Remember when period dramas were all bonnets and petticoats and tea on the lawn? Someone always proposed at the end, and everyone went home with a smile on their face and a song in their heart, wearing some marvellous costumes. Ahh. Well, no longer. Nowadays you’re more likely to see a bedraggled prostitute scheme to take down an arrogant industrialist, as in The Crimson Petal And The White, or a spot of murder, madness and corruption as in ITV’s newest historical bonanaza The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher. It’s almost enough to make you nostalgic for all that misty-eyed nostalgia, if it wasn’t so bloody good.
The Victorians always did have a taste for sordid scandal, and none more so than the gruesome murder of a toddler at a well-to-do country house in 1860. The boy was taken from his bed, murdered and shoved down an outside toilet. This true story forms the basis of a one-off special, starring Paddy Considine as Detective Jack Whicher, one of the first detectives at Scotland Yard. The case sent the press into a frenzy and turned readers into amatuer sleuths, while the government and the quiet Wiltshire village in question were thrown into turmoil by botched Police attempts at catching the culprit. Enter Detective Whicher. Read more
The formula is simple – gather a handful of people who have lost touch with relatives, through adoption or otherwise, and get a couple of research interns to track the missing family down. Then, contract Davina McCall to phone in a sporadic presenting job, and suplement her erratic appearances by making that bloke from Radio 5Live with a woman’s name – Nicky Campbell?! – put in the legwork. Reunite the lost lost family and voila! Fifty minutes of emotional, harrowing and resquisitely uplifting telly. Wipe your eyes and put the kettle on, what a journey we’ve all been on.
First up is Jennifer, a 66-year-old Rotherhamer who found out at the age of 11 that the woman she thought was her aunt was really her mother, and that she was a twin; the said twin had been adopted in a keep-it-quiet, 1940s kind of way. She’s always felt she was missing something, a womb-mate if you will, and she’s desperate to track down her missing sister. Davina gets her trusty work experience guys on the case, and sure enough they discover Jennifer’s sister had been adopted, renamed Cathleen and grown up only a short distance away, now living just three miles from Jennifer. Astounding. Pass the biccies. Read more
After David Starkey revealed himself to be a mean-spirited old git on Jamie’s Dream School, it’s nice to know that not all TV historians are miserable old draconians. Proof comes in the form of Lucy Wolsley, chief curator of the Royal Palaces and all-round lovely, sunny person who brings history to life in a variety of swishy historical dresses. The series explores the function of each room in the house over the last few hundred years, and this week it’s the turn of the humble bathroom, which, if you were a medieval serf might mean a communal bench with a few holes in it, or, if you were a Georgian laa-di-daa lady, a… bowl of warm water. We’ve come a long way in the last century.
Lucy’s brand of ‘living history’ sees her washing Tudor-style for a week (read: not washing) to bring to light our historical relationship with personal hygeine, and pummeling linen sheets with urine, as well as walking around in some fabulous period costumes which may or may not allow the wearer to spend a penny. Read more
The show attracted only 3.6 million viewers on Saturday – compared to Britain’s Got Talent‘s ratings of over 10 million later that day. Rumour has it that the low ratings don’t warrant the huge fees paid to judges Arlene Phillips, Nigel Lythgoe, Sisco Gomez and Louise Redknapp.
The BBC however have released a statement, counteracting the claims made by ‘an insider’, reading; “”So You Think You Can Dance is only four shows into its 12-week run. No decision has yet been made on the next series.”
Still, ‘no decision’ sounds a little ominous. The show aims to find ‘Britain’s Favourite Dancer’, so at least Micheal Flatley will be able to sleep easy if the show gets cancelled.
We had a discussion in OTB towers last week about which television programmes had “jumped the shark” in recent years. Inspired by the moment when Fonzie cleared a shark in a water-skiing stunt on Happy Days, the phrase refers to the point at which a show loses credibility by going a bit too far. Well, The Reckoning jumps over its first shark about five minutes in, and gets slowly more ridiculous until the characters are practically somersaulting over a marine life pyramid on jet skis fuelled by moon-dust and magic dreams.
But, if you can stick with the plentiful plot twists and gaping holes, it’s a pacey two-parter that does what it says on the tin. Dismiss those nagging voices that say “But WHY is she doing that? But, why don’t they just go to the Police? Why is any of this happening?” and The Reckoning is positively enjoyable.
Ashley Jensen (formerly of Extras and Ugly Betty) is Sally Wilson, a beleagured mum looking after a very sick daughter. She’s called to the creepy offices of a creepy lawyer, who tells her she stands to inherit five million quid, if she can abide to certain ‘stipulations’. Those stipulations are – wait for it – she only gets the money if she can kill a man who ‘deserves to die’. Cue oh-em-gee music, and we’ve got some classic ITV Drama on our hands. Read more
Set in Washington DC, dubbed by Ianucci a ‘cousin of The Thick Of It’, the show follows US Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who becomes disillusioned after moving up from the role of Senator.
