Friday, April 7, 2017

The Michelle and Denise Show - Review:- Friday 07.04.2017

Can Michelle and Denise just crawl off and go to hell? Michelle talks to a picture of Pauline and later the prospective head of an English department makes a remark about Dot's cat "amongst all them rats." You couldn't make it up. 

And Saint Denise chooses a man's helmet over friendship. She was probably the type of girl in high school who was your best friend until a man got a look at her knickers and then she didn't want to know you. Umar said Carmel was a man's woman. He obviously had never met Denise. 

Another pile of steaming poo from the pen of Katie Douglas.

Sharon Misses the Bleeding Obvious. The theme of this show was obviously female friendship, but almost in a misogynistic way. It's SOC's version of how female friendships seem to warp some women,and bring out their worst qualities. Or maybe it's a karma warning in reverse. Who knows. 

Tonight, the 15th anniversary of Angie's death, Sharon is using this milestone as Step One in the Rehabilitation of Michelle.

Folks, we're stumped. Doomed. Fucked off. Held in total disregard by yet another Executive Producer who considers this show a toy of his own imagination designed only for his pleasure. When Michelle remarked that she'd seen various jobs of interest to her in Manchester and some even in Scotland, expressing a desire to leave Walford for someplace in the UK and start anew, i was praying, biting my fists in hope that this would be the exit of a re-cast character that was one, big, stinking epic failure. 

I know of no viewer, other than the occasional troll, who even likes this actress's depiction of Michelle. For far too many long-term viewers, Susan Tully will only ever be Michelle; for viewers who don't remember Tully's performances or time in the programme, Jenna Russell just doesn't gel as a character in this soap.

The fact that she's a theatrical actress, primarily, came over in spades tonight, and sometimes that can be for the worse.  I thought the soliloquy scene, overtly obvious in taking place in the shell of the old launderette, after Michelle, rather implausibly, found a battered old picture of a teenaged Sharon, Angie and a much younger Pauline, a picture which - surprise surprise - had actually been taken by Michelle.

Well, whoda thunk it? Pauline and Dot put a lot of store in sentimental tat like that, and neither of them would have allowed that picture to have disappeared down the back of an old dryer or washer or whatever. They'd have enlisted enough men or even Mr Popodopoulos, himself, to retrieve it. But it served as a kitsch reference point that enabled NuMichelle to sit in the launderette and have a conversation with Pauline's picture and say so much of what we knew this Michelle to have felt, but, really, deep down, what any of us would have known that real Michelle would never have said or felt.

For example, the soliloquy revealed that Michelle, having never set foot back in Walford after having left and having only seen her mother on the occasionally, but lengthy visits she made to Florida from time to time, thought her mother thoroughly justified in dying alone and cold in the dead of winter, because she was never happy or she forgot to pretend to be happy and inevitably allowed the bitterness and mean-spiritedness to show through to the point that she pushed everyone away. 

Then, the big reveal ... that Michelle had literally spent the last 20 years of her life - her married years - living a lie. Pretending to be happy. Lording it over Sharon and Pauline, pretending to be happy and living a dream life, only for the purpose of making them feel small and dissatisfied. Wow, this is another betrayal of Sharon's friendship. And how hard a bitch does this make Michelle?

I guess because we never met the figment that is Tim makes him so insignificant as only the mentioned husband of MIchelle that he never even was given a surname. Michelle is still known as "Miss Fowler," and her son, who was adopted by the nameless, faceless Tim, retained Michelle's surname, rather than share the name of the man whom he believed to be his father. Was this boy that much of a dolt that he never even asked why he and his mother had one surname and his father another?

This was Florida, not Spain or Italy, where women regularly keep their surnames (with the added patronymic de or di preceding their husband's added surname, which really means the wife is the possession of the husband. Yes, high-ranking professional females retain their surnames for professional purposes, but Michelle was a high school English teacher, not some Grade A defence attorney.

Then she makes some oblique reference to Vicki and some sort of karma biting her in the arse once Vicki had hit her teens, as a means of revenge for the way Michelle spoke to Pauline - as if Pauline never knew the teenaged Vicki, when we all knew that Vicki showed up, at fifteen, one night in Pauline's kitchen, having nicked Michelle's credit card and run away, quitting school (an act which could have landed Michelle in prison). Pauline knew exactly what Vicki was for the two years she lived with her. So Mark and Vicki are "angry" with her now. Is Vicki still in Australia, running a pub with the effete and ineffectual Spencer Moon?

And she surmised that the doltish "Mark Jnr", who somehow has managed to be born and raised in rural Northern Florida and still mananged to sound like Tim Hiddleston and not like ...

