Tuesday, November 28

The Cook report

David Cook casts his eye over last week’s TV, and finds it more unpalatable than a geriatric on X-Factor

If there was ever an advert for shooting yourself the day before your 60th birthday, it was Young@Heart (Wednesday, 9pm, Channel 4). It was meant to be uplifting, but this feature-length (i.e. far too long) documentary about a choir of US pensioners covering contemporary artists – James Brown, Rolling Stones, Coldplay – managed instead to simply bore the viewer into an early grave, with half the choir probably following on behind. Really, while the idea of a crowd of rock’n’roll pensioners might sound sweet, and yes, you’d probably go and see them for a laugh while half-cut on cider and LSD at Glastonbury, actually listening to a couple of dozen octogenarians covering Sonic Youth – Sonic Youth! – makes Jive Bunny sound positively palatable. Chorus leader Bob – looking like a cross between Jesus and Bob Geldof (unlike Bob Geldof, who thinks he is Jesus) tried to inspire the crowd by going ‘Yeah! Great!’ every five minutes, but there’s only so much fun you can have watching an old man massacre the first line of I Feel Good time and time again.

Speaking of music being massacred, Simon Cowell, we beg you, please beat Ray to death before he opens his mouth again. (X-Factor, Saturday, 6.25pm, ITV). Forget the MacDonald Bros, they’re merely rubbish - Ray is actually quite frightening. Really. Look at his slicked back hair, those cold, dead eyes, that stuck-on perma-grin. He is the walking, talking, singing Damian. He is Satan, or if not Satan, then his obnoxious little brother. Please, somebody call Gregory Peck and bring the torture to an end

Monday, November 27

Top class Sunday night entertainment: don’t bet on it

The BBC took a gamble putting it flagship current affairs programme back on its flagship channel. But like a weak poker player, playing an unsure hand, it backed it only half-heartedly, says Mark Lewis.

Appropriately enough, this week’s new-look Panorama (Sunday, BBC1, 10.15pm) was about online gambling. Because the BBC has taken quite a punt.

Gone, for the moment at least, are the serious discussions on serious topics at serious length. The BBC is betting its 10.15pm time slot instead on only being able to attract sufficient viewers if it appeals to the Tonight or Dispatches demographic

Just in case that’s too high-brow for the BBC1-ers, it ran to just 35 minutes. If that wasn’t stupid enough it also featured an interminable wild-west metaphor which went on for at least half the programme. And there was no shortage of stupid people in the programme either.

Apart from the journalist, Declan, who agreed to try to double $2,000 of his own money (which he would in no way claim back from the BBC later), there was also a cascade of simpletons who blamed internet betting for their inability to stop spending money on gambling.

I have a confession: I am a fan of online gambling, and was just polishing off a game of poker when Panorama started. I am also capable of betting moderately - even winning a little perhaps - without endangering my mortgage, or dipping into the savings for that penis extension operation they keep emailing me the details for.

But if I did mess up, I would take responsibility myself and go back to using the Swedish penis pump. Not so the interviewees in this programme.

One woman, a secretary who pilfered £460,000 from her company, blamed her kleptomania on William Hill. (Which was rather like someone with a nut allergy who just can’t resist cashews blaming KP for his head blowing up.) The young mother escaped prison, presumably on the grounds that any company which leaves £460,000 hanging around the staff smoking room probably deserves to have it embezzled. And the woman was told to go to treatment where she was, no doubt, taught to replace her gambling with a less harmful addiction. Like cashew nuts.

I am prepared to give Panorama another chance because I remember occasions when it produced some of the most thoughtful, imaginative programmes on TV. The BBC would do well to remember that it is not obliged to chase ratings.

Otherwise it might as well show things like Heartbeat.

It’s difficult to know what to say about the new series of Heartbeat (Sunday, ITV1, 8pm). Under normal circumstances, I’m as likely to watch primetime ITV1 as Tony Martin is to drink tea and chat about law and order with a chap who’s just offered to tarmac his driveway.

But it’s either:

1. Charming, must-watch Sunday night TV, which breaks the day up perfectly between The Antiques Roadshow and bed time. And it’s got that lovely boy in it who used to be in Eastenders.


