Review

In the short term, Annie's Bar (C4) - the House of Windsor brings you the House of Commons - was unlucky in its timing. There have been boasts about how the last-minute production schedule will allow the scriptwriters to respond to recent political developments. So, in the week that 300 MPs had put in for a rise, and the Commons corridors can have been buzzing with talk of little else, it was distinctly underwhelming to be fobbed off with a tiny two-second reference to the issue of the hour.

In a larger sense, though, Ardent Productions may have hit their moment - as politicians slither ungracefully towards the hour of reckoning, viewers will need a sardonic outlet for their mute disgust. Last night's episode ended with a Labour MP staring fixedly as a Tory member takes his ease at the urinal. "What are you staring at?" he is asked. "The next election," he replies darkly.

Clearly, Annie's Bar is prepared to take the piss out of our elected representatives, but it seems to have settled for something well short of outright cari-cature. The opening episode used the shock by-election victory of a naive Tory candidate (implausibly naive, in truth) to introduce viewers to the native fauna of this unique habitat - lissom researchers scraping past the pin-striped paunches of Tory backbenchers, thug-gish whips and scheming ministers, the badly-foxed political journos propping up the members' bar. At times, naturalism, in the shape of some rather stilted local colour, conspires against comedy, as does the decision to give full rein to the thespian ambitions of real MPs - those, at least, who have decided that high office is beyond them.

In one scene, after the new boy has mistakenly supped tea with the enemy, he is hooted at by a clutch of his colleagues: "We do expect you to know the difference between Conservative and Labour," they yell. Austin Mitchell, the enemy in question, stretches out his arms pleadingly: "Tell us, tell us!". This is an interesting spectacle, but not exactly rib-cracking. Edwina Currie's appearance was decidedly stifling, too - a deadening air of charity charades, in a production which needs to be offhand and understated if it is to capture the sense of public performers caught off-camera. The less explicit Annie's Bar is, the better it is, though this may be a problem specific to first episodes, which carry a heavy duty of explanation. As a maiden speech, this wasn't bad at all - a touch nervous here and there, let down occasionally by poor delivery, but showing definite promise.

It was odd that Jeremy Clarkson's Motorworld's (BBC2) visit to Texas, spiritual home of the unrestrained ego, should turn out so muted and dull. I am prepared to admit (usually after a brisk massage with a torque-wrench) that the series can be quite watchable, but this was as flat as the landscape in which it found itself, a state where speed-bumps would count as scenery, were speed-bumps not reviled as an unconstitutional Commie plot. Perhaps it was simply that Clarkson had found the one place in the world where his top-fuel, unmuffled loud-mouthing would come across as English reserve.

Jeremy drove a bigfoot truck (which frightened him) and met several red- necks who could outperform him in the swaggering bullshit stakes (which, understandably, startled him), but he never quite turned the key in the programme's ignition.

I had thought that the year could offer no more painful musical experience than the whining infants in Wednesday's Under the Sun. My complacency was immediately punished by the aspiring holiday-camp entertainer in Seasiders (C4), who managed to work his way through "La Bamba" without hitting a single note. For some reason, he accompanied this defiance of statistical probability with a mime of a scuba- diver trying to get an eel out of his wet-suit. The stunned managers, auditio- ning for summer season, struggled to lift their lower jaws back into place. Haven holidaymakers have apparently been spared the misery of being serenaded by this man. Irene Cockcroft's engaging series will follow those who made it.

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
Arts and Entertainment

Grace Dent on TV

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us