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.
Nov 24. SAY what you like about I’m A Celebrity, but few other TV shows could make you quite so concerned about Kate Garraway’s private parts. “Don’t get up my nu-nu,” the ITV breakfast presenter squawked, adding “They’re going up my nu-nu.” She was referring to cockroaches of course, not Ant & Dec, although you can never be too sure. Like me, you may have been slightly underwhelmed by this year’s jungle line-up, and the Groundhog Day aspect of the trials. Once you’ve seen one terrified Z-list celeb tottering along on a safety harness 334ft in the air at absolutely no risk of injury you’ve seen ’em all... Yet ITV still manage to cram moments of genuine joy into their jungle show. Kate trying to rugby tackle James Haskell and bouncing straight off him was downright hilarious. As were DJ Roman Kemp’s stories about dad Martin –“He still doesn’t realise his mic wasn’t switched on for Live Aid.” And Andrew Maxwell admitting “You don’t know me, let’s be honest.” We barely knew half of them. But Irish comedian Andrew’s didgeridoo impression was so scarily accurate it must’ve stoked fears that Rolf Harris had turned up. Adele Roberts is the one you don’t remember from Big Brother 3 who rowed with Jade about her verruca.
We’ve had no proper arguments here yet. No dramas. No tantrums Ian Wright’s clash with Maxwell has been the only half-decent jungle barney. Otherwise Wrighty seems listless. Things picked up with the arrival of loveable laughing boys Kirk and Minty, aka Andy Wightman and Cliff “Call The Midriff” Parisi. But it feels a bit hampered by political correctness. When Caitlin Jenner dropped two balls in a basket, no-one dared to whisper an un-woke joke. Not even on the diabolical Extra Camp. When Ant gleefully cried “The planks are back” viewers would’ve been forgiven for thinking he meant the ITV2 spin-off’s pundits.
THE new series of The Crown was sadly upstaged by The Clown on BBC1... but enough about Prince Andrew. The Netflix royal soap is dazzlingly good. It looks terrific and the Aberfan disaster recreation felt horribly real. The new series is nobbled by just two things: suspect casting – Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Colman aren’t right as Princess Margaret and the Queen – and writer Peter Morgan making stuff up. Traitor Anthony Blunt never blackmailed Prince Philip. Margaret never persuaded the Yanks to bung Britain a bail-out. Did the Queen shed fake tears over Aberfan? No. Did she give the Royal assent to Lord “Porchie” Porchester? Unlikely say experts. Real Royal stories are strong enough. If Morgan wanted to get dirty, why not bring on John Bindon?
FIRST His Dark Materials, now The War Of The World. The Beeb’s bold drama strategy seems to be: let’s take a film based on a book and turn it into a TV series that isn’t as good. Don’t scoff. Someone is getting paid lorry-loads of licence fee lolly for this lazy larceny. HG Wells’ novel about a Martian invasion of Surrey has previously been turned into a genuinely terrifying US radio broadcast and two so-so movies. The snail-paced BBC version stripped away all dramatic tension, throwing in a female lead, a soapy subplot, a “gentleman bachelor” and fashionable digs at the British Empire, thereby putting the “woke” into Woking. If it were any more of a lame duck it’d quack.
HOT on TV: Zoe Wanamaker, Britannia – madder than Harry Hill... the Guilt finale... Ray Donovan (SkyAt)... Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns (BBC4).
ROT on TV: The War Of The Worlds – wobblier than a Martian tripod... Vienna Blood – Sherlock Cloned... I’m Celebrity: Extra Camp – stinks like a jungle dunny.
ITV’S leaders’ debate was nearly as painful as Prince Andrew’s car-crash. Corbyn was evasive, Boris repetitive and Julia Etchingham never let either of them finish. I’ve heard more cogent arguments in my local. One bloke spoke for all of us when he asked: “How can we trust you?” It got the biggest applause of the night.
*IN fairness 90per cent of BoJo’s brain was probably devoted to one simple mantra: don’t grope Julia.
