Welcome back let’s drive straight into another eventful week in TV.
A new Peter Kay comedy the first since 2004’s Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere, Kay has obviously spent a lot of his time at home watching The X-Factor as his new one-off show, Peter Kay’s Britain’s Got the Pop Factor and Possibly a new Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice, will not be written in its full form again in this blog. The ‘Jesus Christ Soapstar Ice’ bit was glossed over explaining that the winner of the pop factor show would appear in an ice skating version of Jesus Christ Superstar alongside Mick Johnson from Brookside, Sally Lindsay and Todd Carty. But it was The Pop Factor show that was a basic recreation of The X-Factor final, Kay managed to entice Dr. Fox, Nikki Chapman and Pete Waterman to reform their old Pop Idol judging panel and got Cat Deeley to be the host of this recreation. The three contestants in the final were: R Wayne: a Northern lad who was originally dismissed from the final twelve when he didn’t have a big enough sob story to continue until his grandma (R Nan) died from the shock of him not getting through. Pete Waterman then came to his Nan’s funeral and took him away to be in the competition. Meanwhile the final group left in the competition where two wheelchair-bound ladies and their able-legged husbands named 2 Up 2 Down. Their story was full of woe from the ladies losing the ability to walk during a tandem jet-ski accident on their double honeymoon to their farming empire ‘Black Cock Farm’ burning to dust during the foot and mouth outbreak. Finally there was Irish girl Geraldine who was played by Peter Kay. During the competition it was revealed that Geraldine was once Gerald a tabloid story that Geraldine then used to her advantage in her performance of ‘Man I Feel Like a Woman’. Geraldine wins the programme and has a reunion with her mother who disowned her following the sex-change but during her performance of ‘The Winner’s Song’ she chokes on a bit of confetti falling from the ceiling and her fate hangs in the balance as Dr. Fox is the only doctor in the house.
While lacking his usual Northern wit and charm, Peter Kay’s latest effort is back full of observational wit and OTT humour while also building on the nation’s obsession with the talent show. The judging panel’s banal hyperbole, ‘your performance wasn’t good, it was great,’ ‘you’re like Buck’s Fizz without the Fizz’, was spot on. The cameos were hilariously random from Sir Paul McCartney to Rusty Lee via Rick Astley, Lionel Blair and The Cheeky Girls. Peter Kay like most of is also quite bemused by the part of the final show in which Andi Peters stands in the CD pressing workshop the factory workers behind him was quite a funny part of the show. ‘The Winner’s Song’ was co-written by Gary Barlow and Kay himself and perfectly encapsulates the dross of the first single by any X-Factor winner (evoking particular memories of Shane Ward’s ‘That’s My Goal’). This of course was completely un-PC (one of the groups featured was restricted-height combo Men to Boys) and just great fun. Although it ran overlong the performance especially the montage each act performed where hilariously OTT (especially when the two-wheelchair bound girls were attached to hire-wires during a performance of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding out for a Hero). At the end of the day, Peter Kay hasn’t done a lot in the past few years but as this example shows when he does its bloody brilliant.
Ever since I saw the Peter O’Toole film Venus, I’ve been impressed with the work of Jodie Whittaker who played the titular role in that film. Apart from one of the only decent performances in the woeful St. Trinian’s remake she hasn’t been seen much. However recently she’s appeared in Tess of the D’Urbervilles and two programmes both airing this week, the first being Wired. In Wired she takes the lead role as a single mum who has just been promoted at the bank in which she works. Her best friend played by Janine Butcher from Eastenders invites her out to a club owned by her new fella played by a very sinister Laurence Fox who wants her to open up a bank account to illegally put money into. The story continues as Fox threatens Whittaker turning up to her house and playing with her daughter and after Janine tells Fox all of Whittaker’s secrets she tops herself. Or so it seems? As well as this the fraud squad seem to be onto Fox and Whittaker and there seems to be something afoot involving several Asian characters including Perdy from This Life as an Asian kingpin. The plot or the show isn’t as clever as it may think but the performances are just about convincing to pull it off. Whittaker in the main role is completely innocent and does what she does best playing a normal girl with flaws but essentially good-natured. But its Lawrence Fox who excels here after years of following Kevin Whately around Oxfordshire he gets to sink his teeth into a real role playing an out and out bad guy. Although the story matter may be art imitating light what with the banking crisis but the show itself is good and the pace looks to increase in the second instalment. But this show is another strong indication of the kind of drama that ITV1 is producing at the moment what with The Children, Place of Execution and Lost in Austen they’ve had a good autumn all things considered.
Whittaker’s other role of the week was a smaller one all be it effective in the very moving – The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall. This was the dramatisation of the true story of Tom Hurndall a photography graduate who after staying in Jordan came to Gaza and while saving some young children from Israeli gunfire was shot himself and ended up in a coma. The story followed his parents (played terrifically by Kerry Fox and Stephen Dillane) as they tried to get justice from the Israeli government and bring the soldier to justice who fired the gun. This story was fresh in everyone’s mind occurring four years ago it took Thomas’ family almost a year to get the justice they needed and get Sgt. Wahid Taysir bought to justice. This drama was excellently paced by director Rowan Joffe the last five minutes in particular were touching as the scene in which Taysir is tried fades into Hurndall’s mother silence as he leaves the house and then fades to her talking to his comatose body just before he flatlines and finally the repeat of the shot being fired this time from Taysir’s point of view. The casting was also brilliant a lot of the film relied on Dillane and Fox’s chemistry as the incident took a toll on their marriage but overall the family unit remained strong. The other members of the cast mainly playing the Hurndall family were also superb (including Whittaker as Hurndall’s sister). Channel 4 has proved itself to excel at one-off dramas but this was shown with little fanfare or promotion but is a story that everyone deserves to know about and should be repeated at a more watchable time.
Finally this week following in the steps of Charley Boorman, Joanna Lumley and Griff Rhys Jones, Stephen Fry is the latest big celebrity doing a travelogue this one being him going round America in the imaginatively titled Stephen Fry in America. The flimsy concept behind the show is that Fry’s father almost accepted a job offer in America and Fry could’ve well been born an American and wants to discover what his life would’ve been like in America. However his America wouldn’t have been the one that the BBC wanted Fry to show i.e. the very quirky side. As he has only six episodes to cover fifty states he has very little time to do anything anywhere. He goes crab fishing in Maine, Deer Hunting in Massachusetts and created a new flavour of Ben and Jerry’s in Vermont. He also got to have a civilised chat with a gay Jewish black professor at Harvard University and have a hilarious chat with a New York cab-driver. In this first episode Fry in his iconic Black-Cab journeyed from Maine to Washington making friends wherever he went including the dodgy wise-guys in a New York poker den to the weird witches in Connecticut. My highlight was when Fry became a blackjack croupier in Atlantic City and was overseen by a very bemused Taiwanese croupier who didn’t really know why he was there but tried in vain to get him to shuffle cards correctly. But when he was at the table he was called a character by a female gambler who had bought a house with her winnings. As we all know Fry is a calming influence and a lovely chap and this documentary was very revealing and well done but it doesn’t serve a great purpose. So what if Fry was going to be born in America does it constitute six weeks of T.V.? Probably not but I suppose it’s better than a Strictly Come Dancing results show extra. And Fry is a British institution so we love whatever he does.
Next Time: The X-Factor and Harry Hill’s TV Burp