Thursday, April 6, 2017

Get These Women Off My Screen! - Review:- Thursday 06.04.2017

Just when you think things can't get any worse for this programme, Katie Douglas writes an episode. Foist Michelle, Denise (who seems to be everywhere Michelle isn't these days, and that occupies 50% of the screen time she doesn't occupy), Carmel, Lauren and Rebecca front and centre, throw in a dash of Keegan just to remind us he's still around, and continue the Norris Cole-ification of Derek, and what could go wrong?


When the single most sympathetic character other than Tina in that episode comes off being Shakil, something is wrong.

Rotten. Off-kilter. 

Tony Jordan and Sarah Phelps, please.

Get That Woman Off My Screen I: The Normalisation of Michelle.

I come from a country whose current President is a narcissistic sociopath and a madman. Constantly, each day, we on the opposite side of his political persuasion, along with the burgeoning media are chastised never ever to normalise him. Normalising Trump means he's the new normal, and his repugnant behaviour is acceptable as what's right and proper.

Using that in this context, none of us who watch this programme and who intensely dislike this characterisation of Michelle, should ever accept this re-cast as Michelle. My apologies to Jenna Russell, who - I'm sure - is a fine theatrical and musical comedy performer. She has a Tony Award nomination to prove her worth; but this re-cast was a big mistake, and in her case, it's more the case of miscast or should never have been re-cast than anything else.

People who remember Susan Tully's definitive performance as Michelle will know that Tully totally defined who this character is, and even those viewers who don't remember or have never seen Tully in this role are uncomfortable with this actress. Part of the reason is the awful storyline, an insult to any original or long-serving character; but the other part is that this character, this NuMichelle comes across as terribly unsympathetic, selfish, self-pitying and totally without compassion for anyone within her sphere of influence of affection.

I'm sick and tired of lazy writers re-creating a Fowler homelife that never existed in a month of Sundays. Martin and Michelle were never that close. Martin was Pauline's remit, and Michelle was busy with Vicki. Almost from the time he could walk and talk (and Martin never issued a line of dialogue until James Alexandrou took over the role at twelve), Michelle didn't live in the Fowler home. She either shared a flat with Sharon or a house with Rachel Komiskey, and by the time she'd left, Martin was 9 years old. Martin was closer to Mark, who was there, close at hand, in the years after Arthur died, but he never built up enough of a close relationship with Michelle where he idolised her.

During the scene at the allotments where Michelle was looking like a sad, but worried and faux concerned Ginger from Chicken Run ...

... as she listened to Rebecca, when Rebecca mentioned that Martin had said that Rebecca, at seven, reminded him of Michelle, and that he'd always hoped she'd end up like Michelle, I had two thoughts:-

1. That the Michelle Martin remembered as a small child was always someone who came and went from the Fowler home, usually to argue with Pauline. She was someone who put herself first and let everyone else be damned in the process. I doubt Michelle would have made any sort of impact on the very young Martin at all, certainly not in the way Mark did, and he's hardly mentioned Mark, if at all - so how could his seven year-old daughter, whom Martin had only had in his life for one year prior to that, even remotely remind him of the driven, selfish, relentless sister who was determined to leave Walford at all costs, because she dreaded the thought of ending up like her mother, and 

2. That "ending up like Michelle" - the aim that Martin had tagged for Rebecca - is really a double-edged sword; because Michelle's first port of significant call was getting up the duff at sixteen by the forty-ish father of her best friend, so by that measure, Rebecca's in for getting pregnant by Phil Mitchell - or if we're looking for a fortyish man, how about Mick Carter when he returns, if Whitney hasn't claimed him yet? Was that piece of dialogue intentional, or just a Katie Douglas item of stupidity?

Not only was that dialogue stilted and unreal, delivered by the woeful Jasmine Armfield, all jutting chin and po-faced righteousness, it was appalling. Funny, but watching that scene, I was reminded of the storyline from years back when Pat had not been married long to Frank. She was having a hell of a time with Janine, who was about five years old and acting like the child from hell. The straw that broke the camel's back for Pat came when Janine ran away from her one day and, running after her, Pat fell and twisted her ankle.

At the end of her tether, rather than go home and recuperate, Pat de-camped to Pauline's house. During the course of her stay, they had a heart-to-heart, where Pat lamented Janine hating her, telling Pauline that Janine was the only chance at having a little girl to bring up that Pat had, and that she wanted the same thing that Pauline had with Michelle, which prompted Pauline to mutter that Michelle's singular accomplishment had been to fall pregnant at sixteen and refuse to tell anyone who the father of the baby was (although Pauline, herself, knew by that time).

