Friday, May 26, 2017

Shit Happens - Review:- Friday 26.05.2017

Well, that didn't last long, did it? We got one fairly decent and enjoyable episode, and then it's right back to same shit, different day. Oh, stuff happened, but then, to paraphrase Forrest G-u-hu-hump, shit happens; and shit certainly happened in this episode.

The incongruity of Sean O'Connor is that he has good ideas on paper, but for some reason, they don't translate well onto the screen. That's largely due to poor writing (and this episode was not one of Daran Little's best), inadequate acting and overuse of certain characters. In one of his interviews, O'Connor actually said that the actors don't rehearse; they just learn the lines and go into a shoot cold, and this totally shows. This is probably due to budget cuts and the stress of shooting four episodes a week. I've long been the proponent of reverting to three, even two, episodes weekly.

We're just now getting the first of O'Connor's permanent characters, after his chopping spree at the beginning of the year. My verdict so far? It's too early to tell about Joyce and Ted Murray, but they appear to be a weird amalgamation of the Slaters (who came to Walford with antecedents there, especially Big Mo, who was Pat's sister-in-law and knew Dot and Ethel) and Les and Pam. It's so easy to compare them to the latter, because they are a direct replacement - ax one elderly couple with no real connection to the Square and replace them with another of similar ilk.

At least this couple knows Walford, although in the 40 years they lived in Walford Towers, I find it odd that they found no excuse, in recent years. After all, Pete and Kathy Beale, and a very young Ian, lived there and were living there when the show started. Since that was well over thirty years ago, I'd certainly expect Kathy to remember, or at least know, Ted and Joyce. In fact, I was suprised that Sharon didn't mention Kathy living there or, for that matter, that her current husband, at one time, lived there with his first wife.

In a spot-the-retcon moment, however, Dot certainly never lived in Walford Towers. When the show began, the complex was considered a step up from the sort of accommodation where Pauline and Arthur lived cramped with Lou. Once again, EastEnders goes tampering with the show's history. It would have been enough for the Murrays to say that they remembered Dot from their days in Walford, but I find it odd that they lived so close to the Square and hadn't set foot in it in years.

They mentioned having children, which means that there's always a potential to bring in more Murrays if the couple prove popular or if Sean O'Connor wants more Murrays - most likely, the latter. Their son, Alan, had been a cohort of Nick Cotton, Does that make him a bad'un? Maybe he's the mysterious Grouty-type Mr Big character who's enabling Max's revenge from behind the bars of the prison? Maybe they're Keegan's grandparents? Maybe one of their children is Lola's mother (a mystery never unfurled)? If they frequented the Vic some forty years ago, they'd have certainly remembered Den, Angie and their small, blonde daughter. Do they know Pauline? Do they remember Lou? And more, importantly, what was the significance of the gun? Do we have yet another killer in our midst?

Do we care?

For the moment, I don't. He seems too happy-go-lucky, and I can't disassociate Christopher Timothy from All Creatures Great and Small. They appear to have lost an animal of some sort - Lucky - who disappeared a year ago. Why am I thinking that Dave the cat just might be Lucky? She just seems exactly how she described herself, a miserable,old boot. She snipes at him, always finding fault. Yes, there are couples like that, but all that behaviour did for me was convince me that she's another one of life's eternal victims, another Alpha woman who appears to have browbeaten another ineffectual husband - there are so many in Walford. Actually, it's not too difficult to imagine them as Alfie and Kat in forty years' time - him, always trying to see the positive side of a bad situation and her, always moaning about her lot in life.

Give me the warm and compassionate Pam and the over-acting Les any day of the week.

The rest of the episode concentrated on the self-pitying plights of two of the Square's biggest, hairiest, most self-entitled BabyMen - Jack and Mick. Or should I re-name them Cack and Prick? The inevitable happened between Mick and dirty Shitney, accompanied by some of the worst and cheesiest dialogue ever written by anyone before. 

Whitney: I don't know who I am anymore.
Mick: You're Whitney, whose smile lights up a room.

Who the flaming fuck speaks like this? This was truly barf-inducing dialogue. One wonders if Little were royally drunk when he wrote those lines - in fact, I've just poured myself a liberal portion of Merlot - or if he wrote them on a dare with some other writer from Corrie or Emmerdale to see who could come up with the cheesiest most barf-inducing lines.

That scene came across as his feeble attempt to re-create a down-market, Cockney version of Now Voyager's iconic last scene. All that was missing were a night-time setting and Danny Dyer lighting up two cigarettes in his mouth and passing one to Shitney.

But Danny Dyer isn't Paul Heinried (not even a poor man's version of him), and Shona McGarty certainly isn't Bette Davis. 

Mi Chiamo Denise and I'm Starvin' for Culture, Innit? It just dawned on me that if Denise's story were an opera, it would be La Bohème, with Denise playing the starving, tubercular Mimi and Kush her boyfriend Rodolfo. Because you know this is how Denise will end up, ultimately - minus the dying bit, that is, more's the pity.

All I could think of watching the ubiquitous adventures of the star of O'Connor's EastEnders, with her interaction with the awful Kim, was ...

They killed off Ronnie and Roxy for this shit?

The noble Denise is still starving from pride, when Kim pops by to offer some moral support. Being the supportive sister means sitting around being nosy and generally being a distraction, because Kim isn't the type of person who can abide being supportive of anything or anyone.

These two have been shipped by O'Connor as the soul and conscience of the community, yet there sat Kim, curtain-twitching as the Murrays moved in and offering what was tantamount to a mean and bitchy running commentary. I know it was meant to be camp, but it was laced with total vindictiveness.

She accused Sharon of being a nosy cow and horning in on the Murrays, who don't interest Kim in the slightest, simply because they are old. Sharon was showing friendly to new neighbours, just as she intervened with Max over Jack's stupidity. That wasn't nosiness. Kim, on the other hand, would only have stopped to accost the couple if they interested her, and because they were elderly and appeared to have ordinary possessions, she clearly thought them beneath her. 

Imagine getting that far in life and having nothing to show for it?

What does Kim have? Everything she owns has come to her through her marriage to Vincent. Before that, she owned a flea-bit B and B, which was in danger of being shut down a few times. Take Vincent out of the equation, and Kim has jack shit.

Denise's situation is of her own making, the culmination of a lifetime of bad choices and bad judgement when it comes to the male sex. She'll get rescued from this predicament, eventually, by Kush and his muscles, and any bonding he'd previously made with Arthur ill go by the wayside, because Kush - like Mick, like Jack - is another big,fat BabyMan, who has to have a Mommy to nurse him, discipline him and then fuck him.

So that's Kim's wonderful empathy and concern for her community. She's fronting the Community Centre drive because she's the focal point of attention, and Denise only effected a community concern when her arse landed in trouble, thanks to her arrogance and her big gob. Now, she's sublimated shoving food into that gob for the nobility of studying for her life-changing GCSE. (Jesus Christ, I just realised this asshole is going to probably devote an entire episode to her receiving her result in August, culminating in a celebratory fuck with Kush).

These two care nothing about their community. They care nothing about anyone or anything, except themselves and each other, and in this instant, in her warped way, Kim cares more about Queen Denise than Denise cares about Kim.

I get it that we're supposed to feel great compassion and pity for this poverty porn, which is an insult to people who really do struggle, but she wasn't that hungry that she couldn't resist, giving a triumphant hoot when she realised that she actually knew the answer to the first question on the exam.

Still, she sacrificed everything for her culture, just like Rodolfo starving in the garrets of Paris, devoting his life to painting for a pittance, and poor, consumptive Mimi, making her lace by the light of a single candle and hawking her wares on the cold streets of Paris.

Well, at least Mimi went looking for work, which is more than Denise did.

