If you like telly, Newt from Hollyoaks, French people, and historical shagging, you might like some of these old columns…

TV review: Village life is well worth a Peake

by on April 2, 2013

Residents of The Village: Grace (Maxine Peake), John (John Simm), Young Bert (Bill Jones), Joe (Nico Mirallegro). Photograph: BBC

Residents of The Village: Grace (Maxine Peake), John (John Simm), Young Bert (Bill Jones), Joe (Nico Mirallegro). Photograph: BBC

A gritty drama set in Hovis country? Sounds like a recipe for twee time. Or so Lucy Bellerby thought…


The Village (BBC1) is a drama based on the life of Bert, the second oldest man in Britain, and sees him telling his story. The first episode begins in 1914, when Bert is 12 years old and living on a farm in a rural Derbyshire village.

If you think of the Hovis advert you’ve got the right idea; it’s the kind of setting my Grandma told us she was brought up in (even though she lived in the middle of Leeds). There’s flat caps aplenty, buxom rosy-cheeked washer women, and cheeky young ne’er-do-wells getting the cane.

There’s also the standard “angry father” which no period drama can do without; Bert’s dad goes round drinking too much ale, furiously kicking over wheelbarrows, seething about “t’respect” and locking his kids in cupboards.

Maxine Peake, who is brilliant in every part she plays, is comfortable in her recurring role as put-upon wife from yesteryear (see Room At The Top and The Devil’s Whore). If you close your eyes and imagine a slightly grubby and tragic woman scrubbing stone steps with only bare hands and some vinegar, it’s her face that you see.

And would you believe it, this is the second column in which Newt from Hollyoaks makes an appearance! He plays Bert’s older brother, although we see him sprinting off happily to join up when WW1 breaks out, so I doubt things will end well for him.

I’m not usually one for over-sentimentality, but The Village is so well acted that it feels real and not at all twee. When the lads of the village all leave to an uncertain future as soldiers they tumble down the cobbled streets, proposing to their sweethearts at the last minute.

There’s even a bloody brass band playing Jerusalem. I tried to keep it together but in the end I was sobbing into a load of bunting and shouting at the screen ‘COME THA BACK NEWT FROM T’HOLLYOAKS! A’LL MARRY THEE!’.

TV review: The Returned. Ze French are, ’ow you say, ’ot stuff…

by on June 27, 2013

Sexier than DCI Barnaby… The Returned

Sexier than DCI Barnaby… The Returned. Photograph: Channel 4

Lesbians, ciggie-smoking schoolkids and thin sullen people. You can’t fault the French, says Lucy Bellerby


God, French people are so bloody sexy. Five seconds into new continental series The Returned (Channel 4) and there’s two lithe lesbians in catsuits having a snog. Everyone else is thin and dark and wearing lovely tailored jackets.

In Britain, our murder mysteries revolve round vicars being strangled in Midsomer, and Alan Davies’ hair. The Returned has children (children!) smoking. Real cigarettes. Let’s hope no one from the BBC saw Monday’s episode, lest they be rocking back and forth, mopping their feverish brow with a copy of their beloved censorship guidelines.

But reader, I must tell you that in my other life I am an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher. I speak to French people every day, so I know this programme is realistic; they really are all sexy.

I sit at home in the dent on the sofa that my arse has left over the years, eating Werthers Originals, and as I talk to them on the phone I just know that they are nonchalantly sipping a glass of red wine, scowling, and probably mentally planning some sort of velvet and cheese themed orgy.

I missed the first three episodes of The Returned so I don’t have a clue what it’s all about; something to do with lots of fit, sullen people being stabbed/solving crimes. It’s so beautifully shot that it didn’t really matter. It was like being in a sepia nightmare that’s produced by Ron Jeremy and directed by Sophia Coppola.

A new genre which, I’m sure we are all agreed, holds no place for Jonathan Creek.

TV review: Starkey raving bonkers about the Boleyn girl

by on May 28, 2013

Crush hour: The Last Days Of Anne Boleyn. Photograph: BBC/Oxford Film and Television/Tim Cragg

Crush hour: The Last Days Of Anne Boleyn. Photograph: BBC/Oxford Film and Television/Tim Cragg

Lucy Bellerby reckons TV history would be better off without a certain grumpy academic pouring his bucket of scorn over everything


Pardon my French, but what has crawled up David Starkey’s arse lately (The Last Days Of Anne Boleyn, BBC2)? He’s always been a cantankerous old miser, sucking in so much air that his chin completely disappears into his neck, but he’s really stepped it up a notch recently. Baring his little teeth on Newsnight, jabbering rudely about Harriet Harman and Victoria Coren.

And now he’s been attacking yet more women; this time it’s historical novelists like Philippa Gregory. Apparently they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Tudors, lest they turn the subject into chick lit. He’s managed to side-step the fact that Gregory holds a PHD in historical literature, and that she clearly writes dramatised novels and not history books.

He’s been mouthing off because they both appeared on the BBC2 programme The Last Days of Anne Boleyn, alongside Hilary Mantel, whose books on Henry VIII’s court are similar to solving an impossible Sudoku puzzle while your head is squashed in a vice. An outstanding trio of experts, but I do wish they had made them film in the same room; Starkey would have fled, arms flailing, shrieking “the girls gave me a wedgie!”.

As regular readers will know, I’m history obsessed and I (sort of) fancy Anne Boleyn. So I watched the programme glassy-eyed, imagining myself slagging off Cromwell in Latin and writing saucy messages to all and sundry. TV always makes it seem quite romantic, and as the reality is that everyone stank and had black teeth, I’m happy to believe the sanitised version, chick lit or not.

Just for God’s sake get Starkey off the screen; he may know his history, but his jowls don’t half put the breaks on any bodice ripping.

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