RSS Feed

Category Archives: Drama

Dear Jim

Dear Jim, (1926-2011)

Please please please please please please please please please please please could you fix it for me to return to the simple days when your show was one of the highlights of my weekend?

Your death, whilst terribly sad, was not a complete surprise – I have never once seen a photo of you without a cigar on the go, and once even saw you jogging while smoking a fat one – but it drew something in to very sharp focus for me: Kids today are utter bastards.

'The Chair' allegedly nine immigrant workers were killed in its 3 year construction

I think back to the letters that you used to get. You’d be sat there, decked out in your finest gold like a bleached anorexic Mr T, sat on that giant chair with all the secret compartments where you’d hide cigars, gin, your gun and of course those famous ‘Jim Fixed It For Me’ medallions, and you’d read out a letter from little Kevin in Withernsea asking if you could get him in to London Zoo to see if elephants really are scared of mice; or if him and his mates in the cubs could go to Alton Towers and eat a Wimpy meal on the rollercoaster. You’d make some delightful quip and then we’d meet the little scamp. They were generally agreeable enough, polite and clearly delighted to be there. These, let it be perfectly clear, were not spoilt little bastards – even I could see that through my haze of envy as they got to be a passenger in a stunt car doing a wheelie, throw a million pounds into a fire or press the button that demolished a tower block – they were just normal kids with the dreams of normal kids i.e. silliness, messiness and a bit of destruction. And you made them come true. And they got a bloody medal at the end of it. Jammy bastards.

Do you know what Jim? Even without your incredible charity work, your pioneering radio endeavours or your unrelenting service to Elizabeth Duke and the struggling British shell suit market you’d be a shoo-in for a spot on the good side of the afterlife. I have no idea who you’ll meet there, Jeremy Beadle’s a 50/50 shot, as is Rod Hull – mostly thanks to Emu, but I would imagine Bamber Gascoigne’s going to be there – he’ll be great for Trivial Pursuit. Did you two get on? I digress, the point is that you made so many kids happy that your spot is assured (we won’t mention that you did introduce some kids to Gary Glitter – how were you supposed to know?).

You could, of course, have made a lot more kids happy had your show not been cancelled, and while many will argue that your time was up because you were a relic of a bygone era, those people are idiots barking up the wrong tree.

The writing was on the wall for the show when Jimmy fixed it for this little boy to have a free go on 'Miss Swallows' at the local knocking shop

The problem was the kids Jim. In your heyday in the 80’s the kids had simple dreams – dancing The Locomotion with adorable teeny pop temptress Kylie or driving a locomotion with gruff giant Northerner Keith – they were fun and, importantly, achievable. Then the kids changed. The bastards. No-one wanted to be a train driver any more, they wanted, neigh demanded to be famous – talent optional. No longer would they be happy smashing a fake priceless vase on Antiques Roadshow (that was a brilliant one by the way) no, they ran out of imagination and into the shopping mall, wanting expensive things like computers, they wanted the moon on a stick – and they wanted it now. If you’d carried on you’d have had to have a budget of several million a show,  and giving in to them would have just compounded the problem Jim. You were best off out of it.

One lucky git meets the legend that was Roger Hargreaves, this kid changed his name to Mr Spawny

You never answered my letter but I forgive you, you were a very busy guy. It was probably an unreasonable request any way, I wanted to have a go in a fighter jet. It was a lot to ask, especially bearing in mind the rapidly collapsing Communist bloc subsequent political upheaval and increased demands on the military, not to mention the vast costs that would be involved in taking a child far too unattractive to appear on modern television (but perfectly acceptable then – in your face ugly present day kids) on a ten minute joy ride that would inevitably end with vomit filling the control panels. Regardless, you prolonged my innocent wonder at the world for a bit longer, and I thank you for that. It saddens me to think that in order to have watched, understood and properly enjoyed an episode of Jim’ll Fix It you’ve got to be over 21 – that’s a whole lot of people who missed out on something really special. No wonder they rioted.

The world was a better place with you in it, so (lights cigar) now then, now then Sir Jim, you Rest in Peace now, you were a proper legend.

From

R (aged 34)

PS – If you still get the letters wherever you are I would still like that flight

PPS – Or a go on a hovercraft

PPPS – Or a go on Kylie. I’m not fussy.

 

 

 

Dear Torchwood: Miracle Day

Dear Torchwood: Miracle Day, (BBC1, Thursdays @9pm)

Well well well, you’re certainly not a kids show any more are you? Crammed into that very decent opening hour you had kiddy fiddlers being put to, well not death, but made to shake a bit by being given a lethal injection.

The kids hadn't been this scared since unwittingly agreeing to join Gary Glitters 'secret' gang

Well, not lethal, but unpleasant without causing any lasting damage. Any way, you had all that then you had naughty words being used – which is very grown up – and a bit that you borrowed from The Terminator where the torched body still has movement and that bit you took from Final Destination where a highly unlikely series of events led to Dr Pratt out of ER getting turned into a kebab. I’m pretty sure there was also some sexy touching in there as well. All things considered the message was well and truly sent out in that first show – “We are not for kids!”

And that’s fine, genuinely. Recent events have told us what kids like: rioting, looting, arson and the occasional murder, so if anything you’d probably be a bit tame for them any way. However the difficulty I’ve had is that as you’ve progressed, as you’ve lumbered along at the speed of a tired tortoise with chronic arthritis dragging a safe up a hill, it’s become more and more apparent that only a child would buy into your ridiculous story. What started as an interesting concept with a few plot holes has quickly deteriorated and is now one giant hole with a few wafer thin wisps of plot drifting across it. To add insult to what might previously have been a life threatening injury you’ve also got a host of characters it’s absolutely impossible to give a shit about because they’re all so awful and, I presume in an earnest attempt to carry some subtext, you’ve become dull. Last weeks episode saw me looking at the clock after ten minutes and wondering if our world had succumbed to ‘the miracle’ because it felt like a genuine lifetime had passed.

