Friday, December 14, 2012

The Branning Show: Tasteless, Vulgar and Tacky - Review 14.12.2012

What's about to strike the most prolific, most unliked, most sensationalist family in Walford ...

Let's hope it lives up to its expectations and opens the door for the departure of many more cockroaches  Brannings - namely Jack, Joey, Lauren, Cora the Bora and the new crew of characters TPTB have just thought up off the top of their heads, mostly to accommodate Simon Ashdown's Branning fetish ...

(really, one wonders if he humps Jake Wood's left leg), but also to make up the numbers of people surrounding the mingeing, moaning, self-pitying drunken, old man in drag

Cora ... you know, give her the rainbow family that made an ageing Madge think herself cool and relevant. Only with Cora, it somehow comes to resemble Waynetta Slob ...

(Really, all she ever wanted was to be swept off to Jamaica ...)

I suppose we have to suffer this lot of poor white trailer trash, because Christmas is going to overdose us in a way we haven't been overdosed since Twitney dominated the screens. They're like a cancer which preys on and eats everything. 

Frankly, it's got me worried - the Branning prevalence and Lorraine Newman's obstinate determination to reprise Molfie-cum-Bubbly's-in-the-Fridge all to reunite Kat and Alfie - that the new Head of Continuing Drama named today was none other than Kate Harwood.

(Cue Jaws music ...)

Why? If you recall - and I know many viewers on the likes of Digital Spy find it impossible to remember or willfully choose to forget that under Harwood's tenure, the show reached its lowest ever viewing numbers - little over 3 million for one episode. She also introduced us to the Brannings. Need I say more? Oh, and guess who-o-o-o was Harwood's Series Producer whilst she was at the EastEnders helm?

Yep ... Lorraine Newman. So the Court of King Simon continues, featuring the Branning (emphasis on Lauren's gurning) and Kat and Alfie's kabuki theatre, featuring Kat's tits. With the added attraction of Tyler Moon having a bigger part in the proceedings. (One hopes that's his ever-increasing girth).

OK ... let's get the best bit over, and that's the continuing Lexie saga. Yet even this was doused in Branningdom.

I can't understand why Sharon continues to live with Jack. She doesn't know a thing about him, he's proven what little understanding and moral and emotional support he has regarding people with addictions - does she even know he had dealings with drug dealers whilst he was in the force (as in on their payrolls?) Short answer: No.

Jack is out for Jack, with a trophy woman, and Sharon wants someone who will share in her parenting and mentoring of DamienDen. Jack could give a blue fart. He had to be coerced into taking the kid to school, just like he usually has to be coerced into doing something with Amy for Roxy. And although Jack couldn't be arsed to attend DamienDen's nativity play, he was quick off the mark to ask where Sharon was going, supposing she was hurrying out to help Phil Mitchell. Glad she said it was none of his business.

If Sharon's now so flush with her funds that she can dole out wads of notes for Lola to shop for Lexie, then why can't she take her boy and rent a flat, instead of living with a man whom she doesn't love and for whom she has no respect? I'll keep saying this: This is not Sharon. Even at her lowest, she would never prostitute herself to a man for a roof over her head;and as much as people who presume to be an expert on Phil, but who haven't watched prior to Grant's departure, like to decry the possibility of Phil Mitchell's influence on Dennis Rickman Jr, Jack would be much, much worse. Sharon doesn't know Jack. End bloody of.

And then when Jack - whose important meeting consisted of propping up a bar in the Vic, decided to attend the Nativity Play at the very end, Sharon succumbs to his non-existent "charm" by moueing up her mouth and going all Miss-Piggy-meets-Marilyn on him - the faux flirtatious act she executes so badly.

Jesus, help us.

One of the minor highlights of the piece was seeing Derek's and Jack's obvious ignorance on all-things-Nativity. Derek thought the kid was a Middle Eastern prince, as if this were Hallowe'en, and Jack thought he was one of the Three Kings. Yeah, they're seasoned fathers; but that begs the question why the kid was even going to school kitted out in his Nativity Play costume anyway. He gets to school before 9am; the play wasn't until 11:30, which meant about two hours of lessons and then getting into kit. Simples. 

Someone who writes for EastEnders doesn't have children.

Into all of this comes a particulary rancid smell ...

That's right ... hold your noses. Shirley's about, first banging down Phil's door, screeching at him because he'd won the temporary foster care order. Sorry, but someone please tell me exactly what right she has to kick off about this?

To Shirley, it's yet another example of Phil winning, of Phil getting what he wants. Does he want Lexie? Yes, he does; and the slip-up reference to her as "my baby" in front of Lola indicates that is exactly what his plan is. But it's not fair to say Phil wants Lexie as a replacement for Ben.

Phil wants the chance to succeed with one Mitchell child. Ben was out of his influential domain  from the time he was two until his tenth birthday. We don't know what went on in South Africa. We do know that before Phil had had much influence on Ben, Ben lost his cool and beat Freddy Mitchell, who was just an infant. There was always something not quite right about Ben, and whilst much of it may have had to do with Phil - his inability to accept that his son was artistically inclined, his on-and-off the wagon scrapes - a fair amount must have had to do with life with his mother as well. Louise has always been a tug-of-love between Lisa and Phil. In the end, Ben's in prison and Louise is nowhere to be found. What Phil wants is a final chance to do well by a Mitchell child.

