IN grudging acknowledgement of Euro 2020, EastEnders allowed Harry Redknapp to make a brief yet memorable cameo appearance in Walford last week.
Officially, he was Terry Cant’s mate “from the Poplar days”.
Unofficially, it felt more like a Klingon had beamed down on Islington High Street, because they didn’t quite get Harry to do the Lambeth Walk, but he was required to walk into the Queen Vic and greet awestruck landlord Mick Carter with a chirpy: “’Eh-llo guv’nor. I’ll ’ave a pint, please.”
Words not spoken in an actual East End pub since the day rationing ended.
One tentative sip was all Harry took as well and then he was gone, in about the same time he lasted at Birmingham City (14 minutes).
Brief as it was though, I couldn’t have enjoyed his cameo more, partly because of the cheerful contrast he provided to everything else, but mainly for the obvious discomfort it caused EastEnders, which despises football or the intrusion of any reality into its impossibly bleak and blinkered version of working-class life.
In Walford, the locals are meant to lead downtrodden lives of violent, disease-ridden misery, devoid of hobbies, hope, ambition, humour, contrary opinions or anything else that might help them rise above the victim role BBC1 has decreed they must occupy for all eternity.
Although I say “all eternity”, EastEnders will be lucky to make it to the next World Cup, given its current rate of decline.
During Euro 2020, ratings fell below 1.5million, which is an unfair comparison, of course.
Given the choice of Croatia v Spain or Kioni’s very real struggles with female genital mutilation, only the sort of misery guts who write EastEnders would actually watch the soap.
However, the glory days of 20million viewers are long gone and in the last four years, EastEnders has lost an incredible 37 per cent of its viewers.
The challenge from Netflix and Amazon Prime is not going away, obviously.
The crisis is real and in such circumstances EastEnders either needs to go against all its instincts and develop a sense of humour, or produce storylines that stand comparison with the best of the streaming services.
The very last thing it should do, of course, is retreat into its woke bubble and double down on all of the right-on issues the BBC holds obsessively dear.
I hardly need to tell you then what happened as soon as Harry had left and the football was over, do I?
EastEnders had its very own “George Floyd” moment on Tuesday night.
It’s been a long time coming, obviously, but when it finally arrived it involved the police Tasering schizophrenic Isaac Baptiste followed by the judgment of Patrick Trueman, who directed his fury at detective Jack Branning as he gave vent to all of the BBC’s self- loathing: “If Isaac looked like you, this story would’ve had a completely different ending.
“Sixty years in this blasted country and nothing has changed.”
Subtle and surprising it wasn’t, but there is a strong argument for including this storyline, which was beautifully acted by Stevie Basaula.
If it lacked the impact the show was expecting, however, then that’s probably because it’s one very predictable thing to cut and paste an American incident into a domestic drama, but it would be quite another to include a plot line about terrorism which, although it’s hit the real streets of London, has never been so much as whispered by EastEnders.
If anyone doubted this glaring omission owed a lot to the overwhelming political prejudices which dictate everything that happens on EastEnders, it was demonstrated, minutes before Isaac was Tasered, when Jean Slater suddenly harrumphed: “I expect you’ll need to be posh to travel to Paris, now our passports have changed colour and we’ve stopped being European.”
An opinion that seemed to be thrown in so casually, I’m not even 100 per cent sure they’re aware of the institutionalised bias that’s destroying the entire point of the BBC.
If, however, the production team did triumphantly think they’d sneaked something subversive under the radar, then someone should tell them another couple of hundred viewers were probably thinking: “EastEnders. It’s not for me,” before switching off for ever.
So let’s keep this one quiet. It’s their funeral.
Club in need of healing
THREE hours, 47 minutes and 11 seconds into ITV2’s “singing” marathon, comedian Darren Harriott nearly derails an entire channel with a single question.
“Have you,” he wonders, staring at a room filled with the likes of Brian Dowling and Olivia Attwood, “Ever been mistaken for someone who’s much more famous than you?”
Have they? Have they? How do you think they ended up here, Darren?
The clue’s in the title.
It’s called Celebrity Karaoke Club, on account of the fact that not even Jordan Davies, from Ibiza Weekender, would sign up for something called Z-List Drunk Dungeon.
The remarkable and really depressing thing about this elimination contest is though, as drunk and tuneless as they are, every single one of them is desperate to stay on board and cling to the illusion of fame.
