Garry Bushell
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Sept 30. The Thick Of It treated New Labour like a Justin Lee Collins girlfriend, allegedly. But the show can’t seem to lay a glove on the Coalition. Roger Allam is centre-stage as Peter Mannion, a Tory Minister who’s more Ken Clarke than slippery toff. Almost likeable...

We’re told that it’s brilliant satire, but is it? While TV news gave us Andrew ‘Thrasher’ Mitchell and the ‘gate-gate’ debacle, the BBC2 fiction served up Mannion at some drippy-hippy workshop. Granted, the series can’t hope to be topical. But it ought to hit home more. Poor old Blighty is curling up at the edges like the last sandwich in the shop. People are angry and frustrated. We’ve got floods, again, wetter judges, the Euro-zone disaster, and a generation of teenage girls betrayed. Satirists should target this corruption, folly and neglect. But we don’t get satire on telly, and certainly not on allegedly news-driven comedy panel shows.

Lightweight banter is the comic equivalent of easy-listening. Even Have I Got News For You, returning shortly, lacks the bottle to tackle anything remotely risky. The true satirist would lampoon the pathetic liberal response to Islamism (the equivalent of trying to pet a rabid rhino) and chip away at the lies underpinning the doomed Afghan campaign.

TV wasn’t always so timid. Spitting Image rained its merciless savagery on all-comers. Its treatment of Mrs. Thatcher’s Cabinet, and beige non-entities like Geoffrey Howe was far more devastating than anything on TV today. So who could tip a metaphorical bucket of horse crap over a Coalition that ought to have the life expectancy of a West Country badger? Bremner, Bird & Fortune had balls and brains but brilliant Rory Bremner needs a prime time format and a brave producer to be truly hit home. Frankie Boyle challenges taboos, but is too morbidly fixated with depravity to fly solo (and was woefully exposed by Tramadol Nights.) Right now, The Thick Of It is all we’ve got.

Last night Malcolm Tucker was back plotting to depose a lame-duck Labour leader (let’s hope someone is). What would the splendidly splenetic spin-doctor make of this series? Probably that it’s a piss-poor relation of the original, the runt of the mother-freaking litter. At heart the show is just an over-scripted sitcom with inventively unlikely swearing. It’s Yes F**king Minister. And politicians love it because it makes them look witty. But it’s nowhere near as funny as Cameron coming unstuck on Letterman...

AS I sat watching Drugs Live with a bottle of Jagermeister and a bag of glue I became aware of severe and rapid mood swings. At first I was expectant, then frustrated, then angry, then bored... and ultimately gutted. What a whopping great come-down. For starters, no-one on Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial was actually taking drugs live, so it was never going to turn into a rave. Instead we got Jon Snow and a bunch of nerds sitting around a giant Futurama-style brain watching clips of people taking ecstasy earlier. It felt like a lost episode of Brass Eye. But it did raise serious concerns. Like: was watching it a ‘gateway’ that would lead to you getting hooked on the hard stuff, C4 News? And what exactly had the execs who commissioned this farce been snorting? I didn’t brave the second episode because of the severe danger of ODing – openly dozing.

*FREE ‘doves’ for celebrities? How did Shaun Ryder miss that casting?

*ONE startling fact emerged. That geezer from New Scientist needs to investigate the science of shirts that fit.

*MICK Pugh: “I had an E on TV once, and LSD, and MDMA... Worst round of Countdown ever...

A BUSY week for the X Factor publicity machine, what with Simon’s latest genuine romance (cough) and Tulisa regretting losing her virginity at 14. Yeah, why wait that long? ask many of her fans. And several maths teachers. But it’s hard to see how ITV can hype much hope out of the endless weeks of live karaoke to come. We know who the talent is: Ella, Kye, Jahmene, Carolynne... and who’s being groomed for boy band fame. Lucy Spraggan shouldn’t be here; she should be on BGT. And Rylan should be somewhere else too. Preferably the Hunger Games. Every performance is like a promo for assisted suicide. Shame we can’t just fast-forward to the final.

*A NOTE to all these sick trolls who hate poor Tulisa: why not mention her bingo wings? She’d hate that!

HOT on TV: Continuum (SyFy)... Boardwalk Empire (Sky Atlantic)... Giovanna Di Rauso (Romanzo Criminale)

ROT on TV: Drugs Live – bummer, man... The Paradise – Purgatory... Nicole Scherzinger (X Factor) – needs a swig of Collagen’s hip flask to liven her up.

