Monday, March 27, 2017

The Shit Hitting the Fan - Review Monday 27.03.2017

On a scale of 1 to 10, I gave that episode a 7.It was good, it was watchable, but it was spoiled by the overtly bad, terribly camp, cheesy and cheap dialogue between Denise (of whom we see far too much in this programme) and Kush. The other thing that spoiled the show was Rebecca's singing. Jasmine Armfield is OK, but her rendition of two 60s EastEnd girl singers - Sandie Shaw and Helen Shapiro (were these songs deliberately chosen, I wonder?) - frankly, were insulting and embarrassing. I'm sure Armfield has talent, but like Maria Friedman's Elaine, we don't need EastEnders to turn into a West End production or a cabaret.

Cheap Trick. I totally get Sean O'Connor's underlying theme in this episode. There were two storylines, about to collide head-on, each about a "significantly older" woman having a relationship with a much younger man, the exception being that 48 year-old Denise is pondering beginning a physical relationship with Kush, who happens to be 32 and the son of her best friend; and 48 year-old Michelle is about to be revealed as having a sexual relationship with a 17 year-old boy, which began when he was 16, and which, in the state in the country where it occurred, was totally and utterly illegal. It was, effectively, statutory rape.

The difference between these two tales is, of course, that Kush is an adult, even though he may not be, at times, emotionally. He is 32. He's been married twice, widowed and divorced. He has something or a reputation of being a sexual predator, himself, specialising in vulnerable women - Shabnam, Stacey, Nancy - with issues of their own; and a lot of his sexual behaviour, came as a result of and a reaction to his first wife's death. His way of coping with grief was promiscuity.

Kush and Denise had a fling before, and this was not Denise's first time she'd coupled with a much younger man. Some years ago, she had a brief fling with Fatboy,who took the association seriously - remember him asking her plaintively to reassure him that she wasn't just using him for sex? She was.

I don't know how far the original affair with Kush would have gone, had we not had that preposterous and unnecessary story about being pregnant by Phil Mitchell, but since this producer seems to want to give Denise umpteen different storylines, placing her in almost every episode, shoving her front and centre and making her the equivalent of DTC's Carter family, it looks as though we're getting a second shot at Denise having some sort of affair with Kush.

Juxtaposed with the equally awful and tawdry tale of Michelle and Preston, you'd have thought this would have come the opposite end of the scale, with a little bit of class, some reticence and more than a bit of poignancy. 

Instead, we got a lot of overt, smutty innuendo and Diane Parish attempting to give Davood Ghadami a sultry look whilst eating a biscuit. It failed. Another thing that made it almost as cheap and tawdry as Michelle's tale is that, in the aftermath of the failed community meeting (the third failure - hey, three strikes and you're out), when Denise and Kush were left alone to tidy up the community centre, the sexual banter that ensued consisted of Kush imagining Denise as the sexy teacher and Denise rising to the role-play.

Considering what is going on in the Mitchell house across the Square, it makes Denise and Kush come across as cheap. 

We know where this storyline is going; we knew that immediately Carmel barged into the place, late for the meeting because of work; we knew it when she wistfully spoke of Kush needing to meet a nice "girl" after he'd scurried off to nurse his tumescent hard-on, lest his mother's beady eye land on his crotch. We knew it a couple of episodes ago when Carmel expressed a wish for Kush to settle down and start a family.

Before any speculation begins now, know this: the adoption is a no-go area; it's final. Denise neither knows the name of her son's adoptive parents, nor will she be allowed to know this. And she had a menopausal pregnancy. She's 48; sometime in the next couple of years, the full-on menopause will set in. She and Kush won't have a child, and that's going to be where the problem will lie. For all Arthur is Kush's biological son, he has Martin's surname and he's being raised as a Fowler. Besides, Kush stepped back from that, for the good of the child. There's no returning to that either.

I suppose this half-hearted excuse for community action is being used as a prop to get Denise and Kush back together again. Maybe however brief their association will be might result in her attitude improving. Maybe he'll teach her a bit more compassion for people outside of her familial sphere, or gratitude to people who seek to be nice to her when she's one of the most arrogant, loud-mouthed, intolerant and condescending people on the Square. 

One thing about Denise, like several other women on that programme past and present - she equates happiness with sexual satisfaction. She was happy enough with Kevin, and before he started his killing spree, she was happy enough with Lucas. She convinced herself that she wanted companionship with Ian and ended up snogging Fatboy in the loos of the Vic at her engagement party.

At the moment, she's an attractive woman in her late 40s, but let's check in on her in 1en years' time when the pull of gravity has its effects on her body and we'll see where Kush, who'll still be a young man of 42 will be. This is the most unreal aspect of EastEnders - and, indeed, of Coronation Street. 

