Saturday, 24 December 2011

Forgotten TV Shows I'd Like to See... #2

Arena: Ligmalion (BBC 2, 1985)

'The London demi-monde of hustlers and hangers-on acquired a new generic verb in the late seventies - to lig, which means more or less to be a welcome gatecrasher in clubs, parties and private homes, and thus to be entitled to free board, bed; entertainment and review copies of books and records.' (Celia Brayfield, The Times, 09/04/1985)

Following Desmond Morris and preceding a John Cassevetes film on BBC 2 on Monday 8th April 1985 was this: a musical-fantasy loosely based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. This 'amusing parable' was also likened to Doctor Faustus in a contemporary TV listing. Celia Brayfield describes it is a 'semi-documentary musical'. It is a curiosity, at the very least...

It starts with Gordon Shilling (Jason Carter), a penniless lad from Gainsborough seeking his fortune in London. He is soon taken under the wing of Tim Curry as a Mephistopheles type. Sting as Machiavelli asks if his book is still in print. Style-watcher Peter York points out to the innocent young lad that the pop music world is small-fry and he must aim his sights at the establishment: represented by the City of London. Brayfield refers to the Lincolnshire-born protagonist (Carter was also from Gainsborough) as a 'class-conscious Candide' who is literally stripped of his provincial raiment by a gang of toughs. The Lig of Gentlemen, 'three beady-eyed characters named Sharp, Shifty and Wise', instruct the provincial hero in the seven rules of ligging and send him off to blag his way into a nightclub.

Brayfield is rather positive, describing it as an 'entertaining chronicle of social opportunism, wittily scripted by David Leland'. She describes Sayle as playing 'a creature somewhere between John Bull and the Joel Gray character in Cabaret', demonstrating the telling point that ligging is politically correct in Thatcher's 'self-help' Britain. It isn't just the presence of Alan Price in ITV's schedules (in some supper-club performance alongside Gloria Gaynor) that suggests it could be some sort of 1980s equivalent to O Lucky Man!

The Guardian's Hugh Hebert is not so positive, likening the production to 'an ageing jogger trying to keep up in the cultural race' and bemoaning that its 'fable of the innocent fallen among rogues and con men, and out-conning the lot, is as old as London itself.' He is critical of Alexei Sayle, playing John Bull as a 'dismal imitation of a German political cabaret', and the GG himself - Gary Glitter - who performs a 'feeble shoe fetish number in the gent's bog at the Ritz.' This rogue's gallery is joined by infamous tycoon and crook Robert Maxwell at the end, still in charge of the Daily Mirror at the time and offering to run the protagonist's story in his paper.

Whilst broadly critical, Hebert does praise its great photography and Ken Campbell's mock-archive lecture as Samuel Smiles, father of Thatcherism ("poverty creates greatness") as well as Fanny Cradock's appearance as her 'indomitable and insufferable self'. Campbell was a true eccentric in our culture, who could be compared with Jonathan Meades, Kenneth Griffith and others.

This programme would be interesting to view as a less naturalistic counterpart to David Leland's Tales out of School (1982), released by Network DVD this year (and perceptively reviewed by John Williams and Frank Collins). While likely to be a less subtle and edgy exploration of a culture undergoing its Thatcherisation, historians of the 1980s will want to see its re-release; the IMDb indeed includes a subtitle: 'A Musical for the 80s'. Ligmalion's cast is a kaleidoscopic collection of the enticing (Campbell, Sayle) and the ghoulish (Maxwell, Paul Francis Gadd). The latter may well lessen the chances of it being released, but then the BBC did post this video a couple of years back.

Its context is instructive: Wogan, Monkhouse, Benny Hill, Dave Allen on the most popular channels; Channel 4 wonderfully varied: a documentary on the post-WW2 Cornish artists' colony, 'theatrical tableaux' from the Welfare State Theatre Company, Brookside, Buster Keaton, 28 Up and a Lionel Atwill 'chiller' to round off. The Channel 4 archive clearly needs the sort of attention Network have lavished on the ITV.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Top of the Pops (BBC1, 09/12/1976)

(TX: BBC4, 15 December 2011)

Now for my impressions of a recently shown edition of TOTP76. Who's presenting? David Hamilton apparently, a long-time BBC radio DJ I have strangely barely heard of.

We start with The Kursaal Flyers' 'Little Does She Know' with its Spectorian cliches given a momentum that might best be described as a Southend-on-Sea chug. We are treated to some ridiculous marching-come-dancing from the front man, with his would-be Little Richard haircut and sanitised teddy-boy attire.

This is followed by 'a song dedicated to the cash registers across Britain', as Hamilton puts it. 'Money Money Money' has never been my favourite Abba song but, in this context, it is a masterpiece. We are shown a typically Bergmanian video, with piercing lights, counterpointed figures and implied silences. Frida is in the shadows, imperiously Faustian beneath large black hat.

perhaps something she had to . . . had to . . . tell . . . could that be it?
Hamilton remarks of money: 'It does enable you to be miserable in comfort'. Interesting to consider in the light of the New Economics Foundation's 2004 report which claimed that 1976 was the year in which the British were happiest, after 31 years of relative social democracy.

Now for the utter oddity of Jethro Tull's 'Bring Out These Solstice Bells'. We are shown Ian Anderson leapfrogging, hand-clapping, leering maniacally like a cross between the pagan Green Man and Edward Thomas's English archetype 'Lob'. What a curious proposition this is: stuttering rock and folk song tropes colliding in a Christmas context. The gent striking the aforementioned bells looks if anything even more weirdly beaming than Anderson, dressed in a red scarf, black hat and sheepskin coat.

