Our Sunday columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:
There were two major new television dramas this week.
ITV launched child-murder mystery Broadchurch, while BBC1, as you’ll no doubt be aware, went for the ridiculous – Ian Beale and Denise Fox’s blossoming romance on EastEnders.
But it also gave us Mayday which was, in complete contrast to ITV’s offering, a child-murder mystery that turned out to be, let me assure you, no less ludicrous than events in Walford.
Five hours it lasted, over successive nights, making The Return of the King, the extended director’s cut, feel like a shortened episode of Peppa Pig.
You may have ducked out after episode one last Sunday night, so allow me to recap very briefly.
A teenage girl who’s “fed up with being the local saint with the little halo on” is abducted on her way to a May Day parade and murdered in the woods.
Everyone in the community is a suspect and, as events unfold, most are revealed to be hiding a dark secret.
In other words, it really wants to be Twin Peaks, minus the surrealism and damn fine coffee, but falls a country mile short primarily because, in comparison with the underbelly of David Lynch’s television masterpiece, the characters and their personal demons are, well, how shall I put this?
Just a bit rubbish.
There’s a secretive widowed dad who could be a hitman hiding the girl’s body in a cupboard and jet-washes his car suspiciously that suggests it might recently have been a bit muddy, but is actually an ordinary bloke who can’t overcome his wife’s death, yet we’re supposed to square this with him sleeping with every female in the town between the ages of 16 and 25.
A man named Steve is in a disagreement with the mother of his son over child access, while his brother likes to live in the woods and burgles houses to steal kids’ teddy bears, presumably to answer that age-old question about bears’ toilet habits in heavily forested areas.
And if that isn’t rock n roll enough for you, most of the early exchanges involved closet peeping Tom and property magnate Malcolm’s unsuccessful planning application for a housing development on greenfield land.
Edge-of-your-seat stuff, isn’t it?
Between an okay-ish opening episode and a neat twist 20 minutes before the end of the finale that I didn’t see coming, there were 220 minutes of dead airtime, with the exception of Lesley Manville who deserves accolades for her superb and increasingly comedic performance as Malcolm’s wife Gail.
It took 3hr 21min before the dead girl was finally found – around the same time in the third Lord of the Rings movie that Frodo was considering getting on that ruddy boat – by which point I would have gladly volunteered my own body.
The fact is that if you’re going to ask an audience to devote five nights on the trot to a television drama, it’s got to be outstanding with a pace as rapid as Channel 4’s brilliant Homeland.
That hasn’t happened with a British show since BBC1 Iraq war drama Occupation four years ago, coincidentally made by the same production company as Mayday, and crucially lasted just three successive nights.
This week’s series well and truly jumped the shark midway when it went all new-age druidism nonsense with whispering trees, and the lines got cornier as it went on.
“I couldn’t have harmed her. She was an earth spirit, and the woods wouldn’t have allowed it.”
“If my parents found out, they would hate me. I would basically be an orphan through loathing.”
I can’t deny, however, that it didn’t get one thing bang on – the programme title.
Mayday is, after all, the international distress signal.
The BBC has decided to play the youth card by choosing 61-year-old Bonnie Tyler as the UK’s Eurovision representative, which leads me to this prediction.
Bonnie Tyler, 1976, Lost in France.
Bonnie Tyler, 2013, Last In Sweden.
Channel 4, Thursday night, What Destroyed The Hindenburg?
A massive, massive fire.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes go to:
Ant and Dec’s Jeremy Kyle USA prank on Saturday Night Takeaway.
Lesley Manville salvaging what she could on Mayday.
Saturday night TV hero Richard Osman hailing contestant Ben Miller as the comedy half of Armstrong and Miller, telling host Alexander Armstrong: “When Ben’s on I’m laughing, I’m doubled up, and then you’re on and I think here he is, the comedy grim reaper.”
All-Star Family Fortunes having the nerve to ask Penny Lancaster’s team the question: “Name a bird that has very long legs.”
Sky1’s excellent sports panel show A League of Their Own’s series highlights show that aired immediately after BBC1’s dead-horse sports panel show A Question of Sport: 1,000 Not Out.
And Vanessa Feltz as Cher (mutton dressed as Spam) on Let’s Dance For Comic Relief, with judge Arlene Phillips telling her she was: “Channelling the 80s.”
She could have carved the Channel Tunnel dancing like that.
Father of 11 Mohammed Salim on yet another C4 shock-documentary 16 Kids And Counting: “I think I just followed what it says in the Bible: go forth and multiply.”
I have similar sentiments for the same-old, shock-doc battery farm, one-trick ponies at Channel 4.
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates go to:
The BBC axing voice of cycling Hugh “lit up the burners” Porter.
Rolling news channels believing Justin Bieber apologising for being slightly late for a gig is “breaking news”.
Sue Perkins’ pretentiously right-on Heading Out failing to deliver a single laugh in two episodes.
The Deal Or No Deal banker bribing a reluctant groom-to-be £5,000 to propose to his fiancée on the show.
Dancing On Ice’s Gareth Thomas suffering “motion sickness and memory loss”, when I’d give anything for those symptoms at 9pm on a Sunday night.
Animal Antics threatening a second series.
Phillip Schofield on Wednesday’s This Morning: “Forget Gangnam Style. Today it’s all about Rylan style.” Isn’t it flippin’ always.
And David Tennant saying Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch script has: “Great humanity. Chris shows immense understanding of the human condition.”
Just a pity, then, that the immense understanding of a Dorset accent was from the Norfolk area.
Name change required for BBC1 technology show Bang Goes The Theory, with new presenter Maggie Philbin.
Yet more diagnosis expertise now from those medical fonts of all knowledge at Embarrassing Bodies.
Dr Pixie McKenna: “Let’s get you seen by a specialist.”
Dr Christian Jessen: “Let me send you off to have a chat with someone.”
Dr Dawn Harper: “The best thing for you is to see a specialist. I think it will make it a lot better.”
And Dr Dawn again: “I think it’s worth going back to your GP and asking them about a possible referral to a surgeon. Glad you came in?”
He doesn’t know what he’d do without you, Dawn.