Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Embarrassing? It's positively obscene...

If the BBC is a stiff upper-lipped Victorian grandma, Channel Four is her smutty wayward young niece. When grandma had the monopoly on public service broadcasting, it was a very civilised affair, with the emphasis on information, rather than entertainment. But now the young upstart's got her filthy mitts on the idea, it seems all taste and decency has been hurled out of the window and landed naked in our living rooms. You know what I'm talking about. It's that Embarrassing Bodies experience (Channel 4, Monday-Thursday, 9pm). And what an experience!
I've never even seen my parents naked, yet this week I've been subjected to all manner of social misfits in their underwear and out of it, displaying their misshapen private parts to all and sundry. What in the world possessed them to reveal those bits even to their closest family and friends, let alone to a national television camera? It's ugly, it's wrong and its... pretty compelling TV.
Yes, even though I feel a little bit dirty gawping open-mouthed at the man desperate to rid himself of his manboobs or the woman with bits hanging down where they shouldn't, I can't turn it off. I think it's because I'm so flabbergasted that any of these people have agreed to take part in this. Not for a million pounds would I let some doctor dissect my bits and pieces on national television. But the worrying thing is, they probably didn't even get paid for this. All it would have taken was a little persuasion that they were doing a "public service".
The problem is, I don't think anyone is watching this to learn a medical tip or two. It's just car crash TV.
Embarrasing Bodies started on Monday with a look at a collection of unpleasant skin conditions. Doctors Christian Jessen, Dawn Harper and Pixie McKenna are like three medical happy-robots, programmed to be completely unflappable and unfazed by the most gruesome of sights.
They may be - I most certainly am not. When a rather portly chap dropped his trousers to reveal a pile of scabs, I was peering through the cracks in my fingers, willing myself to turn it off. But there followed a bit of light-hearted banter about acne with a load of schoolkids and I was lulled into a false sense of security, feeling able to watch without a cushion to shield me from the horror again. Of course, it didn't last long.
Episode Two was all about breasts. The men among you might express an interest at this point, but believe me, these weren't breasts you'd want to see. From one woman with 32JJ boobs to another with one breast half the size of the other, it was a motley collection of mammories. If Sam Fox had had boobs like those, she wouldn't have got them out for the national media, so why were these women so inclined?
Tonight's show promises women's private parts and tomorrow's looking at men’s bits. I can only imagine what they might have in store. And have I learnt anything? Despite the show's claim that they are getting these doctors out to find the patients that really need their help, I don't believe this altruistic premise. It all seems a bit too graphic, too shocking. Any grandma would no doubt be horrified. I'm sure the likes of BBC founder John Reith are turning in their graves.

Friday, 25 April 2008


By ‘eck – that fire’s done Valandro’s the world of good, hasn’t it?

Prior to chipmunk-cheeked Paul’s arson attack, Weatherfield’s Number One Italian Restaurant (well, can you name any others?) was a dingy little boot-cupboard down a flight of stairs with a few tatty tables and a bit of Santa Lucia piping querulously in the background.

But now it seems to have acquired a glorious grand entrance that we definitely don’t remember. Talk about a phoenix from the flames.

Added to which, Janice’s boyfriend Rog-the-plumber turns out to have project-managed an “award-winning” bar in France. What are the odds?

Even better, Bionic-Eyed Tony’s new Victoria Street flats should mean there’s a host of young trendies flooding into the Street, all queuing up to be “Urr Layanne’s” paying customers (and not in the Paul Connor sense, either).

You can bet that even though Manchester is one of the most happening night-time destinations in Europe, Corrie’s young’uns won’t be bombing around the bars off Deansgate or launching themselves hedonistically into the 24 Hour Party People scene.

No, they’ll be down at Leanne Battersby’s place, supping a Cheeky Vimto with a brolly in the top and watching Steve McDonald attempt to moonwalk or Dev doing “raise the roof” hands.Given this backdrop, you can see why David Platt was so keen to get sent down.

Except, now he’s locked up, he doesn’t like it. Talk about contrary.The little fella had tears in his eyes this week as he watched Gail limp back into the great outdoors – we almost felt sorry for him.Then we remembered all those times we’ve stood frothy-mouthed with rage before our tellies screaming: “String ‘im up, the little toerag!” and we stopped.

Away from prison, Gail and Audrey were having all sorts of big emotional “Ooh mam,” “Ooh lovey” type conversations this week.

What with them and Dev (who now seems to be making strange noises specifically SO he can get on the Harry Hill show), Corrie is developing a rather strange backing track. Perhaps they could set it to tape and give it an airing at Valandro’s?