2. Unimaginative drivel, that - you have to keep reminding your nan - hasn’t had that bloke from Eastenders in it for about 10 years.

Its gentle drama for sure which, while set in 1950s Britain, features some of the most biting social commentary on TV. This week, a gun-happy former army officer shot a burglar dead in his home, just seven years after Tony Mental Martin did likewise.

There may or may not be more cutting edge social commentary next week, but if I was a betting man, I’d probably avoid it.

Tuesday, November 21

Pitch me a winner

With so many TV channels existing on a pittance of creative input, it's time to throw in some true, quality, original thinking to enhance our lives. David Davies can pitch with the best of them.

Show: The Ox-Factor
Channel: BBC4
Time: Saturdays, 7.30pm
Pitch: Oxbridge graduates enter a talent competition to see who can spout the most erudite bullshit from a chosen historical document within a set time limit. Those deemed most lucid or layman by the panel are voted off, until the winner is allowed to sit down in a big leather Chesterfield and smoke a pipe for an hour in front of a live audience. The panel includes the only man to ever really bore someone to death, David Starkey, celebrity social cripple Tom Paulin, gay-but-don't-you-just-know-it? Simon Schama and that bloke who went Around the World in 80 Treasures (working title: How I Screwed the Beeb Out of a Few Grand for the Ultimate Sabbatical Jolly).

Show: You C***
Channel: Discovery Home & Health
Time: Weekdays, 10.30am
Pitch: Celebrity wankers and famous bints lay the ego smackdown on your ass. Tune in to see Anne Robinson telling you that you're a worthless, pathetic, inept excuse for a human being. Reel from Jeremy Paxman's accusations of pedantry and ethical ambivalence. Gasp as Jeremy Kyle squats on stage and tells you he could s*** out a nicer looking face than your one you snivelling little c*** you.

Show: Richard Madeley's Happy Hour
Channel: C4
Time: Fridays, 7pm
Pitch: Old dicky gets his own Friday night show in the TFI mould. Freed from the burden of the vibrating wife, Richard can now get down with the kids. Hip guests include Shakin' Stevens, Status Quo, and young up and comers Shed Seven.

Show: I Wouldn't Be Caught Dead With... a Necrophiliac
Channel: Bravo
Time: Weeknights, 9pm
Pitch: Reality TV Show set in a morgue. Stars include Bazza The Toe-Tag Man, Linda The Ashen Receptionist, and Roger The Delivery Man (Read that last one again).

Show: The Impression I Get
Channel: ITV
Time: Saturdays, 8pm
Pitch: Mimics find yet another excuse to appear on TV, this time as dead celebrities hosting axed shows. Double up with laughter as Alistair McGowan presents Top Of The Pops disguised as Tommy Cooper, guffaw as Jon Culshaw does Tomorrow's World as Leslie Crowther, and cackle at the insane genius of Rory Bremner hosting This Is Your Life as Bob Mills. I know he's still alive, but it's okay to dream. When will these people realise they're better on the radio?

Show: The Top 100 Top 100s
Channel: C4
Time: One-off special, Sunday, 9pm-5am
Pitch: Jimmy "Jammy Dodger Face" Carr presents a countdown of Channel 4's Top 100 Top 100s. Who can forget the fantastic Top 100 Boy Band Haircuts, Top 100 Reasons To Despise Russell Brand, or the infamous Top 100 Reasons Why Rolf Harris Must Have a Dirty Little Secret? As always, the show will be rife with less than minor celebrities pontificating about the cultural significance of totally insignificant events whilst reminding us all what a bunch of freeloading, useless waste of space tossers they all are. Wayne Hemmingway, Moby's stylish older brother, will find time to poke his nose in there, even though he's the first and only man to ever design a radio with a neck and should therefore be prevented from doing anything ever again.

Show: Ginger Spice's Through The Keyhole
Channel: C5
Time: Thursdays, 11pm
Pitch: Geri Halliwell - she's not dead yet - presents a fascinating weekly look into keyhole surgery. Follow the camera into Mr. Barnet's lower intestine, where doctors find a human skull and the whole thing kicks off in the craziest way possible. No, but really, this show is educational and informative, and includes lots of clever punchlines from the killer nugget and a look at Mrs. Croydon's bunghole.

