TV Review: Horizon, The Six Billion Dollar Experiment, BBC Two, Tuesday 1 May, 9pm
Big science. That's what Horizon used to do best. And that's what it almost managed to get back to tonight. That is to say, the program was definitely about big science, but for today's audience - who the producers clearly think have brains not much larger than a gnat's and attention spans to match - the story has to be wrapped up in CGI, preceded by almost thirty minutes of irrelevant waffle about the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (worth a program on its own, incidentally, but with only a passing connection to the eponymous experiment) and take care to avoid explicit mention of the Higgs Boson.
Buried on average 100m deep (it varies between 50-175m) beneath a field outside Geneva, the Large Hadron Collider is due to be switched on on 26 November this year. What will it do? I'm tempted to say it will collide large hadrons, but even I can't be glib in the face of such an awesome project. Six billion dollars (that's three billion of your English pounds) and over ten years in construction, this project will attempt to recreate the conditions that existed one billionth of a second after the Big Bang by firing two beams of super-energised protons at each other, head on.
The resulting explosion will create a black hole and swallow up the entire planet.
(Worst case scenario - and included in tonight's programme purely for sensationalist dramatic effect).
If things go according to plan there'll be no black hole and no swallowing. Instead there'll be a cascade of particles captured on cameras the size of cathedrals built along the walls of the collider and maybe, just maybe, some of those particles will be the elusive Higgs bosons - the final missing piece of the Standard Model of particle physics that explains why everything in the universe has mass.
Show me the maths and I'd be lost in an instant, but I could talk about this stuff until the cows come home. Utterly fascinating and compelling, and despite the annoying graphics representing the big bang, and the hadron (protons in this case, if you were wondering) collisions, and the paths of the particles, that were run and rerun ad nauseam, there was just about enough real science in this to satisfy. And it was big. Really big. 27km in diameter, and delivering protons energised to 7 TeV when full commissioning is completed. That's big. Trust me. Or even better, trust the people who wrote all this:
Large Hadron Collider at Wikipedia
LHC Homepage at CERN
What is a Hadron? (the answer just throws up a bunch more questions. Make a cup of tea before reading)
Description of LHC for public consumption (also explains what a TeV is for the layman)
TV Review: Project Runway, Sky One, Monday 30 April, 9pm
First things first - I'm no fashionista. I don't claim to be, I don't want to be, I'm just not. I write for TV Scoop and not Shiny sister site Catwalk Queen for a reason. I don't really care what's new on the catwalks in Milan or what Kate Moss has been wearing. Not to say I dress like a bag lady, but you get the slightly scruffy, lived-in-jeans picture.
I do however, love a good helping of bitchy reality TV, and so nursing such hopes tuned in to season two of Project Runway. I had previously sampled the camp delights of the UK equivalent Project Catwalk, and was looking forward to more of the same. I was not disappointed. If anything, I predict our trans-Atlantic cousins will teach us Brits how to have the ultimate diva strop. Let the hysterics begin!
The US version is thankfully without presenter Kelly Osbourne (fashionable - since when?) with supermodel Heidi Klum (complete with bizarre German/ American hybrid accent) at the helm. Klum is an established part of the fashion industry and so has an appropriate background for such a role, more than just being the fruit of Sharon Osbourne's loins (sorry, such graphic imagery should have come with some kind of health warning). Heidi (we're on first name terms now) was heavily pregnant in last night's episode and decked in a vivid pink mini-dress invited comparisons to the sugar plum fairy. Ooh, get me - one night watching fashion TV and I'm just as catty as the rest of them. I fear it might be a slippery slope...
Moving on to the action, the team of judges started their preliminary trek across the States in search of design talent. Traveling from east to west coast they roped in season one alumni to best remind the hopefuls of the success they were aspiring for. This early round seemed somewhat rushed, as we only saw a handful of losers crash and burn at the fashion alter. Come on - you can do better than that! Music talent shows thrive on the societal rejects they unearth before they settle on the good ones, and it felt like a missed opportunity. We did have a few gems, one woman had a unique angle - "Hi, I've come out of a coma so I think that's a great story," and a man dressed only in a jacket, fishnets and stilettos!
