Garry Bushell
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OCT 31. THE misery junkies of EastEnders went to town last week: A two-day funeral, a near-suicide, a snatched baby and a car trapped perilously on a train track. Was this the award-worthy drama BBC1 imagined it to be, or just more contrived old cobblers churned out with all the finesse of a drunken navvy let loose with a sledgehammer? The funniest moment came when the red hankie gang turned up for the funeral on BMX bikes looking like the Cher Lloyd Fan Club. Enders does teenagers like Dads dance at weddings. I still shudder at the memory of Peggy's short-lived gwime obsession. Besides, Billie was in his 20s, how come none of his mates drive a car?

More unintentional hilarity included Whitney's ridiculous Action Man shrine, and Carol Jackson banning all of her friends and most of her family from the funeral service. We all cope with grief in different ways of course; mine would be to throttle Carol, a cheerless, moaning nuisance of a woman perpetually twinned with a small rain cloud. Ask not why all of Carol's fellas cheated on her but rather how any of them ever stuck with her beyond the first date without being strung out on gin and morphine or forced into it by a pressgang. This sourpuss puts the cow in scowling. She makes the soothsayer from Up Pompeii looks like Charlie Chuckles. The biggest mystery in this soap's history is why they put down Wellard and let Carol live. Others include why Billie's brother, sister and Aunt all swerved his funeral, when did wide-boy Alfie become such an 18-carat mug, and would a Cockney mum like Peggy really have walked out on her fam-lee in their darkest hour? No-one has even asked how she is.

The truth is the writers' know Londoners even less than they know life. They paint the East End as some kind of quaint shouting community so isolated that the idiot peasants are forced to open illegal drinking dens and inter-breed like European royalty. It's a right-on social worker's view of the working class. They can load on misery - there's nothing sadder than a mother's tears. But happiness, aspiration, loyalty and logic are constantly beyond them. The BBC's message is simple but relentless: Life sucks and so do you.

*BILLIE'S pal Connor saved Carol from suicide by giving her one in the kitchen. So that's what BMX stands for: bad man xxxxing. The technical term for having sex with Carol? Grumpy-pumpy.

*Bereavement sex is the sweetest kind of all, according to Jerry Seinfeld, trumping make-up sex and the conjugal visit; although I think I'd plump for being shagged to death by Vanessa Gold over a short period. Say, thirty years.

MOUTHY Melissa was the latest loser to get fired on The Apprentice, although sadly not with a blow-torch. I'll miss her. The shameless harpy may have come over like a cross between Gok Wan and a bleached blonde Exocet missile, but no one has mangled the language like this since the golden days of John Prescott. Explaining her epic failure as a saleswoman, Hell's Mel insisted "There was no room for manoeuvrement"; adding later "I've always maintained my professionality." Imagine the chaos she'd bring to Dictionary Corner. The woman is Nellie Pledge with a business degree. Not to mention the worst pitcher this side of a stoned baseball team in a zero gravity simulator. The only downside of Mel going is that Stuart Baggs (Of Sh*te) is still with us. He's rude, useless and deeply deluded; the sort of bloke who can't pass a mirror without taking a bow. Baggs makes George Osborne seem warm and likeable. He couldn't be more full of himself if he learnt to self-fellate.

*THEY were pitching shower heads and a garden tool. What better for a useless shower who dig 'emselves into a deep hole every week?

BBC1's Comedy Roadshow petered out with a lacklustre turn from over-exposed, under-performing Jack Whitehall. The week before featured Noel Fielding's feeble routine about a house-fly. I love The Mighty Boosh but this guy's no stand-up. We're deep in Emperor's New Clothes territory here. Why won't the Beeb ever use older, mainstream comedians? What are they scared of?

HOT on TV: Getting On (BBC4) - a darkly comic masterpiece... The Middle (Sky1)... Modern Families (Sky1)... Colditz (Yesterday).

ROT on TV: The Stephen K. Amos Show - excruciating... Million Pound Drop - two bob concept... Piers Morgan's Life Stories - more like a life sentence... Cheryl Cole - how can she judge live singers when she won't sing live herself?