BabyMan I: The BeetleBrow. Jack acted like a spoiled brat. I'm sick of seeing his perpetually, pouting, down-turned mouth and his beetle-browed obdurance and his obsession with Matthew.

Jack needs help, and none of those kids need to be with him. Amy needs to go to Glenda. Ricky needs to go back to Portugal to his living mother, and Matthew needs to go to his father, who wants and loves him.

This is all about Jack's obsession with Ronnie and his unresolved grief over James. In fact, James is the one big elephant in the room here. Jack can harp on and on about having "brought Matthew up," but really, he was only a part of his life for the past year, and the fact that he refers to Matthew as "his" son isn't just a man, considering his stepson as his own. It's more than that. I daresay Phil Mitchell loves Dennis like his own son and wants to adopt him, or he did, before he was side-tracked. But he doesn't go about, harping that Dennis is "his" son. 

Or Ian Beale. He considers Steven his son, but in a pinch, he knows, as does Steven, that Simon Wicks is Steven's father.

It's not as much an obsession. For Jack, Matthew has come to represent what James was to him. James was more important to Jack than any of his other children. He didn't want to know Ricky and found dealing with Amy difficult. Now it's the same with Matthew. Matthew is his obsession. Part of this obsession does, indeed, include the fact that Matthew is the last living connection to Ronnie that Jack has, but a great part of this is the guilt he feels about James.

Don't think that Ricky and Amy haven't picked up on the fact that Matthew is the one and only in the eyes of their father. They have. They know Jack is their father. It hasn't even been a year since Ricky re-established a bond, and Amy certainly knows that Charlie, her uncle, is Matthew's father. They certainly feel Jack's preference. It's evident in the resigned, desultory tones of their voices, when Jack rhetorically asks them if they want to see Matthew taken away. They give the correct answer, but without any conviction or alarm.

They've been holed up in that house with a proprietory Jack, separated from their schoolmates and now presented with the fact that they have to run away ... to "protect" Matthew. Everything is done with Matthew in mind, which is part and parcel to the reason Amy actually opened the door to Dot. Amy has regressed from a 9 year-old to a 5 year-old. Once again, that's evident when she tells Dot in that sing-songy 5 year-old voice:-

We have to go away to stop them from taking Matthew away.

Even more proof of Jack's preference for Matthew is revealed by the fact that, whilst he wouldn't trust Dot to care for her own flesh and blood, whilst he visited Ronnie's grave to say good-bye, but he'd trust her with Amy and Ricky. In fact, I don't think Jack gives a cahoot about Amy or Ricky. If they stayed behind in Walford with Dot or the Mitchells, it would make it easier for him to disappear with Matthew.

But even Jack's plan is another fallacy of EastEnders. Jack's on bail. Surely, the first term of his bail conditions would be that he surrender his passport? Presumably, he also has to report to the local police station a certain number of times per week. The police know Jack is an ex-copper. The first thing they would want is his passport. And here's where Daran Little stated the bleeding obvious: You just knew what Dot was going to do when Jack made her promise that she wouldn't tell Charlie that he was running away, and Dot's pointed reply was...

I won't tell Charlie ...

You just knew she was going to unwittingly tell Max.

And once again, we had a maternal woman character step out of the blue and talk Jack out of his spoiled hissy fit. Because Jack was running away like a spoiled brat who didn't get his way. It wouldn't have taken long for the police to have found him. Then, not just Matthew, but Amy and Ricky would have been taken from him. He never thinks of these things, it's just reaction. He's the bull in a china shop, being soothed by his cool,calm and collected older brother.

What could possibly go wrong?

We all know - shock, horror! - that Max is now a villain and that he's out to scam the whole of Walford, but how much longer do we have to suffer the same old same old circular story of Jack and Charlie? Surely, this can't last much longer because Declan Bennett has other commitments. It just seems endless.

BabyMan II: Prick and the Mattress. You wonder how Johnny will react when he finds out that his immature father is boning the slut who was once his own sister-in-law. Johnny was last scene, playing the adult in the room in Thursday's episode, comforting Mick, who was sitting, cross-legged, on the floor of the Carter lounge, having defaced Linda's signature wallpaper.

Mick has been so far up his own arsehole that he never even realised that his youngest son had finished his exams and completed his education. Even after all of Mick's brattish behaviour, Johnny is willing to throw away his education and work behind the bar of the pub. 

For what? For Mick? Mick doesn't deserve one iota of love his children have for him. His shitty, selfish behaviour drove two of them away. This incipient affair with the slut who ruined his oldest child's life will virtually kill Johnny. I don't see how he would stay under the same roof.

Here's what we learned about Mick in this episode - he and Linda lived with Elaine, worked for her in her pub and pocketed every red copper penny they earned, saving for one day when they would be able to buy the freehold of their own pub. This means that Elaine, not only paid them, she paid for their food, their clothing and the food and clothing of their children. They, like the children they continued to have when they were little more than children, themselves, became extended children in Elaine's household.

The purchase of the Vic, bought with a million quid carefully garnered away, not in a bank account, but in a hold-all someplace, was their first venture out into the big, bad world as adults. Remember how both he and Elaine would roll their eyes and act exasperated every time Elaine would ring them?

Mick has been with Linda since he was a child. Her mother raised him, gave him a job, taught him the pub trade, gave him ambition and made his dream of owning his own pub a reality. When Mick was in his teens, he was playing house with Linda when other lads his age were chasing skirt and looking for a love they probably only found in their late twenties. Mick has only ever known Linda, who idolised him and made him and their kids the centre of her world. 

In return, she was sidelined, infantilised, treated condescendingly and sidelined, often in favour of Mick's mother, who treated her appallingly. Even when Shirley was still bad-mouthing Linda as a trollop in Dean's refutations about her accusation of rape, Mick was still sneaking around, seeing her on the sly.

These two have never spent more than a week apart from each other in their lives, and the one time Linda has to answer her seriously ill mother's plea for help, Mick lets his eye wander and responds to the overt efforts of Whitney to distract him. Back at the time of the bus crash, it was she who initiated the kiss Denise witnessed (and hopefully will remember), but even then, Mick, in his right mind, should have realised that this girl was toxic for his emotionally fragile son. Instead, his head was so far up his own arse and so resentful he was of Linda being where she was really needed, he, instead, levelled blame for all of his own inadequacies, first on Lee, and eventually, now, on  Linda.

This is the truth: MIck is the original landlord who couldn't organise a booze-up in a brewery. We've seen proof of that from the very beginning. He bought the pub without benefit of a survey and was immediately presented with wet rot. Owning a buiiding means maintaining it, but he never thought of that, of course, because with a tenancy, Elaine's landlord took care of that. Stuff like that never occurred to Mick, so the leak in the roof came as a surprise to him.

Of course, he's been thinking about Whitney since he's been away. Immediately, she had manipulated Linda into returning to Watford, she set about insinuating to Mick how Linda had abandoned him to his fate, reckoning that Elaine was more important. This was only the woman who had been a de facto mother to Mick! 

Whitney made herself indispensable to Mick, leaving little voicemails whilst he was away, ever playing the sad victim, encouraging his trash-mouthing of Lee and even encouraging Johnny into trash-mouthing his mother. And Linda's about to turn 40 soon, and there's fortyish Mick, who's never known another woman since he was a child, suddenly becoming the object of desire of his slut-faced, overtly sexual daughter-in-law, and now, he's on the road of no return. Like the traitor who gets seduced into treason, Mick will find out too late that he's done the unforgivable on Linda. Linda had never been with or thought about another man but Mick, and the only other time she was with another man was when she was raped.

I only hope that Lee has been in touch with Linda whilst she was away and told her straight up what was going on, because it seems that since he's been away, he can now see Whitney's unreasonable behaviour for what it was.

