SLOUCH POTATO

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Remote in hand, Tom Pheby's back on the slouch...


It's 400 years since Shakespeare shuffled off his mortal coil and so over the last few weeks the BBC have gone totally bard bonkers. As if to illustrate how out of touch they are the schedules have become knee deep in Shaky tributes, so thank god that 'Cunk on Shakespeare' appeared to re-address the balance.

Philomena Cunk is a character that appeared on Charlie Brooker's excellent weekly wipe. Played by Diane Morgan, Cunk is portrayed as an open mouthed, boggled eyed, slightly dense Northerner, who struggles to make sense of the modern world, let alone historical literary figures. In this special she attempted to explain, in her own unique and mystifying way, what all the fuss is about.

"I've been studying Shakespeare ever since I was asked to do this programme and it turns out he was more than just a bald man that could write with feathers."
And that was just her opening line, setting up the perfect antidote to all of the BBC's kiss-ass tributes to Strafford upon Avon's favourite son. She continued...
"Why do we still talk about Shakespeare? We don't talk about Les Dennis anymore, even though he's still alive and hasn't done anything wrong."
The Cunk character is obviously exaggerated but her thoughts on the subject will certainty ring a few bells with those of us that agree that Bill was and still is extremely overrated. God alone knows how long a basic conversation took back then with all the thuses, verilys and thee's! One also suspects that the humble neck ruff was designed to stop the population developing a mild form of narcolepsy in mid conversation.

Cunk ventured to the Globe and met theatre director Iqbal Khan, asking bluntly,
"Who are you and what's your game?"
She also managed to talk with a series of other authoritative figures, all of whom she managed to frustrate and irritate in equal measure. Guests were no more than a straight bat for her spirited and innocent wit, yet instead of becoming tiring, it gets even funnier.
"As Shakespeare’s reputation grew he became popular with royalty, so he wrote stuff they’d enjoy in the hope of gaining power and influence. Like Gary Barlow does now."
Brooker and Morgan have made a genuinely funny female character, something in short supply since the disappearance of  Mrs Merton from our screens. More please.


A Good Reason To Get An Early Night

Normally when you get thrown out of The X-Factor for being a little bit crap there's a brief flash of interest which might include a few guest interviews on early morning telly, after which it's back to entertaining a handful of inebriates at the local karaoke on a Saturday night, followed by the resumption of a career on the supermarket tills.

Rylan Clark-Neal, however, is made of much sterner stuff.

Appearing like a younger, more preened version of Max Headroom, Rylan seems to be as commonplace in the schedules as the weather forecast and about as welcome as the news of an oncoming blizzard. He has a mouth of preposterously white teeth, with a sculpted beard and hair that looks like it's made from liquid black rubber.

Up to this point in his career we hadn't seen much of the interviewer about Mr Clarke that suggested he was about to become England's answer to David Letterman, Jay Leno.....or even, god forbid, James Corden! Yet channel 5 have been insanely bold enough to give Rylan four consecutive nights a week to bring us a host of his favourite guests.

From the moment Up Late With Rylan was announced I sensed that it may be a tyre and hubcap away from car crash TV, and those fears weren't exactly put to rest when Clarke pointed out a sofa, spanked it enthusiastically and then pointed out a small circular stage for live music. Indeed, everywhere he went he gawped at the camera and challenged it to "come with me" which became rather annoying fairly quickly.

Rylan then went to a small bar in the studio, tended by a woman whom I didn't recognise and sat fondling a handful of lemons
"It's just like a bar should be."
The woman agreed, virtually repeating what the host had said. Unsatisfied, he asked the eager audience
"Do you think it's like a bar should be?"
"Yeah?" they replied with confused enthusiasm.

Rylan then thanked Charlotte Crosby (the barmaid, whom I still didn't know) and headed across the left over bits of Alan Carr's studio. At this point, four consecutive nights a week began to sound like a threat.

