Television Review – Late Review, MacIntyre Undercover, Extremely Dangerous, Hippies, Casting Couch

Final Answer

(Originally published in TVS Magazine, December 1999)

The sheer pointlessness of Craig Brown’s occasional appearances on Late Review (Thursdays, BBC2) was further highlighted recently when the snotty doofus sniffed at Donal MacIntyre’s attempts to make a documentary about hooliganism. Brown, who in 45 minutes barely managed not one honest and well-thought out opinion, said that MacIntyre’s efforts were pointless because we knew what hooligans were like.

Brown – whose usual contribution is to inarticulately say he didn’t like things that other people have articulately said they’ve liked – is one of those idiots who gets his appearance fees by being entertainingly obnoxious. Tony Parsons wasn’t the only person who was livid with the smug git.

The actual programme under discussion, MacIntyre Undercover (Wednesdays, BBC1) was heralded by a Radio Times front cover; the appearance of which on the nation’s news stands must have really pleased the people he duped over the course of the series. Our hero went undercover with a thuggish carload of Chelsea fans, acquiring a genuine CFC tattoo in the process. For the rest of the programme you could only watch through hand-covered eyes as he hung around the sort of people who would kick the shit out of you for talking about last night’s Seinfeld.

Brown missed the point of the show by quite some distance. Yes, we know what hooligans are like but that doesn’t make them less fascinating. People don’t watch Coronation Street because it’s the same characters every night. We watch it to see what happens next and, in doing this with a remarkably brave (or stupid) reporter, the BBC have conjured up one of those ‘much watch’ shows they habitually produce.

ITV, having got rid of News At Ten, have been wallowing in the huge ratings they’ve been getting as a result. Must see TV, for them, usually involves night after night of Chris Tarrant saying “final answer?” ad infinitum, or at least until the infinitum ads manage to interrupt him. “I just got us a personal loan,” is my current favourite. So they can afford to relax when something like Extremely Dangerous (Thursdays ITV) arrives direct from the U-Bend of Network Centre.

Sean Bean, who almost had a film career for a moment there, plays a man convicted of the murder of his wife and children who breaks free of his captors on a train. Sounds like The Fugitive doesn’t it? Well you can forget about that pal! Because rather than disguising himself and running around furtively like Harrison Ford, Bean cunningly conceals himself by cutting off his pony tail and getting a job as a taxi driver.

“Are you sure you’re not going to change your mind? You’re going to go with that answer?” Having successfully hidden himself away it’s up to the viewer to try and find the plot. Bean looks gaunt and doesn’t say much. Juliet Aubrey walks around with little on. Ralph Brown has never looked balder. Did Bean kill his wife? Who was he working for? Who was he really working for? No doubt there are answers to these questions but being gripped is failing to materialise in my mindset. “You had £32,000…”

The first episode of Hippies (Fridays, BBC2) was as good as a first episode of a new comedy series can be. Perhaps you can reassure me though. There are comedy actors who aren’t called Simon Pegg aren’t there?

There were two major shocks recently in TV land, both acted out on a Monday. Channel 5 actually came up with an original drama called The Alchemists which, wait for it, wasn’t half bad. Meanwhile Casting Couch (Mondays, ITV) goes someway to disproving the old chestnut that ITV can’t do comedy shows. All they needed, it seems, was to employ the genuinely funny Mel and Sue. They must be kicking themselves.

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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