This week in TV sees high entertainment mix with low entertainment and some cracking drama so let’s get cracking.
Salt or Pepper? Sweet or Sour? Ant or Dec? Don’t worry you can have both of the last question however the first show does involve one question with two answers that is Red or Black? It’s just a shame that that question is asked ad infinitum on the latest game show hosted by the Geordie duo by overseen by the Dark Lord Simon Cowell. Cowell’s latest concept was to make some new British millionaires out of standard folk who simply had to pick red or black options to several questions. Using the first episode as a template let me break down the concept just in case you don’t watch ITV1′s primetime weekday output. It starts with 1,000 members of the public packed into a studio where they witness a stunt, in this case it was two bikers – one wearing red the other black jumping through small spaces on their motorbikes with the winning biker being the one who can jump through the smallest space. The 1,000 people then were asked to sit in two areas one red, one black depending on which biker they thought would win, those choosing red went through to the next round and those who chose black had to go home. From here the winning group were given fortune cookies which again had a red or black colour representing the colour of a coach that would be taking them to Battersea. From there there were many more challenges based on picking red or black including something involving a giant jack in the box and choosing a detonator that would be pushed by Louis Walsh to launch David Hasslehoff miles up in the air on a bungee rope, I kid you not. Throughout these challenges we got taped interviews with contenders including one guy who’d agreed in the beginning to split it with another initial contestant and Diane a woman with a psychic son who was able to get her to pick the right colour every time until the last Battersea-based challenge where the decision was taken out of her hands and she failed to make it to the studio. But there was a lucky eight who appeared in the live segments which were hosted by Ant and Dec in the comfort of a warm studio.
It was at this point where we were in familiar Cowell territory as we got to hear the backstories of the eight finalists obviously there were the obvious charity cases – single mum who didn’t have a lot of money left and Nathan the joiner who wanted to help out his family but there was also the quiet librarian, the material girl and the cheeky chappy. Best of all was Angel the crazy Russian boxer from Big Brother 10 who, if she won the million, wanted to create and star a movie about female boxer based heavily on her life story. Also more Cowell-related hijinks involved having former X-Factor contestants perform on the show including JLS and in episode one Leona Lewis who seemed to be a little disturbed that her backing dancers were all opening and closing briefcases that had red or black linings which she eventually had to choose to whittle down the pack from eight to four and then two more were eliminated in a blind arrow catching contest. Nathan and Angel then had to fight out in the final battle which involved a computer generated circle that was cut into eight segments – each picked a colour and then had to reveal segments which would be either red or black and the first contestant to have all their coloured segments revealed would go through to the final. This disturbed me for two reasons one was that those revealing the colours could easily change them and essentially pick who they wanted in the final and more startling was that this circle was cut into eight pieces and the show was sponsored by Domino’s Pizza it may’ve well been covered in red peppers and black olives if they really wanted to go all the way to do product placement without doing it. Nathan then had to spin the giant roulette wheel putting all of his faith in red and when it stopped spinning the ball was still on red and he was a million pound richer. However in the coming days it came out that Nathan had been in prison for years after committing ABH and so proper background checks were carried out on the other contestants making it through to the live shows and startlingly two were unable to compete after this which begs the question, what had they done? Red or Black? was meant to be this exciting new contest and big event T.V. that everybody would be talking about. However after a while I got bored of the events, the picking of red or black and especially the baying audience insanely shouting red or black. Of course there was no skill involved it was all luck I suppose you could say the same about Deal or No Deal but that has a more human feel to it and you get to know the players a lot more than you did here. There was far too much filler and not enough getting to know the contestants you would’ve been better off watching the final half hour segment which featured the one on one match and the final million pound spin. Overall this was disappointing and repetitive especially for those who watched every night and I think Cowell had better go back to the drawing board. Just for the record I didn’t think Nathan should’ve won the money, not because of his criminal background but because I really wanted to see Angel’s boxing film.
