OUR Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:
In the 2003 film Love Actually, the love lives of eight very different couples were played out by an ensemble cast in a series of various loosely interlinked tales.
So it’s a complete mystery as to where writer and director Dominic Savage got his inspiration for BBC1’s True Love, in which the love lives of five very different couples were played out by an ensemble cast in a series of various loosely interlinked tales.
The result? A brutal cut-and-paste job on behalf of the Margate Tourist Board, a town which, by the looks of it, had experienced the zombie apocalypse and was left deserted.
Though there is one crucial difference with Richard Curtis’s movie.
Savage’s offering was an “improvised drama”, two words that put the fear of God into any discerning TV critic.
You see, we’re dealing with “ac-tors” here, not the wit of Greg Proops on Channel 4’s Whose Line Is It Anyway?, who want to show off their “ac-ting”.
And what was painfully obvious from the first of five episodes this week is that ac-tors need a script with actual lines for them to say.
Instead, Savage left them with a rough outline of the story and huge gaps for them to fill with dialogue.
What they delivered was a two-and-a-half-hour awkward silence which, despite this, does deserve a little bit of slack, hamstrung as it was by the BBC for launching it during a major football tournament and thereby having to deprive it of a primetime slot, after the 10 O’Clock News.
There was one truly beautiful episode, the penultimate one, with perfectly judged performances by Jane Horrocks, Charlie Creed Miles and Alexander Siddig (real name Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abderrahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi – I’m not making this up).
But if the Beeb had aired True Love at 2.15pm, Monday to Friday, it would have been almost indistinguishable from Doctors.
In fact I’m certain the sex scenes were added only to ensure it made the evening TV schedules.
However, the devil is in the detail.
Savage turned episode three’s student/pupil lesbian fling into an abridged version of Waterloo Road and chose a cast of typecasts, notably ac-tor David Tennant, Billie Piper and Lacey Turner, who’s really picked up some unshakeably bad soap-opera habits.
And so the series can be summed up as thus: Doctor Who was cheating on the head housemaid from Downton Abbey with This Is England’s Lol whose sister, EastEnders’ Stacey Slater, was in turn being cheated on by the security guard who lost his leg on heist-gone-wrong drama Inside Men.
Magically his leg had grown back so he could have an affair with Ray Winstone’s off-screen daughter Jaime.
Meanwhile, Rose Tyler/Belle from Secret Diary of a Call Girl was sleeping with Effy from Skins, whose best friend was obsessed with her on-screen dad David Morrissey.
And Jane Horrocks was also having an affair, with chief medical officer Lieutenant Julian Bashir, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
And if you think I’m being glib, my point is that I wanted to believe these characters but their previous roles clouded every moment.
A cast of unknowns could have swung it, but even then the series’ recurring themes would have remained just as infuriating.
Episode one: Infidelity. Episode two: Infidelity. Episode three: Infidelity. Episode four: Infidelity...
You get the idea.
Morrissey did some soul-searching by going to the beach and gazing at the setting sun. As did Charlie Creed Miles. As did Ashley Walters.
In complete contrast, Tennant did some soul-searching by going to the beach and gazing at the rising sun. A small but unimportant difference.
Honestly it was like some god-awful Carla Lane self-indulgence.
So I don’t think I’m being overly harsh when I suggest True Love should have been given a different title inspired by the pen of Richard Curtis.
John Barrowman promoted his forthcoming tour on Wednesday’s Daybreak: “I’m doing four outdoor dates. I am watching the weather forecast because apparently it’s going to rain every night. But unless the police stop it, I will be singing.”
Hello, is that 999? Yes. Police, please.
Loose Women’s Janet Street-Porter discussing strict dress codes: “At Royal Ascot you have to be appropriately dressed.”
Don’t worry, Janet. Just show up in your usual attire and you’ll get in no problem.
I’m thinking saddle, reins, bridle, stirrups...
Poor old Phillip Schofield. There he is, week in week out, having to listen to some drivel from a never-ending string of psychics, ghost-hunters, astrologers and other paranormal mumbo-jumbo peddlers on This Morning.
So it was heart-warming for those of us who choose not to believe in the ludicrous to see this consummate TV professional’s mask finally slip, twice in the space of three days.
It began on Tuesday during an interview with “angel whisperer” Kyle Gray who “can see people’s guardian angels”.
Schofe maintained his incredulous silence as this buffoon banged on about his first contact with one such being: “I was looking at this guy at a family barbecue and I saw a white light appear behind him. The angel looked at me directly in the eyes and said ‘tell this man he’s a survivor’.”
