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It was the result of a collective intake of breath after Marge Simpson said to Lisa Simpson:- "Ooh! How about this adorable sunsuit? It has a starfish on the FANNY, and it comes with its own pail".
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Tonight With Vladimir Putin (2019)
Odd and very, very short.
One of the world's leading film and television visual effects companies has the motion capture technology available to film a comedian performing the role of Vladimir Putin and to create an animated 3-D caricature of the Russian Premier around him - but just because you can do something doesn't automatically mean that you should do it.
Comedian Natt Tapley (and Gbemisola Ikumelo as Meghan Markle) takes on the role of Putin as chat show host for these two pilot episodes interviewing two celebrity guests per episode. However, the running times for each episode are so short that there is barely any time to for CGI host and guest to say much to each other. Part way through a fairy princess version of the Duchess of Sussex comes out and takes questions from the sparse audience. And that's about all there is to it - there is little time for anything much to happen before the end credits roll leaving the viewer to wonder what on earth was that all about?
Strange smorgasbord of laughs.
ITV2 have commissioned a strange little show here. A veritable array of British stand-up comedians (some new faces, some familiar ones) appear on stage and begin to tell their routine but then the action switches to the comedian and a cast of actors re-enacting the events of the joke in a comedy sketch. Stand-up shows can be a bit hit and miss and sketch shows are notoriously hit and miss - so it should come as no surprise that this is too. However, there are some genuinely very funny skits here:- Adam Hess' job interview from hell, the plain weird reaction of Catherine Bohart's mother to her daughter coming out as gay and the violent granny were all very funny. Trouble is you may wish that the comedians you enjoyed watching had just stayed on screen and done a full regular stand-up routine.
Make Me a Dealer (2018)
Far too slow.
The pacing of this new BBC One antiques programme is so slow. The opening segment in which we are introduced to the episode's two participants as they look around an antiques shop or fair but don't actually buy anything is completely pointless and we also get vt packages of them at home. It takes far to long to get to the actual buying, selling and learning about the antiques.
Paul Martin does his usual solid job as presenter/expert and former Blue Peter presenter Mark Curry does a reasonable job on commentary with some groan worthy puns thrown in for good measure. There have also been some fun and quirky contestants. But as a whole this is an underwhelming watch.
Quirky Teams, odd layouts.
The theme for this third episode is globetrotting and this week's three teams make some very odd interpretations of that theme. The Steampunks team opt for a trip through time as well as around the globe but opt for a flat almost featureless layout. The Bodgers go for a fun, quirky Santa on his holidays layout while the Tonbridge team's globetrotting doesn't even extend beyond the south coast of England! Some very quirky but also very odd decisions by two out of the three teams this week.
The scratch build challenge again sees the teams really think outside of the box with some very creative uses for a plunger and sponge but the Tonbridge team totally ran out of time to leave two unfinished pieces.
As good as the Bodgers layout was they were effectively handed the win this heat thanks to mistakes made by the other two teams. The Steampunks use of foam underlay allowed them to get their layout up and running first but the lack of experience on the team saw them blow that lead. Tonbridge's layout was too pedestrian for the theme and the double derailment crippled them.
The Bisexual: Episode #1.2 (2018)
Wow, this is quite a strange programme. The silences, awkward encounters, lighting, softly spoken dialogue and introspective nature of The Bisexual mean that this is hardly going to grab the attention of viewers. Like the piece of bizarre performance art Leila, Gabe and Deniz go to see, this series has the feel of an experimental film that explores some interesting and challenging concepts but in an uncompromisingly individualistic way that will alienate many. Not as many amusing moments in this second episode as in the first, but we gradually began to unravel the characters a little more.
In my review of episode 1 of this new programme on Channel 5 I said that the presenters didn't get in the way too much, well that lasted all of one, single, solitary episode.
Episode 2 opens with a cringe-worthy attempt at humour from the two presenters larking about - it made me want to change channels immediately. Then during the build both presenters managed to annoy the contestants by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, asking daft questions and trying to make corny jokes. Stop it you pair of pilchards.
The teams all come up with ambitious plans and cope with the scratch build challenge really well with some very imaginative uses for the copper pipe, rawl plugs and in particular the paint brush. All three teams were really pushed for time this week but all three layouts were impressive. It was such a shame that the Track Laying Ninja's had so many technical problems. This week's winners were worthy winners with their layout head and shoulders above the other two - and with no problems in the demonstration. A good episode despite the goofy presenters.
The Bisexual: Episode #1.1 (2018)
Tricky first episode.
The first episode of any drama series has its work cut out introducing the cast of characters, the setting, character relationships etc. etc. If it is a comedy drama it also has to make you laugh as well. The debut episode of this comedy drama created by, directed by and starring Desiree Akhavan has an extra complication in that Akhavan's central character is in the process of discovering and exploring her own identity.
There are some genuinely funny moments in this episode, the differences in the replies to the questions asked of Leila and Sadie by the reporter, the awkward proposal in the lavatories, the abortive one-night stand, Francisca and her assessment of Gabe, the awkward silence following Gabe asking the lesbians if "Blue Is The Warmest Colour" was a fair representation of them etc. There are also a couple of dramatic moments such as breaking into the flat and discovering Sadie in bed with the secretary.
It's an interesting idea for a comedy drama but the whole episode was a bit patchy and didn't quite hang together as a whole. There is a quite odd feel to the show with its muted colour scheme, awkward social situations and rather grim portrait of London. It will be interesting to see how The Bisexual develops over the coming episodes though I am expecting this to be very much a "Marmite" show that people either take to or hate.
Great fun, good debut episode.
I really enjoyed this debut episode. It was both interesting and fun - helped by some of the team members this week. The idea of a team of complete strangers working together was an interesting contrast to the other two teams this week. The captain of the winning team in particular made me laugh out loud with his dry remarks.
