Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Shit Done Hit That Fan ... And the Chippy - Review:- Tuesday 28.03.2017

Once again, on a scale of 1 to 10, I was generous and gave this episode an 8, but for the wrong reasons. For all people whinged, whined and moaned about them, once again, the show proves one thing: It misses the major Mitchells. 

Love'em or hate'em - and John Yorke certainly started them both on the road to free-fall - but the show misses Letitia Dean and Steve McFadden. I appreciate many of the viewers who have only watched since the Yorke era don't realise what these two characters were in the 1990s, and the writing team on hand don't know how to handle their characters. But as many people whinged, whined and moaned about Sharon and Phil as moaned about Linda Carter, and all it took was that brief appearance by Kellie Bright for me to realise how much she's missed, but it also made me realise how much I'd like to see Danny Dyer -as much as I like Mick Carter on a good day - leave the show. I think Dyer's come to the end of his tether with the character of Mick, but I think Bright's character has countless numbers of roads down which to travel without playing nursemaid mummy to the biggest Oedipal baby on the show.

Not only that, with the brief introductions of guest characters like Konrad the shopkeeper or dodgy Tom, Jay's heretofore unmentioned friend, it's been made painfully obvious how much the show is crying out for new characters and how tired some of the staple characters have become - the Branning girls spring instantly to mind. And whilst I know that Lisa Faulkner's due to be introduced, it's patently obvious that she's the requisite savvy blonde, sexy businesswoman type whose future lies with one of the two Branning brothers.

Probably the reason I rated tonight's show so highly was because at last we've seen some sort of comeback, payback, whatever you want to call it for this version of Michelle, Sean O'Connor's dystopian wreck of an iconic character who is nothing like the original version and nothing like anything that character would have ever become, but also, in the show not releasing any spoilers concerning tonight's episode - although I somewhat knew a bit of what to expect - it was an eye-opener watching things develop in real time, culminating in "the stunt" (on the back of the cobbled-together bus crash from weeks ago), which was realistic enough in demolishing Beale's place. 

In actual real time, Kush and Kathy would be brown bread, but after the bus which fell on Martin and Whitney, Kathy's probably got a slight cut above her left eyebrow, and Kush has a dislocated pinkie finger. Or maybe not. 

We'll now have to wait until Thursday to see.

The Storyline Apart. Literally, this was the episode where two storylines collided, but before we get to them, I'd like to say something about the best and most realistic issue storyline which served as an eventual backdrop or a plot device for the shit-hitting-the-fan one. 

This would be Tina's and Sylvie's storyline. I sat thinking last night, after Monday's episode, about the BSAs coming up in the spring and wondering whom EastEnders would put forward as their nominees for Best Actress and Best Actor. I know Emmerdale will rightly tout John Middleton, and he should win; but I can see no one, actor or actress, worthy of EastEnders to nominate. Oh, they're sure to push Lacey Turner, but Turner's been little more than a supporting player, as she was tonight. 

On the other hand, Luisa Bradshaw-White has really come into her own in this storyline. 

Although it was cast as a backdrop to all the action going on with the Michelle reveal, it still was a storyline in and of itself. It was quite something to see Sylvie carry on dancing throughout the brouhaha, oblivious to the confusion around her, safe and secure in her own world. When Vincent stopped dancing with her, she danced with herself.

Throughout everything, Sylvie's safest living and re-living her life in the 60s, when she was everyone's party girl. Now, Tina is facing self-recrimination for having made the decision to put Sylvie in a care home where she can get professional help. Even though her mother abandoned her as a child, she still wants to do right by her. It was a powerful moment when some boisterous punters at the Vic started copping feels of Whitney and Tina, who had to try to eject them from the pub - once again, there's a weakness here, with Whitney and Johnnie, both unlicenced, running the pub - surely, that's illegal? Surely there has to be licenced cover?

When both women can't handle these men, it's Sylvie who rouses herself briefly to castigate them for manhandling her daughter, even recognising that Tina is a lesbian, chasing he men off, and then reverting back to her nebulous existence in the past. And finally, hearing a particular Dusty Springfield song, she's moved to reminisce and admit to Tina that she used to sing this song to her children as a lullaby, that she was an awful mother, but she still loved her children, and wondered what had become of them. The final scene of Tina and Sylvie locked in an embrace, with Tina silently crying, was powerful beyond words.

But this was only a background story.

The Victim of Circumstance. Of course, Denise featured in this episode. Featured heavily as Sean O'Connor's designated star of the show. Again,this was a backdrop storyline, the second storyline involving a much older woman being pursued by a younger man.

Watching this, played out against the revelations about Michelle and Preston, it occurred to me that, in many ways, this was the antithesis to that storyline, yet it mirrored it in many ways, and as I watched their drama unfold, I was struck with the similarities between Denise and Kush and Michelle and Preston.

Obviously, the first similarity is that they are two women in their late forties being pursued by much younger men. Like Preston, Kush is the one actively pursuing Denise, and like Preston, it seemed to me that the main purpose of Kush's interest in Denise, primarily, was for sexual purposes.

Although the two had engaged in sexual banter and quasi role playing of teacher and student in their exchange at the community centre, by the time they had repaired to Denise's house after Carmel's untimely interruption, this had given Denise time to think about the situation at hand. And she, the adult in the room, deflected Kush's advances.

For it was clear throughout this that Kush's ultimate motive in his pursuit of Denise was having a regular sexual partner. For all the talk of chemistry between the two of them, it all boiled down to him being horny, and Denise deftly deflecting this horniness. Denise is an attractive woman, and Kush is affected by this attractiveness, but it was evident that Kush has always sought sexual partners without any sort of commitment.

Denise is right to point out that men and women can, indeed, be friends, but this is an alien concept to Kush. It isn't a romance he wanted with Denise, it was casual, regular sex; and this has always been what motivated Kush, at least since his first wife died. He never acknowledged a commitment to Shabnam until she announced that she was pregnant, and even then, he had difficulty - and Carmel even recognised this.

Denise, on the other hand, seems to have learned her lesson, time and time again, reiterating that she no longer wanted to do anything stupid. For Denise, this means not getting drunk with a man and going to bed with him; but ultimately, this served to show that Denise was the more mature half of the couple - and in that respect, Kush isn't that different from Preston, except that Kush is 32 years old, and Preston is 17; sulking is a childish habit that doesn't sit well with with anyone over 30. A prime example of this is Kush's petulant admission that he doesn't want to exchange pleasantries with Denise about the weather as evident of the sort of friendship she wanted, petulantly wondering what it was that "friends" actually talked about.

The exchange in The Albert also mirrored what was going on in the main storyline, with Vincent taking on the role Martin had in the main storyline, appearing just at the moment when Kush, denied his wicked way with Denise, was proceeding to get drunker and drunker, the light-hearted banter when each tried to recommend a love interest for the other began to turn a shade darker as Kush's drinking increased and his remarks toward Denise became snarkier. When Denise subtly intimated to Vincent that Kush should go, Kush took the hint and stalked off to the chippy, making sure that he told Denise that would be where she could find him. Contrived? Yes, because I imagine in the confusion that reigns on Thursday, Denise will know that this is where Kush was headed when the shit, or the BMW, hit the fan.

I suppose what struck me throughout this was just how much Kush's interest in Denise was all about sex - like Preston, he was the horny guy out to get laid, even bumping into one of his many conquests having a drink, herself, in The Albert. This is the way Kush has always been. He doesn't want a meaningful relationship with Denise, he wants sex, and that will last only until Denise either starts to want more in the way of a commitment or until Kush meets another conquest which interests him more. He's learned nothing from his marriage to Shabnam and the loss of their son, but I do think his prurience is a defence mechanism, affected since the death of his first wife. It's a way he can sexually satisfy himself and remain detached from the situation at hand. This works, until someone penetrates that barrier, the way Shabnam did. 

As difficult as Shabnam was because of her obvious issues, she made Kush work for her love and respect. The fact that he was so ready to give up on fighting for her that in the 24 hours they had broken up during the early days of their relationship, he relieved himself sexually with her best friend.

Kush is a user of people, and Denise, 16 years his senior, isn't about to be used.

The Awful Truth. I never knew Preston was Rebecca's boyfriend. They slept together a month ago, and not much has happened since, until Michelle turfed him out, after he'd returned from Manchester. Whilst this overdue revelation panned out, I was struck, once again, by how bad an actress Jasmine Armfield is. She does ok with the teens-in-the-schoolyard stuff, but she was bloody awful in this and easily the weakest link.

Still, I appreciate that the boyfriend line was a contrivance tailor-made to make Michelle look even more like a slimy putz.