“ALL I have to do is consider my meatza,” Nigella Lawson confided on Nigellissima. “My meatza is a wonderful thing.” I’ve never doubted it. Sadly she was just talking about some pizza-shaped mince dish she’d invented. The smouldering domestic goddess, now tackling Italian cooking, said she’d once worked in Florence as a chambermaid. Imagine. Nigella in a black dress with a white collar, black stockings, high heels, with a feather duster... forget cooking. That’s hot enough.

*WINE merchant Patrick Sandeman plummeted to his death in a skydiving accident. Discussing his loss on BBC news, friend Jancis Robinson unfortunately remarked: “He has created a most enormous hole.”

A BIG Fat Quiz of the 90s, tonight the Noughties... What next? The Big Fat Quiz of last week? “Remember when they launched the iPhone 5... just days before the iPhone 6... ”

*GARY on Baggage dreamt about “dinosaurs trying to make love to me.” Just like Wilnelia Forsyth.

*RORY and Amy died on Doctor Who, the victims of weeping angels. Cold, dull-eyed, hard to love... that was Rory. I quite liked the Angels.

*ODDLY, the Ponds’ daughter looked more like their Mum. The writers got the idea from Chelsea Clinton.

*SHARON revealed her big addiction secret on Enders. It had to be booze, cos if she was just addicted to sex with dodgy geezers then Kat and Roxy would have been queuing up in front of her.

RANDOM irritations: period drama over-load. Eamonn Holmes fawning over Nick Clegg. BBC3’s Cuckoo - the most punchable sitcom character since Constable Goody in The Thin Blue Line. Grown men weeping on X Factor. People who weren’t even on the regular shows going through to judges’ houses. (Joe Whelan was robbed.) Cheryl Cole returning – who gives a monkey’s toss?

SMALL Joys of TV: Joanna Vanderham. Doctor Who turning New York’s most famous feature into the Statue of diabolical Liberty. Let’s Have A Party – the Piano Genius of Mrs. Mills.

SEPERATED at birth: Lord Sugar and It from Five Children And It. One a leathery be-whiskered creature with a comical accent... and so is the other one.

*IF Abu Hamza can be extradited, why not Ruby Wax?

*QUOTE of the week: Alison Godley talking about moor grass (probably) on Gardeners’ World: “It’s perfectly erect and tinged with purple.”

Sept 23. Downton Abbey returned offering the greatest clash of camp old monsters since King King vs. Godzilla. Our own acid-tongued super-snob Dowager Countess Violet took on frozen-faced Yank Martha Levinson, played by frozen-faced crank Shirley MacLaine. Martha is so against tradition she transports Botox from the future.

“When I am with her, I am reminded of the virtues of the English,” sniffed Violet; possibly adding “and remotely human expressions” in her head. Vi is the main reason I love this daft soap; that and the pace that stops it from collapsing under the weight of its own improbability. On Sunday, the Earl learned that a business he’d sunk his wife’s fortune into had gone ‘Duchess of Cambridge’ (tits up).

Canada’s Grand Trunk train company had gorn orff the rails. And now Downton itself was now at risk. Lord Muck could well be f... inished. But then, phew, wet Matthew could inherit enough dosh to keep the Crawleys afloat. Hurrah! Except boo, he wasn’t sure he wanted to... Lady Mary called the wedding off, but not for long. She claimed Matthew’s mild flirting was making her blush. Yeah right, like she’s got enough blood in her veins to warm her cheeks... Or that anything could make her blush after she banged that Turkish diplomat to death in series one. “Will I do?” she asked Carson. Well she did for the Turk. Talk about a doner goner... The biggest scandal was Mary getting married in white.

Elsewhere Tom Branson (IRA-loving ex-chauffeur) behaved like a boorish drunk after having his drink spiked. (Hard to tell the difference). Mercifully nice Sir Anthony exposed his tormentor and Matthew appointed Tom best man... the day before his wedding, like you do. Equally improbably, Cora, learning that the Earl had done all her dough, reacted as if he’d just spilt the soup. She’s the real Lady Gaga. Elsewhere Toe-rag Thomas and Evil O’Brien have fallen out and Bates (grandad of Norman?) languishes in choky, falsely banged up for murder... Still to come: flappers, the General Strike, the Walls Street collapse and perhaps a randy upstart aristo called Mosley as houseguest. Imagine Violet on Sir Oswald. “He wore a black shirt for afternoon tea! How ghastly. Then he took Mary upstairs to discuss the British Union.”

