A haven for couch potatoes everywhere

Saturday, 12 April 2014


Last night's Corrie saw Anna reluctantly accepting Phelan's indecent proposal. I was drinking orange liqueur and eating a mini buffet at the time of watching, so unable to take a photo of the best part, which was Phelan, after Anna had zipped up her parka and departed Room 123 of the Hotel Dinge, rolling around on the bed and whooping, kicking his legs with glee while wearing a peach shirt over a white vest.

Meanwhile Anna went home and tearfully told her family she had to have a shower as she smelled of chip fat. It made me sad; I like Anna. And I like Owen too. He's become kind of hot.

I don't read previews so I don't know how this storyline will develop. I expect there are more tears to come. Possibly some more whooping from Phelan too, though I expect he'll get his comeuppance eventually.

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Coronation Street
Friday 4th April 2014

Forgive the four-year hiatus; life is busy, even for potatoes. But let's get down to business.

Hair is very important on Coronation Street. Bet Lynch's incredible do is testament to that. I don't want to make an entirely hair-based post (though I can't rule out a fan letter to Rita's wig at some point in the future), but I do want to talk about the hair factors at play in the Tina-Peter-Carla marriage/ affair/ pregnancy/ non-pregnancy tangle. 

Tina's hair is brilliant. But her chignons and up-dos have become a bit dishevelled lately, as her non-relationship with Peter fizzles out. I thought the scene between the two of them in the second of Friday's episodes was the best thing written for them for a while: Tina's desperation to hold on to Peter, even if that means only ever meeting him in the ginnel, was well expressed and actually made me like Tina a bit. I've been so disappointed with the direction her character has gone in; she used to be great. I suppose there's a message there about toxic relationships (I saw that phrase on the front of a dire-looking magazine once and have always wanted to use it). So as Tina's life flops, so does her hair. I hope Steph can provide her with some Sunsilk as well as a shoulder to cry on.

Meanwhile, Carla's amazing vamp hair has been what I believe a salon expert might call "softened". It's got some sort of feathery layers and caramel tones, the perfect hair for new, unexpected Maternal Carla.

Carla's recent scene at the clinic with Michelle, where she was considering getting a termination, was completely predictable and boring, and not a patch on the early-90s Neighbours termination clinic storyline featuring Phoebe and Todd*. I mean, we knew from Carla's new kindly-looking hair that she wouldn't go through with the procedure. Michelle's previous comments about having a child being the "best thing" she'd ever done had obviously hit home. You know, that child Michelle had that got swapped at birth and then swapped back again when he was a teenager and then swapped back yet again and now I'm confused about who he actually is but I remember Michelle got all annoyed at him when he moved away to university which I thought was very unfair.

Michelle's hair has gone very flat-looking, and her clothes are very ageing and brassy at the moment. It's a transformation I enjoy. Michelle being brassy is brilliant. The highlight in Friday's episode came when she dragged Steve along by his ear, telling him off as he faked a hangover to cover up for Peter. The couple have become a bit like Jack and Vera, which is very pleasing.

The scenes between Steve and Peter as they planned their alibi were well-written and well-performed. I look forward to seeing how the imaginary plant pot full of vomit comes back to bite them somehow.
I have also been thinking about something else which might come back to bite Peter... Ages ago, maybe in January, he and Tina were having a kitchen-sink-based snuggle, and she broke a glass, cutting her finger. We all know that Tina's getting murdered soon, and perhaps the spots of her blood which got onto Peter's shirt during the smashed glass aftermath will be taken as evidence of his murderous guilt. 

And if Peter is to be blamed for the murder, we can only assume that he won't be the actual murderer. I really hope it's Carla, and she gets away with it. She does have a look (and the attitude) of Velma Kelly, after all. 

My ideal scenario: Carla does Tina in, Rob helps Carla frame Peter for it, Peter goes to clink, Tracy gets mad at Rob for framing Peter (not because she likes her brother, just because she likes engineering fiendish schemes and has been left out of this one), Rob and Tracy break up, Rob has rebound sex with Mary in her campervan.  

And Carla gives birth to a child with amazing hair. 

Desiree xx

* Who of course was subsequently hit by a car.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Fish Custard

Desiree discusses Matt Smith's debut as the eleventh Doctor Who

Rooster doesn't like Doctor Who. He says it irks him wildly, all that chasing and shouting and inexplicable noise. I said to him, I said Rooster, it's sci-fi, it's meant to baffle you! But I was only saying that to shut him up. I don't really believe that for a moment.

