Another week, another load of TV to talk about.
And we’re kicking off with possibly the biggest talent show anti-climax ever as Jai McDowell wins Britain’s Got Talent. Jai who I hear you ask. Yes for those non-BGT watchers out there probably the only contestant you’re familiar with is Ronan Parke and we’ll get to him in a moment. Even for me, who watched every semi-final last week, Jai was instantly forgettable down to the fact I can’t even remember what songs he sung in either the semis or the finals and he was the one who bored me the most out of the final ten. Something in the back of my mind told me Ronan wasn’t going to win even though there was the fix rumours and the fact that Ant and Dec read out the entire number for his voting line the tides of taste had changed. If I was a betting man after the final I would’ve put my money on teen boy band New Bounce who were so awful in the auditions but bounced back once Simon arrived with his handy auto-tune toy. The boys’ performance of Ain’t No Sunshine was very reminiscent of everything I hated about the One Direction songs in the last X-Factor everything from the giant platform they were standing on to the camera angles to the key change it was sickening manipulative TV and its most exploitative but the New Bounce boys came third. For those of you who didn’t hear Norfolk Bieber Ronan was the bookies favourite and also my pick to be fair he was a talented singer but he was far too precocious for my liking and really didn’t want him to win but would’ve preferred him over Jai but then it was obviously all of Scotland block-voting either that or Cheryl Cole was using all the money from her alleged gagging order to vote for the person with the strongest regional accent. Of the finalists my personal favourites were the ones who let their talent shine through and came across as fairly unassuming themselves so I would’ve either had pianist Paul or hulking singer-guitarist Michael. Of the rest we had the eccentric – comedy dancer Steven Hall and keyboard player Jean Martyn, the dancers – James Hobley and that Matrix guy and impressionist Len Gibson who was so good up to the final in which he used some really questionable voices which I think was a bit of a fix as surely he’s perfected a routine that he uses on the club circuit.
Obviously as a whole this series has been different with the lack of both Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell who only made a return for the final week. Simon’s presence meant that the judging table had to be lengthened and some of the less appealing acts got almost instantly buzzed I’m looking at you Antonio Popeye, The Terminator dude and that woman with the long name who dressed up as a flight attendant. Simon took a while to settle back into his persona with him seemingly loving most of Monday’s acts he did look very tired and his eyes looked very strange indeed like he’d had work done on them recently. As I also mentioned I which he’d just laughed off the Ronan fix stories instead of adding flames to the fire and getting the German FBI involved, Simon always takes his shows far too seriously especially BGT which is meant to be a light-hearted affair. At least the other judges seem to realise what they’re doing although for me David Hasslehoff cracked out the, ‘you really improved on your audition piece – I think you could win this contest,’ far too often. Michael McIntyre’s one-liners were one of the highlights of the finals, I’d been unsure about the comic’s judging abilities during the audition stages especially when he sent off the drumming guys, who couldn’t make the final as they were involved in military business. But when the semis arrived he came into his own being his effervescent self and saying what everybody was thinking down to Simon showing far too much chest with his open shirt. Meanwhile Amanda Holden continues to be the most non-descript judge despite being given the job of doing Simon’s hand-in-the-hair to stop the singer’s job. I have to say that this was definitely the weakest Britain’s Got Talent series thusfar, there weren’t many surprises apart from Jai’s anticlimactic win. My idea for next year would be to separate the semi-finals into something like – singers, dancers, musicians, comedy and other. Although there would be some crossover this would meant that the final would have a lot more variety but at the same time would mean that the powers-that-be wouldn’t be able to manipulate the obvious final line-up. However they couldn’t manipulate the voting public, unfortunately that meant the least memorable talent show winner since Leon Jackson won the 2007 X-Factor.
