ASSUMING you made it through to the death, at what point did you start hooting with derision at EastEnders’ 35th anniversary boat disaster?
The seventh and tallest Peter Beale turning up at the fifth Bobby Beale’s hospital bed?
Linda getting her hoof stuck in the boat’s galley reaching for the cooking wine? The Reservoir Dogs-style gun stand-off between Phil and Ben (The Flowerpot Men)?
Or did the fact someone had declared The Queen Vic “pub of the year 2020”, not six months after it was the scene of a fatal armed siege, stop you clambering on board this ship of fools in the first place?
Whatever the reason, I think EastEnders deserves some credit for taking the miserable sods out of their normal setting and at least trying something different.
Four versions of the same episode, each revealing more of the plot and all of them providing a welcome change from a single monotonous theme that’s come to dominate the show recently.
Since April 2019, Keanu, Amy and Louise have all been kidnapped.
In more recent weeks, Martin kidnapped Keanu again, but he escaped and then kidnapped Callum, boyfriend of Ben, who retaliated by kidnapping Keanu’s pregnant girlfriend, Sharon.
In normal circumstances this crime pattern would lead to a United Nations peacekeeping force intervening.
In Walford, they haven’t even got a fully functioning Neighbourhood Watch scheme in place yet.
If you’d been wondering what happened to the rest of the cast and their story-lines, though, while Albert Square turned into downtown Beirut, they were packed into that boat last week like a gigantic soap pinata, which the production team then flogged and whacked until they all spilled out in Docklands.
Picking the bones out of what happened wasn’t easy. However, between Monday and Friday, I think: Whitney confessed to killing her stalker, Leo.
Linda confronted her alcoholism, while nearly drowning.
Max and Jack had a fight. Dennis provoked a gang of racists into beating up Muslim convert Bobby. Bex took some contaminated ecstasy.
Sharon gave birth to Keanu’s baby at the undertaker’s.
And The Queen Vic’s pleasure cruiser hit another boat with such force it was catapulted out of The Thames, over the A1020 flyover and into Royal Victoria Dock. But there was still only one death, rather than the hoped-for massacre.
In circumstances as bleak as these, you’d expect a drama to try to lighten the load and make us laugh.
Comedy is the one thing, in all its 35 years, EastEnders has never mastered, though. So instead we got a lecture about Islamophobia.
The writers, no doubt, beamed with satisfaction at their own loveliness.
As so often with EastEnders, though, events off screen proved far more interesting than any on-screen.
On Friday, The Sun revealed June Brown had left the show. A cause for huge regret.
There are some good performances on EastEnders (Shirley, Whitney, Max, Linda, Billy), but Dot was the one character who could rise above all the mayhem and shouting, slow the show down and actually make you smile.
Still, on the plus side, it has also got rid of that hateful little turd Dennis Rickman who, with almost his last breath, on Friday, told Ian: “I’m sorry what I done to Bobby. He’s going to be all right, isn’t he?”
Fine. And if he isn’t, there’ll be a sixth one along any minute.
A love-in for our Shrilla
THE title of ITV’s big Wednesday night documentary, Cilla: The Lost Tapes, presented a clear and present danger for viewers.
As well as the priceless footage of Cilla goofing around with Basil Brush and Ringo Starr, in a 1971 Scandinavian special, it was obvious there would also be singing.
A noise famously described as “labour pains set to music” by the late, great Bob Monkhouse, who underplayed the problem, judging by the way we saw Cilla mauling Hey Big Spender back in 1966.
The miracle of Cilla’s early career, though, wasn’t just that she persuaded the public to cock a deaf ’un (we’re suckers for anyone with a ropey power ballad), but that she also got to work with Burt Bacharach who, as the documentary made clear, was too terrified to say: “No”.
Industry heavyweights, of a certain vintage, still clearly revere the woman, and her “iron will” as well.
Paul O’Grady, Nigel Lythgoe, Biggins and Sir Cliff, resplendent in a denim safari suit, were all present and glowing.
It was almost inevitable, then, that with so many showbiz egos around, someone would eventually sound less like they were paying tribute to Cilla and more like they were eulogising someone a lot closer to home.
Step forward, Holly Willoughby.
