Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Ugly Side of Life - Review:- Thursday 27.04.2017

Life is full of surprises, indeed; and this was the best episode of EastEnders I've seen in a long time.

Think of it - no Rebecca, no NuMichelle, no Denise ... but maybe, just maybe the episode was made good for the introduction of one new character and the establishing a background history of another.

Another big surprise - how much do I like Woody? As I've said before, I knew nothing of Lee Ryan prior to this, but for the part, he's good. He's really good in the role. He's not just another jack-the-lad type with a come-on and a quick wit and repartee, tonight he was established as someone with insecurities and a past full of deprivation. Losing his father as a child made him desperate to overcompensate for being liked, starting with trying to comfort his mother and, at the age of seven, seeking to replace his dead father by becoming a provider.

And, again, not short of surprising, Lee Ryan and Luisa Bradshaw-White have an amazing sexual chemistry. It's comfort sex, I know, but in that rooftop scene, they really bonded over the loss of a parent, although Tina's memories of Sylvie singing the Dusty Springfield song to her and Shirley as children might just have been stretched a little bit, and may have actually been Shirley's memories transferred by word-of-mouth to Tina, as Shirley would have been nearly a teenager when Tina was born and would have been a child, herself, during the era when that song was popular enough for Sylvie to have taken note of it. Also, we know from Stan's tale of Shirley almost drowning Mick when Tina was a toddler, that Sylvie had been long gone by that time. Tina is two years older than Mick, so there would have been no real memories of her mother at all.

Still, it made for a nice lead-in to a scene, which allowed the viewers to know that little bit more about Woody and to know that his cocksure facade was just a front. It's also nice to know, from his conversation with Tina,that he's not really interested in dirty Shitney at all (although her ego might allow her to think that he is); he's just wanting to be liked, and - from the looks of it, considering Shitney in her new-found importance, Johnny and Shirley - he's failing. I daresay, his putting Whitney in her place when she tried to grass on Shirley to Mick, put the mockers on any attraction she may have felt for him.

After reverting to the Court-Jester-idiot-child mode for a few episodes, it's nice to see Tina return to the development we so enjoyed during her storyline with Sylvie. To his credit, SOC has brought Tina along leaps and bounds. The storyline, told from her point of view, of the hardships and emotional rewards from caring for a relative with Alzheimer's, has been the strongest thing about EastEnders of late. In the run-up to the BSA's, the show's played safe, by giving us the same old same old nominees, two of whom are capable, but who have been short of being front and centre in storylines (June Brown and Lacey Turner) and one, who's being force-fed the viewers (Denise), when TPTB should have been brave and put forth Bradshaw-White as a nominee.

Tina's lonely and feels on the periphery of her family unit. Mick has his wife and children, and Shirley's a part of that dynamic, as Mick's mother; but Tina has always been away and apart from the rest. The café is her main means of employment and she hasn't lived in the pub - living with Sonia first, and subsequently, caring for Sylvie. Indeed, she feels a lot like a spectator watching the proceedings. Consider the way she introduced herself to Fi Browning, the new freeholder of the pub:-

I'm Tina, and I'm on compassionate leave from my job. My mum just died.

No family identification, no affiliation to the business, just a relative who's grieving her mother. In that final scene where she opened up with Woody, after he'd told her of his protective front of trying to get people to like him, she confessed her fear of solitude, how it seemed that everyone she loved had left her - her mother dying, being at odds with Shirley (who also abandoned her for Kevin when she was a child) and Sonia leaving her. Very significantly, she failed to mention her daughter, Zsa Zsa, and we know that Tina failed to bond, in every way, with Zsa Zsa. People have wondered if Sylvie's death would make Tina try to reach out to her child. 

It hasn't, and as quirky as that is, I like the fact that she hasn't reverted to soap maudlin mode and made an overture to Zsa Zsa. She made it quite plain, in a brutally honest way, that both she and Zsa Zsa checked in on one another from time to time to see if each was still alive, but apart from that, their relationship had never thrived or even petered into dysfunction.

The final scene, that of two lonely people coupling together for some comfort sex, was totally unexpected, but brilliantly poignant.

I hope Woody stays.

As far as the new resident, leggy blonde businesswoman, I like Fi.Of course, her introduction was typically trite EastEnders, and her initial introduction to Shirley and the rest of the Carters was a tad too sitcommy - Shirley losing Lady Di, Fi finding her, Shirley being her usual gnarly, obnoxious, aggressive self and accusing her of kidnapping the dog.

