A bumper addition with plenty of new content in This Week in TV, so let’s jump into the action straight away
Although the first offering isn’t entirely new instead it is a four part TV series sequel to the film This is England, as all the characters are transported three years into the future in This is England ’86. Traditionally TV series’ spin-offs of film franchises haven’t been that successful, the only British one I can think of is the Lock, Stock series but that didn’t benefit from having no original cast members. For those who didn’t see the film, and if not why not?, it is about a young lad called Shaun who gets adopted by an older gang of skinheads but then aligns himself with Combo an extreme right-wing racist who the leader of the gang, Woody, knows from a spell in prison. Shuan sees Combo as a father figure, his own father having died in the Falklands, but after Combo attacks the gang’s only black member Milky Shaun decides that Combo isn’t a fitting role model. The T.V. series sees Shaun separated from the group and finishing his exams while being bullied by some scooter-riding hooligans. Meanwhile the rest of the gang are celebrating the wedding of Woody and long-time girlfriend Lol, it is obvious that Woody doesn’t really want to get married and pauses before the big ‘I Do’, but before a large argument breaks out older gang member Meggy suffer a heart attack and the gang have to take him to hospital. Meanwhile Shaun also ends up in hospital after being attacked with a lavap lamp and is spotted by gothy ex-girlfriend Smell who encourages him to reunite with the rest of the group. This didn’t happen in the first episode but I’m sure Shaun will be with the gang by the end of episode two. The first episode of This is England ’86 was a mix of light and shade there were plenty of laughs involving the supporting members of the gang most notably Gadget stealing flowers off someone’s grave to use at the wedding and Meggy raising his piss-bag for a toast in the final scene. There were also bleak moments mostly involving Shuan and a future which will mostly include menial labour and also Lol’s desperation in wanting to marry Woody and at the same time not end up like her mother. This is again felt like a period piece but without the nostalgia and that’s what creator Shane Meadows is all about and again he gets superb performances from his young cast most notably is Vicky McClure as Lol, who didn’t get a lot to do the first time around, who gave the best turn for me and Thomas Turgoose has matured a lot since he played Shaun three and a bit years ago. I’m guessing that episode one is the calm before the storm as it was a fairly light episode but it still displayed the best that British drama has to offer and shows us there’s hope for the future in the young actors that populated the piece.
Next up we have the first of two offerings from ITV with an adaptation of Andrea Newman’s Bouquet of Barbed Wire. This isn’t the first time that ITV have adapted this novel first doing so in 1976 it featured Frank Finlay in the lead role as a protective father who is worryingly close to his daughter and is outraged when she becomes pregnant at the hands of her American University Lecturer. This time Trevor Eve plays the father, Imogen Poots the daughter and Tom Riley her lover, however the dynamic has changed somewhat and Poots’ character is still a schoolgirl and Riley plays her English teacher. Also in the cast is Hermione Norris as Eve’s wife and Jemima Rooper as a young member of the team at Eve’s business and, by the end of the programme, his mistress. Most of the first episode seemed intent on looking at how close father and daughter actually were and if anything inappropriate had ever happened between them. The second half of the first episode also explored the relationship between the bullying Riley and the cocky yet vulnerable Poots. The final scene reveals that Poots has a large bruise on her face presumably after being struck by Riley’s character. I’m not often a fan of dramas were everything is overly dramatic and done in a way were everybody is seen to be acting their parts and it’s the same here I’m afraid. Trevor Eve is never one to give a subtle performance and that trend continues here as he blusters his way into every shot and generally shouts at whoever is in earshot. Tom Riley is also up there with him making sure that his character is never seen as being morally ambiguous by slyly smirking at Eve every chance he gets. The female actors fair a little better with Hermione Norris showing what a good actress she is in the few time she appears on screen and Poots and Rooper also do well in their respective roles. I’m not saying that Bouquet of Barbed Wire is a bad show in fact it’s incredibly well-made but I just found that I was watching a bunch of actors going through the motions rather than an involving dramatic piece.