*ANDREW Mitchell? Pah! He was clearly auditioning for the part of a Downton baddie.

TARA died on True Blood, but that’s okay. In Bon Temps, death is just a small inconvenience. Once a drama about a cute telepathic waitress in a world where humans co-exist (and cop off) with vampires, the show now serves up a sex-mad melee of werewolves, witches, faeries and shape-shifters. It hasn’t so much jumped the shark as killed it, gutted it and is using its carcass as a blow-up doll. It’s never dull, though. This series they’re sinking their fangs into vampire politics, with old favourites Bill and Eric taking on the Authority. When Eric isn’t banging his sister that is... She’s our own Maid Marion (Lucy Griffiths) and if she’d romped with Robin Hood like this ‘Will Scarlet’ would have been less a name and more a medical condition. Horrifying scenes included the werewolf pack feasting on their dead leader’s guts, and much worse, shots of Sheriff Andy’s bare buttocks. Small joys included Eric and Bill speed-cleaning (if C4 ever need a replacement for Kim and Aggie... ), and potty-mouth Pam sniping about Sookie’s “super-snatch.” Reasons to be cheerful: boss vampire Russell’s back, Chris Malone from Law & Order is here, and Salome’s coming... in more senses than one.

*PAM spent a night sleeping with a cold lifeless corpse. It was like being married to Anne Robinson.

*FOR fans of bloodsuckers, misfits and other soulless parasites, Party conference season starts today.

VICKI Edmunds was one of the nicest people ever seen on Dragons’ Den: friendly, jolly, down-to-earth... Thank god they turned her down. Vicki’s ‘eat-with-a-local’ business connects travellers to friendly folk who cook for them in their homes. Great if everyone was as decent as her... But in the real world, it’d be some geezer in a ‘Free Peter Sutcliffe t-shirt and rubber pants saying: “Hello, I’m Jeffrey Dahmer... ”

*THE Dragons poo-pooed George MacSween’s pee-driven video game and refused to splash out on it. Their loss. He’s had a £100K spurt in business this year and exports to 50 countries.

HOT on TV: Romanzo Criminale (Sky Arts 1)... Downton Abbey... Derren Brown.

ROT on TV: The Thick Of It – sick of it... The Audience – not as good as Freddie Starr’s one... Baggage – lose it... Leaving – left... Gordon Ramsay – ultimate cock.

R.I.P. Charlie Richardson. The old villain should have been on X Factor. At least when he told someone “You nailed it!”, he'd know what he was talking about.

*ON Who Do You Think You Are, River Song star Alex Kingston discovered that her great-great-great-Gran had been a prostitute. Her biggest client? Wayne Rooney.

*STUNNED by the revelation, Alex said she’d “found her inner whore”; at which point several thousand teenage Doctor Who fans wondered how much it’d be for a dip in the River.

*SOMETHING about Fast, Fresh & Easy Food makes me think of Sharon Rickman. It isn’t the ‘food’. Or the ‘fresh’.

*HERE’S a tip: always Sky+ the X Factor. That way you can skip straight to the good bits – the adverts.

FIFTY people sat with me watching The Audience. 48 said “Switch over to Good Cop”. The other two dozed off.

*NEW boss George Entwistle says the BBC’s job is to deliver “outstanding creative originality.” Well it’d make a change.

*AN idea for ITV bosses.  Let’s do lunch without Gino and Mel.

IMAGINE, on Salman Rushdie, was better than reading his books I suppose, but it told us nothing we didn’t know already. The Satanic Verses affair was an early warning of the intolerant nature of Islamist extremism, yet most right-on folk turned a blind eye to it. Oddly we’re urged to show respect and understanding for permanently aggrieved cranks who do neither. Free speech can’t ever co-exist with fatwas.

Why are these Mad Mullahs always so bloody angry anyway? They get worked up about books they’ve never read, films they’ve never seen, opinions they’ve never heard... Hey guys, why not have a beer or a spliff and chill out a bit... could it be so bad?

RANDOM irritations: the strange death of ITV entertainment. Ads plugging dog food with veg in it, why? Dogs are carnivores. Corrie’s surrogacy storyline – abort! EastEnders endlessly rewriting characters and recycling plots. Fight back Londoners, Occupy Walford!