Science fiction should make sense. Within the imagined world in which it is set, within the parameters established by good writing and carefully constructed narrative, it should all make some kind of glorious, heart-stopping sense. Russell T. Davies's relaunch of Doctor Who, starting in 2005 with Rose (the episode in which the ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, and his new assistant, played by Billie Piper meet for the first time) was magnificent, and did for sci-fi what Any Dream Will Do did for musical theatre: shifted the boundaries, attracted massive audiences, and upset some die-hard fans.

I'm a big fan of the 'new' Doctor Who (and Davies's 'Year Zero' approach was echoed by new lead writer and exec producer Steven Moffat in Saturday's episode: the computer virus...?), and I like the ways in which it has brought family drama, romance, and real emotion to the sci-fi genre. The first two series (Eccleston and the first series featuring David Tennant) are often descibed (by me, after a bottle of Mateus Rose) as "the perfect love story."

I loved the Doctor and Rose so much that I couldn't watch Series 3 the first time round; it would have been like seeing an ex-boyfriend with a new woman. Though it turns out I didn't miss much in that series, apart from some superb writing by Steven Moffat in Blink. David Tennant settled into his role as the tenth Doctor very well, though with a little too much emo action on occasion. He was popular, and very good, and as such the devoted DW audience awaited Saturday's debut by Matt Smith with some anticipation.

I had eventually watched Series 3, and loved Series 4, so I shared this anticipation. I prepared myself well for the show; I was home alone, and settled down two minutes before the show was to begin, with a glass of wine, a bottle of wine for top-ups (this was a 65-minute series opener after all), and a small bowl of organic cashew nuts. Reader: those cashew nuts went untouched. I was that riveted, I didn't even think about my snack. I took leave of my senses, clearly... but reasonably so, for the episode was a televisual triumph.

The opening scene seemed standard fare: the new Doctor hurtling towards Earth, mid-regeneration, clinging onto the TARDIS, which itself was undergoing some kind of transformation (later revealed to be the construction of a Heath Robinson-esque new interior, complete with retro typewriter). The context into which he crash-landed, though, was different to anything which had gone before. Moffat (with a history of award-winning DW episodes behind him: the aforementioned Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace, The Empty Child...) centred the action around a small village (a refreshing change; we've seen so much of London), and a small girl (who later grew up into a feisty young woman). Country lanes and a cottage hospital were the backdrop for this truly scary tale, where danger came in the shape of a crack in the wall (echoed later in the TARDIS's new display screen, interestingly; let speculation about the series arc begin...).

Moffat put his own stamp on the series from the outset with a script featuring spare, witty, and moving dialogue, the quality of which was matched by a great performance by Matt Smith. Now, I don't thrive on change, me. And I've invested a lot of emotion in the Doctor over the last few years. I must admit I was a little apprehensive about Smith making his debut. I expected the worst: a middling approximation of Tennant, with floppier hair. I was proven wrong within the first few minutes. Smith's manner and timing were perfect; indeed, his whole performance was outstanding right from the outset.

From his demands for a range of increasingly bizarre foods ("You're Scottish, fry something"), to his aside as the adult Amy searched the house for Prisoner Zero ("Do I have a face nobody listens to? Again..."), to his interaction with the village inhabitants ("I'm the Doctor, I'm worse than everybody's Aunt") there was one constant: this Doctor works. This Doctor is a masterful combination of writing and casting which is a genuine joy to watch. I had read that Moffat had in mind a middle-aged Doctor for the eleventh incarnation, but that Smith had impressed him so much in auditions that he changed his mind; I think we've only just started to see what Smith can do...

Though largely warm, and often jovial, throughout (part of what I have seen referred to as Moffat's "fun agenda" for this series), the Doctor's words and manner changed when he took to the roof of the hospital towards the end of the episode, in what must have been a deliberate mirroring of the end of The Christmas Invasion, Tennant's first episode. Against a backdrop of flashbacks of previous Doctors and aliens, Smith's calm-casual delivery of "I've put a lot of work into it [the Earth]," hinted at the Doctor's devotion to the human race, which had too often been loudly exposited by Davies and Tennant. The crowd-pleasing line, though, was uttered shortly afterwards:

"Hello, I'm the Doctor. Basically: run."


And that, reader, once I'd recovered from my swoon, was me hooked. I kicked my legs out, threw my head back, and cheered. This Doctor is under my skin already, and, as I'm sure you know, a potato skin is thick and gnarly. I like to think I take some persuading, but perhaps not, under the right circumstances; I evidently cope with change much better than I think.

