Thursday, 28 August 2008

Richard and Judy - all is forgiven...

Oonagh Robinson and Jennifer Scott look back at the week's TV....

THE secret of a successful TV quiz show is that it must appear ludicrously simple while, in fact, being hair-tearingly difficult.
Just think of the greats – Millionaire or that thing with Noel Edmonds and some boxes – and you’ll see they all adopt this formula.
The prize must dangle frustratingly out of reach. Which is where Perfect Recall (C4, week-nights) makes its first mistake. It’s all too easy.
Basically, every single round of the quiz contains different questions – but the same 20 answers. Once you’ve guessed them the first time, it’s just a case of remembering them and repeating them again... and again... and again... Yawn.
Dear old Terry Wogan was the presenter of this tripe. He was giving it a touch of the old blarney, as you’d expect. But no amount of blarney could disguise the fact this show’s a bit of a dud.
In fact, we think it’s quite ironic Toggish Sir Tel’s been asked to present something called Perfect Recall.
He is, after all, the man who famously named the wrong contestant as Britain’s Eurovision entry two years ago.
At least he managed to get the winner right this time – and he remembered his name too.
But that’s not much to shout about, is it?
Bring back Richard and Judy, we say.

MUTUAL Friends (BBC1, Tues) is one of those modern comedy dramas that isn’t very comedic or dramatic.
It’s also extremely predictable, full of clich├ęd characters and a complete rip-off of everything from Cold Feet to This Life with a bit of Love, Actually thrown in.
But for some reason, we really enjoyed it.
It’s all about a group of attractive, successful and a bit wacky university friends heading for their 40s who are brought together again when one of their number, Carl, walks under a train one day.
The main action centres on married couple Martin and Jen, played by Marc Warren and Keeley Hawes (who’s about 550 times better in this than she is in Ashes to Ashes).
Of course, their relationship is going through a shaky stage and isn’t helped at all by Jen’s revelation that she slept with Carl. And her son blabs about it to Carl’s widow. And Jen throws Martin out for telling everyone. Or something.
Thrown into the mix is Martin’s eccentric but lovable friend Patrick (Alexander Armstrong in full Pimm’s O’Clock mode). He owns an E-type Jag and runs a successful catalogue business. Probably Boden, we reckon.
So what happens?
Martin and Jen bicker a lot, their son Dan is lonely, neglected and sad, Patrick is a bit of a tosser... Oh, it doesn’t really matter what happens, OK?
The performances are all good, the pace is great and everyone looks like they’re having a right old laugh.
No one’s going to win any awards for this, but we can see it becoming a huge hit with viewers over the next couple of weeks...

DO yourself a favour. Go on the BBC iPlayer and watch the recently repeated episodes of fab family sit-com Outnumbered which is due a second series in a few weeks. You probably missed its original run due to daft scheduling but you’ll at least get a flavour of the fantastic characters, like naughty Ben, a lispy young Alan Davies look-alike. It’s everything My Family isn’t. And, yes, – that is a good thing.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

In X-Cess

You’d have to be a very dull person indeed not to have a right old giggle at Ant and Seb on THE X FACTOR this week. (ITV1, Sat)
Cardiff’s answer to Usher and P Diddy really stole the show with their "unusual" interpretation of Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl.
Especially the one that did the "Woman dat I love bit."
It was genuinely amusing.
We’ve had enough of them now, thanks.
All week, the clip has been repeated incessantly, they’ve been interviewed non stop and Chris Moyles is always playing the duo’s efforts.
Keith Chegwin even did a comedy re-mix.
Enough, already. They weren’t THAT hilarious.
Indeed, are we alone in thinking that the main singer actually had a decent voice?
And that he probably only brought his mate along because he knew they’d be featured as one of the "joke acts"?
And that they got told by one of the production team to pretend to refuse to leave so that they could be dramatically escorted off the premises by security?
These early weeks of auditioning are always highlighted as the "best part" of The X Factor experience.
But actually, we don’t much like them at all.
Especially the sob story brigade. Like the girl this week who entered on behalf of all the kids from Bridgend who’d committed suicide recently.
We’re sure they appreciate that.
Still. At least we haven’t got the hideous Sharon Osbourne this year.
Replacement Cheryl Cole seems a bit clueless though.
"I really thought the talent would be of a higher standard," she moaned. "I'm a bit disappointed."
Surely even she and Ashley watch the telly sometimes.
The X Factor is ALWAYS disappointing.

