Welcome back everyone and hello to my international audience which I have just discovered by looking at my stats so hello to people over in the States, Denmark, Germany, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Luxembourg and of course my British crowd. Please leave a comment below to tell me what you think of this week’s blog and with that being said lets get started.
And it’s interesting that I mention the global audience as we’re kicking off with Stolen a drama that looks at the serious issue of child trafficking which is on the increase where young children from around the world are being bought in as slaves. The three children in question here were Vietnamese Kim Pak, Nigerian Rosemary and Georgie who was from an undisclosed Eastern European country. Damien Lewis was the big name actor here playing the well intentioned DI Carter who was the copper given the responsibility to look after all these crimes. However he mainly concentrated his efforts on finding the people responsible for trafficking Rosemary meanwhile Georgie’s story was centred around the slave labour he was asked to do in a shambolic hostel and Kim Pak barely featured. Ultimately Carter succeeded in his protection as Rosemary was saved from her Nigerian captors and a final scene saw her attending school however Georgie wasn’t as lucky and ended up being killed after being cast off from his work at the hostel. I suppose the makers were giving us the message that while some children find new homes in the country some end up dead and even though Rosemary was saved the final scenes gave us the statistics on child trafficking while more children were arriving in the country as we were unaware what kind of fate awaited them. The information accompanying Stolen described it as a fast-moving drama which it definitely wasn’t and that was part of its problem. I feel it stretched itself too thin with its multi plot strands instead I would’ve cut it down to an hour and been based around Carter’s protection of Rosemary which was by far the most compelling story on offer here. I understand why Georgie’s story was shown but I think the final scenes of the children arriving were enough to tell us that the problem continues even though several children are saved. Lewis was a dependable hand his Carter was dependable, hard-working and really believed in what he was doing, Lewis did struggle with his cockney accent but apart from that the performance was spot on. However he was eclipsed by Gloria Oyewumi as Rosemary who gave a startling fragile performance where you really believed that the traumatic events had actually happened to her and for a young girl to deliver this sort of turn is extraordinary. For me the drama was a little overly flashy at times we got 24 style split screens which detracted from a subject matter that could’ve done with a little more grit to its filming and also some tighter plotting. Overall I feel that Stolen achieved its prime objective in educating people about a crime which is becoming more frequent however a shorter runtime, tighter plotting and a concentration on one story would have helped it get a larger audience.
If Stolen was a little bit heavy for you then we were given the final chance to indulge in the glorious craziness that is Luther. In terms of Luther you either fall on one side of the fence either you find the gratuitous violence, silly plots and unbelievable characters as off-putting or you just relax and let the ridiculous plot wash all over you and enjoy John Luther’s attempt at being just as insane as the criminals. After being able to hunt down the punch-masked killer just as he was about to gas a load of school kids this time Luther and the team were trying to outsmart two twins who were playing each other in a dice-based game in which they accumulated points for how dangerous their crimes were and the level of people they killed. After putting one twin behind bars Luther had to get the other twin to surrender a little hard as he had a bomb strapped to his body. Luckily Luther was able to lure him away from the crowds by sacrificing himself dousing himself in petrol and about to set himself on fire only for the firing team to intervene and get the twin without hitting the bomb. The self-sacrifice angle ties in with a character who this series has had acid poured in his eyes, his hand nailed to a table and played Russian Roulette with himself. As well as solving ludicrous crimes he has also been trying to save a young girl from the clutches of Pam Ferris, here playing against type as the head of a crime family, and her clan which isn’t easy after one of them was bumped off by the same girl. Luckily Luther is more wilier than a family of cons and is able to frame one of them for the murder before confronting Ferris in one of the least scary scenes of all time and then sharing an ice cream with his new ward. I have enjoyed this run of Luther much more than series one mainly because the writing was more focused and Luther didn’t have an ex-wife to care about or the psychopathic Alice hanging around all the time. Idris Elba is so good playing this larger-than-life character that it’s a wonder to think that he ever played clever criminal Stringer Bell on The Wire. Having said this I do love the plotting on Luther and as long as they can up the crazy I say roll on series three.
