Monthly Archives: September 2012

‘Cuckoo’ – Episode 1.1

Starring The Inbetweeners‘ Greg Davies (Mr. Gilbert) and Saturday Night Live‘s Andy Samberg, Cuckoo launched on Tuesday night on BBC3 and smashed the record for the most-watched launch of a comedy – which was set only last month by Jack Whitehall’s sitcom Bad Education.

‘SOMETHING MISSING’

So, do the successful ratings necessarily mean this show is worth a watch? I would have to say no.

I don’t know why, but there was just something missing from Cuckoo. I mean, it wasn’t laughs because, although few and far between, there were some good ones, but there was something not there. It appeared to lack the wit and possibly warmth which I anticipated when I sat down to watch it.

LOST FOR WORDS

I watched Cuckoo with my dad – both of us huge fans of Greg Davies and comedy in general – but when the credits rolled after the thirty minutes, we looked at each other and tried to find something to say in summary. “It was good, but not as good as I expected,” I offered – and my dad agreed.

STRONG CAST

There’s a certain expectation with a show like this, with a recognisable cast. Greg Davies is doing so well at the moment, having left The Inbetweeners and launching his stand-up career properly, which has led to him popping up on shows like Live At The Apollo and being pretty much a regular on Mock the Week. I must confess, I’m not as knowledgeable about Andy Samberg but a seven-year stint on Saturday Night Live in America doesn’t just come to anyone, so it’s fair to say that he is very successful, too (and well known to most people except me, it would appear!)

The script didn’t do the stars justice, however. Whereas I wasn’t expecting the fast-pace we’re accustomed to with Not Going Out, I did imagine there would be some sort of consistency with the gag-rate. Alas, there wasn’t.

 

I hope Cuckoo grows on me because there is something there – without a doubt. At the moment, though, I’m feeling a little disheartened by the show.

 

To let me know what you think of any of my comments, or just to share your views on anything about the world of TV, drop a comment on this post or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

Advertisements

TV Round-Up: 15 – 21st September 2012

Comedy World Cup – Episode 1.1

The premise for this show really is brilliant: a team of comedians – old and young – answer questions on the world of comedy. That’s everything from stand-up, to the sitcom, to the panel show to really get apparent comedy know-it-alls like myself and the panellists wracking our brains.

Fans of the genre will be all over it – as will David Tennant fans. The trouble is, though, that comedy fans may be left somewhat crestfallen as, considering it’s a show all about the subject, it’s not very funny.

I’m a huge fan of host David Tennant, as well as many of the participants this week: Shappi Khorsandi, Jo Brand, Dave Spikey, Jason Manford and Nicholas Parsons. Paul Chowdhry not so much. However, I don’t think they particularly excelled on Comedy World Cup which was a shame, especially when it came to Dave Spikey – someone who I believe to be one of the most underrated comics on the circuit, sadly living in former friend Peter Kay’s shadow. I actually went to see Dave live in March and found him to be just as good – if not better – than many comics I have seen, whether it be live or onscreen.

It was a watchable show, but not a stand-out one. I suppose some tricky questions blended with vintage – yet hit/miss – clips managed to see it through. Hopefully it won’t rely on this throughout the series, though.

Big Fat Quiz of the 80s

Call me sad, but one of the highlights of the festive season for me is watching the annual Big Fat Quiz of the Year. I always enjoy it! Sometimes I even watch the Big Fat Quizzes from as far back as 2005 and it still tickles me.

The key to the Big Fat Quizzes‘ success is a brilliant panel, usually involving Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand or Noel Fielding and other fantastic comedians. However, although entertaining, I have to say that I’ve seen better panels than the one produced on Big Fat Quiz of the 80s.

The contributors on this episode were comedians Jason Manford, Jonathan Ross, Adam Buxton (…) and Micky Flanagan, alongside actor Stephen Mangan (of Green Wing and Episodes fame) and Loose Woman, Carol Vorderman. I guess they were chosen specifically for their 80s status: Jonathan and Adam both fall into the ‘nerd’ category so are therefore probably fans of 80s retro, Micky was in his twenties in the decade, Carol started in her iconic Countdown role and Jason and Stephen were, I guess, either teenagers or young kids so have some sort of affinity with that time. Nevertheless, as I said, it wasn’t the strongest panel ever.

Fortunately Micky Flanagan didn’t disappoint. It’s refreshing to see a comedian who always laughs if he finds other comics’ jokes funny, unlike some comedians who suppress it, prioritising professional rivalry of simply being genuine. Plus, his Filofax gag was the highlight of the show! I couldn’t possible repeat it here, though…

Big Fat Quiz of the 80s was still funny but not as much as I would have thought. Maybe I had my expectations set too high, due to the standard of previous years’ episodes. Perhaps I just missed the presence of a Brand, Ayoade, Fielding or Walliams to provide absolutely absurd answers throughout.

Tomorrow there’s the 90s quiz and, I’m going to be honest, I’m not holding out much hope for it. If Jack Whitehall wasn’t there, I think I’d be dreading it. I may be pleasantly surprised, though. I hope so.

The Rob Brydon Show – Episode 3.6

What has been a fairly average – yet quite enjoyable – series of The Rob Brydon Show drew to a close this week.