Not having watched season one of 'Project Runway', I didn't immediately recognise any of the judges, but a quick jaunt to Wikipedia and I'm all clued up. The panel included Nina Garcia, the fashion director at Elle magazine, designer Michael Kors and Chair of the Department of Fashion Design at Parsons The New School for Design, Tim Gunn. Tim does double duty on the show, not only judging but also acting as the contestant's mentor during their trials, much like Ben De Lisi in the UK version, though with more hair. Just one episode in and I like Tim. He has a very dramatic voice, talking as if providing the commentary for a naff movie trailer and with an odd, third person perspective "we're responding well to you."
But on to the competition. The fourteen lucky ones were given their first challenge: create an outfit that best expressed their personality as a designer. With only $20 and 6 yards of muslin.
One week later and all the students/ contestants/ divas met each other for the first time and got to the nitty gritty. They had two hours to meet with their randomly assigned model, make any last-minute adjustments to their outfits and get their gal through hair and make-up and ready to go. Now with fourteen of them, none of the students were afforded much screen time and so remained quite anonymous. All excepting first season reject Daniel Franco, who took himself to be a bit of a celebrity and constantly bemoaned his previous disappointment.
I watched on musing that 14 students seemed a tad excessive, even for an American reality show. My thought-patterns must have inexplicably synchronized with those of the programme makers, as the judges revealed that not one, but two contestants would be sent packing. Now I know this to be impossible, (I didn't get a B in GSCE science for nothing), but the news of a more streamlined future was most welcome.
With time against the students, we raced to the bit we all want - the models strutting their skinny stuff (and boy, some of them looked in need of a good sandwich.) With many a scrawny pose struck, the judges had seen it all, from a dress held together by magnets (or not as it turned out) to scary shoulder pads. Away from the students, the panel traded notes on their personal winners and losers and reached their final verdicts.
The fearful fourteen were paraded on the catwalk in front of the fashion firing squad, and duly nine happily graduated to ‘Project Runway’. This left five (see, I'm no slouch at maths either) with the best and the worst among their number. Santino with his unorthodox baby-doll dress made with "old world, third world techniques" (his words, not mine) was announced as the winner and skipped off to share his news with the others.
Magnet Girl and Daniel Franco (the only Daniel in the competition, but for some unknown reason always referred to by his full name) were also given the green light, leaving Southern belle Heidi and John to bid their final farewells. Both cuts were completely justified and I'm pleased that outfits that an arthritic dog could produce were deemed inferior. John's dress was an uninspired orange tie-dyed effort that he threw together in a paltry eight hours, while Heidi's was a plain skirt, a plain tube top and a bit of ribbon and lace for trimming. John appeared shocked and angry at his early dismissal, while smiling sweetie Heidi was just grateful for the opportunity.
Though an incompetent designer it seemed a shame that Heidi left the show, as she could have been TV comedy gold. Proof? As Heidi Klum said "auf wiedersehn" to her, she replied "I don't know what that means, but bye". Classic.
Next week's promotional trailer included the obligatory tears and tantrums ("where the hell is my chiffon?") and I suspect I'll be going back for more, fashionista that I now am.
TV Review: Annually Retentive, BBC Three, Monday 30 April, 10.30pm
What I like about Annually Retentive, is that it is a show of many layers, all of which are utterly indistinct from one another.
There's the real Rob Brydon, the actor in this show; there's the off-stage Rob Brydon in the show, and there's the Rob Brydon that appears on the quiz. Then the guests - there's the fictional persona we see in the programme, the preconceptions we have about them and, buried in there somewhere, the real person themselves. The show lives and dies off how these layers mingle and flow, and subvert our expectations - and the place where this works best is on the panel show. There things get really complicated.
And that's because the panel show is simply filmed like a panel show. Apart from the bits which are clearly intended to fit in with other, scripted strands of the programme - like the team captains refusing to look stupid just to get in a few more gags, or Rhys Thomas hating on Rob - it appears that they're actually playing the game, and treating it as a normal panel show. Which makes you wonder - is there real antipathy between Richard Herring and Jimmy Carr? *That* didn't feature elsewhere in the show, they came up with that all on their own. And that's why, at its best this show really is very good. It was clear that the Eamonn Holmes storyline was crafted and scripted, and as such, wasn't very entertaining, but when you honestly, heart of hearts can't work out whether a look of disgust, or a throw-away insult is real or not, then you've got something good.
As for the new additions to the show - Katy Brand as Debbie the guest booker, and Russell Tovey as Ben the producer - I think they worked out really well. At first you thought that Ben is a bit of a Nathan Barley-Idiot, and he is, but he's also clearly a clever and popular guy, and Rob can't stand it.
