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Nov 29. The storms that battered Australia last week were tame compared to Wednesday's whirlwind on I'm A Celebrity. What an episode! It all kicked off like a Black Friday sale as stroppy Lady C rained verbal hell on all-comers. Keiron was in tears. Even Yvette snapped. All we were short of was Spencer running amok in full Mr Hyde roid rage mode.


Tony Hadley started it. He refused to wait on Lady C, Kieron and Chris, and persuaded Jorgie to strike too with the blessing of their fellow campmates. Lady C denounced them all as "tossers" and told Brian (accurately): "You're so full of sh*t, if you ever took an enema you'd disappear." She dubbed Duncan a "vain old goat... desperate for the limelight"; and wasn't remotely fazed when Yvette called her a "rude, horrible woman". But when Duncan barked at Kieron, the weepy ex-footballer started to walk. It took Chris Eubank to stop him. "Sportsmen don't quit", the former world boxing champ said. "We stand our ground." Well you did Chris, Dyer was more likely to roll around the pitch...


Until then, the big shock was Geordie Vicky's surprise lust for ancient dragon flesh. "If I had to do a bit with anyone in this jungle, I'd do a bit with Duncan," she confessed. I'm nearly that old Vic. I'm in! She's a great booking, witty and astute. When Hadley claimed women are better at laundry, Vicky quipped "I thought this was the jungle, not a time machine." She's far more entertaining than say Brian, the self-appointed camp cook/control freak and choreographer who name-drops like David Gest in a bragging contest with Piers Morgan.


Ferne is good value because she freaks out in trials. Ferne faced toads – well the Essex girl has snogged a few Frogs – but bottled out of a small crocodile encounter. Vicky judged the challenge "a bag of dicks", which was "very rude and very wrong," said Ant & Dec. "Bag of dicks is Thursday." I'd fine "bush-ducker" celebs who refuse tasks part of their huge fees. And also the ITV exec who decided Susannah 'What Not To Watch' Constantine would be an interesting booking.


*CHRIS Eubank's home-made shell monocle looks ridiculous, but who's going to tell him?


*BRAVE of Spencer to use steroids. They're known to make the gonads shrink. In fact, I believe Lady C used them as part of her gender realignment.


*DID you see Brian gingerly "poking the lizard"? That should become a euphemism for bedding Ronnie Mitchell.


A BLINDING start to Blindspot, as a stunning brunette was found naked in a hold-all in New York's Time Square. Now, that's what I call a body bag. Where can I order one of them? This Jane Doe has had her memory wiped and her skin blitzed with tattoos – all convenient clues to coming problems. So the plot is basically The Long Kiss Goodbye meets The Illustrated Man with a pinch of Prison Break and the Bourne Identity. Tattoo Jane is as surprised as her dour FBI minder Kurt to find that she can speak fluent Cantonese and fight like Conor McGregor. The Feds suspect she's a Navy Seal. The opener was fast-paced but sadly devoid of wisecracks and decent dialogue. Will we care when a) she's fully clothed and b) the show settles in to a bog-standard baddie-a-week pattern?


*JANE has taken to asking everyone she meets "Do you know me?"? Shameless Jez from Peep Show would surely say, "Yes, of course, we're married... and for my birthday today you promised we'd do something that's still illegal in 17 US states... "


CAPITAL is set in fictional Pepys Road, south London, a place so blessed that house prices rocket monthly and trees even blossom in winter. When cards arrive saying 'We want what you've got' everyone assumes it's an estate agent's ploy. Until they start to get sinister... The drama's target is consumer society, so banker Roger Yount (you what?) and Arabella his selfish horror-wife come out worst. His expected £1million bonus won't go far, he tells her: "Your car, my car, family car, your frock money, extensions on the weekend house, the wet room, gardeners for both houses... " How the heart bled... and how we laughed when he only got £30K... Dying widow Petunia is the only locally-born resident in a street largely populated by BBC clichés. Immigrants are hard-working and likeable, especially church-going Quentina, an African asylum seeker facing deportation for working illegally as a traffic warden. Muslim shopkeepers, the Kamals, are wise and caring... as many Muslims are. The few who aren't are clearly not BBC drama's concern. It's much easier to bash bankers. In fairness, one of their mates seems dodgy. And Roger's not all bad. But Arabella is way beyond help as a human being. She'd be wonderful in the jungle though.