He never will admit he is dead
Till millers cease to grind men's bones for bread,
"And now we have a treat for all those fellers out there", Hamilton announces. Legs and Co. dancing to Mike Oldfield's 'Portsmouth', a song featured in Alan Partridge's intended musical accompaniment to his newly published I, Partridge autobiography. A bare stage, a lone, artificial looking pine tree. A parrot (called 'Chalky', Hamilton informs us later). A sea chest. Six 'lovelies' dressed in antic Georgian (?) naval attire - feathered hats, frilly shirts, long boots and the like. It is so oddly unimaginable in any subsequent decade: a leisurely frolic about the place to an archaic, accordion and flute-led instrumental. Yet this was clearly pop of a sort. Many in the 1970s were intrigued by the past: while Oldfield and Legs & Co's 'Portsmouth' is no 'Jarrow Song', Upstairs, DownstairsWhen the Boat Comes in or Penda's Fen it is symptomatic.

One of them throws a load of coins at the screen to conclude this brief, bizarre interlude. Money, money, money.

Next is Tommy Hunt with 'One Fine Morning'. This is really quite pleasant soul, if not really matching up to the more intense, ecstatic-melancholy of the best northern soul. This is followed by Hamilton briefly engaging members of 'the Northern Ireland Youth Peace Group' who are over from Belfast, having won a week in London. They do seem to enjoying their time away from the Troubles; we might regard the prospect of watching Dana as akin to medieval punishment but they seem delighted when she is announced.

The erstwhile Eurovision winner of 1970 turns out a tedious, sub-Tina Charles plodder of a record in 'Fairytale' - inevitably accompanied by strangled fiddles and neutered guitars. I don't believe your fairy-tale, Ms. Independent, eurosceptic - and anti-abortion, divorce and contraception - MEP 1999-2004.

A 'Season's Greetings' Christmas card fills the screen, is indeed zoomed into, as emerges the ghastly spectacle of Paul Nicholas's latest attempt to nullify 1976 pop. 'I brush my bowler and I grab my cane' the lyrics go and he actually has the bloody things. As he did in a previous atrocity; nothing special about 'Grandma's Party' then, which represents the deepening of a festering wound. Sub-Monty Python grannies in the background 'dancing', mugging - deserving a mugging. This is strained, soporific shite. And you could have had Kevin Coyne on that stage - shame on you, British public.

As if we haven't been spoiled enough, we are then presented with Showaddywaddy, a perpetual bane in this era of music. Revivalist 'rock and roll' would be more innocuous if this sort of stale retrospection hadn't afflicted us in its various guises in the thirty-five years since. 'Come on little darling take my hand!' could not sound more joyless if it was sung by Hughie Green at a National Association for Freedom shindig. The band sport matching suits, smugly shown in white and black mirror-image variants. A ghastly saxophone rears its head like a somnambulent battleaxe.

This truly is music that people without spirit or shame lapped up for years; that stunted the development of school discos and laid the groundwork for musical dullards to prosper.

Then we finally have a moment of unreconstructed sexism as Hamilton patronises a young lady: "This is a Fulham supporter, I thought I'd tell you that, that's why she's so good looking; that's right, isn't it?" She can only answer: "Yeah". To which Hamilton replies in his smarmy Bill Grundyeseque tones: "Yes, you're not too sure about that!" and "Give them a lovely Fulham smile then, go on!" This is why punk had to happen.

There is focus on members of the audience dancing during the last number, Billy Ocean's 'Stop Me'. An audience of non-airbrushed ordinary people, mainly girls. A few really into it, most moving to an extent but one girl clutching a handbag barely dancing. The parrot present and correct. Jumpers, dungarees and scarves tell of an altogether less homogeneous dress sense than you might see today. The Ocean song slips by without eliciting any tangible response from me; so unremarkable and inoffensive one cannot take a position on it. It may be said to symbolise the era's longing after consensus and agreement. A consensus all the more elusive due to the hard-right insurgency of the NF, the NAFF and newly militant trade unionism.

The font on the end credits is archetypal mid-70s with its yellow type; informal italics: Musical Director and staunch block capitals: JOHNNY PEARSON. Legs and Co. are apparently Gill, Lulu, Patti, Pauline, Rosemary, Sue - again, a 1970s set of names.

This episode is indicative of the good and bad in TOTP1976: the conservatism of the era and also its relative openness compared with our own neo-liberal one. Abba, Jethro Tull, Mike Oldfield and Tommy Hunt are a persuasive sequence, indicating the era's greater openness to the different and the jarring. Yet, that is all only relative; Showaddywaddy are the number one and grinning buffoons like Nicholas represent the staid revivalism of the era. 1976 does not hold the bragging rights to pop cultural complacency, but the need for intelligence, vivacity and invention was rarely more acute than then. Thankfully for us all, music in the 1978-82 period delivered just the shock to the system that was required.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

BBC Three, Cultural Snobbery and "Young, Dumb And Living Off Mum"

Episode Six. BBC Three. 18/9/2011.

It's safe to say BBC Three, much like it's similarly-targeted relative Radio 1, has attracted as much cultural snobbery during its life as any particularly vapid Simon Cowell creation. Accused of being a strain on the BBC's budget, not providing content that isn't covered by its rivals, serving an audience equally catered to by ITV2, E4 and a plethora of other channels, not providing an important public service whilst consuming funds that could be used towards the BBC's more highbrow divisions, and generally being an example of the corporation's supposedly long-standing tradition of 'dumbing down', the channel attracts scorn from both sides of the pro/anti-BBC schism, whether it's being labelled a waste of licence payer's money or simply an unnecessary outlet of the kind of 'Trash TV' that has come to saturate so much of modern culture, or perhaps even more regularly, incurring the wrath of those who would like to see it scrapped simply because they don't like it personally and/or are outside of it's target audience anyway.

Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum, which has just come to the end of its third run, is a reality TV documentary in which a group of idle, spoilt teenagers, having been 'kicked out' of their homes by their long-suffering parents, move into a shared house together and are left to fend for themselves. Each week the group are set a new challenge in order to develop their life skills and hopefully a level of maturity they can nurture and take into full adulthood, as each of their parents group together to assess their efforts and vote out one of their collective offspring on a weekly basis. Narrated by a wonderfully snotty Robert 'Yes, I'll Do It' Webb (whose fees must be quickly becoming as competitive as his comedy partner's), the series culminates with the reward of a round-the-world trip for the eventual winner and a companion of their choice via a narrative wealth of stroppiness, clumsiness, parties, drinking, confrontation, adversity, childishness, tantrums, redemption, poignant passages from contemporary chart hits, personal epiphanies, tears, hugs and climactic triumph.

By episode 6, we're down to the last three contestants, and though they've made it this far, there are still many behavioural creases to iron out. Ryan, 18, considers himself 'too gay to do DIY' and is described as a wannabe celebrity who, whilst flamboyant on the outside is revealed to actually be too shy and nervous to take charge and something of a shirker, although fared best previously when working with children and animals. Temperamental self-confessed 'spoilt brat' Ruby-Jo, 19, (addressing a fellow contestant, 'you're a fucking boring shit') is an extremely gobby, foul-mouthed stick of human dynamite who believes the Blackpool Lights to be one of the 'eight' wonders of the world until informed otherwise by bright but extremely lazy Tom, 19, who describes a typical day for himself as being one that consists of little else but watching DVDs and masturbating. His close friend Jack, with whom he considers himself to be in something of a 'bromance', was voted out from the competition in the previous episode.

For the final task, as always the parents will choose the task, but crucially, unlike in the preceding episodes, the remaining contestants will work separately, each returning to their hometowns to offer domestic help in the form of decorating to initially unknown families that are deemed deserving of assistance ('In the past, you've only ever thought of yourselves, and never done anything for anyone else unless you've benefitted from it', run the parents' joint instructions). For Ryan, he will return to Doncaster, to assist family friend Fiona, who has two children to support, one of whom is Ryan's godchild, as well as being a full-time carer for her mother. Ruby-Jo, whose Stockport dialect is so broad she is regularly subtitled, will return to her cousin's family home, which has been hit by redundancy and limited income, whilst Tom, with no Little Hampton-based family members in such dire straits, is tasked with helping out young cancer sufferer Kirsty's family, whose lives have been taken over by the obvious traumatic obstacles that come with this.

With just two days and a thousand pounds each to complete the task, despite the best intentions of the trio and a promising start, inevitable problems come to the surface. Though the usually negative Tom is noticeably inspired by a mixture of a competitive streak and the touching nature of Kirsty's plight, his initial haggling prowess (though the attendance of BBC cameras on B&Q premises may have been a potent bargaining tool) is thwarted when he realises he has neglected to take measurements for the curtains and carpets, and he spends a vast portion of the two days travelling back and forth between the flat, hardware shops and bedroom showrooms, leaving only vague instructions for his confused mentor and team of volunteers. Ruby-Jo overspends quickly, asking a member of staff if they stock any 'cheap shit', threatening to eschew the whole task in a strop before identifying novel and cheap ways to complete it, whilst Ryan, after excelling with his purchases on day one, spends the early part of day two descending into a bag of nerves, dividing his time between making tea for his team and hiding behind a van, much to the frustration of his mentor. Tom meanwhile, spends so much time rectifying purchasing errors that he declines his team the opportunity of breaks, compelling the fantastically bitchy Webb to comment 'No breaks? That's rich coming from someone whose life has been one big break'. Meanwhile, after one team member points out that Ruby-Jo has inadvertently painted a chest of drawers shut, her response is to berate him for 'talking to me like I'm a fucking idiot'. As things draw to a deadline, and all three competitors begin to make up much ground, Ruby-Jo will open the inevitable redemptive chapter of the show by regretting her recent showdown, solemnly admitting 'I've got to realise that I speak to people like that'. Ryan makes up noticeable ground, delivering a much firmer message of gratitude to his team, than the bumbling pep talk he opened with earlier that day.

