A bit of a short one this time as we look at three highlights of the past week in TV.
We start this instalment with some powerful drama in a three part dramatisation of the tragedy that befell Ipswich a few years back with the killing of five prostitutes by one man. Instead of particularly focusing on the incident the characters of the girls were explored. In the first episode Jamie Winstone’s Anneli Alderton had just been released from jail and was keen to turn her life around but when her friend Gemma Adams was one of the first girls to be murdered she also turned back to prostitution and was murdered herself. The other episodes featured on the final two girls to be murdered – Paula Clenell who was trying to get clean and Annette Nichols whose mother knew of her prostitution but chose to ignore it. While the police investigation was part of the story, the characters of the girls was the most important thing as we saw girls who were dependant on drugs but just wanted to be like everyone else. As we knew how the story we turn out it wasn’t particularly about the conclusion but more about how tearful the journey turned out to be. As well as Winstone the cast also included Juliet Aubrey (as her mother), Eva Birthistle (as Nichol), Sarah Lancashire (as her mother), Joseph Mawle (as a potential suspect) and Ian Hart (as the policeman assigned to the case). Overall this was a great piece of drama, a sensitive portrayal of a real-life event and for my money one of the best programmes of the year so far.
Next a bit of new comedy in La-La Land starring Marc Wooton who most people will remember as Shirley Ghostman in a show that played on BBC3 about five years ago. Now Wooton has revived the Ghostman character along with another two characters – a wannabe documentary film-maker and a former British taxi driver turned would-be-actor. The joke is that these characters are not real but everyone thinks they are, I thought that the supporting characters who flank the three main Wooton characters, were in on the joke but apparently not. So the documentary maker pitches ideas for films about penguins i.e. something that’s already been done and Ghostman tries to get money by getting credit card numbers from naive heiresses. Best of all is Gary Garner the wannabe actor who goes to visit proper actress Ruta Lee to get tips and later gets some professional headshots done by a photographer who gets more and more exasperated as the shoot goes on. Those who think this all sounds a bit like Ali G or Borat are exactly right but ultimately we love laughing at the Americans getting angry at a comic character. Although personally I can see the comparisons with Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters I would say this had more in common with Chris Liley’s Summer Heights Heigh and We Can Be Heroes in which the actor takes on multiple roles. I also think that Wooton would’ve preferred to have a new Ghostman series but didn’t have enough ideas so created this show. I’m never really a fan of these shows but I think Wooton has some good gags to back him up and this isn’t half bad but I don’t think it could really sustain a long series but at least it gets Wooton back on the comedy map once again.
Finishing this week with a bit of British eccentricity and with Paul O’Grady gone, the 5pm slot on Channel 4 has seemed a little bit empty but thankfully that has changed courtesy of a little show called Iron Chef. Those who subscribe to the Food Network on digital TV will already be familiar with the format as it is a big deal in both Japan and the U.S. The format sees four amateur chefs compete across a week against one ‘Iron Chef’, each of the challengers will cook a dish each – two starters and two mains while the Iron Chef cooks all four dishes single-handedly but in fact they have two sous-chefs so really its four on three. The four chefs are a beardy viking-like man, an Indian dude, an Oriental lady and one of the cockiest young chefs ever. All these courses are ranked out of 10 and the winners are judged by two judges – usually food journalists and critics. Inevitably the Iron Chef usually beats the challengers in the heats, but every day one challenger gets a star and the winner of most stars goes one-on-one with an Iron Chef to win some money on the Friday. I know this doesn’t sound very exciting but I haven’t told you about the venue – Kitchen stadium, the crazy Japanese chairman – known as The Chairman and the host Olly Smith. Yes apparently Olly Smith is a wine expert on Saturday Kitchen but he’s also a Matt Lucas Little Britain character in the making or the reincarnation of Rik Mayall’s Lord Flasheart character from Blackadder. Smith comes out with one-liners such as ‘I’m so hungry I could eat your words’ and swaggers around kitchen stadium spouting words like ‘fantastic’ and ‘glorious’. Smith is accompanied by Nick Nairn, who is a little dull but is a chef so can talk about the food aspects of the show, which is okay. Overall Iron Chef is even less about the food than Come Dine With Me but is ultimately more entertaining. Although this only got a brief run on Channel 4 teatime I reckon a primetime release is in the pipeline, it’s only a matter of time.
Next Time: The General Election and Luther