The TV shouted "Torchwood, right now" the kids of London misunderstood

You had a good idea for an episode – possibly even a double or triple episode – and you threw money at it and stretched it out until it was ten hours long. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is not a good move. In an effort to help you avoid making the same mistakes again I’ve compiled a list of some of the larger failings of ‘Miracle Day’ it’s not an exhaustive list because I don’t have the ‘gift’ of everlasting life, but it should be enough to start you off. So, starting with the characters:

1) Oswald Danes

One of these men is NOT Bill Paxton

Ooooh, edgy. Yeah, get Hollywood star and former cheese coated President of America Bill “Not Paxton” Pullman to play a demented and unapologetic murderous kiddy fiddler type, and then, here’s the twist, you’re going to love this because it’s so like, you know, unexpected, then you make him like, into a hero, a sort of spokesman for the masses sort of thing. Isn’t that just the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard? Well, quite frankly, no. You see what you’ve done there is taken it that one step too far and taken a giant leap into the utterly implausible. People don’t forgive those who fiddle with or murder children. It doesn’t happen. You murder an adult then there’s some chance that you can be redeemed, you touch a kid and you’re the devil – there was a mass public outrage when Myra Hindley was allowed out of prison on a shopping trip and when rumours spread that James Bulger’s killers (only children themselves at the time) were being considered for parole much of society was disgusted – in short the picture you have painted wouldn’t happen. No way, no how.

You’ve reached, and that’s admirable. You’ve tried to be contentious, and that’s good. You’ve written  storyline that only the most deluded paedophile would allow themselves to believe for the briefest of moments, and that’s just fucking stupid.

2) Oswald Danes

Yes, I know he was point one, but this is a much quicker one, and it’s connected. You haven’t had him do anything that might even come close to aiding him in this highly implausible ressurection of his. It’s all well and good bandying around phrases like “trending on twitter” and “followers on Facebook”, we get it, you’re down with the kids (no mention of MySpace or Bebo though, where’s their love?) but it means bollocks all if you don’t have the character do anything even mildly compelling to prompt this massive sea change. If you’re going to ask us to believe the impossible at least give us something to cling on to – to just presume we’ll go with it is arrogant in the extreme.

3) Dr. Vera Juarez

Now there’s a face you’d never get tired of punching. I know what you were going for, you were aiming for the feisty maverick who’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. You missed. What you ended up with was the irritating bitch who spoke to everyone like they’d personally slighted her and treated everyone like they were incompetent halfwits not worthy of breathing ‘her’ air. I guess I was supposed to care about her, rather than cheer when she got shot (christ, she even got shitty with the bloke who’d just shot her) and holler when she got barbecued.

4) Mekhi Phifer

How did you coax such a poor performance out of such a good actor? Seriously. I mean he’s not even phoning it in, he’s written a note and stuck it to the fridge hoping we’ll read it when we get in.

5) Esther Drummond

Again, a character I’m sure I’m supposed to be sympathetic towards, but I find myself wanting to scream at practically every time she opens her mouth. Is she the wettest character ever to appear on grown up TV? She might

Esther was distraught to hear that the rats she'd called the council about had been killed

be. My favourite bit was where she seemed not only devastated but genuinely shocked when she heard that her niece and nephew had been taken away from her sister, whose been taken for psychological evaluation and put into care. I agree that this all sounds quite harrowing, but there are a finite number of things that can happen when you call the authorities telling them you fear for your niece and nephews safety because you think your sister might have gone bonkers – and this is top of the list. Swinging wildly between confident and terrified, competent and useless Esther isn’t a character as such, merely an entity with a script, an afterthought or an amalgamation of many characters the budget simply didn’t accommodate.

Now that we’ve dealt with the biggest character problems let’s have a quick look at those giant plot holes shall we? Okay:

1) Security

The world, the whole world mind, is in crisis and  yet it’s easy enough for people to walk around the most closely guarded places on the planet unhindered. No disguises, not even a costume change – Harkness doesn’t even have to take off his coat – come in, have a wander, rummage through our files, try to take your dad home. It’s all fine. Come off it. I have to provide two forms of ID to join Blockbuster but Rhys ‘Gwen’s Husband’ Williams who must be on any number of security forces watch lists and who was, let’s not forget, in hiding in the back of beyond when this all began, can get a job in a secure area that starts that day. Yes. Very good.

2) Travel

Cholera is rife, tuberculosis is spreading, typhoid and the plague are on the way, but we wouldn’t want to make it difficult for people to travel now would we? Come on Torchwood, come on Russell, that’s just plain lazy. You know as well as I do that way before it reached this point all air traffic would have been grounded in an attempt to stop the spread of these (and worse) diseases – ah, but that would have made it really hard for the irritating Juarez to get down to California or for the really very entertaining Gwen to get home to Wales wouldn’t it? Best to keep them flying. Do you know what though, I think I’ve inadvertently stumbled on another problem – assuming the authorities had taken the bizarre decision to allow air travel to continue the airlines would probably be a bit busy don’t you think? Flights booked up for weeks or even months, airports crowded and chaotic as people try to sort their lives out. Nah, that sounds too much like hard work, let’s just have people turn up at the airport and jump on a plane quick sharp.

Dust - this is how you stop international air travel. Take that Ebola virus!

