Remote Control - TV round-up
Brian Donaldson finds that comedy-drama is often a fraught coupling.
There are few things on British TV more comedic and dramatic than Johnny Vegas’ shape. Showing that he has a lot of guts, the northern funnyman graces Benidorm (STV, Thu 1 Feb, 10pm - 3 stars) with a full frontal exposé of his plentiful girth after having saved a kid from drowning in a shabby hotel pool. In stark contrast to the manic stage persona which launched Vegas in the mid-90s, he seems content to do gentler comedy these days, though the best line in the first episode belongs to ex-Lyceum boss Kenny Ireland when rather crudely describing his wife’s private parts.
There are a few snide comments made about Liza Tarbuck’s size in Bonkers (STV, Thu 1 Feb, 9pm - 1 star) but this is the least of the crimes committed by this awful show. La Tarby is a wife whose 20th anniversary celebrations come to a crashing halt with sexual revelations spilling out from all angles, but the hackneyed straight-to-camera delivery and flaccid dialogue are not the worst thing, as the pitiful Randall and Hopkirk-style finale throws the whole thing yet further into farce. Not so much bonkers as utter cobblers.
Thieves Like Us (BBC3, Mon 5 Feb, 8.30pm - 3 stars) has its overly-familiar sensibilities too with a wisecracking duo, though not of the crimefighting variety. This pairing is a couple of modern day nifty crims who indulge in a series of non-threatening Hustle-esque japes involving widescreen TVs and valuable teapots. While entertaining enough, it’s another marked sign that BBC3 isn’t firing on quite as many cylinders as once it was. Desperados (CBBC, Wed 7 Feb, 5.30pm - 3 stars) is a further attempt by the kids schedulers at the Beeb to inject more issue-based drama into the nation’s bairns. This all goes back to the days of Zammo being off his head on smack in Grange Hill while last year we got an admirable piece based on 7/7. Here, we get the dreadlocked guy you might have seen moshing in his wheelchair on those BBC links, driving around some mates for basketball practice. The key storyline revolves around a young chap whose footballing career was blunted after an accidental collision on the pitch with his best mate. Now locked in his room watching footage of his once sublime penalty kick technique, he is dragged out of his melancholic stupor by dad and forced to confront the outside world. The clunky acting occasionally lets down the whole thing, but for sheer verve, it has to be applauded.
While being a distinctly modern show about today’s genital-obsessed, partying schoolkids, Skins (E4, Thu 1 Feb, 10pm - 2 stars) has a very bizarre 60s feel to it. If Michael Caine’s Alfie had been given a mobile phone and eyebrows like Nicholas Hoult (who you may recall as the weirdo whippersnapper from About a Boy) he may have ended up something like this. There’s a bit of masturbation, some voyeurism and oodles of posh chatter about spliff but the one-dimensional characters and flaky writing will have you tearing your own skin from those winter-beaten bones. Often, when you permanently separate the comedy from the drama, the results are far more pleasurable. Party Animals (BBC2, Wed 7 Feb, 9pm - 4 stars) is a prime example. A kind of updated This Life, replacing horrible legalese with almost human political researchers and a take on last year’s The Innocence Project but without the Scooby Doo stereotypes, its script is sharper than a White Paper cut and the opener’s violent climax should have had you reeled in for the series. Just don’t expect to smile much.