This week’s instalment looks at the brilliance of Ant and Dec on I’m a Celebrity, focuses on the brutal honesty of Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday and praises the return of newsroom drama The Hour.
It’s the second week of November and in TV land that means only one thing – the start of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. This has been probably the most newsworthy series of I’m a Celeb ever thanks to the inclusion of Nadine Dorries – the MP for Mid-Bedfordshire. The controversy over a sitting MP appearing on a reality show has meant that the programme has been discussed in the House of Commons and on various topical TV and Radio broadcasts. Dorries’ hopes were that the programme would allow her to discuss issues on abortion and other important topics, which to me suggests that she’s never seen the programme before. Other notable characters present in this series include former Corrie actress Helen Flanagan who is this year’s public target in so much as she has been voted in for almost every task. Flanagan has taken the crying and shrieking character to new levels and even refused to done one task before it had even started. This year’s troublemaker has to be Eric Bristow, with the darts legend winding up anyone who is gullible enough to fall for his antics. Joining them are Charlie Brooks, who is obviously trying to shake off her Eastenders character Janine by mucking in and being a shoulder to cry on for other campmates. Elsewhere we have the male eye candy in Made in Chelsea’s Hugo Taylor, former Doctor Who Colin Baker whose intent on losing weight, Linda Robson who is making up the numbers and Ashley Roberts who apparently was in The Pussycat Dolls but I’ve never heard of her. In terms of a winner I reckon that bookies’ favourite Brian Conley is a sure fire hit as he’s both been funny and provided his fair share of dramatic moments. However I wouldn’t count out David Haye who has shown a witty side as well as being the brute strength of the team. Joining the show at a later date were Ladette to Lady star Rosemary Shrager and 80′s pop icon Limahl. While Rosemary has developed a hate-hate relationship with Eric, Limahl has done little of note apart from cry when he didn’t get his own way.
I have to say that I’m getting slight fatigue now from I’m a Celebrity as every series seems to roll into one. This series so far hasn’t produced that one classic moments and indeed most of the main events seem to involve Helen Flanagan’s reluctance to participate in the tasks. While I’m intrigued by the friendship developing between Eric and Hugo and find Brian amusing that’s about it in the way of interest. Thank God then for Ant and Dec who make the show what it is mainly by poking fun at it. I feel that no reality show should take itself too seriously, I’m looking at you X-Factor, and I’m a Celebrity definitely doesn’t do that. Ant and Dec have become the real stars of the show, so much so that I’m anticipating their links more so than watching the events in the jungle. However Ant and Dec can only sustain the vehicle for so long and I think next year’s series really needs some more interesting characters if it is going to survive. And let’s just hope Ant and Dec keep signing up for three weeks in Australia, or the show won’t be worth watching at all.
Two new dramas now, kicking off with the return of The Hour. When the 1950s newsroom drama started next year I was expecting big things however I found it to be a bit of a letdown as it focused more on the relationships between the characters than it did about the news programme it was centred around. Now set in 1957, we find the staff room at The Hour has slightly changed with Freddie having been sacked following the Lord Elms affair. Meanwhile Hector is reaping the benefits of being a star as we see him swilling whisky in private clubs and attracting the attention of many young showgirls. However Bel is worried about The Hour’s new ITV rival – Uncovered, especially when the programme’s producer attempts to poach Hector. Bel’s other concern is the appointment of a new Head of News in the form of awkward Randall Brown who tells her that The Hour is too safe and he doesn’t get the same sense of excitement from the show that he once did. To shake things up a bit, Randall hires Freddie back and Freddie sets to work undermining both Hector and Bel with his devil-may-care attitude. This year’s season of The Hour looks to be a lot more action-packed than the last as writer Abi Morgan has created a number of different plot stands. So we see Hector’s wife Marnie furiously making cakes to cope with her husband’s dalliances, Bel become jealous when she discovers Freddie is married as well as discovering some sort of past between Lix and Randall. Despite it being set in 1957, The Hour feels incredibly relevant thanks to its focus on the rise of the celebrity who is described by Randall as ‘someone whose name is worth more than their services’. Speaking of Randall, Peter Capaldi is an excellent addition to the cast of The Hour as he perfectly encapsulates a man who has great ideas but can’t always have a normal conversation with people. I’m also more intrigued by several of the plot lines than I was last year thanks to the characters all feeling a little bit fresher. The one weak element of the show is Hannah Tointon who, as showgirl Kiki, really didn’t have anything to offer when compared with the rest of the cast. Overall though it appears to me as if The Hour has vastly improved on the patchy first series and I’m just hoping it can build on the momentum its created in this opening instalment.