As I said, the Holmes storyline was a little laboured, and that Rob would be uncomfortable with homosexuality was already, I think, taken as a given, But overall, this was a really positive start to the new series... better than I remember, in fact. [annawaits]
TV Review: Million Dollar Pigeon, BBC2, Monday 30th April, 9pm
Now pigeons are things I’d never thought I’d be writing about on this blog. Let's face it, Pigeons aren’t exactly the kind of pretty birds we like to wax lyrical about, admire their sweet song or gasp at their exotic plumage. Ken Livingstone wanted to spray them with machine gun fire, and I've people call them some pretty nasty things (flying rats, anyone?). The only thing I can remember liking pigeons for is Pigeon Street in the 1980s when I was a kid, but I can’t say I’ve ever thought about them too much since. I mean, I don’t like them pooing on my car, or me for that matter, but they have never played too much a part in my life.
So what on Earth was I doing watching a documentary about pigeons and pigeon racing last night on BBC2? That’ll be a deadly combination of boredom and curiosity, then.
I was going to review Panorama last night, but I buggered the times up and I was at a loose end. So I ended up watching Millionaire Dollar Pigeon, a strangely fascinating film by Morgan Matthews.
Morgan showed us a world that we think we know but in actual fact have no clue about it at all. Pigeon fancying is all about flat caps and men with wrinkly hands, surely. But, as the first scene shows, it’s a serious business – at a pigeon auction a prize bird is snapped up for 15 grand.
This underground of pigeon fanciers (yes, they do call themselves pigeon fanciers) is flourishing, and the old image of flat caps etc has been replaced by big money. To illustrate this Million Dollar Pigeon follows three pigeon fanciers planning for the biggest race in the world – the Million Dollar Race in South Africa.
We met Derrick from Cardiff, a high roller on the scene who has won hundreds of thousands of pounds in prize money over the years. He has a nice car, a nice home and a very expensive watch. He’s a bit of a git really. I mean, he’s not necessarily a nasty man – quite a good bloke, in fact – but he’s got a personalised number plate, and that’s unforgivable in my book.
He’s also someone who walks with the cocky swagger of a man who’s got money and knows it. But later in the film, despite my initial misgivings, he revealed a softer side – his mum died when he was young (and when she was young) and now he’s out to live like a king, convinced that life is for living. I think I can forgive the number plate on this occasion.
Then we met Richard, from Plymouth. He’s a new kid on the pigeon-racing block and was determined to win the Million Dollar Race at any cost. His house was a mess and he had ploughed all his money into buying birds for the race. His wife Tina revealed that he even dreams of pigeons, and he also told us that, “You’ve got to get pigeons to love you.” He did not reveal the techniques in attaining this state of love, which was probably a good thing.
It was soon evident that people take pigeon racing VERY seriously, and when there’s a million dollars at stake who can blame them? One man even described the sport of pigeon racing as being so addictive it’s like being hooked on heroin.
Lastly, we met Eddie. Eddie has been breeding pigeons for over 50 years, but now he shares his passion with time spent caring for his wife Anne, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. I wanted to cry seeing these two together, and Eddie cares for her tenderly and with so much love.
Eddie is part of the old school, and isn’t in it for the money. He loves the traditions and doesn’t quite understand the modern ways of money-chasing. But he was determined to take Anne on a big trip, so they jet off to South Africa to enter his pigeons and see what happens. Again, many touching scenes here when they started to enjoy the warmth of South Africa – he looked genuinely thrilled that his wife was enjoying the trip.
When it came to the race itself – 2,000-odd pigeons released at dawn at a random location, the first one back wins – I really wanted Eddie to win. But sensationally, Eddie decided not to attend the race and went to sit in a garden with Anne instead. In the end none of the three Brits won much, but Derrick did win a bit of cash by buying himself into a syndicate the day before. Richard was gutted and faced a long trip back to Plymouth, wondering what to do about his empty bank account and crumbling kitchen.
Million Dollar Pigeon was fascinating. It told us how a sport full of old traditions has been rapidly overhauled in recent times and is now all about money. It’s pretty much the way all sport is going, and showed that pigeon racing isn’t too different from all the rest of them. But despite all the money, the three men featured – all very different – at least showed there’s still passion there.
