Strictly Come Dancing: Five become four

So we’ve said our tearful farewells to Lisa and now we have the right four left: Dani; Denise; Kimberley and Louis. I’ve put them in alphabetical order by first name in case anyone thinks I’m biased and trying to rig the outcome by putting someone first. Just to make sure I’ve covered all bases, if we go by surname it’s: Dani; Louis; Denise; Kimberley.

I was, in the end, sort of sorry to see Lisa go despite my rather acerbic comments about her ability. We had Tess standing there wearing a rather fetching dress—lampshade combo and she first announced Kimberley as safe. Huge relief for her as they so often make her wait. Then Lisa was announced as being in the dance off, an odd move as more suspense would have been created if they’d announced not-Lisa.  I may have been imagining it but I couldn’t help but think that Vincent then looked a tiny bit relieved. Dani still looked blinking terrified, or rather fixed-stare terrified but it seemed as if Vincent’s reaction was the rather natural ‘oh good, if we have to we can beat Lisa in a dance off’.

Louis was next announced safe, with Flavia and he looking very, very relieved. Denise, poor woman, looked rather resigned. Dani needed Vincent to hold her up, he looked as if he knew he couldn’t say ‘whatever happens we’ll be fine’ what with him having a live mike sewn onto his suit. Denise was announced in the dance off and Vincent gave up holding Dani up and sank to the floor regardless. I have a soft spot for Vincent and his claims that he is too little for this world.

Lisa was understandably teary but in fairness once on the dance floor she did go for it and enjoy herself. In the last few seconds Robin seemed to be thinking ‘oh balls to it, if you’re going home, go home in style.’ Denise, fair play to her, was glorious. Her timing really is wonderful but she knows for sure now that she is last in the public vote and has been for two weeks in a row. It cannot be easy to go into a final knowing that. If I were her I’d be making a Chris Evans Voodoo doll.

All four judges said that based on technique there were choosing Denise. Darcey claimed this was a tough decision which was either stupid of her, or a rather sweet way of boosting Lisa. And Lisa, in pieces, then gave a really lovely speech. And I realised what had gone wrong for her. She knew she was technically weaker but didn’t quite realise by how much. Boosted by the judges, she really thought her performance made up for her lack of technique. Watching her deflated, realising that the public no longer favoured her, was very uncomfortable.

Lisa felt she was doing this for the ordinary woman. Robin said that she had inspired people and proven that you don’t have to be a certain size to dance. Oddly, on some blogs, this has been translated as ‘you don’t have to be a stick insect to dance’. But that isn’t what Robin said and I can’t imagine him being so rude about someone’s body shape, be they fat or thin. So I feel sorry for Lisa. The judges, by raising her up, gave her too far to fall.

Having spent the series recording results, I decided to do some number crunching. If you hate geekiness, look away now. If you like numbers, here is a table I prepared earlier.

Dancer Lowest score Highest score Mean ave Top of leaderboard* Dance off
Dani 21 (wk 1) 38 (wks 10 +11)

32.25

0
Denise 25 (wk 1) 39 (wks 7 + 11)

34.00

6 2
Kimberley 26 (wk 2) 40 (wks 10 +11)

33.42

2 1
Louis 27 (wks 1 + 8) 38 (wk 11)

32.00

2
Lisa 25 (wk 2) 32 (wk 6, 7 + 11)

29.33

1 1

 
So you can see that they all had their lowest scores early on. Louis had another dip in week 8 when his Paso was heavily criticised for lacking in performance. In week 11 the four women all equalled their highest scores whereas Louis topped his previous highest score.

I put all their scores on a graph to compare their improvement but it wasn’t entirely clear. So I split their performance into thirds (first four dances, middle four, last four) and compared % improvements. I played around with the numbers a lot before eventually deciding to opt for something simple: the percentage improvement between their first and last dances. Then what you get is this:

Dani                       81%

Denise                  52%

Kimberley           42.9%

Louis                      40.7%

Lisa                         6.7%

If you go by that alone, Lisa had barely improved, Denise, Kimberley and Louis have all improved remarkably and Dani’s outstripped all of them.

So, here are my predictions for tonight. It’s based on audience vote alone so I think Denise will go out first. After that, it will probably be Dani. She’s undoubtedly popular but I’m not sure she’s quite as popular as Kimberley and Louis. I’m going to duck out now and say it’s too close to call between those two. Kimberley is the better all round performer but if Louis’s show dance is a show stopper, he might pip her to the post.

* I’ve counted weeks 1 and 2 separately and put both dances together for week 12.

Strictly Come Dancing: Semi Finals

So, left in we have: Lisa; Louis; Dani: Denise and Kimberley. Of those, Lisa is the only one not yet to have scored a 10. Kimberley and Denise have both been in the dance off. Denise has topped the leaderboard seven times; Louis twice; Kimberley and Lisa once and Dani never (or should that be, not yet?) This means that everyone who has topped the leaderboard this series is down to the final five.

I’m afraid I have all this on a spreadsheet so I’ll tell you one more thing. Lisa is the only one left who the judges have ever put in the bottom two.

OK, two more. I’ve added up the total scores for the five remaining dancers and they rank in this order:  Denise; Kimberley; Louis; Dani; Lisa. So, the show starts with the usual pratting around from Bruce and some odd VT of the remaining celebs pretending to race each other. Tess has hit the mark in a little black dress. It’s time to start dancing people, they’re doing two dances each.

