Thanks to the fact schedulers produce a bounteous feast some nights, I find myself falling behind on certain shows and having to catch up here and there where I can. The Good Fight is one such show. The second season has nearly finished on UK screens, but I am still only three episodes deep.

But what episodes. I remembered instantly why I loved this show and its prequel The Good Wife. This is drama for grown-ups. By that, I don’t mean that it is staid and humourless, only tackling big moral questions. I mean, it does tackle these questions, but there is a sense of humour there as well. It isn’t scared to have fun.

The show is brave as well. Firstly, politically. Whilst many shows will nudge at anti-Trump agendas, this one has it fully in the open. The recap interspersed the standard review of developments on the show with some of the Presidents most-controversial moments. At a time where you get called a traitor and worse for merely asking the question as to whether Trump is a good person or not, to be so openly vocal and proud of saying no is a creative risk.

But it is bold creatively in other ways. The Rindell scandal bubbled throughout the first season and initially looked like it was going to in the second, only to wrap up in the second episode (unless there are other developments I am currently unware of). A lesser show would have dragged out the trial fearing where to go after its conclusion.

There are a couple of characters in particular who I adore. The first is Marissa Gold, secretary turned investigator. She is the show’s spiritual heir to Kalinda, with all the ingenuity, feistiness and sharp tongues, but without (so far) the baggage.

The other is the lynchpin of the show, Diane Lockhart. She remains both imperial in her majesty yet vulnerable. This is highlighted even more in her soul searching following the murders of two lawyers by vengeful clients. There is the slightly odd plotline of her micro-dosing, but I’m willing to see if this plays out into something substantial or whether it is just one of those off shoots of a plot that disappears as quickly as it starts.

It is hard to find a fault with the show full stop. It trusts the viewers who love the show to not need their hands held with every plot development. Nor does it hide its sense of humour for fear of causing offence. Most importantly, it asks real questions of us as a society. And you don’t even realise that it’s doing it. That is how good it is.


I am a fan of Jon Richardson. I like the fact that his comedy stretches beyond that stereotypical Northener, a trap many of his colleagues with similar accents fall in to. His foibles, though irritating, are relatable. He has actually done documentaries on his OCD tendencies, including one very moving one a few years ago.

He is now fronting Jon Richardson: Ultimate Worrier, a panel show where he and his guests try to rank worries in order of importance. Over the course of the show he discusses three of his own worries, his guests get one each and the audience has one at the end. Jon being Jon, this means people who don’t stack the dishwasher right are more anxiety inducing than the threat of nuclear war. It is a twist on the Room 101 format, except there is no competitive element.

There are things I like about the show. Richardson is as good as expected, which is very. Although a lot will depend on the quality of the guests, the format seems solid and some laughs do happen. My biggest came from Suzy Ruffalo’s horrifying puppet. They even have an expert on to discuss some of the worries, which is a nice touch.

But there are many things I need changing to really enjoy it. The sketches are awful and seem to be added to make what is essentially a 30 minute show into an hour. Richardson is also not a natural talker direct to the camera. Like many comedians, he is better at ad-libbing than following a script. He could, and should, just get on to meeting the guests and getting cracking, rather than taking us through an opening monologue.

My final thing isn’t really a thing that can be changed, and probably isn’t even a real bug bear, but I can’t stand when comics laugh at each other’s jokes. It isn’t a problem on some shows like As Yet Untitled or any other show that is heavy on banter, light on format. Maybe the problem is that I don’t believe them to be sincere laughs or that they are a form of canned laughter, a marker telling us what to laugh at.

So yes, it needs tinkering with. It needs to feel smoother and more natural, and tighter editing. But it is funny and interesting, which buys it enough credit with me.

We have come to that time of year again where I offer my thoughts on the Eurovision Song Contest. This year felt like a bit of an odd one. A lot of slow ballads and weak mid-tempo songs in the first half, lifted only by the cheesy Norway and distinctly odd Ukraine, with a second half filled with party bangers and eccentricities.

It was the slow start for the show that made me struggle more to enjoy it this year than normal, blandness topped with mediocrity being the theme. Of course, interest was piqued with the stage invasion during the UK’s song. One of these seems to happen a year now – if it’s not an onstage protest we get a member of the crowd mooning. Security is clearly a bit lax at this event.

The voting system also highlighted massive disparities in terms of what the critics want and what the public loves. The juries rewarded tight pop efforts from Austria and Sweden and dismissed the theatrics of Ukraine and the earnest folksy Denmark, both of which got more love from the viewers. The former I could understand, as it proved to be one of the high points of staging. The latter less so. It takes more than a beard for me to buy into some Viking backstory.