Next week, Maria’s life falls apart.

Altogether now: “Ooh, lovey...”

As far as coming up with good reasons to get married is concerned, we think Minty’s sort-of proposal to Evvar was quite a good un.“I just want someone I can sit on the sofa with and watch The Goonies on a Sunday afternoon,” he implored as she was about to go back to the dreaded Mummy on the bus.Wonder was he watching the telly last weekend, then, because that’s EXACTLY what we were doing.Slobbing on the sofa watching The Goonies that is.
Not going back to Mummy. Gosh, Channel Five is brilliant for rubbish 80s movies isn’t it?The climax to the interminable wedding magazine storyline was actually quite a hoot in the end.Best bit by far was Evvar’s hen night. When only Evvar and Shirley turned up. “I’ve got enough food ’ere for 30 people,” Shirl commented.“I know. Great, innit?’ Evvar drooled.
Then a rather large George Michael arrived to mime very badly to some records.“Seventy quid I paid for that,” poor Shirl complained. “What did you do with the other fella on the website? Eat him?”You see, Easties CAN do comedy. Not often, but sometimes.
Elsewhere, Roxy got drunk, Sean was obnoxious and Ian had one of the most severe looking haircuts we’ve ever seen on a chap.Gave him the appearance of a slightly older version of Beaker from The Muppets we felt...

Emmerdale’s got some cracking storylines going on at the moment – especially the baby mix-up plot (although Ashley does have a habit of looking rather constipated in times of tragedy). Next week, Hilary is horrified about Mel and Greg’s plan to move to Spain permanently, prompting the heartbroken grandmother to take desperate measures to keep hold of Arthur.
The cop shop harassment plot involving Donna Dingle and that Shane (never trust a man with blonde eyelashes) is also a good’un.Now these sort of storylines could happen in any soap but next week, the show reverts back to its more usual “Only In Emmerdale” diet.
Jaw, the world’s most unlikely farmer’s wife, is worried her cheese has given TJ E-coli.
And Eli and Belle Dingle, who decide selling manure is the ideal way to drum up cash for her school fees.

Heroes: A superhuman fall from grace

There’s been so much talk about how the writers’ strike has affected programmes like Heroes, you’d think I’d have lowered my expectations for the second series. Certainly BBC2 had taken note. In contrast to the fanfare that heralded series one, the arrival of the US drama this week was somewhat more of a low-key affair. Only the most committed hero worshippers like myself will have noticed it as it was slipped out in the schedule somewhere between Top Gear and Graham Norton. But despite all the warning signs, I was just as excited about the heroes’ return as I was about Rocky Balboa’s big comeback. And just like Rocky, I was setting myself up for the most spectacular fall.
The series opens four months after the end of the first season, which saw the heroes finally defeat the evil Sylar. Invincible cheerleader Claire Bennet and her family have moved from Texas to California where they have assumed new identities and are trying to blend in; telepathic policeman Matt Parkman has divorced his wife and is looking after little Molly, the child superhero; Nathan the flying politician has grown a beard, started drinking and has generally deteriorated since the disappearance of his brother, Peter; and Hiro, the Japanese comic figure and star of series one, is stuck in 1671.
Having spent months wondering what happened to the heroes after the brilliant climax of series one, I was rather disappointed to discover they had all gone back to their ordinary lives and were living in virtual obscurity. The show spent far too long reintroducing the characters - presumably for the benefit of any newcomers - which made it drag unnecessarily. And if the aim was to hook new viewers in, there was nowhere near enough use of the superpowers and special effects of the early Heroes.
On Claire’s first day at school, her dad, Noah, tells her: "You have to be entirely unextraordinary." But as her family finds out that night when they attempt to have a conversation about their "entirely unextraordinary" days around the dinner table, "unextraordinary" is dull. The only glimpse of Claire’s superpowers shows her holding her hand over a bunsen burner (hasn’t everyone done that?) and mending her leg after un unsuccessful back flip in any empty gymnasium.
Matt gets his detective badge by secretly reading the mind of a fake hostage in a test, but again is doing his best to hide his powers. And Nathan’s just getting drunk. Only Hiro is having any fun. He meets his childhood "hero" Kensei, who turns out to be a rakish Englishman. Their encounter seems completely incidental to the main Heroes plot, but nevertheless, far more entertaining than the rest.
Realising the old heroes were proving a bit of a disappointment, I could only hope the new cast members might light that spark of series one. But all we got was a pair of Dominican twins leaving a trail of bodies as they tried to flee a murder charge and reach the US border. It was a glimpse of excitement, but there was not enough substance to the characters to really grab the viewers.
The programme ends with a snapshot of Peter Petrelli as he’s discovered in a box in Cork on the west coast of Ireland by a bunch of supposedly Irish workers with very dodgy accents.
As I understand it, series two has been cut short as the producers didn’t feel it was up to its previous high standards. And they weren’t wrong. I’ve already written off series two as a "when I’m in" programme. I only hope that just like Claire Bennet, Heroes can repair itself from this fall and bounce back for series three.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Apprentice: The ice-cream ice queen