Once again, the audience interaction was great as in this episode, Rob spoke to a man who was born in a toilet. Actually in a toilet. As if the story wasn’t brilliant enough in itself, the host added, “And your mother looked down and said, ‘It’s a wee boy!'” Inspired.

The first, and probably biggest, guest of tonight’s show was Ray Winstone who provided my favourite moment of the entire series when Rob attempted to get him to showcase his ‘softer side’ by getting him to read an excerpt from The Three Little Pigs.

Despite his instruction being to not act tough, nor intimidating, Ray still managed to incorporate this line to a crossed-legged, thumb-sucking Rob:

“Take care that that naughty, naughty, naughty, naughty wolf does not catch you…’cos ‘e’s a f*cker!”

I had to pause the show because I was laughing so much!

It’s a safe bet that The Rob Brydon Show will return for both a Christmas special later in the year and a fourth series next. That’s not a complaint by any means but the show isn’t very experimental, is it? It’s a very ‘safe’ comedy so could run and run without anyone questioning it or calling for changes. So, until the inevitable special, farewell, Rob!

Citizen Khan – Episode 1.4

Now that the whole furore about its alleged political incorrectness seems to have died down, Citizen Khan seems to be going quite unnoticed, just moving along at a consistent pace. Unfortunately, that consistency means that it’s still as unfunny as when it started.

In fact, I so often find myself spending the whole episode cringing on the cast and crew’s behalves. I don’t think it’s offensive or particularly stereotypical – it’s just predictable and of poor quality!

If it wasn’t for the fact that it may be challenging and altering perceptions of the Muslim and Pakistani communities, I doubt it would even have been commissioned!

Celebrity Juice – Episode 8.4

I don’t know about you, but I tend to find that when a new series of Juice starts, it seems that this run is going to be the best ever. Full of fresh ideas and jokes, it looks to be the funniest of them all.

However, a few weeks in, the novelty of having Keith and the gang back wanes a little and, while there are still moments of genuine hilarity, it just isn’t as good as it was a few episodes back. Well, that’s the way I’m starting to feel.

Don’t get me wrong: I still think it’s a brilliantly funny program and stands head-and-shoulders above its contemporaries, but the magic of the first couple of episodes isn’t quite there any more.

Nevertheless, I loved this episode. With chart-topper Example, Capital breakfast show’s Lisa Snowdon, comedian Chris Ramsey and Olympic hero Mo Farrah (or as Keith preferred to call him, MoFo!), while it wasn’t the funniest of the series, it was the most shocking!

The shock came from the Bonk Game – a spoof of the Bong Game, as played on the Capital breakfast show. Whereas in the original Bong Game, callers have to hold their nerve while sums of money gradually increase, and if they call for it to stop before the ‘Bong’ goes, they win that money, Keith’s Bonk Game was nothing like this. Instead, Lisa had to predict how far Keith would go with her on a first date. It started quite civilised, with “LOOKING INTO EACH OTHER’S EYES”, then “CUDDLE”, “PUT MY HAND ON YOUR KNEE”, then it got a bit more risqué with, “TOUCHING BOOB OVER SHIRT”…and then it descended into something else altogether! I stared at the TV open-mouthed and just felt so sorry for Fearne and Holly! Even given the nature of Celebrity Juice, the Bonk Game was shocking – hilarious, but shocking.

Then, there was the first round – LemonHead – in which Keith produced a magazine entitled Le Closerer. On seeing it, everyone leaped to the Duchess of Cambridge’s defence and turned into a pantomime audience, booing and hissing at the mock-up. However, their boos turned to cheers and their hissing to applause when Keith proudly placed the magazine in a shredder! Keith took it even further, though, when he emptied the shreds, spat on them (prompting those present to cheer even more), then picked a handful up and pretended to angrily wipe his backside on them – by which time any cheering had subsided and laughs prevailed.

I’ve already made my views known about the Kate scandal elsewhere, but I will say that to see Keith do this was unexpected. It would have been so easy for him to just mock the Duchess and ridicule her and the story as a whole. The fact that he didn’t is actually quite respectable and solidifies the outrage and disgust we as a nation feel towards the French magazine.

Trollied – Episode 2.5

Trollied – the jewel in Sky’s comedy crown – is fast becoming the highlight of my week and it’s down to two things: brilliant one-liners and Stephanie Beacham.

In fact, a lot of the one-liners I am so fond of do come from Stephanie Beacham’s character: Valco’s foul-mouthed manager, Lorraine. It’s simply inspired that every other word with her is “bastard” – and it’s not becoming tiresome! Every time she does unnecessarily drop it into a sentence, it’s still hilarious! She’s the best thing about Trollied – and that’s some achievement.

The big storyline this week was happy-go-lucky – and slightly dippy – shelf-stacker Leighton turning off all of the freezers in store in order to prevent global warming, thus flooding the frozen food section. This led to Lorraine – who has hated him for a while now anyway, ever since he sold copious bottles of cider to a group of schoolboy…who were dressed in school uniform (his defence was that he “was told they were thirty”) – ordering Julie to fire him immediately.

