It’s time for another week in TV paradise so let’s get on with the show.
This week we have a contrast of three big new dramas and two returning programmes from the much-reviled constructed reality cannon. First of the dramas is Inside Men focusing on three troubled men who all work in a cash-counting depot and for one reason or another need money. The programme starts with some thrilling heist scenes as Steven Mackinstosh, here playing depot boss John, gives a voice-over about how he was trained to handle these situations. As the robbery goes on Ashley Walters’ security guard Chris is shot in the knee and bleeds more and more as the heist continues. These opening scenes really grab you and just from this there was enough intrigue to move forward. The action then swerves to earlier in the year when John and his wife are waiting to foster a young girl while he is dealing with discrepancies at work by taking the money out of his own pocket mainly because he wants to be rewarded as boss of the month by his superior. Chris meanwhile comes across as a decent guy but has an alcoholic mother and then hooks up with a trouble-making Eastern European girl who is sacked from the depot for stealing money. Finally there is Warren Brown’s Marcus who also works in security at the depot but who is suffering from crippling debts and owes a large sum of money to his brother-in-law. I feel that if I right any more then I will start to spoil things for those who are yet to watch the programme which I would highly recommend most people do. As I already mentioned having the first ten minutes devoted to the depot robbery is a stroke of genius as it is filmed and acted brilliantly and keeps you guessing to who are the inside men of the title. The flashback scenes that help you piece together why each of the central leads would have a reason to want to pull of this heist and possibly work in conjunction with each other. It also helps that all the actors are great here with Steven MacKintosh being ideal casting as he is someone who is known for playing decent characters but how much can you trust this man? Meanwhile Warren Brown is seemingly playing the everyman while Ashley Walters is playing someone who wants to leave his situation and here is playing a little against type from his normal gangster/hustler roles. All in all this is a well-written dramatic thriller that you rarely see on British T.V. but one that I’m sure will grip the nation for the next three weeks.
Also new on BBC but not as gripping is another ensemble drama, this one featuring a primarily female cast, as four actresses take on the titular roles of Prisoner’s Wives. The programme opens with Gemma, played by former Hollyoaks babe Emma Rigby, being surprised when police storm her house and arrest her husband played by Robin Hood himself Jonas Armstrong. It seems that hubby Steve has been placed at the scene of the crime of a murder and has been placed in remand at a local prison with Gemma now becoming a prisoner’s wife. Gemma spends most of the episode wandering round in wide-eyed amazement as she is harassed by angry coppers and met on her doorstep by her creepy boss brandishing a vegetarian lasagne, to be fair he probably wouldn’t be as creepy if he weren’t played by the Nazi toy shop owner from Psychoville. Gemma also strikes up a relationship with fellow prisoner’s wife Francesca a character who is the polar opposite from her and could probably be described as all fur coat and no knickers. She trots around in designer shoes, drives a flash sports car and lives in a large house all paid for by her drug smuggling other half. Francesca’s issue is that her husband’s situation has given her a reputation so much so that her son’s girlfriend’s father won’t let his daughter near the house despite the fact he is a banker and probably as dodgy as her. Pippa Haywood, best known as Mrs Brittas, doesn’t really get a lot to do in episode one apart from look anxious in a car and own a big dog but what she does she does it well. Finally there’s Lou a wife who’s tasked with looking after her young son single-handedly and to make extra cash she sells weed to various na’er-do-wells on a council estate. A lot of the drama in Prisoner’s Wives is quite convoluted with Lou’s story in particular being the staple of working class programmes. But if you don’t take this as a serious piece of work and instead as a soapy melodrama then a lot of it works. Emma Rigby is great at looking wide-eyed and innocent while Polly Walker’s Francesca steals the show vamping every scene up but at the same time helping Gemma out of a situation at the end of the first episode and bonding with her in the process. I’m guessing as time goes on all four of these women will become closer and its harsh to judge this on just one episode but if you like your drama light and your women to wear big heels then Prisoner’s Wives might just be the show for you.