It's a veritable goldmine of ideas. If any of you TV execs out there are reading this, you know what to do. That's right, rip me off and sell the idea as your own. Damn you all to hell.

Sunday, November 19

Top TV detectives podcast

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

In the second TV Review Podcast, Mark Lewis hosts a panel discussion show which puts to bed forever the debate about who tops Britain's top ten TV detectives. Joining him are Ben Watkins, Richey Nash and Nick Yates. Download and enjoy.

Format: MP3

click here to listen now or right click to download and savour later

Thursday, November 16

No Laughing Matter

Richey Nash says there's a gaping hole in the schedules where innovative Brit sitcom should be

British sitcom is stuck in a rut and it’s going to take more than the latest offerings from Jack Dee and Ricky Gervais to save it. Okay, so Lead Balloon and the second series of Extras are both groundbreaking in terms of what this country’s produced before. Both Dee and Gervais are playing fictional characters that are, essentially, worse versions of who they are in ‘real life’: surly struggling stand-up Rick Spleen and struggling sitcom scribbler Andy Millman respectively. But we’ve seen both done before and done better.

Jack Dee is only just starting to bring to the sitcom what Larry David has been doing for over five years with Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Larry David did it better. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Jack Dee, but his show doesn’t quite ring true. Is his best friend in real life really an annoying pearly-toothed American? I doubt it. And in any case, there’s always the knowledge that Dee isn’t being Dee, just a ripped-off reconstituted version of himself.

In CYE, on the other hand, you believe that Cheryl is Larry’s wife and you believed Jeff is his manager. And because Larry David is playing Larry David, you believe more in the main character too. If you are going to have people getting into awkward situations, then the more believable they are, the better.

And the second series of Extras harks even further back, to Larry David’s other masterpiece: Seinfeld. This year Gervais has written a show about a guy writing a really bad sitcom, but Seinfeld was doing it better in 1992.

Gervais is using the sitcom in Extras to take the piss out of bad sitcoms. But when Seinfeld and George Costanza go to NBC in the third episode of the fourth series and pitch a ‘show about nothing’, it is clear they are also taking the piss out of the show they are already on.

If it were a competition to find the funnier idea, Seinfeld would win easily. First, audiences warm to self-deprecation. And second, laughing at Seinfeld makes the audience feel clever while laughing at Extras makes the audience feel stupid. On the rare occasions I felt like laughing at the second series of Extras, I had an ominous feeling that Gervais would push his finger through the TV and castigate me for doing so.

Ultimately Lead Balloon and Extras have shown that sitcom has gone too far towards the ‘sit’ and away from the ‘com’. While the jokes were as important as the situations in The Office and I’m Alan Partridge, now the jokes have been sidelined as we try to watch people try to squirm out of awkward situations. But watching the squirming is not always funny so ideally there should be something more.

But trying to imitate what Larry David has done shows up a far bigger problem for British TV comedy: there aren’t any mavericks. Chris Morris used to be held up as one, but is unlikely to ever come back with anything as good as The Day Today or Brass Eye.

So who is out there doing something completely fresh? The League Of Gentlemen have started making crap films, the Father Ted guys have lowered themselves to The IT Crowd, and though Peep Show is good, at heart it’s really quite conventional. And while The Thick Of It was good, will it ever return? Nobody knows. But one thing is clear: in a world where Little Britain can sell out stadia, where you can’t get through a night of TV without being confronted by Jimmy Carr’s evil insidious presence, then something is dreadfully wrong.

Wednesday, November 15

New Horizons

David Davies laments the lack of science on the BBC’s flagship science programme

Horizon was always great because it was never afraid to throw you in at the deep end before teaching you how to swim. There was a kind of inconsiderate edge to it, a challenge to the viewer. Its slogan was 'Pure science, sheer drama'. With this new series, the difficulties have gone. Much like almost any other show on TV, I could let my brain idle along without having to worry about what I had just seen, explained concepts or abstract terminology.

Take the show from two weeks ago which was all about cars that could drive themselves across 130 miles of rough desert terrain. How many producers are wishing right now that they'd pitched that as a programme synopsis?

