Reviews

This Week in TV: The National TV Awards, The British Comedy Awards, Skins, Justin Lee Collins – Turning Japanese and How TV Ruined Your Life

It’s time to get overwhelmed by awards shows as we journey into another week in TV

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First up was the National T.V. Awards which has always seen itself as kind of an antidote to the BAFTAs in that the NTAs are voted for by the public and the BAFTAs are voted for by professional T.V. types. It is also that the BAFTAs often award very good solid dramas and offbeat sitcoms while most of the NTAs output seems to usually go to Ant and Dec, Soaps and views Loose Women as a factual programme, an award it won last year. Before last year the awards were quite dull held in a theatre and hosted by the very serious Sir Trevor MacDonald. But in 2010 they were sexed up by being sent to the 02 and replacing MacDonald with the ever popular Dermot O’Leary. The event was also glammed up and this year did start with a whole Dr. Who sketch written by Stephen Moffat and featuring Matt Smith, O’Leary and a host of T.V. faces my favourite part of this sketch had to be O’Leary arriving at BBC Television Centre 100 years in the future and Bruce Forsyth is still there. After Dermot arrived at the O2 the event continued with some live music courtesy of ‘Queen of The Jungle’ Stacey Solomon crooning through ‘Feelin’ Good’ however things took a turn for the bizarre when her I’m a Celeb campmate Shaun Ryder turned up at the two did a completely original take on ‘Step On’, I’m thinking if Happy Mondays go on tour once again Solomon could be the new Bez. In terms of the awards, well let’s just say you could tell they’d been voted for by the public, in terms of the soaps category Eastenders won all three including a well-deserved Best Newcomer award for the lad who plays Fatboy. This year Loose Women didn’t win best factual but instead was nominated in the new Topical Magazine category which was won by This Morning instead the Factual prize went to the fact-pumping extravaganza that is Top Gear. David Jason won best Dramatic Performance and The Inbetweeners won the Digital Choice Award narrowly edging out the televisual opus that is Peter Andre: The Next Chapter. But the upset of the night had to be Doctor Who, Shameless and Sherlock all losing out in the Best Drama Programme category to Waterloo Road, although to be fair it is a popular show. But the biggest prize of the night, after Best Soap anyway, is the Special Recognition Award won in the past by such luminaries as Robson Green, Caroline Quentin and Julie Goodyear. But the NTAs managed to at least get some T.V. royalty in this year with Brucie collecting the award announcing his retirement from showbiz but then saying he was only kidding. I really don’t think Bruce needs any excuse to talk and get in front of a crowd but it was nice to see his career rewarded nonetheless. I have enjoyed the NTAs much more since their relocation but at the same time I do think soap is still too heavily represented while comedy only has one prize. Oh and Best Comedy went to the ever popular Benidorm.

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Which didn’t even figure in this week’s other awards ceremony the British Comedy Awards. These awards have also moved to the 02 even if it is to their smaller venue they have also changed channel moving from ITV1 to Channel 4. Now it is on 4 it has also become a bit more alternative and that could be witnessed by the recipients of the Special Awards. The writing award went to Peep Show scribes Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong while the Outstanding Contribution to British Comedy went to Russell Brand of all people. There were also awards for Charlie Brooker (yay!), The Inbetweeners (boo!) and Four Lions star Kayvan Novak. But in a night that seemed to be getting a bit alternative the big winner of the night was one of the most old school comics of recent times in Miranda Hart. Don’t get me wrong I love Hart and her sitcom but in a year in which many low key sitcoms such as Rev, Grandma’s House and The Trip were released a show that has its roots in the 1970s sitcom won Best New Sitcom. However I have no problem with the two awards that Hart won herself especially the People’s Choice Award which I was sure would either go to the excruciating Michael McIntryre or the ubiquitous Ant and Dec. Along with Hart’s prizes I was also happy about Peter Capaldi winning Best Actor, Jo Brand winning Best Female Comedian (although I would’ve preferred her to win Best Actress for Getting On) and Samantha Spiro Best Newcomer for Grandma’s House which was one of my Top 10 Comic turns of the year. As always the Comedy Awards also had its fair share of odd presenters for example Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes were on hand so Miranda could flirt with LeBon while Amy, Harry and Sam from The Only Way is Essex also presented but I was upset that Nanny Pat wasn’t anywhere to be seen. But even though a fairly new comic like Brand was given the Outstanding Contribution Award, Comedy royalty was rewarded as legendary sitcom creator Roy Clarke gave a gracious and humble speech when accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award. Clarke who is responsible for such hits as Open All Hours, Keeping Up Appearances and the recently departed Last of The Summer Wine was the most deserved winner of the night and should’ve been on last but instead we were ‘treated’ to Brand via video-link, yipee!