*RYAN-Mark got the bullet on The Apprentice, a man so posh he has, as Dominic Holland pointed out, a double-barrelled first name. His “luxury” Pullman train experience included a two hour wait for food and a gluten-free meal consisting of a bowl of fruit. Still, with London trains it’s a luxury if they turn up.
*ROD Stewart pulled out of the Royal Variety show complaining of a sore throat. How could he tell? How could we?
*ODD that the BBC’s woke dramas make viewers doze.
SMALL Joys of TV: Negan, The Walking Dead. That “squid pro quo” line on Watchmen. Lynyrd Skynyrd: If I Leave Here Tomorrow. Harry Wicks. Kojak repeats. Alex Jennings, Gold Digger.
RANDOM irritations: Any week when The Chase isn’t on. ITV failing to add a helmet of scorpions to their deeply flawed leaders’ debate. Way too many naked women on mortuary slabs.
TV Maths. Balok the Star Trek alien +s wig = Eva Speakman.
TV questions: when Kate Garroway had kids with her political advisor husband Derek Draper, did she go into nu-nu labour? If Phil Wang married Miranda Kerr, would their joint surname be more accurate?
Nov 17. WE know Christmas is coming, the Beeb are serving up turkey after turkey. The Hairy Bikers have more sexual chemistry than the age-gap lovers in Gold Digger. Let down by her rotten kids, wealthy divorcee Julia spends her birthday at the British Museum where Benjamin is lapping up exquisite old relics... and mistakes her for an exhibit. I’m kidding. Julia is only sixty, but she probably has underwear older than randy copywriter Ben, 34. It wasn’t long before he was sampling her buried treasures in her swanky hotel room. What’s he after, we wondered, her money? Her senior rail card? Or just a steady supply of sweets? She’s already bought him a swanky watch... presumably with an X-Box One X Console to follow. But what does she see in the gormless twerp? A bit of attention work wonders.
At least Ben seems more grateful than her odious brood – Pouting Patrick (stressed City lawyer, given to punching walls and staring moodily), spoilt-brat Leo and dismal Della (lovelorn lesbian). Their father, Ted, left Julia for her best friend after 35years, leaving her with a Devon mansion plus a villa, “the investments” and plenty of wedge. Her sons assume Bonking Benjamin is after all that and the plotting begins. But do you care about any of them enough to keep watching? I don’t mind trash telly but so far Gold Digger lacks the intrigue of Doctor Foster and the sexual fireworks of Apple Tree Yard. The central relationship doesn’t fizz, so the credibility gap is bigger than Emma Thompson’s carbon footprint. The real question is not whether Patrick will snap and make a pass at his pretty PA, or what spanners Ted will throw in the works. It’s where does the queue start to slap idle parasite Leo around the face with a wet haddock?
HUGE shocks on Ant & Dec’s DNA Journey – ITV couldn’t find a single biological link to glove puppets. Or any genetic explanation for how their hair mysteriously darkens as they age. The lads’ distant families included a Texan billionaire cousin and a half an Irish village populated by McPartlin relatives/lookalikes (no wonder the bar bill was 600 notes). Naturally ITV glossed over Ant’s drink-driving crash – they’re rehabilitating not shaming. But the banter was warm and witty, and there were lovely moments. Ant’s great-granddad was at the first day of the Somme – “one of the first bastards in... and he made it out alive,” he marvelled. While Dec’s “worse than useless” ancestor fought in Crimea but got court-martialled and banged up for “habitual drunkenness”. So the pair really are related. This blatant format rip-off should have been called Howay Do You Think You Are?
*ITV should use those DNA text alerts on Love Island. ‘Congratulations, you are pregnant by... ’
YOU could give yourself a hernia just looking at the challenges on The Strongest Man In History – the latest Strongest Man spin-off. Four seasoned titans competed in feats plucked from Viking legend. The strongmen – Britain’s own Eddie “The Beast” Hall, Brian Shaw, Robert Oberst and Nick Best – attempted to lift giant logs, throw Thor’s hammer and pull a Viking longboat. I’m sure they’ve pulled worst. There are more straining calves on this show than you’d find in a field of constipated cattle. These geezers are so strong they could probably knock some sense into the Apprentice candidates.