Kudos? Well, to James Bye, obviously, and to Lacey Turner, albeit her role was more along the supportive bent. She stepped up to the plate in sending Preston on his way, and this was, I suppose, one of the singular successes of this episode. 

At long last, we got some sort of history, both with Michelle and the little scrote upon whom she's fixated. 

I think it's safe to say that this Michelle has been an absolute epic fail of a character. Even more alarming was the fact that the revelation of Michelle's relationship with Preston, the length of it and its repercussions in Florida were all news to Martin, that he had never thought to question his sister why she'd suddenly appeared in Walford after 20 years' absence, leaving her job and her family.

She was on a visit, remember? Remember the leaving do the Fowlers and the Beales threw for her in the Vic? She was supposedly leaving the following day - got her return ticket all bought and paid for, as she reiterated to Stacey, who was none too glad to see the back of her. 

And yet she stayed. And her brother didn't wonder at that? He didn't wonder at her leaving his house, where she was his guest and horn in on the hospitality of a friend, whose good nature she'd abused twice before. Martin exhibited no curiosity at all, and neither, for that matter, did Stacey, and she's pretty quick to cast a beady eye on a dodgy situation.

The exchange between Martin and Michelle was probably the best scene in the episode, and James Bye has come into his own as Martin. The childhood reminiscence stuff, once again, was laid on too thick at some points - in fact, I never remember Martin referencing Michelle at all during his adolescence. As for her never returning home, Martin should have remembered that when Arthur died, Michelle had just given birth to Mark and was in no condition to return for the funeral; but it's true that she had no excuse for not returning for Mark's funeral, and she fell out (over the phone) with Mark for not showing up at Pauline's - but I can believe the part Martin referred about Pauline crying in the kitchen over Michelle's absence. Another thing that struck me was the allusion to Michelle's husband, Tim, whom Martin described as not being exactly a dynamic person, but seemingly so inconsequential that he isn't even allowed to have a surname.

Tim becomes just a faceless non-entity who loved Michelle, but Martin was right - and the continuity was good in that respect - to bring up how selfish Michelle was. This was always the downside of her personality, how she'd step over anyone and anything to get what she wanted. She married Lofty, yet let herself be convinced by a wierdly jealoous Den, that she really didn't want Lofty's child, so she aborted the baby and callously dumped Lofty.

She betrays her best friend by sleeping with the friend's father and becoming pregnant by him; she sleeps with Sharon's ex-husband and again falls pregnant;' and in both instances, thinks it the most natural thing in the world that Sharon should forgive her, which is what she did. One wonders if she'll forgive Michelle for hitting Dennis.

Of course, Michelle was all over the place. Not only was she desperately trying to cover her tracks about her dirty little secret, she was bombed out of her mind on a cocktail of sleeping pills and fizzy booze. The thing about Michelle, however, is that she's spent all her life, doing whatever it is she wanted to do, never considering whom she hurt, yet expecting a blanket forgiveness from them - Sharon, Pauline, Arthur, whoever she hurt, she expected - and got - forgiveness. In return, she offered loyalty. No one can deny, her major transgressions apart, that she's been loyal to the likes of Sharon and Ian. On the night she was killed, Pauline was off to a new life, living with Michelle in Florida.

But this time, her luck has run out. The rule of thumb in life is hurt me, but you don't hurt my kids, and this time, Michelle is on a hiding to nothing. She's hit Dennis, as the avenger Louise, is quick to inform everyone listening to her conversation with Rebecca in the pub, and this is sure to get back to Sharon; and Martin now knows that she's used his daughter as a tool in her wierd sex game of cut-and-thrust with Preston. No matter, Michelle reminding Martin that she did try to warn him and Stacey off Preston, that was too little too late and done with the express purpose of covering Michelle's arse.

In all the discussion between Martin and Michelle about Preston, it was coy of the programme to avoid Michelle mentioning that their relationship, whilst in Florida, was actually a crime. Equally pointless was Michelle saying that she was happy in her life until she succumbed to Preston's sexual pressuring. It was as I thought. He was a sexually precocious, spoiled brat, who pursued her for his amusement. She was the adult, and his teacher, who should have known better than to respond to his advances.

She was an ego trip, but for all his protestations that he loved her, he was a spoiled kid who reacted like a child - and Martin described it brilliantly in reminding Michelle that this boy is, emotionally, still a child - every time he didn't get his own way. His party piece was flouncing out of the room as soon as she said no. He showed his callous measure when his reaction to her telling him to associate with someone his own age was to get emotionally and romantically involved with Michelle's niece, even sleeping with her to make Michelle jealous.

And no more did Preston come across as a child than his behaviour tonight. He wasn't traumatised by what happened in the pub in the least. His reaction seemed to be Cool! Now we can be out in the open -because skulking around in the shadows and on the sly can become more than a bit boring. And he more than got what he deserved when Martin clouted him, bloodying his nose, not so much for hanging around with Michelle, but for using Martin's daughter for his own ends. 

Yet that scene where he confronted Rebecca made you realise that this guy was just a kid. Thrown out of Ian's house, seemingly rejected by Michelle, who suddenly realised that she really was about to lose the last remnants of her family, Preston seemed to think he could simply bounce back to Rebecca. He looked like nothing more than a simple teenager when he was trying to plead his case with her. But what did he think that would prove? He told Rebecca that he still liked her, but he loved her aunt. How is that supposed to make her feel?

That was a brilliant scene as well, not for Rebecca's po-faced Garbo-esque reaction to everyone, dramatically declaiming to Louise that she simply wanted "to be alone", but for the protective reactions of Whitney and Stacey, Stacey backing Whitney up by reinforcing the idea to Preston that he wasn't welcome in the pub Whitney was managing and yet making him feel her verbal force in graphically describing what she'd like to do to him for hurting her stepdaughter - that's the first time Stacey has referred to Rebecca as that. It was warming.

Yet five minutes later, we had Rebecca stumbling into a stumbling Michelle and breathlessly exclaiming the ludicrous line, 

You've lost everything! We've both lost Preston!

I'm glad Martin didn't stint in reminding Michelle of the litany of people she'd hurt by continuing this relationship, but I take exception in two instances, Martin making one of them, that Michelle was old enough to be Preston's grandmother. She's thirty years older than he, which means she is more than likely old enough to be his mother, so I don't know where he got off reminding her that Preston was young enough to be her grandson - Glenda having sex with 17 year-old Leon was a glamorous fifty-something woman who could have been his grandmother; but Michelle could easily have given birth at thirty. That remark was a bit overexaggerated.

And kudos for Louise - for her protecting Dennis, when Michelle started to lambast the child verbally, blaming him for telling what he'd seen. Michelle was clearly out of order and under the influence of drugs and drink when she virtually assaulted Louise when Louise said she was calling Phil, Bereft and rightfully abandoned by people who had once loved her, Michelle was grasping at straws and gunning for finding Preston, so she takes the keys to Sharon's BMW.

The rest, as they say, is history. Did Preston cop it? I'm not sure. I don't think she hit him or even clipped him, and it looked as though he took a nose dive in a pile of rubbish, which is suitable for him at any rate. I hope he's gone.

But Michelle has destroyed the chippie, with Kush and Kathy inside, and it's the type of destruction and force that could badly injure any fit young bloke, much less an elderly woman. There's some sort of overshadowing from Kush's remark about being fit and young. Yet consider this: Michelle committed a crime in Florida when she slept with Preston; driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol (which can easily be established) and causing grievous injury to a person whilst in that state is a crime as well.

Could we see Michelle, eventually, arrested and imprisoned for this? Because this was, surely, a crime.

Michelle was not a victim. She was the author of her own defeat. And this re-cast has ruined this character for perpetuity.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Shit Hitting the Fan - Review Monday 27.03.2017

On a scale of 1 to 10, I gave that episode a 7.It was good, it was watchable, but it was spoiled by the overtly bad, terribly camp, cheesy and cheap dialogue between Denise (of whom we see far too much in this programme) and Kush. The other thing that spoiled the show was Rebecca's singing. Jasmine Armfield is OK, but her rendition of two 60s EastEnd girl singers - Sandie Shaw and Helen Shapiro (were these songs deliberately chosen, I wonder?) - frankly, were insulting and embarrassing. I'm sure Armfield has talent, but like Maria Friedman's Elaine, we don't need EastEnders to turn into a West End production or a cabaret.

