Sunday, October 29

Kate Thornton’s Nipple

Mark Lewis seeks cheap hits with a fleshy reminder of Kate Thornton, Ladette to Lady’s Louise Porter and Judy Finnegan.

Under normal circumstances, the only time the words ‘Kate Thornton’ and ‘nipple’ would appear together on this site would be to describe her as the hairy, stretched nipple on the vinegar tit of Saturday evening TV.
Yeahbut that was before a perky nipple apparently poked through the dress Thornton was wearing one Saturday evening a few weeks ago while hosting insipid talent-show The X-Factor. Curious browsers single-handedly, but no doubt innocently, tapped the words into Google.

The hits on Television Review went wild. Thornton, you see, had appeared in a review back in May, in which I had fantasised about using her severed head as a club to batter Match of the Day’s Mark Lawrenson. And since, on the very same page, Helen Parton had referenced the second most famous tit in the Jackson family (yes, the one hosting Janet’s nipple) disappointed X-Factor fans ended up here.

A couple of weeks later, Alastair O’Dell wrote a review of Ladette to Lady in which he innocently told readers that chief ladette, Louise Porter, had appeared in Nuts Magazine and Television Review’s hits went wild again.

Since every time I write the words, ‘Kate Thornton’s nipple’, or ‘Louise Porter and Nuts Magazine’ I improve the chances of getting some more of those lovely soft porn hits, it seems a little churlish not to give the people what they want. Especially since most of the original ‘Kate Thornton’s nipple’ and ‘Louise Porter in Nuts Magazine’ Googlers stayed around only as long as it took to hit the back button on their browsers.

So, in the spirit of cheap hits, we’ve published the frankly disappointing Kate Thorton pics, as well as one of the full set of Louise Porter shots. And just in case anybody’s wondering just what any of this has to do with television, we’ve published a picture of that most famous of TV nipple-slips: Judy Finnegan at the National Television Awards.

Do you think we might get a few hits if I mention Paris Hilton’s twat?

Saturday, October 28

Dexter Special

Television Review is not just global, but reputable too. Just ask Nick Yates.

It’s official, Television Review is written by “reputable influencers”. Such high praise came from Brandon, a nice press officer at American production company Showtime, who was so keen for us to take a sneak peek at upcoming crime drama Dexter that he posted a DVD of the first episode of the series - sorry, ‘season’ - all the way from the USA. The US of god damn A!

Dexter is all about the life and adventures of the eponymous police forensics expert - a police forensics expert who also happens to be a serial killer himself, Brandon told me. Airing for the first time on October 1 in the States, it will be hitting our shores sometime soon.

As promised, the preview DVD arrived through my letter box this morning, complete with shiny cardboard sleeve and press bumph, hyping up its credentials.

Turns out Dexter is rather good. Not in the class of many other US imports, but certainly better than Corrie or The Bill.

It stars the gay Fisher brother from Six Feet Under, Michael C Hall. He carries an otherwise slightly flaky cast with the same class that earned him an Emmy nomination in that last part. Playing Dexter is a case of role reversal for Hall after Six Feet Under. While he displays the same chasm-like depths of insecurity and sexual hang-ups - this time straight ones - as David Fisher, he is a brutal, murderous, cool and two-faced killer. One particularly fine episode of Six Feet Under saw David abducted and tortured. This time, he is the one holding the torturer’s tools.

The show is a version of CSI for people who can stand plot and character development. It takes place in Miami, the site of gruesome murders committed in ingenious, novel ways. The opening episode goes so far as to almost directly reference the ridiculous set ups in CSI: Miami. Everything under the bright lights of this crazy city is bizarre, so why shouldn’t its crime be bizarre, preposterous and far-fetched, the narrator asks within the first few minutes.

The premise is skilfully set up in the necessarily expositive first episode. Series’ first instalments so often do this at the expense of being any good, but Dexter had me gripped from the off. The eponymous hero, through his novel double station in life, is a hot-shot at detecting the crimes and a hot-shot at committing them without being caught. You know what they say about the police: they know how to bend the law.

See, Dexter, as we’re told in flashbacks, was brought up by his respected detective foster father, who honed him to be an ace in the ways of the law. He also spotted in him his disturbing pre-disposition for homicide and channelled this into his son becoming a vigilante. If he’s going to kill, the victims may as well be the scumbags who his incompetent police departments superiors let off the hook. He is a genuinely fascinating, multi-faceted character.

Dexter does have its faults. The heavy use of voiceover betrays the fact that it seems to have been ripped rather hastily from the source material, the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. It is flashy, and from the evidence of the first episode, it won’t be long before you’ve seen enough set ups of people appearing to be committing bloody acts in soft focus but actually just squeezing a grapefruit, flossing, shaving… the list goes on. And it is certainly nothing new. We have seen the dark, amoral comedy of a murderer with two lives screened in a similar way with the far classier adaptation of American Psycho.

Nevertheless, the preview DVD warranted the air miles. And if it’s good enough to post to humble English “reputable influencers” all the way from America, its good enough for me.

Tuesday, October 24

Learning Nothing Zone

Richey Nash learns very little about the future, bad science and how to watch wildlife on another night in front of the idiot box

All I wanted was a glass of wine and good TV, but a quick look in the cupboards showed I was out of luck. There was no wine: just a can of lukewarm Coca Cola and cheap vodka left from a June party at a squat in Hackney. And a look in the TV guide revealed there was no good TV either.