The British people were gathered on their sofas, possibly with a tub of ice cream (‘cos if it’s got fruit in it, it counts as part of your five-a-day, you know...)
Huge national celebrations had been planned.No, not St George’s Day. We were all set for “Claire gets fired” week.
Throughout this week’s Apprentice, it looked as if the Marmite-tinted holiday rep with the gob the size of Magaluf was about to get her comeuppance.
“I feel the guillotine literally inches from my neck,” she squawked, planting a tantalizing image in our minds.
Forced by Sr’Alan to lead Team Renaissance after sabotaging last week’s task, Claire looked like she was making a proper pig’s ear of this week’s mission – to invent and sell ice cream on behalf of a British farmer.
She swept into the farm, with one of the repugnant Jennys, accompanied by an appropriately Worzels-style soundtrack and immediately started dissing the locals (“I bet they all have webbed feet”). Then she took herself off on a suspiciously lengthy “cider-testing” mission and failed to arrange any sales pitches for the following day. “You’ve got to go really slow here in the country,” she slurred, when quizzed by her team.
Meanwhile, over on Team Alpha, things were running remarkably smoothly (despite one of their ice-creams being named Avocado-licious, which really didn’t sound it). Britain had at last discovered Lucinda’s “skillset”. She might not be able to work a computer, a digital camera, a mobile phone or sell much. But there was a shock revelation in store.
“Lucinda has been brilliant,” said Lee McQueen, who seems kind of endearing at the moment. “She’s a manager, that’s what she is.” Bless ‘im. We were willing him to shout down a phone: “LEE MCQUEEN IS HAPPY!”
Sadly, there was plenty of shouting going on on Lucinda’s team – most of it just noise from her so-called sales team.
“I am overwhelmed by how good we are!” cried The Best Saleswoman In Europe (T.B.S.I.E).
“How amazing are we?!” cried Lindaaaaay, who kept squeaking that Lucinda was totally irrelevant. She was second in command. Second. The most important part of the team. Yeah.
“We are going to make history!” babbled T.B.S.I.E.
Apprentice history, yes.
Fans will forever remember them as the arrogant fools who made us think Claire was going home. And then she didn’t. Because Renaissance somehow won.
“Lindi, you was second in command,” boomed Sr’Alan at Team Alpha (however did he pick up on that?) “Yer fired!”
“Why doesn’t he see how special I am?” moped the ever-delusional Lindaaaay.
But the best moments were still to come back in the house. “Sr’Alan thought I was quite cold...” said T.B.S.I.E. “...apparently...” (tumbleweed blows, a church bell can be heard in East Anglia) “...hmm...”Sr’Alan’s got to start firing some of these muttonheads soon. Hasn’t he?

Monday, 21 April 2008

Bats in the flats


Coronation Street
IT was Jason Grimshaw... but I don’t believe he was the brains behind the operation..." mused Roy Cropper this week, as he tried to track down who was responsible for Operation Smoking Bat (no reference to Deirdre intended).
"Jason? He’s not the brains behind anything!" chortled the marvellous Becky.
You can say that again. We could have told Tony ourselves – if you want to see a master criminal at work, don’t ask for Jason Grimshaw.
"I was just taking a walk... TAKING A WALK!" he kept saying, over and over. "And they didn’t suffer... oops, no, I’ve said too much!"
One of the foremen had already offered to do the deadly deed but Tony clearly couldn’t choose this much more capable, devious rogue because he’s only an extra, whereas our Jase is a main character which means this could drag out for months.
Not that we’d object.
All this drama has put Corrie back to something like its best – hugely comedic (although not for the poor bats, obviously) and utterly believable.
It’s certainly an improvement on the dreaded Connor sulky-son-swap stuff or Lauren slowly writing herself out of the soap by being super-obnoxious (the only benefit of this is that Sean appears marginally less irritating in comparison).
And while we’re on the subject of minor sub-plots... do you think the Mortons are ever going to get a storyline that DOESN’T involve one of the kids wanting to leave the kebab shop?
At least there was some progress in one area this week, with what Liz MacDonald called "the grand urpening of the smurking shelter", a mysterious structure that, the space of one weekend, seems to have gone from "massive hole in the wall" to something so big and luxurious the camera can’t fit it all in.
Still, the old bats love it. And, no, we don’t mean those ones.
Next week – prepared for lots of bewildered blinking as Gail’s dad shows up.
Roy Cropper Fact of the Week: Amazing little creature, the pipistrelle. In one night, it can consume over 3,000 insects.

