So, the first week of 2008. I was intrigued by how Moving Wallpaper/Echo Beach would work and looking forward to series such as Mistresses and Honest but, along the way, I was bombarded with sweaty men with long foam poles, Robson Green in Texas and Donald Trump yelling a lot.
My first grown up decision of the new year was to boycott E4’s Big Brother’s Celebrity Hijack. Channel 4 doesn’t even seem to have faith enough to put it on in primetime which doesn’t show much promise. What Channel 4 have put on instead, though, has been of interest, with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall given three nights to squawking on about the chickens on his farm.
Surprisingly, ITV’s new line-up for this first part of 2008 has been strong. The return of News at 10 looks to give more structure to the schedule but it means the end of 90-minue dramas at nine. Squeezed in just before the Trevor and the bongs returned was a a special edition of Wire In The Blood (the sixth series is due later in the year) which saw Robson Green’s odd psychologist Tony Hill travel to a very sweaty version of Texas to testify in the murder case of man convicted of brutally stabbing his beauty queen wife and their two children.
I’m not sure why this had to be set in America. It had all the qualities usually associated with a Bradfield-based Wire In The Blood script – brutal killings, suspicious characters around every corner and Hill clutching a plastic carrier bag. Texas itself seemed to live up to all its stereotypes. Everyone was dripping with sweat, there was a mysterious hard-to-understand ex-policeman with a collection of rattlesnakes and, just in case viewers were wondering why Manchester was going through such a dramatic heatwave, there was the occasional country music guitar soundtrack thrown in to remind us Tony had hopped on a plane. The American actors were very wooden and quite stereotypical but the story had enough twists and turns to keep my attention. The US setting didn’t really add to the story but it was nice to have some good drama for a Monday night.
BBC1’s latest offering, Mistresses, sounded like something I’d have to be wearing pink fluffy pyjamas to enjoy, but with the always-good-value Sarah Parish attached, how could I turn it down? I never got into Sex and the City (not my biggest regret), but I’d imagine this was a more classy version of that. It was very intriguing and the female cast was brilliant. I’ll definitely keep watching even though I can tell that the single woman is going end up in bed with the woman whose wedding she’s planning and that the creepy doctor from Bodies is maybe after Trudy for her newfound bank balance (a £2m cheque to compensate for the husband she lost on 9/11).
While the BBC offered well-written, well-acted and well-produced drama, the US is still in the depths of the writers’ strike. This has basically attacked American television like that nasty new sickness and diarrhea bug, with reality shows leaking from every orifice.
The first significant dribble came in the form of The Celebrity Apprentice, which was about as false and over-dramatic as reality TV gets. Donald Trump oversees proceedings with “celebs” such as Piers Morgan, Lennox Lewis, Kiss frontman Gene Simmons and a plasticy looking former Playboy model trying to raise the most money for charity in boring and ridiculous challenges using their more famous celebrity famous pals. I only watched to see if Piers Morgan had been shot by any New Yorkers, but I when I realized how unlikely that was I gave up. American audiences seem to be losing patience, too, but with the writers outside holding their placards, NBC has nothing else.
ITV1’s new offering for Wednesday night was the drama Honest, a remake of a successful series from New Zealand, with Amanda Redman at the helm. I was a big fan of At Home With The Braithwaites and since this was billed as a crazy and slightly saucy new drama with the same star, I was already hoping they had just re-packaged the Braithwaites, but with the opening scene featuring triads and two dopey burglars, I knew I was in for a disappointment.
This first episode was really just a scene setter and although it was often too ridiculous to enjoy, certain members of the family are likeable enough and I think it could develop.
Meanwhile, NBC, still reeling from the failure of the Celebrity Apprentice, had another “great” television brainwave and resurrected that cheesy but bizarrely popular 1990’s series American Gladiators. It infuriates me that every new American reality series must have the word America or American in the title, and Wolf was a bit too scary. (By the way, this is the show where the sweaty men with long foam poles showed up)
ITV1’s Moving Wallpaper/Echo Beach combination of soap and mockusoap left me bored, confused and annoyed. I’m open minded when it comes to my telly and I like the majority of the cast of Moving Wallpaper, but while some people really enjoyed it, I’m with the crowd who thought this was awful. I understand that Moving Wallpaper was the making of a soap but were we then supposed to take Echo Beach with its bland dialogue, wooden teenage acting and Jason Donovan seriously? If we were, then they failed miserably and if we weren’t, then it just wasn’t funny enough.
I’m quite enjoying the second series of BBC1’s sitcom Jam & Jerusalem, but the highlights on Friday were Jamie’s Fowl Dinners on Channel 4 and the return of the Al Murray’s Happy Hour on ITV1.
I was really impressed by Jamie’s programme and the way it drummed its important message through. Although celebrity chefs are perhaps a little over-exposed nowadays, I do admire their passion and Jamie certainly taught me something in a programme that was touching, moving, informative and, at times, difficult to watch. This was proper reality television, maybe a little too real (but I tucked into a roast chicken the following night, so I guess I’m a big hypocrite). Channel 4 should be commended for a providing this food season and they get my first my CRUMBLETASTIC medal of 2008. My Black Pudding award for this week though is shared by Echo Beach and The Celebrity Apprentice.