Geordie Shore, MTV UK, Tuesday
Wonderland: The Men Who Won't Stop Marching, BBC2, Wednesday
Stewart Lee, BBC2, Wednesday
Scott & Bailey, ITV1, Sunday
The perma-tans and naked fumblings on view in 'Geordie Shore' make 'Big Brother' look high brow
Let's work our way up from the bottom, shall we? Geordie Shore is the transliteration of the successful American show Jersey Shore.
In it, eight young men and women sit around a house in Newcastle, waiting to get drunk and have sex with one another. Over to you, Sophie: "This year is my year, and I'm going to be a complete slut." Or indeed, Holly: "I'm fit, I'm flirty and I've got double FFs."
As sincerely delivered as these statements are, there's more than a whiff of the Nuts magazine picture caption about them, which presumably is what, among other things, distinguishes the series as so-called "constructed reality" television. It may not follow in the Ugg bootsteps of The Only Way is Essex all the way to a Bafta, but Geordie Shore is already far and away the most popular programme on MTV.
The premise is that we're watching the eight occupants of the house merely going about their lives. There are some hasty sequences involving an employer that two of the boys have disappointed by sleeping in late. Otherwise, what dominated last week's second episode was the excited speculation over who might couple with whom. And the size of Gary's penis.
With these grand themes established, the cast wasted no time in beginning their frenzied ronde of bed-hopping. Or at least, that's what the production desperately wanted us to believe. The editing twitched, nonsensically, between to-camera pieces with the cast and their perma-tanned décolletages (male and female), evenings out on the town and grainy CCTV camera shots of naked figures fumbling in dormitories back at the house. It makes the last days of Big Brother look like Chekhov.
Another, less jerry-built reality was on display in Wonderland: The Men Who Won't Stop Marching. The Protestant flute bands of Northern Ireland step out to a beat that was first heard centuries ago, and the subject of this engaging but frustrating documentary was the dogged, almost blind loyalty of the latest generation to this tradition. On the streets of Derry and Belfast, director Alison Millar had her pick of boarded-up terraces, "peace" walls and gable-end murals as dramatic backdrops. Which was fortunate, as band leaders such as Jackie and Paul were not men given to reflecting much on the historical legacy of the Troubles, or indeed their own questionable participation, frozen as they seemed in the rituals of sectarianism. Millar, off camera, was reduced to chiselling responses from them, which didn't elicit much more than pinched avowals of their right "to walk the Queen's highway".
No wonder Jackie's young son was clueless about the basis of his father's passions. Young Jordan, as it turned out, was the star of the programme, a child whose wide-eyed charm brought out the best in his taciturn parents – but not to the point that his father would allow him to play in his flute band. Millar never drew from Jackie the reason for his reluctance, but the programme did its best to drag its participants to the conclusion that, for all the energy and social cohesion the bands provided, they were perhaps marching up a dead end. At its conclusion, there was a warm note – or at least tepid. Jackie took Jordan to the now-defunct H-block where he'd been imprisoned (for crimes unspecified). As the pair walked its corridors, you couldn't help but hope that perhaps the shackles of history might just loosen a little.
Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle also looked at identity. Actually, that's not exactly true. His real subject, as it had been the previous week, and the week before that I'd guess, was stand-up comedy itself. And if self-reflexive-comedy sounds a very long way from a good laugh, Lee, it should be said, is a meta-standup without equal. But his approach can make for a relentlessly self-conscious experience both for him and us. The puzzling existence of till receipts was deemed "bullet-proof observational comedy", as was the fact, according to Lee, that "that there are no Scottish women". When the word "nook" during another passage drew a titter, Lee's eyes lit up and he swerved into a monologue that teased this slight revelation of prurience in his audience. Lee is undeniably funny – just be careful what you laugh at.
Finally, a tentative recommendation for Scott & Bailey, ITV's new Sunday evening detective drama. The parallels between their first case and the unravelling romantic life of Suranne Jones's DC Bailey were too pronounced, but Jones's unhinged energy hints at good things to come.
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