Bill Nighy gave the kind of voiceover Ian McShane dreams about, his pronunciation of 'DARPA' a particular highlight. It was like listening to a camp version of the Emperor from Star Wars. The usual variety of geeks included a righteous Napoleon Dynamite character who reckoned his self-righting motorbike was, like, the coolest thing ever. My favourite was Sebastian Thrun, who look as if he was germinated in some weird scandinavian greenhouse. Shortly after winning the race with the classy 'Stanley' off-roader, he declared that 'everyone's a winner', something I doubt he would be saying had he lost.

Speaking of losers, his nemesis William 'Red' Whittaker was nothing if not thorough, pitching two robots into the battle, 'Highlander' and 'Sandstorm'. Doesn't bode well for the family tree. Apart from committing the ultimate nerd faux pas of quoting the A-Team ('I love it when a plan comes together') this ex-marine seemed like the kind of ballbreaker that really gets the job done. Which made it all the sweeter when he lost to Moby lookalike of the year 2006, Sebastian.

There were numerous highlights, most of them provided by the robot motorbike 'Ghostrider'. It really was so much fun watching the sheer desperation on Napoleon Dynamite's face as the bike careered, collided, skidded and slid its way through a variety of increasingly hostile situations. The best moment was a replay of the previous year's challenge, when the very same guy had forgotten to turn on the bike's stabiliser. Five feet from the starting line it wobbled, before crashing and burning in a quite spectacular fashion considering it was doing around 3mph. The show was so entertaining it left barely enough room for the science.

In fact, the closest it got to hard science involved some elaborate CGI overlays of what the car was 'seeing'.

It's disappointing. It's not a one off either. The week before, it referred to some 'singularity', a kind of uber-bollocks delineation of an all-powerful computer mind. Never heard that one before. Danny I'm-beating-Dave-Gorman-at-his-own-game Wallace, the first on-screen presenter in Horizon's 40-year history, was entertaining but again lacking in substance.

I think the new look of the show is superbly executed, the accompanying website is informative a wide-reaching, and the more recognisable voices and personalities are welcome. I just wish it had a bit more of the geek still left in it. Talking heads are the ace in Horizon's pack, the points at which hard science can be explained by real people with comprehensible analogies. In this series, all we've learnt is that Danny Wallace was struggling with ethics and some guy was disappointed that his robot bike fell over. Why did it fall over? What was it that made the self-righting mechanism fail? Was it to do with the tunnel? Did the sensors break? What were the ultimate advantages held by Thrun's team over Whittaker's? None of these questions was satisfactorily answered, and they would have been in past editions. Instead we got empty reaction shots like 'everyone's a winner' and Napoleon Dynamite's 'I hope they don't do it for a third year because I don't want to go through all this again'.

I'm not advocating a return to the old-fashioned style of previous editions. What I want is a return to the old-style content delivery. There were moments in the last series when I was left scratching my head, wondering what to make of it all, where to go to understand more. So far, with this series, I haven't had a single question left unanswered. Surely this is the audience Horizon should be aiming for, the pro-active viewer who goes out and learns more about what are undoubtedly fascinating subjects. Without Horizon I wouldn't have been introduced to the brilliance of Michio Kaku, weird multiple universes, the awe-inspiring concepts of supervolcanoes, or the ultimate paradox of time travel. Horizon is called Horizon because it's a programme in which the layman can understand the cutting edge of science, given access into the scientific world minus the dullness of algebra, explained in an interesting and often dramatic way. You can take away the science and still make it entertaining, but do we really want the flagship science show on television to go all Scrapheap Challenge on us? It might be fun for now, but it will soon tire.

Sunday, November 12

Sunday's must watch TV

David Attenborough's Planet Earth is a fine way to round off the weekend, says Emma Mitchell

This is a good programme to have on Sunday evenings. David Attenborough makes science interesting whilst as understandable as possible. Last time we explored the Arctic and the Antarctic, discovering what life could survive the extreme temperatures.

We met the penguins, and they are funny little creatures. I'm seriously considering one for a pet. They waddle about and then when they're feeling tired, they just slide around on their bellies - fantastic! The way they all huddle together for warmth was impressive, then when the females return with bellies full of food, the racket the males make is hilarious. It's actually like they are cheering.

