Monday, November 26, 2012

The Branning Show: Secrets and Lies (and Gurns) - Review 26.11.2012

Let's start off with a song, everyone ... an appropriate one ...

OK, when is a drama unintentionally not a drama? When it's concerning a group of unlikeable characters with no redeeming traits, with the surname Branning and written by Simon Ashdown, who worships at the altar of BranningVille.

Performance-wise, there were some good moments in this episode tonight, but you know? I fucking didn't give a rat's ass, basically because I couldn't give a monkey's about any of the characters involved. For drama to work, the viewer has to have something or someone in which or whom to invest. It's hard to do that when there were only two characters about whom I care anything (Max and Patrick) and they both played minimal parts. And, I'm sorry, shippers, but a middling performance by a jobbing actress who spent the bulk of her career on the peripheries of the boards tread by Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judy Dench, by way of giving the character she portrayed a belated backstory, does little to raise my sympathies for Cora at all.

Jamie Foreman is just winging performances, hamming it up with no regard until his final payday arrives, and Witts and Jossa's lack of talent is as evident as their characters are pejorative.

The aftermath of the crash was as underwhelming as the crash, itself, although the special effects people tried their best to make it gripping. It wasn't. I imagine David Witts, playing "unconscious" was willfully telling himself "must-keep-gob-closed."

I watched this with my sixteen year-old and we both were wailing about why Joey and Lauren couldn't just be involved in an explosion or electrocution and die. True to form, Joey's first word - Lauren's name - was damned near unintelligible ...


No wonder she didn't respond. And when she did, her icky, shrill screaming was more annoying than anything else. Jossa is a one-hit wonder. She did well during Branning week last week, most likely because she was associated with Jake Wood and people always raise their game around him (except for Witts), but she's done little since then, but gurn and invest in the tweenybob-xTonix fanboi hype about her, as well as work hard at being Tony Discipline's beard, resulting in some pretty unimpressive performances and projecting a character who's arguably one of the most dislikeable on the programme. I couldn't help notice, however, as much as she had a gash on the head and screamed that she was "covered in blood," her expensively manicured nails remained immaculate.

Ashdown is the head honcho amongst the EastEnders' writing room, but his dialogue, at times, was cheesy and amateurish, especially the crap dished out in the first scene between DelBoy and MahAliceMahAngel.

"Joey wants ter split us up." (Really, Del? You and Alice a couple, then?)

As laughable was Derek showing his "angel" his plump, soft hands, more the hands of an accountant than those of a hardened EastEnd criminal, someone who was brought up hard and on the edge.

Oh, and when you're desperately trying to help someone escape from a wrecked car, which is about to blow up any moment, you take time to answer your phone. If you've time to do that, then why not call 999, yourself, in the first place?


Anyway, not to worry ... help is on its way ... Jim Dandy, er ... I mean Derek the Toad.

Derek groaning "no ... no no no no no ..." was risible, as was his rescue of the star-crossed lovers. Please. The most pukeworthily embarrassing scene of the night was as Lauren and Joey lay on the pavement in the aftermath of the explosion, the shot of her hand reaching out to tenderly clasp his ... Please. Stop this embarrassingly amateur contrived scenes. It might titillate the tweens and the xTonixes of the world, it might cream the y-fronts of the fanbois, but for anyone who's watched any length of time (i.e., since before 2000 and definitely pre-Shannis) and who hopes against hope that the tripe will evolve into sirloin steak again, that scene was crapiola.

Believe me, Joey and Lauren are not these people ...

They're more like EastEnd versions of these people ...

Here's a question: Does Derek know that Lauren tried to kill Max by running over him? She was too young to drive then, but certainly, if the coppers found that she was driving Derek's car, taken without his consent, and driving under the influence, with her record, she would be looking at some time in Holloway. (Please, please). If he did, he certainly manipulated the situation to his advantage in an effort to get Joey back in the family fold ... but quite honestly, is it that important to his ego to have his children on side, almost as an affront to the ex-wife we've never seen? 

