Crazy About One Direction - Channel 4, Thursday, 10pm
Big School - BBC1, Friday, 9pm
Ramsay’s Hotel Hell - Channel 4, Monday, 10pm
It seems they’re shunted round the Twittersphere like crates of illegal cockle-pickers, but guess what? They’re don’t actually exist.
And here’s another thing: I’m absolutely convinced the over-followed mention the world’s biggest boyband in tweets – just a casual, random namecheck – so their accounts will be tsunami-ed by Directioners. These are fans of One Direction, the chart-whomping, dimpled emoters who only came third in The X Factor but have the nation’s pubescent girls in the palms of their hairless hands. Meanwhile, in the girls’ hands are phones which tantalise with the prospect of maybe next time striking it lucky with the right post-gig hotel, the right corridor, and the bedroom door being answered by – Eeeeeeek! – Harry Styles.
Fifty years ago girls loved the Beatles, dreamed about marrying Paul or George, but actual contact with the band was remote and pretty much limited to membership of the fan club, which entitled you to a free flexidisc 45 at Christmas (whoopydoo, though they’re worth thousands now). Thanks to Twitter, Directioners can track their idols’ movements, track their penis size (I refuse to believe the dimensions quoted), send messages of undying love and, maybe just maybe, if it’s a quiet day in 1Dland, get a tweet back.
The girls featured in the documentary Crazy About One Direction were pretty keen on this. “Why won’t u follow me?! Should I kill myself?!” This was to Harry, but it could have been any of the five as they each have more than ten million followers. Natasha, 17, loves Niall and got braces because he had them. One day she tweeted him 182 times. No one seemed to have real boyfriends because they get in the way. Lyrics are tattooed on puppy fat; photos with the band are highly-prized. Does a snap with the auxiliary drummer count? At least this lad can play an instrument – ha ha, please don’t hate – so I would say yes. As a Directioner you’ve got to put the effort in, said Becky, 19, who’s been to “Sheffield, Doncaster, Harry’s house, Louis’s house.” The latters’ folks are welcoming; Harry’s think she’s a stalker. But not all were bonkers or would kill a puppy to meet their idols.
When the direct line to 1D is especially quiet (ie, most days) the fans fantasise about the boys being fat, old, toothless, ginger, Irish, in drag. The computer montaging was very clever, and the prose in the Harry/Louis imagined gay romance was extremely lively. Maybe the Directioners will be able to put this creativity to good use when the band split up because, girls, it will happen. I thought King Crimson were going to be forever but they weren’t.
Regular readers will know that Please Sir! is one of my all-time favourites. John Alderton as the idealistic new teacher complete with stammer, Joan Sanderson as the horn-rimmed staffroom battleaxe, Deryck Guyler as the bumptious jannie, and the glory that was 5C’s Penny Spencer, in mini-skirt, wet-look boots and stupendous pout. It takes a lot to beat a cast like that for an education-based sitcom and the latest to try is Big School.
The line-up, it should be said, is pretty good. David Walliams (who co-wrote), Catherine Tate, Philip Glenister, Joanna Scanlan. But they all play teachers; none of the kids gets much of a look-in. It was the staff-pupil relationship which made Please Sir! so memorable (admittedly if you were 11) but the Big School lot grab the jokes for themselves. Oh, and another thing: there are no jokes in it.
Well, Francis de la Tour plays the headmistress and, just like in the recent Vicious, she steals the show. She shouts at the teachers as if they were kids. She’s politically incorrect (“Dirty people, dirty country,” she says of France) and she slugs just-confiscated beer at her desk. Walliams plays the chemistry teacher who fancies the new French mistress (Tate) but of course, being Walliams, he does this with a high degree of campery. Tate’s character isn’t as smart/funny as she thinks and neither, unfortunately, is Big School.
Actors complain they can’t get back on TV for all the reality. Now the reality is being scripted and even Gordon Ramsay is working on his “astonished” face. In the first of the American-based Ramsay’s Hotel Hell, he met his match: an Idaho hotelier who is too busy dressing up as Sherlock Holmes for murder-mysteries to notice his business is failing and his marriage is under threat. Ramsay’s now a relationship counsellor, too, by the way.