At times like this you can always fall back on the soaps for a bit of excitement. On the cobbles Maria is in the family way and this time it wasn’t Sean in the Front Parlour with a Turkey Baster (I think I've just invented a whole new form of Cluedo). No, it was Liam in the salon flat with a gormless expression – the kind of bloke who thinks a meat and tater pie in front of Match of the Day is a rocking good time – that is responsible for the latest potential addition to the cast. This is soap land though, and it’s a penny to a pound that things will quickly go awry, especially as he continues to swap smouldering looks with his brother’s widow.
Indeed, this looks just like another accident waiting to happen but things are further complicated by Carla’s current dalliance with a bloke who seems to have escaped from River City.
Meanwhile Becky, or rather Becky’s mobile, has been caught up in Demonic David’s latest sad attempt to cause mayhem in the Platt-Grimshaw clan. I think he’s very brave to get on the wrong side of Becky. That’s assuming the scriptwriters finally remember what a nasty piece of work she’s supposed to be.
There are quite a few people on the street these days that are no better than they ought to be, not least the completely unlovable snake in the grass that is Paul Clayton. Jack and Vera have generally been the light comic relief in the show and it hurts to see them heading for a fall, all the more so as we are painfully aware that Vera’s days in the show are numbered.
Catch yerselves on though, so you should, because the big news has been that Jim McDonald has been released from “the big house”, so he has, presumably just in time to cause mayhem in the Christmas specials. I always used to like Big Jim because having such a short-tempered character is great as far as stories are concerned. Bring back the good old days when something as trivial as having the wrong paper delivered or seeing his tartily-dressed missus flirting with a punter over the bar was enough to send Jim into fits of rage for several episodes.
The scenes when he couldn't walk were truly brilliant. It's not the moment when he blows that is so wonderful, it's the brooding intensity first that does it for me. It's just great to have a character back we can care about. Lloyd's gambling debts or Sinbad's childcare issues haven't exactly had me breaking the speed limit to get home in time to catch the show.
Fans of Bad Girls will no doubt have been delighted to discover that Jim Fenner is in fact alive and well and the new owner of the bookies. The portents for bookies on the street aren't good. Des Barnes came to a grisly demise while Peter 'more wives than sens' Barlow paid for his heinous crimes with the even worse fate of being banished to Portsmouth.
Before any residents of Portsmouth email to complain about that last remark, your football team has just thrashed mine so I'm not feeling particularly charitable towards the the town.
The bookie's son is played by the guy who used to play Sam Harker in The Bill. Going on past form, former Sun Hill coppers' main function seems to be impregnating Ashley's wife. Lucky Claire.
Accident waiting to happen
Susan Cookson has been very good in Casualty for some time now but her presence mainly makes me pine for Early Doors, in which she was even better.
Charlie's problems with his bolshy teenage son are making this seem a bit soapy again to the point where I keep hoping that it will be this annoying bundle of hormones that will fall into the threshing machine when we are playing Spot the Victim.
This week though we saw another farmer managing to get mangled by his own equipment which would have been fine except that he was played by Geoff Leesley. Now I think we're well used by now to actors popping up several times as patients in one-off episodes, but Geoff was a series regular for three seasons as ambulance man Keith Cotterill. Did they think we'd forgotten?
You can't have a season of Casualty without a hostile “management” figure and this time around we've got Caroline Langrishe, but she's being criminally underused. Here's hoping she gets a major storyline soon.
It's a good job that Amir Khan's Big Fight Live wasn't on pay-per-view because at seventy two seconds, many of us would have felt short-changed. At Hogan Towers we managed to get more entertainment out of the fact that the MC was Stewpot out of
very early Grange Hill.
It was left to Jim Rosenthal and Barry McGuigan to pad out the rest of the show, though it was frustrating to see them waffling on while another bout was taking place behind them in the ring. Why not just show us the fight?
Perhaps it's because they were so busy hyping up the Ricky Hatton fight which no doubt put a few extra quid in the coffers of Sky Box Office. Odd that.
The Hatton fight turned out to be worth staying up for, though commentators Ian Darke and Jim Watt were definitely commentating from a Hatton perspective and a red button option for an unbiased commentary would have been welcome. Ricky lost, which can only do wonders for his popularity. We don't like winners, but plucky losers we really take to our hearts.
A bunch of anchors
Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares finally got back on form with an episode set in Wales in an establishment run by a very shouty couple.
While it was very entertaining, cook book-following Mike was obviously not cut out to be an inspirational gourmet chef, so I wondered why Gordon's advice wasn't to get a good chef in, rather than spend most of the episode trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
As ever the standard format was followed - disastrous service, simplify menu, repaint restaurant, hope for the best. Except that this week even the service at the end was going pear-shaped. When a waitress slipped and was injured, I felt really uncomfortable that they were pointing a camera at her while she was in distress.
X marks the spot
I gave The X Factor a bit of a slating a couple of weeks back but something very odd happened this time around. I actually enjoyed a performance from Same Difference. I wasn't expecting to.
Before their rendition of Never Had a Dream Come True we'd had yet another “onion peeling” piece of film which raised my hackles. Then they performed the song and for the first time, the glazed eyes and sparkly teeth were replaced with genuine emotion and with everything I can't abide about them absent, we got an honest, touching, vocally competent performance. I wasn't just easily the best they've done in the series, it was one of the stand out efforts from anyone in this year's run.
It was certainly enough to save them and while it'll be the biggest shock since Javine missed out on a place in Girls Aloud if Rhydian doesn't triumph, they are certainly coming up on the rails.
Leon still looks absolutely terrified and when Dannii concurred with Simon that he'd been out of tune in his first song, he looked as though she'd just stuck a knife through his heart. I've been longing to write something bitchy about Dannii but I've found myself admiring her honesty. Her comments tend to be accurate and her criticisms constructive and when she gets it wrong she not only admits it bit is apologetic to boot.
It's a breath of fresh air because since Sharon lost a vested interest in the show, she's turned almost sweet and has gushed over performances that are nowhere near the mark while Louis trots out same tired old rhetoric week after week.
As for this season's presenter changes, I'm surprised to say that Fearne has been a success but sorry Dermot, I still miss Kate.
Niki fell at the final hurdle and never really returned to the heights of her performance of Nothing Compares 2 U as the journey continued. Perhaps our expectations are too high; I'd be on my feet clapping if she was down my local karaoke.
The whole thing was put into perspective for me when I switched to The Culture Show during one of the breaks and KT Tunstall was giving an excellent acoustic performance. Completely different class.
Bits 'n' Bobs
Dirty Den's demise grows ever closer on UKTV Gold. I'd like to see Leslie Grantham back on our screens in something a little more inspiring than SkyPoker.com.
Any tension built up in Stacy's petrol-soaked cliffhanger with Steven was completely dispelled by her appearance in the Christmas Day trailer immediately afterwards. Now we know exactly what will happen, I might not bother watching.
Was Russell Brand aware that he was being laughed at rather than laughed with on Have I Got News for You?
Bobby Davro had been lined up for the same treatment on Never Mind The Buzzcocks but more than held his own. Phil Jupitus looks bored these days while Bill Bailey can't come back too soon for my liking.
My convalescing partner has got hooked on Rosemary Shrager's School For Cooks. I may have to seek help for her.