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Saturday, 19 April 2008

Britain's Got Talent, ITV1

Did we like it?
We did, a lot, apart from the spurious stories spun by Ant and Dec ("it's been a bad morning in Birmingham").

What was good about it?
• The two young Charlies. Ten-year-old jazz singer Charlie Green was the sensation of the show with Summer Wind; 13-year-old Essex comic Charlie Wernham was too cocky for our liking but did have a good rapport with the audience.
• We were especially struck on Strike, the martial artists (especially when they ripped off their vests).
• We succeeded in not having any tears jerked by Madonna, the mum who has left her kids in Manila to make it as a singer. And we didn't especially like her version of that talent show staple I Will Aways Love You.
• The hilariously farcical ferret dancing act and the impressoinist who could only "impersonate" three MPs. Truly dreadful.

What was bad about it?

• The two parents of three – tubby stripper Glyn and even tubbier dancer Anya – who will have caused their offspring no end of embarrassment.
• Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden proving their worthlessness by voting Anya through.
• The paedo-pleasing, underdressed, over-madeup preteen dancers.

Friday, 18 April 2008

The Apprentice, BBC1

1. (4) Lee. Perhaps it’s an overspill from the quote of the series so far when Lee went all third person on us – “Lee McQueen is very concerned” – but this blokey bloke who would superficially seem more at home demanding money with menaces from rat-faced East End fences has grown on us. This week, he showed that while he may strike fear into the hearts of adults with his dagger shaped chin and eyes that can mutilate at 30 paces, he turns into a big softy round children, perhaps as a ruse so he can smuggle them away into the forest and raise them as wolves amongst his own kind.

2. (3) Sara. Last week when she was victorious as team leader, she took risks and ordered people around. Now demoted to the position of simple team member, she obeys orders and goes about her job diligently (a word that is almost unknown outside the mendacious realm of CVs). She will go far. Although her inert, motionless merciless eyes do resemble the impenetrable barrels of a primed shotgun.

3. (1) Simon. Sadly our prophecy about his imminent doom after volunteering to be project manager was fulfilled. This rash pledge contributed as much to his downfall as making a loss (something Sir Alan raised on seven separate occasions, each time sounding more exasperated than the last).

But we already knew Simon’s “balls on the line” had been guillotined long before Sir Alan jabbed his finger at the gracious ex-army man, largely because of the sort of editing that sign-posted Ian’s demise last week. Just like Ian, at the start Simon made a self-aggrandising, haughty boast of how his IQ is 170 so his fall would seem that much further when fired (and people who brag about their IQ are often stupid, part of the stupidity being to assume that intelligence can be quantified in a number).

The next clue was Simon walking off down a street, while the camera zoomed into the building behind him, Job Centre Plus. And later the narrator portentously intoned, “One of them is going to find out the gamble hasn’t paid off”, as Simon sat despondently in the background.

And in the boardroom, Simon seemed so eager to remind Sir Alan that he “could’ve made a fortune” that it only underlined his fallibility in wrecking the task rather than any potential glory if he had been successful.

4. (5) Raef. Seemed content to lurk in the background in this task, folding up cardboard to pack mugs into. His only error was to blunder and transfer an image on to a mug upside down, and wear a pink shirt that was the shade of raw pork.

5. (10) Kevin. After spending the last task locked in the kitchen churning out his vomit/pizza crossovers, Kevin was determined to be “out front” on this task. He was granted his wish, and was so determined to remain “out front” that he did so even when everyone else had packed up to resolve the Lucinda Paradox, gazing out into the ebbing seas of dead-eyed humanity as it drifted past filling up another day in their consumer-desert lives, while his close-together eyes sought solace and comfort by holding hands and dreaming up names for their unborn children.

6. (7) Jenny Maguire. Other than clapping her hands, which is fast becoming her trademark tic, she appeared to do absolutely nothing. Is she real, or just an illusory representation? One of the portraits in the Wallace Gallery was more lifelike than her.

7. (11) Lindy. Smiled.

8. (12) Jenny Celery. She continues to expel reluctant syllables from her mouth with the impassive guttural ruthlessness of an instructor pushing nervous novice parachutists out of a plane. She seems to programme herself in the morning, and then is incapable of altering or adapting to her situation. She asked one shopper, “Have you ever heard of Renaissance Photography?”, as if she put into place an international marketing campaign that very day.

9. (2) Helene. From very early on it was obvious she would be this week’s winner against Simon as her cutaway comments section was very brief in relation to his, and focused solely on her disgust for “incompetent people”, which was a presage for her bickering with Lucinda.

While her patience with her bumbling team mate was admirable, she did slip into the sort of language that makes you want to reach for the hammer and bludgeon English to death in revulsion that it can be composed to form sentences of such malignant horror – “You put people in the appropriate skills sets!” “My knowledge base is far behind Lucinda’s”. Are people outside in the real world truly using phrases such as “skills sets” and “knowledge base” words assembled in the same factories of flatulent fecundity patronised by Louis Walsh, Noel Edmonds and Vanessa Feltz?

10. (6) Lucinda. In her penultimate week before she gets fired next week, Lucinda showed all the technical skills of a 1980s parent trying to operate a VCR. Has she ever worked in an office, or was her previous job doing George’s voice in an inept revival of Rainbow?

The technician noted “his children” could use the PC to transfer the photos on to mugs, jigsaws etc, and it’s not only his children; the newly hatched chicks gassed on Jamie Oliver’s chicken programme could have performed with proficiency than Lucinda even as they choked their last.

