TV Review – Mock The Week, Thursday, BBC2, 9pm

You know what? I’ve been thinking that TV is complete garbage for ages… and then I realised… I’ve been watching, and laughing, and enjoying, Mock The Week (BBC2, Thursday, 9pm) everytime I’ve seen it. In fact, Thursdays have turned into my favourite night of the TV week. You get Mock The Week, My Name Is Earl, Saxondale… it’s great! Anyways, let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Mock The Week is quite a difficult show to review, just as any panel show is. I mean, I can’t really sit here and regurgitate the gags for you can I? I’d like to, but I fear that they’d lose impact in print form. In short, apart from that Russel Howard bloke, Mock The Week stars some of the funniest and sharpest men in comedy tearing absolutely everything in the world to pieces… and I like it.

Dara O’Briain, the wonderful, affable giant of a host, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He looks and sounds for all the world like a bloody nice bloke. That is until he shoot you down with his heat seeking wit. As a dinner guest, I imagine Mr O’Briain is infuriating. He is obviously an intelligent bloke who could offer witticisms on almost any topic. Then, you join in the conversation and he’ll slap you down with a one-liner leaving you hurt, but worse, you’ll still like him.

Same goes for Frankie Boyle. Boyle seems to be more at ease on the telly now, but hasn’t lost his (f)ire. He can still pull out the jokes that make you wince and laugh simultaneously, but thankfully, gone are the ‘rape’ jokes. He’s stopped trying too hard. Sometimes, Boyle looks like he’s forced out something shocking for the sake of it, but now, the vile things he says come out in a far more natural way. I like it. You might not. Boyle probably doesn’t care.

The rest of the gang are, in fairness, bit part players. That may seem a little unkind, but only Ed Byrne gets a look in when Frankie and Dara go off on one. On last night’s show, everyone was given a kicking. The royal family, John Prescott (more fat jokes than you can shake a sausage at) as well as everything else in the world ever. It’s a bit like reading ‘Is It Me, Or Is Everything Shit?’ (which I advise every TVScoop reader to buy). Nothing is given anything resembling kind treatment. Everyone is fair game. This is what makes the show so very rewarding. Next week, they’ll probably give Mother Teresa a kicking – Can’t wait! [Mof Gimmers]

TV Review: Grey’s Anatomy, Living TV, Thursday 30 August, 10pm

A three-part story arc seems a little odd for a TV show, with extended story-lines ordinarily playing out over two episodes. Not that I’m complaining (wait for that later) when it involves the epic crashing of a ferry in Grey’s Anatomy. Last week the interns (barring a grumpy Cristina) were sent to the harbour to save as many of the victims injured in the disaster as possible, but found themselves a bit out of their depth (if you’ll pardon the pun). All except Meredith who was sent crashing into the murky depths by a patient. Would she be found and saved?

Cristina asked after her and Shepherd was desperately trying to find her but the only one who knew the fate of Meredith wasn’t talking. The blonde girl, who had followed her until her unexpected dip had remained mute since the accident and was unwilling and/ or unable to verbally communicate with a worried McDreamy. Finally she pointed out to sea and soon our hero was emerging from the cold waters, carrying the blue and lifeless body of Meredith in his arms.

Back at the hospital, the surgeons rallied around Meredith, warming her frozen body and indulging lots of serious looks. Shepherd’s despair was well acted by Patrick Dempsey, with the most touching example of togetherness coming from Sloan. Though painfully estranged from one another, the former best friends had a ‘moment’ when Sloan sat with Derek and tapped his arm in comfort. It was very under-played and low-key and it is in these small moments that I really think GA shines. It is during the showier scenes that it substitutes genuine emotion for annoying schmaltzy grand-standing, cue Izzie.

On hearing of Meredith’s condition, the interns watched worried from afar. George looked desolate, Cristina visibly crumpled and Karev looked stern. Izzie took this opportunity to galvanise her friends with words that writer Shonda Rhimes obviously considered to be rousing and inspirational – they weren’t. Her “I believe” speech dragged on and on, frequently repeated itself and seemed to touch on absolutely everything going on (what’s that? George’s marriage to Callie, let’s throw that in the mix. And Izzie’s mourning over Denny? Yep, that sounds good as well.) It was all well-intentioned to bring a togetherness to the scene, but was disappointingly cloying.

