“Have you seen the new Netflix show?” A question that is synonymous with getting on board with the latest viewing trend. That’s how I wound up watching The Stranger. With it being on Netflix, I hoped for something edgier than mainstream telly. Something up there with other thrillers on the streaming service.
That isn’t what I got.
Welcome to ITV Sunday night’s from the nineties, replacing the best of those moments (Coltrane) with the camp and absurd.
Richard Armitage plays Adam Price. A guy who’s as inviting as an eye-poking convention. He’s tipped off that his wife, Corrine — ramped up to high levels of annoying by Dervla Kirwan — is a bit of a liar. Adam goes digging and finds out she is.
Somehow, Jennifer Saunders finds herself in the show. After years of telling jokes, she ends up inside one. She’s one of a handful here whose talent exceeds the script. Siobhan Finneran plays the detective who adds levity to proceedings. She’s not the sort of cop that cares for crime scenes. She stands all over the spilt blood from a llama’s head.
That takes place under the watchful eye of Robert Peel’s statue in Bury town centre. It’s fitting the man that made policing witnessed the crime of this series firsthand. Being in Bury, a place Danny Simms has made me frequent, could explain why everyone involved in this project is so out of kilter.
It’s out of intrigue and a love of car crash telly it manages to get a rating of:
At the start of June, I got a WhatsApp from Mick Tavish: Are you on love island??!! It’s great. My simple response was: Nah.
He wasn’t about to let that drop: A younger impulse
would’ve thrived there. Lighten up and get on it. No more big brother this is next best thing.
Mick tried pulling on the Impulse heartstring, even dragging up the hand rub, but it was the final message that had the desired effect. Mick knows I’m a Big Brother whore. I can’t believe it hasn’t been picked up by another channel or Netflix. There’s a Marcus Bentley sized hole in my reality TV show life.
So, I popped on episode 1 on ITV Hub. After twenty minutes I almost turned it off. It’s bad telly. But something kept me watching. A strange curiosity, or just a need to find something that can be Big Brother Lite.
It was probably the Lucie situation that pulled me in. Like Big Brother, the attraction with reality TV shows is monitoring your own response to people’s contrasting opinions. The overbearing controlling Joe was embroiled in a love triangle with boxer Tommy Fury. We had good guys and bad guys and over two months the roles would change…
The contestants are playing for three things: £50k, true love, and the grand prize – fifteen minutes of fame. The last of these has people declare 100% commitment then decide to stay in the villa when their soul mate is ejected, to find love again a few days later. These young ‘uns prefer love triangles and love hexagons before anything resembling honesty and loyalty.
When all this falsity is hiding in plain sight, it’s ironic the public go for conspiracy theories that Molly-Mae isn’t genuine. If you’re looking for evidence of forced or fake behaviour, there are easier places it exists on the show. For the record, I thought Molly-Mae was being sincere with Tommy. It took the idea of losing him to make her realise she her feelings. Once she set her stall out, love blossomed.
Just as the show allows you to view opinions it also shows how easy it is to play Chinese whispers. Anna and Amber were unable to relay the words used in arguments accurately. Anna couldn’t even deliver the tone and body language she saw without putting spin on it that would leave a politician proud. They weren’t the only offenders. Most incidents were relayed after passing through that person’s individual filter. Makes one wonder how many problems in real life are caused by unreliable narrators…
This year had its characters. Amy was cray-cray. After a week it was clear why at 26, she’d never had a boyfriend. She’s likely to explode at the person in front of her in a shopping market queue and declare the friendship over. “How could you buy Frosties, I’ve been stood here thinking you’d be Crunchy Nut. The way you said ‘hi’ and passed the divider made me think we could be best friends. Now you’re asking for cashback and scrimping on bags for life. It’s over. I have to leave now before we can’t shop together again in the future.” Mad as a hatter. And walks like and old lady too.
Amber is a truly gorgeous person to look at. But. Her idea of being fiery is a different way of saying she’s a bitch. Sure, she was shat on by Michael but she didn’t come out of the fallout with any credit. Even her love speech in the final episode was a “me-me-me” moment. When she grows up, she might be an all right person. Her winning also proves that the British public are idiots when it comes to voting on reality TV shows.