And so, after the results are revealed to the emotional, overjoyed families, in that trademark Changing Rooms showdown, the parents club together to assess who has come the furthest, who has worked the hardest, who motivated and instructed their team most effectively and who achieved the best results. It's formulaic stuff of course, and built around a narrative model and genre so tightly predictable and orchestrated you know exactly how it's going to end, but as light-hearted stuff of this ilk goes, it sends out a much more harmonious and humane message to its target audience than you get from the The X Factor's ruthless and humiliating Darwinism, even if the winner does receive a trip round the world at the end that doesn't exactly scream 'altruism'. This is far more acceptable than the capitalist egocentricity of The Secret Millionaire, with its reverence for wealthy businessfolk kind enough to offer up minute scraps of their time and wealth in the interests of their image and self-promotion, and although orchestrated by definition, the scenes of remorse and redemption, in this episode largely characterised through the teenager's letters read aloud from their parents, apologising for past misdemeanours (especially Tom's 'extremely negative outlook on the world') seem authentic, and the participants all seem to be real multi-layered young people, with equal amounts of positive and negative traits. The gimmicks you would imagine to be in a show of this nature are all intact, of course; Adele's 'Someone Like You', the parts where it seems the game is lost, the determination to change, the feeling that everything is harmoniously tied up and the equilibrium restored impossibly perfectly at the end, with the on-screen 'since the making of this programme' messages before the credits (added to these was the sad news that Kirsty has since succumbed to cancer). Yet, you know what you're getting, and somehow the formula never seems to wane if you consume it as part of a balanced cultural diet. It's inevitably warmer and more genuine than if the BBC's rivals tried it, and with its themes of impending adulthood, responsibility and the transition from adolescence to these, it's exactly the kind of programme the BBC should be making for its young audience, who deserve to be catered for and aren't necessarily exclusive from your Radio 3 listener or Newsnight viewer. Obviously the budget should be spread out to proportionally and realistically cater for its audience, but much of the anti-youth/Radio 1 agenda often seems coloured by the distinct sense of ageism and cultural snobbery. Or in 1xtra's case, actual racism.

Saturday, 17 September 2011


(ATV, 22/10/1960 - 26/11/1960)

"I have hundreds of ladies running through my mind. They daren't walk."

'Thus, briefly, Newley was in time with the ephemera of pop culture rather than show business. Indeed, since his rivals were dismissed as agent-made brain-deads - such as Cliff Richard's Bongo Herbert character in Espresso Bongo - Newley came as near as the trade got to an "intellectual" before the music business developed its self-consciousness and self importance.'
(Nigel Fountain, 'Between Elvis and the Beatles', The Guardian, 16/04/1999, p.16)

The Strange World of Gurney Slade is a DVD release to treasure; ATV's utterly unconventional TV comedy is finally available to enjoy in all its bizarre glory, 51 years after its first broadcast.

The show started out with a large audience yet was moved to a post-11pm timeslot as its viewing figures declined; there were no contemporary reviews in The Guardian or The Times. Despite this critical indifference, it is effortlessly subversive, with a humour that is by turns dry and surreal. Tropes of British television that were already hoary by 1960 are mercilessly satirised, as Newley's agitated Slade walks out of the set of the sitcom he is in. The nascent consumer society of Macmillan's Britain is dexterously skewered throughout, with Newley dancing with a vacuum cleaner and multiple digs at the influence of advertising: 'who am I to ruin the advertising business?'

The series has a leisurely, reflective pacing, with Gurney given to philsophising about marriage, romance and the role of corn in the Napoleonic wars or conversing with cattle. Episode 3 evokes the languorous pastorialism of Powell and Pressburger or, as noted by Frank Collins, the rarefied film The Pleasure Garden (dir. James Broughton, 1953). It can also be considered a sedated, thoughtful development of the Goon Show's madcap anarchism. Newley himself figures as a hipper, yet oddball variant on Hancock's English everyman, as happy going to see French films as is in essaying his skiffle-folk classic 'Strawberry Fair'.

 As the series develops, there are pre-echoes of later 1960s exercises in the bizarre: The Prisoner and Dr Who: The Mind Robber; episode 5 takes place within Slade's own bonce: the curious 'Gurneyland', filled with devils, tinkers and children. Episode 6 evokes Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921) in its deconstructionism: the previous characters of the series retuning to beseech Gurney, requesting life beyond the confines of the series.

For me, the absolute peak is episode 4, where Gurney - and by extension, the series itself - is put on trial for 'having no sense of humour'. The episode can be considered part of a lineage of absurdist trial scenes that includes Kafka and Welles's The Trial, The Prisoner: Fall Out and Dr Who: The Stones of Blood (and, unwittingly, the misbegotten Trial of a Time Lord). Slade is opposed by a motley array of characters including a hangman, a trade unionist, a prosecuting counsel (Douglas Wilmer) and a sullen, fairy tale princess. He is 'supported' by a George Robey-citing music-hall comedian Archie, his punchlines trailing - notable in the wake of John Osborne's Archie Rice. The Entertainer - first staged in 1957 - was adapted for film by Osborne and Nigel Kneale in the same year this series was broadcast.

The main evidence shown to the courtroom is footage of Slade on TV, delivering a rambling, deadpan routine about a countersunk screw. This is a minimalist comedy of mundanity, with Newley extemporising on the merits or otherwise of the said screw. It is just possible that writers Sid Green and Richard Hills may have been taking notes from Pinter's The Caretaker, which opened in London on 27th April; Slade's routine could be considered an altogether more light-hearted counterpoint to Aston's unsettling dramatic monologues.

Newley went on to considerable commercial success on stage with his collaborations with Leslie Bricusse, though less with his directorial film debut, the supposed grand-folly of Can Heironymous Merkin Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? : 'You may squirm but you will not want to walk out'. (John Russell Taylor, The Times, 26/06/1969). As said, The Times did not review TSWOGS, did but mention it glowingly alongside Newley's appearance in The Johnny Darling Show (TX: 12/11/1961), which itself sounds interesting: 'he regarded a world faced with catastrophe in a programme of uncomfortable but wittily expressed desperation'. (Our Special Correspondent, The Times, 18/11/1961, p.4)

The series is beautifully shot, on film; this is television unafraid to be influenced by innovative developments in radio and theatre, crafted by the future writers of Morecambe and Wise and the one-off talent that was Anthony Newley. The Strange World of Gurney Slade is an example of 'Television of the Absurd' to rank alongside Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. Though, in truth, Gurneyland is a whole lot odder. For more thorough and erudite thoughts, read Frank Collins and John Williams, who was one of the people to recommend this wonderful series to me.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Coronation Street (ITV1, 04/07/2011)

This is the first in an irregular series of posts, carried out as a duologue between two AWOTW writers, Tom May and David Lichfield, whilst we were watching the said programme. It is a format probably best suited to popular successes, and may also work for cult programmes such as Peep Show. Where better to start than with the longest-running British soap opera, set in the bizarre netherworld of Weatherfield. 