HOT on TV: Jaimie Alexander, Blindspot (SkyLiving)... Jekyll & Hyde... Fargo... Rachael Sterling & Wunmi Mosaku, Capital.


ROT on TV: David Morgan – entirely self-amusing... Suspects – well suspect... the House Of Frasier Xmas ad... London Spy – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Berk.


THOSE subtitle gaffes keep coming. On First Dates, Abby described her dream man as "dark hair, tall, Mussolini" (she actually said muscly). Sky News seemed to claim that the second line of the Lord's Prayer was "halibut be thy name". While BBC Breakfast revealed that bird migration studies "posed nude questions". Good but not a patch on their classic: "Pigs love to nibble anything that comes into the shed, like our willies" (their reporter really said wellies).


*LINDA had a 1990s-style hen-do on EastEnders. But Walford in the 90s wasn't Take That and the Hoff. It was Mark 'HIV' Fowler, drunken Fat Pat mowing down teenagers, and Phil marrying a random Romanian. The low-point was their disastrous Dublin jaunt when they managed to cheese off all of southern Ireland instead of just Londoners.


*NIGELLA was preparing fish tacos when she "I have to concentrate, or else I'll drop them." Here's hoping someone distracts her soon.


*DANE Baptiste joked on Live At The Apollo: "I'm happy to be here helping the BBC with their diversity quota." It would've been funny if it wasn't so clearly true.


SMALL Joys of TV: This Morning "live from Karen's house in Sidcup". The Sky Movies Xmas trailer. Sainsbury's Mog advert. The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson. Being Kevin Pietersen. Karl the lawyer Fargo. Shaun Escoffery's voice.


RANDOM irritations: Xmas lights in the Queen Vic in November. The EastEnders cast taking it in turns to be tramps, drunks, or grasses. The BBC's tiresome insistence on saying "so-called" before every reference to Islamic State. Harry Styles thinking that leafy suit looks cool, he actually looks like a walking advert for Inter-Flora.


SEPARATED at birth: Tim Wonnacott and Mr Fussy? One's enemies include Mr Messy and Mr Clumsy; the other's are Mr BBC Big-Shot and Mr Bargain Hunt Producer (allegedly).



Nov 22. Ferne McCann took on jungle critters on I'm A Celebrity; cockroaches, a snake, a snapping mud crab... Imagine confronting such a ferocious creature. It was terrifying. You could almost smell the fear. And Ferne was pretty petrified as well. "Oh my God, it's biting me!" she squealed, as the snake didn't bite her, adding: "Seriously! It's breathing on me!" She was sweating like Charlie Sheen's exes. It was nearly as funny as Eton-educated Spencer Matthews trying to start a fire using a magnifying glass and a battery-powered lamp.


Another nitwit dominated the first half of the week though, Lady C. And we all know what that C stands for... Yes, it's Colin, the husband she briefly married some 41 years ago, but kept his name because it suits her airs and graces. Lady C was brilliant TV, initially at least, as she tucked into gruesome bushtucker with a knife and fork, and then refused to do the washing up, dismissing the suggestion as "an impertinence... morally indefensible... " She also claimed she'd been "roped in to be sport for the oiks" (a reasonable summary of the show). But Lazy C isn't an aristocrat or a celeb, just a snooty oddball best known for writing dubious books about the Royal Family. And by Wednesday, when she turned down her trial, bossed everyone about and burnt the beans, her charm had worn thin.


So thank gawd for the three young newcomers, described as "the top shagger, the trouble-maker and the bitch" by Vicky Pattison who is genuinely funny. Sadly the critter cocktails seem to have lost their fear factor. The rancid stench of blended roaches can't rattle people who have survived Duncan's foul trumping. No wonder Spencer skedaddled... And Vicky necked that schlong juice with a relish that would turn Monica Lewinsky green.


