SLOUCH POTATO: 3/2/16

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Remote in hand, Tom Pheby surfs the channels...


LIP SYNC BATTLE UK
I've done my best to avoid this show for a few weeks now but I wilted after one small trailer which featured Mel B and Professor Green (Question: what is he actually a Professor of?).

Mel was once a pop star frequently in the charts, regularly on the news, and could often be found airing her hard nosed, no nonsense, Northern points of view on the radio. The hits dried up, the press got bored and she had to rely on exercise videos and the odd opportunity of a promotional interview to air her hard nosed, no nonsense Northern points of view.

Professor Green was a pop star for about six months, he's about as exciting as drawer full of spoons, resembles a school prefect and is married to a very posh girl from a dreadful reality show. He's sort of like the budget version of Eminem, and his tunes are unfortunately even less memorable than a cart full of Spice Girls songs.

From a TV standpoint this makes them the perfect couple to host a rubbish programme where celebrities mime along to two songs.


Enter Rufus Hound. What a witty name! It's like Ian Cognito or Wayne Kerr but less amusing. Hound seems to be on just about every programme that requires a 'celebrity', regardless of its credibility or quality. It's reached the point that I suspect he may be homeless and taking shelter in an abandoned television studio, just waiting for the next shit show to come along.

He was joined by Jorgie Porter, an actress, or at least that's what she likes to be known as, but if you've ever seen Hollyoaks then you'll know she uses the term 'actress' in the loosest possible sense of the word.

And then they mime to songs. And that's basically it. No, honestly it is. It's a programme totally devoid of fun, energy and intelligence. I've reviewed some junk since we started 'Slouch', but this Channel 5 programme takes the prize for the worst, even rivaling those awful American celebrity reality shows.

Talking of which...


RAISING SEXTUPLETS
Raising Sextuplets is yet another intrusive, mind boggling American reality show which stars Bryan and Jenny Masche and their instant family. From personal experience, I know parenthood presents a whole array of problems and stresses, but spare a thought for Jenny and Bryan who at times resembled sheepdogs trying to herd the youngsters around the house and away from harm. They have some assistance in the form of family members who have been drafted in to pick up the slack and keep the clan pointing in the right direction.

A trip into the youngsters shared bedroom looks more like the sales floor of a Mothercare store, as cots line the walls for as far as the eyes can see. It took a while for the penny to drop but Mum (Jenny) and Dad (Bryan) soon realised that their house in Florida was no longer able to meet their needs. So as if stress was in short supply already, they decided to add to the chaos of open, hungry mouths and nappy duties by building an extension. Jenny also added to her unenviable workload by holding down a full time job and then returning home drained, to pick up the baton of Motherhood from her oblivious, slightly dense spouse.

The couple seemed loving and devoted, but this is reality TV and what you see is seldom how it is. After the show I discovered that Jenny had filed for legal separation from her husband of six years, and that Bryan had been charged with disorderly conduct, domestic violence and resisting arrest.


Jenny, for her part, had apparently hooked up with a former boyfriend and was allegedly caught in the act, which just goes to show that all that glitters is not gold and that just a few seasons spent on a reality show can have devastating consequences on the participants, even those innocents that were unable to give their consent to appear.


THE KILLING
If you are fed up with some of the wishy washy cop shows that the UK tends to produce, it's worth heading to Netflix and seeking out The Killing, a show that originally found life as the Danish programme 'Forbrydelsen'

It stars Mirelle Enos as Seattle Detective Sarah Linden who reluctantly has one last case to solve before starting a new life with her future husband, Keith. The case involves the disappearance of a teenage girl who eventually turns up in the trunk of a car at the bottom of a lake, bound and brutalised. Nothing out of the ordinary there in terms of cop show content, but this is a gripping, complex and compelling drama in which Enos gently steals every scene with her assured performances.

She does however, have serious competition in the form of a Joel Kinnaman as novice cop Detective Holder, and Billy Campbell as Darren Richmond who is running for the office of Mayor. There are so many good performances in this series I could fill a whole article on that alone.

The story unfolds slowly, allowing characters to define themselves within the piece, and it gives the tangled plots the time to fully sink in. It also permits the viewer to play along, make assumptions on guilt and who to accuse, but all with considerable style. The Killing is grey, dark and sinister but superbly executed and you'll find it easy to breeze through a box set in just a few evenings.


RISING DAMP
Every year the public are usually encouraged to vote for the best British comedy of all time, and it normally comes down to two, Only Fools and Horses and Fawlty Towers. Both are, of course, worthy of praise and admiration, but there is another I think should be in contention for the title, yet it's one that never seems to get the credit or attention it deserves, then or now. I am referring to Rising Damp, written by Eric Chappell.

Originally it was a play called "Banana Box", for  reasons best known to Chappell himself, but the jump to television saw a stella cast assembled, including Leonard Rossiter, Frances de la Tour, Richard Beckinsale and Don Warrington. Surely one of the finest line ups in situation comedy outside of Dad's Army.