Cheap Trick. I totally get Sean O'Connor's underlying theme in this episode. There were two storylines, about to collide head-on, each about a "significantly older" woman having a relationship with a much younger man, the exception being that 48 year-old Denise is pondering beginning a physical relationship with Kush, who happens to be 32 and the son of her best friend; and 48 year-old Michelle is about to be revealed as having a sexual relationship with a 17 year-old boy, which began when he was 16, and which, in the state in the country where it occurred, was totally and utterly illegal. It was, effectively, statutory rape.

The difference between these two tales is, of course, that Kush is an adult, even though he may not be, at times, emotionally. He is 32. He's been married twice, widowed and divorced. He has something or a reputation of being a sexual predator, himself, specialising in vulnerable women - Shabnam, Stacey, Nancy - with issues of their own; and a lot of his sexual behaviour, came as a result of and a reaction to his first wife's death. His way of coping with grief was promiscuity.

Kush and Denise had a fling before, and this was not Denise's first time she'd coupled with a much younger man. Some years ago, she had a brief fling with Fatboy,who took the association seriously - remember him asking her plaintively to reassure him that she wasn't just using him for sex? She was.

I don't know how far the original affair with Kush would have gone, had we not had that preposterous and unnecessary story about being pregnant by Phil Mitchell, but since this producer seems to want to give Denise umpteen different storylines, placing her in almost every episode, shoving her front and centre and making her the equivalent of DTC's Carter family, it looks as though we're getting a second shot at Denise having some sort of affair with Kush.

Juxtaposed with the equally awful and tawdry tale of Michelle and Preston, you'd have thought this would have come the opposite end of the scale, with a little bit of class, some reticence and more than a bit of poignancy. 

Instead, we got a lot of overt, smutty innuendo and Diane Parish attempting to give Davood Ghadami a sultry look whilst eating a biscuit. It failed. Another thing that made it almost as cheap and tawdry as Michelle's tale is that, in the aftermath of the failed community meeting (the third failure - hey, three strikes and you're out), when Denise and Kush were left alone to tidy up the community centre, the sexual banter that ensued consisted of Kush imagining Denise as the sexy teacher and Denise rising to the role-play.

Considering what is going on in the Mitchell house across the Square, it makes Denise and Kush come across as cheap. 

We know where this storyline is going; we knew that immediately Carmel barged into the place, late for the meeting because of work; we knew it when she wistfully spoke of Kush needing to meet a nice "girl" after he'd scurried off to nurse his tumescent hard-on, lest his mother's beady eye land on his crotch. We knew it a couple of episodes ago when Carmel expressed a wish for Kush to settle down and start a family.

Before any speculation begins now, know this: the adoption is a no-go area; it's final. Denise neither knows the name of her son's adoptive parents, nor will she be allowed to know this. And she had a menopausal pregnancy. She's 48; sometime in the next couple of years, the full-on menopause will set in. She and Kush won't have a child, and that's going to be where the problem will lie. For all Arthur is Kush's biological son, he has Martin's surname and he's being raised as a Fowler. Besides, Kush stepped back from that, for the good of the child. There's no returning to that either.

I suppose this half-hearted excuse for community action is being used as a prop to get Denise and Kush back together again. Maybe however brief their association will be might result in her attitude improving. Maybe he'll teach her a bit more compassion for people outside of her familial sphere, or gratitude to people who seek to be nice to her when she's one of the most arrogant, loud-mouthed, intolerant and condescending people on the Square. 

One thing about Denise, like several other women on that programme past and present - she equates happiness with sexual satisfaction. She was happy enough with Kevin, and before he started his killing spree, she was happy enough with Lucas. She convinced herself that she wanted companionship with Ian and ended up snogging Fatboy in the loos of the Vic at her engagement party.

At the moment, she's an attractive woman in her late 40s, but let's check in on her in 1en years' time when the pull of gravity has its effects on her body and we'll see where Kush, who'll still be a young man of 42 will be. This is the most unreal aspect of EastEnders - and, indeed, of Coronation Street. 

These are working class people, most of whom have low-end, unskilled jobs. Denise, for example, is working on the checkout in the local corner shop, probably for minimum wage. There is no way she'd be able to afford a mortgage on the terraced house in which she lives with Patrick in that part of London. Like Shirley, like the ridiculous Whitney, like Kathy whose character is 67 this year), these women with their expensively manicured nails, their lineless faces (bar Shirley) and their toned bodies which denote expensive and exclusive gym memberships are not even remotely like these working class Cockney sparrows or Mancunian lasses eking out a living on a minimum wage.

Denise is unemployed. Because she quit her job, she's not entitled to any sort of employment benefits for six weeks because she left her job voluntarily, and there she is, wittering on about the community. If this is all they brought Derek's character back for as well, it's a waste. Instead of reconnecting with Martin and Martin's family, he's being established as a busybody fusspot, a Cockney Norris Cole with a crush on Patrick and linked up with the Fox-Trueman-Hubbards for who knows what reason - probably because in Sean O'Connor's EastEnders, everything emanates from Denise. 

Kudos to Vincent for leaving that shower, but once again, he's another emasculated man, who's left holding, literally, the baby.

Party Girl. The best storyline of the moment, without a doubt, has been that of Tina and Sylvie. Sean O'Connor's one big success has been the development of Tina's character. Who'd have thought she'd turn out to be the best of the Carters, bar Linda?

Luisa Bradshaw-White and Linda Marlowe have brilliantly played blinders in this sad, poignant and sometimes funny tale. We share Tina's despair and her sadness at recognising that she can't care for her mother anymore as Sylvie's dementia progresses. No matter how much anyone - Kathy or Johnny or the insipid Whitney -tell her that once Sylvie is in a care home, Tina will get her life back, they don't realise that, although Sylvie has been a trial for Tina - because she's basically done all the caring on her own, with no help from Shirley or any of the other Carters - it's also been a joy for her. 

After having been abandoned by Sylvie, she's suddenly found her mother again; and even though Tina's been a feckless mother, herself, she's thrown herself into caring for Sylvie. It's been touching to see some of the things she does for Sylvie, who totally doesn't recognise or remember her - like making her fried egg on toast and using ketchup to make a face on the egg, or taking her to the charity shop to find a dress for her "party."

Sylvie's lost in some fluttery, ongoing party somewhere in the 60s, where she veers between being the girl everyone wanted and where she's also the fickle wife surreptitiously cheating on Stan. Some of her scenes tonight were poignantly funny - like the confusion between the Dusty who hankered after Stan being either Dusty Springfield or some woman called Dusty who served behind the bar of a pub, or her assessment of Dot as an "old hag."

I want to know how Whitney and Johnny are still running that pub, without a licencee on the premises, not even someone with a personal licence, unless Tracey has one. Big hole in that storyline. It also offends me to see Whitney throwing her weight about, issuing orders to Johnny, who sounds more and more like a walking public service announcement, especially the way he patronises Tina about how she'll get her life back once Sylvie's institutionalised. Johnny and the Carters did precious little to help her with Sylvie at all. They couldn't lumber Sonia with her quick enough, their reckoning being Sonia was a nurse who would know what to do. Remember the awful family meeting Sonia organised where all the Carters did was stuff their faces and leave Sonia with the responsibility of looking after Sylvie?

And for anyone who's forgotten, Whitney's never happier than when she's throwing her weight about, issuing orders and offering unsolicited advice to other people about subjects on which she's little qualifed to comment.

Sharon needs to come back and take control of the Vic, but she also needs to come back for another reason.

Of course, Sylvie's 60s party - yet another excuse for the Carters, or the remnants thereof, to have some sort of theme night at the Vic (cheer up Linda, cheer up Sylvie), which, in tonight's episode, was a plot device - something which offered a gathering of Square residents assembled to hear the revelation of a shocking secret.

This wasn't Sharongate, by any stretch of the imagination.

That Sound You Hear When the Shit Hits the Fan. A lot of things struck me about this episode and this storyline, and it wasn't completely shit. For example, it bothers me that I absolutely loathe Rebecca, yet - and even though she's been the weaker person - I admit to liking Louise. Why is that? Well, consider this: It's just possible that Louise is possibly the more nuanced character. She can be a bitch, she can be weak to the point of being manipulated by Sniggle and Snaggle. I totally get it that Tillie Keeper is pushing 20 and playing a child of 15 and that sometimes, a lot of the time early on, the dialogue the writers have given her would have suited someone more the age of Lauren; but they seem to have toned that down now, and at least they are approximating, badly, some sort of writing which the writing room thinks accommodates the youth of today.

Louise is conflicted. She likes Rebecca, she wants to be her friend, but she's being bullied and manipulated, herself, by Sniggle and Snaggle, and the Mitchell ethos deems she's been grassed up by Rebecca to the school authorities; and everyone knows the Mitchells hate a grass.

