THAT WAS THE BOX – October 2015 (Week Three) | TV Reviews
While we’ve been off air, a few things have happened in TV land, and below is my round-up. Starting off with the shocking news that I have stopped watching ‘The Only Way is Essex‘. And here is why.
Having watched ‘TOWIE‘ from Series 1, I came to enjoy the ridiculous storylines, the terrible fake tans and the often ear-grinding accents from our Essex pals. The first few series were full of characters. People like Amy Childs, who although inherently stupid, was sweet and endearing, introducing us to vajazells and the expression “well jel”. There was bunny boiler Lauren Goodger who was convinced beautiful, refined Lucy Mecklenburgh was an ugly wretch who didn’t deserve Mark Wright – who went onto marry Michelle Keegan anyway. Then we had Joey Essex with his inability to tell the time, and giving us the expression “Reem”. These people had ambitions. They opened shops and staged horrid, lame fashion shows attended by non-speaking extras. It was all a laugh, a bit of escapism twice a week, like a real-life soap.
But alas, the show has turned into an animated version of one of those agony aunt strips that used to be in Jackie magazine (ask your mum). Every storyline is centred around who snogged who, who has broken the girl code, who fancies who etc etc. The people are so bland, I now welcome their names being put on-screen every time they talk, just so I can recall who they are. There are only so many times Arg and Lydia can split up and get back together, and I really have no interest in whether or not Jake and Chloe get back together. They are both boring and uninteresting and deserve each other. The turning point for me was when I found myself missing Gemma Collins. Yes she was a bitch and full of her own dramas, but at least she had a bit of life in her.
I think it’s time for ITV to accept that the show has run its course and scrap it. Because it’s semi-scripted and based on real life, there are only so many storylines that can be thought up. If it was a proper soap, the writers could invent anything they wanted (could you imagine one of the ‘TOWIE‘ lads coming out as a transsexual, like Les Coker?!!). But as it is, you’re dealing with largely young people with little going on in their lives.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’ve outgrown in. I don’t know how Nanny Pat puts up with them.
We have also been introduced to some exciting new comedies…..
‘CHEWING GUM‘ (E4 – ALL 4)
E4’s new comedy makes ‘The Inbetweeners‘ look like ‘Last of the Summer Wine‘. It centres around Tracey, a young woman growing up with a God-fearing mother and sister, on an estate in Hackney. Her bible bashing boyfriend is soon dumped when he refuses to deflower her, and she instead turns her attentions to Connor, her slightly weird next door neighbour, who lives with his very liberated mum. All the while gaining the rather dubious advice of her best friend Candice, who happens to have rather dubious morals. The series has been adapted from a stage play by the lead actress Michaela Coel, and I have to say it is funny and refreshing. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a sitcom before where you see a girl on the toilet wipe herself and show the camera her menstrual blood! Shocking maybe, but it’s real life. I feel it might be one of those sitcoms (a little like ‘Phoneshop‘) that is easier to grasp if you are a Londoner, as a lot of the dialogue is very urban, but most girls can relate to the feeling of wanting to break away from their family and make a stand for themselves, but at the same time being scared of making mistakes.
The comedy is helped greatly by Coel’s comedy face. The first week when she donned a blonde wig and blue contact lenses, to make herself (sort of) look like Beyonce, was comedy genius. I think she is a real talent in the making. I only hope ‘Chewing Gum‘ doesn’t go mainstream because it will end up being watered-down and losing its edge. But I think it’s time that comedy showed the trials and tribulations of being a woman, including all the messy physical bits. The last to come even near was ‘Birds of a Feather‘ and that has now become a parody of itself. ‘Chewing Gum‘ is one of the best Channel Four comedies in a long time.
‘THE KENNEDYS‘ (BBC1 – BBC IPLAYER)
On the other end of the scale, we have ‘The Kennedys‘. Loosely based on Emma Kennedy’s own childhood, it’s a modern take on the cosy 70s sitcom. But unlike ‘Miranda‘, who set out to do the same thing, but set it in the present day, ‘The Kennedys‘ is actually set in the 1970s. The star of the show is young Emma, a sweet, sassy ten-year-old who lives in Stevenage with her parents Brenda and Tony. Brenda (played by Katherine Parkinson) is like a warm Margot Ledbetter, all social-climbing and not wanting to be too suburban, and dad Tony (Dan Skinner) who is loveable and easy-going. They are friends with their neurotic neighbours Tim and Jenny. Tim is played by Harry Peacock, who also plays Ray ‘F*cking’ Purchase in ‘Toast of London‘. Here he is strangely sexy in that sort of hairy, manly 70’s way. (best thing about ‘Hotel Babylon‘) plays Jenny, who is pregnant with their first child – much to Tim’s chagrin as he would rather be off shagging around than settling down.
I intially approached the programme with caution, thinking it would be a sort of BBC rip off of ‘Raised By Wolves‘, which I loved. But I think ‘The Kennedys‘ works better. One of the faults with ‘Raised by Wolves‘ is that Caitlin Moran grew up in the 80s, and at times the storylines would have been more suited to 30 years ago than 2015. But ‘The Kennedys‘ is set in the late 70s when Emma Kennedy was a ten-year old. Being close in age, a lot of it resonates with me. The fact that pasta seemed exotic and no one had dinner parties, the naff cars and Scandinavian style houses that looked awfully modern because they were knocked through and had open staircases. Naturally when two actual Scandinavian lesbians move in, Brenda and Jenny are so eager to impress, they end up pretending to also be gay, as well as roping in Tim and Tony, just to impress their ‘exotic’ new neighbours. Of course, it ends in disaster, but that’s part of the fun.
Not only are the clothes, dialogue and props authentic, it is also filmed in that hazy glow so many 70s films seemed to have, and the soundtrack was excellent. As soon as it opened with Rasputin by Boney M, I knew it was going to be good. The nods to the future are funny, but not overly done, so most of the time, you really do feel as though you’re back in 1978. After the brashness of ‘Chewing Gum‘, ‘The Kennedys‘ feels like a warm mug of cocoa before bed.
‘GLITCHY‘ (ITV2 – ITV PLAYER)
The under-advertised new show on ITV2 is like ‘Off Their Rockers‘ for the iPad generation. Star of the show is Ryan Sampson, otherwise known as Grumio from the very funny ‘Plebs‘, and the concept is that Sampson and other comedians pretend to be making rip-offs of various reality TV shows and members of the public are roped in. Largely it is very funny, and Sampson is extremely talented. He particularly excels at playing bitchy women, I think largely because of his short stature. One of the funniest sketches is Mezmo, where Sampson pretends to be a street thug who’s going under the guise of a street magician and just uses his ‘skills’ to rob people or set them up for crimes he’s committed. Watching the expressions of the people he’s tricked is hilarious.
The only problem with concepts like this, as with Ali G, the characters only have a short shelf-life because before long, the public will recognise them and not fall for the scam. Sampson will have to come up with new characters, or, as I suspect, use this programme as a launch pad for his career which I have a feeling could go stellar if he was given the right vehicle.
So that’s it. Normal reviews will resume next week!