Yep, the gladiatorial instalment is back. Much the same as ever. Marcus - still wearing his ‘nice guy’ mask, Monica – a little bit feistier and more relaxed than in previous series, Gregg…words fail. When teamed with Torode, I think of them as Toady and Shrek. On his own that doesn’t suit, so I’ll just call him Boiled (Gr)egg, Boiled for short.
Boiled is clearly there because they have an hour long slot to fill and think we all need to see him shovelling forkfuls into his gob, being faux chummy with the contestants, gurning and repeating what Head Girl and Boy have said, with a puzzled frown on his face. I don’t need it, frankly. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if each episode was only 45 minutes because he had been shelled, sorry shelved and the proper judges could get on with it without resorting to picture cards?
Astonishingly, we seem to have reached the final twelve and they’re not all young, white men – who would have thought? So, what’s new this time? Not a whole lot, although I did notice they made less of the ‘bottom four’ having to cook-off and focused on saying the top eight had got through. A subtle distinction, but less damning.
Oh but there is SOMETHING different. They announced this proudly last night, as if baby had just taken its first steps. What is this brave new world of cuisinedom we have entered? Preparing soufflés while juggling knives? Performing the macarena while reducing their jus? Peeling Boiled while he’s still alive….? Sorry, got carried away there.
They have, drumroll, a pop-up restaurant. They’d never done that before! Right, so the past challenges where they have to cook in tents or on the streets with makeshift ovens, what are those then? No, those are worlds apart. Unlike a Pizza Express and Tramp nightclub, which are easily confused.
Who are the clientele sampling this food? Joe Public? No, 25 specially invited ‘guests’, who are, by and large, a bunch of irritating hipsters who run their own pop-ups and cannot believe they’ve got to advertise these on prime time telly. Not sounding much like a pop-up, is it? But lo, the contestants have been released from their chef whites to wear white t-shirts and they are serving food on rustic plates. Oh, that’s alright then.
The other thing this set-up had was waiters. Give. Me. Strength. I’m surprised there wasn’t a maître’d pottering about asking if they’d like to sample anything else from the wine list. Have any of the production team actually been to a street food pop-up?
Well, never mind about that, what about the nosh, which was supposedly street food? Looked pretty much like the usual stuff they produce. Except for Arbinder, who went rogue making quinoa with pomegranate sorbet. This is not good news for Marcus, who is apoplectic if cheese comes anywhere near fish and in his halcyon days used to get more aerated than the foam anyone foolish enough to attempt dished up.
The only thing really different was a vote, exempting the winner from having to cook in the next round. Admittedly, from the invited guests, but at least Boiled wasn’t there, shoving his oar in. I sense we’re a whisker away from a public phone-in in future series.
‘Yes, I’d like to vote for Boiled to go please….’ Sorry son, back to your saucepan.
They claimed every dish had votes. What fool is going to vote for quinoa and pomegranate sorbet?! Anyway, it’s not like a rigged referendum (ahem) so we’ll take that on trust. Of course, Exose had the most votes. All the hipsters were in ecstasy eating his banoffee style triumph. However, we had to go through the charade of getting him back in the kitchen in shiny whites to say he was going straight to the semi-final. And what about the food on his bench? Dear God, the waste! Exose missed out on the bubbly at the end though, so it wasn’t all glory.
In the cook-off, Andrew, a raisin bun version of Richard Gere, was the next best. Tom unfortunately, made ‘a dog’s dinner’ – the Marcus smiley mask slipped a bit there as he delivered this damning verdict. To be honest, I think Tom will be far happier in his veg patch. He didn’t have the cut and thrust necessary.
Exose is clearly a contender for the title, which would be lovely. He’s talented and chilled with a beauteous smile. However, in his first outing in the skills test, he did abysmally. Granted, I’d be appalling; I got antsy the other day with my colleague watching me mess up a simple spreadsheet she’d explained. Never mind being on national telly with two judges and Boiled making dramatic faces in your eyeline. Why, oh why, does the skills test have to be classic French though? Can’t remember what Exose had to make, but it was something he’d never heard of. But, that’s the great hallmark of cooking apparently. Here’s a thought: Indian food, for example, has been around for ooh, just a tad longer, why can’t they make a samosa or a particular spice mix? Curried (Gr)egg, perhaps…?