But how could you not like Jorgie "I'm a big fan of the penis" Porter? Or bonkers ghost-buster Yvette who seemed possessed by the spirit of a tone deaf opera singer during the first trial, and quit during her second – ironically a ghost train. All those years of training on Most Haunted counted for nothing, it was almost as if that whole show was fixed...


*DID Lady C commit a social faux-pass? I could swear that she used an anus knife on those turkey testicles.


POSH Sam Curry got the tin-tack on The Apprentice. He's a nice guy hampered by just two small failings – he can't sell and he can't add up, not even with a calculator. Other than that... Sam is a business natural like Sugar is a lanky toff. Still at least he didn't lie, like Scott who falsely claimed that Brett had threatened to smash his face in. Or moan constantly like Selina. And Sam did dream up the inspired kids' character Snottydink (which I believe is also Cameron's pet name for Osborne). In fairness, the worst tactician in the discount store task was rival team leader Gary, whose strategy was roughly as watertight as the Lusitania. As Claude pointed out, discount works by piling stock high and selling it cheap. Gary reversed the strategy, flogging low quantities of branded goods at a higher price. He also restocked way too late. Yet he still thrashed Scott, aptly dubbed "the least successful manager since David Moyes" by Sugar's one-liner writer.


*WAS Selina this moody as a podium dancer? You can imagine blokes watching her going, "Cor! Look at the strop on that... "


THE BBC will shoot new episodes Porridge and other old sitcoms next year. But not Till Death Us Do Part. Why? Alf Garnett was created to send up bigotry. He was a man out of step with a changing world, with views set in concrete. In his first appearance, he looked at his watch as Big Ben struck ten and moaned: "That bloody Big Ben, fast again". He also described Jimmy Savile as "that albino clunk-click ponce", so he wasn't always wrong. Alf's hilarious rants, scripted by Cockney socialist Johnny Speight, were deliberately provocative. His take on Comic Relief was so close to the bone, BBC bosses refused to broadcast it. Yet Garnett also provided a comic safety-valve, especially needed in these dreary PC days. Imagine what he'd make of wind farms, the EU, Sharia law enclaves and John McDonnell...


HOT on TV: UK's Strongest Man... Fargo... Marvel's Jessica Jones (Netflix)... Freddie and Ryan, SAS: Who Dares Wins... The Bridge (BBC4)... The Man In The High Castle (Amazon Prime).


ROT on TV: Josh – tosh... London Spy – makes tumbleweed seem riveting... Cuffs – the long yawn of the law... Nick Grimshaw – he'd be a major star if it wasn't for that fundamental lack of talent.


AN odd start to Jeremy Vine's last Strictly performance, it looked as if the Eggheads quiz master was pleasuring dancing partner Karen Clifton doggy style. What followed was equally barking – they attempted to dance the quickstep to The Jam's Going Underground! Annoying, less because Vine stank – "like being at the National Dressage Championship," observed Craig, more because of the sheer cheek of Strictly trying to appropriate Paul Weller. What next, a rumba to the Ruts? A cha cha to the Clash? It's enough to make you take an East Coast Swing at the producer's chin.


*NOVELTY gift inventor Phil Watson hit his investment target for his revolting "pre-stained" novelty underwear on The Money Pit. If dirty pants are worth dough, Jim Royle must be sitting on a fortune. It's just a relief Phil hasn't thought of a scratch-n-sniff version.


*GOOF of the year? Bob Miller, commentating on an LA Kings ice hockey match, said of a player's stick: "He's standing in front of the net with about 8 inches of his shaft in his hand".


*TASH'S diet on Doctor In Your House consisted largely of crisps, Super Noodles and white rolls with ketchup. Or as Rab C. Nesbitt calls it the vegetarian option. (For Nigella's version, simply ooze your ketchup slowly into the bun while playing Barry White in the background.)