Dani: dancing the American Smooth. It’s elegant, clean, smooth but with fast footwork. There’s a gorgeous lift though to me she looks slightly sticky going into it and overall she looks quite tense. It is lovely but it just lacks that extra something.  Len praises her technique, the heel turns and the lifts but feels the frame could be stronger at times. Bruno agrees and liked the Ginger Rogers touches. Craig liked the start but said the hand position in the first lift needed attention. Darcey says there was a lovely quality and elegance throughout but that she misses a little sparkle and it was a bit safe.

Score: 34

Louis: jiving. He has lovely character and movement and his performance skills have improved amazingly. However, it is flat footed and a little slow. The tricks were effortless and spectacular, particularly the back flip into the splits but at this stage in the game it’s not as good as I would have hoped. Bruno says his performance has really improved but says the kicks and flicks were not sharp enough. Craig agrees and says he his feet are sickled and he’s flat footed. Darcey says it was a fun routine with great style but that Louis is perhaps too supple to give the kicks the snap they need. Len says it was too casual, the dance lacked quality and his foxtrot better be better than that.

Score: 31

Denise: dancing the tango. She has beautiful shaping and sharp, clean footwork, she didn’t quite hold my attention but that’s probably just my bias. Craig is effusive but says there was a little gapping so Bruno shouts at him. Darcey says her attack was extraordinary but says to watch her kicks. Len has a go at them for making trivial objections which given what he’s just said about Louis shows an alarming level of hypocrisy for someone who’s supposed to be head judge. Bruno says it was fantastic and sensational.

Score: 39

Kimberley: dancing the American smooth. It’s gorgeous and she looks absolutely amazing. Her partnership with Pasha is such that to the untrained eye it’s starting to look as if they’re both professionals. The song, Fever, is a great match to the dance. Darcey loved it saying she looked like a film star. Len wanted more in hold and says she looked like Jessica Rabbit. Darcey says forget Jessica she looked like Cyd Charisse which let’s face it is a far more flattering and less sexist comparison. Bruno, bless him, gets rather carried away. Craig says she could go straight on stage with that routine.

Score: 38

Lisa: dancing the salsa. Allegedly. It looked like all the other Latin dances she’s done. True, she’s obviously in party spirit but she’s also hesitant, not clean enough and loses timing. There aren’t really any recognisable salsa steps and at one point she does something that might have been a floor spin but Robin has to heave her to her feet. It’s not pretty and we didn’t really need a homage to Ann Widdecombe. Robin is very obviously out-dancing her but he can’t really hold himself back any more. You can tell when you watch the professionals with their professional partners just how much they hold back even with the best celebs. But when you watch them with their celeb partners they pull their punches and make sure they look like a team. Except not in this case.

Len says she was so much fun, Bruno found the crash landing hilarious and thinks there’s no point in making a technical assessment. Yes, Bruno, yes there is. I think you’ll find a technical assessment is your job. Although if you like, here’s one I prepared earlier: it was a train wreck, an embarrassment and an insult to Nicky who got voted out so that we could see this. Craig was giggling too much to say anything and Darcey says her partying is fabulous and she loves her. Really? I mean really? Then they give her the same score they gave Louis, which is utterly insulting.

Score: 31

For the halfway break we have clips of the celebs saying how much they want to get to the final. It seems that if you can’t wheel out a small child, you must borrow one from the nearest available relative. Failing that, grab one off the street if you think you can get away with it. Louis doesn’t bother with this pathetic, attention seeking trick which I suspect has gained him as many votes as it’s lost him, hopefully more.

Dani: for her second dance she has the Argentine Tango, so no pressure there then. She has great control and rhythm and her balance in the difficult moves is amazing and much improved from the first weeks. The kicks are sharp and very fast but once more I’m wondering if it’s really ‘wow’ without being able to tell you why. Len said he loved the start, which they did without music but with so much hollering from the crowd that I couldn’t tell what was going on. He praises her for mastering the technique. Bruno calls her the lady of the night which I assume he meant as a compliment. Craig says Vincent has taught her well but noticed one bumpy lift (really? What about Lisa’s floor sweeping moment, or were you asleep for that?) Darcey enjoyed the intensity and control but wanted perhaps a slightly crisper leg action.

Score: 38 (Total 72, 3rd)

Louis: foxtrot. I stopped writing and just sat there and gawped so you’re on your own. Sorry. It’s here on catch up. On It Takes Two Ian Waite said that Flavia had given Louis a lot of content and indeed she did. You see something new in it each time you watch it and I should know, I’ve watched it  once or twice. Per hour. I may be biased. Craig criticises his thumb (ahem, where was Lisa’s thumb?) but loved it. Darcey says it was superb and he almost made it look too easy. Len said some of the rise and fall looked like bobbing up and down. Well at least he can actually do rise and fall. Lisa gets stuck on the fall. Bruno says he is a smooth operator who is back on top.

Score: 38 (69, 5th)

Denise: rumbaing, not my favourite dance. It’s clean, controlled and well acted with the beautiful shaping that I’ve come to expect from Denise. She is however wearing a wafting, floaty dress which I suspect may hide a multitude of sins. Darcey says some moves were a bit broken up but she gave a beautiful feeling. Len says it won’t be a proper final if she’s not there. Whatever, Len. Bruno says he was deeply moved and I hesitate to ask in what way. Craig says it was gorgeous but thought the dress might have been used to cover her hip action.

Score: 38 (77, 2nd)

Kimberley: dancing the Charleston. It’s fabulously goofy, beautifully acted and makes great use of the music and lyrics. There was a triple combined cartwheel from the two of them along with amazing lifts. Len says it was fun, frivolous and all you want from a Charleston. Bruno says she was flying high. Craig thought it was fabulous and Darcey calls her a quirky, naughty flapper.

