Thursday 18 January 2018

Television: Storm in a D-cup as Mrs Brown gets cosy with Pam and other celebs

Game for a laugh: Pamela Anderson with Mrs Brown
Game for a laugh: Pamela Anderson with Mrs Brown

John Boland

In All Round to Mrs Brown's (BBC1), Ireland's most famous mammy told tennis matriarch Judy Murray that she was "full of shit" and wondered aloud to pop singer James Blunt why everyone thought him a "wanker".

These remarks, though, sound much ruder in print than they were on the show, where a game Murray chortled at the profanity and Blunt riposted by snogging the hostess. After all, who could possibly be offended by the loveable Mrs Brown?

Not the British public anyway, who have taken Brendan O'Carroll's creation to their collective bosom. Pundits in the posher media outlets may loathe Mrs Brown's Boys, but that doesn't matter because it's critic-proof, appealing directly to a huge audience that adores its bizarre mix of pantomime antics and four-letter words.

A pity, then, that the first instalment of this spin-off chat show was so lazily content to rest on its tried-and-tested laurels rather than exploit the edgier possibilities of having celebrities interviewed by a fictional host - as Steve Coogan did when Alan Partridge hosted Knowing Me, Knowing You and when Caroline Aherne adopted her Mrs Merton persona to skewer her guests.

Instead, this Mrs Brown show was far too cosy for its own good, and something of a mess, too - especially the entirely unfunny sequence involving Louis Walsh at Madame Tussauds, where the impresario was given an easy ride as he employed his trademark manic grin and mirthless eyes in response to the occasion.

And while both Judy Murray and her mother were clearly up for a laugh, former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson must have wondered if it was worth the appearance fee when Mrs Brown followed up his offer of tea by asking "What size cup are you?"

Yet the studio audience were clearly having a ball at the tomfoolery of Mrs Brown and her less loveable sitcom entourage, so perhaps the BBC will also have a big ratings winner here, even if disapproving critics remain aghast.

And Mrs Brown would undoubtedly liven up Dragons' Den (RTÉ1) if introduced to its panel, though instead for this latest and past-its-sell-by-date season we are being offered new judge Chanelle McCoy, a pharmaceuticals tycoon.

According to host Richard Curran, she and the other four gurus, "will make or break the business dreams of enthusiastic entrepreneurs", though why they should wish to break anyone's dream was left unexplained.

First up for their patronising scrutiny was children's book creator George, whose dream was promptly dented with four declarations of "I'm out", and indeed after years of enduring this smug, ego-flexing Celtic Tigerish twaddle, I decided I was out, too.

And despite all the brouhaha, I also didn't keep faith with Dancing With the Stars (RTÉ1), though maybe it was the brouhaha that put me off the show after its first couple of instalments. Yes, I could see its appeal and, yes, it was expertly done, but with all the RTÉ back-up hype about it, I felt that I was being bullied into submission and that if I didn't choose to submit, I was simply being a joyless naysayer.

Maybe I am, or maybe dancing contests are just not my thing, but I also soon wearied of the laboured banter between hosts Amanda Byram and Nicky Byrne, while Des Cahill's sheepish demeanour had delighted me enough long before he was voted off. Full marks to the show, though, for what it achieved.

In the first instalment of the two-part Turkey with Simon Reeve (BBC2), the boyish presenter didn't shirk from considering the country's less appealing aspects, including its repression of political dissenters and its antipathy towards media independence, but he was admiring of its treatment of refugees, especially in a specially constructed camp he visited, which provided playgrounds among its basic amenities.

He also visited a hotel that catered exclusively for Muslim holidaymakers. This featured an eight-storey wall separating the swimming pools for men and women, so that no prying eyes could see into the latter from anywhere in the hotel. It was an unsettlingly ugly sight, though also unsettling was the €15,000 a night being charged at one of the country's swankiest hotels.

Then there was Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby (BBC2), with smart-arse journalist Giles Coren and earnest Bake Off contestant Monica Galetti helping out at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, though Coren spent the entire time just larking around trying to be funny.

The hotel itself consists of three tower blocks joined together at roof level by the world's longest infinity pool, in which guests splash about while surveying the city far below.

Catering for a million visitors each year in 2,500 rooms, it employs 9,500 people. In fact, we were mainly invited to boggle at figures (400 chefs, 10,000 bread rolls each day) in a film that was little more than a 60-minute free ad for the enterprise.

Line of Duty (BBC1) began its fourth season with another investigation by the West Midlands anti-corruption unit, headed up by the splendidly incorruptible Superintendent Hastings, played with real and kindly presence by Adrian Dunbar.

In previous seasons, series creator Jed Mercurio has had a habit of bumping off some of his main players early in the proceedings, and this week's episode ended with police chief inspector Thandie Newton lying in a pool of blood while the colleague responsible prepared to chop her up with an electric saw. Then, just before the screen went black, her eyes opened. Yikes.

There were implausibilities here, most glaringly why he hadn't determined whether she was really dead, but certainly anyone who watched will be tuning in again next week.

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