Welcome one and all, Ladies and Gents to the latest edition of TTWTWB after a week hiatus! As usual we’ll kick off with a theme for the week, and in honour of Hell freezing over and Wendi Richter being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year (seriously, that’s a real surprise, if you want to know why just drop me a line in the comments or via email…or just read any non-kayfabe account of Wendi’s career) we’ll hark back to the days of Rock ‘n’ Wrestling and the beautiful and wonderful Cyndi Lauper with ‘Girls just wanna have fun’…
This week in TWTDW on TTWTWB (I’ve struggled to avoid typing that for WEEKS! I just love my over-complicated abbreviations!) we’re going to look at the nearest miss so far in thankfully dropped soap storylines.
This storyline concerned Eastenders‘ Zoe Slater…
…as portrayed by Nicholas Bailey. Now bear with me, because this gets a bit complicated…
Zoe Slater is perhaps most remembered for the oft replayed (and recently discussed in extremely annoying fashion by Eastenders fans in the ads leading up to the 25th Anniversary episode, more on which later) scene where it was revealed the woman she had been raised calling a Sister, Kat…
…was infact her Mother (leading to “YOU AIN’T MY MUVVER!” “YES I AM!” becoming a demi-catchphrase for a short while in the UK). Now Kat was one of those characters who ended up sleeping with an incredibly disproportionate amount of the Male population of East End London, before ending up sailing into the sunset with husband Alfie Moon…
…played by everybody’s favourite Pontin’s Bluecoat, Shane Richie, in what is the finite example of a storyline being stretched and stretched for so long, that it had long since been flogged to death and left nobody caring when the final payoff happened. This of course ran parallel with the Mafia Warfare years of Eastenders where everything descended into a melodramatic dirge.
ANYHOW, before I go onto a mad tangent, one of the Men Kat went through, and indeed had a more meaningful relationship than usual with, was of course Anthony Trueman. They had long since split when Zoe and he first started their relationship, which was much maligned in Walford because of the disparity in the age of the characters. Nonetheless, romance bloomed and the pair were all set for a summer wedding, and the doom, dispair and death that marriage always brings in Eastenders when out of nowhere, Anthony and Kat rekindled their romance for a short time, which sent Zoe off on the run for a while before returning, after such time that nobody ever made mention of the relationship again. So far, so Soap Opera, so what evil events did the Eastenders writers have lined up for us?
Well originally, the wedding storyline was planned and written to go much further. Zoe and Anthony were set to have a relatively happy courtship, until of course the wedding day, which never goes smoothly. You see, Anthony and Kat were going to rekindle things and share a kiss, AFTER the nuptuals, immediately setting off neon lights and alarm bells in my head for the amount of terrible consequences that would have given us. For one, that old soap chestnut of semi-incest would have been dusted off, as Anthony would have been having an affair with his own Mother in Law. Secondly, this would have been ANOTHER obstacle for Kat and Alfie to navigate as people quickly got bored of them getting so near and yet so far, and would have just been a death knell for that storyline too. Add to this the fact that the age disparity storyline had led to widespread discomfort and a general negative murmuring from the fanbase in the first place, this would have been a proper Chamber of Horrors unleashed.
So what saved us from this abomination? Well rather like in our first edition, in wasn’t good sense or a rational change of heart from the writers, it was the misfortune of one of the actors involved. Michelle Ryan had an emotional breakdown, suffering from exhaustion after being unable to cope with the difficult filming schedule, and took a break from the show causing a hasty re-write to what we ended up with, which although painful, didn’t leave us with any lasting agony as viewers.
As I mentioned before, Zoe returned, this time with friend Kelly in tow, who ended up in a relationship with Alfie’s younger brother Spencer…who said Soap family webs are complicated!?
Anthony faded into obscurity and left Albert Square in 2003, before he could be dragged down into the gangster-y mire.
I would just like to say too that none of this is intended to make light of Michelle Ryan’s health issues at the time. As somebody who has suffered an emotional breakdown on a couple of occasions in the past, I have the utmost sympathy and empathy for her, and as a huge admirer of her acting work, am very glad she’s carved out a good career for herself. BRING BACK BIONIC WOMAN AND NEMUAH IN MERLIN!!
Thus ends the penultimate edition of TWTDW!? but we’re not done talking about Eastenders just yet.
