This week in TV we have had winners, losers, current affairs and charity work so let’s have a look back shall we?
I have to say I felt quite disconcerted with this series’ finale as we ended with the interview episode rather than a one on one scrap with some of the old candidates bought back for us the audience to say ‘you know, I’d forgotten all about them.’ But no that opportunity was taken away from us and instead the final four had to present their business plans to Sugar’s interview panel and have them scrutinise these as well as their CVs. Usually the interviews are good as they put all these smug business types down a peg or two but this time they are being used purely to pick a winner. I am a fan of the interviews episode mainly because it brings back Margaret Mountford to the show who was always a highlight for me and on Twitter people were touting her to be the next police commissioner or prime minister but she still has to finish that papyrology phd that she left the show to do, I have to say though that Karen Brady has grown on me a lot more this series than she did last year. Inevitably Margaret was one of the interviewers to pick apart slightly sinister Irish salesman Jim calling him an ass before his business plan was completely ridiculed by other members of the pack. Yes of course the business plans we shouldn’t forget them. Unsurprisingly Susan, who has set up her own skincare business, had a business plan for a skincare range, but regular bully Claude had a problem with her projection of a million pounds in the first year. Crazy inventor Tom also put forward another crazy invention this time some sort of back support for a chair but failed to mention the word chair in his business plan and again Claude picked apart his figures with a face that basically conveyed the message, ‘I’m not upset, I’m just very disappointed.’ Jim meanwhile produced, according to Nick Hewer, ‘the ultimate seduction letter’ to Lord Sugar a sort of e-learning device for school kids who wanted to learn about business using Sugar’s trademark AMS as part of the brand. But it was Helen, who by this point had only lost one task, who’s business idea came completely out of leftfield so much so that I’m still struggling with what it was actually about. It was her arranging people to book tables at restaurants for other people and then reminds them of their dental appointments or something like that. This concierge service didn’t go down well with the business bods and personally it sort of came out of leftfield for someone who has excelled in tasks that are based around food probably because she works quite high up for Greggs the baker.
In what was possibly the longest boardroom of the series Alan went through all the business plans once again and picked the finalists off one by one. Unsurprisingly Jim was the first to go; I think Mr. Eastwood was in the final purely because he’d impressed the panel throughout the contest with his sales patter and easy charm. Had this been the old series Jim may well have been the winner but he certainly doesn’t have the business brain needed for a partnership with his Lordship and the final straw for the Irishman was when he inadvertently called the big guy simply Sugar. Second runner-up was Susan, a surprise as I thought she and Tom would be in the final two, Susan had basically survived because of her previous business experience rather than anything she’d contributed to the tasks and I thought she’d possibly win the show however I don’t think it was quite her time. It was at this point that Helen felt her grasp on the prize loosening and jumped in with an eleventh hour bakery-based business idea but it was all too late as Tom regaled Al, Nick and Karen with the story of how he wooed Wall-Mart into supplying his nail file he also nailed Helen’s Apprentice coffin shut as Tom became Lord Sugar’s business partner. It was revealed on You’re Fired that in fact the chair had been thrown out of the window and replaced with a slightly modified version of Tom’s nail file. Secretly I feel that Lord Sugar had always had Tom in mind and that the process was a bit of a waste of time as Tom had been on the losing team more times than anyone. My thoughts about Susan’s odds to win were also proved right when the Lord told Dara that he and Tom would maybe do something with Suzie’s cosmetics linking the two products together and basically drawing another business partner from the process. Meanwhile it seems Helen has at least been promoted at Greggs and maybe will be able to head up her own division working on the business plan she concocted at the last minute. This series as a whole has been a little bit of a disappointment, there hasn’t really been an eccentric figure like a Raef or Lucinda neither has there been a figure of hate like a Stuart Baggs or Katie Hopkins. It’s not like I haven’t enjoyed some of the tasks but I feel that there needs to be more crazy inventor types like Tom or bigheaded spivs like Vincent rather than a lot of the interchangeable background characters like Glenn, Ellie and Leon. While the concept has been a success I feel that the overall show as suffered as a result and when the auditions kick in for next year’s show I feel the producers need to be looking for potential business partners who have a bit of character. But well done to Tom a thoroughly deserving winner and just a generally nice guy.