Like Rose back in 2005, this episode introduced a new Doctor (and his companion) in a way which allowed the audience to immediately identify with the characters, and root for them. Perhaps it's easier when both the key players are new (though Rose's reaction to the Eccleston-Tennant regeneration offered some nice continuity and emotional depth), though risky of course, as it's potentially difficult for an all-new cast to win over devoted fans of the tenth Doctor. But the writing was good, the performances were good, and.... it made sense. The storyline was simple, genuinely frightening, emotionally involving without being sentimental, and ...it made sense.

As the credits rolled, I toasted all involved, refilled my glass, and immediately logged on to Facebook, where I publicly declared my pleasure at the episode I had just seen. Rooster arrived home some hours later to find me re-watching it on iPlayer, glass in hand, re-toasting the Doctor at every opportunity. Rooster, I said, come here and watch this, you'll love it; it makes sense.

To quote RTD, via Christopher Eccleston in The Parting of the Ways: "You were fantastic." Sometimes delight is found in unexpected places; I had hoped Matt Smith would be pretty good, and actually he was wonderful. I should have had as much faith in Moffat's writing and casting as the Doctor himself had in his final snack combination: fish fingers and custard. He loved it; we all loved it. Roll on next week.

Over and out,

P.S. Karen Gillan was excellent as Amy Pond too... We'll be reviewing her next week.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Jumping for Glee

Ultimate Movie Toons, ITV1
Eastenders, BBC1
Piers Morgan's Life Stories, ITV1
Glee, Channel 4

Question: What sight could be more confusing than Duncan from Blue and a pregnant Denise van Outen performing a samba version of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious on national television?

Answer: The sight of a boy in a wheelchair singing Jump in a mattress store on international television.

More about mattress boy later, for now, back to Denise and Duncan...Yes, as part of its committment to produce ever more bizarre takes on generic formats, on Sunday ITV1 decided to treat us to Ultimate Movie Toons, a of top ten countdown of songs from animated films voted for, of course, by the public. As with all such ventures, there were highlights (Michael Ball growling his way through The Bare Necessities was particularly gratifying) and lowlights (Beverly Knight murdering Beauty and the Beast; who knew it was possible to find oneself pining for Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson?) Danni Minogue presided over events, evidently thrilled with her ever-rising star and smiling as much as her plastic surgeon would allow. I for one am as thrilled as she is; I remember my horror when she attempted to resurrect her music career with her tour of Jumpin' Jaks up and down the country on the early noughties.

Another glorious highlight from Ultimate Movie Toons

Less enjoyable was this week's Eastenders two-hander between Stacey and Max which culminated in a Hitchcockian moment where the camera slowly panned out from the Square to a bird's eye view of London. Unfortunately the cinematic ending was in no way a reflection of what preceded it. Lacey Turner did her best with the rambling and incoherent script - perhaps the writers had been hit by a bout of swine flu - but even she couldn't make a silk purse out of that sow's ear. Max was required to cry which was almost as funny as his failed attempt to make himself sick on the live episode. The Melodramatic Props Department (TM) was once again called on to add dramatic impetus; this time in the form of a dried out floral tribute to Bradley which magically brought about a reconciliation between the pair. Eastenders appears to be on general downward spiral of late; earlier in the week, we were treated to to some "yoof" dialogue from Billy and his dodgy mates; something to do with hoodies and guns and respec' innit? Dreadful.

One person you would never find in a hoodie is Joan Collins, although woe betide you if you disrespect her; something Piers Morgan was careful not to do in his Life Stories on Saturday night, a kind of updated version of This Is Your Life without the pesky "friends and family" bit. As befits the format, Piers was slightly simpering throughout but it was nonetheless a rather entertaining interview - Joan has, after all, had quite a colourful life; she is currently on husband number five. Be that as it may, other than the fact that she is a (self-professed) wizz in the kitchen we didn't really learn anything new about our Joanie and the whole thing seemed like a missed opportunity for her to finally ditch the gloopy mascara, badly applied red lipstick and hairpiece and show us the woman that "her Percy" sees over the breakfast table every morning.
Celebrities Sans Slap; would that work as a concept? I'd better contact ITV immediately.

So back to that boy in the wheelchair, who came to us courtesy of U.S. series Glee which appears to be the televisual lovechild of High School Musical and Ugly Betty. Is that a good thing? I can't decide. Judge for yourself...

Thursday, 25 March 2010

All Change!

