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 28. Touchy-feely Maryland – praised for its “emotional depth” – was more far-fetched than the Olympic touch. Dull too. Sure it was different. For once, an ITV drama didn’t start with a naked woman lying dead on a mortuary slab. Grandma Mary died fully-dressed, and apparently of natural causes, on an Isle Of Man beach. This came as a shock to her bickering daughters, largely because she’d told Becca she was on a caravan holiday in Wales. Rosaline didn’t keep in touch. She was too busy making important calls and bonking her toy-boy. Mary had more secrets than the Tory whips’ office, including a roomy Manx house with a drawer of shirts belonging to a bloke who wasn’t her husband.
Tsk. Disgruntled blokes would settle for a shed.
The sisters met Mary’s Yank pal Cathy, the local drug-dealer, played by Stockard Channing (Rizzo in Grease), and then Peter, her suave bit on the side – nothing like their befuddled dad. Shocks cascaded like fireworks. Mary was adopted, she’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she’d topped herself with morphine she’d stolen from Cathy... It was a year’s worth of soap twists distilled into three snoozy hours. But how many “caravan holidays” would it take to build such solid relationships? Wasn’t anybody suspicious? (Lucky nobody had the Find My Friends phone app). And why did the Isle Of Man only have one taxi driver? The chalk-and-cheese sisters couldn’t have been less alike. High-flyer Ros was a cougar, harried mum Becca was the family dogsbody (for the cheetah see Mary) By the end, their rift was healed, Ros found love with a local cabbie, and Becca saved her fraying marriage. Hurrah! But like the Manx cat, it wasn’t much of a tale.
*STOCKARD Channing – is that a name or a village in the Cotswolds? When did ITV last make a male-orientated drama?
C4’s Open House “great sex experiment” eggs on exhibitionists and creeps to indulge in threesomes, foursomes and even a 17-strong orgy. These gross encounters are filmed in night vision for the titillation of perverts too cheap to pay for adult channels. One poor sap was called selfish by his wife for not wanting to watch her snogging another bloke. “It’s always about you,” she fumed. Eh? How many of these relationships survive? C4 bosses don’t care. They pump out more crap than our water companies – My First Threesome, My Massive C***, Dogging Tales... Naked Attraction was TV’s creepiest show until Naked Education had adults exposing themselves to teens. They won’t stop until they’ve turned us into a nation of peeping Toms. C4 content boss Ian Katz (annual salary £620,000) warned that privatisation would destroy the channel. Who’d care? What would we miss? Someone else could repeat Frasier.
THEY buried Logan Roy on Succession shortly after his ATN news channel won the US election for Jeryd Mencken, a man just a goose-step away from jackboot rash. The funeral had more intrigue than The Ipcress File. More tears than expected too. Roman broke down trying to deliver his eulogy – Mencken dubbed him “the Grim Weeper”. Roman’s uncle had ripped Logan to shreds, saying he’d fed “a certain kind of meagreness in men”. But brother Kendall defended enterprise as “the life blood... of this wonderful civilisation we have built from the mud”. So who will win? The Roy boys or sister Shiv, in cahoots with her slippery Swede billionaire? Simple answer: nobody with a shred of humanity.
*LOGAN had bought his own $5million mausoleum, “in a bidding war with Stalin and Liberace,” suggested Shiv.
HOT on TV: Tim Roth, Last King Of The Cross (SkyAt)... Logan’s funeral, Succession.
ROT on TV: Britain’s Got No Talent... Open House – ’opeless clots.
CINDY Beale will return to DeadEnders despite the small inconvenience of having died in 1998. Mad, but still not as ridiculous as Fat Barry’s death or Aiden’s heist. Shame they can’t resurrect Tony Holland to shoehorn reality back into the scripts.
*SHOULD Corrie bring back Mavis Riley? Answer a) yes b) no or c) I don’t rightly know.
*LOVED Heidi Klum’s dress at Cannes but why did nobody think to film her jogging on the spot? In slow motion?
*C5 showed cop shows all Monday night. You watched for seven hours and never left the scene of a crime.
*AMY said she’d “beaten off nine other competitors” in Future Food Stars. You had to press the red button for that...
*GOOD news: every weekday morning now on ITV, we can see O’Leary when Lorraine has gone. Jimmy Cliff could sing that.
*POKER Face’s Charlie Cale has the gift of telling if someone is telling porkies. What a superpower! She’d see straight through time-wasters on First Dates, do a power of good on Newsnight, and take all the fun out of Would I Lie To You...
