OK guys time to get looking back at another week in TV.
And as we’re into the second week of January its time for Holly and Phil, Torvill and Dean and much more skating action as this year 16 celebrities make it onto Dancing on Ice. However in a twist that almost nobody cares about only 12 will make it through to the actual competition stage but at the same time the stars are still competing against each other to get one of the final spots. The other change was that the judging panel had been slimmed down from an over-crowded five to a more aesthetically pleasing three. Surviving was Robin Cousins – the head judge who has both skating experience and a sort of decorum about him, Jason Gardiner the showman and fashion critic who is the token bitch and Emma Bunton who promises to be more critical than she was last year which shouldn’t be hard as she was no more than a smile in her debut year but at least she has better grammar than Aleesha Dixon. Former judge Karen Barber returns but has been downgraded as sort of a mouthpiece for the contestants as she battles some of the judges’ comments especially those coming from Jason. Eight skaters were whittled down to six on Sunday night and the contestants ranged in fame and ability. Kerry Katona was possibly the most interesting contestant who signed up this year, having been in a pit of despair last year she has turned her life around and is ‘doing it for her kids’ as we were told time and time again on her reality show Kerry Katona: The Next Chapter. She uses the line about her kids at least three times during her less than ten minute appearance on the show. If Katona was really doing it for her kids would she abandon them to train for hours a day risking a serious injury and for that matter if she really cared about elder daughters Molly and Lily would she let them come to watch her on Sunday nights when they should be getting ready for school the next morning? Although Katona was the most notorious participant, the most famous on the ice on Sunday was Vanilla Ice and he wasn’t half bad. Vanilla Ice kind of had a bad-boy swagger about him which sometimes covers up a lack of ability however Vanilla went out there and came away with the second best score on the night. Then there was Ashley Peacock from Coronation Street who has been reincarnated since being buried under the rubble in the recent tram crash. Ashley, or Steven Arnold, is the token nice guy and got the lowest points of the evening but survived on viewer votes.
As there’s been all the controversy about women of a certain age on T.V. this week it was nice to see Angela Rippon as one of the contestants. She was graceful and glamorous but only notched up a disappointing 11 point but the judges seemed to think Angela was actually Heather Mills returning from last year as they all commented that she ‘still had her legs’. Another female T.V. personality in Nadia Sawhalia came out smiling but failed to do anything spectacular and notched up the second lowest score. Jeff Brazier, who is famous for having some children with Jade Goody, was a surprise in that I thought he would be a lot better than he turned out to be. Top score of the night, 16 out of 30, went to Laura Hamilton who nobody has ever heard of but apparently she presents on Nickelodeon. And on all these reality shows now it seems that there is one contestant who is a bit of an odd pick and this year that honour went to Johnson Beharry, who is used to honours having been the only serving soldier in the last 50 years to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Johnson’s commanding officer told us about how valiant he’d been during his two tours of Iraq saving the lives of his platoon but when it came to the ice the Grenadian Beharry seemed out of his element. Despite only receiving 11 points and some overly harsh words from Jason, Beharry made it through. The points system was completely ridiculed when top place Laura found herself in the Bottom three alongside Angela and Nadia. But it was the two older ladies who fell to the younger presenter which once again goes to show that there’s no place for women over a certain age on primetime T.V. so I don’t’ much fancy Denise Welch’s chances next week. Once again Dancing on Ice presents itself as a cheaper version of Strictly Come Dancing, I’m not much of a fan of the larger cast mainly because that means more nobodies like Elen Rivas and Comedy Dave can call themselves ‘celebrities’. Having said that I do like how they’ve slimmed down the judging panel and if you like to watch ice skating for 90 minutes and you’ve been kicked out of your local rink than you could do a lot worse than watch this.
