, but in reality they’re a bloated behemoth awash with failure and sustained by the licence fee.
May 1st. PIERS Morgan is back! Blimey, they kept that quiet. Wasn’t it refreshing to see a humble interviewer ask well-researched questions and then listen to the answers, rather than blowing his own trumpet? I kid of course. Piers Morgan Uncensored was a non-stop ego show with the gobby host at his blustering, hectoring, pig-headed best/worst. But it’s one thing to thunder against the cancer of cancel culture and quite another to pick it apart rationally. Compared to Mark Steyn on GB News, cocky Morgan has all the depth of an eyebath.
Granted, he’s pulling in premier league guests, but it was all vanity – puffed-up Piers compared himself to Nelson Mandela – and no analysis. His dull, repetitive opening monologue was as witless as a BBC3 comedy. If Morgan truly wants to “say the unsayable” now would be a good time to start.
As to the hyped interviews, Piers Vs Trump turned into the clash of the big-heads, a classic case of an I for an I. If he really believes in free speech, why won’t Piers let anyone finish a sentence? He interrupts constantly, yet it’s him that could do with being reined in. Piers desperately needs a Susannah Reid to bounce off. If I want to see an angry man shouting, I’ll film myself watching Question Time. All Trump’s best quotes were leaked before the clash aired, and then irritatingly, Chunky fed us the interview in chunks. I did like the ex-Prez’s verdict on him though – “not a complete slimeball”. The Talk TV channel got off to a shaky start with Tom Newton Dunn’s lips out of sync with his words like a badly dubbed Japanese porn film. Sharon Osborne’s show needs better guests – and some viewers – and what’s the point of resurrecting Jeremy Kyle if he’s not strapping politicians to lie-detector machines?
IS DSI Roy Grace Britain’s dullest TV detective? He doesn’t do much detecting. Roy would rather hand a murder victim’s belongings to “medium” Harry who picks up uncannily accurate clues. I keep hoping he’ll connect with Marty Hopkirk from Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). At least they had a laugh. Glum old Roy has been mourning his missing missus for nine years and never cracks a smile – this may also be why she left him. In his latest case, callous psychos left dead scarab beetles by their victims’ corpses as calling cards. Grace suspected a serial killer. In fact, snuff ring Scarab Corporation International were making a killing on the dark web – in both senses. They were ex-military (like so many telly villains) and more computer savvy than the CIA.
Mercifully human error kicked in. One operative, a big-mouthed berk on the Brighton train, left a memory stick showing the real-life slaughter of a trainee solicitor. (In the book it was a CD, but 16years on you’ll only see them on the Antiques Roadshow, soon to be joined byh ATM machines.) An unlucky passenger found it, and saw levels of filth that even Tory MPs don’t watch in Parliament. The SCI took over his device instantly and warned him off. When he finally told plod, he and his wife became the next intended victims. Roy saved the day, with the help of ex-vice cop Stormin’ Norman Potting who seemed to be from another show entirely. More of him please. Grace’s oppo Branson took a bullet but will live to see another case. Hurrah! It’s hokum, but watchable hokum all the same.
*NORMAN explained that the vice term “VGE” means Virtual Girlfriend Experience. Never try the virtual wife one. She just necks pints of Chardonnay, turns down sex and tells you you’ve ruined her life for hours on end.
HIT French comedy-drama Call My Agent! has been remade in English as Ten Percent (Amazon). Incredibly they haven’t mucked it up. It’s set in London not Paris. Granted the original is more glamorous and sophisticated, but the plot is largely identical and the show’s heart and laughs shine through. Who’s better though, Kelly Macdonald or Cecile de France? Only one way to find out... pillow fight! PS. If you know a West End agent who only takes ten percent, please send them my way.
*7 great foreign lingo shows. The Bureau. Fauda. Gomorrah. Call My Agent! Spiral. Money Heist. Kingdom.
HOT on TV: Alison Pill, Star Trek: Picard...Tyson Fury... Navalny... Muhammad Ali... Ten Percent (Prime).
ROT on TV: Meet The Khans – no Khan do... Freeze The Fear – even Lee Mack can’t save it... Joe Lycett, Travel Man (yeah do, far from the cameras).
ON Imagine, Miriam Margolyes revealed she’d pleasured many men orally in her youth (“sucked off”, were the words she used). She blamed her mother. “If you can do something that makes people happy, mummy said do it,” Miriam told a startled Alan Yentob. Good old mum! Then she asked how old he was when he’d first had sex – I’m cleaning this up – and the colour drained from his face. Miriam was born during an air raid and is still wreaking havoc.
COULD an Inside No 9 Albert Square special be any more unsettling than the soap is? It lurched from the pits of Mitchell molls and the “Kimfluencer” to Jean’s surreal but effective Southend escapade. It’s almost as if the show itself is bi-polar. *JEAN: “Life’s too short to be miserable.” Yep. Where’s the remote?
*JEAN: “Life is too short to be miserable.” Too right. So why stay in Walford?
*WHAT’S the point of Talk TV resurrecting Jeremy Kyle if he’s not strapping politicians to lie-detector machines?
*COMING soon from cost-conscious Netflix: Emily In Prestwich, Sack My Agent!, A Discovery Of Watches, Straining Things, Narcos: Neasden, Anatomy Of A Sandal & pub-based family saga, The Crown (Biggleswade).
*RUDY Reyes thinks it’s an insult to call SAS: WDW competitors “a bunch of amateurs”. Why? That’s literally what they are.
Small Joys of TV: The 1% Quiz. Casuals (London Live). Gillian Wright. Annie Potts, Young Sheldon. Wanda Sykes, Chivalry. Yellowstone. James Whale (TalkTV).
Random irritations: ITV diluting Grace’s Stormin’ Norman character – in the books, he makes Piers look like a sopping wet liberal. The Killing Eve finale (& the whole last series).
TV maths. Jenny + Lee from Googlebox = Keir Starmer.