*ANN Widdecombe is said by some to be the nation's sweetheart. Strewth! The nation had better get itself straight to Specsavers. Gavin Henson is actually a worse dancer than Widdy. He moves like his legs haven't fully defrosted from 71 Degrees North. I'm not saying he's wooden, but that isn't spray tan, it's furniture polish.

*WIDDY the nation's sweetheart? Sweetmeat, surely?

*MEMO to Holly Willoughby: please tell your boobs to stop staring at my eyes. My wife finds it irritating.

*THE Discovery Channel brought us Tyrannosaurus Sex about dinosaur mating habits. Insert your own Bruce Forsyth 'jurassic pork' gag here.

*DAYBREAK's figures have dipped again. Whoever could've guessed that people wouldn't want to wake up to grumpy Adrian Chiles? They should replace their 'something cool before school' item with one called 'the show don't work, you miserable berk.'

SMALL joys of TV: the unintentional laugh-out-loud moments on Pillars Of The Earth. Keef's Culture Show special. And eccentric nut-jobs like Dan on Freak Like Me, who obsessively corrects misspelt graffiti (but probably not Annie who still sucks a dummy at 18.)

RANDOM irritations: Waffling art-tart Matthew Collings. Ashley and Claire (Corrie). The stupid questions Gregg Wallace asks. "Have you got what it takes to advance on Masterchef?" he slobbers. What does he expect them to reply? "No, fatty, I'm just in here to get out of the rain."

* AFTER The Ripper and The Krays, whose crimes should Whitechapel revisit next? How about Spring-heeled Jack, the legendary terror of Victorian London?

SEPARATED at birth, Wagner Carrilho and ringmaster Amos in Big Fish - one associated with a barking mad circus full of weird creatures, the other a character played by Danny DeVito. (Spotted by reader Rianna Hughes, 15.)

OCT 24. GEORGE Osborne wielded his axe on state spending last week. A lot of our TV could do with a good trim too, and if I were Chancellor of the Telly, here are the cuts I'd make:

1) Slash all soaps by 50% and place a cap on storylines involving unplanned pregnancies, unlikely psycho-killers and long-lost but never-previously-mentioned relatives. I'd also make EastEnders 60% less miserable, reversing 24 years of relentless gloom. This might have a negative effect on sales of razor blades, but it wouldn't half take pressure off the Samaritans.

2) X Factor is a ratings sensation, but 135 minutes? Jeez! Lindsay Lohan has served shorter jail sentences. I'd chop half an hour off Saturday night's episode, axe one judge (Louis) and cut the number of live shows by ejecting four losers per week. This would have the added benefit of ending the series in November and saving the Xmas Number One slot from dreary saccharine pop dross.

3) Replace Anne Robinson on Watchdog with an actual dog; not only cheaper but easier on the eye.

4) Make Newsnight self-funding by merging it with QVC; during in-depth report on Middle East, Paxman would turn to camera and talk us into buying properly supportive gentlemen's pants.

5) Daytime dross involving cooking, slimming and/or makeovers would be subject to a hefty Man Tax if shown after 7pm, liberating huge chunks of the evening from the pox of Gok Wan, Gregg Wallace and Jamie Bloody Oliver.

6) Daybreak is day-broken. The 'dream-team' of Chiles and Bleakley has produced nightmare ratings. Why not replace these over-paid duds with cheaper, more cheerful folk who have genuine chemistry? We could call it GMTV.

7) I love The Apprentice, but Karen Brady isn't working. BBC1 would save fortunes by replacing her with a waxwork dummy of Margaret Mountford. As long as the eyebrows were mobile it'd be every bit as good as the real thing.

8) Axe S4C. If Welsh-speakers want their own channel, let it pay its way.

9) Ditto BBC3 - the young and dumb have enough channels already without us having to fork out for a state-run one.

10) Pay-per-view executions on Jeremy Kyle Show.