I have to admit that I was surprised that during the aftermath of such a massive tragedy that the surgical staff could all neglect their patients to go tend to their friend. At one point Meredith was being treated by the Chief, Burke, Bailey and Addison with Sloan and Shepherd slumped on the floor and the other four interns waiting in the corridor. This left only Callie actually helping the victims from the ferry crash. Now I know GA is fiction and a soppy, idealised one at that. But having virtually every surgeon tend to one person seemed a bit much of a stretch.

That said it wasn’t the only plot that had me screwing up my face in confusion. How are we supposed to believe in the large scale of the accident when George’s job was to locate one missing child? As a surgeon, with valuable skills how was this an appropriate allocation of resources? It seemed a bit too Saving Private Ryan for GA.

Ranting over – the other story-lines were very engaging. Izzie, under the telephone guidance of the Chief and Sloan, saved the life of her patient trapped beneath a truck. She rose above her personal fears to drill into the man’s skull to alleviate the blood clots forming. This earned her an end to her probationary period and provided a turning point for the doubting intern.

George managed to find his missing boy on Callie’s operating table and Karev had the unpleasant task of dealing with the patient’s families. Addison worried that no-one would miss her if she was to suffer an accident and Cristina upset Burke with her admission that their engagement needed the approval of Meredith. And it was Meredith, the unconscious patient that closed the episode – and in some serious style.

Meredith, rosy-cheeked and healthy looking awoke from her hospital bed. Having last seen her looking blue and close to death, was this one of those cheesy TV out-of-the-body experiences? Oh no. The awoken Meredith looked around her room to find Dylan – the bomb disposal expert who she had witnessed die in season two. A further turn of the head revealed Denny Duquette – bloody hell!

Dylan: Hey. Meredith: [confused] Hey. Am I… [Dylan smiles] Meredith: … dead? Denny Duquette: Damn right you are. Meredith: [looking between the two of them] Holy – [cut to shot outside of room]

What an ending!

Desperate Housewives reveal sexier image for season four

I like Desperate Housewives, but have found myself smirking at the new promotional poster released for the Channel 4 drama/comedy. The picture (above) sees the five ladies of Wisteria Lane in the most air-brushed and overly-theatrical poses. There’s too much cleavage and legs and has the housewives dressed so cheaply as to suggest a whole new kind of desperation.

I know DH has always been intentionally silly, never taken itself too seriously and wants to represent women in their 40s looking smokin’ – but never have they been literally aflame. This revealing picture seems more geared towards men than women, but surely the core audience for the show is female? Has the reported on-set rivalry between the actresses forced them to out-strut one another or is this a new saucier image for the suburbanites? The show is scheduled to return to British TV screens next year and I guess we’ll have to wait til then for our answer.

[via the Daily Mail]

Sponsored Video: Rolf Harris explains how to get your own billboard

Set The Video – Grandad’s Back In Business, BBC2, Monday, 9pm

I’d love to tell you that Grandad’s Back In Business (BBC2, Monday, 9pm) is a return to the screen by Clive Dunn. However, with Clive being dead, that may involve some kind of resurrection, and things like that are best saved ’til Easter aren’t they? Grandad’s Back In Business is actually a look at old people, and what they can offer to the country (as if they haven’t given enough with their taxes and the small matter of a World War or two).

The government are seemingly intent on making us all work until we’re a hundred years old (if you die before then, tough, your measly pensions go straight into the council coffers), but how realistic is it to assume that the older generation can get their hands on a job? Ageism obviously exists, so this show is out to prove that the geriatrics can still cut it at the sharp end… and in Monday’s show, Grandpappy will literally be at the sharp end and cutting…

In an attempt to see just how vital our elders are (again… like we should even test something like this! Of course they’re vital), the programme pits one young person against an older person against each other for the same job. In the first show, sprightly Raymond (a ripe old 60) takes on the very orange Rebecca (a surly 17) in the hope of landing a job as a trainee in a hairdressing salon in London. Whether this tackles the deeper questions about ageism and people’s attitudes remains to be seen, but hopefully, this will offer more than your run-of-the-mill docu-reality thing.

