Soaps bubble over
At least the murder of Tom King has finally been resolved so I won’t get asked umpteen times a week if I knew who did the dirty deed. It was a nice touch to film almost every possible outcome meaning that you see Tom meet his maker in a dozen or so different ways on t’internet. Now that’s what I call good use of modern technology.
Louise’s car chase and subsequent crash would have the dramatic high point of the week in almost any series you care to think of but in this wacky village it very much played second fiddle to Betty dressed as an alien and the arrival of Katherine Jenkins to wow the simple country folk. I found the crash itself far less disturbing than Viv in uniform.
By the time Tom’s murderer was unveiled and we’d lost yet another resident, I was wondering just how people can stomach this night after night. Looking in occasionally I can cope with but seriously those of you who can spend three hours a week in the company of this bunch of social misfits have a far stronger constitution than I do.
For those who still care, it was the youngest of the King Brothers that hurled darling daddy to his seasonal demise and not – as we’d long suspected here at Hogan Towers – that dodgy Grayson bloke after all.
Add to that the Hope’s pageant float catching fire, Len dropping dead – though he looked more like he’d just dropped off – a cat fight at the beauty contest and a brawl including a doctor and nurse in the local hospital and other soaps just seem tame by comparison, even when they do contain their biggest special effects of the year.
Amidst all the mayhem though, this soap still occasionally has the power to touch our hearts. I thought Edna’s last scene with Len was very touching indeed and if I was in charge of dishing out awards, I’d certainly hurl one in Shirley Stelfox’s direction.
Misery loves company
It’s far easier to be a regular viewer of the goings on at Albert Square, providing you’ve a counsellor on hand or a good supply of Prozac to deal with all the depression that pervades every storyline.
Those two paragons of virtue, Ian Beale and Phil Potatohead have been going at each other again recently, presumably to celebrate the DVD release of Déjà Vu because yes folks we really have seen it all before. Didn’t Phil’s spat with Grant end up with a car plummeting into the river? I wonder whether actor Adam Woodyatt gets extra money for having to portray such a ridiculous character because I bet he gets loads of ribbing when he goes down his local. That scout look is probably worth a barrel load of gags.
As an aside, on Sky News Sunrise on Friday, some baldy MP in to review the papers was banging on about how he wished we wouldn’t used the term “Boy Scouts” claiming the correct terminology was just “Scouts”. You learn something new every day don’t you? Apparently girls can don the woggle as well as boys. Me, I was albeit briefly in the Boys Brigade, mainly because I liked the Thunderbirds style hats.
While I quite enjoy watching a review of the papers on the late news or on a weekend morning, I think that it takes it far too much time on a working day when I just need a quick splash and dash of news, sport and weather before dashing off into the day.
Back to the soaps though, and while mortal danger was engulfing the male section of Beale and Mitchell clans, the women were obliviously having beauty treatments. It’s difficult to say exactly what Peggy was having done but she looked scarier than your average Doctor Who monster.
Meanwhile, as Phil’s battered Range Rover headed into the drink, things got almost exciting. We were taking bets on whether a clearly unfit Phil would suffer a thrombosis under the strain of his gallant rescue attempt. After all he tends to go purple these days just throwing drunks out of the Vic.
To be fair it was a decent enough stunt and surprisingly the kids were very good as they faced a watery demise.
Let’s hope that when they return, they don’t need treatment from the increasing manic Doctor May whose scenes are so toe-curlingly bad that it’s tempting to fast forward them.
An oversized annoyance has appeared in the Mortons' back garden - no, not Sinbad silly- it’s “the shed” that has sent the highly-strung Claire into another bout of ridiculous behaviour and uncontrollable bouts of manic overacting.
Not long after threatening to raze the contentious shack to the ground, Claire found herself in mortal peril as her baby’s bedroom was ablaze, though the conflagration was not nearly as impressive as the classic Rover’s burning of 1986. Perhaps all the smoke inhalation will bring down that irritating squeaky voice of hers by a semitone or two. We can but hope.
The other big news – other than the fact that some of the residents still haven’t realised what a trollop Leanne is – was that the Fiz had gone out of Kirk’s love life, leaving him looking more gormless than ever.
Is anyone interested in the latest developments in Violet the barmaid’s love life? Anyone interested in Violet full stop? If so, please tell me why. I’m obviously missing something.
A bit of a con
I know it’s completely unbelievable, crammed full of clichés and some of the dialogue is distinctly ropey, but I can’t help but enjoy Hustle, which seems to revel in the cheek of its own existence and relies hugely on the charisma of its cast.
The key remains Robert Vaughn, who's been making the ludicrous seem entertaining since before I was born. This week Patricia Hodge got a good innings as a particularly loathsome mark.
Losing one of the leads doesn’t seem to have hampered the show at all and if it’s pure escapism you’re after, this is the place to go.
Running down corridors was always a staple of Doctor Who in the good old days. Or was that Scooby Doo? Possibly both.
Actually I thought that this week's episode had a bit of Mystery Machine feel to it, especially when it turned out that ship’s captain Cindy Beale was the real villain all the time. She’d have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for that pesky living sun.
To be picky, this felt like it was just being written to a formula: Doctor lands, gets split up from companion, companion gets into trouble, Doctor saves companion getting himself into trouble in the process, companion saves the day. There’s probably a template somewhere they just fill in when running out of ideas.
Anthony Flanagan guested and he seems to be everywhere these days. A future Doctor perhaps?
Making a complete cult of yourself
It wasn’t easy to draw any firm conclusions from John Sweeney’s Panorama report into Scientology, other than the fact that the he managed to make a prize turnip of himself during one of his many confrontations with Tommy Davis.
It was entertaining enough as a piece of television but I didn’t feel any better informed about the subject after viewing. If the intention really was to ask if Scientology was changing, no real answers were offered and it did the reputation of BBC journalism no favours.
Later in the week Chris Tarrant unwisely tangled with Ian Hislop while trying to send himself up on Have I Got News For You.
When Tarrant talked out knocking Hislop into the ground like a tent peg, it was clear he’d lost the battle, the war and most of the audience. Memories of Angus Deayton came flooding back as Hislop picked on every opportunity to belittle the guest host. Not the most comfortable episode ever.
Janice Dickinson’s behaviour on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross was so over the top, it was embarrassing to watch, but in the best traditions of car crash television, utterly compelling.
It wasn’t so much Dickinson’s outlandish actions that kept me glued to the set but more the reactions of the other guests and watching Ross for once very nearly out of his depth as he struggled to maintain some semblance of order.
The best reactions came from the wonderfully expressive Andrew Lloyd Webber who looked positively terrified when Janice took exception to one of John Barrowman’s throwaway comments and gate crashed their section of the show.
It really was watch-through-the-fingers television and I can’t wait to see it again. When an interview with Eddie Izzard is the most normal part of a chat show, you just know that it’s one to remember.
Better than the programmes
BBC Breakfast was celebrating old TV adverts this week. This led my mother to start waxing lyrical about, and even singing the jingle from, an ad for Morrell Pure Lard. I’d never heard of it.
I’d love a DVD of old classic ads, in the style of Charley Says perhaps. I’m sure it’ll happen one day.