--- would forgive her quicker than Vicki ever would because ... well, because girls just don't, that's why. I certainly hope we don't see the return of that dolt. I have no desire to see Michelle as a mother; I've had her rammed down my throat too much as a puerile, simpering, whimpering, pathetic, entitled victim. I don't need to see either of her kids return, and I still find her living in Cloud Cu-CuLand in thinking that she can ever get a job again in education. She, at least, acknowledges that references "might be difficult," but who would trust a person like that.

She's a leech, grasping at Sharon's offer to loan her money, and you get the impression that there won't be any repayment made.

Still, that entire segment of the episode tonight featured Sharon's dogged determination both to keep Michelle in Walford and to effect some sort of reconciliation, not only with Ian and Martin, but with Walford, in general. Against the backdrop of all of this, is Dot's lost cat, a symbol of Michelle losing her identity.

Now, all of a sudden, Michelle seems to be the most important element in Sharon's life at the moment, because she'll stop at nothing to keep her in Walford. Why? She even emotionally blackmails Ian into forgetting the fact that Michelle literally destroyed his first business venture in Walford, leaving it in bits, and could have potentially killed his mother. She preys on the fact that Michelle is - that all-important Mitchell factor - blood kin, even getting Ian to admit that Michelle and Mark were more like his siblings than cousins. Jane's pretty astute, however; even when Sharon assures them that Michelle is ready to face up to what she had done, Jane isn't certain.

There was an instant, however, tonight when I wanted to punch the screen. When Sharon learns Michelle wants to leave Walford, she uses the excuse of Dot's missing cat and the fact that Michelle had yet to visit Dot in the four months since she's returned to Walford.

It's Dot who informs Michelle that Walford is her home. No matter where she goes, she'll always belong there. Not quite true. My home is in Virginia, but I don't belong there. Sometimes, ofttimes, people outgrow their homes, as their lives change and they find new homes and new lives elsewhere. Michelle can always feel the concept of Walford being her home in her heart without being there, and when she returns to the Mitchell house, Sharon reinforces her by insisting that she join her and Ian in the Vic in order to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Angie's death. (It's odd that a mere year ago, Sharon was still, from time to time, entangled with her birth father, Gavin, and referring  to her real parents as "Den and Ange."

When Michelle demurs from going, Michelle presents her with some harsh home truths, leaving out the bleeding obvious which would have broken that camel's back ...

You had an affair with my dad, and you slept with my ex-husband, and we're still here, aren't we?

Ummmm ... actually, Michelle's "affair" with Den was a one-off ONS which resulted in Vicki. Just like her one-off with Grant resulted in the dolt. But, wait a moment ...

This is the woman who assaulted your child, Sharon! She raised a hand to Dennis, and it's patently obvious that he isn't comfortable with her being in his home and his safe place. One moment, he's playfully teasing Sharon in the kitchen, but the moment Michelle appears, his face closes down, and he leaves the room. 

Fine. Forgive her sleeping with your father, when he was still married to the mother, whose death you're remembering. Forgive her for sleeping with your ex-husband; you're married to his brother now, anyway ... but do not forgive her for smacking your child. That was unforgivable.

The worrying thing about Sharon is that she seems to have elevated the importance of Michelle's friendship above everything else in her life, including her child.

The toasting scene in the Vic was seminal in that, whilst it forced Ian to acknowledge his connection with Michelle, it further disgusted Martin. That's another thing that Sharon, a mother, doesn't seem to understand. Michelle demolished Ian's business, and businesses can be built up again; but Michelle wantonly used Martin's child in her wierd little psychological sex game, and Martin's inability to forgive Michelle is based on what she did to his child. He's acting like a parent, protecting his daughter. Sharon throws Dennis's feelings and insecurities aside in order to mollycoddle Michelle.

Ne'mind ... the cack-handed gist of the storyline was that in searching for Dot's cat, Michelle somehow finds herself. 

We're stuck with her, folks. She's staying in Walford. 

What happened to the premise that if a character were unpopular with the viewing audience, they get the axe. We're on a hiding to nothing. Because this actress is playing Michelle Fowler, a "very important character" even though she's been deconstructed and ruined, she stays put. More important, because the EP likes the actress and her portrayal of the character, she stays put ... because that's all that really matters, innit?

Another EP who treats the show like his personal toy. What could possibly go wrong?

Would the Real Man's Lady Please Stand Up? So that was the much-heralded Fayre in the Square? An exercise bike race.

I don't know what Denise expected from Carmel. This was the reverse of Sharon and Michelle, the premise being Michelle's friendship was so central to Sharon's life that it would survive almost anything. Denise and Carmel aren't that different, actually. Both are strident, arrogant and self-centred women. For all Denise actively bleats on about how much she "sacrificed" for her two daughters, she pretty much didn't let anything get in the way of whatever it is that she wanted. Carmel has to be the centre of attention, herself; but hearing their final talk in the café made me realise just how much alike they are. It's for that reason, their friendship, mangled by the mésalliance of Denise with Kush, was on a hiding to nothing.

