Monday 29th April
Catching thespian legends Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi on stage at the same time is as rare and precious a thing as a primetime Saturday night show on ITV which is not hosted by Ant and Dec.
‘BUT SUCH A PHENOMENON DOES NOT EXIST!’, you cry, thumbing through your TV guide with fervour, attempting to find a single show on ITV which does not feature the Geordie duo, let alone on Saturday night which is, in fact, sponsored entirely by Ant’s forehead*.
But miracles do happen, viewers. Though Ant and Dec sadly remain the undisputed Kings of ITV, there are a couple of new ‘Vicious Old Queens’ on the televisual block. The show’s final, snappier (and perhaps less inflammatory) title, Vicious, describes the tone of pretty much every remark to come out of the protagonists’ mouths throughout each ridiculous show.
McKellen and Jacobi star as a homosexual couple who appear to be deeply unhappy with their lives; a fact which each attributes almost entirely to the other’s mere existence. Insults about “grey cataracts” and failed acting careers fly as the pair warm to their venomous theme, delivering one liners as though they were written by The Bard himself. The dissatisfied 70-somethings live in their deliciously dingy bubble as a pair of virtual recluses; slinging catty remarks and regretting most of their lives together is their modus operandi.
The sheer nastiness of certain comments had me recoiling into my sofa at times, toes clinging to my leopard print slippers. Like all the best comedies, however, Vicious remembers to inject some bittersweetness into proceedings. After one particularly vile exchange, the pair find themselves utterly unable to resist making things up over a glass of Rioja. The truth of the matter is, they are deeply in love. This is a fact which does not escape either the audience or the couple’s closest friends, who consider their bickering to be entirely meaningless.
Unlike the tired drudgery of many of its ITV predecessors – where mere mention of the word ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ was enough to send audiences into hysterics –this pair are funny and HAPPEN to be homosexual, as opposed to funny BECAUSE they like men.
Together with the outstanding cast and some truly toe-curling writing from Gary Jenetti (who has also worked on Family Guy and Will and Grace), Vicious is a bold and incredibly welcome break from the TV norm.
*not true…it’s also sponsored by Dec’s ego
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Born To Be Different
Thursday 14 March, Ch4, 9pm
It has been 13 years since the thumping tones of the Big Brother soundtrack barged their way onto TV listings and the game changed forever. The ‘realness’ of the original reality formats was both their strength and their downfall, with thousands heralding the dawn of a new democratic TV era and others bemoaning the impulse to watch normal people eat, sleep, fart and fight.
Since that day, we have come to understand ‘reality TV’ as something else; something glossy, featuring lives that conform to neat story arcs and life crises that fit nicely within a half hour slot.
But breaking the mould of the ‘Teenies’ approach to reality TV comes a welcome blast from a slightly more dishevelled past. Born To Be Different is now celebrating its tenth birthday and is a programme with an altogether more ‘real’ approach to reality. Originally created as a one-off, the programme follows the lives of a number of families coping with the stresses, strains, joys and pains of living with a disabled child. Now in its seventh series and claiming the title of Channel 4s longest standing biopic, we catch up with the children at the tough age of 13.
‘What are you looking at? I’m just a normal person’, says the most mature 13-year-old you are ever likely to have come across. Zoe is, in fact, referring to her response to the jibes that follow her across the playground at school. She suffers from arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that affects multiple joints in the body, making even walking a challenge on ‘bad days’. ‘It’s understandable’, she adds, sympathising with her immature peers.
But her original question takes on different significance for a viewing audience faced with yet another programme chronicling lives alien to most. Born To Be Different feels as though it just about comes down on the right side of things, paying careful attention not to draw its own conclusions about the astonishing physical and/or social impediments facing these children and instead focussing on their own approach to their condition. The temptation to overlay any piece of upbeat footage with the poignant droning of violin is resisted in favour of a genuine glimpse at the light and dark of these families’ lives.
‘I just want to do the right thing for him’, comments one mother, Paula, currently grappling with the decision of whether to send her son to residential school in order to allow her family a more regular life. William suffers from complex epilepsy and is growing more exhausting for his Paula, who suffers from MS, by the day. This is a plea surely uttered by every loving parent, but it must be felt with a particular intensity when part of the reason for wanting to send your son away is for the sake of the rest of your family.
Similarly impossible decisions are being faced by the parents of Shelby. Her condition is growing worse by the hour. Shelby’s mother is facing up to the reality that her bright, resilient child may be slipping away and the doctors are beginning to advise that they have done all they can do. The devastating reality of regular trips to hospital and constant worry that a minor illness could take their child away at any time could never adequately be portrayed by a one-hour documentary, but seeing the intense love with which all the children in this programme are enveloped gives an even sharper stick with which to poke you when something goes wrong.
Aside from a celebration of each individual child in this ten-year series comes the acknowledgement of how tough things can get, and it is the filmmaker’s ability to see each with equal importance that makes Born To Be Different, well…different.
