The bad, the good and the unnoticed

To those of you who have been eagerly waiting for this week’s TV review, my apologies for the delay which was caused by a combination of life getting in the way and my being in a state of shock at discovering that the BBC will be broadcasting two new Stephen Poliakoff dramas next year, which is nice of them, especially as they’ve also got new series from Jimmy McGovern and Tony Marchant too.

While we wait for those to arrive, though, we have to make do with everything else they put on screen to fill the gaps between the good stuff. Some do well and become good stuff themselves, while others fall forgotten to the bottom of the television memory hole, which is surely where ITV are hoping Chris Evans’ OFI Sunday will end up.

Saved from winning the title of ITV’s worst programme this year only by the fact that someone in the hierarchy thought Celebrity Wrestling was a good idea worth throwing a large budget at, it’s perhaps the convinving proof that Evans is the ultimate example of being in the right place at the right time. TFI Friday was a fresh piece of television in its day, taking the best bits from The Word and The Tube adding in various ideas stolen from David Letterman before anyone in the UK had heard of him. It wasn’t ground-breaking TV, but it was funny and entertaining until it reached the point when Evans was eaten by his own ego, a process that would continue throughout his career. But, like the man in the casino on a lucky streak, it seemed all Evans had to do was just keep repeating the same actions and he’d keep doubling up.

Unfortunately, just as roulette wheels don’t keep landing on red, so tastes in TV change as well and it’s only painful when you don’t notice it. After attempting to repeat Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush with Boys And Girls (an idea so lazy they hired uber-annoying talent-vacuum Vernon Kay to host it just to ensure it annoyed) and seeing it flop like every other ‘new’ idea he had, Evans must have been delighted when ITV – proving yet again that there’s no well-worn furrow they won’t plough – came to him and asked for a new series. And if you’re wondering why I’ve spent so much time discussing his earlier career, it’s because I’m trying to replicate the spirit of an ideas meeting for OFI Sunday which is nothing more than Chris Evans’ Greatest Hits, repackaged and without even the benefit of anynew material to make it worth buying. There are better things to do on a Sunday night like sleeping, putting the rubbish out or watching the repeat of Rome on the BBC than watching this.

Meanwhile, Channel 4 have done something different for once and commissioned a new series in a genre they’ve never tackled before. Despite having been the home of Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and other American cop shows over the years, The Ghost Squad is Channel 4’s first British-made police drama series. While it may not have been worth waiting 23 years for, it’s definitely an interesting addition to the genre. Taking the ‘who watches the watchmen?’ idea of Between The Lines and running with it, the series centres around the police urban legend that ghost squads – officers sent undercover into police forces to root out corruption – still exist. It’s a clever narrative device in that it allows to feature different areas of police work every week while addng in the deeper dramatic questions of just how many off-white lies are acceptable to discover the truth and how much does it cost someone personally to go undercover within an organisation where thats the norm?

While it does occasionally circle around the prospect of disappearing into the navel it’s contemplating – as happened with Between The Lines where the officers’ personal crises would overwhelm the main investigation at points – the first two episodes have shown a lot of potential for the series with good writing matched to good acting. Elaine Cassidy shines as the star of the series, but Jonas Armstrong and Emma Fielding give good supporting performances as do the weekly guest stars, mostnotably Cal Macaninch as a seemingly doomed heroin-addicted officer. Definitely one worth watching, not least because high ratings for it might prevent Channel 4 from cancelling it in favour of yet another series about how to buy a house.

Finally, one new series I missed in my round-up of new comedy last week was Sensitive Skin probably because, although it’s very funny in parts (including Jonathan Miller getting a laugh on screen for the first time in what feels like decades) to classify it as merely a comedy would be to reduce it in someway. But then, as it comes from Hugo Blick, who made Marion and Geoff with Rob Brydon, its subtle mix of tragedy and comedy is perhaps not too surprising. It’s one of those TV series that are good but threaten to slip under the radar of public awareness only being remembered occasionally in years to come by those few who watched them while mediocrity sweeps up the awards and claims the notoriety and memory of everyone else. Though as Blick was also involved in Operation Good Guys, it’s a fate he’s used to. Sensitive Skin isn’t a series that’s going to make you laugh out loud, but it’s a much better use of half an hour’s TV watching time than Little Britain.

  1. Ooh missus! I’m sure as sure is sure that Jonathan Ross (OBE I do believe) stole most of Letterman way back for the Last Resort — that would have been 1986 or 87.