Time for another week of TV with the return of a reality TV juggernaut, an animated comic and the remake of a cult hit among this instalment’s highlights.
There’s no denying that the last series of Britain’s Got Talent was the most popular and produced the most success stories. Winners street-dancers Diversity performed at the Royal Variety and have appeared on various shows, overnight sensation Susan Boyle has been all over the place, Shaheen Jafargholi also received international fame after performing at Michael Jackson’s memorial service and even cult favourites like Stavros Flatly and DJ Talent have received differing degrees of exposure. I have to say I wasn’t blown away by the talent that was presented to me in the 90 minute long episode last Saturday. The format hasn’t changed one iota after trying to introduce a fourth judge last year we’re back to bascis with Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden the latter two were briefly joined by Louis Walsh when Simon had the sniffles. Of course we get the good, the bad and the just plain weird. Of the good the possible breakout star is Chole Hickinbottom a 10 year old who is old way beyond her years. She belted out The White Cliffs of Dover and if you heard without the pictures you would think it was a grown woman that was singing as it was it was all a bit weird. ‘X-Factor Simon’ would say Chloe wasn’t relevant enough but ‘BGT Simon’ loved it and Chloe easily sailed through. Sob stories were also measure of the day and the best was probably from Tobias Mead, a street dancer who claimed that his sports-mad dad and brothers had disowned him when he said he wanted to be a dancer. Tobias then wowed the crowds with a bizarre routine which saw him wear a hood and don a kind of joker mask although his dancing was incredibly accomplished I thought he was a little over-the-top. There was also dancing courtesy of Josh Warner Campbell a little lad who had something of the George Sampson about him. There was also Kieron the drum-player from last year who came back this time with his parents but the judges convinced him to come back and play on his own. This part was incredibly stage-managed and Kieron’s return had obviously been arranged by the show’s researchers weeks in advance and obviously Kieron got three yeses.
But if the show was just peppered with brilliant singers, dancers and musicians then it would be no good. BGT is all about variety acts and acts that to be fair aren’t very good at all. Firstly there was the best dog act since Kate and Gin in Series Two. Tina and Shandy put together a flawless routine, even though Tina was one of those ‘my dog is my best friend’ kind of people she obviously trains Shandy hard. Shandy was so good I was surprised the panel didn’t ask him to come back on his own. My favourite of the variety acts that went through was Kevin Cruise, a perma-tanned cruise ship entertainer who came skating out on a miniature cruise ship and wowed the crowd with a song megamix but failed to impress cruise ship entertainer-phobic Simon. To me Cruise reminded me of Mr. G from the brilliant Australian sitcom Summer Heights High only British and with a slightly worse tan job. But for every variety act that gets through theres probably two dozen that don’t. There was Persephone who bought on a cuddly penguin toy to help her with the act and The Cheeky Boys four middle-aged man who stripped off and did a routine involving balloons, I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. What I don’t like about these programmes is if they start on a dud act, I’d rather a see an act get through to start the show and then the rest of the acts be told they’re no good later on. However this didn’t happen as sisters double take sung and played and got buzzed almost instantly even though they had tinsel in their hair. Britain’s Got Talent, to me, is much better than The X-Factor. It’s less mean, there’s a lot more variety and the people just seem a great deal friendlier, there’s also been a cut down on sob stories certainly in this episode. At the moment I can’t see a clear winner but I thought Diversity would come third last year so what do I know?
Britain’s Got Talent is the filling in the sandwich of ITV1′s new Saturday night line-up which starts with The Whole 19 Yards. The programme is an odd mixture of quiz and game show hosted by Vernon Kay who is assisted by Caroline Flack. The concept of the programme is that four contestants are given a topic say ‘musicals’ and then Kay gives them a song from a musical. If they can name it they must press their buzzer, the only problem is that their buzzer is located 19 yards away from where the questions are being asked. The 19 yards is covered with various hazards for example it could be a climbing rope or later on the contestants were blindfolded and had to go through several tunnels and also deal with a dummy buzzer. The questions go down in difficulty so the more difficult the answer the more of a head start the contestants will get so for example if you knew what musical ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ came from (Carousel) you could run straight away but if you weren’t up on your musical you may have to wait till question five Consider Yourself (obviously Oliver) by that time your opponent may have already traversed the course and answered the question. The winner of all three challenges will then get to play for a cash prize, Kay gives them clue to an answer he moves one yard on a kind of portable lectern with the buzzer on, after every clue he gives. The money goes up but that means you could lose more, the top prize is £100,000. Although it is absolute rubbish, The Whole 19 Yards is still excellent Saturday night fare. Whereas Take Me Out bought back the Blind Date-esque format, The Whole 19 Yards is reminiscent of a low rent Gladiators with a bit of a quiz thrown in. Kay is as ever a jovial and Northern host but he seems to want to be more serious on this show. My one criticism is that Caroline Flack seems like a bit of a lose part she introduces the courses and occasionally interviews members of family of the contestants but her role is generally redundant and you’ve got to wonder why they bought in a second presenter. Perfect Saturday night fare and is a good choice to stand side by side with Britain’s Got Talent.
