TV Review – The Planners, Lizard Lick Towing, World’s Most Dangerous Roads, Forget The Oscars, Here Are The Kermodes, Bob Servant Independent, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway

Industrial Vernacular

Welcome to the red-nosed, trouser-dropping world of Council Planning, wherein dull local government functionaries go about the business of allowing appalling buildings to be built with nary a brown envelope or tap to the side of the nose. The Planners (BBC2) looked at Chester’s Leadworks, of which only the distinctive tower remains. It was actually built in Napoleonic times, used to make lead shot.

Seeing how Napoleon is not much of a threat anymore you may think it would be long past its useful best, but it only closed 11 years ago and has been quietly rotting away ever since. Enter Chester’s Lead (not lead) Planner Fiona Edwards. “If I was responsible for seeing this tower disappearing, I’d have a lot to answer to.” It’s always worrying when someone seems more worried about their own legacy than the city’s, but she has got a plan.

Some developers want to remake the area into 1,000 square metres of shops, restaurants and apartments. Even Chester has been taken over by charity shops of late, but it’s nice to be optimistic. The architect arrives at the site. He’s called Matt Brook and he’s got a tiny mouth through which he forces an awful lot of words, most of which are quasi-architectural rubbish. “We’ve tried to give it more of an industrial vernacular. It’s lead-ish.”

His ‘lead-ish’ design features two buildings either side of a big tower that looks more, well, ‘penis-ish’. In fact, those bollocks, I mean buildings, look familiar. The jet black cladding is strongly reminiscent of Liverpool’s gruesome Mann Island, the obsidian blindfolds that obscures one of the waterfront’s great views and threatened its World Heritage Status.

Whilst Matt drones on (“You feel a weight of responsibility dealing with a building at this point in its life cycle, because if we can’t get this scheme to move forward you’re onto a vicious circle…”) suspicions are confirmed when an objector goes to Liverpool to ‘do some research into the architects’. Uh-oh. Apparently, Mann Island’s architects are not only still in business, but they’re peddling their Carbuncle Cup-nominated work to other poor saps.

The appropriately named Matt doesn’t care. “I’d much rather create a building that forced people to have a reaction to it.” A reaction like getting a World Heritage Status revoked? Time for the massed ranks of the Planning Committee to leap into action. Visiting the site in a minibus, they resemble an old people’s home on a day trip to some Roman ruins.

Opponents argue their case before the Planning Committee. “Alien and cheap… brutal and gloomy… cheap and ugly…” You’ve said ‘cheap’. The Committee are wont to agree. One of them thinks the architect needs to be shot. Matt is actually sat behind her but he doesn’t immediately see this as a murder threat, no doubt used to it. Fiona, vessel of the developers, sees which way this is going and withdraws the bid on their behalf.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of it. The architects momentarily lick their wounds, “We’ve never had that kind of objection from anything other than single objectors,” says Matt’s boss, somehow mistaking the entire population of Liverpool for a single person. But they come back, guns blazing, with exactly the same plan except the cladding is grey (“zinc”).

Unbelievably, this is accepted. No-one even threatens to shoot anyone. What changed in the meantime? We may never know for, despite presented as a behind-the-scenes exposé, nothing on-screen can explain this volte-face. Well done Chester, you’ve got your own Mann Island. In the shape of a grey cock and balls.

Still in the world of reality programming, and almost as unbelievable, is Lizard Lick Towing (Dave), a show so false that it has a quality disclaimer at the beginning. Even Dave have got standards. Lizard Lick Towing is unapologetically American trash TV, which must be in short supply as this is so manufactured it could come with an endorsement by Henry Ford.

Lizard Lick Towing are a repossession company, consisting of three wacky people and others who can’t be as interesting. Ron is the boss and looks like a wrestler dressed as a skate punk with a Donald Trump haircut. Amy is also the boss and also looks like a wrestler, but she’s otherwise normal. Bobby is Ron’s apprentice, who doesn’t seem to possess a brain. But he’s American so he gets by.

Their first task is to repossess a truck in the backwoods of their snowy part of North Carolina. Ron is wary, knowing from experience what can go down in the backwoods. He’s right. A shotgun-wielding Hick in army fatigues meets them and, with an impassioned “Y’all aren’t taking my daddy’s truck!” showers them with petrol and threatens immolation.