TV QUIZ. Where did we hear: “I’ve got little hairy bits poking out”, “It’s a lovely, smooth insertion” and “Have you got a tiny hole?” a) Open House b) Great British Sewing Bee or c) CBI annual conference?
Small joys of TV. Tina Turner clips, RIP. Arnie, FUBAR (Netflix). Hapless (Prime). Miles Crawford (Ustreme). Sam’s Hot n Juicy Shrimp on Future Food Stars.
Random irritations. Gordon Ramsay’s Glasgow Rangers claims – he played in one testimonial. EastEnders reviving dead characters – lazy, desperate and dumb.
Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland was expertly made but inevitably flawed. We saw David Cameron apologise for Bloody Sunday but didn’t hear the testimony, from the Widgery inquiry, that a notorious Sinn Fein leader had admitted firing the first shot on that grim Londonderry day in 1972. The Troubles were terrible; nobody wants them back, but it’s foolish to take a one-sided Joe Biden view of history. Journalism means asking tough questions. Let’s not pretend the Provisional IRA were the good guys.
TV maths. Comedian John Moloney + more hair = Kathy Burke.
May 21. WHAT is the point of the Baftas? Seriously. It’s been yonks since it did its job and just celebrated TV excellence. Now it’s one long, drawn-out festival of transparent box-ticking, tepid comedy, stilted chat and crackpot results. It’s almost as if the judges don’t watch telly. Or don’t care about anything that isn’t signalling right-on virtues. None of the best dramas from 2022 won a gong. Not The Responder, not Slow Horses, The White Lotus, Hacks, Top Boy or Reacher. Best imported drama was apparently Dahmer – Monster (it wasn’t).
Derry Girls rightly scooped the comedy gongs but most rival contenders were either unwatched or nothing remotely like anything Joe Public would recognise as humour. Look at Bafta’s scripted comedy winners in the 70s – Porridge, Fawlty Towers, Rising Damp, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads... It’s permitted to weep for what we’ve lost.
Even Joel Dommett was shocked when bizarre musical guessing game The Masked Singer won an entertainment Bafta. “I really didn’t expect this,” he gasped – which was close to admitting “We’re crap and we know we are.”
The dullness of the evening seeped into a million living rooms like sleeping gas. Why though? The ceremony is not screened live, there’s a delay, so why can’t they edit out the endless minutes wasted by filming winners ambling to the stage? (Jeez! And Mandela thought he had a long walk.) Not to mention all of that luvvie gushing. Ricky Gervais put it best at the Golden Globes when he advised winner to “Accept your little award, thank your agent, and your god, and f*** off.” A sentiment echo by Sunday’s co-host Rob Beckett when he half-joked “I think they should shut up and get on with it.” But any time the jibe might have reclaimed was squandered by the shallow and pointless off-stage winner interviews bafflingly conducted by Chicken Shop Date’s Amelia Dimoldenberg. Just think, with judicial editing, they wouldn’t have had to stuff the Women’s Euros into a highlights package.
SO Eurovision – camp pop heaven, or hell set to a techno beat? Actually neither. This year it was largely tame and, whisper it, tiresome. Sizzling Swedish sex-bomb Loreen had been the odds-on favourite for so long that voting was almost pointless. She had the strongest song, the longest nails and the finest fake orgasms since Jane Birkin. Funniest entry was Croatia, whose band dressed in military fetish gear and were led by what looked like a transvestite Fuehrer. Not so much Drag Race as Drag Master Race.
We should field something similar. SS Club 7 could surely do better than Mae Muller’s so-so I Wrote A Song. It didn’t help that her vocals were too low in the mix. (See also Lord Of The Lost’s guitars. Memo to producers: rock needs wallop.)
Honourable runners-up: Moldova whose EDM anthem featured women with antlers and a dwarf Pam playing a recorder. “If there isn’t a human sacrifice by the end of this, I’ll be very disappointed,” quipped Graham Norton.
Woman of the night: Hannah Waddingham, south London’s answer to Wonder Woman.
HOT on TV: Hannah Waddingham, the real Euro-winner... Guilt finale... Michelle Keegan + stockings (Ten Pound Poms)... Last King Of The Cross (SkyAt).
ROT on TV: ROT on TV: BAFTA – Boring And Futile, Tedious Again... Big Celebrity Detox – not scraping the barrel but going through the bottom of it.
Hot NOT on TV: comedian Gerry K.
