Sunday, August 3, 2014

Meatloaf Week - Review:- 28.07=01.08.2013

Why meat loaf? Well ...

Yep, in a week which saw three episodes, two out of three weren't bad. It was also the week I gave the highest praise I've ever given to this producer, even though it couldn't shut the rude mouths of spoiled schoolboys who have been given their own way in having family life revolve around them ever since they were messing their nappies. A certain species of fanboi is still doing this, trying to play hardball with adults when he really ought to be consigned to the naughty step until his own drop and he sounds like an adult in timbre anyway.

By the end of the week, however, even before the ,last episode, I was back in distrustful mode. Even though I praised Dominic Treadwell-Collins to the hilt this week, I'm all too aware of the impression he made on me during various of the old Revealed episodes - coming across as the snide, giggling kid in the back of the classroom, who thought he was far more clever than the teacher. That's the eerie impression I get now, the fact that I think he's snookering the long-term viewer into believing that he had something big planned for Sharon, when all it was all along was a major way of invigorating the Mitchells at her expense by integrating the remaining ones with the Carters, who - like Topsy - seem to be growing at an alarming rate.

Already we know that they are going to cast Sylvie and many of the fanbois are revealing their stupidity and their lack of common sense -first in demanding that Prunella Scales, Timothy West's wife, who is suffering the early stages of Alzheimers, take the part (It wouldn't hurt her to do a few episodes, surely?).

If that bullshit isn't enough to grab you by the short and curlies, they're also demanding the casting of "Andy", the man who is supposed to be Mick's biological father. 

Has no one learned anythin from the Branning years?

Already we have Shirley, Dean, Mick, Tina the Retard, Linda, Lee, Johnny, Nancy, Stan, Babe the Anti-Pat and Tosh the satellite. We have Zsa Zsa and Carly with her new husband someplace off-screen. We have Elaine, Linda's mother and God knows how many extended relatives she'll bring. Now you're asking for Andy, who'll probably have a wife and at least three children to horn into the programme. Those aren't satellites, they are entire galaxies. The show was in serious danger of becoming The Branning Show for three years. As engaging as the Carters are - and they can also be in danger of overexposure - familiarity breeds contempt.

Just remember.

The Naughty Step.

Monday's Episode: The Living Dead

Hands up, all ye who never once thought Nick was in that coffin! Brilliantly understated duff-duff on Monday, with Carol answering Charlie's mobile,which he left behind. For someone who's supposed to be a policeman (and we know he's not), Charlie is pretty damned careless with his expensive phone. He duffed it at Dot's sometime back, which resulted in her getting to meet his mother Mrs Doyle - sorry, Yvonne, who's not been seen since. However, I have to say that I don't think Nick is in on what Charlie is up to. I also have to say that I like Charlie, even though I still think he had something to do with Lucy's death (I have to put that caveat in). 

I also have to give credit where it's due to Dominic Treadwell-Collins - for this episode (and here's where the snookering begins, I suspect, as much as does Charlie's psychopathic snookering)  for giving us beautifully nuanced characters once again - Charlie springs to mind, with the advice he gave to Liam, and then there's Mick Carter. The only downside to Mick is that he's played so well and so against type by Danny Dyer, that some producer or casting director someplace, in a Class A film, will offer him a dream part and he'll go. 

Although I didn't like the Carters' reaction on Monday night to the fact that Tina had been selling cannabis in the cafe, which resulted in the Butcher children ending up, innocently, with a stash, and their abject begging that the Butcher-Jacksons not go to the police - I mean, who do they think they are? Their sister not only endangers the existence of a vulnerable family, she also endangers the legitimate business of someone who employs her and, thus, the livelihood of many other people - I loved the way Dyer played a blinder: conflicted, with a warped sense of morality in recognising that what Tina the dimwit had done was wrong, but wanting to protect his family in that skewed way that's so endemic in EastEnders, mingled with the shame of having to fight her corner. Mick is the father of children, and Carol was right to remind him that Social Services had been all over that family like a bad rash, just to let the shame sink in even further. 