Luther isn’t really a cop who is known for his subtle undercover work however going undercover this week was Vanessa Gold sister of Ann Summers head honcho Jacqueline as the Undercover Boss returned for a third series. In the Undercover Boss a head of a company infiltrates their empire and sees what can be changed and in a similar way to Secret Millionaire the most heart-warming scenes are the final reveal. Another similarity to the Millionaire show is that the bosses have to provide a flimsy backstory in order to justify being featured on camera. In Vanessa’s case she is returning to work after a divorce and after she is confronted by one employee over her ill-fitting wigs she has to think on her feet and say that she doesn’t want her former partner to find her. Apparently Vanessa is taking on the role as Jacqueline is instantly recognisable but to be fair I couldn’t tell her from Adam, or maybe that should be Eve, and most of the Ann Summers employees didn’t know what she looked like either when she turned up to check up on Vanessa. Obviously Vanessa is taken to stores where most of the workers have heart-breaking home lives – for example Mae has a disabled son while one of the others has to live in shabby accommodation as Ann Summers only signs its managers to full time contracts. This was one of the wrongs that was put right in the final reveal as the Gold sisters gave her a full time contract as well as making sure that the women who ran the Ann Summers parties didn’t have to use their own money to buy more kit. I have to say though that Vanessa wasn’t exactly an enigma on screen which I suppose helped back up her story that she’d never really worked before as her people skills weren’t great. I am a big fan of Undercover Boss but this episode was fairly weak and suffered from an inappropriate voiceover and uncharismatic boss in addition to this after Channel 4 aired the American version of the series it is apparent that they have more of an idea how to make this show seem exciting. My biggest query though was why a lot of the customers agreed for their faces to be shown on screen buying vibrators and the like and especially the guy who popped in order to buy something to ‘surprise his girlfriend’ a request that seemed quite dubious to both the sales team and the viewers.
It seems it’s quite hard to make a mainstream music documentary these days for example BBC4 can get away with profiling certain artists but I don’t think these would attract BBC2 style audiences on a Saturday night. Instead they need a hook, so for the new series Secrets of the Pop Song they have enlisted Robbie Williams’ former writing partner Guy Chambers to collaborate on three separate tracks with different artists. In future episodes he will help Mark Ronson create a song for an upcoming artists and also work with the Noisettes on a big anthem but up first was Rufus Wainwright as he and Chambers wrote a ballad together. The writing process seemed quite arduous especially as Wainwright seemed quite arduous as Wainwright kept changing his mind on what style of ballad he wanted to sing while at the same time also having to deal with becoming a dad any normal person would find this incredibly annoying but then Chambers had to put up with Robbie Williams for all those years so Wainwright was probably a walk in the park. Eventually the pair decided on an uptempo style song in the vein of Beyonce’s Halo entitled World War 3 which contained the line ‘don’t bore us get to the chorus’ which Chambers found too in-jokey and I have to agree with him but legendary scribe Don Black seemed to like it so they went with it. After the process was complete it was played to some radio pluggers who thought it would sit well on Radio 2 rather than commercial stations, so like the rest of Wainwright’s work then, they also felt that it could be used in a Richard Curtis romcom although I have to say it was a cut above ‘When You Say Nothing at All’ or ‘Love is All Around’. Running parallel to the Chambers/Wainwright journey was Stephen Mangan narrating the story of the ballad with some talking heads like Boy George, Neil Tennant and Sting describing the stories behind their iconic ballads while we also tracked the history of the ballad. The ballad was best summed up by Diane Warren who’d penned ‘I don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’, ‘Unbreak My Heart’ and more who said you have try and say something that has been said many times before which I feel the first song failed to do. Personally I could’ve done without the song-writing process and instead just concentrated on the old songs and the stories behind them but maybe the programme controllers didn’t have enough faith in a straight music documentary but here I think it would’ve worked.