BBC1’s Steeltown Murders works as both the true crime story of a despicable double murder and a vivid homage to the early 1970s, with working men’s club, iffy haircuts, indoor smoking, gloomy boozers and leather jackets as hard as suits of armour. The music is a trapdoor to the memory – Free, Mott The Hoople, Badfinger... And as a bonus there’s Phil “Gene Hunt” Glenister as dogged cop Paul Bethel. Shame he didn’t get to fire up a Quattro.
*WITH World War 3 and an AI robot war looming, who gives a flying feck about Phil and Holly’s feud and subsequent break-up? Their partnership always felt about as real as Joe Swash’s hair. Schofield’s eyes are deader than the cod on a fishmonger’s slab.
*DAVID Field is terrific as psycho Dean in Ten Pound Poms. His character is racist, callous and terrifying. In the States, he’d have his own show on Fox News.
PS Why was so much of it shot in the dark? How did Kate direct dial England in the 50s? And why didn’t the lucky sap she was seducing go in for an “Aussie kiss” (like a French one, but down under... )
*BGT bottled out of a clash with Eurovision by switching to Sunday. I’d have moved it further – say to 2025... to give them time to find proper judges and acts who aren’t imported pros, established singers or sheer dross. Mr Blobby as a blundering magician was so grim my Sky box refused to record it.
RANDOM irritations. News that isn’t news – stuff the issue-led agendas, your job is to report what’s going on. Friday Night Live getting a Bafta rather than a bucket-load.
Small joys of TV. Mel Giedroyc’s Polish milkmaid (her only decent Eurovision contribution). Emer Kenny. The Stones & Brian Jones. Shaun Wallace – even if Brad has “seen more hair on Kojak’s lollipop”.
Random questions: are tall detectives paid by the Yard? Why didn’t the Village People have an idiot? And what do the Baftas, Eurovision and the government have in common? Answer: they’re wrong, they’ve hung around too long and they’re likely to bomb with the target audience...
TV Maths: Kevin De Bruyne + massive chip on his shoulder = Prince Harry.
Goof of the month: Paul Burrell, talking about Buckingham Palace’s staff way in, told fellow I’m A Celeb contenders: “I took dates in the tradesman’s entrance.”
May 14. THE only way to endure Eurovision is to surrender to the madness. I haven’t fully recovered from Moldova’s accordion-powered gangsta folk-rap last year yet. Nor Poland’s hardworking milkmaids whose authentic butter churning and advanced tool techniques failed to impress philistine voters in 2014. We’ve been bombarded with highs and lows from the bafflingly popular jamboree all week. C5’s Eurovision: 30 Unforgettable Moments recalled Ireland’s Niamh Kavanagh, whose bank bosses took out an ad saying “Take Monday off”, followed, after her win, with another saying “Take Tuesday off too”.
Scandals abounded. Like when Cliff, in full Austin Powers’ rig, was “beaten” by some Spanish boiler performing what sounded like throat warm-up exercises set to music. No one has ever proved Franco’s fascists fixed the result by bribing international jurors. But no one has ever proved they didn’t either. Euro-voting has always been iffy. In 1963, Norway shamelessly changed their scores live on TV so neighbours Denmark would trounce Switzerland. Post-Brexit, EU countries punished Britain with multiple “nul points” broadsides. And Sam Ryder’s Space Man was cheated out of victory by a tidal wave of sympathy for Ukraine. Hating Putin’s war crimes meant we had to suffer an undeserved win for that awful racket Stefania.
Eurovision: Secrets & Lies told how a dull ballad triggered Portugal’s 1974 carnation revolution, liberating the country from tyranny. Elsewhere, Buck’s Fizz’s eye-catching dress stunt may have triggered puberty... or at least helped kids making their minds up. Ireland once sent a turkey puppet. Russia sent grannies – presumably now on Putin’s frontline. We’ve seen great acts – Abba, Lordi, Katrina, Sandie Shaw. And bad ones. Yes you, Jemini. But music aside, Britain always had winners in Wogan and Norton. Next week – last night’s mix of crazy costumes, cheesy camp and chronic crooning...
THEY sold a “probable” Banksy – a rat stencilled on a concrete slab – on The Greatest Auction for £250K. Blimey. Any chance he could paint my shed? I felt for Kevin from Bolton who flogged his precious Buzzcocks collection. Luckily it was snapped up, for £3K, by a fellow Bolton-based fan who said he’d let him visit... if he brought Jägermeister. Auctioned items included Tommy Cooper’s fez and pig foetuses in a medical jar (a more-bid curiosity; sorry). Host AJ Odudu added her trademark sparkle to the format, hugging buyers and sellers alike. She’d be priceless under the hammer, I’d imagine. Phone bids weaken the format – we need to see faces. But at least we saw more of receptionist Lauren, no small work of art herself.