As much as I hated to see the lot of them -especially Tina the dimwit court jester and the abominable Babe - get off the hook, I understood Carol's resigned rationale. She gave Tina licence to sell weed in the cafe, and Tina could very well have told the police of Carol's knowledge of what she was doing, and that wouldn't have bode well for the Butchers.

So there are two great examples of nuanced characterisation - Charlie (or Not-Charlie) Cotton, a bad man with likeable qualities; and Mick Carter, a good man, who's Achilles heel is his devotion to the skankier part of his family.

One aside - I'm wondering if Liam is considering a career with the police, the way he asked Charlie if having a juvenile police record would harm chances of getting on the force. (Charlie, as we reckon, isn't a policeman, not even an undercover one).

The most poignant moment of the episode was when Carol contemplated her impending operation in front of the mirror in her room. This was a re-enactment of Peggy's facedown of her own cancer operation in the late 1990s, but every bit as powerful.

Tina and Babe, on the other hand, are pathetic. I hate them both. Tina is awfully, awfully sorry to all concerned - awfully sorry she got caught, so she pulls the sad five year-old routine. Tosh was right to kick her out. They're supposed to be in a relationship, and Tina can't even tell the woman she loves the truth. Not once.

Dialogue of the night:

Tosh: You lied to me.
Tina: I didn't lie.
Tosh: But you didn't tell the truth.

I loved the fact that none of Tina's bullshit was lost on Linda, even if the kids thought it was a big joke. Shirley was concerned, but only mildly so until she sussed that that pernicious piece of shite called Babe was getting Dean involved in her racket. Was it Shirley or was it Mick who stated to the Butchers that Babe had a way of getting people involved in her racket. Once again, Linda was the one who refused to buy Babe's bullshit,when Babe offered that half-arsed apology of only looking after her family, but soon after, all it took was the return of Lady Di to divert any blame and attention from that old lag.

I'm convinced Dean will be gone after a year. Dean is going to be Shirley's Nick, because everything he's done now has been down the pejorative route. He's still playing the outsider card. I'm not sure whether Dean will push the pot in the salon or whether he intends to use this in some way against the Carters. After all, as Dean says, he's done bird. Maybe his plan is to frame Mick. Or Shirley. Either way, Shirley has cause for concern.

Sharon vs the Mitchells. She means business. I loved the look on Roxy's face when Sharon sacked her. I loved the brief scene between her and Phil and the way the Mitchells, as a whole, think they can control Sharon. Is Sharon only after the Albert or is after the lot? She says she's doing this for Denny, but I'd have hoped she was out to floor Phil, and I do hope she sticks around for the fall-out. The Mitchells are seriously long overdue karma.

Whitney and Lee, please. What is it about Whitney's romances that bore the piss out of people? Lee was a nice, interesting character before someone had the bright idea of pairing those two.

They were the downer on this episode.
Tuesday's Episode: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I gave that episode an 8. I would have given it a 9, but for 2 things - the fact that Katie Douglas wrote it (and although it was a good ep, even a broken clock can be right twice a day) and the bulk Carters at their worst - chiefly Mick, the Court Jester and that evil old bee-yatch Babe.

Stars of the show ... stand up Carol, Sharon and Shirley.

And nuance. What a multi-layered episode. Dominic Treadwell-Collins, the man who put the nu back into nuance. Whoda thunk it? (See, at this point I'm still praising him).

Best to divide the stories into three, because they all somewhat interlace in a way.

Carol's Story.Easily, the best of the lot, and the fact that Lindsey Coulson has never won a major award is shameful after tonight's performance. First of all, It's Dad (the message on the phone) might not necessarily mean "Dad" is Nick. OK, he probably is Charlie's dad, but there's more to this than killing off Nick by say-so and a phoney funeral. There's something more here. Nick's reputation and Dot are means to an end.