Next week, she’s up against Claire. She will lose, and she will be fired. This will be confirmed if they pluck her most arrogant statement and use it as the teams devise their initial strategy.

11. (9) Michael. Very probably made from some kind of flammable cardboard that passes safety tests because he’s so dull he induces an enervating apathy in any would-be pyromaniacs. Michael often spouts nonsense simply because he has nothing else to say and wants to forge an impression that he is actually doing something. “Glamour, beauty is very generic,” he spat of Simon’s idea for the photographs, “It’s not a theme, it’s just a word!” But it was a theme that worked well, and it was only Michael’s sterile mind that blinded him to Simon’s schemes.

12. (8) Alex. A blurred outline of humanity, whose spine could be served with ice cream to chuckling children. As Margaret stridently stated, he “stood so far back you were practically out of the room” when Simon tried to burden him with some responsibility.

He was the Brutus to Simon’s Caesar, or rather he would have been had he been able to follow through with his sneering promises. “I will destroy Simon if he takes me back into the boardroom!” he warned with all the flaccid impotence of one of those illiterate, worthless wannabe suicide bombers who make ostentatious, florid threats they’ve plagiarised from a Jihadi manual but linked together with the sort of hackneyed phraseology of a braindead 13-year-old.

13. (13) Claire. The black-eyed cliché witch piled up the clichés as she wrought Simon’s exit. Cliché 1: “I compare Simon to a toddler, and we’re holding up his reins!” 2: “That’s a really bad attitude!” 3. “If you hold your hands up…” 4. “This isn’t the time and the place!” (repeated) 5. “We will do the best we can!” 6. “Simon can invade your personal space.” 7. “It looks like Simon’s on crack or something!” 8. “Simon’s an emotional person.”

The true bottleneck confines of her imagination were exposed when she tried to concoct a sentence not solely constructed from a wilting daisy chain of semantic infertility: “Simon’s like a missile about to go into outer space and spontaneously combust!”

Not even in the chicken farce of series 2 have we ever seen Sir Alan so enraged – “I’m sick of looking at you; get back to the bloody house!” – and Claire seems to have been spared this week not because she didn’t deserve to be fired but more because Sir Alan couldn’t vent his spleen articulately enough and is giving her an extra week so he can unleash his full furnace blast fury upon her. But he won’t next week, that’s Lucinda’s Waterloo.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The TV week – what's new 26 April-2 May

Saturday nothing new today

Sunday 2.50pm 4 Music Presents Duffy Channel 4
5.45pm Scrapheap Challenge Channel 4 – A 10th, eight-part series of the show hosted by Robert Llewellyn and Lisa Rogers in which contestants build crazy contraptions.
8.00pm Miss Austen Regrets BBC1 – Drama based on the life and letters of author Jane Austen, starring Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Greta Scacchi, Hugh Bonneville, Pip Torrens and Adrian Edmondson. Worthy fare for TV's more literate viewers.
Midsomer Murders ITV1 – The first of two new films featuring John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby and Jason Hughes as DS Ben Jones. Tonight's tale, They Seek Him Here, is set during the making of a new film of The Scarlet Pimpernel. World's dullest detective solves world's most outlandish crimes
10.00pm Fur TV MTV – Eight-part comedy show featuring animal puppets; made by Warp Films. Set in the fictional world of Furry Avenue, where puppets and humans live side by side, it features, Lapeno Enriquez, a smoothtalking, girl-wooing Brazilian, Mervin J Minky, a scrawny self-abusing weirdo, and Edward ‘Fat Ed’ Tubbs, a beer, food and heavy metal-loving puppet with attitude. They get involved in cage-fighting, hanging out in illegal dentists’ drinking dens, avoiding drug dealers, cannibals and deranged landlords, and pulling girls.
10.00pm Page Three Teens BBC3 – Documentary following Chelsea White, a teenager considering a career as a page 3 model.
11.20pm Céline Dion – Live In Las Vegas BBC1

g Guest list• Danny Dyer, Julie Goodyear, Christopher Biggins on All Star Mr and Mrs, Saturday, ITV1
• Johnny Vegas, Jenny Eclair, Rhona Cameron, Doon MacKichan, Fred MacAulay on
Comedy Map of Britain, BBC2, Saturday
• Eliza Carthy
on My Music, Five, Sunday
The Hoosiers, Sam Sparro and Ebony Bones on The Green Room, Channel 4, Sunday
• Gene Simmons on Shrink Rap, Monday, More4
James, Melody Gardot, Gutter Twins, Mable John, Operator Please and Pentangle on Later Live...with Jools Holland, BBC2, Tuesday
• Delays on The Wall, BBC3, Tuesday
• Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, Sandi Thom on The Graham Norton Show BBC2, Thursday
• Brian Blessed on Have I Got News for You, BBC1, Friday

• Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Downey Jr, Michael Aspel, The Ting Tings on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross BBC1, Friday
• James, Melody Gardot, Gutter Twins, Mable John, Operator Please and Pentangle on Later...with Jools Holland, BBC2, Friday