SMALL Joys of TV: John Oliver and Andrew Neill's anti-Isis rants. Catastrophe. Toast Of London. Charleine vs ice-skating nitwit Richard, the David Brent of The Apprentice. Audrey, Gok's "real woman" lingerie model on This Morning (as opposed to all those fake women on TV these days, presumably.)


RANDOM irritations: The BBC shamefully not airing a Till Death Us Do Part episode to honour Warren Mitchell, R.I.P. ITV pointlessly postponing Jekyll & Hyde last Sunday. The slow, moody drag of London Spy and its poxy plodding piano player.


SEPARATED at birth: Vanessa Feltz and this Anchor Butter "huggler"? One's a chunky, cheesy creature resembling a constipated Yeti... so obviously nothing like old chum Vanessa.



Nov 15. Did Downton Abbey go out on a high? Well someone was definitely smoking something. Characters were rewritten as casually as Cameron’s EU demands. Cold, selfish Lady Mary actually apologised for wrecking sister Edith’s life. Moseley was transformed into Mr Chips overnight. And everyone forgave Thomas (back-stabbing under-butler and blackmailer) for being a life-long bastard after he slashed his own wrists.


The finale also saw the kindly aristos rally round for Mrs Patmore when her new boarding house was branded a “house of ill-repute”. They took tea with their cook in solidarity and posed for pictures. Quite right too. If anywhere is a house of ill repute around there, it’s their gaff with its Turkish diplomat bonked to death, Edith’s love child, and the lusty Lord Lonely-Loins snogging Jane the maid in series three... Not that I’m complaining. It was a heart-warming end to a flat-lining final series dominated by an anaemic subplot about the local hospital. More interesting storylines, like Mary’s blackmailer, were snuffed out off camera, as was the Bates murder trial. Until last weekend the season highlight was the Earl erupting like Vesuvius at the dinner table. Granted there was death at the racing track, but driver Henry Talbot is probably more at risk in Mary’s boudoir of doom.


Thanks largely to Tom, she gave in to the heart we didn’t know she had and they married in days. The delighted Talbot no doubt tinkered under the bonnet before slamming it into second.


The real message of Downton is above or below stairs we’re all family. It’s deeply conservative. Previous shows about the upper classes showed them as thick (Jeeves & Wooster), drunk/repressed (Brideshead), or hypocrites (Easy Virtue). But ITV’s nobs are decent, caring, and largely admirable. In Fellowes’ world we can all get on together, and, like Molesley, Tom and Daisy, we can get on in life if we apply ourselves. Although Daisy realised this cosy arrangement suits the privileged idlers rather better than the hard-working staff... This rosy view of service is carried by superbly-crafted characters like the Dowager and Carson, who both know their place. Expect our cockles to be re-heated when Edith gets her Marquis at Christmas.


PS. Edith’s been rewritten as a tragic figure but let’s not forget she grassed up Mary over poor Pamuk in series one. She’s a beatch too.


IF the Yanks hated the new Bond film they should steer well clear of London Spy. The opening episode was slow to the point of tedium. It was the unmoving story of two men, let’s call them Dull and Duller, who find love before tragedy strikes. Lonely drug-guzzling raver Danny works in a warehouse; Alex a jogging M16 code genius poses as an investment banker. He’s a monosyllabic cold fish with the emotional range of a lolly stick. The dialogue is drivelling, the plot as hush-hush as Alex’s job, and their leaden love affair as dreary as the Japanese singer in the club where Danny takes him to meet Scottie, his surrogate father figure. Then disaster! Alex vanishes. Somehow Danny gets the keys to his pad and finds his corpse in a trunk – like the real-life “spy in a bag” case – along with his S&M gear. He was James Bondage all along! Danny half-inches a hidden key as Old Bill turn up, and the plot finally catches fire. But I suspect it was too little too late for half the audience who will have no doubt written it off as A Quantum of Bollocks.


