Two new dramas, a tacky MTV vehicle and BBC3′s latest sitcom are all on offer in this week’s instalment
We kick off with the BBC’s big new period drama – The Paradise. The show is centred around small-town girl Denise, who arrives in a big Yorkshire city to work with her uncle in his haberdashery. But she quickly learns that her uncle’s business is failing due to the arrival of The Paradise Department Store which has undercut the prices set by the other merchants in the city. Wanting to pay her way while she’s in the city, Denise attempts to get a job at The Paradise but she is treated with contempt by several of the shop girls as well as Miss Audrey – the Head of Women’s Fashion who criticises her weak references. However the shop’s owner Mr Moray gives her a job, primarily so he can get one over on her uncle who hates the idea of his niece working for Moray. Moray himself is struggling and turns to Lord Glendenning, the father of his current lover Katherine, who isn’t convinced that perfume and petticoats will make him money. To prove to him that his investment will not be in vain, Moray plans to slash his prices however this one day sale doesn’t go down too well with Moray’s partner Mr Dudley who thinks the store will lose money. Meanwhile Denise learns that Moray often sleeps with the shop girls and that she should be ready to be called into his office one day soon.
My main issue with The Paradise was that I didn’t really care for either Moray or Denise and therefore didn’t have anybody to root for. Moray is portrayed as a tortured soul who hasn’t got over the death of his wife, but also somebody who is full of ambition. I felt that it was a bit harsh that Moray could sleep with any shopgirl he liked and that they would get the sack if they were found in bed with the boss. Similarly Joanna Vanderham’s performance as wide-eyed ambitious Denise did little to make me warm to her character who is one that we’ve seen in dramas like this many times before. Luckily there were more interesting performances in the supporting cast namely Sarah Lancashire as the lonely Miss Audrey and David Hayman as the creepy Jonas. Obviously the programme’s biggest strength is in its production design as a lot of work has seemingly been done to make The Paradise seem as glorious as possible. As this is also a drama about clothing all the costumes have been carefully chosen from the uniforms that Miss Audrey’s girls wear to the classier attire that Katherine and her snooty friends wear. Ultimately I think The Paradise just isn’t made for me as a drama in which one of the pivotal scenes involves the trying on of a dress just seems a little too frivolous for my tastes. The show isn’t without its merits such as the production design and some of the supporting performances, but I just don’t really care for either of the two lead characters. Unfortunately, this department store drama did little for me and I think I may have to hang around for ITV’s shopping drama Mr Selfridge which kicks off at the start of 2013.
Talking of ITV they were letting drama live once again with military wives saga Homefront. The first of our three military wives is tarty mum-of-two Louise who often puts on webcam shows for her husband Joe who is currently on a tour of Afghanistan. Then there’s Tasha, a much younger wife whose marriage to soldier Matt has thrust her into the military wife lifestyle and has seen her marry into a military family. Matt’s brother is also in the army, while his father is now retired but still lives on the barracks with Matt’s mother Paula. It appears as if Paula and Tasha often clash mainly over how best to raise Tasha’s son Noah. Finally there’s Claire, whose trying to adjust to being the new partner of Major Peter Bartham as well as being a new mother figure to his daughter Millie. It’s easier said than done when 15 year old Millie keeps running off to have affairs with married men, while Claire also has to worry about her own son who has become incredibly reserved since the pair moved to the barracks. Claire also struggles to live in the shadow of Peter’s first wife Angela, but eventually she befriends Louise who gives her some tips on how to be an army wife. Having never had a family member who was in the army, I’m not sure how accurate the events in Homefront actually were but I do feel there was a large amount of emotional manipulation being employed. You can tell that Homefront writer Jan McVerry had previously worked on soaps as some of the characters seem like they’d belong behind the bar at the Rover’s Return. Though the programme does seem to have good intentions I did find Homefront to be a tad on the tacky side and it did often lapse into cliché. Thankfully there are some strong performances notably from Misfits’ Antonia Thomas as Tasha, a girl who’d had to grow up too soon and had married into a life she wasn’t ready for. Claire Skinner also stepped away from the comedy roles she’s best known for to play the emotionally fraught Claire who is adapting to her new life. Ultimately I felt that, while it has its heart in the right place, Homefront was far too clichéd and over-the-top for my liking. Despite some great performances, McVerry never made me believe that these women existed in everyday life. I think maybe the main problem is that we’ve already seen Military Wives in action on the last series of The Choir and I feel that these fictional versions really pale in comparison.