HOT on TV: Bill Paterson, Guilt... Will Sharpe, Giri/Haji... Maradona In Mexico (Netflix).
ROT on TV: Children In Need – great cause, lousy telly... Gold Digger – Crab-Apple Tree Yard... The Cockfields – mostly the first syllable.
SUGAR’S dimwit Apprentice chancers had to make an ad to promote holidays in Finland. Jemelin’s losing team ignored the countryside, culture and people completely to focus on Helsinki Pride. D’oh! The acting was atrocious. “In a country so full of forests, the last thing you needed was more wood”, quipped Zoe Lyons on the after show. The lingering shot up Ryan-Mark’s dressing gown will have scarred many for life.
*QUOTE of the night. Marianne on Thomas: “He deals much better with a soft touch, my mum taught me that.” Blimey.
DO you ever watch TV comedians and wonder what the hell the audiences are laughing at? Or indeed if they’re laughing at all – it might all be pumped up in the edit. TV comedy is more to do with box-ticking than the harder business of making us chuckle laugh. I have a side bet riding on how quickly Susie Ruffell will mention her sexuality. Nine seconds is the current record. Even Have I Got News For You relies on swear words for punch-lines these days.
*MIKE Bushell was kicked out of Strictly. His paso doble was “rigid”. Well he was dancing with Katya.
SMALL Joys of TV: Ant & Dec’s DNA Journey. Liverpool’s second goal v Man City. Alex Edelman. Motherland’s sports day. Scouse Ian on Cash Trapped. The veterans on Gary Lineker’s My Granddad’s War.
RANDOM irritations: Blizzards of Xmas ads. Time-hopping storylines used to spice up dull dramas. BBC4 pushing the idea that Soviet Communism was cuddly and unthreatening. No Apprentice double sackings.
SEPARATED at birth: John Bercow and the guy from V. One a scary alien with a destructive agenda... the other was in V.
NOV 10. I REALLY wanted to love His Dark Materials, but so far the £40million BBC series seems duller than Mary Beard’s smalls. Episode one will have left anyone who hasn’t read Philip Pullman’s spell-binding books as confused as Dianne Abbott in a GCSE maths exam. And we haven’t even got to the armour-plated talking polar bears yet. On this parallel earth everyone’s soul exists as a “daemon” or spirit animal. Bold Lord Asriel has a female snow leopard, his orphan niece Lyra a male stoat and so on. I have no idea why they’re the opposite sex. Maybe it’s to keep Sam Smith happy.
Lyra was a baby when Asriel dropped her off at Oxford’s Jordan College. She’s 12 when he returns and sees her kindly college master (Clarke Peters from The Wire) try to poison him. This world is ruled by a powerful religious cult called the Magisterium who suppress dissent with the zeal of the KGB, you see. And Asriel is guilty of “heresy” because he’s discovered other earths exists and knows that adults are smothered in Dust – a metaphor for freewill that the Magisterium call original sin. There are also the Gobblers – wasn’t that the Slater sisters’ nickname? – who abduct young boys, including Lyra’s orphan pal Roger and Gyptian youth Billy. The Gyptians are a nomadic gypsy-like clan but in the parallel world of woke BBC casting they look more like a badly aged 1970s Coke ad. Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter lacks the poise and sinister class that Nicole Kidman brought to the film role. Let’s hope it picks up pace tonight cos right now Lyra’s truth-telling Alethiometer, or golden compass, is swinging steadily towards “swerve it”.
*IMAGINE if souls did take the shape of the animal that most mirrored your spirit. Reality TV would be awash with braying donkeys, preening peacocks, foul-smelling skunks and sex-changing moray eels. Much like Parliament.