TV Review: 24, Sky One, Sunday 29 April, 9pm
Another 'hour' of 24, another disappointing episode. I'm sorry for my constant bitching and wailing on this matter, really I am. I don't want to feel this way, rehashing the same old grievances all the time. But endless repetition seems a horribly fitting tribute to this season's '24'.
Seriously, what happened to '24'? Answers on a postcard please. I need some obscure conspiracy theories to help manage the pain. Was Kiefer too hung-over from his wild partying to question the daft plots? The writers too busy thinking about the planned film or the execs too busy counting their cash from DVD box sets to notice the sharp nose dive in quality? I'm a fan on a mission - and I demand answers!
In television terms, the plight of '24' really is quite shocking. I used to be able to count on '24'. It was there for you, like an obedient puppy or a deranged stalker. Reliable - the veritable Volvo of TV programming. But I can't have been showing my true appreciation of it. Maybe I hadn't told it how much I loved it or how special it was to me. And now I, and all who once loved '24', are left to suffer the consequences - another dull episode in an increasingly dull season.
I say dull, there were moments. But why do we have to park our brains at the door to enjoy any degree of excitement these days?
The nuclear bombs had been found, the terrorists duly finished off and all at CTU enjoyed a rare bit of back-slapping. Huzzah - success! The crisis had been averted and the baddies killed. You can just imagine the writers signing off, crossing the last t's and dotting the last i's. Another '24' in the bag and a mad rush to get rat-arsed.
But what's this? Plotting problems ahead people, as the mathematicians calculate that this is only the 18th episode out of the necessary 24. Whoops! Somehow there are more hours to fill before all the cast and crew can call it a day. So what now? Is there anyone left for Jack to needlessly torture? And then inspiration strikes - how about the same plot but changed ever so slightly?
The writers must think we all suffer from convenient memory loss like Teri Bauer in Season One. How else to explain the blatant recycling that undermines everything that was once so special about this show?
In one instance of history repeating itself within the space of a few shorts hours, President Wayne Palmer was incapacitated and replaced by the evil, power-hungry Vice-President Noah Daniels. It was a shame really as Wayne had finally grown a pair and stood up to nasty Noah. I believe that's what happened, though I'm not quite sure. Powers Boothe as Daniels doesn't so much talk as growl and I find I need some canine translation just too keep up with what he's said.
Wayne, fed up with Noah's constant power-plays, asked for his deputy to resign. Noah was less than keen on the plan but when presented with the audio recording of his plan to commit perjury was made to put up and shut up. Wayne had gotten his man and was looking forward to getting his mitts on the necessary resignation letter.
Noah obligingly penned such a letter and was all about to wave a final farewell to his political powers, when Wayne's health failed him and he collapsed mid press conference. Quickly hiding the letter, Daniels rushed into action and began doing all he could to undermine President Palmer (again).
This time, Daniels revoked Palmer's authorisation to let Jack go save lost lady love Audrey. But why would anyone want to stop Jack meeting up with his sweetheart? Could it be because in exchange for Audrey, Jack was happy to hand the Chinese Government a component from the Russian nukes that would reveal secret Russian defence information? Yep, that would do it.
Jack had to go some to convince CTU and Palmer to authorise such a tricky trade in the first place. Sure, Jack's good but how could he guarantee that the whole shebang wouldn't go all Pete Tong and end up starting World War 3? Answer - by carrying explosives that would render the component useless. WW3 averted. (Note to 24 writers - how many times can you scream about a possible WW3 in one episode? I'm so fed up of hearing it discussed that I might go start it myself just to get it over and done with. Move on to WW4 - y'know, give everyone something new to soil themselves over.)
But I'm sure nothing gets past you, dear readers. Yes, explosives would not only take out the component but also Jack. Had our hero thought this through? Did he know what he was doing? Brave/ crazy as ever Jack persevered on, desperate to save Audrey regardless of the fact he might die. Great welcome home that would be for the poor love. Welcome home - sorry your boyfriend exploded into smithereens to save you, fancy a cuppa?
Will Jack save Audrey? Will Daniels bring down the President? Will they start WORLD WAR 3? Sadly, do I even care any more?
TV Review: Lost, Sky One, Sunday 29 April, 10pm
Sunday, 10pm, Sky One - that only means one thing to me, time for another journey into the weird and wonderful world of Lost. Last night the wheel of fortune was spun and landed on the too often neglected character Sun. Now for the uninitiated 'Lost' is a show dominated by the posturing antics of alpha males, with the women killed (Shannon, Libby, Ana-Lucia) or reduced to feminine hysterics (Claire). Kate seems to be the only female the writers want to bother with, a worry considering she is essentially a tomboy. But in Sun, we have a different type of animal. An educated woman (Juliet being the only other skirt we could imagine gracing a library), married, from a non-Western culture and now unexpectedly pregnant.
