TV View: No better person to Phil in on This Morning sofa than Christine Bleakley
Published 21/03/2014 | 14:24
As World War Three hovers ever closer into the realms of reality and George Osborne thumbs his snout yet again at almost everybody save a few rich pensioners, it was heartening to see our favourite broadcasting angel offer televisual succour over the airwaves this week.
Yes, this Monday and Tuesday Christine Bleakley was called off the ITV subs bench yet again to fill in on This Morning, not for Holly 'the female' Willoughby but, gasp, for the grey-haired chap who used to talk to a gopher sock puppet for a living.
In the world of soufflé-light entertainment, there can be few higher accolades than filling in for Philip Schofield (right). The 'silver fox' was tied up with the urgent business of making another badly needed series of Mr And Mrs, and so Bleakley – who seems to be the perennial new girl at ITV – assumed the role with her usual mix of humour and self-deprecation that we've all come to love her for. She even made reference to possibly happier times at the Beeb.
"I'm telling myself it'll be like The One Show, just with women who marry dogs. I love This Morning and Holly, so all the parts come together beautifully. It's just a question of doing it now," she told The Sun newspaper ahead of the big day. Schofield chipped in with his own carefully worded support on Twitter and playfully suggested/threatened that she not be "too good" at filling his size 10 brogues.
"The girls are taking over the sofa! Holly and Christine do it together, for two days only!" sang the saucy ITV trailer to further whet slavering daytime TV appetites.
And guess what? Christine serviced This Morning perfectly admirably. It's a cheap and cheerful magazine show, and she's an untaxing, charming and perfectly professional presenter.
She and Willoughby have an easy chemistry and it's just possible that one of "aar own" is as good at hosting TV fluff as any of the legions of Fearns or Hollys that stalk candyfloss TV land.
Not everybody agreed, however. That noted organ of hot topic, the Mail Online, tried to push its usual dog mess through the letterbox of light entertainment by implying that fans had "slammed" Bleakley, for not being Philip Schofield.
'Slam', incidentally, is one of those tabloid words, much like 'romp', that I've never quite been able to fit into polite conversation. There never seems to be an appropriate moment.
The decidedly lower-alphabet celeb fest that is Mail Online took great glee in pointing out that the great British half-baked public were up in arms about the Newtownards nightingale daring to stand in for Phil when contractually obliged to do so.
The Mail Online also had time to point out that "the pretty brunette" wore a "grey wraparound dress", something they never saw fit to point out with Schofield, although he admittedly is not a pretty brunette. So, basically, a shabbily manufactured storm in a chipped and dirty tea cup couldn't actually derail the fact that nobody died. This Morning, tricky TV though it is, could be presented ably by two women – one pregnant and one Irish. Meanwhile, the very real storm that's gathering and whipping about us is exactly what Daytime TV was invented to distract us from.
Trailblazer Ellis will be remembered
I don't remember the Billy plays the first time round, but I do know Jimmy Ellis's Norman Martin was the troubled, morally ambivalent heart of them.
My first memories of Ellis on telly were actually as the avuncular zookeeper in a long forgotten veterinary drama called One By One, and in Doctor Who, of all things. And he stuck in my head.
That should tell you all you need to know about the Belfast actor who is being buried today. He was the first recognisable voice from these parts to be a small screen regular and, boy, did he get around. A fine actor, trailblazer and Belfast man. TV and stage is the poorer without him.
Dunbar's tour de force in wonderfully gripping police drama
A fond farewell to Line Of Duty (BBC2) then, the police corruption epic so twisty, so turny, so downright squirmy you'd have been better off taking notes as it went along.
Luckily I was, so by the final episode this week, I just about had a handle on who, what, where and why, but only just. The best thing about Line Of Duty (other than the fact it was shot "over here") was that there were no satisfactory conclusions.
Bad people went unpunished, good people had bad things happen to them, and the police themselves were often far from the line of defence against those bad things. Unsettling, grown up and gripping stuff. Even Neil Morrissey's bent copper was a joy to behold, but the cherry on the corrupt cop-cake was Adrian Dunbar's Superindendent Ted Hastings. The moral fulcrum of it all, Hastings offered at least one sympathetic character, with a great line in exasperated one-liners.
"Mother of God" was his chosen cry whenever some fresh hell was revealed to his anti-corruption unit. "Nicking criminals is hard enough, but nicking coppers? God give me strength!" or "That wee girl. She was ONLY 15!" he imbued every utterance with the world weariness of a man who's spent too much time amidst the murk. An acting tour de force from one of our very best ever actors, in one of the Beeb's very best cop shows ever.
Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle (BBC2): Clever clogs comedy for clever clogs people? Not so. Well, okay, it is a bit, but it’s also very funny. You should, of course, also be watching True Detective on Sky Atlantic, and Undercover Doctor: Cure Me, I’m Gay (C4) was as horrifyingly fascinating as the title suggests.
Blandings (BBC1): Is anybody still watching this rather limp PG Wodehouse adaptation? Great cast, cracking stories and sumptuous setting do not always great TV make. Anything with Kirstie Allsop in it should have one reaching for the remote... Kirstie’s Best Of Both Worlds (C4) is no exception.