3) Medical Staff

I realise that the scenario painted in Miracle Day is a tricky one – what do you do if nobody dies etc – but I’m pretty sure that what you don’t do is suddenly switch from a compassionate care giver who’s in the business of saving lives to a callous shit basket who seemingly couldn’t give the tiniest little chuff about any human life or the emotions of their loved ones. Strangely though that’s what seems to have happened to all the doctors and nurses of the world in your little drama. They no longer care, and not in a “The situation’s changed, we have to stay detached in order to do our jobs” sort of way, but in a “I really couldn’t give a shit” sort of way that is, once again, implausible.

We can only assume that The Doctor was busy settling some 'unfinished business' in another dimension...

4) The Doctor

Or the absence thereof. Are we really to believe that The Doctor, who has turned up on Earth countless times to investigate relatively piddling little problems that would have probably blown over without too much of a fuss any way, who can’t help but get involved whenever anything even vaguely interesting happens, who is inextricably linked with Harkness and Gwen and Torchwood as well as the rest of humankind, are we really supposed to buy in to the idea that he wouldn’t turn up to see what was going on? We are? Oh, right. You see there’s the problem when you create a universe with rules – you probably need to follow them. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he turns up and saves the day, but you’d at least think that Jack might question where he is when he’s so clearly needed and there’s a case that’s so very much his cup of tea. If I, a mere mortal who has neither met The Doctor nor saved the Universe with him, have queried his absence then surely someone who has spent a considerable amount of time with him would do. To not is, guess what? That’s right, implausible.

5) Life

Early on in the series an unconvincing Dr Pratt said something flowery and nonsensical about people having “So much life” or “Being so alive” or some such bollocks. Which is fine. Except they’re not are they? The whole series has become firmly focused precisely on the fact that people are weak and feeble and barely alive at all. In all honesty this is probably the pettiest of my points, but it’s such a huge contradiction that it can’t be ignored. It all adds to the general feeling that the premise of the show is flimsy and ill thought out. I’ll buy into anything if you give me reason to, I love buying into far-fetched stuff – it’s escapism at its finest and I’ve got a lot to escape from – but what have you given me to latch on to? Contradiction and inconsistency – that’s not a sound investment opportunity. It’s implausible and for that reason I’m out.

Well that’s far longer than I anticipated, but this is what happens when you’ve got me riled up.

You didn’t need to take American money and confuse yourself, but you did.

You didn’t need to take ten hours to tell a three-hour story, but you did.

And you didn’t need to add controversy that adds nothing other than an extra layer of implausibility into the mix, but you did.

It’s almost like this ship has several captains and they couldn’t agree on a route so instead they just allowed it to float with the current and, unfortunately, that’s seen you hit some pretty big rocks and now it looks like you’re going to sink. And that’s a shame, it really is.

R

PS – I really like Claire out of Six Feet Under, she’s brilliantly manic.

PPS – I didn’t like the bit with Pratt and his dad, that was utterly pointless.

PPPS – Seriously, no mention of The Doctor? At all? Think about it Russell…

Dear Columbo

Dear Columbo, (Loads of Channels, 1968 – 2003)

This is something of a first for me, a letter that is both entirely heartfelt and somewhat posthumous, I hope you don’t mind if at times it’s a little bit less than serious.

Basically I just wanted to say how saddened I am that Detective Columbo has now shuffled off this mortal coil, to know that the next time I see a detective he (or indeed she, for these are the times we are living in) will almost certainly have two functioning eyes fills me with both trepidation and an intense sensation of boredom.

Columbo - f**king ace!

In the last forty odd years there have been so many cop shows that it’s impossible to count. Actually that’s nonsense, it’s perfectly possible to count them, but it’s Friday night and I can’t be bothered. The point remains, however, that you can count the number of cop shows that lasted longer than you, Columbo, on the fingers of a dolphin. Or a jellyfish. Or a budgie. Basically you can count the number of cop shows that have lasted longer than the 35 years you have managed on the fingers of any creature that doesn’t possess fingers. It’s zero. None. Nada.

I should maybe acknowledge that I haven’t researched this, so it actually might not be true – I can’t think of a cop show that has lasted longer and do you know what, I don’t care. Columbo’s just died, if I want to say his was the longest running cop show in history I will. You can’t stop me.

Excuse my waffling, I’m emotional.

I’m one of the three billion people in the world (again not researched, sue me) who were born after your show began, so I feel like I’ve known you all my life. In a huge sea of cop shows that came and went, everyone knew Columbo and everybody, at least on some level, loved you. Yes we had our passing dalliances with others: the pastel shaded speedboat excitement of Miami Vice, they offered a glamour you simply never attempted; the tropical intrigue of Magnum who sported a moustache you couldn’t match; and the hokey old school warmth of Jessica Fletcher – who was also blessed with impressive facial hair. We fooled around with them, even loved them, but when they were gone we came back to you Columbo. We came back not just because you were there, but because we loved you.

Thomas Magnum - Sexy and undoubted owner of impressive lip upholstery, but a bit of a show off.

Why did we love you? How typically modest that you should ask you scruffy one-eyed midget. Well let me tell you why:

  • You possessed a natural charm that other shows simply couldn’t match, and trying to match it would have been a fool’s errand – because they didn’t have Peter Falk.
  • You drove a battered old car that looked ready for the scrap yard. Whilst Magnum and Miami Vice tried to engage the Yuppie audience with their flashy Ferraris you were realistic about your main audience: stoners and the unemployed. They don’t care about Ferrari’s, they don’t particularly aspire to own them – seeing a successful detective drive the sort of car they could afford was all they ever needed – and you supplied it!

He drove the sort of car that no-one ever aspires to. He was one of us.

  • Mrs Columbo. We almost never saw her, you made sure of that (we certainly never watched the ill thought out show that was Mrs Columbo), but boy we loved her – we knew all her little foibles you see, Columbo used to tell us all about them. The best character never to appear? Quite possibly.

Mrs Columbo. Yes, it was a real show.

