This week we’ve got a lot of endings and a few beginnings on the TV bandwagon.
Starting this week with Britain’s Next Big Thing a show that aims to encourage kooky Brits who thing they have designed something vaguely interesting and bring it along to open days for major retailer such as Habitat, Boots and, in episode one, Liberty. Liberty’s head buyer Ed Burstell is the man in charge of making all the decisions he is a very camp scarf-wearing chap who seems to take his job very seriously but seemingly isn’t made for T.V. judgment as he is neither very bitchy or enthusiastic when faced with good/bad products. Part of the reason for this is that all the chuff is filtered out by a group of Burstell’s deputies mainly pretty bright-eyed ladies who have nothing but praise even for the worst type of ideas for example they get bombarded by taxidermied animals and artistic jockstraps but manage to remain enthusiastic throughout. However we already know who will get through to see Burstell as we are presented with several X-Factor-esque promo videos for the people we know we’re going to follow. Most of them are the kookiest and strangest that Britain has to offer – there was Tom Hopkins Gibson who lives a reclusive life on the coast of Scotland his day seems to involve waiting for driftwood so he can turn them into bowls and mugs and such. A similar oddball was Richard Weston an architecture professor who has a passion for scanning fine minerals onto the computer and then turning them into scarves and ties. But the prize for suffering for you art had to go to sisters-in-law Maria and Sophie who have already spent tens of thousands of pounds producing their funky training bras for girls. The problem know is that their garage is full of 955 bras and their husbands having seemingly had to move out to make room as neither appeared in the VT. The problems will continue for Maria and Sophie when Anna Richardson aims her venom at them during the new series of The Sex Education Show: Stop Pimping Our Kids. Britain’s Next Big Thing is fronted by Theo Paphitis of Dragon’s Den, I use the word fronted because he’s not really the host and doesn’t really have a say in the overall decisions either. Theo’s role seems to be to entertain the pitchees before they meet Burstell’s lackeys and then to interview Burstell about what he thought. The overall main problem with the programme is that there is no ‘Snow Patrol/Elbow’ moment at the end when Tom, Richard and Maria and Sophie got their dream of seeing their product in Liberty. Instead Ed tells them he’ll have to visit their workshop or sleep on it and we the audience will have to wait till next week a viewing ploy that may not work. Another problem is Geraldine James’ expositional voice-over which basically exists just to tell us what’s happened, I’d prefer for Theo to have done the voice-over then at least we’d have known he was there. But, even though its essentially a mixed bag of reality show segments I was still sucked in and have enough interest in the people I watched in episode one to see if they do get their Liberty dream.
With the news that My Family is to be axed after its 7,000th series and also the news that Miranda is moving to BBC1 in 2012 means that their is hope for the pre-watershed British sitcom. As British we seem incapable of creating a non-sweary comedy these days which is odd because we used to be masters of it and the Americans can still do it. However that hope has been dashed once again after viewing the third series of The Life of Riley a programme that should never really have made it past the first episode. For those of you lucky enough never to have caught it Life of Riley sees Caroline Quentin’s Maddy Riley’s madcap adventures as she and her family try to cope with modern life as best they can. What is meant to make Life of Riley seem awfully modern and relevant is that Maddy married the new DS Barnaby from Midsomer Murders when she already had a weird speccy son and he had two teenagers a manipulative shit of a son and airhead flirt of a daughter. Maddy and Barnaby then had a baby together my mother’s reaction to ths was, surely Caroline Quentin’s too old to have a young baby? The answer to this is probably yes but in sitcom-land we must suspend disbelief. The new series offered no new character arcs with daughter still being an airhead losing Maddy’s mum’s car, older son still being manipulative by stealing money from a DJ neighbour and speccy son still being weird telling his older tormentors that he fancies them. What worried me was that Maddy didn’t really seem to care about her child’s bullying woes instead worrying about the fact that her mother was getting re-married and being awfully petulant about it. I reckon that Maddy’s jokes about quizzing her mum’s new boyfriend and grounding her mother were meant to be hilarious gags but it just made her come off a bit horrid. There are really no redeeming features about Life of Riley, I mainly derived fun from it by playing guess the punchline which mainly involved jokes about viagra or old men not being able to get up straight away after bending over. Quentin must be just doing this for the paychecks while the child actors are just horrible and should really being watching the boxsets of Outnumbered to see how to be a good child actor in a sitcom. And what of Barnaby? Well I think he’s just investigating the mystery of how this nonsense got recommissioned for a second series, let alone a third.