Many, many (far too many) column inches have already been dedicated to self-styled The GC: aka Gemma Collins, formerly of TOWIE, now of 'any bloody programme that seems to be on the telly.' She must almost have the full house of 'Celebrity...' type shows, having done Masterchef, which I wrote about here www.rantsreviewsreflect.co.uk/reviews/celebrity-masterchef-the-wall
Dancing on Ice, The Crystal Maze and probably a whole lot more I've thankfully avoided.
Now Diva Forever is (dis)gracing our screens, where we follow GC round her clothes shop, her various engagements, and most awkwardly, with her fellow Weeble, boyfriend Arg. I think she and Arg are no longer an item. Lucky I hadn't bought a hat.
There is a small (quite small) part of me that feels a grudging admiration for a woman who doesn't forever downplay her abilities and kowtow to men. Sadly, the abilities are questionable and the men fairly hapless, so it's a back-handed compliment. Mostly what comes across is eye-watering arrogance and an unshakeable belief in her uniqueness. Hell, we're all unique, love. Or are there indeed two Gemmas? My son watched a bit of it with me and asked 'who's that?' 'That' was Gemma without her make-up on.
The only genuinely interesting moment in Episode 1 was when she revealed in a live interview that she'd voted to leave the EU, only to confess afterwards this was a lie. Annoyingly, we're not told if she voted the other way, or most likely, didn't bother voting at all. For most of the hour (it was a LONG hour), I felt like a inverse Chinese nodding cat, I kept shaking my head at the audacity of it all.
And the titles sequence! Which she was several hours late to the filming of, then stomped about crossly as if it was someone else's fault. The resulting sequence shows our GC in sparkly outfits preening in front of a star-filled background, while a voice croons in the background about how fabulous she is. Shake, shake, shake...
I've come to this all topsy-turvy, having watched the second series, then gone back to see the first and now rewatching the second again. To be honest, this doesn't detract hugely from an understanding or appreciation of the programme. It gives more information on the itinerant naked lady torso statue and the story behind the demise of Boo, (but no reason as to why Fleabag looks to the audience to be complicit, or where the nickname originated) but everything else can be gleaned from the second series. The soundtrack is also spectacular, with dramatic classical music stings. And there is the same wicked humour and devil-may-care attitiude to character portrayal as in Killing Eve. I bet Phoebe Waller-Bridge is an excellent drinking companion.
So cleverly written is it, that you don't really notice until someone points it out; how few of the characters are named. (Another poke in the eye to traditional drama that feels that naming characters is imperative). 'Hot Priest' Andrew Scott is indeed delightful and manages to remain hot, even after you have read the comment that he looks like both Ant AND Dec. Some took umbrage to audiences finding him hot because he is emotionally manipulative and toxic, but as others riposted, so is Fleabag herself.
In fact, the hottest scene IMO is the bar scene between our Pheebs and Kristin Scott Thomas. The latter's speech about how women carry pain, whereas men invent it, should be made mandatory reading. Stick it on the Tube please. Watching Fleabag being drawn, moth-like, to older, authority figures of both genders made me realise how entrenched her parent issues must be. It's a shame we never got to see the mother in a flashback. Dad is bumbling and easily swayed by The Godmother, yet clearly the problems inherent in both his daughters' attitudes to relationships weren't caused by him alone.
I wasn't disappointed that Fleabag and Priest didn't end up together (And I'm the soppiest romantic EVER). It wouldn't have been right for either of them. Anyway, with no more series planned, we can invent our own ending. Maybe they can both work on their 'issues', he can ditch the priesthood for which he is clearly not suited and they'll get together in a few years time. Possibly in Finland with Claire and Klare.
Like several thousand others, I watched the Bros documentary over Christmas. Its popularity clearly took the schedulers by surprise, who’d parked it in a 10.00pm BBC4 slot with repeat in the early hours of New Years Day. I nearly missed it because my Radio Times only awarded it a paltry three stars. I thought it was an outstanding piece of film-making - it wouldn’t surprise me if it popped up again in the near future with a primetime spot on Beeb 1.
Leaving aside any of the content, it was a supremely well put together piece. It cunningly opened with a teaser of one of their backstage rows during their oft fraught rehearsal period last year, knowing that no-one would be shifting until they saw this played out in full. There were beautifully lit, revealing speeches to camera by our eponymous brothers, intercut with footage from their heyday in the 80s, their lives now in the US (Matt in Vegas, Luke in California) and their reunion gig at the O2 in August 2017. There was a slightly eerie refrain of Wogan asking ‘What will you do when the screaming stops?’ from an interview he’d conducted with them at the height of their success.