Set The Video – Brand New Dog Borstal, BBC3, Tuesday, 8pm

I love it when a programme does exactly what it says on the tin. This is why we should all tune in to Brand New Dog Borstal (BBC3, Tuesday, 8pm). In fact, I could end my review here because you know exactly what it’s all about… but… knowing you lot, you’ll feel cheated if I don’t at least try to pad it out with words that could be deemed amusing. Ever the bloody joker…

What happens when you buy a dog and he doesn’t turn out to be your best pal? Well, you have three choices. You can either kick it out and close your eyes until it disappears (which is wrong and worthy of a kicking buster), send it to Victoria Stilwell for some squeaky justice… or… as a last resort, take it to Borstal where a group of gravel voiced cockneys will belt some sense into it (metaphorically speaking of course).

Basically, Dog Borstal is Bad Lads Army for pooches… with Ian Wright’s Unfit Kids thrown in for good measure. Some of the dogs are, to be kind, unruly. Others meanwhile are staggeringly fat. It’s a bunch of dog handlers (ex Army and Police… you get the drift) job to whip ’em up shipshape. Naturally, it’s not just the dogs who get a beasting. Hell no. There’s bile left for the (usually simple) owners. ‘Oh why?! He likes eating curry!’ Cue yelling and huge sighs of disbelief. It’s all tough love and discipline.

On Tuesday, we’ll see Lynne Davies trying to stop her English bull terrier from constantly legging it. Buy it a lead? Star of the show, Mic Martin (pronounced Mick, not Mike) bullying the snacks out of a cocker spaniel called Joe. Essentially, the enjoyment of this show comes from watching needlessly serious people belittle daft humans and hounds. It’s great fun and cathartic. [Mof Gimmers]

Hollywood unions blast reality show Kid Nation

We all know that reality TV appeals to industry executives due to the cost efficiency of it. Why splash out on a sumptuous period drama or a star-studded comedy when all you need to guarantee a ratings hit is a few wannabes and a camera? Now Hollywood unions are fighting back after one reality show that featured children allowed to run their own town, has been condemned for going too far.

Kid Nation (pictured right), the US programme causing all the fuss, hit headlines when one of the children involved was hurt during filming. This prompted the injured girl’s parents to complain leading to an attorney general investigating the matter. The show has since been seized upon by unions as representing all that is wrong with reality programming.

Jeff Hermanson, assistant executive director of Writers Guild of America, West has fumed that: “To me, this is the sweatshop of the entertainment industry” adding that such shows are exploited to avoid having to pay the salaries of talented writers and actors.

Will this outburst be heeded by TV networks in the US or is it simply repeating problems they know to exist but refuse to acknowledge? Has reality TV deprived quality scripted shows from being produced and if we truly are fed up with cheap, throwaway TV, why do people still watch it?

[via the Evening Echo]

TV Review – The Cosmos: A Beginner’s Guide, BBC2, Tuesday, 7.30pm

I really wish I could honestly tell you that, when sitting down to watch a show called The Cosmos: A Beginner’s Guide (BBC2, Tuesday, 7.30pm), that I thought it was something to do with the seventies football side, New York Cosmos, that starred Pele and a fine disco soundtrack. However, I can’t as I remember our John watching it. Now, not being all that scientific, I thought “a beginners guide eh? Great! Are you going to show me things imploding, travelling down wormholes and what life on mars looks like?” Well… sorta…

The show is another vehicle for the supremely giddy Adam Hart-Davis as he investigates the dream to put man on Mars. How will we do it? We’ve been to the moon! NEXT STOP! MARTIAN ATTACK! Mankind is already working on ways to get there, but how long is it going to take? And will I have to wear some kind of futuristic spacesuit when I get there? Listen up buddy, I don’t wanna end up like 2001: Space Odyssey (unless it’s the psychedelic bit when space turns into a Pink Floyd light show).

