Welcome to another fun-packed edition of This Week in TV.
We start this edition with ITV1′s latest drama offering – Murderland. This dealt with the death of the a woman 15 years ago and her daughter’s quest to find out what really happened. The show mainly told in flashback showed us what Carrie did on the day of her mother’s murder as Carrie (now Carol) leaves her fiancée on the day of her wedding to discover the truth. The big star of the piece, Robbie Coltrane, only appears halfway through the first episode as the focus was on Carrie and the story was told from Carrie’s point-of-view as she views various suspects in her mother’s murder including the man who was there when she left the house and a man who was taking photos outside on the street when she left the house. Although we later discover that Carrie’s mother worked as a prostitute in a local massage parlour so it could’ve been any number of suspects. At the end of the first episode we discover that Coltrane’s DI Hain was the man in the house and she was actually in a relationship with Carrie’s mother and we discover in the second episode that he tampered with evidence and the close bond he formed with Carrie after the murder in the second episode, is explained by the fact that he really wanted to meet her and was going to do after her mother left the massage parlour. Although a good idea, the fact that the story was told in flashback was irritating as it gave us little to care about in the present day scenes featuring Hain and Carol, although they become more sympathetic in the second episode and will be vital in the third, initially it’s hard to connect. Coltrane always pumps life into his characters even if they actions are questionable and at times Hain is incredibly creepy even at his core he is a good man. A lot of the show though falls on the shoulders of Bel Cowley as the young Carrie and personally I found her very annoying and Amanda Hale as her adult equivalent is quite cold. Even Mistresses star Sharon Small is fairly uninvolving as child psychologist Maitland. Overall a good idea but with average performances and broad or hard-to-connect with characters, Murderland is an alright drama but ITV1 have produced better this year.
Usually once a comedian gets big he or she suddenly appears everywhere first it was Russell Brand, then Alan Carr, Horne and Corden and now Russell Howard is the latest name on everyone’s lips, certainly everyone who watches Mock the Week. I would’ve loved it if Howard had done something completely off the wall and not related to his topical humour on his panel show home. But oh no Russell Howard’s Good News is a topical show featuring hilarious clips and Howard’s style of juvenile banter including a section in which Howard interviewed a pensioner who had loads of tattoos. Personally although I found some of the clips funny, Howard himself was quite underwhelming. Especially as this was the first show he tried too hard to pack stuff in (even including funny place names which is such an obvious source of humour that it seems a bit silly to include it especially given the topical nature of the show). Maybe I shouldn’t be so critical after all it must be quite hard for a new comic to stand alone and try and hold down a show but the material that is either written by Howard or prepared by others isn’t great. I think Howard’s youthful exuberance would best suit a sketch show with a couple of other young-and-up-and-coming comics rather than a topical news show which has been done to death.
Someone whose been exposed to death is the ubiquitous Fearne Cotton who is currently everywhere. Not only as she unjustly been given Jo Whiley’s slot on Radio 1 every morning but no Cotton has been given access to some of the most publicised stars in the world on her new ITV2 show Fearne and… we kicked off in the first programme with Cotton be given access into the world of Paris Hilton. The first half of the programme was kind of Through the Keyhole where Fearne got to see all of Paris’ house from the secret room where she keeps all her unattractive staff hidden away to her dog palace and finally to the club that Paris has in her house. Being the journalist that she is Fearne wanted to look behind the airheaded baby-voiced Paris character that we’ve seen on The Simple Life and get to see the real woman a business woman with about a hundred different brands to her name, Cotton even got to see Paris in a board meeting. Seeing as that board meeting was chiefly about nail varnish colours and what Paris said ‘I love it’ to, you get the kind of level we’re dealing with. The second half of the show saw Fearne accompany Paris as she tried to dodge the paparazzi and finally on a night out in Vegas where Fearne got proper drunk. Instead of keeping herself distanced and detached from her subject Fearne basically turned into a semi-stalker and became a disciple of Paris by shows-end. All I actually learnt about Paris that came from Fearne’s questioning was that Paris can make a decent lasagne that’s about it. But at least Paris does interesting things and seems to work hard as a self-promoter, Fearne’s next mission was to hang out with Peaches Geldof, a sight that no-one wants to see, not even the average ITV2 viewer. Sorry Fearne but you’re no Louis Theroux.