One of the brothers’ complaints, and it is a justified one I think, is what a slating they were given by the press ‘back in the day.’ I can’t deny that I was NEVER a fan of their oeuvre; insubstantial teeny pop it certainly was, but no worse than most of Stock Aitken & Waterman’s output that also clogged up the charts at the time. I don’t suppose it helped that their first big hit was ‘When Will I Be Famous?’, grandstanding par excellence. However, in the days of X Factor/TOWIE/Love Island et al, this wannabe-star posturing looks positively tame.
From most of the comments I read from others in response to the documentary, it seems that sneering is still the order of the day. It is true they come across as self-important, overly serious and startlingly un self-aware at times. There’s a definite Spinal Tap-ness going on with their often unintentionally hilarious musings. Matt (the more prolific of the two at these) proudly showing us the painting he had done of his dog with a pint is right up there with Nigel Tufnell’s wide-eyed wonder at his guitars and you have to pinch yourself as a reminder that this isn’t fiction.
There’s a couple of quotes that I did like though, such as ‘Everyone has to be on the same page so that you can turn the page’. And there’s some genuinely touching and tear-inducing moments – mostly footage and subsequent memories of their late mother. They also treat their fellow musicians and fans, both now and then, with genuine respect and affection and I found myself warming to them and hoping that the comeback concert would be a success, which it seemed to be. Whatever your view of their music, Luke can play drums and Matt can sing, so good luck to ‘em.
The relationship between them is fascinating. Luke, we discover, always felt the ugly relation; the bridesmaid, never the bride; parked behind his kit while Matt was in the thick of the crowd, the more ‘successful’ one. And yet it was Luke who exerted the most power in their relationship, being the one to walk away from the band while they were still riding high. He has been married for over twenty years; his wife Shirley is present but not overbearing during the concert filming, and significantly, not interviewed. It is their story, not anyone else’s. It is likely that Shirley has been the steadying influence on Luke, who comes across as more grounded than Matt. For me the most poignant moment comes as they walk the long walk from backstage to start their gig. ‘You’re the love of my life’, says Matt to Luke. ‘I love you too’, says Luke, somewhat distractedly, no doubt thinking of the night ahead. ‘No, you’re the love of my life,’ reiterates his brother. This is not answered.
You have to remember they were only eighteen when they were catapulted into stardom, with crowd hysteria worldwide allegedly not seen on that scale since The Beatles. It does something to your psyche, I’m sure. I’ll forgive Matt some of his ludicrous pronouncements for that.
Ready, Set, Cook! Or rather stand looking confused at a chicken, asking which part is the breast. (Monty Panesar). Yep, Celeb Masterchef is back. Is it the same as before? No, it has ‘The Wall’.
Gregg’s (aka Celeb-irritant Shrek) saucer-eyes nearly expanded off his face with excitement at announcing this new development. As walls go, it’s safe to say that Trump’s one is still uppermost in people’s consciousnesses. My ten year old liked it though, so I guess it has some appeal. The pairs are sent to either side of the wall to attempt to make exactly the same dish. They can call out to each other, a la Pyramus and Thisbe, about what procedure they are doing but never the twain shall meet. Until they are summoned to the judging table of doom to see which offering looks more like a dog’s dinner. Selfish Martin Bayfield nearly toppled the wall (metaphorically rather than literally, although that would have been fun). At 6 foot 10, the pro rugby player/giant was obviously taller than any of the set designers had reasonably expected anyone to be. He could look straight over the wall. However, he is a sporting sportsman and refrained from doing so.
On the subject of sportsmen, I am particularly intrigued by Monty. According to Wikipedia, he is a ‘slow’ bowler, which seems apt. Even I know that bowlers have to run a short distance prior to launching a ball. How on earth did he manage to get up the speed? Did he have those magic trainers with little wheels on? His setting seems permanently on slow and incapable of doing more than one thing.
One of the funniest things I’ve seen recently is Head Chef Frank, apoplectic with rage at having to deal with him and Gemma Collins in the same kitchen. Sadly the two were on separate teams, how delicious it would have been if they’d been put together.
