An action-packed week full of ‘I agree with Nick’, Billie Piper in her least raunchy sex scene ever, lots of comedy and some food-related antics.
The Americans are very good at translating our televisual offerings look at All in the Family, Three’s Company and the U.S. Office for examples. Meanwhile we’ve never been able to get it right look at Brighton Belles or Married For Life. So it’s taken that long for us to catch up with them in something they’ve been doing for yonks namely the presidential debates or for us the Leader’s Debates. With the election a mere matter of weeks away, the three party leaders – Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, took to the podiums for the first times to tackle the issues in the first of three debates. Somehow ITV1, who has had all three leaders in separate interviews, managed to wangle the first of the three, the other two airing on Sky News and BBC1. The focus of the first debate was domestic affairs and the whole thing was chaired by Alistair Stewart. Stewart did a good job as moderator, as this has never been done before he had a tough job in shutting the three men up at times but he managed quite well. Running themes throughout seemed to be the need to get the tone of the debate and how to react just right. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg did this best addressing everyone by name and looking down the camera at all times, something that Cameron then tried to copy later on. Another tactic all three played was that they had to give examples of places they visited and how they would change it if they were in power or how it was a good example of labour’s leadership. The war with Afghanistan was inevitably bought up which lead all three to fawn over the troops, now while I appreciate everything our troops do for us its really insulting how the leaders use them to point score. At the end of the day the two things we will remember from the first debates will be Gordon Brown saying ‘I Agree with Nick’ at least twice and Clegg’s comment on Brown and Cameron ‘The more they argue with each other, the more they begin to sound like each other’. Because of this, Nick Clegg came out on top in the first opinion polls, mainly because both men hadn’t considered Clegg to be a factor but suddenly everyone was talking about him and now the two must hit back in the next two debates.
These debates do mark an important part of T.V. history in terms of the way people pick the next leader of our country as a lot of the opinion polls have gone a different way since the first one happened but in a way I find the choice of moderator very pedestrian and dull. All three channels have suggested three men, two in their fifties and one in his seventies, who are only familiar to current affairs viewers. I think it would bring in more people if the moderators were personalities associated with the channels in question so BBC would probably have Graham Norton or Jonathan Ross, ITV1 would go with Ant and Dec and Sky maybe Jeff Stelling. It also annoys me that not one of the three channels suggested a female moderator when especially the BBC have many to choose from for example Emily Matliss or my personal choice would probably be Kirsty Wark while Sky could field their top reporter Kay Burley. Overall this was a historic T.V. event and generally a good night for the Lib Dems although they will have to fight hard over the next two debates to retain their momentum.
A complete change of tack now as we take focus on some gritty primetime drama from Kay Mellor who bought us such classics as Fat Friends, Playing the Field and er… Between the Sheets. A Passionate Woman, is based on Mellor’s play and looks at a woman named Betty living in the 1980s as she flashes back to her life in the 1950s where she had just got married and had a son and then hooked up with a Polish fella. Although upon first meeting she didn’t realise that said Polish man actually lived in the same dingy flats as herself and her husband. The Polish man Craze was also married to a Geordie stereotype who smoked a lot and didn’t get respect from the other neighbours. We know that Craze gets shot at the end of the episode as that is the first thing we see and we know that he is being chased by sinister men who are after him. The first episode ends with the shooting just as Betty is about to leave her husband and be with him. The second episode will see Betty in the 1980s still trapped in the loveless marriage and seeing her past catch up with her. Billie Piper is a fine actress and did do a good job here in almost a thankless role as Betty a woman who has a perfectly good life but wants to have her cake and eat it too. A lot of critics have made the point of noting that Piper had been cast because the role needed someone to do a sex scene but I think she is a pretty good actress and her role here demonstrated that while Joe Armstrong (son of Alun) played Piper’s husband excellently portraying a man unsure of how to please his wife. The main problem I had with this was the certain doom and gloom that the sets gave us, having not lived during the 1950s life may well have been as hard as this but some of the scenes were positively Dickensian. Overall, this was a well-directed and well-acted drama which held the attention for the full ninety minutes but on the other hand did have anything new to say about anything in particular and wasn’t particularly original.
