Of a Thursday
By Thursday though it had dawned on me that other than those shows, the football and the cricket, I hadn’t actually watched anything that I could use to fill this spot. I could join in that national sport of having a pop at Steve McClaren but I’m not sure what good that would do.
On the subject of sport though, the latest deal that takes the FA Cup and the majority of England games to ITV and Setanta is bad news for the pockets of those who feel they have to watch every televised game and even worse news for those who only view their football on the free channels, since far fewer cup games will be free to air under the new deal than the present one.
Add to that the fact that ITV’s current football coverage and commentators leave much to be desired and the whole thing looks to be bad news for footie fans. Every time the rights go for more inflated figures, we know that money has to be recouped by the broadcasters and the only way that can happen is from us poor punters.
It remains to be seen just how many of us flock to Setanta when the new premiership deal starts but ITV seem to be spending a huge slice of their programming budget on this and it could prove to be bad news for everyone if they get their fingers burnt. It’s not as if early evening football fits into a typical ITV schedule and I hope they are braced for howls of protest every time The X Factor or Dancing On Ice is moved to allow the screening of a match.
By Thursday night then, I realised I’d better watch some telly pretty quickly if I was to get this week’s column out.
I tried to start off with Emmerdale but there’s only so much suffering I’m willing to do to get this thing written every week so I quickly switched to BBC One where Nick Knowles and his chums appeared to be attempting to create a Giraffe enclosure somewhere in Kenya. All very worthy and exciting I’m sure but before I’ve even seen a giraffe I find myself watching a Porridge re-run on UKTV Gold. Not the best start to the evening’s viewing but at least I was now laughing.
The smile was soon wiped off my face by EastEnders where a drunken Dawn was trying to terminate her pregnancy while demon child Ben’s bruises were discovered by Ian Beale just in time for the duff-duffs. Feeling cheered up no end, I had the big decision to make - The Bill or Waterloo Road?
As the school drama has been missing in action for some weeks now, I decided to give that a whirl. Some of the pupils were off on a work experience trip with incredibly predictable disastrous results.
It feels like an old friend by now this show, partially because we appear to get the same episode every time, just rearranged slightly. So all the bad girls are clearly just misunderstood and have underlying reasons for their miscreant behaviour while all the bad boys are just plain evil drug dealing types who’d sell their own granny for a can of Special Brew and twenty ciggies.
Generally the staff are more badly behaved than the pupils but they are all so well established and comfortable now that some new blood is required to spice things up a bit. At the moment there just aren’t enough characters to populate the soapy feel of the the piece.
By nine, there seemed to be little of interest on offer, though ITV were showing music in prime time, well Elton John anyway. Elton was giving Rocket Man his all and took so long to get to the end of it that it came across as a performance of sheer self-indulgence. I went off to make a cup of tea and when I returned he was still milking the same song for all it was worth. I really couldn't take much more of this so it was off to Dead Ringers on BBC Two.
I can’t praise Jan Ravens to the skies every week in this column but she’s easily the best thing in this show. Some of the sketches are clever rather than actually funny and some stray too close to the bone for my liking. It’s not that easy a watch these days, but my mood was soon lifted by The Graham Norton Show. David Tennant was the big guest in an obvious bit of cross promotion but he’s relatively witty and not too thrown by Graham’s lowbrow style.
There was a lovely bit of business where a member of the public is fork lifted away in a fake Tardis but somehow, much as I think this is the ideal format for Norton, it’s not quite firing on all cylinders just yet.
As my Thursday viewing began to draw to a close, I decided to sacrifice this week’s Question Time to catch up with ER on my Sky+. It was a cracking episode with a couple of cliff-hangers at the end so I was indignant when it was announced the current series would be vanishing from E4 screens and would return in a couple of weeks, only on Channel 4 on Mondays. It’s gonna clash with Heroes and Prison Break.
How utterly annoying!
Alas Smith and Jones
Doctor Who returned for that difficult third season on Saturday and we waited with baited breath to see just how it could fare in the post Rose era. It wasn’t a bad opening romp but a little bit of the magic seems to have gone.
As with last year’s opener, we were in a hospital, the hospital shop being one of many self-references that littered the script. The marvellous Roy Marsden was bumped off way too early, much to my disappointment and while Anne Reid is one of our most treasured actresses – try to catch her performance in The Mother with Daniel Craig if you can – but is a little old lady wondering around a hospital with a drinking straw really a terrifying enough monster for the first episode?
Key to the future of the show will be how we take to brand spanking new assistant Martha and I have to say that there was much shrugging of the shoulders here at Hogan Towers. None of us disliked the character but none of us took an instant shine to her the way we had with Rose. I was even almost missing Donna. All that complicated family baggage got in the way too as did the casting of Reggie Yates bringing cries of “That’s the bloke off Top of the Pops" from the assembled throng.
It looks as though this year’s “Bad Wolf” is going to be Mister Saxon, with several references scattered throughout the episode. Pre-publicity has indicated that John Simm would be playing a character with this name at the end of the run. With the final episode being entitled Last of the Time Lords and Mister Saxon being an anagram of Master No. Six, it’ll be interesting to see if this turns out to be a big red herring.
I close my eyes
As Any Dream Will Do got under way with a distinctly underwhelming group of auditionees, I already fear that this show won’t be a patch on the search for Maria.
A big loss from the panel is David Ian and his replacements are not much fun. Denise Van Outen is normally so full of life and I did wonder whether she was jetlagged during the filming, as her usual laddish humour seemed strangely absent. Bill Kenwright looked very professional, so much so that he’d have seemed more at home on The Apprentice.
From the first series we still have John Barrowman who still looks if he’d rather be performing than judging and sadly we’re also still saddled with sour faced singing coach Zoe, who seems to have two facial expressions, one like she’s been sucking a lemon and the other like someone’s just farted.
In the Maria show we had some great personalities in the early stages and Connie looked like a star from the get go. This lot seemed so bland that I’m struggling to recall the names of any of them. I doubt this show will have us coming in out of the sunshine to discover the eventual winner.