The second offering was a ‘based-on-a-true’ story account of how a London psychiatrist Jan Falkowski and his fiancée Debra Pemberton were stalked via text and e-mail by an anonymous stalker who was later revealed to be Argentinean shop-worker Maria Marchese. The drama got started straight away by seeing Jan and Debra, played by David Morrisey and Tara Fitzgerald, receiving threatening text messages and anonymous phone calls with Debra receiving the worst of it and being told that she would die if she married Jan. Neither of them coped very well, with Jan starting an affair with a younger girl to escape the emotional hardships. Debra and Jan staged a fake wedding to smoke out Machese eventually succeeding however this marked the end of their relationship as Debra discovered Jan’s affair and left him. The second half of the piece looked at Maria’s continuing attack on Jan and a false rape claim which was validated when Jan’s DNA was detected on Marchese’s underwear. A rape trial was thrown out when it was revealed that Maria stole a condom from Jan’s bin and smeared the contents over her underwear. Eventually Jan took Maria to trial, she denied everything but the jury were convinced of her innocence and she was sentenced to nine years in jail meanwhile Jan married his girlfriend Bethann and Debra also married after appearing in court to help Jan bring Maria down. For me, U B Dead, took a while to get into as we weren’t really given any time to get to know the characters before their ordeal began we knew Jan enjoyed power-boating and that he and Debra lived on a houseboat from time to time but that was about it. The drama only became gripping once the loopy Maria Marchese appeared on screen and starting attacking Jan personally putting a strain on his new relationship. The second half also felt a bit odd as Fitgerald’s Debra wasn’t in it and part of me felt that this was originally scheduled to be a two-parter but ITV didn’t have the schedule space to separate it. Although it was gripping in parts, U Be Dead’s central issue was that there wasn’t anyone to root for Morrisey played Jan as cold and unfeeling most of the time only caring about the torment when it was his life that was being threatened while the other characters were the dull fiancée, the young mistress and the stalker herself. The supporting characters were also incredibly one-dimensional with a lot of the police seemingly cast out of ex-Coronation Street actors. Overall an uneven, sometimes gripping, piece which lacked any likeable characters but was interesting because of its real-life aspects.
Something a bit lighter now with a new BBC3 comedy. As I said last week BBC3 have been trying something new with their comedy output as of late with programmes like Mongrels, Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show and the wholly uninspiring The King Is Dead. This week the channel presents Him and Her, a programme which has something in common with Dawn French’s dramedy Roger and Val Have Just Got In as it focuses on a couple’s everyday exploits but shot in real time. Russell Tovey, best known for Being Human and Gavin and Stacey, stars as Steve a 20-something lad who lives in a fairly grotty bedsit where his girlfriend Becky played by Sarah Solemani stays most of the time. It is the relationship between Steve and Becky that is the sitcom’s focus, they seem to be a fairly normal couple with Steve constantly craving sex and Becky helping her rather annoying sister with her man problems. Steve is also regularly visited by upstairs neighbour Dan, sure to become the programme’s cult character, a disturbing bearded man obsessed with melons and who has already watched Titanic four times that week. The dialogue is fairly basic for example there is a whole conversation about whether Becky is allowed to eat toast in bed but everything feels fairly normal. At times it drags its feet into toilet humour literally as Becky is seen on the toilet and some of the references are a little outdated, a conversation about Mel C for example seems more at home in an episode of Game on, but overall I felt it quite engaging. This is mainly down to Tovey who has the jack-the-lad element down but also Solemari who plays Becky as a tomboy who is able to manipulate Steve with her sexuality. For me the best scene was when Steve spotted a spider and instead of disposing of it trapped it under a coffee cup and was trying to formulate a strategy about what to do with it next. If it gains enough of a following I think Him and Her could follow Gavin and Stacey and Being Human and become another breakout hit.
Also ladding it up this week was choirmaster supreme Gareth Malone who is once again trying to be supremely inspirational but, for the first time, is doing it without a lot of singing. In Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School For Boys, Malone is allowed access to the Year 5 and 6 boys at Pear Tree Mead Primary School in Essex in order to try and improve their literacy levels. Malone has consulted with ‘educational experts’ and has decided that what the boys need is something that channels outdoor aspects and also appeals to their sense of competition so for the first episode he decides to try and improve speaking and listening by getting the boys to form a debating team to take on the girls. First of all though, he builds an outdoors classroom and lets the boys help chop down trees and destroy the environment for Malone’s own personal gain. The boys get to run about a lot while Malone looks on but soon the headteacher is frustrated by the lack of actual learning going on so Malone decides to dress up as the Highwaymen from the poem the Highwaymen and let the boys chase him and then put him on trial. The programme is also keen to focus on some of the more ‘troubled’ boys and particularly Callum an 11 year old with real issues who is basically bullied by Malone to join the debating team and encouraged by his mother who I think basically wants him to be on T.V. Unusually the first episode doesn’t conclude with a happy ending instead the girl’s win the debating trophy but we the audience are told to focus on the positive aspects of Malone’s first endeavour as the boys would never have done this without his input. Fans of the site know that I am a massive fan of Malone’s previous series and in particular Boys Don’t Sing in which he convinced a load of boys to form a choir but here he seems a little out-of-his-depth. Although he has been in schools before, and claims to have been a teaching assistant once upon a time, controlling unruly primary school boys proves more of a challenge than he first thought. Another issue is that the teachers start to become frustrated as Malone’s methods mean that the boys are acting up in class even more to illustrate this there is a scene in which Malone meets the unimpressed year 5 and 6 teachers. The main question is did the boys improve? The answer is only slightly but I’m guessing Malone is taking small steps and the next episode sees him deal with their reading issues. I’m going to give Gareth another chance but at the moment I’m going to give him a lower mark than I normally would . Mr. Malone You Must Try Better.