Completing our dramatic trio is the opening episode of the third series of Whitechapel a programme that for me personally, has had its ups and downs. The first series was very good as it put together the odd couple detective duo of Rupert Penry-Jones’ straight-laced Joseph and Phil Davis’ common hard-working detective Ray who then had to solve the mystery of a Jack the Ripper copycat. In the second series the copycat thing didn’t quite work as this time the killer(s) were mimicking the murders of The Krays and by the end my disbelief was suspended beyond all definition. One of the highlights of both series was Steve Pemberton playing it straight as a creepy history expert who assisted Joe and Ray on both of their cases despite the latter having a strong distrust of him. The series opens with Joe revealing that he has hired Pemberton’s Edward as a historical consultant who will help them put together links between current investigations and incidents from the past that are similar to it. This is a good strategy as it means it doesn’t have to stick to the copycat formula but at the same time it keeps its formula of using the past to help them solve current crimes. Edward’s appointment just happens to coincide with the death of a group of tailors whose death is similar to one that happened a century previous. There is also a theory that the killer isn’t human because as soon as the lights go out he will strike this myth spreads round the local area and is given credence by Blossom from Eastenders who once again is playing a crazy voodoo woman. The fact that Whitechapel has been slimmed down to a two-parter plays in its favour obviously the best parts are the exchanges between Davis and Penry-Jones as well as Pemberton’s fantastic Edward Buchan. What i liked about this new series is that the other officers get something else to do and almost manage to have their own characteristic such as Claire Rushbrook’s DC who likes to play a busty wench in medieval reconstructions. There’s was also a good cameo from Alan Partridge regular David Schneider as a the limping half-brother of one of the tailors and the police’s first suspect but obviously villains aren’t as stereotypical or as easy to find as that and I’m guessing we’ll all have to tune in for the second part to find out and I for one will be doing that.
Now onto that constructed reality I was talking about and the frontrunner of the genre in the fourth series of The Only Way is Essex. Since Towie became incredibly popular its biggest characters have moved on and although Amy Childs’ exit turned out to be fairly inconsequential last year saw most of the male cast members jot off to different reality shows. Without Mark or Kirk their respective sidekicks – Arg and Joey Essex have taken centre stage with the latter getting his own new companion in Diags so named because of his diagonal face. Arg and Lydia have split up yet again and now this is getting beyond a joke as I’m finding it hard to sympathise with either of them especially now the spectre of Mark Wright has gone. However Wright’s impact on the relationship of Lucy and Mario as he still struggles to forgive her for her infidelity and feels she’s got lazy and complacent but as we discover Mario isn’t whiter than white as he has been texting several girls. Whenever we hear of texting on Towie it seems that it is a man who has sent a girl a picture of his genitalia obviously the courting procedures in Essex differ from the rest of the country. In other news Billie and Sam are arguing over their lovely boutique Minnies these are some of my favourite scenes as the glamour model Sam struggles to act like she’s doing the books rather than just scribbling on a pad. There is also an attempt to get some current affairs in with Lauren P worrying about her PIP implants and Chloe thanking the lord than one of her many cosmetic procedures haven’t exploded already. I have to say without the alpha males on board Towie has certainly slipped down in fact the most compelling male members of the cast are the dads namely Kirk’s dad Mick and Mario’s father Mario Sr. I just feel this new series has lost some of the charm that made us fall in love with it in the first place and that the current cast members are all trying to seek out the same sort of mainstream exposure as their former compatriots. As much as I stick up for Towie, I even helped get up support for it to win the BAFTA last year, I have to say the novelty is wearing off with its new titles and characters that I haven’t really taken to maybe the only way isn’t Essex after all.
But if the only way isn’t Essex it certainly isn’t Newcastle as was more than evident in the second series of MTV’s God-awful Geordie Shore. The UK take on the bafflingly successful US hit Jersey Shore sees seven of the eight original cast members return to the house on the Toon with Greg sensibly deciding not to return. The returning male cast members are Jay, Gary and James all men who are obsessed with their muscles, shagging, getting ‘mortalled’ and not much else. However it is the women who are the most dominant here there is Gary’s on/off love interest Charlotte, bland Sophie, the crazy crimson-haired Holly and Vicky won of the most aggressive women ever to grace our TV screens so when new girl Rebecca arrives she isn’t happy. The theme of the first half of episode one seemed to be shagging and arguments, as I believe it is in the states, with Rebecca and Vicky almost coming to blows and Charlotte indulging in a bit of blowing off her own with Gary her very willing victim. There is also Greg’s replacement Ricci who seems a little less arrogant than the rest of the lads but then that’s probably because he’s trying to get his way with Vicky but don’t ask me why. Last time the gang had to be club promoters but this time they are administrating fake tans to willing members of the general public with James and Vicky the first two involved in this task. James though is horrified when he finds out he has to help spray this overweight middle-aged kiss-o-gram and there was one disgusting scene in which he held her breasts and said they were really heavy. It’s charming behaviour like that that makes Geordie Shore one of the most disgusting shows in recent memory but any programme that has an outhouse known as the F**k Hut is probably worth skipping in the first place. There are some interesting sayings such as ‘wetter than an otter’s pocket’ but other than that I could do without seeing more talentless, witless wannabes cluttering up the airwaves and I know I’m sounding old but I’m sure TV was better in my day so after watching Geordie Shore I think Towie is by far still the king of the genre even though Made in Chelsea is snapping at its designer heels.
Next Week: 10 o’clock Live, Roger and Val Have Just Got In and Cricklewood Greats