My reforms would halt the slow decline towards TV hell and free up time and resources for culturally enriching programming like: Variety shows featuring professional entertainers! Fools & Horses style sitcoms! A UK equivalent of the Sopranos starring Ray Winstone! A proper rock show! And the Live From Studio 5 girls wrestling half-naked in jelly. I commend these measures to the house.

*WE now have aircraft carriers without aircraft. Well done Osborne, Cameron and Alexander, the men who put the 'N' in cuts.

*SHIBBY deserved to go on The Apprentice. Not so much for his bread roll compensation fiasco, but because he used the phrase "My bad" like he was twelve or Jonathan Ross. Sugar dubbed him 'Dr Do-Little'. It would have 'Dr Strangeloaf' but according to Wagner Louis Walsh has cornered that market with his baguette...

*I CAN'T say anything about last night's X Factor, I'm still laughing at Louis's idea of a rocker - Storm in a fedora hat slaughtering Born To Run. Wash-out Walsh has no judgement, insight, clue or shame. But he's still got more chance of having a singer in the final than Simon, and that's the funniest thing of all.

*WOW. That Cheryl Cole waxwork is just like the real thing. It can't sing a note either. Cheryl's waxwork is so true to life they have to chain it up at night in case it leaps down and wallops the toilet cleaner.

LIKE all fans of glossy, high-concept US conspiracy cobblers I want to love The Event. But I'm worried. Will it deliver, like Lost ultimately did (sort of), or frustrate like FlashForward? It's mighty tempting. 1944, and a plane carrying mysterious alien passengers crashes in Alaska. The CIA promptly bang 'em all up Gitmo style, keeping them secret for 66 years. It's the biggest conspiracy since Bilderberg. Even the US President doesn't know. And just as the detainees are about to be freed Bad Things start happening (killings, kidnapping, hi-jacks). Step forward reluctant hero Sean (Jason Ritter) to save the world. He's an ordinary Joe whose girlfriend vanishes on a cruise. (If Jane McDonald was the cabaret, it'd explain everything). Even more worrying, there's no record of them ever being aboard. Gulp. Eight days on, Sean's trying to stop her pilot Dad from landing his plane on the Pres when it vanishes... Damn you, America. Hooked again.

*C4's The Event. Not to be confused with Katy Perry singing on X Factor, that was a complete and utter non-event.

HOT on TV: The Event... Spooks... Greg Davies (Inbetweeners) ... Whitechapel - plain Krayzy.

ROT on TV: Harry & Paul - as repetitive and tiresome as a depressed drunk reciting Little Britain sketches... and "serious BBC drama" Lip Service - these ladies-who-munch are as randy as a Confessions film but nowhere near as realistic.

*THEY played Texas Hold Em Fold Em on EastEnders. It must have been the first river in Walford without a body floating in it. Alfie had a run of bad luck, but didn't lose his shirt. Shame. He's been wearing that tat for eight years. He's come back in the same clothes he left in, in '95. Let's hope he's changed his pants.

*THE Taking Of Prince Harry was everything you'd expect from C4: badly-made, treacherous old codswallop. It was distressing for our forces, for the Prince himself and for his long-suffering father, James Hewitt.

*THE make-up lady on Downton Abbey is called Annie 'Nosh' Oldham. I don't know this woman, but I'd certainly like to meet her.

*I HEAR that the BBC wardrobe department refer to Anton Du Berk as the vajazzle, cos every week they ask: "How the hell are we gonna dress up this ****?"

RANDOM irritations: Jack Whitehall popping up everywhere like an arcade Whac-A-Mole. Chloe Madeley apparently qualifying as a celebrity. The fuss about Cheryl Cole singing live - isn't that what singers do? Alan Sugar talking about résumés when he means CVs.

SMALL Joys of TV: Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey). The Specials on EastEnders, although with the Jacksons shouldn't the song have been Too Much Too Young or Stereotype?

Oct 17. MODERN TV is littered with shame and scandal. Cheryl picking Katie Weasel over Gamu and that girl who moves like she has cerebral palsy over Anastasia; Wagner making the X Factor live shows, the very existence of Diva Fever... All of it stinks like McCririck’s pants. And now we must add another name to this list of outrages: Joy Stefanicki.