Do you ever get the impression a programme has made it on to the screen purely so the makers can flog your nan the spin-off coffee table picture book come Christmas?
Such was the case with BRITAIN FROM ABOVE (BBC1, Sun).
This was basically Andrew Marr whizzing across Britain in a helicopter with the whole of the BBC Symphony Orchestra for company (we couldn’t see them but we could sure hear them).
Now, despite the whole "novelty bird’s eye view" angle the programme seemed to think was its USP, we had the funny feeling we’d seen most of it somewhere before.
Ridge and furrow field patterns? Check. The white horse of Uffington? Check (they still have no idea why it’s there, incidentally). We think it was all on some GCSE geography video we had to watch.
Andrew, bless him, did try to give us something we hadn’t seen before. Namely Andrew Marr skydiving over Norfolk. Like the white horse of Uffington, nobody seemed to have any explanation for this, either.
"This is. ABSOLUTE. Madness." concluded Andrew, as he descended.
You’re telling us, mate. Still, it’ll all look good in the picture book, won’t it?

Genuine question of the week:
Why has the cameraman on DRAGON’S DEN(BBC2, Mon) taken to hiding behind pillars in the manner of a serial killer and then jumping out and rushing up to presenter Evan Davis at 100 miles an hour?
Stop it.

Most moving moment of the week:
Wellard from EASTENDERS (BBC1, Fri) shuffling off this mortal coil on Pat’s dodgy carpet as East 17 sang Stay Another Day in the background. We haven’t cried as much in years.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Vegas by the sea?

Oonagh Robinson and Jennifer Scott look back at the week's TV...

IF you’re a fan of teatime TV, you’ll know that after Countdown and before Richard and Judy, there’s a little cheap-as-chips show on Channel 4 called A Place in the Sun.
However, the channel seem to have run out of Malcolm-and-Denise types searching for their dream holiday pad with rental potential in sun-kissed Bulgaria, so they’ve decided to call this series A Place By The Sea (Ch4, Mon-Fri).
The presenter is a girlie with a really (“rurly”) patronising voice called Seetha who promises sea-seeking couples the “parfect” coastal retreat, then shows them a dilapidated outhouse in Morecambe.
Bizarrely, on Tuesday, the buyer-to-be was Johnny Vegas. It wasn’t a celebrity special or anything. It seemed Johnny had just taken the Joe Public route of writing in and asking if they’d find him a £150,000 bolthole in Galloway.
Johnny wanted somewhere really remote, “where ordinary people couldn’t talk to him”.
So house-hunting on daytime TV was an ingenious idea, in that case, keeping everything highly top secret. Ahem.
First off, Seetha announced she was showing Johnny a property on the “worst side of the island”. “Why would she want to show him the worst side of the island?” we asked ourselves, until we realised she was saying “west”.
Johnny wasn’t so struck with the pine floors, fixtures and fittings.
“I feel like I would have to join some sort of pine appreciation society,” he said.
“...there’s a fridge,” said Seetha.
“... cleverly disguised as pine!” said Johnny.
Eventually Seetha found Johnny’s dream home, an old mill.
But, brilliantly, Johnny had disappeared.
“This would be ideal, if only he were here to see it,” said Seetha, through gritted teeth.
She eventually tracked him down to.... who’d-a-thought... a pub.
As she’d suspected, Johnny loved the mill.
“Now, you will move quickly, won’t you?” asked Seetha anxious for him to clinch the deal.
Johnny assured her he would. Two minutes later Seetha revealed someone else had beaten him to it. Shocking. Still, at least Johnny knew where to drown his sorrows.