  • The dirty Mac. Maybe my memory’s playing tricks on me, but whatever the weather, be it chilly (what’s that in LA? Low teens Celsius??) or if it was sweltering heat, you were wearing that Mac. I believe I’m right in saying that this also means you’re the only man ever to wear a Mac that often and never be caught masturbating in a public place. Bravo for that.
  • You had a glass eye! That’s cool enough, but the fact that you never got drunk, popped it out and dropped it in your bosses drink? That puts you a class above.

And they are the reasons I love you, I believe they are the main reasons that we – a couple of generations right around the world – love you, and why we’re very sad to see you go. The world is a poorer place now, but I will leave you all to your grief.

Sincere Condolences, and much love

R

Peter Falk - Legend

Oh, and just one more thing – you’re a one trick pony, but what a f**king trick! We knew who did it, we knew that you knew who did it, we knew exactly how you were going to pin them down but it was exciting every single time you did it. Just as you were getting to the door, or into your car, or as they were about to leave – it didn’t matter – you’d just toss it out there, all casual, like it was an after thought, like it meant nothing “Just one more thing…” and they were nailed, you had a piece of information, evidence or just a bloody hunch that they couldn’t escape from. Like Chris Waddle with his shoulder drop, it was the only trick you had, but you forged an incredible career out of it. It was brilliant.

That one more thing is why we loved, sorry love, you Columbo, and a big part of the reason that we will miss the awesome actor and human being that was Peter Falk.

RIP Columbo and Grandad out of The Princess Bride, you will be missed.

Dear Camelot

Dear Camelot, (Channel 4, Sat @9pm)

Greetings Ye Olde Worlde Citizen, and welcome to the modern age. The ‘Olde Worlde’ to which I refer is not the dark ages in which your ‘drama’ is set, that would be to imply that any effort had gone in to ensuring any form of historical accuracy on your part. No, I’m referring, of course, to the uber-popular soft core porn era of the early 1970’s when Robin Askwith would delight an audience of wankers (a statement of fact, not a judgement on their characters) by seducing, undressing and then knobbing a series of beautiful and buxom trollops in his ‘Confessions of…’ series. It was a time when moral standards were higher, porn much more difficult (and dramatically more expensive) to get your sweaty palms on and there were no computers, videos or smartphones to store your grot on – and as such there was a need for a socially acceptable way to set your eyes on a top-notch set of dirty pillows. Judging by a quick look around the internet that need has long since disappeared.

Fortnum and Mason - suppliers of Fine Jugs, Beautiful Baubels and Great Knockers, but sadly not breasts

Don’t get me wrong in this, I like boobs as much as the next man, and even straight women, gay men, the clergy – hell even the dead – will acknowledge that Morgan Le Fay (played not entirely terribly by Eva Green) is blessed with breasts of the absolute highest quality – imagine, if you will, that Fortnum&Mason supplied lady cushions – they’d look like these! Seriously, they’re quite mesmerising. Excellent piece of casting there.

Where was I?

Oh yes! As is now abundantly clear I have no problem with seeing boobs (well not a ‘bad’ problem at any rate), but I have to ask if you thought that the sight of boobs was a sufficient replacement for a decent script? I know what you’re going to say – “It worked with Spartacus: Blood and Sand.” – and you’d be right. Boiling down pretty much the entire history of the Roman Empire until it consisted of little more than topless women, violent men and violent men having aggressive sex with topless women did work exceptionally well. On Bravo. And then Sky One. Now I’m not saying that those channels attract a more low brow audience than Channel 4, but actually that’s exactly what I’m saying. On Channel 4, we, well I at any rate, expect a little more, and I’m delighted to say that there’s practically no level on which you didn’t greet my disbelieving eyes with abject failure.

I will return to my ‘Confessions of…’ analogy in a moment, but if you don’t mind me switching lanes for the time being…

Camelot Theme Park - Excellent fun when compared to a car park of similar size and expense

The whole experience was a bit like going to the Camelot Theme Park (Charnock Richard, J27 of the M6). Thanks to your excellent trailers I’d spent the entire journey almost vomiting with excitement, turning to my partner and demanding to know “Are we there yet, are we there yet?” until she threatened to turn the TV around if I didn’t shut up. Then, once through the gates, the initial thrill lasted for all of five minutes before it became clear that there was going to be quite a lot of waiting around to be done. So we waited in line for the next ride, and we waited, and waited – and then there was a couple of minutes of excitement in the form of a fight or some sex (obviously a roller coaster in this analogy, wait I think I’ve switched them around. I’m confused…) but whichever way around they’re supposed to go, this is true of both. The thrill, both in content and duration, simply wasn’t worth the wait. Take the big scrap at Camelot (your show, not the theme park), almost nothing happened. Sure, it felt like stuff happened, but in reality it was a loop the loop and little more. very disappointing. Other similarities included the fact that much of my visit was ruined by whiny little bastard kids (notably the wettest, feeblest portrayal of King Arthur in history) and that I was unnerved by the fact that so much was made of wood – in Camelot: The Theme Park some of the rides, in Camelot: The Travesty most of the cast. I also had candy floss whilst not enjoying either version of Camelot. Here endeth this failed analogy.

Returning, ever so briefly, to the Confessions of… thing, and I think this is my main point (look at me, I’m as confused as your show). You could forgive Askwith and co for making films that were little more than a series of soft-core sex scenes strung together

Askwith's reaction on being offered the role of Sir Lance-a-lot-of-ladies was "Oooh mother..."

with implausible dialogue and barely feasible plots because that’s what you signed up for. If anything the scenes tended to get in the way of the sex. They were a nice bit of good old-fashioned farce, a bit of titillation and everyone went home happy. Or at least they went home and made themselves happy. It was cheap and cheerful, it knew exactly what it was and so did the audience. No expectations of high quality, great acting or high drama because no-one ever suggested that any of those would be present. Oh how very different it is for you, Camelot. Almost everything I’ve just said about the Confessions of… films I can equally say about you, but it’s not so easy to forgive because, you see, you have the budget; you have the technology; and perhaps most importantly you have one of the most abiding stories this nation has ever produced – and it wasn’t mostly about Merlin being all shouty and Morgan’s tits.