Kicking off the night Bill Oddie’s How To Watch Wildlife (8pm, BBC2) taught me nothing about how to watch wildlife, other than ueing my own common sense. All I learned was (1) have eyes (2) find a badger/squirrel/other boring animal and (3) not crash around like a one-man band while shouting obscenities like Gordon Ramsey with less charm and more Tourette’s Syndrome. Telling the UK to be quiet while watching wildlife is the most useless celebrity-trying-to-teach show since Ian Wright’s Oi! Your Kids Are Fat and Ann Widdecombe’s Beginners’ Guide To Feltching.

But at least Oddie has a knack of making these things faintly interesting. In fact, he’s turning into the doddery eccentric TV has been missing since Patrick Moore. And at least he’s encouraging old guys in glasses to watch furry animals. Well, it’s better than having them ogle primary schools.

After Oddie failed to enthuse me about wildlife I watched The Indestructibles (8.30pm, BBC3), which tried to enthuse me about science. It did this using pointless experiments (a la Mythbusters), the first of which involved twins drinking. Scintillating.

The first twin drunk coffee while the other second drunk mineral water, to see which made them want to piss more. In the end – after five litres of liquid in two hours – it concluded that drinking five litres of coffee in two hours would make you urinate down your leg. That’s science! But it’s pointless. Even drinking five litres of bleach in two hours would make you want to go to the toilet. If you weren’t hunched triple from the excruciating internal burning.

The second experiment featured a bald guy climbing an 80’ wall in a big fridge. He wanted to see if it was easier to do it while (1) wearing warm clothes or (2) while completely naked. During the challenge the show swooshed in words like ‘nippy’ and ‘parky’ over the ‘action’, like a crap Powerpoint presentation. Eventually the guy decided it’s easier to climb a fake mountain and avoid hypothermia while wearing clothes. Genius! So don’t climb a mountain if you’re only wearing your pants. Idiot.

The idiocy got too much after nine minutes so I watched an episode of Seinfeld on DVD before tuning in to – heaven help me – The Amazing Mrs Pritchard (9pm, BBC1). An Andrew Marr cameo couldn’t make this anything more than unrealistic fluff. It’s meant to make ordinary people believe they can affect the political process, even though most can’t. I guess it’s feelgood, but showing a leading political party where the front bench is predominantly female is also ludicrous in our still penis-centric political boys’ club. Hey don’t hate me… hate the system.

So I switched to Horizon (9pm, BBC2), which tried to scare me senseless about a world in 2029 where computers will be as intelligent as human beings. They will control our thoughts. They will control our actions. Or so the show wanted to preach. This time will be ‘The Singularity’, a name that only conjures up the image of a bad Doctor Who episode.

Maybe it was the cheap vodka numbing my capacity for fear, but I didn’t find it terrifying. Partly that was because it was soundtracked by music from Harry Potter and Edward Scissorhands. And partly it was because these prediction shows rarely prove to be true. If TV in the 1970s was to be believed I’d be driving a hover car, wearing a white spacesuit, and having sex completely without emotion. And I’m only doing one of them.

But the programme did show that putting electrodes into an animal’s brain means you can control where it goes. And it also showed a monkey playing a computer game with its mind. But the show’s main aim is to scare not educate, so it’s worth treating this one with a big dollop of scepticism.

By the time hour-long Celebrity Sex Tapes Unwound (10pm, Channel 4) wheeled around, I wanted to relax. Even sex tapes of US ice skater Tonya Harding, former Hear’say bint Suzanne Shaw, and actor Rob Lowe couldn’t tempt me to keep the TV on. So I switched on the Seinfeld and tried to get comfortable with my Coke and my lukewarm vodka. Well, there's nothing wrong with turning to DVDs when TV spectacularly fails you. Again.

Monday, October 23

Look Who's gone darker

David Davies finds that Torchwood hasn't spun-off quite as far as it should have

With the new Doctor Who taking off like a greyhound with a bum full of dynamite, and with the free thinking Beeb not resting on its laurels, they decided to continue the sci-fi revolution by... making a spin-off.

Torchwood follows the adventures of Captain Jack Harkness. John Barrowman (pictured), the bastard lovechild of John Travolta and Tom Cruise, is leading a crack team (does anyone actually know what that expression means?) of specialists in a fight against the alien scum of the universe. Think Men In Black. Except set in Wales. Yes, to increase what must undoubtedly be a drastically reduced FX budget (this is going out on BBC3 and BBC2 remember) the entire show is set in my homeland. This is where the problems begin.

As with Doctor Who, the show follows the classic trope of stranger in a strange land. Eve Myles plays Gwen Cooper, a police constable who ends up becoming part of the Torchwood team by seeing something she shouldn't have and - you get the idea. As with most stories that follow this thread, it's mainly for exposition purposes, and it all feels a bit tired.

There are problems with tone too. That sounds horribly Sunday Times, so let me justify myself. The show is aiming for a darker tone. People swear on a regular basis, the second episode had a full-on sex scene between two teenagers, a lesbian kiss and murder by orgasm, and there's some sexy tension between Gwen and Captain Jack. This would be great if it didn't feel like you were still watching Doctor Who. The comedy remains, the visuals are all crisp, clean and daytime, and the aliens still aren't scary enough. In a show where men are being bonked to death, these need to be pared down to a minimum. It needs to be dark and edgy, and it needs to take more advantage of its post-watershed slot when it comes to characterisation. Everyone is still Saturday night fluffy. I can't help feeling that John Barrowman is about to break into song at any moment. Eve Myles keeps the hysterics to a well-judged minimum, then gets lost in the blandness of her own character. The supporting cast are primarily there for comic relief. It's a shame because this show has great potential to really spin-off into something different and exciting.