Owen Jones makes a relevant observation about the way the programme has shifted away from social realism: 'What relationship is there between EastEnders - or Coronation Street for that matter - and the lives of millions of people working in shops, call centres and offices? Indeed, both soaps have a disproportionate number of small business people, like pub landlords, cafe owners, market stallholders and shopkeepers. The soaps compete with each other over frankly ludicrous plots: take the effective resurrection of Dirty Den in EastEnders, for example.' (Chavs: the Demonisation of the Working Class, Verso, 2011, p.132)

You might just notice that one of us is much more up on recent Corrie developments... though I did see the episode where Corrie became Final Destination 5 with its scenes of absurd tram-fuelled pandemonium trying to out-do EastEnders' earlier fire in the Vic ("YOU WOULDNNN'T DARRRE!" - Peggy tipping hardman Phil Mitchell well and truly over the edge) for pyrotechnics and hyped-up melodrama.

Tom started chat and sent out an invitation.
David joined the chat.
David: Sorted, has it started? I have to watch two 30-sec adverts
Tom: 'The police are heading to the factory in Coronation Street'. Harvey's furniture store gubbins... now we’re on to the credits.
David: And I'm on!


David: Poor Stella, quite a sympathetic character compared to Cindy Beale (Stella has recently 'come out' as Leanne's biological mother, much to Leanne's chagrin, not long after moving into  the street to commence Rovers Return-based managerial duties).

Family strife!
Tom: And we open with a picture of the young Leanne Battersby... enigmatic stuff.
Tom: Was that Michelle Collins?

Square or t' Street?
David: Yep, indeed it was.
David: Yeah, you stand firm Leanne, it's not like you're a former prostitute, who spent the early weeks of your marriage having it away with Nick Tilsley!
Tom: "It's minging...!"
David: He's not bad for a child actor (Simon).
David: Did you know Sophie was a lesbian now?
Tom: No... I didn't know about the Sophie sexuality shift.

Who do you reckon is the Daily Mail reader?
 David: I'd hate to be married to a social climber like Sally.
David: Wooden Chesney.
Tom: This is shifting scenes wildly; about 20 characters featured already!! In the first three minutes.
David: Yeah, last year, she lives at home with her girlfriend, Sally, Kevin, Rosie and Kevin's baby who he conceived with Tyrone's dead wife Molly!
David: I really like Stella, ropey accent notwithstanding.
Tom: "It changes everything! You've lied to me, my whole life...!" Classic melodrama.
Tom: Is Stella the non-Cindy Beale?
David: Ex-Taggart actor John Michie (playing Stella's partner Karl) there, also sporting a fake Northern English accent.
David: Yeah.
David: I despise the factory scenes.

It's not Tony Wilson's Factory...
David: Another acting master-class from (Antony) Cotton (Sean).
Tom: Janice isn't really Leanne's mum - cor blimey... that's a development.
David: Did you know Sean was with Jonatton Yeah? (Charlie Condou, playing Marcus)
Tom: Didn't know about the Jonatton Yeah link! Would be interesting to see a Barley and Corrie crossover...
David: Janice was always the step-mum.
Tom: These factory scenes do seem contrived; manufacturing being the utterly thriving thing in the North of England, circa 2011...
David: The gossip industry.
David: No one has to venture further than the end of the street to find a job!
David: David Platt's wife there (Kylie)!
David: Who sold her kid to Becky and Steve.
David: Self-righteous Sally (commenting on Fiz's previous loyalty to John Stape)
Tom: Eh, what's goin' on 'ere! It's the Bureau de Change... 

David: Acting master-class, the 'nick' of time!
Tom: And a bearded Phil Brown lookalike appears to stop the fisticuffs...

Phil Brown, aka. D.S. Redfern
David: Where's his headset?
David: Send her down!
Tom: Indeed... Arrested again!?
David: Such a dull character, don't know what the accidental serial killer ever saw in her!
David: And Hayley is left holding the baby!
Tom: Gail acting as unlikely paragon of liberalism: "Everyone's innocent ’til proven guilty..."
David: She's got a vested interest in that school of thought (having previously been charged with murder and later acquitted).
David: Let's count the clichés!
David: Anything need clearing up plot-wise?
Tom: Well... that first segment was a tad bewildering. A near-fight/stand-off that could have appeared in The Day Today's soap-opera spoof The Bureau. The scenes shift about every 20 seconds. No chance to build up any atmosphere or indeed let a neophile to 2011 Corrie know what the fuck was going on...!
David: Always some amusing stuff on here, pretty much the same here. I'm going to look for the best comments so far.
David: If you watch any Classic Corrie, you have whole two-hander scenes going on for three or four mins
David: Gail and Ivy going on and on and on in 1987...
Tom: Indeed, for better or for worse! Though I do think it works for the better for it to play out more like theatre than a film shifting scenes every minute. Or every 20 seconds.
Tom: What is Gail doing now? Is she working at the factory?
David: Well, Gail was sacked for Data Protection breaches at the surgery I think, don't think she's at the factory though, she tried to get a job at Nick's Bistro but he said she had the wrong image!