“You forget,” said Holly, gazing in wonder at the miracle before her, “she’s such a huge star and yet she’s got this family life going on at home.”
Although I can’t for the life of me think who former Surprise Surprise host Holly might also be describing here.
Dialogue of the month
BBC1’s The Split, Zander: “I don’t need drama here, Christie. Chicago was drama.”
No, there certainly isn’t.
Ace Fury mad for lob-ster
WBC titles and rival claims notwithstanding, pound for pound, Tyson Fury: The Gypsy King was the best thing on television last week.
An unforgettable episode that began with him disappearing into a Morecambe pub, for the day, and ended with a brutal points victory over Otto “All In” Wallin, in Vegas.
In between times, there was an awkward hiatus when Tyson was overwhelmed by his bi-polar demons, which was brilliantly summed up by wife Paris: “It’s like living with Droopy and a Smurf. You don’t know which one you’re going to get.”
The scene that will really stick with me, though, took place outside a Marbella restaurant, where Tyson paid 200 euros for two live lobsters, not so he could eat them but so he could run down to the beach and hurl them back into the Med, before returning to his seat with a real air of satisfaction.
“I don’t like killing animals, not when you can do some good in life,” Tyson explained, “I’m going to have the steak.”
(Tyson Fury: The Gypsy King, ITV, March 5, 9pm).
This Morning, claim of the week
EAMONN Holmes to Shirley Kemp: “I have beautiful toes. I really do. They’re lovely.”
Well, they were the last time he saw them, interrailing in 1982.
ITV’s Tyson Fury: The Gypsy King.
Episode four of Curb Your Enthusiasm finally hitting previous heights with Larry taking a trip to Mexico with a yo-yo dieter.
Sir Derek Jacobi’s timing masterclass, on Last Tango In Halifax.
Secret Life Of The Zoo’s rhinoceros hornbill love story.
And Love Island’s Finn becoming tongue-tied as he attempted to set out his right-on credentials to the rest of the lads: “I am femininist, but . . . ”
But you’re just no good at explaining it?
THIS Morning, Friday, Judy Finnigan: “I haven’t done television in such a long time, but I still get that dream where you turn up in a studio and you know that you’re going live any second, you haven’t got a clue, you haven’t got a script and you don’t know what’s happening.”
That was 1988 to 2009, Judy.
Lookalikes of the week
- Sent in by Gary Sanders, of Wombourne, Staffs.
- Picture research: Reena Ratan.
Random TV irritations
LAST Leg host Adam Hills revealing he entered Britain under false pretences with: “An exceptional talent visa.”
Out of control product placement sucking the joy out of Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
Celebrity Antiques Road Trip staff leaving an unguarded beret in the vicinity of Bobby Davro (“Ooh Betty” etc).
Harry Styles alternating between pearly queen outfit and Quentin Crisp’s take on Bananaman, at The Brits.
And Newsnight host Emily Maitlis seriously venturing the opinion that Dave’s infantile, anti- Boris rap may have thrown the
Government’s new immigration plans “into disarray”, while probably also wondering why so many of us think the BBC is biased and no longer fit for purpose.
I’M NOT saying my expectations for the Brits and its presenters were at an all-time low, but when ITV2’s Red Carpet host Clara Amfo said Lewis Capaldi was “up for four awards” and held up the right amount of fingers, I genuinely gasped.
Unexpected morons in the bagging area
TIPPING Point, Ben Shephard: “What word is both the name of a velvety burrowing mammal and a secret spy or informer?”
Ben Shephard: “In the 2018 film First Man, Ryan Gosling plays which American astronaut?”
Connor: “Lance Armstrong.”
The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “The Devon and Cornwall Longwool is a breed of what farm animal?”
Rachel: “A pig.”
And Ben Shephard: “Which small round vegetable shares its name with a bright shade of green?”
(All contributions gratefully received).
Great Sporting Insights
CLINTON Morrison: “United have only one main man now and that’s Martial. And also Daniel James.”
Robbie Savage: “Tread-watering above the relegation zone isn’t good enough.”
And Paul McGinley: “The PGA tour isn’t a limp duck.”
(Compiled by Graham Wray)
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