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 28. THURSDAY night and the air was thick with cries of “Good tongue action!” It wasn’t The L Word, but I’m A Celebrity where soap legends Simon Gregson and Adam Woodyatt were tackling their first challenge. Finally, the limelight was off David Ginola! Men who pressed still-pause when Myleene Klass showered were vile sexist pigs. But, naturally, it’s perfectly acceptable for women to drool over the French football legend. When Ginola took off his shirt on Tuesday, a million female jaws hit the floor. Even Arlene Phillips gasped, “David is immense” – although how she could tell with his trousers on escapes me.
The format is beginning to feel tired. Gasp as people we don’t know chomp on cow’s arses and goat’s balls! Yawn as Naughty Boy drops a whole ten feet on a safety harness... At least Snoochie Shy (no idea) put some effort in. Naughty Boy lost two tasks and wanted to quit. “I tried my best,” he told his team. Yeah, and Arlene’s had no Botox. There’s no sexual chemistry yet. Although Snoochie did reveal she was “worried about bugs going up my vagina” – is that Ant’s new nickname? And Ginola surprised Arlene in the snake pit by announcing “I’ve got my finger in the hole.” Elsewhere people were in tears after just two days. Ridiculous! Suck it up and sack your agent! The show is informative though – who knew sheep testicles were as large and slippery as a Prime Minister? But it just isn’t as good without the Aussie sun. We’re at home suffering a grim, freezing November looking at something worse. No wonder viewing figures are tanking. The big blow was losing Richard Madeley, who’d already gone head-first down a chute and survived an evil bombardment of fish guts and offal without whimpering. Rich was robbed. So were we!
I LIKE Adele, but she’s no Billy Connolly, is she? I jest. The girl from Tottenham is likeable, down-to-earth and a huge talent. She deserves her success. Adele’s Audience With packed in more stars than Brian Cox – and in-between those bleak ditties she even raised a few grins. But the songs. Jeez. “Inner turmoil” is all well and good, but couldn’t she try writing something when she’s feeling more chipper? No wonder the crowd roared at Alan Carr’s “surprise” take-over. The relief!
*ADELE’S Audience With drew 4million viewers. Freddie Starr got four times that. ITV should bring back comedians for this format. Lee Mack was born for it.
*DID you clock Dawn French’s new hairstyle? Squint and she looked like Phil Everly... if you dug him up tomorrow.
*ANY idea why Boy George came dressed as a Diddyman?
FORMER EastEnders star Debbie Arnold went on GMB to slag off Benny Hill while sitting in front of a Che Guevara poster. What was the thinking, Deb? Cheery old-school working-class comic – evil, middle-class mass murdering Stalinist – saintly? She’d be a shoe-in for the Ofcom job. Benny’s 1970s shows, repeated on That’s Xmas, have generated a tsunami of humbug. He’s been called “sexist”, even though blokes were the losers in his sketches, and “unfashionable” – heaven forbid! But Benny’s humour mixed seaside postcard sauce with clever parodies, comic songs, character comedy, slapstick, sight jokes and mime. At his peak, his show aired in 100countries. 22million watched it here. Today’s trendy comics – Nish, Adam Hills, Frankie Boyle – struggle to get a twentieth of that.
HOT on TV: The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+)... James Blunt’s Beer Masters (AmPrime) – more great hops than a kangaroo zoo.
ROT on TV: Along For The Ride – nothing to ride home about... Comedians Giving Lectures – forget comedy gold, this is comedy tin.
THE new Tiger King has more oddballs than the BBC Xmas party. Foul-mouthed zoo boss Tim Stark makes Joe Exotic seem almost sane. Then there’s Troy, a vomiting “psychic detective”, and Mike Busey with his “sausage castle”. In the US, The League Of Gentlemen would feel like a documentary.
A RANGE of Killing Eve knives could be on sale soon. What next, lethal Peaky Blinders caps? The Gray Atkins dishwasher o’ doom? Bah. I’ve felt let-down with telly-related products ever since Nigella’s Cracking Jugs turned out to be just plastic containers. At least a Bear Grylls roadkill grill kit would make sense.
*ON Universe we learnt how stars, once so hot and bright, become dark, cold and hard to see with the naked eye. Astronomers call this the Bobby Davro effect.
