Welcome back hope your Christmas plans are all going well and I’ve tried to make this edition as Christmassy as possible.
However we have to start with this week’s big reality TV finale as Young Apprentice came to an end with a four way final featuring Northern Ashleigh and well-spoken Lucy taking on temperamental Irish gal Maria and Liverpudlian fashion designer in a competition that was all about sportswear. Yes Lord Sugar met the teams at White Hart Lane to inform them of their task of creating a new sportswear brand and presenting it at an event in Manchester. As is always the case the previous candidates return to supposedly help their former colleagues put in actuality they ended up putting doubts in their mind and generally messed about. Lucy and Ashleigh quickly decided to go with streetwear as their theme based on the fact it’s what people of their age wear but based on the other team what people their age wear is fetching scarves or bejewelled collars. Talking of Maria and Patrick they were struggling to agree on a theme with Maria eventually deciding on cycling gear which Patrick just agreed to as he was basically acting as a lapdog here. However Patrick tried to assert his authority when arranging the viral marketing campaign where he organised a choir against Maria’s express wishes and to be fair to her I didn’t really see what the a group of middle-aged women singing Lady Gaga had to do with a new brand of cycling gear. Meanwhile Maria had trouble with names coming up with Rusty Chair and Puncture before deciding on Cyc while her design pattern seemed needlessly complicated. Ashleigh and Lucy meanwhile listened to each other a little more coming up with the brand name Release with the strapline ‘Strive, Emerge, Achieve.’ Their viral marketing campaign also had a little more to do with their product as they hired a street dance crew to spring on unsuspecting passers-by in Piccadilly Gardens and got the dancers to wear their gear as well.
The second part of the task was obviously the pitch to industry experts, Lord Sugar and oddly Rio Ferdinand who looked totally bemused throughout. Maria and Patrick’s pitch introduced us to fictional student Ben who wanted to look good and save money so was the ideal candidate to wear ‘Cyc’ clothing. Obviously the questions focused on the connection between the viral video and the product something that Maria herself still wasn’t sure about. Ashleigh and Lucy’s pitch flowed much better with the viral video a hit and the only question mark being over the ethical nature of their product. In the boardroom it was quite clear that Ashleigh and Lucy had won the task with Maria’s eyes telling us that she wanted to kill Patrick who she solely blamed for the failure of the task. As is always the way on Young Apprentice, Lord Sugar then wanted to know what each girl would do with her money with Lucy wanting to save it for her education while Ashleigh had about a billion plans for it. In the end Ashleigh pipped Lucy just because Sugar felt that she was a little bit more mature but wished both of them well. Personally I believe this is the right choice and, despite Lucy being a likeable candidate, Ashleigh had been one of my favourites from day one. Overall I feel this series of Young Apprentice has been enjoyable if not particularly memorable but at the same time feel that if the BBC do decide to end it here then nobody will particularly miss it.
It appears to me as if ITV are trying to push out a lot of their dramas before Christmas as we’ve already had The Town and The Poison Tree while this Sunday saw the airing of one-off period piece The Making of a Lady. The adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s set of books saw Lydia Wilson’s Emily Fox-Seaton rise from her position as part time secretary to Lady of the Manor. When the drama starts Emily is working as secretary to Joanna Lumley’s Lady Byrne but soon attracts the attention of her nephew Lord Walderhurst who she decides to marry despite not really being in love with him. While Lady Byrne is predictably snotty about their relationship it appears that over time Emily starts to care about her new husband so she’s upset when he decides to go back to war. Emily requests that her old friend Jane be bought to the manor as her new maid in order to keep her company however soon the manor is overflowing when Walderhurst’s cousin Alec and his wife Hester also arrive on the scene. Alec and Hester are portrayed as a glamorous yet dangerous couple and it soon becomes clear that they have an ulterior motive namely to poach the family fortune from the Walderhursts. When they discover that Emily is pregnant they bring their Indian nurse Ameera in to care for her however it is clear that they are trying to kill of the new baby so there won’t be a new Walderhurst on the scene. As time goes on there are spookier goings on as Emily finds herself more and more alone before she eventually realises that Alec and Hester don’t have her best interests at heart. When I learnt that The Making of a Lady was based on two books by Frances Hodgson Burnett I wasn’t surprised as the drama is really one of two halves. I greatly enjoyed the first act, based on The Making of a Marchioness, as it explored the rise of Emily from the gutters to the manor and also her relationship with her new husband. The second part, based on The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, felt more like a psychological drama as Emily’s increasing paranoia over the true motives of Alec and Hester seem more farcical than dramatic. The final ten minutes of the drama also feel incredibly drawn out and a little silly as the couple make one last attempt to finish off Lucy before Lord Walderhurst returns to the house. Thankfully the cast really made up for the shortcomings in the script with Lydia Wilson holding things together as the warm-hearted Emily. Joanna Lumley meanwhile did a great impression of Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey while Linus Roache made the perfect reserved English gentleman so it’s a shame that both disappeared in the second half of the drama. Ultimately The Making of a Lady was a disjointed drama with a great first act and a confusing second part that had an awfully silly ending. Thankfully the the performances of Wilson, Roache and Lumley will get you through and mean that at least the acting in The Making of a Lady is strong even if the screenplay was incredibly weak in parts.