Either proof that angels do exist or, possibly, that the chicken could have really done with a couple more minutes on the barbie.
When Gray went all Bruce Willis, in The Sixth Sense, on us (“From a very early age I started to see deceased loved ones and relatives all the time”) enough was enough and the presenter called him out:
“We’ve met so many frauds and fakes and rip-off merchants. Many people are gullible. You say you’re not in it for the money?”
The bloke insisted he wasn’t. Shortly before plugging his book.
And with that, Schofe was off and running. Angels, apparently, leave feathers from their wings as “calling cards” and, wouldn’t you know it, Gray had only seen one on the train on the way to the studio.
Move aside, Richard Dawkins, and make way for Phillip Schofield: “It wasn’t pigeons?”
So by the time Russell Grant appeared on Thursday’s show, Schofe wasted no time in dismissing his hogwash and made no attempt to disguise his look of disdain as the astrologer told a caller, self-employed Carol, from Southampton, that because she had “lots of planets in Gemini and Jupiter is crossing this placement”, she should get some advice about her business from an accountant.
And he’d read Prince William’s horoscope: “The Sagittarian element gives him wonderful optimism. He’s just gone through a Saturn return and we all go through a Saturn return and...”
Russell. Uranus is talking.
The barrister presenting BBC4’s The Strange Case Of The Law: “My name’s Harry Potter and I specialise in criminal defence.”
Or to give it its full name, Criminal Defence Against the Dark Arts.
BBC1’s Pointless Celebrities host Alexander Armstrong told home-improvement duo Colin and Justin: “It would be pretty bad if DIY comes up and you didn’t know the answers. But there are lots of areas of knowledge that come from DIY, such as tools.”
Colin: “We know all about tools.”
The hazards of working on BBC daytime, I suppose.
Week two of Euro 2012, where Gabby Logan’s campaign against sexism in football reached a nadir when she asked Wayne Rooney if he used hair products, ITV’s punditry was in a different league to the Beeb’s and not just because it didn’t have Chris Moyles and Comedy Dave as red-button commentators, and Uefa’s goal-line technology amounted to a man with his eyes shut loitering on the byline.
And there’s no let-up in the Colemanballs flying in from all quarters.
Jonathan Pearce in Warsaw: “The old 10th Anniversary Stadium here had rather crumbled into repair.”
Lee Dixon: “I still think West Germany will reach the final.”
Andy Townsend after Portugal’s Raul Meireles’s shot hit the side netting: “He has got to go for the far post, Clive. If you’re going to miss that, miss it far post.”
Yes, missing it that side is much better.
Jake Humphrey at Poland v Czech Republic: “Welcome to a very sticky night for the final game of the tournament.”
Apart from the 13 games to follow.
Martin Keown: “Ronaldo has got an incredible spring. He’s like an NFL basketball player.”
Or even an NBA one.
Keown again, watching a replay of Howard Webb changing his decision from a corner for Portugal to a Czech Republic goal kick: “I think they’ve got it wrong here. It really should be a corn... no... it comes off... again a good decision.”
And Gary Lineker’s out-of-control puns, which are the 2012 answer to Dermot O’Leary’s X Factor dad dancing.
After Poland’s exit: “I sense the scenes in the Gdansk fan park are fairly miserable. Must be murder on Gdansk floor.”
And following Seville midfielder Jesus Navas’s winner against Croatia: “That’s it from us on the night Spain won the group. It was Navas in doubt. Sorry.”
Not sorry enough, Gary.
There was an hour-long EastEnders on Wednesday. Somebody cut their arm on some broken wine glasses.
Next biannual update at Christmas.
This Week’s wisecracking wannabe comedian Andrew Neil on the tax avoidance scandal: “I wouldn’t like to be doing Jimmy Carr’s next stand-up routine.”
That’s nothing, Neil. Imagine the audience’s disappointment if you showed up.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:
BBC4’s haunting Ukraine’s Forgotten Children.
The Thick Of It repeats on the BBC HD channel.
The genius Adam Richman’s Man V Food on Dave.
This line from the narrator of DMAX channel’s Jodie Marsh: Brawn in the USA: “Jodie wants her 60 seconds in the bodybuilding spotlight to stand out. So she’s enlisted the help of Twist and Pulse.”
Carol Vorderman teeing up the next guest on Loose Women after Lisa Maxwell said: “I have an issue with women who just promote the way they look without anything underneath.”
Vorderman: “After the break, Katie Price.”
And, courtesy of This Morning, 28-year-old Biannca Lake who’s slept with more than 200 men: “Touch wood, I’ve never had any sexual diseases.”
Don’t touch wood and you never will, Biannca.