However Secrets of the Pop Song was for me the best documentary of the week compared to some of the other shows on offer. Take for example Dirty Sexy Things E4′s attempt to fill the slot left by the vacuous Made in Chelsea with an equally empty-headed offering about models which undoes all the good work done by Channel 4′s The Model Agency which gave much more of an insight into modelling than I think this programme will ever do. Dirty Sexy Things follows one of fashion’s leading photographers Perou and his quest to find four models to star in various campaigns. He’s looking for models with personalities but also it seems ones that look good in their pants. To be fair Perou doesn’t discriminate and is an equal opportunity models in their pants man to start off with he picks a final eight – ‘male Adonis’ and backing dancer B.B., edgy London dude Jay, classic looking Jesse, beefy Rob, classically skinny Charlotte, commercial blonde bombshell Ariella, weird kooky Ocean and urban street Jeyse. As well as seeing them pose in their pants for Perou we also follow their journeys trying to get jobs and balancing work and home lives. We also see that models have dilemmas just like us unpretty people for example Rob wants to get into fashion photography but doesn’t want to stop going to the gym and B.B. is unsure whether to continue dancing for worldwide megastars like Rhianna or to concentrate on his modelling stuff all of us have to deal with on a regular basis. For the final underwear shoot Perou gets his eight to stand around various London statues something that former eating disorder sufferer Jay is uncomfortable with and rightly so but I couldn’t help laughing when the engraving on the monument behind them reads erected in 1834, yes I am that immature. To be fair the models all come off fairly well, they’ve got a good work ethic and work incredibly hard to maintain their physiques however Perou comes off as a bit of a twat. He doesn’t listen to the models concerns and even Jay’s body issues don’t bother him in the final shoot he walks around wearing sunglasses and a duffel coat looking a bit like Brian Harvey in East 17′s Stay Another Day video. Overall I don’t see the point of this show and especially I didn’t see Perou’s logic picking the two guys who were uncomfortable with the London shoot, Jay and Jesse, over experienced underwear model Rob. I just don’t know who this is meant to appeal to and I definitely don’t see how it could stretch over eight episodes and really I don’t care if it does or not.
Finally another edgy documentary from Richard Desmond’s new look Channel 5. When I saw the advert for Candy Bar Girls I initially thought this was going to be a softcore show from the man in charge of plenty of adult channels. The impression I got about lesbians after watching Candy Bar Girls is they are incredibly varied and range from lipstick lesbian to the classic butch lesbian according to Candy Bar DJ and Promotions Manager Sandra. Sandra has been tasked with re-promoting the lesbian nightclub Candy Bar for its new manager Gary, the first man to own the club in 15 years but don’t worry he’s gay too although his big qualm about the reopening is that he doesn’t want any pink around and this soon becomes an obsession. As this seems to be the week for impromptu photo-shoots Sandra also organises one with a little less flesh than was on display in Dirty Pretty Things. The girl who is eventually chosen for the photos is Danni a girl who failed an earlier audition to become a pole dancer for Sandra’s new arty poledancing team although Sandra deemed the word ‘arty’ to mean ‘bathed in UV light’. Anyway Danni is one of the girls we follow as she moves to London after studying in Manchester to be with her girlfriend Lucy but in the space of one episode they go from being in a committed relationship, to an open relationship, to splitting up and this spookily coincides with Danni’s new campaign for Candy Bar. The ‘Big Name’ if you can call it that attached to the project is Big Brother 11′s Shabby, you remember her right? She was the annoying one who fell down the stairs and spent most of her time bitching or being in love with a straight girl. Shabby and her friend Red end up starting a relationship which isn’t going swimmingly either as Red seems to want to get drunk all the time and shouts at Shabby meanwhile Shabby comes up with inane statements like ‘Judas Iscariot was my favourite disciple’. Then there’s barmaid Alex who’s moved from a small homophobic community in the outback of Australia to a bar in London where she spends most of her time drinking to the extent of almost ruining Sandra’s photo-shoot. Finally there’s former Magazine Editor Jo who just happens to get a job writing about the Candy Bar for her old magazine, funny that as the cameras following her around are for a documentary about the Candy Bar. So what did I learn in the end? Not much really but seeing a lot of women argue, get drunk and then strip to their underwear can usually be done in Yates’ Wine Lodge of a Friday night and I don’t need Channel Five to give me a lesbian education. In fact to gain a lesbian education according to Gary all you have to do is watch Lip Service and The L Word, and not like pink.
What did you think of this week’s programmes leave a comment below?
Next Week: Torchwood, The Night Watch and Peter Andre Here 2 Help