BBC2 made a box-ticking balls-up of Live At The Apollo: one gay comic, one disabled one, one ethnic... none funny. Alan Carr’s warm gossipy style is endearing but you’d find better material on Carmel Kazemi’s market stall. Francesca Martinez has done exactly the same cystic fibrosis routine on TV before. Maybe next time pay her with a photocopy of the cheque. While Nish Kumar’s argument that comedy must be “leftwing” has never been true. In reality the BBC actively snub satirists they’d dub “rightwing” for having the nerve to dine out on sacred cows.


*THE Apollo is dominated by big agents, but better stand-ups merit screen time: Martin Beaumont, Brian Higgins, Geoff Boyz, Paul Eastwood, Phil Walker... Or for old school charm try Tucker.


HOT on TV: The Last Panthers (SkyAt)... Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo... Sean Bean... Joe Lycett.


ROT on TV: Children In Need – the BBC’s gift to Netflix... London Spy – I Spy, with Pudsey’s bad eye, another drama flop... The Great Pottery Throw down – load of bowls.


RUTHLESS diamond thieves rob to order in The Last Panthers. The heist in Marseille was stylishly shot. To get the safe combination the gang dump a can of pink paint over the manageress’s head. Not quite the new coat she was hoping for... but on the plus side she is now a Turner Prize front-runner. The get-away goes pear-shaped when one of them accidentally shoots a child, forcing them to hawk the sparklers in the murky world of Serbian gangsters.


*I’M A Celeb queries: has Susannah Constantine gone to Australia so she can watch her career go down the plughole in the opposite direction? Will Kieron Dyer get injured in the first task and sit out the rest of the run? And Brian Friedman, Lady Colin Campbell... what happened, did the celebrity booker quit halfway through?


*ALL of those eye-patches on Jekyll & Hyde. Either conjunctivitis was rife back then or ITV’s villains belong to the world’s worst darts club.


*PETE was gutted to learn that Lewis snogged Jess on Towie. He’d have hit the roof if he’d seen the botched subtitle translation of his confession: “She was coming between my legs and kissed me”. PS. How could they have a naked sauna scene without Chloe Lewis? Next week lovely Nanny Pat goes there, to steam out her wrinkles.


SMALL Joys of TV: The Hunt. Peep Show. Bella Charming. Jekyll & Hyde’s “You’re Fired” spoof. The Making Of The Mob (Quest). Ant, Ollie & Foxy on SAS Who Dares Wins. Tony Robinson’s Wild West.


RANDOM irritations: Greatest Comedy Movie Moments forgetting Duck Soup, Caddyshack and Blazing Saddles. Keith Brymer Jones’s hair – how can this bloke be a judge if he thinks that’s a good look?


*LAST Sunday, 11am: as BBC1 covered the Cenotaph service, ITV showed three Jeremy Kyle episodes back-to-back. A depressing contrast. Nowadays we lock up our soldiers and put pond-life on pedestals.


SEPARATED at birth: Keith Brymer Jones and Fungus the Bogeyman? One wonders why they exist, the other makes TV shows that make you ask the same question.



Nov 8. THE BBC are proud of Citizen Khan. Nearly three million watched the latest series opener, they boast. Except the show is in a prime slot after EastEnders so the point isn’t how many watched, but how many switched off. More than half the audience, if you’re wondering.


Adil Ray’s sitcom takes more stick than Arsene Wenger. Is it really that bad? It’s warm and affable, it sends itself up; Bhavna Limbachia sparkles as Khan’s youngest daughter Alia... But in every other respect the show reeks like a mouldy madras. Puffed-up “community leader” Khan is more a cartoon than person. With his nodding head, horrible hawking and mangled English he’s like something out of Mind Your Language (which was funnier) crossed with a Pakistani Mr Bean. In show one he applied to be a town crier – so he could holler: “Oyez! The downstairs toilet is officially blocked”. How the canned laughter roared. “Birmingham is a Pakistani town,” he said to more gales of mirth; not a world away from Bernard Manning saying of Bradford “Dial 999 there and you get the Bengal Lancers”, which was funnier. There were mother-in-law jokes and a posh woman called Virginia was called “Vaginia” and “Virginity” (recalling Judge Dread’s “Virginia was her name, Virgin for short but we all knew not for long”... which was funnier).