2.15pm Out Of The Blue BBC1 – Australian soap about a group of thirtysomething friends who return to the Sydney resort of Manly for a reunion – but their fun is shortlived when one of them is murdered. Stars Sophie Katinis, Renai Caruso and Clayton Watson. Comes recommended from Down Under
8.00pm Glamour's Best Dressed List 2008 Fiver – Fashion series presented by Peaches Geldof. Pointless presenter (back on TV after her shameful 'probe' of Islam), pointless show.
8.00pm Classic Car Years 1970 Men & Motors
8.30pm Kylie Kwong: Heart And Soul
UKTV Food – Eight-part series featuring Australian-Chinese cook Kylie Kwong.
9.00pm Embarrassing Bodies Channel 4 – Four-parter in which doctors Christian Jessen, Dawn Harper and Pixie McKenna de-stigmatise complaints that many people would rather ignore than take to their GP. Continues until Thursday. Not pretty but maybe useful. Have you checked for lumps recently?
9.00pm It's Not What You Know Challenge – Quiz show hosted by Chris Tarrant in which two contestants use their judgement to predict how a group of five celebrities will answer questions on specialist subjects and general knowledge. Guests include Jenni Falconer (with showbusiness as her subject), Frederick Forsyth (history), Michael Beurk (news) and Toby Young (films).
9.00pm Life After People History Channel – Experts in geology, climatology and archeology predict what life will be like on Earth after the human race dies out.
9.00pm Britain's Youngest Grannies BBC3 – Documentary about women who have become grandmothers in their 30s. Possible includes chavs.
9.00pm Real Crime: Murder at Harvey Nicks ITV1 – Documentary about the murder of beauty consultant Clare Bernal at the London department store by her ex-boyfriend.
10.00pm Celebrity Rehab with Dr Drew Fiver – US reality show in which Dr Drew Pinsky treats celebrities with drug and alcohol addictions. The participants are actor Daniel Baldwin, adult film star Mary Carey, ex-wrestler Chyna, , actress Jaimee Foxworth, model Brigitte Nielsen, former American Idol contestant Jessica Sierra, martial arts star Ricco Rodriguez, Crazy Town singer Seth Binzer and former child star Jeff Conaway. The washed-up are indulged and get their faces on TV again
10.30pm Ideal BBC3 – Return of the sitcom starring Johnny Vegas as small-time dope dealer Moz, with Nicola Reynolds as his girlfriend Nicki. This has never been great, but has always been watchable
Tuesday10.00pm Michael Barrymore: What Really Happened Channel 4 – The story of the TV star's downfall in which Jacques Peretti travels Essex to examine what happened on the night that Stuart Lubbock died in Barrymore's swimming pool. C4 used to do primetime programmes on philosophy, you know.
10.30pm Scallywagga BBC3 – Comedy sketch show from northern England featuring characters such as Asbo PIN, pastry-obsessed Greggs Girl and the pupils of Scallywagga High. Stars Carl Rice, Jessica Hall, Luke Gell, Joanna Higson, Stefan Gumbs, Lena Kaur, Scott Taylor and Curtis Cole as the youngsters, with Sally Lindsay, Steve Edge and Neil Fitzmaurice. We're reliably informed this is better than most of BBC3's recent sketch shows
8.00pm Madeleine, One Year On: Campaign for Change ITV1 – A two-hour special Kate and Gerry McCann talk about the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine from their holiday apartment in Portugal.
Two hours of self justification by parents who went out for a meal instead of beign with their kids
9.00pm Sex and the City Fiver – From the beginning, the whole of the US comedy about a four New York thirtysomethings.
1 Giant Leap: What About Me? Channel 4 – Documentary series following Duncan Bridgeman and Jamie Catto as they set off round the world to create the largest global music jam in history.
Thursday9.00pm The Invisibles BBC1 – Six-part comedy drama starring Anthony Head and Warren Clarke as old-time crooks Maurice Riley and Syd Woolsey, who move from Spain to a sleepy Devon fishing village after exhausting their ill-gotten gains. With Jenny Agutter as Maurice's wife, Barbara, Dean Lennox Kelly as Hedley, the son of a former partner of the two criminals, Emily Head (daughter of Anthony) as Maurice and Barbara's daughter, and Paul Barber as veteran criminal Young Nick. Written by William Ivory. Trailers make this look like one of those excrutiating dramadies - but the cast is good and the writer has a good CV so worth giving a chance.
9.00pm Taggart A Study in Murder ITV1
10.00pm The Inbetweeners E4 – Six-part sitcom about teenager Will (Simon Bird) who unwillingly moves from a private school to a suburban comprehensive where he makes three new friends, Simon (Joe Thomas), Lee (James Buckley) and Neil (Blake Harrison), none of whom are cool or credible. Written by Daman Beesley. The best new show of the week
7.30pm 35mm Sky Movies Premiere – Movie magazine presented by Mark Dolan featuring movie previews, news, coverage of the latest releases, interviews and on-set reports.
9.00pm James Taylor Night BBC4 – Featuring a concert by the singer-songwriter, a repeat of Hotel California – LA From The Byrds To The Eagles and a 1971 performance from the BBC archive.
9.00pm Ultimate Countdowns: Police Chases Bravo – With Marc Bannerman.
Derren Brown: Trick or Treat Channel 4 – A second series of the show in which members of the public face Derren's mind games. We're beyond being impressed.10.30pm Peep Show Channel 4 – A fifth series of the comedy series starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Mark faces the horror of working with his estranged wife while Jeremy runs out of money. Their recent BBC2 sketch show was poor (yet it has been recommissioned) but this is where Davd and Robert really shine.

g Subject list
Panorama Special How Clean is Your Hospital? BBC1, Sunday
Dispatches Mobile phone rip-offs. Channel 4, Monday
Panorama UN missions. BBC1, Monday
Am I Normal? Spirituality. BBC2, Monday
True Stores Our Daily Bread. More4, TuesdayThe True Story Escape from Alcatraz. Five, Wednesday
Those Were the Days: Charles and Diana. ITV3, Wednesday

Luke ON TV - My Family, I Know My Kid’s a Star, Young Mums' Mansion, Britain's Got Talent, All Star Mr & Mrs

I’ve been writing this column since January and I didn’t expect you to lose complete respect and faith in me this early but brace yourselves its about to happen! I guess I shouldn’t beat around the bush anymore so here goes ……….I…….I…I quite enjoyed Friday’s My Family.