Coronation Street, ITV1
Vintage Neighbours, BBC1
Vintage Home and Away, ITV1

As we all know, Coronation Street celebrates its 50th aniversary this year. Rumour is rife about the possible return of some familiar and well-loved faces from the soap's past. Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch), Sherrie Hewson (Maureen Naylor) and even Jean Alexander (Hilda Ogden) have all been mentioned but none have so far been confirmed.

Rita, before "Lake Me"

Perhaps to sate our appetite in the meantime, we have been treated to another (slightly less spectacular) return in the form of Rita, who has rejoined the cast after a brief hiatus. As you may recall, Rita unexpectedly sold up the Kabin a few months ago and headed off  into the sunset after decalring it was time "to swim in Lake Me." It seems that while she was on her travels, she may have taken a dip in the fountain of eternal youth (or at the very least, the fountain of eternal Botox). Yes, not only has Barbara Knox's wig had a trim and tint but her mini-break seems to have given her whole face a...lift, shall we say?

Whatever rejeuvenating procedure she may have undergone, it has done nothing to cool her temper; her charity shop ding-dongs with Emily are testament to that. But Rita's return got me thinking...she might be looking a little fresher these days but her transformation is nothing compared to some of the baffling metamorphoses the soaps have treated us to over the years. Let's take some time to have a look at a few favourites from years gone by...

Lucy Robinson - Neighbours

The original and still the best. Lucy, as we all know, came in three formats: the sprightly gamine, prone to falling down drains in rain storms; the dungaree wearing pubescent lesbian with a penchant for Alice bands and finally, the fallen Madonna with the big boobies. None of the individual actresses looked like they hailed from the same continental land mass, never mind the same gene pool; a fact which never seemed to bother Helen, Jim and the rest of the Ramsey Street crew who never so much as batted an eyelid at the evolutionary leaps going on before their very eyes.

Tracey Barlow - Coronation Street

Most of us - me included until I googled her - had forgotten that Tracey has been played by not two but three actors, the first young upstart's efforts having been totally eclipsed by the frankly spellbinding performance of the tracksuit-loving teenager most famous for traipsing upstairs muttering "I'm just goin' tuh pleehr me teehpes". When Tracey burst back onto our screens in 2002 she had been - literally - revamped. It became immediately clear that the writers had something more exciting in mind than a storyline revolving around a chip-pan fire or a back yard clinch with that lad off Jossy's Giants. Most excitingly, Kate Ford (who doesn't appear to have been inundated with offers for work in the intrim) is soon set to rejoin the 
cast and is apparently set to make Gail's life a living Hell (good luck to her).


Cody Willis - Neighbours

Ah, the Willis family, headed up by Jason Donovan's real life dad and that woman who never seemed to run a comb through her hair. The original Cody looked like a reject from an Addams Family audition but when she returned from an extended student exchange in the U.S. she had matured (read mutated) into a poor man's Cheryl Crow. More disturbing than the physical transofmation was the voice! Judging by the husky tones of her second incarnation, she had been smoking more than Pine Lights whilst Stateside. Of course, Cody II was not to last, being  killed by a ricocheting bullet during the infamous Ramsey Street shoot-out. Naturally, she would later reappear - in true Aussie soap style - as a ghost; luckily still played by the same actress.

Pippa Fletcher - Home and Away

Lovely Pippa, with a mantlepiece so laden with photos of her erstwhile charges it must have been stronger than the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Initially played by a sprightly, curly-haired elf of a woman, Pippa was replaced, literally overnight, by what a very good friend of mine described as "a six-foot Geordie". He wasn't far off the mark; not only had Pippa grown about a foot taller, she had broadened across the shoulders and wouldn't have looked out of place lugging girders around a Newcastle shipyard. Remarkably, the producers of Home and Away decided not to let the change pass unremarked: "oh, Pippa", quipped Simon, "you've had your hair done; it looks nice!"

Six Foot Geordie and Elf (inset)

Cheryl Stark  - Neighbours

Oh, Neighbours, you've done it again...but with a twist! What differentiates this "transformation" from the others is that it was actually done quite well, with the previously unheard of intention of ensuring continuity. This can probably be put down to the fact that the first actor to play Cheryl dropped out of the series due to illness, with every intention of returning when she got better, which she duly did. So it was that Cheryl's dreadful fashion faux pas and huge hair (style-wise, she was a prototype Trish Valentine) along with her vocal tics were transferred from one actress to the next...and back again.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Avenging Angels and Dancing Demons

Lizzie and Sarah, BBC 2
Pineapple Dance Studios, Sky 1

Amid the frankly frightful - and frightening - spectrum of televisual tat on offer at the moment (Life of Riley -license payers, claim your rebate now; Push the Button - what, the "off" button? Gladly; Married, Single, Other - don't even get me started) came a ray of hope on Saturday night in the form of Lizzie and Sarah. Confined to the BBC2 graveyard slot of 11.45 and sadly not yet comissioned for a full series, it appears that the Beeb aren't quite so sure. Let's hope the response to last night's taster is enough to ensure we get a full series. Whatever happens, the pilot alone looks set to be a cult classic.