The presenters are enthusiastic without getting in the way, the judges explain their decisions well and there are some interesting and unusual camera angles at play here. The scratch build challenge seemed a bit daft at first but bravo to some of the teams for how inventive they were. The winners deserved to win, the team bending (if not breaking the rules) didn't. Fair enough.
World of Sport Wrestling (2018)
Could have been better (but could have been worse).
British professional wrestling returns to mainstream television in 2018 as World of Sport/WOS Wrestling gets a 10 episode series on the UK's most watched commercial TV channel. That is in itself remarkable, but is also something of a problem for this programme - with the 5pm Saturday afternoon time slot causing a few headaches for the producers.
All of the bouts shown across the 10 episodes were recorded at a three day TV taping at the Epic Television Studios in Norwich in May 2018 for broadcast on ITV during July to September. Which is again a problem.
So is WOS Wrestling any good? Well, yes there are certainly some things to like about this show. The presentation is very good with the WOS Arena looking good, the actual staging of the shows looking slick and professional and the commentary team doing a good job. The in-ring action is to a decent standard - okay there are a few poor matches here and there, but generally it is not bad. It is not going to revolutionise pro wrestling but the bouts tick along nicely. However, the delays in getting this 10 episode series commissioned by ITV have allowed WWE to come in and sign up a slew of Britain's top wrestlers (including one or two who appeared on the WOS Wrestling New Year's show in 2016) to exclusive contracts for their own NXT UK promotion. Sadly this leaves the roster a little thin and we quite quickly get into seeing the same wrestlers appearing in episode after episode.
Each episode has a 1 hour running time including commercials which equates to about 47 minutes per episode and WOS have taken the decision to try and cram as much actual wrestling into each episode as possible. This means the episodes are split into four segments with usually one bout in each segment. However, this leaves very little room for anything else. There are a few interview segments scattered across the 10 episodes, but most of the build up has to be done by the commentary team. In fact there are lots of interviews with the wrestlers before and after the bouts but these are only available to view via the WOS Wrestling social media platforms - which makes the fact that there are no on-screen hashtags or links to the company's website/twitter/facebook really glaring.
Sadly, that is not the only glaring problem with the show. The early time slot and short running time mean matches are heavily edited with cameras cutting away to crowd shots during bouts. Action replays are used a lot and are rather intrusive. Despite the heavy editing of bouts, inexplicably, botches are not edited out. The TV studio setting allows some interesting camera angles to be used (between the turnbuckles shots and overhead cameras etc.) but the cutting from camera to camera is frenetic at times.
With no promos, few interviews and bizarrely no on-screen graphics showing the wrestlers names (!) viewers don't get much of an introduction to the wrestlers. WOS have signed up a mixture of recognisable names - Grado, Davey Boy Smith Jr, Joe Hendry, Viper & Doug Williams plus some newer less familiar wrestlers like Gabriel Kidd, Adam Maxted, Justin Sysum and Ayesha. Storylines are kept fairly simple and for the most part work well.
The episodes are pacy with plenty of in ring action per episode, the wrestling is of a decent standard and the whole show has a slick style to it but dammit there are a lot of annoying things about this show. At the time of writing it is not known if a second series will be commissioned, so sit back enjoy the 10- episodes for the fast paced rollercoaster ride they are.
Underwhelming Grand Finale
Or the not so grand finale to this pre-recorded 10 episode run of WOS Wrestling. Like the programme as a whole this episode has its good points and its bad - and in fact pretty much sums up WOS Wrestling as a whole.
The final episode of series one plays out the conclusion of the series long storyline of Rampage being the undefeated and (by hook or by crook) undefeatable heel champion finally being beaten by the fan favourite who finally gets the chance to win the title against his nemesis.
But first we get the show's first (and only) decent promo segment recapping events from across the series that have led us to this point. This is quite good but begs the question why they could not have done something similar at the start of the series to introduce viewers to the cast of characters competing in WOS. As with the penultimate episode, this week there will only be two longer bouts featured.
We once again get the weird thing of Stu Bennett announcing matches that have already been announced. And so on to the opening bout of the show as the tag team champions "Alphabad" make their first (and only) defence of their belts against the team of Grado and "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith Jr. The whole tag team situation is a good example of where WOS have not quite go things right. A tag team tournament leads to Alphabad winning the belts but half the teams have disintegrated leaving few options and not enough episodes left for multiple title defences. So we get this one tag title defence and for what it is it is not too shabby. The team of Grado and Bulldog look an awkward pairing but they sell the match well. Iestyn Rees and Kip Sabian do their jobs well as the more "well-oiled" pairing but before the bout commences we know that the fan favourites are going to win the belts and the bout was a little underwhelming. A nice touch at the end with Stu Bennett giving Grado a slow hand clap from the commentary table.
Then it is on to the main event and again we know how this one is going to play out and it is a little underwhelming. Justin Sysum and Rampage put in a shift here and there is some good action early on. The interference angle from Sha Samuels and CJ Banks has been a little overplayed and we finally get the referee throwing the pair to the back. From then on in the action putts along without really going too far above expectations with numerous standard wrestling cliches thrown in for good measure. Sysum finally gets the win and claims the title and there is again a nice little spot at the end with Stu Bennett getting in the ring and decking Rampage and a nice bit of tension is built up before Stu shakes Justin's hand and everything is wrapped up nice and neat and tidy. There is just time for a plug for the live tour and we are done.
I have no idea if ITV will bother to commission a second series of WOS Wrestling the viewing figures dropped sharply between episodes 1 & 2 and people seemed to be actively avoiding the show with the programmes on before and after maintaining their audiences with this big wrestling-shaped hole in between. If they do order series two it may be shunted across to one of ITV's other channels where 400,000 or 500,000 viewers would actually look good whereas on ITV 1 it looks very low indeed. WOS Wrestling has been fun but frustrating to watch, it has been great for younger wrestling fans to see British pro wrestling broadcast on a mainstream TV channel for the first time in their lives and I for one will be going to the live show at the Victoria Hall - whether we get to see them back on our TV screens we shall have to wait and see.
Best episode so far?
WOS Wrestling have really packed bouts into the relatively short run time of the episodes so far - at the expense of interviews/promos and other content which has been shunted online (and with no links on screen to point this out to viewers). But the format of the "main event" on episode 9 means we only get one other bout. But I for one am not going to complain as this was possibly the best episode of WOS so far.
After the usual recap of last week's show/preview of this week's action we get down to business with Stu Bennett attempting to explain the rules and format of this unique main event he has dreamt up and called the Buzzer Battle. His explanation is not entirely 100% accurate though - the bout doesn't feature the entire male roster with the likes of Ospreay, Kirby and Hendry not in it and it doesn't start as a tag match actually. But he does build it up nicely.
The action gets underway with the WOS Women's title match between Kay Lee Ray and Viper. This is a really good bout and fully deserving of the "This Is Awesome" chants from the crowd at ringside. There is a some great back and forth between the two women and the sequence leading up to Kay Lee Ray pinning Viper was really well done. Apart from the usual gripe over the editing of these matches my only complaint was that the match was a bit short - due to Stu's explaining the main event no doubt. I don't think that they have used Viper as well as they could have (I think she has lost all but one match on the show).
The main event is going to take up the whole of the rest of the show and like most things on WOS Wrestling has good points and bad. This is a pretty weird format that just feels like elements of different types of matches mashed together but it is quirky and something a bit different and actually worked OK - allowing some storyline elements to play out within it. The bout is to decide a new No. 1 contender for Rampage's Heavyweight title - ignoring the fact that Justin Sysum won that honour on an earlier edition. It starts off with two wrestlers in a singles elimination match and at any moment he chooses Stu can sound the buzzer and two more wrestlers come down and make this an elimination tag match. Then each time he sounds the buzzer two more men come to the ring and one joins each of the two tag teams. This will continue until all of the participants are involved. However, once the eliminations have reduced the number of participants down to eight across the two teams the whole match switches to an over-the-top rope battle royal with the last man standing getting the title match on the final show.
The whole thing was a little bit messy in parts but there were also some great ideas at play here. Robbie X and Kip Sabian were the men to start us off and were given some time to show what they can do. Stu eventually hits the buzzer and we get tag partners Stevie Boy and B.T. Gunn coming down to face each other on opposite teams. A neat idea that worked well, I particularly liked it when Stu was appalled to see the two men shaking hands after a spot and hitting the buzzer to bring in Liam Slater and Iestyn Rees. Having Sabian and fellow tag champ Rees on the same team also played out well and I loved it when they hit their finisher and try to get Gunn to pin Stevie Boy then allow Gunn to be eliminated too.
I thought this format started to get very messy quickly after this with Grado and Sha Samuels entering the match but quickly getting cut off by the advert break. SoCal Val hit the buzzer to save Grado from a beating leading to Bulldog and CJ Banks entering the fray but ultimately leading to Grado, Bulldog and the tag champs all being messily DQ (to save them for the tag team title match). There are some quite amusing exchanges amongst the commentary team and we get Adam Maxted and eventually the dismissed Nathan Cruz entering. Justin Sysum and Crater enter the fray but there is a surprise in store when the last two men enter the bout as one of them is Scottish star Moose. We now have 10 wrestlers, five on each team but when two are eliminated it will switch to the battle royal. Robbie X and Liam Slater are the two to exit and klaxons wail to indicate the 8-man battle royal is on. Gabriel Kidd and Nathan Cruz are eliminated, Maxted is eliminated by the already eliminated Cruz (which is silly). Samuels, Banks and Moose all exit to leave Sysum Vs. the no longer invincible monster Crater. Some great work from Sysum leads to him bodyslamming Crater before tipping him over the rope for the win - thus making up for him getting stiffed earlier in the run.
So for the final (possibly ever) WOS Wrestling episode next week Sysum will face Rampage for the title and after some pretty weak set-up over the last two episodes Grado and Bulldog somehow "deserve" a shot at the tag champs. So it should be a fan favourite championship extravaganza then!
Peng Life (2018)
Quirky, Fresh & Fun Review Show...reviewing nonsense.
Elijah Quashie and his two sidekicks Nelson and Wilson Quaresma have made a name for themselves with their funny, quirky, down-to-earth internet reviews of high street fast food outlets. So, Channel 4 commissioned a 4-episode "Pilot Series" from Renowned Films of the trio and some celebrity guests reviewing some Peng stuff.
The hosts and the friendly banter between them liven up this show and they are able to get some good reactions from their celebrity guests. The programme is filmed and edited in a quirky, fast-paced way with lots of on-screen graphics popping up and feels fun and fresh.
However, there is a simple, fundamental flaw to this programme - the things that they are reviewing. Maybe someone will buy a helicopter ride as a once-in-a-lifetime birthday present for a loved one or maybe there is someone who is seriously considering buying a Segway but a lot of the stuff being reviewed on here is just ridiculous stuff that no-one in their right mind would ever buy. I can't see the point in comparing a high street pizza or kebab to one that is so expensive that no one would ever buy it irrespective of whether it is the best pizza in the world or not.
This is a wasted opportunity and part of me hopes that a full second series does get commissioned so that we could see the lads reviewing things that people might actually want to buy!
Chase the Case (2018)
Sub-par game show
Having watched all five of the episodes from the first week of this new game show my reaction to it is that it is passable but not particularly good.
Dan Walker makes for a rather bland presenter but he neither does anything very wrong or is particularly annoying. The actual dynamics of the game play work, especially in the endgame, but wow this programme feels drawn out. The reconnaissance section of the show goes on far too long and is full of padding. The concept of having to wait while the security guard goes and physically fetches the selected case (which contains no actual currency) and brings it to the soundproof room seems odd and unnecessary.
The endgame is more interesting though as we the audience know who has got what and who knows what and can see what strategies different players will employ and whether they are making the right or wrong decision.
Chase the Case is one of a number of new quiz/game shows filmed at the Pacific Quay Studio complex in Glasgow - but is not one of the better ones to air in the last couple of years.
Back on Track
Phew! Perhaps last week's weird edition of WOS Wrestling was just a blip as this week's programme is a lot better. Though of course there are the inevitable issues with this show.
After the usual recap of last week's episode and a preview to this week's action we get underway with Stu Bennett announcing from ringside that he will be making a big announcement at the end of today's show. We then get the first of the two powerhouse showdowns that were promoted last week. Viper faces Ayesha with the winner getting a shot at Kay Lee Ray for the WOS Women's title. This was a pretty decent bout once it got going, but there was some really heavy editing of some action in the corner towards the end. No screwy or confusing finishes and Viper wins to set up a title match next week and even got an interview on screen. Not a bad start to this week's show.
After the break we get the mixed tag match with Stevie Boy & Kay Lee Ray facing Bea Priestley & Will Ospreay. There was an interesting dynamic to this bout with faces Stevie Boy and Ospreay enjoying a good clean friendly rivalry. But when Bea entered the fray, as she is a heel in WOS, there was more edge to the action. This was a good bout but it was hit by that other terrible issue with this programme. Stevie goes for a hurricanrana from the top buckle but didn't seem to get it right and Ospreay lands on his feet. Ok fair enough. But we then get an overhead replay showing us that Stevie did not have his legs on either side of Ospreay's head - so in effect Ospreay just did a somersault to the canvas and Stevie just fell on his back! Once again I am thinking why would you show that?
Bout number three is the second of the power vs power match-ups with Davey Boy Smith Jr taking on Iestyn Rees. This was a solid match that wasn't spoilt by tag partners interfering or screwy endings.
In the only bout that wasn't trailed last week (but was set up by that crazy Crater Vs. 3 men bout) we have a Mask Vs. Mask stipulation match between Crater and Robbie X. The two men have history dating back to their elimination from the tag tournament. An interesting take on this type of match where the only way of winning was by removing the opponents mask - rather than that being the forfeit paid by a defeated wrestler. This was quite a fun match and actually worked quite well. Robbie X was certainly popular with the fans in the studio and after the debacle of Crater losing last week it wasn't too jarring to see him lose again. We could of done with a least a brief glimpse of his face after he had been unmasked though!
We then came to Stu's big announcement. That the entire men's roster will battle it out in some kind of never before seen match - that looked like a royal rumble or possibly a lumberjack match or possibly some combination of the two - it wasn't very clear to be honest. Best guess it is a rumble with all the competitors standing outside the ring until they are called in to the ring at time intervals - or something!
What On Earth??!!??
What on earth happened here? WOS Wrestling goes from one of its best episodes to one of its worst. The booking on this edition of the show is shambolic.
Way back at the start of episode 2 we had the anomaly of Stu Bennett announcing a Women's Title match that had already been announced the previous week. The start to episode 7 is worse, much worse. Last week we were told that former tag partners Nathan Cruz and Adam Maxted would clash in a "loser leaves WOS" ladder match, at the start of this episode we are told this for a second time, then Cruz comes to the ring and demands the match. Stu Bennett at ringside then announces the match and informs us that suspended above the ring is a briefcase containing a WOS contract. That is just awful and looks terrible. Also on episode 2 we saw a ladder match and saw that it does not fit well with the 5pm broadcast slot as they have to edit out any shots of people hitting the ladder. So why book another ladder match? This is not a particularly memorable match there are at least two glaring edits where we miss the in ring action. We have had a good tag team broken up for this?
We then get a VT segment with Justin Sysum in Stu's office. Stu congratulates Sysum on his win in the handicap match last week and gives him his reward a shot at Rampage. "Fantastic" exclaims Sysum - possibly the first word we have heard him speak. But there is a twist, Sysum will face Rampage in a tag match in today's main event. Stu needs a better office but this spot was ok and continues to build Sysum towards a title match - probably in episode 9 or 10.
The next match up is a disaster zone. Throughout the show's run they have been building Crater up as the unstoppable monster including winning a match against two men. We now have Crater facing three men - though it is not a handicap match. The whole point of an unstoppable monster storyline is that the monster is unstoppable and squashes his way through the mid-card roster and it takes one of the fan favourite superstars to stop him. So having the mid-card wrestlers actually defeat him makes this entire storyline pointless. Then to do so by having all three men pin him simultaneously so that no-one knows who won this match is sheer madness. What were they thinking? Another of the really irritating things about WOS Wrestling is really noticeable here. All the bouts are edited heavily - BUT they don't edit out botches made by the wrestlers. Here we see Gabriel Kidd and Liam Slater miss with a double dropkick to the legs that is supposed to drop the big man to the canvas so they have to get up and do it over again. Why would you keep the miss in?
Up next is a comedy match in which Grado faces Martin Kirby. The build up for this match was botched last week when they showed us actual footage from this match. A big no no. There is a long, long tradition of both full-blown comedy matches and comedy spots in more serious bouts in British wrestling and I have no problem with this type of bout and this was a pretty good one. Grado is well versed in these type of matches, he gets a great reaction from the crowd and Kirby is the perfect foil for him. The toothbrush tussle and in particular getting the referee caught up in the tussle is straight out of the World of Sport Wrestling heydays of the 70s where referees played a big part in the fun of such bouts. This bout will not be everyone's cup of tea but I thought it was fine. Yet again Kirby gets a screwy win - will that now set up a Grado / Kirby feud one episode on from the Hendry / Kirby feud ending? It could at least keep Grado away from the titles.
Then it is on to the main event and finally we get a good bout. As set up earlier in the show, Justin Sysum's reward for winning the handicap match last week is to partner Joe Hendry in a tag match against Rampage and Sha Samuels. This was as solid a tag team main event as you could get. Samuels & Rampage work well together as the bullying heel team and Hendy and Sysum were over with the crowd and both get to hit their finishers.
The show ends with the preview of next week's show. The Ayesha Vs. Viper match that the women's over-the-top-rope rumble hinted at should be good. Bulldog Vs. Iestyn Rees could be a decent power match, but they again commit the sin of showing us a clip from the actual bout a week before it is broadcast and that booking means the tag titles won't be defended in episode 8. I'm glad that they are going to do the mixed tag match with Ospreay and Priestley facing Kay Lee Ray and Stevie Boy. It is something a bit different and goes some way to justifying SoCal Val's comments about who's dating who that we have heard during these wrestlers bouts.
Save the Best 'till erm...Sixth?
As WOS Wrestling nears the end of its first series the remaining episodes should see some better quality bouts as storylines set up in earlier episodes start to play out. That is certainly true here with the sixth episode of the programme being the strongest episode in terms of the in ring action.
Does having the Heavyweight Champion defend his belt in the opening bout devalue the title? Maybe, but here again it certainly provides a great opening to this week's edition. As trailed last week Rampage defends against "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith Jr in a power vs. power bout. We all know that Rampage's cronies are going to interfere in this bout but it provides a really solid contest that was well worked. It seems likely that Rampage will retain until the final episode, with Justin Sysum looking like being the man he faces in episode 10. And so we get Sysum coming out to defend the defeated Bulldog from a beat down - neatly setting up the main event.
After the break it is time for Joe Hendry Vs. Martin Kirby - Part II but this time in a submission match. I can take or leave Kirby's crybaby act at the beginning of the match, but it certainly got the fans at ringside invested in the action. This was another really solid bout but not for the first time and probably not for the last we miss action in the ring due to cutaways to crowd shots - something that continues to annoy. After "The Phenomenal One"'s phenomenal run of consecutive defeats on WOS Wrestling he finally gets a win and hopefully that's this grudge settled - we don't need Hendry Vs. Kirby part III.
Up next it is finally time for the final of the tag team tournament. AlphaBad and The Bromance looked the best of the teams involved but we already suspect that the partnership between Cruz and Maxted is looking doomed and so it proves. This was a really solid tag match between two established tag teams and it is a little sad to see The Bromance dissolved just so we can get a grudge match between Cruz and Maxted, but the crowd were so behind Maxted it certainly makes sense. The problem for WOS is that now that AlphaBad have won the belts where is the opposition? Most of the teams in the tournament have collapsed and the only established team for them to face now is the pairing of B.T. Gunn & Stevie Boy - who they defeated in the semi-finals.
I do like it when they play out a storyline in an episode and Sysum aiding Bulldog sets up this week's main event nicely. Sysum won a shot against Rampage last week - or did he? They could do with making some of these decisions clearer via Stu Bennett's announcements and the commentary team. Stu is going to make Sysum work for his title shot it would appear. Sysum overcoming Sha Samuels and CJ Banks in a handicap match worked well and Sysum continues to impress. A great ending to the bout with Sysum's staring down of Rampage on the ramp before delivering that eye-catching spear from the floor through the ropes and that flying discus again. The bout does raise the question why the heck Sha and CJ were not in the tag team tournament though??!!
At the end of the episode we get the preview of next week's show with Crater continuing to be built up as the unstoppable monster by facing 3 men, the Cruz Vs. Maxted feud in a ladder match - but with the loser leaving WOS and Sysum getting a shot at Rampage. However, WOS Wrestling wouldn't be WOS Wrestling if they didn't take a big misstep somewhere in an episode and this week's bodge is a doozy. We are told that next week Grado will take on Martin Kirby - and then they show us some actual footage from that bout - that takes place next week! Now, I am a wrestling fan so I am well aware that all of the bouts on all 10 episodes were filmed over three days in May 2018 BUT there is no need to explicitly show the viewers that - holy suspension of belief grapple fans!
One final comment - at the end of the show we finally get an onscreen graphic directing viewers to the WOS Westling website for details of this massive (9 date!) UK tour. I had checked out the website before episode 1 was broadcast and added links on IMDb to the roster but at that point the site was a bit sparse and I haven't bothered to revisit it. We have seen very few interviews on the show and it is now clear why - ITV have been posting pre-match and post-match interviews for nearly all the bouts on the twitter/facebook/website - so why wouldn't you put an on-screen link/hashtag to these or even just mention it during the broadcasts??!!
Into The Home Straight
WOS Wrestling reaches the halfway point in its broadcast run and possibly in its history. The slide in the viewing figures appears to have bottomed out and there are the tiniest signs of recovery. ITV have also given the show a third broadcast slot (at 5 minutes past midnight!) which could be seen as an act of desperation. The viewing figures are still remarkable for a pro wrestling show but are still extremely low for Saturday evening mainstream TV.
I was a little disappointed when it was announced that both of the tag-team title tournament semi-finals would be broadcast on one episode but I guess that is just due to the fact that there are only 5 episodes left so they need to get on with it if we are going to see a few tag title defences. After the usual brief highlights of last week/preview of this week package we get straight into the first semi-final. Kip Sabian & Iestyn Rees looked a solid heel tag-team and B.T. Gunn & Stevie Boy a solid face team in their quarter-finals so I was expecting a good bout (and hoping we didn't get a screwy ending) and I enjoyed this opener - but with Sabian and Rees progressing to the final it seemed obvious that Grado and Bulldog Jr would win the other semi-final to face them in the final.
The first misstep of this week's show occurred with the next bout. I thought that this match was being built up as a 2 vs. 1 handicap match with Gabriel Kidd & Liam Slater facing Crater. But no apparently this was now a three way match for no reason at all. Crater stayed on the outside and let the other two wrestle each other (which is apparently OK with the referee) which actually proved a good idea as for a while, at least until Crater got involved, we actually got an old-school British wrestling bout. Sadly, Crater wasn't counted out or anything and eventually entered the ring to squash both men and spoil the enjoyment.
The third bout was the other semi-final as Grado & Bulldog Jr faced Nathan Cruz and Adam Maxted. This bout threw a curve ball with the heel team of Cruz and Maxted winning to set up an unexpected heel vs heel final, thanks in no small part to a supposed injury suffered by Grado during this semi-final. However, it was interesting to see the tensions between Maxted and Cruz over attacking the injured Grado develop and I'm sure that storyline will reappear in the final possibley spinning off into something more.
Last week's show opened with a very messy women's title bout that ended with a naff brawl at ringside prompting Stu Bennett to set up this week's main event featuring all 5 female wrestlers on the roster in a battle royal for the title. This struck me as a peculiar idea at the time it was announced and so it proved! Neither Kasey Owens or Ayesha have fought in a single bout on WOS but both go straight into a title match! A battle royal is not really suited to either a title match or to the WOS style of presentation and this match started poorly. It improved a little as it went on and the confrontations between Viper and Ayesha may lead to them fighting again. This is one experiment that they shouldn't try again.
The preview of next week's show then revealed a further misstep as it is announced that Bulldog Jr will get a shot at Rampage's title - hang on a minute Justin Sysum won a title shot in the main event last week didn't he??
Better Late Than Never!
This is the first episode of the show where I have missed the broadcast due to footballing commitments and so had to watch via the ITV Hub video on demand service later in the week - hence the very late review.
We are almost at the half-way point in WOS Wrestling's run of 10 prerecorded episodes and I'm still enjoying these bouts despite some of the other problems surrounding the show.
The first bout looks a good one on paper with newly-crowned WOS Women's Champion Kay Lee Ray making the first defence of her belt against Bea Priestley. The two look evenly matched and this is shaping up nicely with Bea turning heel against the champ - but sadly the bout is sacrificed for a storyline as Viper comes out and interferes and then Ayesha (who has yet to appear on the show beyond the credit sequence at the start of episode 1) comes down and joins the brawl at ringside.
Stu Bennett calls for security to break up the scuffle and uses this fracas as an excuse to set-up next week's main event - an over-the-top-rope battle royal between the entire women's roster (all 5 of them) for the Women's Title. This was all handled in a somewhat cack-handed fashion but I suppose it does give the women a second main event spot.
We then get a good bit of continuity with Grado again storming into Stu's office and demanding a chance as he did last week. Stu offers Grado a chance IF he can find a tag partner.
The next bout up is a doozy with Will Ospreay facing Martin Kirby. This bout is the closest thing we have seen on WOS Wrestling to the type of high impact, double-quick bouts that can be seen in the halls up and down the UK and is perhaps the best match to be shown on WOS so far. But damn it the action in the ring seems to be a little too quick for the camera crew who are having trouble keeping the wrestlers in shot at times! At least this match has a satisfactory conclusion though, not yet another screwy ending.
It is then time for the final quarter-final match in the tag team title tournament. Grado is in the ring without a tag partner and the other team are introduced as the bizarre pairing of Robbie X and Crater! Grado announces his tag partner will be Davey Boy Smith Jr to the delight of the crowd. This was a fun match and is perhaps the closest we have seen on WOS Wrestling to the traditional comedy aspect of old school British wrestling. Grado and Bulldog are not too shabby as a tag team and the ending worked well with the face team protecting Robbie X from his tag partner.
The main event was supposed to be a three way bout between Justin Sysum, Joe Hendry and Adam Maxted but Maxted's tag partner Nathan Cruz insisted on replacing Adam in this bout to protect his partner's good looks which was at least consistent with the duo's personas even if it felt a bit gimmicky. This was the second strongest bout of the show with Sysum again impressing. Joe Hendry continues his astonishing losing streak in WOS. It sounded like the winner of this bout would get an automatic shot at Rampage for the title but that wasn't mentioned as being on the next episode.
It is good to see that they are trying a few different things with this show but the quality of the booking / storylines / action is getting a bit more threadbare as the show goes on.
Keep it simple!
WOS Wrestling works best when they keep it nice and simple for the casual fan and new audiences and this third episode of the show tries to do that - with mixed results.
Last week's episode started off with a simple recap of the first episode and set-up the bouts to feature in episode two and they do the same here - it is simple and effective. Last week's episode kicked off the action with a quick and simple call out to set up the opening bout and we get a similar quick and simple set up for former WOS Champion Grado at the start of this week's edition. VT is shown of Grado storming into WOS Executive Stu Bennett's office and demanding a second chance, which Stu grants the Scotsman - IF he takes wrestling more seriously. So Grado comes to ring for a match against Sha Samuels wearing an ill-fitting suit which he eventually rips off to reveal his usual wrestling gear thanks to some interaction with THAT kid in the ringside audience. Not a bad start with Sha again using the microphone to good effect and getting his first bout of the series and Grado getting a simple storyline to put across.
Bout two is the grudge match between Joe Hendry and Martin Kirby that was set up in the first episode of the show when Kirby's antics cost Hendry in the tag team tournament. After being built up so much this bout was a let down. Not much of a grudge match feel to it with Hendry doing his usual crooning to the arm waving crowd, Kirby pointlessly challenging Hendry to some olympic style amateur wrestling and also using his weird Zoidberg crab walk along the ring ropes that is fun for his face persona but totally out of place for him as a heel. This bout has yet another screwy ending and Hendry has now lost a match every single week that the show has been on air!
Bout three is the penultimate quarter-final contest from the Tag Team Title Tournament with the pairing of B.T. Gunn & Stevie Boy facing C.J. Banks & Brad Slayer. These tag title tournie matches been really solid so far, but this is the weakest of the quarter-finals we've seen so far. Gunn and Stevie are kitted out in very retro matching outfits and face paint but do at least look like a team and get some neat double team moves in. We finally see C.J. Banks in a match rather than just running interference but his tag partner is barely used. The ever present weird cutaways at inappropriate moments are very noticeable here despite this being quite a short bout.
Bout four sees the wonky set up of Gabriel Kidd's bout with Crater play out in a fairly brief bout that works best for the commentary team's character development - though Crater does seem to be using some kind of audio equipment to deliver his weird "war cry" which sounds pretty cool. SoCal Val utters the immortal line Cheese 'n' Crackers in place of Jesus Christ.
Bout five - the main event is the best match of the episode as Rampage defends his title against Justin Sysum. Sysum impresses here but the bout ends with yet another screwy result that is starting to be overplayed here and risk turning off some viewers.
After a good start to this week's show it ultimately fell flat due to trying to cram way too much stuff into 47 minutes which is a shame as there were still a couple of good bouts here.
Decent bouts, but further problems.
I was quite impressed with the quality of the four bouts on the debut edition of WOS Wrestling but my goodness there were also some very annoying things about the show. This second edition needed to at the very least maintain the quality of the in-ring action while tidying up some of the problems from last week's programme.
This week's episode started with a recap of last week's show, not a bad idea at all. The segment was brief and to the point and would have been useful to any who missed last week's show. When this week's edition got underway properly a fresh problem quickly emerged - continuity. WOS Exec Stu Bennett makes an announcement from the ringside commentary table that in view of last week's title bout he is going to make another championship bout for today's main event - a three-way match to crown the first ever WOS Women's Champion. Yes, Stu - we know, as the women's title bout and the three competitors in it were announced in episode 1!!! Weird.
That annoyance aside the start of episode 2 was all good. Stu announces an in ring celebration for new Heavyweight Champion Rampage and his cronies. Sha Samuels handles the mic work, which is his forte, and Joe Hendry responds to the call out. Stu gives his nod to Rampage defending his belt against the singing Scotsman and we have an opening bout that feels like a bonus match. I take my hat off to all involved in this idea. One of the simplest, bog standard wrestling set ups is delivered in the time it would take for a WWE superstar to make their ring entrance. The bout is solid even though it is obvious what is going to happen - with Sha and CJ Banks interference helping Rampage retain the belt - but for the second show in a row Hendry battles against the odds and is being built up by the commentary team.
Back from the ad break and all four men are already in the ring and being announced for the second bout. The fast pace of these shows is refreshing to see. This is the ladder match that was pitched last week and sees Lionheart, Robbie X, Liam Slater and Gabriel Kidd battling to get their hands on a briefcase - but in another refreshing twist we are not told what the prize in the briefcase actually is. All 4 men get neat spots in this bout but the problem of excessive cutaways and action replays damages this match as we see moves set up but miss the action. Grrr. Backstage reporter Rachel Stringer tries to interview the breathless winner at ringside which doesn't work well. His prize is a contract for a HUGE match but against whom is not spelt out explicitly (more on that later).
After another ad break it is time for the second quarter-final in the tag title tournament and this bout has quality written all over it with Doug Williams & HT Drake facing Nathan Cruz & Adam Maxted. Following his exposure on ITV's Love Island reality TV show Maxted is another man getting some build up across the first two episodes. This is a really solid bout and the only surprise is that Williams & Drake are faces when they can do such good work as heels. This tag title tournie is proving to be a core feature of this show and is working well so far. A final ad break before it is main event time. Bea Priestley, Kay Lee Ray and Viper deliver a great bout that should be hailed as the highlight of WOS so far - but this bout is actually spoiled by the editing/cutaway/camerawork issue - which here seems to be being deliberately used to conceal the sight of females kicking each other in the head with super kicks on a Saturday afternoon. There is a great ending to this bout nevertheless and women's wrestling being given such prominence is great to see. The show concludes with a preview of next's weeks show - the Joe Hendry Vs. Martin Kirby grudge match is built up here but then they basically show that Gabriel Kidd's reward for winning the ladder match will be a bout against Crater which kinda makes the earlier secrecy pointless.
So again here we have more solid bouts but some of the same problems as last week but now worse and a couple of new problems and it seems to me already after just 2 episodes that WOS Wrestling is going to be a fast-paced, fun but deeply frustrating ride for however long it may last.
Decent bouts paper over the cracks.
ITV, Britain's biggest commercial TV network, commissioned a one-off, 2 hour, TV special of World of Sport Wrestling that was broadcast on New Year's Eve 2016 and attracted a reasonable audience but it then seemed that the broadcaster wasn't going to commission a series of the show. Thankfully, for whatever reason they have changed their minds and ordered this 10-episode series for a 5pm slot on a Saturday.
There are things to like about this debut episode of the series, not least the actual in ring action. The standout bout was the second one between Davey Boy Smith Jr and Will Ospreay which featured eye catching performances from both men. The tag team tournament bout that saw Iestyn Rees & Kip Sabian take on Martin Kirby & Joe Hendry was shaping up nicely before being sacrificed for a storyline that will doubtless reappear in a later installment. The other two bouts revolving around the Heavyweight Championship were OK and also set-up storylines for future episodes.
The fact that four bouts featured in an episode with a running time of just 47 minutes is a sign that this show may focus more on in ring action rather than fluff. Although the format produced a brisk show for this debut episode at least it did mean viewers, especially those who are not hardcore wrestling fans, are given very little information about many of the grapplers they are seeing on screen for the first time. The one and only backstage interview segment worked quite well to get across the interviewees but any other other exposition was left to the commentary team. The other big plus from this debut episode was the staging which seemed an improvement from the 2016 special. That was filmed in an arena (in Manchester) but the series is filmed on a set in a TV studio in Norwich and this allows a bit more freedom with some interesting camera angles.
It is not all positive though, there are some quite serious problems with WOS Wrestling. The biggest was the production values and in particular the camerawork, graphics and editing. Each bout is badly disrupted by an unbelievable number of cutaways, in particular crowd shots, and the use of action replays during a bout was excessive and intrusive. The on-screen graphics for the tag team tournament tree were fine but in this age of social media it seemed glaring that at no point was an onscreen hashtag shown or any reference made to the show's social media presence - unusual on a wrestling show, almost unheard of on Saturday night mainstream ITV. The commentary team received on-screen graphic credits but the wrestlers did not. The commentary team of Alex Shane, SoCal Val and Stu Bennett were OK but need to make up their minds on who is doing what job and at what point in commentary. But perhaps the biggest problem for this show is that it is not being filmed now, all the bouts were filmed at a huge TV taping across a weekend earlier this year and are in the can.