Recently of course, a television event took place with the 25th anniversary of the show, which was marked by the return of a few memorable characters (I was particularly delighted to see Billie Jackson portrayed by the same actor who played him when he was just a young lad, Devon Anderson, although not so happy to see MORE semi-incest with his relationship with his Sister’s adopted Daughter, Whitney) and the much anticipated live episode. The live episode was very well pulled off, and I give everybody involved a lot of deserved credit for that. If anything, it added to the episode as the lines delivered seemingly had more impact and the breathless running scenes were certainly given a great deal of authenticity which might otherwise have been missing. The huge crescendo at the end of the episode, as Bradley Branning leapt to his death, rather than risk arrest was very well pulled off. The cuts between stuntman and actor were seemless and the event provided a real surprise, as the Producers had genuinely swerved the audience by outright saying Bradley would not be committing suicide as a way for the character to leave when that news leaked earlier this year.
In the wake of the episode, Jake Wood who plays Max, Bradley’s Father, has produced some tremendous performances as a character in mourning, and the developing storyline of Lucy Beale’s pregnancy is very promising, but on the whole, the show looks to be hitting a low in storylines. My main complaint is the fact that every woman over forty on the show appears to be turning into an old fishwife. For a long time, Denise Johnson has been an extremely irritating character, constantly flying off the handle and being outraged about everything, but now the returning Carol Jackson and Zainab Masood have also become perpetually outraged, angry characters with no real motivation for being that way. It gets very wearing when there is a constant wall of noise from three seperate areas of the show. We also have the latest renegade teenager character in the shape of Zsa Zsa who is an annoying parody, an extremely cliche ridden ‘teenage gang’ developing through the reintroduction of Billie Jackson and for crying out loud, would the writers PLEASE give Billy Mitchell a break? Perry Fenwick has had so many hard luck storylines now it is frankly a joke, and a mistreatment of a very able actor.
Is it me, or is that the biggest rant I’ve had in a while? It felt gooooooood!
Anyhoo I promised you a bumper edition for this week, and boy howdy, have the schedulers produced or what!? A spectacular 9 lowlights this week, but before the bad news, let’s deliver the good, and our 5 highlights for the week!
Piers Morgan’s Life Stories is a bit of a contentious entry to start my highlights with, and while, like the majority of people, I’m not a fan of Piers Morgan the person, Piers Morgan the journalist has delivered a steady stream of big name guests, and with the exception of the embarrasment that was the interview with the Prime Minister Gordon Brown (which I credit to question screening, an unwillingness on Morgan’s part to press on serious issues given the nature of his former disgraces as editor of a national newspaper, and Gordon Brown’s seemingly unending run of poor PR moves), they have been refreshingly open and honest exchanges, free from the product plugging which seems to be the sole motivation for most interview shows now. The first guest of this series is one Simon Cowell, a man who despite his high profile maintains a quite dignified silence in his private life and is a rare capture for any host, regardless of their links to him. Cowell is likeable with his dry wit and always speaks his mind, so it should be an entertaining opening edition.
Channel 4 have faired badly in the last few years when it has come to televised sport, losing out on cricket coverage, Italian football and Cycling to other networks, so it is interesting to see them introduce The Grid. Offering a summary of the goings on in the world of motorsport should be an enjoyable addition to schedules for sports fans, and given 4’s success with magazine sports shows in the past (The Cricket Show, Gazetta Football Italia and their continued coverage of horse racing) has great promise. The only letdown is the fact they lack the firsthand live coverage of the sports they will be discussing meaning that it perhaps is not the natural home or timeslot for a show of this nature, I don’t know how open the BBC and Sky will be with their libraries of F1 etc which could dent The Grid’s viewing figures.
Mentioning horse racing as I did so briefly there, brings us on to our next highlight, one of two impressive new documentary offerings from BBC4 coming this week. Storyville: Barbados at the Races is a four part documentary looking at the importance of racing to the island of Barbados as it prepares for it’s Independence Day celebrations. Cultural implications are rarely attributed to racing, which obviously has gambling as it’s main focus, so this is a totally different approach that will provide a very different outlook. Equally credible is the simply titled documentary Women, as BBC4 looks at the rise of Feminism and the fight for gender equality over the years. As it covers a subject I devoted a lot of time to studying in University, this holds a special interest for me, but I reccommend everybody watch this, if only to help re-redefine the term ‘Feminism’ which has become frequently misused and misapplied in recent years.
Our final highlight of the week is an unusual offering from the BBC with Lambing Live. Kate Humble has increasingly become a very able face of UK based nature programmes, as well as doing well stepping further afield, and is now the President of the RSPB, so she steps into a difficult breach (no pun intended) as she covers the lambing season for farmers around the UK and the difficulties that lie therein. This is sure to debunk a few myths and stereotypes about farmers and farming in general, and will likely give an extremely eye opening view of the tough and busy life farmers experience.