SMALL Joys of TV: Cliff Barnes – “the smell of brimstone and crazy”, according to JR (Dallas). Vampire Jessica playing Rock Band (True Blood) while singing Cherry Bomb. Lilyhammer. The ‘Angry Burns’ app on The Simpsons. Carson the Downton butler resurrecting the word ‘hobbledehoy.’

SEPARATED at birth: Michael Emerson (Person Of Interest) and Elvis Costello – both watching the detectives. Runners-up: Darren Brown’s Svengali doll and a young Margaret Thatcher. Downton’s Lady Cora and the late Enoch Powell in drag...

GREG Burns on three-day binge drinking: “In America, it means rehab; in England, bank holiday weekend.”

RANDOM questions: Did Hilary Devey need planning permission for those shoulder extensions? Does the full English Baccalaureate come with fried bread? Did Salman Rushdie’s protection squad include Satanic Nurses? When Sue Perkins said “Paul Hollywood has specified it's at least eight inches long” can we be sure she was talking about beef wellingtons?

Sept 16. What’s gone wrong with The X Factor? Ratings for ITV’s number one show are tumbling like a troupe of circus acrobats. Here’s why: the format has repetitive strain injury; it’s TV by numbers. How many dead-relative sob stories and tone-deaf twerps murdering over-familiar pop songs can we take? Last Sunday, they dragged out Lorna Bliss in the traditional ‘attention-seeking nitwit’ role, to wag her sagging camel toe at poor little Louis. Yeah. The same porn-again Lorna who flashed her disappointing baps on last year’s Britain’s Got Talent (to disprove it.)

The one thing we don’t get these days is that one judge who speaks their mind with breath-taking honesty. Without Cowell, we’re saddled with a rotating array of not-so-special guests: near-mute Anatascia, the deranged talent-free zone that is Geri Halliwell...

Nicole Scherzinger is the biggest washout since Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf Coast. And yet Leona made her seem lively. The judging is atrocious. No-one noticed that GMD3 were flat, or that big-headed Eddy String can’t sing for toffee. (He’s this year’s Frankie Cocozzzza – Rank Cock for short). Put simply, the show short-changes us. Often they serve up just one audition between ad breaks, or ludicrously skip the singers altogether to cut straight to the judges’ verdict. New tweaks, like those clumsily staged TOWIE-style chats, suck really badly. Insert your own Tulisa gag here.

When they stumbled upon a genuine natural talent in Lucy Spraggan, they panicked and banned her clever, catchy song in case it outsold Little Mix. (Talk about Big Fix.) Realising they’re on the ropes, show bosses fought back last week with a Simon Cowell publicity blitz. Ooh, he’s had a breakdown – yeah, must be hell being that loaded... He’s dating his ex – there are arranged marriages with more chemistry... Last night, in a move nicked from The Voice, they brought in someone (semi)famous, Biana Gascoigne, so they could turn her down.

If they really wanted to improve the show they’d 1) Lose the live audience at the auditions. 2) Make judges work ‘blind’, instead of blatantly briefing them. 3) Ensure that at least one judge has brains and balls - bring back Sharon! 4) Axe the auto-tune for guest turns (and the miming.) 5) Take a few years off, because you’re boring now. Boring and exposed. Even Leona, the one global star they’ve created in nine years, is on the wane. X Factor? It’s fact-ed up. They should call it: Cranks, Clones & Clapped-Out Karaoke.

*SIMON Cowell revealed that during his ‘breakdown’, he spent all day dossing in bed, doing nothing. Just like Matt Cardle, then.

*HE wants to bring back Danni as the show needs “tits”. Eh? They’ve already got Louis and Dermot.

WHY go on Dragons’ Den if you don’t know your figures? It’s like playing a game of darts in the dark. Breezy Bea had no idea what the profit margins were for her hair extensions business and probably thought a spreadsheet was something used for lap-dance training. Most weeks she’d have been out quicker than an ITV ice-skater. But she clearly had something – Bea had gone from a market stall to an expanding empire. “I’ll give you the full £85,000,” Hilary Devey croaked in that voice like Jack Duckworth with emphysema. “But I want 40% of the business. And the soul of your first-born.” (I possibly dreamt that last bit.) Hils may seem nicer than disgruntled Dunc and dismal Debs but Cruella De Till didn’t get rich by giving suckers an even break. She made her millions in the tough world of haulage – mostly hauling her Dynasty-strength shoulder pads, and her over-sized scrotum.