Like many, I watched the first series but lost interest quickly and have only dipped in and out ever since. So it was a little odd that I decided to give this first episode of the seventh series a go. Whether you like it or not, it is an achievement nowadays for anything, drama or comedy, to make it to its seventh series. I turned it on with low expectations and was surprised how it seemed to have grown up a bit. I can’t abide the dopiness of Abby and Roger but they didn’t get much screen time in this opener and the humour seemed surprisingly near the mark for a “safe” series.

One of the lines “so says my sister whose legs have two different postcodes” would perhaps be more at home in Pulling but I was surprised how mature this first one was. Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker who once refused to film an episode because the script was so terrible have always carried the show and this was proof of how good they can be when the script is right. Now I’m not saying I’m rushing out to buy all the DVDs and searching Google for My Family fan clubs, but this episode actually made me laugh in places and that’s all I really want from a comedy. I doubt it’ll continue to but I’ll give the second one a go just to see. Ahh that feels good to get of my chest.

Another disappointment this week when my favourite crazy mum Rocky was voted off VH1’s I Know My Kid’s a Star. Apologies for the spoiler. I know I keep banging on about this reality series but has me sucked in. To quote Gavin & Stacey, it's like a Dyson! This week, I cringed through every painful moment of the shoe commercial scenes but, as usual, it’s the parents who show themselves up and behave like the children.

Rocky, who wasn’t the worst of the bunch but was the most interesting to watch, was sent home this week with daughter Hailey who didn’t shine in the audition but didn’t deserve to go. It’s a shame as she was my main reason for watching the circus that masquerades as a reality series but, with the other parents showing their true colours, I’m sure I’ll still be glued to my seat. I wouldn’t it past VH1 to give Rocky her own spin off, though.

After the successes of Little Angels and The House of Tiny Tearaways, another parenting series is just what BBC3 needs. Young Mums' Mansion is billed as a social experiment to see whether single mums can function as a unit living together and working in a team. Unlike its other parenting counterparts, it doesn’t feature a physiologist delving deep into the lives of the single mums deciding instead to leave the mums to their own devices to either work in harmony or tear each other apart. As it turns out, this is quite a good series. It's not as contrived as it first appears and it feels very real because the producers aren’t getting involved every few seconds to inflame the situations. Most of the mums are completely likeable apart from the one who never puts her baby down and complains on bonfire night that babies won’t enjoy the loud bangs. They’re babies not dogs, love! After years of watching people nearly tear lumps out of each other in the name of reality TV, the lack of conflict is the reason I really enjoyed it.

Britain’s Got Talent is back and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve decided it may well be the best programme on TV at the moment ad I’d happily fight anyone who disagrees with my pillowcase full of bricks. I can’t actually lift my pillowcase because it’s a little too full of bricks but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

It's no exaggeration when I say I was completely engrossed by this opening episode from the dopey devil playing the Star Wars theme on the Casio keyboard, the pensioner who thought laying on a bed of nails was entertaining to the comedian who did a rather good Boyzone impersonation. But the thing I love most about this series is it does unearth some real talent and often has me near to tears. The 13-year-old opera singer Andrew Johnston was the biggest and most pleasant surprise. I watched it with my parents and we sat in awe as belted out a marvellous rendition of Pie Jesu. It was quite simply great TV. There isn’t enough TV nowadays that caters for everyone in the family but Britain’s Got Talent Is completely addictive and fun for everyone.

Ant & Dec are their usually great selves in this and I can even just about tolerate Piers Morgan (only just). Based on the success of Paul Potts (was never really my winner last series but he has still done well) and the truly stunning talent that featured in this opener, I don’t see how anyone can say that these talent shows don’t deliver. I’d quite happily sit through hours of it. How good was that dancing dog? That’s good TV! Britain clearly has talent!!

Unlike Britain’s Got Talent, which is the ultimate in Saturday night TV, ITV’s other Saturday offering All Star Mr & Mrs didn’t really hit the mark. I was new to the whole Mr & Mrs phenomenon (not really the right word, I know. Ha!) but I did recognise all the celebrities (Phil Tufnell, Wendy Richard and Shane from Boyzone) and that is rare with anything that features the words “celebrity” or “star” nowadays.

It was a bit of Saturday night fluff and it did its job as that but it never really got going. The studio audience didn’t seem that enthused and I felt it all fell a little flat. All a bit dull and lacking in entertainment. Phil & Fern did their best but seemed out of their comfort zone, perhaps their not used to being up of an evening, but with the right hosts who could’ve sparked some humour into proceedings it may have been a little better. Looking at the line-up for show teo they’ve even lost the "all star" factor as I only recognise Lembit Opik and his Cheeky Girl – and there are another seven episodes to go!

With no question Britain’s Got Talent was completely CRUMBLETASTIC and if the standard keeps up it could be CRUMBLETASTIC every week till the summer. Its with some regret I must give my BLACK PUDDING to I Know My Kid's a Star for kicking Rocky the Mad Mum off.