Having scurried to an almost imperial wing back chair, Rylan introduced Alicia Dickson (I'd heard of her) and on she trotted, eager to laugh on cue, with a dress so short you could almost see her bra and legs as long as one of Gwyneth Paltrow's acceptance speeches. As first guests go she was at least making the effort, but sadly the interview was a dull pointless affair, consisting of nothing more than allowing the celebrity time to plug their new album, address some gossip and reveal that Simon Cowell had become soft. Soft and Simon Cowell in the same sentence? That's similar to suggesting that Darth Vader strokes kittens before and after every encounter with the Jedi.

Worse was to come when Rylan treated us to Anthea Turner, a self confessed domestic goddess who gave us tips on how to get wax out of a carpet by using an iron!

I think it's safe to say that Letterman, Leno and even Corden can sleep peacefully.


TV Rewind

Long before Stephen Fry was found to have the brains of the entire population of two large continents and years before Hugh Laurie was acknowledged as a fine American TV star and accomplished jazz pianist/recording artist, the pair of them starred in P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster. I'd read a number of the cleverly crafted yarns about the vacuous upper classes, yet, back in 1990 the television series was of little interest to me. Recently, though, I've discovered them on Yesterday, and it's clear that Fry and Lurie were born to play their respective roles.

The very first episode, Jeeves Takes Charge, sees Bertie Wooster's Aunt Agatha dispatch him to marry a certain Honoria Glossop whom she believes will "reform" him, curb his frivolous ways and give him the credibility he has lacked up until now. So reluctantly Bertie heads off to meet up with the burly and forthright potential spouse and her parents.

In an exchange between Lady Glossop and Wooster, she asks,
Do you work, Mr Wooster?

What ? work ? as in honest toil?

Yes.

Hewing the wood and drawing the old wet stuff and so forth?

Quite.

I've known a few people who worked, absolutely swear by it, some of them. Boko Fittleworth almost had a job once.
Later, Wooster is delighted to be informed by a friend, Bingo Little, that he is intoxicated and besotted with the same woman, so Bertie then plots to get the pair together but somehow manages to propel himself into an engagement. Fry's Jeeves then rescues the day with some inventive meddling and convinces Sir Roderick and Lady Glossop that their potential son-in-law is unfit to marry their daughter.

Laurie and Fry excel in their respective roles and bring their characters to life with a mixture of charm and intelligence, making this series an absolute joy to watch. It exposes elements of the upper classes which were ridiculous and attitudes that could still, sadly, apply today. The writing is tight, playful and bares more than a passing resemblance to a farce. I would go as far as to say it is probably the most underrated comedy series of all time.


Make Me Famous: Bring Me The Face Of Joey Essex

Some people inhabiting this planet genuinely make me want to build a rocket and head off to the stars to divorce myself from them completely.

Sam Barton is one of those individuals.

Sam's aspirations don't extend to a career, nice house or car, oh no! Sam has his sights set on...... resembling Joey Essex.

Mr Essex features in a really rubbish television show, full of shallow souls in Gucci suits and dresses who wander around claiming that things are 'reem' - which is apparently Essex speak for good or brilliant. Joey is one of those poor people that thinks that a menstrual cycle comes with a saddle and a two wheels. He's totally oblivious to the workings of the world around him and probably thinks that cows shit blocks of cheese. So there I was, sat in my chair, hardly able to eat my hobnob without choking at the thought that someone's personal dissatisfaction with life could lead them to want to resemble someone else who has the IQ of a bag of lentils.

Sam, who one suspects is rather fond of lentils himself, shelled out £55,000 to resemble the Essex from Essex. A phenomenal figure that could be put to much better use and might even purchase a small village in Bulgaria. A series of Botox, face irons and tattooed eyebrows, and Sam's transformation was complete. The end result is above, and I didn't want to shatter Sam's dream but he looks about as much like Joey Essex as I do Brad Pitt, and both myself and his dad couldn't work out where all the money had gone.

Sam would have been better advised to place his head in a tight vice until his brains popped out of his ears. That way even if he didn't look like Joey Essex at least he could speak and act just like him. Maybe he did, as Sam worryingly admitted,
"Before The Only Way Is Essex was on TV Essex was known as a city full of dumb people, but now it's known as a city full of dumb, glamorous people."
Pass me my space helmet. I'm off!

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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