Now, we know definitely from the announcement that John Altman is returning to reprise the role of Nick Cotton. For the benefit of the Millennial fanbois, who think EastEnders really began with its 2.0 phase in 2006, here's a sample of very early Nick, from the first year of the show, featuring a bunch of people they won't recognise and will never have heard of, including the late David Scarborough, who was the first actor to play Mark Fowler, and to whom the young actor who plays TJ Spraggan bears an uncanny resemblance.

This was in 1985, by which time, Not-Charlie Cotton would have been just past his toddling years. Hard to believe, knowing what we know now, that Nick was a father when these scenes were taking place.

Charlie's cock-and-bull story he fed Carol was just that - a load of bullshit, charmingly delivered, but Carol made sure her feet didn't tread in it. Throughout this whole ordeal with Charlie, whom I find a fascinating character, I found myself believing that he really did become emotionally attached to Dot and wanted to be part of a family - and herein was Tuesday's theme: people on the periphery of a family - but then again, especially in the beautiful blinder Carol played in the scene at the hospital, I realised that psychopaths were very manipulative people and have the ability to be extremely likeable and charming.

Someone on a forum is adamant in insisting that Charlie could, in no way, be a psychopath. The same person probably says the same thing about Ronnie, thinking having a baby would redeem her. Not so. In the words of that great psychopath, Wednesday Addams, pychopaths are able to blend in the crowd and appear normal.

And EastEnders lurrrves them some psychopaths - Stella, May, Yusef, Archie, Michael, Ronnie ... Charlie.

The Carol-Charlie scene at the hospital was one of the best I've seen in recent years on the show. Combined with Carol's previous scene with the vicar, the initial symbolism was palpable ... Carol sitting on the side of her bed, hands clasped in prayer, silently communing with God, only for the door to open and the Devil Incarnate to enter. Charlie, the fallen angel, father to a devil's child with a devil of a mother. The symbolism was palpable, and then the scene turned on the proverbial dime, when Charlie revealed his piece de résistance, his ultimate means of ensuring Carol's loyalty: paying off Bianca's enormous debt. 

Never mind where I got the money.

You got the money from selling charlie to silly, vulnerable, unsuspecting girls like Lucy Beale, whose death is partly on your hands. But Carol's moral arbitre was on a high tonight, and she played Charlie at his own game. Carol knows a secret now, she also knows - as she tried to tell Mr Psychopath in the middle of his bullshit - that it would mean far much more for Dot to know her son was alive than to believe him dead. And, ultimately, she was right about Charlie - Nick was a far more honest human being in owning up to his imperfection than Charlie was for hiding his evil behind what, on the surface, appear to be good deeds.

Brave call, Carol, but I'd start to be a bit afraid, if I were you.

Charlie, I'm afraid, is a psychopath's psychopath. He isn't weird and speaking in riddles like Michael Moon, and he isn't creepy like Roswell Ronnie ...

He comes across as a nice guy, and that's the most frightening bit of all.

Sharon's Story. Arguably, the most amusing of the night. They really need to style Letitia Dean's hair the way she did it on Friday. The long style, with fringe, doesn't suit her. The most classic moment came when she was saying good-bye to Phil at The Albert, how the smile on her face imperceptibly changed the moment he left to a look of utter disgust, and then when Phil moved in to kiss her, how she ever so slightly moved away.

Phil's playing passive-aggressive again, but Sharon's not buying it - going behind her back to re-hire Roxy and setting a wedding date. In the end, Sharon decided to play up the smiles and the bigging up of Phil's ego; otherwise, he'd begin to suspect something. You catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar, and Sharon's after the bigges fly of all.

I love how she's included Linda in on her machinations, now adding the peripheral part Phil played in Dennis's death as a coup de grace.