But she comes across as a confident, self-possessed, practical businesswoman, who takes no shit from anyone. She quickly deflects Cartoon Keegan's precociously sexual come-ons by dismissing him disdainfully ...

Come back when you've hit puberty.

When Shirley celebrates prematurely and sprays her with bubbly's in the fridge (her coat must be ruined because champagne leaves spots), as the Walton-esque introductions continue, Fi mistakes Shirley for the cleaner, as she appears to be so deft with a mop.

Once again, Julia Honour injects a quick dose of sexism in everyone concerned, with everyone assuming that the representative coming to take a professional gander at the Vic would be a "suit"- i.e., a man. I'm surprised that Sharon, who's fronted several businesses, herself, including the Vic, would pre-suppose the freeholder, or the agent of the freeholder or whoever, would be a man, 

Gender assumption, much?

Overshadowing was rife amongst the Carters in this segment, with the fact that they really are a family built on a foundation of secrets and lies being even more firmly rooted. Shirley takes a call from Mick and brazenly lies about the state of things on the home front - the business is fine (in fact, it's about to turn a corner), Lady Di is doing well ... you get the drift.

The first scene between Tina and Shirley looking at the "To Let" sign over their old flat, as well as Fi Browning glancing at it as she stepped from the underground, gives you an idea of where she's going to live. I also got the impression that Shirley's celebrations at the Vic were premature as well, even though Sharon did try to warn her that this could mean something more than just the Carters being allowed to run the pub as before, which is exactly what Shirley thinks. Also, I was more than a bit taken aback at Sharon sniggering at Fi being showered with Shirley's champagne fizz as she walked through the door. Here was a stranger, and Sharon would never laugh at someone walking into something like that.

I think Fi's someone who means hard business and was actually taking a cold hard look at how the business is being run, mentally taking an inventory - the fact that there appear to be two bar managers, although I think Sharon's given herself that title. Linda merely told her to keep an eye on things, and maybe the fact that she was spending an inordinate amount of time mollycoddling Michelle was the reason Linda asked Woody to rock up. You could tell Fi was taking note of everyone connected to the Vic - that Tina was only there because she was on compassionate leave from her real job, that Shitney was the barmaid, that Johnny "helped out". (Johnny's about to get a law degree - shouldn't he also be applying for a Legal Practice Course as final preparation for qualifying as a solicitor, which would also entail clerking for a firm? We've heard nothing of that). She finally meets Tracey, in the course of the working day.

As she reiterates throughout, her brief is to see the pub maximise its profits.The freeholder will want the leaseholder to do well - it's more money in their pocket. But maximising profits means a lot of things. Fi now holds the power to decide whether or not the business is over-staffed or understaffed. Rather than people hanging around and helping out, she might want full-time people doing recognised shifts. She won't want two bar managers. The fact that she's back the next day and that she's living in the area means that this is going to be a hands-on involvement, something neither Shirley nor Linda and certainly not MIck will like.

There are going to be a lot of changes at the Vic, and throughout it all, Max stands and watches from the sidelines, catching hold of the fact that the all-too-willing Carmel has a clutch planning applications to wade through, and he instantly offers his help and expertise.Carmel is Max's willing idiot in his means of helping whoever is taking over the Square.

This comical takeover aside, these new characters, as well as Konrad, and Jay's one-time friend, Eddie, are patent evidence that new blood is needed in this programme - and by that, I don't mean the contrived Michelle or the cartoon teens; they've been abject failures. In some respects, I can see the efficacy of introduing single, new characters. It's always easier to build up a background and add family at a later date, the way they did with Tiffany Raymond and Mickey Miller, rather than dumping an entire family, fully-formed, on the Square. Still, these two characters, early doors, look promising, but who am I to judge? In three weeks' time, we could see Fi Browning crawling into bed with Jack Branning, and then what?

The Sitcom in a Soap. Men Behaving Badly meets Friends. So Abi's been burning the candle at both ends, downing Jagerbombs in an all-night drinkfest with Donna, so much so that she's now ringing in sick at the vets.

Abi's now into 24/7 partying, but even Donna, who does like a drink or two and who also has to be up at the crack of dawn to set out her stall, wants a break from that from time to time. Abi's been out all night, downing jagerbombs, and looks a wreck when she comes home at breakfast time to Dot and the Bible. Funny, how Abi was springing to Dot's defence just the other night about wanting to live with Dot to look after her. Now, she's rolling her eyeballs and affecting extreme boredom at Dot's concern and lapping up Donna's invitation to move into the frat house. More drinking games, more clubbing, more jagerbombs.