No one more so than Love Island’s Olivia, who claims being voted out of CKC is “like being stabbed in the heart” and means every anguished word of it.
Eventually, however, some poor sod has to be burdened with the title “Celebrity Karaoke Club champion” and it turns out to be the most drunk and tuneless of the lot, presenter AJ Odudu, who warms up for victory by muttering: “Sexual Healing, by Marvin Gaye. What do I want?”
You think: “They want Marvin Gaye’s dad, in a really foul mood.”
I think: “Leave it, they’re not worth it.”
TV QUIZ. Who said the following this month: “I think Neville should be first in line for castration.”
A) A llama farmer on Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet?
B) Several thousand Scots during ITV’s coverage of England v Denmark?
INCIDENTALLY, I ask this next question as a card-carrying Scotland fan, so feel free to pile in, but can any of those journalists who’ve somehow linked Sunday night’s appalling behaviour by a section of the fans to Brexit, please tell me when England’s fans were composed entirely of cuddly, liberal Europhiles?
I missed that era.
Lies and delusions
GREAT TV lies and delusions of the week.
Cooking With The Stars, Johnny Vegas: “I’d call myself an entertainer.”
Celebrity Karaoke Club, Amelia Lily: “You’ve just friggin’ made it in life.
“You’ve performed with Duncan and Antony from Blue.”
And Weekend Best, Martin Kemp: “Since starting in 2007, his comedy career has gone from strength to strength and he’s now one of the country’s best loved comedians. It is . . . ”
“Ed Gamble.” Oh.
Getting ahead of yourself
THE Euro 2020 “Getting Ahead Of Yourself” award goes to BBC1’s rose-tinted commentator Guy Mowbray who, the moment Sunday night’s penalty shoot-out was over, said: “There is a World Cup next year. This is not a time to stop dreaming and believing.”
Because, God knows, any fool can see it’s a team of absolute world-beaters.
But, technically, Guy, Scotland haven’t actually qualified yet.
COOKING With The Stars? This is not just bs, this is M&S bs
Unexpected morons in bagging area
TIPPING POINT, Ben Shephard: “Fixodent is an adhesive used to keep what in place?”
The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “Which fictional pilot first appeared in the 1932 story The White Fokker?”
The Chase: Celebrity Special, Bradley Walsh: “Which monarch was described by Charlotte Bronte as a ‘little, stout, vivacious lady’?”
Anthony Quinlan: “Queen Elizabeth II.”
Random TV irritations
DAVID BADDIEL telling C4’s The Last Leg: “The worst people in the world are self-styled colourful characters”, while wearing novelty England shoes.
Ashley Banjo’s new Total Wipeout rip-off, The Void, proving even duller than his last one (Can’t Touch This).
Waynetta Slob creator Kathy Burke ordering the rest of us not to judge working-class people, on Channel 4’s Money Talks.
Excessive product placement on ITV’s feeble Cooking With The Stars.
And the ITV2 promo for Apocalypse Wow, which tells us: “It’s the carnival of depravity and fun the nation didn’t know it needed.”
For the very good reason, it doesn’t.
Great Euro 2020 insights
ALAN SHEARER: “The one thing Italy lack is a lack of movement.”
Ally McCoist: “It absolutely certainly comes off his shoulder, I think.”
Lee Dixon: “He just caught him with his right-hand foot.”
And Rio Ferdinand: “I don’t know any defender in the world who could deal with that. Van Dijk could.”
(Compiled by Graham Wray)
AWKWARD Love Island silence of the week.
Chloe to Toby: “When are you going to tell me I’m the fittest person in the world?”
When there’s a zombie apocalypse? When there’s mass genocide?
Or when your glaucoma surgery goes horribly wrong? When, Toby? When?
TUESDAY night’s truly disturbing episode of BBC2’s excellent Forensics: The Real CSI.
Footage to make your heart sing and Gordon Buchanan weep on BBC2’s Our Wild Adventures: Land Of The Tiger.
The startled reaction of the Celebrity Goggleboxers to that shower scene on Netflix’s Sex/Life (Jonathan Ross: “It’s got its own postcode”).
And Love Island’s Kaz reacting to some potential deception by declaring: “I would hate for the wool to be pulled from under my eyes.”
Or even the carpet to be pulled over her feet.
Lookalike of the week
THIS week’s winner is the Italian team’s technical director Alberico Evani and Mr Potato Head.
Rather pointedly emailed in by Sheila Gossling.
Picture research: Amy Reading
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