Quick mention to Maura, too. She’s bringing trashy into 2019 kicking and screaming. Every time she says “fanny flutters”, cocks around the country shrivel up.
The true star of the show [resists urge to make Ellie-Belly joke] is Tommy Fury. When I say lovable idiot, I mean it in an endearing way. He’s a lovely young man with a heart of gold. He’s not actually an idiot, he just has a childlike innocence. There’s nothing false about Tommy. The Fury family have another A-lister amongst their midst.
The show proves how superficial and fleeting looks are. Nine out of ten contestants are super-hot. After a few days, some of them appear ugly. Personality is the key to successful relationships and those with bad ones can’t mask it with a smile for long. Oh, cash can help make a relationship work too (ask people like Bernie Ecclestone) so perhaps that £50k keeps façades up for longer than usual.
The camera shots showing the start of a party looked like an advert for a cheap catalogue, reminding us this was all so, so very fake. But it did manage to replace the Marcus Bentley sized-hole I my life with the witty Iain Stirling.
What Love Island lacks is a true gameplayer. Going back to Big Brother, that eventually became a gameshow. The social experiment died as people wanted fame. Love Island started as a gameshow. There’s a cash prize. Love is just a theme. It needs a Nasty Nick style couple that seeks to tear apart successful partnerships so there are no couples left by the final. In a show where it’s 90% false, someone exploiting this would be golden. Maybe next year?
If in the meantime you’re having withdrawal symptoms, I suggest you seek help from a professional . . . ballroom dancer.
It’s with sadness Big Brother will finally leave UK screens. At least, that looks to be the case but it feels too big to be left on the TV scrapheap for long. For eighteen years it has been the original and best reality TV show. The last season started with a nod to the past but perhaps also went some way to explaining why it lacks a definite future.
Over the years, it’s been no secret this writer wanted to get into the famous house at Elstree Studios but this series finally turned me off the idea. It’s often the case the most entertaining housemates leave too early. In this year’s show, if we reversed the timeline of evictions, it would have made compelling viewing to the end.
Instead, the final season limped like a lame dog during the last fortnight. Characters (because that’s what housemates become) either showed their true colours (Zoe) or grated beyond belief (the rest of the finalists).
Could I have coped in a house that was unclean, where shoes rested on pillows, the floor looked like a vacuum cleaner had been emptied on it, and the only activity was people smoking?
Nope. I’d have gone full aggro-bellend to pass the time.
Which could explain why Lewis F was so quick to start a pointless argument. He overstepped the mark with Kay, she clearly asked to stop the chat, but Lewis F needs to peck at people’s heads as much as Tomasz needs to lounge around like a camp Jabba the Hutt.
Lewis F showed his softer side, helping Cameron come out on national television. The cynic will wonder if that was a plot by the eventual winner. His disingenuous reactions to being scared in tasks prove he has a taste for the theatrics.
The last Channel 5 Big Brother did feel retro. Isaac, Kenaley and Akeem all felt like legitimate additions to Big Brother folk law, along with Lewis F, Kay and the underappreciated Lewis G.
Cian felt like a bit of a cheap imposter and Sian proves that good looks can get a person far in the absence of a personality.
It was sad to see Emma Willis and Rylan bid farewell to a show they obviously care about. Willis has been a worthy successor to Davina’s mantel (we’ll forget the Brian Downing attempt to host the show) and hopefully retains her spot should the show be revived.
I can’t say I’ve watched every season like a superfan. Some years I haven’t even been in the country during the summer. But a quick look at former winners shows enough names still jump out as recognisable even now.
Big Brother has been more than just a reality TV show, it has been a way to chronicle popular culture over the last two decades.
New Year’s Eve saw ITV revive a nostalgic brand: World of Sport Wrestling. Those of a certain age will remember Saturday evenings watching Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks – and my personal favourite, who can probably take some credit for how I’ve spent my professional career hidden behind a mask – Kendo Nagasaki. It’s just dawned on me, my years chasing fame in Japan could be down to my first exposure to professional wrestling. The original WOS Wrestling was pulled in the mid-eighties, followed by Wrestling with Kent Walton. The question is: does the TV schedule have room for it today?