Score: 40 (78, 1st)

Lisa: dancing a foxtrot-based American Smooth without lifts. So that’s a foxtrot then. She has her name in lights behind her, as if we didn’t already know that the producers have gone bonkers and think she belongs on Broadway. Her footwork is off, she gets left behind and the whole thing is distinctly meh for the semi-finals. Watching her you realise that’s not just gapping, it’s M&S gapping. You could drive a bus between Robin and Lisa when they’re in hold, if you were so inclined. Bruno praises the jazz and pizazz, and says she’s in a league of her own. Craig loved the stylised stuff but throws in a comment or two about the gapping and her free arm just in case we’re starting to think he’s biased (newsflash Craig, you’re too late). Darcey says she could be a musical theatre star and her lines are perfect in the mirroring sections. She says the only fault is that Lisa raises her shoulders in hold. Oh I give up. Len then says she is the ‘people’s champion’. No she isn’t Len. You know when they say it isn’t over until the fat lady sings? Well in my opinion, Lisa should start singing.

Score: 32 (63, 5th)

Lisa is indeed in a league of her own. It’s just a shame it’s the Vauxhall Conference not the premiership with the other four who are left. I know she’s proven that larger ladies can dance and that is a great thing. She had moments when she was wonderful, particularly early on in the series. However she simply has not improved in line with the others and to keep her in solely for her size rather than for her ability is patronising.

I suspect the producers are involved in something of a stitch up. Lisa will be appearing in Craig’s Strictly Confidential show, hence his lack of critique of her abilities. The producers know what the voting patterns are even if we don’t. We can guess that Lisa has a substantial fan base since she’s been near the bottom of the judges’ scoring without ever being in the dance off. We also know that Denise could fall over and win against anyone in a dance off. As a result, any fans of Louis, Dani and Kimberley know they need to phone in and vote, otherwise they risk seeing their favourite in the dance off with Denise.

The producers may be many things but they’re not particularly thick. By praising Lisa to the hilt they raise her voting profile and that of at least three of the other four contestants. So we keep voting so that they can pay off George Entwistle. Nice. Let’s see what the dance off brings. I know this much though – if Lisa is in the final this year, I’m never watching Strictly again.

Hollyoaks: your questions answered

So, it’s the week of Lynsey’s funeral (I know it’s normally spelled Lindsay but this is Hollyoaks) and with the whole Mercedes/ Bobby/ Mitzee/ Walker/ Silas plotline things are getting quite complicated. So here are some answers to the questions you’ve been searching on.

Well some of them, anyway. I can’t answer things like ‘what were the scriptwriters on’ or ‘they ate how much cheese and dreamt up what?’

Who killed Lynsey? And why?

The creepy doctor, the one with a mouth like a Nick Parker puppet. He was in love with Mercy and knew that Lynsey was on the verge of finding out that Mercy stalked herself, stabbed herself, and blamed Mitzee

How did Lynsey die?

Strangled with her very own scarf in Brendan’s flat. (It was the doctor, with the scarf, in the living room, now I come to think of it).

Who is Lynsey in Hollyoaks?

The childhood friend of Sheryl, strangled by the doctor. Please at least try to keep up.

Was Brendan married to Lynsey in Hollyoaks?

No. Now you’re just being silly. Although recently we found out that he did have a fling with her brother, so what do I know.

What does Brendan’s nan know?

Well not that much really given that she’s dead. But before death (it was Brendan, with his own bare hands, on the veranda) she confessed that she knew his father, her son, raped him. That was a particularly cheerful episode.

Is Brendan responsible for Lynsey’s death?

No, not really, though Sheryl still seems to be blaming him. He thought it might be to do with his gangland connections, but turns out that was just Joel and Theresa having a bit of a giggle with bullets and a Filofax. Don’t look at me, I don’t make this stuff up.

Who told the police about Lynsey’s murderer?

Jacqui. She just got suspicious of the doctor, his lying ways, and his really, really odd facial structure. Then she found Lynsey’s scarf in his office.

Did Ali kill Lynsey?

No. He’s not a murderer, that I know of. He is a serial cheat, philanderer and con merchant. Think of him as NFH, or Normal For Hollyoaks.

Who hilled Lunsey?

Say what? I’m going to put that down to dodgy autocorrect on someone’s mobile. Ditto ‘lincy hollocs’.

Does Mercedes get caught for Lynsey’s murder?

No, because she didn’t do it. Actually, scratch that. She didn’t murder Lynsey but this is Hollyoaks and a little thing like innocence never stopped them from locking anyone up. But no, she didn’t get caught anyway.

Where was Will?

Ah, now Will was being manipulated by mass murderer Silas (last seen boarding a bus in a fetching beige ensemble). Will was arrested and Texas was convinced it was him but turns out that actually he was just out stalking a random woman he met on the internet, at Silas’s instigation (both the stalking and the meeting).

Could Lynsey come back on Hollyoaks?

Doubt it. The scriptwriters are odd but this isn’t Dr Who and they’ve yet to do either resurrection or timey wimey stuff. I suppose she could haunt Brendan for a bit though.

Why did Joel murder his step dad?

Mainly because his stepdad was an abusive git, but also because Brendan egged him on. Actually Joel didn’t murder him so much as accidentally drop him off a lighthouse. Ok, so dangling someone from a lighthouse isn’t that clever in the first place but it was more manslaughter than murder. Honest.

Who shot Riley

Or Dumbbell, as I usually call him. It was Walker (Dafoe-alike). Walker was aiming for Ste, in order to get revenge on Brendan for the death of his brother. And this is why we shouldn’t give guns to cops. I’m not entirely sure where Walker is at the moment. Possibly on a bus with Silas.

Why did Mercedes kidnap Bobby?