What on earth is going on in Christian’s flat these days?
No, we don’t just mean all the strange blokes or the odious sight of a naked Steven Beale lying prostrate on his bed.
But, specifically the decor and layout.
Wasn’t like that when Jase and Jay lived there about three weeks ago was it?
Has he knocked through? And did he get builders’ reg approval?
And what on earth possessed him to put that huge canvas print of his own slimey face on the wall?
Very strange.
Talking of Jase and Jay, anyone any idea where they are these days? Or Dawn? Or Keith? Or Terrence the Dog?
Thought not.
They’re all just victims of the great Bianca and Co takeover.
The writers are wetting themselves so much at getting our favourite big gobbed Chav back, they’ve forgotten to give any of the other characters a story line.
Not that we blame them really.
Bianca is still oddly compelling. In much the same way as a car crash or burning building. Who could resist her?
Certainly not Stacey Slater, who pales into utter insignificance besides The Master. Or Mistress.
"Don't start with me, you gobby little cow, cos I ain't in the mood," said Bianca as Stacey attempted to defend her rubbish fashion stall.
How we’re looking forward to more spats between these two.
They certainly make a better pairing than Stacey and Steven anyway. Yuck.
Next week, Lord help us, there’s more about that flaming magazine wedding...
Wake us up when it’s all over will you?

And it’s yet another baby-swapped-at-birth storyline which rather makes you wonder if Emmerdale producers have been paying ANY attention at all to what’s going on over on Corrie, where the interminable Michelle son-swap stuff has left we poor viewers wanting to stick biros through our own retinas.
But clearly they have, because Emmerdale’s son-swap storyline is vastly superior.
In a highly moving, hugely emotional script a few weeks ago, Laurel and Ashley lost their baby son Daniel to cot death.
But now Laurel’s pushy mother Hilary (superbly played by Paula Wilcox... you see, Emmerdale, if you want to hire a celeb-staffed cast, you should go for actual actresses rather than, say, Linda Lusardi) suspects a local couple whose child was born on the same day as Daniel may, in fact, be Laurel and Ashley’s son.
Unlike most Emmerdale plots which are, let’s face it, panto slapstick, this one has thus far been beautifully judged. You’ve seen the realisation dawn on Hilary’s face as it was revealed the other baby’s mother was a carrier of cystic fibrosis (just like Daniel). Her desperation not to hurt her daughter or worsen their rocky relationship tempered with her real need to see her grandchild restored to the family.
Great stuff.
Elsewhere, there was the usual rubbish about Matthew "planting" screechy Lexi as Carl’s PA so she could find out top-secret stuff. Such as, um, what day they do bin collections? (and is it different on a Bank Holiday)? Why would you employ that bird’s-nest-haired bint to work for you at all, never mind undercover?
Next week, Ross and Marlon join forces to take on Shane. He must be terrified.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Candy coated TV - Jacqui Walls