These are working class people, most of whom have low-end, unskilled jobs. Denise, for example, is working on the checkout in the local corner shop, probably for minimum wage. There is no way she'd be able to afford a mortgage on the terraced house in which she lives with Patrick in that part of London. Like Shirley, like the ridiculous Whitney, like Kathy whose character is 67 this year), these women with their expensively manicured nails, their lineless faces (bar Shirley) and their toned bodies which denote expensive and exclusive gym memberships are not even remotely like these working class Cockney sparrows or Mancunian lasses eking out a living on a minimum wage.

Denise is unemployed. Because she quit her job, she's not entitled to any sort of employment benefits for six weeks because she left her job voluntarily, and there she is, wittering on about the community. If this is all they brought Derek's character back for as well, it's a waste. Instead of reconnecting with Martin and Martin's family, he's being established as a busybody fusspot, a Cockney Norris Cole with a crush on Patrick and linked up with the Fox-Trueman-Hubbards for who knows what reason - probably because in Sean O'Connor's EastEnders, everything emanates from Denise. 

Kudos to Vincent for leaving that shower, but once again, he's another emasculated man, who's left holding, literally, the baby.

Party Girl. The best storyline of the moment, without a doubt, has been that of Tina and Sylvie. Sean O'Connor's one big success has been the development of Tina's character. Who'd have thought she'd turn out to be the best of the Carters, bar Linda?

Luisa Bradshaw-White and Linda Marlowe have brilliantly played blinders in this sad, poignant and sometimes funny tale. We share Tina's despair and her sadness at recognising that she can't care for her mother anymore as Sylvie's dementia progresses. No matter how much anyone - Kathy or Johnny or the insipid Whitney -tell her that once Sylvie is in a care home, Tina will get her life back, they don't realise that, although Sylvie has been a trial for Tina - because she's basically done all the caring on her own, with no help from Shirley or any of the other Carters - it's also been a joy for her. 

After having been abandoned by Sylvie, she's suddenly found her mother again; and even though Tina's been a feckless mother, herself, she's thrown herself into caring for Sylvie. It's been touching to see some of the things she does for Sylvie, who totally doesn't recognise or remember her - like making her fried egg on toast and using ketchup to make a face on the egg, or taking her to the charity shop to find a dress for her "party."

Sylvie's lost in some fluttery, ongoing party somewhere in the 60s, where she veers between being the girl everyone wanted and where she's also the fickle wife surreptitiously cheating on Stan. Some of her scenes tonight were poignantly funny - like the confusion between the Dusty who hankered after Stan being either Dusty Springfield or some woman called Dusty who served behind the bar of a pub, or her assessment of Dot as an "old hag."

I want to know how Whitney and Johnny are still running that pub, without a licencee on the premises, not even someone with a personal licence, unless Tracey has one. Big hole in that storyline. It also offends me to see Whitney throwing her weight about, issuing orders to Johnny, who sounds more and more like a walking public service announcement, especially the way he patronises Tina about how she'll get her life back once Sylvie's institutionalised. Johnny and the Carters did precious little to help her with Sylvie at all. They couldn't lumber Sonia with her quick enough, their reckoning being Sonia was a nurse who would know what to do. Remember the awful family meeting Sonia organised where all the Carters did was stuff their faces and leave Sonia with the responsibility of looking after Sylvie?

And for anyone who's forgotten, Whitney's never happier than when she's throwing her weight about, issuing orders and offering unsolicited advice to other people about subjects on which she's little qualifed to comment.

Sharon needs to come back and take control of the Vic, but she also needs to come back for another reason.

Of course, Sylvie's 60s party - yet another excuse for the Carters, or the remnants thereof, to have some sort of theme night at the Vic (cheer up Linda, cheer up Sylvie), which, in tonight's episode, was a plot device - something which offered a gathering of Square residents assembled to hear the revelation of a shocking secret.

This wasn't Sharongate, by any stretch of the imagination.

That Sound You Hear When the Shit Hits the Fan. A lot of things struck me about this episode and this storyline, and it wasn't completely shit. For example, it bothers me that I absolutely loathe Rebecca, yet - and even though she's been the weaker person - I admit to liking Louise. Why is that? Well, consider this: It's just possible that Louise is possibly the more nuanced character. She can be a bitch, she can be weak to the point of being manipulated by Sniggle and Snaggle. I totally get it that Tillie Keeper is pushing 20 and playing a child of 15 and that sometimes, a lot of the time early on, the dialogue the writers have given her would have suited someone more the age of Lauren; but they seem to have toned that down now, and at least they are approximating, badly, some sort of writing which the writing room thinks accommodates the youth of today.