Poor Joy was fired from The Apprentice for no apparent reason. She didn’t come up with the girls’ dumb product idea – that was Joanna. She didn’t turn down an exclusive deal with Boots – that was Laura’s daft decision. But Laura is double gorgeous and stroppy Joanna is “good telly.” Whereas Joy, well, she’s plain and polite with a schnozz like a strap-hanger’s elbow. So she had to go, proving Sugar’s show is just as cynical as Cowell’s. The only business going on here is ‘show’. Not that this detracts from the joys of watching puffed-up nitwits self-destruct...

‘Britain’s brightest business prospects’ had to design a new and useful beach accessory. Many ideas spring readily to mind: heat-resistant ice cream, sand-proof cossies or padded gentleman’s trunks to turn the saddest smuggled budgie into a proud cockerel. Liz’s first thought was the foot-glove, to protect your feet from burning hot sand... much like beach shoes, plimsols and sandals do. Joanna came up a kind of mini-deckchair for books - because reading a book while sun-bathing is such a difficult ordeal, isn’t it? Erh, no. No-one was the slightest bit impressed, but in the absence of anything better Book-Eeze was born. The finished product was actually worse than this sounds – naff, flimsy and about as simple to assemble as an MFI wardrobe in a power cut. Incredibly Boots liked it, but Laura rejected their offer (d’oh!) resulting in a nice round sales figure. Zero. Synergy’s big idea wasn’t much better – a beach-towel with a built-in drinks cooler, which Alex called a coolie (spelt cuuli, cos basically he’s a tuul.) Somehow, despite Chris’s lousy pitch, they nailed some orders leaving the losing girls to tear into one another like demented Jeremy Kyle guests. Business prospects? This lot couldn’t rent deckchairs in Benidorm.

*THE boys talked Stella into a bikini. I found that shocking and childish. The one I want to see half-naked is Paloma...

*SMALL Apprentice joy: their ridiculous jargon. “We haven’t solidified our product choice,” chirped Paloma. And if Melissa’s “comfortability” is a word then wobbly Widdy is the next world salsa champ.

*WAS Dave’s One Night Stand the best vehicle for Ben Elton’s TV come-back? Wouldn’t it have been funnier to see this clapped-out hypocrite writhing in agony on Embarrassing Bodies with his genitals covered in suppurating boils?

*THE word of the week is vajazzle, folks. Once Essex girls were happy with a ruby and a pearl necklace, now they have their pubes waxed and decorated with stick-on crystals. Everyone who is anyone is doing it. Even Jo Brand, although I hear she uses a strimmer and glues on pork pies for when she gets peckish. Sexy Sam had hers done on The Only Way Is Essex, ITV2’s low-rent answer to The Hills. On one level it’s hypnotically awful. The real-life cast play themselves so badly they make Simon Amstell look like Olivier. But keep an eye on Jessica, she’s bright, talented, and going places. And I don’t mean the local tanning booth. That’s obviously full. Please note: the Sugar Hut is a Brentwood nightclub, it’s not Sam’s nickname for her vuvuzula.

*YOU know what Lady GaGa uses for her vajazzle? Bacon bits. Corrie’s Betty opts for Werthers Originals. We can only guess at what Katie Waissel has got going on down there. But get too close and it’ll have your eye out.

HOT on TV: Thorne (Sky1)... Whitechapel... new Mentalist (Five)... Harry Hill... Patricia Heaton (The Middle).

ROT on TV: Seven Days – bored now... Film 2010... Reggie Perrin – this dead horse has been flogged enough... Ann Widdecombe’s dancing – so bad Chilean miners saw it and threatened to go back down.

*24-hour news came into its own as the Chilean miners were finally rescued. The world shared their joy. Except for Fabio Capello – the hole he’s stuck in is even deeper. What a nightmare. No-one has been trapped for so long in such a confined space since eight Slaters shared one three-bedroom house on EastEnders.

*SKY News should have kept the cameras rolling. After the miners, the next three up were Silurians from Doctor Who. Then they dug up Simon Fanshawe’s career.

