Monday, December 31, 2012

The Branning Show: Bad End to a Bad Year - Review New Year's Eve 2012

This time last year, we were preparing to say good-bye to Pat, in an episode which was taken over by Derek threatening her on her death bed, and Max and Tanya, one who hadn't spoken to Pat since December 2008 and one who'd never spoken to her in her life, making it all about Tanya's cancer cold.

This time last year, Yusef had just died, but Afia was still around, Tamwar was in hospital suffering from burns, Jane was there, and Christian, and Ricky and Mandy. Bag o'Bones Beale was about to slither in. We'd never heard of Joey Branning or My Aaaa-aaassss. Janine still graced our screens. Heather was still alive and spending the holidays with Andrew.

So much happened in the space of one year, but for every good episode that occurred, there were about ten shitty ones which wiped the good out, the way Andrex does excrement. Except in this instance, the exrement remained.

I don't know where the seam that was Bryan Kirkwood, who took a show which had been consistently bleeding viewers for the better part of a decade, and sent it into freefall, seeking to create Hollyoaks BBC, ended and where Lorraine Newman's responsibility began, but I'm not seeing anything different in the quality of the thing - not in the acting and certainly not in the writing of the thing, especially as evidenced tonight in one glaring error that occurred and for which the glasses should be summarily smacked off Lorraine Newman's face for allowing this. More of that later.

As the Christmas season ends, EastEnders can pride itself in winning the ratings' Christmas battle with Corrie, but can it win the war in months to come. It's easy to say that one programme is probably on par with the other, especially now that Corrie have confirmed that Weatherford's very own Princess Sarah Louise Platt (Tina O'Brien) is returning in 2013 - the prettiest 26 year-old mother of a teenaged daughter in soapdom. Short-term stopgaps for both EastEnders and Corrie are bringing back old characters (Bianca, Sharon, Leanne, Sarah) and sensationalist storylines (serial killers, tram wrecks, explosions and fires etc). They get bums on seats, but the aftermath kills all interest.

Tonight we had what exemplified the entire year - a mediocre episode ending a truly mediocre year.

For all those who'll come on here steaming about the gongs EastEnders has won, that's all about audience participation - and popularity. And that which is popular is not always that which is artistically the best.

Let the games begin...

New Year's Eve on the Square brought about some surprising observations ...

The Party of the Century. It was the best of times and the worst of times for the Masoods in 2012. Zainab spent the better part of 2011 under the thumb and domination of Yusef, who preyed on her self-esteem, beat her and never let her forget that in his eyes and in the eyes of many, she was a fallen woman. She was traumatised to the point that she actually allowed her husband, Masood, to be disrespected in his own home, on the word of Yusef, and the pair got a divorce. 

After the Yusef debacle, we saw little of the Masoods for weeks, and when we did, it was as if Yusef never existed. It was back to the Goodness-Gracious-Me routine - Zainab dominating proceedings, being judgemental and hypocritical and playing it for the laughs. The only time Yusef was mentioned was when Zainab inherited his fortune, handed it over to Kim and Denise and then tried to dictate how the money should be spent.

The Masoods' highlight of 2012 came with Chryed's wedding and the revelation of what a pusillanimous little prick Syed was and is, when Masood called out some well-needed home truths about Zainab and her constant favouritism towards Syed, ending with Masood kicking her arse out. But ...

That fizzled out, when Zainab returned, forced her way back into the house, called an end to Bonfire Night celebrations and unsuccessfully tried to turn over a new leaf. It truly ended when Chryed left for pastures new, with Mas caving and forgiving Syed for being a prick.

Tonight's debacle, dubbed "The Party of the Century", was yet another mad sitcom moment with the Masoods - Zainab and Ajay pretending to like each other, whilst Zainab thinks he's onside to steer Ayesha, the Geordie girl (another cast addition who could do with elocution lessons), in the direction of sullen Tamwar and whilst Ajay is intent on spiking the punch at the party after telling everyone it was fancy dress with a Star Wars/Star Trek theme.

For those of you who think there will be an affair between Zainab and Ajay, dream on. Ain't gonna happen. Tonight's storyline was the same old same old - teetotal party, someone spikes the punch. Ian showing up as Mr Spock with Denise as Princess Leia was blatant foreshadowing of what is about to happen between this couple. I seem to recall the last time drinks were spiked at a Masood party was when Syed and Amira were about to hold a housewarming and Syed came out of the closet. This is a redundant theme - a Masood party means someone is about to spike the drinks.