After the final Britain’s Got Talent audition show on Sunday we were presented with ITV1′s latest crime show a female-based cop drama Scott and Bailey starring Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones as the titular detectives. Obviously Sharp and Jones are both quite ubiquitous performers at the moment, Jones most recently appeared as The Tardis in Doctor Who while Sharp is currently playing the Alzheimer’s suffering wife of Christopher Eccleston in The Shadow Line. Thankfully Scott and Bailey wasn’t about an Alzheimer’s sufferer and a Tardis instead Sharp’s Scott was the more senior of the two and was married with a family but seemed a bit tired of domestic life and was also involved in solving the mystery of her mother’s murder. Meanwhile Jones’ Bailey was in a two year relationship with a man who she later discovered had a family of his own when she tracked him down at his abode he asked her how she found the place and her answer was, ‘cos I’m a detective.’ If Bailey was that good of a detective could she not of worked out that her man Nick was leading a double life what did he do during the holidays for example? Or all the events that he surely would’ve had to attend with his two young sons. Despite this Bailey was completely unaware but was still pretty threatening when she found out making sure that Nick gave her the flat that they shared. In between domestic problems Scott and Bailey also were trying to solve the crime of the death of a woman who seemingly committed suicide but the discovery of a secret attic exit poured attention onto the husband who had had an affair with another woman inevitably something that Bailey wasn’t very happy with. I quite liked Scott and Bailey mainly because of the two lead actresses who were both great in the roles especially Sharp who was underused but brilliant in every scene she featured in. My biggest qualm with the show was that it focused far too much on the personal lives of the women which meant it only took about 15 minutes to work out who’d committed the crime. Some of the methods used, especially Bailey’s interrogation skills, were also somewhat questionable as was the rooms in which interviews were conducted which was adorned in a very stark red paint and looked more like a recording studio than a room in a Northern police station. But this is ITV crime at its most likeable much better than Vera which it has replaced and with a much stronger script written by the great Sally Wainwright who previously worked with Jones on the brilliant Unforgiven. My one wish for Scott and Bailey is that the women spend more time using police resources to solve actual crimes rather than to simply to aid their personal crisises.
New comedy also came to the screen last week with the return of Jack Dee’s Lead Balloon. Since series 3, Dee’s Rick Spleen seems to have given up the stand-up circuit and the corporate gigs and is now trying to venture down other avenues. In the first episode Rick’s partner Mel has been chosen for a feature in The Times so inevitably Rick wants to use this to promote his new persona even though this is Mel’s moment. This means discussing his new plans with the various colourful supporting characters before deciding to buy some new clothes, some fancy looking glasses and a pig. Obviously the pig becomes the crux of the episode for its second half as it runs amuck in the house and the garden. When The Times come Rick enlists his spaced out daughter Sam and her hapless boyfriend Ben to make sure the pig stays outside but obviously the pig appears at the worst possible time. After always being a fan of Lead Balloon I was slightly disappointed with the first episode, I thought a lot of the jokes felt tired and some of the situations that had been set-up, including a interaction with cafe owner Michael, had been seen before. The inclusion of the pig also seems like something that isn’t in fitting with Lead Balloon which has relied more on dry one-liners and character based humour rather than sight gags to set the tone. Save a scene with Rick’s nosy neighbour there was not one scene that really made me laughed out loud which surely isn’t good a thing for a comedy. However I have since seen the second episode, in which Rick joins a shopping channel, and I think everything that was lacking in episode one featured in the second episode so I think maybe it was a little bit of a slump. Jack Dee is still at his sharpest as Spleen who thinks he’s more important than he actually is and some of the supporting characters, especially Eastern European cleaner Magda, are still as funny as ever. It’s great that a witty show like Lead Balloon is still on the air especially since some of the comedy tat like Coming of Age is finally being booted off the BBC.