When the UK arm of MTV first decided to adapt America’s Jersey Shore last year nobody thought it would last especially when we first saw the truly terrible Geordie Shore for the first time. Shockingly though Geordie Shore has become a success in its own right and is coming back for its third series however MTV feel that one show with stupid sex-mad wannabes isn’t enough so has commissioned a second. The Valleys sees eight fame-hungry Welsh people journey to Cardiff from their small town life to try to find fame mainly as either models or DJs although judging from this first episode they all just want to get naked and shag each other. The spirit of the programme is summed up straight away by Lateysha who claims she is the best looking thing in the valleys and if this is the case then there isn’t a particularly high standard over there. She also compares herself to Beyonce though I feel Lateysha has a few more spare tyres in her trunk than the Destiny’s Child star does however somehow this girl still has managed to be herself to bag a boyfriend who she plans to cheat on when she gets to Cardiff. Next up was Chidgey a brick-layer by trade who also wants to be a model and as soon as he gets in the house takes his trousers off though it seems that Lateysha doesn’t want to cheat on her boyfriend just yet. Wannabe kickboxer Anton was the next meathead to try it on with Lateysha though he was shocked to see Chidgey in his pants when he got in however thankfully there were a couple more girls on the way in. First up was Nicole comes across as dumb because she uses made-up words however she aspires to do something in the fashion industry and is a hell of cook apparently. There was also Jenna a law student who wanted to be a glamour model as she had the boobs and she wanted to use them however the boys better be careful as her dad has a massive gun. Obviously Jenna had been blatantly cast as she and Lateysha have some history namely that the latter stole a boyfriend from the former and the two can’t stand each other. Lateysha’s boyfriend also may be in trouble as DJ Leeroy was next in and the two had an instant spark with him claiming that he was going to ‘nail her’ before the day was out and I thought romance was dead. Rugby boy Liam differed from the rest of The Valleys crew as he is gay a fact that he won’t divulge straight away so al the women wonder why he’s not hitting on them. Finally we have Carley possibly the most deranged of the bunch whose longest relationship is with a bottle of wine and who likes to get her boobs out on a regular basis. Things kick off straight away on the first night as relationships kick off between Chidgey and Carley and Lateysha and Leeroy however both of the guys don’t get exactly what they were hoping for.
The aim of the show though isn’t just for the kids from the Valleys to have it off with each other but rather for them to make a life for themselves in Cardiff by getting an actual job. Their boss for some of this is Jordan a man who knows the valleys well and has since found himself a career as a club promoter however is disgusted when he first meets the people he will be working with. The majority of the boys and Carly are then chastised by him when he takes them out on their first leafleting mission something that Leeroy isn’t best pleased about as he just wants to DJ however he does find a mutual bond with Carly. Meanwhile Chiggy and the girls are out on the beach for a photo-shoot with glamour girl AK who allows wannabe fashion designer Nicole to design most of the shoot. To get revenge against her enemy Lateysha she gets her to pose with fish down her bikini bottoms so none of the guys will go with her which to be fair does work a treat. Meanwhile Jessica is asked to pose topless with just fish covering her breasts while later she and Chiggy engage in a passionate embrace which leads him to think he may be onto something. Chiggy later ‘puts in the ground work’ when he accompanies Jessica back home to return her dog although is a little intimidated by her gun-toting father. As the producers desperately try to set the gang up by introducing a kissing game Liam announces he’s gay which Leeroy is fine with but the other two blokes aren’t too sure while all of the girls hug him straight away. The final shots are of possible dirtiness occurring between Leeroy and Carley and Chiggy and Jessica. If you’ve managed to get through my description of The Valleys without throwing up then well done to you but at least you didn’t have to watch this atrocity first hand as really none of these folk has a redeeming feature with the possible exception of Liam so therefore my thinking is this may be made by gay rights activists. To me in the early more innocent days of reality TV nudity occasionally appeared though it was natural here it seems Carly has been told to pull her top down as much as possible. The last straw for me was the topless modelling with fish which just seemed utterly disgusting and not something that would ever happen in the real world only in this constructed reality landscape where a lot of people settle. The only thing this has done is made me appreciate how classy the people of Geordie Shore are but I’m sure that The Valleys will find its audience and unfortunately return for a second series.
We end this week with a bit of comedy as the BBC3 10pm slot says goodbye to Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education we welcome in Cuckoo starring Greg Davies as well as US comedian Andy Samberg. Davies plays Lichfield-based solicitor Ken who lives a quiet suburban life along with his wife Lorna, played by Helen Baxendale, who as we see in the opening scene are both excited that their daughter Rachel is returning from her travels abroad. The only problem is that Rachel’s messages never got through to them that she married while overseas and worse still she married the obnoxious American hippie who goes by the name of Cuckoo. Samberg’s Cuckoo is an odd sort who preaches free love and talks freely about his sex life and recreational drug-taking much to buttoned-up Ken’s disgust. The formula for the show is essentially for Ken to get riled up by Cuckoo before he does something caused by his new son-in-law that lands him in ever more hot water. Here for example he tries to pay him off, so family life can return to normal, only for Cuckoo to return having bought a ‘Jacket Potato’ van as a new business enterprise. There are several things to like about Cuckoo namely that Baxendale and Davies make for a very believable couple with their Midlands accents both spot on while Tyger-Drew Honey from Outnumbered is also well-utilised as Rachel’s annoying younger brother Dylan. The main issue I have with the show is that Cuckoo is just far too annoying which is a combination of the writing as well as Samberg’s over-the-top performance which just eclipses the great work done by the other actors. In a way I suppose we’re meant to be annoyed by Cuckoo, as we’re seeing this through Ken’s eyes, however even then things get a bit tiresome and I’m afraid I’m just overly annoyed. Despite some good elements it’s Samberg’s performance that ultimately lets the side down and I for one won’t be too disappointed when Cuckoo does finally leave the nest.
Next Week: Hotel GB and Monroe.