Well. Mitzee was on the run and slept with Riley. Mercedes found out and decided to punish Riley so she kidnapped Bobby and demanded a ransom. It wasn’t the best thought out plan and she left Phoebe holding the baby. When Phoebe realised what was happening she told the McQueens what was going on. Mercy is now locked up somewhere, after Myra grassed her to the police. The McQueens are now going straight. Apart from Jacqui and Theresa who are shoplifting using Kathleen Angel as a cover and then selling on the loot.

I think that’s about it for now. After the funeral, there’s a wedding . In Hollyoaks that does not bode well, but does provide comic fodder.

Last week in Hollyoaks, or…

… I’m an academic, stop me watching soap operas

The story so far:

So, Mercedes is truly, madly, deeply in love with Dumbbell the footballer, with the emphasis on madly. And Dumb. I’m really not feeling the love and don’t quite see what she sees in him. Anyway, shortish version, he ended up with Mitzee, his (second) cousin. Mercedes stalked Mitzee, driving her a bit nuts, a common theme in Hollyoaks, that might be lacking a little in political correctness, but what the hell.  Having spent last week watching Hollyoaks Later, I’d say the odd slight about people being loony is the least of Hollyoaks’ problems.

Mercedes cracked Mitzee over the head with something or other and then stabbed herself so that when the whoozy Mitzee came round, Mercedes blamed her for the stabbing. Criminal justice in Chester appears to be a bit off key and no-one worked out that there was anything wrong with this scenario so Mitzee got sent dahn for seven years. In the meantime the unfortunate Linsey realised what Mercedes was up to. Creepy doctor, the one with a mouth like a sink plunger, killed Linsey, out of love for Mercedes. There were many, many suspects but eventually Jackie worked out that he’d dunnit, and after a car chase he was arrested.

Myra, Mercedes’s mother, worked out that Mercy stabbed herself. Cue much shouting of ‘But Mercy, have you no pity?’ Mercy, it appears, is the least appropriate nickname in the universe ever. Via the baby monitor, Myra established that Mercy was intent on Murder.  No-one specific, just a general threat to the world. The heavily pregnant Nancy has also realised that Mercy is guilty. So Mercy threatened the unborn child. And this was before I started watching the late-night stuff.

Onto the subplots. Dafoe-alike is an undercover cop. His brother is in some sort of vegetative state due to bad drugs. Brendan is a drug dealer so Dafoe wants Brendan to suffer. Although it was the doctor who killed Lindsay, Dafoe was present in the flat at the time and did nothing to stop it happening. I don’t think the police know this. Well they sort of do because Dafoe is the police.

Linsey’s murder was never anything to do with Brendan or the disgruntled psychopaths he had a grudge match with. That was Warren’s son and his girlfriend Theresa – who is possibly very pretty under all the makeup. With all the makeup she looks like Barbie. Anyway, all the stuff with the Filofax and the bullet with the pink ribbon was them. Brendan knows what they did. Which is good, because I’m barely keeping up and have forgotten why the pair of them don’t like Brendan. Beyond the usual standard that he’s mad and has stupid facial hair.

No idea where Silas the mass murdering granddad in beige slacks is. I last saw him getting on a bus. As loose ends go, he is one who could undo the very fabric of society.

Mitzee is in prison, sometimes referring to herself as Anne, which is apparently what she was called before she adopted her stage name. Curse her, I have enough problems remembering even one name. Mitzee’s mum turned up. Which is nice. I didn’t know she had a mum. She’s been notably absent so far. In fact I’m starting to think Mitzee’s hallucinating since her mum is allowed to stay there for as long as she likes. Oh I was right. She’s hallucinating.

Brendan cooks Wee Scottish Warren Spawn a birthday meal. The man is comedy gold. He likes making crème brûlée (‘it’s not pudding’) as  ‘you get to use a blow torch at the end, and that’s awesome.’ As it turns out, a sad presage of Brendan’s possible demise, as he must at least have singed that tash.

The teenagers decide to go to Amsterdam as one of them has been having an online romance with Lola. His mates tease him and are convinced that Lola isn’t who she says she is, cue a cry of: ‘for the last time, Lola is not a man’. Oh I think you’ll find she at least talks like a man, even if she walks like a woman. It’s a mixed up world.  Sometimes I love the scriptwriters. The teenagers all arrange a trip to Amsterdam. In Hollyoaks road trips only mean one thing – disaster and several deaths. If you watch Hollyoaks, you’ll never get in another minibus again.

Right, that’s the round up. Now I’m taking one for the team and watching Hollyoaks Later.

Apparently Later involves the Hollyoaks women wearing even less than they normally do.  I’d put in a plea for equality but I don’t really want to see the men wearing any less. Except maybe Dafoe-alike. He’s growing on me. He could just take that vest off.

The teenagers end up in a grotty backpackers hostel with a Christian for a guide to the seamier side of Amsterdam. He’s only there, of course, to turn people away from all the sin that is present in Amsterdam and in no way is he enjoying the proceedings. The boys could see him as their own personal Gladstone.  Mr Christian lectures them on STDs, whilst playing the guitar.

In the meanwhile, Mitzee has escaped. Something about a crash on the way to a mental hospital. She’s handcuffed to a woman almost as deranged as Mercy, but as things turn out, much nicer.

Brendan and Warren-son, apparently called Joel, kidnap Joel’s stepdad who, to be frank, isn’t very nice. Brendan beats him up, whilst dancing to Connie Francis singing Stupid Cupid. It’s very funny, in a very sick way. Later, when Evil Stepdad is thrashing around in Brendan’s car boot Brendan tells him off on the grounds that ‘you’re ruining a good song. That’s my favourite song that is.’