Then we went to the Arctic to see some polar bears, which i thought would be nice, until they showed one male bear swim for four days because the icy land he hunts on had melted away to such a degree that he had nowhere left to stand that'd support his weight. After four days of swimming, he chances upon a herd of walruses (is that the collective term for them? Maybe it's gaggle? A gaggle of walruses…..anyway I digress), but unsurprisingly he was pretty damn tired. We watched as he tried in vain to get just one meal, and let's be honest, I was cheering him on because the walruses could spare one or two anyway, only to be met with an impenetrable mountain of blubber. Not a pretty sight.

We watched the poor bear limp away and then just curl up on the rocks, from sheer exhaustion and starvation, and pass away. Not what I wanted to see, and I'm not ashamed to say it even brought a little tear to my eye, as it's probably our fault this sort of thing is happening. Thanks BBC for reminding us.

I was suitably cheered up by seeing a female bear emerge from her cave with her two little cubs and slide down the hill, she looked liked she didn't have a care in the world. My uplifted mood wasn't to last though. We went back to the penguins only to see a group of little fluffy penguin nippers, who were lost in the snow, get completely wiped out. This was turning into a blood bath.

Having left the room for about five minutes to recover, I watched the Planet Earth Diaries, which is always interesting. They spent a year in the Antarctic, bet their husbands and wives were pleased:

'Hi Darling, just got a new research job come through today.'
'That's wonderful, where is it and how long will you be gone for?'
'It's the Antarctic, for a year, and we're leaving tomorrow.'
'Oh right, ok then!' Or something like that.

Anyway, they had this hut in the middle of literally nowhere and this polar bear that took a great interest in the hut, even firing off flares wasn't scaring him away. At one point, he even had his cheeky big black nose pressed up against the window - imagine that greeting you first thing in the morning when you pull the curtains back! Well they couldn't get rid of the bear and then the programme ended; I honestly believe they may well have had to destroy the bear, but graciously didn't show this on TV. Guess that's life. Well roll on next week's one!

Thursday, November 9

When Will I See Freeview Again?

Helen Parton is now all by herself with terrestrial after a brief dalliance with a set top box

As flings go, it’s had its moments in the past ten days I have to admit, but really, dear reader, it hasn’t left me satisfied, and I now feel slightly…unclean.

I speak not, regrettably, of a passionate affair with the hunky friend of my flatmate of his temporary tenure here, but of my relationship with his Freeview box, which came to stay too.

Oh for the novelty value of the early days of hour after happy hour of old CSI or endlessly repeated Razorlight videos on The Hits. But familiarity does indeed breed contempt and soon enough I was lampooning E4 for always having Hollyoaks on and cruelly dubbing ITV3 ‘The Poirot Channel’. Don’t think we didn’t have our moments…that afternoon spent on the sofa under a duvet with a Lemsip and a low-brow highpoint (lowpoint?) of the OC followed by Jeremy Kyle and dating tips from Sky Three was pure square-eyed nirvana.

It was when I found myself rolling around the floor last night, a remote in each hand caterwauling “why isn’t it working” when I had indiscriminately pressed the mute button then the install button, that I knew that our relationship had hit the rocks. Now I realise how Su Ellen or Carrie Bradshaw felt when JR and Mr Big had been respective bastards. Fortunately a friend whisked me out to dinner and when I returned, we made up. Well, by that I mean I found a good film on Film Four that I hadn’t actually seen. But the honeymoon period was over and I couldn’t even concentrate on proper telly for more than five minutes without thinking there might be something better on, oooh I don’t know, the History Channel or something.

Perfect Day: The Funeral (9pm, Five) looked good in a Four Weddings/Cold Feet hybrid kind of a way but my concentration span was spent. I knew there was goodness, well so bad it’s goodness to be had with Goldplated (Channel 4, 9pm, and also E4 for about three hours after it seems) but again I could only get through a couple of scenes of Cheshire melodrama.