Sometimes, it's easy to hate Louise - indeed, most of the Brat Pack are unlikable; but Rebecca always seems to come across as smug and preening, when she's not doing the sad-faced teen act. She reminds me of Lauren, when Max and Tanya were together, always bleating on about being treated like an adult, but always having her hand out to Daddy for funding. Rebecca's like that in insisting on being treated like an adult, and Stacey has shamed Martin into going along with this; but Rebecca is a child, moreover, she's a silly girl with no common sense who's made atrocious errors of judgement to her chagrin and to the detriment of her personal reputation.

Yes, it's easy to hate Louise, but Louise was the hero of the piece tonight.

The unravelling of this tawdry tale and the big shocker that will probably happen tomorrow night (take note: Kathy's in the chippy  and Michelle's mixing barbituates and booze) suddenly became interesting tonight, because finally, Michelle is about to be revealed as a fraud.

Michelle has never gelled with the Mitchells, especially the Mitchells and their association with Sharon. 

An aside: As I watched this episode tonight, conscious of the fact that, suddenly, after years of Michelle just being "married" and living in the States, TPTB sprang to action and re-delivered her to the bosom of Walford as a teacher - an English teacher, no less - married to a significantly older man. I make this observation because it's dawned on me that we never knew Michelle's married name. I realise that some women keep their maiden names for professional purposes, but precious few high school teachers do. This happens more in the world of medicine or law - examples being professional lawyers, Hillary Rodham and Michelle Robinson, suddenly having to become Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama when their husbands became Presidents of the United States and they became First Ladies. All we knew of Michelle was that she had married "Tim." But Tim had no surname, and even though Tim had adopted Michelle's son Mark, having married her when he was a baby or even a toddler, yet Mark showed up in Walford in the summer, calling himself Mark Fowler and believing that Tim was his father. 

Go figure that one. Why is Michelle still "Miss Fowler"? Why was Mark using her surname and not the unknown surname of the man he considered his father, the man who adopted him? Legally.

And Michelle the English teacher? Really? This is the woman who wrote a note to Sharon on her wedding day which read:-

Me and Ian ain't coming to the wedding on account of Ian ain't well.

Seriously, Sharon read that note out to Linda at the Mitchell breakfast table, before she knew that Ian was returning from visiting Michelle to arrive in time for the wedding. Michelle, the English teacher, wrote that note.

Still, I suppose that's DTC's vision, which is now invalid. Instead, Michelle's an English teacher who's been sleeping with one of her students, who - by Florida law - is under the legal age of consent. Since she returned to Walford, to be followed by her immature, child-like lover, for all she's blathered on about keeping this relationship a secret, a relationship which cost her her husband's and her son's respect and ended her professional career, because she doesn't want to alienate the few real family members she has left, she's managed to use her own niece as a tool to justify her own feelings toward a kid, who's nothing more than a sexually precocious spoiled brat.

That doesn't make Michelle a victim, and it's only the legal wording which makes him one. Michelle was the adult, who should have known better than to succumb to his advances. I haven't been able to fathom why his parents haven't been on the next plane to the UK, to physically remove him back to his home and for his mother to bitch-slap Michelle about the Square.

That Michelle, this Michelle, is a weak, pathetic and emotionally immature wreck of a woman, and - once again - she's taking advantage of her best friend's hospitality. She slept with Sharon's father and got pregnant - Sharon gave her a pass; she slept with Sharon's ex and got pregnant - Sharon gave her a pass. Now, she's hit Sharon's son.

I don't think Sharon would give her a pass.

To be fair, there was a real amount of tension in this episode. You get the impression that Michelle is over Preston - over him,but she can't let go. It's interesting that the only thing that woke her up to the fact that their relationship was wrong happened every time she tried to seek employment in her professional field - which was simultaneously stupid and arrogant of her. Was she so stupid that she thought that any British school or educational employer wouldn't seek her references from her previous employer? Faced with the fact that the reason why she lost her job so precipitously (in real time, she'd have been prosecuted and imprisoned) or that she was massively over-qualified for any lesser educational job, faced with the end of her professional career, she now realises that this affair has resulted in that.

It's only then that she seeks to separate herself from Preston. Yet this little shit knows just how to manipulate her. Michelle is right, ultimately recognising that Preston's dalliance with her has merely been a game. It hits home to her with one remark from him:-

I could have had any girl I wanted, instead I ended up with ...

She knows the ending in the unspoken words. She's been facing that hard truth since the dinner date where the waitress mistook her for his mother. She wants to finish with Preston, but she needs him to leave Rebecca alone and ... just leave. But Preston won't leave - he's working illegally with Martin, who, misguidedly, believes he's a friend of Mark's and that he's from a nice family (probably true), a nicer tranche of people than the Kazemis. Martin's lack of curiosity is amazing. Not once has he questioned why Michelle is her and why her husband and son are in the US. Does he speak with Mark? Mark is his only nephew, and you'd there'd be some sort of contact. Why hasn't he asked the boy about his mother? Why hasn't he been nosy (siblings are always nosy) and called Tim to get the lowdown? Instead, because Preston's helped him out on the stall, he thinks he's ok and that this is just a holiday romance for Rebecca - but when does a holiday cease to be a holiday and become an extended stay? If Preston is in his last year of high school, he only has about 8 weeks of classes left.

I had thought Louise had seen Michelle hit Dennis. She hadn't, but Dennis has studiously avoided Michelle all weekend, and continues to blank her whenever, and especially when she tries to make pleasant to him. Louise knows something is wrong,and all through these segments, I found myself screaming at Louise, 

Call Phil and Shaorn! Just call Phil and Sharon!

As I said, Michelle has always been on a negative vibe when it comes to the Mitchells, and Louise picks up on this instantly, in the wake of Dennis's reaction to her. She almost knows something bad has happened, and she isn't buying Michelle's pithy excuse that she'd deprived Dennis of his computer. This is Louise's first threat to call Phil, even when Michelle tries to pull rank, muscling in to remind Louise that until Phil and Sharon come home, this is her domain; but she doesn't bank on Louise witnessing Michelle's encounter with Dennis in the street - and I was Team Dennis on that one, when Michelle got desperate and tried to force the child inside the house by yanking him by the arm. Dennis reacted by kicking her. Good. She deserved that, even though he tried it on by demanding 100 quid to keep his mouth shut. He knew she would never comply with that. She doesn't have a pot in which to piss.

I thought one of the best scenes of the episode was the playground scene between Louise and Dennis, one of the best enacted scenes between two young actors on the show. Louise is concerned, worried and tense, wanting to know why Dennis had reacted to Michelle the way he did. Dennis is reticent, whether it's from fear of Michelle or fear that Louise wouldn't believe him or a combination of both, he reluctantly tells her what he'd seen - that he'd seen Michelle and Preston together, kissing, that Michelle had hit him because he knew about her secret and she feared he would tell.

That's when Louise channels her inner Mitchell.

I think Michelle knew that it was only a matter of time before everything spilled out into the open, and she seeks to cover her arse by trying to talk Martin and Stacey into discouraging Rebecca from seeing Preston, but she's suitably vague about her reasons, and the Fowlers don't take her seriously. She's further spooked at the pub by Louise's unannounced appearance, and here we have the art of minimalist dialogue. Louise's attitude, her demeanor and her disdain of Michelle makes the woman wonder aloud if Dennis has said anything to Louise. Louise says nothing, except to leave Michelle with the observation that Michelle disgusts Louise. This incident occurs just moments after the insipid Rebecca thanks Michelle for talking to Martin, who's given his blessing to Rebecca's romance with Preston, and Preston acknowledges secretly that this is all an act to make Rebecca jealous. He doesn't really care about Michelle. Her association with him has lost her her family in the US; now he's taunting her insecurities and immaturity by putting her in competition with her niece.

Louise tries to talk to Rebecca about this. It's natural that Rebecca doesn't trust her, after the incident with Sniggle and Snaggle; besides, she thinks Louise is jealous. She may not have believed Louise at first about Michelle and Preston, but Louise has planted a seed of doubt, which blossoms when Preston accidentally on purpose snakes across the the bar to place an affectionate and intimate hand on Michelle's shoulder, Rebecca realises that what Louise has told her is true.

One observation: The choreography of this scene reminded me of Sharongate. There was a party that night in the Vic - Phil's and Kathy's engagement party. There was a dance tape going, the machine for  which was right where Rebecca was performing. Sharon and Michelle were standing exactly where Michelle was standing on that evening. We had a brief scene before that of Alan and Carol Jackson dancing (Sylvie and Vincent this time), and down the bar behind Sharon were standing Ricky Butcher and Bianca (Martin and Stacey). The layout, the choreography and design was very much a tribute to Sharongate.

