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.
OCT 27. It was raining baby squid on Watchmen but it’s still not quite as bonkers as Dublin Murders. What started as a grim psychological thriller about children murdered in the woods has gone full Stephen King on us. Chain-smoking DS Rob Reilly, who escaped that fate as a kid, keeps his real identity hidden and is stalked by visions of a wolf. His pint-sized partner DC Cassie Maddox had an imaginary childhood friend called Lexie who turned out to be her supernatural double... and has also just been murdered. Confused? Me too. The plot makes Only Connect look like Tipping Point. I call it Guinness Noir because you’d have to drink gallons of the black stuff before it starts making sense.
Elsewhere, Doctor Mark Hanley was caught dancing naked around a woodland altar while dousing his body in cheap red wine. Either he’s a Liberal Democrat or he took the wrong turning coming home from Glastonbury. It’s the madman in the donkey jacket with the tin of paint who worries me. Where does he keep his brush and how does he clean it to stop it from going hard? He’s busy painting “He rises” on billboards. Rob certainly did when he got turned on by Cassie’s tears. The debauched detectives were at it in the evidence archives room. Nobody on TV has sex in beds anymore; they do it in cars, on bonnets, up against walls... Even on Sanditon they were romping on the cold drawing room floor despite being yards away from a cosy four-poster with goose down pillows. (Confession time: my wife once asked me if we could have sex “like they do on telly” – she got the right hump when the camera crew turned up.) Rob was off with Cassie the morning after, so odds on this won’t end well for him.
WATCHMEN is set in an alternative USA where Robert Redford was President, Vietnam is the 51st state and squid pelt down from the heavens – it’s Storm Calamari! All it’s short of is a light lemon drizzle to follow. No one sticks a net out to catch any though. Unless you’ve read the Watchmen comics, the story will makes less sense than Gemma Collins. Tulsa, in 1921, saw the worst race riot in real American history. The malady lingers on in the present day where the Tulsa PD have an uneasy truce with white supremacist berks called the Seventh Kavalry who wear Rorschach inkblot masks. Police officers are masked too for their own protection. The truce is shattered when a black traffic cop is shot. The resulting gunfight on the extremists’ cattle ranch reduces their unfortunate herd to goulash. So far we’ve barely had a glimpse of the heroic Watchmen themselves although Jeremy Irons plays brain-box Ozymandias who likes to type naked with a maid massaging his thighs (just as I’m writing this now). Most people would agree that racism is evil. But why is this the only message that concerns modern TV dramatists? Isn’t the current climate of newspeak, doublethink and eco-lunacy equally worthy of a good dramatic skewering?
I FELT for former England goalie David James who was shown the red card by the judges on Strictly, wrong-footed by a tricky jive. It was terrible news – no more Nadiya. Some of the dancers are better known than the “celebs”. But it doesn’t matter. Emma and Aljaz’s dreamy Vietnamese waltz was still enchanting. And Dave Arch’s house band are the best in the business. The show remains mercifully free of Brexit tedium, although poison dwarf Bercow would’ve fitted in on last night’s Halloween special.
*A WOMAN on a bus told me “Strictly booked the wrong Bushell”. Thanks madam, but they didn’t. My dancing is far worse than Mike’s... unless pogoing counts. Besides I’d need round-the-clock training to meet the Strictly curse requirements.
*CRAIG told Kelvin he was “a bit stiff”. No surprise, he’s dancing with Oti.
HOT on TV: Lucy Punch, Motherland... Zofia Wichiacz, World On Fire... Giri/Haji... Regina King, Watchmen (SkyAt).
ROT on TV: Modern Love – love? There’s nobody even likeable... Corrie’s misery addiction... Sarah Lancashire’s “Welsh” accent on The Accident.
POOR Meghan is so unhappy about being in the media spotlight that she went on TV to talk about it. “No one asks if I’m okay,” the downcast Duchess moaned to Tom Bradby. I like Megs. But she doesn’t seem to have been properly briefed about what marrying into Royalty means, i.e. “Never complain, never explain.” Royalty is not celebrity and Hollywood’s needy me-me-me culture won’t wash here. On the plus side, at least she didn’t marry Prince Andrew.