Mick is a total asshole, a deeply despicable man who sulks when he isn't the centre of attention.That Whitney still sees him as the knight in shining armour to quell all her woes just shows you not only how insipidly stupid she is, but also how narcissistic she is as well. All she needs to drop her knickers is a bloke telling her how wonderful she is with a choice selection of pretty words. She's been so caught up in idolising Mick that in the entire time she has been living with the Carters, she never once noticed what Shirley has known all along - that it's been Linda who's been the backbone and support of that family. Mick is ten times worse than Lee could ever be. At least, Lee recognised his shortcomings. Mick never will.

Linda needs to come home and dust off that WonderWoman outfit. Time to kick some ass, two in particular, out of her life and out of her pub.

By the way, don't think the symbolism wasn't lost on the fact that Whitney had taken it upon herself to order new wallpaper to replace Linda's parakeets, but pointedly told Mick that she didn't order the same style. This is Linda's home, and already that snide little bitch is trying to sideline her out of it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Something for Everyone - Review:- Thursday 25.05.2017

Wow, I really liked that episode, mainly because of the two big surprises we had, one of whom was extremely intriguing. For a revelatory episode, this was pretty low-key, but then I suppose that's another of Sean O'Connor's trademarks. 

Don't get me wrong. The fact that this was one, marginally good episode doesn't mean I'm about to jump sides in a stream and start leveling praise exclusively, when this episode was something out of the normal humdrum of either nothing happening or too much repetitive stuff happening about so many unlikable or unredeemable characters.

There was a lot wrong with tonight's episode: Mick was still acting like a spoiled prick, his resentment against Linda growing hourly to the point that he defaces Linda's signature wallpaper, the wall of flamingos, which he mistakenly calls "parrots." He's forgetting, in a trice, how much the song "Pretty Flamingo" not only signified their relationship, but singularly identified Linda in his mind. I wonder if he knew that, as she was being raped upstairs by his brother, the jukebox in the pub was thundering out this song?

The bad Beale sitcom masquerading as a public service announcement for diabetes Type II, carried on, increasingly becoming archly gothic in its presentation. Ian is forced into visiting a diabetes support group/presentation, only to be confronted with his worst nightmares about the disease, in living colour, up close and personal. His initial snideness and condescension quickly melts into abject fear as he meets one bloke who's lost his leg to the disease, another who's lost his toes and a third who's lost his sight.

At the end of that spectacle, it's a wonder Ian doesn't want to really top himself.

And Jacqueline Jossa is still one of the weakest actresses ever to appear on the programme. The various producers who insist on continuing her employment should really stop trying to push her as a romantic lead. Let's count them ... David Witts, Jamie Lomas, Ben Hardy, Aaron Sidwell and now quirky Clark Kentish Eddy Eyre ... and she had absolutely no sexual chemistry with any of them. She's now been on EastEnders going into seven years, and she is still the most camera-conscious amateur on the programme. She's too conscious of the camera being on her to delve into the actual character she's playing and emote towards whoever is sharing a scene with her. She's too busy trying to be surreptitious about the camera getting its best angle on her. Then, there's the gurning, the funny voices and the arm-waving, none of which has gone away. Tonight she stuck chopsticks under her upper lip to enhance her gurn ability. It didn't work.

But all of the above was offset and outweighed by stuff that was genuinely good - the brilliant chemistry between Letitia Dean and Linda Henry that burst from the screen at Honey's housewarming party. These two are the new Peggy and Pat at their worst. You could easily see the pair of them getting drunk in an ice cream van, the way they giggled about Honey's "minky dreams" carpet, with Martin unintentionally bringing dog poo onto it,Sharon spilling wine and Shirley cutting her foot, with the beautiful line of the night:-

I knew something would happen without my boots on!

The surprise appearance of Lin Blakely, returning for this episode as Pam Coker, who was obviously the unheard voice on the end of Ben's mystery phone conversation. Whilst it was good to see Pam again - and country living certainly agrees with her -  made me realise just how much the show misses her and Les. One of the highlights of the episode was the quiet conversation she had with Ben, reminiscing about Paul and how she urged him to carry on with his life and told him that one day he would find someone special, that Paul would have wanted him to find another love; as well as the real intention of her visit, to inform Billy that he had been made a fully-fledged partner in Les's business. Coker and Son is now Coker and Mitchell, and it's about time that the ultimate runt of the Mitchell litter comes into his own.

Simon Williams returned as the enigmatic chairman of Weyland & Co. It seems that Max is working at acquiring an extensive property portfolio in the area, having just acquired the building that used to house Donna's old flat and the flat where he briefly lived with Kirsty. All this made me think of the recent financial transactions which have been taking place on the Square. We know about the Vic - that was a high-profile acquisiton - but think about the others: Mr Popodopoulos sold the launderette; Ian sold the freehold of the demolished chippy, rather than re-build; Sharon and Phil were paid a fortune for the car lot; and now, he's bought the dowdy, 60s-style functional purpose-built flats' building on the Square, sold right after Donna gave up her tenancy.

But the biggest surprise, by far, was learning that Williams's character, for all he's being chauffeured around in a Bentley, isn't the Big Cheese of Weyland & Co. Instead, the real Big Cheese is Max's former cellmate in prison, where he's still languishing in Harry Grout-style luxury. He's the man behind whatever Max's revenge scheme is, because he seems to be the one who's largely financing it. This guy's got the greed and Max has the motive, which seems to be the fact that a large part of the community believed him capable of killing a young girl and dumping her body ... with that in mind, Max's last words of the night were chilling. He's capable of anything.

And that was what made the entire episode worth watching.

The Rock and the Hard Place. I get it that Lauren is the victim here, caught between a cold,calculating and manipulative man who'll stop at nothing to get what he wants, and another man with a history of mental instability, who desperately craves acceptance and affection.

Yes, yes, yes, we've seen this all before, but we saw it in a new light tonight because there was a new element added ... Abi the bitch.

Abi the bitch isn't a new character; she's still the same old Abi that she's always been, and that means she's still the jealous, resentful, little kid she's always been. Lorna Fitzgerald still looks like a little girl and still sounds, snorts and giggles like Abi when she was ten years old. There was always two sides to Abi - she was always the pleasant, plodding Daddy's girl, who loved animals and dreamed of being a vet. But there always lurked a deep resentment of Lauren. 

That resentment simmered away nicely underneath, all the while Tanya favoured Lauren and Max seemed to dote on Abi; but once both Max and Tanya had to focus on Lauren, when she was killing herself by drinking, then the dark side of Abi's character emerged.

In that three-minute conversation she had with Steven Beale tonight over the booze at the party told us more about Abi's opinion of and relationship to her sister than a decade of their interaction on the show. Not only is Abi jealous and resentful of Lauren as a person, she described Lauren's character to a tee - she's selfish to the core and only thinks about herself. Abi voices the mistrust that Steven's been feeling. She gives word to all of his doubts as authentic.

Yes, Lauren might really be working late (when we know she was asked to stay behind for really no reason at all and that phony reason morphed into an in-house sushi dinner with Josh), but Abi reminded him that Lauren wouldn't think twice about staying behind and partying with her friends, because Lauren always puts herself first.

We're meant to feel sorry for Lauren, I suppose, because she's stupid. At least, Josh recognises this stupidity. Quite recently, in the Russiagate Congressional hearings, the ex-director of the CIA made a remark that could really apply to Lauren. Talking about treason, he said that quite often the Russians would target an easy victim, ply them with money, compliments and foster a sense of self-importance so that by the time the so-called victim suddenly realised he was on a traitorous path, it was too late to turn back.