The phrase Channel 4 Documentary has lost all meaning these days, once upon a time this was the channel that was seen as a lot more controversial and intellectual than the channels that came ahead of it. However in the past couple of months C4′s documentary output has including Big Gypsy Weddings and The Hotel I have to say I don’t think David Attenborough is quaking in his boots at this competition. The latest entry into this cavalcade of classics is one-off plastic surgery expose Bums, Boobs and Botox which looked at Transform the U.K.’s largest Plastic Surgery company. Although the programme purported to be a documentary as it was narrated by Peep Show’s Robert Webb it definitely had its tongue stuck in its surgically-enhanced cheek. The makers of these shows always try and find characters to drive the action along and this one had a few with Dr. Stephen Calder probably sticking out the most. Dr. Calder used to be a dentist but got fed up of that life and wanted something with a bit of glamour to it so started injecting people with Botox. He said he liked the feeling that he gave to patients after they saw the results of the work they’d had done with one woman literally jumping up for joy which never happened while he was a dentist presumably because if his patients did that they’d dislodge the gold crowns he’d just installed. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that Transform pay him a wad full of cash and he gets to inject himself with Botox free of charge. In fact the documentary made a point of highlighting the fact that most of Transform’s staff had had some work done as it was offered at 50% off so most of them had had the Botox while others had had fat removed or their boobs done. As well as the bums, boobs and Botox we saw a lot of men getting hair transplants one in particular felt that his lack of hair made him feel small and it was the reason that he never got a lot of girls. And I think this was the main problem with the programme by having a light-hearted jab at this industry it almost failed to notice that most of the people getting this surgery had low self-esteem whether it be the need to compete with younger people at work or just feeling generally unattractive these people had personal problems that they needed to deal with but they thought surgery was the only option. Although I did enjoy Webb’s light-hearted poke at this image obsessed industry I feel that if this had been a more serious expose of the industry it would’ve made a better all round documentary rather than a one-off puff piece.
Finally we come to the end of this run of seven Doctor Who episodes, before you read any further I must warn you that I am going to talk about what happened in this Saturday’s episode so if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want it spoiled I’ll see you next time. Anyway for me the decision to to air two lots of seven episodes means that the series never feels dull or long, I usually find myself lagging around episode 10 of the series so it feels a bit fresher only having seven. That there was two two-parters among those seven meant that there has only been five stories to contend with and on the whole they have been engaging. I know after I reviewed the first episode I wasn’t wowed but thankfully the second half was magnificent and introduced us to the terrifying The Silence as well as setting up two story arcs – Amy’s pregnancy and The Doctor’s ‘death’. I think there’s been something for everyone – the kids would’ve enjoyed the pirates episode, fantasy buffs obviously loved the Neil Gaiman penned episode featuring the previously mentioned Suranne Jones as The Tardis and my personal favourite was the two-parter concerning the doppelgangers as it dealt with themes of identity and paranoia rather than having any big monster threat. That brings us to the finale and after Amy Pond literally turned into a pond at the end of episode 6 we found out that she’d been kidnapped by Frances Barber’s eye-patched villainess and was indeed pregnant and about to give birth to a girl named Melody. As anybody who read the previews knew this was also the episode in which we found out who River Song was so if you put two and two together you would’ve worked out that River was in fact Amy’s daughter. This then saw the Doctor chasing after Melody/River who had been captured something that will be picked up in the next episode the ridiculously titled ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’. As a run of episodes I’ve been impressed by everything the writing, the effects and the set direction have all been great and there’s been some really fantastic additions to the cavalcade of monsters this half-series. I think Matt Smith has really improved as a Doctor this season and has really come into his own to prove to all the people that criticised him that he is worthy for the role. I’m glad that Alex Kingston has appeared in more episodes as well, River Song is possibly her best role and she is able to combine both vulnerability and full-on sex appeal to create a very memorable character. I also do like the fact that a married couple are the companions in this series I’m not sure if this is the first time this has happened but it works very well and it also highlights the loneliness of The Doctor. Overall a great first run let’s just hope the Hitler-bashing doesn’t take it too much over-the-top.
What did you think of this week’s programmes leave a comment below?
Next week: Case Histories, Injustice, Angry Boys and Popstar to Operastar