Oh the drama
Bit heavy for a Sunday night
Things started promisingly enough with Recovery. Anyone familiar with the work of Tony Merchant probably wasn’t expecting this to be a barrel of laughs, I certainly wasn’t, but this was a bit heavy going as a way to round off a weekend.
Here we saw David Tennant in the sort of role he’s probably glad he can still get with the millstone of Doctor Who around his neck. The last time we saw him paired with Sarah Parish, she was a giant alien spider, this time she was his wife and in a far more real, far more frightening scenario.
The hubby has an accident leaving him with a brain injury and as he struggles to regain his sense of he used to be and return to some sort of normality, so we see the strain this puts on his wife and tests the strength of their marriage. Marchant has never been one to pull back when laying bare the fragility of the human condition and with both Tennant and Parish at the top of their game, this was a difficult, emotionally draining but ultimately rewarding piece of television.
It was an important piece with something significant to say, as Marchant’s pieces usually are and compelling viewing but I would question the scheduling on a Sunday and think that it may have found a more appreciative audience in say a midweek slot on BBC Two. Certainly if you missed it, I’d keep an eye out for the next chance to see it because although it’s not the easiest piece of drama to battle through, it is worth it. Honest.
The dull as ditchwater detective
Monday saw Anthony Flanagan – known to many of us as Tony the copper from Shameless - getting his name ahead of title on Instinct. While Flanagan gave a fairly solid performance, this was so downbeat, one paced and frankly monotonous that I found myself pining for a more charismatic lead. It made your average episode of Rebus look almost exciting.
Dragged out over two consecutive nights, the unnecessarily convoluted plot saw Flanagan’s character - a DCI slightly less maverick than we are used to on ITV1- attempting to unravel connected murders, while grappling with the fact that his long estranged father is fighting for life in hospital and that leads him to meet his half sister, who he begins to get close to and uncomfortably obsessed by.
Quite why it took three hours to tell a tale that easily have been told far more economically in one is a far bigger mystery than the one this unmemorable bunch of coppers were trying to solve and I really was left with a feeling of so what at the end of it. Worse still, the ever-reliable Jaye Griffiths was totally wasted in a bit part as a Detective Sergeant. If this comes back – and it felt very much like a pilot – they should build up her role because she was easily the best thing in it.
Beating Up the Wrong Guy
No doubt Tuesday’s second part was boosted by the fact that the popular Life on Mars was ejected from the schedules to allow the screening of a cup replay, one that would likely have been scheduled on the Wednesday had a certain knight of the realm not had a whinge.
Certainly, I don’t think as much consternation would have been felt across the nation if the match had been played a day later and New Street Law had failed to appear. Apparently though, this plan would have meant that United’s players would have been too tired to drag their weary bones around the pitch for their next game on Saturday. Those poor overworked footballers make your heart bleed don’t they?
While I can understand Sam and Gene being turfed off BBC One, those of us watching at BBC Four were irked to discover that we weren’t getting a new episode either, as the minority channel screened the first episode of season two instead. It’s really annoying being mucked about with like that.
As it happens, despite Reading’s manager picking a side that made you wonder whether he’d had a few quid in his opponents at Ladbrokes, the football turned out to be terrifically entertaining, even if Manchester United did scrape through, but surely in this digital age with channels aplenty both the match and the much loved cop show could have been shown in parallel.
It was telling that Confessions of a Diary Secretary had the sub heading “A Comedy” on it’s break bumpers because there’s no other way you could have worked out it was supposed to be funny by watching it.
This was the tale of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott having a mucky little liaison with one of his staff. It was a dull enough story when it originally broke and made for an even duller hour and a half of telly, despite the presence of the normally reliable John Henshaw and Maxine Peake.
As with the play about Blunkett’s indiscretion, in which he was portrayed almost as a romantic hero, Prescott came out of this rather well - certainly better than Tracey Thingy - and if you’re going to make a satirical piece of about politician caught with his trousers down and then not savage him, there seems to be very little point to the exercise. It’s not like there’s a shortage of material. I’m sure there’s a great drama waiting to be written about the DPM and his antics in office but this certainly wasn’t it.
The worst bit of the whole sorry mess came in the scene featuring Damien Lewis and Tony Slattery in really unconvincing efforts as Blair and Brown. It was alarming mainly because I got the feeling these two were being tried out for a possible show of their own. They’d have done better casting them as Laurel and Hardy because that’s who they put me in mind of.