But it wasn't.

Just remember: Michelle's mixed sleeping tablets and booze, and Kathy's in the chippy.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Is EastEnders Menopausal? - Review:- Thursday 23.03.2017

We've suffered yet another week of dire, substandard episodes. Again. The only reason I scored this episode slightly above mediocre was on the strength of the last scene, alone.

Watching it, I thought about characters about whom I really cared in the show. I used to care about Sharon, and I still do, somehat; but when she initially returned under John Yorke's watch, he set on on the irreversible road to perdition, stripping her of her resilience and fortitude, wrenching her away from the Mitchell dynamic, with whom she worked best, post-Den-and-Angie and established her as a precursor to Ronnie Mitchell in the tragic heroine stakes. Under Berridge and reunited with her zombie dad, the writers invested Den's attention to and love for Sharon with more than a slight hint of incest - hence, why a lot of people initially viewed Archie and Ronnie as an extension of Den and Sharon. Kirkwood made her beg for crumbs from the Branning table, and Newman didn't know what to do with her. DTC changed her backstory, gave her a cartoon birth father and had her actively cover for two murderers, as well as tacitly look the other way whilst an innocent man was framed for a murder. 

I used to care about Phil, but Yorke put the boot in on his character by tacking the worst part of Grant onto Phil and, effectively, smothering the basic good and decent part of Phil Mitchell.

Pat and Peggy are dead. Carol isn't coming back anytime soon. The Beales are ruined.

I suddenly realised tonight that, lately, the characters whom I've enjoyed watching the most are Steven Beale, Kush Kazemi and Dennis Rickman Jr. Two background props and a kid.

In fact, Bleu Landau, a kid, an actor on the cusp of puberty turning thirteen this year and playing a ten year-old, is, at the moment, running rings around the more established actors on the show. He makes the former go-to girl who really needs to go full stop, Jacqueline Jossa, look even more pedestrian than she usually is.

This isn't a cooked-up Tiffany Butcher-Simon Barlow type of pre-pubescent lead, one minute playing the innocent child by uttering badly-written dialogue meant to be spoken by a child three years younger than the character is supposed to be, and the next sounding like a precocious moppet imitating a sophisticated forty year-old. The writers have really pegged this kid - the grandson of Den Watts, and the stepson raised by Phil Mitchell.

So there you have it. Sean O'Connor's EastEnders, a social commentary obsessed with Council cuts and binbags, is being carried by a child actor.

Go figure.

And It's Good-bye from Him. I had heard Danny Dyer's departure was precipitous, but I didn't think it was as precipitous and discomababulated as this - leaving to go to Bulgaria upon receiving word from Tamwar that Nancy had been hit by a car.

When he stormed into the kitchen of the Vic, where Whitney had just finished the online sale of what I had thought to be Lauren's lost phone, screaming about wanting the earliest flight to Sofia, Bulgaria, I thought he was fleeing some sort of police raid.

Of course, he's barreling off like a bull in heat, without having told Linda (whom he still blames for abandoning him to care for her ailing mother), which means one thing and which begs another question - 

A. It looks as though Dyer's sudden departure probably changed the course of a storyline, meant, eventually, to evolve into some kind of affair/attachment/pity party with Whitney; so, unless, normal service resumes upon his return, however long that might be, the furtive tonguefest in the hospital a couple of months back, was all for nowt - yet another storyline begun and left unfinished (like Billy and the stolen post) ... and ...

B. How will the pub remain open in his absence? A licencee (Mick, Linda or Shirley) doesn't have to be on the premises all the time, but the pub must have a Designated Premises Supervisor, or DPS, who has a personal licence. Quoting from the government's official guidelines for public houses:-

It is a mandatory requirement that any premise which holds a premises licence authorising the retail sale of alcohol as a licensable activity, must have a DPS specified on the licence. 
The DPS must be a holder of a personal alcohol licence Any premise at which alcohol is sold or supplied may employ 1 or more personal alcohol licence holders but only 1 can be named on the licence at any one time.
The DPS will normally be the individual who has been given day to day responsibility for managing the premise by the premises licence holder.
Wasn't this established when Mick and Shirley had to spend the night in the cells after Babe broke the licencing laws? It was revealed that Lee held a personal licence and, obviously, was the DPS. Lee has gone, and no one's said anything about Whitney or Johnnie having a personal licence, and I would imagine Mick leaving on a 7.30 AM flight would give anyone much time to get one, sooooooo ... how is the pub going to be run? Because we both know that neither Whitney nor Johnnie are capable of running any sort of business on a day-to-day basis, much less a pub, even though Princess Whitney might think herself eminently capable.

This link will explain fully why it's impossible for either Johnnie or Whitney to operate that pub in Mick's absence, however long that might be. Once again, the show has shown itself to be light on research and removed from reality. However, Shirley's supposed to be returning in the next couple of weeks, but I'm still plumping for Shazza to get back behind that bar, as more than just a barmaid.

Eeeuuuuuuuuuuuuuwww, an awful thought just occurred to me. Remember that particular arrogance Whitney displays when she's in any sort of semblance of authority? Can you imagine her issuing orders to Sharon?

The Go-To Girl Should Go. The ubiquitous Beale sitcom continues, and I'm wondering what's being achieved here. Are they making the Beales so patently awful and boring so that we feel sorry for Lauren and enjoy her little jaunt into serial infidelity?

I hate even admitting it, but Whitney is right: Lauren isn't turning into her father, she is simply just like him - which probably explains the tension that always pervades their natural relationship. 

However, the show's depiction of Ian insisting that the Beales sit in of an evening and play a Koch Brothers approximation of Monopoly is just another example of Ian's swift descent into becoming the show's latest sad, fat clown, only tonight he was a sad, boring, obnoxious clown.

Juxtapose that with Jane's version of a night out being attending Denise's community solidarity meeting at - where else? - the community centre. 

Now juxtapose that, even further, with Steven having the night off from the restaurant and wanting to spend some time with Lauren, who's bored.

Only we're treated to just how bored she is. If anyone had any doubt about how selfish, self-centred and self-serving Lauren was and always will be, this episode emphasized that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Of course, selfishness has always been the identifying characteristic of the Brannings. Max was a sexually selfish man married to Tanya, a materialistic, selfish woman. 

Both sides combined to produce Lauren, who sat drooling over the phone upgrade she'd got through her insurance when she lost her original phone, whilst keying in the number of her prospective bit on the side and attempting to text him, when Steven interrupted her. This is a classic premise of a sitcom with an ongoing theme - someone bored by the background to her life offered by her boyfriend's family and her boyfriend, so she contemplates infidelity

Except that tonight, we learn that Lauren doesn't really want a clandestine affair, when she bolts the boardgame evening (after playing a silent game of covert rudeness during the entire time she sat at the table, complete with an artsy-fartsy overshot view of the family sat around the boardgame), for a few hours of talking at Whitney about her problem, talking at her and never once registering or listening to anything Whitney might have to offer.

No, Lauren doesn't want the thrill of the chase; she wants rid of Steven. He bores her. Truth be known, her son bores her. As she said to Steven, she wants to go out. She's 23, she's got a baby, she's got some sort of glorified tea-lady job at a web design company, because, girlfriend, ain't no way that bitch is going to be a web designer with not even one GCSE. I mean, Denise is getting one GCSE, and the Square treat her as if she's about to get a PhD. Nope, Lauren is stuck in a household with a man for whom she left the father of her child, a man so immersed in doubts about his own self-worth and his sexuality, a man who loves her and her child and wants to provide for them; she lives with his father and step-mother, both of whom helped conceal the identity of the killer of her best friend, and she's bored by simple domesticity.

Steven, who has had mental health issues in the past, and has been formerly identified on the programme a decade ago as being gay, has become simply part and parcel of the fixtures and fittings. For his part, he's desperate to be recognised as Ian's dutiful son. He works with him, helps him in his businesses, and is the only one of Ian's surviving children who, willingly, has returned to win his trust. In many ways, although the show hasn't served it up front and centre to the extent it did with the Mitchell counterpart story, Steven's quest for Ian's approval somewhat mirrors Ben's struggle for Phil's approbation.

Lauren wants her freedom again, even to the extent of putting herself in the frame to rent a spare room from Ben and Jay in their new house, but I daresay Ben and Jay aren't going to be that keen on a young mother with a child, so it begs the question about how serious Lauren is about her young son? Because I think she's bored by Louis as well.

