A FEMALE COPPER HELL-BENT ON REVENGE, SIX PREGNANT HORMONAL WOMEN ABOUT TO DROP ANY SECOND….AND A ARMY MEDIC WHO I WISH HAD NOT PASSED HER MEDICAL EXAMS! This is my review of some of the programmes I have enjoyed and also endured, on British Television in 2014.

 

HAPPY VALLEY(BBC 1).

‘AMAZING ACTING AND WONDERFUL WRITING…..MY FAVOURITE THING ON TV IN 2014’!

Writing earlier this year in the Radio Times, Jack Seale proclaimed how up to that point Happy Valley was the “drama of the year so far”.  In the Telegraph, Gerard O’Donovan citied the “uniformly superb cast” in Happy Valley, and Mark Lawson in The Guardian stated how “Sarah Lancashire gives her best performance”. Many people when reviewing or eating or watching something, decide to leave the best til last. I thought I would break with this tradition and START WITH THE BEST FIRST. I agree wholeheartedly with these quotes I’ve just listed. I’d go as far to say that Happy Valley is one of the best televisions dramas that I have seen in my entire life…..IT’S THAT GOOD!

Set in the rural picturesque Yorkshire area of Hebden Bridge, it focuses on the turbulent life of Police Sergeant Catherine Cawood(played amazingly by Sarah Lancashire). We soon learn that her life is tormented on daily basis by the suicide of her daughter years before, who had a baby after being raped. The gloom that descends Catherine is to do with the knowledge that the perpetrator Tommy Lee Royce(played by the brilliant James Norton) has been released back into the community.  She is determined Tommy Lee Royce will truly pay for what he did to her daughter, and only then once this has happened will she then be able to find some closure.

With the back story now set, we are taken on a journey that involves kidnap, rape, drugs and several murders. We witness many juxtapositions in this drama. The idyllic settings against inner city poverty and deprivation. The love and closeness Catherine feels to her deceased daughter, compared to her distant relation she has with her son(who is angered by her decision to bring up his dead sister’s child. Steve Pemberton is marvellous in the role of Kevin Weatherill, a man who feels his lot has been cheated in life at the hands of his boss Nevison Gallagher(played by George Costigan). It’s this sense of injustice and in particular financial injustice, that sets forward very dramatic actions which will have far reaching consequences.

The plot is original, thought provoking, and although hard to watch at times by the end you feel all the more richer for having witnessed it . This together with the incredible acting and blood pumping soundtrack, makes for utterly compulsive viewing. If you did not see this programme when it was on then you HAVE TO ORDER IT ON DVD. It’s brilliant and the best thing that’s been on telly for years……SIMPLE AS THAT! 5/5.

THE AMERICANS SEASON 2(ITV1).

‘MY KIND OF RUSSIAN SPIES’!

For some reason and I say this somewhat regrettably, I don’t seem to have done the big US dramas over the years. Partly through not realising they were on before it got to late to late to get into them is the main reason I guess. Being a political animal, I know I would have enjoyed West Wing for instance. I have not seen one episode of The Sopranos, The Walking Dead or even Homeland argh. Therefore, it is slightly surprisingly that I have become such a fan of this American drama The Americans,.I somehow stumbled upon the first season on ITV when there was nothing else to watch at that time on the telly. Am I soooooooo glad I did because I quickly became hooked, behind Happy Valley it’s my second favourite thing that has been on the telly in 2014. I’m just praying now ITV decide to show the upcoming third series in early 2015.

To sum it up quickly, it’s set in early 1980s America where the Cold War is in full swing and we follow the lives of two American KGB Russian spies, a married couple called Elizabeth(played by Keri Russell) and Phillip Jennings(played by Welsh actor Matthew Rhys). They have two children Paige and Henry and they are unaware of the double lives their parents lead. The episodes therefore are juxtaposition diet of some dangerous espionage mission the couple are sent on, counterbalanced with challenges that parenthood brings up back at the family home. A highlight of this season was an inquisitive Paige trying to find out what her parents were really up too. We also follow the activities of the FBI and in particular the turbulent life of Agent Stan Beeman(played brilliant by well known actor Noah Emmerich). We fear one day he will find out the true identities of the Jennings but in he had his hands full largely elsewhere in season two. For example, he has an an affair with a Russian spy called Nina(played by Annet Mahendru).

The acting is brilliant, especially from Matthew Rhys, and the fast paced narrative keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. My only criticism to it would be that sometimes the missions they get set can be a bit tricky to fully understand and follow at times. Nothing to stop it being a greatly enjoyable watch but you do have to concentrate at all times when viewing it. I also found the constant adverts from ITV annoying by the end of it’s run. Nevertheless, if that is what it takes or what I have to put up with to see an eagerly anticipated third series early next year, then I can put up with that I guess.  A sign of you loving a show is when you miss it not being on the telly after the series has finished. I’m like this since season two of The Americans has ended, Saturdays nights aren’t just as good anymore. 5/5.

BRITAIN’S GREAT WAR(BBC1).

‘HISTORY THAT SHOULD NEVER BE FORGOTTEN’.

Like many through the years via my education and things in the media, I’ve come to know more about World War Two than World War One. As the time as gone on therefore this has increased my appetite to find out more about World War One. I can remember us studying it briefly one week at University and the horrific mass destruction of it being told. How the entire male population in some villages and towns were wiped out(through death at battle). Therefore, I watched this four part BBC documentary fronted Jeremy Paxman about Britain’s effort in World War One with great anticipation. It was exactly what I had hoped for. It was both extremely informative and incredibly moving, I think moving me to tears on several occasions. David Chater from The Times described this series as “superb” and said “it does justice to the unimaginable scale of a cataclysm”. I agree whole heartedly with his words. Yes, it was  a heavy serious watch but TV is not all about the silly laughter and froth that comes with Reality TV these days. I felt somehow enriched to know more about the suffering and sacrifices that had taken place in this period of time. Furthermore, it made me feel proud of my nation. A great series and starting point if you want to know more about Britain’s role in World War One. 4.5/5.

THE VOICE UK 2014(BBC1).

‘A LOUIS WALSH FREE ZONE………HOORAY’!

As you’re either a boobs or face man, it appears you’re either a X-Factor or The Voice UK  kind of man………..or woman. I’ll let you into an exclusive here girls, I’m a face man and I definitely prefer The Voice UK over The X-Factor ha.  There is no bloody silly clap hands, Louis Walsh on The X-Factor for a start. There is less demeaning of people on this show, no ruddy ad breaks every five seconds, and all the audience from Jeremy Kyle don’t seem to audition for this show either thank God …harsh but fair Andy ha ha. This year we lost judges Danny O’Donoghue(The Script) who I liked, and also the whiny irritating but somewhat likeable, Jessie J. Sadly my least two favourite judges kept their roles, namely Tom Jones(too old) and WILL.I.AM(not funny). The show was refreshed by the new judges Ricky Wilson(The Kaiser Chefs) and Kylie Minogue. Wilson being the ‘indie’ one was my new fav and he came across like a decent, funny bloke. The Aussie superstar Kylie Minogue stole the show however and I bet BBC bosses were gutted to hear she won’t be doing the series again in 2015. She quite literally espouses SEX APPEAL. Lets just say I think her flirty little ways won over the majority of the red blooded males who auditioned. If you had the choice to cuddle up next to her or do the same with Tom Jones, who must smell of cough sweets and Old Spice aftershave, then you don’t even have a decision to make do you? ;D

Even though I was disappointed who won this year’s show in the form of Jermaine Jackson(I wanted the one of the two women to win), like I say I still think it’s the best singing talent show on British television right now. I’m not a superfan or anything like that but it is definitely watchable early on in the year when early Saturday night telly is very poor. 3/5.

IN THE CLUB(BBC1).

‘A MAN FRIENDLY DRAMA ABOUT PREGNANCY’!