In the chocolate box of Saturday night television, amidst the tired almond crunch of the remade Mr and Mrs and the leftover coffee cream that is You’ve Been Framed, a true gem appeared this week. Pushing Daisies (Saturday 9pm, ITV1) was, on the face of it, a sickly sweet comedy starring Anna Friel. But underneath its sugar-coated exterior was a darker side, which made for a delightful piece of television.
The story opens with a young boy called Ned running through a field of yellow daisies with his beloved dog Digby. When Digby is suddenly hit by a truck, Ned rushes over to him, only to discover on touching him that he can bring him back to life. Over the course of his childhood, Ned finds out that his unique gift is also a curse. He can touch any dead person and bring them back to life, but if he touches them again, they die again. And if he doesn’t – and they live for more than a minute – someone else in the proximity will die in their place.
Ned’s story is brilliantly told by narrator and veteran comedy actor Jim Dale, in the manner of a kindly uncle recounting a slightly surprising fairytale. And his comic timing wonderfully complements the physical humour of the programme.
As an adult, Ned (played by Golden Globe nominee Lee Pace) is a reclusive pie-maker, with only his dog for company. He can’t touch anyone or hold a relationship, for fear they might die. He soon meets Emerson (Chi McBride), a private detective who persuades Ned to use his powers to good effect. He realises that if Ned can bring murder victims back to life, just for a minute, he can find out who killed them and hence collect the rewards.
But when Ned brings his childhood sweetheart back to life, it doesn’t quite go to plan. He can’t bring himself to touch her again and lets her live, at the expense of the funeral director, who drops down dead next door. Thus the delightful trio of Ned, Emerson and Chuck (Anna Friel) is formed in pursuit of justice for the dead. Or, as far as Emerson is concerned - money. Added into this surreal mix is Chuck’s two agoraphobic aunts, who provide the best moment of physical comedy in the show when one-eyed Lily fails to spot her supposedly dead niece hiding behind a wall (you had to be there, really!).
This, the first episode, promised much for the rest of the series (though I understand ITV schedulers decided to arbitrarily cut Episode 2 to fit their programme needs so tonight’ssaturday’s offering will be Episode 3).
Every candy-coloured scene betrayed director Barry Sonnenfeld’s links with the likes of Tim Burton and Jim Carrey. It’s a television version of Lemony Snicket in technicolour or an adult Willy Wonka. When Ned becomes a pie-maker, all I could think was Sweeney Todd and I kept expecting Helena Bonham-Carter to pop up at any moment (she would have made a great agoraphobic aunt).
Quirky and colourful, funny and charming, it was an unexpected treat to find on a Saturday night, the likes of which I’ve not seen before. It won’t be everyone’s bag of sweets but it’s my new strawberry dream.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Oonagh Robinson gives a snapshot opinion on The Apprentice - Week Four

Simon Smith must be the nicest bloke ever to appear on The Apprentice.
Even Sr’Alan himself seemed reluctant to get rid of the big hearted ex army boy.
None of the usual “You’re a lightweight!” or “You’re a total shambles!” accompanied his sacking after the photography task.
Instead, it was “sorry” this and “my friend” that.
Luckily gobby Renaissance Number Two Claire Young was around to get it in the neck instead.
“I’m sick of the sight of yer!” Sr’Alan barked as he dramatically told her to “Get out!”
Unfortunately, she was only told to get back to the house not out of the series for good.
Fingers crossed for next week, though.
Tearful Simon did make a total pillock of himself leading his team of hilariously reluctant followers as they took photos of shoppers at Bluewater.
He put himself forward largely on the basis that his best mate was a photographer. And he knew about shutter speeds. And SLRs. And tripods.
So, bound to be good then?
It was a bit of a rotten task to be honest.
Why did the technical office have to be about three hours walk away from the photo set?
They weren’t being set up for a fall by any chance?
Team Alpha fared little better, especially with Loopy Lucinda, who doesn’t do technical at all, at the helm.
Just what DOES she do for Gawd’s sake?
Favourite moment of the evening though was in the boardroom when evil geniuses Alex and Jenny gave each other that split second knowing glance as they realised Sr’Alan had it in for Claire.
“You’ve hit the nail on the head, it was all her fault, we had nothing to do with it!” Jason Orange lookalike Alex more or less said as the two spotted their chance to get rid of Claire.
Those two will go far.
Talking of lookalikes, you do have to ask yourself why Alpha bothered hiring in David Beckham.
They could have got Kevin to put on a dress and do Vicky Pollard for a lot less

Friday, 11 April 2008

Stair Crazy


Coronation Street
“I know you did it,” said Gail Platt, amid much blinking, finally realised David was her mystery pusher, finally bringing an end to “Stair-gate” (although, if they’d had a stair-gate, Gail’s fall might not have happened in the first place).
Frankly, we were thinking, in the words of Emma Bunton, what took you so long?
As Gail’s cloven-hoofed son, the Malevolent Munchkin, sat there, doing his creepy “whites-of-the-eyes” devil glare, the viewers of Britain were smacking their brows and asking themselves was: “How could you have ever doubted him?”
David’s smash-and-grab raid only confirmed his rotten-to-the-core credentials although we were pleased there were Street regulars on hand to give us a bit of light relief, of the kind you don’t get in Easties.
As Norris watched David set about vehicle windscreens in his yard, he asked: “What did you do to him – fail his MOT?
And Rita came bursting out of Audrey’s fuming: “Now everyone knows I’m not a natural redhead” – well, we’re sure that wig was once SOMEBODY’S natural red hair.
Trust Blanche to make the most astute of observations about Gail: “Never happy unless she’s got someone else’s hands around her throat.”
Elsewhere, Gail isn’t the only one playing Angela Lansbury. Janice is slightly more savvy when it comes to her relatives’ shortcomings and has been giving “urr Lay-anne” those rather unsettling “rabid terrier with a squeaky bone between her teeth” looks all week which could mean she’s on to her.
Next week, the whole dreadful Michelle-and-her-sons thing rumbles on. Even trailers for Bionic Woman are setting our teeth on edge right now because they star Michelle Ryan (No! Michelle! Ryan! We can’t take any more!)
Finally, this week’s Roy Cropper fact of the week: Donkey jackets are not actually made from donkeys.