There are moments of excellence. A three-way showdown ends with the revelation that Jack cannot be killed, a cool Captain Scarlet scenario. Barrowman does well hiding an undercurrent of melancholy beneath Captain Jack's magoo exterior, and really grabs the screen when he's given the chance during these moments, before reverting back to that Doctor Who pantomime Prince Charming that dominates the opening episodes. There's also an interesting moment in the second episode where Jack has some strange obsession with a severed hand. This is weird, freaky stuff, and it's the direction the show needs to go in. Unlike most spin-offs, there is promise here. They need to be a bit braver and row a little farther from the shore, cut loose of Doctor Who's family stylings and make something for the older teenager or even the sci-fi loving adult. It's clearly what they're shooting for, with the swearing and the blood and the sex, so why don't they go all the way, make this a real X-Files experience and satisfy those of us who wished for a little more darkness in our Doctor? Hopefully Russell T Davies will take this show where it needs to go once he knows he has our attention.

Sunday, October 22

Always Believe in Your Soul

Televisionreview’s very own Cheshire correspondent, Helen Parton, reports from the northwest’s televisual front line

Billing itself as Channel 4's answer to Footballers' Wives, Goldplated (Wednesday, 10pm) is hardly in the premiership of comedy dramas about the rich and useless but is rather trashily good fun all the same.

The opening scene features sweeping shots of a young girl (who we later learn is the appallingly named golddigger character Cassidy) driving up to a mock Tudor mansion in a red sports car accompanied by the opening refrain to Suede's 'Beautiful Ones'.

This is just the start of the show's literal use of song titles as some kind of plot advancement device - 'cos, like, Cassidy is a beautiful one, geddit? - which continues until the end of the episode when that cheery Flaming Lips song with the line, "Do you realise, that one day everyone you know will die' accompanies one man's untimely demise.

The other point of musical irritation is that the nightclub everyone, young or old, frequents, only seems to play Goldfrapp, much in the same way that the bar in Ally McBeal only ever played Vonda Sheppard. Still the smooth glam rock electro kind of suits the show, so we'll let it pass. For now.

They’ve got the nouveau-riche ness of this part of Cheshire spot on – every woman’s hair has been golden Labrador-ed to within an inch of its life and their bodies sprayed orange and then dipped in a tub of designer labels. Even the woman who played the frizzy permed Mum of Joe from Eastenders (you know the one that went mad and covered his room in tinfoil) has succumbed. The supporting cast is like a Stepford Wife army of Colleen McLoughlins, only not as classy. The blokes meanwhile are all shiny suits, penis extension cars and sleazy demeanors. I can’t think why I stopped living there as soon as I could.

The show does rather labour its location though, “I AM from Didsbury!” says Cassidy at one point indignantly and several other geographical reference go over even my head though one did make me chuckle. “It’s like Saudi Arabia round ‘ere’” says one older woman about half way through. I’m not sure, but the last time I checked, that particularly part of the Middle East hadn’t taken crop tops, push up bras and Bet Lynch earrings to its sartorial heart just yet.

Goldplated doesn’t yet have a superbitch character in the way Footballers’ Wives had Zoe Lucker, but Ray Winstone’s daughter Jamie - with a highly convincing Manc accent Bez’d be proud of - displays promise, what with the hot pant wearing, cocaine snorting and old man shagging. And there’s plenty of cliffhangers crowbarred into this first offering too – who is the girl in the institution visited by the shouty bloke who’s been booming, “Right lads, let’s get to work and make sooooooooome moneeeeeeeeey! like Gordon Gekko crossed with Geoffrey Boycott in all the trailers? Will we find out Cassidy is not from Didsbury at all? Will she stay with that shouty bloke when she finds out he’s about to go bankrupt? And more to the point will anyone change that bloody Goldfrapp CD?

Saturday, October 21

Birth night died

In her latest picture review, the outrageously talented Davina Garrido de Miguel wondered how Channel Five could cheapen something as profound as childbirth with its sordid Child Night Live

Wednesday, October 18

By George!

Rachel Calton finds the class of an 80s icon transcends the rubbish he's forced to deal with

So the mystery behind Boy George's weird, fake burglary call basically comes down to drugs and confusion. By his own confession, in The Madness of Boy George (Tuesday, 9pm Channel 4) he was busy chatting to a photograph, which was chatting back to him, shortly before he became so paranoid that his house was being invaded and burgled, that he called up the police to get them to arrest the imaginary intruders.

All they discovered however, was the bag of coke in his bedroom (whether you believe it was one bag or 17 depends really on whether you buy George's story or the New York cops' but I'm going with the fact, that if you had stacks of the goodstuff sitting around your pad, it would take more than a delusional moment or two to personally call up the cops and invite them over for a quick rummage, paranoid or not.)

But, the bigger question here is: what was George doing at home all alone with a bag of coke in New York city in the first place? Surely we are more accustomed to him exhibiting his outlandish head gear at gigs up and down the worldwide DJing circuit, and if not that, at least at home tracking down hot young male escorts for company on the net.