On Friday when he went for a lollipop man job we got the rib-tickling observation that Bangladeshi drivers can’t see over the steering wheel. If you or I submitted a script like that we’d be laughed out of the door. Citizen Khan was commissioned for its subject matter though rather than its feeble ragbag of stale slapstick, non-jokes and toilet references. The Beeb wanted a British Muslim comedy. There’s nothing wrong with that. But why not get someone genuinely funny involved, like Imran Yusuf? You can’t run a comedy department on wish-lists and box ticking. Here’s our Muslim sitcom, here’s our transgender one, aren’t we ahead of the curve. Only one thing matters with sitcom: is it funny.  There’s a huge difference between Khan and previous comic monsters from Tony Hancock to David Brent – they were recognisably real and brought to life by genuinely gifted writers. A woman on My Psychic Life claimed she saw dead people. BBC comedy bosses should try it. If they watched and learned Steptoe & Son and Fletcher then maybe they’d stop inflicting fifth-rate dross on us.


DOMINIC Sandbrook’s credibility crumpled like Jeremy Corbyn’s cheapest suit the moment he claimed reggae music had been “very much a minority interest” before Bob Marley. This might have surprised Desmond Dekker who topped the UK charts four years before Bob signed to Island Records. Jimmy Cliff, Bob & Marcia, Dave & Ansell Collins... they all went Top Ten here ahead of the world’s favourite Rasta man. If Dom the don was prepared to swerve those facts to construct his case on Let Us Entertain You, what else was he distorting? Yes heavy metal started here. But his claim that the Beatles were just a marketing success ignores the small but important fact that three of the Fab Four were also song-writing geniuses. The Kinks and Pink Floyd weren’t manufactured; neither were The Jam, Squeeze or Amy Winehouse. Dom can’t distinguish between pop culture that comes from the bottom up and the bilge that comes from the top down. It’s true that British talent has punched above its weight for decades. But that’s nothing new. Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Vivien Leigh conquered Hollywood before most of us were born.


SHELLEY McGurk was talking to a bench on My Psychic Life. We’ve seen this happen before, of course, normally just after Wetherspoons chucks out. But Shell wasn’t drunk. She was talking to dead children... In a related story, Shelley has real trouble finding a boyfriend. Elsewhere David Traynor, a large medium and small-time hairdresser, revealed that his “inspirers” had told him “you’ve got to reach for your star”. These inspirers presumably being Spiritualists Club 7... C4’s sponsors claim this documentary “challenges preconceptions”. It really didn’t. The makers made no attempt to test any of the self-proclaimed psychics’ claimed abilities. A shame. I’m as sceptical as a Richard Dawkins/James Randi hybrid but I recently filmed with Dorset mediums Hide & Peel and I’m still trying to explain how they told me what they did. The psychic world is full of fakes, snakes and con artists preying on grief. But occasionally you experience something that can’t easily be explained. I suppose that’s when you need to “climb every mountain higher”.


*IF I were a fake psychic I know what message I’d relay from your dead Dad: why didn’t you tight buggers send me private?


HOT on TV: Amy Schumer: Live At The Apollo (SkyAt)... Love/Hate (Spike)... I Am Ali (Quest)... The Americans finale.


ROT on TV: Gino’s Italian Escape – lazy self-indulgent tripe... The Great Pottery Throw Down – crackpot commission... Alien Uncovered – please permanently re-cover.


THE Money Pit came alive after its lame opening episode, with better products and double dealing. Jason Manford’s business show uses crowd-funding instead of dragons. Ross Butler’s artisan gin got the pit going. PR exec Emma, possibly no stranger to spirits, even persuaded teetotal money-bags Bob to invest in it. Had she swigged a few when she asked “rebel” sock manufacturers: “What about crotch-less underpants?”


