TV View: Talent shows a double-edged sword for Voice twins of Banbridge
The programmes to watch and the ones you really want to miss
The other day I was having a pint with a friend who works at the BBC. Only slightly slurring, she revealed to me that there was a wall in the Beeb for reviews of new shows.
Apparently Number 2s is the latest show to get the wall treatment, with notices proudly arrayed like so many rosettes pinned to a prize bull. Save for one minor omission.
Getting to the nub, a little too gleefully for my liking, my friend added there was a Belfast Telegraph-shaped hole in the printed praise parade.
Yep, the sensitive bods at Auntie had seemingly ignored my one-star review of the show in the midst of all those zinger notices. Fair enough I suppose, but where the heck did they dig up even one positive review for a show even William Caulfield was heard to mutter was a "bit light on laughs"?
On reflection, perhaps she was pulling my leg. But it did get me thinking - there's a right way and a wrong way in most things. Be it political comedy (Hello Yes Minister, The Thick of It. Goodbye Folks on the Hill, Number 2s, Edwin Poots), praise walls or Saturday Night entertainment.
And so with all the lane-changing elan of a pilled-up pensioner on a moped, we turn our gaze to two of the biggest Saturday shows at the moment. Both are ostensibly about singing talent, and both featured local lads this week, but The Voice and Stars in their Eyes are about as similar as the Duke twins from Banbridge.
Ah yes, the Duke twins from Banbridge - 24-year-old James and Daniel were undoubtedly twins, but not necessarily from the same womb. Both rolled the dice of destiny on The Voice on Saturday. Only one now has Lord Tometh Jones on speed dial (or "SPEEEEED DIAAAAAL!!" as the leathery Welsh warbler would have it). The Billy Bunter one (Daniel) won, because he had "the voice" they were looking for. Or hearing for possibly. Daniel mewled The Proclaimers' 500 Miles like he'd been given half a valium and booted in the crotch and it was game over.
"When that song came out, it was a novelty. What you did was something completely different," said Tom, not having lost his knack for description. The judges didn't swivel for tousled twin James, but it gave Tom another crack at the "obvs". "If I turned round there I would have two of you." The reason I'm so hard on The Voice is because it takes itself so seriously, you imagine they have inspirational quotes from Will I Am and Gandhi on the Green Room walls.
Stars in Their Eyes with Harry Hill on the other hand, is the daftest, most enjoyable thing on the box.
Bar manager Roger Boyd from Portrush demonstrated just how gloriously silly the programme is. The best way to describe his Meat Loaf was that he seemed to be trying to demonstrate night terrors through the gift of mime.
I'm not sure what the opposite of helium is, but he'd taken a couple of balloons-worth to drop his camp speaking voice into something that could dislodge chewing gum from pavements. And he even had his own catchphrase about the fact his partner Garth still "hasn't put a ring on it", in a way that suggested that he wasn't completely familiar with NI's "unique" marriage laws. In summation dear readers? Give me heartwarming silliness over "big-up" boards and "musical journeys" any day.
It simply shouldn't work... but The Undateables is an absolute joy
There are some TV programmes that have so much of the feel-good factor about them it provokes spontaneous, if unseemly, self-hugging. The Undateables (dodgy title aside) time and again has me grinning so widely it looks like I'm about to chow down on the remote.
This week's instalment was one of the best Undateables yet, not to mention the best episode of telly this week.
Lovely mop-haired Daniel found love. After months of trying to find a girl who'd let him kiss her on the cheek, Daniel finally met Charlie.
He may have been autistic to the point where his words jumbled and contorted before they'd left his lips.
But his every utterance was also a sonic cascade of sweetness.
He met Charlie in a café, armed with a list of rote questions to get the conversation going.
But soon he was deploying his favourite catchphrase "Do you want a kiss with that?" to impressive effect.
When Charlie agreed to be his girlfriend and asked him what the future might hold, romantic Daniel said: "Well, we might go to Eastbourne."
It was that combination of pathos, comedy and punch-the-air sense of triumph that makes absolutely no sense on paper. It was utterly compelling to watch, however.
And the award for the best Tourettes' outburst must go to the remarkable Ruth, who's been looking for love for several series now.
"Thundercats! Kick them in the nuts! Send them to space!" is something I'm seriously considering getting printed on a T-shirt.
A momentary glimpse of light amid bleakness of Auschwitz
Seventy years this week since the liberation of Auschwitz meant a string of programmes of commemoration.
It's almost impossible to comprehend the scale of the horror that took place in the Nazi death camps.
And the infamous grainy archive footage of skeletal ghosts in striped camp outfits oddly serve to alienate us from the grim, technicolour, real-time horror that endured in such places.
Therefore, Touched by Auschwitz, a programme that focused on survivors of the camp and what they made of their lives subsequently, brought a real human immediacy to events that happened so long ago that most of those that survived have been taken by old age.
The most jaw-dropping, inspirational moment in the programme came in the words of retired academic Max Epstein. Kindly Max had escaped the camps as a boy and ended up living in the USA.
He determined to live his life without bitterness.
Reflecting on a decent German guard in Auschwitz and how it determined how he would live his life, he said: "The smallest act of kindness was like a huge spark. And I've decided to see the sparks." Humbling.
Blimey. It's a pretty good month for telly innit? Wolf Hall, Banana, Cucumber, Tofu, Bitter Lake, Fortitude, is so much more than the shipping weather forecast, you know.
I can't keep saying Number 2s can I? Ok, what about the Big Allotment Challenge? There's nothing big or challenging about it. Though admittedly it is very allotment-y.