Max liked the thrill of the chase, whenever the domestic front - with Rachel and subsequently with Rachel - got too boring. But he always maintained the home front and returned when he got bored. He only came unstuck when he got Tanya pregnant and had to leave Rachel and Bradley. Max married Rachel because he got her pregnant; he married Tanya and left Rachel when he got Tanya up the duff. Lauren was about to get a termination when Peter talked her out of it, but she's not with Peter now, she's with his brother, and she has Peter's son.

This is life, and Lauren is bored by it. However, having texted Josh, the mystery man (whom I'm betting is married as well), she reluctantly returns home, but Steven is beginning to twig that something is wrong.

I have no idea where TPTB plan to take Lauren's character after this. The cracks in her relationship with Steven have been apparent for sometime. Will she be the second Branning daughter to have involved herself with a closeted gay man? Will a re-cast Peter return, and will we then find out exactly what went on in New Zealand? Is Steven all he seems to be? Have they forgotten the diabetes storyline so soon? Will EastEnders ever be interesting again?

Two More Boring Storylines Collide For Denise. The star of the show was served up in double doses tonight.

I don't know where this council protest storyline is going. We've had them, done badly, before - the market sit-in with Shirley necking vodka from a bottle, and the crashing of the Council Christmas lunch by market traders objecting to the sale of Beales' for a supermarket chain. I get it that they're concerned about council cuts and the fortnightly bin collection. (On the last one, it's beyond me why no one has figured out going to the local dump, but there you go).

I just don't see why they're raising money by sponsored exercise bike rides and a Fayre on the Square. What, exactly, are they aiming to do? Or is this just another pointless exercise in O'Connor's quest for community solidarity?

It was all a silly backdrop to set up the eventual re-connection between Kush and Denise.

And it was bad.

Derek is back, but Derek's become a finicky, fusspot, clamouring on and on about the Council's policy on rubbish bins and rude Council officials, wittering on non-stop to Denise. As with his stint at Christmas, there's no association at all with Martin Fowler at all; instead, Derek has been placed with the Trueman-Fox-Hubbard dynamic. I can see that Patrick needs a crony and a co-hort of his own age (although the purported crush Derek was supposed to have had on Patrick was more than a bit far-fetched). He's known Patrick for years. But it looks like Derek's supposed to lend credence as a background character to this Council protest malarky again. 

Once again, the neighbourhood meeting is a flop, this time because the hapless Preston failed to deliver Denise's flyers advertising the meeting for that night. (In a tip to the commonly perceived assumption amongst the British that Americans are intrinsically stupid, Preston's reasoning for not delivering the brochures - for which Denise has paid him, beforehand - is that he thought "tonight" meant "tomorrow night." So he was going to distribute the flyers the next morning.

Go figure.

Then, after offering this explanation, TPTB had their heroine Denise promote another common fallacy which the British perceive to be suffered by Americans. Pointing to the brochure and pointing to the word "tonight", Denise reiterates:-

Can't you read?!!! (I don't know how many times I've had Brits imply openly to me that Americans are illiterate).

In that scene at the Mitchell house, I thought Denise was rancid. I'm no fan of Preston's. I don't like him. I don't like Denise, and I'm not overly fond of Michelle; but Denise was in the wrong there. She was rude and aggressive.

The kid made a mistake. He probably wasn't fussed at distributing flyers and didn't bother to read them, but it's doubtful that any more people than the quartet who showed up would have showed up at all, even with a flyer. Instead, Denise storms into the Mitchell kitchen spewing venom because it's all Preston's fault that she didn't have enough time to bask in the light of her own ego. And as for stupidity, Denise shouldn't have paid Preston before he'd done the job. At least he offered to give her money back - a full ten quid - which she refused, even though she hasn't got a job, and even though she went to the untold expense of having those flyers printed. In that instance, I was Team Michelle. Denise had no right to come full on like that. She's all mouth and aggression, and a deeply unpleasant person, and I hope this is fully revealed, in time, with Kush.

Of course, that upcoming liaison is the second situation prevalent which involves a younger man becoming romantically entangled with a much older woman. Kush is 32, Denise is 48. He fancies her, and her new game of playing hard to get offers him a challenge. This time, she's not hopping right into bed - does she think she's still incredibly fertile enough to conceive again, right after her drunken bout with Phil Mitchell?

He might banter about wanting to see her in a bikini, and they'll eventually get together, much to the chagrin of Carmel, who'll probably end her friendship with the terminally ungrateful Denise right then and there; but whether or not this is for the long-term is debatable. Kathy was eleven years Phil's senior, and that didn't last. Sixteen years is a big gap, and whilst Arthur is Kush's natural son, he's relinquished rights to him, and it's highly unlikely he'll have a family with Denise. In fact, Kush is roughly the same age as her oldest daughter, or at the very least, a couple of years older. (Oh, please, don't be tempted to bring back the lazy, self-important Chelsea in a cack-handed attempt at a poor man's version of an Alexis Carrington-Dex Dexter-Amanda Carrington triangle.)

Denise is so singularly rude, verbally aggressive, condescending, snide and eternally ungrateful that I cannot fathom what there is about her personality that's appealing to Kush. As for the community organising, in the time she spent sniping at Preston, Kush, Honey and Derek (who would have been the only people to have shown up even if the flyers had been distributed) had come up with some viable ideas of their own and had gone about implementing them.

But I still don't understand what all the fund-raising is about. I thought this was a registered protest and a meeting to discuss Council cuts, not organising a fucking village fete.

The Systematic Character Assassination of Michelle Fowler Is Now Complete. Wow. Just wow. Where the character goes from here is anyone's guess, but after the big reveal, which happens next week and after smacking the shit out of Dennis tonight, I'd be surprised if Sharon entertained her following that.

Dennis can be a little shit. His grandad was a big shit; his father was a pretty shit, aspiring to be a big shit, and his stepfather, who's been a big influence on him, is the Queen Mother of big shits. So with Dennis, the attitude is nurture as much as nature.

I don't think Dennis is bullying Michelle, as some people think. He isn't. He's simply witnessed something that he knows is inappropriate behaviour in an adult who's supposed to be responsible for him, and he's reacted to it. He's canny enough to sense that, for all her protests, Michelle knows she's been doing wrong and is scared shitless at the prospect of Dennis telling his mother. For all intents and purposes, Sharon thought this affair was ended. She never bargained on Michelle bringing this underaged kid, who pursued her to Walford, into Phil's home and absconded her responsibilties to Sharon's son and stepdaughter. She wouldn't be pleased that MIchelle is using her home as a knocking shop,and she'd be even less pleased to learn that she's smacked Dennis.

And she'll be certain to learn about it, because Louise witnessed it. (I must admit, I had a feeling throughout all this segment that something would happen. Although I knew he was going to be smacked, I thought that either someone - Phil and Sharon appropriately - might return home by surprise to find him there on his own, alone, or that they'd find him passed out from alcohol poisoning, although he blanched at the taste of vodka). Remember, as well, that there really shouldn't be any booze in the Mitchell house. One of the few occasions in which Sharon did tell Michelle off was when she brought a big bottle of wine for the two of them to share, and there's she's been, necking wine and spirits and providing Preston with beer. When she did smack Dennis, I expected Sharon and Phil to show themselves, but Louise is nearly as good. She'll be sure to tell the tale, and she won't be manipulated by Michelle.

This is a real mess.

Tonight was a welter of reinforcement that her relationship with Preston was simply wrong - morally and reprehensibly wrong. However, the epiphany that keeps coming to Michelle isn't that it was wrong for her to have taken advantage of an underaged person who was in her remit of care and responsibility, she's simply backing off because the result of that crime she committed- and let's not beat about the bush, in Florida, this is statutory rape, a crime; even if Preston initiated this relationship and made sexual advances toward her, she was the adult and shouldn't have responded - is that her professional career is over. Ended. Zilched. Kaput.

That's the only reason she's backed off him.

The entire ethos of this segment was steeped in immaturity - Preston's overt, spoiled-child mentality, Michelle's own emotional immaturity and her inability to deal with young children (you wonder how she lasted so long in the teaching profession), ending with her smacking Dennis and calling him a brat. Preston is just as much a brat, someone who, obviously, has never known the word "no", whose parents have gone from trying desperately to get in touch with him now to sending him money transfers.WTF?

I also got the impression that Preston pushing for a public date with Michelle for dinner, wanting to hold her hand in public, wasn't as much out of affection for her and love as for wanting the people she knew to see her and to witness her humiliation. I think this is a cruel boy (who was back with the Russian accent tonight), but it doesn't mean I sympathise with Michelle. They are both as rotten as one another.

