This week we’ve got lots more telly to get through including variety, drama and a load of really bad stuff
A 19 year old lad in a day-glo orange hoodie sits in a waiting room, guitar in hand, talking about how he proposed to his pregnant girlfriend at an all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet his parents own a caravan park but it is a swish one with keycards and everything. Then he goes onto the stage and tells the audience that he wants to be a multi-million pound recording artist and the crowd start to titter then he launches into a rendition of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car and they complete turn around and start whooping and everyone else thought he was incredibly impressive, apart from my mum that is but luckily she’s not on the judging panel of Britain’s Got Talent. Yes everybody’s favourite talent show was back for a fifth series this time things have changed as seedy Piers Morgan and strict Simon Cowell have been replaced by jolly old comedian Michael McIntyre and off his rockers David ‘The Hoff’ Hasslehoff. Apart from these changes it was business as usual there were the decent acts – the aforementioned guitarist Michael as well as a woman with TWO dancing dogs and a 9 year old comedian who everybody found adorable but I reckon should’ve been sent home for just being overly precocious. But we don’t really watch BGT for the good acts, sure we all enjoy a Su-Bo moment which was afforded to us by Michael but I’d much rather re-watch goofy 50-something Steven Hall doing a montage of dance routines or see Antonio make his eyes pop out of his head than see a dozen good singers because really that’s what The X-Factor is for. The nutters started early with one old woman mistaking Amanda Holden for Joanna Lumley before launching into a Morris Dance while playing the accordion and the less said about the guy dressing up as a dolphin the better. Of course BGT do save the best for last and they did this time with married couple Gay and Alan playing the handbells, Gay explained that her and Alan met at a recorder group where he blew her out of the water (pun intended) and since then they have been trying to promote the handbells to a bigger audience in Britain, apparently its more popular with our friends in the states. Gay and Alan launched into a handbell rendition of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ which got the audience and the judges singing along and was rather cute which I think is the first time anyone has called Alan, who looks like a Harry Enfield character, cute. It is the people like Gay and Alan, Steven and Antonio who make this competition what it is and long may it continue. And what of the new judges? Well I’m feeling more relaxed in the company of Hoff and Mac than I have did with Piers and Simon as they are lot less ruthless but at the same time still quite blunt. A lot has been made of the fact that the show got a million less viewers than when it started last year but then I don’t think viewing statistics mean that much anymore with people watching online or maybe catching a repeat these days it’s not so much about the statistics as it about how many people are talking about the acts and are interested in them. Personally it wasn’t as strong a start as previous years, but that’s nothing to do with the panel, its just that I think it could be edited down to about an hour to keep it tight and fresh and leave a lot of the God-Awful acts to the ITV2 show. But as you already know I will continue to watch and see who will follow in the footsteps of Paul Potts, Diversity, the little dancing boy and the tumblers who won it last year, what happened to them?
Now if you want to make Britain’s Got Talent look like The Sopranos then put something completely inane that attacks all your senses at once on before it. ITV1 took this advice on Saturday night and screened the horrendous Sing If You Can before BGT came on the air. A sort of a mix of Fear Factor and that show Night Fever Suggs used to present on Channel Five back in the day, Sing if You Can sees a mixture of singing and non-singing celebrities and asks them to belt out a tune while being distracted by certain items. The ‘celebrity’ teams were made up of ‘I’d Do Anything’ winner, BBC2 radio host and supporting star of Candy Cabs Jodie Prenger alongside actress Bridgitte Nielsen and dancer Brendan Cole opposing them were Zoe Birket, who came fourth in Pop Idol after Will Young, Gareth Gate and Darius, G4′s Jonathan Amstell and Pineapple Dance Studio favourite Andrew Stone. The challenges saw each member of the team take turns to sing while being distracted for example Nielssen and Birkett took each other on being strapped to circles, spun around and having knives thrown at them while trying to warble through Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’ while later Prenger sung ‘Rescue Me’ while hilariously being covered in snakes. As every singing type show has to have a panel of judges, Sing if You Can probably created the most random one yet with recovering drug addict indie band member Shaun Ryder, soon to be an ex-Loose Woman Coleen Nolan and comic Dave Gorman who has no connection to singing whatever. As you can tell its all a bit awful the singing’s okay until the gunge or snakes are bought on then it descends into screaming, Keith Lemon is just an awful primetime host as his jokes are just not appropriate for this style of programme while Stacey is loveable but hardly coherent. But its hard to be so negative to a show whose main aim is to raise as much money as possible for the Teenage Cancer Trust which got almost 10 grand at the end of episode one thanks to Cole’s ability to stay on a giant record. While I won’t be watching it again it’s nice to see some Z-Listers actually putting their time to good use instead of self-promoting themselves with ghastly reality shows on ITV2 and Sky Living.