This is so with Lauren. Josh knows she's stupid, insipid and self-absorbed, and he plays on that. She needs a frock to wear to a company do ... here's the company credit card. The dress gets ruined at the cleaners (or so she believes, as we know Steven destroyed it) - here's the card, buy another. "Working late" with the boss? Let's send out for sushi; the company will pay. And over dinner, we see Josh not only play up to her narrow-minded foibles - the spiel about how he never liked sushi, but came to appreciate it whilst living for a couple of months in Tokyo was a cleverly-worded insinuation for her to experiment with something foreign to her nature, a veiled hint at his intentions; and when that didn't work, he manipulated the conversation to reveal that he hadn't always been so confident and successful. We got the shaggy dog story of a shy, young boy with a stutter so bad he had to see a therapist - tug on the heartstrings and a ride home.

He's roused her interest now, and it's only a matter of time before this escalates into something else; after all, with the company paying for her clothes and her after-hours' meals, it should soon be patently obvious to the most willfully ignorant of people that she really only is being paid to be the company whore, exclusive - for the moment - to Josh,but what happens to her when she serves her purpose?

The contrived scene of Josh depositing her safely home on the Square so subtly revealed to us just how much Lauren has turned to face the Sun King that is Josh. Almost as soon as they arrive, he drops her literally right in front of Abi and Steven, who are sharing some takeaway chips, close enough for Abi to see Josh and reckon him to be hot, and also close enough for Lauren not to have seen Steven as she emerged from the car, as he was directly in her line of vision.

But she didn't see him; and whilst she didn't see Steven, she most certainly did turn to get a backwards ganger at Josh.

I doubt Eddie Eyre is in the show for a long term. He's got his finger in too many other pots to devote himself entirely to this genre; and as Steven's a pressure cooker ready to explode, I anticipate all of this will end in tears. However, the most interesting aspect of this segment this evening was the development of Abi as the Max-like character to Lauren's self-assured and self-entitled Jack-like self.

The Man of Constant Sorrow. Jack increasingly reminds me of an old Southern song:-

Jack really is a man of constant sorrow, and more than anything tonight, we are made to see that all of this is really about Jack's unresolved issues of the past- and that totally concerns, not only Ronnie, but also his dead son, James. Jack was away when James was born, and the child in Ronnie's arms when he returned, wasn't really his son at all; so he never even saw the baby.

This is actually more about James, I think, than Ronnie, even though he was always almost as obsessed about her as she was about him in the quirkiest of ways. He made it obvious that the child he had with Ronnie took precedence over all his other children - Penny, in France, was largely neglected; he disdained Amy's mother, Roxy, and really didn't know or like Sam Mitchell. I think he views Matthew as a second chance. He refers to Matthew as being "his and Ronnie's son", when he's not. That's a delusion, and it's a transference of Jack's unresolved grief issues onto this child. Matthew is not James, and he is not Jack's son.

So Jack does what he usually does when he feels victimised - first, he locks himself away and blames everybody under the sun for his problems. This time, it's Dot, whom he's accused of siding with Charlie, when she actually has done no such thing. If anything, she's betrayed her own flesh and blood by arguing with Charlie and pleading with him, virtually, to give up his rightful claim to be Matthew's father, which is totally unfair and unjust to Charlie, who's done nothing to merit this treatment.

Then, the second thing Jack does is what he always does when severely provoked: he thinks about cutting and running, after finding the children's passports in the drawer.

That actual scene got me thinking: Jack is Amy's biological father, as he is Ricky's; but none of these children bear Jack's surname. Amy is still Amy Mitchell. Richard has always been Richard Mitchell. In fact, he was named after the man Sam thought was his father, Ricky Butcher. And Matthew, who isn't Jack's son, is Matthew Mitchell-Cotton. Won't a bevy of kids traveling with a man who bears a different surname arouse some sort of suspicion. And another thing ... Amy annoys me. She annoys me because this kid is almost 9 years old; at least, she will be 9 in November. Up until recently, even when she first joined the show as talking Amy, she was always presented Suras being precociously smart-arsed. Now, all of a sudden - and this isn't dating from Roxy's death, but started sometime in the last year when she was living with Ronnie and Jack - she talks, acts and behaves like a five year-old. First of all, there was her uncomprehending the concept of death, when she'd already experienced Peggy dying and her pet rabbit overdosing on her mother's cocaine; Ricky might have been ignorant of the concept of death, but Amy wouldn't have been - besides, Ricky really is only six years old.

Then there have been the countless scenes of Jack in bed, surrounded by the kids, reading them fairy stories. Again, Matthew would appreciate stories of this sort, but Amy, two years off secondary school, would be into something a bit more sophisticated, as well as being a bit beyond being read fairy stories.

Tonight,annoying Amy stumbled into the kitchen, clutching the sort of stuffed toy only a very young child would have, only to ask in that cringeworthy, little, whining voice:-

Dud-dayyyyyyyy ... is Maffew gonna be taken aw-wayyyyy from us?

I don't know why this should even surprise me. The show is atrocious in writing for children, and they used to do the exact same thing with Tiffany Butcher - which probably was why she was so annoying, amongst other things.

Surprise Surprise I: Pam. Well, we now know the identity of Ben's mystery caller. Pam Coker came to Honey's and Billy's housewarming party. First Sean O'Connor sacks her, then he brings her back for one episode, the gist of which was her handing over the reins of the business to Billy. But not only seeing Pam again - one episode before Sean O'Connor foists upon us a Pam of his own creation - only succeeded in reminding me how much the show actually misses Lin Blakely.

In point of fact, the entire housewarming segment was a hoot. First of all, please continue with the Shirley-Sharon friendship. It's miles better than Shirley-Denise or Sharon-Michelle or even Sharon-Linda. These two are the natural successors to frenemies Peggy and Pat. Their names even have similar alliteration: Peggy and Pat; Sharon and Shirley.

They were great, giggling together about Honey's Minky Dreams carpet and its mutilation throughout the evening, beginning with Martin inadvertantly treading dog poo onto its surface and culminating with Sharon breaking a bottle of wine and Shirley cutting her foot and bleeding on the carpet, much to Honey's chagrin.

But it was the little vignettes amongst the hubbub of this party that mattered and impresssed the most - Martin and Stacey grabbing a quiet moment to reflect upon their new baby and Pam having a lovely conversation with Ben.

I know that there are all kinds of rumours surrounding the Fowler baby, but I really hope this pregnancy goes well and that we have a healthy baby. We've had a stillbirth, but I have the awful feeling that this is going to be a redux of Natasha Butcher, where Ricky and Bianca were presented with the awful spectre of having to have a late-term abortion when they learned that the baby was severely disabled. I just get the feeling that something along these lines is going to be revealed in the upcoming scan, that there is going to be some sort of congenital defect revealed which will result in them having to agree to a termination. I know what O'Connor has said about this extremel popular couple, two of the few genuinely likable characters left in the show; it's a soap.

But wouldn't it be nice if we could just have a really normal, uneventful pregnancy and the result is a legacy baby who would unite an iconic, original family with arguably the most important character to emerge from Millennial EastEnders?

One of the reasons I miss Pam so much was revealed simply in Ben's relaxing, smiling face during their conversation tonight. Ben is her last link to Paul, and equally, she's his last link to him. There will always be a bond, but Pam - whose family business has been comforting the bereaved - recognises that Ben is young and needs to move on from Paul. She gives him an open invitation to visit her and Les, either with Jay in tow or without him, or even with a new partner, which Paul would have wished for Ben. It was also really poignant to hear her speak of her loss, how raw it still is and how much both of them miss Paul. This conversation was cathartic for both of them, and you wonder about Jack's unresolved grief, and perhaps the reason for that is because, deep down, he knows that he can't reminisce about Ronnie in this way ... because she was so rotten.