*WHO said this week: “I don’t know what I’m talking about and nobody else does either”? Was it: a) Boris b) Alan Carr or c) Brian Cox on black holes?
*THINGS we’ll sadly never hear: Due to supply-chain issues, EastEnders will suffer a shortage of misery over Xmas.
THE Trollocs on Wheel Of Time are the hairiest horny beasts since Motley Crue. Doctor Who, in contrast, is just a load of old Trollocs. They’ve ruined the Weeping Angels by having them inhabit people’s minds and speak – so much for silent menace. A shame, the FX as the village eroded into space were terrific.
Small Joys of TV: The Many Faces Of Les Dawson. Lindisfarne’s Geordie Genius. The Great Escape. Rugby hero Marcus Smith’s last-minute penalty. Ria Lina.
Random irritations: Sitting On A Fortune – too slow, too dull, too derivative. Emma Thompson expounding her eco-beliefs while jetting around on showbiz jollies.
Nov 21. THE unanswered question on Millionaire was what the hell was going on with Clarkson’s barnet? Has he been going to Boris Johnson’s blind barber? Or had he just been pulled backwards through his own Didley Squat farm barley field? This four-night celebrity run racked up surprises. Good old Harry Redknapp experienced his worst defeat since Bournemouth lost 9-0 to Lincoln City. Jimmy Carr started well. As soon as he’d won £100, he quipped “Well, I’ve had a lovely day... ” But later, Carr crashed and burned through three lifelines on a question about the Martian atmosphere, despite correctly thinking it was largely CO2. You have to go with your gut to win big, Jimbo. There’s still no audience. Why? Carr joked it was because people preferred Chris Tarrant. Clarkson replied, “No, it’s cos they wanted Sean Lock.” (R.I.P.) Carr then lost £31K by gambling that The Flying Scotsman held the steam train speed record – it was the Mallard, built in Clarkson’s home town of Doncaster. “So very funny, but thick,” sniped Jezza as Carr walked off with a measly grand for his charity.
Jim Moir stumbled over stainless steel. Scarlett Moffett was sunk by a Nelson question – what does his statue have in his hand? She guessed telescope, based on Nelson’s cartoon in an advert. “TV does not lie to us,” the former Googlebox star insisted. “Oh it does,” said Clarkson, who pointed out how difficult it is to use a telescope one-handed. Turned out Scarlett didn’t know Nelson had lost his right arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz. Tsk, what do they teach kids at school these days? The correct answer was sword. “He’s a one-handed swordsman,” said Jezza, adding “That’s probably a euphemism for something.” Which is no way to talk about Alex Beresford.
A CHARISMATIC menace known as The Dragon nearly wrecked the world on The Wheel Of Time. Now they have been reborn in the sleepy hamlet of Two Rivers. Mighty sorceress Moiraine finds four youngsters who could potentially be the Dragon – a barmaid (we’ve all woken up with a few like that), a moody archer, a tough blacksmith and the local hustler. But her enemy, the Dark One, wants the Dragon too. When his orc-like Trollocs attack, Moiraine lights up the night like the Blackpool Illuminations. In this fantasy world, only women wield magic. Wisdoms can “hear” messages from the wind – so best keep ’em away from Miriam Margolyes. And witches (the Aes Sedai) protect the world. This beautifully shot saga has the makings of a gripping epic. There’s heroism, a quest, good vs evil, and amazing abilities. Let’s hope the personalities follow.
JOE Exotic is behind bars on Tiger King 2, confined to a cell, miserably prowling and growling... just like his zoo animals used to be. Talk about poetic justice. The charismatic Texan, dubbed “the trailer park Liberace” captured our imaginations during the first lockdown. Tiger King was a cowboy soap opera, Jerry Springer with big cats. Now, the campaign to free Joe takes centre stage. Exotic was a self-made showman with two husbands and a burning hatred of his business rival Carole Baskin, who he accused of feeding her first husband, Don, to her tigers. Yet it was Joe who was jailed – for animal abuse and the attempted murder of Baskin – while she ended up cavorting on Dancing With The Stars. Now the martyr/maniac is reduced to ranting into his mobile, protesting his innocence and blaming former associate Jeff Lowe for setting him up. Should the Yanks free Joe... or bang up the lot of ’em?