Sneaking a peak into Sun's past, we learnt that she was blackmailed to save the feelings of her husband Jin. A mysterious woman demanded $100, 000 from Sun, threatening to inform Jin that his mother was a prostitute if she failed to cough up. Nearly three seasons have sought to confirm Jin's staunch pride, and Sun was all in a palava as to what to do. Find the money and pay the woman off or risk hurting her husband? If only she'd had a lucky eight ball on hand to help her out.
Keen to protect her man, Sun approached her wealthy father for the money who, being a bit minted, helped her out. But not however without gaining a little leverage himself. Suspecting that it was all for the benefit of his impoverished son-in-law, he demanded that in exchange for the money he could have Jin work directly for him. Sun agreed and the money was her's. Easy, except....
Unfortunately, we the audience realise that with this decision, Sun sealed her husband's fate as her father's new bullyboy. Fitting together past events, we appreciate the magnitude of this moment in the chronology of the two lovers. Jin would become something he would hate and push Sun into the arms of that smarmy bald guy.
Back in the present day, Juliet was dropped from Sun's Christmas card list when she revealed that the island and pregnant women don't mix. In her past role working as a fertility doctor, Juliet found that women who conceived on the island died during their second trimester and that Sun's number could soon be up! But how to know when she fell pregnant - who had baked that bun in her oven? Loving hubbie Jin during a bit of jungle nookie or her baldy boyfriend from Korea?
Juliet led Sun to one of the hatches and did a medical examination of her to determine the date of conception.
At this point I would like to vent my dislike of Juliet. I know the island's female population is pretty pathetic. I know that any woman who can compete with Kate in the writer's affections is worth having. I know there are mysteries still to unfold regarding her character. Yada yada yada. I still can't get past the condescending, supercilious look favoured by the actress. It makes me want to throw things at the TV in a Hulk-like rage. How I hate such self-satisfied smugness!
Okay, rant over. I'm very sorry about that, it's now out of my system, a few deep breaths and we'll say no more about it.
Moving on, Juliet worked her science magic and informed Sun that she had gotten pregnant on the island - the baby was Jin's. On the one hand - yeay! No baldy bastards. On the other - oops, looks like Sun won't have long left to live, two months approximately. Bummer!
Jin too saw a bit of action this week, still on his jungle trek with Desmond, Hurly and Charlie. Would we learn who the mystery parachute woman was who crash-landed on the island last week? What do you think? She mumbled in Italian, winced a lot - you would too with a punctured lung (or so I'm told), and generally looked pitiful. That was until the eye-patch wearing Other appeared from nowhere ready to help save her.
Desmond agreed but Charlie predictably moaned and whinged (he is Northern after all). Once the woman was suitably patched up, the Other was off and so the gang tried to transport her home. But what was that she was whispering? Only that flight Oceanic 815 (their ill-fated plane for the slow-readers out there) was found with no survivors. I'll repeat that in capitals for you in case you missed it NO SURVIVORS.
As cliffhangers go, it was pretty good!
TV Review: Any Dream Will Do: BBC One, Saturday 21st April at 7.30pm and 9.45pm
The show started with news that Andrew Lloyd Webber was “furious” about last week’s result, believing both Christeeth and Johndeep deserved to still be in the running to become America’s Next Top-- oh, sorry, Joseph. Two Josephs were to go this week, which meant two sing-offs (sings-off?) and two would be saved by The Lord.
They started out with a rousing version of “Go go go, Joseph” and then launched - well, I say launched, it was more like drifted - into the performances of great pop songs by male artists to show that they had stage presence and star quality.
First up Seamus is bored, yes bored, of references to his age. He’s sung backing with Shakin’ Stevens (who sent him a good luck message) and Rod Stewart, you know! A bit of respect! His performance of Start Me Up was shouty. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it, I didn’t think, but I didn’t like it. Probably because I don’t like him, the cocky sod. Judge Bill Kenwright said Seamus doesn’t know how good he is and he’s not arrogant, he’s scared. Wow. What a startling judge of character. Denise Van Outen agreed with me - cocky. Andrew made a good point - if Seamus is so great, and he’s 35, why isn’t he a star already?