EVER feel cheated? We found out who killed Katy on Dublin Murders but not how Cassie’s supernatural clone Lexie came into being, or who had murdered those kids in the woods two decades before. The chief suspect was a malicious forest spirit with “an inhuman voice” who presumably also killed Cassie’s parents and stalked Rob as a wolf. So why wasn’t this powerful but unsettling Irish folk pixie picking off the workers destroying its woodland home? Possibly because he’s too busy being a judge on The X Factor. But it looks like he’ll be back for Frank next series. Katy’s super-bright psycho sister Rosalind manipulated Damien into murdering her to punish their parents. Rosalind was unwanted; we knew that because her doped-up mum burst into her shower to shout “I never wanted you” the week before. Bless. She was also smart enough to expose Rob and ruin his investigation. Sarah Phelps over-complicated the story but it still went down like a double Dingle.
WOO-HOO! Britannia is back and it’s madder than Stormzy at a Jacob Rees-Mogg rally. The Romans, led by power-crazed psycho General Alus, invaded two years ago and discovered that life in Ancient Britain was like one long Led Zeppelin after-show party – all boobs out, trippy visions and pagan chanting. Now Steve Pemberton has turned up on an elephant as Emperor Claudius in a rotten temper, not surprising when he has Tourette’s, painful piles “hanging down to my ankles”, and Alus plying him with poisoned plonk. Historians will weep, but fans lap it up. No-one asks how the Romans and Brits speak the same lingo, or why they’re using runes hundreds of years too early...
HOT on TV: Jean Smart, Watchmen (SkyAt)... Leah McNamara, Dublin Murders... The End of the F***ing World.
ROT on TV: Mike Bushell (no relation) – Strictly’s chronic “comic turn” isn’t even bad enough to be funny... Catherine the grating... Flirty Dancing – foxtrot Oscar.
WITH the polls just weeks away, isn’t it a shame we can’t elect TV executives? I’d vote for anyone who pledged to cut back on soaps (and cheer them up), develop mainstream comedies and value entertainers over talentless “celebrities”. We’ve had enough ham-fisted woke dramas too.
WELCOME back TV historian Lucy Worsley! Lucy, who famously struggles with her Rs, says the BBC once asked her to make a series on the Romanovs called Russia: from Royalty to Revolution. She claims she asked: “Are you deliberately trolling me here?” Although it’s odds-on she actually said twolling.
*TOYAH Wilcox thought the Little Big Horn was called “The Battle Of Custer” on Celebrity Mastermind. She won – which says a lot about the brainpower of her rivals. In fairness, Joe Pasquale got more answers right but only dogs could hear him.
*THEY had to dream up an amusement park ride on The Apprentice. Lottie has already experienced the Big One this series, allegedly.
SMALL Joys of TV: Four Rooms and Celia Sawyer. Julia Brown, World On Fire. Mark Bonnar, Guilt. The Addams Family on YouTube. The incredible Iranian viper on Seven Worlds, One Planet. Thomas, The Apprentice.
RANDOM irritations: Rubbish acts on Harry Hill’s Clubnite. Comedy Legends failing to grasp the meaning of the second word of its title. Martin Bashir – should get x-rayed so we can find out what Cowell sees in him.
SEPARATED at birth: Rylan and Ant Middleton? One took on incredible odds and somehow survived the backlash, the other has never even seen Babushka.
NOV 3. NOTHING on TV for Halloween was as scary as those four orca whales pursuing a single, nimble penguin on Seven Worlds, One Planet. Except maybe when that knackered penguin chick evaded a leopard seal only to see it drag itself onto the ice and crawl after it like a scene from Terminator 2… Attenborough’s latest series is breathtaking and heart-breaking in equal parts – the first penguin was eaten alive. But that’s nature, kids, red in tooth and claw. Anything else is Disney propaganda.