*LUBNA was fired on The Apprentice. A shock to me – I hadn’t noticed she was there.
*THEY had a “next generation helmet” on the show. Tsk, that’s no way to talk about Ryan-Mark.
*THE clips on Comedy Legends are cracking but why blemish their brilliance with a parade of third-rate talking heads?
SMALL joys of TV: Paloma Faith as Bet Sykes in Pennyworth (Starzplay). Great Canal Journeys. Mr Mercedes (AmPrime). Harry Hill. Hustle on i-Player. Dirty Harry on TCM.
RANDOM irritations: Nadiya Bychkova going out of Strictly. The way the judges pretend to be surprised on X Factor: Celebrity as if they haven’t got a Scooby who the bookings are.
SEPARATED at birth: Richard Osman and the Newsman from The Muppets? One’s an awkward, strangely shaped dweeb, the other is a Muppet.
RANDOM US shows I’d like to see again:1) Boston Legal 2) The Shield 3) Bewitched 4) Get Smart 5) Hill Street Blues.
OCT 20. GEORGIA “Toff” Toffolo was delighted to team up with Stanley Johnson on Celebrity Hunted. Boris’s dad was “supremely intelligent... a walking encyclopaedia,” she gushed, adding “You’ve trained as a spy.” But like the PM himself, Stan sadly delivered far less than he promised, and it wasn’t long before Toff was looking as happy as a Bulgarian football fan at a grime show...
Just hours into the chase, super-spook Stan bought a burner phone using his personal debit card. He used the same card to pay for hotel rooms and to fill up their borrowed motor. “They aren’t going to monitor that bank account, I can tell you,” the bumbling buffoon told despairing Toff. But of course they did. The fuel purchase let the hunters identify their vehicle from CCTV cameras. Once they’d found the owner, they discovered where the burner had been bought and monitored their calls. Pig-headed Stan ignored Toff’s advice to drive on B-roads and stuck to the camera-blitzed M1. By the time the hapless pair reached Birmingham New Street, the hunters were closing in.
It wasn’t so much Skyfall as Spy Fail for our aging D’oh D’oh 7. “Stanley’s spy skills are 50years out of date,” Toff gloomily acknowledged. Not the first Johnson to let a posh bird down...
Also on the run are The Chefs – Aldo Zilli and Jean-Christophe Novelli. Towie Babes – Lydia Not-so Bright and Juicy Lucy Mecklenburgh. And bickering rugger-buggers Martin Offiah and Gavin Henson. They all got an electronic tag (for certain other Towie cast members that wouldn’t have been the first time). Sadly there was no Peter “The Chief” Bleksley though. Channel 4 missed a trick. Booking Bleksley as a fugitive celeb would be the ultimate challenge. He’d be uncatchable.
*TO donate to Stand Up To Cancer call 0300 123 444.
DUBLIN Murders serves up a solid mix of slaughter and the supernatural. A young ballet dancer’s death in 2006 echoed similar unsolved murders in 1985. One kid who escaped that fate is now chain-smoking DS Rob Reilly, keeping his real identity from everyone except his pistol-packing, pocket-sized partner DC Cassie Maddox. Shots of her backside in tight-fitting black jeans were of course artistically valid. It’s set in 2006 presumably so their boss, played by Conleth “Varis” Hill can channel his inner Gene Hunt. “If I’d wanted female detectives to stand around and look pretty, I’d have got one with bigger t*ts,” he snapped. And “Do your job and you’ll get on fine. Dick about and I’ll shred your testicles.” They don’t make ’em like this anymore.
LENNY Henry's Race Through Comedy was It Was Alright In The 70s from a black perspective. It wasn’t helped by poor research. Paul Barber’s Denzil wasn’t on telly in the 70s as claimed – Fools & Horses didn’t start until 1981 and Paul wasn’t on it until December 1983. Love Thy Neighbour was full of vile insults, but did it foster racism? At school all I remember was kids discussing how hot Nina Baden-Semper was. Charlie Williams and Jos White shone on ITV’s The Comedians and were national treasures. British TV has produced great black comedies from Desmond’s to Chewing Gum. And although we haven’t found a Chris Rock at least we haven’t produced a Bill Cosby.