Continuing on ITV1 we had a two-part drama thriller last week entitled The Reckoning focusing around a moral dilemma, could you kill a bad person to get the money needed in order to save your daughter’s life. The story saw Ashley Jensen’s Sally given the opportunity to change her life for the better when she is invited to a lawyer’s office and played a tape with an indistinguishable voice who asks her to kill someone for 5 million pounds enough to send Amanda, her cancer stricken daughter, to America to have a life-saving operation. Max Beasley plays Sally’s security guard boyfriend Mark who was formerly a copper while Sally was a nurse but now works in a call centre thanks to an incident in her past which of course plays into the plot of The Reckoning. As well as Mark and Sally trying to decide what to do with the information they have been handed we the audience also see several other murders that link into what Sally has been asked to do but as with any good thriller we have to keep waiting. I really didn’t think I would like The Reckoning after reading a couple of previews but I really enjoyed it. The main reason for this is the casting of Ashley Jensen who is better known for her comic roles and the perfect choice to play the every woman Sally who initially doesn’t want anything to do with the instructions but Mark sort of talks her into it. Beasley is a good choice to play Mark as he’s an actor who specialises in playing a character who is seemingly nice but could snap at any moment. I was completely engrossed in the plot from the first scene which set up the central mystery of the drama even before we meet Sally. Personally I sort of worked out who was behind it just before it was revealed but it was still a decent explanation of everything that had gone before. A couple of criticisms would come from some of the dreadful acting coming from some of the minor characters and I also felt the ending was a bit of a cop out and didn’t really answer one central question but may be that was the point. Although it was ridiculous I found The Reckoning a decent well-plotted thriller that didn’t lag at all, a rarity for ITV.
Concluding ITV1′s big week we have another show that sees Davina McCall try and move away from her Big Brother role as she co-hosts the family reunion show Long Lost Family. Essentially Surprise Surprise for the new millennium it sees McCall, who was raised by her grandparents, and Nicky Campbell who was adopted present the show in which people try and track down their long lost family members. The first saw 66 Year Old Jennifer calling in McCall and Campbell to try and find her twin before it was too late. After doing a bit of work on a computer Campbell tracked Jennifer’s twin who lived a massive three miles down the road. Before we got the reveal we went onto a second reunion with 43 year old Karen trying to track down her father. This proved a bit harder for Campbell’s computer but he found out that the dad had been in prison and that he had a brother before tracking Peter down in Canada where he had started a brand new family but had always wondered about Karen but he didn’t think he was good enough to be a father to her as he was only 19. After Nicky had got all the information it was up to Davina to swoop in and tell Jennifer that they’d found her sister Kathleen and then Karen that they’d found father Pete. These parts of the programme were possibly the most emotionally manipulative as Davina asked stupid questions of them, ‘would you like to see a picture?’ asks Davina to each teary-eyed woman like there’d be any answer than yes. Of course everybody watches these programmes for the reunions and when the twins met at a bandstand in their local park my mother started to cry buckets especially when they went off walking hand in hand like they’d been together all their lives. Karen and Pete’s reunion was more silent, a little bit stoic but still enough to evoke maternal waterworks once again but I suppose she might be the target group for this sort of show both of the reunited pairs are still in contact which I’m guessing the show’s producers are happy about even though they failed to mention the involvement of adoption agency Norcap. Indeed Nicky Campbell and the producers are given credit for all the work that is done in tracking down the long lost relatives but that’s not the case. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the show and I think it’s good for these families to reunite its just personally I’d have preferred a bit of celebrity involvement or at least the show taking a few breaks to introduce Cilla Black to have a bit of a sing song.