‘Come ON!!!’ bellowed exasperated Frank. ‘They’re eating this today, not next week!!’
Meanwhile Monty ambled about in a daze and Gemma went for a natter with a customer. Fortunately for these two, their partners, Stef Reid and Zoe Lyons, picked up not only the slack but the whole damn rope, grafted themselves into the ground quietly and food was served. The meek did inherit the earth, or rather their places in the next round, so we won’t have a reprise. Shame that. I did LOL muchly.
Gemma Collins is of course, a sitting duck for wrathful comments. One of those orange-hued ducks you put in the bath. Some reality ‘stars’ (and I use the word loosely) have the grace to look a little abashed at their lack of knowledge or skills. Not so our Gemma, who boldly declares before each challenge how she will ‘smash it’. She does indeed smash a plate, but that doesn’t make it into any of her dishes. We assume. Perhaps that was the crunchy part?
Gemma doesn’t believe in doing herself what others can do for her, so she bosses about the staff in both the professional kitchens they are sent to. ‘It’s done’, she announced proudly, each time a harassed chef wanted to know if she’d peeled her effing potatoes. Yes, done by SOMEBODY ELSE. She is staggered to the point that her face nearly moved that the contestants have to also serve the food that her team-mate has slaved over.
It is quite refreshing in some ways to see a woman who doesn’t forever downplay herself and her abilities. The irony being that those with the least ability often have the most arrogance. Spencer Pro-Stud-Muffin Matthews, her posh counterpart, is similarly confident. He’s also quite good though and hard-working. Damn him. Gemma is indeed breath-taking, having reached through TOWIE a level of infamy completely at odds with any discernible talent, but directing rage at her is misguided. We have created these reality TV personalities and we must pay for it. They’re just another brick in the wall.
I didn’t watch Love Island at all for about five weeks. Then I saw a couple of extracts with my 13 year old son, snorting at the ridiculousness of it, the ‘melts’, ‘salts’ and ‘mugging offs’. He announced to our cat that he’d like to ‘couple up’ with her.
Sadly, like Icarus, I watched slightly too long and then fell into the blaze of the last two weeks. I didn’t have the app, I didn’t watch any of the spin-offs. But I did see all the remaining episodes.
Having now observed some snippets from earlier episodes I realise I missed most of the good stuff. The ‘recoupling’ sections I saw were completely yawnworthy for the most part.
‘Who would you like to couple up with?’
‘The same person I’ve been with for the last week.’
Repeat five times.
There were some exceptions obviously. Jack (or OluwaJack/Blackjack, as some desperados tried to claim him as part of the brethren).
‘I’d like to couple up with Laura.’
Not ‘old’ Laura you understand, who he’d been tongue-tonsilling with only a day or so earlier, but ‘new’ young fresh Laura. It was unfortunate that the Laura who was older had also been in the villa longer, as there was a contemptuous tone to the tweets decrying her desperate has-been behaviour at the grand old age of 29.
It would have been excellent telly if ‘old’ Laura had ‘misunderstood’ and gone stampeding up to reclaim Oluwajack, but she had her own plentiful awkward moments at other times, revealing that she is a tad insecure and perhaps not suited to maximum exposure on TV. Getting jealous and snippy when Plank’o’wood Paul, as gorgeous as he is dull, told her he’d kissed Britney Spears in a music video. When she asked him what they would call their children on Day 2½ of their acquaintance. Or sniping bitchily at gorgeous Alexandra’s sexy attire.
There was the whole Dr Alex conundrum. From what I can gather he was on the shelf for a large portion of the show, then acquired Alexandra, dumped her, reacquired her, redumped her…he’d probably still be at that, if let. We had the magnificent speech from the wronged lady… ‘You’ve wasted my time, you’ve wasted your time. Shame on you.’ Not quite up there with ‘I have a dream’, but in terms of trash reality telly, pretty damn fine. As indeed is Alexandra, who is so hot you could fry eggs off her.