One final thing of note with the party scene, even though she was nowhere to be seen, Denise was not forgotten. O'Connor had to get in a line of mention, having someone wonder why she wasn't at Honey's party, considering that she and Honey were friends. 

Sorry, but Honey and Denise were never friends. They were work colleagues. Denise kept her nose in books and pilfered food,whilst Honey did the heavy work. I'm actually more surprised that Kim didn't horn in on the proceedings tonight, as she can sniff out a free drink anywhere. Maybe the prospect of actually having to bring a gift put her off. I daresay, had Denise attended,she'd have gobbled all the food on offer.

Even when there's no ubiquitous scene for Denise, she has to get a mention. We're never allowed to forget Denise.

Surprise Surprise II: Not Simon Williams. So we get our second sighting of the mysterious Chairman of Weyland & Co, waiting for Max in his custom Bentley parked ostentatiously on the Square.

From their conversation, it seems that one of Max's prime functions has been to scout out and buy properties to add to Weyland & Co's growing development portfolio. Insipid Lauren is being used similarly by Josh, based on her supposed knowledge of having grown up in the area.

However, all isn't as it seems. Because Simon Williams isn't really the big cheese of the operation, and now we get to learn how Max came into contact with these people.

The real boss of the piece was Max's cellmate, the mysterious man he visits in prison. Obviously, this man, probably imprisoned for some white collar crime like money-laundering, channels his greed to Max's simmering resentment of the way the community (there's that word again) has treated him. The mystery man questions Max's resolve, but Max assures him. The residents of Albert Square readily believed Max capable of cold-bloodedly killing a young girl and dumping her body, so Max has convinced himself, and his mentor, that he's capable of anything.

Almost six months ago, we saw Simon Williams's character. Will it be Christmas before we see the latest mystery man again and find out who he is? Is he Lola's mother? Is he Sharon's father? Is he Mark Fowler? (After all, we never saw Mark die?)

Cracking a Walnut with a Sledgehammer. Simply, how to drive home a point. Ian's sitcom has become a draining, repetitive public service announcement to reinforce the dangers of Diabetes Type II. 

This served nothing except to scare the shit out of Ian, attending a support group to disdainfully consider several men of his age and bigger girth waiting for the meeting to begin, only to find out that one lost his leg to the disease, the other lost two toes, and the chatty younger man with whom Jane was talking, ignored the warning signs and lost his sight.

Ian was scared, yet resentful, before. Now he's abjectly frightened, and Jane is shitting herself as well.

Nothing new here, except to assume the audience are idiots.

Prick Carter. For someone who's spent weeks sitting by someone else's hospital bed in Bulgaria, Mick sure has a nice tan.

Shame about the attitude though. He's hitting the bottle, sulking and wallowing in self-pity and anger. He's resentful of the fact that Shirley has taken herself off to Honey's party, when she probably left the Vic just to get away from her putrid, babyfied son.

He's simply nasty to everyone, but there's a special hatred reserved for Linda, which makes me suddenly realise that Mick really never loved Linda at all. Oh, he loved her, as long as she predictably thought his thoughts and deferred to his status of the Sun King with the Sun lodged firmly up his hairy backside. He even acknowledged that she, at one time, was the stronger of the two.

Now, he's whining and moaning about Linda killing his dream.

Competing with that is the total and abject callowness and stupidity of Whitney and Johnny, both of whom are tiptoeing on eggshells around him. Both of them, Johnny in particular, are beginning to resent Linda going to take care of her suffering parent and seem to think Linda should be hanging around to catch Mick's ire, rather than the pair of them enduring the rough side of Mick's tongue and his self-pity.

So what do they do? What the Carters always do - throw a party to cheer up Linda. They hatch a plan to lure her back for a celebration of her fortieth and they seem to think that Mick would be cheered up by planning and putting the whole thing together.


Linda is at the top of Mick's shit list, so much so that he demolishes her signature wall of flamingo wallpaper. All it took was Linda making a crisis point decision, something Mick would never be able to do at all, to make Mick turn on her; and thinking about it, maybe Mick realises now, just who in that family really has the balls. Faced with mounting financial problems and the possibility of their business being shut down, Linda took the decision to take a risk. She acted under pressure, for better or worse, and Shirley did also, rather than wait for weeks until Mick returned, only to have him prowl about the place, scowling and coming up with nothing to ease their woes. He'd have had the dog put to sleep and sent her collar to Lee as a reminder that this was all his fault. 

Mick blames everyone else for problems he brings upon himself, and now, because of him as much as anyone else, he's brought his hatred and resentment of Linda bubbling over on the surface.

He really is despicable.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

BabyMen, Beetle-Brows and Bitches - Review:- Tuesday 23.05.2017

EastEnders ... the show you love to hate, where most of the characters are eminently unlikable to the point of vitriolic hatred. A square full of babyfied men, clinging onto their mothers' virtual nipples, dirty girls who connive and twist their fate into making themselves victims when they're nothing more than amoral, manipulative, well-dressed sluts, beetle-browed thugs wallowing in self-pity; whiny, menopausal women who seem to think they're some iconic character from the past when they're nothing but totally moronic, and if we're not hyperventilating over one GSCE course, we're obsessing over work uniforms. 

Sean O'Connor's EastEnders.

At least we didn't see Denise tonight, and that was a welcome respite.

Fatherhood: BabyMan vs Beetle-Brow. Tonight we got two moralising tales for the price of one - two tales of birth vs actual fatherhood, with a foot of support in both camps.

But that's Sean O'Connor all over. Until now, EastEnders has always shat from a great height all over anything to do with adoption and adoptive parents, and it's still doing so to a great extent; and that's an almighty insult and affront to anyone who's adopted and raised a child as their own.

Consider the individual plights of two birth fathers at the moment. There's a question of parental rights - Charlie's case, as opposed to Kush's case. There's always going to be some sausage surprise who's enough of a volpebot to pop up and pop on about father's rights, so here's the score:-

Rights ... Charlie has'em, Kush doesn't. 

Charlie is Matthew's biological father. He was married to Matthew's mother when he was born. His on Matthew's birth certificate. He didn't abandon Matthew, he was forced to leave Walford on threat of death by Matthew's mother, and Charlie knew that Ronnie was more than capable of killing him or having him killed in cold blood. He knew that as much as Jack was aware of such a feat - otherwise, when Charlie reminded him of why he couldn't fight for custody of Matthew after he had been summarily dismissed from Walford, Jack could say nothing in any form of retort - because he knew Ronnie was a killer.

So the truth hit home, at least for me, when Charlie reminded Jack that he should be paying more attention to the three kids in his life who actually were his children, because Matthew belongs to and belongs with Charlie. 

I must admit that not only Jack, with his presumptions and his condescension, but also Dot, annoyed me in this segment.Jack's proposals were unrealistic for Charlie - visiting every other weekend or having Jack bring Matthew to Ireland once a month. To begin with, Charlie has a job, and work commitments,as well as finances, probably wouldn't permit two weekends away per month. As well, how long would Jack actually adhere to slogging all the way to Ireland once a month with two young children and a toddler?

Increasingly, I get the feeling that a lot of this is all about Dot. I don't buy her ludicrous argument about Matthew, first, not knowing Charlie, but instead, being familiar with Jack. I could buy that if Matthew were, perhaps, Ricky's or Amy's age, but he's two years old, for fuck's sake! He'd very soon adjust to both Charlie and his new wife.Kids, especially young children, are adaptable. So, no, Dot, there's no reason why Matthew needs to be with Amy and Ricky. Matthew isn't their sibling. He's Amy's first cousin, and Ricky's second cousin.

