TV

What’s Up With Storage Hunters UK?!

storagehuntersukI’m all for a bit of mindless entertainment but I must draw the line at some things… Due to a prolonged illness I’ve had to do a lot of sitting still over the last few weeks and I’ve found TV helps keep me from moving about. I’ve been watching Storage Hunters UK and I am genuinely confused about the show.

For those who don’t know, the UK version of US smash Storage Hunters is a show in which a bunch of “dealers” bid on the contents of storage containers, which they only get to examine for one minute, in an attempt to make a profit on the goods inside.

So here’s my confusion: Rather than just opening “his” containers, the host asks a burly mate to cut the padlock with bolt-cutters. Why not just unlock them?! Then, the rag-tag team of “goods dealers” look over the usually-themed contents – maybe it’ll be a container of medial equipment or musical instruments or fairground games – for one minute. Then they all bid for it while the host does a ridiculous “American’s Idea Of What An Auctioneer Does” impression. He starts yelling (literally, this isn’t a pisstake) “brrrrrrrr one hundred brrrrrrrrr two hundred brrrrrrrrr three hundred!” Brrrr! That’s what he thinks all those fast-talking auctioneers are saying?! Brrrr?! It’s hilarious and nobody seems bothered by it.

In the UK version (I haven’t seen the US one) the bidders all have characters of their own: There’s a fat couple who are always bickering, a ditsy Essex gal, a gigantic boxer-type in a tracksuit and sweatbands and a cartoon Cockney wide-boy. And they all have their own “call”! The wife of the couple shouts YES! The Essex gal shouts MINE! The boxer calls out an amount, then the rhyming-slang for it, then ends with BOOM (Five Hundred Monkey BOOM)! The wide-boy just yells I’LL ‘AVE SOME O’THAT! over and over. It’s ridiculous.

Then, when one of them apparently wins the auction (though, as far as I can tell, there’s no real structure or progression to the auction – they just shout and the host picks someone) they take a look around the container to see what it is they’ve actually got. Sometimes it’s worth MUCH more than they paid, sometimes it’s worth MUCH less. It is never, EVER worth about the same as they paid. And who decides how much the stuff is worth? Who values their gear? Well, they do it themselves, of course! Yep, they bid for, win and value their own stash! No need to have it independently checked, they just walk around going “That’s worth about £200, a bit more than I paid, I’m making money here!” and nobody cares.

And that’s literally it. It’s like a cross between WWF Wrestling and Cash In The Attic. It’s like someone said “we need a more exciting, semi-scripted auction show based around the valuation but not sale of obviously pre-chosen tat” and the commissioning editors – presumably between draws on their crack pipes – said “I’ll ‘ave some o’that!” It’s absolutely fucking awful and I had to tell you about it.

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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (BBC One)

Finally, the day is come! Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susannah Clarke’s epic novel of pseudo-historical, magical realism featuring rival magicians who may also be best friends, has been given a place on our screens! The BBC is airing a seven-part adaptation, the first part of which was shown last weekend. And it is fabulous!

jnI won’t spoil anything, plot-wise, but I would like to enthuse on the perfect casting. I also should say I’m enthralled by the sublime design and the welcome loyalty to the novel. This first episode covers the main points of the novel’s first eight or nine chapters and it does well in keeping the tone and scale of the story without the pages and pages of flowering descriptive prose.

Paul-Kaye-actor-BBC-fantasy-drama-Jonathan-Strange-Mr-Norrell-interview-David-Stephenson-577698So, casting: Bertie Carvel is amazing and annoying as Jonathan Strange, second magician to Eddie Marsan’s Norrell. Marsan is and was always the only choice for the irritable, hermit-like genius. Amazing. Also shining are Paul Kaye as yellow-curtain street-magician Vinculus and Enzo Cilenti as Childermass, Cockney nutbag and Northern growler, respectively. Again, amazing.

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And, without giving too much away, Marc Warren’s Gentleman is chilling, if a little more aggressively evil than I imagined when I read the book. But no matter! The casting, across the board, is perfect. If I had drawn up a casting wishlist it’d be a mass of lines through names as my favourites are crossed off. I did this and Kaye and Marsan were on my list some years ago, for the roles they have now got. I am a happy bunny.

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Clarke’s novel is massive. Hundreds and hundreds of pages, spanning decades. Some of its imagery is difficult to picture. How they’ll realise it is anyone’s guess! But here’s the thing: for all its wonder and wandering, its scale, scope and size, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a story about people. And the people in this BBC adaptation are just spot on. It’s going to be an odd series, full of surreal and unconventional set-pieces, which I’m destined to love. I hope you’ll love it too.

BBC One, 9pm, Sunday nights.

ITV’s Newzoids – Weak, Weak, Weak!

ITV’s Newzoids has been billed as the 21st Century’s answer to Spitting Image. Sadly, it’s more like 2DTV. In fact, it IS 2DTV – the same “topical” gags (read as: “written quickly”) and mish-mash of celebs and ‘satire’. I wanted to love it because it could have been great, but I didn’t and it really, really wasn’t.

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First, let me talk about what IS good about the show, because some things are. For example, the puppets are superb. I hope that, when the series eventually gets the chop, that they sell them for an embarrassingly small sum. I’d buy Ed Miliband for a week’s wages. And some (not all) of the impressions are great too! I’m no fan of Jon Culshaw; to me his impressions always just sound like Jon Culshaw doing an impression. If you can’t do the voice, don’t do the character. Surely that’s the sensible option? Though even many of his voices hit their mark here.

4845ce20-dd1a-11e4-8808-13fac3ffe9bc_NEWZOIDS_KATIE_HOPKINS_cropI think what’s missing here, more than anything, are the jokes. It’s all well and good to call yourself a topical show and derive skits from things that have happened that week, but it needs to be funny, too! Relying on the old fall-back of Ed’s Bacon Sandwich, the Royals swearing and The-Proclaimers-as-sung-by-the-SNP with the lyrics “sod the English” or something similar (I forget) is weak satire. The whole show relies on stereotypes: Cameron is posh, Pickles is greedy, Ed is hapless, Charles is randy, Clarkson is homophobic and rude, baby Prince George has “commoners’ blood” and so spends his time on-screen singing football chants, swearing and spitting. It’s all just a bit weak.

video-undefined-2794664200000578-320_636x358And then there’s the “edgy” material they have used. One sketch re-imagines a domestic abuse encounter on Jeremy Kyle with Nick Clegg as the abused spouse. It’s a little bit offensive and not in an “edgy” way. See also the sketch where an Asian teenager goes to Syria to fight with ISIS, unaware that his parents are watching his every move on hidden cameras, in Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents: Syria! I’m never one to call “too soon” but it seems no care at all has been taken whether they SHOULD do it, let alone HOW. The answer is “with care” and it seems that nothing in this show is given any at all.

Topical must mean more than just “happening now”. It has to mean “relevant” too. Sadly, there’s little in Newzoids that feels like it’s relevant. Tired clips of Russell Brand verbosely flowering his way through an interview for Top Gear presenter smacks of desperation. I sat through the whole of episode one and cringed. Will I watch episode two? Maybe. I had a chuckle at the puppets at least; Nigel Farage’s swivelling eye was lovely, even if the material his puppet was spouting was the same old same old.

★★✫✫✫