Following the success of The Only Way is Essex which has now been nominated for a BAFTA, more on that later, Essex seems to be the new favourite area to make T.V. shows. With that in mind, and always being one to jump on the bandwagon, Channel Five gives us Essex Jungle a programme about all the slimy life forms that live in Essex and I’m not talking about Mark Wright here. Instead it focuses on the fact that Essex has the largest number of exotic animals imported to it every year and we meet both the people who supply the animals and those who take care of them. There was married couple Trish and Rob who own a shop full of spiders, crocodiles and snakes called Scales and Fangs. From the few scenes in their shop it seems that wannabe rappers are their biggest clients who obviously want to look like big men by having all these interesting pets. But they best take care because when they grow up they can start to attack as one man can testify to as he almost dies when his own boa constrictor wraps itself round his head. This means that he has to call in Ian a man who runs a wildlife sanctuary in his own house and keeps all those Essex crocodiles, snakes and such until they are able to be rehoused. Ian is a sort of a Crocodile Dundee character walking round fearlessly among all these wild animals with his massive hat and his big stick. I’m guessing the fact Ian isn’t that scared off the beasts is because he has a scarier life at home with six children under the age of seven, obviously a busy boy, as well as many cats and dogs. Best of all though was former prison guard Chris who wanted someone to come home too after busy nights patrolling the cells. Instead of signing up to a internet dating site like a normal person he goes out and buys himself some lizards, iguanas and a couple of parrots. I thought that’s not too bad until he introduced his pride and joy – Caesar the Crocodile who doesn’t like to be picked up, which is fair enough really. Caesar’s needs have taken over Chris’ house which includes a small pond that goes from the house into the garden. All these people are clearly mental but that’s part of the joy of Essex Jungle for example Rob worries that if he’ll get bitten by a snake then Trish will have driven him over to London Zoo which is at least two miles away, why he doesn’t keep any anti-venom in the shop is beyond me. It is a thoroughly charming voyage through some of the more eccentric inhabitants of Essex and its outskirts let’s just hope we don’t get a crossover episode in which Trish and Rob have an exotic animals night at The Sugar Hut and Caesar pops into Amy’s Salon for a quick vajazzle.
While we’re on The Only Way is Essex a show that is trying to make it look incredibly intelligent debuted on Sky Living which was billed as a demnstration of how the modern man’s mind works. But ‘The Hunks’ is anything but as you can probably guess from the title. Instead we have ten vacuous men living in two penthouse suites in Newquay, Cornwall during the summer to see how modern men get ready for a night out, how they react to rock climbing and what happens when they are confronted by a gay man. Yes the twist in The Hunks seems to be that one of their number is gay, shockingly in 2011 not all men are straight! Obviously this is meant to make the men feel uncomfortable it doesn’t affect all of them, Sammy for example isn’t homophobic or raceophobic for that matter! But Vaughn and Idris, who like women who can dress presumably as opposed to those who have to have help to put their clothes on, are increasingly bothered by both Dominic and later on when two of the straight hunks Florian and Sean dress up as women on a night out. There are also a lot of scenes of the hunks topless presumably so the Sky Living execs can justify the title we see these men lifting dumbbells, participating in push-up contests, grooming before a night out, in their hottub and frolicking in the sea. But I have to say if this is truly a representation of how modern men behave then I’m sorry. These guys go to Tesco with their shopping budget and only purchase booze, they also seem to have trouble attracting women into their beds the only one who does is Sean and that’s when he’s dragged up, oh and Sean has a girlfriend what a complete gent. Yes as you can guess none of these hunks has a redeeming quality between them they talk in small sound-bites and chastise each other for their lack of physical ability and general attractiveness. To be honest its all a little homoerotic with the hunks talking about erections in jeans and the like, in fact the only one who doesn’t seem to have a secret crush on one of his housemates is Dominic and to be honest he’s well out of it. Just a horrible, horrible show it does demonstrate the fact that you at least need a couple of funny lines and interesting characters to create a fly-on-the-wall show about nothing but The Hunks has completely failed to do either.
