Friday, March 17, 2017

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times - Review:- Friday 17.03.2017 Parts I & II

Once again, although the show tonight - both parts - was watchable, it provoked the wrong reactions in me as a viewer. What I'm meaning is that, for the most part, I was angry, but I think I was angry for the wrong reasons, the reasons the show is trying to promote at the moment.

Having said that, there was and still is one storyline that currently stands head and shoulders above the rest, because it does what the show was originally intended to do - present a current social problem, with commentary, and empathy, and make us a part of the character who is dealing with this problem.

That is Tina's storyline. Jesus, I never thought I'd say that.

Tina's Story. Every EP, no matter how bad they might be, has a success story with one character. Bryan Kirkwood gutted the show, yet he developed Janine as a character in ways no previous EP had ever sought to do. Dominic Treadwell-Collins made Cora, the ASBO granny who was always belligerantly drunk, a character of great pathos. We came to understand why she drank - that she was lonely and frightened and guilt-ridden from the secret of having given her first child up for adoption.

O'Connor's character success has been with Tina. Under DTC, Tina was the Carter Court Jester, a fortysomething feckless womanchild, who dressed as though she were five years old and acted the same way. Tina with Sonia was toxic. Tina with the Carters was a non-starter, and even though she had a good enough relationship with Stan, she still tried to aid him in committing suicide.

She's come into her own, however, in the storyline about her mother's dementia. Both Linda Marlowe and Luisa Bradshaw-White are knocking this out of the park. It also helps that, as a mother and daughter, they are very believable and have that poignant chemistry that works so well with them both.

Even though she's the show's resident lesbian, Tina is one of those characters who works well away from any romantic involvement - Lauren Branning is another one - and that should be a tribute to both characters, both as characters and particularly as female characters because they aren't dependent on either a man or a sexual partner to define them. 

Tina's storyline with Sylvie is separate to anything happening with the Carters proper at the moment, and it's effective that it's being shown in isolation - more than effective, it's symbolic of the distance and the abandonment many people who care for relatives with dementia feel, especially when they reach the inevitable point of recognising that there is nothing more that can be done for their parent by them, that the sufferer is beyond their ability to care for them; and this means relinquishing the sufferer to the care of professionals, usually a care home.

It speaks volumes for this storyline that of everything that is occurring on this programme at the moment, this is the first time in years I've been so moved by a storyline. I was actually moved to tears tonight in what was, for me, the singular scene of both episodes - the scene where Kathy visits Tina to check on how she is and brings hot soup for Sylvie. I really felt for Tina, felt her desperation mingled with the loyalty and love she feels for Sylvie.

This is the unconditional love I spoke about in yesterday's episode. It's Linda's disappointment in what Lee had done, but never believing Lee was anything but a good boy; it's Dot's countless protests that Nick was a good boy, really, deep down, when everyone knew that he wasn't; it's Max loving, forgiving and wanting to continue life with a wife and a daughter who, on separate occasions, tried to kill him; it's why Sharon will believe her cheeky, misbehaving son over a so-called best friend who's betrayed her more times than she'd care to admit.

Sylvie was an abysmal mother, just as her mother was to her. Yet Tina deeply loves her. From the very moment Tina kissed the sleeping Sylvie's forehead and told her she loved her before she went to work, I was touched. Half the time, Sylvie doesn't even know who Tina is. She keeps remembering and asking for Shirley, who remembers the fractious and abusive relationship she had with Sylvie, but - and I say this very seriously - Shirley doesn't possess the emotional maturity that Tina does in these circumstances.

Tina, more than Shirley, understands the notion of generational abuse, of history repeating itself through generations. Sylvie's mother abused her; Sylvie abused Shirley and abandoned Tina; Shirley abandoned all her children, and Tina was always the first to admit that she was a terrible mother and, truth be known, she and her daughter didn't like each other very much. She was the first to remark to Shirley that maybe, because of Sylvie, they weren't meant to be parents, themselves. Shirley, ever the reactive child, like her sons, can't see past what Sylvie did to her, never mind the reasons behind her behaviour. The fact that Shirley feels nothing for her mother, the awful scene at Sylvie's birthday tea where both she and a sulking Mick, wallowing in self-pity, both referred to Sylvie as "it", springs to mind.

