THAT WAS THE BOX – February 2014 (Week Four)

By on 2 March, 2014

TOWIE‘ (ITV2 – ITVPlayer)

Is it me or is part of the fun of ‘TOWIE‘ trying to guess what is fact and what is fiction? Especially after seeing people like Mark Wright, Sam Faiers and Mario Falcone on other reality shows and finding they are completely different to their ‘TOWIE‘ personas. Even Joey Essex on I’m a Celeb seemed a bit more intelligent than he does on ‘The Only Way is Essex‘.

Anyhoo, it’s switch-off-brain time again and we’re welcoming back our favourite orange people with strange Estuary accents. The on/off formula set back in series 1 with Mark and Lauren, then concentrated on Mario and Lucy, is now being played out by Charlie and Ferne. The couple who started off as blissfully happy bit-parters, are now centre stage with accusations of cheating, and Charlie seemingly having had a make-over by Rough Copy’s stylists (X Factor last year oh you forgetful people). I find Charlie strangely sexy – and that does concern me – so when we were introduced to Ferne’s new bloke ‘Frank Majors’ I found it weird that he looked like a strange cross between Alfie Boe and a tramp, wearing a City trader’s suit.

We’ve a few new characters. Grace, who wears the most make up in the entire world. Her friend Georgia, and Fran, Diag’s new flatmate. Fran’s a pretty little thing who is clearly more suited to Diag, but is being set up with Tom Pearce (aka the worst actor in the history of scripted reality shows – honestly Tom, your embarrassment is evident). Grace made her debut at Mario’s birthday party, which appeared to be being held at Appledore and included the unveiling of Charlie’s present to Mario, which was a homoerotic screen print of the pair of them; and people drinking out of the knee of an ice sculpture (?).

Nothing ever really changes in TOWIE-land, but that’s part of its appeal. I’d still like to know where they get their money from and how come Billie Faiers is the only one who’s got pregnant considering so much bed-hopping apparently goes on. But it’s good to have ‘TOWIE‘ back, even just because it gives me something to laugh at.


TV REVIEWS: Strippers - Channel 4
STRIPPERS‘ (Channel 44OD)

This week’s salacious look at British life comes not from Channel 5 but Channel 4 and their new series ‘Strippers’, looking at the lives of young women in Scotland who are choosing stripping as their career in the current, testing economic climate. Apparently the number of strip clubs have doubled in the past ten years, so it would seem even though many men are earning less money, what they do have they choose to spend watching scantily clad girls wriggling about.

Episode one concentrated on Diamond Dolls, one of the many strip clubs in Glasgow. Unlike most strip clubs, this one was owned by a woman – a grizzled ex-stripper called Shelley. She was like a protective lioness and her dancers her cubs. Although I got the feeling that her wish to look after them was due to forty percent maternal concern and sixty percent that they earn her a lot of money and any bad experiences will put them off returning.

We met three young women who worked at Diamond DollsKim, a pretty ex-gymnast with the strongest Scottish accent I have ever heard in my entire life. Laefena, a qualified nurse from Estonia who is stripping her way around Europe (after all it’s not like all countries require nursing staff), and Danielle, a drama student who hasn’t told her parents that she’s – ahem – an exotic dancer. Kim is tiring of dancing and longs to get a normal job, and this shows when she doesn’t come in for Halloween, which is one of the club’s most lucrative nights. One of the most poignant parts of the show was when Kim was showing the medals she had won for gymnastics, but she had eschewed a career in sport due to a pushy father, who she now doesn’t speak to. There was something of the self-destruct about Kim I fear whatever she does, she’ll end up drifting back to the seedy side of life.

Shockingly, the girls do not get paid a salary for shaking their bits at sweaty men. Instead they’re paid for the private dances they give. So if they’re having an off night, or trade is slow, they can go home having earned nothing at all. (Would be better off doing webcams – see last week’s Roundup!). Naturally, in the words of all pimps/madams/pornographers etc, Shelley is insistent that it’s the men who are being exploited and not the girls at all, and on the surface she is right. But we could get into the whole feminist debate on how men need re-educating on not valuing women on their appearance etc etc. But I guess blokes’ fascination with titty and ass isn’t going to come to an end in my lifetime so I might as well shut up.

By the end of the show Danielle had told her parents about her profession and she mysteriously disappeared from Diamond Dolls. I guess, speaking as an old codger, I’d be pretty miffed to have spent thousands putting my kid through drama school, only for them to supplement their income by stripping, and in the process lying to me that they had a boyfriend and that was why they were out all night. Kim had got a job in a bank, and sulky Laefena had gone back to Estonia, not happy because she hadn’t earned as much money as she’d planned to. Let’s hope she realises nursing is a much more worthwhile profession.


TV REVIEWS: The Line of Duty - BBC
LINE OF DUTY‘ (BBC 2 – BBC iPlayer)

Honestly, this programme has so many twists, turns and revelations it would have you questioning if you can even trust your own mother! Just when you think you know who the baddy is, another person pops into the frame and you start all over again. Without giving away too many spoilers in case people haven’t caught up on iPlayer, I’ll just say that poor old DI Alex Drake Denton is now in prison for her part in the ambush and it’s all gone a bit ‘Prisoner Cell Block H‘ meets sci-fi film, as robotic prison guards (I honestly thought all prison warders were like kindly Sam Bailey) ask her questions in monotonous voices and record her answers on iPads, nasty things are added to her food to make her sick, the cacophonous noise of her neighbour’s music has been replaced by fellow inmates shouting “pig” etc, and to top it all, she gets a nasty encounter with some boiling water. The more the show goes on, the more I think Denton is innocent and has been set up. But who knows, by the end of next week’s show, I might feel differently. I will just say though, if you haven’t already watched this programme, and you have a few hours to spare, download it on iPlayer to catch up. You won’t be disappointed.


TV REVIEWS: Anne and Henry – Lovers Who Changed History - Ch5

I just wanted to give a quick shout out to this programme. Because it’s on Channel 5, you can’t expect some stuffy male historian to tell us all about King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s relationship, instead we have the very pretty Suzannah Lipscomb with her curly blonde hair, nose stud and interesting boots. Suzannah is to history, what Brian Cox is to Physics. She’s like that really cool teacher who would make lessons fun because she’d turn stuffy historical characters into human beings that you could relate to. My favourite TV historian is Lucy Worsley. She’d be that eccentric teacher that would act out the characters in front of the class, making you laugh but somehow scaring you at the same time.

I digress. I read some negative reports of this show, saying it was dumbing history down. Well as a historian, I have to confess I have always found the whole Tudor period dull and uninteresting (except ‘The Other Boleyn Girl‘, but come on, Cumberbatch and David Morrissey in one film….) but after watching ‘Henry and Anne‘, I suddenly want to read up on them. The whole thing was rather like a glossy soap opera, with Anne seeming to be wearing mascara and Henry looking as though he’s stepped out of Fabric on a Friday night. But Lipscomb’s genuine excitement for the subject made me feel excited about it. I’m just worried now, because if I become too absorbed in it all, I might start fancying myself as a new Phillipa Gregory and write loads of trashy books about Catherine of Aragon or whatever….


About Karen Mason

Karen Mason is a London-based writer. She has published fifteen historical fiction novels and is currently working on her sixteenth. She is also an avid movie goer, with a particular preference for gritty British cinema and a weakness for Jason Statham films! Her music tastes stretch from Muse to the Cinematic Orchestra and she loves discovering new acts.

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