THE thing we’ve found with ubiquitous TV house building guru/all round nice bloke Kevin McCloud is that.... his shows have got a strange tendency to send us to sleep.
Grand Designs – the programme that made him famous – is a wonderful format and features some truly inspirational houses. We adore the end scene where the property is at last unveiled and Kev takes a tour with the proud owner.
It’s just the bit that goes before we have problems with. The architect quitting, the project manager having a nervous breakdown, the rain ruining a state-of-the-art roof, the builders not turning up, the endless mud.
And it was exactly the same with Kevin McCloud and the Big Town Plan (C4, Monday).
This time, though, it wasn’t just one measly house in the spotlight.
The ambitious production is following a five-year plan to regenerate the entire town of Castleford in Yorkshire. Or Cass, as Kev and the locals affectionately refer to it.
The first episode followed the trials and tribulations of building one of the key elements of the regeneration – a dirty big bridge spanning the alarmingly wild-looking River Aire.
There were arguments. There were hitches. The first effort had to be scrapped and redesigned. Some landowners objected (mainly to the idea of 40,000 visitors finishing up in their front gardens, one supposes). The locals gave up on the bridge ever being completed.
But the £3.2m snaking platform was finally unveiled and it did look rather fab... when we woke up at the end.

- I think that’s a nickname
- I hope so
Swimming commentators Adrian Moorhouse and Andy Jameson on some American women’s relay fans waving a banner emblazoned with: “Go Dogs!”

QUIP OF THE WEEK: “You look so young. Are you sure you haven’t had surgery? I don’t believe you! You look nothing like Michael”
– Simon Amstell to Jerome Jackson on Never Mind The Buzzcocks

Friday, 8 August 2008

“SOMETIMES we see people who have a great product and we wish them all the best. But I wish you absolute failure on this. I hope it doesn’t take off and I hope it’s a terrible failure. Thank-you. Goodbye.” – Dragon’s Den grump Duncan Bannatyne to one less-than-budding entrepreneur (BBC2, Mon).

UNLIKE other TV doctors, Dr Alice Roberts is a proper, bona fide, university-trained doctor of medicine.
And, as such, she’s able to scare the bejesus out of us in her series Don’t Die Young (BBC2, Tues). Every week, she focuses on a different part of the body and then looks at how we might be destroying it through our nasty, toxin-loaded lifestyles.
You could tell flame-haired Dr Alice was a pro because she kept talking about the, “umbil-IKE-al” cord, whereas the rest of us plebs would have said umbilical.
This week, it was the turn of the liver (episode one) and the bowels (episode two). Episode one juxtaposed a pair of mother-daughter binge drinkers with the – well – sobering story of Philip, who had liver cancer.
“People can come in here seeming completely well and be dead in six weeks,” said one doctor. Great. Next, we moved on to excrement. Dr Alice had enlisted some poor female called Les who ate too much chocolate and not enough fruit.
“The last time I had a poo...” mused Les in plummy tones, “Let me try and remember... gosh... it was a few days ago...”
After being scared witless over lunch with Dr Alice (“my grandfather died of bowel cancer,” Les recalled, miserably) she gave up her Dairy Milk ways and tucked into an aubergine.
“Shortness of breath... a slight pain, diarrhoea or not going enough – these can all be symptoms of bowel cancer,” summed up Alice at the end. Blimmin’ ’eck. “It’s worth getting yourself checked out,” she finger-wagged.
Well, we would do Alice but do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a doctor’s appointment? Presumably, they’re all on TV nowadays. If we die young the mostly likely cause will be stress from watching your show.