Louise is conflicted. She likes Rebecca, she wants to be her friend, but she's being bullied and manipulated, herself, by Sniggle and Snaggle, and the Mitchell ethos deems she's been grassed up by Rebecca to the school authorities; and everyone knows the Mitchells hate a grass.

Sometimes, it's easy to hate Louise - indeed, most of the Brat Pack are unlikable; but Rebecca always seems to come across as smug and preening, when she's not doing the sad-faced teen act. She reminds me of Lauren, when Max and Tanya were together, always bleating on about being treated like an adult, but always having her hand out to Daddy for funding. Rebecca's like that in insisting on being treated like an adult, and Stacey has shamed Martin into going along with this; but Rebecca is a child, moreover, she's a silly girl with no common sense who's made atrocious errors of judgement to her chagrin and to the detriment of her personal reputation.

Yes, it's easy to hate Louise, but Louise was the hero of the piece tonight.

The unravelling of this tawdry tale and the big shocker that will probably happen tomorrow night (take note: Kathy's in the chippy  and Michelle's mixing barbituates and booze) suddenly became interesting tonight, because finally, Michelle is about to be revealed as a fraud.

Michelle has never gelled with the Mitchells, especially the Mitchells and their association with Sharon. 

An aside: As I watched this episode tonight, conscious of the fact that, suddenly, after years of Michelle just being "married" and living in the States, TPTB sprang to action and re-delivered her to the bosom of Walford as a teacher - an English teacher, no less - married to a significantly older man. I make this observation because it's dawned on me that we never knew Michelle's married name. I realise that some women keep their maiden names for professional purposes, but precious few high school teachers do. This happens more in the world of medicine or law - examples being professional lawyers, Hillary Rodham and Michelle Robinson, suddenly having to become Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama when their husbands became Presidents of the United States and they became First Ladies. All we knew of Michelle was that she had married "Tim." But Tim had no surname, and even though Tim had adopted Michelle's son Mark, having married her when he was a baby or even a toddler, yet Mark showed up in Walford in the summer, calling himself Mark Fowler and believing that Tim was his father. 

Go figure that one. Why is Michelle still "Miss Fowler"? Why was Mark using her surname and not the unknown surname of the man he considered his father, the man who adopted him? Legally.

And Michelle the English teacher? Really? This is the woman who wrote a note to Sharon on her wedding day which read:-

Me and Ian ain't coming to the wedding on account of Ian ain't well.

Seriously, Sharon read that note out to Linda at the Mitchell breakfast table, before she knew that Ian was returning from visiting Michelle to arrive in time for the wedding. Michelle, the English teacher, wrote that note.

Still, I suppose that's DTC's vision, which is now invalid. Instead, Michelle's an English teacher who's been sleeping with one of her students, who - by Florida law - is under the legal age of consent. Since she returned to Walford, to be followed by her immature, child-like lover, for all she's blathered on about keeping this relationship a secret, a relationship which cost her her husband's and her son's respect and ended her professional career, because she doesn't want to alienate the few real family members she has left, she's managed to use her own niece as a tool to justify her own feelings toward a kid, who's nothing more than a sexually precocious spoiled brat.

That doesn't make Michelle a victim, and it's only the legal wording which makes him one. Michelle was the adult, who should have known better than to succumb to his advances. I haven't been able to fathom why his parents haven't been on the next plane to the UK, to physically remove him back to his home and for his mother to bitch-slap Michelle about the Square.

That Michelle, this Michelle, is a weak, pathetic and emotionally immature wreck of a woman, and - once again - she's taking advantage of her best friend's hospitality. She slept with Sharon's father and got pregnant - Sharon gave her a pass; she slept with Sharon's ex and got pregnant - Sharon gave her a pass. Now, she's hit Sharon's son.

I don't think Sharon would give her a pass.

To be fair, there was a real amount of tension in this episode. You get the impression that Michelle is over Preston - over him,but she can't let go. It's interesting that the only thing that woke her up to the fact that their relationship was wrong happened every time she tried to seek employment in her professional field - which was simultaneously stupid and arrogant of her. Was she so stupid that she thought that any British school or educational employer wouldn't seek her references from her previous employer? Faced with the fact that the reason why she lost her job so precipitously (in real time, she'd have been prosecuted and imprisoned) or that she was massively over-qualified for any lesser educational job, faced with the end of her professional career, she now realises that this affair has resulted in that.

It's only then that she seeks to separate herself from Preston. Yet this little shit knows just how to manipulate her. Michelle is right, ultimately recognising that Preston's dalliance with her has merely been a game. It hits home to her with one remark from him:-

I could have had any girl I wanted, instead I ended up with ...