This is George on a downer. A big fuckoff downer, after his west-end, semi- autobiographical hit Taboo crumbled and failed on Broadway, leaving him washed up in New York city, a crestfallen, 'has-been', too ashamed to return to England with his tail between his legs, yet with no friends in New York to help him pick up the pieces.

A gay boy without his pride.

But this is where the irony of this tragi-comedy kicks in, why did the show fall so flat on its face? Apparently because Rossie O'Donnel 'sanitised' the show to suit the American audience. Sanitise?! It's supposed to be breaking taboos. The clue Is In the name.

Boy George was the first boy to get on TV dressed up like a girl and win the hearts of a nation. Why he ever felt the need to give himself up to the Americans like that God knows, but he's pretty pissed off about it now.

The vengeance the Americans seemed to place on him, attempting to put him down for 20 years for possession of drugs, and, failing that (due to inconsistencies in evidence), parading him round the streets of Manhattan on five days community service for 'wasting police time' certainly seemed like kicking a drag when he was down.

That's apparently after nine hours being yelled at in a cell by the cops with vulgar insults. No wonder he got more-than-a-bit of a hump on when push came to shovel, and the press showed off all their most unattractive colours, and irrepressible appetite for crap gags.

Being hounded by a press you despise, who you are certain just don't 'get' you, in a city you would rather see the back of can not be a particularly charming prospect, and this documentary, that filmed George in the four weeks leading up to the sentence, showed the anxiety growing up around it.

Of course, in the end, events turned out to be worse than even BG could have anticipated, instead of the secluded park he was hoping for, he got parked right in the middle of the sanitation area to clean on one occasion, like a caged animal, while the paparazzi were served up just what they were after.

Like an animal might, surrounded by gannets, George did turn aggressive on a couple of occasions, but could only keep up the hostilities for long.

By the last day, not only was his parole officer singing his praises but so was the media circus who had spent the last week on his tail. He got into it so much, everyone ended up shaking his hand, including the reporter he earlier threatened to decapitate with his shovel.

These days the public only herald celebrities who start out from the street, and only relish the stars when they are being dragged through the gutter. But in the end, it is because Boy George is not a throw away celebrity, but a character with real wit and real gall, that he will survive the whole ordeal.

Letting anyone compromise that was what landed him in all that rubbish in the first place.

Monday, October 16

Royally Absurd

David Cook will scream and scream until he’s sick if he has to watch Princess Nikki again

Myra Hindley. Eileen Wuornos. Rose West. Not the greatest women spat out by history, but they all have one redeeming feature – they’re not Princess Nikki (C4, 10pm Saturday).

Nikki – oh, you remember, she was on that thing in a house that Channel 4 spend all summer broadcasting – is quite clearly the worst female – no, sod it, worst person – that’s ever existed. You might think that sounds a bit extreme, but if there’s a worse characteristic than screaming until you get your own way, I’d like to hear about it. So having endured weeks of Nikki screaming and wailing over summer, C4 decided to give her a series in which to do exactly the same thing. In this the final tortuous week, Nikki played women’s rugby and then became an industrial cleaner.

There’s a dichotomy going on here. The point of Princess Nikki is to torture the granny-faced brat and, effectively, break her. This is good. But this means we have to watch her for a full half-hour. This is bad. Also, though Nikki may be as dim as midnight in a cave, she’s just about bright enough to realise that the point of her show is for her to wail and weep for 30 minutes, and boy, does she ever deliver on that score. This is bad. But we get to see her get the crap beaten out of her on a rugby pitch and then covered in human excrement cleaning the kind of house that would knock Kim and Aggie dead (if only). This is good. It’s so confusing.

What to do for the best? Don’t watch the show, then there won’t be another series – but ensure Nikki gets the degradation she deserves by going out and throwing her into a slurry pit. The police will understand.

Friday, October 13

He stoops to conquer

With a heavy social conscience and an overactive libido, Alastair O’Dell develops a penchant for an uncouth scouser

With the ‘liberal’ west at loggerheads with a cruel, conservative Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one could hope to seek some comfort in our shared decadent beliefs by settling down to a night in front of that bastion of immorality and moron-ity ITV.

Yes, the sight of Jodie Marsh’s puppies are unappealing, and yes, Jade Goodie being a multimillionaire is soul destroying. But, God dam it, it’s the price we pay for living in a free, non-judgemental, ‘happy’ society. I can happily wallow in such depravity for the greater good.

In need of comfort, and my dinner working its way south, I switched over the goggle box to Ladette to Lady (ITV 9pm), a program advertised as helping a group of underprivileged girls get on in life. A nice, uplifting, story of social mobility in the modern age. Perfect.

Or it would be, had it not been a program solely designed to put back feminism, not to mention social equality, the proverbial 100 years. The premise of this retro-thusiast show is taking some oiks and giving them a jolly good thrashing at a finishing school in the Home Counties, in the hope that, one day they are acceptable to Victorian society.

For the task, the mean Rosemary, and League of Gentleman-esque Gill Harbord have been drawn out of retirement to bully, harass and generally put them in their place. Copious amounts of Vino-collapse-o are supplied just in case they decide to take the path less righteous and more riotous.

This week they competed for a chance to serve their social superiors at a toffee-nosed ski resort. They were of course told to keep their filthy mitts off the guests (much to the disappointment of the filthy old pervs on what they thought was an all-inclusive holiday).