It was like the Call of the Wild.
All over the Square, in a kind of call-response mechanism, Mitchells and Beales popped out their heads like meerkats, before ducking down again, out of the way of the eardrum-jangling caterwaul that was in danger of cracking as many windscreens as David Platt over on Corrie.
In fact, if you watched the trailers to Easties, you’d think nothing other than Bianca’s homecoming had happened all week.
Sure it was good to hear her again (sort of). And wonder how someone who still looks like a sulky, freckled 12-year-old has four? five? or is it six? kids.
But we were more interested in the Shirley-Phil will-they-won’t-they plot (ha! will they? Of course they will!)We love Shirley. And we can totally see why Peggy hates her.“SHE’S TOO LOUD,” humphed Peggy, loudly.
“An’ she has skirts up to ‘ere,” (trying to tug hers down a bit so it looks marginally less thigh-skimming).
But Shirl and Phil are made for each other. They both have the same gravelly voice-of-Ray-Winstone and the same stony glower where only the flicker of an eyebrow betrays the emotion beneath.
The post-hospital scenes were particularly moving, as Phil tried to comfort Shirl following her cancer scare.
“Personally, I always ‘fink bald is underrated!” said the big beefcake.
All much more interesting than the interminable Jack-Ronnie pairing or the mind-numbing wedding competition which, we’re afraid, form the basis of next week’s plotlines. It’s enough to make you scream, isn’t it? But probably not as loudly as Bianca.

Stone the crows! Donna Dingle In Interesting Storyline Shocker!
After years of watching Donna whine about how she can’t afford a wedding/ a house/ to adopt five of her husband’s nieces and nephews, we were all losing our patience a bit until Emmerdale scriptwriters had the inspirational idea of making her join the police force.
Since then, Emmerdale’s become a sort of Yorkshire version of The Bill and half the cast are now coppers (the other half are binmen, in case you were wondering).
Donna got herself a sharp fringe cut and has now found herself at the centre of a sex harassment storyline with her creepy Aryan-looking boss.
Hooray!Elsewhere, puny little Daz, who looks about seven, is continuing his relationship with that 30-year-old woman called Scarlett whom everyone misguidedly seems to think is a teenager.
This week, she bought him a car, clearly hoping that by behaving like some sort of Sugar Mummy will help to overcome the age gap.
Next week, we’re not watching ‘cos it’s got Lexi in it. And she annoys us.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

The Apprentice: Could the boys grab even half a pizza the action?