HOT on TV: The Wheel Of Time (AmPrime) and Rosamund Pike... Rose Ayling-Ellis, Strictly... Dougray Scott, Crime (BritBox).
ROT on TV: Diana: Queen Of Style – less substance than a micro-skirt... Frankie Boyle’s New World Order – old, failed politics; toxic tripe.
ON Miriam & Alan: Lost In Scotland, Miriam Margolyes revealed “My knickers fell off the first time I took my driving test”. Blimey. This was before she got into the car, of course, otherwise “show me, tell me” would’ve been quite different. Celeb travelogues can be a breath of fresh air, but not when Miriam’s breaking wind like Jim Royle on a bean-and-stout diet. No wonder the old farts at Bafta love her.
*IRVINE Welsh does Rebus on BritBox series Crime, a bleak Edinburgh-based police procedural with a rapidly unravelling DI. It’s not for the faint-hearted but Begbie would lap it up.
*I’M A Celebrity is as welcome in Abergele as a coal delivery at Number Ten. Could locals challenge ITV for false advertising though? I looked up one of this year’s bookings and even Google said “Beats me”.
*DOCTOR Who update: the Flux has wrecked Space, the Swarm has messed up Time, and Chris Chibnall has completely buggered the art of story-telling.
*THE Doc’s old enemies The Silence can erase all memory of any fresh horror you see. Any chance they could start with this series?
Small Joys of TV: Jo telling a mugger “Go get a job, you arsehole” while walloping him with her walking stick (Close To Me). Christine Ohuruogu’s fabulous smile. Brassic. The Outlaws. The Lakes with Simon Reeves.
Random irritations: Jo’s inner voice on Close To Me. EastEnders “reflecting real life” by ignoring ‘What Is’ to reflect what they think Ought To Be. This isn’t drama, it’s Guardianista propaganda. An insult to the soap’s creators.
SEPARATED at birth: Boris Johnson and Cartman? One is dodgy, manipulative, and one-dimensional, the other is in South Park...
CLASSIC CLANGER: ANDY Gray was talking about giving away goals when he said: “The most vulnerable area for goalies is between their legs.”
Nov 14. DEXTER Morgan is back – and he’s left his secret life as a serial-killing vigilante behind him. Or so he thought. On Dexter: New Blood, the former police forensic technician has moved to sleepy, snowbound Iron Lake, in upper New York state, where he’s calling himself Jim Lindsay. Nice guy Jim works at the local hunting goods store. He’s everybody’s pal – he even goes line-dancing. But early on, his pick-up truck is pulled over by local chief of police, Angela. Gulp. Does she know? Does she suspect? Nope. She’s his girlfriend and this is their little role-playing sex game. Talk about banged to rights! Within moments he’s giving new meaning to taking the law into your own hands... until their roadside passion is ruined by a call from police HQ. A clear case of coppers interruptus.
But expecting Dexter not to butcher bad guys is like going to Sweeney Todd and hoping he’ll stick to a short, back and sides. Dex keeps his murderous alter ego – his “dark passenger” – locked away in his head right up until he meets Matthew Caldwell, the most obnoxious arse this side of the Elysée Palace. Wall Street hotshot Matt isn’t just pushy and entitled, he’d also killed five people in a game of chicken. When he shoots a majestic white stag, nearly clipping our anti-hero in the process, the real Dexter re-emerges. Result? Matt – splat! Dex doesn’t take a souvenir blood slide though. “I may be a monster but I’m an evolving monster,” he says. He’s got sloppy, however, leaving blood in the snow; and he’s haunted by his dead sister Debra. An intruder in his home turns out to be his teenage son Harrison. And after denying it, Dexter takes him in. New enemies include a local serial killer and probably a billionaire oil tycoon. It’ll get messy.
THE Tower was part mystery, part Moral Maze. Veteran cop Hadley faced losing his job for calling Libyan teen Farah “Little Miss Jihadi” and her nuisance dad “Bin Laden”. Naturally he denied it to his partner, young honest Lizzie. Unfortunately for him Farah had recorded it all. But Farah wasn’t squeaky clean. She took Ben, her neighbour’s 5year-old son, to a stand-off on the very top of Portland Tower, so edgy it felt like the next round in Squid Game. And her dad vandalised Ben’s mum’s car. “Racist” Hadley died trying to save Farah from falling to her death. DS Collins, of ITV’s equivalent of AC-12, knew something stank but couldn’t prove it. Her oppo, DC Bradshaw (Jimmy Akingbola) was more of a realist. He knew Lizzie was a good cop and talked her out of taking the Portland plunge. Lizzie’s boss/lover DI Shaw was the slippery git who persuaded her to file a false report. The guy had more shades of grey than E.L. James. It was him who nicked Farah’s incriminating phone... and his wife who only pretended to destroy it after she learned about his affair. The other senior plod were no more corrupt than, say, the current government. Like life, nothing was entirely black or white.