Tina has now withdrawn from her family. As much as they promised nominal support, the only one of the main band of Carters to try to step up and help Sylvie was Johnny. The rest never intended to help. Shirley wanted the easy way out of a jam; just as she is still pressuring Mick to sell the freehold of the pub, she's always encouraged Tina to put Sylvie in a home.

In Tina, we see the plight of scores of people who choose to care for their elderly, disabled parents in their twilight years. Everything Kathy said about Tina was true - she's been loyal, strong and the way she has sacrificed to look after Sylvie has been amazing; but because she's getting no support at all from her family, she's dicing with Sylvie's safety - taking her to work or leaving her alone in the flat. Before she left for work, Tina promised Sylvie a hot bath, the word "bath" registering with her, and she ran a bath of cold water for herself and then couldn't get out. 

I liked the fact that this storyline involved Kathy. This was the Kathy of her original time on EastEnders, the compassionate, understanding woman who worked with the Samaritans and who always had time to listen to other people. As someone else said, Kathy, this time around, seems to work better with people who aren't amongst her immediate family - she's more at home and closer to her Fowler nephew than she is with either of her sons. She's an older grandmother figure for Rebecca, moreso than for her faux grandson Steven, and the friendship that's developed between her and Tina, an older woman acting as mentor for a younger one who repays her in loyalty and affection, has been nice to watch in Tina's development, just as her quirky friendship with Tina has been sweet.

Whilst Mick and his slimy faux-daughter-in-law-cum-wife wallow in misery of their own making, Tina is left to deal with matters beyond her control, stubbornly insisting to Kathy that she simply can't consign Sylvie to the care of strangers - it would be disloyal, and she'd forever feel guilty; but after her talk with Kathy, after she looks in on the sleeping Sylvie, who isn't getting any better and who, as Kathy explained, would come to need full-time professional care and very soon, she reluctantly decides to get advice about admitting Sylvie to a care home. It was a heart-rending decision and one she made alone. 

A year ago, I was advocating for Tina to get the boot from this programme. Now, I'd quite happily see that canting bitch Whitney be sent away in disgrace.

Honestly, this is the most realistic, emotionally-wrought, honest and contemporary storyline the show has depicted in years - not since Ethel's death.

Rebecca's Story. I really don't know what to say about this storyline, which has covered so many aspects of bullying, but has also served to show generic, caricatured, cartooned youth so decandent, so de-sensitised and so horribly mean as to be unbelievable. 

Keegan, Sniggle and Snaggle - and I finally discovered tonight who was Alexandra and who was Madison - all of whom have no discernable surname, are plot devices. Keegan is the misogynist who targets women in a brutal way. He hasn't graduated to the Trevor Morgan School of Domestic Violence yet, but he's well on the way, psychologically. He targets only women - verbally, never physically - because sometimes, emotional and psychological abuse can leave far more scars than actual physical violence.

He's the ultimate coward, who disappears at the sight of a man giving him a warning (Kush) or from an actual thumping administered (Shakil).

The Giggle Girls feed off each other. Their motif is strength in numbers, and disappointingly, Louise succumbed to their pressure. Louise has been a disappointment as a female Mitchell. Maybe there was too much of the old Mitchell mantra about not grassing anyone up was conflicting her, but this involved someone, a friend, someone about whom she cared a great deal, getting beaten up and humiliated whilst two lowlives laugh at her expense.

As she stated, herself, she was little more than a waitress to those two, and it wasn't long ago that they were giggling at her expense over the atrocious catfishing incident Keegan levelled on her. Even so, I still think Rebecca should have told Martin who sent the photo. Yes, he may have kicked off - but to whom? Phil isn't there, nor is Sharon. Ben? I was also surprised that the school didn't call Martin, as Rebecca was pretty distressed, but at least she finally told the head and the teacher exactly what happened, how she didn't send the picture of Shakil, and she did her level best to exonerate Louise, explicitly telling the head that Louise was pressured into doing what she did.

I don't know how, all of a sudden, Louise got taken over by these girls. Is she that desperate for friends? She clearly is in a state of conflicted unease whenever they try something designed to humiliate Rebecca, like sending the nerdy boy into isolation to ask Rebecca for sex, having told him that she would do it "with anyone."

