Tag Archives: entertainment

Reality Bites!

I can remember when the first ever Big Brother graced our screens over 10 years ago. Channel 4 had no idea of the monster they had scheduled. A programme about a group of adults locked into a house like lab rats, having to perform tasks for their food and drink. Nasty Nick was almost lynched and hurried out the back door because he wrote people’s names down with a contraband piece of paper and a pencil. Shock Horror! Then came Celebrity Big Brother, much more entertaining as we were treated to a fly on the wall look at celebs looking dog rough without their make-up on and going into a meltdown as they couldn’t blow dry their own hairdo. But being a Big Brother fan is a full-time occupation, it is a nightly show, along with live streaming on their website which I confess I used to watch during the whole Nasty Nick debacle.

Big Brother

Big Brother

I have managed to wean myself from being an avid Big Brother viewer over the years, it was the George Galloway/Rula Lenska cat moment that helped cure my addiction. I have had no interest in the ‘normal’ housemates for a while now but I do tend to watch the launch night of the Celeb edition, just to be nosey. But for some reason this year I have been suckered back in. Don’t ask me why, there is no-one in the house I’m a particular fan of and they are a fairly uninteresting group of people, but I can’t turn it off. Each evening at 9pm, I feel like Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove, fighting with myself to try to turn over to a different channel. But if I do switch it off, how will I know if Claire from Steps will ever realise that a onesie is not a good look for her, or discover if Rylan is slowly morphing into Max Headroom and find out why Toadfish is actually in the house?

Reality shows have been a cheap alternative to proper TV for a number of years now. In fact, celebrities will pretty much do anything for a bit of shameless airtime and stress its for charity purposes and not purely for their desperate need for the limelight. Strictly Come Dancing is still raking in the viewers despite Bruce Forsyth’s awful banter and Tess (I’m so northern) gushy interview techniques. My parents are avid viewers but will only watch it once they’ve recorded it so they can edit Bruce out and with it half the programme.


It seems that some celebrities will do pretty much anything in the hope to relaunch a forgotten career. They will eat kangaroo willies in the Australian jungle, don ice skates and be held in ungainly poses while plastering on their air hostess smiles. The most recent addition to the reality market is with the celeb diving reality show Splash. This Saturday night filler my eldest son unfortunately persuaded me to watch with him the other week. We tuned in to see the celebs in training, with the tautly toned OlympianTom Daley launching Ab Fab actress Helen Lederer into the water on a gym mat, as if he was releasing a marine animal back into the wild. Back to poolside and the live show, Vernon Kaye minced about in shorts and t-shirt while the celebrities danced (really) around the pool to their designated diving board. There seemed to be no rule with the dives with some older podgier celebs belly flopping off the low board next to younger fitter celebs somersaulting off the top board. I had to feel sorry for Helen as her make-up streaked down her cheeks and she hunched next to the perfect figure of Jenni Falconer who was making lycra look comfortable.

Well done Helen!

Well done Helen!

Whatever your view of reality TV is I don’t think it is going anywhere just yet. And although it is cheap television and often leaves you feeling unsatisfied afterwards, there is often something intriguing about it as well. And just think if we had no reality tv, there would be no Simon Cowell, Dermot O’Leary and Bruce Forsyth on prime time TV. Actually perhaps we should switch it off!


Dum Dum Dum Downton

Ever since I was a child, Sunday night TV has seemed to be the graveyard of programming. Growing up I remember the digestion of the roast dinner hours accompanied by Open All Hours, Last of the Summer Wine, Bergerac and The Antiques Roadshow. The former was fairly amusing with the stuttering Ark ark ark Arkwright played by Ronnie Barker alongside a very young pre-Delboy David Jason. The same fondness can not be said for Last of the Summer Wine which mainly consisted of irritating pensioners getting into all sorts of trouble in the countryside with far too much lusting between toothless Compo and Nora Batty with her wrinkly tights. Nowadays, The Antiques Roadshow is still going strong on BBC1 followed by one of the 2 hour whodunnits such as Inspector George Gently where Martin Shaw drives about in his nice car, normally a Jaguar or Aston Martin, solving mysteries without breaking a sweat, very reminiscent of Bergerac. In fact if you think about it, perhaps the actor in each programme serves as a bit of eye candy for the older female viewer while the car serves as eye candy for the older male viewer. I don’t think we watched ITV on a Sunday when I was a child, with my Dad’s aversion to adverts and my Mum’s diversion with John Nettles but I’m guessing the programme on was a similar sort of Midsomers of the time, perhaps Miss Marple or Inspector Morse? Or was it Boon? I remember that being on at a weekend ‘hi ho silver, you got me road ranger’, Michael Elphick as the motorbiking fireman/private investigator.

