SLOUCH POTATO

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In the first of a new weekly column Tom Pheby gives us his view from the couch.


That's not a selfie by the way, but it does sum up the majority of my evenings. Surfing through 300+ channels, dipping into the DVD collection, and catching up on random shows I DVR'd months ago. And that's what this column is going to be about, a whirlwind of randomness on things I've watched in the last seven days. Things that I liked, things that I didn't. Things that deserve praise, things that frustrate, and things I'm looking forward to. Like the return of Luther...


LUTHER
I'm becoming impatient waiting for the fourth season of BBC's Luther, written by Neil Cross and starring British hot property Idris Elba. It's been a torturous wait since the series ended on Southwark Bridge back in 2013, and at that point we were reliably informed that there would be no further additions. At least not on telly.

The plan was then for Luther to head to the big screen, but when that failed to materialise we suddenly learned that there will be a series 4 after all. Why the change of heart? Well it appears Neil Cross felt there was one more series left in the troubled detective before.... he heads to the big screen.

Producer Elizabeth Kilgarriff recently said
“It’s very exciting to have Idris Elba back as DCI John Luther and to be in East London shooting the show’s fourth installment. Neil Cross has pulled out all the stops to make this the biggest, scariest story yet and it’s a privilege to welcome such a glittering array of acting talent to our already stellar cast.”
So what can we expect from the series we were never supposed to get? The official release reveals that DCI John Luther will be...
“pitted against his most chilling adversary yet, haunted by the ghosts of his past and hell-bent on retribution [as he’s] drawn into a terrifyingly complex case that pushes him closer to the edge than he’s ever been.”
It all sounds rather dark and delicious, but also remarkably similar to the previous outings in regards to the continuous turmoil and angst of the lead character. Hopefully the synopsis fails to capture the exact vibe, so as to make it a bit more exciting. We'll have to wait and see when 'Luthor' returns in December.


GUILTY PLEASURES
The medium of television rarely throws a curve ball in an attempt to entertain. No matter what channel you tune in to there always seems to be a quiz show with a overly smiling host, celebrities who aren't celebrities doing something stupid (and we'll get to that soon enough), or someone cooking something.

Simply Nigella (BBC Two) is just a re jigged version of Nigella Lawson's earlier shows, where the Princess of Pastry constantly teases the camera and flirts with the viewer until the point of seizure.

Nigella is an immensely charming and curvaceous cooking goddess but it becomes exhausting to watch as she massages carrots, gropes salad leaves and rubs "a drizzle of oil" over the breast of a chicken. It's almost a pornography buffet, as the smouldering beauty flounces around her kitchen preparing assorted dishes in the style of Jessica Rabbit.

At times I admit to not even listening, often staring, open mouthed as she smoozes between the work surfaces. At which point you can't help noticing that she has a fantastic set of saucepans. 

That is waaay too much for one mouthful. And look at all that pasta too.

Now that was deliberate innuendo but nothing like the sort of stuff Nigella comes out with.
"I like the feel of it .....between my fingers, I just work it until I can't do it any longer."
What the hell is she talking about? Apparently it's food! No one else could make a show like this and get away with it, but Nigella does it with a twinkle in her eye (the kind that probably gets the entire crew heading for a shower afterwards).

Brilliantly entertaining in the strangest of ways.


MEANWHILE, DOWN UNDER
I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here returned to our screens like an annual outbreak of Ebola. As usual the 'celebs' are hardly celeby. Those in amongst the banana bushes this year include the less than glittering Tony Hadley (a podgy singer), Yvette Fielding (TV Ghostbuster), 'Cwis Thewbank' (Boxer and Zen master), Jorgie Porter (a sort of actress), George Shelley (a teenage pinup),  Kieron Dyer (ex footballer), Lady Colin Campbell (a lady named Colin), Duncan Bannatyne (former TV Dragon and entrepreneur), Brian Friedman (choreographer) and Susannah Constantine (one half of fashion stylists Trinny and Susannah).

Susannah and Tony were quickly appointed captains of the yellow and red teams. Their first task was to choose their team mates by simply listening to a voice or looking at a silhouette before pressing the button.
In a comic moment during the selection process, Susannah went to give Tone a high five but was embarrassingly left hanging as Hadley looked on. She carried on gamely, as if embarking on an impromptu stretch. Awkward !


Having picked the teams they set about three challenges to see who got to sleep in camp, the first of which had them sticking their hands inside a log full of creepy crawlies to extract a key. Lady C (who has a peculiar voice, similar to a dog coughing into a carrier bag) seemed oblivious to the sudden drop in her social standing and went about the task like it was an everyday occurrence. Unbelievably regal, she no doubt got the gig because the Queen had declined the opportunity to dine on kangaroo anus!

