'Game of Thrones' returns - as po-faced as ever
Game of Thrones, Sky Atlantic
* Made In Chelsea, E4
Well, it's been a long time but it's back. After what must have seemed an eternity to its many devout fans, Monday night saw the return of the most ludicrous show on television.
Full to the brim with badly drawn and thoroughly unrealistic cartoonish characters, it still boasts the kind of awkward, fake and stilted dialogue which makes one wonder if the writers have ever actually had a conversation with another human being and, of course, we saw a series of obviously plotted set pieces and ham-fisted cliff hangers, all set to the usual seething backdrop of illicit sex between the priapic men and shrewish women.
But we'll get back to Made In Chelsea in a minute.
Before that, there's was only one programme that everyone was talking about this week, and that, of course, was Game Of Thrones, George RR Martin's fantasy crossover hit which has become the biggest TV show in years and the biggest cable show of all time.
Reviewing a genre show that is loved by millions is always a tricky task.
Granted, as journalistic endeavours go, it's not as tricky as, say, infiltrating an IS stronghold, or going undercover in a Dublin drug gang. Hell, reviewing a genre show probably isn't even as tricky as interviewing Noel Gallagher.
But as I recently learned when I gave Outlander a slightly less than stellar review, you snark at such shows at your peril.
Book-to-screen adaptations tend to have a ready-made army of fans who know and love the work more than even the author and they are quick to take up cudgels when they think someone is treating their beloved programme with anything less than immense respect (although if you have never received hate mail from hordes of furious middle-aged American women who genuinely think Ireland and Scotland are the same country, then you simply haven't lived, darling).
So, before we begin, a piece of fair disclosure: I like Game Of Thrones.
In fact, I like it a lot.
But here's the thing, here's my dark confession - I don't love it the way so many millions of other people do. Let's put it this way, I liked Seinfeld a lot, but I loved Larry Sanders. I liked The Sopranos a lot but I loved OZ (which is currently being repeated on CBS Action for anyone who has yet to see it).
So, as I said, I like Game of Thrones a lot, but most other people love it.
Of course, in our hypersensitive culture, even pointing out the obvious absurdities of what is effectively a sword-and-sorcery story with some boobs thrown in to keep the grown-ups happy (although why there is such a kerfuffle over the show's nipple count in this, the era of internet porn, remains yet another mystery) is received with fury.
Season five returned with a flashback proving that Cersei was as much of a little bitch when she was a child as she is now as an adult - spoiled and vengeful, with a witch's prophecy that she would outlive her children ringing in her ear.
Having killed his father, Tyrion has been spirited to apparent safety by the wonderfully arch eunuch Varys, who kept 'the imp' safely hidden in a crate for the journey, with only a few bottles of wine and his own poop (don't ask) for company.
Along with Arya Stark, Tyrion is the most captivating character on a show that is already elevated by perhaps the finest small screen collection of character actors in decades. Let's put it this way, the cast is so good, that you sometimes forget the hamminess of the dialogue, although I must admit that when Tyrion bemoaned the fact that: "I killed my lover with my bare hands," I couldn't help think...with those tiny hands? It must have taken ages to strangle her.
But if you're reading this, then you know all of that.
To put the success of GoT into perspective, the first season went out in a subordinate role to Boardwalk Empire, which was expected to be the bigger hit of the two.
Boardwalk, despite trailing off in the last few seasons, was a criticial success. But the world of Westeros is simply off the charts in terms of the records it has broken, the audience figures it commands and the loyalty of the fans, some of whom really should get out a lot more often than they do.
And yet, and yet. As much as there are elements to be genuinely admired - the brutality, the death count, the sheer brilliance of Peter Dinklage - the whole thing just takes itself waaay too seriously.
In fact, whenever the theme tune is now played, I'm immediately reminded of the brilliant South Park parody, 'A Song of Ass and Fire' and the 'floppy wiener' song.
Floppy wieners is a good way of describing the men on Made In Chelsea which delighted silly people everywhere with its return. Even better, it delighted silly Irish people everywhere the introduction of some local bird to the show.
I'm sure Irish model Nicola Hughes is a lovely person who is kind to children and small animals, but she will never be anything than mere eye candy on a programme which might, just might, be one of the harbingers of the apocalypse.
But it's worth tuning in just to see the strange creature known as Spencer. Is he a bird? Is he a plane? Nope, he is actually a sort of snivelling, scheming Blackadder. You read it here first....