*I LIKED Londoner Clay O’Shea. “I was the second best boxer in Britain,” he told the dragons. “I had over a hundred fights and came second in everyone of them.”

ON The Scapegoat, saintly teacher John swapped lives with his selfish stuck-up double, after getting sloshed together in a pub. Well, could happen to anyone... He ended up shagging his lookalike’s wife and his frisky French mistress (“Drama of the year” – John Terry). Wouldn’t it be brilliant if this sort of thing took off? Christine Bleakley could trade places with Sophia from the Dolmio ads. Graham Norton could exchange jobs with a Doctor Crippen waxwork... And right now, you’d be reading Bluto On The Box.

HOT on TV: Moone Boy (Sky1)... Jordana Brewster (Dallas, C5)... Joseph Callejah (Proms) – that’s a voice!

ROT on TV: Anger Management – two and a half laughs... Parade’s End – can’t end soon enough... Dead Good Job – dead shoddy show... Tourette’s: Let Me Entertain You - **** off.

“BUBBLE” (mephedrone) is the drug of choice in Blackpool these days, reported 999: What’s Your Emergency? Asked why she hadn’t tried it, a female desk sergeant replied: “Do I want to be lying in a pile of shit, and piss, and puke on a Saturday night in custody? No thank you! I’d even rather watch X Factor.” Although admittedly it’s a close one to call.

*LINE of the week: a 999 operator asking his colleague “Suze? Vibrator stuck in anus?” Tsk, always an embarrassment. The best advice is to sit tight and wait for party conference to end before making a fuss.

CORRIE irritations: Tina and Tommy complaining about how skint they are while wasting money in the caff, Tyrone’s failure to go through life wearing a dunce’s cap, Tracy (the Murderess) getting comedy plots – an insult to the sacred memory of Charlie Stubbs (R.I.P.) whose only crime was to love too much... no wonder Ken’s upstairs hiding.

“A FEW minutes in front of the beast is enough for Paddy,” said the voice-over on Paddy & Sally’s Excellent Gypsy Adventure. Unfair! Sally Bercow isn’t that bad. Not always.

*ON Leaving, a 40-something career woman is swept off her feet by an obnoxious toy-boy lover... it’s Caroline Flack and Harry all over again.

*I’M really enjoying Dallas. I can’t wait for Debbie to do it.

*IT must be Derek who’s slipping Kat the goldfish on EastEnders. Imagine that, gangster sex. 50 Shades Of Kray! Alfie’s such a doormat he’s got ‘Welcome’ carved on his spine.

RANDOM irritations: babies in bikinis. Mrs. Biggs – stretched out longer than The X Factor. The new Daybreak set – there are marchers in Northern Ireland saying “That’s a bit too orange.”

*THE Audience? Bah. If I want fifty people telling me what to do, I’ll marry a Nolan sister.

SMALL Joys of TV: JR’s eye-brows. Nicola Benedetti (Proms). Masterchef’s merciless food critics. Stevie Van Zandt sorting out train louts on Lilyhammer (shame the show’s lame).

SEPERATED at birth: Hilary Devey and Greta from Gremlins 2. One a hideous sex-change monster and... I think I’d better stop right there.

*NEVER mind Naomi Wolf, why can’t Naomi Radcliffe write a book about her vagina? I’d lap that up. (To you, an unnecessary image; to me a small dream to sustain me though-out the long barren weeks of Strictly Come Bloody Dancing).

Sept 9. This is weird. I stepped out of the shower on Wednesday and Dallas had come back to life... The Texan super-soap dominated the 1980s. Powered by greed, lust and betrayal, it was full of big, brash, unforgettable characters. Nowadays, the old stars are so ancient you’d have more luck drilling for Botox than crude oil. But all it took was JR’s crocodile smile to win me over...

JR Ewing was the greatest soap villain of them all. The scheming oil baron was Satan in a Stetson hat, feuding, fornicating and driving his lip-quivering missus Sue Ellen to a ten gallon drink dependency. Decades on, the supreme rascal is near comatose in a nursing home suffering from clinical depression. But it just takes the whisper of oil to bring JR winking and smirking back to life, like a malignant Cheshire Cat.