Lovely Lewis did I Saw Her Standing There and made me smile. I don’t care whether he wins this or not (even though he will) - Lewis is a star. Denise said he was great, but needed to stand up straight and Andrew criticised his delivery of the start of the song (it’s “She was just 17, you know what I mean” not “She was just 17, and you know what I mean.”).
Rob the Builder (apparently he’s only 24 - must’ve had a hard life) sang Pretty Woman. I do like him, but I don’t see him in the West End. He’s more of a variety show performer, for me. Maybe he could be in the West End, but in one of those greatest hits shows with all the Popstars rejects and people out of Hollyoaks. John Barrowman said Rob was confident, but he isn’t sure his raw talent will hold up.
Antony sang Patience and the high bits in the chorus were absolutely excruciating. It’s such a shame because the rest of the time his voice was great. He still doesn’t show any emotion, barely any acting, at all, but he’s disturbingly sexy (disturbing for me, I mean, since I’m old enough to be his mum). John said he sounded like he was howling wolves in from Alaska. Presenter Graham Norton went to Vocal Coach Zoe Tyler and said, “Awful - is that fair?” and she said, “Yes.” Poor Antony.
Christeeth accompanied Tell Her About It with some random clapping that the mic picked up and it was out of time. His vocal was lovely, but I wasn’t convinced by the performance - no acting to speak of. John reckoned he’d bounced back from last week’s sing-off, but was still a little tentative.
Ben sang Life Is A Rollercoaster and it was another nothing performance. His voice doesn’t impress, the song wasn’t very special and it was just ... meh. Bill reckoned he’d cracked it and he was cool. John said it was clear that he loves to perform and it was his best performance. It probably was, but the best of a bad bunch.
Have I been missing something? Daniel said that he’d understudied Russell Watson in War of the Worlds and been on several tours - have they mentioned that before? Last I heard he was doing data input at a concrete company. His performance of The Lady Is A Tramp was effortlessly confident and charming. Denise thought it was polished and Bill said he nailed it.
Lee did I Don’t Want to Talk About It beautifully, though it was another understated performance - I'd like to see him really go for it. But he and Daniel are streets ahead of the rest. Denise pointed out that he went flat a couple of times, but that he’s an absolute superstar. Perfection, said Bill.
At this point, I couldn’t remember who was left, which doesn’t bode well for them. It was Keith and Craig.
Keith did Crocodile Rock. His voice is gorgeous and he had some nifty dance moves too, but his expression is blank and his eyes look scared. John thought it was fantastic, but his dancing wasn’t up to scratch. Denise thought he was great and his dancing was fine.
Craig sang Signed, Sealed, Delivered and it was a great performance ... if he was in a boyband. He’s just too average for Joseph. The judges all thought he was good, but, like his performance, their comments were bland.
Craig and Antony were in the sing-off, which was probably fair since Antony’s vocal was dreadful and Craig’s performance was boring. Craig got the lowest votes from the viewers. Cruelly, they were made to perform Everything I Do. Antony sounded great and looked like he was feeling the song, Craig was insipid and could have been singing anything. I was desperate for Andrew to save Antony, but the berk - sorry, Lord Berk - saved Craig. Yawn.
Ooh! Two “evictions” meant two “Poor Josephs” - and, oh my god, Antony's was the best one yet. It made me cry and gave me palpitations.
In the results show and, after a VT (oh yeah, I’ve got the lingo) of the boys going to see We Will Rock You (which could have been considered blatant advertising except for the fact that it looked dreadful), they performed One Vision together.
This week’s mission was to try the loincloths for size and perform a scene - wearing them - for their mums. Their mums! Some of them did brilliantly, some forgot the lyrics. They’re not difficult lyrics - I know them! (I’m not saying I could perform them in a loincloth, but, you know, I don’t have to.) Andrew said they thought the boys would be tougher than the Marias, but they’re not - they’re always snivelling.
Seamus and Ben were in the second sing-off and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I was fine with Ben, but does Seamus’s arrogance trump Craig’s dullness? Seamus got the lowest votes overall. They did He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother and it was fabulous. I couldn’t have chosen between them - I’m no fan of either, but they were both brilliant and made me cry (full disclosure: I’d had two glasses of wine at this point). I think I would have saved Seamus despite his personality, but Andrew disagreed with me and saved Ben, who hasn't yet exhibited a personality.