The beautifully shot show is packed with gripping scenes. When I saw that elephant bull seal – bald, burly and aggressive, with “the mating rights to 60 females” I can’t have been the only one thinking Phil Mitchell... Especially when he laid into that younger randy bull for a bit of seal sumo, blasting him with Force 9 halitosis. “Fifteen centimetres of blubber is protection against the cold but not from a four ton opponent,” noted Sir David, which is as true in Antarctica as it is of Victoria on Who Are You Calling Fat?
Episode one showed us hermaphrodite molluscs with an “anyone will do” approach to mating; again, very Enders – sexuality switches on a whim in Walford. We saw a jellyfish devoured by sea anemones and an albatross chick shunned by its mum because it had been blown off its nest. Climate change was to blame apparently, because they never had high winds in Antarctica before... They over-relied on background music to tell us what to feel and over-did the eco-hysteria. Cue cameraman Rolf sobbing like a Bake Off loser, hardly suitable for a rational documentary. “This might be the most critical moment for life on Earth since the continents formed,” Attenborough speculated. It might, but odds-on the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was a bit more decisive.
JUST when you thought TV couldn’t get any dumber along came Victoria on Who Are You Calling Fat? The self-styled “body-acceptance coach” said it was “able-ist” to ask questions about mobility and claimed “Health doesn’t exist, it’s a social construct”. So the fat had clearly reached her head. Victoria thought “O-words” like obesity and overweight were “offensive” and dismissed health concerns as “internalised fat-phobia”. Lorry driver Jack correctly summed her argument up as “b*ll*cks”. But common sense and Victoria went together like hardening and arteries. Even Colin, whose leg had been amputated as a result of type 2 diabetes couldn’t change her mind. “The science is bogus,” she declared. “Out of date... hurtful to fat people.” Deluded nitwits often think they can change the world by banning words (or clapping!), censoring views or ignoring reality. Worryingly, cowardly institutions go along with them.
LIKE me, you’ve probably wondered what Love Island would be like if one of the contestants was a merciless sociopath. On Killer Camp eleven unsuspecting twerps turned up for what they thought was a new reality show set in a US-style summer camp. They only realised something was amiss when Feargal’s boat exploded minutes later... This was Love Island meets Cluedo, with a splash of The Mole and pot-loads of paranoia. Irritating camp counsellor Bobby revealed that one of them was a secret psycho ordering masked handyman Bruce to do their bidding. Nurry got knocked off next, allegedly decapitated by razor wire as she raced Eleanor on a segway. Gruesome yes but if you love 80s slasher films you probably stuck with it all week.
HOT on TV: the England rugby squad – roll on 2023…Lee Mack... Guilt... Giri/Haji.
ROT on TV: Danny Dyer, The Wall – Dyer-bolical, one wall even Trump wouldn’t love…See (Apple) – See? Saw. Majorly flawed…Get It Covered – get it stopped.
POPULAR culture is superhero crazy the whole world over, so why don’t we adapt our own comic strip characters for TV? We had Dan Dare (pilot of the future), Captain Hurricane, Marvelman, Alf Tupper (the tough of the track), Sexton Blake, heroic Garth… Super-villains included The Steel Claw, Springheel’d Jack (the terror of London), and indestructible hooligan Super-Yob…all a lot more fun than World On Fire.
*ON Strictly, Motsi complemented Catherine “Eva Price” Tyldesley for her “upstairs” but added “downstairs there was something
missing”. Blimey. No wonder Corrie’s Aidan cheated. *I SAW The Accident and witnessed something terrible. The acting, the accents, the contrived plot...
*THE hapless Apprentice contenders were hunting for a “bushel box” in their buying task this week. I’d have let Jemelin find me... and treated her to that elusive rigger-jigger.
SMALL Joys of TV: Lily Frazer in her cat costume on Motherland. Britain In Colour. Simon Callow in The Dead Room. The Kominsky Method. Rude Boy: The Story of Trojan Records (Sky Arts).
RANDOM irritations: Claudia’s fringe. Simon Cowell saving Martin Bashir over Olivia Olson – so much for “It’s a singing contest”. Chris Ramsay gurning his way through Strictly. Apprentice dimwits.