Half a pizza, anyone?
After last week’s boardroom madness, when Sr’Alan fired the impeccably competent Shazia, condemning us to another week of Jenny’s strangulated Janet Street Porter vowels, we feared the worst in this week’s showdown.
“DON’T FIRE SIMON!” a nation cried, as the favourite so far was most unjustly dragged in by the awful Ian to cop the flak.
“Simon,” said Sr’Alan, sticking out his forefinger. “Yer staying!”
Thank the Lord.
This week’s task began, as usual, with a 6am phonecall from Frances-the-insomniac, instructing the teams to meet Sr’Alan at the Tate Modern.
You’d assume the task was going to be about art, then. But this is The Apprentice, where nothing is logical.
“You are standing in a building,” said Sr’Alan (we would love to see somebody call him Su’Ellen one week. Quietly. Just to see if they could get away with it) “which has been TRANSFORMED.”
Ah, there was the clue. The task was about pubs. Of course.
And the candidates had to TRANSFORM a pub, so that it sold food.
A pub? Selling food? Madness!
Sue Ellen himself selected the team leaders. Since we’d already seen a preview clip of him yelling: “This was a bloody disaster!” we knew it couldn’t end well.
Still, nobody ever blames Sue Ellen himself for bringing this comedy line-up of incompetents before the nation, do they?
Sara was the girls’ leader. She seemed nice, if a little eager to please.She had a habit of piping squeakily: “I AM A REALLY STRONG PERSON”.
But bear in mind, some of those girls are MEAN and Sara did a good job of keeping them in check.
She settled on a Bollywood theme, then had to put up with Claire moaning on and on about it. Claire, you see, wanted English grub, deeming curry “too niche”!
The boys, meanwhile, were trying to rekindle last week’s “United We Stand” team spirit, as they opted for an Italian menu. With cod Italian accents. False moustaches. And opera (which turned out to be Michael Sophocles murdering That’s Amore).
“I WILL GIVE YOU 100%” roared Raef to team leader Ian. 100%? On The Apprentice? Come on, you can do better than that, Raef. “110%!” he bellowed, bang on cue.
Kevin (looks of Vicky Pollard, voice of Gareth off The Office) was chef. Or “head chef” as Ian cried, clapping him on the back, lighting upon his fall guy.
It turned out there was one problem with having Vicky Pollard as chef. Kevin may have eaten in Italian restaurants “a lot” as he told us many times. But he had no idea how to cook Italian food. Or price it.His ideas on carbonara were hilarious. “With bacon. Or ham. Or... chicken?” The veggies, meanwhile, faced the mouthwatering prospect of a pureed mushroom. With sauteed potatoes.
Then, there were those mind-boggling tomato calculations. They needed 10 tomatoes for four potions. So for 15 people they needed... 150 tomatoes.
Kevin, it should be pointed out, is a bank manager. At Northern Rock, presumably.
We didn’t see much footage from Bollywood night so we were left to assume the girls were staggeringly successful. They blagged, the bartered, they got it right. All we were treated to was a shot of the godawful Jenny Street Porter wailing “MORE! MORE!” at the vertically challenged Bollywood dancer the girls had procured. Couldn’t Sue Ellen fire her anyway?
Alas he couldn’t because over on Team Boy, they were making a terrible mess. They’d spent £543 on shiny menus and supermarket meat feast pizzas and hadn’t bought enough (pizzas, not menus). They decided the only option was to serve half portions.
“Anything else I can get you?” asked Michael Sophocles, sidling smoothly up to a customer. Um, the other half of his pizza, perhaps?
The girls won by a landslide. The boys made more, but spent a lot more. Their lovely shiny menus with laminated prices (made before they knew what they’d be serving) cost them dear. The maths was done by Sophocles.“I plucked the numbers...” he began, before realising finishing that sentence might not be a good idea.
The dreadful Ian brought Vicky Pollard and Simon “Chopper” Smith into the boardroom. Vicky put up a surprisingly good fight. In the end, it had to be Ian ( who apparently doesn’t know the meaning of the word “loser) who went.
“I can deal with this!” he cried, as he departed. “I’m an achiever.”
Yeah sunshine, as Sue Ellen himself might have said. Whatever.
Who’s your favourite to win? Email

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Last night's telly: Bodyshock: I am the Elephant Man

In the dusty corner of rural Hunan Province where Huang Chuncai and his family live, young people often leave for the cities and eldest siblings are expected to take care of their aged parents.
That’s not the case with Huang - 31 years old and the oldest of three siblings - or his family. The first time we saw him, we knew why.
Since childhood Huang has suffered from Neurofibromatosis, a condition that has made his face a swollen mask of tumours. One eye is barely discernible, the other has been completely covered over by one of the many grotesquely long pieces of flabby flesh that ooze downward on his face.
His face makes up half of his body weight and has given him a hunchback. He rests it on tables when he’s sitting and holds it up with his hands when he moves around.
His mouth could be discerned by the presence of a swollen, sore-blistered tongue; tumours had knocked out all his teeth. When his family members or others spoke directly to camera in Chinese, they got an English-language voiceover. Only Huang got subtitles, his deformed mouth most likely making his words difficult to understand for Chinese speakers as well.
After spending time with his chain-smoking father, his heartbroken and often-crying mother, the younger sister who’d given up a good factory job and the younger brother who’d had his marriage disintegrate because both were needed to take care of their brother, it was time for the trip to the city.
There we saw potentially life-saving surgery - literally saw it, the Bodyshock cameras not backing away from blood-spurting, tumour-slicing detail - and the stitched, bruised, excruciating immediate aftermath.
By the end, Huang had a face that, while misshapen, was at least recognisable as a face. He knew his life would never be normal, but talked rapturously of perhaps being healthy enough to take care of his parents like a good Chinese eldest son.
The dignity with which Bodyshock treated this dignified man and his family was undercut by one poor decision. When preparing for a village feast in rural Hunan, they apparently don’t kill the pig before they go to work on its guts with an exceptionally big knife. The increasingly horrific sound of the pig squealing might have been enough for some other programmes to get this point across; Bodyshock left nothing to the imagination.
Trouble is, this was not a programme about daily life and traditions in rural Hunan Province. This was a programme about a man with a horrific illness - and who just happened to live in rural Hunan Province. The slaughtering was entirely peripheral to Huang’s story; an elderly neighbour had died, and the pig was to be part of the traditional funeral feast. In a documentary about, say, Hunan funereal traditions, such footage would have been a necessary if difficult-to-watch addition. Here it was a needless intrusion of gore into a sensitively told story. If the makers of Bodyshock want to convince viewers that theirs are sensitive portrayals of brave people rather than just macabre freakshows, they will in future want to keep out the unnecessary macabre freakshow imagery.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Frank talk... Soapsuds look back at the twinkle-eyed charmer