Now Sunday night TV seems to be all about Downton Abbey. BBC1 have tried to compete with it by resurrecting Upstairs Downstairs to not much success and putting on other competitive dramas such as Mr Selfridge with the trailer showing a shop assistant unplucking a lock of her hair to show how scandalous she could be in front of Mr Selfridge, which more than encouraged me to give it a swerve. I will confess that I have become a bit of a closet Downton Abbey fan though, I say closet because I do believe that Downton Abbey is a period drama soap opera, a corset wearing 1920s Eastenders with its constant dramatic far-fetched storylines and particularly in the current series, the Eastenders Dum Dum Dum shock endings, without the actual dum dum dum’s being played that is.

You can’t fault the writing talents of Julian Fellowes and the acting cast are all very impressive, particularly Dame Maggie Smith who must have stipulated in her contract that she is given enough humorous one  liners to keep her signing the dotted line. Most of the cast are well known actors but I reckon each were given special Downton acting lessons to enhance the eyebrow raising, steely gazing and constant loitering that goes on amongst the Lords and Ladies as well as the ‘staff’. This is particularly clear with the character Mrs O’Brien, the actress who is also in Benidorm and was Rita or Sue in Rita, Sue and Bob too. As O’Brien she is the maid to Countess Cora, so is in charge of the usual stuff such as getting her dressed, fetching her breakfast in bed, fixing her hair, leaving a bar of soap in the right place to trip her up and induce a miscarriage, that sort of thing. She is the biggest plotter in the house, constantly at cahoots with Thomas (the gay one but shush this is the 1920s) and is the best at loitering in the corner of rooms and not so discreetly listening in on conversations. She refolds clothes for a long period while Cora and Earl Robert discuss confidential matter, can they not see her refolding with arched eyebrows and staring eyes, why not talk about the weather until she has left the room?

And what’s with all the cousins? I have watched Downton in earnest throughout its three seasons but even I can’t work out why they all seem to call each other cousins? I obviously haven’t been paying attention (or not really caring ) as to why the Crawleys and the Granthams are related but it’s ok for Matthew and Mary to (finally) get married? My hubby warned me not to write my Downton blog as 1) not everyone watches it (I thought it was just husbands that didn’t) and might bore most people (bore!) and 2) the Downton devotees will not agree with me being mean about the drama and might deter them from ever reading my blog again (am trying not to be too harsh).

I wanted to have a bit of a whinge about Downton as I do find it compulsive viewing and look forward to watching it each week, normally on a Monday as it does clash with Homeland on a Sunday = no contest. However, I do watch it and cringe quite a bit, tut and raise my own eyebrows, very much like O’Brien, at some of the silly and implausible plotlines. My Dad who is a male fan of Downton, see they do exist, frequently gets annoyed by Downton covering every piece of history amongst their characters. From Lady Sybil and now Lady Edith getting involved with the Suffragette movement, all of the cast going to the Great War and surviving it fairly uninjured apart from Matthew but I’ll come to that, Spanish flu, the Titanic (ep1 series 1) and many more historical storylines. If it happened in the 1920s, Downton will feature it. Dr Clarkson, the village doctor, should in fact be awarded some sort of Nobel Peace Prize for inventing so many medical miracles, he recently managed to diagnose Mrs Hughes with Breast Cancer only to send off a biopsy and get the results within a few days that she didn’t have Breast Cancer but a ‘benign growth’, that is a quicker turnaround than on the NHS. In fact, in this weeks episode he offered Lady Sybil a caesarean as he suspected that she had pre-eclampsia, Earl Robert refused Clarksons ‘reckless suggestions’ and unfortunately for Lady Sybil, Dr Clarkson hadn’t yet dreamt up resuscitation and stood idly by and watched her snuff it (1920s term I believe) in a very dramatic dum dum dum ending.

Whatever you make of Downton it is a well loved show, my parents Sunday newspaper had a pull out edition of ‘The Downton Times’ recently so you could read ‘the news’ before watching the episode – jeez…. In fact, Downton hysteria isn’t just in this country, Downton is huge in America too. Me and my brother bought a sightseeing tour for my parents for Christmas, it was to visit Highclere Castle where the filming of Downton takes place. My parents enjoyed the tour as they do like the show and were interested in seeing where it was filmed, however, they were quite stunned when they were seated behind an American couple who told my parents how they were ‘die-hard fans of the show’ and as the coach made its way to the entrance of Downton the American couple were literally hyperventilating with excitement with the woman of the couple screaming ‘oh my god!’ as they drew up outside. They should have paid the O’Brien actress to loiter beside the coach asking her usual question of “‘is there anything unseemly or untoward?”. I hope Downton carries on, it is the only soap I watch and whether the plot is Matthew learning to walk again with a broken, no bruised, no broken, no bruised spine or evil footman (gay-shush) Thomas locking the Earl’s labrador in the woodshed, it is unashamedly compelling Sunday TV.