Not being that big a fan of the writer Kay Mellor’s finest work in the past(notably Fat Fat Friends), I therefore sat down to watch this half expectant that it wouldn’t be my cup of tea.  After all, it’s about six pregnant women who have formed a close bond via going to Antenatal classes.  I’m not female(not the last time I looked anyway), have thus never been pregnant, nor am I a man who has fathered any kids yet either. Nevertheless, by the end of the first episode I had really enjoyed it and was hooked. This is because my initial synopsis of the show does not do it any justice, there is a lot more to it than just six pregnant women. Yes strong pregnant women are at the core of Mellor’s writing, but it focuses  on their lives, their relationships, and their famillies. We see Will Mellor give his best performance to date in my opinion. He plays the likeable but desperate Rich who has been made redundant six months previously, whose family are at financial breaking point. This results in him making a botch job of trying rob a bank near the end of episode one. It is dramatic stuff brilliantly played by Will Mellor and is furthermore well written by his namesake Kay. Teenage pregnancy is another focus as well as the issue of a lesbian falling in love with her sperm donor. There is great comedy too, my highlight being Asian Father Dev(played by Sacha Dhawan) leaving his new born baby in the van whilst going to the supermarket, forgetting he now was a Dad(it was funnier than it sounds) .

Whilst leaving itself open for a second series, the final sixth episode was a real cracker. It focused primarily on Midwife Vicky(played by Christine Bottomley) and the birth of her baby. It was dramatic, moving and ends on a real feel good note. I was pleased to hear soon after it had finished that it has been recommissioned for a second series next year. Ellen E Jones wrote in The Independent how it was a “warm new drama that could grow into something special”…and I’ll conclude by saying I fully agree! 4/5.

CARL FROCH V GEORGE GROVES II(SKY BOX OFFICE).

‘FROCH DOES THE UK POPULATION A FAVOUR AND FINALLY SHUTS UP MR BIG MOUTH’!

After the controversial first fight and George Groves claiming he was robbed(he got controversially stopped by the Ref), once this rematch got made it was always going to be a real cracker. Groves continued to goad Froch in the buildup but this time Froch handled himself a lot better. He didn’t get as emotionally involved as did in the first fight, allowing Groves back then to severely wind him up. This was a more mature Froch and boy did I really want him to shut this immature, cocky prick up.  People were cheering Groves by the end of the first fight yet he let his mouth run away with him again in the build up to this rematch. I remember thinking to myself as the fight was just about to start,’God, Groves is going to be unbearable if he beats Froch here’. Sky Sports  and promoter Eddie Hearn did a brilliant job production and promoting wise, they built it up to be this ‘must see event’ you just had to see if you were a big sports fan like myself. Eighty thousand fans were crammed into Wembley Stadium on that epic night. The night was made perfect when Carl Froch floored Groves with a brutal knockdown in Round 8. According to Froch, it was “the best ever punch I’ve thrown in my life”….and boy did I shout out loud in relief afterwards. It was a great sporting occasion and one where Sachin Nakrani in The Guardian quite rightly stated, “proof that this most brutal of sports retains the capacity to captivate the masses”. 4/5.

LAW AND ORDER UK(ITV1).

‘INSPECTOR MORSE THIS AIN’T’!

I watched this two or three times this year and each time I came to damning conclusion that it’s a load of GARBAGE! I’ve just read a review about it on Digital Spy where it’s ‘crime-over-character’ format is praised. One of the stars of it Ben Bailey Smith furthermore sees this aspect of it as a positive too. It refers to lack of continued stories over episodes, and them showing stand alone stories that you can dip in and out of in our busy lives.  This is what I HATED about it however and the seemingly very disjointed nature of it. The show lacks coherency in my opinion. I was fed up of it jumping about, repeated flashing captions on the screen of the date and time . I felt a disconnect towards the characters and so this meant I didn’t care about any of them. It didn’t draw me in and I struggled many times maintain a suspension of disbelief(forget it wasn’t actors just ‘acting’).  It felt like this was a crime detective show written in bullet points rather than continued flowing prose. I love Bradley Walsh fronting The Chase quiz show, but I just didn’t find him believable playing DS Ronnie Brooks in this. Worst and more irritating still was his new young sidekick DS Joe Hawkins(played by the aforementioned Ben Bailey Smith). The character was too eager and irritating and looked better suited being a children’s TV presenter rather than a crime fighter. If Ben Bailey Smith looks like a Copper than I look like a ballerina……….and take my word for it I DON’T ha! Harsh, but this is one of the worse things I have sat down and watched this year, not for me! 1/5.

THE WIDOWER(ITV1).

A DISTURBING TRUE STORY THAT KEEPS YOU WATCHING RIGHT TIL THE END!

This three part drama tells the true story of real-life murderer Malcolm Webster(played by Reece Shearsmith. He sets about poisoning and murdering his first wife(played by Sheridan Smith), attempts to do the same to his second wife(Kate Fleetwood), and moves on to try and deceive his third wife(Archie Panjabi) over several things. I should point out claiming life insurance and so benefiting financially was his motive for such behaviour.  One thing I distinctly remembering him doing with his third wife(not his wife then I don’t think), was to make up he had leukaemia. The image of Shearsmith shaving his head and staring directly down the lens of the camera was an extemely striking and real menacing site to witness.

All in all I thought this was a really engaging watch and was a bit surprised when I read a few negative press reviews of it slagging off the writing/script. I guess I fell into the trap of taking everything at face value that I watched, didn’t approach it critically enough due to the, ‘it’s a true story’ tagline. The argument by Lucy Mangan in The Guardian is that the dialogue was too weak, along with the depiction of his first wife Claire being unconvincing. I must admit I never thought about such things but in hindsight I can see where she is coming from. That said, I think Reece Shearsmith gives a brilliant performance as Malcolm Webster. Physically he does not appear threatening whatsoever, he appears somewhat meek and mild, all of which makes his criminal actions and deceits seem all the more unsettling.

A good watch in my opinion. 4/5.

LONG LOST FAMILY – SERIES 4 (ITV1).

‘MAKES ME CRY LIKE A BABY EVERY TIME I WATCH THIS’!

When a programme makes you cry every time you watch it(happy tears I mean), then you know you must be enjoying it. This is what happens to me every time I watch Long Lost Family, it gets me going every time and I just can’t help it. I can remember watching the TV BAFTAs this year and when Long Lost Family won one I moaned and scoffed because I’d had never seen it up to that point. I’m not sure why I hadn’t seen any of the first three series, probably due to my instant dislike for ITV(partly due to Simon Cowell and Jeremy Kyle). I’m therefore not quite sure how I came to watch it this year. It must have been by accident somehow but am I so pleased I did. I am now completely hooked, it is one of the best things on the telly in my view.

Just in case there are any aliens out there reading this review who have not got a clue what it is about, then let me explain by saying it’s about reuniting families. It focuses on on two stories a week where one could be say an adopted child(now adult) searching for their biological Mother and family. Alternately, Mothers who gave up their child for adoption years earlier and want to be reunited with their child are often featured.  The back stories about how the separation occurred are always really interesting and profoundly moving. The stories about these people draw you in, you come to care for them. The climax of them then being reunited is just brilliant television. Yes, it might be a bit soppy for some I guess and I dare say the producers are high fiving whenever they see tears on screen, but I don’t care to be honest because seeing human happiness is a lovely thing to see.  As Sam Woollaston in The Guardian  stated, “It’s so moving because it’s real, and it’s about separation and hurt, guilt and regret, growing up, identity, belonging, family, love, life. Now I’m blubbing like a baby”. 5/5.

PREY(ITV1).

‘AFTER BEING IN FULL FLIGHT, THIS BIRD OF PREY HAD A CRASH LANDING’!

As the trailer for this at the time was being shown around the clock non-stop, I therefore had big expectations as I sat down to watch the first part of this three part crime drama.  Instantly it drew me in and I thought the first two parts made for cracking, pulsating viewing. In the locality of Manchester(which being a Mancunian I loved), we see a Copper in the form of DS Marcus Farrow(played by John Simms) escape from a prison van after being wrongly charged with the murder of his wife and one of his sons. We go back in time and are shown the events that lead up to this run for freedom. He then sets on trying to prove his innocence which is tricky because those who he thinks are his allies, indeed turn out to be the ones trying to frame him. A major figure here is his boss DCI Andrea Mckenzie(played by the gorgeous Anastasia Hille).

The first two episodes were really enjoyable to watch but the final part was a big let down in my opinion. I later asked my sister her views about it(cos I know she’d been watching it) and she agreed with me that the ending was weak. The third part felt rushed to me. It tried tying up all the loose end in about fifteen minutes when I think a slower pace and fourth part would have been better. I know it was a fast paced from the start and that was part of its initial appeal I accept, however it was going faster than Linford Christie by the end and thus led to its detriment. The plot towards the end seemed somewhat corny, convoluted and difficult to follow. I also found Anastasia Hille’s character unconvincing in this crucial concluding part.