Ron and Bobby beat a retreat back to the office like the US Army withdrawing from Saigon. But the Hick rings them to apologise for his uncouth behaviour. He now wants y’all to repo his daddy’s truck. Ron, changing out of his petrol-soaked clothes, is now even more wary. “About three hours ago you was madder ’n a wet hen at an omelette scramble,” he tells the Hick over the phone.

Brainless Bobby is keenly optimistic for recovery. Ron responds with more carefully scripted North Carolina wisdom. “I know you’re all roostered up but I’m not feeling so cock-a-doodle-do.” Unwisely, Ron listens to Bobby. “It’s a trap!” Admiral Ackbars Ron. The Hick attacks again with what looks like grenades but aren’t, otherwise there’d be bloody body parts everywhere. Throughout, the Hick’s face is not pixellated. Either he signed a release form or he’s not actually trying to kill anyone.

This all happens in the first ten minutes of a very short half hour. Our tame morons move onto other things, such as repossessing a herd of deer during which Bobby ‘hilariously’ shoots Ron with a tranquilizer, and Amy employing a massive comedy black woman who had previously tried to ‘hilariously’ rape Bobby. Lizard Lick Towing was originally shown on TruTV in the US. It fits, as it’s ‘true’ but not really.

Our reality shows are slightly more sedate. In a recent episode of World’s Most Dangerous Roads (BBC2), Jessica Hynes scared the effluent out of the Earl of Grantham whilst bombing over mountain passes near the already scary Chechen border. Vertigo-sufferer Hugh Bonneville went pop-eyed whilst his hands desperately tried to grip any substantial surfaces within reach. The recently qualified Hynes apologised, once Bonneville regained something of his admittedly pasty colour. “I got through a few driving instructors.”

Now that the extravagantly meaningless Academy Awards are over with, one must look back at the unextravagant Forget The Oscars, Here Are the Kermodes (BBC2) and compare. Overly bumptious film critic Mark Kermode really liked A Royal Affair, a Danish film that compares badly with Danish TV. To top it off, he picked Sam Mendes as best director for Skyfall, a decent film, badly directed. The Oscars won’t be forgotten anytime soon, Mark.

Talking of Hollywood stars, the Brian Cox who isn’t a slightly camp Mancunian professor has been donning a badger moustache and slumming it on Bob Servant Independent (BBC4), portraying a fictional Dundee man-of-the-people-whether-they-like-it-or-not, now standing for parliament. This week saw Servant appear at a by-election debate, albeit only broadcast on BBC Local Radio.

Servant’s fiercely loyal agent Jonathan Watson urges him to ‘go Braveheart’, much like Johnny Cochran’s vaunted and infallible Chewbacca Defence, to which Servant is at first reluctant. But sensing defeat by the more erudite competition, Servant ups the rhetoric. “Give us our freedom!” Shame the originator of this manoeuvre was an anti-semitic Australian.

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Takeaway (ITV1) returned with its stars yet to go doolally, despite them telling the world that they’ve taken drugs and one of them voted Conservative, perhaps as a result. Nancy Reagan never came up with a better Just Say No Kids message. They’re also currently in an advert for Morrison’s saying how great supermarket meat is, not the best thing to be doing at the moment.

Going doolally is the inevitable result of appearing on such high-profile shows. Primetime Saturday night, when there’s always millions of families watching, has driven many a so-called ‘light’ entertainer over the edge. But Ant and Dec have survived this bear pit for a long time now.

“Woo-hoo-hoo, I love fireworks!” geordies Dec (or maybe Ant) in the opening introduction. They’re combatting their critics by using their main weapon against them: Twitter. They fetch a prole from the audience who’s an obsessive recorder of their own life and effectively mock her timeline. They even get her favourite boy bands, no longer boys, to mock-sing some of her tweets, but she seems delighted.

Feeling she hasn’t been humiliated enough, they do a Have I Got News For You missing words-style round of particularly inane tweets, but she knows the answers before guest announcer David Walliams has finished reading them. Lesser hosts than Mr. McPartlin and Mr. Donnelly would be annoyed by this refusal of a non-celebrity to not accept their unworthiness, but they laugh along. Yes, they are genuinely good at what they do.


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

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