So we have a solid collection of good shows for you to enjoy, but of course, there are plenty of pitfalls to avoid!
Our first two lowlights are really a showcase of ITV’s lack of imagination and total reverse midas touch. Dickinson’s Real Deal SHOULD work, but it doesn’t, it fails miserably. Out of the comfort zone of Bargain Hunt and away from the BBC’s production leash, David Dickinson turns into a catchphrase spewing, nonsense talking, daytime TV monster. Add that to a format ripped straight from the BBC’s legions of antique/auction shows and you have a terrible recipe. Spealing of recipes, that segues nicely into ITV’s other plagerised show for the week, Country House Cooking Contest. It’s Masterchef in a cottage basically, and who the hell came up with that name? It’s like someone took the Producers rough notes and decided to make absolutely no changes at all. There is a reason ITV is becoming more and more known for bad shows (just take a look at the utter crap Ant and Dec have produced on a Saturday night most recently), and these two shows are not helping matters.
ITV however are not the worst offenders this week as the rest of our lowlights come straight from the BBC! As a network, the BBC has never quite gotten the hang of reality programming, unless they’ve had an ex-Conservative MP at the helm (see Widdecome, Anne and Portillo, Michael) and they appear to be no closer to cracking that nut with Single, Together, Whatever. Following people around as the endeavour to forge romantic relationships in modern times sounds ok until you see the write up, and it looks like an episode of Eastenders. Add to the fact the majority of the viewing audience are very much (perhaps all too) aware of the situations being presented, any draw factor this show might have is nullified before it begins.
Meanwhile, BBC3 jumps on the failed reality TV bandwagon and seems determined to continue feeding Harry Hill’s TV Burp with material, as the follow up to Undercover Princes, Undercover Princesses makes it’s debut. It’s coming to something when the only good thing you can say about a show is that it provides Harry Hill with ammunition, but that really is the only appealing thing to come out of this. I turn you over to the great man himself to show you why…
Reality shows aren’t the only area the BBC falls down in this week either, as we have some quiz show lowlights to add to the ever growing collection. Replacing the actually rather good In It to Win It (although the stage managed contestants often leave you wanting to throw things at the screen, or begging Dale Winton to snap and go postal on them) as the resident National Lottery quiz is Who Dares Wins. As programmers desperately try and find a fresh vehicle for Nick Knowles who has appeared quite out of his depth away from the DIY shows and his excellent Comic Relief excursion building a water pipeline in a drought ridden part of Africa, he is left to flounder with yet another over complicated quiz that wastes both his talent and the fact the BBC has had several very good quizzes in that slot in the past that would easily work again. An even more shocking waste of talent is that of Alexander Armstrong on the abysmal, yet aptly titled, Pointless. Yet another convaluted quiz show that relies far too much on the unpredictable quality of contestants is not a way to use a man as comicly gifted as Armstrong.
Are all these bad reality shows and quizzes too light for you? Then perhaps I can interest you in some gentle scaremongering, something the BBC has become very good at in recent times with endless recession based documentaries telling us how doomed we are. Fake Britain is a good way to produce a bit of hysteria and cynicism regarding piracy and the like. The worst thing about this show as far as I can tell is the implication that suddenly this sort of thing is an issue. Market traders and even independent high street shops have sold bootleg merchandise for years, and although I in no way condone it, to suddenly act like it’s an issue after so long seems very abitary and frankly like a centre page feature in the Daily Mail.
Finally in our lowlights we have two horrible comedy offerings, using comedy in the losest term possible. The Legend of Dick and Dom is a title that sends shivers down my spine. Juvenile to the point of being insulting and puerile garbage is the best way to summarise their ha-ha-larious ‘antics’. Also sending shivers is the term ‘new BBC3 comedy’ which is a terrible, terrible thing to hear if the last couple of years is anything to go by. The Gemma Factor does not look like bucking that trend. It leaves me with just one thing to do and say…
PLAY THEM OFF KEYBOARD CAT!!
That just about wraps me up for the week. I’d just like to mention that I send my condonlences after the death of wrestling legend Angelo Poffo. An extremely successful promoter and wrestler in his own regard, he was best known as the father of Macho Man Randy Savage and “The Genius” Leaping Lanny Poffo. He also held the world situp record for a time with an insane 6,033! Everybody here at MultiMediaMouth sends their wishes to his family. Send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below. I’ll be off again next week I’m afraid, but promise to be back with a vengeance and zeal the following week. Keep your eye out for a new game review from Lloyd Davies as he looks at Blue Toad Murder Files Part 3 and in the next couple of weeks for the first in a series of articles from me about M*A*S*H. Until then remember to take care and stay safe!