Apparently, it’s going to take us (by which I mean man… if anyone from outer space is reading this… stop stealing my wireless connection you cheap ass alien!) thirty years to get there. This doesn’t mean a flight that takes thirty years… I was told that the journey will be a crushing 8 months. Londoners won’t mind that one bit as it’ll be just like rush hour eh? So, in thirty years, we could have a man on the surface of Mars.

The show told me that, with going to Mars, comes great problems. Now, if you want to know how barren Mars is, you can actually have a gander at it via Google Mars. Yep. I ain’t kidding you none. Like Google Earth, which allows you to roam around our speck in the Universe, Google also give you the opportunity to have a gleek at the red planet! Crazy man, crazy. When we get there, we might go a bit mad. One Californian psychologist explained the worry of ‘Earth Out Of View Syndrome’ which leaves people going insane when seeing the home planet as a just a pinprick of light. Although, that won’t last long as the depression of ‘We made our planet die Syndrome’ will soon take over.

It’s all very well being depressed if you can’t breathe or live there. Well, lucky for us that a lady called Janet Sumner has already thought of that. Not content with being a part of the race that knackered up one planet, she wants us to mash Mars. She plans to produce an artificial greenhouse effect which, after polluting the atmosphere of Mars, will transform the climate into something we (stupid) humans can tolerate. Melt the ice caps and we’ll get water! Just set up some factories and we’ll be laughing! Betcha any money that our call centres will all be shipped off there… poor call centre workers.

However, one thing that was touched upon in the show was the speed of which we’re getting to Mars… or should I say, the lack of speed. The time frame between the first transatlantic flight and man (allegedly) stepping onto the surface of The Moon was a mere 30 years. In the years that followed, we’ve been on the surface of The Moon about a dozen times. Now, keep in mind that when we first landed on The Moon, the technology used wasn’t as good as your average modern mobile phone. So what the hell are we playing at? That’ll give the conspiracists something to chew on no doubt.

So I’ll pose a question that wasn’t answered in the show. Why don’t we just keep sending people to The Moon to set up bases up there. Then, instead of messing about trying to get to Mars in one flight, we’ll all just set off from The Moon, meaning we get a little holiday in between. Golf anyone?

TV Review – Shaun Williamson’s Tough Gig, Tuesday, ITV1, 10.05pm

Last night, I found myself in a TV black-hole… why else would I end up watching something on ITV1? But, on Channel 3 it was, and I sat down to see Shaun Williamson’s Tough Gig (Tuesday, ITV1, 10.05pm)… and I’m not sure who it was toughest for.

Shaun Williamson, is of course best known for his role as Barry in EastEnders. He’s also known as Barry from Eastenders in Extras as well. Apparently, he does stand-up comedy too. This is something I didn’t know, but, when you think about it, it kinda makes sense. I mean, he looks like the sort of bloke you’d see in a Labour club telling jokes about ‘er indoors. Well, Shaun’s tough gig took him to the world of haute couture and high fashion (dahling). Would he bomb?

The show saw Shaun (don’t try saying that out loud if you have a lisp) getting on his glad rags and as a result, getting ripped mercilessly. The fashionistas of Paris Fashion Week seemingly fall into two kinds of people; the humourless and the bitchy. Of course, some retain both of those dubious qualities. Sadly, most people who work in or around fashion suffer from this. So, seeing Williamson, quite obviously an affable chap, trying to create a bit of mirth, was quite uncomfortable.

Williamson’s aim is to try and get under the skin of the people who are completely obsessive about the surface and care not one jot for things that lie beneath. That’s what fashion is. Don’t try to tell me otherwise. Look at Nicky Hambelton-Jones. The only time she laughs is when she opens the door to a prole’s wardrobe. Fashion is not fun. Barry… sorry… Shaun obviously is (in a bloke down the pub way)

So, following this horrific lot around, he laughs and titters at their silly ways. They name their jeans… no, seriously… each pair gets a name like ‘Chloe’ or ‘Henrietta’. I can only assume that years of crash dieting have left fashionista women so ravaged that they are no longer able to have kids, and thus, they name their denims and have lap dogs. Of course, Shaun can’t get his head ’round this and promptly dubs his ‘Donald’.