Brother Bobby, decent but dull, has a rare form of cancer (don’t worry mate, you’ve beaten death before) and wants to flog off Southfork to conservationists. Twit. Sue Ellen – once known as Swellin’ because that was the effect she had on blokes - is now running for Senator instead of into Cliff Barnes’ bed. We even got a quick snatch of Lucy Ewing, the poison dwarf, whose own quick snatch was much sought after. She’s no taller these days, but a fair bit wider...

The Ewings are still at war, but the old favourites take a back-seat to the show’s horny new cast. Now it’s JR’s bad-boy son John Ross vs. Bobby’s clean-cut adopted sprog Christopher. John Ross is the man putting the phallus in new Dallas. A double-dealing snake on the make who scuppered Chris’s relationship with gorgeous geek Elena so he could have her for himself. When he’s not drilling Elena, JR Jnr. is drilling for oil on Southfork ranch where he strikes a pay-load of crude. Unfortunately this goes against his grandma Miss Ellie’s deathbed wishes and Bobby goes bananas.

Nice guy Chris is more interested in ethical energy – undersea methane mining which sparks calamitous earthquakes. Woops. His randy new wife Rebecca could set off a few tremors herself. Shame he still carries a torch for Elena. The soap is full of the young, hot and lusty, but old, rusty JR remains the real draw. And he’s meaner and more manipulative than ever.

*WHEN Dallas started in 1978, the US had a weak one-term president, rocketing petrol prices, and were locked in a bitter stand-off with Iran. How times change.

JULIE Goodyear left Celebrity Big Brother in a blitz of chewing and swearing, telling the booing audience “Shurrup ya bastards!” She was an absolutely brilliant housemate: two-faced, deluded, scheming, vindictive... Shame Brian Dowling failed to tell her: “Get out, got out, good.” And bottled out of asking any tough questions. Can you blame him? Julie looked like the living corpse of Baby Jane Hudson. But she helped make this the greatest CBB since 2006 (unlike laid-back let-down Martin Kemp.) Her double act with Julian Clary was a joy. He deserved to win.

*THE biggest shocks on Friday came from MC Harvey, who said of Danica and the Prince “She sucked him in” – so that’s why she lingered longer under his loin cloth. Harvey also revealed that Ashley “comes in your face and discusses the situation... he’s a man’s man.” Over to you, Julian...

*JULIE’S real life was far more ‘soap’ than Bet Lynch’s. Multi-married, with lesbian lovers, she never forgave me for writing that her MBE stood for ‘Men, Birds, Everyone’.

*REJECTED CBB spin-offs: Shine On Harvey’s Moon, How Coleen Is His Arse...

*IMAGINE how CBB might have looked in 1980: Kenneth Williams, Pat Phoenix, Charlie Drake, Marti Caine, Peter Ustinov, Mary Millington, Diana Dors, Tommy Cooper, Rita Webb, Derek Hales... magic.

*STELLA Price has the ultimate soap family. She’s from EastEnders, her mum’s from Brookie, her daughter’s from Emmerdale. They live in Corrie and have all the future of Eldorado. Gloria is clearly designed as a replacement for brilliant Blanche Hunt, telling dismal daughter Stella: “A relationship is hard graft... and even harder for a woman of your age and bust size.” A promising start but only clowns have bigger shoes to fill. Elsewhere Toxic Tracy started work in the kebab shop to seduce Ryan ‘Three Heads’ Connor. Unlikely? Maybe. But more fun than soppy Sean and ‘vase-gate’.

*WOULDN’T Eileen fit the ‘kebab sex’ bill better? You wouldn’t fancy her until you were rat-arsed and next morning you’d feel sick, fret about the fat content... and clear up the grease.

*NO wonder Ryan’s on drugs. Surrounded by Kirstie, Gail and nagging Sunita, most men would think more favourably of opium dens.

HOT on TV: Dallas (C5)... Ebony Buckle (George Gently)... Strike Back: Vengeance (Sky1)... The Thick Of It.

ROT on TV: Geri Halliwell (X Factor) – Judge Dreadful... Citizen Kahn – comedy can’t... Daybreak – bring back Roland Rat... Ross Kemp – stop poncing about abroad and get back to Walford, you sla-a-ag.

*ON Celebrity Mr & Mrs., Phil Schofield asked John and Pauline Prescott what the best surprise gift he’d ever brought her home was. Mercifully the answer wasn’t Chlamydia.

