Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: July 2011

My July viewing was totally dominated by the Tour de France, which was totally fabulous this year from beginning to end, spoiled (IMHO) only by the eventual winner. However one thing we can all agree on is the brilliant coverage of the race by ITV4. Their established team of Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Chris Boardman, Ned Boulting and Gary Imlach is knowledgeable and authoritative, whilst always making the race as accessible as possible to the viewing public. The only gripe I have is Phil's Cadel Evans obsession, but again that's just me I guess. It's a very rare occasion where I have a reason to praise ITV but I will say well done ITV4! And thank you for another month of superb broadcasts and also the daily iTunes podcasts too!

Firstly, it’s not big or clever, but we’re still enjoying "ODD ONE IN" (ITV1, Saturdays) which is perfect viewing for these summer Saturday nights with its (increasingly bonkers) identity parades!

I always enjoy music documentaries, especially as there is so little music on TV now. "SECRETS OF THE POP SONG" (BBC2, Saturdays) was a short series taking a look at how three types of songs are written - the ballad, the breakthrough hit and the anthem - and provided a very interesting insight into the songwriting process with hit songwriter Guy Chambers collaborating with three different artists. Unfortunately I don’t remember the breakthrough hit or the anthem, but the Rufus Wainwright ballad collaboration "World War III" with its "don’t bore us, get to the chorus" hookline (that line always makes me think of Roxette) is still stuck in my brain. And I don’t even like ballads, but that’s the power of Rufus!

We’re still catching up with a recorded backlog of episodes of "THE RESTAURANT INSPECTOR" (Channel 5, Mondays) which is just like The Hotel Inspector only with a bloke, and with restaurants instead of hotels. Yes, the formula on all these shows has gone stale with little new to offer, but we continue to lap it up.

It’s like a more refined, British equivalent of "RAMSAY’S KITCHEN NIGHTMARES USA" which is into its umpteenth series and continues to follow the same format: restaurant in trouble, Gordon Ramsay shouts a lot, people cry, Gordon Ramsay shouts a lot, restaurant gets a makeover, success/failure/success, people cry again (with happiness this time) and chef Ramsay rides off into the sunset having helped yet another struggling restaurant back to life. Voila!

"CORONATION STREET" (ITV) is going through a bad patch, I think we’ll all agree. Even those of us who have watched the show since the year dot are now seriously considering reaching for the off button, with one sensationalist storyline after the other. Not so long ago, former EastEnders actress Michelle Collins, who played Cindy Beale for many years, was brought into Corrie as new Rovers manager Stella. The press was full of controversy about a southerner playing a northerner, and the criticism regarding her accent soon spun out of control, to the point that she is now unfairly being made a scapegoat for the show's decline. It's not her fault, but the fault of the producer and script/storyline team who have taken the show further and further away from what we used to know and love, and which has lost so much of its trademark humour and likeable characters. The decline of Corrie was brought into focus even more by "THE CORRIE YEARS" (ITV, Wednesdays) a clip show which took a look back at the most headline-grabbing and influential stories over the years. Or it should have been called "The Barlow Years" as it seemed to focus on the adventures of Ken and Deirdre and their offspring. What was controversial and unique back then, now seems to be a weekly occurrence and the show is all the worse for it. Please bring back the humour and ditch the disasters and serial killers - thank you!

Food is, of course, the subject of "THE GOOD COOK" (BBC1, Fridays) which I inevitably forget to watch every week and have to watch on BBC iPlayer instead. Anyway, it does what it says on the tin (makes me think of Jim from The Apprentice) and delivers some nice recipes, beautifully filmed with a very nice musical soundtrack.

Being on this little blog-break meant that I hadn’t written about the outcome of the latest series of "THE APPRENTICE" (BBC1, Wednesdays) so I’d better mention it now....geeky inventor and all-round nice guy Tom Pellereau upset the odds and walked away with Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment, when everyone expected hot favourite Helen Milligan to win. Maybe if the show had stuck to the old format, Helen would have run away with it, but she was let down by her business idea and stood no chance against an already established inventor, which was just perfect for Lord Sugar. Anyway well done Tom! Proof that the nice guys don’t always finish last.

"THE LIFE OF MUHAMMAD" (BBC2, Mondays) was a landmark documentary series, which was informative and respectfully presented by Rageh Omaar, with knowledgeable input from various Islamic scholars which I found very enlightening, as I knew nothing about the origin of Islam nor the Prophet himself. It was an informative change from the usual coverage of the Islamic world which we usually see on TV, and was also beautifully filmed too.

Season 8 of "ONE TREE HILL" (E4, Mondays) continues, and I’m still of the view that its best days are behind it. Too much time spent on Quinn and Clay, not enough of the original cast and I’m also missing some of the older characters/parents too. Even evil Dan....

Teatimes are just not the same anymore, if you live in Scotland. For the last couple of years, "THE HOUR" has been required telly viewing in the ‘captive audience’ 5-6pm slot. Usually for all the wrong reasons of course, and the daily "what is she wearing??" analysis of presenter Michelle McManus' fashion sense has become a sport of almost Olympic proportions in this part of the world. Yes if you ever wondered what has happened to the former Pop Idol 2 winner, she has become a TV presenter. Anyway the decision was made to end the show in its Monday-to-Friday format. It was great fun to knock The Hour, and I never thought I'd say this, but I'm missing STV’s attempt at the daytime TV format with chat, food and drink, fashion, filmed items and the occasional acoustic number from a musical guest. But wait...The Hour will be resurrected in the autumn in a once-weekly prime time slot. And guess what? Michelle McManus will still be the presenter, so we will once again be able to sit in judgement of all those fashion faux pas :) Hope you get a better stylist this time round Michelle - you deserve it!!

Still on the subject of local TV, BBC4 took the opportunity to take a look back at the golden days of "REGIONAL TV - LIFE THROUGH A LOCAL LENS" when the TV regions got the opportunity to make their own low-budget but occasionally legendary programming.

Finally season 5 of "DEXTER" (FX, Fridays) continues....however I’m not 100% impressed with the emphasis on the Lumen character this time, maybe that’s to do with the fact I’m not really keen on Julia Stiles and might have preferred another actress in the role.

All of the above pictures come from various internet media sources too numerous to mention. If you wish any of these pictures to be removed please contact me and I will do so.

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