It also stars Tony Hale from Arrested Development and Anna Chlumsky, who also appeared in Ianucci’s transatlantic political thriller In The Loop. Iannucci himself will direct and serve as executive producer and writer.
Ianucci is going to have a very busy year, as he’s already writing the fourth series of The Thick Of It. This time around, Conservative Peter Mannion (Roger Allum) will be in government – but, coalition government – with a third party MP he absoloutely hates. With series’ like Alan Partridge on his CV, has the guy actually ever done anything that wasn’t brilliant?
The next bullet in BBC3’s dead-eyed firing round of shows for ‘young parents’, Misbehaving Mums To Be catalogues the sins of a couple of pregnant women. One puffs away 20 fags a day, one is morbidly obese swilling chips’n’gravy every night, and the other likes a drink. Should they be? No. Do we care if they’re having trouble giving up? No. Is this programme wholly pointless? Yes. Can we all move on with our lives? Hope so.
First lets take Juliet. The promo notes for the show state that she’s “struggling to cut down from her normal four bottles of wine a day,” ie: she’s a bit of a lush and needs immediate help. Turns out she’s not, she’s only on one glass of red wine on a Sunday since discovering the bun in the oven. Then there’s Kayley, the fattie with much more than a bun in the oven. She’s quite amiable and shocked to learn that fistfuls of chocolate aren’t great for your kid, so duly cuts down, and good on her. The third is Heather, the most unsympathetic, a woman getting through twenty Mayfair smooth a day while happily resting the ashtray on her baby bump. She can’t hack the guilt and stops participating in the documentary halfway through. Well done Heather. Read more
She tweeted: “Benidorm is totally fab. My sis Joan Collins would love to do a guest shot on it. I got her addicted!!!”
Writer Derren Litten, who had previously announced he was leaving the show, then tweeted: “Joan Collins in Benidorm??!! “I ain’t gonna let anyone else write that. Looks like I’m coming back”
Before tweeting: “Head swimming with storylines. Of course ITV haven’t announced a recommission yet. Somehow don’t think we need to worry!”
ITV have indeed yet to announce another series of Benidorm, but after a peak audience of 7.3m for the latest run, Litten might be right.
They are expected to tweet about it in due course.
Romola Garai’s quietly scheming Sugar turns the cogs of Mrs Rackham’s (Amanda Hale) illness in this gleeful second part of the BBC’s latest big-bucks costume drama, the exquisite Crimson Petal and The White. As beautifully drawn and innovately executed as last week’s installment, the only criticism I could come up with, is that the stingy producers should have given us more than four episodes.
This week snarly egotistical industrialist William Rackham (Chris O’Dowd from the IT Crowd! Honest!) has placed renowned teen-aged prostitute Sugar on his payroll as an exclusive mistress, under the madamship of Gillian Anderson, playing astoundingly against type as the mad, raggedy old brothel owner Mrs Castaway. He soon plucks her out of the ‘cesspit’ locale, namely St Giles, and bungs her in her own posh gaff in Marylebone. Meanwhile his wife Agnes is nose-diving further into mental illness, mistaking a loitering Sugar for an Angel, developing Victorian anorexia (green beans and Oxtail soup if one feels faint), and vomming on laydees at the theatre. It just won’t do. Read more
If you don’t breast-feed you’re a bad person, right? That seems to be the hard-line for mothers everywhere. The benefits of breast milk far outweigh those of formula, leading to a universal guilt trip for those who can’t or won’t breast-feed. Cherry Healey (of Cherry Gets Married and Cherry Has A Baby fame) didn’t breast-feed, and this candid documentary examines whether it’s right that mothers should always disregard any problems they have – difficulty, infection, pain – in favour of the boob.
It also features a five-year-old boy rolling around on the floor and shouting “Boobie! Boobie!” before latching on to his mother’s colossal breast (..yeah, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally switched to Little Britain..) but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The genial and eternally chic Cherry didn’t get off the ground with breast-feeding after having baby Coco. She experienced terrible pain and contracted such bad mastitis, an inflammation of the breast tissue, that she was hospitalised. Her story is then one of redemption, as she had to resort to the bottle, fearing she was failing her child. She explores the issue with everyone from breastfeeding activists (or ‘lactavists’ ha ha.. snore), who wander the streets in a herd with babies popping out of every pocket, to teenage mothers slathered in fake tan and refusing to donate their “just for sex” boobs to their baby. Read more