Shirley is so bitter and twisted that she fails to see that Phil is hardly a winner. He's living alone. His siblings and mother live far away. He has little to do with the cousins who remain in Walford. His marriages have all failed. What's motivating Shirley is jealousy - jealousy that Sharon is back in Walford and Phil's close to her and getting closer. This is no longer about Heather and justice for her memory. In fact, she barely mentions Heather now. And, as a commenter on Walford Web repeatedly states, if Shirley wanted to do so, she could end any hope Phil could ever have of getting custody of Lexie, simply by doing what she should have done originally - go to the police about Phil's involvement in covering-up Heather's murder.

But she won't.

Instead, she jumps down Lola's throat when she sees her take money from Sharon, screeching that Lola is meant to be fighting Phil. Well, how precisely? Lola isn't sure, and Shirley doesn't know. Lola achieved so much on her own by showing attitude, didn't she? Sharon's caution is actually good advice. Lola has to take things slowly with Phil. She has to show him that she's worthy of his trust. At the moment, he just sees a kid, who's up to all sorts and is flighty. More than I can see Phil using Lola, I can see her becoming a pawn in Shirley's twisted battle against Phil and Sharon.

The other good bit tonight was Alfie's predicament, especially his scenes with Michael. Since the babyswap, we've rarely seen them together; and when we do, they rarely seem like family. But tonight was a cracker of a scene, from the initial one of Alfie phoning Roxy from the upstairs window, reminding her that he could see Michael, to the very end.

I found their exchange intriguing and creepy.

When he's asked to do so, Shane Richie steps up to the plate and delivers. He's wasted on this cheeky, chirpy chappy routine. The vignettes between Alfie and Michael were raw, unnerving and - if this makes sense - bearably unbearable to watch. This is the real uneasiness which exists between blood relatives, one of whom has cheated with the other's wife. 

Forget the easy swagger of Max and Jack Branning and the fact that Tanya lived with Jack for  full year whilst still married to Max, regularly humiliated Max and was planning on leaving the country with his kids. Forget the fact that they're so perfectly easy with that now that Jack can serve as Max's best man on their second (her third) wedding day. That's totally white trash.

The atmosphere between Alfie and Michael was believeable.

Although I find him interesting, I'm not a Michael shipper. To me, he comes across as someone totally absorbed in himself. He doesn't give a monkey's about how his behaviour affects other people around him. He's not worried in any way that he's slept with his cousin's wife, although it still bothers Alfie enough to think that, until the day before, Kat was having an affair with Michael.

(Aside: I see they've retconned the Michael-Kat thing again. Originally, it was a one-night stand when Alfie had sent her with their scam money to Michael when he was imprisoned. There was one night of sex, and Kat left the next day. Now it's something completely different. Now the sex occurred, not once, but several times, whilst Alfie was away and in Alfie's flat in Spain.)

I'm also glad Alfie reminded Michael that he knew what it was like to be cheated on, a fact which actually did hit that cold moral core of Michael, so much so that he couldn't answer a question Alfie had the right to know: Who came onto whom first? Well, the fact that Michael couldn't answer that makes it obvious.

But the corker of the entire scene was Michael literally telling Alfie that that's the way Kat always was and she wouldn't change, and - get this - it was better for Alfie to hold onto that, for Tommy's sake, than ditch her. I guess the kid's worth two of the mother, but who is he to tell Alfie just to let the slut get on with her ways? I mean, would he tolerate behaviour like Kat's been doing, if Janine were to do that to him? I don't think so.

Kat's behaviour now has an air of desperation about it, buttering up to Alfie, trying to keep him sweet, so she can cheat around some more someplace down the road, if that's the way she is and she won't change.

Really, Kat should go. She is a spent character. It's a tragedy (geddit?) that the people who created her destroyed her character, and I can understand any repair and redemption of the character is done, basically, to assauge the guilt and ego of an Executive Producer who didn't have the balls to speak out against the character assassination of an iconic character.

Cut your losses and go. And, please, please, please stop pushing the victim card. All the publicity photos of poor Kat lugging Tommy about on her hip, alone at Christmas time. She did this to herself. No sympathy. None was shown to Sharon when she cheated on Grant or to Pat when she cheated on her best friend Peggy with Frank Butcher.

And, finally, if you listened well, children, you learned something from this tonight: Alfie Moon felt his wife had cheated on him with his cousin. People whining about oh-they-weren't-togevvah-when-she-slept-wiv-Moichal can just take a back seat and shut up. They were married. He was in prison. Just because circumstances - work, prison, war - separate couples from time to time, unless they have their divorce papers signed and finalised, they are married. And any extra-marital dalliances enjoyed are considered cheating. Had he wanted, Alfie could have sued Kat for adultery with Michael the moment he found out that she was pregnant by him.

Now for the bad bits.