More celebrity reality banter now with Celebrity Five Go To.. where five so-called famous faces journey to Turkey to take part in a series of challenges and live together in a villa. Once again I did struggle with the ‘celebrities’ on offer having missed the introduction to who they were I was flummoxed by at least two of them. I recognised Russell Grant straight away and also Jan Leeming but not for her news-reading but more for her appearances on I’m a Celeb and Come Dine With Me. It took me a while but I also recognised Anthony Costa who has slimmed down an awful amount since his Blue days and can no longer be referred to as ‘the fat one from Blue’. That left me with two names there was an older man called Derek who, thanks to Russell Grant acting like Jeremy Paxman, I found out was Derek Conway one of the MPs who fell from grace in the expenses scandal. That left me with Emma Ridley there were mentions of her jetting in from California, owning a pole-dancing club and being a born again Christian but I still had no idea who she was. My ultimate saviour was google and I found out that Emma was actually in Return to Oz as Osma and later went off the rails got married at 15 and is currently on her third divorce. The basic concept is that these five people go on holiday together and each plan holidays in their surroundings these included a cultural walk around the Turkey, a ride on a banana boat, a journey in a cable car and a mud bath at a luxury spa. The other twist to the programme was that the five wouldn’t stay five for ever and from the mid-point of the holiday the gang would mark their companions from favourite to least favourite and a taxi driver would then turn up to take the billy-no-mates back to the airport. Of course this being a ‘celebrity’ show there was much posturing for the cameras most of which came from Emma so people like me would have to Google her to find out who she is/was. Emma fell out with Russell straight away, then refused to wear something over her head when they went into the mosque and then had a blazing row with poor old Jan Leeming who became the group scapegoat and was voted off first. The other twist was that the final vote for holidaymaker of the week was down to the locals who had come into contact with the group that included the chef that was fired by Derek, the guide who was annoyed by Emma and the cleaner who had to pick up all of Russell Grant’s dirty undies. In the end the panel voted Anthony the winner over runner-up Russell, all week Anthony had been going on about his Greek heritage but someone really needs to tell him that eating ten kebabs every week doesn’t make you Greek. Although it should be cut into 30 minute segments, Celebrity Five go to… was harmless enough but the title does make me dread that we have many more destinations and faces that I don’t recognise to come.
More reality gubbins now but this time without the added slightly recognisable contestant element. Instead we have The Biggest Loser, a dieting show from the U.S. which initially started its U.K. life on Living and was hosted by Vicki Butler-Henderson. After its third seires aired on ITV1 in 2009, it returns this time for its biggest series yet thanks to Davina McCall trying to rejuvenate her career by replacing Kate Garraway as host. What with being demoted on Daybreak and losing this gig to Davina maybe Garraway should qualify for The Biggest Loser but that’s not what this show is about. Instead it is, according to McCall, T.V.’s biggest international weight loss phenomenon. At the beginning seven couples begin, they all move into a massive stately home which includes a kitchen, a gym and the dreaded ‘weigh-in room’ which looks suspicioulsy like a television studio. The seven couples include twin sisters, a mother and daughter pair, sisters-in-law, best mates and two lads Rob and Big G who have only just met. Their partnership doesn’t last for long when Big G slips on some wet grass and twists his ankle so is unable to take part in the first challenge which was for each couple to compete a marathon on exercise bikes being egged on/shouted at by the two trainers stern-faced P.E. teacher type Angie Dowds and the one who hasn’t made much of an impact yet Richard Callender. The twin sisters Ayanda and Zandela were last to complete their marathon so faced elimination from the competition. The other couple who faced elimination were mother and daughter Janet and Laura after they lost the least combined weight at the weigh-in mainly because Laura didn’t have that much weight to lose in the first place. The final melodramatic part of the process saw the five couples (or four couples and Rob) vote out the couple they thought didn’t deserve to be there with Janet and Laura getting a 3-1 pasting they were out of there. I’m not sure really what to make of The Biggest Loser on one hand I think its admirable that these people want to lose weight and that there’s people there to help them. But on the other hand the reality show element means that every week one couple will miss out on a chance to go any further in the contest and may well put back on the weight they’ve lost which is a shame. Coupled with that the winning pair get £25,000 as a reward for losing the weight but I think the massive improvement in health and confidence should be incentive enough. At the end of the day its okayish in a reality TV sense of the word and it’s always nice to see Davina’s sincere face when she’s congratulating the weight-loss couples and commiserating the pair who are eliminated.