The highlight of the party was that there was no highlight - Mas announced that the registry office had just confirmed (in the middle of holiday season) that they could be married on Valentine's Day, 14th February, which is - as we all know now - one big, fat red herring, because Nina Wadia is leaving. In fact, Valentine's Day will probably be her last episode.

Tears on his/her pillow ... A sad song for the Masoods ...

Observations: Ajay needs to comb his hair. And speaking of Ajay, when Zainab leaves, the household will consist of Ajay, Tamwar and Masood - a sort of The Odd Couple meets Two-and-a-Half Men. Ajay slobbingn about, Tamwar uptight and Masood playing Murray the Cop and mediating. Another bad sitcom, probably with endless epic fail storylines about how all three guys hope to score with the right girl and nothing comes of it.

I can't see any of the three lasting a year after Zainab's departure, although I'll stick my neck out and say that I can see Mas probably getting something together with Ava down the line of the year, considering that his dream is to be a teacher and she would offer encouragement in that respect. Who knows? And is Ayesha supposed to be long-term? She needs to speak up. I know her character is supposed to be shy, but this is ridiculous. And, please, someone get Steve McFadden to do a masterclass in "How to Play Drunk" both for her and for Jacqueline Jossa. They are both bloody embarrassing.

Lola the Dumbass Chav. Well, of course, the baby got an allergic reaction from having adult body cream smeared all over her forehead and cheeks. Some people on some fora couldn't see the harm in that, but listen up ... children, particularly babies, have tender skin. That's why they have special products for themselves. Adults can use baby products - e g, baby shampoo makes adult hair really soft; but babies and small children can't use products designed for adults.

For the record, Lola smeared coconut oil creme on Lexie's face, the same cream Shirley was using in the Salon last week - when she remarked that it smelled so good, she didn't know whether to use it or eat it. Lola was working and should not have brought her child to the salon - various workplaces do not allow children of staff to be brought in - for health and safety reasons. I recall when Ian and Cindy Beale were running the cafe, and were reported to Health and Safety about having the infant twins on the premises because Cindy couldn't get child care - Kathy was being obstinate and refusing to help out, until Pauline read her the riot act. I wouldn't think a small child or an infant, the child of an employee, would be allowed inside the salon either.

Lola got off easy with Phil's change of heart on this one, but she was stupid to have done that, and you would have thought that Mother-of-the-Year, Shirley, would have realised that at the time. Actually, Tanya could have suffered a lot worse. Phil could have sued her business for this, and she would have been in trouble big time.


Peggy Mitchell, deemed to be Lexie's godmother and for whom Lexie is her first great-grandchild, refuses to come to the christening. Why? Because Sharon is involved. Sharon will be there. According to the show tonight, Peggy sent Phil a text wherein she succinctly points out why she objects to Sharon's participation.

But ... if you've watched EastEnders since Shannis, you'd know that Sharon and Peggy reconciled and were close at the end of Sharon's last tenure. Sharon even spent her last weeks after Dennis's death, living at the Vic with Peggy and Phil and being cared for by Phil. In fact, just watch Sharon's last day on the Square, including her very last scene, and tell me if she and Peggy parted on bad terms ...

Now, guess who was Series Producer when that episode aired? Right. Lorraine Newman. And guess who was Executive Producer? Kate Harwood.

There is absolutely no excuse for that lazy piece of shit writing that worked its way into the script tonight. Newman signed off on this. The writer was wrong. If Newman wants to continue Bryan Kirkwood's bad habit of retconning everything, then she needs to understand that long-term viewers and those of us with more than one braincell in our heads are going to call her out and criticize her on her inconsistency. She should know better, and if she doesn't, then she's obviously in the wrong job.

The OBJECT Desired.


Plus this:-


(That's Sharon when she's with Jack the Peg).

She's at her cringeworthiest whenever she's in a scene with him. There is absolutely no chemistry, no concern, and her actions seem forced and false. Juxtaposed tonight were scenes she shared with Steve McFadden, and it was like watching a totally different actress, so relaxed and natural was she.

I hate the little moues she does with her mouth - in an imitation of a hen's ass; the batting of the eyelashes, the husky sexy voice, as if she wants to make Jack cream his knickers right then and there. And yet, in the recent past, when her guard is down and Jack's true nature comes through, it's obvious that she dislikes him or the potential of what he could be.