This is going to be fun to watch, especiall since (cf below) Phil's now antagonised Shirley. Wouldn't it be great if Sharon and Shirley combined forces to bring down Phil?

But Shirley's got other fish to fry.

Shirley's Story. How pathetic is Tina? On Monday, we got 5 year-old Tina. On Tuesday, we got 14 year-old Tina, mooning after Tosh, sat (and dressed) like a recalcitrant teenager, with her earbuds, sulking, but in a way that everyone notices... and so her behaviour is reinforced: All it takes is popcorn and an 80s flick starring the Brat Pack of the day, who are now all grainy, sinewy fiftysomethings. And she's bouncing around, hugging and kissing everyone like the teenaged girl she isn't.

The Carters' three adult children - the kids - have all three taken Lady Di, a bulldog which is a breed not needing that much exercise, to put her through her paces at the park. Admittedly, Lee kept texting Whitney throughout, but this is something a 9 year-old, an 11 year-old and a 13 year-old would do together, not three adult siblings. At least, they acted like unseen adults, because Mick and Shirley were feeding Tina's puerile fetish as if she were psychologically starving. No wonder she behaves the way she does.

This was the Carters at their worst.

And just to prove that, as a fairrrrrmly, us Carters stick togevvah, I'd like to offer Aunt Babe a job here, in the Vic, in the kitchen.

This man is seriously stupid. And Shirley's look said everything. Shirley knows that Babe isn't interested in any of them. She groomed Tina because she was the thickest of the lot,and now she's grooming Dean - not because he's thick, but because he's bitter, and he thinks that partnering up with Babe not only will earn him extra dosh, but also hurts Shirley.

I actually liked Shirley inthis episode, when she marched herself over to Blades to confront Babe. She wasn't even afraid of Babe's threat, but that came after Phil refused to help her. Dean has let his pride and anger blind him so that he doesn't see that if anything went wrong in this venture, Dean would be left holding the evidence, and he'd go to prison for years. Of course, Shirley's pissing herself over that. Babe would just slither away under the nearest rock, which is what she did when she declined Mick's offer.

I was amazed when Shirley, again, turned to Phil, but I understood where he was coming from when he said that he owed Shirley nothing. This is her battle, and she has to get her priorities right. She risks exposing her secret to one son, in order to save the hide of another. Tonight she chose Dean. Good.

And, yes, Dean wants to be a part of that family dynamic, but for the wrong reasons. I smell a whiff of Sean and Tanya redux there - as well as a whiff of enough weed to give the whole of Albert Square the munchies. Shirley burned the lot and must have been high as a kite, herself. I guess Katie Douglas has never indulged.

Thursday's Episode: Three Dinners and the Anti-Pat

Weakest Episode of the Week. Over-egging, which is the pratfall and major weakness of this EP and his writing room. Not enough to have the standard "fairmly" dinner scene - and Lord knows we were overdosed and force-fed those with the Brannings - but we had to have three - count'em - three! from the three concurrent storylines happening at the moment, and I have a feeling all three storylines will somehow find common ground in Lucy's killing. Watch this space.

If there were still some special EastEnders Revealed episodes, I'd run a special one after this one and entitle it: EastEnders Revealed: Psychopaths We Have Shown (we had two at the fore in Friday's episode), and if I were going to entitle this episode, I'd entitle it Three Dinners and the Anti-Pat.

Let me deal with the Anti-Pat first. That's the ever-annoying Aunt Babe(shite). The actress really is channeling Pam St Clement's delivery. Close your eyes and you could swear this was Pat, suddenly turned evil, exacting her due. She's a horrible old bullying bitch, and I'm glad Stan didn't rise to toast her. EastEnders seems to be going through a psycho-loving phase at the moment. The only good thing like that is that characters of that ilk, as interesting and as attractive as they might be, don't generally have a long shelf-life - if they do, they risk becoming cartoon villains like Nick Cotton or Tracey-luv Barlow.