The ‘inappropriate’ but nonetheless rather charming Louise Porter (Who also appears in Nuts magazine this week, lads) tragically did not make the cut to Verbier, with three portly wenches having to suffice. These girls were treated to an equally humiliating, but altogether different type of skiing experience than they are (probably) used to behind the local Dog and Duck.

All good fun, but really, why should these girls, and similar ones watching, be made to feel like scum? One cannot but sense a retro chill from Stateside here, in the post-Sex in the City, with the liberated girls-about-town ideal making way for the traditional, conservative morality of Desperate Housewives. Conservatism is on the march in this sceptre isle. Perhaps I should not be so surprised as even the most legendary heroes of all Britannia, Winston Churchill, had an American mother. Now, all that is left of Western civilisation is Channel Five.

Wednesday, October 11

What Not To Advise

Helen Parton watches helplessly as Trinny and Susannah foist fashion on couples as if it was a marital panacea

Like much midweek viewing fodder, tonight's shows focussed on making people feel bad about themselves and then perking them up with some advice from so called 'experts' - it's enough to you want to make you never leave the house and comfort feed yourself silly, except then you'd probably have Gillian 'rapidly turning into the witch from Rentaghost' McKeith rapping at your window armed with a bag of miso slurry.

First up, Trinny and Susannah Undress (8pm, ITV), their own figures rapidly turning into a parody of themselves - Trinny's tits so nonexistent they're practically concave and Susannah rocking a Mrs Miggins (the slutty innkeeper from Blackadder) look with her prominently displayed DDs. In this series, the terrible twosome go far beyond their usual fashion tips and into much deeper territory, which they're plainly not qualified to do. Muffin tops and potbellies are one thing, dealing with breast cancer and a failing relationship is quite another and not something to be solved by a quick flit round River Island and Marks and Sparks.

"So you're marriage wasn't in great shape then?" "How has having a hysterectomy affected your sex life?" they ask poor Froso and Brian over a family get together before getting them into some new clothes that weren't that dissimilar to their old ones.

"So nice to see you in some colour!" they chorus patronisingly to Froso for wearing a top the exact same shade of green as one in which we see at the start of the show. It felt slightly unpleasant watching all this tawdry voyeurism dressed up as entertainment and so I flicked over to Cooking It (Channel 4, 8pm) with chef Jun Tanaka, a slightly mumsier version of Gok from How to Look Good Naked. This is basically Faking It for cooks so why they didn't call it Fooking It I don't know. Channel 4 you've missed a trick.

Supernanny (Channel 4, 9pm) though highly repetitive - parents have rowdy kids they can't control, Supernanny comes in sorts them out, Supernanny leaves, it all goes tits up, Supernanny returns, it's all OK again - is still a solid performer in the heartstring pulling stakes. I've noticed though that Jo Frost's not as perfect as she seems - she can't say certain words, certain words she uses quite often, correctly - unazzzeptable for unacceptable, ezzzackleee for exactly. I tell you, if she says pacific instead of specific, she's not coming near any children I know.

And neither is Jonathan King, subject of Life on the Outside (Channel 4, 10pm) or his portly Uncle-Monty-gone-bad type character of a friend, who tried to justify King’s activity with underage boys by pointing out that the homosexual age of consent had gone down from 21 to 16 during the past thirty years.

I had to turn over to the grisly goings on in a repeat of CSI New York (Five, 10pm) to feel civilized again, though I wish Five wouldn’t show episodes over again with such regularity. Maybe though they could get the wardrobe person responsible for Stella Bonasera’s stylish suits, with just the right amount of cleavage, to have a word with the infernal Trinny and Susannah. And maybe ask them some personal questions such as how much Botox have they stuck in their emotionless faces, and see how they like it.

Tuesday, October 10

Bush Whacked

Dubya's TV death has generated controversy, but that didn't make it interesting says Richey Nash

You’ve probably already heard about Death of a President (More4, 9pm). It’s the ‘controversial’ film-length drama documentary about a fictional assassination of George Walter Bush on 19 October 2007.

Dubya has just made a speech at the Chicago Sheraton hotel. He managed to do so without (a) saying something stupid (b) starting a war or (c) choking on a pastry product. But George W. Bush is upset: in his world that makes him unproductive. Still, he’s already got wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to worry about, not to mention the new Cold War with Iran and a moose-based assault by pensioners from Canada.

Before the speech angry protestors were outside causing a ruckus: waving banners, spitting at police, and generally looking like they’d come from the first night of the Rage Against The Machine reunion tour. One of these, a young shaven headed guy called Frank Molini, broke away from the crowd and managed to get to the top of a nearby building. He had a sniper rifle so guess what happened next, kids.

Bush was outside shaking hands with the crowd and then – bang bang – he keeled over and later died in hospital. It should all feel very controversial, very dramatic, yet somehow didn't.

You see, a good drama documentary should be based on something like global warming, a believable issue that will affect everyone on the planet. That’s how to ratchet up the scaremongering. The only person who needs to be afraid about the death of George W. Bush is George W. Bush. Well, him and Republican cumjug Fox News.

So it lacked drama, and the general premise was flimsy. Okay, so someone may get onto a roof with a sniper rifle and may shoot at the President and may kill him, but it seems a little unlikely. Not impossible of course, but not probable and certainly not inevitable. And it's not scary: if anything, not having a rich Texan moron in charge of the world would be a good thing. At least until the inevitable rise of Jed Bush.

