Rise and Fall

Maggie Gordon-Walker

The latest ‘WTF will people do next in a desperate bid for their 15 minutes?’ saw this unreality show, scheduled in an almost nightly glut over a few weeks in a slot late enough to allow for the swearing. From the same stable as The Traitors, this was an altogether brassier mare, not least due to the inclusion of rightwing GB News rentagob Sophie Corcoran, recently complaining about her university education going to the dogs because of Covid disruption, yet perfectly happy to take time out herself eating dog food in a bid to win wonga.

That was just one of the challenges the ‘grafters’ had to carry out to obtain money for the eventual winner (up to £100k was the maximum, they managed to get it to around £85k). Others included nearly electrocuting themselves, sitting in an ice bath and licking a whole load of crockery. They were parked down in the basement of a building somewhere on The Thames, although they wouldn’t know it because they never saw daylight. The ‘rulers’ did however. They had a glorious view over London and Sheryl, saucer-eyed as she surveyed the Houses of Parliament, exclaimed (in a voice that went up to eleven) they should let her into there to ‘sort things out.’

She was just one in a number of characters, for long gone are the days we are permitted to be entertained by ordinary folk. There was Ramona, whose protrusions entered a room a few seconds before she did. I know it’s unsisterly to comment on it, but her preferred attire, of suit jackets and no shirt thereby displaying her bra, barely contained said items. Anyway, she was as loud as Sheryl and continually referred to herself in the third person as ‘lady boss’ which is a hard pass from me.

There was also builder Jack, for whom the term Jack the Lad was invented; Sydney, who he engaged with in what I learn is a ‘showmance’ (as in a romance purely for the purposes of a show); Marina, the unnervingly over-confident 18-year-old, all bluster and bravado unmatched by performance. The same was true at the other end of the spectrum with 69-year-old Jeff, boring everyone rigid with how many years (417 at the last count) he’d run businesses for; slightly unhinged Joas, who engaged in a spat with Sophie and got himself evicted on the spot; enthusiastic Isaak, Ali (who sensibly left after a day); thoroughly nice Joanna and so many more.

I got a bit confused in the end with all the comings and goings. People would be evicted from the penthouse only to pop up again in the basement, and each time there was a ‘rise vote’ (whereby a grafter got their chance to go up to the penthouse), the rejected potentials would be sent back down. That lift saw more action than Piccadilly Circus. As many a comment on Twitter said, it seemed like the rules of the show had been made up the night before in the pub. It was flawed from the start; whereby the original six rulers were selected by the group when they’d only just met each other, or in the case of Rachel and Sheryl ignoring that and just charging into the lift; to the end when the winner was chosen by a trio of rejectees rather than the group as a whole.

Alliances were formed and quickly cast aside, contestants were accused of being snakes or bad leaders and therefore needing to be ejected from the Red Room. The ‘good ruler’ accolade was probably the most nonsensical part.  All any of them did was decide on how many shifts the basement dwellers did, bicker and backstab. A better leadership challenge would have been planning and executing a task a la The Apprentice, or mediating a dispute, rather than exacerbating it. The grafters meanwhile, talked as if they had spent all day down t’pit slaving on their ‘work shifts’, rather than the (admittedly unpleasant) challenges which lasted no more than twenty minutes.

The rulers certainly dressed themselves as if they were on The Apprentice though. The shoulder pads and lip gloss could rival Dallas, as they walked in slow-mo down one of the corridors of power, their stomachs groaning under the weight of the mega buffet they’d just gorged on. The grafters had to exist on soup and bread that they made themselves, cold showers, a dorm of uncomfortable beds and jumpsuits in mostly unflattering colours.

In the end the final two were Eddy; a man from a privileged background, whose family lived in a stately home, yet had apparently fallen on hard times; and single mum Sydney, who worked as a delivery driver. Of course Eddy won. This is capitalist Britain, how could he not? And after all, he’d done all the grafting and motivating and baking in his time in the basement, whereas Sydney had been part of a tense standoff when selected to the penthouse that saw the team lose £14k.