It started off great but the ending let it down, shame! 3.5/5 

WOULD I LIE TO YOU?(BBC1).

‘A PANEL SHOW THAT REALLY MAKES ME LAUGH’!

Chaired by Rob Brydon and two teams captained by comedians Robert Mitchell and Lee Mack, this is sort of like a confessional, funny game of Call My Bluff. Various confessions/revelations are told by panel members and the other team has to guess if it’s a ‘truth or lie’? The most amusing bit for me is when they play the round of ‘the mystery person’. Here a team has to guess which panelist on the opposing team knows this person, via three explanations given to them by each opposing team member….it’s much funnier than it sounds trust me ha. Lee Mack is the star of the show for me, particularity when he gets given totally implausible things to say and try and make the other team believe. Bob Mortimer has been the guest/team member of the series so far in my opinion. He had some hilarious and truthful anecdotes to share on the show. I agree with what Sam Woollaston wrote about it in The Guardian this year. He comments how clearly it comes across that the guests on the show are having an enjoyable time. He adds further, “It’s a friendly show, more about joy than cruelty or humiliation”. 4/5.

OUR GIRL(BBC1).

‘ABOUT AS BELIEVABLE AS THE TOOTH FAIRY’!

I’ll cut to the chase and say right away how flawed I think this drama was on sooooooooo many levels. To be more crude I’ll say at times I sat there watching it, laughing to myself at what garbage it was. I gave up after episode two, missed episode three, but for some reason then ended up watching the last two episodes. I blame it on me being an old romantic at heart. I’ll begrudgingly admit regardless of my criticisms, I wanted to see our Army Medic Molly Dawes(played by Lacey Turner) wander off into the sunset happily ever after with Captain Charles James(played by Ben Aldridge).  Back to being critical though, this army drama was full of stereotypes, clichés, ropey acting and poor writing.  I came away believing I could have written something better given a twelve script writing course, modesty has never been my strongest point ha ha ha.

Right, first the clichés and stereotypes then.  We had posh middle class Captain James, who spoke like he’d just come straight from studying at Eton. We had the rowdy ‘wacky’ banter from the soldiers which was completely over the top and seemed forced. I was pleased to read Rupert Hawksley in The Telegraph agree with me about this. He said, “the testosterone-fulled ‘banter’ between the young soldiers lacking any authenticity or spontaneity “. There was also this awful stereotypical Afghan Army member who looked about as appealing on the eye as E.T, and who was troubled by Molly Dawes female presence there. ie not thinking women should do just jobs or roles.  Some of dialogue between Molly and this nasty Afghan dude was really cringe worthy to listen too. When she mouthed off about him later to Captain James, it sounded like she was in the playground rather than at the theatre of war. Another cringe worthy dialogue moment to note was when a separate Afghan soldier quizzed a Man United supporting squaddie from Manchester, asking if he was indeed a Liverpool fan( that he or came from Liverpool, can’t quite exactly remember which for definite)?  The soldier(played by Sean Ward) duly muttered some unconvincing annoyance back at him and I think we were supposed to find this funny. It was the old Manchester vs Liverpool sort of joke. I just remembering grimacing when it had been said.

I agree with Ellen E Jones in The Independent that the show was too much about Lacey Turner. We see her being sent to Afghanistan on her first deployment which is fine, but the writer turned her into some kind of over the top, life saving heroine type of character . In episode one she saves the life of a wounded soldier after nearly crippling herself via  landmine explosion. That was a bit far fetched but in episode five when she is the one who saves the day by shooting dead a gun raging Taliban member, then it did seem about as corny as a bag of Kellogg’s Cornflakes. Speaking of unrealism and believe me there was plenty, I have to comment on the ANNOYING OBSESSION the Molly Dawes character had with a young Afghan girl called Bashira. This element of the drama DROVE ME AROUND THE RUDDY BEND! Molly first comes across Bashira on a routine patrol her squadron do. She gives her a pen as an act of goodwill towards the local population. She then comes across her again out on another patrol and then suddenly for some reason Molly becomes entangled and obsessed with her. Throughout the rest of the series then Molly is constantly whimpering and worrying about the fate of this little girl. Molly even is still going on about Bashira and her safety when she returns home after her first deployment is over. There seemed to be two running stories throughout  the series, her love triangle with Captain James and her pal soldier Smurf(played by Iwan Rheon)and THIS BLOODY BORING UNREALISTIC ONE ABOUT BASHIRA. I could be wrong because I’ve never served in any of the Armed Forces, but I just do not believe a highly trained army professional in real life would have acted like this. I don’t believe in a real army medic would allow themselves to get so emotionally involved with a random girl they spotted on patrol missions a few times. Also, Molly is there supposedly seeing the awful sites of war and all the psychological trauma that this brings, yet here she is seemingly more affected about the fate of this one girl, who weeks previously she had never known. It just did not make sense why Molly became so obsessed with her. This obsession culminated in me then witnessing one of the most unrealistic things I think I’ve ever witnessed in a British TV drama. Molly rings up an Afghan soldier friend of hers and with his help he locates where Bashira is(at some safe coalition location/school). When she goes back to do more service out in Afghanistan she forces this friend to tell her exactly where Bashira is. We then see this ridiculous sequence where to gain entry to see Bashira, Lacey Turner impersonates BADLY being an Afghan wife. I’ve seen some unrealistic things in my time but Lacey Turner dressed up in a yellow burka pretending to an Afghan wife is right up there……..deary me. I was right with this last episode which predominantly focused on the love story between her and Captain James, then this segment on the Bashira storyline goes and stretches the realms of realism that bit too far………….AGAIN!

It was not all bad though I guess. The love story however unrealistic that too might have been, I did enjoy watching. I’m pleased there was a happy ending for Molly Dawes and Captain James. The soundtrack was the best thing of it too, loving the band London Grammar now as a result. I just wish the writing and acting in this drama could have been so much better. 2.5/5

 STELLA(SKY1).

‘THIS THIRD PINT OF STELLA TASTED A BIT FLAT’!

After loving the first two series of this, I’m afraid to say this third one was a bit of a let down to be honest. Yes it still made for easy enjoyable viewing in the cold winter months and wasn’t terrible, however it’s just didn’t enthral me that much.  Part of the reason for this was due to some of the developed stories in the first two series coming to a natural conclusion by the end of series two. Therefore, new stories and plot had to be created and some of these new ones in series three weren’t that great in my view. We also partly as a consequence of this, had major changes in the cast in series three. Stella’s brother and sister-in-law(played by Owen Teale and Elizabeth Berrington) who brought great comedy to the show, were completely missing and I think this was very detrimental to the show. Stella loony ex-husband Karl Morris only appeared towards the end of the series and again I think the show missed the humour this character brings. As a result I think his wife in the show Nadine(played by Karen Paullada), was a bit sidelined in series 3. Her role in this series was to be the organiser of a dieting club. To me it just smacked of needing to find a role for this character otherwise she’s stuffed. I didn’t find this ‘slimming club’ element of the show particularly funny or original either. Sean(played by Kenny Doughty)  the likeable ex boyfriend was nowhere to be seen, neither was her first love Rob Morgan(played by Mark Lewis Jones) or Stella’s adulterous son-in-law Sunil(played by Rory Girvan). Some of the new characters worked but others didn’t. I loved the addition of Celia(played by Emma Rydal) but hated Aunty Brenda’s ‘hippy’ daughter Vivienne. I just didn’t find this ‘new age’ character funny, when I think we were supposed too. This also applies to Stella’s new Nurse Tutor. I found her amusing at the start but by the end of the series she was starting to really grate on me.