Valco is Leighton’s life! He was devastated to have been fired for just trying to do good for the environment, and I was devastated to see him go. I really hope he comes back – if he doesn’t, I’ll try to get him a job with me at Argos!

The subplot of Julie trying to emulate Lorraine – both in authority, speech and body language – is excellent, too. Julie and Lorraine are polar-opposites, like chalk and cheese or Alex Reid and Chantelle Houghton. And we all know how it turned out for the latter pair, don’t we? (While we’re on the subject: have you seen Alex’s grovelling video? Oh my God!) Lorraine is a tough, no-nonsense woman, whereas Julie is a soft, flighty girl – it’s just a treat to watch. And long may it continue to be!

Alan Carr: Chatty Man – Episode 9.2

Chatty Man seems to be going from strength-to-strength, appearing to achieve more of an intimate party feel every series. It really is a great ‘Friday night in’ show!

Alan’s monologue at the top of the show remains a favourite with me and this week he had me howling with laughter as he announced:

“An Italian magazine have [sic] printed the pictures of Kate and Wills sunbathing over twenty six pages. If you flick through them really quickly you can see Kate getting browner…and William getting balder!”

After his routine and the low-down on the guests still to come, the comedian welcomed his first guests: the cast of Channel 4 comedy-drama Fresh Meat, including Jack Whitehall (Bad Education) and Joe Thomas (The Inbetweeners).

Seriously, can someone tell me why Joe always has a face like a slapped arse? Even when he and his fellow Inbetweeners presented an award at the BAFTAs last year, he looked so miserable!

Despite Thomas’s grumpiness, though, I did enjoy the interview – particularly a palpably tipsy Jack Whitehall – and listening to the cast share their own university experiences (as Fresh Meat is set in a university) was great. The camaraderie between all of them (well, perhaps except one…) was lovely to see, as they gently mocked each other’s anecdotes.

I also loved seeing Doctor Who star Matt Smith on the show. He’s been on the Chatty Man sofa before and made a welcome reappearance. You could tell he and Alan get on really well, especially when the host shared the “Who’s ‘Matt Smith’?!” story! Someone has uploaded it to YouTube and, although it’s terrible quality, you can see it here – about forty five seconds in.

I was in hysterics when Alan enquired as to where the BBC get the money from to fund Doctor Who. What must go through his mind either when writing questions for Matt, or as an ad-lib during recording, to prompt him to say:

“I thought they were skint! Who’s the BBC been sucking off?”

This week’s was a really enjoyable Chatty Man – as is the norm. However, the singer Example did go down in my estimations: I thought he was unnecessarily rude and bossy towards Alan! He certainly didn’t set a good Example!*

Next week’s guests are Grand Designs‘ Kevin McCloud, The Voice UK‘s Jessie J, songstress Alicia Keys and boyband One Direction! No disrespect to him, but I don’t think anyone’s going to be turning up just to see Kevin McCloud…

*Couldn’t resist

QI – Episode 10.2

Now into its ‘J’ series, the focus of this week’s QI was ‘Jam, Jelly and Juice’.

The first question asked by quizmaster Stephen was, “What begins with ‘J’ and appears to be alive?” An array of answers followed, including:

  • “Me” (Jo Brand)
  • “James Blunt” (Liza Tarbuck)
  • “Jeremy Clarkson” (Sue Perkins)
  • “Jedward” (Sue Perkins)

Both of Sue’s answers received the dreaded klaxon, flashing lights, etc. The answer was strangely jelly, because brainwaves can actually be detected from it. Now that’s more than Quite Interesting!

Speaking of Quite Interesting, we discovered something new about Stephen Fry this week, when he sat in his host’s chair and announced without a hint of irony, “I like titties.” It was most unexpected, as I’m sure you can imagine! What a way to reveal it: on the telly!

Seriously, never have I watched an episode of QI in which there has been more innuendo. ‘Jam, Jelly and Juice’ was absolutely packed with it, much to host Stephen’s apparent disapproval. He got quite stiff about it…

The show ended with – just like last week – a disappointing absence of General Ignorance: one of my highlights of previous series. I don’t know whether it’s because of running time but it was cruelly cut, and wasn’t even present in last week’s QI XL!

General Ignorance’s vanishing act wasn’t the biggest shock this week, though, as Alan Davies somehow managed to summon up a victory with an amazing +11 points! He might not be popular with Liverpool FC fans, but he is with those at QI!

;

To let me know what you think of any of my comments, or just to share your views on anything about the world of TV, drop a comment on this post or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

‘The X Factor’ – Episodes 9.6 & 7

The X Factor 2012 audition process came to a close last weekend, with every last bit of the good, the bad and the tuneless being crammed in. So, let’s not beat around the bush and get straight down to the double-bill’s auditionees.

Nick Bus

I often love to see the more mature person audition for The X Factor – it’s usually terribly sweet to witness someone take to the stage, sticking two fingers up to society’s conventions. I actually wasn’t endeared to Nick Bus, though. I couldn’t help thinking that if a younger auditionee was going on like that – as opposed to this moaning and groaning Victor Meldrew wannabe – there would be a backlash.