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Moving on to some non-awards offerings and another new series of Skins. We’re now on to Series 5 and the third bunch of newbies and this time it’s a completely fresh cast as none of the youngsters from the 2.0 brand have been kept on. There is at least one recognisable face though in Dakota Blue Richards who was famously cast in the disastrous adaptation of The Golden Compass. Richards’ Franky, a kind of androgynous La Roux-type, was the focus of episode one as the new girl in town who had moved from Oxford to Bristol after being cyber-bullied. Franky had enrolled in the only thing that is consistent in the Skins universe that being Roundview Sixth Form College still populated by the lovely Doug and also a returning Chris Addison as the college’s head and in the first episode seen sporting some very nice shorts while refereeing a hockey match. Franky instantly fell out with the college’s top bitch Mini who strung Frankie along faking a friendship only to reveal at her party that she had nothing for sympathy for her. Franky and Mini were the only two characters we really go to know however Mini’s two cohorts Liv and Grace were also given some screen time especially the latter a cardigan wearing amateur fortune teller who switched sides at the end of the episode and decided to stick with the much nicer Franky rather than Queen Bee Mini. The male characters were sort of push to the sidelines however we were introduced to them mainly best mates Rich and Alo a couple of van-dwelling stoners with Rich especially impressing with his long rocker hair we are promised to get to know him more in the second episode. Mini’s boyfriend Nick really didn’t get a lot to do other than hover round her and the mysterious Matty who got a gun pointed in his face by Franky only popped up briefly. Overall I’m already enjoying this bunch of Skins as they include a mix of interesting characters who I want to get to know and enthusiastic performances from the young actors playing the not so appealing characters. Series Four was definitely overly serious and sort of lost the light attitude that Skins used to have as long as the writing is kept on the right side of melodramatic and the characters continue to be well drawn then the third Skins gang could be right up there with the original bunch.

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Channel Five were lucky enough to get Paul Merton to present a couple of travelogues for them a while back where he travelled to China and India. However if Merton travelled to Japan he would never ask the question, ‘why is a love doll’s vagina better than a real woman’s vagina?’ But thankfully Bristolian hairball Justin Lee Collins would and that’s why he got chosen to go over, that and Channel 5 do own Collins’ soul these day and so get him to front about a third of their shows. In Turning Japanese, Collins employed his larger-than-life enthusiastic persona to tour round some of Japan’s more interesting sights. Although the programme started rather jolly with JLC and his interpreter tried some interesting flavours of ice cream at an ice cream bar most of the show looked at the Japanese’s take on love and sex. Firstly Collins tried on some thongs and bras made exclusively for men where the Japanese designer marvelled at his moobs and said they felt rather like a woman’s. Then he went to a lecture theatre where men were being taught how to approach the opposite sex and he was taken on faux date with a rather excitable Japanese woman. However the more shocking aspects of the culture were explored including the aforementioned sex dolls firstly JLC journeyed to the largest manufacturer of the item and marvelled at their stress relieving abilities but at the same time donned his serious face as he was quite shocked to see dolls that represented young girls as the age of consent in Japan is 13. More interesting still was Collins and Mai the interpreter turning up to make a blurry-faced businessman with one of the largest collections of the item in the country. Although Justin did have some questions for him it seemed Mai was more interested and grilled him extensively on why he would rather have sex with a doll than a real woman. Finally, this being a Collins series, he had to get involved in at least one activity and he did dressing up as a host at a host bar a venue to which Japanese women go to be entertained and engage in conversation with men who actually want to listen to them and presumably men who don’t spend all their time at lecture theatres or making love to dolls. Collins impressed the ladies with his magic and was plied with intoxicating plum liquer and when he asked his mentor Yoshi about what he did when he got drunk he told him the best thing to do was throw up. I’m sure there are quite a few normal people in Japan however Five and Collins would have you believe that they were all kinky, sex-obsessed or interpreters. Five always try and look at the more extreme elements of life and certainly Collins was more than willing to do this for them, however despite all the seediness I rather enjoyed this and I think that was mainly down to the host who I still find jovial and interesting even though most of the country find him annoying and unbearable.

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And finally after being one of the co-presenters on Channel 4′s 10 o’clock Live, Charlie Brooker plays a double-header with his new BBC2 show How T.V. Ruined Your Life. I personally have been a fan of Brooker’s when he was still hidden away on BBC4 and wrote scathing articles for The Guardian. But, as Russell Brand pointed out at the Comedy Awards, he has now become all popular and mainstream with a new floppy hairdo and a celebrity wife in former Blue Peter host Konnie Huq who still looks about 12. The new show demonstrates how T.V. has affected how we feel and how we act in everyday life. The first episode looked at fear and how certain programmes, news articles and safety adverts all try and instil fear into you. So Brooker looked at programmes about nuclear destruction such as Threads, news articles about terrorism and such and adverts about drink driving and staying safe. As well as commenting on clips there was also sketches featuring Kevin Eldon, Beth Cordingley and Clive from Miranda among others. These ranged from fairly amusing – hot pens to just a bit dull. Also there was a continuing narrative in which Brooker was living in a sleepy suburb and ended up murdering an old lady by accident but was able to dump her in a wheelie bin by the end credits. How T.V. Ruined Your Life reminded me of an old clip show episode of The Simpsons in which we were told at the start that there was at leat 33% new footage and that’s the same here. A lot of the stuff about the news trying to instil fear into us had already been covered in Newswipe and before that on the Screenwipe episode devoted solely to the news. Also some of his comments about clips had already been done such as the one about the speed limit in which the guy is haunted by the child he mowed down and Brooker quipped that he did make a handy draft excluder. But even if some of it is duplicated material from his early show and even if he is married to a celebrity presenter I still love Brooker and will watch him in anything although I’m sure a BBC executive decided to pad the show out with sketches rather than let Brooker ramble on as its ‘not very BBC2′, I still very much enjoyed the show and will look forward to watching more in the forthcoming weeks.

What did you think of this week’s programmes? Leave a comment below

Next Week: Marchlands, A Farmers Life for Me and Rastmaouse.

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