Monday, December 27, 2010

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: November-December 2010

The closing months of the year traditionally means only three things: Strictly Come Dancing, X Factor, and I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Those three programmes alone are enough to keep every tabloid journalist in a job for a few months, and inevitably they provided lots of "stories" of course those quotation marks are there for a reason!!

Let's start with good old Strictly Come Dancing, which remains one of my favourite celeb-reality programmes although I prefer to watch the good dancers rather than the ones with the dreaded "journey" which probably makes me a killjoy I guess. This explains why my favourite dancers this year were Matt, Kara and Scott, and I said I'd be happy if any of them won. So when Kara Tointon won, I was happy. Of course her own "journey" was considerably assisted by her romance with professional partner Artem Chigvintsev. I'm always a bit cynical about this kind of thing. Romance or faux-mance? Only time will tell I guess. I thought Matt Baker was very likeable from the beginning and I think he'll get a good TV career out of this, while Scottttttttt! Maslen was always going to be one of our faves at EuropeCrazy HQ, even before he stepped onto the dancefloor :) however he couldn't recapture the magic of his brilliant jive. Perhaps Scott would have done better with a different partner, rather than Natalie 'me-me-me' Lowe.

Of course the usual judges' favouritism came into play, and this year their chosen one was Pamela Stephenson, whose ingratiating responses to the judges' comments had us reaching for the sick bag. And I can't write about SCD without mentioning Widdy.....

...who almost came close to stealing my 'Best bad celebrity dancer ever' award from my all-time faves from "Let's Dance" in Sweden - the legendary Lasse Brandeby and Willy Bjorkman! (Talking of which, the new series of that show starts in Sweden on 7th January and we'll be watching out for Alexander Rybak and Jessica Andersson).

Yes the real highlight of 2010's Strictly was Ann Widdecombe, who, refreshingly, didn't have that "journey" - she started the show with two left feet, and ended several weeks later with no progress made whatsoever :)

I didn't watch X Factor, but always made a point of catching the weekly performances by Wagner on YouTube. His "Viva Las Vegas" will live on in my memory long after winner Matt Cardle's safe, sanitised cover of Biffy Clyro's "Many Of Horror" (retitled "When We Collide", with all the guts and passion of the original ripped out) has faded from my memory. Oh wait, it already has.

I really enjoyed this year's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! although at one point it was threatening to become a one-woman-show as the hideous "Dr" Gillian McKeith screamed, squirmed and fainted her way out of one bushtucker trial after another. Happily there were some likeable characters around this year: it was great to see Dom Joly back on telly as he has such a wicked sense of humour, (which not everyone gets, but we did) and Shaun Ryder and Jenny Eclair were also good campmates. Not being an X Factor fan, I didn't really know anything about Stacey Solomon until she appeared on this show, but she impressed the nation with her goofy likeability and was a deserved Queen of the Jungle.

Never thought it would come to this, but....I think Harry Hill's TV Burp has finally come to the end of the road. The glory days of the show are long gone and the recently ended series was probably the unfunniest ever. It probably will come back though: ITV has such an impressive record in flogging dead horses.

One still very much alive TV format is Coach Trip, where tour guide Brendan leads a bunch of unimpressed/unpleasant tourists all over Europe. Brendan is that rarity these days: a genuine new TV personality, therefore he totally deserves a place in the schedules. It was all going quite well and then they decided to inject this show with the dreaded Z-list celebrity disease. But wait! It wasn't all bad, as the Chuckle Brothers were on it. It wasn't so much 'to me, to you' as 'to me, to Europe' (groan) as they won Celebrity Coach Trip, beating off all the opposition - including the likes of the Cheeky Girls (!) and posh-Raef from the Apprentice, who's made a reality TV career out of being, well, posh-Raef I guess. That scene with Barry Chuckle, Brendan and Ingrid Tarrant in the bath even got a tribute from Harry Hill in one of his (few) funnier moments on TV Burp :)

A variation on the celebs-on-tour format came on "Monte Carlo Or Bust" on ITV, where three celeb-pairings in various cars - Jack Dee and Ade Edmondson/Jodie Kidd and Julian Clary/Penny Smith and Rory McGrath - went in search of items representing France, ending in Monte Carlo. It was all a bit strange. It was all a bit pointless, it wasn't funny, and sometimes relied a little too much on stereotypes. It might have been better without the celebrity-angle, but then that would be asking too much of ITV these days to make a show without so-called 'celebrities'.

Unfortunately Living TV, which was once quite watchable, is becoming another ITV2, going down the Z-list celebrity route and seems to be showing less of the US drama series it built its reputation on. In between the Alex Reid/Outer Mongolia's Next Top Model rubbish, Private Practice continued to wring every possible combination out of the relationship merry-go-round before the season 3 finale, along with the usual hankies-required moments. Which I won't spoil for you in case you haven't seen the show yet. I rather enjoyed this series, more than the last one, although I'm wondering just how far it can go. Maybe another series, and then it should sign off.

I don't watch as many films as I used to, so it was nice to catch up with a couple recently. I'd heard a lot of good things about The Hangover but was very sceptical due to the recent post-Apatow trend of vulgar humour, however this was a genuinely funny film with lots of laugh-out-loud moments. Even better was that it didn't have to rely on 'bankable' leads, going for some relative unknowns instead. Who won't be unknown for long of course, thanks to this film!

The trend for remaking perfectly good films shows no sign of going away. Why even bother to remake a classic like Fame? But someone thought that in this age of High School Musical and Glee, that it might be a good idea. No it's not, actually. But I gave it a chance and watched it anyway. The verdict: it is to the original, what the Cowellised version of "Many Of Horror" is to the Biffy version. You get the idea. Shallow and stereotypical, and not worthy of sharing the same title of the gritty original - which of course was already watered down for the TV show back in 1982, the "Glee" of its day you might say. True what they say, everything goes round in cycles.

Finally, we headed to the boardroom one more time for another series of one of the few 'reality' shows I still watch - The Apprentice. This series was littered with moments of TV gold, mainly thanks to Stuart Baggs - THE BRAND! - he's not a one trick pony, he's a field of ponies y'know. The funniest moment was when he finally got his comeuppance in the interview episode - 'you're not a big fish, you're not even a fish!'. Amid all this, Stella and Chris managed to make it to the final two, with Stella winning. I read somewhere that this is the last year of this format, as from next year there won't be a job on offer, but Lord Sugar will invest, Dragons Dens-style, in the winner's company. Don't know if I like that idea, but I'll reserve my judgement till I see it.

One more thing before I go - my favourite Christmas TV advert of recent years which has been back on our screens once again over the festive season...

Merry Christmas!

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