There was only one thing for it: gorge myself on as many mad channels as I could while I had the chance – QVC and its enticing-after-as-much-red-wine-as-I’d-had ‘Illuminated Music Box’ for just £14.77. A pair of middle-aged women somewhere were offering Ladies Fly Flot Leather One Touch Clogs for £24.99 (not sure I quite scribbled that down correctly in case you want to order them). Or there was always Master of Chavs (I suspect Master of Charades, but I can’t read my writing here either) (Five US, Christ Only Knows What Time) where a woman was performing a move she’d never done before with burning candles. And finally, whatever the opposite of a plethora is, of TV quiz channels – a lime-shirted buffoon on The Hits, a kind of pikey, Brookside-handsome man on ITV Play, a low rent Nikki from Big Brother on Quiz Call asking people to call in to answer the other half to the phrase ‘Water____ ‘(one wonders how many dirty old pervs were restrained from getting through and answering ‘Sports' before requesting a live performance). Now, dear reader, it’s over. I know terrestrial won’t let me down – at least not while there’s double bills of This Life on BBC2 every night.

Wednesday, November 8

Hopeless Iraq

Rachel Calton despairs as a telling documentary asks the right questions

There was not much to lighten the tone of this hour-long documentary into the new generation of Iraqi youth, many of whom have lost members of their parents’ generation to Saddam Hussein’s sadistic regime, and who are now having their dreams of freedom thwarted by an occupation that is failing to fulfil its promises of freedom and democracy.

In The Death Squads (Tuesday Channel 4, 11.05pm) a reporting crew and local journalist, who refuse to be named for the film, go outside of the green zone into the lawless Iraq that has come into being, risking the kidnapping and killing frequently carried out by criminal gangs, to document the lives of young people for whom this is their reality.

The fall of Suddam has given way to civil war, in which teenagers are too busy dodging car bombs, fearing military occupation and grieving relatives lost to the violence, to see anything but a future of trauma, and revenge.

Many, already too politicised to care about school are taking up arms, joining the Sunni insurgent cells and Shia militia. Seventy per cent of children no longer go to school; many have taken a different path since the occupation.

Of the young professionals, 40 per cent at least have fled, and those who continue to provide services do so in the constant face of danger. One doctor takes the journalist with him on a daily routine in accident and emergency, he knows of colleagues who have been called out on home visits which have turned into kidnappings. Medical supplies are almost out, and with each critical case comes a barrage of death threats ‘if you let them die I will kill you’. His fifteen minute journey home now takes two hours due to military road blocks. Many patients he treats for trauma, something he is untrained to do. So far, he continues to struggle through each day.

Teenager Kamal is trying to continue running his mobile phone business, after 13 car bombs have exploded outside of his stall. He gets nervous whenever a crowd forms, and his customers don’t hang around to browse for long. His business faces another set-back when his mobile top-up card suppliers are kidnapped for their goods.

However resilient these people are the conditions seem futile.

And as one of them points out, money and buildings can always be replaced, the brains of a country can’t.

With not even basic services available to many families, let alone education or jobs, and most living in fear in the anarchy of the militia and criminal gangs that have flourished, nobody on this documentary is thanking the military occupation they live under, however well meant it may be.

One family; husband and boys, return to a mother and wife they left to fend for herself for a year when they were all put into Abu Ghraib prison, after being accused of being an insurgent cell. Under command, they fly a white flag outside their home, but continue to live in fear of the American base they live in sight of.

The only upside to this whole documentary is the fact that while the rest of the media focuses its attentions on whether Saddam will face the noose or a bullet, following his death sentence relating to a small batch of crimes against humanity carried out 24 years ago, that pale against the huge catalogue he earned, and he refuses to remorse over, this programme at least has its attention in the right place.

Whatever happens to our hate-figure is irrelevant.

His brutal regime has been toppled, what will arise in its place is what should be occupying us now.

The collective opinion of those documented is, their lives are worse. Out of this is arising a fresh new generation of anti-western feeling.

Executing Saddam Hussein isn’t going to make a hero of anyone, and I guess that is what we should be worrying about.

Tuesday, November 7

Proud of Britain

But not its TV, says Mark Lewis

The only reason to watch Trinny and Suzannah Undress (ITV, 8pm) is because Trinny sounds like tranny. And there is the hope that one day her boobs will shrink so small she’ll actually turn into a man. No luck, she’s definitely female. Only she’s not necessarily human. With her blown up lips and botoxed forehead she looks rather extra-trinnestrial.

But no less so than Britain’s favourite sudoku saleswoman, Carol Vorderman, who regrets not trying a bit harder when she was first on television back in 1984. Twenty-two years later, despite all the detox books and makeup, it all seems a bit late.

