The Wall 1/6, Saturday 12th October, 8:35pm, BBC One
I have as theory that Saturday nights are such a popular time for going out largely because the TV options available are so unspeakably inane. The proof is all too apparent on high streets up and down the country, as people throw vast quantities of alcopops and flavoured ciders down their necks, desperate to find some solace in the sweet embrace of oblivion. They have decided, in their droves, that a night of Snakebite and Jagerbombs, kebabs and public screaming matches, is infinitely preferable to an evening watching a fame-hungry teenager claim their grandparent’s last act on this Earth was to post their grandchild’s application off to a TV talent show. And who are we to argue?
So I admit, I approached the BBC’s latest Saturday night offering, a six-part series called The Wall with a somewhat, ah, limited sense of optimism. All the more so because The Wall is (shudder) a gameshow. Gameshows are where careers and brain cells go to die. Particularly Saturday night gameshows. I mean, I have a passing fondness for The Chase, and have sat through entire episodes of Pointless without so much as a flicker of irritation. But most Saturday night game shows are witless affairs hosted by men with permatans and a second career as a wedding singer.
Not so The Wall. Because The Wall is hosted by Danny Dyer. Now, Danny Dyer is very much like Marmite, if Marmite was something you either liked or thought was an absolute frickin’ numbskull. Me? I love him.
I don’t love him for all the sub-Kempian documentaries he made about ‘pwopah nawty’ tear-ups involving football hooligans. I don’t love him for his portrayal of Mick Carter, largely because I haven’t watched EastEnders in about 25 years (is Ethel’s Little Willie still alive?) No, I love Danny Dyer because of his self-awareness. I’m not saying the whole Essex-geezer schtick is an act – I don’t think it is – but it is delivered with more than a twinkle in his eye. Nobody says “wallop” and “bosh” that much without irony.
Gloriously, in The Wall, Danny is operating at peak Dyer. “I’m Danny Dyer, and this is The Wall,” he snarls, secretly thinking “I’m Danny Dyer, and I’m gonna eat your face off, you mug.” The two contestants play along as a team, which is just as well, as they’re sisters. Louise and Helen from Leeds. “Proper gaff, that,” intones Dyer approvingly.
He introduces them to The Wall – basically a giant pegboard that you drop balls down, into slots at the bottom worth anything from £1 to £50,000. “It’s a naughty bit of kit, innit?” The game, which is based on a hit US show, involves the contestants answering questions. A right answer turns the ball green, which means it increases your total winning. But a wrong answer and it’s red, which will detract from your total. Helen decides to bring luck to their quest by kissing all the balls she touches. Danny is a model of restraint.
The questions – mystifyingly voiced by an invisible Angela Rippon – are unlikely to crop up on University Challenge. The first three are about Chinese food, the Muppets and the Spice Girls. But the format is actually really rather good. Gripping, in fact. I made a note of the hyperbolic phrases used in the accompanying press release – “Wildly unpredictable, with heart-stopping jeopardy” for example – fully intent on attaching them to a giant sarcastic brick and hurling them back at the BBC. But blow me, it was unpredictable, and filled with jeopardy. My heart didn’t get close to stopping at any stage, but nor did my lids feel droopy.
And Danny was my champion of the world throughout. “Get hold of that!” he shouted after one right answer. “Let’s go baby,” he said to one of the contestants, as if he was about to ravish her in the honeymoon suite rather than put her in a soundproofed booth to answer questions about Beyonce. “You’re gonna be caked,” he assured them as to how rich they’d be. And, when things took a turn for the worse, he was always there for a bon mot, to keep morale buoyant. “There’s still a long way to go, let’s keep our nuts up!”
Louise and Helen could be going home with a life-changing amount of money. And Danny Dyer may have discovered something far more valuable – a Saturday night gameshow worth watching.
Caravanning with Shane Richie, Friday 18th October, 9pm, Channel 5
And so we move from one chirpy cockney Landlord of the Queen Vic to another. Shane Richie has left Alfie Moon and the troubled waters of Walford well behind him, and is, instead, on a one-man mission to get Britain caravanning in this new four-part series. But first, he’s got to win over his family – including a particularly sceptical wife Christie.
Over 2 million Brits went caravanning last year. Mind you, the Jeremy Kyle show used to get seven-figure audiences, so numbers aren’t necessarily an indicator of quality. Now Richie – a former Blue Coat and fan of the Great British holiday camp – is trying to persuade his family to jump on board the bandwagon. Except the bandwagon is actually a static caravan.
