OK so cheating a bit here as we present a fortnight’s worth of TV gold.
And we start in Scotland with the new BBC1 Sunday night drama Single Father. The drama is David Tennant’s big return to the Beeb after Doctor Who, obviously all that intelligent Shakespeare claptrap wasn’t paying enough, so he’s back but this time playing a normal bloke. Tennant plays a character called Dave (I wonder how long it took to come up with that character name) a photographer who is married and has a collection of children but as the title alludes to he soon becomes a single father. That is because his wife Rita, played by Laura Fraser who crops up twice in this week’s edition, is hit by a police car while riding her bicycle leaving Tennant holding the baby or the rest of the kids. The beginning of the drama sees the cosy normal relationship that Dave and Rita have and the little fights they have about cleaning the house, playing football and putting up tents. Obviously after her death Dave struggles to cope to raise their two sons and one daughter as well as Rita’s daughter from a previous relationship. After initially receiving help from Rita’s sister he later turns to Rita’s friend Sarah who he kisses at the end of episode one and this will obviously lead to a full-blown relationship between the two before the series is through. The other plot strand in episode one is to do with Rita’s daughter Lucy who feels disconnected from Dave and the rest of the family as she’s lost her mother and now wants to find her real dad. Single Father is good Sunday night fare but is nothing new and has nothing new to say on the subject of grief or losing a loved one. I’m surprised that David Tennant chose this programme as his big return as I would thought he would want to be in something with a bit more edge however I’m guessing the programme makers are happy that he’s in it as it will have probably dramatically increased ratings. Tennant’s acting style seems to involve either looking big-eyed and sad, overly happy or a little bit angry and shouty. The other cast members try their best with the material with Suranne Jones playing the soon-to-be-love-interest Sarah and Mark Heap as Rita’s sister’s husband, Heap’s presence in the programme for me is the best thing by far. Another thing that bothers me is that the children are overly cute and their performances fairly unrealistic save Natasha Watson as Lucy who at least has something to work with as far as her story goes. At the end of the first episode I will still a bit confused with which child belonged to who, Dave also has an older daughter from a previous marriage who popped up from time to time, and this almost distracted from what was going on on screen. It didn’t surprise me that Single Father’s writer was Mick Ford whose previous works included the similarly death-obsessed step-family comedy-drama William and Mary. I am perhaps being a little over harsh as episode one did have a lot of plot to get through and I’m sure it will settle down and get into its groove but I still feel that a lot more could’ve been made out of the subject matter.
Staying in Scotland and with Laura Fraser dying in Single Father she has since been reincarnated as a lesbian in the BBC3 drama Lip Service. Which isn’t hard as every female character in Lip Service seems to either be a lesbian or at least attracted to other women. The basic premise of the programme is that we follow the lives of three Glaswegian-based lady lovers – Fraser’s uptight Kat, her jobbing actress roommate Tess and her ex-girlfriend and free-spirited photographer Frankie. It is in fact Frankie who we follow for most of the drama as she returns back from New York to Glasgow for the funeral of her aunt antagonising everyone from Kat to her own family. I’m not sure how we’re meant to take Frankie as she seems to be a totally self-involved person who doesn’t really care about anything apart from having sex whether it be at her photography studio or on the desk at a funeral parlour. Kat meanwhile hasn’t been on a date for two years, since Frankie split up her with her, and has finally arranged a blind date with a police officer so its bad luck when Frankie turns up again. Kat is the more likeable of the pair although she does have a habit of losing her purse which is used twice as a plot device with about 30 minutes of the first episode. The final character Tess is used when the plot is lagging to be the quirky one who is dressed up like a can of soft drink or breaking into her ex-girlfriend’s bedroom while she is orally pleasuring her new lover. Tess’ luck seems to be in at the end of episode one as she pulls Louise from Hollyoaks, who here is playing a T.V. presenter with a rubbish Scottish accent. There are also two straight men involved in the programme one a former Casanova who had a relationship with the bisexual Frankie before settling down and one Tess’ friend who is a bit of a nervous geek. Lip Service is a well-acted drama and some of the performances, especially from Fraser and Ruta Gedmintas as Frankie, are great. So its a shame that the script is incredibly bad and almost insulting to lesbians everywhere. Myself not being a lesbian I’m not sure how conversations between them usually go but I’m sure they don’t have to constantly remind their friends that they’re lesbians every five minutes. There should surely be a Lip Service drinking game where you down a shot every time a character says – ‘as a lesbian’ or ‘it’s different for lesbians’ there was even one point when a character used the term lesurection. The script is also terribly expositional and there were plenty of scenes within the first ten minutes which seemed to contain the characters explaining the plot to each other. There was also a sex scene between Frankie and an American model which occurred about ninety seconds into the programme, I’m assuming to lure in pervy male viewers as a promise for more girl-on-girl scenes throughout the series. It didn’t surprise me at all to learn that the series’ writer had previously worked on Hotel Babylon and Mistresses two shows that aren’t known for its subtlety. It’s a shame that this drama is so badly written as it would be nice to see a show explore what life is like for lesbians as they are so poorly represented in UK drama, especially mainstream soap operas. Unfortunately I can’t say that Lip Service isn’t anything more than the BBC fulfilling its promise to provide a range of programmes that appeal to a diverse range of viewers. In this case it seems to be perverts and fans of poorly made drama.