I didn’t particularly mind Eddy winning, but by that point, nobody really cared. It seems unlikely it will return for another series, like the equally bizarre The Love Trap Channel 4 foisted on us a couple of years back, also fronted by a kinda smarmy, sardonic, smirking presenter. Nor is it likely any of the participants will emerge as bona fide ‘slebs’, a view not shared by them as a number have recently eagerly created Twitter accounts, with an ‘all enquiries to my agent’ type bio. Of course, there’s often a vacancy in The Cabinet, maybe they’ll end up there.

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Masterchef The Professionals: Hello Anna

By Maggie Gordon-Walker

Three weeks into Masterchef The Professionals and it’s same old, same old. But no it’s not, because Monica has absconded. Mutterings about busy schedule, spending time with family, yada yada. Maybe she just got fed up with Shrek, aka Gregg Wallace. Back of the queue love, we all got royally narked by him before he even joined the party. Perhaps we should sign him up for a post in The Cabinet, he’d be gone in a jiffy then.

The new intro still features Shrek a-gurning and Marcus doing his wounded Bambi look up to the camera, but now there’s new kid on the block Anna Haugh, all butter wouldn’t melt expression (not surprising with the amount they put in, you’d need antifreeze to cut through that), with slight coquettish edge. A coquettembouche, one might say.

She may resemble Heidi with her hair sort of plaited round her head, but her big, sometimes startled, faun eyes can turn steely upon occasion. When one of the hapless men was flapping about his dish being ready for the critics (for as we know, they will actually die if their food is not served up immediately), she declared he’d just have to put on his big boy pants and get on with it. Quite right, you don’t get anywhere in the kitchen if you’re not ruthless. Those of us with long memories remember Marcus from his pre-judging days as nasty guest chef reducing the poor contestants to tears. It’s almost completely buried, but every now and then the mask slips.

You know the dream where you’re back in school assembly and suddenly realise your pants have fallen down? That is what I feel the skills test is and I’m forever puzzled that it’s the opening round. You don’t do black belt first, so why don’t they let them settle in with their own dish, before plunging them under intense scrutiny (and Shrek’s dribbling) at close quarters? Only a tiny amount actually do well in this challenge, but those that do bizarrely often mess up in the next round. In the Covid days, they introduced a safety measure regarding numbers where one judge watched the test from a back room via hidden camera. Like someone limping long after their leg has been amputated, this remains despite everything else being back to normal and the contestants hugging each other like billyoh.

You can imagine the production team: ‘We’ve bally well paid for this monitor and headphones [are those sanitised between judges?!], so we’re gonna keep it in. Anyway, it means we can get a running commentary on what’s happening.’ Errm yeah, but we’ve already watched how it’s supposed to be done, plus we’ve got Shrek and the other judge making cod pantomime expressions of dismay throughout and you know, the power of our own eyes and minds. We’ll manage. Or they could at least let the contestants watch the dish as it’s prepared and copy it. Sure it can be entertaining in a ‘watch behind the cushion’ way, but it’s unnecessarily cruel and not a good indicator of talent.

Speaking of talent, Head Office have obviously had words about the diversity factor and barked an order to the effect that if the competition has its usual glut of heavily tattooed, white men in their twenties, someone’s head is for the chopping block. So you get some intriguing characters such as Tasoula with her ‘Eight Degrees of Turnip’ creation.

Shrek got a bit above himself in one round, mimsying that he didn’t like Anastasia’s ice cream. Marcus and Anna smiled indulgently, in the way that you let a toddler think it’s helping with putting the shopping away, knowing that he was talking out of his rear end. He probably stamped his feet offscreen, demanding that his longevity in the post meant a third contestant be allowed to go through too, because HE didn’t think she was good enough. Complete waste of time, as the third contestant William mucked up completely in the next round and was out on his ear, while Anastasia’s brilliance continued. Shrek’s opacity can never be punctured, nor his vocabulary expand to more than calling everyone ‘mate.’ Marcus’ smile that doesn’t reach his eyes is always telling here. Shrek is not his mate, nor ever will be.