Tom: "Mrs Stape"... ominous.
David: They don't half like their miscarriages of justice on Corrie.

Fiz in chokey
Tom: "Maybe John was lying!"
Tom: I can see a 'Free Fiz' campaign on the horizon.
David: A Stape-related storyline without Stape present, zzzzz...
Tom: So Phil Brown is a detective?
David: Yeah, they used to have a mint Scouse one, when Tracey was being sent down.
Tom: “Us?” / “John, I mean!” Ooh, she's getting herself in trouble, that one.
David: Fine time to have a scrap in the factory.
Tom: I remember that brunette factory boss (Carla) ... hmmm, a dull character.

I really want to be on The Apprentice and work for Lord Alan...
David: Carla is on Fiz's side as she was blind to Tony murdering everyone, too.
David: Hayley pronounces it 'Corla'.
Tom: Corrie/EastEnders crossover again here...
Tom: And, again, a brief scene is cut short!
David: Peter Barlow has a mean streak but he's a cool character on the whole.
Tom: Stapey and Fiz were married??
David: Yeah, they were.
David: 'Let's talk about Charlotte, baby'.
David: Charlotte was an 'interesting' character and fellow academic who blackmailed Stape as she knew about the identity fraud. He hit her with a hammer round the head on Tram Crash Night, when she threatened to tell the cops everything, then dragged her body to the scene of the crash to make it appear she had met her end via that means.
Tom: Who's that southerner?

Trust me, I'm a Barlow
David: That's Ken's grandson and son in real life.
David: He's a homosexual too.
Tom: The actor or character?
David: Character.
David: I think he might be a bit of a manipulative fraudster character.
Tom: Ah, a Rovers scene at last.

Newton and Ridley Forever
David: Tyrone's spite towards Kev = ace.
David: I love bitter Tyrone (Kevin Webster impregnated Tyrone's late wife Molly, but this was only revealed to Sally on Tram Crash Night by Molly, just before she drew her last breath from under a pile of bricks. So now Kevin is a lodging in his own house with baby Jack).
Tom: Stevo...
Flippin' 'eck! I'm only in this for fifteen seconds!
David: Finally!
David: 22 minutes of non-Steve banality.
Tom: The majestic eyebrow quivering...
David: Stella gonna abandon Leanne again?
David: Prediction, they leave and Leanne runs along with a "No, wait!!!!" (Continues in half an hour)
David: Is this where I'm supposed to root for Fiz?
Tom: Beaten up in a bookshop? Sounds plausible.
"You're on borrowed time, sunshine!"
David: Free the "Red Gap-Toothed One".
David: Good cop.
Tom: I think we are supposed to feel sympathy, aye! "I [h]am telling the truth!"
David: Is he being good and bad cop (DS Redfern)? The other's doing fuck all!

Directorial vision on a par with Antonioni or Bergman...
Tom: Ah, a classic stand-off across the cobbles there, between Gail and some exceedingly earringed lady (Kylie).

Ken Loach: 'It's like they're the rude mechanicals in A Midsummer Night's Dream when there's always an implied other set of characters who look down on them.'
Tom: Ah, is that David himself? Still the devil incarnate?
David: Yup!
David: She's far worse than him though, I think he knows she sold her son now (to her sister (Becky, who cannot have children) and Steve.
Tom: Who are these brawny male characters? Identikit Simon Cowell lookalikes, speaking with Cindy Beale, ominously...

Trust me, I'm a Barlow
David: Peter Barlow (you take the option).
David: Other one's Stella's boyfriend, Karl.
David: I'm getting déjà vu from previous storylines; we had this with Gail only last year (false accusations of murder)!
Tom: Ah, cliffhanger of sorts as, erm, Fiz whines the same old line AGAIN - 'Burra didn't do anything...!'
David: The Fiz stuff is doing nothing for me.
David: Think I'll have a fag and then we'll have the first post-mortem!
Tom: It is rehashing tens or even hundreds of past Corrie scenarios... Is this one a miscarriage, or merely a meting out of justice?
David: Yeah, she knew about the identity fraud but not the murders until she found him with Colin Fishwick's body.
David: To be fair Colin did have a heart attack, during a showdown with Charlotte and John, but John panicked because of the ID fraud (John 'borrowed' Colin's identity in an attempt to get back into teaching, as his own CRB check was slightly tarnished by the sexual activity with and subsequent kidnapping of his one-time pupil Rosie Webster. Colin reassured him he didn't mind at first, but later turned up demanding him to stop) so they went and buried him under Underworld, then the builders unwittingly buried him under concrete! Months later when the drains needed doing, John realised that the body would be dug up, so went to retrieve it and was caught by Fiz. Fiz panicked, as John convinced her she would be in as much trouble as him if she did not assist him to dispose of the body. She did spend Joy Fishwick's money when John was sectioned out of play.
David: So, in on the ID fraud and not the murders (apart from the body disposal).
Tom: Well, she is surely implicated to a degree, though I imagine it will be a field day for the lawyers on both sides. A tribute to Frankie Howerd on ITV1 now, in-between episodes... Makes one question whether Corrie is actually providing much for its older audience (surely its main demographic). There has been nothing much here with Norris, Roy, Ken or other such archetypes... Of course, the Duckworths are gone, aren't they? Is Jack likely to be popping back into t' Rovers, as was intimated when he left the Street?
David: Unlikely, he died last year!
David: I watched the Kenny Everett one of these The Unforgettable... last week.
David: Very old repeats that belong on G.O.L.D. or whatever it's called these days, but everyone's watching East Enders so a cheap way to kill half an hour, you used to get something regional at these points, but not now ITV is basically one company. Barring the Scottish and Channel Islands versions of course. And UTV I guess.
Tom: Howerd starring in some creaky 1950s British B-movie! How was the Everett programme?
David: I remember watching some early morning BBC1 panel show in the early 1990s presented by Everett, which was ordinary and conventional by his standards.
David: Definitely going for that fag now, and yes this is very old school ITV, rather this than 'What Colleen Did Next' on ITV9! 
David: That doc was from 2000!