Unfortunately, Brendan’s relatives are not going to let him get away with kidnapping Evil Stepdad, who I think he intends to maim a bit whilst leaving Joel to do the actual killing, a bit like a cat teaches its kittens to kill. Actually, now I think of it, quite a lot like the way a cat teaches its kittens. So the magnificent Cheryl gets in the car with the kidnapped stepdad. Unaware of his presence, Cheryl sometimes asks what’s rolling around in the boot. However, she’s more preoccupied with the fact that her nan’s got cancer. We’re all used to nans conveniently having funerals. In Hollyoaks they inconveniently get cancer. Brendan’s plans for Stepdad will have to take a back seat, or a car boot even, to Cheryl’s need to see dying Nana.

On the way, they start playing the most surreal shopping list game I’ve ever come across. Apparently Brendan’s going to Paris and is taking, amongst other things, a stuffed seagull.

Dying Nan absconds with a horse and carriage. This is definitely on my list of things to do before I die. Or just Things To Do. The week goes on, and gets grizzlier.

Joel drops his stepfather from a lighthouse. I’m not sure it was deliberate but then again, I think the courts don’t generally accept ‘oops, butterfingers’ as an excuse, even in Hollyoaks. They might, even in Hollyoaks, ask why he was suspending his stepfather from a lighthouse in the first place.

Instead of leaving the corpse, or just dropping it further down the cliff, Brendan puts it back in the boot. Oh I don’t know. None of this is really logical. I don’t even know where they are, having drifted off, or perhaps spent slightly too long making a cup of tea during an ad break. They’re somewhere bleak, with a coast, near Chester, and there’s a funfair. Blackpool? They might be in Blackpool.

I skip some of Wednesday’s instalment. Mitzee has found Nancy. I think Nancy might be about to become the world’s worst getaway driver.

In the meantime, the teenagers have made it to Amsterdam without a minibus in sight. Lola as it turns out is not male but is a very attractive woman. Anyway Jonno walks in on Bart snogging Lola. ‘She’s mine Bart’, he shrieks. Oh for god’s sake. You don’t own the woman. Bart starts to have a really bad trip and goes green. Jonno fucks off and leaves him on the street. Nice. Jonno is so preoccupied he fails to notice a naked Neil cycling past him. Lola helps Bart. The Christian wanted to go along to the naked cycle ride, but only to stop the horror of it, obviously. Still no minibus, and the bad trip turns out not to be that bad.

Brendan’s Nanna appears to be sick too, apparently dying as Brendan is speeding away from the cops. I’m confused but I think Cheryl, Joel, Brendan and Nan are in the car, with Dead Evil Stepdad in the boot. At least he’s quiet now. If stopped, Brendan could at least say he was rushing to the hospital. Brendan tries this but the policeman is having none of it until the magnificent Cheryl tells him how it is. I get distracted, look up, and it looks like Dafoe will kill Nana. Sorry, my bad. Maybe I’m hallucinating. No, it’s Dafoe, and he’s angry.

So by Thursday night, Brendan and Dafoe are driving around with a dead stepdad in the boot. And I appear to be watching an episode of Skins. Or what I think Skins is. I never watched it. And Nancy is the pregnant getaway driver for two mental patients.

Somebody is one step ahead of someone, because the body is missing from the boot when the police get there. Brendan notices that Dafoe didn’t panic, which makes him suspicious.

The other mental patient wants to see her boyfriend so she can get pregnant, that’s why she broke out. But she’s still handcuffed to Mitzee. So Mitzee sits outside a car whilst her handcuffee is shagging in a car. Then she has to get in the car. Which is odd. Nanna’s just announced that she wants a threesome. Afterwards, when Mitzee says she really wants to get out of the handcuffs, turns out boyfriend could have got them out of the cuffs all along. Now there’s a surprise.

Then  it gets really grizzly and I feel like I should issue a channel 4 style warning, except they are pitifully inadequate. Next time, when they say I might get upset, I’ll take them more seriously. Turns out Brendan didn’t just ditch the body in the sea but is butchering it. Cheryl sees him and is sick. I agree.

So. Onto Friday. What fresh hell has Hollyoaks Later devised? Cheryl looks at Brendan and says why are you so calm?’ Whilst I’m thinking ‘how did you get the blood out of that shirt?’ Or, do you have lots of identical shirts.

Bart decides to stay in Amsterdam. His mate sees Lola with another man. Lola runs Bart a bath. You sense she’ll be gone by the time it’s full. Actually Bart all but drowns himself and Jonno saves him. All three teenagers get home in one piece. Not before the Christian got high on cookies and had a long conversation with a Jack Russell Terrier.

Away from the comic turn, we find out that Brendan’s father raped him. Nana tells Brendan she knew what was going on. Brendan blames his nan for not acting. I’m not sure that’s really fair. I blame his dad for what he did, not Nana for doing nothing. Brendan smothers Nana. I’m not happy. I’m not watching the late night specials again. Ever. You’re on your own.

Brendan trashes the house, unfortunately causing a gas leak. Really. Have some people no sense. Why is the gas on? Previously, Brendan did something mean with Dafoe’s phone. They call each other, Dafoe thinks Brendan’s a cop and says he thinks he’s trapped Brendan. Brendan says ‘I didn’t see that coming’ just as he gets blown to kingdom come.