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Masterchef: The egobank has landed

Silly Celebrity season once more, as witnessed by the intro sequence of gurns, faked poses and Minty from Eastenders juggling satsumas. He was joined by Gareth Choirmaster Malone; Mel Blatt, formerly of All Saints; reality performer Mojo, and Legend Chris Eubank, henceforth to be known as Egobank. He is definitely the most legendary legend there’s ever been in the history of legends and in case we didn’t realise this, he’d adorned his dapper suit with a gold star in case he didn’t get one immediately he’d set foot in the kitchen.

Clearly Gregg Wallace (aka Shrek) knew he was in the presence of greatness and came up to take a selfie, which I’ve never witnessed before.

‘Do a boxing stance,’ commanded Shrek. Nobody tells Egobank what to do, so he did a thumbs up instead. There were many thumbs up in his two episode tenure, along with shoehorning a mention of, ‘Winning the World Championship in 1990’ (trips off the tongue doesn’t it?) into as many conversations as he could manage, as well as a liberal sprinkling of ‘stupendous’, ‘delicioso’ and ‘fantabulosus’.

Egobank has some balls though. In the first challenge, while everyone else is knocking up tarte tatin or chocolate cheesecake and Mojo is gibbering at having to take the shells off her prawns, he is cooking his ingredient, a piece of squash, in stock and herbs. Not for him any accompaniment of protein, carbs or any other vegetables such as mere mortals might use, the single squash is all he needs.

‘Halfway through!’ bellows Torode (Toady), as Egobank jiggles his one pan with his one ingredient. Fifty minutes to boil a veg! So much time has he, that he can write some ‘inspirational’ words next to it.

It needed for Shrek to say firmly, after this Emperor’s New Clothes display, that while the piece of squash was very nice indeed, when he cooked next, they’d like to see ‘a little more cookery’ from him.

Everyone did very well in this first round, as best a start as Shrek could remember. Cliff Parisi, aka Minty’s, dry sense of humour was chucklesome, having admitted he cooked once a year at a barbecue.

‘What do you want to do?’ enquired Shrek, ever Paxman-like in his forensic questioning. ‘I want to open my own restaurant, invite you down and you give me a five star review.’ As he turns out his tart, which oozes rather, ‘I think it’s beautiful, but then I am its parent.’

Next round, as they sampled the poutine and guessed the ingredients, Egobank informs us that creating the dish is not as difficult as having a tooth knocked out in the ring. His is not just good, it’s fantabulous, as he cocks his thumbs aloft and the camera pans to his pan, where some hunks of meat are bubbling unattractively in an oil lake.

Later he bursts into ‘Good Morning’ from Singing in the Rain.

‘He’s the one you want to ask about that,’ says Shrek, indicating Gareth.

‘Stick to the cooking,’ mutters Gareth. Egobank’s eyes narrow and Gareth attempts a backpedal, but he doesn’t mean it. He’s busy continually eyeing up Mel’s dishes, who is clearly Number 1 in the class to his Number 2, and trying to guilt-trip her into letting the rest of them catch up.

Next day they were tasked with making pasta pesto. No packet and jar affair obviously. Egobank was guided step by step through the pasta making process but still managed to produce something barely edible, except in his head, where he gave it an 8. Had he tasted it?

‘I can see the taste with my eyes’. We’d best get onto the Rouxs and the Ramsays and tell them they’ve been doing it wrong all this time. Cliff cheerfully describes his pasta as, ‘old bootlaces. I wouldn’t make my pasta, I can tell you, I’d buy it, it’s only £1.25.’

Next, pro chef Freddy Forster came with four recipes for them to attempt. Of course he wasn’t as much of a pro as Egobank, notwithstanding his achingly slow chopping of tomatoes and reluctance to put coriander in his dish, as he doesn’t like it.

‘I’m having to do half the dish for him,’ says Freddy sagely, a tic starting to form in his eyebrow, although he draws the line at actually cooking the damn thing for him, which is why it’s overcooked. This is in direct contrast to Mel, who has all the skills and none of the over confidence.

Then onto a dish from their heritage that’s important to them. Cliff poshes up his pie ‘n’ mash with parsley, giggling in glee. Egobank makes a decent fist of his ackee and salt fish, but luckily the judges knew there was only so long this charade could run and the viewers at home could have a rest from incessant eye-rolling.

‘Thanks, Chris,’ said Shrek, dismissing him.

‘Pleasure,’ said the man, as if bestowing a favour, head almost knocking the edges of the door on his way out.

Onto the cooking for past contestants and Cliff is feeling the strain. ‘I’m like a spent sausage,’ he says wearily, as Mel whizzes past him at a million miles an hour, cooking up a storm. Gareth is also bustling about competitively but luckily Cliff’s Greek lamb knocked it out of the park. As he and Mel cakewalked around the studio, it felt justice had prevailed.

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Casualty: Good things happen

(Series 36, ‘I Will Trust In You’ by Dana Fainaru 9.4.22) Have a look at my review of this episode at Metro. I think I’ve said nearly everything in that, but…

Paula’s story really has been brilliant and it’s been thanks to some lovely writing and also the brilliant work of Rosie Jones and William Beck. They’ve been a great pairing, with their humour cutting through the tragedy and lifting up the happy moments. Casualty at its absolute best.

Line of the week: (Dylan) “Sometimes good things do happen to good people.”

I think Adi may have misjudged Marty, thinking he’s all about parties and clubbing. I think he could also be a lovely dad if Adi gave him the chance.

Jude’s dad turned out to be better than expected, too.

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Casualty: Iain gets grain strain

(Series 36 ‘Judgement Call’ by Philip Ralph 2.4.22) Please bob over to Metro for my full review. But before you go…

It was such a nice Casualty throwback to have a tractor incident as accident o’ the week.

I was really glad that Minnie and Luke’s story turned out happily for them.

Chrissie and Iain were never going to be happy together if she’s in bits every time he’s doing something risky. He’s always doing something risky.

But when Minnie said at the end that the people you love have to come first, is he going to make things up with Chrissie and ask Jan for a desk job?

The riskiest thing he did in this episode (apart from to get trapped in a grain silo) was to still have the shutter sound switched on on his phone. It’s a bit of a giveaway when you’re trying to take covert shots and your phone keeps clicking away.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and I’m saying it now – I love Rosie Jones. And I love the double act with William Beck even more.

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In case you’re missing Holby

In the run up to the final Holby episode, my Metro colleagues and I were busy as bees with Holby interviews and articles. In case you missed anything or want to revisit, here’s a handy list of links.

Holby City stars reveal final episode ‘is really important’ to be a part of

Holby City story producer explains the challenges that came after show axe

Rosie Marcel is ‘upset’ Holby City was axed while it was beating EastEnders

Holby City star David Ames opens up about what he’s learnt playing Dom

Holby City stars discuss a Fletch and Donna spin-off after show ends

Holby City star Alex Walkinshaw on fans campaigning to try and save the show ‘It was delightful’

Holby City star David Ames says Dom’s journey helped some fans come out

Holby City stars Bob Barrett and Guy Henry reveal whether they’d reprise their roles in Casualty

Holby City stars Bob Barrett and Guy Henry reveal how they reacted to cancellation news ‘It’s like grief’

Holby City stars on Dom and Ange’s relationship after Carole’s death

Davood Ghadami felt he ‘didn’t have the right’ to be sad over Holby City axing

Holby City star Davood Ghadami says show axing made playing Eli ‘extra special’

Holby City star Davood Ghadami teases show finale ‘It left me emotionally exhausted!’

Holby City’s David Ames describes Dom, Digby & Zosia trio as a ‘golden era’

Holby City legends tease what’s ahead for the final episode

Former Holby City stars pay tribute ahead of final ever episode

Holby City fans in disbelief as final ever episode airs tomorrow.  

BBC confirmed to Holby City that axing it was ‘nothing to do with the show

Holby City stars share how they reacted to show’s cancellation

My review of the last episode.

Holby City story producer Ben Wadey reveals finale secrets and why Jac died

A Love Letter to Holby City as the show ends forever

Holby City fans hit out as axed soap gets BAFTA nomination the day after ending


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A Taste of Masterchef

My first thought watching the opening credits was, have they dickered about with the theme tune, making it sound like some Star Wars ripoff? My second was, ‘Ooh goody, here’s Gordon Ramsay,’ anticipating some mega-shouting upcoming, the sort that would make Marcus Wareing (before he shape shifted into a ‘Nice Guy’) wobble in jealousy more than the damn panacottas he yarps on about endlessly.

In this iteration, the first heat starts with nine hopefuls who’ll be whittled down to two by the end of the week. This is an improvement, as there was nothing so irksome as watching someone being needlessly offed from a round of supremos, while a duffers round had someone inferior go through simply because of the strictures of the format. With each new face, we’re treated to a little snapshot from their younger days. That’s nice and all, but this isn’t Bake Off. We’re here to see cooking, not how little Eddie emerged from the womb clutching a pestle and mortar, goddamit.

‘We’re doing something different,’ announced Torode (Toady) and Wallace (Shrek) proudly. I sighed inwardly, thinking what are ‘we’ attempting today? Welding? No, they make their signature dish (another Bake Off rip-off term) in the kitchen, then take it through to the judges in a brand new tasting room so wood-saturated it resembles a Swedish sauna, albeit with a few extra whisks.

‘We won’t be watching them prepare the dish,’ marvels Shrek. Excellent. I’m glad he understands how walls work. Good for the contestants, as the gurnometer of Shrek is off-putting indeed. Bad for us, as they stand there pontificating about what the dish might be. ‘The top three go through, the remaining six cook off for the last four places,’ announces Shrek, holding up his fingers so he understands what ‘four’ is.

Instead of Toad ‘n’ Shrek prowling about pointlessly, you have the next batch of three contestants in a circle on bar stools, watching the first three cook. They look a bit uncomfortable, as if they’re at a kid’s party where they haven’t had the rules explained. They call out things to their rivals as they’re cooking, such as, ‘I hope you trip up as you make your way through the inexplicably unopened door!’ Joking! (contd…)

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Holby City: It was home

(Series 23, ep. 50 by Joe Ainsworth 29.3.22) I’ve gone all tearful about this episode over at Metro so please go and have a look. But first…

I can’t really believe this is the end of Holby City. This programme has meant so much to so many people’s lives. For me it turned from just being my favourite TV show to being the best job I’ve ever had when I wrote the Holby book. The weeks that I spent at the studio researching the book and talking to all the incredibly talented, kind and lovely people who make the show are memories I’ll treasure forever.

I actually got a small pay cheque from the BBC when I was invited to a script conference for series 16, so I think I can actually lay claim to being part of the story team. For an hour.

Back to the actual episode. Line of the week, of the series, of the entire show: (Jac, obvs) ’This is what the NHS means to us. Not a badge on a cabinet minister’s lapel. Not a number down the side of a bus. It’s a nurse missing her break to sit with a lonely patient. A surgeon grinding out a 15 hour op. The sound of sirens coming to the rescue. Thursday night applause floating across the rooftops. It’s all of us doing the best we can in impossible circumstances. It’s something to believe in. It’s home.’

I loved that they took the chance to have one last go at the useless, lying, self-serving government, and praise the wonderful NHS, in such a beautiful and poetic way.

Line of the week 2: (Sacha) ‘You love me really’ (Jac) ‘You know I do.’ As last (living) words go, that was perfect.