A more successful fly-on-the-wall vehicle is Channel 4′s The Hotel featuring on the Damson Dene a three star establishment in the Lake District. The Hotel has a lot of similarities with the BBC docusoaps of the late 1990s in that it focuses on a couple of characters who will captivate the viewer. Top of this list is the Damson Dene’s General Manager Wayne whose soft Welsh tones and one-liners puts me in mind of Coach Trip’s Brendan Sheerin. Wayne lives in a caravan on the hotel’s grounds after rejecting the flat that the job came with. Wayne has been engaged many times and married once but his job as always comes first and now his only companion is his loveable dog Wayne obviously destined to become a cult hero. Wayne is the perfect General Manager as he really seems to care about what happens in the hotel and making sure that the guests are alright. Wayne also bridges the gap between owner and staff as we often see the appearance of Jonathan Denby, the owner of the place who obviously have ideas above his stations and would rather own a swish London hotel than this run-of-the-mill Lake District place whose main feature seems to be a gazebo in the grounds and a nice little bridge over the stream. Then there’s Kirk the Cumbrian chef at the Damson Dene who swears like a trooper and has aspirations to be the next Marco Pierre White down to the scarf that he wears around his head. Kirk has only been in the kitchen at the hotel a couple of months and was taken aback when he found that he was working with mainly Poles as assistant chefs. Indeed The Hotel does seem to focus a lot on the gap in language between the two thirds of the staff that come from Eastern Europe and the English speaking staff and guests for example there was a three minute segment of episode one in which one of the snootier guests at the hotel had requested Rye Bread something that the Polish waiter didn’t quite grasp. The main focus on episode one was that Dan was proposing to long-time girlfriend Liz and on the other side of the generation gap Julie and Brian Palmer were going on their last break before Brian finds out if his cancer treatment had worked out. There was a happy ending when Liz said yes to Dan and Wayne appeared with a bucket of champagne however I had a horrible feeling that the show would be dedicated to Brian’s memory luckily his treatment worked and we saw him back at home with his grandchildren. Thanks to likeable characters such as Wayne and Kirk, The Hotel is one of those very watchable docusoaps which will capture the nation’s heart over the next few weeks and has founnd its perfect position on Sunday nights.
I don’t know if you’ve heard but there’s a little wedding happening in a week or so and most of us have got the day off work, sorry if you haven’t. And T.V. seems to be obsessed with the nuptials of our future king Prince William and his lovely pretty bride-to-be Kate Middleton. This coming week will be full of programmes to that effect but Channel 4 did get the ball rolling with Meet the Middletons in which it explored Kate’s family tree and her extended relatives the phrase ‘coming out of the woodwork’ springs to mind. In fact the large, red-haired Kaillie said she only found out about the link six months ago, probably about the same time she was contacted by the production company. The programme had really two aims to see what stock Kate came from and obviously to show some of the differences in class in some of her cousins once removed, her second and third cousins and so on. There was a 21 year old hairdresser who didn’t know if she’d watch the wedding or just go down the shops, a co-op manager, an aerobics enthusiast and a science teacher. More interesting was the genealogy on Kate’s mothers side there was the Goldsmith family with Kate’s maternal grandmother Dorothy was apparently a social climber who married Ron a builder who was forced into forming his own company so Dorothy wouldn’t be ashamed of him. However both are dead but Ron’s sister Annie is still alive but has never met her great niece but still believes that she is too good for the royal family, quite right! On her father’s side we find the Cumbrian mining dynasty of the Luptons with Great Grandfather Lupton leaving a large sum of money to his daughter and son-in-law who just happened to be the first Middleton in Kate’s family tree. A fascinating documentary in some ways but a head-scratcher in others, I mean if we all had this done to us what skeletons would be found, I recently discovered I had some third cousins living in Australia however I had to use Genes Reunited to find this out. Let’s be honest if we were all marrying into members of the royal family then there would be no need for Genes Reunited or Ancestry.Co.Uk but I think sometimes wer’e best not knowing whose lurking in the background just in case we don’t like what we find. However in the case of Kate’s bunch they all seem like pleasant enough people if a little bit normal but then I suppose that’s the point.
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Next Week: Doctor Who, United and Don’t Scare the Hare