The Old Trout

That's Cora, by the way. I can't tell you how much her selfish, spoiled and childish behaviour has annoyed me ever since this Ava saga began. What a terrible old bitch she is! I'm surprised someone like Patrick didn't pick up on that pithy remark she made about Ava's long-lost father - about her waiting to be whisked back to Jamaica. which - I bet - she thought meant she could loll about on a de luxe hotel balcony all day with successive pina coladas in one hand and the ever-present fag in the other.

The boyfriend dumped her, she didn't have the moral fortitude Ava's white adopted parents had when they took on a supposedly mixed-race child to raise in the Sixties. So she spent the rest of her life acting like an asshole not only to her husband, but to her two remaining and impressionable daughters. Now all that arsey attitude indicates that because she gave Ava up, Tanya and Rainie were going to suffer.

People like Cora make me want to puke, and also people like Tanya and, yes, Abi tonight. Cora, actually, was right when she said that she had no right to expect Ava to accept her or want anything to do with her, because she gave up all rights to her when she signed the adoption papers.

As the wife of someone who was adopted when he was a baby, in the late Fifties, when things would have been very similar to the situation single mothers faced during Cora's era, birth parents have no right to expect anything. They handed their children over to strangers. Yes, some had a bad time with adoptive parents; but many were given warm and loving backgrounds and support, and the people who raised them are their family, not these assorted, gawping strangers who treat you like a newly-discovered relic. Sorry, Abi, Ava is not your aunt. She's the child your grandmother gave away at birth. She has an extended family all her own which has nothing to do with you, and if Ava had decided not to visit Cora, there would have been nothing Abi or anyone could have done about that.

The fact that Cora only softened and started to smile when Ava showed up, and even thought to ask about the results of Tanya's scan, was pretty pissy, in my opinion - get that, Luddites, it's my opinion. It's not fact, so stop trying to say that I say it is.

Although the usual suspects and shippers are pushing Ava as the coolest thing since ice water, I'm not buying this "permanent character" status yet. Why?

  • This was originally only supposed to be a five-episode storyline. Instead, when Newman met the actress at a casting workshop, she decided there and then that Ava would be a permanent character. The son was thought of later.
  • Ava and Dexter's arrival will probably mean Ray and Kim will leave. The actress who played Yolande sang like a canary when she left about the BBC's policy on EastEnders of ethnic minority quotae. There's always a constant number of Afro-Carribbean and Asian characters. When an additional one is added, someone leaves. When Don Gilet was hired, the actress who played Yolande was dropped. The Masoods were originally supposed to be Zainab, Masood, Shabnam, Tamway and Syed arriving later. When Shabnam left after a year, Syed showed up with Amira. Amira left, and Afia entered. Afia left, and we got Ajay. Syed left and now we're anticipating Ayesha. So the presence of two Afro-Carribbean characters, and the incipient storyline of Ray's dalliance with Denise, probably means Ray will go, and sometime soon, so will Kim.
  • Ava seemed an educated, well-adjusted, well-spoken professional woman. She spoke highly of her parents, even to the point of having rejected a temptation to look her birth mother up when she was in her late thirties. Besides, a woman like Ava would run a mile from a set-up like the Brannings and their satellites.
  • Remember EastEnders' traditional take on educated, well-spoken professionals in positions of trust ...

Also, Ava is supposed to be biracial, and the actress is not. She is black. Yes, I know the genetic variations of bi-racial people, but it's clear that EastEnders chose a black and not a bi-racial person deliberately. The final scene, shown tediously and tritely so many times on sitcoms and in films like Twins of Ava and Cora (this time, mother and daughter) sat in the launderette, drinking tea in a familiar syncronised pose was a more than obvious statement that they are really very much alike yet very different. Please, don't patronise me.

The other bits were insignificant flittings of Derek manipulating Tanya into a position where he thinks he's now Max's best man (is it that important?) and lobbying for poor Alice to be a bridesmaid.

One final observation: In Thursday's episode, Tanya whined at Max about him bringing home a real tree, which she found so poor and declasse', declaring that she liked their chavvy, white plastic tree, which she had up tonight. See, I did remember that correctly from Stax. 

Yet last week, when poor, pitiful Carol asked for a spare Christmas tree of which the Brannings had no further use, Tanya snobbishly replied that they only used "real" trees. What a liar. I wonder if Max even thought to deliver that tree to his Butcher nephews and nieces. Probably not.

Final note ... how good was it to see Phil Mitchell's tastefully decorated home, reminiscent of the taste Sharon showed when she helped him redecorate the Vic. Leads one to believe that the garish greens and pool table were all Shirley's taste. No class.

1 comment:

  1. I disagree with your comments about Michael's assessment of the Kat and Alfie relationship. I think he was bang on the money when he said take her as she is, or live without her. It's easy enough for the viewers to say, rightly, that Alfie's better off without. But she's the love of his life, Alfie knows it, Michael knows it. However little she deserves that, she's the only one for Alfie. Roxy might be a temporary bandage for him but she's not Kat. Just like Tiffany wasn't Sharon, for Grant. The heart wants what the heart wants. Pride and logic don't come into it.