But somehow she keeps on getting work. Her latest is a plum presenting job on The Pride of Britain Awards (ITV, 9pm), or The Mirror Pride of Britain Awards as they’re properly known. All the papers do it: support a cause or event in tune with the thoughts and aspirations of their readership. The Daily Mail sponsors the Ideal Home Show because it knows its readers are the types who are jolly tired of having their wellies cluttering up their front porches. The audience in the Mirror Pride of Britain Awards look rather like Gary Linekar, Kelly Brook, Tony Blair, and Girls Aloud had infiltrated the Jeremy Kyle Show.

Truth is, many Mirror readers would be happy enough to appear on Jeremy Kyle for having slept with their sister’s husband. But The Mirror knows they would really rather appear for having rescued him from drowning first. And, as cynical as I try to be, and despite the rubbish reconstructions, it is difficult not to be moved by some of the stories.

Apart from the children who face illness with bravery, and the women who clean up sink estates with personality and massive balls, there was the man who rescued a mother and her three year old son from a burning car seconds before it exploded.

Presented with the trophy by the family he saved, he became emotional on stage. Reminded about how she showed a plump middle aged woman how to have more of an hourglass figure through clothes, Trinny was becoming emotional herself. We know this because there were tears running down her face. But since her face was otherwise static, she may have just got some botox in her eye.

Monday, November 6

Just The Music Please

He's an oily sycophant, but Jools Holland's Later is still the best late night programme on TV, says Dennis Flower

Someone suggested I write the review for Later with Jools Holland (Friday,BBC2, 11.35) immediately after it finished while still under the influence. Good job I didn’t as I’d staggered in and heard a few bars of the final song, sitting down as the credits rolled up the screen. So this review would have consisted of swearing and a list of everyone involved in the production of the show.

Luckily for me ­ but unfortunate for anyone having to read this drivel ­ I’d taped it. So as soon as the throbbing in my head reduced to a dull ache the next day, it was on. Having read the other reviews on this site, I’d made my mind up to follow the tell-like-it-is style. The problem is that it’s one of my favourite programmes, and the first of the new series has again endorsed my addiction.

Yes, I realise Jools Holland comes across like an oily sycophant when he sucks up to his various guests, but these consist of brief segments in between the music. They’re a bit like Christmas, hair loss and the England football team losing on penalties in their latest competition: you know it’s coming so get over it!

The show itself has been established on a very basic premise: Five bands taking it in turn to play live ­ yes, live! ­ in the studio. There’s usually a guest that Holland pretends gamely to interview and he also chats briefly to some of the performers. And While the majority of people on the show are there to promote their latest release, the show is still far more enjoyable than having to listen to actors/writers/composers etc blather on about their latest stuff on vacuous chat shows.

I’ve no doubt there’s all manner of back-stage politics ­ (the band will only appear if you get their CD in front of the camera, and don’t mention them in the same sentence as those other tossers). But Holland manages to present the show with the air of an avuncular ring master. Muse was the star band this week and set the tone by opening the show with a rendition of Starlight that would probably have proved fatal if I hadn’t let the hangover subside first.

Of course, if you have the same level of interest in contemporary music as Charles Kennedy has in soft drinks, Later is a complete non starter. But the chances are that most people will find something of interest in the line up. Muse, described in The Times’ TV guide as ‘purveyors of a grandiose,space-inspired rock’ ­ so a rock band, basically ­ blasted their way through three tracks at the start, middle and end of the show. Great stuff. I’d have watched it just for them.

None of Amy Winehouse, the Raconteurs, John Legend, Duke Special and the Gypsy Kings would be on my wish list but all proved enjoyable at various levels. But with a complete absence of exposed nipple-induced titillation this show is not run-of-the-mill late night viewing. There’s an almost complete absence of gyrating, scantily-clad dancers ­ although they would prove a welcome diversion occasionally ­ with the main focus always kept on the music. It remains one of the very few shows that I’ll watch for the full, one hour duration, even when it’s pre-recorded.

The mix of music is always diverse, and even performers that I’ve come to detest are brought down to the same level as everyone else as they’re forced to concentrate on their performance rather than posturing. I hope Jools Holland continues with this show for many years to come. Oh, and by the way, I rather enjoyed it, in case you hadn't guessed.