David: Would have preferred to see more of the Stella and Leanne stuff than the 'I didn't do it, waa-waah!' spiel
David: Wasted on a mediocre actress.
Tom: Ah... there is now ‘no signal’ for ITV1 with my Freeview box... though it has come back on now. The reception was a tad poor in the first episode, frankly...
Tom: It’s gone off again! Do you have a link to watch it online?
Tom: I'm onto the two infuriating adverts. Has it started again yet for you?


David: Here we go...
David: Just about to, you should only miss 30 seconds, if that.
David: Straight to Fiz action.
David: Can't wait to meet Prisoner Burke.
Tom: Who's the Gervais lookalike?

David: Generic hard-man builder (Owen Armstrong).
David: Bought his business from Bill Webster (now departed).
David: His daughter (Katy, 17?) is pregnant with Chesney's child.
Tom: Ah, the sadly departed old Bill... A stout drinking pal of Big Jim Mc., as I do recall.
David: Not dead, just fucked off quietly.
David: Cindy's daughter's a feisty one.

Tom: So Fiz is an 'exemplary character', is she!?
David: Most ironically named baby in soap (Hope)?
David: They must be hoping viewers have short memories.

Tom: "He doesn't know us from Adam" - what a silly phrase.
David: Who is this "Adam" of which everyone speaks?
David: Gail and Sally in the same scene?!!!

Tom: Gail and Sally planning on making a night of it... Crikey.
Tom: "I prefer to call them displaced people..." - who's the pseudo-earnest young lady in the red t-shirt?

David: Didn't see this coming!
David: Blonde?
David: Sophie's bird!
David: It's gonna be fine, apparently.
Tom: Ah, it was Sophie I meant... It has really been a while since I’ve watched this programme!
David: Who's this ‘Joe Bloggs’ of whom everyone speaks?!

"It's not a handout, it's about mekking a diffrunce!"
Tom: Socialism is alive and well in the personage of Sophie Webster.

Tom: Truculent young colt, that David Platt.
David: David Platt Sex, ominous.
Tom: The Chezzer and the Fizzer against the world?

David: Roy: 'A laudable outlook'.
Tom: And it's... David Cameron entering, to break the bad news (as ever)...

We're in this together...
David: That's an Autumn of courtroom tedium sorted then
Tom: Aye, I wouldn’t bet against it...
David: They really need to give this (semi)-miscarriage of justice stuff a rest.

Tom: Two pseudo 'cliff-hangers' with Fiz in teary despair, following one where she had to be restrained from running riot.
David: What are the chances of a hat-trick?
Tom: As likely as Jimbo McDonald to pepper his sentences with a random “Catch yersel’ on” or conclude them with “So it is...”
David: More Stephen James McDonald after the break I hope.
Tom: Aye, I hope Steve will add to his previous 20 seconds of screen time in tonight's episodes.
David: Anyway, Fiz, I'm not sure the baby understood what you were promising her, anyway...
Tom: What was she promising the bairn?
David: She'd never leave her etc.
Tom: Ah, touching.
David: You noticed that these episodes are only 22 minutes long-ish. Fifteen minutes of ads an hour on British TV!


Tom: Having probs with watching it online but it seems to be back on my normal TV... Hmmm.
David: Just trying to revive my stream.
David: Refresh, refresh!
Tom: No sound on the TV!
David: Black screen online, I want more ginger whimpering!
David: I'm getting bugger all here!
Tom: I have a silent film on my screen of a bleary eyed Fiz, wearing a yellow bib.
David: And it's burnt into your retina forever.
Tom: And now our supposed ‘do-gooders’.... in their red T-shirts. Moving stuff.
David: If I'm lucky, I may catch a solemn Fiz dropping tears onto a small photo of the sprog, and the credits.
Tom: What is going on with the ITV streaming? And indeed my TV. I don't even have a mute button to accidentally press. I have a picture but no sound, and neither online!
David: We can devote some of this blog bemoaning the shitness of this streaming.
Tom: I can just about make out that Dave Cameron (lookalike of, Fiz's solicitor?) is lecturing the Croppers...
David: Is he saying they're in this together?
Tom: Chez looks put out. Not a happy young gent.
David: It's like being blind.
Tom: David Platt and that ear-ringed young thing are getting intimate; yuck!
Tom: Gail and Sally have spied them over the fence, Gail with a glass of red wine in hand.
David: There can't be this much demand to watch episode 2:2?!!
Tom: A ticking off dispensed by the moral guardians of Wetherfield, methinks.
Tom: Some burly gent and Michelle Collins again.
Tom: Platty and missus are incredibly telegraphed People Not To Be Trusted. Actually, I think I am picking up more watching this silent than with the dialogue!
Tom: Never liked Leanne... Cannot quite put my finger on why – a sort of whiny surliness.
David: [Re: technical problems] I think this happened for the Manics at the iTunes Festival last night too.
David: Can only guess it's about to end?
Tom: Chez is all angry as hell. Hayley with t' baby, and Roy failing to calm things down. Plus a young brunette and another bearded man, unsure whether the Gervais one.
David: No Steve?
Tom: No Steve. Lamentable lack of Eyebrow Olympics.
Tom: Chez head in hands. Yep, it's coming to a close.
Tom: Fiz in tears in a cell, after looking at a picture of her baby.
David: Still think we should do a week of these, even if not live we can just ITV Player them simultaneously...
David: Hang on, did I not predict that ending!
Tom: The end was indeed almost exactly as you predicted.
David: Sound like a shite last ten minutes in all honesty!
David: Hope this makes up for it.
Tom: Ha! There's even one of him post-pulping by Jez Quigley...
David: LEGEND. The second, old school one with a full head of hair and a beard is sensational.
Tom: Yes, that is quite a gurn and an uncannily 1995 beard.
David: You HAVE to watch the scene where he got back from seeing Our Andy last week. And saw all Becky-fuelled hell breaking loose through the broken Rovers' window, comedy gold!

