At first view, the new BBC1 Sunday night drama, Hope Springs, is a mess of old ideas, a bit of oddness like Monarch Of The Glen and Hamish Macbeth and other Scottish dramas. It’s a daft storyline of four good-looking female thieves who cannot escape the UK as their fake passports are going around an airport carousel with a dead Fat Freddie. So, they decide to pop up the road to Bonnie Scotland and buy a freaky hotel populated by freaks from central casting. But Alex Kingston (ex ER) is the top tottie and her three fish-out-of-water accomplices are great on tottery heels.
Then you find out that this eight week series will last the bleedin’ summer and that it was made by the people who made Bad Girls and Footballers’ Wives and that it was made in the Highest Village In Scotland. So, who knows, it should be fun and if it doesn’t actually rain you’ll get buckets of Scotch Mist and wind and rain in Hope Springs.
More like Kingdom is back for another six part series in a typical Sunday night slot. How it got a third series puzzles me but it has all the senior citizen plot lines of old codgers, old soldiers, daft dialogue, an old folks home and Peter Sallis from Last Of Summer Wine, as a scatty lough-keeper. Stephen Fry puzzles his way through it kissing cars, driving a pink Hummer and making everybody happy by close of play. Cue, snoring and cocoa.
Not only do RTE have money worries but BBC are having a painful disclosure of expenditure. In BBC accounts to April 2008, STG£29 million was spent on travel including STG£13+ million on taxies, STG£5 million went on train travel. The BBC Trust chairman spent STG£25,000 on his personal car and driver. Another trustee spent STG£9,808 for entertaining at Wimbledon. STG£65,000 was spent on 14 Christmas staff parties and the annual BBC Champagne bill came to STG£47,756!
Another typical addition to Sunday night somnolence is the tv version Ladies Of Letters, a very popular radio programme, built around the gossipy letters of two old Mrs Bucket characters, well played by Anne Reid and Maureen Lipman, as they exchange recipes and cutting grumpiness at each other and a careless world in general. They act it out with great knowing gestures, very suited to tv, where a raised eyebrow or a finger tracing dust, can speak volumes. Ten weeks of these half-hour slots could grow on you and some of the comments are very relevant and genuinely funny.
Ahoy me hearties, but pardon me while I hoist me jolly roger, now that Ross Kemp is back In Search Of Pirates. That’s all he does in the new SKY1 series, which isn’t a patch over the eye on his Gangs and Afghanistan stuff. With his trendy shades on his bald head, he poses on ships, docks and boats while the good guys send messages. This is action thriller stuff with little or no action or tension, just Ross in a helicopter hovering over a boat that pirates may have used. At one point the navy vessel he is on shoots up a vacant derelict floating skiff and pump lots of ammo into it until it explodes. What next? Ross Kemp finds buried treasure and a parrot?
RTE2 must have done a deal with US agents to make a punt on cop shows just starting and some flopping in America. Patrick Swayze stars in The Beast on Tuesdays but it seems the usual guns, drugs, loud bangs, loud music and fast fast editing. Last on Friday you get Damien Lewis as some sort of angsty quirky joker of a lawman who either has or hasn’t the hots for his pistol-packing but drop dead good-looking partner. Let it sizzle while it lasts but it bombed badly in US because of the cops obsessive interest in fruit.
Sky Movies is to show the big budget second world war drama, The Pacific, from creators of Band Of Brothers. It cost 200 million dollars to make by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman. This is a new trend for the movie channels.
SIR ALAN SUGAR: Not only has Gordon Brown appointed Sugar to a key government role to stimulate business growth but BBC have him down to front a teenage version Junior Apprentice. Ten teenagers will compete over five programmes to win a STG£25,000 career boost. No doubt he’ll be Lord Sugar soon.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER has launched a new series, The Forgotten, about a group of amateur detectives who try to give names to unidentified victims and bring murderers to justice. Spooks star, Rupert Penry-Jones, stars in the series.