You’ve taken an amazing tale, thrown an offensive amount of money at it and what have you produced? Confessions of Arthur, King of the Britons Except instead of the cheeky charms of Robin Askwith you’ve got some unimpressive, unappealing moaning teenage bell end who has taken to the role of leading man like a duck to Backgammon. I’m not saying he’s bad, I’m saying he’s so bad that it almost made me forgive Joseph Fiennes for being made almost entirely out of re-constituted pig product. He really has put the ‘ham’ in ‘One of the most s’ham’bolic performances I’ve had the misfortune to sit through, I mean seriously, what’s he so very angry about?’ and the twat in ‘Joseph Fiennes has an acting career? Lucky twat.’. I had hoped that his alarming performance in the dire Flash Forward was a one-off, but it would seem that it was on that performance that you hired him. Bravo, producers, Bravo. Your shows belong on Bravo. Yes, I’m aware the channel no longer exists, that’s the point.

The cast of Camelot (minus Fiennes who was in his luxury sty) take a break during filming

You should always try to finish on a positive note, so I’m going to finish on two!

  1. I won’t be watching again. Hurrah.
  2. A redeeming feature for Camelot is the provision of ample parking. After a lengthy drive up the M6 you don’t want to struggle to find a spot. Bravo to them.
Please don’t attempt any more takes on British history.
R

PS – Alternative title suggestion number 2 –  The Secret Diary of King Arthur, Age 15 3/4

PPS – You’ve seen Game of Thrones right? It’s just your crapness implies that you haven’t.

PPPS – I forgot to add that I’m equally annoyed at Channel 4. Damn it.

PPPPS – I apologise for implying that you did no research. You clearly watched Monty Python’s The Holy Grail and mistook it for a documentary. Common error.

Dear Scott & Bailey

Dear Cagney and Lacey, sorry, Scott & Bailey, (ITV1, Sundays @9pm)

Scott & Bailey - actually not that bad. For ITV.

I know you’re probably tired from catching murderers and what not, but if you could find the time to read my little note I’d be most grateful. I don’t want you to worry that I’ll be questioning your astute detective work – I mean who could? Murderer wears watch, weird-looking man also wears watch, weird-looking man clearly must be murderer – it’s a story as old as time itself, I’ll certainly be taking a defensive stance before asking anyone if they have the time again, let me tell you that! I also won’t be questioning your dialogue – it really wasn’t half bad, especially for an ITV piece. Neither shall I be chastising any of your performances. Some were a bit shonky obviously – I mean, this is ITV not HBO – and it’s particularly difficult to take Chief Fung Shui Direct Line seriously, but overall it’s much much less awful than I was anticipating, so kudos. Well done on producing something that hovers comfortably between ‘mediocre’ and ‘alright’. It’s perfectly acceptable fodder and you should be proud of yourselves.

Sincerely,

Ooooh, actually, do you know what, there is one thing that didn’t sit right with me – and I should tell you from the outset that it affects me somewhat directly because I am, for want of a better description, to all intents and purposes and to the best of my knowledge, a man – and it is, you might have guessed this by now, have you? Come on, you’re detectives… Yes, it’s your characterisation of the men folk. Or the lack thereof. It’s a cause for concern. Having a quick look at the male characters we have:

  • A philandering, self-aggrandising barrister twat who spends his spare time lying about having a wife and kids and getting hard-working lady detectives in the ‘family way’. Not a strong start for us blokes is it.
  • A lanky young lad (not a bad start) who’s a bit nervous around women (that’s ok, quite endearing really) loves his mum (that’s great) and as a hobby he’s a serial rapist and murderer. Oh dear. So close.
  • Lacey’s husband (sorry, that should read Scott’s – I have literally no idea why I keep doing that) who when he isn’t ignoring his poor hard-working detective wife is busy making demands on her. As selfish as he is ignorant, he’s almost certainly the catch that she convinced herself he was when she married him. This isn’t going well.
  • The victims son. Poor kid. Of course he immediately went round the perp’s house and barbecued (not roasted, that’s an entirely different enterprise) the innocent teenage sister who was, somewhat inexplicably, living in the unguarded and un-quarantined crime scene that is a serial killers house (bit of a plot point perhaps?). It’s understandable that he’d seek revenge, but still not looking good for us men folk.
  • The dedicated former detective. This sounds better. He’s a nice old man, looks a bit like Santa without a beard. Okay, good so far. He refused to give up on catching a murderer and has pieced together evidence that suggests he’s a serial killer. Bingo, jackpot, Yahtzee – we’ve got a good man. Chronic alcoholic. Bugger.
  • The colleague. All we know about him is that he’s seemingly of fairly feeble mind, that he once did sex at Lacey (Scott) and that now he’s obsessed with her and acts all jealous and possessive and infantile. Not great.
So there you have it, a collection of men so flawed and repellant that you wonder how any woman in Lancashire manages to resist ‘going rogue’ and getting all fresh with each other like they do on the internet. I think the colleague’s my favourite, because not only does he act like  spurned 14-year-old, but that the object of his distinctly unwelcome, yet stirringly dogged affections is a woman best described as ‘past her best’. I’m not even convinced her best would have been all that much to look at either.

Sylvio Berlusconi - the inspiration for Scott & Bailey's writer. Just your typical man.