Capping off the trio of dramatic offerings we have something completely different as the daft police series Whitechapel returns for a second run of three episodes. In the first series Rupert Penry-Jones’ toffish DI Chandler was assigned to Whitechapel to work with Phil Davis’ world-weary DS Miles. Chandler and Miles found themselves tracking down a killer who was copycatting the murders of Jack the Ripper. At the time I would’ve welcomed a second series of Miles and Chandler just solving run-of-the-mill mysteries however the makers have decided that if Whitechapel is to return then we have to have another copycat killer. So this time the killer or killers are copycatting the Krays’ murders and in particular are murdering members of The Firm who testified against The Krays in court and killing them in the style of various Krays murders. This time the murders have a more personal touch as Miles’ father had a connection with the Krays and used to work as an entertainer for them or some such claptrap. Back alongside Miles and Chandler is The League of Gentleman’s Steve Pemberton as Edward Buchan. When we last saw Buchan he was a Jack the Ripper specialist and did guided tours of Whitechapel but luckily he also filmed a documentary about The Krays so is able to give the coppers some help once again. Everything about Whitechapel, especially this second series, is ludicrous and over-the-top. In some ways I understand why The Krays plot was added because some people would want a similar storyline than the last time but personally I think it’s a step too far. However one thing Whitechapel does have going for itself is the chemistry between Davis and Penry-Jones as the chalk and cheese detectives who come from different backgrounds but have plenty of respect for each other. They play of each other perfectly and some of Davis’ one-liners are particularly great. Pemberton is also a great piece of casting as his fascination with real life crime borders on the macabre however casting comic actors in drama doesn’t always work as is witnessed by Peter Serafinawoicz’s presence in the first episode. Overall a bonkers crime drama but with some fine performances that make it ultimately rather watchable.
Staying down south we go from a ludicrous drama to a reality series with ludicrous characters with ITV2′s The Only Way is Essex. The programme follows various birds and blokes in Essex as their lives interweave which isn’t hard as they all seem to hang out at the same clubs and beauty salons. At the heart of the programme there seems to be five main characters firstly there’s Mark who is basically a complete bastard recently splitting up with Lauren, his girlfriend of nine years so he can enjoy the life he wants which seems to be ‘going out boozing four times a week’ and scoring with various blondes. Lauren herself seems a little bit of an emotional wreck who still wants Mark to attend her birthday party and has a tattoo of his name near her naughty bits. Mark’s new love interest seems to be the young and pretty Sam who is a 19 year old magazine cover girl who seems a lot more together than Lauren but at the same time isn’t as wary of Mark as she should be. Sam’s mate is Amy, also a model and a beauty therapist who seems nice enough if a little orange and chatty. Amy’s love interest is Kirk the perfectly amiable owner of the local nightclub who has shared an on-off relationship with her but wants something a bit more special and is starting to work out for her and also gets a tattoo that looks a lot like her on his leg. Other characters include Kirk’s bar-staff Candy and Mark, Amy’s gay cousin and the girl group Lola which includes Mark’s sister Jessica. The Only Way is Essex comes only a couple of weeks after the introduction and complete failure of Channel 4′s reality soap Seven Days which suffered due to an overloading of characters and a slapdash narrative. The Only Way is Essex is a lot better put together and, similar to American shows like The Hills, does have some scenes that are created purely for entertainment. The show also has the benefit of an occasional voice-over from Denise Van Outen who teases us with the plots of the next episode. Of course the whole thing is completely ludicrous and the characters overblown but that’s half of the point of them living in their small Essex shaped bubble. But at the same time I did learn a little bit especially about female grooming and I know now what a vajazzle is. I’m not sure if the programme is going to be as big of a hit as ITV hopes it will be but it’s certainly a fun watch if there’s nothing else on. The best thing about it all is that it is sponsored by a cold sore cream which is perfect if your vajazzle somehow gets botched.