She knows the ending in the unspoken words. She's been facing that hard truth since the dinner date where the waitress mistook her for his mother. She wants to finish with Preston, but she needs him to leave Rebecca alone and ... just leave. But Preston won't leave - he's working illegally with Martin, who, misguidedly, believes he's a friend of Mark's and that he's from a nice family (probably true), a nicer tranche of people than the Kazemis. Martin's lack of curiosity is amazing. Not once has he questioned why Michelle is her and why her husband and son are in the US. Does he speak with Mark? Mark is his only nephew, and you'd there'd be some sort of contact. Why hasn't he asked the boy about his mother? Why hasn't he been nosy (siblings are always nosy) and called Tim to get the lowdown? Instead, because Preston's helped him out on the stall, he thinks he's ok and that this is just a holiday romance for Rebecca - but when does a holiday cease to be a holiday and become an extended stay? If Preston is in his last year of high school, he only has about 8 weeks of classes left.

I had thought Louise had seen Michelle hit Dennis. She hadn't, but Dennis has studiously avoided Michelle all weekend, and continues to blank her whenever, and especially when she tries to make pleasant to him. Louise knows something is wrong,and all through these segments, I found myself screaming at Louise, 

Call Phil and Shaorn! Just call Phil and Sharon!

As I said, Michelle has always been on a negative vibe when it comes to the Mitchells, and Louise picks up on this instantly, in the wake of Dennis's reaction to her. She almost knows something bad has happened, and she isn't buying Michelle's pithy excuse that she'd deprived Dennis of his computer. This is Louise's first threat to call Phil, even when Michelle tries to pull rank, muscling in to remind Louise that until Phil and Sharon come home, this is her domain; but she doesn't bank on Louise witnessing Michelle's encounter with Dennis in the street - and I was Team Dennis on that one, when Michelle got desperate and tried to force the child inside the house by yanking him by the arm. Dennis reacted by kicking her. Good. She deserved that, even though he tried it on by demanding 100 quid to keep his mouth shut. He knew she would never comply with that. She doesn't have a pot in which to piss.

I thought one of the best scenes of the episode was the playground scene between Louise and Dennis, one of the best enacted scenes between two young actors on the show. Louise is concerned, worried and tense, wanting to know why Dennis had reacted to Michelle the way he did. Dennis is reticent, whether it's from fear of Michelle or fear that Louise wouldn't believe him or a combination of both, he reluctantly tells her what he'd seen - that he'd seen Michelle and Preston together, kissing, that Michelle had hit him because he knew about her secret and she feared he would tell.

That's when Louise channels her inner Mitchell.

I think Michelle knew that it was only a matter of time before everything spilled out into the open, and she seeks to cover her arse by trying to talk Martin and Stacey into discouraging Rebecca from seeing Preston, but she's suitably vague about her reasons, and the Fowlers don't take her seriously. She's further spooked at the pub by Louise's unannounced appearance, and here we have the art of minimalist dialogue. Louise's attitude, her demeanor and her disdain of Michelle makes the woman wonder aloud if Dennis has said anything to Louise. Louise says nothing, except to leave Michelle with the observation that Michelle disgusts Louise. This incident occurs just moments after the insipid Rebecca thanks Michelle for talking to Martin, who's given his blessing to Rebecca's romance with Preston, and Preston acknowledges secretly that this is all an act to make Rebecca jealous. He doesn't really care about Michelle. Her association with him has lost her her family in the US; now he's taunting her insecurities and immaturity by putting her in competition with her niece.

Louise tries to talk to Rebecca about this. It's natural that Rebecca doesn't trust her, after the incident with Sniggle and Snaggle; besides, she thinks Louise is jealous. She may not have believed Louise at first about Michelle and Preston, but Louise has planted a seed of doubt, which blossoms when Preston accidentally on purpose snakes across the the bar to place an affectionate and intimate hand on Michelle's shoulder, Rebecca realises that what Louise has told her is true.

One observation: The choreography of this scene reminded me of Sharongate. There was a party that night in the Vic - Phil's and Kathy's engagement party. There was a dance tape going, the machine for  which was right where Rebecca was performing. Sharon and Michelle were standing exactly where Michelle was standing on that evening. We had a brief scene before that of Alan and Carol Jackson dancing (Sylvie and Vincent this time), and down the bar behind Sharon were standing Ricky Butcher and Bianca (Martin and Stacey). The layout, the choreography and design was very much a tribute to Sharongate.

But it wasn't.

Just remember: Michelle's mixed sleeping tablets and booze, and Kathy's in the chippy.

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