For those of you unfamiliar with static caravans, they’re like caravans, only less mobile. Or, perhaps more pertinently, like houses, only smaller, less convenient, and with inferior toilet facilities. As if that doesn’t make Richie’s job hard enough, the static caravan in question, in this opening episode, is on a holiday park near Rhyl, in North Wales. Nothing says Caribbean climate like North Wales, am I right? Even then, though, Richie doesn’t seem to feel he’s made his job hard enough – so he’s bringing along the in-laws as well.
They all pile on board a minibus, with the ever-upbeat Shane eager to stoke the fires of excitement. “What’s everyone most looking forward to?” he cries. “Going home,” mutters Christie.
Still, she might be won over by the caravan. You can book anything from Economy to Platinum – and Shane’s gone for Platinum. Sounds exciting. What does that get you? A helipad? A butler? Dom Perignon on draught? “Central heating, bedding and towels.” Surely those are basic human rights, not Platinum-class luxuries?!
So far, my shameless middle-class preconceptions have been appallingly confirmed. When they arrive at the Golden Sands Holiday Park, it’s even raining. But hold on… what’s this? Their caravans are actually… you know… nice! And with loos that don’t require you to be a performing contortionist to sit on. Each caravan has three separate bedrooms, so nobody needs to sleep on the dining table. The kids are thrilled. There’s even Wifi (which may be why the kids are thrilled). Christie looks like she might be delaying that call to the Samaritans.
No sooner have the Richies settled in than their shopping delivery arrives from Asda. There follows a sequence where Shane advises people on what to buy. To be honest, I don’t think you need to know about this bit. I suspect you may have shopped before, unless you’re the actual Queen, in which case you probably don’t need to know about ordering shopping from Asda for your caravan holiday in Rhyl.
The rain continues to come down – you’re unlikely to mistake Rhyl for Riyadh – but it doesn’t seem to dampen enthusiasm one iota. There is plenty to do on site, and the day’s excitement culminates in… bingo! And Christie, it turns out, is an absolute bingo convert. They don’t win anything the first night, and she vows to go off and practice, which shows both an admirable sense of determination and a limited grasp of how bingo works. In the ensuing days, there is a trip to a dry ski slope for some tubing, and a quite terrifying zipline experience in Blaenau Ffestiniog (easy for you to say). And there are more prosaic pleasures, like baking a cake and rounders on the beach. And, in the evenings, everyone throws themselves into the family entertainment with gusto, in the finest seaside tradition.
The whole thing, it must be said, looks like an absolute riot. The Richie clan seem delighted. I’m even rather tempted myself. You can keep your sun-drenched villas in Tuscany, I fancy a fortnight in a static in Bognor. If someone else could let my wife know, I’d be hugely grateful…
The best… and the rest:
Saturday 12th October
Great British Car Journeys 1/4, 8pm, Channel 4: Christopher Timothy and Peter Davison, erstwhile stars of the timeless All Creatures Great and Small, travel along some of the nation’s most iconic routes in some of its most iconic cars.
The X Factor: Celebrity, 8:35pm, ITV: Celebrities compete for what is described as a ‘life changing’ recording contract. Expect quite a lot of people with whom you are entirely unfamiliar.
Sunday 13th October
Celebrity Hunted 1/5, 9pm, Channel 4: Eight famous faces (and, indeed, the rest of their bodies) go on the run in the attempt to evade the expert capture team in this special series in aid of Stand Up to Cancer. Slebs involved include Stanley “Father of the PM” Johnson and chefs Aldo Zilli and Jean-Christophe Novelli.
Monday 14th October
Euro 2020 Qualifier Live: Bulgaria v England, 7pm, ITV: Initially I couldn’t read my writing, and thought England were away to Belgium. Fortunately, this is not the case. Expect, instead, the far less intimidating prospect of coming up against a somewhat limited Bulgaria side which succumbed 4-0 to England at Wembley last month.
Dublin Murders 1/8, 9pm, BBC One: Killian Scott and Sarah Greene star in this eight-part drama about an investigation into the murder of a teenage girl from a down-at-heel Dublin estate. How is it linked to the disappearance of three children 25 years previously? Part two tomorrow.
Thursday 17th October
Charlotte Church: My Family and Me, 9pm, Channel 4: A bizarre, and potentially fascvinating one-off documentary sees Charlotte Church heading for a week away in Devon with her parents, for the first time since she was a teenager. Soon some long-unresolved tensions come to a head.
Giri/Haji 1/8, 9pm, BBC Two: New Anglo-Japanese thriller about a Tokyo detective following a trail involving a yakuza boss, a brutal murder, and the brother he believed was dead. Starring Takehiro Hira, Kelly Macdonald and Will Sharpe.