Do you agree with me that Britain’s Got Talent is the best reality series on TV? Has My Family really got better? Feel free to leave your comments below.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

What we watched

The Kids Are All Right, BBC1...which we've reviewed here

Doctor Who, BBC1
...which we've reviewed here

All Star Mr & Mrs, ITV1
...which we've reviewed here

Britain's Got Talent, ITV1

...which we've reviewed here

Pushing Daisies, ITV1
...which we've reviewed here

Shipwrecked: Battle of the Islands, Channel 4
...which we've reviewed here
Mad Men, BBC4 A great episode this week - as the US drama about a 1960s advertising agency reaches the halfway point - focusing on the macho competitiveness of the Madison Avenue men. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) enhanced his slimeball credentials (we already know ginger Joan is his mistress - poor thing) by making a play for Don's sweetly innocent, very beautiful wife Betty, and trying to outdo Don when it came to vermouth and oyster consumption. Nice comeuppance, though, when Don paid the lift attendant to pretend it was out of order, forcing Roger to crawl up 23 flights of stairs, which knackered him so much he only had enough strength left to do some projectile vomiting in front of Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign team.

Gavin & Stacey, BBC3

We're so glad Gavin and Stacey have seen the light and now realise they can't live apart. Again, it was Ness who stole the show, busking as a silver statue and confessing to an affair with John Prescott ("This reminds me very much of my time with John Prescott. I had the lot - flat in Westminster, full use of one of the Jags. Didn't even have to cook. We had a little Filipino do it for us. Cracking social life. Many a night we'd have Dave Blunkett and his bitch over for dinner."). Foam night at the disco looked like fun, too. Gavin has some really nice mates (especially the one played by Russell Tovey).

Pulling, BBC3
Another hit thanks to three good plots: the great kebab caper (Donna's meaty feast is snatched), the Karen v Chris encounters (he's far too nice for that slut) and Louise's Dragon's Den moment, attracting investment for her Cock Lollies brainwave.

Grange Hill: New Beginnings, BBC1
Let's all cry. It's the last series of a TV institution. Seemed a little boring to us, though. Maybe it always was. Plotlines included a dog smuggled into school, a trauma over asking a girl out, pupils being cheeky about uniform transgressions and a lad who hung upside down. Acting was as variable as ever. As were the nicknames (eg Tigger, Ducket and Paxo).

Waking The Dead, BBC1
...which we've reviewed here

The Fixer, ITV1 The series came to a pretty good climax with Andrew Buchan's John Mercer forced to decide who to kill: sinister hardman Lenny or sinister smoothie Richard Blakeny. He made the right choice. Lenny lives to fight another day. Highlight of the episode: Jody Latham's Callum dancing around to Black Is Black (the La Belle Epoque version). Should this be recommissioned? We hope so because it has been one of ITV's better dramas, but the latter episodes failed to thrill as much as the first three, so we won't be setting up a petition if it goes the way of The Palace, its axed predecessor in the Monday 9pm slot.

Skins, E4 Series two is over, after a good start followed by some poor episodes - and so it's farewell to all the characters we've come to love and the one we've come to hate (Cassie). The last episode centred on Chris's funeral, featuring the casting against type of Mark Heap as Chris's sour father and an Italian Job replica scene when Tony and Sid stole the coffin and, with it strapped to the roof of their Mini, plunged down stairs to shake off the undertaker (played with great tactlessness by John Thomson). Sid's gone to New York because he is still daft enough to love Cassie, Tony and Michelle are university bound, Jal remains traumatised after aborting Chris's baby, while Maxxie, his new boyfriend and Anwar boarded a coach to London for a lifetime of fun ("No one wears pants in London", Maxxie assures us).

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Waking The Dead, BBC1

Did we like it?
We love a bit of mortal danger and there was a lot of it around in the latest chapter in the life of TV's craziest cold case detectives.

What was good about it?

• The cast of characters provided the story with a very rich range of ingredients: underage prostitute with thin bare legs and a fag, a badly-charred body (going by the name of 27B), a swarthy pimp, a normal middle-class family with a sackload of secrets, lap dancers, feral youths and, best of all, a bunch of international terrorists representing the Irish National Liberation Army, the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front and Basque separatists Eta (we're hoping they'll be joined by sinister agents from the Cornish Liberation Organisation, Tooting Popular Front and Frinton Pensioners Against The Level Crossing Renovation).
• About half an episode mercifully passed before we had to suffer Trevor Eve's Boyd going loopy. We prayed he'd stay stable throughout, but, oh no, he has to start shouting like an overwrought madman or start adopting rigid mournful positions that are so annoying that we want to throw a bucket of cold water over him, even if it does disturb his gravity-defying hair.
• A very convincing scene at the railway station where a mother tackled a bag-snatcher who had robbed her daughter, tossing him on to the tracks before, very kindly, carrying out life saving first aid. The have-a-go heroine turned out to be Lore Carson (Beatriz Batarda), a bit of a baddie, not least for forcing her two daughters to bed down in an unsalubrious Kings Cross hotel/hovel.
• Grace trotting out her expertise on snuff movies as if she settles down to watch one every evening after catching up on the soaps
• We love it when lots of scientific words and medical terms are said very, very quickly.
• We love Eve Lockhart (Tara Fitzgerald) with her sexy, butch voice.
• A very impressive cry of “Zut alors!”

What was bad about it?