There was room for it back in 1988 when wrestling left our screens. Hindsight is 20/20 but producers must look back on that decision and kick themselves. A year later the WWE (then known as WWF) started its UK invasion. It grew so fast in popularity here, SummerSlam was held at Wembley stadium in 1992. Over 80,000 fans witnessed The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith take the Intercontinental Championship from Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
Had a channel retained UK wrestling, maybe the WWE would have had a genuine transatlantic rival. We’ll never know, but by passing up on wrestling, the UK television networks gave up all creative control. Vince McMahon designed the blueprint, defeated his only challenger WCW (ironically, they aired on ITV in the nineties), and every wrestling organisation since has fallen into line.
ITV clearly has been watching WWE. From the opening minutes of WOS Wrestling it becomes obvious. The set has good production values, without the scale of WWE. It’s a mix of their take on Gladiators and a clinical TNA set. The game changer is having Jim Ross on commentary. The voice synonymous with a whole generation of WWE.
ITV may have watched WWE but what follows is veiled flattery. Vince’s outfit has gone from the cartoony version of wrestling it brought to the world when WOS Wrestling ended in the eighties, through the adult-rated Attitude Era, to the PG and Reality Era. That current landscape means a pre-watershed wrestling show can survive on telly. During this evolution the term: sports entertainment was coined.
The problem with WOS Wrestling is how it tries to pay homage to the old stars like Big Daddy with constant reminders, evoking nostalgia, but accidentally makes one nostalgic for an antiquated version of pro-wrestling in the form of old school WWF.
Nowadays a wrestling show is all about the storylines and mic work. ITV went for the owner angle, a Mr Beesley that ran things. Okay, so we get a British Jack Tunney. Beesley’s “office” was propped with posters indicating it was just a spare room at MediaCityUK.
The first match saw Grado get screwed out of the WOS Championship by bad guy Dave Mastiff. This, in itself, was great. Mastiff was the clear heel, he had two henchmen in tow and he and Grado told a classic tale of favoured underdog holding his own.
Nowadays clear heels and faces are rare in professional wrestling, this throwback was fine and a necessity with a less savvy audience. What wasn’t great was the way Beesley said he couldn’t let a screwjob stand for the title and declared Mastiff would defend it at the end of the show against the winner of a Battle Royal.
Okay, anyone that was watched wrestling long enough knows that if a title (in this case, the only title) kicks-off a show, we’re not getting a clean finish. So the surprise was gone from the off. The idea all dodgy finishes will be challenged is flawed. The acting with Beesley was from a bygone era.
And that is WOS Wrestling’s major problem. It doesn’t know if it’s a programme that should be like its eighties counterpart, or one that can be compared to modern day WWE.
They edged toward the latter with a ladder match. Kenny Williams took the result, he looked better than the rest based on ability and aesthetics. But the other three, CJ Banks, Sam Bailey (not The X Factor singer) and Delicious Danny, all deserve a round of applause for pulling off a dangerous match with tea-time restrictions.
The other main standout – no, not El Ligero, although he was good – was Alexis Rose. She looked the part and moved around the ring well. WWE’s current British female wrestler is in the bad books. Rose would be worth a shot in their performance centre.
The Battle Royal had a secret entrant (that joined late for no good reason). It was The new British Bulldog, the son of Davey Boy, now using his name with Jnr added. He didn’t progress to the title bout. Presumably, ITV aren’t confident they could tie him down should the show go fulltime so can’t afford to have a champion MIA.
Of course, Grado won the Battle Royal and then the title match. Classic babyface overcoming the odds in the end. Cheating never pays, kids.
ITV must have an eye on a permanent return, why bring back the title otherwise? Based on this, there is plenty of potential that deserves exploring but they need a creative team more akin to the modern era of wrestling. Without this, WOS Wrestling would grow stale fast.
Promising but work to be done.
(Follow @MrCliveBalls on Twitter. He points out, he is available to do creative work for Sports Entertainment outfits.)
It’s that time of year the BBC find Lord Alan Sugar the nation’s best “entrepreneurs.” Or for the purposes of good TV, a selection of dimwits that promise to be mildly entertaining with the odd potential gem thrown in. The contestants are treated like schoolchildren (“Good morning, Lord Sugar.”) and he has his favourite headmistress and head boy to help.