*PATSY Palmer’s hubby had to name her best feature in rhyming slang. It was never going to be the Clancy Eccles, or her ginormous North and Sarf. And I’m told her Jack & Danny was “too strong for prime time”. An eye-watering thought.

*BED bugs on EastEnders! Yuck. When asked how they deal with these irritating suckers getting under their skin, the bugs replied “You get used to them.”

*LET-down of the week: a Columbo repeat called ‘Butterfly In Shades Of Grey’ – no sex, no S&M, no Wendy Craig...

*BBC2’s Great British Bake-Off had more viewers than BBC1’s Holby City last week. But Holby just edged ahead on soggy bottoms.

*CLIVE Anderson must feel for Clint Eastwood. He’s talked to a few empty chairs in his time.

*SLAPPER Sylvia is upstaged by sexy suffragette Valentine Wannop on Parade’s End. The technical name for this? Wannop-manship.

RANDOM irritations: failed politicians recycled as celebrities. Alleged ‘national treasures’ on Sky’s The British. That hideous tranny on CBB’s Bit On The Side (not Nina Myskow). Yentob’s sloppy Ford Madox Ford documentary.

SMALL Joys of TV: Doctor Who, bonkers! JR’s smile. Wheelchair rugby. BBC4’s Undertones doc Here Comes The Summer. Seth MacFarlane at the Proms! The Unforgettable Sweeney...

*WHAT would Regan and Carter have made of the ‘psychological dramas’ that clog up mainstream TV drama today? “We’re the Sweeney, luv, and we won’t watch any of your girly, middle class crap!”

SEPERATED at birth: Bafta-winning Dr Who writer Steven Moffat and Robert the Bruce on a Scottish banknote. One in the money, one on it.

HORIZON searched for the smallest thing in the universe. I believe they found it under Cameron’s vision, right next to Jedward’s talent and George Osborne’s balls.

RANDOM questions: Why was JR’s married mum known as Miss Ellie? Is Naomi Wolf’s new book, Vagina, a load of old fanny? Would Zoe Salmon on Celebrity Masterchef enjoy my Sausage in Cider? (This line has been approved by the Old Joke Recycling Commission).

Sept 2. DOCTOR Who was kidnapped by a woman who turned out to be a Dalek last night. Imagine that – a cold, calculating female killing machine, utterly devoid of normal human feelings... It was like having Jasmine Lennard back.

The Doc, Amy and Rory were whisked away to the Dalek Parliament and told they had to “save the Daleks”. Wow. The Daleks have a Parliament? Amazing. This suggests they also have MPs, democracy, and political parties. I bet their election manifestos are a hoot. Policy #1: exterminate. Policy #2: exterminate. Policy #3: exterminate... a lot like Hezbollah.

Our team’s mission was to get into their prison planet called The Asylum and, erh, get out again. The place was basically Planet Mad, a huge mental institution where untold millions of demented Daleks, including the craziest of their war veterans, were banged up. The loopiest part of this was it implied that normal Daleks are sane. You might ask why, if they were so scared of their own basket cases, they hadn’t just exterminated the lot of them... (The claim that this would be “offensive” - to a race of callous, war-crazy cyborgs – was pretty wet). Why, when they said they couldn’t kill ’em, that they did just that at the end? And why if the Doc is so easy to kidnap, they hadn’t done it before?

No matter. The big danger was that anyone who stepped foot on The Asylum somehow mutated into a Dalek (even dead people). Our heroes were protected by wristbands, and opera-loving Oswin, a sexy, soufflé-baking genius who had survived on her wits after being ship-wrecked here among the maddest of the mad. There was a subplot about Amy and Rory saving their marriage – despite Oswin having the hots for him. But essentially they ran about a bit, and then got her to turn off the captive force-field. En route, we saw every kind of Dalek that has ever existed. Only Heinz has more unappetising varieties.

The big, brilliant twist was that randy Oswin wasn’t a buxom brunette at all, but an insane Dalek in denial. Normally they resemble giant salt and pepper pots; this one came with a touch of sauce. It was genuinely thrilling, often scary and only moderately doolally. Welcome back, Doc.

*OSWIN was a hideous deranged Dalek who saw herself as an extremely attractive woman; pretty much Samantha Brick in space.

*IMAGINE sex with a demanding Dalek: “E-jac-u-late, e-jac-u-late... ”

*TO really scare us, they should send in the Doctor’s biggest mortal enemy – former BBC boss Michael Grade, the idiot who axed him.

