Sunday, 24 March 2013

Stephenson's Rocket TV Review March 25

STEPHENSON'S ROCKET


It should be titled Call The Policewoman. Instead, we have the cryptically named WPC 56 (BBC1, Mon). WC 56 would be more intriguing. This dozy new daytime drama was set in a police station in 1956, identical to the period for Call The Midwife, with another woman, in another job, struggling against prejudice. Ho hum. Bizarrely, it was also daring for daytime, with the police woman revealing her stocking tops at one point. I say! Whatever next? Gussets in the lock-up, with the grumpy sergeant? This was Keystone Cops meets Dixon of Dock Green. Bring it back!

Voyeurism is all the rage. Want to peer into someone’s front room? Try Gogglebox (C4, Thurs). Want a sneaky peak into a child’s bedroom (ick)? Go to Bedtime Live (C4, Tues). Want to see inside the nation’s downstair loos? That’s bound to be next week on C4.

Reality TV has now become intrusive observation, taking the audience into private situations, sometimes quite miserable ones, for the sake of entertainment. Of course people have to agree to be filmed in the first place, but television, now in competition with what you can see on YouTube, is becoming increasingly daring, bringing you pictures which, 10 years ago, you would have thought unthinkable. Who actually wants this? Gogglebox, in which you watch people falling asleep in front of the television, has not a single-redeeming quality, but at least Bedtime Live was attempting to help desperate parents to overcome an age-old problem: how to make your children go to sleep without resorting to alcohol, violence or both. As a smug older parent, who has already been through this nightmare, it was very entertaining television, indeed quite comic. For a nice dose of schadenfreude (German sleep training?), I strongly recommend it.
Ten years ago, many parents were schooled on the Gina Ford sleep training method, a must for control freaks everywhere. This involved popping back every 10 minutes to your screaming child to check they were still alive. Today, however, weird terms and touchy, feely methods have been deployed in Bedtime Live. Certainly no mention of a dummy dipped in whisky.
In the first case featured in the episode, poor dad had to go through something called “gradual retreat”. No talk of a full retreat to somewhere nice, such as Tenerife, while leaving the kids with granny. So it was that Dad put the child in the bed, before only going as far as a mattress on the floor. He seemed to quite enjoy this. As for the child, he decided to put his legs and arms through the bars, so needed waking up later anyway. This allowed everyone at home to feel very superior. There were some great lines, mostly from parents, during the show. “We just want to get our evenings back,” one whined. Well, don’t have kids. Another put-upon parent said: “I just want to cry…” I think that’s another show: Whingers Live?
We were then introduced to a “motion addict”, who needed a dose of “rapid return” from mum. This looked exhausting. Isn’t there an app for this? In the absence of that, we were left with expert Professor Tania Byron, and presenter Jake Humphrey who proved the adage that you can take the presenter away from sport but you can’t take sport out of the presenter. Before one commercial break, he quipped: “Back soon for more live action from Britain’s bedrooms!”
It was a good week to launch The Syndicate (BBC1, Tues). Depending on your outlook, this was either feel good or feel awful television, much like watching George Osborne on Budget Day. Many of us would choose to ignore the fact that there are still lottery winners. Others will see this new series as a sign of hope and run to the newsagent.
Writer Kay Mellor has chosen to all-but ignore what happened in the first series, and selected another group of lucky winners. This means she simply avoids training a camera on some over-tanned people on the deck of yacht wondering what the time it is.
There was a terribly good cast on show including O’Brien from Downton, Alison Steadman and Mark Addy. Most of “the syndicate” worked for the NHS, so when they took receipt of the £72m, the first person on the phone was… George Osborne.
The least appetising but most fascinating programme last week was Can Insects Save The World? (BBC4, Mon). The answer, in short, was unlikely. The insects aren’t saying either, but if their prodigious reproduction is anything to go by, we will shortly be taken over by them anyway. It was bizarre to see a “cricket farm” in Cambodia. I didn’t know they were interested in the game. Also, if you’re ever offered a water bug, run for the boat. Just horrible, even to watch someone eating one.
Thankfully, there were far nicer things to cook and eat on Paul Hollywood’s Bread (BBC2, Mon). The rather well-baked Bake Off judge has his own series, which is a wonderful thing.
Hollywood is such an enthusiast and an expert, you never expect anything to go wrong, and it doesn’t. Fantastic breads, bloomers, loaves and trenchers, simply emerge from the oven with a modicum of fuss, begging to be eaten. The baker apparently turned down Channel 4 because of loyalty to the BBC, which is to be said in his favour.
The episode was sprinkled with helpful tips, too, rather than lifestyle rubbish which, in the past, has included such treats as “chefs” riding about on scooters or another looking at antique clothing (mentioning no names) while you wait for your buns to cook. One tip, for cooking a bloomer, was put a little water in the bottom of the oven. Obviously don’t fill it with a hosepipe, or you will have a very large bowl of soup.
Unexpectedly, Hollywood was something of a philologist. Did you know “grinding to a halt” is a mill term? Or that “barmy” comes the “barm”, which is the froth on the top of a pint of beer. From this day henceforth, George Osborne can rightly be said to be “barmy” with fear of contradiction.