I thought the lecture given Michelle by Rebecca was pathetic in its extreme - first, because Rebecca, herself, doesn't have enough common sense to figure out the mores of such mature thought process that she'd have been able to come up with some of the dialogue that Douglas had given her; second, because I'm tired of hearing retconned Fowler storylines where Michelle was presented as some sort of heroine, whom every member of the family should admire for her accomplishments.

Bullshit. She got handed a job by an older, horny man with whom she had slept, as a research assistant to a professor who had a year's secondment to a Southern university in the United States - a job which would never have been condoned by the institution in question because a professor would have had to draw on the resources of graduate students enrolled in that university for research assistants places. She had a poxy third-class degree from a polytechnic and she was going on a year's licence to sharpen pencils, photocopy notes, make coffee and answer the phone for a professor.

She lucked into being allowed to stay because she married an American. For years, we heard nothing of what she did, if she did anything at all. In this incarnation, we learned she was a teacher - a profession which would have meant that she would have had to have gotten proper teaching requirements, a degree from a university where she had to, as part of her curriculum, have had a course in student teaching, where she was in charge of a classroom for a six-week period and where she was assessed by a supervisor.

Even more unbelievably, she's an English teacher. I mean, and I must still bring this up, this is the woman who wrote a note to Sharon in 2014, saying ...

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

Here was a teacher, whose fifteen year-old daughter nicked her credit card and ran away to England, effectively stopping her schooling, something that could have landed Michelle's arse in jail in Florida - wow! Just think! Michelle is guilty of two crimes in Florida:- allowing her child under the age of sixteen to pack up schooling (habitual truancy) and statutory rape.

In the Deep South like that, those are crimes committed by trailer trash.

This entire segment of this episode was one big, fat pity party for Michelle, the first step on the road to her normisation, pushed and prodded and protected every step of the way by Sharon, in an unbelievable feat of loyalty.

I'm now convinced that Sharon loves Michelle more than anyone, more than she loves Phil and certainly more than she loves her own son and step-daughter - and Louise is now included in that remit as Sharon referred to her and Dennis tonight as "my kids." First, she's encouraging and admonishing Dennis and Louise to talk to Michelle. She's told them not to bother her. Dennis, to his relief, has interpreted this to his own satisfaction as not talking to her, something with which he's comfortable.

In fact, that exchange between Sharon, Dennis and Louise early on was one of the highlights of a dire episode, if only for Bleu Landau, who has really come into his own in this storyline. Sharon is literally forcing Michelle down those kids' throats, insisting that Michelle needs to feel that the Mitchell house is her home, and batting away all the chaos and confusion Michelle has caused in that home as something for which Sharon can forgive and forget, just like she has forgiven and forgotten what she refers to as "all that bad blackmail" stuff with Dennis.

You fucking what?

Let's get something straight about Dennis's "blackmail." He's a kid. He's ten years old. He saw his mother's friend in a compromising position with a boy who wasn't much older than his step-sister. In fact, Dennis knew that Rebecca was interested in Preston, and when he'd discovered Michelle and Preston together, he said as much. Dennis ascertained, quite rightly, that what Michelle was doing was wrong. When he threatened to tell his mother, Michelle turned the screws, telling him that Sharon already knew (a half-truth because although Sharon knew of the affair, she thought it was over and probably didn't know the whole thing was illegal because at the time, the writers didn't know, themselves), that Sharon would never believe him and she implied that Michelle meant more to Sharon than Dennis did. 

Michelle smacked Dennis, but she didn't smack him because he was blackmailing her- and basically, he was trying it on and she was puerile enough to let him - she smacked him because he called her out for being an adult and for sleeping around with a child like Preston. Someone needs to tell Sharon that.

When Louise rightly points out that Michelle hadn't treated Sharon very nicely, that was, indeed, an understatement. Michelle has never treated Sharon very nicely. Just look at her history. True, she was the only one in the community, besides Pat, who didn't shun Sharon when Sharon cheated on Grant with Phil, but she soon repaid Sharon by sleeping with Grant before the ink was dry on Sharon's divorce papers. Michelle has a history of not treating Sharon very nicely.

In Sharon's first scene with Michelle, Michelle, a woman pushing fifty, came across as an overgrown, recalcitrant adolescent, whining that Sharon had sent Preston away before Michelle had a chance to talk to him, accusing Sharon of lying to her, then implying that she, Michelle, really couldn't forgive and forget something like that.