*LADY Mary enjoyed some Turkish Delight in bed on Downton Abbey – sadly the young Turk promptly dropped dead. There hadn’t been a scandal like this in Downton since someone used a steak knife to eat plaice. Stick to English aristos, Mary love. Only their upper lips are stiff.

*THE creepiest thing on Mark Gatiss’s A History Of Horror? Mark Gatiss...

* GATISS is all over the BBC these days - writing, presenting, acting... he’s like Alan Yentob with talent.

*MIKE Gunn on Gok Wan: “Gok’s gay! He fancies blokes. If Gok thinks you look good naked you look like a lorry-driver.”

*APT scheduling: What Katie Did Next (ITV2) followed by The Bride Of Frankenstein (BBC4). If only...

*EASIEST job in TV? Writing Dermot’s X Factor script; you just type “We'll be back after the break” thirty-seven times.

* LUSTY lesbian Frankie seduced a funeral parlour receptionist next to a corpse on Lip Service. It might have been my imagination but I’d swear the shroud started to levitate...

*JOAN Collins reckons modern actresses lack glamour. Yeah? Tell it to January Jones, Christina Hendricks and Eva Langoria...

*SMALL joys of TV: Harry & Paul’s van drivers’ lament – shame the show’s so patchy. Ruta Gedmintas (Lip Service); judging by her TV conquests, that’s probably pronounced Rudely Bed-munters. Tommy Tiernan on economics: “Every country in the world owes money, but who to? Why don’t we just kill the bastard and relax?”

RANDOM irritations: C4’s charmless, witless Roasts. Those bickering Apprentice birds – they make ITV’s Loose Women seem almost rational. The X Factor judges’ avalanche of clichés – diva, 110 per cent, “You owned the stage”, “This is your time”, “You made that song your own”. Yikes. Either be original or hire some bloody writers.

SEPARATED at birth Wagner (X Factor) and Dougal from the Magic Roundabout – one a dozy, hairy creature who’s good for a laugh, the other a puppet dog...

10/10/10. COCKY Dan Harris was the first contender fired from a job he never had on The Apprentice. He had it coming. As Synergy team leader, Dan opted for a style of man management more generally associated with the Gestapo, Somali pirates and 1980s newspaper editors. He swore, he shouted, he spat out orders, and let everyone else do all the work... so he went down like Cheryl Cole in Brixton market.

The teams’ first task was to make their own sausages over-night and then flog them. It was like the Generation Game with a till. The women, Team Apollo, plumped for meaty gourmet offerings. The fellas went with cheap, pork-flavoured stodge that resembled something you’d scrape off the hind-legs of a particularly mucky mongrel. Their bargain bangers went well in Portobello market, but then Dan hit on the disastrous idea of door-to-door selling. Cos who could resist a surly stranger barking “Want sausages?” over their home entry tannoy?

The Apprentice is TV’s top reality show because it delivers what viewers crave most – a procession of hateful, deluded egomaniacs. Take Stuart Baggs, who looks like the lovechild of Peter Jones and a malignant circus dwarf, thinks he’s a “first class salesman” and sees himself as “Stuart Baggs, The Brand.” Or as you or I might put it Stuart Baggs, The Cock. Or Stuart Baggs O’Shite.

Other A1 losers include bungling “maverick” Alex, boastful Chris and surgeon Shibby who couldn’t negotiate his way out of a revolving door. Hark at his forceful patter: “The entire box for £60, take it or leave it... ” Customer: £50.” Shibby: “55, meet me halfway. 53? 50 it is... smacked it boys!” Shibs says his first spoken word was “Money not Mummy.” Shouldn’t that read phony or dummy? I also loved Melissa – the one who looks like a bleached Gok Wan - loudly rowing with Joanna about professionalism in front of a crowd of customers. “On paper you all look very good,” Sugar told them. “But then so does fish and chips.” And as a good East End boy, his Lordship knows a fish supper works best when served with wallies.