As The Apprentice leaves us so we get a new drama to spend the summer with in the form of BBC2′s The Hour. This nostalgic drama goes back to 1956 when the news was dominated by drab news reels and there was a sense that something more needed to be done. Step forward Ben Whishaw’s Freddie Lyon a passionate albeit arrogant youngster who wants to make a difference with a new hourly news programme. However the producing gig has already gone to fellow newsreel worker Bel a decision which I thought would’ve raised more controversy than it did, but we’ll get to that later. After finding out that the hosting gag is going to the charismatic Hector Madden he struggles with the fact that he will only get the home affairs spot if he decides to join The Hour. But his final decision is a surprise only to him as it is quite obvious that in this set up episode Bel and Freddie will be working together and some kind of romantic triangle with ensue with Hector getting in the middle of Bel and Freddie. I think The Hour would be just fine if it concentrated on the news angle and the characters based around it but somebody obviously didn’t agree and instead has added a mystery angle featuring an old friend of Freddie’s and a professor that was bumped off. This story almost seems like it’s the return of The Shadow Line with lots of shady men in hats lighting cigarettes however it seems that crossword puzzles play a great part in The Hour like cats and gas hobs did in The Shadow Line. It took me a while to relax into watching The Hour but that was mainly because of the jump between the organisation of The Hour T.V. show and the murder mystery plot. I really feel that getting rid of the mystery would’ve benefited everyone and then there would’ve been more chance to play on the themes of Bel being a woman in a man’s world. There a few hints to it but these mainly come from Freddie when he’s upset that Bel gets one of the jobs that he considers to be his. The period detail is done spectacularly and this is one way in which The Hour excels and I’m guessing why its drawn comparisons with another drama that has spot-on period drama, Mad Men, however the only character who would be home in the U.S. show is Dominic West’s Hector Madden. As for the cast Whishaw is very good treading the fine line between passionate and unlikeable and just veering to the right side his performance reminded me of Matt Smith in Doctor Who or Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock in that he can’t stay in the same place for too long and he’s often ignorant of what people have to say to him. I’m surprised that Romola Gari’s Bel is such a damp squib as she seems to be written as a strong powerful woman but I didn’t get that in episode one and I’m surprised at Gari as she’s usually very good as she demonstrated in The Crimson Petal and The White. West didn’t have a lot of time to shine as Madden but I’m guessing we’ll see a lot more of him as the weeks go on as we will some of the more interesting supporting players including Anna Chancellor’s foreign correspondent and Julian Rhind-Tutt as Anthony Eden’s press representative. Episode one of the hour certainly delivered a more than promising set up but the upcoming episodes will have to step it up in order for me to enjoy the whole series.
When writing about Small Teen: Bigger World last week as I said that BBC3 had bought back the Adult Season when in fact their new season of documentaries is entitled Extraordinary Me. It’s fairly apt actually because this week’s offering from that season featured someone who was truly extraordinary. That someone was Alex Lewis a 21 year old who, at the age of 17, found out that he had bone cancer. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and waiting for the inevitable Alex lives life to the full and as the title would suggest is life is truly on fast forward. Interviews with friends and family indeed concur that Alex is always everywhere never standing still and participating in any activity going. But the main story of the piece is about Ali a girl that Alex meets during a holiday in Australia and when they meet again a kiss confirms that this is the girl of Alex’s dreams and he soon proposes. Obviously this worries Alex’s family but doubts are soon abated when they see how good they are for each other and how aware Ali is of Alex’s condition. But obviously this documentary won’t end well and indeed when Alex’s sister says about feeling a tumour all the way up his spine you know there’s only a matter of time left. Indeed the wedding is rushed forward and Alex is now unable to speak and is completely paraplegic but the wedding goes off without a hitch apart from the overly comedic priest. The sweetest moment of the whole thing was when a tape was played of Alex talking about his new bride and then a dance shared between the new couple and the friends already had me in tears. However the next scenes where of his parents talking about the slight deterioration and then Alex saying that he couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t like to use the word inspirational so instead maybe thought-provoking would be a good word to describe this programme. Alex is, or maybe was, an extraordinary individual who didn’t let his illness hold him back and lived a lot longer than anybody would suspect. Despite losing her husband quickly Ali still said her life would be poorer without him and in the final scene reveals a tattoo she had done in his memory. Another very well made story about a captivating topic my hope is that BBC3 doesn’t confine these stories just to the summer and makes these sort of docs a priority as they are the best thing on the channel by a country mile.