The final part of ITV1 Saturday night entertainment is a complete change of tack out of the entertainment zone and into the tense mystery drama. This is the remake of the cult classic The Prisoner which transports the action from ‘the island’ to ‘the village’ and sees a mainly American cast tackle the plot. The lead role, played by Patrick McGoohan in the 1960s, has been taken by Jim Caviazel who will be known by most people as the chap who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. His character Number Six, has very little similarities with his character in the Gibson film apart from maybe they both spend a lot of time wandering around the desert. The plot basically concerns Number Six waking up in the desert and then being told that he belongs to the ‘village’ a small community which is full of midtown American types who seem like they have been brainwashed by their leader Number Two. But Six isn’t a number and has to work out a way out of the village and back to his normal life in New York. Other scenes see six in his native New York and these flashbacks, where he meets a woman, will hopefully explain how he ended up in the village in the first place. Although fans of the original 1960s series will remember the setting as a quaint Victorian town (it was filmed in Port Merion) the new Prisoner is filmed in Africa and the sets resemble something from a 1950s sitcom, but there’s nothing funny about this. The star of the show is blatantly Ian McKellen, whose Number Two is a sinister creature hovering over The Village like a devil crossed with a sleazy estate agent. Caviazel is good at portraying the everyman, even though he doesn’t have a great presence on screen he has got the action man act down and you can believe his bewilderment of his situation and his efforts to journey back home. The success of the new series of The Prisoner will depend on the ending, U.S. viewers will already have seen the ending as this is a co-production between ITV and the AMC Network in the USA. However I think the first episode has given me enough incentive to tune in next week.
Another UK/US crossover show is the new one from Gervais and Merchant. I say new, The Ricky Gervais Show is an animated version of the famous podcasts that Gervais and Stephen Merchant put together in which they and their former producer Karl Pilkington talk about random subjects. Every little skit usually descends into Pilkington rambling on about something or dismissing a theory altogether and then Merchant and Gervais absolutely ripping into him. In this country a lot of people have already heard the podcasts, I personally have not heard them but know of them. However this seems to be pitched more at the U.S. market who may not be as aware of Gervais and Merchant’s antics with Pilkington, as this has already aired on HBO. An example of Pilkington rant sees him trying to explain to Ricky and Stephen about the monkey who went up to the moon. Gervais and Merchant question almost every sentence that Karl spouts but he carries on regardless while the other two pick on him like two slightly nerdy bullies picking on the thick kid who won’t fight back. The animations meet Merchant look a bit like Shaggy from Scooby Doo crossed with Barney Rubble, Gervais is Fred Flinstone and Pilkington looks like a cross between Charlie Brown and Bod. My thoughts on anything to do with Ricky Gervais are – that his shows are always accomplished and well written but the character he plays is basically the same in every show and most of his films. Although it seems that when Gervais takes a step back he can create something great as evident in his new film Cemetery Junction in which he and Merchant were writers and directors although Ricky only has a small role. This should really be called the Karl Pilkington Programme but then no-one would really watch it but at the end of the day, even though some of it is quite amusing, it just comes across as an arrogance project that will just get more money out of a source that has already been released.
Finally a quick word about this week’s Election Debate which was aired on Sky News. I was quite apprehensive about this one as it was hosted by Adam Boulton who, when I have watched him on Sky News in the past, has come across as a big-headed prat. However here he stayed out of the way as the three leaders went at it this time discussing foreign policy. After the surprise that Nick Clegg gave Brown and Cameron last week they were keen to be on their guards. Brown attacked Cameron and Clegg when they squabbled comparing them to his two boys arguing before bath time, while Cameron said ‘I agree with Gordon’. However the public didn’t seem to go off Clegg especially seeing Boulton tried to attack and bait Clegg by bringing up that day’s newspaper headlines that had attacked certain payments to Clegg’s campaign. However the two other leaders were more competent and this was more of a three horse race, Cameron made the biggest faux pas by telling an 80-something woman that they’d tried to do something about pensions by 2016. Its now all going to come down to debate number three on BBC to see who comes out on top.
Next Time: Five Daughters, La-La Land and Iron Chef UK