But did the right song win? Well, in my opinion, yes. TOY – the Israeli entrant – was one of the other masterclasses in staging, although one that was driven by the performer rather than the props. Netta worked the arena and the audience at home, no mean feat considering the stakes. The song also managed the feat of being up tempo but still with a message, in this case female empowerment. There have been grumblings of cultural appropriation with her geisha styling, but if we are to celebrate coming together as one, shouldn’t we be prepared to incorporate such things without fear of criticism? Or is that not woke enough?

I also enjoyed Moldova, despite Graham Norton’s criticisms of it. If you are going to bring the novelty, do it with conviction. It was also one of the few performances to really throw everything into the pot – props, choreography, a storyline – what more could you want? Likewise, Finland was too harshly judged by jury and viewer alike.

And finally, what about us? Well, I found the song to be beige in musical form. The staging was little better. The invasion probably saved us from being forgotten and SuRie’s admirable fortitude picked us a few sympathy votes that saved us from last place. But we wouldn’t need that if the song was stronger to begin with.

Which brings us to how we go about doing better next year. Two things for me. Firstly, the song writing by committee has to stop. Some of the best songs over the last few years have only written by one or two people, preferably the artist themselves or someone close to them. Second, there needs to be more of an investment from the record industry as a whole – genuine up-and-coming acts need to be scouted. An undiscovered talent who writes their own material seems to be the perfect act for Eurovision. But, until next year, that is that.

I very rarely stop watching something after just one episode. I’m not sure if it is just that I am generous with my time or that once I make a commitment I stick to it, but very few shows get this treatment. In fact, I can only remember one, and I can’t even bring to me the name of it, which shows just how bad it must have been for my mind to block it out when it is more than happy for me to mentally relive my most embarrassing encounters on a daily basis.

But now a second has been added to the list. Let’s Get Physical is a comedy about a slacker who seeks to earn his father’s inheritance by beating his high-school rival at competitive aerobics. Oh, and his rival is dating his ex-girlfriend. A bizarre premise, but I have never been put off by this.

What I am put off by is how unfunny it actually was. I’m not sure who set the quality filter on the script, but they should be fired. The jokes were lazy and stereotyping. It was also dull. One joke saved the episode, where our main character high jacked his rival’s iPad to order 1000 dildos, but that wasn’t enough.

The show also managed to both fat shame and fit shame. I’m not sure if the latter is a thing, but this programme has managed to invent it. It fat shames in equating being overweight with being lazy, unfocused and generally unkempt. Nothing about the ‘hero’ is appealing. If there is a nice guy underneath his exterior, the writers haven’t shown it.

On the flip side, the nemesis is painted as narcissistic and cruel, openly mocking his rival’s weight gain at his own father’s funeral and having a boot camp, joyless approach to exercise and life in general. He is the most ludicrous parody of the keep-fit industry.

I know presenting a middle ground of someone healthy and nice doesn’t make a show, but something to redeem both of the two men would have helped. Even Glee’s fearsome Sue Sylvester was given a hinterland, and a genuine wit, to make her likeable enough for you to keep watching. As it is, you want neither to succeed.

So no, I won’t be returning. I doubt anyone with any sense would. If anything, I’m doing myself a favour. I could do with half an hour extra in bed.

I avoid adaptations as a rule. If it is a book I have no interest in reading, why would I want to see a TV version? If I do want to read it, why would I spoil the pleasures of it? And if I have read it, why would I want someone else’s interpretation ruining mine? I can’t help but thinking if everybody followed this logic, then there would be a lot more space for some original programmes to me made.

Yet every so often one suckers me in. It helps if I’m nostalgic about the book, the reading of it conjuring up a time in my life. Plus there are surely some books that they can’t mess around with that much.

Such is the case with The Woman in White. I read this at university and loved it. Victorians knew how to do Gothic sensationalism. Menacing aristocrats, creepy buildings, women who would kill you as quick as kiss you, it’s all there. And there is nothing like sinking your teeth into a good mystery. It transfers to TV so easily that it seems silly to faff about with it.

Yet there has been faff. First, an artsy narrative structure has been imposed of characters giving statements to a solicitor dealing with a case, but not necessarily the case at the centre of the story. Then there’s the feminist speech my Marian Halcombe. I have no objection to feminist speeches, but a good adapter would have found a way of showing us that men are wicked towards women rather than telling us. It’s all there in the plot anyway, so why club us over the head at the start

Having said that, I don’t totally object to this adaptation. Jessie Buckley is very good as Marian, playing the less-than-typical Victorian lady as was intended, opening speech besides. In fact, the casting all round works so far. I have a shaky memory of the finer details of the book, which will help the adapters get away with some things, but Walter Hartright is largely an ineffectual hero until the end, and Ben Hardy, without being rude, has that look about him.