4seven, Fri 22 Feb, 10PM
Taking photographs of innocent men, women and children who have had limbs blown off by land mines and mortar fire is a horrendous job at the best of times. But the task surely becomes almost unbearable when three of your own precious body parts have also been obliterated in the same gruesome fashion.
Not so according to Giles Duley, the 40-year-old photo journalist who stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device two years ago and suffered life-threatening injuries as a result. In 2011, he joined American troops in Afghanistan to capture images of the conflict when his world was shattered by an explosion which cost him both legs and his left arm.
In Walking Wounded: Return To The Frontline, Duley makes the journey back to Afghanistan to finish his assignment: telling the stories of innocent civilians caught in the conflict. Despite battling nightmarish flashbacks and sleepless nights, for Duley, making the trip is a vital part of “taking the pause button off and getting on with his job”.
A candid look at the physical and mental trials faced by Duley in the two years since his accident allows plenty of time to put one’s own piffling problems into context at the outset of the hour long programme. Losing three limbs is no paper cut, after all. And one of the most heartache-inducing moments come as he reveals the realities of “never being able to hug again”.
This, however, was not what Duley really wants to show us.
Nobody can deny the scale of what faced this man faced when he woke up in a morphine-induced stupor three limbs lighter. But the documentary’s strength is in exposing the harsher, bleaker realities facing the poorest victims of the war in Afghanistan: the prospect of a life without work, without a partner and without a safe place to return home to.
This stark juxtapostion makes for uncomfortable viewing at times. There is also no shortage of (justifiably) gruesome footage. Ultimately, however, it is Duley’s obligation to the rest of war-torn humanity, and his reluctance to shrink back from telling the hardest of stories, that makes this documentary the powerful and life-affirming watch that it is.
Not satisfied with chewing up some of our most treasured British catchphrases and spitting them out in his characteristic American drawl, Kevin Bacon is now making a beeline for one of Blighty’s most iconic nightspots.
The Sugar Hut is the playground of the tanned and fabulous, second home to the cast of TOWIE and setting for some of the campest nights out this side of Mardi Gras, and now Kevin Bacon wants a slice (rasher?) of the action. The self-proclaimed “centre of the universe” has been formally invited to visit the Brentwood night club by owner Mick Norcross after he mentioned the Hut in his latest advert for mobile phone operator, EE. Read more
What better way to relax after a stuffy day at the office – where the air has been filled with the scent of sweaty Primark slip-ons and Lynx Africa – than with a luxury-spa themed episode of The Apprentice.
Enter Stephen with his cheesers out, suffocating unsuspecting fish who had the misfortune to be placed in a bowl with the aforementioned plates of meat.
This week time is of the essence for the bargain-hunting Sugarites, with each team split into two sub-groups tasked with presenting as many top notch deals to the website at end of play. Bouncing across London in their beloved black cabs, the teams visit a plethora of exclusive destinations in a bid to sniff out the very best for their high-end clients.
After being teamed with Gabrielle to scope out potential experiences for a high-end discount website, a fish pedicure features at top of Stephen’s wish list despite the pleas of an industry expert…obviously.
Last week saw Jenna leave the boardroom ego-in-hand, but not before the feisty minx had really stirred up some nasty intra-group malice. Will Stephen FINALLY live to regret his ‘Machiavellian‘ boardroom ways?
ps. I heartily recommend listening to the first ten seconds of the clip without watching for some juvenile Wednesday afternoon entertainment.
Top rib-tickling talent Tim Vine, has walked out of BBC1 comedy Not Going Out leaving fellow cast members in the lurch.
His unexpected move comes after BBC bosses ordered two more series of the popular series starring Lee Mack.
Speaking to The Sun, Vine admitted that he is looking for new challenges having spent six years with the show.
“I’m great friends with everyone on the cast and I’ve had a great time doing it”, he said. “But after five series I simply fancied a change.”
The show has already suffered the loss of award-winning comedienne Miranda Hart, who left after the 2009 Christmas special having joined the show in series two.
A friend of Tim’s – brother to Radio 4 presenter Jeremy – added: “Tim loves the show and it has made him a big star. But he has now had enough. He’s got lots of other work coming in and is keen to try other things.
“He’s been doing the show for six years and has been through the highs and lows.
“But he figures he may as well quit while he is ahead and make the most of his popularity.”
The loss of Vine – who plays Lee Mack’s best friend in the show – is likely to come as a major blow to the team who currently manage to pull in around five million viewers each week.
Long-time fans of the show can presumably expect some major plot shakeups as bosses contend with a distinct lack of…well, characters.
Last night a BBC insider said: “We’ll be introducing some exciting new characters in the next series. It’s now what might be termed a long-running sitcom. It has had several changes of cast along the way and has grown audience rather than lost it.”
Whether audience will stick with the show after the disappearance of such a central character remains to be seen…
Jason Donovan – for whom any dream will apparently do – has now signed up as a judge on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest TV search for a stage star.
Famed for his lead role in Joseph And The Technicolor Dreamcoat, Donovan will join Dawn French and the Lord himself on the panel of ITV’s Superstar. The show will seek out a lead actor for a new stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Speaking to the Press Association, the 43-year-old spoke of some of the earlier judging rounds he has already been involved with: “We have unearthed some cracking talent so far and I’m really pleased I’ve had time to get to know the finalists as we’ve moved through the competition stages.