I know, I know. That last comment was sexist, chauvinistic and incredibly shallow – but do you know what love? You started it. This little game of tit for twat is your doing because you’ve created a world where those men who have more than a token line here and there are, almost without exception, repellant and useless flesh covered obstacles to the happiness and success of the women taking centre stage. I get what you were aiming for, I really do. You wanted to show strong women: Cagney; Lacey and Direct Line being the main players, and they were supposed to show that lady folk can thrive in a male dominated environment. It’s not a new thing, Juliet Bravo, Dempsey and Makepeace and London’s Burning are just three of the four examples I could think of off the top of my head where women were shown as capable and important people rather than just dim-witted Doris’s with hefty shirt potatoes like in The Sweeney or Loose Women. We get it, women too are capable of doing stuff.
.

A sample woman and her 'fulsome fun bags' from an episode of 'The Sweeney'

The problem is though sweetheart, and forgive me if this sounds patronising (patronising is when someone talks down to you petal), but you don’t make women seem strong, intelligent and worthy by making the men they’re surrounded by weak, idiotic and monumentally cock-headed. A horse that can count by stamping its hoof would seem like a winner in the company of the cacophony of twattish men you’ve created. If they’re not one-dimensional then they’re flawed to the point of being flung in the rejects bin. You wouldn’t find these men at M&S, they’d be on the bargain rail at TK Maxx – and that fact actually weakens your argument.

.
For years male dominated shows, particularly cop type shows and comedy, have been accused of mis-representing women as feeble-minded resting places for a nice set of boobs, and with good cause. In too many badly written shows women deliver lines but have no characters to speak of – the girls are interchangeable and you can imagine a character description for a casting call reading thus:
.
  • Debbie (or some other birds name, I don’t care), mid-20’s, pretty. No, not pretty, fit. Regional accent, Cornish or Geordie or Brummie. Maybe Irish. Nice rack. More attractive than on-screen partner to point of implausability. Likes: I dunno, stuff girls like, bras? Dislikes: Periods and when partner Dave talks about football (girls will associate with this). Debbie works as a bar maid or something and is alive.
.
That’s obviously not how you draw a great, memorable character. It’s a lazy piece of caricaturing that inattentive male writers have been doing for years. Well done writers of Scott and Bailey, you’re now the equal of weak and lazy male writers. You want your characters to be strong? Do it by making them strong, plausibly strong, not by surrounding them with characters of the opposite sex who are palpably weak.
.
You got that baby?
.
Love
.
R xox
.
PS – If you need any of the longer words explaining just give me a shout.
.
PPS – How about a scene in a strip club? All the best cop shows have those. Not a male one though, that’s not right.
.
PPPS – You want a strong woman to provide inspiration? Wilma Flintstone, she didn’t put up with any of Fred’s bullshit and that was back in caveman days.
.
PPPPS – You know the patronising stuff is a joke yeah? I just know that girls often don’t get jokes…

Dear The Shadow Line,

Dear The Shadow Line, (BBC2, Thursdays @9pm)

Are you trying to make a mug out of me? You know I’m only one week from retirement and you lumber me with this new maverick cop show that  just won’t play by the rules? I’m getting too old for this sh…

You see, I’ve also got the “Big Book of Cop Show Cliche’s” and, whilst it’s a riveting read, I read the disclaimer at the beginning that warned against basing an entire big budget series around these feeble and predictable bits of nonsense. If only you’d bothered to do the same eh? Of course I know you better than that, you’re not going to read something that might engender you with an element of self-doubt (which is why I know that by this point you’ve stopped reading and I’m talking to myself) however one thing I know that you’ll have read (probably many many times) are those reviews and previews that compared you to ‘The Wire’. I have to say that I agree with them. You’re exactly like The Wire in that you have a cast which also features several English actors. Your show is also an hour-long. Your show is also on BBC2. Your show is shot with cameras and features some cars. I’m sorry, I really can’t do this. I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m struggling to find any actual reason why anyone would ever make this comparison, and here’s why:

Freaman got annoyed when the rest of 'The Wire' gang kept interfering with his game of Minesweeper

The Wire is one of the finest pieces of drama – of any form – that I have ever seen. It’s excellence in every single department is genuinely quite humbling and the experience of watching it is something that’s difficult to explain to anyone who has never seen it. In short it’s so good – so mind blowingly wonderful – that I would never compare any TV programme, film, book, play, scientific concept, miracle, sandwich, pizza topping or real life experience to even its weakest episode. It simply wouldn’t be fair.

You, by contrast I’ll happily compare just about anything to. It’s not because you’re not as good as ‘The Wire’ – I think I’ve made it quite clear that that’s not really achievable – it’s because you’re not as good as ‘Wire in the Blood’, a programme that’s set its sights on mediocrity and hit the target with aplomb, ‘Wires’ – the heart-rending Athlete song, or even ‘Bird on a Wire’ the rubbish 90’s movie featuring  Mel Gibson before he became obsessed with the Hebrew types and a pre-huge amounts of cosmetic surgery Goldie Hawn. You’re not even as good as wire, actual metal wire, that at least has several uses whereas you have just one – irritating me into a state of utter despair. If that seems a little harsh then I apologise, I was aiming for being really very harsh indeed.

So what’s made you this bad? I mean Hugo Blick’s been involved with some fantastic telly (Marion and Geoff for example), and you’ve got a cast featuring the admirable and unpronounceable Chiwetel Ejiofor, intense goggly eyed ex-Doctor Who type Christopher Ecclestone (who looks like he’s lost a lot of weight, is he alright?) and current Pete in Pete vs Life, Rafe ‘son of Timothy off Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ Spall – you can’t go wrong with that lot can you? Well yes, you’ve proved quite admirably that you can.