David: Watch it here, from about 20 mins in! I just pissed myself laughing at that again.
Tom: I've tried to fast-fwd and it's taken back to more adverts...................
Tom: Advert 3 of 6!!!


David: OK, have a pause on the start of part two, just off to get my glasses.
David: Right, on title card now, tell me when to hit play...
Tom: I'm ready; play...
David: Demon Platt.
Tom: World-weary Gail: "Brainwashed, more like..." Sally talking popular clichés about "rocket scientists".

Tom: Slightly creepy Gervais...

David: "Make sure the teat's full".
David: Creepy Gervais, as he will be known from here on now...
David: Corrie without humour is a bit of a drag.
Tom: Now, riveting Fiz-in-yellow-bib scenes (previously seen in silent mode)...

David: It's like Steve is carrying the comedy baton single-handedly.
David: This is like watching East Enders at its most tedious.
Tom: "Selfish" Kev Webster, according to Sophie?

David: That's a bit harsh.
David: Middle class soap characters = always shady.

Tom: What is their "team"?
David: Tesco Value Salvation Army.
David: Will Roy ever run out of philosophical words of wisdom?
Tom: "I suspect she'd welcome our return", says Roy.
David: Yeah, I'd pass on duties to the Croppers over the naive 17 year olds, to be fair (Owen AKA 'Creepy Gervais) demanded Chesney and Katy relinquished Hope-duties to concentrate on Katy's pregnancy).
Tom: Indeed. Now, for the previously mentioned Platt and Kylie scene... Guetta and Akon - predictable musical backing!
David: That's a bit risqué. 

David: She ain't no sexy chick if you ask me.
David: No need!!!
David: Haven't seen Sally and Gail socialise for about 600 years.

Tom: I cannot sympathise with either pair - the young amoralists or the old moral guardians...
David: This Stella-Leanne thing's been so rushed. Storylines either outstay their welcome or have the equilibrium restored in two episodes.
Tom: "Proper man and wife"...

David: "Babes", eugh.
David: What does that entail?
Tom: "I had all these hopes... dreams..."
David: No one talks like this in real life.
Tom: Banal doesn't even cover it; or "touch the sides” as one of them has just said!
David: They'll be out together in the Trafford Centre next week (Leanne still not welcoming Stella's motherly affections).
Tom: Or is banal the word? Heightened, melodramatic banality? Certainly not a Pinteresque mastery of the banal.
David: It's not always this bad, it goes in stages.
David: Usually when one story arc has ended, it takes three months to build back up again.
Tom: "Might I suggest we take stock of the situation" - Roy ever the voice of calm...!
Tom: Very creepy Gervais here.

David: It's the facial hair.
David: I hate the "any idiot/knobhead/cunt can make a baby" line.
Tom: Ah, your predicted ending...

David: Waa! Waa!
David: Rubbish.
David: And no Steve!
Tom: None, and yes, a rather bewildering and dull 44 minutes of television... I imagine it can be more entertaining; certainly the absurdity of the Rovers brawl in that episode you linked to.
David: That was amazing.
David: I think Steve's the only character I have any time for currently.
David: There was fuck all in that episode that made me anticipate Thursday's.
David: Can't believe I'm saying it but, I even miss Liz!
Tom: Perhaps so... Who's the landlady? Becky, I assume?
David: Becky still technically the landlady (still married to pub owner Steve, by a thread), Stella the manager
Tom: With crushingly predictable friction?
David: Yeah, as you may have seen in that brief scene from the other week, when Becky stormed back in and overruled the newly instated Stella.
David: (Referencing afore-mentioned clip) When the two bodies dive out of the Rovers in front of a bewildered Steve: that was fantastic
David: Even Craig Charles is leaving for a year!
Tom: It was... certainly proper Corrie absurdity.
David: I like Peter Barlow though.
David: But he's not on the sauce currently, so, yawn...
David: Cannot be arsed with months of courtroom Fiz-based melodrama.
David: 'AH DINT DO IT!!!'
David: We need a Spider or a Jez Quigley to shake up proceedings.
Tom: The Cuts hitting even the hallowed cobbles...? In that they are saving on new sets and scenarios by wheeling out the same police station, cell and courtroom sets they have always used!
Tom: Indeed, regarding the need for some wild-cards. The 1990s-era Street certainly had a few of those...
David: I'm sure Manchester or Rochdale Town Halls will make an appearance at some point, doubling up as something else!