Sticking with Essex blokes but one that is more concerned with flans than spray tans and Jamie Oliver with his new T.V. Series. Some of you may think it’s a bit quick for Oliver to have a new series but in fact his American Food Revolution, currently on Channel 4, was shot months ago and aired in the states a while back. Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals, on the other hand, is designed to get people cooking and pumping food out as fast as possible and is also designed for people to cook along however I’m guessing many will just buy the book look at it once and never cook anything it from it again. Nevertheless it is one in a long line of programmes in which Jamie is desperately trying to get us off the fish and chips and processed ready meals, unless they’re from Sainsbury’s of course. The programme I watched saw Jamie in the kitchen cooking up roast beef, potatoes, gravy and Yorkshire puddings. Before the programme I thought that you can’t possibly roast beef in 30 minutes and in fact I was right as Jamie in his own words did say ‘this isn’t roast beef’ even though it was the title of the programme. Instead Jamie pan-fried a fillet of beef in a pan and through together some other bits and bobs to create a nice fried fillet of beef and not roast beef as the title, and indeed the recipe in his new hardback book, would lead you to believe. Despite this it still did look scrumptious and I will endeavour to cook it at some point. Another difference with this show is that it is being aired at 5:30 in the evening on Channel 4 a spot in the schedules which is usually reserved for food-based programmes like Come Dine with Me or the much-missed Iron Chef. Although you could often take the piss out of Jamie Oliver, and I sometimes do, I do really admire his efforts time and again here he’s not being as preachy as in School Dinners or Ministry of Food and is simply showing you how to cook something quick and tasty in less than half an hour.
Finally looking at a long-running programme that has recently had a change of style and presenter with BBC’s flagship film programme currently Film 2010 being taken over by Claudia Winkleman and a host of jobbing journalists. The film programme started live back in the early 1970s with pickled onion supremo Barry Norman becoming its main host in 1974 until 1998 when Jonathan Ross took over. With Wossy leaving the BBC his shows have started to be replaced, in most cases by Graham Norton, but Winkleman has managed to get herself this fairly lucrative gig. In the past both Norman and Ross have been able to address screen directly and give their solo views however this time around the BBC have opted to have Claudia chat to ‘film journalist’ Danny Leigh. I’m not quite sure of Leigh’s credentials but I do think he’s mainly involved in the world of blogs, which made me wonder why they didn’t offer me the gig. Also on the programme we met three other reporters a nerdy correspondent who got to interview a very drunk Keira Knightley and pals at the London Film Festival, a moody woman who doesn’t like Pixar and a 12 year old boy. Danny and Claudia both seemed to agree on the reviews of both The Social Network and Despicable Me but my main problem was that their chat seemed very formal and wouldn’t be something that would interest the normal punter deciding what to spend his or her hard earned dosh at the cinema come Friday night. The reviews were full of references to the writer/director or stars previous works which some people might get but most would possibly not be aware of. Therefore the style of the programme has changed from being fairly accessible to being mainly for film fans who know names of obscure actors and every film a director has made. Part of the reason for this has to be the inclusion of Danny Leigh, personally I would have preferred just to have Claudia address screen as her two male predecessors but for some reason that hasn’t happened this time around. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman or maybe it’s because she’s not an experienced film journalist, but the neither was Jonathan Ross, but for whatever reason the new set-up and style of the show has made it seem very film-boorish. Not that I’m not a complete film nerd myself but I think others would struggle to keep up and identify with the way the reviews and the show in general is being presented.
Next Week: The Taking of Prince Harry and The Graham Norton Show
What did you think of this week’s programmes? Leave a comment below