SLOUCH POTATO: Peter Capaldi, Patrick Stewart, Thirteen & More

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The early Tom Pheby gets the potato. Or something like that.

I normally avoid morning telly like the plague. Breakfast TV is the worst, a cesspool of gossip, health alerts, home cooked muffins and people promoting themselves and their films or their self indulgent uneventful biographies.

Hold on a minute! Peter Capaldi on Lorraine?

Now for anyone unfamiliar, Lorraine Kelly is an overly jolly Scottish presenter who's journalistic skills are the equivalent of a visit to a chatty chiropodist. But with the promise of "a Capaldi exclusive" I tuned in, hoping to hear if the incumbent Doctor Who was staying or going, now that show runner Moffat has decided to call time on his tenure as showrunner.

One assumes that Capaldi has time to kill now that the BBC (British Bullshit Company) have decided to ration the Time Lord's 2016 output. This is something that still annoys me no end and reminds me of the broadcasters disregard for their audience, preferring to serve up a steady flow of mindless fly on the wall programmes for viewers that have the attention span of a Walnut Whip!

Whilst patiently waiting Capaldi turn on the couch I had to suffer through a series of banal, magazine style tosh, which included Cheryl's latest relationship (I've had bread that's lasted longer), Taylor Swift's latest addition to her jewellery, and the sob story which is Madonna. Apparently she's involved in a custody battle for her son, Rocco, with ex Guy Ritchie, who incidentally has got his career back on track after consciously uncoupling from the most famous traffic-cone breasted pop granny in the universe.

It got worse! Up next there was a chef cooking food in a wok, telling us that the only way to discover if it's hot enough is to place your hand inside the cooking vessel to determine if it's reached optimum cooking temperature. D'oh! Health and safety issues anyone? Yes folks, this sums up the general intelligence of early morning viewers. At this rate they'll have us all poking our heads in the oven to highlight the dangers of dimwits in charge of electrical appliances.

"This better be worth it" I muttered to myself as Lorraine introduced Peter Capaldi. It didn't look promising as the interview began with the pair discussing his knee injury and pointing out that it is similar to the one Matt Smith had (blooming heck).

We were just about to get some juicy info, or so I though, as Capaldi was asked when the next series would be arriving.
"...for some reason I'm not allowed to tell you...."
He was however allowed to reveal that series 9 is available to buy on DVD.

He then described the day he was announced as the Doctor back in 2013. How he was taken to the BBC in a car, covered in a blanket and bought out by Zoe Ball for the big reveal in front of a live audience. And that was that, it was the most underwhelming interview that served absolutely no purpose for eager Whovians and I'm getting slightly tired of being walked up the garden path by those involved in the series, only to find out there's nothing at the end of an uneventful stroll.
"We've run out of time" Lorraine said with a smile.
"Is that it?" Capaldi asked
It was, and I couldn't have put it better myself. Hell will freeze over before I watch breakfast TV again.

The best writing trick of all is to work with fears we never knew we had, to create a fear inside the mind that unnerves the viewer. It's rare, so rare in fact that when we actually witness it in person, it appears as if its a new and novel concept. This is, of course, the exact opposite of today's TV drama , which tends to rely on graphic images for purposes of sensationalism.

Thirteen, penned by Marnie Dickens (who has writing credits for Hollyoaks of all things) deals with kidnapping and incarceration. In particular, that of Ivy Moxam who appears at the door of an ordinary suburban house in a quiet and unremarkable street ,shoeless, dazed and bedraggled . She heads straight for the nearest phonebox to alert the police that she is a missing person and has been held in the basement of a house since being snatched on her way to school.

Jodie Comer is convincing and compelling as the jittery victim Moxam, who has escaped only to find that she has become detached from the outside world. She looks completely broken and on the verge of collapse. A frail, frightened girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her family.

She is initially met with suspicion and disbelief by those whom you would have assumed might have offered more support, including the police and her younger sister who has serious doubts and reservations about her sudden reappearance. With the way things are in the world this programme presents an interesting and slightly uncomfortable premise,which provokes dormant inner reactions and unsavory thoughts towards those that were guilty of such an act.

The police interview is a truly remarkable scene, imagine spending that much time in captivity only to be met with mistrust and chilling misgivings by the authorities. Yet as the viewer we begin to suffer our own doubts when a police raid on the alleged house yields no tangible evidence.

Also added into the mix are Ivy's divided and estranged parents who have to join forces to assist in their daughter's recovery, and the hunt for the truth.

Thirteen is BBC Three's first drama since it made the switch to an online only channel, and it is, ironically, fantastic TV!

Frank Skinner On Demand is a fresh and interesting take on the programmes available on the BBC iPlayer. Each week Skinner is aided and abetted by a household name as they skim through the best and the worst of the weeks viewing. Skinner is always amusing and quick witted, allowing his guests to quantify or dismiss a vast array of shows, and at its heart there is always humour.