*NIGELLA mashed avocado onto toast on Simply Nigella. For her next trick she’ll rip open a bag of posh crisps.


*SHOCK paternity revelations on EastEnders! Turns out Phil Mitchell’s real father is that bald dog-man with the creepy voice from Jekyll & Hyde.


*WHAT’S more puzzling: the size of the ladies’ loos on Corrie, Sam surviving on The Apprentice, or the fact that I’ve made no comment on Lady Mary’s shock Downton confession: “I can’t even swallow”?


SMALL Joys of TV: Clarkson’s Amazon ad. Stellan Skarsgard’s facial expressions. BBC4 rock docs. After Hours (Sky 1) and its soundtrack – Richard Hawley, the Only Ones. Rick Stein. Elvis Costello’s acoustic version of Alison on Jonathan Ross.


RANDOM irritations: “celebrities” who only their Mums would recognise. Songs on Strictly songs that bear no relation to the dances – who does ballroom to The Who or The Specials? X Factor judges striding out to Led Zeppelin rather than say Mr Blobby.


*X FACTOR mysteries: did Simon Cowell deliberately sabotage Bupsi with that bizarre song choice? Are show execs briefing against Anton? And what the feck is Rita Ora babbling about? Is she speaking in tongues?


*CLAUDIA came as Alice Cooper on last weekend’s Strictly. Have you seen her mascara? She really didn’t need the mask.


*RE Leah Green on Britain’s Biggest Sexists: fit or what?


TV Maths: Phill Jupitus + Gareth Bale = “psychic” David Traynor.



Nov 1st. Something really frightening happened for Halloween last night. Before X Factor started, ITV bosses got all of the judges together and read them last weekend’s viewing figures. Now that’s scary. Strictly is doing to Cowell’s cash cow what the Lords did to Osborne. There are bacon sandwiches that look healthier. And if the live shows don’t pull the audience back then X Factor faces the axe factor.


True the rugby hasn’t helped, but neither have the clueless cloth-eared judges or the dull, ill-conceived judges’ houses fiasco. So how can it be saved? Apparently serious suggestions have included: bringing back Louis and/or Dermot, Nick Grimshaw having a haircut and Cheryl buying a new frock. Talk about re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. X Factor has lost its magic for an avalanche of reasons. Here are some:


*ITV had a hit format but couldn’t stop mucking about it with. Most of the changes have been mistakes, especially losing small room auditions and turning judges’ (fake) houses into yet another bloated studio show.


*It’s too long – you gained an hour last weekend but lost a whopping 150 minutes if you watched X Factor live.


*The judges are weak, particularly Grimshaw. Where are the wit and insight, the rows and the authority? Bring back Mrs O!


*It’s too staged. All that phony drama – the ten second countdown, the six chairs mind-changing, the hammy pauses... We know it’s pre-scripted! Grimmy’s third choice was flashed up on screen before he’d said his name!


*Where are the characters, where are the deluded twerps? Seann ‘Miley Virus’ Moore is no Wagner.


*Where is the competition? Louisa has been the clear favourite since day one. X Factor is over-long, over-staged and over-managed and yet it under-achieves. Winning is no guarantee of lasting pop fame. Leona and 1D are the only ones who made it on the international stage (which granted is two more than The Voice). It doesn’t help that Cowell’s pop vision is as narrow as Cheryl’s waist. The likes of Elvis Costello, Paul Weller and Suggs would never have met his criteria. Dylan wouldn’t have got past the auditions. X Factor needs to be rested. It needs to be fixed. It needs to be widened. Most of all, it needs to be a different show.