The thing is that it doesn’t matter about the heritage of your writer/director if they produce utter nonsense right now. I mean when I spent the longest 90 minutes of my life watching the unadulterated shite fest that was ‘The Happening’ it was scant consolation that I’d enjoyed ‘The Sixth Sense’ ten years before. Likewise the fact that Germany had given us Beethoven didn’t seem to cut the mustard with Churchill (again the tubby Prime Minister/cigar fan, not insurance selling dog) when Hitler started stomping around picking up countries he liked. You’re only ever as good as your last piece of work and I’m afraid that for Hugo this means he’s a hack who should accept defeat and head for the bright lights of Chester village Hollyoaks. Go to the Dog in the Pond, ask for Carl Costello – he’ll set you up with something more at your current level.

You’re probably thinking “Well, it’s easy to criticise.” and you’re absolutely right, it is easy – and you made the task so very much easier by not including a single character who talked like a, what do you call them, you know, that’s it – human being. The whole script stinks of trying way too hard to win awards, but the thing is you don’t win awards by creating unbelievable characters who each have weird ticks, peculiar habits and strange speech patterns (The Kings Speech excluded of course), you win awards by creating believable characters who people start to think of as ‘real’ and you do that by having them say things real people say, just better, funnier, cooler. I’m sure you aimed for this, but you missed – and you missed by a distance. To have one or two characters with quirky turns of phrase and speech patterns can add colour to a scene or act, to have every single character talking in an inexplicably unique fashion makes you wonder if the writer’s had a stroke.

An awkward silence fills the car as DI Gabriel tries to decipher Officer Honey's last insult. It's been 10 minutes.

Problems I had in episodes one and two included (but were certainly not limited to):

The bent copper who spoke like he was reading from a Sam Spade novel. He set the tone very well, very well indeed.

Officer Honey who, despite being obviously filled with rage and certainly being all edgy and what not can’t speak. When she’s delivering one of her (clearly intended to be legendary) insults she’s less convincing than Miss Autocue herself Anne Robinson – I mean seriously, “…the first syllable in country.” no-one, and I do mean no-one would ever say that. It’s long-winded and makes you sound like a ‘the first syllable of titular’.

DS Patterson – ooh, now there’s an interesting chap, better give him a peculiar quirk – how about he’s unaware of the smoking laws that have been in place for a few years, and so he very deliberately picks up pencils and stuff and sucks on them – yeah, that’ll do. I reckon that could come in handy further down the line – a clue that he’s been somewhere he shouldn’t have perhaps… Also, get him to speak really staccato – and in riddles – it’ll make him seem very deep and intelligent and not at all like a tool.

Rafe Spall as Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast – yes, he’s an utter mentalist, and actually quite a convincing one at times, but he’s so one-dimensional I reckon a tough guy could probably fold him up a couple of times and slip him under the door like Flat Stanley.

The dead coppers mum saying “It’s in this room isn’t it…the bullet that killed him.” Worst. Dialogue. Ever.

The amount of exposition – I assume that the people involved in the story know what’s going on, so I wonder why they feel the need to constantly explain what’s happening to each other. Lazy, Shadow Line, very lazy.

The fabled 'Staff of Ra' came free with everything purchased in Ikea

That briefcase full of cash. Okay, fair enough, maybe it means he’s bent, maybe not, but what it certainly tells us is that Mr Blick had serious difficulties figuring out how the shot in the head copper might find it. An allen key in a shoe box? Come on. I mean it’s a bolt, not the 9th Chevron of the f**king Stargate – if you’re keeping that amount of dodgy money in a secret little compartment in your suspiciously large walk in wardrobe in your small house then why on earth would you keep an allen key in an otherwise empty shoe box right on top of it? Why not just buy a giant neon sign that says “The Cash is Here” or hire one of those people with the Golf Sale signs to stand next to it? Everyone who has ever bought anything at Ikea has a draw filled with those bloody things and know exactly where to get one if the table leg comes loose (again) or they need to get access to their stash of cash. Not, however, our intelligent detective, oh no. To him this allen key is a mystical thing like Harry Potters wand or the Staff of Ra and it must be kept close by, lest it be lost and the cash will be entombed forever in it’s MDF prison. Ridiculous and implausible.

The dim lighting? Is there some kind of economy drive going on that I haven’t been told about? Never before have so many people intentionally lived and worked in conditions that make it very difficult to see properly.

That press conference. No, sorry, not having any of that at all. Not a bit of it.

The driver’s girlfriend – stop answering the bloody door love. Seriously, pigeons learn faster than that.

The driver’s mum – house by council, hair by Supercuts, script by William Wordsworth. Talking about looking in to the abyss? Come off it.

That bit before the interview with the drivers mum, a scene so earnestly determined to establish Gabriel and Honey as the Holmes and Watson of the Met but actually came across as a GCSE drama piece – “When you go into a bar do you sit down straight away or scope the place out?” personally I go to the bar and order a drink, rum and coke if you don’t mind. Large. Then again, I’m neither Jason Bourne or Tony Soprano like you Chiwetel and I’m certainly not whatever Honey’s supposed to be. It was a scene that could have come straight from Mitchell and Webb’s ‘Lazy Writers’, except some of their stuff is more believable.

And the gleaming dew drop on the tip of the steaming pile: the interview with the drivers mum. Her with her talk of ‘the abyss’ and she might have mentioned Avatar as well, I’m not sure. Insinuating that unless you have kids it’s impossible to comprehend that a mum would do anything for them was another favourite. Her solicitor doing a very good impression of an actual solicitor who really wasn’t comfortable with the idea of ‘acting’. And Detective Gabriel with his intriguing little speeches and bizarre mood swings, going from whisper to screaming frenzy in the blink of an eye. It was like a roller coaster in so many ways – I certainly felt a little sick afterwards.

God I’m exhausted!