*THE show inspired me to search the loft and find Ian Dury’s metronome, several rare punk singles and a limited-edition Big Breakfast plate that our cat broke. Sadly, the Rolf Harris art from 1980 is now entirely worthless.
WATCHING the Coronation Concert, I remembered I’d applied for tickets weeks ago. What a relief they never came. It started with 30minutes of pointless rabbit – “orff with their talking heads!” And a “comedy” sketch with High Bonneville and the Muppets that was more strained than Lionel Richie’s voice. Talk about wheezy like Sunday morning. Not saying the great man’s vocals were iffy, but at one point I swear I saw a high note hovering above his head, shouting “Hello, is it ME you’re looking for?” Still Huw Edwards was impressed by Lionel’s “very fine organ”. Great drone display on Don’t You Forget About Me though, and Steve Winwood shone, but where were Clapton, Robert Plant, Kate Bush, Sade... ?
HOT on TV: Beef (Netflix)... Pearl Mackie, Tom Jones... Niamh Algar, Malpractice.
ROT on TV: race-baiting Adjoa Andoh... Black Night (Netflix) – is not right, it don’t feel too bright (one for Deep Purple fans there).
Hot NOT on TV: Micky Flanagan, London O2.
GOOF overload on the Wicked Wall trial as old ham Paul Burrell told Carol Vorderman: “I’m trying to push it all the way in... Can you feel it?...I’m trying to get it up, Carol.” “It’s coming,” replied Vorders, adding “That was proper hard that.” Crikey.
*WHAT next from nudity-obsessed C4? Why not cross Naked Attraction with Embarrassing Bodies to create a brand-new show... Naked Revulsion.
*BBC subtitles had weatherman Matt Taylor warning we could expect an “occult stop tomorrow”. Strewth. Mercifully, he’d actually said “a cold start”.
*WHAT about Penny Mordaunt? The best sword-handling skills since Roxy Mitchell... Good old Penny, she’d make a cracking ship’s figurehead.
*ODD. Debbie is in a coma on DeadEnders but still exhibits more personality than Bernie Taylor.
Small joys of TV. Black Ops. Myleene’s white bikini. C5’s weekend sitcom clips. Mica Miller. One More Audience with Dame Edna. History’s Greatest Heists.
Random irritations. The lack of strong male characters in TV dramas. Telly blokes are either wet, wicked or drag queens. Where is today’s Richard Sharpe or Robert McCall?
Separated at birth: James, the Thomas the Tank Engine red tender, and Phil Mitchell. One a steam-driven nuisance with anger issues, the other’s a train.
TV quiz. Who said, “I’ve definitely done every hole, man”. Was it a) Jordan on I’m A Celeb or b) Donald Trump caught on tape?
IF you fancy yourself as a comic, there’s a stand-up talent contest in Southsea on Saturday where you can win your own Ustreme streaming special. Email me for details. I’m judging...
Coronation clanger. Clare Balding, talking about horse-riding, said: “You saw her leaving by a side door but in a matter of minutes the Princess Royal is mounted.” Blimey.
May 7. KING Charles once compared himself to a pheasant and the press to hunters. Sporting hunters, he said, “Because I’ve only got a few pellets in my backside and you haven’t yet brought me down”. Last week, Channel 4 republicans traded 20-guage shot-guns for heavy artillery. The Windsors: Coronation Special was predictably over-long and under-funny. Harry Enfield’s daft, self-obsessed King is a decent caricature but the writing was lazy and off-target. C4’s royals are either hopelessly dim or scheming hard-faced shrews (Camilla and Pippa). An absurdly posh William was pushing for a cut-price coronation in a budget hotel in Slough. Be still my aching sides. The hardest-hitting line was Chas wanting to “offer spiritual succour from the windows of a 4-ton gold coach”. But nothing drew blood. That was Frankie Boyle’s job...
Former teacher Frankie’s hatred of the royals has long bordered on pathological. On Farewell To The Monarchy he mixed cruel jibes with shock insights like: The Crown owns a lot of property, Henry VIII was fat... Gee, thanks, Sherlock. Boyle had nice lines – Henry “married six women in a frenzied version of Shag, Marry, Kill”. Hypocritical “misogyny” claims (have you heard his jokes?). And OTT anti-royal zingers, “Let’s... raise a bottle to them, filled with petrol and a burning rag”. Well, it keeps his fan base happy.