As it’s only a week before Christmas we are starting to get a lot of programmes relating to the festive period and once again Channel 4 bring us something a little bit different with Bad Santas. The programme sees The Ministry of Fun, the number one supplier of Santas in the UK, give five no-hopers the chance to become department store Santas and earn up to £1,000 a week. The Ministry of Fun is represented by James Lovell who wants to give some poor unfortunates a chance to get a break and hopefully earn themselves a bit of cash. After an extensive audition process five potential santas are chosen the first of whom is former armed-robber Frank who wants to be the first ever Black Santa the Ministry has ever had in order to make his kid’s proud. There was Brian who wanted to earn some more money to buy his kids presents while man mountain Tiny Tim looked more like a cage fighter than Father Christmas. The one who made the most convincing Santa was definitely Steve who had lost contact with his family over the years and now hopes the Santa gig will give him a chance to reconnect with them. Finally the most memorable of the five was Johnny Sausage, so-named so he could be identified over all of the other Johns, an aged hippie who used to squat but now lives in his van essentially drinking and smoking his way through life. After Tiny Tim’s CRB Check revealed he still had outstanding convictions, the other four got taken through to Santa School for intensive training in which they were grilled extensively by the elves. At the end of episode one only Johnny Sausage had failed the course after getting drunk in his van however Steve, Brian and Frank were given the chance to be Santa and make their families proud. Bad Santas was perfect Channel 4 at Christmas viewing as it was slightly anarchic and featured warm-hearted yet extravagant personalities including Ministry of Fun head honcho James. Though the structure of the opening episode was fairly formulaic I can’t say I didn’t warm to a lot of the characters here especially the passionate Frank and the unfortunate Johnny Sausage. There were also at least two moments during the show where I laughed out loud and I was very happy to see three of the men successfully graduate from Santa School. Even though it felt fairly manipulative throughout I have to say I warmed to Bad Santas and it did fill me with a large amount of festive cheer to the extent where I really want to see what happens next for the three newest Santas on the block Steve, Brian and Frank.
Finally we end with something a little bit more traditional with BBC2′s The Christmas Number One Story. This was a little bit more than the usual nostalgia trip featuring Slade and Wizard as the documentary took us through all of the songs that have got the festive top spot. So for example there were features about The Scaffold’s ‘Lily The Pink’ and Rolf Harris’ ‘Two Little Boys.’ There was also an exploration into why the British are happy to buy novelty records at Christmas with such gems as Rene and Ronata and Mr Blobby topping the Christmas charts at various points. The most interesting part to me was that the various talking heads believed that the Christmas number one needed to have a message behind it so the dominance of The X-Factor winner’s single has slightly dented the accolade of the past few years. Obviously there was the obligatory look at the Rage Against the Machine scandal, narrated by a very bitter and very orange Joe McElderry, with the majority of the talking heads admitting to buying the song just to keep the little Geordie lad off of the Christmas top spot. Finally the Christmas Number One went full circle with last year’s efforts from The Military Wives a song which had a strong message behind it and was sung by a group of unassuming women. I quite enjoyed The Christmas No. 1 Story due in part to the memories of my childhood and the fact that it rightly shone a light on the novelty of yore rather than commercialism of today. Essentially the hope is that the Hillsborough song will overtake James Arthur to the festive spot and, while I agree that it has a strong message behind it, I’ve secretly got my fingers crossed that the £1 Fish Man will top the charts this weekend.
Next Time: A Christmas special featuring Doctor Who, Call the Midwife and The Royle Family