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'The New Normal', 'Splash!', 'Polar Bear Family': This week in TV

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The New Normal

© NBC Universal


It was rather incredible to think watching the pilot episode of The New Normal that it ever created a bit of a stink in the US. Ryan 'Glee' Murphy's latest comedy project was pulled from the air by one network in Utah because of what was deemed "inappropriate" content. From what I could see, the only crime that the show committed was being slightly underwhelming.

There were strong performances from the three leads, Justin Bartha, Andrew Rannells (Girls) and Georgia King as gay couple David and Bryan and runaway waitress Goldie, who recently caught her husband in the act with another woman. The trio collide when Goldie offers her services as a surrogate mother and the only problem they have is Goldie's panto-villain grandma - who spouts more racism and homophobia than a box-set of Roy Chubby Brown DVDs.

Like Glee at its best, the writing is snappy, there are some killer lines and the whole thing is smothered with a sunshine sheen. Like the worst of Glee, it occasionally veers towards self-indulgence, sappiness and predictable sentimentality.

A mix of Modern Family, Will & Grace and Murphy's distinctive colourful TV palette, it was a pleasant enough 30 minutes of television with a couple of strong lines, but it never felt like it was anywhere near as smart or daring as it thought it was. Maybe if you live in parts of Utah, the idea of a gay couple having a baby is still a scary prospect, but for me it felt like a fairly corny set-up for a standard glossy sitcom - it was all a bit too, well, normal.

The New Normal airs on Thursdays at 9pm on E4.

Splash! Tom Daley

© ITV


At the Edinburgh TV Festival last August, ITV's head of comedy and entertainment Elaine Bedell (their Queen of Saturday nights) mocked and laughed about the post-Olympics pitches she'd had for shows such as Celebrity Cycling and Celebrity Swimming.

Six months down the line and we've got Vernon Kay stood in some ill-advised shorts chatting to Jo Brand about her thoughts on an Omid Djalili belly-flop. Splash! is the stupidest piece of Saturday night entertainment since Don't Scare the Hare, Tom Daley's Splash! is a new level on the commissioning silly scale.

Diving is probably one of the least TV friendly sports - marginally above dressage and shooting - and no amount of bellowing of hot air from Kay and Gabby Logan, bum-wiggling from Z-listers in bikinis or Tom Daley clenching his buttocks for screaming teenagers could mask that.

I have to confess I got a slight amount of morbid pleasure out of the show from a purely historical standpoint - I'm still trying to figure out where to slot this alongside Famous and Fearless and Celebrity Wrestling. But other than from a rubbernecking perspective and a dark pleasure in seeing Kay's career sliding further down the swanny, I don't think the nation really needed to see the 456th Sugababe and some bloke nobody has heard of from Benidorm bombing into water with the elegance of warthogs.

Fancy Celebrity Water Polo, ITV? No - I didn't think so.

Splash! is still afloat on ITV on Saturday nights.

The Polar Bear Family and Me: Episode 3

© BBC / Gordon Buchanan


Helping me recover from the TV terror that was Splash! this week was Gordon Buchanan's bonkers and emotional The Polar Bear Family and Me.

If you watched Buchanan's previous documentary series about black bears (cunningly titled The Bear Family and Me), you'd have an idea of what to expect. However in the space between filming the two shows, Buchanan appears to have gone slightly madder and maybe it's just me, but there's something about polar bear cubs rolling around in the snow that chokes me up slightly more than the grizzly ones in Minnesota.

From the frankly barmy decision to lock himself in a Perspex cube and film a polar bear attacking him (there's an ITV gameshow in that) to the beautifully shot scenes of Mrs polar bear Lyra hunting, swimming and caring for her cuddly offspring Mickey and Luka, this three-part series was captivating and worked brilliantly stripped across the week.

I won't spoil the twists and turns that are involved in the story of the mum and her cubs, but I can guarantee you won't be so quick to muddle up your plastics in the recycling and sniff about global warming after three hours in the company of Gordon and his bears.

The Polar Bear Family and Me is still available to cry over on iPlayer.

Missed it? Don't miss out
'Primeval: New World' S01E01: Cast

© Watch/Ed Araquel


Primeval: New World - The ex-ITV dino-drama has been brought back from extinction with a New World twist. Now based in Canada with a darker and more adult feel, it's well worth a spin for fans of sci-fi or those who were saddened by the demise of the original series. - Episode 1 is still being repeated nearly every day on Watch

Spies of Warsaw - David Tennant as a spy. Scripts from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Dollops of tension and a healthy portion of confusing conversations, espionage and paranoia. It wasn't the greatest TV this week, but there was plenty of enjoyment to be had in the first half of this BBC Four two-parter. - Still available to watch on iPlayer

What was your favourite TV this week? Let us know below!

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