Who’d be Frankie’s head of state? Our own Macron? A Paisley Putin? Be careful what you wish for. Andrew and Harry did more to inflict lasting damage on the monarchy than black-hearted Boyle ever could. The only certainty is that in years to come he’ll be replaced by an AI bot filling the limited demand for drug-obsessed, pseudo-revolutionary shock-comedy. Out of respect to Boyle, it’ll be eaten away from the inside by cyber-skag and self-loathing.
*BOYLE mocked Henry VIII for being fat and ginger. Has he got no mirrors?
*I WASN’T going to watch the inclusive Coronation. I didn’t feel included. I’m glad I did though, for the grandeur, pomp and ceremony, and those funny faces Harry was pulling. But were Ant & Dec invited just to put Schofield’s nose out of joint?
DEAN Gaffney blundered back to I’m A Celeb on Tuesday, prompting the question: Was Gillian McKeith really that bad? Watching Dean and Joe Swash retch, dribble and spew over revolting cocktails provoked an unexpected reaction: boredom. This show is running out of tricks. Getting campmates to vote ate up 15minutes of airtime only to produce the duff result of kicking out Amir “King” Khan, who’d practically begged them to evict him. If only Sadiq were that easy to shift... You find yourself watching in hope of innuendo. “If you’re in a hole keep it tight,” advised nice-guy Jordan Banjo. Toff complained she felt “so flat” and Paul Burrell claimed a female teammate was “squirting everywhere”. Nope, no filth there.
PS. Wood Drop is a camp task, not the automatic side effect of stumbling across Janice in the shower.
*ONE cocktail was “blended cow vagina”. Horrible, yes, but still more appetising than Coronation Quiche.
ON Succession, Kendall faked his late father Logan’s speech to bolster the Roys’ new venture, Living+ (“bringing the cruise ship to dry land... ”) They plan to “warehouse the elderly and get them drunk on content while we suck them dollar dry”. Monty Burns should sue. Ken even promised “medication to prolong life” (for premium customers only, natch). How the investors cheered. Elsewhere, distraught Roman went on a sacking spree. The Roy boys are out to blow the Mattson deal. Sister Shiv might still outsmart them. Their future looks shakier than SNP book-keeping.
HOT on TV: Blue Lights finale – roll on series two... new Perry Mason (SkyAt)... Guilt... Inside No 9.
ROT on TV: Queen Cleopatra (Netflix) – gave me the needle... Fatal Attraction – fatally flawed... Tom Jones (ITVX) – why, why, why...
WHEN they honour the greats of US late night telly, James Corden will be there. Listening. In fairness, Corden did well to last eight years and bowed out in style. Will Ferrell smashed his desk to smithereens, and his guests included Harry Styles, Adele, Tom Cruise and some bloke called Biden. JC has his faults but we’ll forgive everything if he delivers a new Gavin & Stacey Xmas special.
*CLIVE Myrie has an Italian travel show. Hurrah! It’s been hours since the last one. I love Italy but wouldn’t dream of going there now for fear of tripping over minor British celebs armed with publicly-funded camera crews.
*LISA Theaker’s team brought their A-game to the Celeb Hunted finale. Lisa brought her D-cups.
IMAGINE EastEnders if everyone was on truth drugs. Alfie: “One day I’ll meet a woman who loves me for what I am. Delusional.” Sharon: “I like my men the way I like my skirts – too short, too flimsy, and certain to get ripped off... ”
Small joys of TV. David Starkey: The Crown (GB News). Colin From Accounts. The Night Of reruns (Now). Emer Kenny, The Curse. Fanny: The Right To Rock.
Random irritations. The 1% Club making questions too easy. Piss-poor TV remakes. US telly lecturing us about politics with their shower in power. Bruno, BGT.
WILL anyone at the BBC ever notice how much better their regions are at producing drama (Guilt, Blue Lights) and comedy (Still Game, Two Doors Down) than London-based execs?
TV Maths. Sontaran + Yoda = Shaun Ryder.
Chin twins: Paul Burrell & Desperate Dan.
Classic Clanger. James Allen was talking about aggressive Grand Prix driving, when he asked Ralf Schumacher: “What does it feel like being rammed up the backside by Barrichello?”