This week also saw Channel 4′s screening of Michael Winterbottom’s latest drama Everday. The film was a monumental project for all involved as it was shot over five years and followed the affects that a father’s absence has on a family. The father in question is John Simm’s Ian who is in prison with London which means his wife Karen, played by Shirley Henderson, has to bring their children down to the prison from Norfolk. The children are played by real life siblings the Kirks and part of the reason for the five year time structure was to see the kids grow up before our eyes. Everyday isn’t your average prison drama mainly because most of the action happens away from the prison with Karen attempting to make the most of a bad situation. However some scenes see the family struggling to cope as older son Robert gets into a fight at school while Karen has a brief affair with one of the regulars from the pub in which she works. As Ian is finally released from prison, he struggles to adjust to outside life especially when he discovers his wife’s affair. Despite Everyday featuring big name stars in Simm and Henderson, it is clear that Winterbottom wanted this to be the children’s story. Therefore the camera is always perched at their level so we can literally follow them around and see them partake in normal activities such as lessons at school. Though all four are brilliant, I personally found Robert to be the best actor especially in the scenes where he runs away from home after being dubbed the new man of the house by Ian. That’s not to say Simm and Henderson aren’t fantastic with the latter in particular being well-cast as the woman who is trying to make the best of a bad situation. I did have a few issues with Everyday, as it dragged from time to time and I found the music to be pretty distracting. However, overall this was a fine drama which felt realistic from beginning to end thanks to its legion of young non-actors and realistic script. This definitely was a drama that dealt with the mundane nature of life and it’s true that a TV show like this doesn’t come around every day.
Finally, Channel 4′s other big outing this week was animated comedy Full English which aspired to be the British South Park but didn’t even come close. The show focuses on a family let by put-upon father Edgar who, in this first episode, is looking forward to get his anniversary blow job from wife Wendy. Putting a spanner in their works our their kids namely oddball Dusty who hides away in the couple’s car so he can jump out at them once they have reached the hotel. Meanwhile, back at home, the couple’s daughter Eve is auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent with her EMO Band. The only problem is that the group are terrible and she is insulted by Simon Cowell before being embarrassed at school. However, when Cowell mistakenly believes that Eve’s parents are dead he feels that he can use this to his advantage and invites Eve back to the show. Eve’s grandfather Ken goes along with the idea but only so he can resume his relationship with The Queen who he describes as the one that got away. But Ken’s plan angers his imaginary friend Squidge, a giant green blob that only Ken can see. I found the introduction of Squidge, in and of itself, completely different to any of the other humour on display in Full English. I say humour, but most of the jokes in Full English are old and tired as they centre around the hypocrisy of talent shows and their use of sob stories. Making fun of Simon Cowell and the harridans of Geordie Shore has been done better than this a long time ago and I get the sense that the writers of Full English think their funnier than they are. I’m also intrigued to why Richard Ayoade was cast as the voice of Edgar as his voice is so familiar I couldn’t help myself picturing the actor rather than watching the character. Overall, Full English is just too muddled to work as anything other than a late night sitcom for those who want a cheap laugh. There’s no original thought here and the characters on the whole are under-drawn, even though this is an animated show. I believe that this show, which has been given very little publicity by Channel 4, will soon sink without a trace.
More of my thoughts on TV – same time, same place next week.