The first episode of Red or Black? was shown between The X-Factor and then following this bumper Saturday night was the return of Jonathan Ross to the chat show format. Ross signed to ITV last year and has so far only presented the Penn and Teller programme elsewhere keeping a low profile in order to write his comic book which hasn’t been well received by the nerds who read know about those kinds of things. Ross’ imaginatively titled new programmes is The Jonathan Ross Show which sees him welcome guests, musical performers and crack a couple of horrible jokes so essentially its almost exactly the same. What is actually new? Well there’s an impressive set as we all know ITV adopt a no expense spared type approach when wooing chat show hosts – just look at the differences between Paul O’Grady’s Channel 4 and ITV sets. Ross also seems to relish being away from the BBC content censors instead making the conversation a lot more saucy including engaging in a very uncomfortable conversation with first guest Sarah Jessica Parker about how to avoid having the kids walking in on you while you’re having sex. As we’re on the guests they were a mixed bunch. Parker seemingly was smiling through Ross’ inane questions so she could get to publicise her new awful movie, ‘I Don’t Know How she Does It’, presumably the answer to the question how is Sarah Jessica Parker able to carve out a career as a succesful movie star? During this period he also said that he enjoyed the second Sex and The City film, methinks had he still be presenting the BBC Film Programme at the time he wouldn’t have the same opinion. After Parker’s self-promotion show we had Lewis Hamilton who came across as a thoroughly nice bloke but his job is to drive and not to talk therefore this interview seemed too long and Hamilton seemed fairly dull. But thankfully Adele was on last and she is full of character swearing at Ross, calling an ex-boyfriend a dickhead and coming across as a normal girl with an incredible talent who isn’t really accustomed to the fame that has been thrust upon her before singing out the show with another of her great songs. There’s always that question about when you have a conversation are you listening or are you waiting for chance to talk? Well Ross certainly falls into the latter category even talking over his guests sometimes if he thinks he can fit in a good gag. Fans of Ross obviously like this about him but I feel if you want to be a good interviewer you have to let your guest be the star and let the humour come naturally which was the case with Michael Parkinson. I also feel that Ross is a little bit too old to be filling his show with dirty jokes, Alan Carr can get away with it because he has that camp charm but Ross is now just coming across as someone who should really grow up and even his jokes about the recent riots came across as obvious and dated. As I say if you’re a proper Ross fan you really don’t care what he does but apart from the Adele interview and performance I have to say I wasn’t wowed by anything that Ross did on his big comeback.
The final big ITV1 show was shockingly nothing to do with Simon Cowell but a very good and well-made drama dealing with the Fred and Rose West case. Usually dramas dealing with real life events are dealt by BBC1 like last year’s brilliant Five Daughters or Channel 4 who dealt with the Moors Murders to an extent with 2006′s Longford. Like Longford, ITV1′s Appropriate Adult looks at this atrocity after its happened and through the eyes of someone on the outside in this case Janet Leach a trainee social worker who volunteers to be an appropriate adult which is a person who sits in on a police interview to explain things to people with learning difficulties. Although the drama does start with the police arriving with a warrant at 25 Cromwell Street interrupting Rose’s viewing of Neighbours, which as a fan of the show I was surprised with the period accuracy of the episode, we follow Leach’s story as she is taken aback when she finds that it is Fred West. Although West claimed to have learning difficulties he was sharper than that and Leach was seemingly being used by the police as a witness just in case West claimed he didn’t understand something said in the interview later in court. As the story goes on West reveals more bodies buried in the garden and reasons for this at the same time he isn’t letting any of the blame being cast on Rose. While working on this case Leach is abandoning her family including a partner with bipolar disorder, a put-upon older son and a lot more kids. And you can tell that Fred is getting closer and trusting Janet more than anybody else and confides in her with secrets that she can’t then tell the police. After watching Appropriate Adult I was surprised I had watched it on ITV as it was well-acted and well-paced it took it time to tell a story about a monstrous man and a woman who got too close. One of the reasons for this was the lead performances, Emily Watson as Leach was just brilliant but she’s just brilliant in everything here playing a vulnerable woman who finds herself torn between her new role and her family at home. But it is Dominic West as Fred who steals the show playing an evil man but mixing in some charm and even some humour I have to say I found myself laughing at least twice although I can’t remember what it was at. It’s comforting to see that Dominic West has proved that playing McNulty in The Wire wasn’t a fluke and revives his career after playing a bit of a wet character in The Hour. He is able to nail the Gloucester accent and the brilliant hair and make-up department have made him look as close to Fred as possible. There is also a fantastically grotesque performance from Monica Dolan as the foul-mouthed and aggressive Rose who thankfully doesn’t appear too often. Obviously it’s not something you can completely ‘enjoy’ due to the nature of the piece but I have to say that ITV got everything right here – the tone, the pace, the music, the acting and the writing were all superb and I am waiting to see how the story ends.
