Let’s get cracking with another week of TV Highlights
And we start with The National Television awards which are now four months later than usual at a different location and featuring a new host. Traditionally it has been the norm that Sir Trevor MacDonald has hosted the show from a very sedate location somewhere in London. But this year the format has been freshened up and if you want your format freshened up there’s only one man to do it – Dermot O’Leary. O’Leary is able to make his little comments between awards and his links are always more entertaining than Sir Trev’s. This year the event also came live from the 02 arena which meant hundreds more screaming fans than per usual. The awards have improved themselves in recent years honing in the categories and not concentrating too much on soap. Although soap still has three awards – Best Soap (obviously), Serial Drama Performance and Best Newcomer, which not strictly a soap award always goes to a soap star. Usually Eastenders performs well at the NTAs but instead this was a Corrie year as it walked off with the big prize as well as the newcomer award for Graeme Proctor who plays the dopey butcher. But rightfully so, Lacey Turner was the only East End winner of the night as she scooped the award for Soap Performance after her harrowing scenes last year depicting Stacey Slater’s bipolar condition. The drama category was all about Dr. Who as it picked up both Drama Performance for Tennant and drama programme for the show. The one thing that puzzles me is why there isn’t a comedy performance award? The comedy show award went to another worthy winner in Gavin and Stacey (thank God The Inbetweeners didn’t win) but no performer in a comedy programme was honoured which was a shame. Elsewhere X-Factor picked up the reality TV show award and Loose Women won Best Factual!!!??!! The only fact I’ve picked up from the programme is to stay away from menopausal middled aged female presenters.
But the night belonged to two moments the first was anything involving Stephen Fry. Firstly he picked up the bizarre new award for celebrities being paid extraordinary amounts of money to go arborad award for his series in America beating Joanna Lumley in the Northern Lights and Piers Morgan twatting around Monte Carlo. But then later on he won the Achievement in TV award already given to such luminaries as Julie Goodyear, Simon Cowell and Jeremy Clarkson but this year the recipient did deserve it and you could see by all the people that had contributed to his video were really chuffed for him and loved working with him and his acceptance speech was really rather sweet. But the event was probably best remembered for X-Factor’s twin terrors John and Edward or Jedward for people who HAVE to shorten everyone’s names. Jedward performed their new single (I say new it was a cover of Ice Ice Baby and Under Pressure) for the first in the 02 arena something I bet they never thought they would do. It was a bit dull until the unexpected appearance of Vanilla Ice who joined the twins in murdering his biggest, and let’s face it only, hit. In the past I’ve been very critical of the NTAs but this year I felt the award ceremony was finally pretty good. That was mainly thanks to the straightening out of the categories, not letting any American shows into OUR awards ceremony and for making it seem like a big spectacle. Sure there were some shows that deserved it more but the NTAs is all about the populous the best shows are honoured by the BAFTAs so for an all-out entertaining awards show the National Television Awards achieved something more than it has in the last fifteen years. It was fun.
From Jedward we go Down Under for a bit of Relocation and find Phil Spencer sans Kirsty as he delves around Oz trying to find homes for Brit couples or just scout around various properties for no apparent reason. If this sounds a bit like A Place in The Sun that’s because it is and it just seems like an excuse to pay Spencer a bit more money when he goes to the land down under with his Aussie wife and their children. In the first episode Phil helped a couple, who were moving from England, to find their first home in Perth. It wouldn’t have been too bad if Phil and Kirsty had been there together but Phil on his own is a bit much to take. And in between the property segments it was basically Phil’s Australian tour as he also went on a fishing boat for a bit apparently to ‘sample Australian culture’ but surely he’s done that already by getting married. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with Spencer he seems like a nice enough chap and he seems to know his area of expertise quite well but then you wouldn’t want to see your estate agent in Australia would you? When he’s in a double act or only on for half an hour he’s okay but at an hour at a time he gets a bit much. I think next time Phil should enjoy his rest and not try to be ‘on’ all the time.
A bit of culture now as we flick over to More4 for the TV Book Club. Back in the day before Richard and Judy ruined their careers by going to Watch, they had a pretty successful line in choosing which books people should read. Big success stories have included The Lovely Bones, Starter for 10 and P.S. I Love You which all went on to be hugely successful films. Now More4 has resurrected the concept into a half hour format in which a panel of five famous faces and one guest discuss a book from a list of 10. All of the panel are fairly recognisable but their eligibility to be part of a literary panel is questionable. Classically trained actor Nathaniel Parker (Nat to his friends) seems like a regular reader and although she tries to act dumb sometimes Jo Brand always comes across as an incredibly smart lady ditto Dave Spikey both of whom came into comedy late in life and I’m guessing have a passion for reading. Less likely regular readers are Gok Wan, whose presence I’m sure is just to bump up the ratings and Laila Rouass who wasn’t a household name until Strictly Come Dancing and now one racist remark later and she’s everywhere. It seems that half an hour is a little long to discuss just one book so the special guest (so far Chris Evans and John Thompson have been on) will talk about their reading habits then a slightly-familiar comedian will bother people on the streets about random facts found in a new non-fiction book and finally the book discussion takes place and only lasts about five minutes. I can understand to an extent why some people wouldn’t watch a show where six people talked about one book for half an hour but even so I think the book should be the lead story on the show and not something that’s on after the break. The banter is very lively though and all five hosts are welcoming enough but at times it just seems a bit crowded in there and you have to think could they have done this show with less people? Probably yes.
Finishing off now with a new sitcom which started life as a faux phone-in show on Radio 4. Down the Line saw fake chat show host Gary Bellamy feeding calls from fake guests, some listeners thought it was real and found it deeply offensive. Now out of the studio and on the road Gary Bellamy, played by Rhys Thomas a familiar face if not a familiar name, is meeting Bellamy’s People. The show is basically a series of sketches strung together by Bellamy’s links at the end of the day it’s a send-up of one of those docusoaps that were big in the mid nineties. Among Bellamy’s People are an aging rapper, a Muslim shopkeeper, an overweight man who still lives with his mum, Bellamy’s fan club and an old soldier. While some of the sketches are mildly amusing (the shopkeeper especially) there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about the show. Comparisons must be drawn with this and the fast show mainly as its creators, writers and stars are fast show alumni Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson while Simon Day also appears. Compared to that show, this falls flat mainly due to the fact that we cut between characters so often we never get to know them. Saying that there are some things to enjoy, Felix Dexter is a brilliant comic actor and brings something extra to the characters he inhabits while Rhys Thomas who has been lingering round in radio-land for ages may have finally got his big break which can only be a good thing. But overall Bellamy’s People seems incredibly dated and not good enough to usher in the new decade.
Next Time: Rock and Chips and Skins