As with any show of this kind, it's only as good as the guest so it's definitely a case of picking and choosing carefully. Skinner has now reached the position in his career where he can cherry pick projects but unfortunately this and the likes of Room 101 are and always will be fringe endeavours, never pulling in the bigger audiences or catapulting him into the current most popular comedian bracket, but perhaps Frank has no insatiable need for that anymore.

Although his TV shows are not high-end entertainment, his radio show on Absolute is a divine treat. It is subtle, full of mischief and cerebral banter. With the help of co-presenters Alan Cochran and Emily Dean, they look back at stories of interest from the previous week. There has always been a suggestion that it's harder to be funny on radio than TV, and, let's be fair, without facial expressions some comedians would sink without a trace, but Frank Skinner is genuinely funny man and is without the need to perform facial gymnastics. He remains one of the best around.

Irwin Allen was a conceptual genius and his ability to construct a series from top to bottom was legendary. He was a driven, forceful, meticulous individual, who involved himself in every part of the process, leaving nothing to chance. It's that hands on approach that churned out so many hits. But it was the bombastic Allen who inadvertently bought about Lost In Space's demise by playing a misguided hand of poker with studio executives over the next season's budget, which was facing big cuts. Allen stood his ground, thinking reputation alone would trigger a positive response. It didn't and the Jupiter 2 was left in a permanent orbit over TV's junk yard. It appeared that we might never get to enjoy the galactic trials and tribulations of the Robinson family ever again...

Imagine the excitement then when it was announced that a film was to be made and Stephen Hopkins was to be the director. Stephen Hopkins? Surely that was a typo? The man had a CV the size of a till receipt, but no, it turned out to be correct. This was followed by snippets of casting news such as William Hurt as John Robinson and Matt LeBlanc as Major Don West... warning, warning!

Yes, the alarm bells were ring-a-ding-dinging, and when I finally spent good money to see it all my worst fears were realised. Only Gary Oldman acquitted himself adequately as Doctor Zachary Smith but even he struggled against the tide of mediocrity.

1998's Lost In Space is simply a piece of glossy visual nonsense. Ill conceived and poorly executed to such a degree that to watch it once is enough to last two lifetimes.

As for the story, it hardly stretches the imagination. Earth is a dying planet, unable to survive beyond two decades. Science whizzes have found a planet capable of sustaining life (Alpha Prime). so Prof. John Robinson (William Hurt) and his family have been selected to go there to construct a hypergate, to allow humans to mess up another perfectly good resource. The journey entails a lengthy period in hypersleep, but that plan goes out the window when a saboteur in the form of Dr Smith finds himself unable to leave the ship (sounds familiar so far). The ship is then thrown off course after waking the sleeping crew and Dah De Dah De Dah Dah.....

Actually, that part is the highlight of the film, it's after it leaves the comfort of Allen's original premise that it all goes 'Pete Tong'. First up, the tone is darker, although I'm OK with that, but when we are subjected to a ship full of crazy space spiders and some really crap CGI, well that's were I started to become annoyed to the point where I simply had to eat a whole 12" pizza!

I can't really go much further, it's just  too painful (oh the pain!).

In 2004 there was news of a reboot "The Robinson 's - Lost in Space", but that didn't make it past the pilot. Then in 2015 news of a second reboot, this time via Netflix arrived. This one may actually get off the ground because the company has the resources to gather up emerging talent in its own productions. Let's hope justice is done this time around.

As for the 1998 version of Lost In Space, it should be confined to Satan's private video vault.

It's back online now to the iPlayer for Who Do You Think You Are, a programme that can normally be one of two things; dull and mind numbing, or intriguing and absorbing. With Patrick Stewart as its guest it was bound to be the latter.

The twist here was that instead of mulling through generations of relatives, the focus was firmly on the actors father. The one time captain of the Starship Enterprise turned X-Man had a troubled childhood and upbringing, courtesy of the drunken, violent and abusive Alfred Stewart, so this could have made awkward viewing and proved extremely difficult for Stewart to deal with had there not been an unexpected and dramatic surprise.

It was revealed that Alfred had suffered from shell-shock during Germany's occupation of France in World War Two, where he saw the full extent of armed conflict which left him, unsurprisingly, with mental scars. At the time PTSD was clouded in shame and dishonour, with many being admitted to mental institutions or branded unfairly as cowards.

Alfred continued his military career despite the condition and returned to France for its liberation, after which he joined the paratroop regiment where he became a Sergeant Major. This was at a time when the second battalion had lost three-quarters of its men at Arnhem and needed someone capable of creating a feeling of togetherness. It was a job that required a leader or father figure, which was odd considering his behaviour within his own family. 

Throughout this episode Stewart maintained his dignity and poise, becoming occasionally emotional but still retaining his objectivity. He said,
"It doesn't in any way affect my feelings about domestic violence, or that what he did was wrong … but the other elements that have emerged I have found so compelling – and beautiful."
I think he may have been speaking for all of us.

This was one of the better stories among the generally lightweight and self indulgent excuses for smugness,  but here the actor had to confront something tragic and personal, yet he had the courage to share it with the audience.

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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