Alex didn’t seem to see it. He might be gay, as some slack-jawed commenters believed – who could NOT fancy Alexandra?! However, it’s more likely to be the elephant in the room that I’ve not seen mentioned anywhere, she’s not the same social class as him. She’s bright, beautiful, sexy, kind, but he’s a doctor and he’s ultimately going to want to ‘couple up’ with a horsey girl from Surrey called Julia who’s a university educated ABC1. This is not a judgement on him, or a suggestion that I think he’s better than her. They are just too different and the long term success of a couple usually involves being from the same background. He thought for a while that ‘new’ Laura might have been his Julia, there’s a sense from her ‘I’ve travelled everywhere’ manner and surfer-girl chick that she could have done a spell on Made in Chelsea first, but Oluwajack had better lines so he snaffled her. Mea culpa Alex, you were almost Nasty Nick, but not quite. I’m sure your Julia will be along soon.
Jack and Dani, ‘JANI’, were always going to win by a ginormous landslide (79%). Not only are they perfectly matched, they do seem to genuinely like each other. Of the last four couples, they are the ones most likely to last. Even in our cynical, Brexit-worn days, we can see this.
As for the other three…? Megan will probably ditch poor dear Wes for a Premier League footballer before the year is out, Josh will probably ditch poor dear Kaz for someone who would normally date a Premier League footballer before the year is out, Paul will probably ditch Laura before the summer is out – is Britney available?
I have to confess I was slightly underwhelmed by the first episode of Poldark. Granted it’s been a while since it was last on, so they probably thought a recap was in order, but it felt like over half of it was reminding us what had happened in the last series.
So we have Ross (of course), just as gorgeous and brooding as ever. Demelza, feisty and spirited, still righteously cross about Ross dipping the Poldark toe into Elizabeth, so to speak, although slightly less cross due to her own dalliance with Very Pretty Hugh, who looks like he’d be more at home on Made in Chelsea. Elizabeth, considerably less attractive since her adoption of her husband’s snootiness, George, mouth still like a cat’s anus. Cornwall’s very own Romeo and Juliet – the exceedingly baby-faced Drake and perpetually mournful Morwenna, forever under the watchful eye of the oily Rev, who is like a Christopher Biggins gone bad.
While I was waiting for something to happen and marvelling at how much galloping on horseback across the countryside there seemed to be (it could have rivalled a Lloyds bank ad), I fell to wondering if you put the combined hair of the cast members together, how far would it stretch? For they are all an astonishingly hirsute bunch, man, woman and horse. And there’s always a strong wind, so the locks are blown madly hither and thither. Demelza’s hair has definitely got redder, which is interesting because I don’t think L’Oreal stretched to Cornwall in the eighteenth century.
Finally, some action happened. There was a skirmish on the dock between the merchants, who were shipping grain abroad, and the starving locals. George’s hitman Tom, who looks like a demented Jaffa cake, witnessed the demise of a merchant due to cracking his head on a bollard. Seeing as Drake and Pious Sam, Demelza’s brothers, were in the vicinity; and knowing how his owner, sorry, master, doesn’t like ANYTHING to do with Ross (bit of a pisser as his master's son is Ross’ as we all know), he went scuttling back on his piggy legs to stitch them up.
In the blink of an eye, they’re a noose away from meeting their maker. Of course, at the eleventh hour, Ross gives an impassioned speech and the brothers are saved. Not the other one though. Can’t remember his name. He didn’t kill the merchant either, but he was involved in the fighting. George struts off in a huff, resolving to try harder next time. Jaffa wouldn’t let it lie either. In episode two, he challenged Sam to a wrestling match. Seeing as he’s the size of about five Sams, this is monstrously unfair, but no-one blinks an eye as the ring is set up, ready for all the children to witness a nice piece of brutality. Jaffa wins by insinuating he’s already had Sam’s crush Emma, then literally knocks the stuffing out of him. He proceeds to get drunk as a skunk much to George’s embarrassment, who promptly fires him.
Elsewhere, Demelza and Caroline-whose-face-never-moves, manage to sort out the spat between the gentlemen about which bit of land belongs to who. I’m a bit hazy about this, but then I’m only a silly girl. Which was precisely the argument the women used. Demelza also found time in her busy schedule to hold Hugh’s hand on his deathbed. He wanted to know if he had another chance with her. She is still wracked with guilt over the last time, so declined and he literally had nothing left to live for. Poor guy, he’d already been subjected to a whole load of leeches, she could at least have lied to him.
A new candidate had to be found to contest George The Nasty, who will only be happy once all the rabble have been silenced. I’m surprised the production team haven’t made his face orange and given him a blonde quiff to be honest. Ross is chosen, naturally, and wins by the slightest of margins, despite George having greased enough pockets to fry a whole vat of potatoes.