A little light-relief now with the second part of this year’s Comedy Showcase on Channel 4. After the very male-centric Inbetweeners-heavy Chickens we have the female-centric Coma Girl with lots of actresses who you will kind of recognise but you’re not quite sure what you saw them in. Katherine Parkinson is probably the most famous having played Jen in The IT Crowd as well as being in a myriad of sitcoms from Whites to The Great Outdoors to The Old Guys, Katy Wix is best known for playing ditzy Daisy on Not Going Out, Anna Crilly is probably unfamiliar with an English accent as she is recognisable as Eastern European cleaner Magda on Lead Balloon and Sarah Solemani is known to fans of the underrated and underseen Him and Her and she also played David’s love interest in the recent series of Psychoville. Parkinson, Wix and Solemani play Pippa, Sarah and Siobhan who are old school friends gathering in a hospital waiting room to visit their other friend Crilly’s Lucy who has been in a car accident and is currently in a coma. Slowly the characters of the three ladies are revealed Siobhan is a TV presenter who has been sacked, Sarah is a mother of there and Pippa, well there wasn’t a lot about Pippa in the first episode. The main themes of this episode seemed to be that the four friends had drifted apart since school and had missed out on big events in each other’s lives and were being outdone in visiting Lucy by her workmates and university pals. Running alongside the hospital plot were Lucy’s coma fantasies as we saw her celebrating her birthday in an empty room and jumping off a bridge it was these segments which didn’t seem to fit but were also the bravest on offer. Like Chickens last week, I didn’t really find myself laughing at all although I did find some of the situations funny and given some time to develop I think we go grow to like them. But there just seemed to be a mixture of broad comedy such as Sarah trying to deal with her baby, observational humour about how the friends of a hospital usually do more bad than good and the surreal aspect of Lucy’s story. All the actresses try really hard and Solemani in particular is eager to prove something as her Siobhan is the most memorable character in the first episode while Spaced’s Julia Deakin is also on top form as Lucy’s mum. Overall definitely a comedy pilot that has legs but needs to decide what it wants to be if it is to be given a full series.
If you were to tell me at the beginning of the year that Celebrity Big Brother would return and that it would be won by Paddy Doherty I would say I don’t think so and who? Yes the traveller and supposed star of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings endeared himself to the dwindling audience with his incoherent babble, non-starry ways and his constant shouting of the word WOMAN. To be fair I was a Paddy fan although I thought Jedward were going to win so it was a surprise all round and hey at least Kerry Katona didn’t win. But this is all a big preamble to my final programme here as the bog-standard Big Brother started a day after the celebrity one with possibly a bigger star lurking in the house than had been in there during the celeb versions that person being Pamela Anderson. Although we had been informed of Anderson’s presence the night before, host Brian Dowling was constantly reminding us of her being there just in case any of us have the kind of disorder that Guy Pearce suffered in Memento where he could only remember what happened in the last five minutes anyway more on Dowling later. It seemed from the age of the contestants which ranged from 18 to 30 and the fact that most of the men mentioned their prowess with the opposite sex and their penis size that channel owner Richard Desmond wanted as much sexual shenanigans as possible. In Ben Elton’s Big Brother spoof book Dead Famous, the producers make all the housemates make a Roman bath, turn up the heat and get them all to strip off to induce an orgy and I feel this may well happen here. So who are these new reality darlings who will probably only enjoy seven and a half minutes of fame due to not as many people watching this on Channel Five than they did on Four. First up was cheeky chappy Mark who seemd to want to hug everyone as soon as they came in the house he got a massive ovation from the crowd and for some reason he is currently the bookies favourite. He was followed in by Maisie an aspiring TV presenter who essentially dumped her boyfriend in her opening VT and Aaron who seemed like a giant asshole as he didn’t even accept Mark’s hug on his entrance to the house. I was wondering if the house would be made up of all young people who wanted to get off with each other until the totally bizarre Heaven Africa came in wearing a completely inappropriate dress for a September night and wittered on about having a clean womb. Although Heaven claimed that she was a faith healer, spiritualist type I reckon she subsidies her income by working as a Floella Benjamin impersonator, but with her craziness shining through she was my favourite so far.