This felt very much like a lost opportunity because we know that Henshaw and Peake are capable of so much better. If only they’d had the luxury of a decent script rather than this unfunny mess that felt like a first draft.
Pippa Haywood was in it and this week she did fail to make me laugh.
A waste of a good cast.
Can’t stand the heat
I have to say that the idea of a drama set in a commercial kitchen didn’t fill me with joyous anticipation, even if it was one with Eddie Izzard. That’s partially because it’s getting increasingly difficult to turn on the box these days without getting television’s version of the real thing. Masterchef Goes Large is now on nightly for goodness sake. Another reason was that the clips promoting the thing put me mind of the BBC’s modern retelling of Macbeth with James McAvoy.
I like my steak bloody, but I’d like to think it was the cow’s blood and not that of whoever cooked it.
What actually drew me to Kitchen was the fact that it came from the mind of Simon Ashdown, who was in part responsible for Funland which was one of the freshest, cleverest bits of telly for a long time.
Gritty and uncompromising is probably the best way to describe this tale of a convict who faces the prospect of making a success of his job in what seems to be hostile environment or face going back to the nick. You don’t get people using the pasta to snort drugs on Jamie’s School Dinners do you? Some of the language in this would pull even potty-mouthed Ramsay up short.
Scotland’s a great place full of welcoming people with a lovely dry sense of humour. You’d never know that from the majority of telly output that gets shown nationally. Anyone taking their impression of the nation from shows such as Rebus, Low Winter Sun and now this may well think it’s unremittingly bleak.
Kitchen was easily the best of the crop of new drama this week but even that was actually hard work to wade through. Hardy old warhorse ER may be showing signs of age and can’t be too far away from being cancelled but it’s still easily more watchable than any of our own stuff this week.
Red noses and red faces
They really are scraping the barrel on Comic Relief Does Fame Academy with the common denominator being that the contestants – with the exception of Tricia Penrose – are uniformly dreadful, while the attempts at comedy fall embarrassingly flat.
TPT is as irritating as ever while Ray Stubbs manically grinning performance had me so scared, I very nearly hid behind the sofa.
No Cat Deeley either this time which is a good enough reason to sulk.
Cat is of course appearing in an entirely superfluous role on American Idol.
The standard on the show this year is incredibly high, so much so that it puts our own The X Factor to shame. The problem with that is that it gives little opportunity for Simon to reach into his bag of pithy put downs, so most of his Mister Nasty pantomimeness has to come from his little spats with host Ryan Seacrest, which aren’t very nice to watch.
Randy offers constructive comments but Paula continues to baffle with hers.
Bits n Bobs
Sight of the week had to be cheerleader Claire Bennett waking up in the middle of what looked like her own autopsy. She exclaimed “Holy Crap” before we got the chance to. Heroes rocks! Except Hiro. I get the urge to throw rocks at him.
There I was last week banging away about how there should be an uncut version of The Graham Norton Show and it turns out there is one; Sunday nights if you want to see the cheeky chappie back to his best.
Graham really had to struggle to get anything like decent conversation out of this week’s guests. Samantha Morton – one of my favourite actresses – proved that she’s nothing of interest to say without a script while Orlando Bloom seemed to playing up to his Extras image.
I got a new telly this week. It’s got loads of great features and a super duper picture but sadly not a function for filtering out Russell Howard, who seems to keep popping up where you least expect him.
It was actually a chore to find a good CRT telly but I got there in the end. No HD for me just yet thanks, I’m very happy with the standard definition, indeed I think more people would be if only they knew how to set up their sets properly. Set your screen ratio wrongly and everyone ends up looking like Vanessa Feltz.
BBC News 24 wasted no time in trumpeting the fact that several key Sky channels had vanished from Virgin Media. They actually led their midnight bulletin with the news. You’ve got to admire the indignant way in which the disgruntled cable customer they had on the phone announced to the world that she’d download her favourite Sky shows from the internet.
I wonder what the chances are of Virgin getting in ITN to provide a Virgin news channel to replace Sky’s.
Wonderful Jan Ravens continues to shoot Kate Silverton down in flames on Dead Ringers but her pastiche of the presenters woeful efforts on the red carpet after the Oscars was nowhere near as hilarious as the real thing. Kate seemed more concerned with spilt coffee on her dress than with getting the job done. No such problems over on GMTV where a Carla Romano - who was clearly revelling in every minute - looked ready for a fist fight if anyone tried to stop her bagging a quick chat with a celeb.
Your next clue can be found in the review of Sims 2: Seasons