THERE was something that didn’t ring entirely true about The Secret Millionaire (Ch4, Tues). Quite a lot of things, in fact.
Multi- millionaire James Benamor gave up his jet-setting lifestyle for a couple of days to spend time under cover as a volunteer in Manchester’s Moss Side.
After being moved to tears by three projects helping teenagers stay out of a life of crime, he revealed his true identity and gave the charity workers anything from £10,000 to £50,000.
They were all gobsmacked. Well, a bit. Actually, we couldn’t help thinking that, like us, they’d all seen The Secret Millionaire on telly before and guessed what James was up to.
Also, we were a bit suspicious about how the philanthropist “found” his chosen projects.
At first, we saw James wandering the streets stopping random members of the public to talk to them about “what they thought about volunteering”. Not surprisingly, most looked at him as though he were a total nutcase.
One bloke, not unreasonably, commented: “I don’t know anything about it, actually, mate.”
And we couldn’t help sympathising with the thuggish-looking gentleman who intervened as James was talking to a group of teens and basically told them to stay away from the weirdo.
Miraculously, though, our hero managed to happen across some genuinely deserving cases. Amazing, really. Or do you think maybe a researcher had set it all up beforehand?
Anyway, the thing that really bugged us was we didn’t really like James that much. Not even when he gave away all that dosh.
Probably, it was the way that he’d made his £77m. Running a “highly successful” company that offered loans to people who’d been refused credit by everyone else. Nice.
Indeed, almost the first sentence we heard James utter was along the lines of: “There isn’t a company out there that we compete with that I don’t want to see smashed into the ground.”
How pleasant.
OK, maybe he “went on a journey” and was a changed man at the end of his experience.
But we can’t help suspecting that James went back to his office with a load of great new leads to follow up in the Manchester area.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

MASTERCHEF is BACK! And COOKING doesn’t get any TUFFER than THIS!
Since Loyd Grossman left the show to create his own curry sauce range, the programme has ditched strangulated vowels for hilarious shoutiness.
New hosts Gregg Wallace (a bald Johnny Vaughan) and John Torode INSIST on TALKING in CAPITAL LETTERS! With EXCLAMATION MARKS!
This wasn’t just any old Masterchef, though. It was CELEBRITY Masterchef (BBC2, Weds).
First challenge was... who the bejesus were these “celebrities”?
Slowly, the nervous-breakdown-woman voiceover illuminated us.
They were (of course!): Andi Peters of kids’ TV fame, the girl off Gregory’s Girl, Max Farnon of Brookside fame, Joe McGann of “one of the McGanns” fame, some comedienne of BBC3 fame and somebody named Hywel of no discernable fame whatsoever. Oh, he’s been in The Bill. As opposed to every other actor in the history of acting.
Still, our contestants’ celebrity status ensured John and Gregg treated them with kid gloves. There was none of the spitting-into-a-handkerchief that normally goes on when mere mortal contestants hand over their grub to be judged. As Joe McGann, sporting a Jesus beard, handed over what looked to be scrambled egg and coconut milk with a few prawns bobbing in it, Gregg Wallace apparently went into food ecstasy. “THAT’S GORGEOUS! MOUF-WATERING!” he hollered. Not as good as Andi Peters though. “ANDI! THAT GUY CAN REALLY COOK!” cried John. “BEES KNEES!” agreed Gregg.
Even more unlikely were the reasons our “celebrities” had been selected for the show. No, they’re not desperate (how could you?) There were proper culinary reasons.
“Joe McGann – all his brothers are actors. Families feed each other. That bodes well,” said Gregg. You what?
Our celebs then went to test their skills in a real kitchen.
“But these guys won’t be giving up their day jobs,” chortled Gregg, just in case the chef got any ideas.
“WHAT day jobs?” cried Britain.
In the end, Andi and Hywell (who?) got the vote, Andi having gone ALL OUT to IMPRESS the JUDGES by baking a banana muffin. As you may have gathered, they don’t take that much impressing.