For the record, the insipid Katie Douglas messed up on some dialogue, by depriving Carmel of one son .. (Denise's line about Carmel having two sons; she has three).

Denise states that this relationship is "for real" and that it's lasting. She can't possibly know that. This is the afterglow of regular, constant sex, but the fact remains that Denise is some 16 or 17 years older than Kush, old enough, literally, to be his mother. She's only two years younger than Carmel, herself, and Denise's oldest child is roughly the same age as Kush. Denise might look good in her late forties now, but in ten years' time, she'll be approaching sixty, and women of 67 who look like Kathy Beale are few and far between. 

When Kush is in his early fifties, she'll be in her 70s. If she thinks he'll be any sort of approximation of an elderly man, think again. Phil Mitchell is sexually active in his fifties. So were Den Watts and Frank Butcher. So was Les Coker. But by then, Denise will actually be an elderly woman.

Both she and Carmel came out with cruel truths to each other - Carmel's remark about Denise being "soiled goods" and Denise's riposte about Carmel's objection not being about grandchildren, before dishing out the off-hand remark about Carmel having two sons (three, actually), implying that just because Kush couldn't now supply her with the requisite grandchild, Shakil (or even Darius) could. 

Both remarks were out of order, but it wasn't out of respect that Denise and Kush kept their first fling secret from Carmel. It was because they both knew how she'd react and they were scared shitless. I don't know where this BFF shit comes from with these two anyway. They haven't known each other all that long, and their friendship only ever consisted of getting drunk together and Carmel banging on and on and on and on about herself. Denise, as a friend, worked better with Shirley anyway, but now they seem intent on pushing the sibling friend aspect of Tina's and Shirley's relationship. Go figure.

I can see Carmel's dilemma. It actually is about grandchildren. Her absent son and his wife have proven that they are intent on pursuing their professional banking careers before having a family. Kush has been married twice, has lost a child and chose to forfeit having anything to do with his natural son. It's about perpetuating a heritage.  Whatever Denise thinks now, however much Kush says he doesn't want children, people can easily change their minds. And do.

As I said previously, soap relationships usually are effected in order to produce something - either to establish a family, establish a frameword for disestablishing a family or to integrate a character into another dynamic. Clock Vincent's reaction to Denise effectively declaring her friendship with Carmel null and void and celebrating by sucking on Kush's face in the middle of the pub. 

He shook his head.

Vincent is a pragmatist. He lives with Kim, ffs. He knows what will work and what won't. And this won't. Not in the long term anyway.

At the end of the day, in their final talk, both admitted that they hadn't been much on having or retaining girlfriends. They had associates from school and parents of their children's friends when the kids were small. Those associations lasted until the kids grew up, and then it was established that those transient friendships had nothing in common.

In fact, Carmel remarked that her ex-husband referred to her as a man's lady. That could also describe Denise. They are both the type of women who retain friendships with other women until they spark an interest from a man, and then that woman is dropped.

Tonight, faced with the choice of a lasting friendship with Carmel or a "real" romance with Kush, Denise, the man's lady, chose Kush. For herself. This decision to blank Carmel will not only affect her, it will affect Kush, who's close to his mother.

At the moment, they have only sex in common. Already, her actions toward him, when they aren't in bed, are those of a mother toward a small, inept and incapable son. There's a phrase where I come from, describing a man who becomes involved with a much-older woman, romantically. It's said that the man doesn't want a wife, but a mother; well, Kush has always been Oedipal.

As for Carmel's remark about Denise, she's more than right - Denise would be appalled if either Chelsea or Libby got involved with a man in his fiftes at this time in their lives. She wouldn't stint in calling Chelsea out for being after his money (which she would be) or telling Libby off for condemning herself to becoming a nurse for an older man.

This will all end in tears, although for a moment, I thought there would be a Michelle-Sharon-type reconciliation, especially from Denise's reaction to Sharon's speech about her special friendship with Michelle. The plain truth of this matter is that both Carmel and Denise are too much up their own arses to sustain a friendship with anyone.

Final Thoughts. We all knew when Shirley beat the shit out of her cellmate that this would scupper her early release. Still, we got to see Konrad again. I really like this character and hope we see more of him. And Ian's tactless remark about Angie Watts being the best landlady the Vic has ever had, made in the presence of the dwindling Carters and faux Carters, as well as Sharon's involvement in the Vic, must be portents of things to come. I loved the way Sharon refused a free round for Shirley's homecoming as her way of looking after Linda's financial interests.

Other than that, the episode was dire.

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