Friday, April 14

David Jason Vehicle Sinks

With Ghostboat, David Jason has left a smear on an otherwise glowing cv, says David Davies

I have been reading the reviews on Amazon for a novel called Ghostboat, which, incidentally, is now out of print. S. Mcconaughy, aka "MacWhoNaHey", agrees with someone (who this someone may be I do not know, as S. Mcconaughy is the first to post a review) who thinks Ghostboat would make a great movie. Well I am here to tell you, S. Mcconaughy, that it happened. And it was a big skidmark on the list of ITV Drama Premieres.
Before we go any further, I want to reinforce David Jason's legendary status. Perhaps the greatest television actor of all time, he has brought hours of mirth, merriment and drama to our fair land. So when I found out that he had spent a considerable amount of time trying to get this two-parter greenlit, I was excited at the prospect. I sat down on Sunday night with Capri-Sun in hand and zero trepidation. David Jason was backing this - how could it be pants?
Well, let’s start with the title. Ghostboat. As titles go, it is dairy milk chocolate, it is blue jeans, it is ready salted crisps. It has, in other words, been done before countless times, and the only people who ever needed to do it were the ones who did it in the first place. Why not go with something a tad more adventurous? Especially seeing as it was not actually a Ghostboat at all, it was a ghost submarine, a rather collosal oversight on the programme-makers' part (speaking of which, did that novel ever go near the safe hands of an editor?). I mean, aesthetically, Ghostsub is even worse, but at least it is accurate.
That is merely the tip of the turkey-shaped iceberg. The submarine in the novel was called the USS Candlefish, a believable tag if ever I did hear one. So why did the scriptwriters decide that Scorpion was a better name? Is this submarine captained by GI Joe? Did they ever get past lego? Why does Ian Puleston-Davies (as the pantomime villain Commander Travis) equate being evil with talking like a ventriloquist's dummy? Why does the ghostly Captain of the Scorpion look exactly like the U-Boat Commander from Das Boot? And why, why, why is Pancho from Dirty Sanchez on sonar duty?
Unfortunately these are questions pushed to one side in your quest to get around the hideous editing, which pitches from ultra-banal to incomprehensible at key moments during the show. Then there is the script, undoubtedly penned by weed-smoking chimps, though that may be an insult to open-minded primates around the world, as they could almost certainly come up with a better plot. Which, for the record, is reprehensibly bad. I am not spoiling anything by telling you Jack Hardy (David Jason) dies at the end, because if you make it that far your brain will have turned to mush anyway.
It is the presence of David Jason, with his titanic screen presence and natural charisma that keeps Ghostboat from being a complete disaster. Considering the script he had to work with, he creates a believable, sympathetic character, and when he finally sinks with the ship at the end, you feel a twinge of sadness. Which is swiftly counterpointed by the worst five minutes of primetime television you are likely to see this year, where a board of high-ranking official types discover the Scorpion on the seabed, surrounded by - shock horror! - forty years-worth of algae and coral. Yes, that's right folks, it was never there in the first place. A true Ghostboat. Or, sub. If you want to be accurate.
Ghostboat was not unspeakably awful, or laughably bad. I wish it had been. Instead, it committed the worst primetime crime of all. It was dull. Hideously, painfully, nauseatingly boring. If David Jason had not been in it, I would not have made it to the second night. The only other reason I did was to see if Pancho drowned (he did not, for shame). The plot was signposted better than the M25, the TV-quality special effects were backed up by an increasingly melodramatic soundtrack, and the cast were as engaging as Anthea Turner. Yet, despite all these opportunities to laugh at this show, I could not. I just sat there, my eyes glazed over, and sort of absorbed it. If this is ever repeated, do yourself a favour and watch a repeat of Frost on UKTV Gold instead. Or three episodes of Only Fools and Horses. No wonder it is out of print.

Tuesday, April 4

Docs, Dorks and Dicks

This weekend saw a welcome return for Green Wing - the effects affected hospital comedy which delivers like a maternity ward, says Helen Parton

Given the amount of advertising space, Green Wing, (Friday, Channel 4, 9pm) has been given - is there in fact a billboard in the capital that doesn't have a smug depiction of the cast in some pseudo Greek tragedy pose - you'd think this the station's only show, shown 24 hours a day, in some kind of Orwellian subterfuge plot. That aside, it's a return to form for the fastwalkybitsloooooooowwalkybitfastwalkybit comedy. One does get the feeling that sometimes the scenes verge too heavily on some of the drama school wankery the cast were probably made to perform as students, but otherwise it's hard to fault. Especially watchable are the sociopathic liaison officer Sue White and so-what-if-he's-ginger Mac Macartney hospital resident 'hunk'. A shame that all the medics on my last hospital visit looked like the sort of pissed off geeks who'd just had their Gameboys confiscated. Which brings me to Beauty and the Geek (Friday, Channel 4, 10pm). Never would I think I would ever be writing these words but where is Germaine Greer when we need her? It's like Zoo TV (as in the tits and arse rag, not as in that thing U2 on one of their overblown tours of yore). Several 'beauties' are each paired up with a 'geek' and required to learn to spell their own names, add up how many Brazilian waxes they'd had in a year if they had two a week etc while the geeks had to Dad dance to some R&B. Cue cleavage a go go, the women looking thick yet sh@ggable and the geeks looking mostly a bit startled apart from the young Tory who'd snogged Christine Hamilton and who in my estimation seems alarmingly close to being called up to the Shadow Cabinet. This shoddy piece of post pub viewing was probably the biggest insult to feminism since Brucie asking his beautiful assistant to 'give us a twirl' on the Generation Game thirty years ago. Apart from the assumption that you obviously can't be beautiful and cerebral, the geeks aren't that bad looking and the structure of the programme is a bit complicated. Two couples win each week and must nominate two other couples who go up for nomination and then those two have to battle it out in a mix of high brow and low brow questions. What the permatanned clothes horses made of that I don't know. They were probably just grateful to be spending time with true gentlemen who wouldn't roast them soon as look at them unlike the Premiership footballers they are normally most probably'entertained' by. Or at least that what should have been sloshing around their heads. And a small point, since when does naming the Beckhams' children equate to knowing how many people were in S Club? The former is obviously more difficult to answer, even for a low brow correspondent such as myself. (Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz and 7 if you're desperate to know). And to prove you can have cleavage in intelligent TV making, along comes CSI: New York (Saturday, Five, 9.10pm). It had rutting rollerskating minxes, bodies in carpets, obsessive novel writers and death by shampoo, all aided by the ubiquitous UV light, which seems to work equally well whether Gary Sinise's team are searching for semen, engine oil or Garibaldi crumbs. And lots of lovely glossy pans of New York too, which constantly up the glamour of New York. This is in stark contrast to the sweeping shots of London's Docklands in the Apprentice which I can't help thinking are massively misleading great swathes of the UK population into thinking this area is anything other than a soulless corporate hellhole in @rse-end of the East End. Still, blame Green Wing for persuading TV makers that it's all in movey-abouty camera trickery.