She was followed by Brummie Tom a bisexual Mika lookalike who seems too eager to want to be the ‘character’ of the house and again claimed that he would get his willy out at any opportunity. Next was Tashie Jackson a belly-dancing multilingual actress who seemed fairly normal in terms of Big Brother housemate which means she may leave first. From Aden’s VT he started off coming across as an articulate trainee therapist until he starting talking about being a playa and he lost all of my respect. As this was the year of Geordie Shore we had a full complement of Tynesiders kicking off with McDonalds worker Alex who looked like a Barbie Doll that was produced when something was wrong with the production line and was being offered at a reduced price at Toys R Us she claimed that the Big Brother House was the biggest house in Britain I’m guessing she’s meaning that metaphorically or she’s just a bit dim. We skip quickly past posh milkshake company owner Harry and meet Rebeckah who works as a stripper at Spearmint Rhino a job she hates and uses the money she makes there to fund a non-profit dance school. She describes herself as Robin Hood insofar as she takes money from the rich and uses to help the poor however I missed the part in the movie where the Sheriff of Nottingham opened a strip joint in Sherwood Forest it seemed that Rebeckah was extremely popular with the female crowd when she said she hated men. Then there was Anton originally from Peckham but due to his public school education he was straightened out and compared his life to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air again he was someone who bragged about his success with the opposite sex. However I feel that next entrant female wrestler Faye, in-ring name Darcy Steel, wouldn’t be having any of it as she claimed that if anybody annoyed her she would clothesline them in the face, with that line she became my favourite housemate. Another Geordie started trending on Twitter with the arrival of Jay who wanted to seem as the most macho entrant but his feminine bone structure got me thinking that he may do a bit of cross-dressing on the weekend. Final housemate was down-to-earth Mancunian Former Beauty Queen Louise who seems to have a penchant for wearing hats and has a real passion for her hometown which will ingratiate her with the Northern part of the population.
Despite two of the housemates, Tashie and Alex, claiming to be teetotallers the champagne had already run out when Louise entered, this revelation baffled me a little as I would’ve thought that the alcohol content on night one would be overflowing in order for a drunken snog to occur as soon as possible. Obviously though that would take the focus off the real star of the evening, Pamela Anderson, who was made to seem more important than all the congregation as Dowling couldn’t stop gushing about her thoughts on the housemates. Once they were all in the house the garden shutters opened to reveal Ms. Anderson who was just standing there, I thought she would’ve insisted on a bigger entrance than that, maybe coming through the floor of the living room perhaps or waiting for someone to drown in the pool and then running out in her famous red swimsuit. Essentially everybody gushed over Anderson as she asked Tom to get his penis out and the cameras quickly cut back to Dowling. There you go then fourteen new victims and a batty blonde legend who apparently the housemates have to befriend if they want an easy ride although her threat to leave a skidmark on all of them was slightly sinister. I had two main problems with this series of Big Brother firstly there wasn’t enough variety within the housemates apart from Heaven, Harry, Louise and Faye everybody seemed to be in there to flirt with someone else and hopefully to initiate some live sex for Daily Star/Adult Channel owner Richard Desmond to salivate over. Secondly I started to get really irritated by Brian Dowling who didn’t make me more enthusiastic about these fourteen newbies and instead spent too much time asking her inane questions which he answered himself or saying ‘we love that, don’t we?’ constantly. To be fair Dowling isn’t a TV Presenter by trade and I would’ve much preferred Emma Willis to host this rather than the B-Show but then there would probably be too many Davina comparisons. My final moan would be that I’m still missing the live feed, it would be good to flick on 5* just to see the housemates engage in inane banter but instead we will watch a heavily edited hour highlights programme which will just feature, flirting and tasks and will obviously eliminate the quietest housemates in favour of those who play up to the cameras. Big Brother started off as a social experiment but now it’s just an excuse to see a televised 18-30 holiday without the exotic setting.
What do you think of the new Big Brother housemates? Did you pick Red or Black? And what are your thoughts on the controversial Fred West drama? Leave your comments below.
Next Week: The Body Farm, Billy Connelly’s Route 66 and the Strictly Come Dancing Launch Show