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Tom Pheby returns to the couch for a look at some of this years festive television offerings.

I am a massive Idris Elba and Luther Fan but season four proved to be a problem. Two parts were simply not enough to contain a show that threatened to run off without waving goodbye.

A serial murderer on the loose, Luther's life in turmoil, a new Detective Sergeant, Luther in hiding and the possible murder of femme fetale, Alice Morgan, was enough to be going on with for a mere 120 minutes.
Perhaps Neal Cross then committed the sin of trying to give fans a bit extra, to compensate for its lengthy absence by introducing Megan Cantor (Laura Haddock) who wanted  Luther to administer justice in the cold case of a murdered child. That element simply tips the balance. You needed eyes in your sleeves at that point and inevitably some of the detail got lost by this sardine approach to the story telling.

Elba's performance was as impeccable as always, magnificently muscling his way around London like an angry bull looking for a red table cloth, but Cross managed to kill off all the other key components in the series which left it a little light. There was no Alice, but more importantly there was no equal to Ripley, often a foil to Luther's chaos, and the promise of Theo Bloom (Darren Boyd) was sadly snuffed out just as he made an impression, that was probably Cross's biggest mistake of all.

If I had another moan, it would probably be the pacing of the two-parter. One minute it's dragging around aimlessly as if its on the brink of fatigue and the next it's rushing off at light speed in seven different directions before the credits fell. Perhaps the idea to make a TV style film just didn't translate, and the haste to fill two shows to the brim suffocated the project. It could have been spread across four parts, allowing us more time to delve into the warped mind of Steven Rose (John Heffernan) or helping us understand and explore the character of DS Emma Lane (Rose Leslie). We could have found out more about the disappearance / murder of Alice and watched Luther resolve various parts of his haunted past, but it was like hanging on to a speeding train which was late for a business lunch.

What a shame that Luther didn't take a leaf out of Chris Lunt's script for Prey, which managed to maintain our interest by keeping us captivated and reached a logical end at a reasonable pace.

There was a depth within the characters throughout, but with a cast as strong and exceptional as this, that was almost to be expected. None were there for the sake of it or lacked a voice, each added a contrast or point of view which was integral to the plot.

Philip Glenister and Rosie Cavaliero were absolutely superb, but they are without the pressure that Elba endures by maintaining central focus as the solo lead. Prey didn't end in a wave of predictability either, and Glenister's character gains the most sympathy at the close.

Will Prey return ? If Lunt can find another angle, yes ! But if not, he could / should / must adapt a spin off for the immensely talented Rosie Cavaliero as DS Susan Reinhardt.

Now and again you get a show that appeases critics and viewers alike, and unlike some Marvel creations that tend to fall into flights of fancy and depend purely on its lead characters superpowers, Jessica Jones is superbly dark and gritty tale that is strictly for grown ups.
It has an undeniably comic book feel but deals extensively with the confused, complicated life of Jones herself, who lurches from one drama to the next, in between her alcoholic interludes. Krysten Ritter stars as Jessica Jones, a former superhero who runs a detective agency after her super-career comes to an end. Apart from providing evidence for extra marital affairs, she also deals with cases that involve beings with remarkable powers, with the opening episodes of season one seeing her trying to locate the missing daughter of a distraught couple. Unfortunately for Jones, she finds the girl who then promptly kills her parents and finds herself slap bang in the middle of a murder investigation.

There are all sorts of sexual shenanigans involved in this super detective caper. This is an astounding series, one which makes it hard to tear yourself away from the television, and one that is well worth the paltry Netflix membership fee.

Bear Grylls Born Survivor must be running out of extreme locations because in the Christmas marathon of episodes there he was in.... Ireland. Yep, Ireland, hardly a barren land with extreme and hostile weather.

Still it didn't stop Bear foraging for food when he was no more than a couple of miles from the nearest ASDA. The ferret faced former SAS reservist went through the all the usual survival motions, even straining mussels through his socks as part of a soup rather than ringing for a Dominos. Bear then produced a handful of maggots from a trouser pocket and sprinkled them in like seasoning, having plucked them from a rotting carcass in-case the Co-Op ran out of mince. Once finished he announced,
"It tastes like fishy socks with maggots!"
There's no flies on Bear, but there will be if he keeps putting maggots in his pockets.

At one stage Bear said that there signs of people working the coast (d'oh) and even indulged himself by mentioning ship wrecks, which meant he was never far from civilisation. Get away, he'll be telling us next that if you boil a Blarney Stone for long enough, it becomes edible.

Bear wandered around the Moors and chirpily added that 40 climbers and hikers died last year. It's heart warming yarns like this that try to add a touch of spice to a routine ramble before downing a pint of Guinness. Grylls made it sound as if he was in the Sahara Desert, and then, just as things were looking exceedingly trivial, he promptly fell down a hole and nearly disappeared for good!

The born survivor had to hold out a hand to the cameraman to return to the safety of the uneven terrain.
So the moral of the story is if you are going out on an adventure at least take a production team with you if you want to survive.

With the weather turning for the worst and with light diminishing, Bear wanted to find shelter. I shouted "try the local Premier Inn, it's only up the road". But Bear continued his attempt to inject some much needed drama and excitement into the show by throwing himself in a bog to gather up a dead sheep. What this man won't do for television! He then went on to eat a raw sheep heart, which sounded as if he was chewing on a tractor tyre. Once done, he cut off the fleece to make a "sheeping bag". Yes, Bear even does survival jokes.

In the semi final of Masterchef: The Professionals, Danilo spoke at great length of the attention to detail in his dishes. Yet in the very next close up of a boiling pan of leafy vegetables, a hairy catapiller was busily being boiled to death.

Maybe he was preparing a dish for Bear?

I've never laughed so much at the stupidity of television as I have watching Judge Judy. In the ludicrous courtroom setting was John, who was suing Diana for standing him up for a prom date. Diana and her  mother, Laurie, were counter-suing for deformation of character and harassment.

John went on the offensive claiming that once the date had been agreed the gullible romeo shelled out $500 for flowers, a tuxedo, prom tickets and a dinner reservation. Judge Judy observed
"You went the whole nine yards!"
Yeah, on his own, the turnip! But honest John stood there looking like a spurned little soldier and throughout it all I failed to find any of his claims remotely absurd or amusing.

Diana, on the other hand, thought she had a perfectly legitimate excuse. With all the creativity of a novelist she claimed she had developed an allergic reaction on a visit to a local nail bar and instead decided to spend a quiet evening with her friend Julie. Except Julie was none other than Jason, her boyfriend. That's right Boy-Friend!

If dishonest Diana wasn't feeling stupid enough at this moment, up pops her ex-friend Kaila to make things a little worse by giving evidence that she'd read her blog that said she didn't want to go to the Prom with John. It was the best laugh I'd had in ages, and at everyone's expense! 

A few months ago I did a piece on Shed Heads, a TV programme where sheds are erected by pals Ricky and Chris. I noted at the time that it was so dull that in the future perhaps we could "watch someone ironing a stubborn bed sheet". Be careful what you wish for...

Little did I know that the world had already embraced the ironing idea and turned it into an extreme sport. It seems that the bigger the challenge and the greater the risk, the more the competitors are appreciated. Plus this form of lunatic sport has an impact on the ironing pile at home, which is a definite bonus.

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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