*WHY didn’t 20-stone Hadley leave a crater when he hit the pavement? And since when do people shag in showers with their clothes on? It saved Liz a trip to the launderette, I suppose.
CLOSE To Me, about a woman emerging from a coma, sent me straight into one. The schlocky “domestic noir” features Jo – who’d lost her memory after suffering severe trauma – and her shifty husband Rob who is covering up more secrets than Gray Atkins. Jo endured confusing flashbacks (as did we) suggesting she might have had an affair with her daughter’s boyfriend or even her gardener. “Were we close?” she asked him. “Well, I’ve handled your lobelia,” he smirked. Odds on he tickled her clematis too.
HOT on TV: Tracy Ifeachor, Showtrial... The Chestnut Man (Netflix)... Tahirah Sharif, The Tower.
ROT on TV: Close To Me – cobblers to the rest of us... Angela Black – drags on like Covid, but is even less fun.
BEAUTY, we’re told, is in the eye of the beer-holder, which is why I felt compelled – in the interests of reviewing – to drink along as they created ales and lagers on James Blunt’s Beer Masters. I’d reached the pint of no return by episode six, but there’s much joy in this competitive brewing challenge. Jaega “the Jaega-meister” Wise heads the experts. James showed considerable restraint by not telling her “You’re boozy-ful”. Hic. Cheers.
HOW does Craig Charles keep a straight face on Moneybags saying things like “Mike moves from the hole and he goes into pole”? “Elvira’s on pole,” he said of one contestant. Nice. Do we press the red button to see that? Or just bring a money bag of our own?
*THEY often work miracles on The Repair Shop, but I spat my tea out when Dominic Chinea boasted he’d made “an exact replica of Mike’s original nuts”. Blimey. Can he do the same for Prince Harry?
*THERE are so many prosthetics on Impeachment it’s a shame they didn’t recreate Bill Clinton’s misshaped manhood too. Between shoots, Clive Owen could have used it as a boomerang.
*ED Balls’ Inside The Care Crisis was moving and insightful. Low-paid care-home working is one second job all MPs should try.
Small Joys of TV: Connie Nielsen’s gratuitous shower scenes on Close To Me. Reservation Dogs. Susie Essman, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Just Good Friends re-runs.
Random irritations: The Larkins – far from “perfick”. Comedians Giving Lectures – why not try doing your job and making us laugh? Xmas ads. Corrie’s tragic decline.
FATHER & Secret Son: Ex-Python Terry Jones and Sky News reporter Sam Coates?
Nov 7. THE return of Doctor Who was terrifying for all the wrong reasons. Last series, the show’s ratings fell like a ton of Judoon droppings. Writer Chris Chibnall’s response was to throw everything the budget could stretch to at the hectic opening episode hoping something would stick. The noisy bombardment of rapid-fire story threads felt like being screamed at in a warzone. We had Weeping Angels, savage Sontarians and an orange cosmic dust cloud called The Flux which devoured planets like Marvel’s Galactus after a 1,000year fast. There was an ancient alien called Swarm who looked like he’d been stung repeatedly by one. And John Bishop played a saintly version of John Bishop called Dan who was kidnapped by Karvinista – a dog-alien who looked roughly as menacing as Bungle from Rainbow. (For Zippy see the Doctor.)
The overgrown Yorkshire terrier was a Lupari, a race who had vowed to stand by humanity in our darkest hour... but hadn’t bothered to show up over six doom-laden decades of Daleks, Cybermen and Barrowman. Seven billion paw-people came to save us; each travelled alone, presumably to stop them wasting time sniffing other dog-aliens’ nether regions along the way. Somehow, they had developed Flux-resistant technology and protected Earth with their vessels. Meanwhile 19th century Scousers were doing something dodgy down a mineshaft, and the Sontarans were “30trillion light years away” – which is further than the entire known universe. Confused? You should be. It all felt busier than a Dalek stag party on an extermination weekender. Yet the defining qualities of great science fiction are simple stories well told with smart twists and characters viewers can invest in. This was just an over-complicated mess. How William Hartnell’s calm, slightly grumpy Doc turned into Jodie Whittaker’s shouty scatter-brain escapes me.