What will make this adaptation live or die is the performance of Count Fosco, who makes his first appearance in the second episode. He needs to be charming yet threatening, and if memory serves me correctly, attractive despite (or because of) him carrying a bit of extra weight. If that doesn’t work, the book’s most alluring character is dead in the water and the rest of the plot with it.

I still come back to that jarring note though I understand that if a story has been told before then it needs a new way. But credit the viewers with being modern enough to see the misogyny played before them. Don’t make characters utter statements that render the plot impotent. And don’t think you know better than the classics. They became so for a reason.

Another difficult week to find anything to talk about, so I thought I would write about one of the most infuriating episodes of TV I have ever watched. I mean, we all have yell at the TV moments, but this was one where I had to more than once walk away into a different room because it was getting to me.

I am referring to last week’s episode of The Crystal Maze. It will go down in notoriety for being the first ever episode where the team ended with zero crystals. They got themselves locked in three times. One contestant managed to be so appallingly bad, they got locked in twice.

The die was cast early on when they bungled through the opening riddle by shouting random numbers. Then, in their very first proper task, the team captain got locked in. There seemed to be a repeating pattern throughout the show of not understanding what the task required until it was too late. At least one of the lock-ins were down to not being able to understand simple instructions or listen to advice. Several other tasks resulted in a zero result for the same reasons.

I admit that there is the pressure on you at the time. People are watching and your brain will go to mush. But even with far more extra help then the average team receives (Richard Ayoade virtually gave the answers in some games) they were still shockingly bad. Nobody seemed to know what a synonym was. How? It is on the school curriculum to learn such things!

This reminds me of when Brian Belo was on Big Brother and didn’t know who Shakespeare was. I found that hard to believe – you can’t move for Shakespearean references and influence in this country.

And the worst of it is, we seem to actually find it endearing. Belo won Big Brother for being ‘nice’ but I wonder if his niceness would have been so evident if he had been smarter. Likewise, the team on The Crystal Maze were applauded for standing by each other. Whilst this is a lovely virtue, it is almost like saying ‘well done’ to someone showing a basic human trait we should all have anyway.

There is nothing wrong with kindness or loyalty – God knows some of the people at the top could do with learning these qualities – but we are creating a dichotomy between those of average intelligence or below are the good guys and anybody with smarts is at best morally questionable. We seem to be fearing rewarding intelligence and shrewdness. A team that had won all 10 challenges or a contestant on reality TV who is proud of their education faces a drubbing far worse than those at the opposite extreme.

Basically, we need to celebrate the nice and the smart. We also need to stop tearing down those who dare to exhibit smartness for the slightest infraction. It will make us better off in the long run.

I’m going to be honest with you, it’s been difficult to write this week’s blog post. There has been little new for me to watch this week, and I feel I have discussed everything that is on a hundred times before. I now there are new shows every week, but I am one man, I have other hobbies and some shows that I am desperate to watch remain unwatched.

So what I thought I would do is list the shows I want to watch when I finally can. Maybe some of you readers can help me prioritise or maybe even advise me not to bother with them.

This Country: every article I read about this show praises it to highest heaven. The premise is that it is a mockumentary about two cousins growing up in a sleepy small town and the idiosyncrasies of such a life. I have seen clips online and it does look to live up to the hype, and it is also loved for being a little bit heart breaking in its humour. This is sometimes a red flag for me (why do comedies needs to also be tear jerkers?) but if done well can be the cherry on top of the ice cream.

Chewing Gum: another much-talked about comedy, following the adventures of Tracey and her quest to lose her virginity. It is hailed as a funny, rude and, above all, honest representation of female sexuality. It has earned its creator and star Michaela Coel awards for both acting and writing.

Game Face: another female-fronted sitcom. This time Roisin Conaty is our lead, playing wannabe actress Marcella. Again, there is a hunt for her dream man, which is making me wonder how many sitcoms by men are about guys finding their girl, at least in the UK anyway. The main appeal here is that I love Conaty in so many other things that this has got to be good.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Maybe you are seeing a pattern. What can I say, the argument women aren’t funny doesn’t sit with me at all. If anything, I find women are more natural in their humour and try and do each other down less. Anyway, this has been on my list for a while now. It seems warm and hopeful, qualities I sometimes thing sitcoms forget to include. Tina Fey is the brains here, and 30 Rock was another show I adored, so high hopes again.

There are very few dramas appealing to me, but then I have plenty to be getting on with for the next few months. I might dip into Designated Survivor. I may have a root around on Netflix for something else. If I get desperate, I may even get an Amazon Prime account.

So there you have it. Please suggest away anything else that should be on my list. Not Breaking Bad. So many people have wanged on about it I have now made it an ambition to never watch it, just to watch its devotees flail their arms and implore me to do so. But besides that, fire away. The floor is yours…