To end, two ITV1 entertainment shows kicking off with Born to Shine. If anybody can still remember the ghastly Sing if You Can, then I’m sorry but I doubt anybody remembers that it was all done for char-i-dee as it was so tackily made and just too loud. To combat this the channel has made very sure that everybody knows that Born to Shine is all about promoting Save the Children and I got that point almost too much as presenter Natasha Kaplinsky mentioned the charity’s name at least once every five minutes and if you were playing a Born to Shine drinking game in which every time she mentioned Save the Children you downed a shot you would be very sozzled very quickly. Born to Shine also aims to highlight young talents and in this first programme we met a talented tap dancer, a young rapper and an extremely proficient pianist. But showcasing young talents simply isn’t enough for a prime time show so the twist here was that the three youngsters would mentor famous faces in their particular field then in turn the celebrities would peform an act of which the audience would vote a winner with all the money from the calls going to the charity. First up were married TV presenting duo Michael Underwood and Angelica Bell, who now seem incapable of appearing on any programme without the other, who were being coached by 13 year old Sophie on how to tap, the Underwood-Bells weren’t bad but neither were they going to win any competitions any time soon. Then came west end star Jodie Prenger who was being taught how to rap I have to say I didn’t think this was much of a leap for a musical star and indeed Prenger carried it off with ease and was blatantly the best of the three. The final act was ‘Harry Potter star’ Nick Moran who struggled to pull of playing Mozart even with the help of the delightfully endearing Isata by his side. As the results were announced by Natasha it was clear from the audience reaction that Prenger was going to trounce her opposition but by some fluke Nick ended up winning, possibly because he’s in Harry Potter and it was the film’s opening weekend, and nobody was more surprised than him. It’s hard to be snooty about a programme as worthy as Born to Shine, but I’m going to do it anyway. I honestly do feel that it maybe should be just a talent competition for youngsters with people calling in to vote and their money being donated to Save the Children but instead we have an unnecessary celebrity element. Another problem is with the judging panel, apparently a must for any show these days, while Denise Van Outen is on hand to be rather nice, Girls Aloud’s Kimberly Walsh is a bit of a charisma vacuum and Dancing on Ice’s ‘Mr. Nasty’ Jason Gardiner seems like an odd choice for a show based around charity but then maybe this is him repaying the bad work he did when he insulted Karen Barber earlier in the year. Overall it’s hard to sum up Born to Shine I suppose it’s doing good work and promoting talent so for that it should be applauded but for trying to add a celebrity format onto that, for me personally, was a mistake.
Finally we come to a programme who’s title is what I was shouting at the screen throughout most of its runtime – Show me the Funny. In a nutshell the programme wanted to be an X-Factor show for stand-up comedians but for me it was more a comic version of The Apprentice only the Apprentice was much funnier than this. Hosted by Jason Manford this reality show sees ten stand-up comics looking for their big break and gigging up and down the country with one stand-up being eliminated every week. Sounds good so far until you realise that the stand-up gig only inhabits a small portion of the programme with the first half hour or so seeing the ten introduce themselves while zipping around the streets of Liverpool taking part in bizarre tasks again with a link in to The Apprentice. For example each pair was asked to work in a Liverpudlian beauty salon to get to grips with what a real scouse is all about but for others they just had to find women called Michelle, apparently because it’s the name of a Beatles song but surely they could’ve gone for Lucy, Eleanor, Penny or simply just ‘Girl’. The only two female comedians, Ellie and Tiff, won the task and therefore got to go pick the running order of the first gig which would see the ten perform their Liverpool-based acts on a group of women. Some really struggled for example Ignacio, whose routine was based around a sleazy Latino waiter, really didn’t strike a chord with the women neither did Prince who tried an awful Scouse accent that didn’t go down well. Personally I thought both women did well but my favourite after episode one was Welsh observational comedian Dan. Again we had a judging panel but this time a little more important as they made the decision to who would be going home every week. Comedy critic Kate Copstick was possibly the harshest of the judges with her Cruela de Vil style hair and pithy putdowns she was made for a programme like this although I did spend a lot of the time trying to remember the name of her BBC kids programme from the nineties, it was in fact Marlene Marlowe Investigates fact fans. After speaking out about the majority of the BBC drama budget going to Doctor Who it seemed Alan Davies has jumped to ITV till the heat dies down and here plays the more constructive of the two judges but he still doesn’t mince his words. Each week this pair are joined by a guest judge and legendary Liverpudlian funnyman Jimmy Tarbuck fit the bill this week with the three of them putting Ignacio and Prince in the bottom two with the former getting the boot presumably because his act really wouldn’t change week to week. I feel though that Show me the Funny didn’t show me anywhere as much funny as it should’ve done. The task elements and indeed the final firing line felt like The Apprentice so much so there was very little stand-up comedy and some of the gig was only viewed from either Jason Manford’s side of stage point of view or through a T.V. the other competitors were watching at the back. I say make this more like a standard talent show I like the varied audience and weekly routine but I don’t think the comedians need to spend as much time in each city before the gig as they currently do. I’m only hoping the programme becomes more focused but as its on ITV1 I don’t hold out much hope.
Let me know if The Hour rang your bell, if Tom was the right choice to win The Apprentice and what you thought of this week’s other programmes.
Next week I’ll be back with Sugartown, Beaver Falls, Holiday Hijack and more.