Inevitably, he was a bad singer. In fact, he put me in mind of Vic Reeves during the ‘Club Singer’ round on Shooting Stars! Due to his terrible performance, he quite rightly didn’t get through and unlike so many of his aged counterparts, he was lacked grace when faced with rejection.

So you’re wrong, Nick: the reason for your failure wasn’t “that f*cking ‘Tulisia’ [sic]”, it was you’re f*cking singing!

Bianca Gascoigne

I was really rooting Bianca Gascoigne – daughter of Paul – and thought it was brilliant that she came onto X Factor and hadn’t just stuck with the celebrity life, automatically expecting a record deal to come her way just because of her famous dad.

I thought she was okay, but she wasn’t brilliant – as was made clear by the judges’ comments. However, we have seen it before where auditionees have been rejected, and then returned a year or two later and wowed the judges. I think – and hope – Bianca will do this because there’s potential there. In my opinion, anyway.

Tammy Cartwright

Tammy’s got a brilliant voice. Now let’s talk about her nan.

You see, as talented as Tammy is, her nan, May, is the real star, isn’t she? May – a mixture of Joanie from The Catherine Tate Show and one of Harry Enfield & Chums‘ Lovely Wobby Randy Old Ladies – announced she was “as proud as a peacock” to see her granddaughter auditoning. However, her pride was soon taken over by anger when Mel B briefly criticised Tammy, prompting May to flick the ‘V’ sign. It really was hilarious!

However, I suppose my praise is academic as Tammy has now confirmed she has quit The X Factor due to family problems. I hope to see her – and May – back next year.

Jade Collins

Jade came to her audition armed with the biggest of talent show cliches: a sob story. Oh dear.

Granted, the life she’s led because of her dad’s criminality is sad and it will have been emotional him not being there but it just seemed like yet another sad tale to increase her chances of getting through. Perhaps I’m just an old young cynic, though. Anyway, in the event it didn’t matter: Jade’s singing alone was enough to see her through and I wish her luck.

Rough Copy

Seriously, what is the fascination with these three? Yes, they can sing but, to me, they act like irritating prats!

Once again, though, perhaps I’m a cynic – young or old!

Triple J

Gary Barlow was absolutely right – they sounded great! I really liked them and I think they stand out in the Groups category, as, one, we haven’t seen many and, two, we haven’t seen many good ones!

I think Tulisa would rather they were called Triple BJ, though…

Robbie Hance

Robbie has a niche. Admittedly, it’s a niche I’m sure he’d rather not have but it’s there nevertheless.

He’s homeless – a fact which came as quite a shock to the audience and judges alike. Thankfully, though – just like Jade – he didn’t have to rely on a painful life to get him through his audition because he really does have a good voice.

If I’m being completely honest, we’ve heard a lot of people sing in Robbie’s style this series and I think some are better but, given his circumstances, he’s great.

Carolynne Poole

Having been sent packing by a now remorseful Louis Walsh at last year’s Judges’ Houses, Carolynne returned defiantly this year with more wisdom and experience. She blew everyone away (no Tulisa jokes, please) – including myself.

She has an absolutely beautiful voice and you can just tell will go so, so far – if not in this competition but in general. Could this be the Alexandra Burke story all over again? I hope so.

Danielle Scott

Finally we come to Danielle. In her VT before her audition this Liverpudlian wannabe seemed really likeable. First impressions are important, but can be deceiving.

After murdering Adele’s ‘Turning Tables’, with guest judge Geri Halliwell dubbing it “depressing” (to be fair, Geri, it is a downbeat, melancholic song!), she threw a strop. Which reminds me: say, “This X Factor is a joke!”. Done? Now say it in a Scouse accent…sounds funnier, doesn’t it? Now you know how hilarious it was to see Danielle throw her toys out of the pram!

However, that wasn’t the pinnacle of the hilarity she caused, as without a doubt not only my favourite quote of this week’s show, but this year’s series so far (and I would predict of that to come) was:

“I will never come to X Factor again. Never! I’m going on The Voice next time.”

Even if that’s as good as this year’s X Factor gets, I’m satisfied!

So the auditions are now over and it just remains to see how our favourites will get on at Boot Camp tomorrow. The talent has been brilliant this year and it will surely get better – an exciting prospect!

In the meantime, though, who’s been your favourite? Tweet me @UKTVReviewer or comment on this post.

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

‘Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery’

Partly inspired by Amy Winehouse’s death and described as “a sympathetic look at alcoholism and addiction”, Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery got its first airing on BBC1 last night.

‘CLUELESS’

I was quite keen to watch this program. Firstly, I didn’t see its original broadcast on BBC3 and, secondly, although I know a little bit about Russell’s former addiction from watching his appearance on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, I was pretty much clueless about his past. In fact, I wouldn’t even particularly call myself a fan of Russell’s, but I don’t mind him. I was endeared to him on his aforementioned appearance on Life Stories and still have both of his Booky Wooks on my shelf to read. Perhaps if I’d read them already, I would have been more clued up on the comedian’s addiction and maybe would have known what to expect.

ADDICTING VIEWING?