Babe is neither attractive, engaging or interesting, and she just makes the Carters look bad. Maybe it was Babe, maybe it was the writing, but the Carters - surprisingly, apart from Dean and Stan - were way off kilter in this episode. Seen in this light, Mick is just another weak Walford man, who enables the childish behaviour of both his partner and his sister. He bows from the waist to his sister-mother and Babe, whilst subtly relegating Linda to the second tier whenever they pull rank. Even Nancy was off tonight - too loud, almost braying her lines and making contrived comments about what she'd do to her brother's food. I mean, this is a twenty-one year-old woman talking about her twenty-three year-old brother who's seen action in Afghanistan. She sounded like a twelve year-old. 

Fanbois, please pay attention and stop throwing your toys out of the pram. The actors respond to a script, and if the script is bad, even the best actor bows out of the equation. The dialogue stank. The writer presented Nancy, not as a twentysomething poking fun at an older brother, but as a braying child who was singularly unattractive. Deal with the criticism.

And what we found out! - That if Mick didn't get his way as a child, he's tear up the place, so Babe laced his sweets with laxative. But the big reveal of the night reinforced what Shirley said to Carly two years ago: She abandoned the kids because she couldn't stick dealing with James.

That's right. Shirley abandoned her children because she thought she'd destroy Dean and Carly because of Jimbo's disability. 

Look, cystic fibrosis is a tragic condition, and it's certainly life-limiting. Gordon Brown's youngest son suffers from this. Most of the time, however, people with this condition lead near-normal lives. The video we saw of Kevin's and Shirley's children showed a six year-old Jimbo practicing his karate moves. Jimbo may have had digestive problems and would have been prone to chest infections; and there would have been a physio-therapeutic exercise that Kevin and/or Shirley may have had to do daily or a couple of times a week to help him. 

Shirley was whining that Aunt Babe wasn't there to pick up the pieces. Well, Shirley was an adult. She also had Kevin, who was a conscientious and loving father, and she would most definitely have had the care, help and support of healthcare professionals via the NHS with a child suffering from an on-going and incurable condition.

But, instead, she walked. Nice one, Shirl. Dean was right. She does beg for sympathy.

But Babe is a terrible old lag - bullying Tosh into returning to Tina, bullying Dean, who won't buy her rantings, and then sitting at the Carter table telling a tissue of lies. And, of course, Sylvie is with her. She's been there all the time. Now we'll have the great Sylvie debate, wondering who'll portray her - from the sublime (Honour Blackman/Amanda Barrie/Jill Gascoigne [as it will only be for a few episodes, why not?]) to the ridiculous (Sheila Hancock - how many remember she was Barbara Owen?) to the impossible (Judi Dench).

Babe sucks and she sucks the entire Carter family into her suckiness.

Their dinner was a treat of trite as well, ne'mind the missing trifle. Toasts to Babe and Babe giving a "heartfelt" speech, which was pretty ironic, considering the old trout hasn't got a heart as she's a psychopath, so much so that she actually had poor, pitiful Shirl in tears of remorse. Oh, but she'll get her revenge on Shirley.

Something's just occurred to me: Sylvie left. That's the story, but what if the story isn't what it seems? I mean something not being what it seems is what the Carters are all about. Shirleyseems to be Mick's sister, but she's his mother. Mick and Linda seem to be married, but they're not. Tina seems to love Tosh, but she cheats on her. Well, what if Sylvie seemed to leave, but didn't? What if Babe took her away? 

The moment Babe made that inane remark about missing Sylvie and not having anyone to share a pint of bitter with of an evening, you knew that twittering curtain meant that Sylvie was upstairs. And something about her manner with the unseen Sylvie at the end was off - pouring a half for herself, and then hesitating, pouring the second half, walking to the door of the front room, and then smiling at unseen Sylvie and offering her the glass.