Really, I’m sticking to the early evening stuff. And a quick update. Mercy’s kidnapped little baby Bobbie in a bid to get Dumbbell back. Dumbbell slept with Mitzee. After Mitzee and her mad friend had handcuffed Mercy and Dumbbell together. Brendan is OK but a bit singed and in a wheelchair. Dafoe’s playing Good Cop/ Mad Cop and is currently in a Mad phase. I’m going to bed early with cocoa. And finally, as Myra put it ‘Poor Mercy, she never has any luck on her wedding days’. Told you, I love the script writers.

Hollyoaks: Lynsey’s Murder part deux

So, Silas is now out, having faked a fit and then coshed the blackmailing doctor. I don’t know who was responsible, whether it was the police or the prison guards. Silas was left in the care of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who didn’t think to handcuff him to the bed, so it’s not really surprising that he got out. I couldn’t help but think of Hannibal Lecter and the lengths he had to go to to get out of a gimp mask and a cage. Silas had it easy, meaning we have a mass murderer on the loose in the wake of the murder of Lynsey.

Here are the suspects:

The Tashtastic Brendan: first to find the strangled body of Lynsey, dead in his flat. She’d been looking for a holiday in Portugal, a seemingly innocent activity. There was no build up or warning and even Brendan managed to walk past her corpse whilst talking to her, so it’s fair to say her murder was a bit of a surprise. No-one other than the police think The Tashtastic One did it, so he probably didn’t.

The Tash’s mobster enemies: Now this is tricky. I’d rather not say that Hollyoaks is beyond my understanding, but really it is beyond my understanding. So, The Tashmeister sent Son of Warren to do some dodgy drugs deal. SoW was stabbed by dodgy drugs dealers and nearly died. The Moustache, in a revenge attack, put one of them in a coma. The comatose mobster then died (I told you, Chester’s suburbs are dangerous). So the mobsters are seeking revenge against Brendan and may have killed Lynsey, mistaking her for Sheryl. Easy mistake to make if you’re purblind and drug addled, one of them being a petite brunette, the other a statuesque blonde.

Silas: actually in jail at the time. May have astral planed out to commit murder. I’ve been trying to work out who he reminds me of and then I realised. It’s as if someone didn’t like the John Major they had in grey, sent him back, and got another one in beige. No matter what colour the things Silas wears actually are, they all develop a beige aura. Now I think of it, perhaps he didn’t astral plane. Perhaps someone got hold of the John Major Spitting Image puppet, spray painted it in Landlord Beige and clothed it in cast offs from Lakeland. Then they could have put that in prison, the guards wouldn’t have noticed, and they could have sprung Silas.

Will aka Dopey: arrested by the police, currently out on bail. Decided he was going to make money by writing a book about Silas. Was manipulated by the Beige Ninja. Will is apparently the intelligent one in his family. This worries me. No idea where he was when Lynsey was killed, wandering the streets somewhere with no CCTV and no google streetmap cameras apparently. I don’t know where this is, but I’d quite like to know for future reference.

Brendan’s psychopathic friend: So apparently Dafoe-alike knew Australian Ally in a previous life. Lynsey found out. Just possible the Dafoe-esque one strangled her. If you’re a betting person, a good outsider.

Mercedes: Currently 3 to 1 on. Got let of hospital in time to kill Lynsey, though the doctor covered up this information for her. I’m not sure why he bothered since Hollyoaks police think 2 + 2 = pi. Given that she was in hospital for stabbing herself and then framing Mitzeee she’s highly qualified. Also, if found guilty she’d get to spend more time with her mother who’s in jail for growing pot. Except Myra didn’t grow the pot, her nephew did. I think. My head hurts.

Ally aka that one from Neighbours. Provided one of my favourite comic moments when Mr Tashmagoria stood next to him and just said ‘Jesus, you’re huge’. Could be him. Repeatedly tells stories about how his sister was raped and he got there too late to save her/ he was a doctor in Iraq and got there too late to save someone/ World War III was about to break out and he got there too late to stop it/ vampires killed his favourite werewolf and he got there too late. Ach. It probably wasn’t him. He’d only have got there too late.

The Blackmailing Doctor: a latecomer to the party but I have my suspicions. Has a weird thing about Mercedes. Knew she didn’t like Lynsey. Didn’t really like Lynsey himself. Supposedly on shift when it happened. A good outside bet, with shortening odds.

So the escapee, a veritable rampage in pale taupe, went straight round to see Texas. The police, unlike practically everybody else, were unable to work out that was where he would go. Texas cried a lot. Silas turned the air around him a fetching shade of pale magenta. He tied Texas to a chair (really, is this early evening viewing? In my day it was Blue Peter and you were grateful for it). Dodgy came round and banged on the door, and then left, apparently unable to work out that Texas might just be in trouble. Seems Dopey really is the bright one in the family. I predict a career in the police for Dodgy.

Then Silas donned a hat in fetching straw colour and left Texas to be rescued by the Gay American. Darren, never the brightest bulb, told a journalist that Dumbbell the footballer really has been going out with cousin Mitzeee thereby picking up a plot thread the scriptwriters seemed to have forgotten.

Will finally confessed to Nancy Drew, who’s proving not to be as wooden as I first thought, where he was when Lynsey was killed. Proving that he really is Dumbo, Will was acting on the instructions of the Camel-coloured Assassin and using the Biscuit Hitman of Hollyoaks’s best stalking tips to entice a woman to meet him. Turns out, Will’s sole witness on the day of Lynsey’s murder is a woman who caught him videoing her. Fair play to the scriptwriters. Now Will’s only hope of redemption is to find the girl he was stalking and have her act as witness for him to prove he isn’t a mad, murdering stalker.

