Welcome back my friends to another week in TV land
Time to get silly once again, sit in baths of baked beans, wear pyjamas for a whole day and generally act like a prat. Yes Children in Need was back once again with the usual over-promoted claptrap that you would expect. Ever since Wogan traded in the legend that is Gaby Roslin and split her in two to form Fearne Cotton and Tess Daley, Children in Need doesn’t have the same kind of appeal. I know we’ve all got to watch it and donate blah, blah, blah… but really do we need to sit through this. Big bands pulled out all the stops miming their way through all of their songs such, these included such stars as Children in Need song performers McFly, Take That, Sugababes, Girls Aloud, Duffy, Leon Jackson and ummm… Honey from Eastenders. Talking of Eastenders their hastily cobbled together ode to the musicals was a bad as ever featuring Roxy singing ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’, Jane singing ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ and Ricky and Bianca singing ‘Wouldn’t it Be Lovely’, however the only one that took my eye was the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ medley featuring The Masoods, Gary and Minty and Shirl and Big Heav who has probably got one of the greatest voices of this motley crew. By not doing a musical number the Corrie lot once again outshone their BBC rivals, their ‘How to Look Good Naked’ special with Gok Wan was very funny without being too cheesy and because they didn’t have to sing or anything they go to stay in character. Other unfortunate highlights include The Bill’s salute to The Blues Brothers, Nick Knowles and the DIY SOS team performing ‘Addicted to Love’ and the obligatory appearance of the BBC newsreaders performing Mama Mia.
However the one big reason for watching this year’s Children in Need had been the promise of the first five minutes of this year’s Dr. Who Christmas Special. I’m guessing this segment had all the fanboys getting excited but it soon dawned on me that they wouldn’t be happy with this as I’m sure I clocked it at only about two or three minutes and even after that I was like is that it? Meanwhile the other supposed highlight was Richard Hammond meeting Gene Hunt and driving round in the Quatro which although it provided a few moments of hilarity was again cut short before it could have any real impact. The most time was dedicated to the Strictly Come Dancing special in which Tess Daly took to the floor with ‘National Treasure’ Anton Du Becke against Terry Wogan and Flavia. Of course Tess was brilliant and Terry was awful but the best bit was the spoofs of Len Goodman’s now infamous ‘SEVEN’ catchphrase. My favourite part of the whole night though was the QI special on BBC2 which was more cultured but at the same time rather funny thanks to the appearance of Wogan. I decided to go to bed about five hours in when they start to repeat stuff they’ve already shown you know it’s only a matter of time when they start to drag on West End musical casts I managed to survive with just seeing the Hairspray performance and thinking Mel Smith’s aged a bit hasn’t he? Maybe it’s just my juvenile memories creeping in but I’m sure CIN used to be better than this, of course not a patch on Comic Relief because its yearly, it almost seems a bit tired and there were moments that I thought Wogan was actually going to collapse and die live on screen. I’m not against donating far from it I think it’s an excellent charity and everyone should give to it but at the end of the day for what is essentially a telethon it needs to be more entertaining.
Two documentaries next kicking off with the latest BBC2 offering entitled Oceans, which was yet another plunge into marine life as we saw jellyfish, squid and at the end sperm whales. But Oceans was as much about the expedition as it was the findings and so more time was spent on interviews with the explorers as it was with the underwater photography. Saying that all the team where enthusiastic enough as wannabe Steve Irwin – Paul Rose set out his team on a mission to explore the Sea of Cortez (not an ocean then). The team included overly happy marine archaeologist Lucy Blue who got to go off on her own to dive around a shipwreck and give us the history of it as she went. The underwater photography during the shipwreck sequence was probably my favourite as it beat seeing another load of squid or whatever and actually gave us a little bit of history of the sea. There were also some environmental issues about the sea of Cortez not being there forever thanks to Global Warming, these insights were presented to us by Phillipe (grandson of Jacques) Costeau. Overall Oceans was an okay programme but when you’re waiting round for people to find hammerhead sharks for three days and then they don’t it’s a bit futile but this never claimed to be anything Attenborough-like. Instead it was a nice portrait of what goes on, on these marine expeditions and it was basically like ‘The Life Aquatic’ without the dysfunction.