Rossiter played Rigsby, a pretentious, deceitful, money grabbing miser who was the landlord of a shabby run-down Victorian town house and had illusions of grandeur. Rigsby rented out his tatty, squalid and dreary bedsits to a host of tenants, which included Richard Beckinsale as Alan Guy Moore, a long-haired, likeable naive, medical student. Also in residence was the wonderful Frances de la Tour as the eccentric spinster Miss Ruth Jones, the object of Rigsby's misplaced desires, and Don Warrington as Phillip Smith, a highly educated, well spoken planning student, who claimed to be the son of an African Chief and often locked horns with the intellectually inferior landlord for comic effect.


At a time when race was still a sensitive subject, Rigsby's character mirrored outdated thinking and unfounded suspicion. He was generally intimidated by Phillip's sophistication and pedigree, making him a threat for the attentions of the sweet, yet gullible Miss Jones.

The casting here is beyond superb, each well defined character is essential to the unfolding story and the interaction and timing is perfection. Rossiter's character invariably creates all sorts of problems for himself, and although he is clearly a magnified bigot, racist and snob, he has qualities that make him extremely likeable.

The show ran from 1974-1978 and is an object lesson in writing and performing. It's an absolute travesty that this underrated series fails to be held in the same regard as Only Fools or Fawlty Towers, it's also surprising that it receives far, far less re-runs than many of 'so called classic' sitcoms from the same era. Fortunately it's currently airing again on ITV3, usually at a very inconvenient time, but you could do a lot worse than set your DVR to record an episode of two and relive one of the greatest British comedies of all time.


DVD HEAVEN OR HELL - THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Just after I thought I'd resolved my impulse purchase problem, I bought The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Well, it was tucked away in a January Sale bargain bin and I saw it had Ben Stiller as the star. He's a funny guy, so I figured it had to be at least half decent, right?

Sadly, it wasn't! I rarely find something so bad that I actually regret buying it or that fails on all levels, but when I do I can assure you that I pick an absolute stinker.

Once again, the trailers managed to gloss over the cracks and showed an interesting concept with amusing content, but the reality is it's the worst film I've seen for many years. It's the story if a dreamer in a humdrum job for the once mighty Life Magazine, who, faced with unemployment, decides to broaden his horizons by traveling the world to enrich his mundane life. Having previously imagined himself in the role of the hero, Mitty goes in search of real adventure but lapses into occasional fantasy. This should lead to a rich vein of humour but unfortunately never does. It simply becomes a long, drawn out, uneventful, unfunny, one dimensional film that fails to showcase its stars obvious talents.

As Walter Mitty, Stiller is fine, he's watchable and innocently charming but the film itself is just dire. It's a dreary and self indulgent affair, and these are problems that unfortunately rest with the director, who just happens to be Stiller!

Heaven or Hell? - Burn baby burn!


DANNY BAKER'S GREAT ALBUM SHOWDOWN
Music is a part of our daily lives. It tends to seep into our ears, often without asking permission - as was the case with the dire Lip Sync Battle UK. Music is generally a subjective topic where everyone has an opinion, and those opinions are reflected in Danny Baker's Great Album Showdown.

There are three episode of the show currently on the iPlayer, the second of which looks at pop music and Danny is joined by flamboyant singer/songwriter Boy George, journalist Grace Dent and writer, editor and journalist David Hepworth. The foursome discuss their favourite artists from back in the days of vinyl.

Vinyl?

For those who don't know, vinyl [vahyn-l] was a large lump of compressed black plastic, comprised of a single groove that played music when placed on a thing called a... 'turn table' and was subjected to the point of a needle on a... 'stereo'.

I'm being daft, of course, but with its old fashioned, dated format it felt as if this programme had been pulled out of the Beeb's archives from the glory days of vinyl. Worse still was Danny Baker, who was, in his day, a very funny guy and considered generally sharp with his delivery and writing, yet here Naker seemed like a dusty old codger with words such as "glossy groove" "gyration" and the uttering the mystifying "I'm going to be joined by a group of hop bopping, finger popping sound scientists".

Alright Grandad!

I hadn't seen Danny Baker on television for some time, and now I know why! If it hadn't been for the guests this show may have choked on a studio full of crap clich├ęs. Fortunately Hepworth's extensive music knowledge was interesting and concise, covering all types of music and sprawling across the eras. Dent admitted that she liked music that almost caused a fight or at the very least annoyed her parents (she should try Lip Sync Battle UK then), and George discussed his obvious influences, them being Bowie and T Rex.

But it was hard going and I had to hold on tight to reach the end as Baker in his rebellious yellow socks suddenly became inhabited by the spirit of Alan 'Fluff' Freeman. He couldn't seem to stop saying the word "pop" at regular intervals.

Not 'arf!

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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