Of course, they are Baroness Karren Brady, The First Lady of Football. That dour face trying to make us forget she spent years hanging about the Birmingham City team bus and footballer Paul Peschisolido out of her.
We also have Claude Littner, better known for the interview stage. Now he does that and the weekly observing. Mr Littner likes to play Good Cop, Bad Cop playing both roles himself. It keeps the contestants on their toes – volatile people in the mix tend to breed that response.
One thing that was clear during this twelfth series was the tasks have become worn out. 18 contestants were squashed into the process, giving the guarantee that some weeks would see multiple heads fall. Sadly, the mundane early running meant we didn’t care.
Sometimes they had to sell stuff, sometimes buy stuff. Sometimes run around, buy stuff, sell stuff, maybe design stuff, look for stuff. Talk over one another. Some stuff. All the time wondering if any of them know their stuff and realise they are becoming parodies of young upstarts.
Too many concepts presented the same challenge. The “Boat Show” episode, in essence, was no bigger stretch than any of the selling tasks (and most of them are). Even ones like designing jeans or “Corporate Candy” require the good old fashioned sell. And as they should, I suppose. Lord Sugar wants to make money and sees those that can shift stock and make profit as key to that business plan.
It’s also important to think outside the box. Not like the extremely hot Jessica Cunningham attempted on a few occasions. She liked to sprinkle in a few lies to shift product. But in her defence, she was the best seller, most engaging, and could think outside the box because her head is out of it. And it’s a bit cheeky of Lord Sugar to preach no lying then have the production team skirt over her history in the final five round-up.
Yes, I’m talking about Jessica’s lap-dancing past. A top business woman who wasn’t scared to take on hard jobs on the way to the climax of the process.
There were notable characters this year, many for the wrong reasons. First to go wasn’t, it was Michelle; next up, Natalie Hughes – you wouldn’t hire her to answer phones; third, wet fart Oliver. Week four is better remembered for Aleksandra King walking away from the process. At that point, I could see why, I was close myself.
Highlighting the point was marketing guru Rebecca Jeffery in week six. The Mancunian proving Northerners aren’t made for the real city, especially when they have the personality of a wet flannel.
But finally, the show had some life come week seven and it was the boat show that saw two fall foul of the axe. It was a shame to see Karthik Nagesan lose his place, he was a true bit of energy. Sadly for him, and his team, he could run a team about as well as Samuel Boateng could follow instruction from the project manager. He joined him in a taxi the same week for this very reason.
Fiery Paul was axed the following week. He liked to kick-off to be fair. In case this was in any doubt (it wasn’t), he even got a bit aggy with Alan in the boardroom. And goodbye. You can’t bully the Sugar. You need to sit in the chair and laugh at his Christmas cracker one-liners.
Dillon St. Paul made it easy the following week for Al (totally dropped his peerage now). He compared his struggle as a gay man to that of women in the workplace. You could see Al’s face change. He hates an excuse. Suggs pointed out there were single parents in the room, Sofiane who had taught himself English and made a business from scratch, and Alana, who was just learning how to construct full and complete sentences in the boardroom despite the ability to be a catty bitch during assignments.
It was this week the eventual finalist, Courtney Wood, went from constant winner in the shadows to a standout performer. The challenge was designing a virtual reality game and even with his team against his input (apart from the giddy Jessica), he managed to design a concept that smashed the opposition.
Not long after we got the final five and it’s here the format of business partner as opposed to apprentice calls the show into question. Al must know what business he fancies beforehand and what he can’t stand. Why else would the always dominant Grainne McCoy fail to make the final two. Her idea was solid for the industry and no more far-flung than previous winner Leah Totten.
Thankfully this means Frances Bishop was also axed with her really original idea of making a TK Maxx for kids off the back of a few failed attempts she tried to bury beneath two relative successes. Maybe the idea was decent? She was just a walking migraine and hopefully the WAG (not a proper Premier League one, like at the best club ever Arsenal) will never be seen again.
So, Courtney looked favourite based on the principle. He was a novelty gift (tatt) designer, something Sugar knows inside out. But the Lord went for Alana and her cakes. Her big margins for profit must have tempted him. If years from now you’re eating an Alana cake in Costa, spare a thought for Courtney, who will still be designing a novelty personality for his currently bland character.