JESSE Armstrong’s brilliantly savage drama Succession revolves around Logan Roy, the self-made founder of global media company Waystar Royco, and his fiercely competitive/hateful kids. Last series, serious sexual assaults in their cruise ship division were exposed. The victims had been silenced with hush money. The Roys weren’t involved, but the scandal ripped the family apart. Now it’s son Kendall versus the rest, which is not an even fight. Brian Cox’s Logan is part Rupert Murdoch and part King Lear in need of a swear box. Kendall is a self-regarding berk. Yes, he sabotaged Royco’s town hall meeting by playing Nirvana’s Rape Me over sister Shiv’s big speech (even Biden couldn’t have slept through that). But he’s still the biggest deluded narcissist outside of Parliament. Shiv issued a public statement – “a greeting card from hell” – revealing Kendall’s struggles with drugs, and “problematic relationships with women”. Then the White House “betrayed” Logan by letting FBI agents raid the company... and it gets better tomorrow. Strap up!
SMIRKING Talitha on Showtrial is a real piece of work. Nicked on suspicion of murdering a former friend, the la-de-dah daughter of a ruthless property developer treated it like one big student Freshers’ Week joke. Celine Buckens plays the “rude, entitled little cow” (© Bristol Plod) so posh her urine sample is probably 70percent Cristal. The privileged brat would look on Jacob Rees-Mogg as a bit of rough. Talitha seems as guilty as hell, but then we’re meant to think that... Tracy Ifeachor sparkles as her brief, Chloe, who has more class in her little finger than her client has in her entire body.
HOT on TV: Jos Buttler... Valley Of Tears (More4)... Sarah Snook, Succession (SkyAt).
ROT on TV: “Human swan” Sacha Dench – feather-brained... Moneyball – kick it into touch, Wrighty... the cult of Greta.
ON The Deirdre O’Kane Show, the Irish comedienne claimed she’d considered becoming a hooker “just to get out the house”. Hookers don’t kiss on the lips, she said. “I’d have to do something different. I’d kiss on the lips exclusively. That’s the definition of thinking outside the box... ” Guest Jason Byrne was on form too, saying his dad “snored like his soul was leaving his body”.
*STRICTLY did Halloween last weekend. Not sure how Dan Walker’s lobster claws and Anton dressed as The Riddler fitted the theme, but full marks to Claudia. With no extra effort, she looked scarier than the lot of ’em.
*AN Only Connect contestant was called “a Poundland Garry Bushell”. Outrageous. The real Poundland me is Ant Middleton. Not really. It’s Popeye’s Bluto.
*IF we can revive Blankety-Blank, why not Madhouse? Joe Pasquale would be the perfect host for the fast-moving character-driven sketch show.
*STACEY Slater said she’d married jailbird Eve to “give her a stable home”. That’s like moving to Afghanistan for the feminism.
*SPITTING Image had sixteen gagwriters and no laughs. Televison never targets the insanity of our times because “satirists” and TV producers buy into it.
Small Joys of TV: Shaun Ryder and Bez on Buzzcocks. Mr Dynamite: The Rise Of James Brown (SkyArts). Worzel Gummidge. Evelyne Brochu, Paris Police 1900.
Random irritations: BBC reporters who think they’re political activists. “Meat Free Monday” not getting laughed straight out of Walford. Football Focus – more like football f**ked up.
TV questions: Is Shetland a load of old pony? Why did Jerry Hall go on Celebrity Antique Roadshow when she’s got a priceless old Aussie relic at home? If Ed Sheeran had stayed 15stone, would the maths symbol for his new album have been Pi?
Separated at birth: Gregg Wallace and this Sontarian? One looks like an over-baked potato, the other is likely to eat him.
Classic Clanger. Giovanna Fletcher was talking about a hand-operated jungle shower on I’m A Celebrity when she said: “I’m the only girl here – who’s going to pump me now in the shower?”