Do you know, I felt a bit bad for Seamus until Graham asked him for his thoughts and he said, “The words conspiracy theory spring to mind.” The idiot. And then he changed the words of Close Every Door To Me from "I have been promised a land of my own" to “I have been promised a show of my own” and then took some obnoxious bows. Interestingly, whereas usually the outsted Josephs are surrounded and hugged by their disappointed rivals, Seamus was left alone. Clearly none of the others will be sorry to see him go.
I know I’m a cheese-freak, but the way they chose to end this show has enriched my life, seriously. I am loving Any Dream Will Do.
Any Dream Will Do: BBC One, Saturday 5th May at 7.45pm and 9.45pm
TV Review: Doctor Who, Evolution of the Daleks, BBC One, Saturday 28 April, 6.45pm
Sadly tonight's episode failed on both those counts.
I suppose I should be inured by now to the idea that the damned sonic screwdriver is the Doctor Who equivalent of Harry Potter's wand, but really I'm not. Each time it's waved about to save the day in some new way just makes the whole thing even less credible for me. Point it at a radio and make it squeal; point it at dalekanium and it's an arc-welding device. Please. Why not simply point it at the Daleks and use it as a ray gun?
The flying Dalek army in Parting of the Ways was scary. Millions of Daleks flying out of the Genesis Ark in Doomsday was scary. Three Daleks pretending to be Stukas attacking Hooverville just made me laugh. And Solomon trying to bargain with them? That was only ever going to come out one way.
If a thousand humans are injected with 100% Dalek DNA (OK, with a bit of Time Lord thrown in to spice things up), why don't they look more like the Dalek Sec/human hybrid than regular people? Ah, run out of costume budget did we?
The confrontation in the theatre was a bit James Bond too, didn't you think? Reminded me of:
"Do you expect me to talk?"
"No, Mr Bond. I expect you to DIE!"
(Goldfinger). Just shoot him then, eh?
Now we have the Daleks: "You will be exterrrrrrrrrrrminated!" Will be? WILL be? The greatest threat they've ever known. The man to whom they always refer in capital letters: The Enemy Of The Daleks. There he stands, defenceless before you and instead of just capping him, you grind on and on about it. Just do it.
If the Doctor can save Laszlo from the fatal effects of his genetic manipulation, why can't he reverse it and give the guy his face back? Still, look on the bright side. There's a future for him in the freak show trade - still a thriving industry in 1930s New York.
And finally, three words: Emergency Temporal Shift. What a handy plot device that is. Ta-ra then Dalek Khan - see you in Series 4, no doubt.
Full marks to the writers though, for their awareness of latest scientific thinking on the propensity for DNA to hold racial memory. That explains why Dalek DNA could affect the behaviour of what were essentially humans, and made what could have been a wholly unbelievable episode at least partially redeemable. And full marks too for the good bits. All too few and far between but nonetheless welcome for that. Martha's brilliant use of scaffolding to despatch the porcine attackers, Tallulah's confusion about "gammon radiation," and the Doctor clambering over the girders 100 floors up.
Next week: The Lazarus Experiment.
TV Review: Ugly Betty, Channel 4, Friday 27 April, 9pm
Last night's episode of Ugly Betty opted for the 'more, more, more' plotting technique of fellow Channel 4 import Desperate Housewives, and I'm not sure it worked. It seemed like every character had their own story and the result was that we didn't get very far with any of them.
Now I know this to be a generalisation, Ignacio and Amanda were quite peripheral, but as a fan of the show I don't want it to lose it's momentum and sparkle by becoming too leaden and bloated. For example last night in support of the necessary Betty thread, we also had a Hilda/Justin story, a Daniel story, a Wilhelmina/Alexis story, a Christina/Marc story and a Claire/ Bradford story. No downtime for a sneaky trip to the toilet then.
Not that it's all bad news. Thankfully the show's writers didn't so much drop the baton as let it slide precariously in their sweaty palms.
We enjoyed the introduction of Grace Chin, otherwise known as 'the Chin' - a ball-breaking lawyer called in by Daniel to help get Bradford Meade out of the clink. So enter Lucy Liu, Hollywood's go-to-girl for sexy but stroppy attorneys. She wheeled out a variation on Ling, her Ally McBeal character, and would only accept the case dependent on Daniel making it up to her for having snubbed her at college. Happy to do anything to encourage 'the Chin' to take the case and help free his father, Daniel dutifully obliged and ended up in bed with her for his troubles. Tough life, eh?