*DALEK Parliament was loud and noisy with no sign of genuine dissent. Clearly modelled on Westminster...

WHERE was Prince Harry during the Paralympics opening ceremony? Did anyone check the women’s showers? I reckon he was partying with Trevor Nelson, whose thoughts on Stephen Hawking and the Big Bang theory were solely missed. The dancers all had umbrellas in case something really wet came along, Cameron, Clegg, George Michael singing White Light... Lows: Jon Snow sucking the life out of it with his statistics of doom. Highs: British competitors concealing their Atos branding, Holst’s Jupiter, and that moving choral version of the national anthem. They even had a bit of Ian Dury, with Ian McKellan jigging about to Spasticus Autisticus – a song the BBC once banned.

*HOW about an Indoor Games next, for neglected sports like darts, snooker, table football and bar billiards? Or for drunks: the paralytic Olympics. Half-cut high jumpers and sozzled shot-putters in an 18 round pint-athalon... that’s entertainment.

GEORGE Gently’s soul soundtrack sizzled like deep-fried chicken. Shame about the small detail of songs being played years before they were released... Gently is set in ’68; Lean On Me was written in 1972. Let’s Get It On was released in ’73. Frank Wilson’s sublime Do I Love You, released in 65, didn’t catch on here for more than a decade... And no-one called it ‘Northern Soul’ back then. It was just soul. Does it matter? Yes, it’s sloppy. Like using centimetres in 1950s East London on Call The Midwife. The ham-fisted plot irritated too. Against the apparent murder of young black Delores, sixties Northumberland was portrayed as a hotbed of neo-Nazism. Enoch Powell was implicated. And then, after ninety ponderous minutes, the killer was a random hit and run driver... Dear BBC: racism sucks, we get that. But drama doesn’t have to whack us round the head with a rolled up copy of the Guardian to be effective.

HOT on TV: A Touch Of Cloth (Sky1)... Doctor Who... Person Of Interest (C5).

ROT on TV: Parade’s End – bell-ends... Citizen Khan – Dalek Cann was funnier... Bad Sugar – not sweet... Red Or Black? – On or Off? (Off).

MEMOS to CBB producers: 1) the image of pensioner Julie sucking a man’s banana is not in any way sexy. 2) The mother of a woman who wasn’t famous to begin with does not qualify as a celebrity. 3) Rhian’s best bits: the 32Es, and, eh, that’s it.

SHAME there wasn’t really a lion loose in Essex. It would have made a great addition to TOWIE. “Come on, Joey, put your head in the nice cat’s mouth... ”

*THAT vanishing lion mystery explained: Gemma ate it.

*PHILL Jupitus says his act in 1991 was “rubbish”. So full marks for consistency, then.

*RED Or Black is just You Bet with delusions of grandeur. It’s a shame ITV can’t invest that sort of dough into reinventing variety.

*JOHN Barrowman’s Dallas? He’s more Hampstead Heath, surely?

*KAT honked a big horn on EastEnders to stop the pub fight, but there are still no clues to which other horn she’s been honking. The first man on the Moon may have been Neil Armstrong, but I reckon the latest one is Derek. Luckily a toad and a cat can’t reproduce. But odds-on Alfie will have kittens.

GERI Halliwell and Russell Brand? That’s a coupling thwart with danger. How will that poor girly celebrity cope with wild, unpredictable Geri?

*RUSS and Geri. Wow. I thought he was off mind-altering chemicals.

RANDOM irritations: Evicted CBB nitwits coming back in the house. Celebrity Masterchef degenerating into half-baked Nonentity Nosh. New Tricks sabotaged by weak scripts; with ten million fans would it hurt to invest in better writing?

*WAS Citizen Khan “offensive” to Muslims? Or just comedy fans?

SMALL Joys of TV: Lorraine Pascale’s smile. Sharon Horgan in artistically essential stockings and suspenders (Bad Sugar). Kerry Goldiman. Rare Four Tops song, Sweet Was The Love, on George Gently. “Eggs... eggs... eggs-terminate!” (Dr Who).

SEPERATED at birth: X Factor’s James Arthur and Disney’s Quasimodo - one a strange-looking loner with a hideous voice, the other a cartoon. Runners-up: Green Day’s Mike Dirnt and testosterone-fuelled, leather-jacketed hard-nut Shirley Carter (EastEnders.)