However, the fact that she allowed him to manipulate her into leaving Dennis at home on his own, with no guarantee that Louise would return on time was supremely irresponsible of her - and don't think Dennis won't milk this with Sharon and Phil for all it's worth. He owes Michelle nothing now that she's smacked him. And why did she eventually smack him? Not for lying to her about using her debit card (topped up, I imagine, with the money Sharon was paying her for housekeeping and for the kids) to buy the computer game he wanted, but because Dennis accused her of being a paedophile. He actually used the word, which he'd learned in school.

Okay, she's not a paedophile because she's not attracted to young children, but she is a statutory rapist. She broke the law. It cost her her job, and in real time (not EastEndersLand), it would cost her her liberty. Whatever the word, and Dennis got the word wrong, but he didn't mess up on the concept. Forty-eight year-old women can sleep with all the thirty-two year-old men they want. In Florida, it's illegal for a 47 year-old woman to start an affair with a 16 year-old and to carry on that affair for a year. In the UK, whilst not illegal, it is, if the adult in question is the younger person's teacher, and if he/she isn't, it's just creepy and perverse.

Hearing a harsh description, or at least Dennis's version of what he perceives her to be, is too much for Michelle. And she reacts adversely. Abominably. Remember Sharon has said publically that Dennis is the most important person in her life, and she cut off contact immediately with Gavin the moment he clouted Dennis.

Michelle slept with and got pregnant by Sharon's father, and she forgave Michelle. Michelle slept with and got pregnant by Sharon's ex-husband, and she forgave Michelle. Michelle raised her hand and struck Sharon's only child.

Strike three. You're out.

As if that weren't enough, the vast gulf in ages between Michelle and Preston kept surfacing tonight - the girl with American-themed restaurant with the gutteral Katherine Ryan Canadian accent assuming Michelle was Preston's mother hit home with Michelle, as much as Preston's subsequent peevish assessment of her as an old lady, before he did his party piece of flouncing out of the restaurant and leaving her to pay - on her maxed out credit card when she discovered there were no funds on her debit card. She returns home to find that Preston is scrunched up on the sofa, playing computer games with Dennis, like the kid he is. To think Michelle is having sex with someone who is essentially still a child is totally creepy.

This entire storyline has been uncomfortably creepy, even moreso considering it's resulted in the abject and total character assassination of one of the most important and iconic characters in the history of the show. After next week, I don't see any return or redemption for Michelle - not the way she's reacted to the children left in her charge, not the way she's manipulated her niece emotionally and certainly not in abusing her position of trust and sleeping with an underaged kid.

But then, it's dawned on me. Just as Ian has become the ubiquitous sad,fat clown of EastEnders' yore, so Michelle has become the well-educated, suddenly well-spoken professional in a position of trust, who turns out to be scurvy and immoral (think Mad May, Stella, Lucas and Yusef) ... and that's an EastEnders staple too.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pointless Repetition of Nothing - Review:-Tuesday 21.03.2017 Parts I & II

I remember a time when the BBC would do anything to accommodate EastEnders. It mattered not that there were World Cups or rugby games or FA Cup ties or any of the assorted reasons we've got lately whereby EastEnders has been shunted from pillar to post. 

Time was, this was the BBC's flagship show. Now it can't even make the cover of the soap or TV mags. Look at those publications and all you see is Corrie or Emmerdale, and that stands to reason. Coronation Street, which is recently coming off a long bad stretch that was Stuart Blackburn and emerging into the daylight provided by the woman known as Queen Kate - oddly enough, Blackburn's re-surfaced as a writer on Emmerdale; and Emmerdale is just, quite simply, good.

That's something that genuinely cannot be said about EastEnders at the moment. It simply isn't good. The easiest assessment would be merely to say that the show has lost its way. 

There, I said it. It's lost its way. Really and truly. It meandered through unchartered territory for a year or so as Bryan Kirkwood channeled Hollyoaks. It tried love and warmth with Lorraine Newman. Then it allowed DTC and Alex Lamb to gut its soul and re-write established histories to suit their own agenda, but Sean O'Connor?

I don't know what he wants to do. Characters were unlikable under DTC's regime; they're even moreso now. It wasn't enough for DTC to re-set, unbelievably so, the backstories of Sharon, Phil and Kat; it wasn't enough for him to trash the characters of the show's most important original and/or iconic characters. O'Connor went one step further. He not only re-cast a character who should never have been re-cast at all - because to many a viewer, Michelle Fowler is Susan Tully's interpretation - he had to make her a statutory rapist and sex offender. Because of this, the fact that viewers who have known this programme only since the Millennium will now forever think of MIchelle Fowler as a neurotic, weak and wavering woman who slept with an underaged child.

And that's disgusting.

Both episodes were predictably bad, with many bad performances, but a few, odd good moments, and I suppose that this is all we have to look forward to now as viewers - the few, odd good moments in amongst a lot of detritus.

Ben and His Gang. At the risk of being shouted down, I have to say that Jamie Borthwick stank in both these episodes, but as I said, he had his odd, good moment - and that came when he ran into Star/Linzi at Ben's birthday party - sorry, at the 'owse pah'ee.

I can't believe we spent the better part of the first scene between Ben and Jay with a mindless discussion about the definition of the term "house party", pronounced 'owse pah'ee. In fact, that scene boiled down to a competition between the two of them to see who could sound the most Cockney; and in the end, Jamie Borthwick gave up and just spoke ordinary Estuary.

Mixed up with the party piece was the involvement of the yoof contingent, featuring Sniggle and Snaggle and their assorted schoolboy thug mates. And, of course, Rebecca RedNose.

There were some definite positives about the Ben segments of the two episodes - the re-appearance of Star/Linzi and the introduction of a new character, a dodgy friend of Ben's and Jay's about whom we've never heard - Tom.

First the return of Star, who was formerly a close friend of Rebecca's and who's come to Rebecca's aid in offering her the hand of friendship they previously had. We learned tonight that Star was, herself, the object of collective bullying and humiliation by the likes of Sniggle and Snaggle and their creatures. For Rebecca's benefit, she puts a new take on the bullies' ire: They're simply jealous of Rebecca; after all, she's bagged not only Shakil (as if he would be a catch) and what they perceive to be a hunky American.

Star knows Jay will be at Ben's party; it's basically the reason she goes, and just as she arrives, we see Jay chatting up none other than the brainless Sniggle, but he stops in his tracks as soon as he sees Star.

There is something highly ironic about these episodes, in that each episode featured a registered sex offender and their respective victims. In the first episode, Jay was brought face to face with Star, whilst he was in the middle of chatting up yet another underaged girl, whose age he never bothered to question. What stops him from going any further with the brainless Sniggle is seeing Star, who - at least - is honest enough to admit that she wanted to see him. Jay reminds her that he's on a sex offenders' list because of her and wants her to leave. Then Star hands him his arse.

You want to kick her out and all? (Indicating Sniggle)
Because the girl you were chatting to is fifteen. You knew what you were doing, and you're doing it again.

By Jay's estimation, Star had ruined his life, but did she? She deftly pointed out to Jay how precipitious he was, imposing himself on a girl with a view to chatting her up and never imagining to ask her her age. For some unbelievable reason, Jay thought Sniggle was a student at university. It wasn't Star who ruined Jay's life. She was just a kid who was caught up in the attention given her by an older lad. Jay's life was ruined by never having the gumption to ask, during all their association, what Star's age was.

Second positive: Tom. I don't know who he is; we've never heard of him in relation to Ben or Jay, but it seems to me that he's more or less a permutation of Micky Miller, the way he was when he was first introduced. He's a chancer, a dodgy lad - the typical cheeky, chirpy chappie who comes by things which have fallen off the back of a lorry or acquired from a man behind the bar of a pub.

Are there still people like that today? He seemed like someone from the 80s, but you know what? I liked him, and that just shows you how much this show is crying out for new characters - Konrad, the Polish shopkeeper, Panit the Cockney Thai cook, Tom the dodgy bloke ... anyone who'll relieve us from the gaggle of onerous numpties we're forced to watch four times a week. Of course, the comedy was forced with Tom - he took a shine to Abi, whom he called "Blondie" because he couldn't remember her name, which prompted Abi to dump him there and then. 

Another reason this character intrigued me is because his introduction reminded me of how EastEnders used to introduce characters. The characters of Nigel Bates, Tiffany Raymond and Mickey Miller all began as incidental, recurrent characters who started out as friends of various established characters (Grant Mitchell, Bianca Jackson, Spencer Moon). They showed up here and there and as the public responded positively toward them, they were given permanent slots on the show. I hope we see Tom again.