Penned by the respectively quirky and twisted minds of Jessica Hynes (Spaced) and Julia Davis (Nighty Night), Lizzie and Sarah centres on two middle-aged housewives trapped in loveless and emotionally abusive marriages who, after a joint epiphany decide to throw caution to the wind and have girl's day out. A shopping spree turns into a drinking binge and before long the pair are bumping and grinding in a club with some shifty-looking strangers. Sobering up, the ladies realise that their dancing partners have mugged them and, filled with years of pent-up resentment and frustration, give chase. What follows is a shocking and hilarious sequence of events that see the pair righting wrongs and settling scores with a gusto and determination not seen since The Lives and Loves of the She Devil. Hynes and Davis are both on top form, giving genuinely complelling performances and shifting effortlessly from moving to side-splitting throughout.

Speculation is already rife in the media that the long shadow cast by the Russell Brand/Jonathon Ross debacle may have finally called time on the BBC's long-running love affair with dark and daring humour. Certainly, recent offerings seem to indicate a move towards the traditional in terms of both format and content. BBC3's surprise hit Gavin and Stacey may well have had the odd raunchy joke, but it was essentially a classic "boy meets girl" scenario and the closest the BBC had come in years to making a show that the whole family could and would watch together; My Family having slumped immeasurably after Kris Marshall's departure. There's nothing wrong with Gavin and Stacey of course (well there is actually, but we'll leave that for another post); it just seems a shame that the envelope-pushing agenda that brought us The Day Today, Absolutely Fabulous, The League of Gentlemen, Alan  Partridge and Human Reamains might be ditched in favour of a more coy approach which could leave us watching post-noughties revamps of The Brittas Empire, Goodnight Sweetheart and As Tine Goes By.

Debbie Moore of Pineapple Dance Studios - "Time goes by...so quickly"

Perhaps such knee-jerk reactions are inevitable, talking of which, Pineapple Dance Studios continues to scissor kick and shimmy its way across the schedules, gaining an ever-bigger fanbase. Harry Hill and his TV Burp can probably take as much credit for this as the show itself, which lends itself brilliantly to Hill's gently mocking format. Of course, we'll all be sick of Louis Spence before long, by which point he'll no doubt have guaranteed himself near continuous rotation on every reality TV show going and we'll be stuck with him forever. Frankenstein was an amateur compared to modern-day TV producers, who seem to have a knack of churning out monsters on a daily basis. Perhaps Dancing on Ice is merely a celebrity training camp for the inevitable day when we will chase our C-list stars across the North Pole, aghast at what we have created. As the saying goes "our idols and demons will pursue us, until we learn to let them go."* As far as those demons go, the BBC would do well to take note.

* Ten points to anyone who can source the origins of that quote, btw.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Coronation Street
Whilst Eastenders has been riding bareback and side saddle on a bucking stallion across the windy moors of soapland, Coronation Street has been bobbing along like Joe McIntyre's corpse on Lake Windemere of late, seemingly without any meaningful direction.

Of course, Gail has been required to use all three of her "acting faces" (none of which are bonny, all of which are infuriating).

Face 1

Face 2

Face 3

Why the writers at Granada Studios thought we would enjoy another long, drawn out palaver showcasing her utter stupidity is anyone's guess. As if the Hillman saga wasn't enough! I was always rather a fan of that Richard, myself; he had character.

And what is going on with the two Asian aunties by the way? Someone write them some decent dialogue immediately. I'll admit they're a hammy old pair, with about as much acting ability as Madonna and Patsy Kensit between them but just just have a gander at their expressive faces.

I think they should hold a seance and channel Blanche. Obviously that might be a bit difficult given that she isn't officially dead yet. I do wonder how Corrie will handle that, actually. I fancy a poison pen letter from Portugal, myself, or something suitably feisty to giver her character the send off she deserves.

In the meantime we have the return of Tyrone's mum, ably played by Margie Clarke, Audrey's hi-jinx with a gigolo and Tina singing lullabies to her dead father to amuse us. Perhaps things are looking up after all.