*ODDLY Len praised Cosby saying “Long before his misdemeanours became to light... ” The creep drugged and raped multiple women! Would anyone discussing Savile say, “Long before he got found out Jim fixed it for hundreds of kids”?
HOT on TV: Julia Brown, World On Fire... the Succession finale... Dublin Murders... Will Sharpe... Would I Lie To You?
ROT on TV: The Sanditon finale – biggest let-down since Branson’s balloon burst... Caravanning with Shane Richie – one up from Monkey Tennis.
TV Questions: Does Gemma Collins refer to her home as GCHQ? Was the US version of The Wall paid for by Mexico? Would a drama about Motherland’s dopy Kevin be called The Man-Maid’s Tale?
RECENT subtitle cock-ups: 1) Baroness Hale on Parliament: “exercising its powers to make love for as long as the executive pleased”. (Actually make laws). 2) BBC Queen’s speech coverage: “She’ll be reading the speech written by the gunmen.” (Government).
*ON The Apprentice Lottie told Lord Sugar: “I had to be very flexible, I was forced into a position.” Sounds a lot more fun than Tommy the Talking Turtle...
*COMING soon: Who Are You Calling Fat? AKA Gazza’s kiss-list.
*SOME say Sandi Toksvig has got some brass neck on her, but that’s completely wrong. I checked and she has no neck at all.
*HOW about booking Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris for Celeb Hunted? No-one would find them. No-one would want to look.
SMALL joys of TV: V: The Original Series (Forces TV). Comedy Legends. Defending The Guilty. Helen Hunt on Antiques Road Show saying an old wind-up gramophone had a “morning glory horn”.
RANDOM irritations: Sandi Toksvig’s voice. Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You, rarely grasping that satire is supposed to be funny. His pompous little speeches kill the mood every time.
SEPARATED at birth: this bloke on an undertaker’s poster and Jeremy Corbyn? One helps with funerals, the other digs Labour’s grave.
RANDOM TV shows I’d like to see again: 1) Fox 2) Out 3) Gangsters 4) Prospects 5) Milo O’Shea’s Me Mammy.
OCT 13. LORD Sugar needs smarter contestants like The Wall needs a wrecking ball. Gawd they’re dim. His Apprentice wallies couldn’t even produce a decent ice-lolly. “A big lump of rosemary was in my mouth. It was like eating a garden,” gasped Karren Brady, who was talking about an unnecessary ingredient in the girls’ offering and not one of the contestants.
The boys decided against adding “activated charcoal” to their blueberry lolly and went with stem ginger, lavender, beetroot and edible glitter instead. Yum, said absolutely no one. Their pink deluxe creation looked, according to Sugar, “as if Ann Summers has gone into the ice-cream business”. Or in Ryan-Mark’s words “like a penis”. No wonder the buyer refused to suck one on camera. She did offer to buy them at a pound a pop though. But sub-team leader Dean, who couldn’t negotiate a handshake at a Masonic ball, turned her down and walked away with nothing.
By some miracle Sugar spared him and sacked team leader Kenna Ngoma instead. Kenna was “in the industry” and had “an understanding from an ice cream and lolly perspective”... but not enough of one to make the product tasty. (Go on mate, prove Shugs wrong, pitch your sex-lollies on Dragons’ Den.) The girls’ team couldn’t even manage simple maths, yet once again they were saved because the blokes were far worse. The exception is Charley Boorman lookalike Thomas Skinner. He’s a natural salesman and so Cockney he makes Danny Dyer seem posh. So expect PC transgressions down the line. This stage of the show is more about the big egos and nitwits. So we have Ryan-Mark, the Michael McIntyre clone, who explodes in orgies of self-love like a young John Bercow. And loose cannon Lottie. The winner is almost certainly still under the radar.