• Boyd is such an idiot, losing his cool like a spoilt child all the time. If he wasn't in it, Waking The Dead would be brilliant. With him, it can be a pain. And we could certainly do without the return of his missing son providing even more excuses for his grumpiness - and more scenes of patient Grace trying to calm the old sod down.
• The reliance on TV news clips to spread the story. Would an Irish TV station really bother with a have-you-seen-this-woman piece about an incident in suburban London?
• The gratuitous flashbacks to the woman chained up and screaming in a container dumped by sinister railway sidings where hookers and runaways roam.
• "If you mess me about I'll cut your balls off and put them in a blender." Not the most original of threats.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii, BBC1

Did we like it?
The story was fantastic, David Tennant was fantastic, the special effects were fantastic, and Catherine Tate was a joy now that she is part of the story rather than actually being the story.

What was good about it?
• For the opening ten minutes we feared it was going to be a continuation of the lazy Partners in Crime, with some jocular exchanges between the Doctor and Donna, and comical dialogue – “lovely jubbly” – with a Pompeii street vendor (Phil Cornwell) who sold the Tardis to a local artist.
• We then joined the family of Caecilius (Peter Capaldi) as he and his wife Metella (Tracey Childs) debated the artistic virtues of their new acquisition in manner more suited to Up Pompeii! Than Doctor Who. Then the Doctor and Donna (“Spartacus and Spartacus”) entered the jovial fray, followed soon after by Phil Davis as the scowling Lucius. And this was when it got very good and very weird.
• In the blink of an eye, Caecilius’ daughter Evelina had bafflingly divined the Doctor’s real name, only for the affronted augur Lucius to top that by calling the Doctor “man of Gallifrey”. While a seed was also laid for Donna’s future adventures when Lucius said: “There is something on your back!” From this point on it was a relentless, thrilling adventure made all the more absorbing by the cunning false mood laid down in the opening scenes.
• We mentioned that any drama co-starring Phil Davis wouldn’t be lacking in acting quality and he didn’t disappoint. Always grimacing, always mocking the Doctor’s efforts to thwart his metamorphosis into a Pyrovile, Davis made a splendid villain with very little screen time.
• And Peter Capaldi was layered too as the meek Caecilius, only slipping into Malcolm Tucker ferocity to censure his wayward son, but also evoking desperate sympathy when cowering with his family in the throes of the volcanic eruption.
• We were also reminded why David Tennant is such a brilliant Doctor (most welcome after last week) as here the humour, instead of killing the dramatic tension, heightened it by causing it to peak and trough with interludes of his trademark levity such as brandishing a water pistol at the high priestess.
• With only the odd moment of bolshy rowdiness, Catherine Tate as Donna was a perfect human counterweight to the Doctor’s priggish officiousness in adhering to the laws of the Timelords. Appealing to his humane (if not human) sensibilities she convinced him to rescue Caecilius’ family from the volcano.
• The way in which the loose web of the Sisterhood suspended the disparate plots in place so that each could be judiciously introduced until the Doctor had found his way to the root of the Pyrovile conspiracy in the temple – and from that moment on, it was simply a breakneck race to save the world.
• The stunning sets, hired from Rome the TV series, added authenticity with streets bustling with slaves, sellers and townsfolk making a welcome change from some anonymous Cardiff streets aping London. And the impressive volcanic explosion.
• The special effects of the stalking Pyroviles uprooting the street in pursuit of the Doctor were brilliant as was the conclusion set deep within the heart of Vesuvius where the Doctor had to effectively execute 20,000 people for the greater good of the planet. There was also the sense that the Doctor was absolving himself of causing their doom with his assertion that history has been put right – that still didn’t change the fact that he had slaughtered 20,000 people no matter the altruism behind it.

What was bad about it?
• The escape capsule in which the Doctor and Donna took refuge was conveniently human-sized when the Pyroviles were about nine feet tall. Why would a giant alien have a spacecraft fit only for humanoids?
• The Doctor very quickly worked out where Donna was being held captive by the Syballine Sisterhood; whether it’s because he has affixed a tracker to her or that Evelina told her, we should have been told which as it resembled too much that irritating scene in The Girl in the Fireplace where he pranced in with a similar demeanour to rescue Micky and Rose. And why did the Doctor and Donna flee down a vent in the temple when they quite easily could have run back the way they came into the street?

Shipwrecked: Battle of the Islands, Channel 4

Did we like it?
If you get a kick out of watching bronzed hunks paddling about tropical shallows dressed in nothing more than a soaking pair of shorts, or the willowy, sunbathing frustrated models propping themselves up with their elbows as they smile and laugh at the blokish antics while furtively formulating fake affection stratagems behind their lead-lined sunglasses, then welcome. For everyone else it’s a protracted exercise in superficial futility.

What was good about it?
• The contestants, on first impressions, don’t appear to be wholly vile. Faith, Barrie and James were quite pleasant, although James was purged at the end of the episode when one member of each team had to leave the island for good.