Because Dot never experienced seeing her grandchildren grow from infancy into adulthood, it must resonate with her when Charlie laments that he never saw his son's first steps or heard his first word. Ronnie, and subsequently, Jack, deprived Charlie of all of that. Equally, it's just as silly for her to suggest that Charlie up stakes and move to Walford, living with her. 

Charlie and Mrs Charlie? The wife is a stranger to Dot, and you know how persnickety she is about strangers being in her home; and who is she kidding when she thinks Jack would relinquish custody of Matthew to Charlie, even if he knew Charlie lived just next door?

Jack's in this for the duration. Jack thinks more of this child than he does his own children. Why? Because this is Ronnie's child. Think back to when he thought Tommy Moon was the dead James. He totally ignored Amy; he didn't even want to know Ricky. He even stated, time and again, that none of his other children mattered, except James. And worse, even after he knew James was dead, Roxy literally had to beg him for emotional support with Amy. The night he reluctantly agreed to babysit her, when she almost drowned - that happened because Jack was in a massive sulk and came home late because he was brooding after finding out Ronnie, in prison, didn't want to see him anymore.

This obsession with Matthew, on Jack's part, is all about unresolved grief for Ronnie, and even more importantly, unresolved grief over James.

Matthew is not James, and he is not Jack's son. 

I feel immensely sorry for Charlie. He actually feels for Jack's suffering in this, not surprisingly, because he's a nice bloke is Charlie; but also, he feels uncomfortable finding himself a pawn in whatever elaborate plan Max is unwinding. Charlie simply wants his son back in his life.

However, if Max's machinations work enough to reunite Charlie with his son, I'm Team Charlie; because, in this instance, the child should be with his birth father, the man who was married to his mother at the time of his birth and cared for him exclusively during the first six months of his life.

Personally, I'm tired of Jack's angry beetle impersonation.

Now for Kush.

Kush's son is the result of a one night stand with a woman who subsequently married his best friend and allowed the best mate to think the child was his. His son bears Martin Fowler's surname. In fact, he's named after Martin's father. From the moment of his birth, even when he knew Arthur wasn't his son, Martin Fowler has considered him his own and treated him as such.

Kush was given ample opportunity, early on, to be a part of Arthur's life - the reality of his situation is that he has as much right to Arthur as Arthur's mother accords him, and that's the truth. At the time of Arthur's birth, Kush was married and mourning the stillbirth of another son.

Initially, when Stacey offered Kush a place in Arthur's life, Kush was suitably hesitant, even saying, himself, he'd limit his role to babysitting. But Kush brings excess baggage in the form of the odious Carmel, his mother, and she wants a full-on 24/7 access to this child. As her sons have aged and as two have grown and are growing away from her, she relishes the thought of Kush's child, because Kush is still babyfied and Oedipal enough to put up with her demands and temper tantrums and ultimate desire to be part of every aspect of her son's life.

In fact, Kush is woefully unprepared for full-time, full-on parenting. That was obvious from the very beginning when it actually dawned on him that Shabnam was pregnant. He ran out of the room, and later, after Tamwar told him a few necessary home truths about his propensity to prey on emotionally vulnerable young women - like Stacey, like Shabnam, like Nancy - he probably wasn't mature enough to parent any young child. 

That's when he decided to step back from Arthur. And he stepped totally back, almost off radar.

I think the only reason Stacey (and, reluctantly, Martin) are willing to include Kush now in their dynamic, is because they are having a child of their own. In fact, the amount of time they allow Kush to spend with Arthur is actually just right for Kush.

Kush is the ultimate divorced dad-type of father - the weekend dad, the playground-and-ice cream dad. He'd be happy with the odd afternoon here and there and the occasional babysitting stint when Martin and Stacey want to have a date night. That would suit his maturity level, because this is one big Mother of all BabyMen, and he could no more cope with a child full-time than the Pope could cope with a hooker.

I think this is part of the reason why Kush is drawn to a much older woman like Denise. He's clearly Oedipal, and coupling with a woman too old to give him children - please, don't mention Denise's recent pregnancy; she's 48, and that was the last spurt of menopausal estrogen- would mean that he would always be simultaneously the child and the lover, with no competition from any child born of the relationship. That's obvious from the dominatrix way Denise treats him and the way he conforms to her domination in their relationship.

The problem with access to Arthur, and Kush knows it, is Carmel. Even in tonight's episode, he warned her from horning in on his first evening alone with Arthur,but she couldn't help herself. Even though Kush is satisfied with the arrangement he has with Martin and Stacey, Carmel thinks that she should be entitled to her grandchild all of the time,and we know her ambition - which is why she's always egging Kush to get a girlfriend. It would make it all the more easier to push for custody of Arthur.

And even though he wouldn't want to do so, Kush would be sucked along in his mother's vortex, BabyMan that he is.

Widdle Mick: The Incredible Sulk. Wow, I guess Linda's the real enemy now. Mick couldn't even tell her he loved her at the end of her tearful telephone call. I really felt sorry for her, because she did what she actually had to do in dire circumstances.

Throughout all of this, Mick stomped and sulked and basically threw his toys out of the pram, blaming both Linda and Shirley - but mostly, Linda (hence the scene where he talked to the dog about all of this being mostly Linda's fault, because she "sold" his dream). 

Awwww, diddums!

The phone call to Linda was one of his most hateful, petulant examples of overt bullying I've ever seen in this character. Mick's always passive-aggressively bullied and sidelined Linda, but now the knives are out. Like all impotent, raging and ultimate loser bullies, he spends the majority of the episode huffing and puffing about how the freehold needn't have been sold, that somehow he would have found the money.

How exactly would that have been, Mick? Your only pot in which to piss had a leak in the roof. Telling Shirley and the ineffectual Johnny that they should just have hung on until he returned, and they would have found a way was the ultimate spoiled child's rejoinder when someone finds a solution to a problem he's basically created.

What remains now is how long it will be before Mick and Shitney sleep together, if they haven't done so, already off-screen, because it looks as though he's nailed his colours to mast that can only be identified as Shitney's dirty knickers. 

I can't believe this canting bitch is so self-centred as to still accuse Mick, not only of being away for a great length of time when things spiralled out of control from bad to worse, she was blatant enough to accuse him of abandoning her! She refuses to accord him the love, devotion and duty he felt to go care for his badly injured daughter.

Who the fuck is Whitney and why is she even still there? She is the soon-to-be ex-wife of his eldest son - who, incidentally, is divorcing her for unreasonable behaviour, although neither she nor Mick would ever admit to the part they played in enhancing Lee's mental and emotional suffering. This family is not her family anymore. They owe her nothing, and it isn't as if she's totally without family. There's Bianca in Milton Keynes and her own brother in Yorkshire, and somewhere she has a mother as feckless as she is.

The only reason she's sticking to the Carters like glue is down to Mick, and quite honestly, it was putrid the way she pouted about calling Mick countless numbers of time and getting no response. 

This is the man the insipid Whitney idolises as a pillar of strength, and all he can do is sulk and reach for the whiskey bottle,cognizant of the fact that he won't be able to be the "Big I Am" at the centre of his very own business. But, really, how good a businessman was he, really? He may blame Lee's financial woes until he's blue in the face (and a great deal of those problems were down to the fragrantly shit-stirring Whitney), but Mick never was a good businessman - when he arrived on the Square, he had no idea how to order supplies of booze -Alfie had to show him. And then he allowed Shirley and Tina to pilfer from the supplies for their own use. The Carters, under Mick's tutelage, never seemed to break even.The Vic was always struggling, and Mick, himself, took out a payday loan to bring Linda and Elaine back from Spain.