TANYA Moody’s Meg burst into Motherland with all the dignified restraint of Boris Johnson at an I.T. training session. Supermum Meg juggled parenting with a top job and saw straight through queen bitch Amanda and her coven. How could someone be a high-flyer and have “more kids than a frog”? asked ever-weary Julia. “Where’s the secret sadness?” We found out when Meg dragged her out on a drunken bender. She snogged strangers, flashed a bus driver, threw up fell down stairs and got cautioned for piddling in the street. It was an extraordinary spectacle, worthy of 1990s City boys. And the next day she was as right as nine pence. I can’t be alone in hoping the kids take after their fathers... unless the Dad in question is Kev. The show’s only regular male is wetter than Norfolk during the storms. He’s so gormless he could have come straight from a Noughties TV ad.
SHAME we can’t use “Correction” technology to give The Capture a better ending. The paranoid BBC drama about dodgy spooks faking film footage to fit up terrorists had been gripping. Right-on campaigners used Correction tech to frame Shaun – a squaddie cleared of murdering a Taliban soldier – with the pretend killing of his barrister. They planned to upload the real footage to expose secret service shenanigans. So the CIA topped her for real, and then snatched Shaun’s daughter to make him cough to the killing. He was jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. The campaigners kept schtum, the real footage was magically corrupted, and despite knowing how dodgy they are, plucky heroine cop Rachel joined the spooks... Utter cobblers! Unless of course she’s going in as a mole...
HOT on TV: Tom Allen, The Apprentice: You’re Fired... Swamp Thing (AmPrime)... A Confession finale... Spiral (BBC4)... new The Walking Dead.
ROT on TV: Zion Lights – rebel without a clue... Brendan Cole, The X Factor: Celebrity – cheesier than a stuffed crust pizza... Googlebox pushing C4’s political agenda.
THEY missed a trick on The X Factor: Celebrity. They could have had Coleen Rooney & Rebekah Vardy on belting through Saturday Night’s All Right For Fighting. Instead Jenny “The Vixen” Ryan from The Chase was the stand-out star. This seemed like an exciting new spin on Simon Cowell’s ailing talent show... to those who’d forgotten X Factor: Battle Of The Stars from 2006.
*LOVED Boris’s pole-dancing “tech advisor” Jennifer Acuri on GMB. Jen admitted she and BoJo had bonded over Shakespeare. Possibly As You Like I.T. Get her in the jungle, ITV.
*EASTENDERS star Steve McFadden tried his hand at being a clown once but terrified the kids. Now the clowns are writing the scripts.
*STRICTLY: It Takes Two? No. Strictly: It Takes Too Long.
*GEMMA Collins wants to “hug aliens”. That’s Predator 5 just waiting to happen. She also reckons she’s telepathic so let’s send her a mental message. All together, two words...
SMALL joys of TV: Lesley Manville, World On Fire. Old Columbos, 5USA. The fake postcode on Motherland: NE1 4ABJ. England vs Australia, rugby. Cleopatra (coming atcha), Celeb Coach Trip.
RANDOM irritations: Loaded eco-luvvies. Nish Kumar claiming his critics are motivated by “racism” rather than the fact that he’s not funny. Strictly: It Takes Two. Yank women with “lickle girl” voices.
FATHER & Secret Daughter: Dr Who’s Face Of Boe and Kunda on The Chase? One has the wisdom of ages, the other sadly didn’t.
TV question: does Lord Sugar most resemble a walnut or a scrotum?
OCT 6. One episode in and The Apprentice has already given us the laugh of the year. The chumps, sorry contenders, were in South Africa where the boys’ team organised a safari. “And if you look to your left, you’ll see the elephants,” said Riyonn. “It’s a rhino,” came the factual reply. Britain’s brightest brains indeed.
The 15 remaining candidates include several weapons grade egos, one young Michael McIntyre lookalike called Ryan-Mark and a real-life Del-Boy in Thomas Skinner. Sugar sent his boastful “chancers, posers and brown-nosers” to Cape Town where they were tasked with flogging “bespoke tours” to passing victims. The blokes claimed their safari would include lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and Cape buffalos. They bragged about the “big five” but only delivered three... which sounds like a disappointing night on Love Island. Although as the three included elephants, lions and rhinos no one asked for their dosh back.
