THAT WAS THE BOX – April 2014 (Week One)

By on 6 April, 2014

TV REVIEWS: W1A - Episode 3 BBC2

W1A‘ (BBC2 – BBC iPlayer)

This series is going from strength to strength, and while I would still prefer it to be about a fictional TV station rather than the real BBC (let’s face it, the egos and the office politics are probably the norm in any media organisation), like with ‘Twenty Twelve‘, there are still moments when anyone who has worked in an office, and more to the point, an office within the public sector, will recoil with horror or cringe in recognition. When poor Will the Intern mucked up the invitations by putting them in the wrong order, something within me died, as I too did the same thing many years ago as a young temp.

This week the spotlight fell on Ian Fletcher’s salary and the obscene amount of tax payers money that is spent on him as the ‘Head of Values’. Naturally, whenever there was an article about it, the salary was always pixellated out, but we’ve all read the reports of BBC managers and their trumped-up jobs, all being paid six figure sums for working on projects that never come to fruition. But in all fairness, that isn’t exclusive to the BBC. Believe me. I have 20 years experience of working within the public sector!
I felt most excited at the preview of next week’s show and saw that Sally (Olivia Colman) is making an appearance, as it seems Ian has spent some of that money on her. It was always left hanging at the end of ‘Twenty Twelve‘ of what happened to them, and it would seem, maybe they have had a shot at romance.

It’s the last episode next week, which is disappointing, but I suppose Hugh Bonneville has to go off and become Lord Grantham again. I do think they should make a spin-off starring the bozos who work at Perfect Curve, Siobhan Sharpe’s PR agency. Let’s be honest, Siobhan is the star of the show. I’ve yet to work with a Siobhan and I hope it stays that way for a very long time!


TV REVIEWS: Conned Fleeced And Left For Broke - Channel 5


This week’s Channel 5 documentary was about three women who were conned out of hundreds of thousands of pounds by people who claimed to be close friends. The one I felt most sorry for was Irene, who was conned out of £330,000 by her secretary and best friend, who stole from her and her terminally ill husband after she offered to take care of their building business for them. In the end she was sentenced to three years in prison but Irene had to watch her husband struggling to make ends meet in the weeks before his death, when he should have had some peace.

Call me hard, but it was a little more difficult to find sympathy for Debbie, who was fleeced by a former colleague and her brother, who invited them to invest the money Debbie’s dad had left her, with promises of an annual interest rate of 36%. It turned out the investment was nothing more than a huge ponzi scheme, where people are conned into investing large sums of money and never receive anything in return. Poor Debbie may have lost out on her Menorcan villa and the 51,000 euro deposit she’d put down, but it didn’t appear to have affected her fiancés much as Debbie seemed to still be living in a show-home. No one deserves to be fleeced by a friend, but Debbie’s motive was her own greed, as was the other investors that were conned out of a total of £2m.

Most jaw-dropping of the three was Bev, who ran a cleaning company and became close friends with one of her cleaners – Cath – who then claimed to have cancer, and started asking Bev for money for her treatment. Bev seemed a sweet, naive lady, but I did have to question what planet she was living on, when Cath initially asked her for £4k to pay for her treatment. We have a very good NHS in this country where cancer treatment is offered for free, and it does puzzle me how Bev could end up giving £80,000 to her friend for chemotherapy and never notice that she didn’t lose her hair or have to take a day off work. Even when Bev called the hospital and was told there was no consultant by the name Cath had given, Bev pushed it to the back of her mind and carried on shelling out money. In the end it took her to start a relationship with an ex-copper and for him to smell a rat, for Cath to finally be exposed as a fraud and sentenced to two years in prison, but leaving Bev with a lifetime of debt.

This programme was rather like a consolidation of stories from a woman’s magazine (to any men out there – believe me, down-market women’s rags are full of stories like this), but it did serve to remind me how suspicious I am of people. I don’t think I would have fallen for any of it.



TOWIE‘ (ITV2 – ITV Player)

I thought I would dedicate a large part of this week’s column to ‘The Only Way is Essex‘. Series eleven has just come to an end and I thought I would give my thoughts on what has happened (and not).


Observation number one is that I feel the show has become little else than a super-annuated set of advertisements. How many shots can you cram into one episode of the cafes, restaurants and beauty parlours of Chigwell/Buckhurst Hill/Loughton? How many arguments can be based around accusations made on Twitter accounts? Honestly, I know the young these days base their lives around social media, but it’s never via WhatsApp or BBM or even good old-fashioned Facebook. Take a look at the Twitter accounts of most of the TOWIE stars and you’ll find their timelines littered with praise for various products and treatments they have received, all with a handy “@” at the beginning to point you in their direction of the business. So naturally, a character mentions accusations made on Twitter, audience start following them, audience then start following the businesses they endorse. I do sometimes wonder what ‘TOWIE‘ would be like if it was made by the BBC.

Number two is that they really need to start auditioning proper couples rather than orchestrating these fake romances. The chemistry between Grace and Lewis was zero. Dan permanently wears an expression of embarrassment on his face whenever he has to play out his weird on/off romance with Jasmine. Unless people are great actors (see Arg and Gemma) sexual chemistry cannot be faked and when it doesn’t exist, it’s so evident that to see people trying to play a part is painful.

Number three. We are living in 2014. Women get married to other women. Women are single. Women win Olympic medals and sail single-handed around the world. Not all young girls are obsessed with boyfriends and getting one and keeping one. Similarly, there are plenty of young men out there who want to settle down and have no interest in being unfaithful. All the girls on ‘TOWIE‘ are reminiscent of ‘Tracey‘ in early episodes of ‘Birds of a Feather‘ – vacuous airheads who live for their man and naturally mistrust any other woman. Why can’t we have a Dorien for a change? A maneater who cheats on blokes? Sometimes the dialogue between the men on ‘The Only Way Is Essex‘, makes me cringe. Ricky being described by Elliot as not being a “real man” was painful. It’s a shame that we only got to find out about Chloe’s new shop last night, with a brief, ten second mention of it. Even when people visit MinniesSam and Billie’s shop, it’s usually to gossip about their love life.

Lastly, a couple of things. Can we stop the silence at the end of conversations. It’s so evident that the director has called “Cut!” and the actors are awaiting their next instruction, that it’s ridiculous. Also, please can they cut Charlie Sims out of the next series? I think I’m a little in love with him and this does worry me because a) I’m old enough to be his mother and b) he’s a bit of a tit.

I think if ‘TOWIE‘ wants to last for a few more years, they need to change the formula a bit. It used to be fun when we’d see Amy in her make-believe beauty salon, and Jessica trying to make it as a pop star. All this cheating boyfriend stuff is wearing thin, and as a bit of a feminist, it’s offending me how pathetic women are being made to look.


There will be no column from me next week, but I am leaving you in the very safe hands of my editor. Have a good week and see you on the other side!


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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