What was bad about it?
• In Shipwrecked’s twisted philosophy, the initial inclusion of two overweight people – Katie and Barrie – was as momentous as FW De Klerk’s dismantling of Apartheid. Sadly it failed as Katie, an excitable 19-year-old from Newcastle, was subjected to the heinous visual torture of five, very slim and mostly pretty young women who couldn’t wait to slip into their bikinis and wade into the ocean while she was left peering solemnly out at the happy group. She lasted two days, and was replaced by Cerys, slim and Welsh, she even arrived wearing her bikini.
• Katie said she wanted to leave because she “couldn’t be herself”, but the brutality that she would have to physically compare herself daily with the rest of the girls was a cruel factor. It might not have been as bad if the reason for her and Barrie’s inclusion wasn’t so blatant – they were clearly chosen to be the ‘ugly’ people; and such people are only ever chosen for reality programmes like Shipwrecked to act as dumb stooges for the prettier, more popular contestants (popular, based on the fact that the people who watch are often as shallow as the contestants).
• The beautiful people then senselessly smother the ‘ugly’ people in hollow adoration, (“Oh, I really, really love Katie”, “Oh, Barrie’s so lovely!” would be the sort of thing you might have expected to hear) thus enabling them to appear to judge people on a whole by their personality while sticking their tongues indiscriminately down one another’s gorgeous throats, leaving Katie out (Barrie is the only gay on the island).
• But Katie’s early exit still served the group a purpose. For instead of ‘bonding’ (that now is such a misshapen, redundant word, meaning illusory, transient acquaintance than any real friendship) over how much they ‘loved’ her, a group of them formed into a whirlpool of acrid spite, with Susan as the frothing eye of the eddy, spitting out insults about how Katie was “pathetic”.
• Susan was also the abhorrent standard which indicated that this year’s bunch of contestants could reach the peaks of loathsomeness that characterised last year’s hobgoblins to the point whereby Shipwrecked becomes less of a game show and more of a way to smuggle the very worst inhabitants out of the country to a place far, far away to where these toxic pollutants are rendered impotent to British society.
• Of the other bad contestants: Jack comes across as the type of person who will proudly tell you he’s never read a book in his life – and truly believes he hasn’t suffered as a result despite the fact that every third sentence of his is “Thass how I roll!”; Danny seems to be a Robbie Williams fan in both mind and deed in that he hates music and loves sex, pointless sex; Char acted like a dizzy farming lass but she was part of the group sniggering at Susan’s snide taunts about Katie, she was purged at the end of the episode; Tom is a one-man walking justification for the unjustifiable Class War, posh and pompous he also has a Dutch Chest i.e. his pecs are about as mountainous as Holland; while Lara and Carly, despite a mutual propensity to break down in tears as if a Britain’s Got Talent double act, only annoy through acting as emblems of the way in which Shipwrecked is tipped in favour of teenagers who “have had a privileged upbringing” – about half of them have had “a privileged upbringing”, which isn’t a demographical share of British society.
• Marvyn, meanwhile, is a PE teacher, placing him above only property developers and stock brokers in the employment food chain, who seems to be begging for a teenager “with no life experience” to tell him what to do so he can exhale his full PE teacher wrath upon their unwrinkled brows, breathing fire with the same sanctimonious umbrage as thick people who “hate students” because they are the ever-present raven perched above their bedroom door who evermore remind them of their own wilful stupidity.
• The incessant, extraneous torrent of the word “def’nit’ly”.
• The contestants aren’t solely to blame, much of the culpability for this faux-fest can be traced back to amoral producers who believe that simply churning out and manipulating emotions and feelings somehow manifests as decent television, when in reality it’s the low-com denom of the schedule. Although, Shipwrecked isn’t alone in tyrannizing the viewer into feeling certain emotions, witness Manchester United v Arsenal where almost as soon as the ball hits the back of the net there’s a cut away to Wenger or Ferguson celebrating, demanding that you feel this same way, too; or Britain’s Got Talent, which epileptically flits to Cowell for his reaction to an act as if to suggest you must genuflect to this deified opinion at the sacrifice of your own feelings.
• Hugging used to be a greeting reserved for your loved ones or very best friends to show how much you cared for them, now, thanks to garbage like Shipwrecked, they’re absolutely worthless, handed out like flyers for a nightclub perpetrated by shivering, tanned entities to allay their enduring feeling of insecurity.

Shipwrecked Review Extra

A pointless and largely pointless behind the scenes waste of space that seeks to make you read it simply because it has the same title as the main review.

The phrase “furtively formulating fake affection” became a little upset. She felt that all the alliteration impinged on her individuality as a sentence; so to remedy this insecurity she is going to get a tattoo of a pink butterfly etched on to the base of her spine.

The paragraph “Of the other bad contestants…” is feeling insecure because his body is overweight and has so much flab hanging over his belt that makes him feel really ugly compared to the other sleek paragraphs. He’s going to get a personal sub-editor to try and lose the excess adjectives.

The paragraph “But Katie’s early exit…” is insecure as she was originally going to appear in a scientific journal about experiments on spinal injuries in mice. But she feels she’s given up that esteemed publication to become part of a directionless rant against how all young people are morons, when that clearly isn’t the case.

If you’re suffering the same problems as “The incessant extraneous torrent of the word ‘def’nit’ly’”, and you’re a sentence that has trouble keeping your word count above the healthy size of 10 words and you’re sick of all this size zero sentences stuff in the media, then please call Wordwise for advice on healthy composition (mobiles £3 per minute, landlines £2.50).

And we’re glad to report here at Shipwrecked Review Extra that the certifiably insane paragraph “The contestants aren’t solely to blame…” has been recaptured having absconded from the Literary Asylum last night. Please ignore everything he said, his views do not represent those of thecustard.tv or any of its sponsors.

Pushing Daisies, ITV1

Did we like it?
Everyone involved in this US drama hit couldn't have tried harder to make us love it. Isn't this wonderful? the show shouted. Yet we felt ambivalent. While there are many things in Pushing Daisies' favour, it felt like a glossy Christmas evening treat that would soon pale if it was served up all year.