A lot of what's behind these girls' actions is sheer jealousy. Rebecca is a good student, and they probably are too lazy to apply themselves. She's also had sex, something I imagine they haven't had either, but - given the opportunity - they'd be at it like rabbits, except no one's ever asked them. For the longest time, they treated - and still do treat - Louise like a piece of shit, and before too long, they'll turn on Louise as well. At the moment, she's their useful idiot, the key of contact with Rebecca - consider how they made her call on Louise after the exclusion order came, just to make sure she hadn't mentioned their names.

In both instances, the confliction Shakil and Louise feel, torn between loyalty to Rebecca, their friend, yet being held in abeisance to people like Keegan and Sniggle and Snaggle. Rebecca was right, on both occasions, to call Louise out on the sort of friend she was to Rebecca. As much of a bully as Phil was, he isn't without compassion, and I don't think he would have stood by and allowed her to participate in such abhorrent bullying activity as she's done. 

If she didn't believe Rebecca when she told her that the head wanted to see her only to corroborate that the other girls were behind what happened to her, then she should have been reassured by the treatment she received from the head and the form teacher. The head confronted Sniggle and Snaggle behind the position of authority - her desk. With Louise, she was given water and they all sat on sofas. The head went to great lengths to remind Louise that she wasn't in any trouble and that continued association with those girls would be to her detriment. 

I thought she'd bottle out and stay schtum, and in doing so, she's taken the coward's route. If you consider Louise, pacing anxiously outside the school toilet, keeping watch, yet worried about what was happening with Rebecca, and compare that to someone like Roxy or Ronnie or even Sam, all of whom would have been in there slapping the Giggle Sisters crazy or mixing it up the best she could.

I don't know where this will go from here. I did appreciate the quiet talk Martin had with Rebecca, when he reminded her that he'd been in a similar situation, after he'd killed Jamie Mitchell and returned from YOP. He was made to feel like a pariah, and - as he said - what he'd done was far worse than what Rebecca had done. She doesn't deserve this treatment, but from now on, she owes Louise nothing; and I imagine that now Rebecca's moved on from them and has re-connected with Star - what a surprise to see her extend the hand of friendship to Louise - Louise will cease to be of use to them, and they'll turn on her with an unimaginable brutality ... and Rebecca will probably come to her rescue.

And don't forget that there's no love lost between Louise and Star either.

The Shit with Michelle. There's so much I don't understand about this awful character and the shitstorm that surrounds her.

I don't get it that Martin is so completely lacking in curiosity as to why she's left her husband and son. If this were my sibling, I'd be asking questions all the time. Instead, they sit on Arthur's bench and reminsce about Arthur, although I can't remember Michelle typing application after application for Arthur. In the end, he started his own gardening business, and eventually became a road-sweeper in the market.

Michelle is reluctant to act as Rebecca's tutor in preparation for her GCSEs, not because of what happened with Preston, but because, I suppose, it would allow Martin or Stacey to start asking questions about why she left the profession, and also because it might be too close to home and painful to look Rebecca in the face after deceiving her about Preston.

She's uncomfortable with Martin, especially when he hints that she should have no trouble finding a job. She would, simply because any contact with her previous employer would reveal the dirty little secret she's hiding.

There were a couple of things I couldn't fathom in this segment. First, Michelle spends a vast amount of time debating whether or not to buy booze. We know she's been drinking heavily, usually at night when the kids were in bed; then the next thing you know, she's at the surgery for a prescription, and the doctor states that, she sees from Michelle's notes from last year that she'd had that particular prescription before.

From last year?!!!!!!!

Wait ... Michelle was in Florida last year. Sorry, but medical records aren't transferred electronically or otherwise from doctors practicing in other countries.  There is no way that this doctor would know about Michelle's prescription history unless she told her, yet she distinctly said she's seen in Michelle's notes from last year.

So Michelle is going to drink in the Mitchell house where booze is forbidden for obvious reasons. Now she's popping sleeping tablets.

Another thing ... when she returned to the house, at night, there was half-finished food on the table and noise coming from the front room. Louise was with Sniggle and Snaggle at McKlunkeys. Who was minding Dennis all that time? Presumably Ben and Jay had come around, because the table looked as though it was set for three with takeaway. I remember hen I first saw the scene, I thought perhaps Preston would come from the lounge area and surprise her; but instead, she succumbs to taking prescribed sleeping medication (a depressant) and texting Preston how much she misses him.