The girls got on like a monkey house on fire, bickering and squabbling at every opportunity. They opted for a wine-tasting tour which went down like Chateau Sarsons. They lost tourists, couldn’t find the cellar, charged some customers four times as much as the others and had to refund £249.03p to disappointed punters. And they only made a meagre profit of £525.93p. So it was a real shock when they won... First out was chartered engineer Shahin Hassan who claimed people call him “The Falcon”. Sadly Sugar didn’t tell him: “Falcon, falc-orff”. It was surprising Sugar didn’t bin bad-tempered team leader Lewis as well. The biggest character is a loopy librarian wonderfully called Lottie Lion, who has already sunk her metaphorical claws into rival Lubna Farhan. Squeaky Iasha is easily the most irritating.
*LOTTIE had a fling with Lewis during filming, begging the question: do librarians do it by the book?
NO stallions were pleasured in the making of Catherine The Great – a wasted opportunity given TV’s usual contempt for historical facts. What’s a little horsing around between friends? Especially when Helen Mirren is playing a woman half her age and Potemkin, left, was battered and thrown 30ft to his death without breaking a bone. The Russian empress had her husband murdered, robbed the clergy, annexed Crimea, beheaded enemies and wiped Poland off the map. Tsk, and they said Maggie was hard.
*HELEN reckons nobody’s all male or female. I saw her in Caligula, she could’ve fooled me.
OVER on World On Fire Sean Bean has morphed into Reg Varney from On The Buses and Helen Hunt seems to be turning into one of Doctor Who’s Ood. It’s another World War II saga. Hurrah! We haven’t had one for weeks. Why not dramatise Blenheim or Agincourt? Possibly because telly twerps can’t spin them to make some laboured point about Brexit. The strong cast are undermined by the “woke” subplots and the usual historical howlers: A German soldier in a baseball cap, Mosley in a black shirt three years after they were banned, Bean’s Manc pacifist wearing a London bus conductor’s badge... English journalist Claire Hollingworth witnessed the Germans massing on the Polish border, not Hunt’s fictional Yank. Nazism was evil, but it’d be equally timely to remind us of Communism’s blood-soaked crimes too.
HOT on TV: Katarina Johnson-Thompson... new Goliath (AmPrime)... Julia Brown, World On Fire... The Good Place (Netflix).
ROT on TV: State Of The Union – bickering berks... Gennady, BGT: The Champions... Snackmasters recreating KitKat – less “take a break”, more give us one.
ON Plebs, Stylax has been replaced by Jason, a dumb hunk who could’ve wandered in from Love Island. Marcus is still deluded, house-slave Grumio remains gormless and it’s still not that funny – not to a generation raised on The Life Of Brian anyway. Plebs is daft, basic and awash with toilet humour but at least it doesn’t tell us what to think.
*NEW film Joker is the story of a comedian who turned to crime. Not to be confused with John Bishop, a comedian who gets away with murder.
*IF Countryfile can do politics, let’s have farmers on Question Time... if only to clear up the bullsh*t...
*WORLD War Weird claimed Russian boffins tried to create a human ape hybrid. Tried? What else could explain Grant Mitchell?
GIVEN TV's new love of “short-form” TV, why not produce commuter friendly mini versions of popular shows? Thanks to the miracle of Sky+ I can get through an episode of Pointless in 15 minutes without missing a thing. Ditto MasterChef, Bake Off and Grand Design which can all easily be watched in half their run time too.
*ALL these food shows on the Beeb. They should give us a £10 rebate on the licence fee to cover the cost of widening our strides.
SMALL joys of TV: The Great Model Railway Challenge. Australia v Wales, rugby world cup. The Plebs soundtrack. Ellie Taylor. Colombia: Wild Magic. Mahrez’s freekick against Everton.
RANDOM irritations: Catherine The So-So. TV twerps asking actors for their fatuous political opinions on the basis that they’ve played famous people. Cack-handed direction on Supermarket Sweep.
TV Maths. Eddie Large + curly brown wig = Vicki Barbolak