During Lady C's fleeting time on screen I kept thinking 'She reminds me of someone'. Then after half an hour or so it came to me - surely she's the offspring of Mary Berry and the first Doctor Who, William Hartnell...


Captain Susannah was the last to extract the key for team yellow. On realising that she had her hands in a trunk full of rats she became predictably nervous. Twinkle toed Brian tried the psychological approach...
"Just think of them as large mice"
Because that's better, right?

Surprisingly Brian seemed to be settling in nicely, and once they were in camp he managed to light the fire, where everyone else failed. Yvette noted,
"Brian had a good bit of wrist action going on there"
The last task fell to the red team plus the aborted 'Cwis'. All six were placed in cages suspended above the ground whilst Geordie munchkins Ant and Dec threw in jungle critters by virtue of the Wheel of Misfortune. A panic stricken Jorgie took her turn as it rained cockroaches, with 'Thewbank' offering the advice...
"Just take it"
I wonder if he'll be saying that same thing when he's served up some kangaroo anus with a side of dingo's testicles?



BEAR GRYLLS: BORN SURVIVOR
Talking of chowing down of dingo's balls! Pick anytime of the day you like and surf through the channel guide, chances are Bear Grylls is on one of them. Last week, the synopsis for one of his episodes on Quest caught my eye...
"Bear heads north to Scotland to survive extreme weather in the Highlands and has to seek refuge in a deer carcass."
Surely there has to be an easier way to get on telly?


REWIND TV
If you want to avoid the routine modern TV then ITV4 is the place for you. Billed as "a haven of sport and cult classics from the ITV archives", it's a regular haunt of mine as you'll find shows like Minder, The Professionals and The Sweeney, starring John Thaw as whiskey swilling Jack Regan and Dennis Waterman as Sergeant George Carter.

The Sweeney follows the adventures of the Flying Squad officers and their dealings with the grubby lowlives of London. There was a great episode on this week from 1976, The Sweet Smell of Succession.

When gang boss Joe Castle dies unexpectedly his empire is up for grabs. Castle's estranged son Steven (Hywel Bennett) is drawn into the fray and attempts to take control, but his shady business partners have other ideas. Regan issues a warning to Castle's warring wannabes not to cause any trouble, but Pat Tarley (Peter Dyneley), a stereotypical gangster, is doing whatever is needed to get the lot by whatever means necessary. As the villains continue to fall out, Steven, the heir apparent, plays them off against each other, which works well for Regan.

This is a great yarn of mucky underworld dealings and cut throat deceit, and occasionally offers up the odd gem, such as when Regan meets the son after his fathers death and says...
"I don't speak ill of the dead but you're father was a right villain."
We get the obligatory car chase, the odd fisticuffs, and The Sweeney wouldn't be complete without at least one mention of toe rags and slags! It's still a great show and apart from the visual aging process the stories remain strong and immensely entertaining.

 
DVD HEAVEN OR HELL
Inevitably, after making my way “far down the menu, near the nines, amongst the fishing shit but not as far as the Welsh stuff,” as Beef in House of Fools put it, I'll end up looking to my DVD collection, and this week I popped in John Hughes 1989 classic Uncle Buck, starring John Candy.

When Cindy and Bob Russell receive news that her Father has been taken ill they have to leave town in a hurry, but what about the kids? In desperation they call Bob's unreliable slobby, work shy brother, Buck.

Out of his depth with two young children (Gaby Hoffman, Macaulay Culkin), and an angry teenager (Jean Louisa Kelly) Buck finally has to decide what's more important, the carefree life of the eternal bachelor or family.

This has been slated in the past by critics but if you have a young family it's a treat. It's a warm, fuzzy affair-of-the-heart kind of flick, with laugh out loud moments aplenty. Candy is on top form, brimming with charm and innocence, and we get a glimpse at Macaulay Culkin playing the smart kid to the max, something which would become his trade mark.

I love this film. Verdict - definitely DVD Heaven.


ONE IDEA GOES A LONG WAY
It happens all the time, once a show is a hit every other channel wants a piece of the action, copying the format but changing it ever so slightly to make it their own (and to not get sued). When you start looking across the channels you begin to realise that this practice has reached epidemic proportions...

Grand Designs, To Build Or Not To Build, Building The Dream, Amazing Spaces, Cowboy Builders, Rip Off Britain, Don't Get Done Get Dom, Help My House is Falling down, 60 Minute Makeover, DIY SOS, Homes Under The Hammer, The Sheriffs Are Coming, Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away, Beat The Bailiff, Don't Take My Car, Posh Pawn, Pawn Stars, Baggage Battles, Container Wars, Shipping Wars, Storage Wars, Storage Hunters, Salvage Hunters, Salvage Squad, American Pickers, Wastemen, The Secret Life Of Rubbish, A Life Of Grime.

My head hurts!

Script writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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