Another reality show that has been adapted from a U.S. format is Tool Academy. From the name you would think that it was some sort of DIY show with Tommy Walsh telling novice home-makers what they should do to improve their houses. But the tool of the title refers to slightly dickish men who somehow have managed to keep their girlfriends despite having massive flaws. The girlfriends have enrolled them on a reality show to try and cure them of their tool-ness but the boys are under the mistaken impression that they are competing for the title of Britain’s best lad. At the beginning we are introduced to the lads by their girlfriends who explain why they have enrolled their man in the academy. Most of them are there because they don’t clean up the house, they drink too much, smoke too much weed or they have anger issues. Each of the men are also given seven dwarf type names so for example there is tipsy, randy, stoner and geezer. There is also Joe or Twinkle, who is the only one of the tools I feel vaguely sorry for as his girlfriend has obviously misunderstood the concept of the show and has put him into the process to become more like the men he’s in there with which is surely a bad thing. Although Twinkle’s girlfriend may soon change her mind when he gets really drunk on the lad’s first night out and then has a bit of a steamy dance with a lap dancer and later during a catwalk show gets two pretty girls to touch his muscles. After the reveal the couples work together to try and repair their relationships through discussions with Dr. Sandra Scott who obviously needs the work now that Big Brother isn’t on anymore. I’m not quite sure what the first course was about, we saw the couples go on a date and appar-ently it was something to do with commitment but there wasn’t much covering up that the biggest tools were also the biggest characters so they would stay on the show. In the end it was ‘Football’ who was eliminated because he wasn’t committed enough to his girlfriend and he like to watch football. For me Tool Academy is too long and is full of people that I don’t really want to watch on T.V. However its biggest flaw is its host Rick Edwards who is the poor man’s Steve Jones who in turn is the poor man’s Vernon Kay. Edwards’ sense of humour and presenting style is vain, arrogant and unfunny and I hope that Tool Academy is actually an even higher concept show that even he realises and in the end friends, family and co-workers will reveal that in fact this has all been an exercise to reveal what a massive tool Rick Edwards actually is.
The only tools available in our next programme should be carefully positioned on the table in the right order and wrapped up neatly in a serviette. In Michel Roux’s Service, eight youngsters are given a break by the Michelen-Starred restaurateur to work as apprentices at one of his establishments as he and his assistant Fred train the youngsters in the ways of front-of-house. Roux is possibly best known as one of the hosts of Masterchef: The Professionals, in which his main job seems to be trying to restrain himself from throttling Gregg Wallace every time he shouts like a maniac. But here Michel is the boss and his eight candidates are all from the wrong side of the tracks some have had experience in catering whether that be at a bar or as a dinner lady and others have struggled due to their lack of qualifications or other social reasons. This week the first two episodes saw Michel take the eight trainees to his restaurant and explain his aim before introducing the overly-French Fred who took them through their paces in an odd training academy where they learnt how to recommend wine, how to lay out cutlery and how to keep eye contact with their customers. They were thrown into the deep end at a high street restaurant where predictably all of their training when out of the window and there were arguments, problems with orders and even people get thrown out so reserved tables could be filled. Episode two saw more disruption courtesy of Jarel who was both arrogant and full of himself and finally Roux had no choice but to cut him loose from the programme. He also had problems with a couple of the girls, Brooke and Nikita, who were flirting with truckers during a training exercise at a Greasy Spoon. Although, thanks in part to Jarel’s expulsion, the second task in which they worked at a family-run Indian restaurant in Birmingham went slightly smoother and saw them come together as much of a well-oiled unit. I do quite like Michel Roux’s Service, mostly down to the man himself who isn’t your typical reality TV boss. He doesn’t grumpy or shout like an Alan Sugar or Gorden Ramsay but instead treats his young wards like an inspirational teacher would with a pupil and when he tells them off it’s in a kind of, ‘I’m not upset, I’m just disappointed’, type of way. The show’s main problem is the variety of ways that the tasks can be presented. In the first two episodes the format was very much the same and the end saw them thrown in at the deep end in two restaurants. This format means that the show largely relies on the character of the contestants and following their journeys as they realise what the show actually means to them. If these emotional stories are the heart of the programme then the creators would most probably want Ashley, who has applied for 150 jobs and has an ASBO, and single mum Nikita to be the winners. However at this stage it looks more like independent-spirited Danielle, University graduate Laura and unemployed Thomas are the front-runners. Overall this reminds me a bit of Raymond Blanc’s The Restaurant, a nice gentle reality show with a decent premise, some interesting candidates and a likeable presence as its main figurehead.