I have to say, From Addiction to Recovery didn’t exactly live up to my expectations – probably because I was quite deceived by the title. I predicted that it would have been about Russell’s own, personal story about leaving his life of drugs behind, as opposed to what it turned out to be: the host visiting lots of current and former drug addicts, doctors and experts and the rehabilitation centre where he got the help he needed.

I’m not saying that what the show transpired to be wasn’t interesting, nor informative, but I think that the opportunity to hear directly from Russell about his journey alone would have been better. It would have been the only chance we’ve had to hear from him on-camera (i.e. not in print), and without the story coming as a result of probing questioning (i.e. not on Life Stories).

‘VILE AND SICKENING’

Nevertheless, I did enjoy watching the documentary – there were many excellent aspects to it, one of which being Russell’s articulate, well thought-through and, most importantly, intriguing arguments. He didn’t back down, no matter what he was debating, and delivered his valid opinions – as he spoke as an ex-addict – with conviction, which meant that he invariably triumphed in getting his point across, leaving his opponents stumped.

Another good thing – perhaps the best – about From Addiction to Recovery was the fact that it didn’t beat around the bush: it got straight to the point, was hard-hitting (just like Russell’s arguments) and therefore made for better, more memorable viewing. For example, I couldn’t look at the pictures of heroin addicts injecting themselves – they were vile and sickening. However, the important thing is that they made an impact on me. The main people who watch BBC3, are fans of Russell Brand and – let’s face it – are curious about drugs are teenagers and those in their early twenties. I’m sixteen, watched this program and was disgusted. Thus, by including these shocking and revolting images, the documentary will probably be helping to deter people from drugs. I didn’t want to even touch drugs before I watched this, but having seen the reality of the effects of them on camera, I definitely don’t want to go near them! If it’s affected me, it must have affected other people – particularly those around my age – and I applaud everyone involved for that. A potentially controversial, but ultimately beneficial decision!

To reiterate, as someone who isn’t a ‘die hard’ Brand fan, and someone who has never been tempted by, nor associated with, drugs, I have to say that I didn’t find the documentary as gripping as I thought I would when I sat down to watch it. I do, however, think it has importance and it should be considered for use in schools, perhaps during lessons such as PSHRE or Religious Education. Perhaps not wholly entertaining, but undoubtedly vital.

More ‘Mount’ Than ‘Pleasant’

Popular with couples, but suitable for everyone, one of Sky’s biggest home-grown comedy-dramas Mount Pleasant is currently about half-way through its well-deserved second series. I’m finding it very hard to see it as a match for the first, however.

THIS CHARMING MOUNT?

The problem with this series is that it doesn’t have the same charm as its predecessor. When I watched Mount Pleasant for the first time on Sky1 last year, I immediately fell in love with everything about it: I worked out the individual characters’ ways, what makes them tick, and what they think of each other. I recognised the place Mount Pleasant straight-away, too, and I really wanted (even want!) to live there. Each character had a little subplot, each gripping with brilliant glimpses of hilarity. Lisa and Dan continued with their bickering but undying love for each other – their lives punctuated (or should that be hindered?) by neighbours, friends and family; Barry and Sue had their ice-skating and daughter to keep them occupied; Shelley and Greg’s turbulent marriage – owing to the latter’s intense gambling addiction – was so well written and performed I couldn’t believe it! Then we had Denise’s affair with Fergus, Kate’s dangerous infatuation with Dan and Bianca’s general tartiness, and so much more. I would say it was not just my favourite comedy of 2011, nor my favourite drama, I would go as far as to say that it was my favourite program of the year.

The reason I still hold the first series on such a pedestal is purely down to the creator and writer, Sarah Hooper. Where did she come from? I had never heard her name prior to her bursting onto the scene with this fantastic series! This time around, however, it’s different. Oh so different.

SUPER HOOPER

The difference is that most of this series – tragically – hasn’t been written by Hooper. Instead, she has passed the baton to Mark Brotherhood: a writer whose previous credits include a couple of Hollyoaks episodes, one Shameless and a few kids’ TV shows. I really don’t want to condemn Brotherhood too much but I wish he hadn’t taken on something so special as Mount Pleasant. I don’t know how much input Sarah Hooper has had when it comes to the episodes he has written, but I’m guessing not much. It’s just not as good as it was any more. I’m sorry but that’s how I feel.

After all, Hooper created these characters: she knows them inside-out, so why hand them over to someone else to write about? I don’t believe it would have been that much of a struggle for her to write the entire series herself, and it may have resulted in her chances of being recommissioned for a third series increasing.

Whereas there was a good, healthy balance of comedy and drama in the first series, the second seems to be 90% drama and 10% comedy – if that! Admittedly, when the show is funny, it’s funny but there simply isn’t enough of it – the laughs are few and far between, something which I am quite sure I would never have said of the first run. The weaker storylines are being exposed and dragged-out, whereas the potentially bigger ones are being shunned. For example, Dan and Shelley’s jealousy about Lisa’s relationship with her new friend Kim isn’t very strong but is being focused on a lot. Denise’s baby, on the other hand, is absolutely brimming with potential! All we seem to see of Denise is her sitting in her seat at work, being shocked when Fergus walks in, and then at the end of the show putting the baby down for the night. Is she struggling as a mother? How does she really feel about Fergus? We don’t know and we should! Denise is such a great character: she’s dizzy and fragile, yet quite strong-minded so to really see her apply these characteristics to motherhood would be very entertaining! Mark Brotherhood has omitted to include this in his scripts, however.