Yet this premise could have worked in an hour-long show. Death of a President, however, was a patience-stretching two hours. With long documentaries you need a Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock to push drive them on. You don’t get the same energy from random bits of ‘genuine footage’ and ‘genuine testimonies’. In fact, I had to start writing this review or I’d have fallen asleep.

The programme touched on interesting topics. The ‘assassin’ Frank Molini opened a debate about whether George W. Bush deserved to be assassinated. According to Molini, Bush has been responsible for over 100,000 deaths, is a war criminal and deserves the death penalty. It’s a debate that was quickly set down as the programme moved on to the irrelevant clues found at the fictional crime scene. Guess what programme-makers: nobody cares about the minutiae of a crime scene where a crime never happened.

It also touched on issues of Bush stealing civil liberties, then dropped it. A black guy is arrested under suspicion of being the assassin because, it seems, he is black but a dialogue about whether the US police are institutionally racist is lost. This black guy turned out to be an ex-soldier, but the argument about whether the armed forces were made to look foolish by Bush was forgotten. And when they found a guy they thought was the assassin but wasn’t, the jury sent him down because he was Syrian. Again and again, interesting points were picked up for 30 seconds then dropped.

But some bits were good. The supposed real life footage of Bush was surprisingly realistic. And the programme showed how fear whipped up by the media and government can lead to miscarriages of justice: an innocent Syrian was sent down for the assassination for looking a bit too al-Qa'eda.

Yet ultimately it was a frustrating watch. It didn’t warrant almost two hours, went into tiny pointless details too much and missed the big interesting points. It needed a firm hand to guide it but instead just ambled on to an inconsequential ending. Kind of like George W. Bush's approach to foreign policy, only with less meaningless bloodshed.

So what was the point? Frankly it’s hard to know, other than amusing people who want to see George W. Bush get shot. Sure it stimulated some controversy, just didn’t do much to stimulate brain cells.

Reach For The Sky... Remote

Emma Mitchell on her love/hate relationship with Sky.

As I sit down on Sunday evening, with a glass of wine (ok, it’s actually squash) and a choice of over 400 channels, I can’t help thinking what better way to unwind before a week of work. That’s right, I am one of the privileged millions to have Sky TV.

Just how did we manage with only 5 channels, and not so long before that it was only 4 channels? I don’t think I could go back to just 5. Maybe that’s what Sky’s next advertising campaign could be about – ‘Once You Have It, You Never Go Back’. Hmm... maybe not.

Every evening, I am given so much choice I can find something to watch regardless of my mood. If I fancy a little escapism, I can watch a plethora of soaps; though I only watch EastEnders and Hollyoaks (if the other half isn’t back from work yet). I find the rest of the soaps plague the other channels. If I fancy some comedy, there are relentless repeats of Have I Got News For You and Open All Hours to keep me amused. Then if I fancy increasing my brain capacity, I can watch QI (although how anyone is supposed to know the answers is beyond me), re-runs of Who Wants Be A Millionaire, or Never Mind The Full Stops. Like any of these actually do increase my brain capacity.

Sometimes I find that there is so much choice that I cannot possibly make that choice, much to the annoyance of the other half. I’ll flick onto the TV Guide and go through so many pages of channels that I often end up just staring at a blank screen, wondering what I can eat next (another great past time of mine). Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the scary church music they insist on playing on the TV Guide screen on those rare occasions I have the TV to myself in the evenings. Why do they do it to me? It's just creepy.

In fact, there seem to be a lot of arguments and tension in the air over choosing what to watch next. I would quite happily watch a load of mindless soaps until about 7.30-8.00pm, then settle down to watch two films on a Sky Movies channel, as opposed to watching a football match and a rugby match, followed by Match of the Bloody Day.

So the more choice we have, the more we cannot decide what it is we want to watch. At least when there were only 5 channels to choose from, you had a higher chance of agreeing on the same thing. Now the odds are something like 400:1 on agreeing on a programme to watch. It’s no wonder we are an angry nation. I reckon Sky has a lot to answer for.

Monday, October 9

Didn't They Do Badly

Gareth Crew avoids being stabbed and braves the TV underworld: Saturday night terrestrial TV.

Saturdays, I would presume, are the same for the majority of people in this country. If you’re not unemployed/undesirable/collecting your pension (or, if you’re Michael Douglas – all three of those things) you go about your business and leisure. You could shop, and avoid being stabbed by youths outside of Matalan, or you could be playing football in the park, and avoid being stabbed by youths. You know, you go about your business.

Then, after the ultimate disappointment of the failure for yet another week to not win the Lottery, followed by a discussion with your family/girlfriend/boyfriend/dog/cat about what you would do if you did win the Lottery (at this point, the problem of not actually buying a ticket is insignificant) you’re faced with the choice: go out, buy that 60-year, £1,987 per month mortgage for your studio flat, making anything more than tap water unobtainable, and then the ultimate decision: DVD or TV. I opt for DVD every time, and looking through the Daily Express TV guide, here’s why:

Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1. Didn’t it used to be on Sunday nights, and used to be the chance for teenage boys to stare at the slightly revealing costumes? Now, re-imagined in a Planet of the Apes Tim Burton way, you have 'celebrities' dancing. Hosted by Tess Daley and Bruce '98 years young' Forsyth, the concept is simple: lets put a load of people who are loosely associated with the Beeb in some way and make them dance like some twisted marionettes with their professionally-tanned dance partners. This one was the first in a new series, and had such competitors (notice how I don’t use the word celebrities) as Jimmy Tarbuck, dancing with a lady sporting pneumatic breasts, and Nicholas Owen (a bloke who reports the news) with another brass-coloured babe. I didn’t watch it. Apparently this is the BBC’s premier, primetime Saturday night show. Did anyone say license fee?