There was another positive about this segment, and that was the scene outside the café where Kathy gave Ben Albert Beale's St Christopher's medal, telling him that it belonged to Pete's and Pauline's father. Immediately she did this, it hit me that Ben isn't actually a part of the Beale family and that he recognised, immediately, Ben protested that Ian should have this, but Kathy insisted that this was her gift to Ben.

I know a lot of people don't like Ben, but I do; and I like him with Kathy; and once again, the prickly nature of his relationship with Phil was brought out, even with Phil not there - the fact that he was waiting all day for a phone call or acknowledgement from Phil, and he thought none had come, only to find out that Phil had dropped his phone and couldn't remember any telephone number except the landline at the Arches and had been trying to reach Ben all day. Ben got the ubiquitous envelope of money, most probably provided from Coker and Sons' petty cash.

The downside of this segment, part of which lasted over two episodes, was the non-romance between Ben and Johnny being drunkenly consummated, only to find that in the light of day, the morning after, neither wanted a relationship. 

That's all fair and good - a Ben-Johnny pairing would have been too obvious; but they should have parted as mates in the café and that was that. Instead, when Ben deems Johnny "too square" for his liking, there arises some ridiculous challenge where Ben dares Johnny to steal cutlery from the café, and then they end up nicking traffic cones.

Go figure. From maturity to immaturity in one, inexplicable fell swoop.

Oh, and Rebecca got drunk on a school night and appeared to be fully recovered, no hangover, the next day. These two episodes further served to remind me that, whilst she did a passable performance with the bullying storyline last week, Jasmine Armfield is yet another very weak actress.

LindaLite and the Hubba Hubbards. Whitney rigged a pub quiz because she knew Kim, as the winner, would be likeliest to invest in a bottle of bubbly (in the fridge) and have the Vic's till ringing off the hook.

Yeah, sure.

On the one side, we had a ridiculous pub quiz featuring Kim and her inane answers - thinking a football season was "season" as in summer, winter, spring or autumn. I really cannot see how Vincent puts up with her. And Denise must have the GCSE which covers every aspect of English literature right up to doctorate level, as she's able to identify quotes by obscure poets as part of her agenda.

I hate the Fox sisters, O'Connor's designated successors to the dead Blisters. I don't know what's worse - the pair of them fighting on and on about the same damned thing, or the pair of them bickering in what we're supposed to think is a comic way, but eliciting no laughs, about what boils down to Kim wanting to drink and have fun and Denise who wants some sort of higher pursuit, but who ends up drinking in the company of Kush.

Kush must be some sort of masochist. Shabnam, as much as I like her, could be a tough nut to crack; his mother, a self-absorbed Queen Bitch who shows no quarter and now, he's linking up with the most arrogant, self-entitled, disdainful and ungrateful characters on the Square.

On the management side, we get to see Whitney pretending to be Linda, and Mick bantering cosily with her whilst putting Linda off on the telephone. She acts as though she's mistress of the house and landlady at the Vic already, and no matter how much of a moral high ground she assumes, she's ready and willing for Mick to drop his guard and invite her into his bed.

Whitney and Lauren Talk at Each Other Again. It dawned on me tonight that for all her extemporaneous moralising, Whitney is jealous of Lauren, and Lauren is doing the same thing with Whitney that Tanya used to do with Jane.

Tanya had an obvious drink problem and would often find herself drinking alone at odd times of the day. Countless times, she used Jane to go on a bender to mask the fact that she had to binge drink. Tonight, Lauren used Whitney as the gooseberry in her attempt to find the photocopier bloke who gave her his number.

You see where all this is leading?

Lauren lost her phone, so she couldn't call or text Josh; but Mick found the phone whilst tidying up the pub, down the cushions of a booth and put it in the Lost Property box. Who's to bet that Steven happens to see the phone, recognise it as Lauren's and ring the number?

Anyway, Lauren is in what's supposed to be a committed relationship with a man who's devoted to her and to her son. Lauren is bored by her domestic situation and feels that, apart from her son, she has nothing to live for. Like all the other Brannings, she's selfish and puts herself and her own needs first. She's so bored with Steven, she can't even be bothered to answer the questions he directly asks her. She feels he doesn't give her the attention she feels she deserves. 

I have no doubt that he loves her, albeit for all the wrong reasons; and I still think he's closeted. You cannot ask an audience to reset their mindset about a character whose coming-out a decade ago was a pretty big deal, as well as his quirky mental instability. But her sense of entitlement infuriates me. For example, when she informed Steven that she and Whitney were having a girls' night out - indeed, they were making a whole day of getting ready together - Steven ventured a question about Louis, and Lauren replied:-

I've told Kathy she could babysit Louis for the day.

Sorry, but she told Kathy? Kathy isn't her servant at her beck and call. She isn't even Steven's grandmother, but she is, indeed, Louis's great-grandmother, and she shouldn't have to be told to do anything by Lauren. It's not her remit to look after this child, and the way Lauren worded this, it was clear that Kathy didn't volunteer for this, she was told by Lauren.

Lauren needs to understand one thing: There is no more territorial person in Walford than Ian Beale, moreso even than the Mitchells. And the only thing tying Lauren to any obligation on Ian's part is Louis. Ian's fond of Steven again. Indeed, he's the only one of Ian's children who will give him the time of day, so if Lauren goes messing him about, she's out. And Louis? Well, Ian would fight tooth and nail for the custody of that child because and wouldn't stint on portraying Lauren as unfit.

Lauren's in a relationship and looking for sex on the side; Whitney is hankering afer a married man. She's jealous because Lauren is throwing aside everything she has with Steven and is taking a risk of losing it, running after a strange bloke. Whitney has literally made herself Mick's wife in all ways but one. She cleans the kitchen, irons his clothes, banters with him in the Vic with the same tones and intimations that Linda uses.

In remonstrating with Lauren on Lauren's behaviour, she's really ticking herself off because of the feelings she has for Mick.

In the meantime, she bins Steven off to spend time with Max, who can't even be bothered to meet him in the Vic. It's Steven who helps him deal with Ricky and Amy and swears that he's serious about continuing with Lauren.

Actually, Lauren doesn't deserve Steven, and Linda needs to come home.

The Return of the Prodigal. This story goes on stinking up the place. I'm beginning to believe that Michelle lives in her own little fantasy world, where she didn't commit a crime with Preston and where she's still capable of entering the world of professional education.

She must be maxed out on credit cards by now because she's on the phone begging for more time to pay something. She's also waiting to hear from a potential interview as a teaching assistant when Prestonovich returns and wants to go out, but Michelle is skint. 

He strips down for action - hot sex in the Mitchell house just at the time when the kids could return from school, when she gets word that her interview has been cancelled because she's "over-qualified."

Once again, it's the realisation that her professional life is at an end that brings her down to earth about what her association with Preston has achieved, and she rejects him. He reacts like a spoiled child and storms off, but not before snaking a six-pack of beer from the Mitchell fridge, which isn't supposed to be there anyway. In short, he acts like a spoiled brat.

Michelle, in the meantime, tries to talk to Tim, when Dennis returns from school and overhears her arguing with Tim for money. Once again, Bleu Landau steals the show. Their dialogue is priceless.

Michelle: How long have you been there?
Dennis: Long enough to know that you're a loser.
Michelle: Go to your room!
Dennis: This is my house. You can't tell me what to do.
Michelle: Get upstairs, now!
Dennis: Stop telling me what to do, or I'll call the police. (Pause) I know what you are.

Wow, has he got her pegged! So whilst Preston saunters off to get drunk and chat up Rebecca, Michelle grabs a bottle and goes to cry and drink at the allotments,where she meets Martin.

She whines about being middle-aged and useless yadda yadda, but it still bloody stumps me that Martin has never once queried why she's here and why she has left Tim. He must know Tim, and he'd surely be curious about what ended her marriage, at least her side of the story. And siblings are nosy enough to have rung Tim or Mark and to have got to the bottom of why she's there. Instead, they have him doltishly accepting that she's returned to Walford after an absence of twenty years. That's just one of the many weaknesses of this story.

At least the continuing theme of Preston's misadventures emphasized the fact that he still is too young to buy booze or be served at a bar in this country - Rebecca immediately wanted to know how he was able to buy the beer he had, and Mick was quick enough to turf him out of the pub because he was underaged. Again, how would Mick know this? He was introduced to Walford as a friend of Mark's so naturally people would assume he was twenty, yet Mick knew he was seventeen.

Again, go figure.