NO BLESSING IN DISGUISE

Perhaps it was a bit of an omen that Sky decided to move the show from the flagship Sky1 to its more female-focused channel of Sky Living, which I think it would be fair to say doesn’t have quite as large an audience. Basically, it’s a bit of a demotion disguised as a promotion. ‘Yeah, we’re moving Mount Pleasant to Sky Living because the show’s popular with women. It’s its right home.’ Clever, Sky! Clever.

 

If I’m being completely honest, if I wasn’t such a fan of the first series – or didn’t watch it – I don’t think I’d still be sticking with the second. I mean, it’s still a good enough show (I’d take Mount Pleasant over a lot of other “comedies” on TV nowadays) but it certainly hasn’t lived up to the first series.

 

Twitter – @UKTVReviewer

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

‘Strictly Come Dancing’ Launch Show

Now into its tenth run, Strictly returned to BBC1 last night, with what I believe to be the best line-up ever.

A CONFESSION

Before we get down to the Launch Show itself, I must make a confession of sorts. I have never willingly watched Strictly before. I know, I know! I mean, I think I watched one a couple of years ago when I stayed over at my nanna’s one night and, then a devout SCD fan, she insisted on us watching it. To be honest, I wasn’t wholly won over and that was my only foray into the world of Strictly.
In fact, last year I wanted to become a viewer but…well…I forgot about it. This year, however, I was fully determined so I set that series link, got back from work today and sat down to watch it – and I loved it!

STRICTLY CAMP DANCING

When I say that the show is over-the-top, theatrical and camp, I know die-hard Strictly fans will think, Well obviously! And of course I knew it would be somewhat camp but I couldn’t believe just how much so.
As well as the revelation about the show’s theatricality, I also discovered something else during this Launch Show: Sir Bruce is actually capable of telling a funny joke!

“Now you may see that there’s a new face on the panel…yes, Craig’s had some work done over the summer again.”

The new face Bruce was alluding to, of course, was Darcey Bussell, the newest addition to Strictly‘s ever-changing judging line-up – and a great one at that! It really is refreshing to see a talent show with judges who haven’t been booked for their celebrity status, but more for their knowledge in their field. That’s more than I can say for a certain other talent show I could mention…

So, to the Strictly Class of 2012. This year I think I know the most of any line-up I’ve ever seen on any other ‘celebrity talent show’…type…thingy. So, we’ll start with the female celebrities and their professional dancing partners:

Tracy Beaker and Dani’s House star Dani Harmer, with her dancing partner Vincent Simone

Presenter Denise Van Outen, with her dancing partner James Jordan

Author and TV personality Fern Britton, with her dancing partner Artem Chigvintsev

Former model Jerry Hall, with her dancing partner Anton Du Beke

Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh, with her dancing partner Pasha Kovalev

Emmerdale and You’ve Been Framed! star Lisa Riley, with her dancing partner Robin Windsor

Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton, with her dancing partner Brendan Cole

There’s not one star there who I had never previously heard of, which is great! And now, we have the male celebrities and their professional dancing partners:

James Bond actor Colin Salmon, with his dancing partner Kristina Rihanoff

TV presenter – and father of previous Strictly finalist Zoe – Johnny Ball, with his dancing partner Aliona Vilam

Olympic gymnast Louis Smith, with his dancing partner Flavia Grace

Cricket captain Michael Vaughan, with his dancing partner Natalie Lowe

Westlife’s Nicky Byrne, with his dancing partner Karen Hauer

Daybreak‘s Showbiz Editor Richard Arnold, with his dancing partner Erin Boag

EastEnders‘s Sid Owen, with his dancing partner Ola Jordan

I have to say that I had never heard of Colin, nor Louis before watching last night’s Strictly but, hey, two out of seven ain’t bad, is it?

So, that’s it for a few weeks now – just as Strictly Fever has taken over the UK again, it is forced to die down as the celebs become acquainted with their professional partners and rehearse their first routine.
The show returns on Friday 5th October but until then, KEEEEEEEEP AWAY FROM X FACTOR!

Twitter – @UKTVReviewer

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

‘Ronna and Beverly’ – Episode 1.1

Ronna and Beverly: two excitable American chat show hosts (played by Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, respectively) exploded onto our screens on Monday on Sky Atlantic. What was shown in the trailers was the promise of a brilliantly funny take on the talk show format: one which will see the guests being grilled with ridiculous questions and being made to feel uncomfortable by equally ridiculous hosts. What came across on-screen was far from this, unfortunately.

RONNA & RUBY?

As soon as Ronna and Beverly (who for some reason reminds me of Ruby Wax) bounced onto the set, the former positioning herself on the stage looking quite serious and professional, and the latter doing something akin to a lap dance for the front row of the audience, you could tell that this was going to be a colourful, camp and quite-over-the-top hour of chat. And it was. However, you may notice that I deliberately didn’t use the word ‘funny’. That’s because the entrance was entertaining, but the subsequent fifty-nine minutes just wasn’t.