Over on BBC 2, you had The Culture Show. Good, but pretentious. This was followed by QI and TOTP2, then a Monty Python docu-repeat. I would write more, but no-one watches BBC 2 on a weekend, do they?

Going head to head with BBC 1’s flagship are ITV 1's these heavy-hitters. PJ and Duncan, as they were originally called, are now more important to ITV than putting right-wing messages into their evening news bulletins. A variety show of some sorts, Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway involves all the usual elements: 'comedy', competitions and guest stars. How much are they missing Paul O’Grady?

After that, X Factor. Sponsored by Nokia, I see. I don’t really understand this music-factory business; so, let’s leave it at that. What I have noticed is Simon Cowell needs to put some product into his rather dull and lifeless bog-brush type hair, and Sharon Osborne has too much. All I know is that we’ll get another rubbish Christmas No. 1, which is probably a ballad that would be sung much better by the person who wrote it.

Finally, there was A Knight’s Tale on Channel 4. I’ve got this on DVD, but didn’t fancy watching it.

So, what DVD did I pick? Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s a classic, and apparently R2-D2 and C-3P0 are in one of the scenes.

Sunday, October 8

Primetime Outlaws

Mark Lewis watches The BBC’s Robin Hood disappoint worse than a whole weekend of daytime TV

There was a time not so long ago that timeslot was a good indicator to the quality of a programme. As surely as a rubbish national anthem signified a rubbish national football team, early Saturday evening meant must-watch TV. Admittedly that is a rule of thumb which goes back only as far as the latest incarnation of Doctor Who. But it was a good rule, and one which the Beeb was desperate to maintain.

So desperate, in fact, that they decided to take Doctor Who, send him back to 13th Century Nottingham and take away his Tardis for a 13 episode run. Like David Tennant’s Doctor Who, Jonas Armstrong’s Robin Hood (Saturday BBC1, 7.05pm) has a cheeky smile, a wicked glint in his eye and looks like he’s just got on the tube from Soho where he’s been palming off old queens for fivers.

Except Tennant doesn’t look like that. He looks like a time lord. And Doctor Who is a complex drama which explores decisions, death and repercussions. Robin Hood is a smirking; grinning; good versus evil fairytale with unnecessarily flashy stop-frame-start-frame, zoom-frame, clickclick camerawork. It’s like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in a medieval tunic. It even has the cheeky Lahndahn geezers. Not least Keith Allen, who’s irredeemably evil Sheriff of Nottingham camps his way through the show as convincingly as Bungle playing Jack the Ripper.

His is a poor homage to Alan Rickman’s brilliant big screen version. And Rickman was brilliant. Alas this programme even leaves you pining for Kevin Costner’s rubbish Robin Hood. At the end of that film Richard the Lion Heart returns after many daft years in the Middle East, during which he stupidly left his evil brother King John in charge, reminding us that the monarchy was as dense and pointless then as they are now. The worst historical revisionism from the film was Costner’s American accent. Here it is the much more egregious sight of buxom lovelies with teeth so sparkling they could be in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie - 500 years before the invention of toothpaste.

Bruckheimer insists on it. So we steel ourselves for the gleam as we turn to Five for the inevitable onslaught on the Bruckheimer-produced CSI. But nothing could steel us for the horror which confronted us instead on Five’s Birth Night: Live (Sunday, 8pm). It was not so much the live caesarean, as the spectacle of truly daytime programming for two hours at primetime. This is City Hospital with Gabby Logan and another nail in the coffin for putting the best programmes when most people are watching.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The national Anthem/national football team maxim has let us down too. On Match of the Day (BBC1, Saturday, 4.45pm) Macedonia’s barely musical anthem certainly gave us a clue as to how crappy they’d be. But England’s much more tuneful tone would have given us no idea. You’d have to listen to the words for that.

Lobotomy or creativity?

In her latest picture post Davina Garrido de Miguel takes her scalpel to Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive

It was brave of Stephen Fry to allow the nation to witness his depression and honest of him to admit he would rather keep the illness than bosh the pills. But surely if you are in real mental torture you would do anything to stop the pain.The really worrying part of the programme was the mother of two adolescent boys who in an almost pre-emptive strike decided to give her children an obscene amount of medication just in case they developed any more symptoms. She was a scary control freak and her kids looked lobotomised (they are depicted as two pill heads in my drawing).Fry doesn't have to justify his behaviour as he is well loved and talented and let's face it clowns are generally sad.

Friday, October 6

Weekend TV

David Davies lines up the pick of this weekend's terrestrial couch fodder.

