An interesting mix this time as we look back at the first week of TV that August had to offer.
Kicking off with something brand new that is trying to be a bit Hollywood as we look at the BBC’s new completely barmy submarine based ‘drama’ The Deep. It seems that the BBC are trying to flog this to the Americans so seem to have spent quite a lot of money on the lead actor and the special effects and haven’t spent a lot of money on the script. Minnie Driver stars as submarine captain Frances, yes you did read that right, who heads up a crew going to the Lomonsrov Ridge to find a new source of bio-feul energy. If you are buying this plot so far then you’re doing better than I did, but it gets even more ridiculous when you add Dr Kovac from E.R. again playing a lothario but this time he’s called Sampson. Heading up the three leads is Jimmy Nesbit as Clem Donnelly whose wife perished in the last Atlantic Ocean voyage and is selfishly journeying on the Orpheus potentially leaving his young daughter as an orphan. As the budget has been spent on Driver, Nesbitt and the Doc the rest of the actors seemed to have been plucked straight from drama school and we really don’t have reason to care for any of them in particular. Things get a bit tense when a new member is added to the Orpheus crew at the last minute, will he be a bit dodgy? For me there was far too much expositional dialogue and techno-babble to really get used to any of the characters or the relationships. It seemed that Kovac was married but that he’d been having it off with Minnie Driver at the same time, but who can resist a woman who can pilot her own submarine? Meanwhile Nesbitt seems to spend the whole journey listening to tapes of his dead wife and crying and is essentially useless. It turns out that things aren’t all that they seem as surprise surprise one of the expendable secondary characters is dead at the end of episode one. For all its many, many faults, at least The Deep is original, I can’t remember the last time I saw a British drama about a gang of oceanographers plus the effects are particularly impressive. I never thought that any of this year’s dramas could out-barmy Luther but The Deep has just gone and done it.
I can imagine the ITV programming meeting – ‘So people really loved Blind Date didn’t they?’ ‘yeah’, ‘and Come dine With Me is one of the most popular daytime shows of the last ten years? ‘yeah’, ‘so how about combining them?’ ‘that sounds like a brilliant idea!’ Whether it was a brilliant idea or not doesn’t really matter at this stage, what does matter is that the show came into existence under the name Dinner Date. In Dinner Date a contestant, who was female in both of the episodes that I watched, is presented with five menus by potential beaus she then has to whittle down the five to three by picking the menus she likes the sound of best with the other two not actually getting to meet her. This was my first problem with the concept, why get two guys on the show who are only going to be featured in the first five minutes and then never be shown again? Anyway the girl then gets treated to three dates in a row where each of these men treats her to a meal. I have to say though if I were on the show I wouldn’t be very happy if I got her on the last night when she was a little bit tired and not as hungry as she was on night one. Anyway the men then get to woo her with their good looks, cooking ability and in one case poetry writing. After all three dates the contestant and the three cooks each rate each other with the highest rated guy getting a second chance to go on a date where he doesn’t have to cook. One of the cruellest things is the two men that are rejected simply find a microwaveable meal for one on their doorstep. Although generally the concept works, again this has been done before, I can’t really remember the name of it but it was a Channel 4 teatime studio-based show in which the contestant was cooked for and then had to choose the best cook to date. That was a better idea because here the girl just chose the best looking guy regardless of the fact that his meal was possibly the worst and that he even burnt the steak. If a girl is that vapid then maybe I’m just as happy with a microwaveable meal for one.
If Dinner Date is a combination of Come Dine With Me and Blind Date then Channel 5′s The Boss is Coming to Dinner is a combination of Come Dine and The Apprentice. Each week, eight contestants apply for the same job but the twist instead of an ordinary interview the boss comes to each of their houses and interviews them while being cooked for. The first week saw Julie something-or-other, who runs a beauty salon, interview eight possible candidates, each episode two contestants cook for her while being scrutinised by Julie. As each episode features two candidates there’s very little time to actually get to know them or indeed for Julie to really enjoy their dinner as she’s too busy interviewing them. In my opinion the dinner element really is secondary to the interview itself, if there were only four contestants i.e. one an episode I think there’d be more time to see if Julie had enjoyed the dinner each day but as it was it was mainly about the interview. At the end of each day Julie selected one of the two candidates to join her at her house in Friday’s episode, however again this didn’t really work as instead of picking a candidate from Wednesday, Julie decided to put through the unsuccessful applicant from Monday’s show. Instead of having dinner with Julie the four girls had to show her that they could do waxing, including the dreaded bikini wax, as well as massage. Along with Julie she had the rest of her salon assistants as a judging panel, I thought this was a little suspect as maybe the panel wouldn’t pick the best girl as they were afraid that she would show them up. As Julie’s salon also deals with celebs, Peter Andre’s name was mentioned several times, the final two candidates were asked to massage and manicure Gail Porter. After all this one girl was chosen and one went crying back home but was probably later given a job by Julie as she was also a fairly good therapist. I don’t really see the point of The Boss is Coming to Dinner, at the beginning of the week Julie said she didn’t trust conventional interviews, but apart from getting eight free meals each meeting did resemble a traditional interview. Also the final challenges could’ve easily taken place at the salon after the interview as the house setting just felt a little over the top. If Channel Five wanted to recreate a Come Dine With Me atmosphere then they should’ve spent more time concentrating on the dinner aspect but as it was this boiled down to a fairly dull bog-standard job interview eight times over. Plus, although he was in Red Dwarf, Robert Llewelyn’s voice-over doesn’t compare at all to Come Dine With Me’s supreme announcer Dave Lamb.
To finish us off this week we have more from BBC3′s adult season and a documentary that looked at 14-year old Georgia who was a pleasant, fairly intelligent young woman however her mother is the ‘glamour model’ and ‘kiss-and-tell queen’ Alicia Douvall. The show, Glamour Models, Mum and Me, saw Georgia and Alicia’s life together which seems to include Alicia trying to bully Georgia into getting a boob job and becoming a model. If you’re unaware of Douvall then you’re probably don’t read tabloids or gossip magazines and she came to prominence after sleeping with Mick Hucknall since then she has shown no discernible taste in picking a partner having it off with everyone from Shaggy to Dean Gaffney to Puff Daddy. In fact Alicia’s scandalous life continues in the documentary as a story about her and John Terry breaks out. It seems that Georgia has learnt to deal with her mother’s life and is quite accepting that her mother will be hounded by the paparazzi. It seems in Alicia’s head publicity means that you’re popular and that getting your boobs out will mean that you get more work, a piece of knowledge that she imparts on Georgia early on in the programme. Georgia wants to be an actress but not necessarily for the fame, something that again disappoints mum, it’s a way to escape her life and become someone else. Despite this Alicia drags Georgia off to America to try and get her a modelling contract and also tries to persuade her to pursue her acting dreams instead of going to uni. But Georgia is adamant that she wants to learn and that school work is important to her as his her piano playing. A lot of people have likened their relationship to that of Edwina and Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous but Georgia seems to genuinely love her mum. She is often the smarter of the pair and has to care for her mum after one of her fake boobs (Alicia has had many surgeries) explodes and Georgia must control the seepage. Luckily Georgia spends most of her time away at school and only spends time with mum during the summer and at the end we got a straight to camera address by Georgia saying that maybe she wanted to be a model but she wanted to go to university and she wanted to definitely be a serious actress. This was a fantastically put together documentary which never openly criticised Alicia instead presenting a woman who saw her daughter as a play thing rather than someone she had to impart knowledge to. In terms of it being part of the adult season I’m assuming it’s showing us that being an adult means understanding when you decide where your path in life will take you.