An hour of watching animals walk about in different directions might not sound like the most exciting way to spend your Sunday night, but with its breathtaking landscape shots and the imposing narration of a certain Mr. Stephen Fry, Great Migrations is one of the better programmes to fall into that thrilling category of “wildlife documentary”.
There’s something for everyone (apart from that woman who likes putting cats in bins) as cameramen follow everything from butterflies to sperm whales on their journeys around the globe. Opening in the Serengeti – where any decent nature programme begins – Great Migrations uses snazzy graphics to highlight the routes of the various animals, many of whom guide themselves on instinct alone, or using the earth’s magnetic fields.
We watch carpets of crabs on Christmas Island being overrun by creatures called “yellow crazy ants”, who spit acid into the crabs’ eyes and mouths, before devouring their innards. With the familiar gravitas of Fry’s voice behind it, the documentary has moments that are as tense as any thriller. In fact, there are hints of sci-fi, horror and fantasy flicks, as well as family soap operas throughout the programme. Read more
MONTE CARLO OR BUST: Thursday 28th October, ITV1, 9pm ALERT ME
Road trips, celebrities and more than a hint of casual racism – what more could you want on a Thursday night? This new series follows six ‘slebs as they travel from Trafalgar Square to Monte Carlo, attempting to learn more about French culture along the way. Each week, the questionable combinations of Jack Dee and Ade Edmonson, Penny Smith and Rory McGrath and finally Julian Clary and Jodie Kidd will drive through a different area of France in search of artefacts that they feel represent the head, heart and stomach of the country. They then bring their haul in front of three French stereotypes – sorry, I mean judges – and a winner is decided.
Yes it’s standard schedule-filling fare, but surely it has some potential, especially with all those professional comedians on board? Well no, not really. Somehow the programme manages not to be madcap, or original, or any of the things it probably thinks it is. It is gently amusing, but only because of the odd quip from Jack and Adrian, but apart from that it’s all a bit mediocre. Read more
Second World War POW camps always prove a fascinating subject for modern audiences, but Colditz, with its creepy name and record number of escapes, is surely the most interesting story of all. As one former prisoner puts it in this gently amusing documentary, a spell in Colditz exposed “the amazing natural aptitude of rather upper class British officers for criminal activities”.
Imprisoned in the castle for years more than they had initially anticipated, the allied officers were allowed access to all the books, painting materials and musical instruments they required to master new skills and pass the time comfortably. One British officer even tells in Colditz – The Legend of how he earned a degree from Oxford during his time inside the camp, gaining a distinction in all subjects because “there was nothing to do but work”.
Well, that’s not strictly true, because the prisoners, who were the “naughty boys” sent to Colditz after escaping from other POW camps, did find time for other things, like causing mischief during roll call and designing contraptions to help them spy on women. Their favourite activity of all though, was escaping. Read more
THE EVENT: Friday 22nd October, C4, 9pm ALERT ME
At first glance The Event, with its plane crashes, aliens and White House drama, seems like the result of an unholy union between Lost and the West Wing, with a touch of Close Encounters.. thrown in for good measure. It certainly makes Downton Abbey look a bit tame.
After a breathless home-video opening depicting what seems to be an impending disaster of Cloverfield proportions, we are off on a cruise holiday with Sean Walker and his girlfriend Leila Buchanan, and the first episodes (the show starts with a double-bill) continue to jump back and forth between various highly charged incidents for it’s entirety. By the end, Leila has disappeared and a governmental cover-up is unfolding.
As if that wasn’t enough, “it’s all going on in Miami”, as one newsstand proclaims early on in this chaotic opener. A plane is hijacked and steered towards the presidential compound in Florida, just as President Martinez is gearing up to make an important announcement about a Guantanamo Bay-style camp in Alaska. That camp, by the way, turns out to be holding almost a hundred extra-terrestrial detainees, led by a woman who looks like Julianne Moore with PMS. Read more
INSIDE NATURE’S GIANTS – GIANT SQUID: Thursday 14th October, C4, 9pm ALERT ME
Before we begin, I have a confession to make: giant squid really aren’t my thing. This isn’t a prejudice against oversized cephalopods; it’s just that marine biology in general isn’t something that gets me excited. As a consequence, the prospect of watching over an hour of the things swimming about and being physically and verbally dissected by sea nerds filled me with dread. I like calamari as much as the next person, but how can it possibly make for interesting television?