Saturday night is a veritable feast of high and low-brow entertainment. Auntie's paying big respect to two ancient legends, Robin Hood (BB1, 7.05pm) and Bruce Forsyth. The former lands a coveted primetime slot in an eponymously title drama series. It stars Keith Allen as the Sheriff of Nottingham, so it could go either way. A bit like Brucie's jokes, which will undoubtedly punctuate the majority of awful dance routines in Strictly Come Dancing (BB1, 7.50pm). There are only three good couples per series, so it'll be some weeks yet until we see proper fireworks, which, coincidentally, will tie in nicely with bonfire night.

If primetime razmatazz isn't your thing, turn over to The Culture Show (BBC2, 7.40pm). It's a 50-minute tribute to the nicest man in the world, Michael Palin. He'll be talking about his newly-published diaries, as well as picking his favourite moments from Python. The clips alone make this a worthy watch.

If they get round to showing any scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you'll probably be in the mood for A Knight's Tale (C4, 9.30pm). Perfect family entertainment, with a winning performance from Paul Bettany. It won't change your life, but it will make it a bit happier.

Steer clear of this week's Parkinson (ITV, 10.35pm) featuring the dire line-up of Shane Richie, Sheila Hancock and Jeremy Paxman, with music from Corinne Bailey Rae. Is this the Des O'Connor Show or something, Parky? You had Blair on a couple of months back, I swear you did, and now you have Shane Richie topping the bill? It's frustratingly inconsistent TV.

Unfortunately, Parky seems to trigger a slump in the schedules, as the best Sunday night has to offer is Dragons' Den: Where Are They Now? (BBC2, 8.00pm). This takes an hour-long look at whether any of the burgeoning entrepreneurs who picked up some of that tasty cash from the Dragons' tables have been successful. Investments include the Yaki Box Japanese cooking system and the high-tech pooper scooper. Should be good, but it's doubtful whether it can top the original premise.

Alternatively, stick with the ever-reliable Sunday night nature programme, always a safe bet, featuring Steve 'I'm bland, me' Leonard. Still, Incredible Animal Journeys: In the Footsteps of the Ice Bear (BBC1, 8.00pm) follows Aurora, a 23-year old mother polar bear and her tiny cub across the Arctic. With a one-line synopsis like that, it's as close as you can get to a safe bet.

Wednesday, October 4


Download TV Review's first podcast - it's free!

In the first TV Review Podcast, Mark Lewis chats with Ben Watkins about Ross Kemp's potato-shaped head, Westwood's 'rough wheels' and the Top 10 celebrity deaths. Oh, and three mentions of Space 1999. This one goes up to 11, so download it and enjoy.

Format: MP3
File size: 4.6MB


Monday, October 2

David Who?

Almost reduced to Tennant’s by Tennant, Helen Parton is then revulsed by Burrell and finds the kids are alright

There’s quite a few things to discombobulate the viewer about David ‘Doctor Who’ Tennant’s appearance on Wednesday’s Who Do You Think You Are? (9pm, BBC1). Not least the fact that he has a hell of a Scottish accent in real life, albeit quite a middle class one. He is also sporting a big straggly beard (which he has yet to dye a comedy crimson shade like professional Caledonian Billy Connelly. Thank God). Thirdly, there’s no Billie Piper hanging around parroting ‘ohmygodinnit there’s a Cyberman/Dalek abahhhhht to do us in doctor innit’ and the programme is all the duller for it. In fact, it’s quite dull all told.

Even one of the lovely historians he meets on his travels to uncover his ancestry enquires as to whereabouts of his Tardis as they hike across the Isle of Mull to see where his relatives once toiled on the bleak Highland landscape. This programme has all the good intentions of someone who’s just come back from holiday, but looking at someone’s else’s holiday snaps is as boring as following somebody else’s family tree. Sorry David, you seem like a nice fellow too, and extra cool points for taking your surname from Neil Tennant after flicking through Smash Hits.

Ian Wright’s Unfit Kids (9pm, Channel 4) reached a fairly satisfactory denouement – all the little chubsters look slightly less Weeble like, even the one who had four (FOUR!) TVs in his bedroom, the parents were all grateful and Wrighty declares all his efforts to be duly werrrf it.

One wonders if there are going to be enough troubled teenagers to sustain this kind of programming - there seemed to be dozens of them in Ballet Changed My Life: Ballet Hoo! (10pm, Channel 4) Nearly all seem to have quite harrowing domestic stories, prised out of them by a mix of gung ho Oprah style Yanks and namby pamby Guardian reading patronising Brits that made up their yoof workers. My early favourite is the Lemar lookalike kid who is to play Tibault in their version of Romeo and Juliet.

Forget Montagues and Capulets, Paul Burrell versus just about everyone on Trust Me I’m a Holiday Rep (11pm, Five) provoked just as much spleen venting hatred. “She’s just a housewife. From the north,” minced Burrell about pseudo boss Julie, before laying into his fellow contestants including Roland Rivron “I thought it was someone related Roland Rat!” Noel from Hear’say and the splendidly good time chap Brandon Block who I might now just have a bit of a crush on. But what was Lucy Rusedski doing presenting this low rent Love Island? Surely Greg’s not that shit at tennis? And doesn’t she look like Nookie Bear with a wig and massive dimples chiselled in? – go on, Google Nookie Bear and you’ll see.

But crap syrup of the week has to go to Andrew Neil on the Labour Party Conference (11:30 am, BBC2) - it was a slow day on the freelance front, OK! Since the Thick Of It, all this political posturing seems a massive parody of itself. The best thing Gordon Brown could do is sign up Peter Capaldi before Dave Cameron gets there first.