“It’s an honour to sit by Andrew on the judging panel and I can’t wait for the live shows to start.”
After finding chart success and a place in the heart so millions of teenage fans back in the eighties, Donovan shot back into the heart of the British public following a recent stint on Strictly Come Dancing (we chatted with him, of course).Yesterday it was revealed that Radio 1’s Chris Moyles will take the role of Herod while Sporty Spice…we mean Mel C…we mean Melanie Chisholm…will play Mary Magdalene. Award-winning musical comedian Tim Minchin – also the co-writer of West End smash musical Matilda – has also been confirmed for the role of ‘Judas Iscariot’.
Current Britain’s Got Talent panellist, Amanda Holden, is due to host the talent search show which is due to air this summer.
Keith Lemon is the next ‘celebrity’ due for a squeezing by the reality TV machine.
Despite not actually owning a passport or leading a ‘real’ life, the strawberry-blonde extravert is set to take part in a new ITV2 reality show.
According to a report by Broadcast magazine, the show will be “a cross between Keeping Up With The Kardashians and I’m Alan Partridge”; an alarming prospect to say the least.
In the grand tradition of quirkily-named Lemon shows (Celebrity Juice and Lemonaid have already proved a success for the star), the reality series has a working title of ‘Lemon La Vida Loca’ and is due to track Keith throughout a ‘hugely eventful year’ which will include his first film appearance.
The character – a creation by comedian Leigh Francis – was originally a character in the 2002 series Bo’ Selecta! alongside such recognisable parodies as Michael Jackson and Craig David . He later starred in his own 2008 reality show called Keith Lemon’s Very Brilliant World Tour, but failed to make an impact on audience affections.
Dan Baldwin of Talkback called Francis a ‘comedy genuis’ and spoke of the controversial comedian’s surprise success with Saturday night audiences. Lemonaid has proved a huge hit on the mainstream channel, he said.
“Taking Keith, who’s seen as rude and crude, and putting him on Saturday teatime is a bold step,’ he told Broadcast magazine. ‘But we’ve got more than three million viewers – Harry Hill didn’t get that until series four or five”.
Last month it was reported that Lemon was up for a Corrie cameo. “Enough!”, we cry here at OTB. “Enough of the ginger man”.
But do you think we have more room for Lemon-lovin’ in our weekly schedule? Or have things got way to juicy for their own good? Let us know your thoughts…
A star of the controversial Sex Lies and Rinsing Guys has reportedly received death threats after the Channel 4 documentary exposed her ruthless money-grabbing practices.
The porn star and glamour model, Holly Henderson aka Jeannette, has been pelted with insults from internet trolls after her appearance on Monday night according to reports by The Sun.
Social network Twitter attracted almost 50, 000 tweets, many of which aimed directly at the documentary’s stars who also included “rinsers” Danica Thrall and Hollie Capper. One furious tweeter said Jeannette – who has been pictured with Man City footballer Mario Ballotelli – “deserved to get cancer”, while another suggested she had “a downstairs like a gutted trout”.
And it wasn’t just anonymous Twitter trolls getting in on the action, Corrie star Michelle Keegan said that she felt “sick” and criticised the blonde “rinser” for not finding a job to “buy your own f****** bag”.
Twitter debate raged on throughout the programme with some viewers finding the women to be “morally, socially and spiritually bankrupt” and others voicing their support. @lucyyyxo said: “sex lies and rinsing guys #fairplay to those girls!!”
The girls themselves – all of whom have Twitter accounts – have hit back at criticism. Danica tweeted: “It’s not rinsing. It’s business.” While Jeannette Worthington said it was “only a TV show” and pointed to her modelling and porn career as real sources of income.
What do you make of it all? Do they deserve everything they get or are they shrewd business babes? Join the OTB debate here.
If you are hoping for a nice quiet evening in, curled up in front of some inept businessmen and women as they attempt to pry some cash of Alan Sugar’s pocket, you are in luck! This week’s episode of The Apprentice (BBC One, 9pm) features more ineptitude than ever before and the puns…even more diabolical.
The remaining eight candidates are tasked with creating a new image for English sparkling wine – and begin their search in Tesco. Goggle-eyed Stephen’s first mistake? Asking a sales assistant for advice about the “one million and one wines” he perceives to be on offer in the supermarket. Best to just have a shifty at the labels mate.
Across the city, Tom and Adam enjoy a wine tasting session in a bid to “get a taste for the product”. Bear in mind at this point that Tom is a wine expert by trade while Adam, the market trader, sniffs an anonymous glass of vino decreeing that it “smells like Christmas cake”.
Tonight is also the night of the long-awaited directorial debut for this year’s cohort. A “corking campaign” (the script this evening appears to have been written by my dad?) led by Jenna, which involves toffs toasting each other is surely destined for the annals of Apprentice failure…
Take a peek at an excerpt from tonight’s show below: