‘CLICHES, cliches... I’m sick and tired of all that bloody rubbish, to be honest with you.” Is this a) Lord Sugar when confronted with another bunch of braggards spouting business-speak on The Apprentice? Or b) your correspondent on having to listen to yet more soundbites, headlines and clunky phrases passing for dialogue in The Politician’s Husband? Both, actually. Let’s deal with The Apprentice first.
BBC1, Tuesday, 9pm
The Politician’s Husband
BBC2, Thursday, 9pm
Life of Crime
STV, Friday, 9pm
We’ve reached series nine, by which point most popular TV shows have jumped the shark. The moment when they resort to self-parody seems unavoidable. Shows featuring trained actors can’t stop it happening, so what chance have reality programmes got with so many desperate wannabes? They’re too dim to know that we know that they know, or think they know, how to play the game. We can all remember what we were doing when it was obvious that every Big Brother contestant was simultaneously aware of the existence of the cameras. (And what were we doing? Loading the Lugers we keep close by, next to the macaroon bars, for just such eventualities).
There were many times I thought I’d had it with the ninth series of The Apprentice, before the first episode had ended. There was the time I thought: “I know that edit, the one in the back of the car: the cutaway to the look suggestive of mild mutiny.” There was the time someone said they were inspired by Napoleon closely followed by someone else saying they were half-machine and even though Lord Sugar would chastise them for their CV guff, the boasting didn’t astonish, as in the past, and nor did it amuse. And there was the time I thought: “Hang on, aren’t the women a bit too glamorous and the men too chiselled – where’s this year’s podgy lunatic (eg, Stuart Baggs), this year’s gangly boffin (Tom Pellereau)?”
Then the boys played a game of “Which celeb do I look like?” and the one called Alex with the silent-movie villain eyebrows said: “Freddie Mercury – I get it all the time.” No, the rest of the car sniggered, they were thinking of Dracula. That made me laugh. Then Karren Brady said something funny while groaning at the boys’ playground squabbling. Then Lord Sugar said something pompous, reminding the half-machine of his title and how he expected to be addressed. I wondered about the doctor – how come she’s given up a noble profession for power-suits, trolleybags and sucking up to the heid bummer? Then Luisa promised she wasn’t all fake hair, fake nails and fake boobs – that she really did have “the sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit and a brain like Einstein” – and I decided, OK, I’ll watch, but just this time then never again.
In my notebook, kept next to the Luger and the macaroon, there’s rather too much yellow-highlighter pen for The Politician’s Husband, just ended. This signifies the things people say in TV dramas; never in real life. Things like “Sudden libido urge” and “It’s incendiary stuff” and “I’ll have what he’s imbibing”. There’s more, and it was the political banter that was the most mirthful. “I don’t have to tell you what a cesspit Westminster is... Shark-infested, more like.” And best of the lot, as we gazed at the Houses of Parliament from the leadership bid HQ-cum-lovenest: “All that gothic elegance hides such rancid base instincts.” Aagh!
Mirthful, but a pity, because The Politician’s Husband wanted to be a study of modern marriage and what happens when the woman becomes the career highflyer and the man’s left at home wearing the pinny – with plenty of time on his hands for paranoia and jealousy to ferment. At least David Tennant and Emily Watson, in their scenes together, were spared the rancid dialogue, the bulk of it confined to the – cliche alert – corridors of power. The couple argued a lot and had sex a lot. There was the first-day-in-the-Cabinet shag, the thank-God-our-son-didn’t-drown shag and – most creepily – the I’ve-just-rendered-faulty-your-contraceptive-cap shag. Once again Tennant showed his talent for absolute bastards, so it was a pity about the rest of the script.
New policer Life Of Crime started out so routinely that when Hayley Atwell’s WPC was told she’d been suspended from duty, it was perfectly possible to imagine the poignant piano accompaniment coming from a library tape marked “Suspended From Duty”. To her male colleagues, she’s a “Doris” (we’re in 1985). She’s allowed to play at being a detective and you think: when it’s not being predictable, Life Of Crime is improbable. Then she planted evidence and things got vaguely interesting. «