Hey we’re back once again with another edition of the fabulous This Week in TV
We start off with comedy drama Sunshine which has a winning mix of warm Northern wit and desperate social issues. Sunshine is the new show from Craig Cash (co-creator of The Royle Family and Early Doors) and his Early Doors co-creator Phil Mealey who both star in supporting roles as bin men. But its Steve Coogan who takes the lead in this story as Bob ‘Bing’ Crosby and the story is narrated by his son Joe. Joe thinks the world of his dad and even more of his granddad (played by Boys of the Blackstuff/Lord of the Rings star Bernard Hill). The story begins with news of Joe’s birth and highlights the small gambling problem that Bing has which grows larger as the story progresses as Joe ages into an eight year old. It shows the problem gambling addiction has on a family and how it can go from a small flutter into a massive problem at the end of the first episode Bing had lost four thousand pounds and had been chucked out by his long-term girlfriend (played by Early Doors star Lisa Millett). It’s not all doom and gloom though the interplay between Cash, Mealey and Coogan is where the show hits its comedy stride, the scenes with Joe and his granddad were very touching and the scene where Bing tries to apologise to his girlfriend by singing Can’t Smile Without You was pure gold. I absolutely love The Royle Family and thought it was a shame that not more people saw Early Doors as that was a mighty series also but I’m not sure about Cash and Mealey’s foray into drama. Coogan and Millet played their roles brilliant and Dominic Senior is a fine child actor who got across the point perfectly about how he still loves his dad despite his problem. It’s just that the comic moments are few and far between and this does get depressing at some points but overall it’s a good warm-hearted comedy-drama with some big laughs and a message behind it, and I think the best is yet to come with this series.
Paul Merton went round China at the expense of Channel Five but at least it got them a BAFTA nomination. So they’ve decided to give him another travelogue and sent him around India. Merton’s style of broadcasting is quite haphazard and obviously five wants a certain version of Merton the sardonic one that they’ve seen on Have I Got News For You and not the more personable one who presented the brilliant Silent Clowns season on BBC4. So on Paul Merton in India, Paul Merton goes around with a translator and he basically is sarcastic about Indian culture generally and then accepting it. For example he accompanies the Indians as they aboard a plane not to take-off anywhere but just experience it. For a high-flier like Merton this experience seems little bizarre but he is soon one-over by the enthusiasm of the Indians and warms to this experience. Later on he gets a bit agitated as many naked men surround him to celebrate the God, Vishnu. Although Merton doesn’t participate in the nudity aspect of the civilisation he does partake some of the hash-pipe that’s handed round. Merton off his face on Hash? What’s next Ian Hislop’s guide to Cocaine and other similar dugs?
We finish with two comedies the first being Alan Carr’s Celebrity Ding Dong which returned this week with a new series and a new format. Channel 4 are obviously cutting the budget there are no prizes any more as the civilian vs celebrity format has been dropped as has Leslie Phillips’ voice-over. Instead its two teams of minor celebrities battling it out for no apparent reason other than for Alan Carr to make crude all be them funny jokes and innuendos. In the first episode Coronation Street and Eastenders battled each other but not current cast members mind but legends such as Todd Carty, Gillian Taylforth, Martine McCutcheon, Bruce ‘Les Battersby’ Jones, Sally Lindsay, Julie Goodyear and eh.. Joe Swash. The themes ranged from guess the soapstar fitness video to which soap star has the best slap. All in all though, although it was a lot of fun and I did laugh there didn’t seem to be a point to the whole thing and it just seemed like a pub quiz in the evening of the 1997 Soap Awards. Alan Carr deserves so much better than this formula allows him.
Finally we have Little Britain USA which takes the sketch show rather oddly to America of all places and this show is actually aired a couple of days earlier in the states to its Friday night run on BBC1. The new show courted controversy and offended some reviewers with one sketch in particular this being one in which two male bodybuilders strip down and both have tiny cocks as one plucks the other’s pubic hair over the end credits personally I agree with the American critics on this point personally I’m a fan of Lucas and Walliams and I thought the first series of Little Britain was a cracker but I don’t like the constant use of nudity and vulgarity as I find it the lowest form of wit as well as the bodybuilders I didn’t like the woman whose dog gets her to do vulgar things or the return of Harvey who wants to suck his mum’s tits or the Bubbles de Vere skits generally. But on the whole it was positive of the old characters they’ve bought over the pond I love ‘Computer Says No’ lady more in her new role at a busy Chicago hospital while Vicky Pollard in a Teen Boot Camp is a work of genius and Majorie Dawes Atlantic crossover is successful if very similar for example the Indian woman in the UK version becomes a Mexican woman in the U.S. counterpart. Of the new characters the aging British couple ‘enjoying’ a U.S. vacation is great as is the young boy talking to his granny about stories of the Deep South in her day but my favourite has to be the astronaut who was the eighth out of nine men in space and he’s very bitter about the fact that no-one remembers him. At the end of the day Little Britain is one of our comic success stories and although it doesn’t have the wit and sparkle of the first series of Little Britain (or the underrated and underwatched Lucas and Walliams forerunner Rock Profiles) it does have some of the glory of the early days at the end of the day its better than most of the other comedy available at the moment.
Next Time: Britain’s Got the Pop Factor and The Shooting of Thomas Hurndell