Consider this: Abi's grandmother is a functioning alcoholic who was lately living (and drinking) on the streets; her aunt is a full-on alcoholic and drug addict; her mother was a seasoned binge drinker-cum-near alcoholic, never without an over-large wineglass in her hand, filled to the brim, and her sister almost died from alcoholism. Abi is a walking gender-case for an addictive personality, and whilst she pulls a sickie from being hungover, Donna, seasoned pro that she is, who knows how to pace her drinking, is working on her stall as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as they come.

The plot is to get Abi to move into the men-behaving-badly house and thus morph into the Deborah character. Minty and Garry Ben and Jay, scoffing a full-English breakfast in the café, veto the idea. After all, Abi is the ex-girlfriend of both of them - fair enough, in that respect, but Jay was always fond of and fair about Abi's treatment, constantly reiterating to Ben how fraudulent and cruel it was for him to play straight with Abi and lead her on. Now you have Jay, deprecatingly referring to Abi as "one olive short of a pizza" with Ben, stoutly reminding Donna that Abi had the affront to pretend to be pregnant.

Donna should have reminded him that he pretended to be gay and that he also humiliated her in a very public way when he found out about her deception. The price she paid for his deception was contracting an STD from him. Yet both boys present her as the pejorative one, someone neither wanted as part of their daily regime.They're quite content for her to hang out, just not live with them. 

Donna's scheme is for Abi to cook the dinner, which not only reinforces how shallow they are, it also denotes that Abi would become the chief cook and bottle-washer, cooking the meals, keeping the fridge well-stocked with liquor and probably cleaning up after everyone. At the end of the day, all it takes to convince them of the efficacy of her staying is for Donna to physically wrench their dinners of spagbol from their greedy little hands and threaten to move her television into her room.

That's all it takes to seal the deal. 

When did Ben and Jay become such sexist dolts?

At the end of the day, Abi's conflicted. Dot fixes her favourite meal and reminds her that she promised Tanya she'd look after Abi.

Abi should stay with Dot. Seriously.

Steven Pulls a Trick and Lauren Proves She's Stupid Once Again. Seriously, Lauren is amazed that company after company reject her CV, which largely consists of nothing since she has no academic qualifications and no real work experience at all. She's - what?- 23 now,and people with a lot more qualifications and work experience than she are on the market and are infinitely more employable (and speak better English, as well, considering Lauren's propensity to use the non-word "ain't" exclusively).

She's not interested in Steven at all and only shows a perfunctory interest in her son - what a little trooper, playing to the camera like that, and looking totally relaxed in Aaron Sidwell's arms, Sidwell being a dad, himself).

It's telling that, of all the rejections, the only positive feedback comes from Weyland & Co, for the obvious reasons, and if Lauren were clever, she'd realise that, from whence that progression in the interview came and why it came; but she's self-obsessed and obtuse.

When she's out of the room, Steven takes a call from her phone from Weyland, and takes advantage of the situation to tell the caller she'd reached a wrong number. However, the woman from Weyland only e-mails Lauren, saying she'd tried to phone her earlier. 

If Lauren had another braincell, she'd have noticed the number on her phone's log and not have taken Steven's lie for granted that no one called her.

Steven wants one thing, Lauren wants another, and creepy Josh always gets what he wants. It will all end in tears.

Honey the Bitch and Cartoon Keegan. The obvious aim of this storyline is ageism and Honey's blatant intolerance. It amazed me how well the make-up department did in actually making her appear brittle and turgid. The bobbed hair,coupled with the pale white pancake make-up on her face made her seem almost like Cruella de Ville.

They played up too much the stereotypical bumbling old codger, which is something Derek isn't in any way, shape or form. They had him so incompetent that he couldn't count tins correctly nor was he able to pause in one task in order to serve customers. It's a fucking corner shop, not a massive corporation. I don't think he's incompetent at all, most probably put off and nervous by Honey's intransigent attitude. When you can't do right for doing wrong, no one ever wins. 

Of course, it's Cartoon Keegan whom Derek spots shoplifting and whom he confronts, making the little shit look even more little and shittier than normal. Confront this scrote verbally and he fades, 

Once again, this was a storyline that was quite dismissive of an attitude too often prevailing in society today, and thinking that Derek using fortitude and persistence in talking around a shoplifter - after Honey had admonished him to let Keegan leave (obviously the franchise doesn't care that much about merchandise lost through shoplifting) - was all it took to win her around.

That's that done and dusted then. They'll be the best of friends from now on. I hasten to point out that this was not out of character for Honey. She can be passive aggressive and has a bitchy tendency as well.

Good episode. Well, better than most,recently.

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