*LIZ described herself: “I’m young, I’m adaptable, I’m agile... ” Was she auditioning for the boardroom, or

*THE Top Five Apprentice contenders shallow men would like to discuss sausage with: Liz, Laura, Sandeesh, Paloma, Stella...

* SUGAR’S top line: “I keep hearing a lot of hot air coming out of your mouth, so in the interests of climate change shut up.” Sweet.

*I’M prepared to believe that the X Factor isn’t racist and that the decision to axe talented black singers in favour of fragile Cher, flaky Katie and three forgettable white boys was pure coincidence. But does anyone still believe the show isn’t fixed? No honest judge would have put through these divs after their disastrous performances last weekend. The choices were clearly made in advance – a real kick in the guts for Annastacia, Paige, Keri, Gamu and TreyC which no wild card reprieve fully makes up for. X Factor is rigged more heavily than Master & Commander. All in all, it’s a great advert for Rage Against The Machine.

*POOR Gamu. Simon should fix up an all-singing edition of UK Border Force for her last day here. She could belt out something appropriate (Get Back?), before Marcus Bentley says: “Gamu you have been evicted, please leave the Big Brother state.”

*COMING soon from ITV: Judge Cheryl Cole – move over John Deed as rule-breaking maverick Cheryl takes a stand against petty, old-fashioned values like fair-play and talent.

*CHERYL looks a lot like Cher. They could be a double act: Cher and Cher-alike.

STOP PRESS. Last night’s show confirmed how wrong the joke-judges were to over-look TreyC and Paige. Back from the dead, the two wild card warblers comprehensively out-sung and out-performed Flaky Katie (aka Lady TaTa) and Cheryl’s dead-eyed mini-me. They and Tesco Mary were the stand-out singers of the night. Belle Amie were the worst, followed closely by FYD which you suspect is short for Forget it, You’re Doomed (and I cleaned that up). But Aidan will probably win, despite looking like a psychotic choirboy planning his first murder (make it Louis). The weirdest sight of the night was Cheryl’s skin. The dozy mare has clearly reacted to the ‘racism’ row by changing colour via an all carrot diet and a quick dip in Ronseal. Chezza is now so orange she makes Dale Winton look as pale as Michael Jackson. Not sure who were the biggest joke the judges, Diva Fever or Wagner (were those dancers groping their boobs entirely appropriate on a family show?) But I’m guessing Diva Fever will be the ones who land an ITV2 series.

*HOW can you spot the mad woman in Walford? Trick question, they’re all nuts. But at least Jean Slater had something to smile about on Monday when Billy delivered a sausage surprise of his own. Stone me, you’d have to be bonkers to sleep with that loser. Billy’s last girlfriend was inflatable. He’s one up from a tramp in a skip. Bill’s life is so dismal that the scriptwriters dozed off during his last big storyline (the stolen post) and forget to finish it.

*WHAT’S Jean like in bed? CRAZY! And very loud because all her split personalities climax simultaneously.

HOT on TV: The Apprentice... TV Burp... Downton Abbey... Sarah Vezmar (Doctors)... Human Target (Fiver)... Spooks... Modern Family (Sky1).

ROT on TV: Brucie (Strictly) – he’s ruined more gags than a platoon of hecklers... The Story Of Lunch – pretentious dog’s dinner... George Gently – sloppier than a blindfolded housepainter.

*RIP Norman Wisdom. His warm underdog-friendly slapstick was a world away from the sneering elitism that passes for humour today. We’ve lost the art of simple fun. BBC1’s Tuesday night could have been scheduled by the Samaritans: Holby, Kids In Care, hellhole survivors, a bleak movie... strewth. Halfway through I turned off the telly and played Leonard Cohen for light relief.

RANDOM irritations: Richard ‘Goebbels’ Curtis. EastEnders slapstick. Piss-poor panel shows. Samantha’s habit of talking out of the side of her mouth (Seven Days). X Factor judging – more baffling than the Mock The Week scoring system. X Factor deportations – why can’t we start with Louis? And Paul O’Grady dropping his opening monologue to do ten minutes on a micro pig called Gussy. Lazy, badly advised children’s hour dross. A waste of talent and opportunity. But on the plus side Gussy was sooo cute.