When Phil asked her, some weeks ago, how much she really knew about Jack, her face was a picture. She'll know and does know the sob story about James and the swap, but does she know that Jack's fathered three children on two sisters and their cousin - a cousin, who was once Sharon's sister-in-law? That's right. If Sharon marries Jack, she'll be a stepmother to Sam Mitchell's baby. Does she know that Jack has four children with four different women, only cared about one and that his idea of being a good father to the other three is to stuff cheques in the post for the mothers?

Two things of note:-

  • Where, exactly, did Amy figure in Jack's Christmas this year? If I recall correctly, he had temporary custody of her last Christmas and made it difficult for Roxy to see her, resulting in Roxy showing Amy her Christmas present in the street outside the Brannings' window. Amy was in the Square this year, spending Christmas with her mother and the Moon ragtag contingent. But Jack has made no mention of Amy, not since he started playing babydaddy to DamienDen. Even Alfie and Kat, who aren't, understandably, on the best of terms under the circumstances, ensure that they both get to spend an equal amount of time with Tommy. And even though Roxy and Amy have been now ensconced in the Vic, Alfie's clear he isn't going to forget Tommy's existence. But Jack hasn't even mentioned Amy.
  • Bryan Kirkwood's ultimate coup - signing Daniella Westbrook for Hollyoaks. Sam's in Portugal, with her son Richard, living with Grant. The door was always open for Westbrook to return to Walford, and she's got every reason, having Jack's son. But now Westbrook can't return as Sam, because she's someone else on Hollyoaks. The only way Sam can now return to Walford with baby in tow is if Newman asked Kim Medcalf to reprise her version of Sam, which was as different from Westbrook's as chalk is from cheese.
So Phil's interested in Sharon now, just admitting to himself his feelings for her; and he wouldn't be wrong to feel that way, especially with Sharon offering herself up to him as part and parcel of his family - proof positive that, even though she married her pretty toyboy, the Mitchell in Sharon runs deep. 

Phil's declaration of intent to Jack tonight at the end of the episode made one thing abundantly clear - that Jack views Sharon, not as someone with whom he's in love, but as an object of which another man, at another time, had a claim and wants to renew that claim, but which he, Jack, wants. Just like as a child, when Max had something Jack wanted, Jack had to have it, until he got it and then he lost interest.

I would say that Jack's interest in Sharon has peaked according to her association with Phil, which was why Jack resorted tonight to petty, tale-telling regarding Phil's outburst to poor pitiful Lola in the cafe. It really was none of Jack's business, and if he'd looked a bit closer at the culprits involved, he'd have realised and noticed the following:-

  • Billy Mitchell has, on occasion, willingly made his infant son and disabled daughter homeless, resulting in him robbing from a charity box that Peggy maintained and having to beg accommodation in the Vic.
  • Lola has not only allowed Lexie to be smeared with adult beauty cream, she's also smeared her foot with chemically enhanced paint and refused to take the child to the GP for nappy rash, instead stealing ointment off Janine.
  • If Jack were using his other braincell, he'd realise that Lexie's godfather, Jay, was the one who distracted Ben the night Ben was babysitting Jack's daughter, Amy. The boys went to ransack Jack's apartment, leaving Amy alone, and she almost drowned.
  • Cora the Bora, the drunken old man in drag lag, was left in charge of Oscar one time. She got drunk, and the kid fell down the stairs and ended up in Accident and Emergency.
What was singularly amusing was that this panel of losers were sitting in judgement on Phil's decision to take Lexie to the ER for this allergic reaction. Phil is fostering Lexie. Doesn't that silly bint chav Lola realise that some incident like that could not only result in her not getting Lexie, but Phil losing foster care of the child?

Cora needs to keep her drunken mouth shut.

Another observation: Why isn't Jay at the Brannings comforting his girlfriend Abi in her hour of grief for her uncle? Are we also to assume that Lauren the Lip, drunk girl of Walford, and Abi have been left on their own in the Branning house whilst Mummy Dearest and Daddy Max are off frolicking in Spain?

Kirstie Branning, Woman of Mystery, and Michael Moon, Vampire. Arguably, the best scene of the night, when Michael offered to buy Kirstie a drink in the Vic, and Kirsty blew him off,

Kirsty (over her shoulder as she walks off): Haven't you heard? I'm married.