As Inside Nature’s Giants began, with one of its presenters soliloquising about very big squid in a tensely lit studio, I was sure I was in for a melodramatic marine biology programme. And indeed I was. However, the theatrics turned out to be justified by the incredible anatomy and capacity of the giant squid and the even more hysterically named ‘colossal squid’. Compared to aliens on a number of occasions throughout the programme, these creatures really do have a touch of the Hollywood martians about them and the rich colour of their habitat lends itself to their extraterrestrial qualities. Read more
LIP SERVICE: Tuesday 12th October, BBC3, 10.30pm ALERT ME
A recent survey of the British population’s sexuality revealed that 1.5% of the population is gay (a marked reduction on the 10% figure that has been thrown around in recent times) and if this new BBC drama is to be believed, nearly all of that 1.5% live in Glasgow.
Lip Service introduces us to lead characters Frankie and Cat, who are both gay. Frankie has just come back to Scotland after a few years in New York and Cat lives with Tess, who’s also gay. Tess has an ex (gay, obviously) who’s sleeping with a girl from her Spanish class, who I guess must also be gay.
Not only is their entire social group gay – aside from two straight male sidekicks, one of whom has a predictable crush on Tess – but every girl these women meet is a lesbian, or at least bi-curious. The model that photographer Frankie is shooting? Gay. The girl crying in the toilets? Gay. The bloody funeral director? Gay. Every woman in the street seems to stop and stare at the female leads with all the subtlety of a bottom-sniffing Labrador and most of what the characters say to each other is about lesbianism and being a lesbian. Read more
He and professional dance partner Kristina Rihanoff were sent packing after coming bottom of the leader board once judges’ scores and the public vote were combined.
Goldie took it all very gracefully, saying, “It’s alright, it’s alright ain’t it? I had a great time, I got super fit which is good, so I’ll keep that up.”
But even though the contestant seemed to be able to see the positive side on the night, he’s since blasted the show’s new format, whereby there is no dance-off and instead, the couple with the lowest score is automatically eliminated.
“It was a bit of a shocker,” he said, “I didn’t see it coming. If there had been a dance-off, the result would have been totally different. I can’t help but think, ‘Bloody hell, that was unfair.’”
Then, in apparent dig at contestants like Ann Widdecombe, who continues to amuse and delight Strictly fans with her not-so-impressive dances, he “You’ve either got to be really bad at dancing, and completely hilarious, or really good. There’s no room for being in the middle,” before adding that the show would turn into a “pantomime” before long.
Both Strictly presenters Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly admitted they were “shocked” to see Goldie go at such an early stage.
Cheryl’s wildcard choice made it through to judges’ houses in 2009, but her hopes were dashed when Simon Cowell gave her the boot before she could make it to the live rounds. However, a new report in the News Of The World claims that after the disappointment, she signed agent Helen Priestley at Artimis Music Management and went on to release a single called ‘A Time To Be Heard’ in December last year.
Stu Perry, who co-wrote the single told the newspaper, “It’s a total fraud. The X Factor is making it seem like Treyc’s coming from nowhere and desperately trying to make it big, but she’s already in the system, with a management deal and a record on release. They’re trying to hush it up. It’s a sham. The public are paying money on votes. They don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.”
X Factor bosses were surprisingly upfront about the whole thing, confirming: “We are looking into this. We had a similar situation with Katie Waissel and were able to get her out of the deal.” The main concern for Treyc now will be how the public will react to finding out that she’s already released a single…they certainly didn’t take kindly to Katie when her previous record deals were revealed.
