TV Reviews


Big Brother 2014

What with all the football from Brazil, and catching up on all those box sets of Breaking Bad, and watching Andy Murray trying to win Wimble...



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So the BBC has decided to save money by shutting down one of its most creative TV channels BBC3, and...

Big Brother 2014

emmawillisWhat with all the football from Brazil, and catching up on all those box sets of Breaking Bad, and watching Andy Murray trying to win Wimbledon again (even though he’s done it now and no-one really cares this time around), I just don’t see when I’m going to find time to watch Big Brother 2014.

Expectations have never been lower than they are for the England football team in the World Cup this summer, but I don’t think they could possibly be any lower than my own rock-bottom expectations for this new series of the Channel 5 reality show.

We begin with the desperate sight of beautiful, blue-eyed Emma Willis getting down on her hands and knees and repeatedly begging us to “download the Big Brother app.” In that way we will feel all fuzzy and Web.2.0 and will properly engage with the programme in a compelling and, like, challenging way.

I am immediately confused. The former prostitute called Helen who shagged Wayne Rooney has surely done enough with her miserable life to be considered a celebrity and honored with a gold ticket straight into the Celebrity Big Brother house, as opposed to having to drag her fake tits through the civilian version of the show for fifteen weeks.

Apart from Helen there appear to be ten contestants in the house. Or perhaps they’re going to take one contestant out of the house really quickly and unexpectedly and put another six contestants into the house. Or will they leave just six contestants in the house and take out twelve and put in Lionel Blair. Who knows? Literally, who knows?

Quick role call: A dance teacher who once sang with Kylie Minogu, a Playboy bunny with a law degree called Kimberley and some bloke called Mark who already seems to have won £5,000 for doing absolutely nothing at all except for having a beard.

Within 5 minutes a person called Matthew is cruelly isolated from the group and put into a sort of David Blaine glass cage suspended above the garden. I have absolutely no idea why. Since I haven’t had enough time to get to know him, I frankly don’t care. Maybe if I’d downloaded the app like Emma said I would have engaged with him more quickly and would give a damn whether he lives or dies.

There’s someone called Tamara Double-Barreled Name who’s probably never washed up and will take off her clothes and jump into the swimming pool at the first opportunity she gets. There’s a chap called Christopher whose never had a relationship with anyone and probably never will.

There’s Mark. “Hi, I’m Mark and I will be your homosexual this year.”

All of these people are exactly 24 years old except for a woman called Pauline Bennett who is 49 years old and a mother from Wolverhampton. I’m sure I’ve seen her somewhere before. The only other name I remember is Winston Showan, but I can’t think of anything to say about him. Pass me the Pringles and hand me the remote control, there’s something about UFO’s on H2.



Fargo (Channel 4) – Review

fargoI started watching this series because I like snowy locations and also love listening to the chirpy upper Midwest accent of the United States.

I was rather hoping to add this accent to my repertoire but I suspect I’ll never completely master it. It’s way too hard. I have, however, become completely hooked on the show.

If you like snow, ice, and people locked in the trunks of cars you’ll love Fargo (Channel 4). There’s a whole heap of snow, waist deep in many places, and almost everyone gets locked in a trunk at some point. If they ever had a car boot sale in Duluth they would first have to clear out all the dead bodies.

Fargo is based on the Coen Brothers’ film of the same name, but the storyline is completely different from the original movie. It stars Martin Freeman as a geeky, cowardly wife-killer called Lester Nygaard. From office Romeos to questing hobbits, Freeman has always tended to play nice guys in the past, so even when he turns up as a hammer toting murderer it’s quite difficult not to warm to him.

Lester’s call to adventure comes when he’s in a snowy supermarket car park and is thumped on the nose by an old school adversary. Our hero trudges through the snow to visit his local casualty department and like me turns out to have an extraordinary talent for standing or sitting next to nutters.

I have tremendous sympathy for this trait. In my own life there’s a nutter in every bus queue and a nutter in every restaurant. Only yesterday I sat next to a spectacular nutter on the Piccadilly Line. The train was packed, the nutter could have gone and sat anywhere, and yet he came and sat next to me.

But Lester’s nutter is no ordinary nutter.  This nutter is a fully blown, card-carrying, axe-wielding psychopath by the name of Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton).

Don’t be fooled by this character’s comical haircut and folksy sense of humor. Malvo’s a violent control freak and the only thing he loves more than killing people is getting away with it. Even when the police know exactly what Malvo’s up to they still seem powerless to do anything about it.