HAVE the nitwits moaning about Jekyll & Hyde ever watched a Marvel superhero film? Because that’s the level of fights and frights on offer here. There are punch-ups but no gore, passion but no sex, and the CGI monsters are no scarier than anything gamers encounter daily. Dr Robert Jekyll is the grandson of the original. Abandoned at birth, he grows up in Ceylon with no idea of his power/curse... until he single-handedly lifts up a lorry to save a small child’s life. The story makes the papers, and the Jekyll estate solicitor summons him to pre-War London where Mr Hyde comes into his own. Robert “goes Clarkson” on kidnappers, smashes up his hotel room Keith Moon style and brawls with all-comers in a dockside pub, snogging barmaid Bella in the process. So a super-strong womaniser with temper issues... he’s basically Grant Mitchell. Throw in secret service units, sinister baddies and monsters like the half-man, half-dog Harbinger and ITV’s Jekyll is terrific comic book telly. PS. Hyde’s no Hulk rip-off. It’s the other way round. Marvel’s Stan Lee acknowledged his debt to Stevenson’s original creation decades ago.


C4’s Catastrophe is that rare thing – a laugh-out-loud sitcom that feels real. Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney sparkle as the wise-cracking odd couple. Sample exchange: “Let’s have sex.” “Will I have to put my mug down?” They’re foul of mouth, full of fun and totally believable... unlike, say, Boy Meets Girl which was clearly commissioned by BBC2 just to tick boxes and whose lead characters lacked even a hint of natural chemistry. Contrast with Transparent and weep. The Beeb’s best recent offering was Danny Baker’s Cradle To Grave. Granted, Peter Kay’s Sarf London accent was moodier than the stock in Arfur Daley’s lock-up, but his comic timing is superb. Why not ditch the autobiographical elements and turn Dan’s ducking and diving Dad into Del-Boy’s natural sitcom successor?


HOT on TV: Jekyll & Hyde... Fargo – even better than series one... Catastrophe... Supergirl... Carrie vs the mighty Quinn, Homeland.


ROT on TV: The Money Pit (Dave) – rhyming slang... Citizen Khan – still a comedy khan’t... C5’s conspiracy theorists. Why are they so bonkers? Is it a conspiracy to discredit their theories? Discuss. In coded chat-rooms.


IS it a bird, is it a plane? Nope, Supergirl is definitely a bird... Heroine addicts will love Melissa Benoist as caped Kryptonian Kara. She has all of her super-cousin’s abilities – proper girl power! – presumably with super-PMT still to come... Kara got sent here to protect him but spent 24 years in the Phantom Zone (Eastbourne?). In a neat twist, her foster parents are Helen Slater, who played Supergirl in the film, and Dean Cain – Superman from Lois & Clark.


DOWNTON Abbey opened its doors to the plebs. Violet was aghast. “Why would they want to come to see an ordinary house?” she gasped. The Earl jokingly suggested the best view might be “Lady Mary in the bath” – kind of What The Butler Phwoar! This remark even shocked Carson. Too right. It was ridiculous. Any bath Mary sat in would turn to ice in seconds. Like Mrs Hughes if Carson keeps winding her up.


*HOW about a spin-off series where the owners of modern day Downton hire it out for a pre-war costume drama? No? Please yourselves.


*THE British Comedy Awards have been cancelled. They couldn’t find a broadcaster. Or a comedian.


*SCARY stuff on Strictly’s Halloween special. At one point I think I spotted the ghost of Arlene Phillips’s career.


*HERE’S something Mary’s The Inexplicable magazine should investigate on Corrie: how the flamin’ Nora can that small smalls factory stays in business with so many non-productive staff?


*LET’S hope Ken and Audrey hook up. At their age all most people can expect to hook up to is a life support machine.


SMALL Joys of TV: The Last Kingdom – bearded men fighting for England, what’s not to like? Bar Rescue (Spike). Calista Flockhart (Supergirl). Sugar claiming fired candidate Ruth “couldn’t sell a bone to Battersea Dogs’ Home”.


RANDOM irritations: Joseph’s spiv moustache (The Apprentice). Cuffs – badly written guff; bring back Jim Carver. Bruno saying “bollocks” instead of just talking it. TV lacking a credible showcase for hot young rock bands who write their own songs.


MOTHER & secret daughter: Elvira and Whitney on EastEnders?







Garry Bushell