HAVE THE JOKES DONE A RONNA?

Admittedly, I did laugh at Beverly asking Game of Thrones star Charles Dance if, because he’s an OBE, he has ever had sex with the Queen. I realise that to some, this will be offensive – perhaps those who have been contacting Ofcom about the supposedly racist and Islamophobic content in Citizen Khan will have heard Beverly ask this and choked on their Horlicks but, hey!, I thought it was funny.

I also raised a smile at Ronna saying that the one thing she’d put in Room 101 is Argos. However, I only smiled at this because I in fact work at Argos. If I didn’t, I doubt I’d even remember her saying it.

Apart from these quips, though, it was just a bit tedious and wholly disappointing. Even guest Frank Skinner looked disheartened and regretful about having agreed to have appeared on the show.

Beverly’s constant fidgeting, swaying and repetition of “Yep” was infuriating! It worked well the first couple of times, I suppose, but it very quickly became irritating.

A CONUNDRUM

You might expect me to suggest that, because I didn’t really enjoy Beverly’s contribution, it would be better if it was hosted by Ronna alone, but there lies the problem: Ronna is the ‘straight’ character, against her outrageous co-host so, get rid of that co-host, and you only have the ‘straight’ one. Therefore, you’re left with a normal chat show, i.e. not a comedy one. Forgive me for this ludicrous comparison but it would be like Morecambe without Wise.

I understand that the humour in Ronna & Beverly pretty much revolves around the two hosts bouncing off of each other and you can’t have Ronna without Beverly or vice versa. However, for them ‘bouncing off of each other” to work, at least one (or ideally both) of the characters must be funny. But they’re not.

‘DRAGGED OUT’

Another problem seems to be the running time: the show seems dragged out. I began watching it thinking it would only be on for half-an-hour, but no: a full hour is the amount of time I had to sit and watch. It was just too long for Chaffin and Danbo to maintain any fast pace and I couldn’t help thinking that my time could be better spent watching something else.

 

Fingers crossed it improves and this episode was focused on familiarising us with the characters, as opposed to making us laugh. If I’m not convinced by thirty minutes into Monday’s edition, however, I don’t think I’ll bother returning.

 

Twitter – @UKTVReviewer

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

‘Gates’ – Episode 1.5

Finally, it arrived on Tuesday! The last episode of Sky Living’s “comedy” Gates. After what I would politely describe as hit/miss episodes, did this last one offer any improvement and leave us on an at least partial high? No. Not in the slightest.

‘IMMATURE AND GROSSLY OVER-THE-TOP’

Of course, I don’t know whether you read my review of episode 1.1 a few weeks ago, but if you did you’ll have noticed that I particularly took umbrage to Joanna Page playing what is – let’s face it – a terrible character in this show. In the opening episode, Helen really was unbelievably annoying! However, in its successors, the character did mellow. She became more real, and I found that even I – a male teenager – was able to relate to her. Most importantly, she become more  enjoyable.

I’m afraid in this concluder, though, she was far from this and tragically reverted to her old ways. The bottom line is that Joanna Page – while an excellent actress – has accepted the offer to play an immature and grossly over-the-top mother, who no one can relate to. Page has played down-to-earth characters before – just take her most famous role as the female lead in Gavin & Stacey! They don’t really come more down-to-earth than Stace, do they? More recently, I absolutely loved her in the brilliant The Syndicate, in which she played harassed and struggling single mother Leanne. At a push, I would say that she played a loveable part in Love Actually (despite it being Judy – a body double for movie sex scenes).

I can totally understand Joanna wanting to move away from the ‘Stacey’ image: she doesn’t want to be playing dizzy Welshwomen for the rest of her career, does she? Therefore, she took a bit of a risk by opting to play Helen and it’s a risk that, in my view at least, didn’t pay off. It was nothing to do with her performance – as I said, she’s a great actress – but it was the writing. Wouldn’t it have been fantastic for mothers to sit down and watch Gates, being able to relate to the hectic lifestyle Helen leads – juggling motherhood with being a wife and career woman? Everyone knows that people love to watch shows with characters in them with whom they can identify. Gates was the perfect opportunity for this to happen, but the writers failed to fulfil it. Sad really, isn’t it?

Hopefully, Joanna won’t act the same as her Helen did, having recently announced that her and husband James Thornton are to have a baby. Congrats!

BAD IMMITATION

It wouldn’t have been as bad if some of the other adult characters had been good enough to redeem the show but they weren’t. If anything, the kids were the ones with whom it was easier to identify that, and I’m sure that’s true for everyone – not just me.

The headmaster – Mr. Gould – in Gates is quite similar to that in Bad Education. However, the difference between Gould and Bad Ed‘s Fraser is that Fraser is funny. Gould is merely forgettable.

‘OUT OF PLACE’

This week, the writers at least attempted to do what seems to be customary for almost all sitcoms nowadays: go all sentimental on us for the last episode of the series. Most shows pull it off. Gates didn’t.