Also, blackmailing Tanya like that doesn't make sense. The last thing Tanya would want is Lauren facing a jail sentence, so Derek has her over a barrel, figuratively speaking. No, Derek is not Lauren's father, and he didn't rape Tanya. I just feel that everything for the remainder of the year, until Christmas, is going to be all-things-Derek. This crash, as much as it set the stage for EastEnders to promote (as in force-down-your-throat) a tween couple with about as much chemistry as a case of herpes, is also to set up Derek's downfall and to introduce us to a gaggle of prospective perpetrators in his murder.

Derek is disgusted at Joey's and Lauren's fucking around - hey, he's got that in common with Tanya, who - yet again - was coerced by Lauren into harbouring yet another secret from Max, the man she's about to re-marry. That's not setting Max up on a pedestal - he's obviously hiding something from Tanya; again, it puts her on the same level as he. If she truly is better than Max, and she doesn't approve of her flesh and blood having it off with her own flesh and blood, then she should tell Max.

Wasn't it only just the other day when Derek burst in, angry about being exposed as a numptie in front of Jackie Bosch, that Tanya smugly remarked that she and Max had "no secrets."

I feel another song coming on. If they ever made a musical of EastEnders, Tanya could sing this song to Max ...

In another borefest that we'd all figured out ages ago, in the most simplistic terms, we saw how Joey is just like his old man. Derek gives Joey Hobson's choice - tell Alice the truth (that he banged himself in the face to make Derek look bad and move back home, or dump Lauren). Rather than tell his sister the truth about himself, he dumps Lauren.

Who's the real Joey? The one who told Derek Lauren was just a bit of skirt or the one who boo-hooed and broke up emotionally - well, as emotionally as David Witts is capable of doing. This is another insult to the viewers' intelligence. This is no love affair. It's not even love. For the better part of Joey's existence in Walford, he's been boning a bag of bones, who happens to be Lauren's best friend. He snogged her other BFF in the Brannings' kitchen ..."because he could." Then, suddenly, based on the positive feedback and wishful thinking of the lowest common denominator of viewer, they moved Joey into the Branning home, let Lauren show him her drawings (oooh, matron) and they fucked. And now, they're in luuuuurrrrve after a week. And now she's dumped, and Lauren's crying like the spoiled brat that she is ...

Maybe Joey left her a little souvenir, who'll look like this, being the progeny of cousins ...

Now onto the real nitty-gritty, Walford's version of A Taste of Honey.

Well, Morman Girl will certainly be happy that Max supported Tanya tonight, even though Tanya was wrong.

The only time I ever like Cora is when she's telling Tanya some valid home truths about herself. I know tonight was meant for the viewer to see Cora in a more sympathetic light, and also to ooh and aah over Ann Mitchell's talent. (Sorry, I don't worship at that altar). Coincidentally, considering the discussion going on on Walford Web about Cora's coldness and aloofness, the Cora-Tanya two-header addressed that - but it came across to anyone who's watched Cora since she appeared on the show a year ago and listened to her dialogue, and marked her behaviour, as yet another retcon to suit the current situation.

The truth is, Cora came across, from the very beginning as an ageing good-time girl. A slightly more up-market version of Rose, but definitely someone to whom Shirley would definitely aspire in twenty year's time. Or Kat.

She got rat-arsed at Tanya's hen party and baited Vanessa. She was buzzing and drinking from a flask on the way to Tanya's wedding, reminiscing about how she was five months' gone with Tanya when she married Tanya's father. She was drunk and baiting Rainie to vandalise Greg's house, when they were leaving it because he'd sold it to Janine.

As Kate on Walford Web reminds us, Cora and Patrick spent an afternoon plying an underaged Abi with booze until she puked her guts up on the Branning carpet. Tanya was appalled and concerned, but Cora dismissed it all as Abi "growing up." Cora was coerced into babysitting Oscar, got drunk and Oscar fell down the stairs. Later, instead of encouraging Abi to study, she told her that her priority should be supporting her thieving, ASBO'd single mother friend who was after Abi's boyfriend to be her babydaddy.

In the entire last year, we never once saw a reflective moment on Cora's part, even remotely intimating that she'd had a child long ago, whom she'd given up for adoption.

More than the slick scene between Joey and Derek, meant to show us how utterly like his old man Joey was (and failed, because of the woeful talent of the younger actor and the "fuck-it" attitude of the older), the Tanya-Cora scenes showed us indelibly how awfully alike Tanya and Cora were, and how their personalities were driven by selfishness, as well as a penchant for making themselves the victim and passing the buck of responsibility.