More new(ish) comedy with David Walliams’ Awfully Good Ads. For those of you who’s memories stretch back as far as January you may remember Walliams presenting a one-off show called Awfully Good T.V. in which he delved into the archives to look at all those funny telly moments that we never get tired of watching i.e. people swearing when they’re not meant to, Cheggers naked on that show and the ilk. We were promised a series but it didn’t happen but now we’ve got the second part of this ‘occasional series’ as Walliams trawls the archives to look at all those funny adverts. I know what you’re thinking how is this different from all those funny ad shows that Chris Tarrant used to host in the 1990s? The answer is it’s not really. The only main difference is that Tarrant, and Dale Winton after him, concentrated on ruder foreign ads while Walliams’ style was more look at how far we’ve come from this horrible sexist adverts from the 1950s and 1960s. And indeed there seemed to be a massive focus on the adverts that were aimed at women who were told to stay in the kitchen and do the dishes while hubby stayed in the other room presumably smoking his pipe and being chauvinistic. The fact that the 1960s were a more innocent time was also highlighted in the segment which looked at unfortunately named products and in particular the dieting pill known as AIDS so the advert sees some teen icon saying something along the lines of ‘when I need to slim down, I just get some aids.’ There’s also the obvious fun to be had looking at some of the funny public information films such as the ‘don’t go off with strangers’ ad in a time when, according to Walliams ‘paedophiles looked like paedophiles’. The most disturbing of these public information films was the one discouraging young healthy men to go off with people they suspect to be homosexuals which in the America of the 1950s was presented as a disease rather than a life choice. Although it is funny when we look back at this know there was no real commentary from Walliams on this ad on how awful it is instead we are all just meant to have a good chuckle. I’m sure Walliams is a thoroughly nice man and I’ve found his programmes funny however I’m starting to suffer from Walliams overkill after 24 Hour Panel People and Come Fly with Me having already been broadcast earlier this year. Saying that I’m sure I’ll be tuning in for the final instalment of Awfully Good when it rocks up probably next June.
As well as many debuts this week has also seen a fair few conclusions starting with the conclusion to the controversial and long-winded baby swap storyline on Eastenders. For those of you who have just arrived back in the country after having a four month break somewhere foreign the story saw Ronnie snatch Kat’s baby boy Tommy and replacing him with her son James who had died earlier that night. Since then Ronnie has been slowly going mental with the knowledge that she has been carrying out Kat’s child while Kat and Alfie buried her and Jack’s boy James thinking that it was Tommy while Kat and Alfie’s marriage has suffered under the trauma of the event and they seemed to be on the verge of breaking up. Things came to a head on Friday when Jack’s brother Max and Max’s daughter Abby were involved in a car accident while on the way to the wedding of Max’s ex’s Tanya’s wedding. Accompanying Jack to the hospital, Ronnie went around the maternity ward where she came to give birth to James and then came head-to-head with the midwife who delivered him. Ronnie then essentially stole Jack’s car and legged it to the pub where she confronted Kat with a stilted speech about the swap before handing herself over to the police. For me the whole thing was handled very well, the speech itself wasn’t overwritten but at the same time explained what it needed to in terms of wrapping up the plot. The acting from Samantha Womack and Jessie Wallace was superb and there wasn’t anything more that needed to be said. However I did find the episode disturbing mainly because once again Eastenders found the need to show Max with his top off, this time in the hospital snogging ex-wife and recently re-married Tanya. It’s still a mystery to me how Max constantly gets these women his latest squeeze being the terrifying Vanessa with the hair that never moves, he seems utterly charmless and isn’t exactly God’s Gift. But returning to the Baby Swap Plot the following episodes will see the ramifications of what Ronnie and Kat have done and will give Samantha Womack some much needed time off. Personally I didn’t see all the hoo-hah and it just seemed to be one of those ’causes’ that the print media jumps on just to sell more papers but I’m glad that it’s over mainly so new storylines can have a chance to develop.