The vehicle for sentimentality this time was Miss Hunter’s sub-plot, in which she had to decide whether she wanted to carry on teaching or retire, having been angered by the modern complexities in the profession. Far from fulfilling its purpose, this poignancy just seemed out of place. Although Sue Johnston did a really good job performing the scenes, just like with Joanna Page as Helen, the script let her down. The freeze frame in particular, showing Hunter standing in the corridor looking deep-in-thought while pupils came and went around her, was undoubtedly out-of-place. If the series as a whole was unrealistic and depicted the absurd, why would I as a viewer emotionally invest in Miss Hunter’s problem? It was just shoehorned in.

 

I wanted to like Gates – its cast was brilliant, comprising of the aforementioned Page and Johnston, as well as Tom Ellis and Ella Kenion, to name just a few. And that’s not to mention the kids! They did so well and I’m sure, like Outnumbered‘s Daniel Roche (Ben) and Ramona Marquez (Karen) have brilliantly long and prosperous careers ahead of them. However, if you wanted a funny or even remotely believable storyline, Sky Living on a Tuesday at 8:30pm was not the place to be. And with news of this being remade for American audiences, I do worry. The Inbetweeners is one of  the most popular – if not the most popular – sitcoms to come out of Britain in the last decade at least and that doesn’t seem to be doing very well across the pond at the moment. Does Gates stand a chance, in that case? I wish it luck, but I very much doubt it.

 

Twitter – @UKTVReviewer

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

‘Celebrity Juice’ – Episode 8.2

Celebrity Juice is one of those shows which is quite difficult to review. Just like The Rob Brydon Show and Mount Pleasant, it’s best just to sit back and enjoy it, not be analytical and pick out everything in it – good or bad.

‘NON-STOP HILARITY’

I thought last week’s episode was great, but this was even better! TOWIE‘s Arg, The Inbetweeners‘ Charlotte Hinchcliff (actress Emily Atack), singer Newton Faulkner and comedian Jason Manford joined in the fun this week and there were many, many highlights for me. Almost from start-to-finish it was non-stop hilarity, so I’ve simply picked out three of my best bits from this week’s episode:

Keith Calling Fearne a “Fat Bastard”

When I write it, it doesn’t seem funny. However, when you watch Keith Lemon telling the pregnant Fearne Cotton, “Tell us who’s on your team, you fat bastard”, it’s very, very funny. Believe me. It is.

“Serious Learning Difficulties”

Relax – I’m not going to repeat a Frankie Boyle set! Keith, who – clearly much to the frustration of stars like Amy Childs and Joey Essex – claims that TOWIE is wholly scripted (despite him painfully obviously knowing that it’s not). He pulled the whole ‘TOWIE‘s scripted’ trick with Arg on Celebrity Juice this week who – just like his co-stars – defended that it’s not, which then prompted Keith to say that Arg “plays someone who has serious learning difficulties”. It was so unexpected but brilliantly funny. The good thing about Essex stars is that they don’t mind taking the Mick out of themselves so, thankfully, Arg clearly found this funny, too. Phew!

Will.i.am

However, my highlight by far this week was Jason Manford’s absolutely excellent ad-lib when the panellists were discussing will.i.am and Cheryl Cole’s recent collision. Then, the subject of The Voice UK was brought up – which was hosted by Juice team captain Holly Willoughby. Jason didn’t miss a trick when he piped up with

“Well it’s not the first car crash he’s been involved in.”

Seriously, if you didn’t see it, check it out here – it’s about 13 mins 25 secs in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm3oYnAkBe0

 

So there we have it – another great week of Juice. It really does make you wonder how the same man responsible for this could have created that Keith Lemon: The Film

 

Twitter – @UKTVReviewer

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.

‘The Rob Brydon Show’ – Episode 3.4

Boyzone’s Ronan Keating, comedian Jason Manford and actor Neil Morrissey joined Rob on the show this week.

‘IT WASN’T BORING, IT JUST WASN’T HILARIOUS’

I sort of expected this episode to be one of the best but there wasn’t a lot in it and nothing much worth reporting. It wasn’t boring, it just wasn’t hilarious.

There were, however, some highlights. Rob’s interaction with the audience remained a favourite as he commented quite a few times on a woman called Tracey, who sat and laughed extremely loudly at anything he said at all. In Rob’s own words, she “cackled like a mad witch”. Maybe Rob should have booked her instead of the guests we got!

My second – and, I have to say, final – highlight was Rob cheekily asking Ronan Keating if he had any idea why Louis Walsh picked the name Boyzone… It was perfectly timed on Rob’s part, the raising of his eyebrow only added to the humour – it was quintessential Brydon, just as we see many times on Would I Lie To You but, unfortunately, not so often on The Rob Brydon Show.

‘SAFE’

I’ve said it in every review I’ve written about this show since this year’s series began a few weeks ago – it’s good but it’s not great. It doesn’t exactly stand out in the chat show field but it can hold its own. In fact, the word I’d use to describe it is ‘safe’. It certainly doesn’t take many risks, that’s for sure! Rob’s not on par with those of Wossy or Norton – or even Carr – but it’s a good enough vehicle for him and quite enjoyable to watch.

 

Twitter – @UKTVReviewer

Also, keep up-to-date with the latest TV news, reviews and interviews at www.thecustardtv.com, where some of my articles will also appear.