Its been another big week for ITV1, after The Bill and GMTV wrapped up in the last edition of This Wee in TV, this time we see the talent that the channel has poached from elsewhere start their new jobs. First up former One Show duo Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley who have taken their ‘superb TV chemistry’ over to the other side thanks to millions of pounds being spend to secure both of them. Cheakly, as I have dubbed them, are fronting GMTV’s replacement programme entitled Daybreak which has come with an entirely new set and format. As this is an early morning topical show the focus is a lot more news-based as the programme has been given its own sub-par newsreader as well as an overly excited weather-person who has been given a massive split-video screen which has live pictures of various U.K. destinations to see what the weather looks like there. Episode one’s big coup was securing Tony Blair the week after his book came out however it seems that things were going wrong as the former PM turned up late so the interview seemed fairly rushed and it didn’t help that Bleakley really couldn’t deal with an interviewing a figure as important as Blair. Elsewhere Christine and Adrian spent an awfully long time marvelling at the new set showing off a bunch of video screens that seemed to just playing Elvis music as well as giant clock that Chiles seemed to be particularly enamoured with. There were also lots of glittering features including ‘Something Cool Before the Kids Go to School’ in which the pair show off a toy that all the kids will want but their parents would never be able to afford we also got Daybreakers in which we were presented with various ‘kooky’ images and had to decide which one we wanted to hear more about, a dog on a skateboard won. However the spirit of GMTV hasn’t completely disappeared as several of that show’s team-members have stayed on most notably Dr Hilary Jones, John Stapleton and Kate Garraway. Garraway’s performance was particularly memorable as she looked physically upset that she had to dick around with stories about the Beckhams while Christine Bleakley filled her former co-host shoes. Just in case you’d nodded off during any of the show, the producers thought it would be handy to cobble together a best-of package for Adrian and Christine’s first day. Although Daybreak was an average magazine typed show, similar to The One Show, the ‘chemistry’ between Chiles and Bleakley has fizzled out slightly. I think this is mainly down to the fact that they have both come across as fairly greedy with their switch over to ITV and have almost become to big-for-their-boots. However I don’t think Adrian really cares as long as he can stare at the stupidly big clock all day.
Stick with ITV we journey to the channel’s hyperactive sister channel ITV2 the channel that owns the soul of Katie Price, that gave Jedward their own series and has bought back Fearne ‘the gurn’ Cotton to do another series of her crack-reporting show Fearne and… If you missed the last series then I feel sorry for you especially if you missed the thriling exchanges between Fearne and Peaches Geldof, it was like Frost/Nixon all over again. Somehow Fearne has managed to get even more episodes this time and has started the series of with a bang as she follows Mischa Barton around both London and L.A. Fearne’s interviewing style strongly follows the intrusive journalism of someone like Louis Theroux who gets into all the parts of his subject’s life and gets to the core of their personality. Fearne claims she has been given unprecedented access to Mischa, but at least a quarter of the programme was Fearne waiting around and doing some of her world class gurning as Mischa leaves her hanging around again and again. This does however provide some unintentionally hilarious moments for example when Fearne goes to sit down on the porch outside Mischa’s L.A. house but realises too late that it’s a bit hot. So what probing questions did Ms. Cotton ask then? Well she tried to find out about Mischa’s boyfriend, her drink driving conviction and the effect of the constant paparazzi attention. However most of these questions were met with ‘I don’t really want to talk about it’ or just one word answers. But I did learn about Mischa’s handbag emporium, the fact she wouldn’t date a guy who was into rap and jazz (that’s me out) and endure the sight of Fearne and Mischa watching the latter’s cadilac in a segment that seemed to last for eternity. It would be too easy for me to lay into Fearne ‘The Gurn’ Cotton and I did in my blog covering Must Be The Music but to be fair to the girl she does her best and is a very hard worker so maybe I should give her break. But I’m not going to, I think really she should stick to her radio show because these one-to-one interviews really don’t work, Fearne is doing fragile and nice to ask the really hard questions so in the end its just like watching too mates going shopping and washing the car.