Line of the week 3: (Nicky does well in surgery) ‘I can’t wait to tell Jac.’ That feeling that the person you want to share the highlights of your life with isn’t there any more.

These final episodes have been incredible and I’m just left gobsmacked once again at the skill and genius of the people who write this show. To be able to pivot from being a continuing drama to wrapping things up in a dramatically satisfying and emotionally truthful way takes such clever writing and they absolutely pulled it off.

In the end there was very little separation between what was going on in the story world – Jac’s death – and the real world – the cancellation of the show. Knowing that the actors and crew were in real life saying goodbye to something they loved made seeing them say goodbye to Jac even more heartbreaking.

When Rosie Marcel told me that Luke Roberts had promised her he would be involved in her exit storyline, I pictured that it would mean a rekindling of their romance and a happy ever after. That would have been the Hollywood ending, but it wouldn’t have been true to Jac’s story. I’m glad that in the end Joseph was the custodian of part of her legacy. The scenes with him and the other returning actors could have seemed a bit too contrived in less assured hands, but it was so sincerely done and carried such a strong message about organ donation that it fit perfectly with the tone of the story.

And those final scenes as the camera pulled back on all those people doing their jobs, carrying on as if it’ll all go on even when we’re not watching, that was just lovely. It was a thank you to the NHS, to the fans, and to every single person who’s ever come through those gates at Elstree to work on the show.

Goodbye, Holby City. You’ve been brilliant x


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Casualty: Matthew turns on Stevie

(Series 36 ‘Trigger’ by Dan Berlinka 26.3.22) Please pop over to Metro for my official recap/review. But first…

BBC Pictures has temporarily (I hope) locked me out of getting any new pictures (hence the rubbish little pic above). While searching for an image I came across this article by the brilliant David Brown which I somehow missed at the time – ‘Is Casualty’s Stevie a Psychopath Too Far?’ Someone in authority must have read that, because Stevie’s psychopath ways have been greatly dialled down. In fact I quite like her these days.

I’m afraid Matthew’s PTSD storyline is doing nothing for me and risks falling into the same category that David talks about in the article – too much shock and melodrama. It felt like the highlight of tonight’s episode was when Jan asked Dylan how Paula was getting on. Paula is a character I can really care about.

Line of the week: (Stevie – she is very good for lines of the week) ‘Don’t let the accent fool you, I’m not a priest, I don’t do confession.’ I love how Stevie hasn’t got the memo that Casualty staff are supposed to heal the emotional turmoil of the patients as well as stitch them up.

Job reference of the week: (Dylan about Paul) ‘He was a rubbish receptionist.’

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Holby City: The penultimate

(Series 23, ep. 49 by Andy Bayliss 22.3.22) Pop over to Metro and see what I made of this week’s stunning episode. But before you go…

I can’t stop thinking about this episode, even a week after I first watched it. There was so much in it.

One thing that really haunts me is that Jac’s new flat had the view of the school playing field and the sound of children playing. Was she hoping Emma would go to that school one day? The juxtaposition of the sound and sight of the school kids all full of life, and knowing that Jac was facing her own death was almost unbearably sad.

And the song she’d been listening to – English Rose by the Jam. An echo of the rose that was named after her.

(We once had a plumber who had the lyrics to that song tattooed on his arm).

It was such a brilliant idea to bring Ken back. And Lexy.

That ending. Thinking Jac was dead, then seeing she was alive. Her optimism when she thought the surgery had worked and her utter despair when she discovered it hadn’t.

Jac saying sorry to Elliot for putting him in that position. That was why she didn’t ask Elliot to do the surgery first, in case that happened.

And now there’s only one episode to go. There’s still the slim hope that Jac’s life can be saved, but the stage is set for an absolutely unmissable, hugely emotional, final 40 minutes as Holby goes out at the top of its game.

And yes, you will need tissues, whatever happens. All the tissues.


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