Last year, and on several occasions prior to the discovery of the mysterious birth certificate, Cora has been outspoken in saying that her late husband was the love of her life, and she had no need to marry again. Now, all of a sudden, the single motivating force in her life and something which drove her to be cold and distant from the children she did keep, was the innate guilt she felt at giving Ava away.

I'm not the biggest fan of Tanya. In fact, I dislike her intensely, but what a cruel and hard-hearted thing to say to your child. Admittedly, it wasn't Tanya's remit to find Ava, and her motives were entirely selfish - she at least admitted that she only wanted to see what she looked like, and after she met her, she realised that she would leave this issue alone - whereupon, Cora deftly played the race card, insinuating that Tanya didn't want to know Ava because she was black.

I'm willing to bet that that was part of the reason that Tanya was initially shocked, but I'm also of the opinion that Cora, herself, was projecting here. Because that was a large part of the reason that Cora gave Ava up for adoption. Cora wasn't a child when Ava was born. She wasn't fourteen like Ronnie Mitchell or Kat Moon or even Carol Jackson. She was eighteen and an adult. She knew the score then regarding unwed mothers, even moreso unwed white girls who got pregnant by a black man. But as Arthur Lager pointed out on Walford Web, Cora's first priority is the bottle. It's totally probable that she was drunk when she slept with the black sailor and got pregnant. So Cora's playing the oldes trick in the passive-aggressive book and projecting her foibles on Tanya, as if all this were her fault.

It seems that poor widdle Tanya was never hugged and cuddled and told what a good girl she was, something that struck a nerve with Cora, because she then started playing the victim about blaming herself for her husband's cancer and for Rainie's addiction (which was probably true) and ending everything by saying her entire attitude throughout her entire life issuing from the moment she gave Ava up for adoption was down to that act. How to make you children feel like pieces of shit. Just as well Rainie wasn't there, she'd have overdosed on booze and heroin, hearing that. 

So, Cora threw a massive pity party and took out her anger on herself on her innocent kids and probably on her husband too. How selfish is that, and also, I got the massive impression tonight that her sulk was a result of Ava having walked out, effectively rejecting her.

Ava needs to be smart and run a mile from that lot. At least, for once, Tanya was honest enough to admit how nice, smart and well-adjusted Ava was, which only seemed to anger Cora more.

Cora isn't some vulnerable and poignant woman caught in the mores of her time and eeking out a life of guilt. She's a selfish, bitter and twisted old seahag, who's raised a daughter in her own image.

The scene with Patrick was superfluous as well. The fact that Patrick was brought into this thing by his divulging Cora's secret to Tanya was such a blatant plot device and miles away from the character of Patrick as we know him.

But don't worry, Ava will be back, and she'll be part of EastEnders' and Simon Ashdown's Project Matriarch, much to our dismay.

A bit better for those scenes, but still too much Branning. When will EastEnders become EastEnders again?

Update: The absolute highlight of the show was Tanya managing to get her ass handed to her twice on a plate tonight - by a drunken Cora and also by Derek. His remark about her always looking down on people and reckoning herself better than they when she was nothing more than  scrubbed-up white trash was the epitome of truth.


  1. Fantastic analysis. Too bad Freemoron000 of Digitalspy is obsessed with the idea that "Cora is Selfish and has no right to be angry at Tanya"

  2. Performance-wise, there were some good moments in this episode tonight, but you know? I fucking didn't give a rat's ass, basically because I couldn't give a monkey's about any of the characters involved.

    This describes my thoughts exactly. Since you've already said all there is to say about BranningVile let's turn our attention to the slobbering Eastenders fanatic dan2008. More concerned with how many trending topics Eastenders has on Twitter than the quality of the episode.


  3. dan2008 should type EastEnders shit or EastEnders acting into Twitter search to help explain why EastEnders trends on Twitter.Something trending isnt a sign people think its any good.The crapness of Jacqueline Jossas acting was a talking point on Twitter last night.It wasnt complimentary.Fanboys should type in EastEnders acting into the search engine and see for themselves!