In fairness episode two was slightly better than episode one but that’s a no brainer really, you’d made it almost impossible to plumb lower depths – I mean I remember the day I was in a car crash, it was pretty nasty, but it was better than the day when my dog died.

You can do better.

You must do better.

In the meantime, please have a watch of episode one and think to yourselves “I did that.” and be ashamed.

Yours in Disappointment

R

PS – I won’t start on the whole ’24 style’ phone call tracking chase nonsense

PPS – I should really have said that I thought Eccleston was quite good. His script’s still bloody awful though.

Dear Doctor Who,

Dear Doctor Who, (BBC1, Saturdays @ 18.30ish)

Obviously I don’t know which incarnation of you will receive this letter – you are, afterall, a regenerating time traveller and that makes this sort of thing rather tricky – but if you can try and make sure it gets to the Matt Smith incarnation I’d be most grateful.

Well Doctor, like many people I grew up enjoying your shenanigans – you were Tom Baker and Peter Davidson back then and the monsters you fought were largely rubbish but it was all good fun and the Candyman was terrifying. I digress, I think we can both agree that from the moment Tom Baker left it was an unrelenting downward spiral and that – regretful though it was – the BBC were right to ignore you for a few years until you got your act together.

The Doctors' Christmas Party turned into something of a Sausage Fest

Over that time you obviously thought about what you’d done and when you came back in the form of goggle eyed ear creature Christopher Ecclestone it was with quite the bang. He didn’t do so much for me, but it was obvious that something very good was happening inside that blue box. How good it was going to be didn’t become apparent until David ‘genuinely named after Neil from the Pet Shop Boys’ Tennant took the helm. By God he was good. Some of the episodes featuring him and toothy teen pop sensation Billie Piper were genuinely amongst the best stuff on television, it dipped a bit with Freema Agyemang – only because she was terrible, couldn’t act and made me want her to die every time she opened her stupid mouth – but then came back stronger still with thingy. You know, whotsher chops “Am I bovvered”, her, the ginger one. That was a real surprise as I didn’t like her ‘comedy’ show at all, but she was great as a sidekick. With her and Tennant (or you, if this is you) sparkling on screen and with Russell T. Davies pulling the strings brilliantly behind the scenes it was that most rare of shows – funny, entertaining, original and genuinely accessible to the whole family.

Then everybody left. Tennant went off to fail miserably in America (never mind David, we’ll find stuff for you over here, even if it is mediocre maudlin stuff like Single Father), ginger went off to do whatever it is ginger people do (hide in the shade???) and Mr Davies went off to count his giant pile of cash. It was most certainly and unapologetically the end of an era. Whoever was coming in had better go hard or go home as the Americans may or may not say, because they had awfully big shoes to fill (quite literally if the rumours about David ‘Ten Inch’ are to be believed).

It was then a great relief to see that Steven Moffat, writer of some of your best episodes (Blink, seriously that was one f$%king scary piece of TV) was going to be the head honcho, the big cheese, El Capitano, you know, in charge. With him came you, square jawed mop top Matt Smith – you, finally we get to you, the one who this is all for – and you’ve done an excellent job of making the position your own. I don’t like you as much as I liked the old Doctor, but that’s nothing personal, you’re just a) not as good, and b) giving it an altogether less charming and more arrogant approach – which is fine. You be you Doctor. The sidekicks are fine too (mighty fine one might say) but there’s something not right.

Matt Smith trying to repel the inevitable comparisons with David Tennant

It’s not the monsters – you can’t blame them for being monsters any more than you can blame Freema Agyemang for being awful, it’s just the way they are – and it’s not the Doctor, Amy, Rory or even the insufferable River Song. Nope, the problem lies with the boss man. J’accuse Steven Moffat.

We get it Steven, you’re awfully awfully clever. You’re so frightfully brainy that only the brilliant Doctor can possibly keep up with your twists and turns and machinations. Which is a bit of a problem for all the kids that watch the show. Don’t worry though, I mean they’re only the target audience, if they’re too stupid to keep up then their luck out eh? Whilst Saturday’s series premiere was visually stunning, intriguing and all that jazz (you could really see that you’ve wangled some more of my license fee out of the big wigs) it lacked, it badly lacked, any sort of charm. Mr Davies made the show clever AND charming – that’s the appeal, Mr Moffat seems hell bent on ‘out clevering’ him at any cost. It was like staring in to the untempered schism, except instead of seeing all of time and space we saw all of his ego and vanity – writ large across the very fabric of time itself.

Steven is a brilliant writer and clearly a very clever man, but not as clever as you dear Doctor, so the main reason I’m writing is to ask you a favour. Rein him in – just a little bit. Remind him that Doctor Who isn’t his show, it’s not even ours – it belongs to the kids, and they need to be able to follow what’s going on or what’s the point? Tell him that if he wants to focus on the long game, over arching plot points and character arcs then he should go into adult drama – that’s not to say none of that has any place here, but that the entertainment factor of any given episode should not be sacrificed for it – not ever.

Basically if you could ask him to stop showing off that would be lovely. If this gargantuan intellectual pissing competition between your current boss and his old boss continues I think it’s safe to say that the show will become a rambling and incoherent mess (Heroes anyone??) so just get him to put a lid on it.

Cheers and safe journeys,

R

PS – On your travels have you, at any point, jumped a shark? If you have that would save me a lot of time.

PPS – Are we really to believe that you Doctor, in your current Matt Smith form, lived for a further 200 years without regenerating? I find that highly implausible based on previous experiences.

PPPS – Please don’t travel back in time and kill me before I post this.

PPPPS – If you do travel back in time and meet me in like 2004 or something can you tell me to put all my money in an envelope and send it to Mark Zuckerberg – I could really do with a couple of billion dollars.

%d bloggers like this: