Tag Archives: Episode 1

The Apprentice 701: Return of the twonks

Ah! There’s just nothing else like it. It’s just utterly glorious Top Telly. An intensely wound-up woman, neck muscles about to pop, tells you she has no life outside work; but before you can tell her how sorry you are to hear it, you realise she thinks this is a good and clever thing. Then an earnest chap takes off his specs and says, ‘Underneath  these glasses is a core of steel’ and you immediately say, ‘No there isn’t sonny, there’s a pair of slightly mad eyes and a shiny nose, get back to make-up for another go with the powder puff.’ And then you relax into the sofa, safe in the knowledge that you have weeks – weeks! – of sheer joyous twonkery ahead of you.

The first week of the Apprentice is always a blur of twonkishness, with sixteen similarly-suited people vying to be edited in the least favourable light. This makes it hard to work out who’s who, but here are my fleeting impressions, divided, as is the Apprentice way, along gender lines.

The women:

  • Melody is the one who did everything and wants us to know that. She is reminiscent of Cleopatra, though with far higher levels of insane self-confidence than the comparatively self-effacing Queen of the Nile.
  • Edna has an expressive face which she mainly uses to express the belief that her team-mates are twonks. Which, fair play to her, they are.
  • Susie is being played by Tina from Glee and is enjoyably un-sycophantic to the Monstrous Melody Ego.
  • Helen resembles Mrs Tweedy from Chicken Run – not an original observation alas – and is as tightly strung as a free-range fowl suspended from a butcher’s hook. She’s the one who says she has no social life, though we had already kind of guessed that from the visuals.
  • There is a very young-looking blonde woman whose only contribution so far has been to suck up to Melody.
  • There’s a woman who ‘isn’t from round here’ [eg she is Northern], and alternates between looking terrified and terrifying. Could be a contender.
  • Two dark-haired women of whom I have no other memory whatsoever also appeared.

As a seasoned campaigner of five of the previous six series I must point out that the ultimate winner is always somewhat invisible in the first episode. So one of the ones I can’t remember properly will win if the winner’s to be a woman, which it won’t be because Shugs will be appointing a male business partner. You heard it here first.

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True Blood 301: Which of us hasn’t fallen in love with a serial killer?

Reminding us how much we have missed its particular brand of adrenalin rush, Season Three of True Blood opened with another masterly pre-credit sequence, a heady roller-coaster of action, which culminated in Jessica tenderly kissing the roses Hoyt had left on her doorstep, before dragging in the comatose body of the trucker she’d just drained.

It’s back! And it’s twice as mad!

Bill? Don't tell me you've been kidnapped in order to drive the Season 3 plot?

Picking up, as is its wont, exactly where we left it – poor Sookie looking for Bill in a French restaurant aided only by an arsey policewoman and a pissed-off waitress – we were soon immersed up to our necks in werewolves, horrible biker-type kidnappers, and Eric’s naked butt. Blimey. Once again, True Blood made me spill my cocoa, and I’m sure you can guess at which bit.

Jason had lost his mojo after shooting Eggs, and was counselled in a caring, sharing way by Andy: ‘I want to see a lot less conscience and a lot more cahones’. Jason agreed to start acting like his old self, eg sluttishly, and went lady-hunting with a useless Hoyt, who was pining for Jessica. Jason passed on the brisk lessons he’d learned from Andy, telling Hoyt, ‘There’s going to be a certain amount of pussy overflow you’re going to have to get used to dealing with’. But Jason was the one who couldn’t handle any pussy. His manhood was at the opposite extreme from when it was big and purple as an aubergine, and every time he looked at the young ladies he’d picked up, he saw imaginary bullet holes in their foreheads. Kind of off-putting.

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True Blood 201: Bedtime at four a.m. and not a minute later

It’s back! And by crikey, it don’t mess around. Wonderfully, we arrive at the exact moment we left: with the discovery of a leg dangling lifelessly from Detective Andy Bellefleur’s car.

It's not Lafayette. He'd never have painted his toe-nails that tacky red

It's not Lafayette. He'd never wear such tacky red toe-nail polish

The first thirty seconds – before the credits roll – are a masterclass in Hammer House excitement. The chaos, the black humour, the fear: Tara panicking the body might be Lafayette’s; Andy, focusing as ever on the wrong thing (‘someone moved my car!’); Sookie gasping, ‘Check for a pulse’; Andy drily telling her there’s no need, there’s a massive gaping hole where the heart oughta be; Sam yelling, ‘It’s not Lafeyette’; Sookie sobbing, ‘Who is it?’; and Tara realising it’s Miss Jeanette and letting out the mother of all screams. My word, I had to have a lie-down after that and the programme hadn’t even properly started.

I’ve been trying to fill the True Blood gap ever since, like Andy Pandy, it waved goodbye last year.  Glee has helped, but as we tumbled once more into the looking-glass world of Bon Temps, I realised that, lovely as it is, Glee is just a methadone substitute. Nothing can compete with TB for sheer high-octane, suck-you-in-and-spit-you-out enjoyment.

So for starters, we had Miss Jeanette , mouth rigor-mortised into a terrorised silent howl. As Sookie said in her dopey way, ‘Someone just wanted to see her suffer.’ Well, yes, Sookie. Good to see you firing on all cylinders.

Believe me, your hair will need a little freshening when you've been around for a thousand years

We had Lafayette, alive thank the good lord, but chained to other prisoners in a dank dungeon, awaiting some horrible unknown fate. Pretty soon Eric appeared, wearing highlighting foil, making it clear what the fate was likely to be. And I don’t mean dark roots. I’m not worried about Lafayette, though. Worst-case scenario, he’ll be made into a vampire: a laid-back, jive-talking vamp with a penchant for gold lamé. That’s a happy bonus of this show. When your favourite characters get killed off, they’re likely to return, good as new, except with sharper teeth.

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Glee (Pilot): Get that agony out of your eyes

There seems to be a contractual obligation to compare Glee to High School Musical (‘So it’s got music and it’s in a high school but it’s like, completely different, okay?’) But I can’t join in, as I’ve never seen a minute of HSM, though I am of course aware of its awesome back-pack and ra-ra skirt merchandising. I come to Glee fresh, unsullied by any other musical school things, and on the basis of the pilot, it’s got legs. You can see them clearly in that little ra-ra.

Much of the pilot was a gallop through familiar territory: the Good Teacher in a Bad School; Jocks versus Geeks; and a let’s put the show on right here thang that gave me a momentary but chilling flashback to Fame. (Oh yes, you’re right, I have been sullied by other musical school things.)

Amazing how a third-rate high school contains so many talented young people who sing like they just stepped off a Broadway stage. Anyway, so far, so peppy. Kids, school, singing, yada yada. But unexpectedly, a splendid layer of darkness and misanthropy shimmers over the whole thing like glittery black tinsel. The teachers alone have enough murky stuff to make you think you’ve accidentally tuned into Six Feet Under: The Musical.

The Sadistic Teacher, played with joy by the always-wonderful Jane Lynch, motivates her cheer-leading team with cries of, ‘You think this is hard? Try being water-boarded, that’s hard!’ Then there’s Crazy Teacher, who’s terrified of germs and wears disposable gloves during her tea-breaks, though having been in a number of school staff-rooms, I get where she’s coming from.

Best black moment, though, concerns the Good Teacher. Sickeningly upright, spending his own cash on renting the room for the Glee Club’s rehearsals, he wants to encourage a reluctant Jock to join the Club. With no preamble, he bypasses pleading or reward and goes straight for blackmail, by planting cannabis on the boy. Yes, he’s the Good Teacher. Marvellous.