This week also saw the start of the BBC’s new landmark documentary series looking at the only species on the globe that survives in every climate and habitat – MAN! Yes in Human Planet, cameras go to every part of the globe to investigate how humans survive in different climates and habitats and why they do what they do there. A lot of the show included some very impressive underwater photography as we were taken to Brazil and Galicia in Northern Spain to follow fishermen doing their thing. In the latter destination there were two crazy men who climbed rocks and faced death by shark to collect precious barnacles that are worth £200 per kilo. This was sort of in Deadliest Catch territory although these men finished their job a lot quicker than the lobster catchers on the high seas. Much more sedate were the surfers of Hawaii whose efforts looked less impressive when compared to the fishermen but the camerawork was nonetheless impressive. The programme’s latter third also gave an important environmental message that soon we would have to deal with even more water and we were shown the seas between Borneo and The Philippines in which people already have houses on the water. These people now live on houseboats and have almost completely said goodbye to the land this may be a startling vision of the future. There’s no denying that the camerawork on Human Planet was more than impressive, from aerial shots of the people of Borneo to a lot of underwater photography this was a show that relied a lot on its visuals. To an extent there was also some fascinating points but there was also a lot of the same divers, fishermen, divers and so on. The whole thing was narrated by John Hurt, whose voice is a little bit out of place in a nature documentary as it is a little fierce and I always associate it with the dragon in Merlin who he voices. For fans of the nature documentary this is the next logical step, replacing the beasts for man and demonstrating how far some people will go to survive. But for me there wasn’t enough variation to keep my attention for the whole hour.
Much more engaging, but maybe for all the wrong reasons, was Kidnap and Ransom the new drama from Trevor Eve and the first from his own production company. In it Eve plays Dominic King a hostage negotiator who has just returned from a job in Bolivia in which he lost his hostage because he took too long negotiating. Coming back home it is obvious that King has lost touch with his family his wife wants him to quit so she can go about her job which seemed to have something to do with arguing about gypsies at town meetings. Meanwhile his daughter has turned to religion as a way of coping with the fact her dad is away most of the time or maybe it’s because she’s realised her dad is Trevor Eve. But King doesn’t have long to consider his family as another hostage has been taken, this time in Cape Town, and he has to jump into action once again. As you would guess from a character played by Eve in an ITV1 drama, King doesn’t always play by the rules most of which he made in the first place. He lets the hostage’s husband see her on Skype, he puts the phone down on the hostage takers and he is even quite frank with the woman’s young daughter about what’s happened to her mum. To be fair the hostage takers aren’t much better as they let their faces be seen by the hostage and even let her wander about freely so it’s no surprise that they are shot and presumably killed by more professional criminals at the end of the first episode. As you can tell, Kidnap and Ransom is predictably bonkers stuff. As King, Eve is less shouty than he is Waking the Dead but he still has that maniacal gleam in his eye which means that you never quite now what he will do next, possibly not the best trait to have when you are negotiating with people’s lives. The rest of the cast don’t really get a look in and have to deal with King’s whims something that is evident early on when he leaves his colleague stranded in the middle of a Bolivian desert. Even Helen Baxendale, the only other familiar face in the drama, doesn’t get a lot to do other than shout at King occasionally and angrily fire a gun in a shooting range. But despite its ridiculous nature I was drawn in to Kidnap and Ransom as the tension was gradually built up to a conclusion where the stakes were raised once again. This is definitely one of those in-your-face ITV dramas but at the same time has somehow drawn me in and convinced me to watch the next episode.
And finally to Episodes, a co-production between the BBC and the American Cable network Showtime. Episodes is a comedy drama which concerns a British couple, played by Stephen Magnan and Tasmin Grieg, who have written a well-received BAFTA-winning sitcom. They are approached by an American executive who wants them to transfer the show to the U.S. but at the same time keep the original premise. However when they get to L.A. Sean and Beverly quickly realise that Merc the producer has never seen their programme. Moreover soon it becomes apparent that the original star Julian, played by Richard Griffiths, is too British for American T.V. and won’t be cast in the role that he played in the British version instead it is suggested that Matt LeBlanc play the headmaster character. As we are shown in the opening scenes, which happen six weeks after they have been living in L.A., things aren’t going too well and Beverly drives off leaving Sean and crashing into LeBlanc. The first episode of Episodes wasn’t brilliant, in one way it suffered because there was a lot to set up from the couple leaving the U.K., to the realisation that they weren’t going to be able to keep the premise of their original show. LeBlanc himself hardly appeared and instead this was more about the T.V. executives in L.A. and how they really didn’t care about the little people. Another problem I found was that when Magnan and Grieg were on screen the dialogue they were given didn’t seem to really suit their style. This is mainly because Episodes is written by American scribes David Crane and Jeffrey Kralik who are known for penning Friends and Mad About You and I found that having Americans writing for Brits didn’t really work. It was no coincidence that the best scenes were those featuring John Pankow’s Merc and the rest of his team, most notably the network’s head of comedy a young pretty woman who strained to even crack a smile. Although I wasn’t a big fan, I will still give Episodes a chance mainly due to its comic pedigree and also because I am yet to see if LeBlanc can give a convincing performance as himself.
What did you think of this week’s programmes? Leave a comment below