Moving to Channel 4 now for another likeable human interest film from the Cutting Edge mob. After last weeks’ look into the lives of men turning sixty this week the class divide was explored in Rich Kid, Poor Kid. The kids in question were well to-do private educated fifteen year old Alice and council estate school drop-out Natalie. The first part of the documentary followed their day-to-day lives and featured interviews with both of them. Alice was painted as a snob who pours through the Sunday Times’ Rich List to see how many people she knows and how many of her Eton Classmates’ fathers are in there. While Natalie as much more pressing matters, namely trying to get her five year old brother, who has learning difficulties, into primary school while her mother worries about when her next benefit cheque is coming from. And although Natalie and Alice live on the same street they’ve never bumped into each other as Alice never turns into Natalie’s street for fear of being mugged. The second part of the documentary where the girls finally meet as you’d expect is a little bit warmer as Alice changes her views about state school kids as she sees the hardships that Natalie faces on a day to day basis. Natalie meanwhile is wowed by Alice’s house not less the fact that she has a piano in her living room. Of course this film is edited heavily to present Natalie has a hard-up working class salt-of-the-Earth type and Alice as a horrible Private School snob but as the film progresses you see that Natalie just wants to be a normal teenager and has been forced to grow up too fast (mainly because her father was shot and died when she was 6) while Alice’s views have been wholly influenced by her parents, mainly her dad, who doesn’t want Alice seeing Natalie once the documentary has finished. Although this didn’t give us much insight into the class divide it was still an endearing little piece thanks to the enthusiasm of its two lead protagonists.
Can everyone get over last week’s X-Factor vote already? Seriously if enough people had voted for Laura she wouldn’t have been in the bottom two, it’s too late signing a petition on Facebook because that’s not going to do anything is it? I personally thought Laura was one of the strongest competitors and was surprised to see her voted off but then again her performance of ‘Endless Love’ was a little bit weaker than her previous attempts and her survival song of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ was a bit too warble-heavy for me and like Louis I preferred Ruth’s ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’. There’s been a lot of accusations this week in the press of Louis playing it tactically and everything but don’t forget that Cheryl voted off another hot favourite in Austin. At the end of the day its Simon Cowell’s show and he loves all this controversy because it makes headlines and it gets more people involved in the outcome. While over on Strictly Come Dancing the same thing was happening this time it was Rachel Stevens who got 35 from the judges and still managed to be in the dance-off with bottom-two veteran Heather Small while John Sergeant who managed to garner just 12 points from four people was saved by the public. This is because us as Brits love the loveable losers like John Sergeant or X-Factor’s pub crooner extraordinaire Daniel Evans and that’s why they get more votes than the Laura’s or Rachel Stevens’ of this world who are just too damn talented.
We end this blog with a bit of choice comedy, Jack Dee’s Lead Balloon was back for a third series. As we’ve realised by know a lot of the comedy from the show comes from Dee’s Rick Spleen not being able to say no to anyone and trying to get himself out of difficult situations by lying. And while Spleen is mainly a straight character its those around him who provide the more obvious humour this week the two main gags were that Eastern-European maid Magda had moved in with the Spleens as her bedsit had sprung a gas leak and as it was ‘very poisonous – landlord had been given notice’ she and her homeland sausages had taken up resident much to Rick’s annoyance. The other story had been Rick discovering that café owner Michael’s father was gay and he wondering whether or not to spill the beans to the quite innocent Michael who was busy turning his café into a restaurant. As viewers we were just waiting for Michael to discover his father’s sexuality and it was a the predictably disastrous restaurant opening that this occurred as Rick’s wife Mel arrived late after getting drunk with co-workers and on meeting Michael’s father and his partner exclaimed ‘you’re the gay ones’ unaware that Michael was standing right behind her. As always this was very funny and better paced than most of the lacklustre episodes of the second series of Lead Balloon. And overall Dee presents us with lots of great comic moments and fully-rounded characters which is more than can be said for most of the dire BBC sitcoms, such as Coming of Age and Beautiful People, that have been around as of late.
Next Time: Survivors, Outnumbered and The Devil’s Whore