Yuck. Great reaction from Tina to a footballer in his late 30s being involved with a 16 year-old girl. She was disgusted. So much for Michelle assuming that had a man done what she did, they'd be lauded.

She truly is an awful character. The sad thing is that, for many viewers too young to remember the show in the 80s or 90s, this actress will always be the definitive Michelle for them, a weak, immature, self-obsessed woman who's a statutory rapist.

Lauren's Story. Lauren simply wants her dad. She doesn't want Steven; she just wants the dynamic of her, Abi and Max back together again.

In keeping with the tradition of Lauren being the one who finds out things she shouldn't, we had Lauren track Max's place of work in Canary Wharf - a sleek, slimlined building with a state-of-the-art boardroom. When she first arrived, I thought the receptionist would tell her Max works there ... in property. 

I don't know what he's up to, but he was clearly uneasy with Lauren being there.

Lauren, in the meantime, is all over the place with Steven. As much as Stevan wants to be the Beale mainstay, now that Lauren has the remnants of a family, he's put out that he isn't invited along to her meal with Abi and Max - he asks if he's "family," she doesn't answer him. In fact, she deflects his answer. She makes a joke with Honey about Steven being a leprechaun. He's put out that he was excluded from their New Year's dinner, and is now being excluded from this one.

Lauren is losing interest in someone whom she perceives is losing interest in her. The fact that she was flattered at the attention received from the photocopier bloke and the fact that she keyed his number into the phone means she's probably seriously thinking of getting her sexual kicks by playing away from home.

When Steven and Johnny repaired to the Beale kitchen to make burgers, I immediately thought of something else.

Widdle Mick. What a fucking prick! It didn't take long for him to get over Linda, blaming her for leaving them in the lurch to look after Elaine. 

Here's how callous Mick is - I keep recalling him, wallowing in self-pity at Sylvie's birthday tea, clearly affronted at her being there and referring to her as "it." He also thinks nothing of the fact that Linda should remove Elaine from her place of business and the flat which goes with it and dump her in a care home or assisted living, just so she could return to curry favour and coddle Mick.

Mick is quick to forget that Elaine didn't have to take him in an raise him like a son. No doubt she had plans and visions for her daughter which didn't include her getting up the duff at fifteen. He owes his livelihood and, indeed, the Vic, yet he's willing to write Linda's mother off for little more than burnt pride.

Instead, here's Whitney, the dirty canting bitch, playing at being LindaLite, shouting the odds, giving orders and literally treating Mick as though he were her husband and not her father-in-law. So much for her abject lie (to herself) that Mick was a father figure. And there she is, issuing orders to Johnny, castigating him for changing the dog's diet so she dips into the stew - what the fuck did she put the stew on the floor for anyway, and what is a dog doing in a kitchen? Surely Health and Safety would have something to say about that? As well as that cosy domestic banter in the kitchen between Mick and Whitney, who now thinks she's Queen of the Vic.

Castigating Mick for trying to buy illegal booze to sell - and for no other reason than he wanted to better Johnny's attempt at financial housekeeping by buying a cheaper brand of dog food. Really.

You wonder how intelligent MIck is - holding a raffle with a prize of one year's free booze in the Vic, and fixing it so that Dot's number would be picked - the person who drinks less than anyone in the Square, only to be bamboozled by Dot giving Patrick her raffle ticket. Then Mick is told by Steven that it's illegal to hold a raffle on a licenced premises. There's another crime Mick's committed.

And throughout all of this, Whitney is shooting him hot looks, and he's aware of it.

I sincerely hope Linda finds out everything, because that snide little bitch has manipulated this situation all along. To add insult to injury, Johnny squelches the St Patrick's Day moneymaker by announcing to the pub that Lady Di is being sick from both ends from having eaten the Irish stew, which causes a mass exodus of punters.

Who'd drink there after this?

And Finally ... Denise gets summoned to The Minute Mart's head office to meet with Yolande. Patrick thinks this is positive, but he's been wrong before, and what exactly was this spin-off from Bad Girls with Shirley having bother with an inmate whom I can only imagine is Sniggle or Snaggle's mother.

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