Marco Pierre-White has hosted the last two series of Hell’s Kitchen but his new show, Marco’s Kitchen Burnout, isn’t a rehash of Hell’s Kitchen. Instead it’s kind of a celebrity cooking tournament as three D-Listers take it in turns to cook for a restaurant full of snooty guests. In Heat One was former Sun Editor Kelvin McKenzie, Kelly from Coronation Street and Donna Air who was credited as a ‘TV Presenter’ but save a guest slot on Something for The Weekend and a couple of Loose Women appearances she hasn’t done any presenting since RI:SE in 2003. Before the ‘celebs’ cook, Marco sets them challenges where he just observes like a grizzly spectre and shouts insults at them. All three had to cook for Marco the winner would get to pick their ingredients for the main challenge first while the loser would have to wait till last so Donna Air was left with mainly liver and salmon. In the main part of the show which was the restaurant challenge all three had a certain amount of tables to cover and all were offered all three dishes that the celebs had created. The diners would then rank the service and food out of 100 with the winner automatically getting a place in the next round and Marco picking the second to go through. The twist was that Marco’s help was available throughout the evening but for every minute of his time that they took up they would lose a point. Donna automatically went through as she was able to serve all 15 tables but it was Kelvin who got eliminated who had to buy lots of Michael’s time and also pissed of a vegetarian customer who didn’t want any of the meat or fish dishes that he was offering. Its obvious that ITV1 didn’t want to commit to night after night of Hell’s Kitchen, possibly because of their new Saturday night line-up, but with the Burnout series we’ll have weeks and weeks of Marco being horrible to D-Listers none of which are particularly interesting. This may be the last nail in the coffin of the celebrity food reality genre.
Comedy up next and after Fonejacker inexplicably won a BAFTA, the man behind the phone pranks is back but this time he is going out on the streets and dressing up as his different characters in Facejacker. Obviously the stand-out favourite from the first series was used car salesman Terry Tibbs, the bald cockney haggler with his famous catchphrase ‘talk to me’. Facejacker saw Terry go to co-present and try out various items on shopping channel price-drop TV. Obviously things go wrong as Tibbs tries to discredit all the products that he is selling and also tries to encourage children to use their parent’s credit cards. Quite how creator and star Kayan Novak managed to wangle a spot on the channel remains unknown but it was still the funniest bit of the show. Other segments of the show weren’t quite as chuckle-inducing a scene which featured a fish and chips drive-in automated service going wrong has been done before and Brian Badonde is just a Brian Sewell impression which has already been done on Dead Ringers. Having never been a fan of Fonejacker I approached Facejacker with low expectations however I was quite surprised. I think this show is funnier now we can see the reactions of the people that Novak is interacting with. Saying that I think some of the jokes were quite passé and I think we would all rather see 20 odd minutes of Terry Tibs annoying general members of the public but then that may get a little bit thin. Novak has impressed me with this show although I feel I won’t be going out of my way to watch it.
On at the same time as Facejacker was the new topical talk show from the BBC fronted by Frank Skinner. At a time were every topical show has to have some kind of concept it was refreshing to see a show which just seem to be a relaxing show with Skinner just chatting with his comedic guests who this week were Al Murray and Miranda Hart. Although the show did start with a discussion about the election debates it soon just saw them took about general topics such as elocution and plastic surgery. Skinner had audience members who were experts in the field so for example there was a voice coach who gave Skinner a tongue-twister to say or the woman who held the record for the most plastic surgery in the U.K. But generally it was just Frank Skinner having a chat and there’s nothing wrong with that. As well all know Skinner is a charming presence and I don’t think there’s anyone who’s got a bad word to say about him (maybe Matthew Kelly) but overall this is a charming little programme. Maybe it depends on the guests as I really like both Hart and Murray if there were more obnoxious comedians like Andy Parsons or Rufus Hound I would be less inclined to watch but Opinionated is a great antidote to the over-the-top panel shows that keep springing up everywhere.
Finally another show that looks like it wants to be just a discussion show but instead has to comply to a format is Charlie Brooker’s You Have Been Watching. Brooker is of course famous for being both a Guardian columnist and for his BBC4 shows both Screenwipe and Newswipe. You Have Been Watching is a Channel 4 show which sees his T.V. discussion format crossed with an awkward quiz show type thing. Every week Brooker welcomes three guests, first week was Liza Tarbuck, David Baddiel and that Scottish comic who seems to be on anything now Frankie Boyle is doing less T.V., who discuss the week’s T.V. but also have to answer questions. Brooker seems to revel in the discussion element as he riffs on the new Doctor Who describing Matt Smith as, ‘a smiling Easter Island statue wearing a bowtie and also previewing the new very bloody and very nude Spartacus series. Less comfortable are the segments in which Brooker has to link questions to the shows he has just been discussing and the final part of the show which is a quick fire round. For me, Charlie Brooker is one of my idols and one of the reason I started this blog in the first place. I think Newswipe was an intelligent programme and a better satirical look at the news than Have I Got News For You? You Have Been Watching is basically Screenwipe with questions which is absolutely fine but I feel that Brooker would prefer just transferring his original show to a prime-time terrestrial slot.
Next Time: Britain’s Got Talent, The Prisoner and The Ricky Gervais Show
What did you think of this week’s programmes? Leave a comment below