Really, Michelle?

Well, let's see what Sharon's forgiven you in the past - sleeping with and getting pregnant by her father, sleeping with and getting pregnant by her ex-husband. Preston was really that monumental in her life that she would shunt aside everyone and everything meaningful to her for him? I guess she would, considering that she had to be shamed into grasping what her actual situation at the moment was - that she simply had to make things up with Martin and Ian.

I was glad she got short shrift all around - not only from Martin and Ian, but from Jane and Stacey as well, and she was still unrealistically promising Ian that she would repay him for the damage she'd done in demolishing the chippy. How, exactly, is she going to do that? As she says, she has no passport, no job and no money. At this point in time, she's thinking the same thing she thought at the police station - that all she'd have to do is apologise and everything would be well and good. Martin didn't give an inch - indeed, she did with Martin what she always did with him, one of the most annoying aspects of this re-casting that all TPTB can have her do with Martin is bring up references to Pauline and Arthur that come across as false and contrived.

In fact, throughout this entire debacle of a storyline, the only demographic of character who forces Michelle seriously to examine the repercussions of her actions are the kids - Dennis, accusing her of being a loser and a paedophile (although, I reiterate that she's not that); being told by professional entities that she's no longer suitable for such employment because of her inappropriate relationship with Preston; Keegan taunting her, as evidence that talk of her situation had re-bounded all over the Square, and whiney Rebecca, telling made-up tales of Michelle's mighty intellectual prowess, which - as we know - was no more of an achievement than any other woman has managed on the show - Michelle got what she achieved on the back of an association with a man. She did it in another country, but it's nothing more than Sharon, Linda, Stacey, Jane, Lauren, Whitney or any female character has done - and making references to Pauline, when she only knew Pauline briefly as her grandmother and would have had more lasting memories of Margaret, the adoptive grandmother who raised her. It took silly Rebecca to get Michelle to admit that she never warned her off Preston because it would have meant telling the truth about her relationship with Preston, and she was too ashamed to do that. 

Admitting her shame for a relationship that was both morally and legally (in Florida) wrong was a step forward, and something she wasn't ready to do with Sharon - although, prior to this meeting with Rebecca, she had been cowed enough by rejection that she actually came crawling back to Sharon, literally begging for her acceptance and love, making herself to be such a victim that Sharon totally overlooks the fact that Michelle had taken it upon herself to invite Tina, who'd made herself voluntarily homeless, into the Mitchell home, without ever asking Sharon's permission.

That was pretty entitled. Michelle is, herself, a guest in the Mitchell home. She has no money and is entirely dependent on Sharon financially. Because Tina's mourning her mother's death strikes a belated nerve with Michelle (first we've heard about her crying for months over Pauline's death), especially when she tells her that she and what's left of her family aren't getting along at the moment, which isn't entirely true.

I was surprised that Shirley had arranged to sublet the flat she shared with Tina, without telling her, although I expect she thought Tina would find solace at the Vic. She's fallen out with Shirley, but Mick is away, and Johnny and Whitney seem concerned about her. Something tells me that Tina isn't going to stay for one or two nights, but Sharon humours Michelle's action because, after all, she only wants Michelle to be happy.

The total and eventual outcome of this miserable tale is that Sharon ends up mollycoddling Michelle. Hell, Tina ends up mollycoddling her, making her happy-faced fried egg sandwiches as though she were a child, or rather, like Sylvie, a childlike adult - except that Sylvie was unaware of the repercussions of her behaviour, and Michelle accepts responsibility, but wants a lot of sympathy in the bargain.

What a load of tosh! Please, someone, get this awful woman off my screen!

Get That Woman Off My Screen II: Denise. Here we go again, with Denise and the romcom, and the ubiquitous reference to the fact that, yes, Denise is studying and, yes, Kush is dating a nerd.

Here's another dire storyline. Actually, it's two storylines for the price of one, both featuring - surprise surprise - Denise. It's not enough that we have her and Kush pawing and preening all over each other, in between sucking each others' faces, we have to suffer this Fayre on the Square malarkey. 

I'm not sure exactly what this is in aid of. Raising money, yes, but I thought this was all about confronting the Council because of their cutbacks and the resulting pile-up of rubbish and rats around the Square. Raising money for what?

Please don't tell me that there's another disaster "Get-Den-Watts" style impending! I feel sorry for Ian Lavender. The character of Derek, who should be re-establishing ties with Martin and his family, has been reduced to a flouncing, Cockney version of Norris Cole, prancing about worrying about this and that detail about community spirit and the committee behind the Fayre on the Square shit.