Last week we said goodbye to The Bill and Last of The Summer Wine and two more goodbyes this week firstly to an iconic soap character in Peggy Mitchell. Not a lot of people know this but Babs Windsor wasn’t the first actress to play Peggy, it was Jo Warne who played Peggy in the early 1990s when Ricky and Sam eloped to Gretna Green. Although it was Babs that made the role her own and has turned Peggy into one of the msot iconic soap characters of all time with her catchphrases about ‘faaamilly’ and the classic ‘ger ert of my pub’. But be careful what you wish for because on Thursday’s Eastenders everybody was getting out of the Queen Vic after smack-head Phil Mitchell (who currently looks like a grumpy pirate) set it on fire. It was fairly emotional stuff as Peggy hilariously tried to beat the flames away with a tea-towel before informing everyone who had gathered for Janine and Ryan’s wedding reception that there was a fire as none of them had noticed the flames. After Peggy was dragged out of her pub Phil, Stacey and baby Lily were all still inside with Phil being crushed by the top of the bar but somehow the collective strength of Billy, Minty and several others meant that Phil was saved. Meanwhile new groom Ryan traversed a ladder to save Lily and then went back up for Stacey however both were blown off the ladder but again were fine but Stacey revealed that Lily was actually Ryan’s child. Friday’s episode saw Peggy cross the crime scene tape and re-enter the pub to be haunted by a lot of old memories before deciding that she shouldn’t smother Phil and Sam any more and leave with lots of Roxy’s money. Her final scene was like something out of a western as the camera panned out on deserted Bridge Street market as Peggy walked into the abyss looking around her as she goes. Although Peggy’s exit was a bit of a let down after the fire that had come before it and indeed it was slightly an underwhelming conclusion for such a memorable character. But at the same time it was nice to have an understated, well-shot exit with Peggy still on screen while the credits played and she even got her own theme. My favourite part of the episode was Peggy’s goodbye to Pat which almost bought a little tear to my eye as Pat didn’t realise that Peggy was leaving for good. But it wasn’t goodbye to Babs for long as she popped up on the other side flogging online bingo about an hour later.
While the Queen Vic has had its doors boarded up, one other classic institution has shut its doors once and for all and that is of course the Big Brother house. Friday night saw Channel 4 play tribute to Big Brother with a four hour marathon of programmes as Ultimate Big Brother limped to its inevitable conclusion with Brian Dowling winning, it should’ve been Victor! Ultimate Big Brother wasn’t really ever going to work out because since all these people have come out of Big Brother they have fairly high profiles and didn’t really want to do anything to damage them so they were all fairly nice to each other, well apart from Nadia who has since attempted to commit suicide. The final episode was seen out with a funeral as Marcus ‘the geordie voice-over man’ Bentley went into the house to lead a funeral service, while all the housemates were saying their goodbyes I realised that Ulrika Johnson really shouldn’t have been in there. The second half of the Ultimate Big Brother final also saw a brass band playing the Big Brother tune almost constantly which to start off with was entertaining but quickly became supremely annoying. Also on the night we were given a special tribute to Jade Goody, who apparently is everyone’s ultimate housemate and a tribute to Davina. Elsewhere former BBLB host Dermot O’Leary held a ‘Last Supper’ with former housemates including Rex, Cameron, Craig, Brian Belo, Anthony, Pete, Ben from this year, Narinder, Alex and that classic housemate Bea from BB10. There were no real revelations other than Marco is looking and acting completely different and is almost resentful about his time on the show. George Lamb, who I think is glad about BB ending as his association with it is destroying his street cred, hosted a Big Mouth special thanking Davina for her contribution and then the show ended with a look round the house and some playing of classic clips. Even though I’m a big fan of the show I feel that its time for it to be put to rest, it belongs in the early 2000s where things were quite innocent. We now live in a world of 24 hour news and constant reality programming, it’ll be interesting to see what will happen to Davina and what Channel 4 will fill the summer up with next year (2012 will already be full of the paralympics). But really most of us know it’s not a goodbye as Richard Desmond will snap it up sooner or later and stick it on Channel Five where it won’t feel the same and will be completely inferior. But its goodbye to a programme which whether you like it or loathe it you’re still aware of it, which is the mark of a massive phenomenon.
While you’re waiting you can tell me what you thought of Peggy’s exit, the new TV dramas and Adrian Chiles’ big clock.