‘I have been treated with contempt because my ancestry is inferior to his,’ he humpfs before doing his customary flounce out. George, you’ve been treated with contempt because you’re a massive thundering turd, but you’ll never see it. So Ross is off to London, leaving Demelza unguarded. Might be a risky move. Hugh may be gone, but there’s bound to be others in his wake. Or even at his wake….
Oscar season once more. There’s been much hubbub about it being the Year of The Woman, what with all the #metoo and #timesup and all that jazz. Films featuring STRONG women, such as Ladybird, I, Tonya and Three Billboards. It seems unlikely we’ll get a repeat of last year’s erroneous Best Film announcement, or indeed anything as syrupy as Blah Blah Land patting itself on the back. I haven’t seen it. I’ll wait until it’s on the terrestrial telly box and watch it sneeringly.
The other day I watched The Artist, which needed a truck to take home all the gongs it won in 2011. To be honest, I was a bit puzzled why. Yes, it was startlingly different and Hollywood likes to think it’s au fait with that, nay, even the champion of that, but I found it a tad dull, excepting the far too few bursts of speech. The plot would have fitted into a matchbox quite honestly. It purported that the central actor was somehow lost in a silent world, incapable of speech, but never really explored this exciting Kafkaesque idea. And the predicament of the beautiful actress who went above and beyond the call of duty to help the insufferable, washed up ham just made me cross.
I saw Ladybird last night (I parted with my dollar for that) and thought it excellent. Thought-provoking, funny, intelligent with intriguing, rounded characters. Hadley Freeman wrote that it deserved the Best Film gong but almost certainly wouldn’t get it. I’m in complete agreement. It’s not showy enough. And Hollywood actually prefers its women to be dangerously unhinged, ill - preferably dying, a victim of some sort or an out-there kook to consider bestowing a statuette. They don’t really like warts-and-all women taking centre stage and getting on with their lives independent of the men. Incidentally, the men in the film were also very sympathetically portrayed, excepting Kyle, the arrogant boyfriend. Who was a complete arse who deserved no better.
The absolutely captivating Saoirse Ronan has the most exceptional face. Beguiling and unconventional. I noticed in the wash of trailers before the film that both Lily James and Amanda Seyfried have not one, but two new films coming out this year. Misfortune AND carelessness on the part of Tinseltown. The depressing fact is that Hollywood likes its starlets to look exquisite and thoroughly groomed. It’s ok for Frances McDormand or Sally Hawkins to look quirky, for they are not young any more. Occasionally a young woman who doesn’t fit the mould will win, but she’ll probably belong to the category of ‘unhinged-ill-dying-victim-extreme-kook.’ Maybe the equally excellent Laurie Metcalf will win Best Supporting, so at least it'll get one gong.
People kept asking me if I was watching Motherland. In addition to being a mother, I also work with mothers, so it was an obvious question. I did indeed watch it and I enjoyed it, although not as much as I had hoped, nor did I feel the series quite matched up to its pilot. The characters, who appeared there in glorious technicolour, were stretched to their lowest common denominator here.
Take for example, Liz, the sitcom’s only non middle class representative. She must have been toned down, because several people commented on the lack of social diversity, not even noticing she was different. She was still feisty and devil may care, but the quirkiness – which manifested itself in the pilot in a number of ways, such as keeping all her food items in the freezer – seemed to diminish, as she was seen wanly trying to attract one man after another.
The central character, Julia, as played by the excellent Anna Maxwell Martin, is brilliantly taut and brittle, yet increasingly less likeable as the episodes went on - her screeching, hysterical attitude towards her own mother was unpleasant to watch - and disorganised to a point that beggared belief. She constantly bemoaned her lack of childcare, yet would spend vast amounts of time in the café while her children were at school. Understandable if she had a pre-school aged child, yet she didn’t. The uber-bitch Amanda had a peculiar character transformation mid series and the stay-at-home dad Kevin was so absurdly puppyish and wimpy it was unnerving.