Of course, all this is a contrivance. Carmel is back, and naturally, she isn't best pleased with Denise being romantically involved with Kush. Actually, that's understandable, seeing things from Carmel's point of view. I actually thought the scene where Denise and Kush started eating each others' faces in the middle of the market, after that scene established Kush as nothing more than yet another ineffectually weak man, incapable of organising a booze-up in a brewery, only to be set right by the efficent, practical and literally dominant Denise. 

In Carmel's eyes, Kush comes across as someone weak and irresponsible, being taken advantage of by Denise. Also, Carmel is looking at this through a mother's eyes. She is Denise's contemporary. She wants her sons to settle down with women who'll make them happy and who'll give them children with whom Denise can interfere. She's not going to get that from Denise, who is actually old enough to be Kush's mother. And Carmel's disapproval strikes a chord with Denise about the actuality of her relationship with Kush.

At first, she wants Carmel's approbation as much as Kush does. To my utter chagrin, TPTB even have Derek, someone who had little or no connection with the Fox-Trueman's previously, totally blanking Martin in the Market in order to run around playing Cupid for people he barely knows, trying to create a situation where Denise would be able to accidentally on purpose engage Carmel in a discussion of the Fayre on the Square.

Is this another version, or attempted version, of a Michelle-Sharon type of friendship, where Denise literally wants her cake and wants to eat it too, bagging Kush in the bed, whilst staying on the good side of his mother, her best friend?

Kush has been reduced to such a state of simple-mindedness that he thinks Carmel's donation of the use of a clipboard for one day means she totally accepts the relationship - the look on her face tells Denise a lot more than it tells Kush. 

I think the penny has dropped with Denise now that their relationship is based primarily on sex, and the look exchanged between her and Carmel tells her everything she knows to be true but doesn't want to admit. That, apart from sex, she and Kush have absolutely nothing in common. This man is a contemporary of her older daughter, and she's sleeping with him.

Davood Ghadami deserves better than this pissy storyline, and we deserve to see less of Diane Parish, whose character has suffered immensely from severe over-exposure during a short period. Denise has not come out at all well in this, and please, stop all the coy references to the fact that she's studying all the time ... Ooh, every time I go to the library, I forget a book I need so I have to go back, look at me, I'm so far ahead of you peasants culturally ...

Somebody else had an attitude like that on the Square, and she slept with a much younger man too ... oh yes, and she hasn't got a job either.

Get this woman off my screen!

Get That Woman Off My Screen 3: Lauren. Lauren is one ungrateful bitch. She has Steven dancing to her tune, running after her every morning with a freshly made salad for her lunch and what does she do? Rolls her eyes and admits to Max that she bins the stuff as she gets closer to work, saying she'd rather buy a sarnie from nearby.

Something's rotten, however, because Max doesn't want her mixed up with working for his company. He tries all the same old same old dodgy excuses to deflect her - that the company's bad, that it works interns all hours, that people might say something if she works at the company as well ... all sorts. He even goes to the trouble of finding her other jobs advertised; but Lauren doesn't want to be a PA, she wants this photography job.

We all know that it will result in her finding out what Max is up to in relation to his revenge and retaliation. Lauren always finds out things she shouldn't.

She's frustrated to find herself landed in a relationship with a man she doesn't love, who may or may not be gay, with a son she's too young and too lazy to parent. She reminded me of Michelle when she stated bluntly that she didn't want to be hung over a sink, washing dishes the rest of her life. She wants to fly high like Michelle, presumably dependent on the arm  and upward lift of some influential man, but chances are, she'll end up on he ass in Walford, just like Michelle, and probably with less.

Max returned fully at the beginning of the year. It's been weeks since we learned that he's up to something with Simon Williams, but the longer they string this mystery out, the less interest there'll be in it.

This was only peripherally about Max getting squeamish about Michelle working for his dodgy company. This was all about Lauren again.

And Jake Wood's table manners haven't improved.

Nor has this show.

One Final Surreal Thought. There was one point in the Rebecca-Michelle conversation, where Rebecca heralded Pauline and Michelle's past and likened it to the low point to which she had descended in the present. She spoke at that point as if Michelle in the past would never accept the actions of present-day Michelle, as if they were two separate entities. 

Boy, she wasn't wrong. Katie Douglas writes stinkers, but a broken clock is right at least twice daily.

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