Michael (to himself): Funny thing. So am I.

As much as I love Janine and eagerly await her return, I like this dynamic that's forming, which leads me to wonder if Ms Brooks's return is solely for the purpose to collect her child, dump on the husband and disappear? Something in my water tells me Janine is not long for Walford after her return. I hope not, but Kirsty is certainly a welcome addition. Particularly poignant was Kierston Wareing, after that scene, when she walked alone into the foyer of the pub and her face fell.

Also, did I detect a naughty little double entendre in the Minute Mart scene between Kirsty and Michael about Kirsty's job of blowing all those balloons? Naughty Colin Wyatt.

Bianca Is Still Poor But She Is Obeying the Law and Michael Moon Is the Wolf at the Door. 

(Cue Bianca's music).

Bianca is still poor. Yet, she and Carol live in a house that has all the modcons. There's even a wine cabinet in the kitchen, with various bottles of wine in residence. They are poor, but not too poor for Carol and Bianca to crack open a bottle for the new year. Liam has a SmartPhone. They aren't cheap. The kids have a laptop and internet access, yet there's seldom food in the house, and she had to send them out to beg for their dinner recently.

As someone pointed out, Bianca would be receiving child benefit for Liam, Tiffany and Morgan. She shouldn't be working for tips; that is against the law. Carol is working full-time, Tyler is working full-time; and if Whitney is still working gratis at the nursery, it's time she got off her lazy arse and found a job. All three of these adults, plus Bianca, could be and should be contributing to the family coffers. Liam, also, is working illegally at that fast-food joint. Liam has just turned fourteen, but is played by an actor who will shortly turn seventeen. I hope that the writers remember this.

Bianca called the bizzies about Liam fencing Derek's dodgy gear, which suddenly had disappeared, and, of which Liam knew nothing. Yeah sure.

We now know that Liam's partner in crime is Michael Moon, which makes him the natural successor to Derek in punching down. So we exchange one reptile for another. The Toad King is dead, long live the Lizard King.

Shortly, Michael will be wanting Phil Mitchell to launder some of the dirty money he's "inherited" from Derek. That's something you don't ask Phil Mitchell to do. Why do I think Janine will be on Phil's end of this, in order to exact revenge?

Kabuki Theatre: Where Roxy Morphs Into Vanessa. So Alfie seems to have Tommy now. No surprise there. Kat's holed up at Slater Arms,  avoiding My Aaaa-aasss, and generally feeling sorry for herself. So poor Kat, the victim, shows up wanting to spend a few minutes with Tommy on his birthday, and leaves to hear Alfie inviting Roxy to move into the Vic, and to witness him give her a long smoochy kiss which is anything but just friendly.

Roxy looks like the cat (pun intended) who got the cream, and Kat looks like the cat about to puke a hairball. Well, that's her own fault. Did she really really really expect Alfie to come around, play the monk and eventually take her back? She's still not even apologised properly for treating him like shit. Oh, she's apologised for getting caught, but that means nothing.

Alfie's moved on too quickly with Roxy. And, like the Masood's non-existent wedding date of Valentine's Day, we know that most of 2013 will be the elaborate kabuki dance of Alfie flitting between Roxy and Kat, conflicted all the way, until his tenth wedding anniversary arrives, conveniently next Christmas, and he renews his vows to Kat. 

And Roxy will morph into Vanessa, but without the bubbly's in the fridge moment.

I have a strong suspicion that a baby will further conflict the matters. 

Same old same old.

Happy New Year, let's hope this one is better for EastEnders than the last.

Update- for those poor souls on Digital Spy who still think Alfie is infertile: He's not. Kat miscarried Alfie's child in 2011, prior to her having shagged the deliveryman. Alfie then had his fertility tested by Yusef, who told him that fertility levels vary from time to time in men. He could have been under stress in Spain (like, the stress to get Kat pregnant) or he could have misunderstood what the clinic were saying or even the clinic could have been mistaken.

Also, Alfie has a grown child floating about someplace, because prior to marrying Kat, he told her he got a girl pregnant when he was eighteen, which would make the kid near thirty now.

If Kat is pregnant, considering she's been having sex with Alfie since he partially found out about the affair and it's dubious whether she'd slept with Derek since, then it's a fair bet the child will be Alfie's. But, hey ... Roxy could fall pregnant too. Maybe Alfie is this year's Jack.

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