Mind you, the Fargo police force do appear to be fairly stupid, particularly Gus Grimly (played by Tom Hanks’ son Colin). Gus makes Forrest Gump look like Professor Brian Cox and his chubby colleague Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is not much brighter. The only real brains in the outfit seem to be that of Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk who portrayed infamous bent lawyer Saul in Breaking Bad.)

Fargo is small town Americana at its best, and the world that’s created in this show is hypnotic and highly addictive. Malvo’s unquenchable malice and dark humour are immensely watchable and it’s not long before you are so drawn into the surreal Fargo universe that even plagues of locusts and showers of blood become as routine as a day at the office with an insurance salesman.

Fargo is no doubt going to get much snowier, much weirder and much more nasty before the season finale, and I for one will be glued to every second.



The Call Centre (Acorn Media DVD) – Review

the call centreThe high point of this programme was a puddle of sick in a car park. But more of that later.

I’d like if I may to use this review of The Call Centre (Acorn Media DVD/BBC) partly as a platform for my own strongly held and mildly bigoted views on the cold calling industry in general.

It’s my personal belief that cold calling is the nastiest, most intrusive, invasive and immoral form of marketing on the planet Earth. It makes many people’s lives a living hell, particularly the old and vulnerable. My own elderly mother is now afraid to answer her own phone.

I believe that everyone involved in cold calling is a disgusting, contemptible, self-hating swamp creature with no moral compass whatsoever. No person with anything resembling self respect would do this job. That’s why cold callers are among the most despised people in the UK, and that’s why cold calling should be against the law.

Let’s put that premise to an imaginary jury, shall we? I’ll begin by bringing to the witness stand Hayley Pearce, one of the featured characters in The Call Centre.

Here she comes  – bright orange fake tan, two inch long finger nails – her face caked in thick, badly applied make-up. I should remind the jury at this point that in episode one we first met Hayley on her hands and knees scrubbing her own vomit off the pavement.

She’d been out on the piss the night before and had turned up an hour late for work. Nice big close up of the vomit there, by the way.

Looks like Hayley is too hungover to give evidence, so let’s call to the stand Hayley’s boss, company CEO Nev Wilshere. In the first show we watched Nev having a meeting with one of his employees Kayleigh Davies.

She’d just split up with her boyfriend. Nev told her she’d been a “miserable bastard” at work recently, then revealed to her horror that he’d set up a speed dating evening, so that she could “get laid” as soon as possible. Failing that he’d at least find her someone who was a “good snogger.”

We then saw Nev drag Kayleigh out onto the sales floor where he loudly announced to the entire staff that he had a “desperate female” on his hands. He went on to ask a number of single men at random if they’d like to go out with her.

Delightful management style, Nev. Sensitive, caring, politically correct. Seriously, how is this man allowed to run a business in the UK?

All Kayleigh Davies would need to take Nev Wilshire to court for inappropriate behaviour in the workplace would be a DVD of episode one of The Call Centre. I’m sure the producers would be happy to oblige her with a copy. I hear they’re pretty strong on that sort of thing at the moment at the BBC.

And what’s Nev got to say in his defence? Just this: Nothing wrong with a bit of “friendly banter”, because it can “motivate everyone.” Looks like when the meteor landed, it missed a dinosaur.

I now draw to the court’s attention a clip from show one in which three male members of the call centre staff cruelly bully and intimidate the tea lady by hiding her tea bags and cutlery, then by blocking up her tea urn with something resembling chewing gum.

The poor girl eventually runs to see her line manager in floods of tears, accompanied by the raucous laughter of dozens of her moronic, slap-headed colleagues.

M’lud, I believe that all of this evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people who ring you up at home while you’re having your dinner, and try and convince you they can get you a refund on your PPI insurance, are as loathsome, repugnant, annoying and unpleasant in their own private lives as they are when they’re on the phone to you.

They may dress up as bananas and cowboys and sing along to Mr Brightside by The Killers, but they’re monsters. The law should therefore protect us from them.

In my view, every single person who has ever cold called anyone should be arrested and charged under intrusion of privacy laws. The press are being made to pay for it and the cold calling industry should be next. Starting in Swansea, ideally.

No doubt many people will compare The Call Centre with The Office, but let’s not waste time pursuing that comparison. The Office moved television forward. It was a clever, innovative and brilliantly executed comedy series.

The Call Centre is the opposite of innovative. It’s cheap, lazy, dumbed down programme making that drags the BBC’s reputation as a broadcaster ever lower into the mud.

Apparently, there are now over a million people working in call centres in the UK. Perhaps when the government has finished culling the badgers, they might seriously consider thinning out the numbers of this lot.

No further witnesses. I rest my case.