The main premise/plot for series three was Stella getting a new neighbour next door, in the form of solicitor Michael Jackson(played by Patrick Baladi).  I found this story of them not getting on and then getting on and becoming a couple, a bit unoriginal and formulaic if I’m honest. I could see it coming a mile off and so it all felt a bit predictable. Nevertheless, I was guilty of hoping that this couple had a happy ending by the end of the series….the old romantic in me rises to the surface again ha. I also thought the story around Stella’s daughter Emma(played by Catrin Stewart), was pretty weak and uninspiring. Basically she gets a job at a hairdressers and has it off with her boss Marcus Jensen(played by James Thornton). I’m sure James Thornton is a nice guy in real life but as an actor and voice over man he does my head in. I don’t think he’s a great actor and I’m fed up of hearing him do the voice over to trailers on SKY….wanted to rant about his annoying voice all year ha ha. I did however love Big Al(played by the brilliant Steve Speirs) finally find love in the form of Celia. Their romance was beautifully written and I thought they had great chemistry together on screen. The bit where Big Al gets in a state about taking Celia back to his house after a night out (because it’s been awhile since he last did it and how could anybody fancy him), I found this really moving and endearing to watch. For me, Steve Speirs remains the best thing the programme. I find his character very funny and it was good to see this more vulnerable side to him.

Summing up then, I didn’t hate this third series of Stella but I wasn’t bowled over by it either. As I said at the start, it was like having a nice beer(series one and two), which had sadly now gone a bit flat(series three). 3/5.

BUMBLE! THE DAVID LLOYD STORY(SKY SPORTS ORIGINALS).

‘DAFT AS A BRUSH, JUST LIKE ME’!

If you love cricket, David Lloyd(aka Bumble), and are a proud Lancastrian like me, then you will enjoy this cricket documentary about his life immensely. You could just like one of these things and you’ll also love it. With great interviews, anecdotes and archive footage, we are taken through the progression of his entire career in cricket. We hear how he started out at Accrington Cricket Club, what it meant to play for Lancashire, and how his playing and coaching career with England went. The now infamous “we flippin murdered em” line, he reportedly used when England Coach after a Test Match once is amusingly commented on.  The funniest line was when he is seen talking on an old Australian chat show, discussing what he said to the Aussie fielders during an Ashes Test Match after being struck in the ‘unmentionables’ by fast bowler Jeff Thomson. I think I replayed the punchline to this joke about ten times and still found it funny every time ha ha. I also loved the regular comments about him from Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton. Both played under Bumble as players and now work alongside him in the Sky commentary box. They speak in warm glowing terms about Bumble and it comes across as entirely genuine. Nasser in a Sky interview about the documentary said, “He’s great fun and a great guy, and thoroughly professional with it too.  He’s one of the best broadcasters in the world in my opinion”.

I enjoyed this programme that much I could have watched at least another thirty minutes of it. A really good watch in my opinion about a greatly loved sports broadcaster. 4/5.

COMMON(BBC1).

‘ANOTHER THOUGHT PROVOKING MASTERPIECE FROM MCGOVERN’!

If you are a big fan of the writer Jimmy McGovern like I am then you will also highly regard this drama too. This one-off ninety minute drama focused solely around the controversial law of Joint Enterprise/Common Purpose, is extremely thought provoking, political, and profoundly moving.  Set in a northern working-class town, the lead character Johnjo O’Shea(brilliantly played by Nico Mirallegro) who is this naive timid lad, borrows his older brother’s car and takes some friends to get a pizza. Unbeknowns to Johnjo(who waits outside in the car) this is a cover story by his older mates because really they want to get to this pizza place to confront a rival gang member who is there.  A innocent bystander in the shop gets caught up in the melee and is fatally stabbed by one of his mates.

The rest of the drama therefore focuses on the fall out of the murder. After all the boys are subsequently arrested we are then confronted by this law of Social Enterprise. McGovern strongly paints this is a law that discriminates against the working-classes. A law that is seemingly unjust because Johnjo is thus implicated in a murder he knew nothing prior about or had any direct involvement with. As the character Shelagh(played by Michelle Fairley) frantically shouts at Johnjo’s Mother(played by Jodhi May), “this is about getting working-class scum off our streets”. The raw emotion of grief is another aspect that the drama deals with superbly. We have the grieving Mother of the boy who was stabbed(played excellently by Susan Lynch) and the grieving Mother of Johnjo, who has lost her son to time inside prison. The best scene perhaps is at the end when we see these two grieving Mothers embrace. This is an emotive story where there no winners, only losers sadly.

To conclude then, I really thought this was a great watch and McGovern remains one of our best television drama writers in my view. It is a heavy watch and there weren’t any laughs in it but I came away feeling slightly empowered by it. Empowered because I know knew more about the world than I had before watching. I came away feeling more politicised, pleased I had spent the last ninety minutes watching this programme. 4.5/5.

DANCING ON ICE -SERIES 9 ALL-STARS(ITV1).

‘THE ICE FINALLY MELTS ON DANCING ON ICE AND THUS IS NO MORE……………..HOORAY’!

After running for eight years, ITV decided this would be the last year we would see this poor relation to Strictly Come Dancing aired. Torvill and Dean might have been crying at this news but when I heard this news I was positively overjoyed. For me, it was fun to watch at first but as time has wore on it just got very boring and bland. It has never had the calibre of celebrities on it that Strictly had. Compared to Strictly, the whole spectacle just seemed less impressive somehow, less exciting even. If I was to use a supermarket analogy then I’d see Strictly as being more Waitrose, to the ASDA or even ALDI that is Dancing On Ice. It became a chore to watch it and I for one am pleased it has come to an end.

To celebrate it’s final year ex-champions and a selection of other former contestants were invited back on to the show. There was the mix of great skaters such as Ray Quinn and Beth Tweddle, together with the so called’ funny acts’ in the form of Todd Carty and Joe Pasquale.  The show dragged on again in my opinion. The presenters really got on my nerves in the form of Phillip Schofield and Christine Bleakley. Schofield can’t do comedy and so his attempts at humour really made me cringe.  Furthermore, his voice doing the voice overs on the VT clips which went up and down more than a rollercoaster at Alton Towers…..DROVE ME AROUND THE BEND ha ha. Regarding Bleakley, I just can’t bear her. After her breakfast show stint went tits-up, it smacked of ITV needing to justify her wage by having her on there replacing the much more likeable Holly Willoughby. The constant adverts wound me up too and don’t get me even started on the judges.  Judge Jason Gardiner was/is a complete abomination, a man only his Mother could like I fear. Whereas Craig Revel Horwood makes me laugh on Strictly, this guy lacked this. He became almost a caricature of ‘a nasty judge’, with no redeeming features either.

In the end then, the somewhat irritating Ray Quinn deservedly won the final series of Dancing On Ice .  It did have a place once upon a time in the TV schedules however like I have said,  I agree with it now being axed. Television moves on and I look forward to a January that is now FINALLY Dancing On Ice free.2/5.

GRANTCHESTER(ITV1)

‘A DETECTIVE VICAR WHO WAS MORE BURGER KING THAN MISS MARPLE’!

I need to be honest from the off and say I’m reviewing this show/series having only seen the first episode.  I gave up after seeing the first one, due to it failing to win me over and get me hooked. I didn’t find this first episode abhorrent or anything, I just found it a bit bland, the plot a bit rushed.

It’s set in the 1950s, in a rural village near Cambrigeshire. Vicar Sidney Chambers(played by the brilliant actor James Norton) is a kind of amateur detective, and in this first episode is involved in trying to work out if a man did indeed commit suicide or whether he was murdered instead. He’s partner in crime so to speak in trying to sort this out, is over worked Detective Inspector George Keating(played by Robson Green). This episode was perfectly watchable and up to a point I was enjoying it.  The settings were very picturesque, I liked the old fashioned feel to it too. The script however let it down. Too many ad breaks punctured the intrigue and the case was solved before I could really get my teeth into it. It was like eating a fast food meal, over too quickly and left you feeling little under nourished afterwards. I don’t mean by this that I crave drawn out detective dramas that don’t get on with it and are a torture to watch, but the plot resolution here was achieved far too quickly. One minute we see him get approached by a woman claiming it was not a suicide, then the next minute we see him almost magically solve the mystery….Paul Daniels would have struggled to keep up with this kid I’m telling you ha ha.  I have a problem in general with television crime dramas that try and do everything within an just hour(well 45mins with adverts). I’m also not sure whether I found his Army flashbacks that convincing either, all bit too theatrical for me. Robson Green was OK as the Copper however I would not have cast him in such a role.

To conclude then, all over a bit too quickly for me and it didn’t leave me dying to watch episode two………so I never did! 2.5/5.

RINGSIDE(SKY SPORTS).

‘LANDS A KNOCK-OUT BLOW ALMOST EVERY TIME’!

Presented by former ex Cruiserweight Champion of the World Johnny Nelson and Head of Sky Sports Boxing Adam Smith, this is the best boxing magazine show on the telly in my opinion. They recap the weekend just gone in the world of boxing and preview upcoming events. It does a great job in helping to promote and build up big upcoming fights. For example, the highlight this year was having George Groves and Carl Froch come on together for a lively debate about their then, upcoming rematch. Last week there was a similar spectacle which brought together arch rivals Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly. With you fearing any minute it might actually ‘kick off’ if the right buttons were pressed, it really did make for compulsive viewing. They also have a great selection of boxing personalities come on every week and give their opinions about what is happening in boxing right now. I also like a feature they do periodically on ex boxers who hit hard times immediately after finishing boxing, but who are now making a success of things in their lives once again. Ex boxer Jaime Moore is great conducting such interviews, was profoundly moved by one such story once.

A great show for a big boxing fan like myself. 3.5/5.

THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF(BBC1).

‘I DO LOVE A SOGGY BOTTOM, DO YOU’?

The best cooking show on television and the record audiences it had this year proves I am not alone thinking this. This year it moved to BBC1 from BBC2 and a staggering audience of 12.3 million watched the final. It had a five minute peak 13.3 million viewers and is on course to be the most watched programme in 2014. The winner was a Sixty year old former GP Surgery Manager called Nancy from Lincolnshire, beating the big favourite Richard to the much coveted prize.

The key thing that make this programme work in my opinion is that it is so quintessentially English. Although the funny food innuendos make us laugh(apart from the Daily Mail readers is seems, argh), it has this very English prim and proper quality to it. The theme music has a jolly jingle bell feel to it and the title sequence ends showing us a cake covered in icing sugar. The idyllic rural setting in Welford Park, Berkshire, gives us this romanticised view of an England that is ever decreasing today sadly. It gives the programme an air of welcome English nostalgia, it furthermore gives it a touch of class. Female judge Mary Berry exudes Englishess. She has great English style, grace, and diction.  As with that very English game of cricket, the Bake Off is contested with an air of grace and fair play to it. When this ‘fair play’ ideal was messed in this series, the audience came out screaming. In episode four we had ”BINGATE” and involved or seemingly involved, one of the contestants removing somebody else’s ice cream from the freezer. Iain’s ice cream thus melted and in frustration he threw his whole dish into the bin. Diana was guilty of espionage it seemed and can you believe more than 800 complaints were made about this….GET A LIFE, one is tempted to say! As Julia Raeside in The Guardian stated, “somewhere in a landfill a binned baked alaska festers in a plastic bag, unaware of its brief moment at the centre of the universe”. Diana mysteriously quit the show straight after due to a said ‘health condition’, and so this English sense of order and of fair play was quickly restored. As a nation that loves to root for the underdog a victory for Richard would just not have gone down as well, or befitted this sense of Englishess as much.

There isn’t much to moan about, apart from me saying I thought it did drag on a bit towards the end this series. I could have done with say two episodes less. It has a very successful format no doubt, I just found it a bit samey as is it neared towards the final. I also lost a bit of interest in it when my favourite contestant, the lovely sweet Martha got eliminated. These are only very small gripes however. It’s a great family show(regardless of what the nasty Daily Mail now says) and I’m already looking forward to watching  series 6 in 2015. 4/5.

CORONATION STREET(ITV1).

‘IF YOU’RE A MANCUNIAN LIKE ME THEN YOU LOVE CORRIE, IT’S AS SIMPLE AS THAT’!

As a boy from Manchester, at the age three my Dad gave me my first pint of Boddingtons Bitter to sup.   Mum on the other hand forced me to watch Coronation Street instead of cartoons…..HONEST! Ha ha OK hands up, maybe none of those things ever actually happened but Coronation Street has always seemed to be a part of my life. I’ve grown up with it always being on. Now when I watch it, I do with a certain amount of pride. I’m proud that millions of people tune in every week to be enthralled by a Soap Opera that comes from my home town of Manchester.  To me, it’s the best soap Opera on British television…..and it’s the ONLY one I watch I should add, so it has be ha ha. I can’t be doing with all that cockney cobblers on Eastenders, all that jellied eels and Knees Up Mother Brown bollocks………YUCK, YUCK, YUCK. On a serious note, for me Eastenders lacks the charm that Corrie has. Corrie can make you laugh out loud one night, then move you to tears the next. Eastenders can’t do this and neither can any other British Soap Opera for that matter. Corrie is special to me and in 2014 this soap certainly did not disappoint.

The first storyline in 2014 that I would like applaud and comment on, was the one featuring the Windass family. This was where the boyfriend of Anna Windass(played by Debbie Rush), Owen Armstrong(played by Ian Puleston-Davies), decided to go into a property venture with dodgy geezer Pat Phelan(played by Connor McIntyre).  As a result of Phelan coming on to Anna, her son Gary(played by Mikey North) found out and he ended up assaulting him and potentially leaving him for dead. Phelan survived however and then proceeds to blackmail Owen, with the CCTV footage he has of Gary attacking him. He uses this as a way to ruin Owen financially, leaving Owen broke. Anna in a bid solve the crisis then sleeps with Phelan…think of it as a more uglier version of that Hollywood film, Indecent Proposal ha ha. In the aftermath, we saw the financial and emotional strain this took on Owen and Anna’s realtionship. As a character who has always been dead tough and took no messing, it was great to see this more vulnerable side of the actor Ian Puleston-Davies. I thought he was the stand out performer in this storyline, though many will no doubt see this as Debbie Rush.

A major storyline just about nearing it’s conclusion now is the one that started with Tina McIntyre(played by Michelle Keegan) having it off with Peter Barlow(played by Chris Gascoyne), only then for somebody to murder her, and then for this attacker to finally get caught…namely Rob Donovan(played by Marc Baylis). You could argue this storyline went on forever but it did make for some compulsive viewing along the way. Chris Gascoyne in particular needs a mention here for his great acting as Peter.

The best storyline featured in Corrie this year though was the suicide of terminally ill cancer sufferer Hayley Cropper(played by Juile Hesmondhalgh). Some of the performances that Julie and David Neilsen(who played her husband Roy) gave, were some of the finest and most moving I think I’ve ever witnessed in a Soap Opera. The writing was was also magnificent, especially the episodes that showed and dealt her passing away. Ben Lawrence writing in The Telegraph described how these final episodes were, “something special”. Likewise Lucy Mangan in The Guardian said the two episodes were “finely scripted” and featured “some of the best performances the cobbles have ever seen”. The subject which is still a rather taboo subject in society was handled superbly by the writers. It didn’t seek to glamorise assisted dying which would have been wrong, rather the show allowed for debate in the mainstream media. We had Hayley on the one hand who wanted to die on her own terms, no longer wanting to be the victim to this cruel illness. Roy offered the other perspective, desperate for his dearly loved wife to live for as long as she could.  It displayed just what an important function Soap Operas can have in our society.

I remain a big Corrie fan and look forward to many more nights watching it in 2015.4/5.

TRYING AGAIN(SKY LIVING).

‘RATHER TRYING TO WATCH IN PLACES’!

Nic Wright on the GIGGLE BEATS website gives a rather damning review of this series, and says the best thing you can say about it is that it was ‘nice’. Wright refers to it being unoriginal, having dull characters, and it ultimately it just not being funny enough. I agree with all this and was happy when I read such a review. It was created and written by Chris Addison(IIn The Thick of It, Direct Line ads)and In The Thick of It writer Simon Blackwell. Staring Chris Addison(as Matt) and Jo Joyner(as Meg), it follows the lives of a couple who are trying to mend their relationship after Meg slept with her boss at work. I must admit I did find the first episode OK, however by the end of episode three I was getting a bit bored by it. It was perfectly watchable, I just expected bigger things from it given all the trailers there had been for it on SKY.  I thought the Relationship Counselling sessions were funnyish (the Counsellor played by Katherine Jakeways), but Matt’s ‘funny’ mate at work Sam (played Alun Cochrane) , wasn’t funny and really got on my nerves. I got to episode three or four and then gave up, also partly due to Virgin Media delaying putting the next episode up on SKY ON DEMAND for ages. I somehow got behind with it and never got round to watching the rest of it….I ended up just losing interest. Jo Joyner was by far the best thing in it and remains a brilliant telly actress. I found out yesterday that in October of this year Sky released a statement saying that this programme WILL NOT be coming back for a second series. By the end of the series it’s audience had halved to only 137,000, so not surprising really.

Failed to live up to my high expectations 2.5/5.

TOMMY COOPER : NOT LIKE THAT, LIKE THIS(ITV1).

‘A FLAWED COMEDIC GENIUS!

Being born in 1976 I can just about remember legendary comedian Tommy Copper.   I can just about remember hearing about his shocking death in 1984, shocking because he had a massive heart attack whilst performing live at the London Palladium in front of millions watching on TV.  Alongside Eric Morecambe, Cooper is up there with the best comedians to have ever lived in my view. Not everybody’s cup of tea with his daft slapstick jokes I grant you but a comedic genius nonetheless to me.

This biopic depicted his life when he was in his late 40s, when his showbiz career is booming yet he is a tortured soul with many personal problems. For example, he’s racked with stage fright, begins to drink heavily, and starts an seventeen year affair with a TV girl called Mary Kay(played by Helen McCrory). Actor David Threlfall is magnificent in the role as Tommy Cooper, the comedy he impersonates is very close to the real thing. Amanda Redman also gives a strong performance as his strong battle hardened wife Gwen ‘Dove’ Cooper. It’s strange because as you watch Tommy have this affair, not once did  become disapproving of him. I also find domestic abuse disgraceful yet when the drama alluded to Cooper hitting Mary, I felt sadness rather than anger towards him. This also applies to us seeing him seemingly drink and smoke himself to death, he was a heart attack waiting to happen. The fatal scene where he did indeed have a heart attack was very movingly portrayed by Threlfall. It left me with this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I didn’t want this scene to ever take place though even though I knew it was  coming. Instead of this happening I wanted this the big lovable buffoon to have been able to buffoon about for many more years. Up to this point the script wasn’t very hard hitting or profound in any way but his death indeed was.

On the negative side not everybody liked this bio-opic and I refer in particular to Cooper’s daughter Vicky.  She blasted the filmmakers for inaccuracies saying her father “would turn in his grave”. The writer Simon Nye defended this however by quoting Mary and her son saying, “the violence was on record”. From my perspective, I would have liked to seen a bit more about the younger Tommy Cooper. Why did he become a comedian, why was the Fez hat his famous prop, why did this larger than life character suffer so badly with stage fright? For any fan of his though it was a entertaining watch, albeit very sad one at the end. The script like I say could have been a bit more meaty but it was definitely worth watching. David Threlfall’s great performance alone was reason enough to have watched it. Unlike today with many performers, it harked back to a pleasanter time when comedy wasn’t all about vulgarity. Tommy Cooper was funny because he just simply had ‘FUNNY BONES’ AND I FOR ONE SALUTE YOU SIR! 3.5/5.

TUMBLE(BBC1) .

‘WATCHING THE TUMBLE DRYER SEEMS MORE APPEALING THAN WATCHING A SECOND SERIES OF THIS’.

OK then lets cut to chase here regarding what I thought of this new programme on the Beeb this Summer. I found the presenter Alex Jones irritating, the judges which included Team GB gymnast Louis Smith very over-the-top, and the celebrities annoyingly acting like overly cheerful kids TV presenters. Have you guessed by now that I wasn’t that big a fan of it ha ha? This seemingly was the BBC’s  gymnastics version of ITV’s Splash(where C-list celebrities have a diving contest). Over the course of a few weeks ten ‘so called’ celebrities were given gymnastic and acrobatic challenges and in true Reality TV fashion, a winner was declared at the end of it.  Now to be honest I only tuned into this because I’d heard the boxer Carl Froch was being in it. I found his bits quite interesting to watch but until he was on I had my finger hard pressed on the fast-forward button. Now if I was a hormonal twelve year old girl then I may have loved this show, but I’m not, I’m a thirty-seven year old bloke who felt it was being aimed at a much younger audience. My knees didn’t wobble at watching young heartthrob Bobby Lockwood doing a handstand,  H from Steps doing the splits still with that silly childlike grin on his face didn’t float my boat either, and Oh God bless her but Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud looked to be a few short of a full deck. If Carl Froch had deservedly won like he should have done then I could have been tempted to overlook the failings of this show. As it was and as I feared from very early on, the bloody pubescent audience voted Bobby Lockwood as the winner ARGH ARGH ARGH! Happy knockabout Saturday night kids TV I guess but at this precise moment doing the TUMBLE drying seems more appealing than watching series two! 2/5. 

RYAN GIGGS : A UNITED LIFE(SKY SPORTS ORIGINALS).

‘I WANT A HAIRY CHEST LIKE RYAN GIGGS’!

I think it’s safe to say that if you’re a Man City or Liverpool FC fan then this documentary probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re a big Manchester United fan like me then you’ll happily lap this up with apparent ease. Yes, I strongly disapprove of his past ‘extra curricular’ activities should we say, but there is no doubting he is one of the finest players to have ever graced the playing turf  at ‘The Theatre of Dreams’. As sporting documentaries go though, I have seen better. I just remember it being a highlights package of all his goals for United, not many insightful interviews from past players……in fact I don’t think there was any. Therefore, the constant goal highlights did get a touch monotonous to watch after awhile. For this reason alone I found the ITV documentary on him entitled The Life of Ryan : Caretaker Manager, where it focused more on the present day a lot more interesting. That said it was enjoyable to look back at some of the greatest goals he scored throughout his United career. The greatest being that unbelievable goal he scored in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, very late in extra-time. He’s been much mocked for his wild celebrations after the goal due to him taking his shirt off and revealing a mass of chest hair. I’d say to him, ‘don’t be embarrassed Giggsy my old mate…..if only I had such a hairy chest like that, well then I’d be able to cut some of it off and put it on my bald head(always very resourceful me) ha ha. 3/5. 

THE ANTIQUES ROADSHOW(BBC1).

‘I’M COMING OUT, TIME TO FINALLY REVEAL I’M…………….A FAN OF THE ANTIQUES ROADSHOW’!

Now for the fit women amongst you reading this, please don’t cross me off the list after I somewhat meekly reveal I rather like this programme. Please first give me the chance ladies to explain why I like it, then you can cross me off if you still have too ha ha. Years ago I had absolute no interest in this programme. This show bored the living daylights out of me and this is how I viewed it this year when it happened to come once after the Strictly Results Show. Then something very strange happened everybody. As this edition of The Antiques Roadshow was playing I started not to mind it, enjoy it even dare I say. I thought afterwards maybe the reason I enjoyed it could have been due to some strange behaviour with the planets, BUT NO, THE WEEK AFTERWARDS I ENJOYED IT AGAIN!! The third week I enjoyed I then knew had to admit it to myself that I did like this programme afterall. They say ‘COMING OUT’ is never easy but finally I did pluck up enough courage to admit this to my Mum……..that I like THE ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. Even now just writing it still feels a bit weird, I used to be such a hip trendsetter too ha ha. Now instead of listening to Radio One, going out boozing and not wearing slippers, I’ve started listening to Radio Four, would rather drink a cup of dandelion coffee, and LOVE WEARING SLIPPERS A COMFY PAIR OF SLIPPERS AS I WATCH THE BLOODY ANTIQUES ROADSHOW……………….WHATZ HAPPENING TO ME???? Growing older is the answer, ARGH!

Being serious now, I think many of the reasons I enjoy it are linked to the ones I listed about The Great British Bake Off. It’s a very nostalgic show, very English(the settings partly), it’s got cultural history at its roots. I do find the valuing of the antiques fun to watch, especially if the person who brought it wasn’t expecting it to be so high. Conversely, I also love it when they’re told a lower figure than they expected, they try to mask their disappointments but you can still tell. What I find most interesting however, is when the history of the antiques are dicussed. For example, what era and nations they are from, as well as information about the person who made it. I also think Fiona Bruce does a great job presenting it.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think one day I would write in a blog how I like The Antiques Roadshow. Nevertheless I do, BUT I’M DRAWING THE LINE AT THE SOUTH BANK SHOW……..trust me, I hope! 3.5/5.

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?(BBC1).

‘I’LL TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE, A BLOODY BORING TV PROGRAMME THAT’S WHO’!

To my great misfortune I happened to be in the room when this was on three times this year, the celebrities being Julie Walters, Brendan O’Carroll and Sheridan Smith. For those who have been on planet Mars for the last ten years since this has been on TV and don’t know what it’s about, it’s a genealogy documentary series where celebrities go on a journey to trace his or her family tree.

The main issue I have with this show is that I don’t care about my own family tree, therefore watching somebody else who I don’t know go on about theirs is MIND NUMBINGLY BORING. I was watching one of them this series and a very distant relative had been sent to jail. The celebrity in question was getting into a state about this and I’m sat there thinking, I DON’T GIVE A RAT’S TIT IF THEY’VE BEEN TO JAIL OR NOT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. Then you get these historians nearly frothing at the mouth at some exciting news they have to enlighten the celebrity with..trust me the news is NEVER EXCITING. The celebrities can’t thank then them enough though, and all the time I’m still sat there thinking why I should I care? It doesn’t relate history of the past to the here and now that Long Lost Family draws you in with.

Sorry to people who like it but I just don’t get this programme.1/5.

FROM THERE TO HERE(BBC1).

‘A MANCHESTER BASED DRAMA THAT WAS A LET DOWN……..BUT MAYBE I DID GIVE UP ON IT TOO EARLY’!

If you’re a Mancunian of a certain age like I am, then the IRA Manchester bomb in 1996 will stick in the memory banks forever.  It was a huge event with a dramatic impact and with the Manchester Commonwealth Games, changed the face of the City. It sounds strange to say it but the bomb helped change Manchester for the better. The City was kind of reborn due to the large amounts of money that was spent rebuilding it. Therefore, when I heard a drama was coming up that focused on the Manchester bomb I was really interested and excited about it.  After watching this first episode of this ‘Manchester Bomb’ drama, I was left feeling disappointed however.

Rather than focusing and dealing directly about the Manchester Bomb, the bomb was more the thing that started the proceeding story…..unrelated to it. This is why I think I was left feeling unsatisfied by the end. I viewed it believing this was going to be more about Manchester than it was. Episode one starts(more or less) with Philip Glenister(as Daniel Cotton) in a hotel/pub with his brother Robbo(played by Steven Mckintosh) and Dad(played by Bernard Hill) ,when the bomb goes off and Daniel comes to the aid of cleaner Joanne(played by Liz White). The rest of the episode focused on a daft football bet Robbo had put on due to being in debt, and the relationship between Daniel and Joanne. The bomb seemed to propel Daniel to want a break from his boring life. For example, his Dad does his head in at work and the happy home life with his grown up kids and doting wife, seem a to bore him. It ended where he goes round to his brother’s nightclub, not realising Robbo had set up the club to explode in an attempted insurance scam…..that was the cliffhanger.

I had planned on seeing episode two to see what had happened, but for some reason I just never got round to it. I guess I should have given it another try because it might have grown into something good. That said, the first episode was a let down to me though. I didn’t want to watch another drama about a middle aged man having a mid-life crisis, and thus having an affair with a much younger, prettier model. As I thought it was billed, I wanted a drama more about Manchester, more about this fantastic City that I will love to my dying day! 2/5. 

THE DRIVER(BBC1).

‘A TAXI DRIVER ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, WHO KEPT ME GRIPPED RIGHT TIL THE END’!

I really enjoyed this murky British crime drama set in present day Manchester.  Whilst I agree with some critics that it started better than it ended, I nevertheless still found the somewhat questionable ending OK. Some reviewers said the ending was convoluted and fell flat but I would not go that far.

Vince McKee(played by David Morrissey) is a taxi driver going through a big personal crises. He’s majorly suffering from depression due to a dead end job, a dead marriage and a son who has cut off all family ties due to getting involved with a cult.  He goes to his local doctors for help yet she doesn’t think he’s bad enough for medication(he is). A bit like Michael Douglas in Falling Down he’s a man right on the edge. A chance meeting with an old mate called Colin Vince(played by Ian Hart) who has just got out from prison changes things. Colin introduces Vince to his old gangster friends and soon afterwards Vince is being employed as the driver to the gang boss, namely The Horse(played by Colin Meaney). This then shapes the rest of the drama. Kidnappings, brutal beatings and paranoia ensue and so I for one was totally absorbed. Yes OK, maybe the ‘man living a dreary life who then gets into something way over his head as a source of release’, isn’t the most original of scenarios but I enjoyed watching it nevertheless. It ends with Vince(now under Police instructions and Surveillance) taking part in a robbery with the gang but one where he stitches them up and they get arrested. The unsatisfactory ending for some was due to his son ringing Vince up just at the time of the robbery, asking him can he come and take him home. Vince duly does and goes off to save his son(who is at a nearby motorway service station). I lapped this up when the two of them finally embraced each other because I love a happy ending but I know from via press reviews and social media, people thought this ‘son storyline’ wasn’t that convincing. The only slight issue I had with it was the believability of it, that his whole family would now have to go on the witness protection programme. I mean, would a sensible man like Vince act so daftly as to then caught up with something like that(very criminal), thus then ruining all his family members lives forever?

The two stand out performances for me were those of Vince(David Morrissey) and The Horse(Colm Meaney). There is a scene where Vince goes to try and rescue his son away from this cult, but ultimately his pleads fail and he comes away both empty handed and broken hearted. Vince breaks down into floods of tears during this attempt and it was one of the most moving bits of acting on television I’ve seen in a long time. Vince’s desperation was that convincingly acted by Morrissey that the scene still gets me emotional whenever I think about  now. The Horse scared the living daylights out of me, granted it doesn’t take much though ha ha. Colm Meaney was brilliant in this role. He held this menacing air of authority that made him utterly convincing.

To sum up then. Even though it did tail off a bit towards the end in terms of script quality, I still thought this was a good enough watch. Would I fancy being a taxi driver after watching this though…………..NOT ON YOUR LIFE!! 4/5.

STRICTLY COME DANCING(BBC1).

‘KEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP DANCING…………………..BUT I DO MISS OUR BRUCIE’!

It’s currently Strictly time at the moment and if you know me, then you’ll know how much I love this show. As I stated in my earlier review of The Voice, I hate X-Factor and so Strictly always wins hands down for me whenever the two of them ever clash on the box. Strictly is more classy, humorous, and an all together more enjoyable show to watch in my opinion. It doesn’t seek to humiliate it’s contestants unlike its ITV rival. The format to X-Factor seems to have really bored itself to death. I’ve grown tired of watching the same desperate teenage singing wannabies year after year beg Louis Walsh and Co, to stay at least one more week on the show…NAFF OFF! I don’t seem to be alone holding such views because The Guardian reported that on the weekend of Nov 1st, Strictly was watched by TWO MILLION people more than X-Factor………….HOORAY I say! Oh and for anybody who has never seen Strictly(seems unlikely I know but still), this show consists of celebrities being paired with a professional ballroom dancer at the start….then us thus witnessing a ballroom dancing competition in the proceeding weeks.

This year marked a big change for Strictly due to one of it original presenters retiring, namely Mr Light Entertainment himself, Sir Bruce Forsyth.  Claudia Winkleman replaced him meaning an all female presenting team, a refreshing change I thought I first. On reflection, having now seen Tess Daley and Claudia front it for a number of weeks(and now Zoe Ball), I think it misses a male person presenting it too. I also think that it misses a comedian of sorts presenting the couples with a joke or two as we were accustomed to with Sir Brucie. I must admit Bruce Forsyth was getting on my nerves by the end of the last series, some of his jokes were cringe worthily unfunny. Nevertheless, I still preferred him doing that compared to a now somewhat uncomfortably looking Tess Daley doing the jokes. For me, instead of Claudia Winkleman, a better replacement for Brucie would have been a ‘funny man’ in the shape of either Graham Norton, Paul O’Grady or even Vernon Kay.

Another negative thing this year is a new ending segment they show each week when the ending credits are rolling. They show some of the remaining celebrities saying to camera just how much they will miss the person just voted off. This is cheesy beyond belief and they talk like the person they are talking about has just died, not just simply been voted off a dancing show on the telly for crying out loud! I’m also not a fan of the new way the judges are announced each week, it’s all a bit too X-Factory for me.ie OTT. I much preferred it when Brucie did it via taking the pee out of one of them.