Tears, power ballads and pink tights. It can only mean one thing: the X Factor‘s gone live. Saturday saw the first of this year’s live shows with no fewer than sixteen acts – mostly completely bonkers in their own sweet way – performing to win the hearts and ears of the great British public. The judges were reunited after their various maternity/malaria leaves and they settled down to praise and berate (but mostly praise) this year’s finalists.
The wildcard choices – Treyc Cohen, Diva Fever, Wagner and Paije Richardson – were revealed to pretty much no one’s surprise and the contestants stormed through their own glittery versions of Gaga, Queen and Ricky Martin in what might just have been X Factor’s campest extravaganza yet.
There were some more understated performances though. Matt Cardle (who’d got his hat back, much to everyone’s relief) sang a techno-beat free version of ‘When Love Takes Over’, Paije appeared on stage without the help of the backing dancers so many other finalists employed and Aiden Grimshaw arguably stole the show with his powerful rendition of ‘Mad World’, made all the more intense by the fact that he was wearing a very straightjacket-esque shirt.
Meanwhile, Diva Fever and Wagner appeared to meet this year’s novelty act quota, with the sparkly duo having been dunked in the same vat of fake tan that Cheryl had been before the show and although One Direction failed to sing in time to the song in several places, none of the judges seemed to mind, probably because they’d put the band together themselves.
With so much going on, we’d almost forgotten all about poor wee Gamu. That is, until Cher and Katie, whom many accused of taking her place in the finals, appeared on stage. The tension was palpable in the nation’s living rooms (and possibly in the X Factor studio, but you couldn’t tell because the audience was making so much noise) as Cheryl’s girls managed to get through their songs without crying or declaring, “I’m done”.
And was Cheryl justified in putting them through? Of course she bloody was! According to the other judges, at least. So, Gamugate was skimmed over with all the subtlety of Storm Lee’s new hair colour and the show went on.
Mary appeared looking a bit like Dawn French doing her Catherine Zeta Jones impression and had the audience cheering for a good half an hour afterwards, whilst John Adeleye failed to stand out despite wearing an alarmingly shiny jacket and Rebecca Ferguson looked even more nervous as usual as she sang ‘Teardrops’. But it’s OK; Cheryl likes her because she’s from the north.
And for viewers paying extra attention, there was a catty little treat in the form of Treyc mumbling something about not being received well by Katie and Cher when she came back into the competition…it’ll be false eyelashes at dawn in no time at all, ladies and gentlemen.
But the fun and frolics had to end at some point and that point came for the unlucky few just after Usher had sung about three words of his own medley on last night’s results show. A stunned Nicolo Festa was the first to be eliminated by the public vote, after failing to impress with his rendition of ‘Just Dance’ and then the bottom two were revealed: boy band FYD and the X Factor’s most controversial/annoying contestant since Jedward, Katie Waissel. After the two acts had sung for their survival, the judges agreed that Katie deserved to stay in the competition and FYD were booted off.
So, with poor Nicolo and FYD out of the running to be crowned winner of this year’s X Factor, the competition can only intensify in the run-up to Christmas. Goodbye, weekends…see you in January.
A HISTORY OF HORROR: Monday 11th October, BBC4, 9pm ALERT ME
This excellent history of the horror movie is made all the more gripping by the fact that presenter Mark Gatiss has a smile that seems to say, “I’m going to cut you up and eat your kidney with a spoon.” A self-confessed horror aficionado, Gatiss kicks things off by telling us he was a morbid child and continues to be ever so slightly more unnerving than the films he covers as the programme progresses.
Perhaps it’s because we’re so used to seeing him play characters with a penchant for killing, dismembering or just generally creeping everyone out; perhaps he really does have a serial killers’ face. Either way, his eerily measured delivery and unsettling passion for the horror genre add a certain something to the first episode of his three-parter, subtitled ‘Frankenstein Goes To Hollywood’. Read more