*HUMAN Target is a magic carpet ride away from grim reality. Mark Valley plays Christopher Chance, a steel-jawed, two-fisted bodyguard for hire. In show one he minded Tricia Helfer – who certainly has a body worth guarding. The show is a throwback to the lighthearted action thrillers of the seventies. Pure escapism. Love it.

*SOME sadist has started a facebook campaign to get me into I’m A Celebrity. Thanks, love, but if I wanted to hang out with rats and roaches, I’d go to the party conferences.

*RE Nigella’s “permissive” lamb recipe, is a shank entirely out of the question?

SMALL joys of TV: Parking Pataweyo (Harry & Paul). Kara Tointon, dominatrix (Strictly). Don Ehlert, the tight-fisted tyrannical boss on The Middle. The way Monica Galetti’s eyes widen over the smallest mistake on Masterchef – imagine how she’d have reacted to the boys’ hard sausages on The Apprentice.

*SOAP quote of the week, Tyrone on Coronation Street: “Jack, have you heard about Sophie Webster? She's Lebanese... ”

*TV puzzles: why isn’t Kat having kittens? On My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, why didn’t the brides buy their gowns off the peg?

OCT 3. X Factor latest: really good black singers axed for quirky white ones who mucked up. Is this show rigged or racist? Either way it stinks. These decisions make a mockery of all those claims that “I’m going to judge you on your performance” gumph. More of this next Sunday, but the truth is the finalists are fixed long before the judges’ ‘homes’ stage.

Oct 3. THE costume drama is back - yippee! TV’s way of saying, look how great things were when the gentry were landed, plebs knew our place and urchins were sent up chimneys. Just don’t mention the rickets. Downton Abbey is crawling with the sort of pampered parasites who in my youth would have got me reaching for a red flag and a revolver. Mind you, stone-hearted snobs like Lady Mary would bring out the inner Miliband in Norman Tebbit. James, milady’s intended, went down on the Titanic. (Much like going down on Lady Mary but not quite as icy). Told of his death, the sensitive flower responded “Must I go into official mourning? No-one really knew he was my fiancé. I loathe black.”

ITV recreates the period with a master forger’s attention to detail. It’s set in 1912, a time of steam trains and vintage Rollers where flunkeys iron newspapers, there’s kedgeree for breakfast, and electricity is scorned - “all those vapours seeping about.” The stately pile looks splendid (step forward Dame Maggie Smith as inviolate Violet, Dowager Countess), and Hugh Bonneville sparkles as the decent but troubled Earl of Grantham. The sinking of the Titanic has holed his survival strategy below the waterline as well. He has an army of flunkies to maintain and needs to get his spoilt-bitch daughter hitched to the right chinless wonder. Unfortunately the first sub, the Duke of Crowborough, preferred the attentions of Thomas the footman (and if you knew why he was called that... ) played by Liam out of Corrie. There are hateful people downstairs too, of course – some even take against Bates, the Earl’s injured Boer War batman turned inexperienced manservant. (No ‘how green was my valet’ gags by request).

The period feel is perfect; casting and location terrific. The only flaw is the direction – too many backs of heads... not enough be-headed aristos... It’s daunting to think that were it not for World War II and the 1945 Labour government, Britain might still be a lot like this: a rigidly structured world of toffs and deference.

Please note: the sentiments expressed above are in no way an endorsement of the current British ‘Labour’ Party who clearly despise England, the working class, radicalism, and free-thinking in any form.

*THERE is a scene in the Disney film Fantasia when Hyacinth Hippo rises gracelessly from the fountain. Last night BBC1 recreated it in the shape of Ann Widdecombe, who made her debut in a rubber frock the size and colour of the campest circus big top, and waltzed herself slowly and awkwardly into the nation’s heart. “If you think that’s bad wait till you see my salsa,” Widdy gamely told Revel-Horrid. Oh yeah. She’s John Sergeant in drag. Anton du Berk’s toes are really going to suffer. Good.

*IF Widdy’s dancing does improve, will that mean you can teach an old dog new tricks? Sorry if that remark offended any aging canines.