What was good about it?
• In cinematic terms, Pushing Daisies probably had the best opening to a TV show ever. The colours, the vicacity, the overwhelming sweetness of Ned running through golden fields and then saving his golden dog Digby was amazing.
• The four key cast members do a fine job. Anna Friel brings to Chuck/Charlotte lots of cheeriness and cheekiness; Lee Pace as Ned conveys the bemusement one would undoubtedly feel if one suddenly acquired the ability to revive the dead with just one single touch (and kill them should their flesh meet again). Kristin Chenoweth is a delight as the ditzy waitress; and Chi McBride gives a harder edge to the show as private investigator Cod Emmerson who is keener on making a quick buck than making everything wonderfully rosy.
• We love the outlandish pie shop setting, with its crusted awning, and the look of the pies, even though we know that they contain rancid fruit brought back to ripeness and firmness by Ned's magic touch.
• The quirkiness worked sometimes – notably with Chuck's aunts Vivian and Lily, a former synchronised swimming duo who "share matching personality disorders and a love of fine cheese"
• The death of the thieving funeral home director. Much deserved.

What was bad about it?
• We're not sure whether Anna Friel's American accent was good or bad - but it didn't quite convince us as she trotted out Christmas cracker philosophy such as "I suppose dying is as good a reason as ever to start living".
• Jim Dale's narration is relentless, twee and, after a while, so irritating that the off switch looks tempting. His amusement at repeating Boutique Travel Travel Boutique was lost on us and the precise calculation of years, months, weeks and days lost its effect pretty quickly. A lighter narrative touch, like we get on Desperate Housewives, would have been more tolerable.
• Death is treated with a little too much whimsy. As in 24, for example, it doesn't seem to matter how many peripheral characters die. They have mothers, too, you know. And if the death is slightly amusing (death by asphyxiation using pink plastic bags sporting smiley faces), then it doesn't matter at all. Too trite.
• The premise is good enough for a solid family movie, but seems a bit thin for a series. We've often been charmed by the opening few episodes of fantasy dramas before ditching them when the repetition and tweeness has rendered them boring.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Britain's Got Talent, ITV1

Did we like it?
We love this show. It was the TV sensation of 2007 and should pack a big punch again this year.

What was good about it?
• Ant and Dec remain on top form, especially when winding up the woeful wannabes and ridiculing Simon Cowell's more pompous pronouncements.
• Simon Cowell huffing and puffing, berating the "indulgent rubbish" and delivering realistic verdicts. He's still the only judge that anyone cares about.
• The quality of the acts. Iona the contortionist was amazing (but we're not sure we'd need to see her twist her body again); Craig Harper, (34? You sure) doing an energetic, cruelly funny parody of Boyzone; Kate and her dog called Gin, dancing to the James Bond theme (first time ever we've been captivated by a dog act); and, best of all, Andrew from Carlisle, the bullied boy who made us cry with his supersweet Pie Jesu.
• The extract of We're All In This Together (great tune) from High School Musical during the segment showing choirs and dance troupes.

What was bad about it?
• We think ITV has made a mistake by not stripping this year's series over consecutive nights. That made it a real TV event with momentum last year. Weekly broadcasts will diminish that effect.
• Ant and Dec's needless helicopter trip, adding to their carbon footprint for no reason.
• Bragging about the discovery of Paul Potts. We can't stand the man who deprived baton-twirling Craig Womersley of his rightful win last year.
• Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden establishing their lack of credibility right from the start by giving yes votes to the Welsh weirdo and his appalling reworking of the Star Wars theme on an electronic organ.
• Simon Cowell coming over all man-of-the-people with his pronouncement that "there's too much London snobbery" when praising northern comic Craig who reminded us of Keith Harris with bad highlights.
• The obligatory ridicule of people our mothers would call "one of life's unfortunates". Singer Donald and bed-of-nails pensioner Joan fell into this unseemly category.

All Star Mr & Mrs, ITV1

Did we like it?
Fearne Britton and Phillip Schofield brought their This Morning chemistry to primetime and we liked them but this isn't the sort of show we really care for.

What was good about it?
• Wendy Richard. Wouldn't like to meet her on a dark night. The mistress of looks that could kill. Amazingly, her partner can't stop smiling in the face of such austerity.
• Shane Lynch and his wife Sheena seem like a very nice couple.
• In addition to the good old Mr & Mrs format from the Derek Batey heydays, the additional His & Hers round worked quite well. We even liked the low-techness of using pink and blue sparkly table tennis bats rather than flashy electronic gizmos.

What was bad about it?
• Phil Tufnell acting the buffoon. If he hadn't been on, agonising over every answer and messing around, this would have been a much better show. Future shows will rely on the guests and if they are saddled with more idiocy like we got from Tuffers, the show will hit the buffers.
• We'd rather Saturday night TV tried to innovate rather than regress. Polishing up old daytime game shows isn't the path that ITV should really be treading.

The Kids Are All Right, BBC1

Did we like it?
We've never watched Sky One's Are You Smarter Than A 10 Year Old because it is hosted by the nauseous Noel Edmonds but we suspect this is something very similar. It's a sorry state of affairs when BBC1 had to fish in the same format pool as Sky One – especially when it comes up with a show as mundane as this.

What was good about it?
• The Information Overload round was quite good fun – an observational test like we used to get on Screen Test and The Krypton Factor.
• One of the competitors looked like a cross between Ivy Tyldesley and Jeanette Krankie.

What was bad about it?
• Like Davina McCall, host John Barrowman tries to make up for a lack of wit and charisma by SHOUTING a lot. Although he's over-exposed on TV, he still managed to look frightened of the cameras and his banter with the contestants was unfunny and awkward.
• Some of the rounds were very dull, even when the four women were exposed as rather thick by the kids.
• The kids were almost all rather horrible creatures. Two had very funny names, though: Miracle and Lentil.

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