Once again, this entire fiasco isn't about how the building was falling down around their ears and causing concern enough for Health and Safety to actually threaten to shut the place down or how a much-loved family pet needed expensive emergency medical treatment, it's all about Widdle Mick's ego, how the two women closest to him in his life literally saved his bacon, when it would have been far more convenient and amenable for him to watch the business go to pot all around him - it was more palatable for him to carry on blaming Lee for all his misfortune.

Of course, Max manipulated Shirley, but he didn't push the option of selling the freehold on her. He actually pushed the idea on Mick, who refused, point-blank, even though Shirley wanted to go ahead with the idea at the time. And, realistically, this was the only way out left for Shirley in view of everything that was happening. She may have been conveniently caught in Max's web, and the whole sale of the freehold was certainly illegal due to Shirley forging Mick's signature (and Max knows it), but Mick is actually caught between a rock and a hard place,because revealing the nature of the fraud would garner a prison sentence, not only for Shirley again, but for Linda; and at the moment, Mick is still not angry enough with Linda to get her out of the way by that method.

As it's obvious that, on her day, Linda really is the lychpin in this family, she needs to come back, suss what's going on between Mick and Shitney, smack the bitch, kick Mick out on his balls and run the place with Shirley and Sharon.

Mick really is a vile piece of work, the worst sort of BabyMan.

A Day in the Life. OMFG, yesterday, it was the Saga of the GSCE, today we got Michelle's first day at work ad nauseam. I mean, everything from the Tube ride, to the fitting for uniform, to quirky escalator shots, of which O'Connor seems fond regarding this actress, to idle gossip from yet more speaking extras so we get to know the secrets and gossips of Michelle's fellow shopgirls, providing the show with yet another off-Square set and a group of friends we'll never, if rarely, see again.

Like Denise, we're supposed to be fighting the corner of plucky Michelle, even though she got herself into the predicament she's in by committing a crime -and a sex crime at that. It's no wonder she's pretty close-mouthed to the nosey colleague, who's been in retail for fifteen years, about her antecedents. I would imagine that most of those women have children at home the age of the student with whom Michelle slept. I doubt they'd show so much friendly initiative toward her if they knew her grubby little secret.

I simply can't fathom this show wasting so much screen time of what was essentially nothing.

Who's the Victim Here? Not Lauren. Lauren took one more step, in her ultimate stupidity, at becoming the corporate whore. The symbolism between Steven's colourful yet staid top and the evening outfit Lauren bought at Josh's instigation on his company credit card was rife -the staid, stay-at-home mum with a child and a committed boyfriend as opposed to the creepy, but dishy boss, complete with the ubiquitous topless scene for which EastEnders is becoming bum-clinchingly and embarrassingly known, followed by a scene (the cufflink scene) which was supposed to emote some sort of smouldering sexual chemistry ... except it doesn't.

TPTB should really stop trying to push Jacqueline Jossa as a romantic lead, because they have tried, time after time, to involve her with various male juvenile leads, and nothing has worked. She is still far too aware of the camera on her, and you would have thought this overt self-awareness would have gone as she matured as an actress... which she hasn't.

Lauren, herself, as a character, is still as selfish and self-obsessed as she ever was. Steven is a convenience. He's the nice bloke who wants her to love him, who wants to be accepted as the head of his own family unit, and yet he's treated almost trivially by her.

She's constantly reminding him of the fact that he's not Louis's father - something Stacey would never do to Martin. Until we know exactly what happened to Peter, we have to accept that Steven's stepped up to the plate when he absconded his responsibilities. She thinks nothing of putting this so-called glamourous job,before any quality family time. Whatever she's doing at that company, she can't see that she's merely glorified window-dressing, arm-candy for the creepy boss. He feeds her ego by making her feel that she's an important cog in the wheel, and he'll keep doing so until it's time for him to call in his debts.

Like the weakest link who's recruited to be a traitor, by the time she's realised what she's done, it will be too late.

As for Steven, it's obvious that she doesn't really know the measure of his insecurity and instability. As symbolic as the difference in apparel (the clothes being symbolic of how both Steven and Josh view Lauren), equally symbolic was Steven's ripping up the frock Josh bought.

This will all end in major tears. 'Tis a pity that she, also, is an unintentional whore.

And Finally ... Billy and Honey move into an almost unrecognisable flat that belonged to Les and Pam. Am I right that Honey said they had given the flat to them? Surely, they must want rent, but then this is EastEndersLand.

But the biggest mystery of all was to whom was Ben talking on the phone about staying over?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Guilt, Pride and Diabetes - Review:- Monday 22.05.2017

I gave that episode a solid 5 out of 10 for one reason and one reason only: Linda Henry.

Henry is the best actress in the show, but she isn't served up to us on a plate four times a week, occupying most of the screen time during the 30 minutes or so. The show knows when to use Henry and when to play to her strengths. 

If this producer is choking us on a diet of Denise, Denise, Denise, Denise, he's also tempting us with titbits of Shirley at her best.

As in tonight's episode, it only served to show us what a real gem Shirley's become, in knowing how, when and how much to use the character as opposed to the rank item of overkill the newest star of the show has become.

The Background Bits. O'Connor is a sneak of the greatest proportion. He has little seemingly insigniicant scenes playing along in the background which, we know, will escalate into something of grander proportions later on - or so he hopes.

Some of the things of note:-

  • Stacey's suffering morning sickness as Rebecca prepares for her first GCSE. Stacey and Martin have decided to allow Kush weekly access to Arthur. I get the impression that, even though he goes along with what Stacey wants, Martin isn't overly chuffed at the idea. That's understandable. He's known the Kazemis longer, and I think he knows that this is just one step further to Carmel making a stand. I also wonder if Stacey's doing this now that she knows she's having Martin's baby, which makes me think something about this pregnancy is bound to go wrong - and I mean "wrong" as in Lynne Slater wrong. I hope not. At least, for starters, they are only allowing Kush a couple of hours a week at Arthur's bedtime. We'll see where this leads.
  • Honey is planning a housewarming party. Billy's got what would seem to be a good-paying job in managing Les's business in Walford, and I don't imagine Less would stint in paying him badly; but it's incongruous that Billy and Honey have to depend on the kindness of their neighbours in furnishing their flat with someone else's cast-offs. I liked the exchange between Honey and Stacey, and I'd encourage that friendship, but Honey taking parental advice from Michelle, who - by all accounts - has been as big a cock-up as a parent as she was a teacher. One child is on the other side of the globe not speaking to her, and the other is in Florida, doing the same. May we never see either again. At least, however, Michelle has swallowed her pride and accepted a job, any job, to get her out in the world and working again.
  • Did I hear correctly that Keegan's mother is moving? Where would that be, pray tell? There was mention of a queue of people waiting outside the old Slater house for viewings, but I thought that house had been turned into flats. Isn't that where Shirley and Tina lived with Sylvie? But wait ... does that mean that Keegan is also to move to the Square as part of another brood? He's certainly not part of the Taylor clan, and it's also clear that he has unfinished business with, yes, you guessed it, the star of the show Her Imperial Majesty Queen Denise the Po-Faced. By the way, shorn of the man bun, Shakil looks good.
Two Men, a Baby and Snidely Whiplash. I can't really believe that Dot would expect her grandson, one of the few blood relatives she has, to relinquish custody of his child to the husband of the woman whom he had formerly married and who treated him like a prize piece of shit.

Dot's blood kin in this world are few and far between. We can count them on one hand - her sister, Rose; her nephew, Andrew; her granddaughter Kirstie/Dottie; her grandson,Charlie; and her great-grandson, Matthew.