*NO obvious stars on X Factor, but Cowell has hit pay-dirt with scandal this series: divorce, prostitution and a performing moose (Chloe). How can Strictly top that? Hmm. Maybe encourage Paul Daniels to tell Ola “My big thing is magic.”

*MICHAEL McIntyre lit up Blackpool like the illuminations. He’d just seen Lorraine Kelly telling women “you’ve got to get that bikini body” for their summer holidays. “Not in Blackpool you don’t,” Mac scoffed. “Eat your chips otherwise you won’t fit in your extra-large fleece.” John Bishop was good Roadshow value too, and Justin Moorhouse impressed. But why book Miles Jupp, a posh boy from Berkshire, when Blackpool is crawling with rarely-seen top quality comics? Even Terry Alderton disappointed. Live, he’s sensational. But instead of using this BBC1 exposure to win over a new audience with his hottest one-liners and impressions, Terry spent half his slot with his back to the camera conversing with an imaginary daemon. Maybe this works in comedy clubs, but here it made his spot feel disjointed and him appear slightly nuts. A missed opportunity.

*FUNNIEST moment? McIntyre teasing Roy Walker, who was in the audience, with his catchphrase “Say what you see.” Quick as a flash Roy retorted: “Don’t tempt me.”

*THE problem with Whites is it’s nowhere near as funny as any real-life cooking show you could name. Nothing dished up here was as laugh-out-loud daft as Michel Roux Jnr saying: “He has to do justice to that turbot” with the intensity of Lucas on Spooks with half a minute to save the world. Nothing excited the imagination like Nigella’s talk of her “inner-thigh wibble.” In fact the only funny line was head chef Roland telling his maître d': “If God didn't want us to eat animals, he wouldn't have made them out of meat” – a Mick Miller gig from the 90s that has been a t shirt slogan for years. The smug head chef isn’t as scary/ridiculous as Gordon or Marco, the characters aren’t as monstrous or engaging as folk on Masterchef. Whites can’t even capture the chaotic high-pressure feel of a working kitchen. Fresh comedy? More like unseasoned, reheated leftovers.

*IT’S hard to believe in Alan Davies as a chef. He looks like the most nourishing thing he ever ate was that tramp’s ear he once munched on.

*NIGELLA thought of the week: “A good grinding will do just fine.” Indeed.

HOT on TV: Kara Tointon (Strictly Come)... The Middle (Sky1)... The Inbetweeners... Michelle Forbes (True Blood)... Nigella – stiffens the rhubarb.

ROT on TV: Daybreak... Anton du Berk – the ego has landed... Ask Rhod Gilbert – yeah, ask him why he’s bothering with this naff format... One Non-Blonde – not one laugh... Ann Black (Labour Conference) – a televisual black hole, duller than a BBC2 sitcom.

*RIK Waller from Pop Idol is now a maths teacher. You know what attracted him to that subject? The pi...

*IT’S bad form for Myleene to complain about that Hollywood star’s indecent proposal. We’ve all seen her on the Lotto, we know she likes releasing big money balls.

*KATE Walsh said the star “must hope Myleene’s lips remain sealed”. Yes, but around what? See page three of his contract...

*TELLY mysteries: why would anyone pay to drink in the Vic’s burnt-out cellar? Why does Patrick McGuinness look like a pantomime Chinaman? Why does Victoria Wood still think she’s funny? Didn’t she watch her last Xmas show? And what’s going on with Sharon Osbourne’s face? There are trampolines that are less taut.

SMALL joys of TV: Matt ‘Super Hans’ King as a dodgy meat supplier (Whites). John Bishop’s rampant rabbit routine. Pat Harkin’s inspired idea for “Venetian trousers, powered by Venetian blind technology” (Genius). And The Hoff getting booted off Dancing With The Stars. Forget bad dancing, David, it’s not for you; stick to the bad acting.

SEPARATED at birth: Peter Kay and Beth Ditto – one a feminine-looking fattie who looks awful in women’s clothes... and so’s the other one.

Previously... ..