Now heading over to another offering from Channel 4′s Cutting Edge strand entitled The Bigamist Bride: My Five Husbands. This programme got a proper warts-and-all interview with Emily Horne the woman who had five husbands and the very odd story of all her marriages and the reasons why she didn’t get a divorce. Her story was told as she settles in with her latest boyfriend/victim and his family. The story starts with husband number one who Emily meets at university but he is jailed and she moves away without a divorce. Husband number two is a tenpin bowler from Sheffield who is a little bit odd looking but after a few months when she suggests marriage he laughs but eventually succeeds. Emily blames the break-up on his obsession with bowling and he finally moves away. The only man that Emily seems to truly love is the man that she starts seeing after husband number two has left, he is a friend of the second husband and they live together for several months before she leaves after a made-up pregnancy and abortion. To get back at him she starts seeing someone else and they move in with husband number two after he is failing to pay the mortgage on his own, soon her new partner is husband number three and fearing she has too many husbands in one place she moves on. On the train she meets the man who quickly becomes husband number four but after he finds out about husbands 1-3 he shops her in and she spends six months in prison. When she comes out she starts working in a massage parlour and through that she meets husband no.5 when his sister finds out about all the others but this time she is not jailed. Throughout this time there are revelations of her past in glamour modelling and the adult entertainment world. This was a hard documentary to film because its difficult who to believe I think the documentary maker is making us distrust Horne’s words about forced abortions, domestic abuse and parental neglect when at the beginning it is revealed that she told her current family that her dad had died. But at the same time if her claims are true then we should feel sorry for her but Horne is such an unsympathetic figure that is hard to do. Only Husbands 2 and 4 feature while the events are illustrated through kinky cartoons explaining what has been happening. Due to the serious nature of some of the content this feels slightly jarring. But at the end of the day we are meant to think that Emily’s actions for most of the recent years were just because she could never marry the one man she truly loved. Difficult tonally this was sill a good documentary due to the fascinating subject matter.
This wouldn’t be a very good weekly TV round-up, and it is of course, if I didn’t cover Nick Griffin’s controversial appearance on Question Time. From the day it happened and people broke into the BBC (Bruce made a horribly inappropriate joke about it on Strictly) you knew this would be a big TV event. Almost immediately the normal format broke down and it kind of became an attack on Nick Griffin and his views and policies. The other panellists ranged in their disgust: Jack Straw, the other big name on the panel, laid into Griffin straight away but when asked to comment if he thought that labour’s immigration policy contributed to people voting for the BNP (which I think is what happens in some cases) he became rather flustered and shot himself in the foot. Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne was equally hostile to Griffin but just sounded like another voice in the crowd. Coming off better was the conservative Muslim MP Baroness Warsi who was very rational in her attack of Griffin and his policies. But thank God for the only non-politician in the group, Bonnie Greer, the playwright and museum curate, who didn’t so much attack Griffin as give her educated opinion on his policies and used her knowledge of history to question his version of British history and who counts as British. Of course Griffin floundered, no-one would be able to have valid answers for some of the things he has said over his time but in my opinion it would’ve been better if the attack had come naturally through following the usual format of the show (the only question not aimed at Griffin’s policies was about the Daily Mail article written about Stephen Gately’s tragic death) rather than very much stage-managed. Personally I’ve never been able to take Griffin seriously as a person, let alone the head of a party, this is mainly because he looks like a Spitting Image puppet but I don’t think anyone has changed their opinions of him one way or another by watching his Question Time which was used as a public lynching rather than a topical debate show which personally I thought was a shame.
Next Time: The Thick of It and How Racist Are You.