Television: The wrong jobs for the boys

The BBC has reportedly drafted in a team of amateur telly addicts to help to resolve "a crisis of ideas" for Saturday night programming. "The same formulae and reliance on stars have been going on too long," said the head of light entertainment, David Young, which as an obvious statement from an improbable source is like Rupert Murdoch saying "too much power in the hands of one man is a dangerous thing" or Melinda Messenger complaining that "some women get jobs in television just because they have blond hair and big knockers".

Anyway, the BBC whittled more than 4,000 applicants down to 60, of whom five - all under 24, and one only 16 - have now been invited to come up with "ideas, ideas, ideas" for Saturday nights. Actually, I have an idea myself. Maybe the amateurs should also sort out the other six nights of the week, on the basis that Hale and Pace's h&p@bbc (BBC1) is a light entertainment show devised, titled, commissioned and produced by professionals. Charitably, I did not review the opening programme in the series. It somehow seemed pointlessly cruel. Also, I thought that I must have been missing something - that perhaps it was meant to be post-ironic.

On second viewing, I realise that h&p@bbc is not post-ironic but pre- ironic. The excruciating mock e-mail title suggests that the show hovers close to television's cutting edge, yet it is actually a throwback to those grim days when 3-2-1 was considered the acme of light entertainment. h&p@bbc is 3-2-1's natural twin, the acne of light entertainment. It is as toe-curlingly, mind-bogglingly awful as I first thought, and to watch it you'd think that Reeves and Mortimer never existed. Moreover, if it belongs anywhere, apart from Alan Yentob's wheelie bin, it belongs at teatime on a Saturday. How it wound up playing at 9.30pm on Wednesdays is anybody's guess, for it does not capitalise on a post-watershed slot, except that Hale and Pace occasionally get to say "crap", a word with more resonance than they know.

Actually, I've heard that they are nice chaps. But, let's be honest, their greatest achievement in comedy is to make Little and Large look like George Burns and Jack Benny. They are a third-rate vaudeville act, and I can only imagine that this series was commissioned following a pitch that went something like "Tell John Birt that the News of the World are very interested in those negatives of him with the barmaid and the sheep". I can think of no other rational explanation. Still, discredit where discredit's due, I don't suppose that h and p themselves are to blame for the show's derivative mish-mash of games, plundered from the likes of Noel's House Party, Blankety Blank and Stars In Their Eyes. Whoever is should be made to sit through the entire back catalogues of Bullseye and Name That Tune, as instruction rather than punishment.

Of course, it is not true to say that everybody thinks that h&p@bbc is an affront to the licence fee. Close relatives of Hale and Pace, as well as the schedulers at ITV and Channel 4, must be hoping that it runs and runs. ITV's audience in particular must have been nicely boosted by BBC1 on Wednesday night, as Trust, its two-part psychological thriller, built up to a cracking conclusion.

Trust was terrific - well written by Richard McBrien and atmospherically directed by David Drury, positively Hitchcockian in his use of showers, Venetian blinds, clunking lifts and underground car parks. It was brilliantly acted, too, by Caroline Goodall and the suddenly ubiquitous Mark Strong and Nat Parker. Goodall played a solicitor, Anne, who somehow emerged as sympathetic despite the fact that she was two-timing her husband Michael (Strong) with his best friend Andrew (Parker). When the police discovered the body of a murdered woman, suspicion lurched from Michael to Andrew and back again, but I forgot my Agatha Christie - that the nicest person is always the culprit. It was Anne whodunit.

Trust obeyed most of the conventions of the genre. For example, I can hardly recall the last murder in a television drama which did not follow the battered corpse all the way to the pathologist's table, a spectacle I would gladly skip. And like most thrillers, Trust had an over-excited soundtrack, to the point where I thought that if it wasn't Michael, and it wasn't Andrew, then maybe the synthesizer did it.

Still, these are relatively minor quibbles, although I have a more general quibble. For thrillers like Trust, along with steamy Andrea Newman-type dramas about love triangles, almost always concern the monied middle classes, people who live in spectacular lofts in Clerkenwell or five acres of Berkshire. Maybe this is because the writers and producers live in Clerkenwell lofts themselves. Or maybe because it adds a slight aspirational edge - my wife simply adored Anne and Michael's kitchen in Trust. Either way, it is a faintly troubling curiosity that the lives, loves and crimes of middle- class professionals come with expensive production values and Amana fridges, while those of working-class folk are considered the preserve of soap and docu-soap.

Which brings me to Family Life (ITV), an eight-part serial following the ups and downs of - you've guessed - a working-class family, the Henrys of Leeds. Family Life is the grandchild of The Family, Paul Watson's 12- part study of the Wilkinses of Reading, first transmitted in 1974. Twenty- five years ago, of course, such a documentary was considered truly innovative. Now, lamentably, there is a positive plague of flies on the wall, and at first sight Family Life looks indistinguishable from any other docu- soap. Which is a shame, because it is expertly made and rather gripping.

It is populated, as these things need to be, with some good strong characters, none stronger than Jane, who is fed up with her amiably feckless partner Laurie. "We haven't got that much in common any more, apart from football and documentaries, modern history and archaeology and all the rest of it," she complained. "And he's always goin' on about philosophy all the bloody time. I hate philosophy ... I did it at university by the way ... I don't want to ponce on about the nature of life, the nature of sound, the nature of movement. I come from a council estate. That's bollocks, y'know. We just get on with livin'." I felt like applauding.

Laurie's problem, in Jane's eyes, is that for 12 years he has been a pop star wannabe. But if he watched Geri (Channel 4) he might reflect that it is a dangerous ambition, for Molly Dineen's fascinating if overlong documentary revealed the former Ginger Spice to be that strange modern phenomenon, a tortured victim of success, fame and fortune.

I thought I had Geri Halliwell's number after listening to her psychobabbling through Parkinson a few months ago, but I have revised my opinion, for Dineen's study revealed her to be warm, sincere and rather lovable, in a vulnerable, screwed-up kind of way. "I wish he was my dad," she said, after meeting cuddly old Desmond Llewellyn - Q in the James Bond films. Her real dad died five years ago, and she went to see the body. "Everything was black, everything was sunken, he looked like the Penguin in Batman 2," she said. Geri makes imaginative use of film references: "I need some bloody philosophical guru sitting there, you know, like in The Karate Kid."

It is no wonder that she hits it off with the Prince of Wales. For all their differences of background, they are kindred spirits, both searching for a meaning to life, both trying, post-Diana and post-Ginger, to establish a new identity. Charles had Laurens van der Post as a philosophical guru. Maybe he could be Geri's. I can think of worse double acts.

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Arts and Entertainment

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past