Hollyoaks, and the murder of Lindsay Nolan

For those not in the know, Hollyoaks is an early evening soap opera. The broadcasters, Channel 4, appear to be under the impression that its core audience is students aged 16-21. In reality, I suspect its core audience is disgruntled people in their early middle age who turned on a bit too early for the news one day and then got stuck there, trying to spot the difference between the shiny, pretty, plastic people and wondering how on earth Hollyoaks College manages to provide both a GCSE in hairdressing, and postgraduate media studies. As one of those 40-somethings who inadvertently (honest guv) started watching it at some point in my 30s, I can vouch for the fact that you end up sitting there thinking ‘well university wasn’t like that in my day, you know’.

What viewers very, very quickly realise is that Hollyoaks bears absolutely no resemblance to any kind of reality with which normal(ish) people might be familiar. It is situated in a shiny, glossy universe which perhaps overlays our own, existing simultaneously in a space–time continuum that is both parallel and utterly unreachable. But do not be fooled by the glossiness, for it comes at a high price indeed.

I sometimes stop watching Hollyoaks for months at a time and during one of my recent hiatuses a serial killer, Silas, emerged, and went around strangling young brunettes. Apparently he managed to strangle his own daughter, mistaking her for someone else, and it comforts me to know that sometimes even the characters have problems identifying each other. By my reckoning he is at least the second serial killer in the show’s history, the other one being that bloke who coshed people over the head. (A word of warning, not only do I sometimes have problems identifying the cast, I often cannot remember the names of those I can identify. So I will use handy nicknames with some frequency). Cosher almost managed to kill Stephanie, a bubbly blonde who was left with epilepsy for the rest of her life. That wasn’t all that long, as she died of cancer a few years later. In the meantime she married Max, who was killed by a speeding driver on their wedding day. Max did manage to rescue his brother Tom, a boy who should never really call anyone ‘mother’ as they all seem to die as soon as he does. The death toll in Hollyoaks seems to be akin to that of 14th century England during a particularly nasty outbreak of Black Death.

Recently I have started watching again and, joy of joys, Silas is back. Well sort of. He is directing operations from jail, like some kind of poundshop Hannibal Lecter. One of his victims, who conveniently survived, was Mercedes. I can identify Mercedes fairly easily as she often wears leopard skin and on occasion reminds me of Kenny Everett singing ‘Do you think I’m sexy’ whilst dressed as Rod Stewart and having his derriere bicycle-pumped to astonishing proportions, such is the impossibility of her hip to waist ratio. Mercedes was briefly married to Silas’s grandson (I think, details are hazy), a footballer I’ll call Dumbbell for now. However she slept with Dumbbell’s father, a plot device which never fails to fascinate soap opera script writers. Thus ended her marriage. Dumbbell, apparently as obsessive as his grandfather, then had a series of brunette girlfriends. One of these was Mitzeee, his cousin (Oh OK, SECOND cousin) and another was Lindsay Nolan. I can remember Lindsay because A. She had an Oirish accent and B. she’s dead.

Mercedes, somewhat unhinged by being locked up by a serial killer/ sleeping with her husband’s father/ generally being a McQueen, started to stalk Mitzeee. She attacked Mitzeee and then stabbed herself, blaming Mitzeee. The police believed her rather half-baked, or indeed entirely unbaked story. The police in Hollyoaks distress me. Lindsay found out about Mercedes stalking activities. Lindsay was found dead. We do not yet know if these two things are connected but the dodgy doctor who discharged Mercedes in time for her to be the moidererer is now blackmailing her. (The scriptwriters are spectacularly misogynist.)

So, the suspects for Lindsay’s murder would seem to be:

Brendan: AKA The Moustache and variants thereof. Brendan is the local Mobster de Jour and is gloriously psychopathic. Hollyoaks scriptwriters may be as androgynist as they are misogynist, now I think of it. You would have to hate mankind to give one of them a moustache like that. Anyway, Brendan didn’t do it, unless he’s got an alternative supernatural personality like Ric in Vampire Diaries, which, now I think of it, is possible. He is a police suspect but generally in Hollyoaks the police point the finger of blame at whoever is least likely to have done it, up to and including Percy the Pig. And anyway Brendan thinks of Lindsay as a sister (though in Hollyoaks, that could mean anything).

Poundshop Willem Dafoe: AKA that friend of Brendan’s whose name I can’t remember, looks a bit like Willem Dafoe, if you squint. And are drunk. Utter psycho, could be him.

Mercedes: High on the list of suspects, almost certainly her. So almost certainly that it probably isn’t, as I suspect she’s the one Hollyoaks producers want us to think did it, so we are surprised when we find out that Dafoe-alike dunnit.

Ali: or that one from Neighbours. Yes, in ‘What fresh hell is this?’ news, not only are the casts of Eastenders, the Bill and Hollyoaks on a permanent* merry-go-round, now the Australian soap stars are coming over here just to confuse us utterly, so that when we wake up mid snooze whilst watching soaps, we can no longer even tell which country the soap is set in. Anyway, Ali appears to think he’s actually Gladstone in disguise and goes around visiting strip clubs to rescue fallen women. Possibly. Or something. Really, the maze of subplots in Hollyoaks is beyond control or human understanding.

* Ok, in the case of The Bill, not really permanent at all.

The plot continues, or unravels, or meanders. As the week goes on, Mercedes gets her claws into Dumbbell. Normally he pretty much hates her but he feels sorry for her because his cousin stabbed her so moves her into his flat, well Mitzeee’s flat, as you do. Much to Mercedes annoyance the Moustache and his sister, the magnificent Sheryl, have also moved in with Dumbbell. At this stage it is important not to ask how you fit so many people into what would appear to the untrained eye to be a two-bedroom flat. Mercedes is looking daggers at them, which is a step up from her normal behaviour of stalk n’ stab. If they die too, it will at least narrow down the number of suspects.