All that said however I still do think it is a great programme, suitable for all the family to enjoy too.  The judges make me laugh with some of their comments, the set and costumes look amazing, and it is great to observe the art form that is ballroom dancing when done well. Like listening to a moving song that brings you to tears, I love it when watching a couple dance does this emotion to me too. It is also great to see how the celebrities improve week after week. I don’t think trained dancers like singers Pixie Lott and Frankie Bridge should be allowed on it due to it being unfair on the rest of other celebrities, but I have really enjoyed this year watching the likes of Thom Evans, Jake Wood and Caroline Flack take part. The show is a great spectacle and I hope it will be on our television sets for many more years to come

Even with the questionable changes that I outlined, I’M STILL DEFINITELY  A FULLY PAID UP MEMBER OF THE STRICTLY COME DANCING FAN CLUB! 4/5.

MOUNT PLEASANT(SKY LIVING).

‘A WEAKER VERSION OF COLD FEET………………BUT IT’S STILL A GOOD WATCH’!

Firstly, a rant if I may at SKY TV. BLOODY GIVE VIRGIN CUSTOMERS EPISODE 8 OF MOUNT PLEASANT ON THE ‘SKY ON DEMAND’ FUNCTION, COS AT THE MOMENT I CAN’T GET TO SEE THE SERIES FINALE…………….SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ANNOYING!

Right then, now for the review of the seven out of eight episodes I’ve seen this year. If you’ve never seen this show then my comparison with Cold Feet of yesteryear is a fair one.  It’s not as good as Cold Feet but is similar and enjoyable in many ways which that was too. Mount Pleasant is a Manchester based comedy drama featuring the lives of an array of characters, with Dan(played by Daniel Ryan) and Lisa(played by Sally Lindsay) being the main protagonists(or the glue that holds it all together). I must admit I thought series three was a bit of a let down. The story of Dan straying away wasn’t original and I just thought maybe the show had run its course. Although I was disappointed to see the fantastic Pauline Collins(as Sue) killed off at the start of series four this year, I shouldn’t have worried because it was back on form this time. Yes, not that much happens but it’s easy light hearted viewing(mainly), and just a good programme to help you unwind after a hard day.

This series focused on a few things. Firstly, as Lisa and Dan are now new parents we see how they try and manage parenthood with their daily working lives. Bobby Ball( asLisa’s Dad, Barry) is again brilliant throughout and his new role as new Granddad was both amusing and endearing to watch in places. Dan’s  troublesome younger brother Robbie(played by Daniel Ings) turns up out of the blue and his unexpected appearance sets up a lot of the proceeding narrative that we then see. I thought Robbie as a character was really going bug me but I wrong. His introduction with a few shocking revelations along the way, seemed to breathe new life into the show. Other storylines included Denise(Ainsley Howard) and Fergus(Neil Fitzmaurice)having relationship struggles , as well as Greg(Adrian Bower) becoming entangled in thriller type plot with Tanya(Samantha Womack) and Bradley(Nigel Harman). Therefore, rather than feeling like I did this time last year where I wouldn’t have been bothered if they had made another series or not, this time I really do hope we see a another series made. I enjoyed tuning in to series four of Mount Pleasant, it was another TV show that made me very proud to be a northerner.3.5/5. 

OUR ZOO(BBC1).

‘I MISS NOT GOING TO THE ZOO ANY MORE ON WEDNESDAY NIGHTS……..AND I’M FEARFUL WE’RE NOT GOING TO GET A SECOND SERIES EITHER’

Set in the 1930s this is the story of how Chester Zoo came into fruition. George Mottershead(played by Lee Ingleby) is traumatized by his experiences of World War One and seeks refuge in a pioneering vision he has to build a Zoo without cages. With the financial help of his parents(played by Anne Reid and Peter Wright) they move into a run down Country Estate called Oakfield Manor. Once there the story details how George with the help of his parents, wife(played by Liz White) and two girls(played by Amelia Clarkson and Honor Kneafsey), then go about trying to convert the estate into a Zoo without bars. Sounds quite straight forward so far but the Mottershead’s receive great hostility from the local residents about their idea of building a Zoo. We see petitions set up and the fears and prejudices of the people are whipped up into a frenzy by condescending Reverend Aaron Webb(played by Stephen Campbell Moore), who has ulterior motives. George also has to fight Chester Council because they are extremely reluctant to give him planning permission.  The series reaches a brilliant climax when in episode six we witness the final hearing as to whether the Ministry of Health will approve the opening of Chester Zoo.

I loved this series which came as a bit of a surprise to me because the trailers for it beforehand really irritated me. I didn’t have plans to watch it but stumbled upon on it somehow. As a general rule I don’t really do period dramas/pieces but I was hooked on this right away. It had a lovely warm feel to it, basking in the brilliant light of the Northern English nostalgia. With the set looking amazing together with a great script and acting, I started to really look forward to my weekly Wednesday night Zoo escapism with the Mottersheads. Regarding the cast, I thought the two stand out performances were that of Lee Ingleby(as George Mottershead) and Honor Kneafsey(as ten year old June Mottershead). Ingleby gives a great robust performance and you’re on his side instantly. Honor Kneafsey is magnificent for one so young, and many ways both her naivety and passion reflect a younger version of George.

I am desperate to hear soon that the BBC has decided to recommission a second series of Our Zoo but I fear they will not. Although the viewing figures seemed good I have been told by two TV Critics on Twitter than the show has been deemed a flop, therefore making a second series seem somewhat unlikely. I just hope they’re wrong but as no decision has yet been taken by the BBC about this then it does concern me. If they decide to make another series of the awful Our Girl and yet not this, then I will send the Head of BBC Drama a stinking soggy kipper in the post(I don’t do violence ha ha ha). I suppose Our Zoo could have been a bit too child friendly for some, but I didn’t mind that. There was no fighting, no swearing,  just a great true story brilliantly retold and celebrated like it deserved to be! 4.5/5.

 

Conclusion. 

This is the end of my 2014 TV review then, thought I’d do a short blog for you all this time…….oops ha ha ha. My favourite programme so far this year has been without doubt the utterly amazing Happy Valley by writer/creator Sally Wainwright. I can not wait to see the second series of this in 2015. I was also massively impressed with The Americans on ITV1 and I eagerly look forward to seeing the next series of this sometime next year. On the dire TV front, the MOST BORING TV SHOW AWARD has go to Who Do You Think You Are, a brilliant remedy for insomnia I believe Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ha. The MOST UNCONVINCING TV SHOW AWARD goes to I’m afraid Bradley Walsh’s LAW AND ORDER UK , and OUR GIRL wins the MOST CORNY TV PROGRAMME AWARD hands down……sorry Lacey Turner. I’m loving a BBC 1 drama at the moment called The Missing, so I look forward to blogging about this when it has finished. I also look forward to the return of the Last Tango in Halifax before Christmas. This will be the third series of this great comedy drama about an older couple who have found love later on in life, also by writer Sally Wainwright I should add. Back to this 2014 TV blog and I want to say how much I really enjoyed writing this…………yes it did take me ages. I love the emotions that watching a television programme can bring out of you, whether that be tears of joy, sadness or even tears of frustration.  Maybe books make you use your imagination more but the power of television can be extremely strong, just read my glowing review of Happy Valley for instance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

About SCARFMAN

Hey! I'm a fan of scarves ha ha, television shows and most sports. I'm a Media and Cultural Studies Graduate from LJMU and love to blog about all sorts. At the moment most of my blogs are either TV or mental health related ones. I hope you enjoy them and hope some really move you. Thanks, Andy.
This entry was posted in BBC, BBC ORIGINAL DRAMA, BBC1, COMEDY, death, documentary, DRAMA, EMOTION, ENTERTAINMENT, FOOD, FOOD TV SHOW, grief, HAPPY VALLEY, ITV1, LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX, MELODRAMAS, POPULAR CULTURE, REALITY TV, SALLY WAINWRIGHT, SARAH LANCASHIRE, screenplay, SIT-COMS, SOAP OPERA, social media, SPORT, STRICTLY COME DANCING, TELEVISION, THE AMERICANS, THE ARTS, THRILLERS, TV, TV REVIEW, twitter, UK TV, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.