Either Sylvie's dead, and Babe is having a Norman Bates moment, or Sylvie's there and has been kept there by evil Babe, so she could manipulate the Carters to her own end. Babe likes to be the focus of attention, as do most psychopaths. (Memo to Shirley: Stay out of the shower when Babe is around).

I love the way Sharon is playing the Mitchells - words dripping like honey from her mouth, apologising to Roxy, and getting all faux excited about the wedding from hell. I do wish they'd re-style her hair the way she wore it last Friday. And with Sharon going all Lysistrata on Phil, I'm wondering if her witholding of favours is what sends him to Shirley. It seemed as if she'd relented at the last moment, if only so his suspicions wouldn't be aroused (as opposed to something else). The Mitchells really need to get hit hard from all sides. In fact, I'm expecting a Mitchell implosion for the 30th. Once again, we had a meal scene - whatever for? We had Sharon the fiancée who's plotting revenge, Phil, who's taken his eye off the ball a bit (after all, Sharon's only a woman, and why didn't he check the number on her phone she put on the table? The old Phil would have been immediately suspicious and done so), Roxy, the new "other woman" (wonder who was watching Amy, since Ronnie's away and Dot was otherwise engaged?) and Aleks, another shifty character, with a wife and child in another country and more than enough scams going on. What a motley crew!

Finall, the Butcher-Jacksons took the forefront in this episode. Charlie is ingratiating himself through the back door. If you can't bring the ma around, go through the ditzy daughters. Bianca's grateful he's discharged her debt, the rest are grateful he's making breakfast, and Dot is pleased to be a part of a family group again. The only one who doesn't buy Charlie's bullshit is Carol.

The talk with the trendy vicar was superfluous and accomplished nothing. His answer was a wishy-washy pass with the oblique reference to God and a nod to Carol being a non-believer ~Since you don't believe, it's your call.

Wow, thanks a lot, Rev. I'm not a believer, but a cleric with an attitude like that would only reinforce my lack of faith. Carol approached him for moral guidance, not a religious lecture, and all he gives is a bad imitation of a religious Vicky Pollard ~ yes but no but yes ~ mixed with a dash of I'm all right, Jack, feck you, and job jobbed.

Just a word about the dishy vicar. The reactions of a certain tranche of viewer reveal the shallowness and naiveté of a certain demographic. Carol is about to undergo life-changing surgery. The last thing she is feeling is some sort of sexual attraction to a man she approaches for strength and moral guidance. There was no "electric" chemistry between the two of them as one of the more imaginative viewers opined. That was wishful thinking. And the vicar certainly didn't visit Carol post-op because he fancied her. He was concerned, she had approached him in her confusion, and he was simply being a good shepherd herding his flock.

There should be no romance, no re-appearance, no trendy vicar with body art and biker's scars to sweep Carol off her feet. Carol's life has been a constant veering from man to man since she was fourteen. She's now fifty-two. It's time she grew up, as she so stated a few weeks ago when David left. She has enough on her plate with a remaining child, grandchildren, nieces and a sibling who'll have every need of her presence, and that's the making of a matriarch.
Of course, Charlie was intent on making an exit in the anticipation that Carol, coming home, would tell Dot the truth about Nick; but Dot gave Charlie the abundant chance he needed to subtly challenge and passive-aggressively bully Carol, when he appeared at the end of her remark about secret missions (Dot was lost on the sarcasm). Carol's double-edged sword of thanks to Charlie was a coded warning, but he lobbed the ball back at her by saying he was going to stick around. Carol had best be careful and keep an eye on the kids, especially Liam.

Whitney and Lee ... no. Just no. Bum-clinchingly embarrassing, especially the scene at the Butcher front door, reminiscent of Tyler and the balloons, only this time it was a purloined trifle, a chaste kiss and both with the syrupy trite smiles at the end. Lee Carter: Case Study in How to F*ck Up a Promising New Character in Record Time - turn him into a romcom lead with Whitney.
The week started out strong, but ended on a whimper.

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