Certain things did hit the nail absolutely on the head. The concept of ‘school mum friends’, as distinct a group from real friends as work colleagues are. The hierarchy between the elite table and the lesser table in the café which was stuffed with school mums. Or the etiquette around children’s parties – do you stay with them or go, cancel if a child is ill, drink, not drink? Kevin, dolefully wandering around the school fundraiser as a sweat-drenched ‘human cloakroom’ was very amusing. The Cat Man, employed by Julia as entertainment for her daughter’s party, whose act consisted solely of cats emerging from various boxes, was side-splitting. Best of all, the time that Julia knocked Anne’s dead father’s face out of the Pinhead ornament and had to hurriedly recreate it using her own, was equally genius and better than can be described here.
However, there was a paucity of laughs throughout: less about the exploration of the mother dynamics that was funny, rather the touches of absurd surrealism that were unrelated to the topic. It might have been an instance of ‘too many cooks’, seeing as there were four writers. Graham Linehan, creator of the brilliant and surreal Father Ted and IT Crowd, was one of them and I suspect the influence behind the three examples mentioned above. I wished his impact had been greater, if so. Or perhaps I’m just too close to the subject matter. Jo Brand said of ‘Damned’, her sitcom about social workers, that the most important factor was that it was funny. A friend of mine, who is a social worker, was spitting feathers about ‘Damned’ and what she felt was gross stereotyping, whereas I thought it was fabulous. If I am too like those mothers to be able to laugh at myself though, I wish I had as much time and money to spend in the café as they did.
I actually quite enjoy this version, truth be told. Not so much the personnel in question, who range from quite endearing to making you want to put your fist through the wall, but because they have some rather good challenges in this incarnation. The ingredient recognition test was always one of my favourites and I’m pleased to see it’s made a comeback, even though some of the items are insultingly simple. Red pepper, seriously?! Although I’d suppose you’d technically get brownie points for knowing it is a bell pepper, but this wasn’t adhered to.
The disparity between competence levels is both amusing and frustrating and makes you realise all the more they had to take who they could get, so thinly stretched is the ‘talent’ available. These Celeb versions littering the schedules rely on us, the ever-slavering public, giving two figs as to whether so-and-so who once presented something on an obscure cable channel is now able to boil an egg satisfactorily. You do get one or two bona fide big names per series, Vic Reeves being one this time round. Shame he couldn’t have been paired with Ulrika Jonsson. Or Ulrika-ka-ka, as she’s better known from their time on Shooting Stars. He might have relaxed her slightly. She looks like she’s being almost constantly tortured, which makes you wonder why she’s subjected herself to it. Oh yes, for cash probably.
You realise how bad this Non Celeb thing has got when you look at Kate (or rather the Reverend Kate. She has to permanently wear her dog collar and cross herself in case we, the dribbling loons, forget for a second who she is). Is Reverend Kate famous for healing the sick, making the lame rise from their beds, turning water into wine or any other useful skill? No. Reverend Kate is famous because she once watched OTHER PEOPLE DOING THINGS ON TELEVISION. Now, I love Gogglebox very much indeed, but those on Gogglebox need to STAY on Gogglebox, not be meandering over all our programmes willy-nilly. Yes, Scarlett Moffatt, I AM looking at you. You have a certain caustic wit, but Noel Coward you are not. It wouldn’t surprise me if dear Scarlett rocked up presenting News at Ten, so ubiquitous is she these days. Warhol would be spinning in his grave so much, his head would be drilling holes in the sides.
Rev Kate had the work ethic of all the disciples and a few saints for good measure. Her output was astonishing and ultimately proved her downfall, as she produced three puddings instead of the stipulated one. This would have been fine except the least appetising looked like it had come out of an ill cat’s bottom. She made no friends on the Twitterverse, who felt her modesty about her talents was somewhat fake. Worse than that, she was extraordinarily bossy and condescending to her fellow Slebs on the challenges. It was all in the editing, protested some. Maybe once, but she was even worse the second time, which starts to look more like carelessness than misfortune, as genuine celebrity Oscar Wilde might have said.
Much feather-spitting ensued also around Ulrika’s staying power. She does seem to have a lot of lives (unlike the ill cat from whom Rev Kate’s pud ensued). In the last round, she made a risotto. I’m sure it was very nice indeed, but I can make a very nice risotto. I’m not sure I could make an exquisite rose out of thinly peeled apple as Angelica Bell did. Or show as much grit as adorable Becky Adlington, who after an initial horrified reaction to the fish, knuckled down to the preparation without a further murmur. These two are the winners in my book. You go, girlfriends!