The opening episode mustered overnight viewing figures of 920,000 peaking at almost 1.2 million - very, very good for pro wrestling but not amazing for Saturday tea-time. The big worry is if the number of viewers start to slide from episode 2 onwards - which airs on the opening day of the football season.
The Button (2018)
Simple Format = Good Fun
Avalon Television are well known for their range of successful British sitcoms, but the production company have scored a major success in recent years with their quirky, comedy game show format Taskmaster for UKTV's comedy orientated channel Dave. As well as already clocking up 10 series in the UK and having an (somewhat watered-down) American version of the show made it was announced earlier this year that the BBC had commissioned the team behind Taskmaster to create a family-friendly take on the show for BBC One. The result is The Button.
Taskmaster features comedians competing against each other to complete zany challenges set by Greg Davies' Taskmaster and his assistant Alex Horne. The Button features five families from across the UK competing against each other to complete zany challenges set by a talking button sited in the living room of each of their homes and voiced by Horne.
The simple format works well here with all five families being filmed by fixed-rig cameras in their homes as they have to keep an eye out for the button changing colour from green to red to signify the start of a challenge - you can almost hear the viewers at home shouting at their TV sets for Dad to put down that book because the button has changed colour unnoticed. The challenges are simple enough but with plenty of opportunity for amusing epic fails. Horne's interaction with the families is full of banter and just the right amount of sarcasm to keep things light without being nasty.
Broadcasters are always on the hunt for good, family, prime-time programming and production companies are of course keen to create formats that can be exported to multiple countries around the world and The Button looks like it hits both those targets by providing a simple viewing pleasure on a Friday evening. More please BBC.
High & Dry: The Island (2018)
Plane Crash Television
A comedy about a plane crash? Really? Well no, of course the plane crash is merely the device that allows this motley cast of characters to be propelled into the situation (i.e. being stranded on a deserted island) of this new 6-episode situation comedy based on a 2015 pilot that featured in the Comedy Blaps strand.
There are a couple of cast changes from the earlier incarnation of the show with Vicki Pepperdine coming in to replace Deborah Findlay as bossy former headmistress Harriet and American actress Grace Rex replacing Jessie Cave in the role of the fervently devout Susan - I briefly thought Rex was trying to do an oirish accent when her character first appeared on screen. However, this is basically a vehicle for Marc Wootton to unleash his latest ghastly character on the world in the form of ultra-needy, ultra-narcissistic, sociopathic flight attendant Brett who is deeply unhappy to discover that he and the male passenger he has set his sights on aren't the only survivors of the crash.
This was a spectacularly weird opening episode with a couple of laugh-out-loud moments (the false teeth/fake attack for one) punctuated by some really unsettling moments and just plain incomprehensible moments - the swiping an iPhone and digging a toilet scenes went nowhere and for too long. Someone has been raiding the Trojan Records back catalogue and there are some decent tunes playing in the background to the first episode.
Despite Channel 4 bumping this up from the yoof-orientated E4 to its main channel and running it in tandem with the established Friday Night Dinner I can't see this attracting much of an audience. Bring back Shirley Ghostman?
Lee and Dean: Episode #1.1 (2018)
Not a bad opener
I quite enjoyed the first episode of this new five episode comedy about a pair of oddball builders from Stevenage. It is not the most original new British comedy of 2018, treading the increasingly familiar path of the mockumentary following the central characters on the job and their relationship with each other and the people they know inter-cut with to camera interview segments.
This opener introduced the childhood friends who live and work together and gave us a taste of some of their bodge jobs in the building trade fairly briskly but was a little uneven taking a while to really get going. Personally, once we got to the social situations such as the innuendo-laden conversation with Mrs Bryce-D'Souza and the birthday party I thought that this debut episode started to find its stride with some very awkward situations raising a chuckle. I can't say that I have seen much of the two leads in other programmes and it is good to see some fresh faces given the opportunity to show what they can do.
There were some very odd moments in this episode though, some of which were probably deliberately jarring but nevertheless seemed unwarranted in particular Dean telling Nikki that Lee had once killed a dog by throwing it against the wall just came out of nowhere.
Worth taking a look at, though I suspect like most comedies it will be a "Marmite" programme that some hate and some love.
Britain's Brightest Family (2018)
The BBC have been crying out for more family-friendly shows for a while now and ITV must have thought that they had stolen a march on Auntie Beeb with this prime-time family quiz sandwiched between the Wednesday evening double helping of Coronation Street. How wrong they were!
The Chase's Anne Hegerty is the host for this competition to find the nation's brightest family and the winning family are rewarded with a holiday to the U.S. Each week two teams compete in knockout rounds answering maths questions, logic puzzles, picture-based questions etc. A fairly straightforward format.
However, it is the clunking format of Britain's Brightest Family that is the big letdown here. The idea of the child member of the team being the team captain and having to nominate the person on their team that they think is best suited to answering a particular question probably sounded a good idea. In reality it is a disaster, firstly the nominated person's seat rising up is just a silly and pointless gimmick and quickly becomes annoying. Secondly, this nomination process slows down the game to a frustrating degree - and some teams seem to have cottoned on to the fact that by buzzing in immediately they then get time to nominate and then the nominated person gets far too long to answer the question.
Those are far from the only criticisms of the show. The questions are far too easy. It must be difficult for the question writers to set the right level of question knowing that the person answering the question may be an 11-year-old or that child's 81-year-old grandfather but viewers have been left stunned by how often even the adult team members are failing to answer simple questions - is their chair suddenly shooting up in the air discombobulating them? The picture puzzles are also very frustrating for the viewers at home as they disappear off the screen too quickly.
It is good that ITV have tried something different in the prime slot between two slabs of soap opera but even that has backfired on this programme as the family format sits uncomfortably between the increasingly unhinged plots of Coronation Street. The other 'Chasers' must be thankful that they didn't get lumbered with this show.