Did we like them?
While acknowledging that these were too poor programmes, we do admire the inventiveness of ITV in linking a making-of sitcom with a made-badly soap opera. It amounted to an intriguing, original hour of primetime TV and, although it wasn’t done very well, we do appreciate it being done at all.
What was good about them?
• Some of the gags on Moving Wallpaper were actually funny. We loved producer Jonathan Pope’s ingenious filling of the “ethnic quota” – “Sharon behind the bar; she’s now Narinda.” And Susie Amy’s desperation to get a speaking part in the soap, even offering to get a tan and use a corny cornershop-style Asian accent to get the part of Narinda. In the end, she resorted to fellating the producer (which involved the worst joke of the show when snowjob was confused with blowjob).
• Moving Wallpaper had some good performances, notably from the writing team, who were embroiled in script revision hell, and the ever-reliable Raquel Cassidy, as the hissing head of continuing drama.
• The gulf between the aspirations of the writers – they want the romantic betrayals to act as a metaphor for the economic betrayal of Cornwall – and the ratings-chasing producer, who just seems to want cute young actors gallavanting about in the sand.
• Some of the links between Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach worked really well, especially Martine McCutcheon’s Susan having to wear the frumpy pink frock chosen by the producer (she had picked a slinky blue dress but he wanted to nip any diva-ish tendancies in the bud). And there’s Narinda, behind the bar. And a wetroom reference. And there’s the little girl crying after falling off her bike (the tears, though, are the result of Pope telling her that her parents are dead).
• Even though the Echo Beach plot was as thin as Eldorado on a bad day (or Hollyoaks on a good day), the appallingness of it did work as a satire of the genre, with lots of meaningful looks, over-heightened emotions and implausible coincidences, plus lengthy establishing shots of the Cornish coast accompanied by ‘hip’ music. The scenes of the town’s lithe youngsters dancing frenetically on the beach was the sort of lame thing Home And Away does all the time (we imagine).
• Martine McCutcheon acting posh.
• Mrs McCluskey from Grange Hil as the pub landlady.
* The pussy-loving lads were quite cute but, as Echo Beach was obviously filmed in last year’s non-summer, there’s too little shirtlessness going on.
What was bad about them?
• While most of the Moving Wallpaper cast were aiming for grim, frustrated realism (previously seen in Extras), Ben Miller decided he was still in a wacky BBC1 sitcom, overacting hopelessly and sticking out like a sore thumb as egotistical producer Jonathan Pope with his flashy sports car, desperate need for a wetroom and “What would Simon Cowell do?” philosophy.
• Echo Beach should have been camper, like an outdoors version of Crossroads.
• Jason Donovan’s English accent as Daniel Merrick which sounded like he was a port-sipping 1950s colonel with haemorrhoids.
• Jason Donovan and Hugo Speer sported near-identical haircuts – and similar craggy once-good looks – which was a tad confusing at times.
• Jason and Martine as parents of teenage kids is a bit scary. Where did all those years go?
• The horrible little bit of beard on the chin of Jason’s son.
• Johnny ‘Mike Baldwin’ Briggs doing a Cornish-ish accent.
• The laughable advert for News at Ten in the commercial break with Trevor McDonald and Julie Etchingham talking pretentious nonsense.