Last Night's Television: Psychoville, BBC2
Undercover Boss, Channel 4
Famous, Rich and Homeless, BBC1
Charge of the dark brigade
Friday 26 June 2009
So. The plot thickens. I really didn't devote enough time to Psychoville last week. It was difficult what with Andy Edge, Park Resorts' preternaturally perky Undercover Boss competing for attention. No such distractions this week, though. Steve the undercover construction executive wasn't nearly as exciting. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First: Psychoville, Part Deux. It's rapidly becoming clear that this might be the new Best Thing on Television, or at least the Best Thing on Thursday when the rest of the viewing line-up is distinctly below par. It was a little difficult to get involved last week. Clearly, there was a story line about to develop but it wasn't yet clear what that plot was going to be.
In truth, it's still not. But what is rapidly becoming clear is that this is more than just a sketch show. The narrative picked up exactly where we left off – none of Little Britain's de-contextualised vacuity here. Or should that be narratives? None of the characters, as yet, appear to have crossed paths, though that, presumably, is just a matter of time. Mr Jelly the one-armed clown was still there, taking revenge for last week's humiliation, storming a Mr Jolly gig at the local school, as were our murder-minded mother-and-son (last week he was fired from his job; this time he and his mother decided to take revenge, trapping his former boss and attempting to drown him in a Matey bubble bath). Much of the intrigue revolved around a blind millionaire and his rudeboy reading companion trying to buy a green Beanie Babie from eBay. They were locked in competition with a pair of greasy-haired eBay-obsessed sisters. It's all entirely bizarre, but rather gripping nonetheless.
Oh – and how could I forget? – the special guest. Biggins! Amusingly, he appears to be playing himself, a casting decision that I can only assume was made on the basis that a jungle-loving C-lister is worthy of the same level of peculiar curiosity as a dwarf with a history of hardcore porn, or a murderous, incest-committing pensioner. A tad harsh, perhaps? Never mind.
Moving on: ah yes, Undercover Boss. I suppose this was always going to be a disappointment after last week's catastrophically understaffed holiday camp. This week, it was the turn of Stephen Martin, chief executive of construction company Clugston Group, to go undercover. Poor Stephen was dreadfully dull and so was last night's show: Steve went to Scunthorpe, pretended to be one of the guys, made a few shrewd observations ("this hotel's rather different from what I'm used to") and returned to the boardroom, from where he called back all the lazy workers he'd met along the way and fired them. Except he didn't, of course, because none of them were lazy – they're just normal, honest, hard-working people, up at five, home at nine, gobbling down their sandwiches in their half-hour lunch breaks. So instead, he promoted them and all, and fired his board (actually, he didn't even do that; he just promoted everyone in the hope of boosting morale, which seems a little unwise given the company's business woes.) Bor-ring.
Aha. Something new. Well, new to Thursday. Part one was on last night so it's not exactly a distant memory. Still, Famous, Rich and Homeless was refreshing. Having clearly established that Jamie Blandford isn't worth the blink of an eye let alone two hours of licence-payers' viewing time, we're left with only four of the original five celebrities trying to survive 10 days of homelessness: Annabel Croft, the Marquis of Blandford, Bruce Jones, Hardeep Singh Kholi and Rosie Boycott. Were this a phone-in-and-vote competition, Rosie would have won. Of the two nights' viewing, she's shown by far the most understanding, humility and compassion, though, to be honest, they've all got on pretty well, resisting the opportunity to wallow in self pity.
Last night, all four got sent off to live in a homeless shelter, billed as the toughest bit of the programme so far, though to my mind it wasn't a patch on part one, where they had to get by begging on the streets. At any rate, they were petrified when they went in, especially Bruce Jones who'd been sent to the "wet" shelter. Ironically, when he arrived, he slotted right in; it was a shelter for the over-sixties – not quite the horror-fest he expected en route – and most of his time was spend leading sing- alongs down the local pub. Still, it was depressing enough, watching all those broken souls shuddering into their beer cans, readying themselves for their unmarked spot in the local graveyard. The others' weren't exactly a picnic either and by the end of the show all four were rattling at the gate, ready to go home. Celebrity reality shows aren't, I have to say, something I have much time for; Famous, Rich and Homeless, however, may have been the exception.
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