Inside Television: Ellen E Jones

Danny Dyer: The cockney messiah come to save EastEnders

The diamante geezer is scheduled to arrive in Albert Square just in time for the traditional Christmas show down

Listen, you muppets, Danny Dyer is the cockney messiah and he’s come to save EastEnders, alwite?

In a career move which now seems inevitable, the diamante geezer has been cast as Mick Carter brother to hard-faced Shirley Carter and a new landlord for the Queen Vic. Mick, his wife Linda (80s child star Kellie Bright) and their two kids, are scheduled to arrive in Albert Square just in time for the traditional Christmas show down.

Dyer isn’t the only new signing by ‘Stender’s new exec producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins. It’s also been announced that Natalie Cassidy will be returning as soap’s most put-upon martyr Sonia Fowler around the same time. It’s Dyer, however, who’s getting all the attention (don’t mind Sonia, she’s used to being overlooked) and since his public profile spans rubbish movies, controversial lads mag columns and an enjoyably ribald Twitter account, that’s to be expected.

Star signings are an obvious way for a soap to boost ratings, but the best ones are more than just a gimmick. Barbara Windsor was so good as Peggy Mitchell, her growl has almost superseded her giggle in the public’s imagination. Lots of Hollywood actors talk about taking on new challenges, but James Franco’s turn in the US soap General Hospital was braver than any Arthouse flick. Best of all was Ian McKellen as “dodgy novelist” Mel Hutchwright in Coronation Street. In a ten-episode stint he proved to the snobs that soap operas can be a happy home for both great comic writing and world-class acting.

My theatre-going friends tell me Danny Dyer’s Lear isn’t quite up there with McKellen’s, but whatever Dyer lacks in thespy credentials he makes up for in other qualities. As a result of an unfortunate detour in my early film-reviewing career, I believe I’ve seen more Danny Dyer films than Danny Dyer’s own mother. These include, but are not limited to, The Business (in which Danny Dyer plays a cheeky chappy on the Costa Del Crime) Dead Man Running (in which Danny Dyer plays a cheeky chappy in an improbable alliance with US rapper 50 Cent) and Pimp (In which Danny plays a cheeky chappy who profits from the enslavement of young women). Through my suffering, I’ve learnt that there is a thin line between national treasure and national laughing stock and Danny Dyer walks it like an acrobat on a tightrope.

This might not be much of an asset in a British gangster film with pretensions to serious art, but in Eastenders, which works best when it’s an overblown cockney pantomime, Dyer has found his natural home. And when Dyer’s lustre dims, as perhaps it might, who should be next on the Treadwell-Collins’ wish list? Kathy Burke? Ray Winstone? Or perhaps cockney of the moment, Jason Statham? He’d claim to be too busy making Hollywood action films, but I’d love to see him parachute into the square. 

The roller girls really rock

Tucked away on The Extreme Sports Channel (419 on Sky or 527 on Virgin) is the answer to equality in sports coverage, a solution to childhood obesity and entertainment for rainy Fridays all wrapped up in one attractively grrrl rock package. It’s called Roller Derby Till I Die and it’s a 13-part sports documentary series following the on and off-track life of the London RollerGirls League (LRG).

Roller Derby is a full-contact sport on skates best understood as Kabbadi meets syncronised swimming. It might take a few episodes of RDTID before you fully grasp the rules, but the sport’s appeal is immediately obvious: It’s fast-paced, violent and the players are encouraged to express their personalities during play. As on-pitch names like Grevious Bodily Charm, Bette Noir and The Duchess of Crutches suggest, the sport attracts big personalities. This week’s episode focussed on Tasmanian transplant Ruby Rehab.

Catch-up TV

Roller Derby Championships, wftda.tv

Roller Derby Till I Die on the Extreme Sports Channel  is the only place to watch LRG matches (apart from in person of course, see www.londonrollergirls.com), but WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) has a website where you can watch play-offs between US teams like the Nashville Rollergirls and the Oklahoma Victory Dolls. It’s only seven short days till this year’s WFTDA Championships in Milwalkee, and wftda.tv will be streaming the action live.

The Escape Artist, BBC iPlayer

As hot shot defence barrister Will Burton, David Tennant is the big star of BBC One’s new three-part legal thriller, but it’s Toby Kebbell (Control, Dead Man’s Shoes) who’ll keep you watching. He plays Liam Foyle, an exceptionally menacing, unnervingly confident young man charged with the gruesome murder of a young woman. Burton reckons he can always keep his personal feelings out of his legal work, but Foyle will push this professional detachment to its limit.

Disowned and Disabled, BBC iPlayer

This distressing two-part documentary on BBC Four looks at how the care of of disowned and disabled children in Britain has changed since the second world war (short answer: not nearly enough). Moving testimonies come from adults who grew up in care, including sprinter Kris Akabusi and former soldier Terry O’ Neill, who reveals how his experience of foster-care-as-indentured-labour led to a fundamental change in the law.

Charmed, Netflix

We learned this week that Charmed, the American series about three witches who also happen to be sisters, will soon be remade. The announcement was greeted with a collective shrug and even Alyssa Milano, who starred as Phoebe Halliwell in the original, found it hard to get excited. “The thing about them doing a #Charmed remake is that...it just...it feels like yesterday. It’s too close,” she tweeted. The other thing about them doing a #Charmed remake that even original Charmed was poor man’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and since all seasons of both shows are available to watch on Netflix, a remake is doubly redundant.

Life, Series 1, LoveFilm Instant

Give it up, Homeland fans. Your favourite angsty spy show is never going to regain the compelling tension it once had. But that doesn’t mean you have to go cold turkey on The Ginger One. Back in 2007, when Damian Lewis was just some bloke Jude Law went to school with, he starred in this police procedural as an LA cop who has embraced the philosophy of Zen. If you like your TV detectives as eccentric as Tony Shalhoub’s Monk and as brilliant as Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, Life could be a step towards personal nirvana.

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