Northern Soul

Telly Visions: the good, the bad and the downright bewildering

October 8, 2020 Arts, TV No Comments

In a new series for Northern Soul, Drew Tosh casts his critical eye over the best – and worst – of what’s on the box. From the latest must-see comedy and bingeworthy crime dramas to cutting-edge series and ubiquitous reality shows, Telly Visions is your go-to column for all things TV.


Celebrity Karaoke Club, ITV2, Wednesday, 10pm

For my first TV column I am thrilled and appalled in equal measure to bring your attention to what is probably the worst TV show of 2020 (if not the millennium). Why do TV execs think that adding the word ‘celebrity’ to the title of a programme transforms any old thing in to a good format let alone worthy of broadcast?

I tuned in hoping for something light to disengage my brain, but this provided a full lobotomy. The premise? A selection of barely known fame-hoggers (most of whom would participate in ‘Celebrity Limb Severing’ if asked) massacre pop songs and then each other in a fake club’s fake toilet. They ‘sing’ again before giving pathetic reasons to vote someone off. Aside from the odd cameo appearance (Jason Donovan, sack your agent immediately), that’s about it.

Let’s face it, real karaoke is barely fun and is usually undertaken while completely hammered. This show is the antithesis of entertainment and ought to be bludgeoned.


Better Things (available on BBC iPlayer)

I was a little late to the party with this American comedy drama, but after watching the series four double bill on BBC2, I’ve enjoyed bingewatching the backlog (available on BBC iPlayer). Created by and starring Pamela Adlon, Better Things is an original oddity that richly deserves its cult status. Adlon plays Sam, a bitterly divorced actress dealing with an erratic career, three unique daughters and an eccentric mother (Celia Imrie in glorious form).

While you might not always like Sam or her view of the world, you will identify with the programme more than you’d care to admit. There are no jokes in this show, it just ambles along, delivering the occasional emotional punch when you least expect it. Those moments alone are worth seeking the series out.


Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing (available on BBC iPlayer)

It’s been a year of struggle and anxiety so it comes as no surprise that feel-good programmes like The Repair Shop and Garden Rescue pull in the ratings. Gentle and relaxing, these shows display skills, evoke memories and tap into our love of nostalgia at a time when we are feeling increasingly rudderless. The daddy of them all is Gone Fishing, a scenic, meandering half hour featuring a pair of comedy performers fishing and, well, talking nonsense.

Having both overcome health issues, Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse are now instilled with a greater appreciation of life and the beauty of the countryside. Watching the pair wade through picturesque views and being privy to their friendship is a complete joy. Even during their silliest conversations, up to their knees in a stream, their laid-back attitude and fondness for one another creates one of the most life-affirming, endearing television programmes I’ve seen in a long, long time.


Fortnightly Round-Up: The Good, the Bad and the Absolutely Bewildering 

Good

Unlike other soaps, Eastenders (BBC1, Mon, Tues, Thur, Fri, various times) is cleverly and seamlessly overcoming filming issues caused by social distancing. There’s some clever camera work, and the inclusion of Perspex screens help to suggest closeness. They’ve even brought in cast members’ own partners for kissing scenes. Genius. But the series is still as depressing as ever, obvs. 

Not quite there yet

Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas are not quite gelling yet on The Great British Bake Off  (Tuesdays 8pm, Channel 4). Having two eccentric comics co-host is like having too much icing on your cupcake.

Bewildering 

Some 25,000+ people complained after Diversity’s Black Lives Matter dance routine on Britain’s Got Talent (ITV), yet barely anybody took issue with Amanda Holden’s dubious singing spot. Proof once again that the public cannot be trusted. 

Annoying is…

…ITV Daytime TV presenters thinking we want to hear them witter on about their pandemic isolation life when, unlike most of their viewers who are stuck at home, they go to work every day and mix with friends and colleagues. 

And the bloody awful…

Mondays are notoriously difficult. It’s the start of a new working week, the weekend seems like a distant memory, and everything feels a little flat. So imagine my horror when I stumbled across last week’s 9pm terrestrial TV offerings which include these cheery titles. 

BBC2: Diagnosis Detectives
ITV: The Rose West/Myra Hindley Story
Ch4: Brain Surgeons: Between Life and Death
Ch5: Ambulance: Code Red

They’ve clearly missed the mark. Is it any wonder that Netflix and co are stealing audiences?


And lastly…do not miss: Taskmasker, Channel 4, Thursdays from October 15

After nine excellent series on Dave, this hugely entertaining show moves to Channel 4 (who promise they’ve not changed one iota in transit). Five comedy performers take part in daft challenges under the all-seeing eye of Greg Davies and his much put-upon sidekick Alex Horne. A damn good laugh.


By Drew Tosh

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