Eastenders: We knew it would be the bow tie in the box, didn’t you?
Soon as Rickaaaaaay mentioned poor old Frank had left Pat a little something "for her eyes only" it was the first thing we thought of.
And let’s face it, the charming gift was a great excuse to show Frank’s finest moment in sepia toned flashback. Fair brought a tear to our eye.
The great man’s funeral was indeed a highly predictable affair.
Peggy slapped Pat and told her: "Gedd-ahht-a-my pub!"
The marvellous Janine turned up in full Black Widow gear sporting a great hat and a fabulously expensive sports car.
Bian’aaaar, though not present at the service, duly appeared wearing a hideous silver puff jacket and brandishing a rubber brick (surrounded by 20 or 30 kids).
And Diane was, well, as boring as ever. Even if she is now married to a woman.
Still, wasn’t it great?
And those flashbacks of the wedding with fleeting glimpses of Arthur Fowler and a teenage Shazza.
It’s a pity we can’t have a funeral like this every week. Certainly makes the show funnier than it normally is.

Coronation Street: David Platt’s Marmite-tinted reign of terror continued on Corrie this week, much to our delight.
We reckon he’s going to bump Gail off soon. Then you’ll occasionally see somebody peering through the curtains with a hamster hair-do and a BHS dressing gown. And when visitors call around to check on "mamma" she’ll always, mysteriously, "be upstairs". And one day, a strange woman will knock on the door and ask if she can take a shower... sorry, we’re thinking of another script entirely.
Then there was "urr Lay-anne" and the mysterious loyalty she commands from men who’ve only known her a fortnight. We reckon gerbil-faced Paul is probably going down for arson but at least he might be able to give us an update on other Weatherfield residents languishing in jail who have never been seen since (Angela Harris, Tracy Barlow...)
Speaking of the Barlows, why was Deirdre so dolled up this week when, it turned out, she was only going across the road to Audrey’s? As for going back inside to change because her hair got splashed from the builders’ traffic... well, it was going to get wet anyway, wasn’t it?
She seemed more upset about her soaking than about her granddaughter’s brush with death. Although, as she herself said, "Amy seemed the least affected of all of us," after the mite almost got knocked flat. In light of the fact Amy is seemingly played by a child-sized wax dolly, it’s hardly surprising really.
Finally, remember, your Roy Cropper Fact Of The Week: There are 100 xu in a dong...

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Oonagh Robinson dishes the dirt on The Apprentice - Week Two

Sorry to be talking fish again after last week’s debacle, but poor Shazia was stitched up like the proverbial kipper last night.
Why didn’t team leader Jenny “I Like To Use Unpalatable Breastfeeding Analogies” Celerier go?
Or maybe Loopy Lucinda? And more importantly, where the hell did all her colourful berets disappear this week?
Yes, virtually anyone from Team Alpha was worthy of firing after the laundry task. If only for the fact that NO-ONE thought charging the hotel £4.99 per item was maybe, a bit, you know, on the steep side?!
But at least Shazia had the gumption to try to set up a simple system for keeping track of all the dirty washing.
Is it really a sacking offence to have assumed someone else would take it over when she went home early to try to find out where the boys had hidden the ironing board?
But our Sr’alan knows good TV when he sees it - and the possible future bitching sessions between Jenny and Lucinda meant they were never going to go.
That’s the beauty of The Apprentice not using a boring viewer voting system.
Team Renaissance, meanwhile, played a blinder under the laid back leadership of Lawrence of a Raef-bia.
To be fair, the boys’ success was probably much more to do with Sgt Major Simon Smith and his years of experience doing laundry... “in Bosnia.”
It fair brought a tear to the eye to see them bonding so closely after last week’s bickering.
Besides, I knew they were going to win as soon as Alex came downstairs to answer the phone... in his Superman jim jams.