To the gig, and Shaun does admirably well. I mean, when faced with a bunch of sour-faced back stabbers, you’re hardly going to have much joy taking the Michael out of their profession are you? Thankfully, some of them deem his gags worthy of a titter… it would seem that some fashion types are self deprecating enough to laugh at themselves (or where they think of a rival and thinking that the ‘attack’ was aimed at them?).

The people we saw as Shaun’s guides throughout were filmed during his gig and generally looked a bit confused. Maybe the years of fashion abuse had left them unable to physically smile? That said, they lied through their back teeth at the end with one noting that she was “lost in laughter throughout… he’s a genius.” Christ. Shaun, you didn’t really make me laugh, but hats off to you. You tried – They didn’t. [Mof Gimmers]

[image Dave Hogan:Getty]

TV Review: Outnumbered, BBC One, Tuesday 28 August, 10.30pm

Outnumbered (BBC1, also tonight and tomorrow, 10.35pm, and Mon/Tues/Wed next week) is a low-key comedy looking at middle-class parenting. We know it’s low-key because there’s no theme tune (classy, you see). There are many clues when it comes to the middle-class thing: much of the action takes place in a spacious kitchen/diner, they talk about missing the walking bus, and the phone not being in its cradle becomes a major issue.

Unlike, say My Family, though, this show’s middle-class-ness is integral; Outnumbered wants to explore the anxieties -and often absurdities – of middle-class parenting. Are they under-parenting, or over-parenting? Is it really Bring Your Granny To Work Day? Should I bribe my kid to get into the car?

Sue (Claire Skinner) and Pete (Hugh Dennis) play the parents who over-think every single decision, and as such, get a lot of them wrong. But then, two of their three kids aren’t exactly the easiest to parent.

Jake is the oldest and very much the wisest (probably of the whole family, mum and dad included). He’s the ultimate 21st century early teen: tech savvy, smart, lazy, perceptive and cheeky. In a well-appointed town-house devoid of order, he is an ocean of calm… well, slightly grumpy calm. If only his younger siblings got those genes. Middle child Ben is an absolute nightmare who lies at every possible opportunity, and decides that a cordless drill is a suitable subject for Show And Tell, which, he lies, has been changed to today.

And then there’s the youngest, little Karen, who is just a little too good at picking up on other people’s conversations, and who likes to ask questions about absolutely everything. Karen is played by Ramona Marquez and you just have to see her. Marquez provided pretty much every single laugh last night – I don’t know whether she was closely following a script, or improvising along with the rest of the cast but either way she is still a tiny genius.

As her mum combed the nits out of her hair, she asked whether she could keep one as a pet. Then whether she could keep it in her hair so it could start a Nit Town. When that was shot down, she moved onto other animals. “Could I have a giraffe? (No, a giraffe’s a bit big) Could I have… a lion? (No, that might be a bit dangerous) Could I have………….. a puffin?” The reaction on Skinner’s face suggests that Marquez came up with this on her own. See what I mean? Genius.

Overall, this might not be a masterpiece, but there were some great lines along the way, as we would expect from the writers of Drop The Dead Donkey, and the performances are all pleasingly natural and believable – possibly Skinner aside, who I found rather annoying. But please, you have to watch Outnumbered just to see this kid Ramona Marquez. She’s a star.

My review of the series as a whole can now be found here. [annawaits]

Top TV shows now available on iTunes

From today, you can now download top TV shows from iTunes to your iPod. Big American shows from US TV companies, such as ABC, Disney, MTV and Paramount have signed a deal with iTunes allowing UK users to download shows, including Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives.

Apple is charging £1.89 per episode – yikes! – and videos can be watched on Video iPods, PCs, Macs, or through your television using the Apple TV box. When the iPhone is launched later in the year, it is expected this feature will also be included in the handset.