But what of Claire's claims that she killed Faye, her husband's mistress? Betty couldn't keep Claire's revelation a secret and so told all to Daniel. He, however was keen to write it off as booze-fuelled gibberish (Claire being a bit too fond of the sauce) and it wasn't until 'the Chin' confirmed some of Claire's claims that he began to think again.
Elsewhere Christina's ambitions of designing an Oscars dress for Sarah Jessica Parker (or SJP for those fond of abbreviations) were thwarted by resident baddie Wilhelmina. Wilhelmina's schemes to hand Daniel his P45 and assume his title of Editor-in-Chief hit a wall as Alexis chose to keep Daniel in the role rather than install her. Fighting back, Willie kicked couture ass and reminded Christina of the power she still wielded in fashion's top circles.
My highlight of the night came in the shape of kiddie Justin (as it often does), off with adoring mummy Hilda and disapproving daddy Santos to see the musical Hairspray. Not that Santos wanted to watch the show and further encourage his son's camp behaviour, instead planning on deserting his son once they got to the theatre. But to everyone's surprise his paternal instinct finally made an overdue appearance and this blogger a bit misty-eyed.
Getting stuck on the subway Justin was aghast that Santos would miss the opening of the show and so launched into an impromptu performance of it just for his benefit. Initially the butch, streetwise Santos wasn't thrilled by his son's antics. That was until another passenger called Justin a fairy and up stepped daddy ready to defend his son and finally accept him. Rationally I appreciate it to be sentimental fluff but please don't judge - we're all allowed our guilty pleasures.
So that's it. Oh, and Betty did stuff too.
TV Review: Shark, Five, Thursday 26 April, 10pm
Last night was episode six of Five's new US drama Shark, and so far it's doing okay. It doesn't bring anything new to the table. It's about lawyers, so we get lots of dramatic courtroom action. It's corporate, so we get shots of sky-scrapers and its set in LA, so lots of sunshine. But the entertainment begins and ends with James Woods as Sebastian Stark, the newly appointed Head of the District Attorney's crime unit. He is the 'Shark' of the title, and the whole reason to watch this show.
Previously an unscrupulous defence lawyer, Stark (which rhymes with Shark - inspired) has now switched sides and rather than defending the criminals, is intent on taking them down. Ooh, goody!
But can he do this all alone? Of course not. He has a team of young hopeful lawyers, all ready to learn from the big guy and do all the menial legwork unworthy of a player like him. Here we have a completely by-the-numbers set of ethnic stereotypes that would make any Benetton advert proud.
The conventionally handsome, square-jawed but arrogant Casey Woodland (the CBS website describes this character as "a privileged hunk" - keep a straight face, I dare you.) Tough gal Raina Troy fulfilling two criteria as a woman in a man's society and a black face in America's white business community. The 'more than just a pretty face' blonde Madeleine Poe and finally, the 'from-the-streets' Hispanic, Martin Allende.
But how to demonstrate a more sympathetic and emotional side to Shark's character? Easy - by introducing awkward teenage daughter, Julie. This strategic combination shows how Shark rules the roost professionally with his maverick brilliance (what would be the point in watching an average, by-the-book attorney?), but struggles to connect with his family. The execs have done their homework. It's a tried and tested formula that allows Woods to shine for all his worth.
He spits out witty put-downs and bullies his opponents in the courtroom, delivering everything we have come to expect from such televisual star turns. But for me, any scene without him is lacking and last night's episode had a few too many for my liking.
With the death of four women in a sweatshop fire, Shark and his team were called into action when the press reported that he had taken the case. Needless to say, he hadn't committed to the case and had no intention of doing so, but was forced into a corner and had to fight back Shark style. As the victims were all Latino, Allende was determined that justice should prevail and enjoyed an episode of prominence.
I can only think that the writers wanted to establish a personality for one of Shark's posse, and so opted for the ethnic angle to garner sympathy and interest in an essentially bland character. The previous episodes had all looked to cement Stark in the audience's affections and now it was the turn of someone else to try and compete with Woods, though unsurprisingly it failed. The plot was all a bit silly, with the downtrodden victims presented to the jury as slaves, but we can tolerate silly, just not boring characters.
There is a reason why Woods is a star and the others aren't. Likewise, why the show is named after his character and not any of the background monkeys. Please Shark writers - we want to see the Woods for the trees.