First episodes have to show you loads of characters in a big hurry and hope some of them stick. Most of the Glee Club members have stuck just fine: the black Aretha-wannabe, the wheel-chair using guitarist; the Asian-American Goth, the sensitive gay falsetto… hmmm, sounds like The Breakfast Club as cast by the Equal Rights Commission. The one with the highest stick-factor is Rachel, the fame-whore with the impressive dentistry. Her neediness is off the Richter Scale (‘I won my first dance competition aged three months’), and I can only pray to the tv gods that she stays that way and doesn’t do any crummy reforming.

Catchy tunes, too. Poor Mr Qwerty can’t shake off the shlocky ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. Every so often, while washing up, say, he will burst out, ‘Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world’, then cry, ‘Damn!’ and smash a plate. We’re lovin’ it. I guess that makes us both Gleeks.

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Gavin & Stacey: Series 3’s what’s occurring

Don't fancy yours much

I can’t believe I thought Gavin was dishy in the last series. Doris, the lecherous old lady next door thinks so, but what sort of judge is she, with her inability to make salads and her excessive swearing? 

I can’t decide if her bad language is really hilarious, because she looks like a sweet old lady, or whether it’s a tired and patronising old gag. I’ll have to have a think about that. Anyway, I realised this week that Gav actually looks like a Lego man, with his sculpted black hair and staring eyes. By crikey, even Smithy looks good in comparison.

The problem they’re going to have with this series is how to get everyone together, without making it look contrived. This episode it was baby Neil’s christening, which was fair enough, but I hope they have the courage to run separate storylines which don’t require Smithy and Nessa to be in the same room. I’m not buying the hidden subtext of will they won’t they. They just shouldn’t be together. They don’t like each other. End of.

Steadman in quiet repose

Perhaps I was in a grump due to hearing my first ‘I wish it could be Christmas every day’ of the season, but everyone’s funny little ways seemed like annoying tics. Doris’s foul mouth, Stacey’s stupidity, Smithy’s man-love for Gav, Uncle Bryn’s innocence, and especially Pamela’s, well whatever it is that she does. I suddenly realised I haven’t much cared for Alison Steadman since she was in Abigail’s Party. Heresy, maybe, but she invariably turns in such over-the-top performances that she unbalances whatever she’s in. I still have nightmares about her Mrs Bennett in Pride & Prejudice. Everyone else remembers Colin Firth in his wet frilly shirt; I only recall Alison Steadman chewing up the scenery.

I’ll tell you who I did like: Baby Neil – a class cameo from a dashed handsome-looking baby. And Gav’s Dad, played by Larry Lamb. I have a thing for the silver fox look, and sister, he’s got it in spades. I also love the way he carries on with his realistic and understated performance despite being cast against Alison Deadman. I always enjoy Nessa, especially with her wearing a back sling for Neil so she can smoke more easily. And Dave Coaches is masterfully played. His scenes with Nessa have real chemistry.

But everyone else got on my nerves. They wasted tons of air-time with Rob Brydon singing; with a lame gag about everyone phoning Gav at his new job; and with Smithy’s Mum, who despite being played by Pam Ferris, verged into Steadman territory as more caricature than character.

Of course I’ll carry on watching. I love Gavin and Stacey. Everyone loves it. For now.

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True Blood 101: Yes, you can visit with me in my home


‘Mahhh stars’, drawls Sookie in her quaint Louisiana accent, though you’d think she’d need a slightly stronger oath to properly express her crazy life. If she’s not hearing the secret thoughts of everyone around her – kind of a nuisance when you work in a busy tavern – she’s bitch-slapping baddies and making goo-goo eyes at vampires old enough to be her great-great-great–grandfather.

Sookie is a mass of contradictions, as indeed, is everyone in True Blood. Yeah, I know it’s been on some fancy-pants channel for months and you’re all on episode twenty-nine, but us terrestrial beings are only now, courtesy of Channel 4, able to plunge into this bonkers world of Southern Gothic sex, fangs and violence, which is what passes for light entertainment these days.

Where was I? Contradictions. Sookie never says anything stronger than ‘Lawks a-lawdy mamma-lousy’, yet wears t-shirts so tight her bra is on the outside. She complains prissily about her colleagues’ dirty talk, but has intensely lustful dreams in which she peels off silky little kimonos in order to seduce vampires. The hemlines of all Sookie’s clothes hover between unbelievably short and staggeringly brief.

Talking of vampires, they’re full of contradictions too. They have started to venture out of the coffin, thanks to there now being a synthetic substitute for human blood (called TruBlood, it can be bought down the Co-op in handy six-packs, like Budweiser only slightly thicker and more scarlet). So while vamps aren’t exactly respectable, they’re becoming more visible, with spokespeople on TV insisting on their rights, and liberals like Sookie wanting to befriend them and show that not all live people are mean old bigots. This being the Deep South, though, and vampires presumably being a metaphor for gay people (viz. the excellent ‘God Hates Fangs’ sign outside a church in the opening credits), nearly everyone is in fact a mean old bigot par excellence, insisting that vampires will turn all god-fearing virgins into ‘one of them’.

lafayette-true-bloodSookie’s brother Jason is another m. of c. He is played by someone who used to be in ‘Home and Away’. This has apparently freaked out some viewers as he was previously so wholesome, but in his first scene in True Blood he was in the nuddy making dirty love with a lady who was no better than she oughta; a lady who was dead half-way through episode 1, implying that taking all your clothes off in this programme is guaranteed to get you into trouble. Fresh-faced Jason had his clothes off and lookit! He was almost straight away arrested for murdering the naughty lady.

Jason clearly wasn’t the murderer as we see him with his hands round the naughty lady’s neck and next thing two gum-chewing hoe-down hat-wearing cops are telling Jason she was strangled, and taking him in. It’s too obvious and anyway Sookie tells us that he might be a bit of a lad but he ain’t no killer. We trust Sookie because she is played by Anna Pacquin and is inherently trustworthy. More to the point she has the most incredible mouth which will easily sweep the board for best supporting role come the Emmys. This mouth has a life of its own, over-acting wildly, turning up and down simultaneously, throwing in random smirks or scowls out of context. I spent most of the first episode transfixed by it.

As did Bill, prosaically-named vampire who has such sizzling chemistry with Sookie that all the rest of the cast simply stand well back wearing those big safety goggles. Of course, Bill is a mass of contradictions too. On the one hand he’s every girl’s dream, being dark and handsome (if a trifle pale), plus incredibly charming with good old (very, very old) Southern manners. He asks Sookie if he might visit with her at her home, the best euphemism for wild vampire-human shagging I’ve heard all week. And the way he says her name – all shadowy whispered sibilants and vowels – ‘Sssssoooook-ayyyy’ – makes her, and us, simply melt.

But of course, on the other hand, he is dead and needs to drink blood on the hour. Not what most people would consider ‘must haves’ for their ideal date. However, Sookie has the demented right-on-ness of a very young person and thinks everyone is just being totally, like, mean to the vampires. She is wildly over-excited to see Bill in her bar, and the fact that he’s cute is the icing on the pecan pie. Her telepathy means she can hear everyone thinking, ‘No Sookie! Don’t go touching that vampire. You don’t know where he’s been’, but where that mouth of hers goes, Sookie has no choice but to follow.

All this just skims the surface of True B. I haven’t even mentioned the brilliantly camp baddies, the Rattrays (with a name like that what chance did they have for going straight?); or that humans like to drink vampire blood, in a weird reversal of the norm, because it’s some kind of potent lifter-upper, like Red Bull, only redder; or that Lafayette the chef is a southern black gay man and consequently the most stereotyped character in a hotly-contested field; or that Tara, Sookie’s motor-mouthed best friend who accurately pronounces her own name ‘Terror’, nearly steals the entire thing with her scene as a hardware store assistant.

In short, it’s a jam-packed deep-fried technicolour mother of a show, and, if you’ll pardon the expression, vampire-liberators, it sucked me right in.

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