Also ending was this week was 4′s Love Thy Neighbour. Remember Love Thy Neighbour? It was the show in which two families competed to win a £300,000 cottage in the remote and picturesque Yorkshire village of Grassington. However nto a lot of people were watching it in its primetime Channel 4 Thursday night slot so the final four episodes were shunted over to More4 to be shown as double bills on Friday night. On the whole the families competing weren’t the usual people that Grassington saw on a day-to-day basis so there was an Asian family, a black family, a gay couple, a lesbian couple, an Italian family and two single mums. The first part of the double bill concentrated on the six couples that made it through the first round competing to get into the final – the two gay couples were still there as were the black family, the single mum and two young white couples one with kids and one without. After the semi-final vote it was the single mum vs the young couple who’d never lived away from home before. The residents of Grassington went to there prospective home towns to delve into their backstories a bit more, the single mum got a bit more love thrown her way from the Grassington females who had been a bit cold to her up to that point whereas some support drifted from the young couple when the Grassingtonites realised that they may break up and move away. In the end the couple won with just three votes in it and then got engaged right on the stage at the election – how romantic! I had been sporadically watching Love Thy Neighbour throughout its run and was interested to see who’d got to the second round and the final so was fairly despondent when I realised that none of the multicultural couples had been picked as finalists and instead it was the pretty white folk who had sauntered through. Although Grassington was lovely looking and seemed like a thoroughly charming area the majority of the residents came across as bitter, inbred or just plain weird and the whole competition aspect was made mockery of when it was revealed that the single mum had since rented a house in the village and had herself become a resident along with her young son. I do enjoy a good reality competition show but I have to say Love Thy Neighbour didn’t deliver what it promised a new different family unit in Grassington instead of the same old same old.
And finally it was the end of term at Jamie’s Dream School a programme that has had its fair share of critics, me included, but in the end did deliver its own version of the Snow Patrol moment, but as this was a cool Jamie Oliver fronted show it was The Temper Trap moment. The final episode was primarily centred around the reports that had been written about the pupils and what the ‘teachers’ thought of their temporary pupils. Alistair Campbell also ended up taking all of the pupils to Downing Street to meet David Cameron. The panel, headed up by the straight talking and thoroughly intelligent Jourdelle, tried to make some good points about how the education system was failing and how the benefit system could be better handled but Cameron kept using that horrible political jargon to not really answer any of their questions. But at least Henry, the posh one who learned to appreciate his parents through the medium of poetry, got something out of his Downing Street trip after George Osbourne signed his petition to legalise marijuana. My whole question from the start was, what are these kids going to do once the celebrity teachers, biospheres and sailing trips are gone? Well at the end we got our answers as there was the obligatory what are these kids doing now, something that was flashed up so fast that I had to return to watch it on 4OD so I could probably take in the information. Of the 20 it seemed only 5 or so were retaking GCSEs with a few more doing BTECs, some enrolled into theatre schools and two were given intern-ships by Jamie himself. Seeing this information come up it made me think that quite a lot of the students hadn’t been given enough screentime and it was only those who shouted a lot or seemed quite promising. I wasn’t surprised that Jourdelle had a place on a business scheme or that Aisha had gone back to school and was hoping to study law but what did surprise me was that Danielle who’d received the Biosphere scholarship and had had a tour round Cambridge with David Starkey was auditioning for TV dramas. There was also a lot of students ‘hoping’ to do things or ‘looking’ to do things rather than having actual achievements. The message then seems to be that having Rolf Harris teach you art or Robert Winston teach you science can only get you so far at the end of the day you still have to have a bit of ambition and a heap load of intelligence to truly reach your dream.
Next week on the blog we have the return of Britain’s Got Talent, new drama with The Reckoning, the horrendous Sing if You Can plus the Royal Wedding build-up begins with Meet the Middletons and much more besides.
What did you think of this week’s programmes? Leave a comment below