I'm beginning to think that the only reason she wants Jack to have Matthew is because she can see him every day. This pithy excuse of Jack and his children being the only life Matthew has known, might hold a grain of sand if Matthew were ten or twelve, but he's not. He's a two year-old. In no time, he would adjust to Charlie, Charlie's wife and a new life in Ireland. Just what sort of gentleman's agreement does she expect Jack and Charlie to foment. Jack wants Charlie's son, not just because he's Ronnie's son (although that's a big part of Jack's reason for being fixated on the child) but also because he's transferring all his unresolved feelings for James onto Matthew. As much as Jack can say that Matthew is "his and Ronnie's" child, he's not. This is not a second shot at James, because it's not; and the way things seem at the moment, Jack is investing all his emotion into this child and leaving precious little for the two kids who do, genuinely, belong to him. But those kids are different. One is the result of angry sex, and the other is the result of a mindless fling. He loved neither of their mothers, and although he may be fond of these kids, it wouldn't hurt him half as much if Sam turned up on his door tomorrow to claim Ricky or Glenda took custody of Amy, as much as the idea of Charlie having custody of his own flesh and blood.

I wondered to whom Dot was making that early morning call. Initially, I had thought she was contacting the Rev Mr Stephens, but it seems she was, misguidedly, turning to the villain of the piece, Max. I also hate her repeated assertions that Charlie is a "good man ... deep down."

What the fuck?! Charlie is a good man. He loves the bones of Matthew. He looked after him single-handedly, even when Ronnie had recovered and was bored with the routine of actually being a mother. This was the woman, remember, who forgot her own son's first birthday and had to be reminded of it by Jack. Dot's using the same sort of pithy, pathetic language about Charlie that she used about Nick. Charlie didn't abandon his child; he was made to leave Walford. By Ronnie. Indeed, the only reason Jack has actually lashed out at Charlie has had nothing to do with Matthew and everything to do with Ronnie.

Still, Dot is confident enough and has ego enough to suppose that her fondness for Jack and the fact that she holds some sort of authority over Charlie as his grandmother would make her the perfect mediator and result in Jack keeping Matthew in Walford, whilst Charlie would make the flying visit now and then as "Uncle Charlie."

Is this now becoming, in Dot's mind, all about the fact that she never knew Charlie existed until he was a grown man, and now she hopes to watch a mini version of him, a great-grandchild grow from infant to adult under her realm of influence?

I also got the belated blessing from Dot to Max, always the prodigal son in Jim's eyes, lately bestowing Jim's approval on Max's proper behaviour and support of Jack through the darkest times - if only Jim knew! But the irony isn't lost on Max at all. He wants to be part of the mediation - obviously; he'd be the one surreptitiously to press the wrong button and elicit the wrong sort of reaction from Jack.

As it is, he only gets a patronising bit of thanks from Dot and a virtual pat on the head, and a comment about what a "good boy" this grandfather villain is.

Her Imperial Majesty Queen Denise the Po-Faced Learns from a Cleaner. Oh, my fucking God, please! Virtually an entire episode about one GCSE exam and what amounted to a pedantic teacher's lecture,cleverly masqueraded as an uplifting confession of the intellectual stimulus of reading as a means of stretching the mind.

For the record, yes ... Reading stimulates the mind and develops the imagination. That's part of the joy of reading a book, any book, be it history of fiction. Yes, it stimulates the mind because it increases the vocabulary, never a bad thing. Yes, sometimes readers do feel able to identify with various books or storylines or concepts or even historical figures. And, yes, many authors do use symbolism and imagery as a way of getting across their own outlook on their world and society in general.

But you know something? Most people who like to read, find all of that out over a period of time, usually years. And how early did this GCSE begin? Because the invigilator called time shortly after 9 AM.

Denise seems to be meeting a lot of people in queues lately, people whose antecedents haven't been as fortunate as Denise's yet who have a completely different and more positive outlook on life than this arrogant miseryguts has. The Polish woman she  met at the job centre had had her work contract terminated because of down-sizing and thought nothing of applying for benefits because her work history and contributions to the National Insurance entitled her to that. 

Tonight, she managed to meet a cheeky, chirpy little Cockney lady - a "skivvy"- who, in her retirement, decided to take a gaggle of GCSE qualifications, for no other reason than she could. Her attitude was refreshing. If she passed, she passed. If she didn't, she gave it her best shot. But her simple remark about how amazed she was that she could actually enjoy staying inside and reading a book for a change gave rise to Her Imperial Majesty Queen Denise the Po-Face's soliloquy about the intellectual advantages which reading bestows upon one's mind.

Of course, she may have a pot in which to piss, but she began the day, not only by patronising Kim in he worst way - In a moment of wobble when she thought about throwing a hissy fit and not going to the exam, when Kim recalled Denise's encouragement of Kim attending her driving test - Denise turned up her nose and remarked that this was a different sort of situation. What a fucking intellectual snob! Still, she wasn't too good to grab and gobble the overstuffed bap that Kim had left behind as she scurried off to tend to Pearl.

I have neither sympathy nor admiration for this character. 

As well, she's still hoping for some man-time from Kush. After sending him packing with a flea in his ear, her already enormous ego is further boosted when he tells her that he has confidence that she'll pass her exam. Her royal nose is massively knocked out of joint when Kim tells her Kush is dating again. And why not? Does she expect him to sit around and pine for the Queen to show interest yet again?

I wonder if she squatted and gobbled at Kim's?

Looking Out for Widdle Mick. Wow, Mick's calling Whitney "babe" now, the same way he used to speak to Linda. He's so happy in the morning, you wonder if he dipped his wick in Shitney the night before. He certainly had the look of a man well-laid, but you know, so much happens off-screen, especially the way he asked if Whitney were doing OK. 

Also, the way Whitney simpered and sidled up to Mick at the bar, referring to him as being the "captain on the helm" reminded me of the icky Ian Beale "Captain Beale" remarks, complete with gooey-eyed adoration.

But the star of this was was Shirley. This was all about Shirley's guilt at having sold the freehold of the Vic and her dilemma about telling Mick. Johnny nags her, and Whitney the NuLinda nags her again and again. Whitney even patronisingly remarked that Mick would understand once he knew the reasons behind her deception. Whitney, you may reckon that as NuLinda, you possess the wisdom of Solomon, but Shirley does, indeed, know her son.

Once again, Whitney, ever the one to get a subtle dig in at Linda, wonders why Linda doesn't tell Mick, but Shirley says she promised Linda she would be the one to tell him. Shirley's idea of being a good mum was serving prison time in Mick's name; well, she's actually committed fraud by forging Mick's name on the document signing over the freehold.

The other thing I noticed in this segment was how incredibly stupid Whitney is. First, she assumes that the "freehold" is simply a piece of paper, that nothing would change in the Vic and Mick would still be the boss. Errr ... no. As Shirley explained, Mick is now the leaseholder. He runs the business for the company which owns the building, whatever money Mick makes he has to pay rent and a cut of the profits to these people. If his profits don't add up, the owners can turf him out. Mick doesn't even know that Tracey's been sacked. Instead, he's been told that she's having some time off. 

How much more babyfied can this man be?

Also, Whitney doesn't seem to realise that Shirley has had to forge Mick's signature in order to sell the freehold. Mick and Linda own the building - or they did. The authorities would have to have both their signatures in order to effect a sale. Whitney was suss enough to know that Mick was to be kept in the dark about this. Is she that pig shit ignorant that she doesn't know that, in case of joint ownership, both owners have to sign any legal document. 

Also, in tried and true EastEnders' stating the bleeding obvious fashion, everyone was wanting Shirley to tell Mick the truth before Fi next appeared in the Vic, which - according to Shirley - wasn't supposed to be later in the week, you just knew that Fi would put in an appearance this very evening, which she did.

The Beales Again. How many times are they going to repeat this scene? Now Ian's procrastinating about going to a diabetes clinic? Has Kathy weaned him yet?