Monday, 18 March 2013

Watching Prisoners' Wives is time well spent


From the Sunday Express

THERE are few recent dramas that can have matched the opening scenes of Prisoners' Wives (BBC1, Thursday) for shock value.



Sally-Carman-Karla-Crome-Polly-Walker-and-Pippa-Haywood-are-the-suffering-Prisoners-Wives 
Returning for a second series, this daft but enjoyable soapy concoction hurled us headlong into a turf war in Sheffield.
Disappointingly, this was not a new format set in the landscape gardening world but the story of Iain Glen's criminal boss who is engaged in a nasty fight with another ne'er do well.
Having said that, both of them are doing fine, thank you very much. Indeed, Glen seems to run his criminal operation from behind bars with the aplomb of Noel Coward's Mr Bridger in The Italian Job. His wife, played by Polly Walker, even warned him: "We can't stay in Sheffield. It's a turf war." That is clear enough.
So it was that Glen's imaginative adversary decided to kick off the turf war. He torched the Glen family home, hoping to teach his wife and children a final lesson about checking the batteries in their smoke alarm.
For those wanting to know how to torch their neighbours' abode it did also unfortunately provide a step-by-step guide. Hint: don't stand near your letterbox in the early hours with a lighted match.
Glen was not going to take that lying down, unlike everything else. He despatched a man, most likely the prison governor, who brokered a deal by which his nemesis would receive some new weaponry in return for being shot in the chest in a gore-fest resembling an explosion at a ketchup factory.
We can only assume the victim agreed to the terms. In future, keep a sick bag on the arm of your sofa.
The best character, however, is Pippa Haywood's smitten mother-of-an-inmate who is very taken with the prison chaplain. She was tempting him out for a day of rambling. He later fell for her...on a fell.
Later she was told by her son: "I'm going to become a Moslem." Mother replied: "That sounds interesting." Tune in for a good laugh.
It was also impossible not to howl your way through the first episode of the new MasterChef (BBC1, Tuesday). Even if you care nothing for the food, which I don't after nine series, you can still have a laugh with judges John and Gregg, who chunter away like Spitting Image puppets.
Indeed, sometimes Gregg will closely resemble the fantastic parody of him by Horrible Histories' Jim Howick, better known to us as The Shouty Man. Gregg was bellowing: "THIS IS MASTERCHEF!"
We know. We're watching it, too. When dessert arrived, he yelled: "I have a sweet tooth," before barking: "Are there any leftovers?" The last one is a lie. Gregg is now the face of a weight-loss company and has apparently lost 2st. That was until this series started.
Now he is dining on such delicacies as courgettes stuffed with saffron custard. Sorry? Nothing is right about that dish. If life is too short to stuff a mushroom, inserting something in a courgette flower must be conclusive evidence that we are living longer.
And what has happened to John Torode? He used to be Australian. Try cooking a stuffed courgette on a barbecue, mate.
It was also a strikingly young collection of contestants. They all used to eat ready meals until a month ago.
There are many versions of this show, such as "Professional" and "Celebrity" but I am yet to see Pensioner MasterChef, in which retirees can forsake their heating for one night to lightly saute such dishes as a "lollipop of guinea leg". That one is not a lie.
There is a new detective on the box. He was unusual for a detective. For one, he was not a complete depressive.
He is called Jimmy Perez and he stares at dead people in Shetland (BBC1, Sunday and Monday). Perez? That little known Scottish clan.
He was unusual for a detective. For one, he was not a complete depressive. He was a widower, yes, and was living with his stepdaughter but even that combination had not driven him to drink or into rehab. "A Scottish detective who doesn't drink?" I hear you bark.
Whatever happened to that wonderful stereotype? Perez was sensible too, genuinely wondering where his stepdaughter had gone. Thankfully, she lived up to the cliche, drinking from a dubious looking bottle of "pop" in the street. Ah, that's better.
In all, the two-part drama was a little flabby for my liking and quite difficult to follow in places.
Too much was also made of people failing to have a mobile signal (look forward to the episode on 4G) and the absence of trees on the islands. You don't say.
Finally, the Prince of Wales was the star turn on Countryfile (BBC1, Sunday). For most of the time it is easy to think of Charles as a complete chump. That perception was not completely erased after watching this but he did also prove quite useful on the farm, doing some hedging in a tatty coat, which some found shocking.
I found it reassuring. If it's revealed that he bought it from Savile Row already tattified we will all be very cross.
It is always fascinating to watch how mortal souls like TV presenters react when they are around Royals. Matt Baker needed a sedative while Julia Bradbury was the definition of up close and personal. Calm down, dear.
It's amazing what a few tears in a coat can do for your image.