WHAT'S the most annoying thing on TV? Is it Cheryl Cole's salute when she makes her entrance on The X Factor – or Simon Cowell's casual pawing of Cole, most obviously when he snakes his arm along the back of her chair, as if in readiness to catch her falling crown as The Nation's Sweetheart (Deposed)?
BBC4 Wednesday, 10pm
FRANKIE BOYLE'S TRAMADOL NIGHTS
Channel 4 Tuesday, 10pm
BBC1 Monday, 9pm
No, bad though these are, it is that another season of Mad Men has just ended and the next time we encounter Don Draper, Roger Sterling and Joan Harris (ne Holloway) will be over on Sky. Mad Men endures but will be a different show from here on in. There will be adverts and there will be continuity-announcer gush. Yes, BBC continuity people can be annoying but compared with the ninnies on Sky, they're models of decorum evoking the dinner-jacket-and-dickie-bow era. The latter channel's clodhopping interruptions will not be easily subsumed in this beautiful sigh of a TV programme.
Already I'm dreading one of those famously low-tech in-car scenes – yes, we know it's the scenery that moves while the vehicle stays put but we don't care – suddenly giving way to a wham-bam endorsement for Gran Turismo. Or a scene in which Betty Francis is going mad but remaining luminous in the kitchen segueing into a chicken nuggets promo featuring a reality-show trollop. Sometimes when American-made dramas are shown on non-commercial stations you can spot the joins – and the way the action surges to a break every eight minutes or so – but ironically, given that its main players are in the business of flogging sponsors' messages, that's not the case with Matthew Weiner's near-perfect creation.
You wonder what attracted Sky to Mad Men – apart from the opportunity to grab a zeitgeisty show, that is. Did they tune in to season four just as Lane Pryce was being struck a glancing blow with his father's cane and assumed it was always this casually violent? Or did they catch the sudden death of Don's old-bat secretary and start fantasising about a high body count?
I didn't review the first episode of this run and now I can't think why. Did I fear the show was about to jump the shark? Perhaps. But season four quickly shaped up to be possibly the best. To convey the social turbulence of the mid-60s it flitted from a rant from Roger about Japanese war atrocities to Peggy Olsen attending a Warhol-style "happening". Lane, the tea-sipping Englishman with the James Mason accent and the suit of armour in his office, went native at the local Playboy Club. The episode, almost a two-hander, where Don kept Peggy behind to finish the Samsonite campaign, was one of the all-time top three. Aware that his pomp might be about to end, Roger dictated his memoirs and had one last knee-trembler with Joan. Feeling not quite as old, everyone's favourite existential womanising bastard got fit, started a diary and proposed to the first – no, hang on, it's Draper we're talking about – the second stunning female who proved a hit with his kids. TV's greatest 45 minutes. Let's hope that on Sky it's the greatest hour.
Too outrageous for Mock The Week, Frankie Boyle has got his own show now. It's on Channel 4 so he's free from the BBC's post-Sachsgate compliance rules and can be even more offensive and even funnier, yes? Presumably that's the concept of Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights. I wasn't offended by any of the jokes in the opener; I just didn't find them very funny. Rules can be daft but they can force a comedian to work harder and be more clever. No need here.
"How ya doin', ya big f****n' Loyalist terrorist suspect?" These were Boyle's first words, aimed at a formidable, shaven-headed man in the audience. He also called the delighted victim a "big gun-running bisexual". Then Catholics got it, then all religious groups. Then gay people (they got it a lot), then John Leslie, George Michael, Ryanair, the Japanese and the mentally ill before finally Boyle cracked a joke I can repeat in a family newspaper, where he lamented the somewhat one-dimensional nature of The Jeremy Kyle Show: "He rounds up his audiences by firing tranquiliser darts into Farmfoods. There's never an edition called I Wanted To Go To Tuscany, You Swine!"
The stage routine was interspersed with filmed sketches which showed up his limitations as a comic actor. I say stage, but the set was a rooftop in the style of a classic movie. As Frankie got more and more enraged, I thought he was going to do a Jimmy Cagney and, in a nod to White Heat, blow himself up. Maybe next time.
In this job I can't watch everything and, believe me, I don't. Out of a vague and often misplaced sense of obligation to starting series, I normally wouldn't mention the third instalment of a show that, with
Jimmy McGovern's name attached, should be able to look after itself. But, having caught the last two minutes of Accused, where Peter Capaldi sang the Eagles' song Desperado in a courthouse cell while dressed in a clown's costume, I had to watch it all. This was an achingly sad study in grief for a dead son that should win an award for Juliet Stevenson while Capaldi, equally brilliant, told a joke about a fitted kitchen that was funnier than most of Frankie Boyle's.
This article was first published in the Scotland on Sunday on December 6, 2010