In the meantime we learn not to leave the Gay American to break bad news. He tends to say things like ‘it’s Lindsey, she’s dead’. I suppose what it lacks in subtlety or empathy it makes up for in accuracy. The plot, or at least something, thickens as it becomes apparent that it was really Sheryl the murderer was after. Not sure how this was worked out, something to do with the Moustache’s criminal underworld connections and a pink filofax.

Throughout this Mercedes is acting (if acting is the right word) as if she’s got the words ‘I strangled Lindsay’ written in indelible marker pen across her forehead. Every time she follows anyone anywhere, which is quite often, I feel like we’re getting to that point in a horror movie where the screachy music starts and you sit there thinking ‘no don’t, don’t walk down there. Don’t do that’. ‘Lindsay were me best friend’, she tells Dumbbell, a statement which can be roughly translated as ‘I strangled her because she slept with the father of my baybee’.

Texas, apparently the sister of India, one of the murder victims, has to visit Silas in prison in order to prevent another murder. I stop trying to keep up and instead contemplate place names. You’d think the scriptwriters ran out of ideas and decided to press ‘I feel lucky’ on google maps when finding new character names.

Silas tells Texas there will be a murder at 2pm, which there isn’t (though in fairness I don’t think he specified a day or date and with a broad prediction like that, I expect he’ll be right at some point). Silas has been killing time (as well as all those girls) and believes he can astral plane. He may have been joking at that point but to be honest I was losing the will to live and couldn’t tell. This is quickly becoming the world’s most boring faux-comic mass murderer plotline. Turns out, whether he can astral plane or not, Silas can just bore people to death by being unfascinatingly unhinged. Also, Silas thought Texas and the Gay American would make a cute couple and I lose confidence in the ability of manipulative criminal masterminds if their gaydar turns out to be that inadequate.

Anyway, to add to the joy, we have another suspect in Dodgy’s brother, can’t remember his name, have always thought of him as Dopey the Dwarf, or, possibly, Dopey’s younger brother. Though currently he is looking Dodgy, rather than Dopey, so I’m getting even more confused. Dodgy, in the meantime, continues to look like an unfortunate cross between a ridiculously good looking man and a gerbil. To be honest, I’m finding it difficult to care. It’s not easy to empathise during a serial killer storyline. And I suspect Dopey is a red herring anyway. Saying that, there was a nice Lassie Come Home moment as Dodgy realised he was going to have to chose between his brother and his girlfriend.

Turns out Dopey really is Dopey and has been visiting Silas. Silas is playing tricks. Nope, still bored. The police charge Dopey with murdering Lindsay, so it can’t be him. The magnificent Sheryl says they must have had DNA evidence. For the best friend of a murder victim, this shows an amazing optimism.

The police in Hollyoaks really need to be shipped out to Las Vegas and swapped over with the CSI team. This would liven up both shows no end, as a small village near Chester would finally get to find out what glossy overly made up over-egged scientific evidence actually is, whilst the folks of Las Vegas could be randomly locked up for anything, regardless of evidence. I’m not sure which would work better as a method of law enforcement, but it would make fun viewing. Well, more fun than what’s going on in Hollyoaks right now.

I wake up slightly as it seems the actor who plays Dopey is not a bad actor. It is unfortunate then that his Nancy Drew sidekick, a blonde I have failed to register previously, is marginally more wooden than my desk. Still, apparently she is determined to prove his innocence. In a normal world this wouldn’t be difficult. In Hollyoaks I suspect it’s impossible.

At the end of each episode there is the inevitable Channel Four helpline announcement. Yes, it’s true. If you live in a village in which people have a tendency to stab themselves before murdering people, there is a helpline just for you.

In the end it seems to me that the problem with Hollyoaks is the shear incredibility of the plots and the lack of any subtlety whatsoever. Nothing that Silas does, for all the lisping overacting, nods to Lecter, and perpetual reminders that he strangles young women, comes close to making him as creepy as Troy in Neighbours. Every time I see Troy sawing wood, I’m reminded of Tom Waits singing ‘what’s he building in there?’ It looks like ordinary house renovations but you just know that he’s planning something massively more evil and unhinged than anything a Hollyoaks script writer could devise, self-mutilating murderesses who sleep with their partner’s fathers not withstanding.

My TV advert break hell

So I thought I’d take a break from making attacks on capitalism and greed and instead poke fun at adverts. Errm. OK, that’s not much of a break from an attack on capitalism. But the thought was there.

First off, what is it with those air fresheners things that the advertisers are trying to convince us closely resemble some sort of sculpture. It isn’t a sculpture. No-one will mistake it for some piece of art work they bought on holiday, unless they’re in the habit of collecting air fresheners of the world. And no,  I’m not giving it as a present to a friend. They would be horrified. Who gives air fresheners to their friends? It’s like saying ‘your house smells, here, have this piece of plastic tat.’

If I lived in the world of advertisers, I would be convinced that the entire world smelled horrible and that the way to make this better would be to mask it with artificial scent. The thing is though, generally I find the world smells OK and if it doesn’t, I like to open a window. Whatever chemicals it is they put in those things, they give me a headache far worse than anything my bin or someone’s pet cat might be able to muster. And whilst we’re on this topic, Febreze: I don’t care what you say, it’s just an expensive way to hang things out of the window.

The adverts during films bug me as well. Not the actual advert breaks as such, those are handy if you need a pee, I mean the sponsorship adverts, particularly if they jar with the subject matter of the film. There are some little red riding hood ones. I cannot remember what channel they are on or what they are trying to sell. Adverts don’t seem to have the right impact on me, unless it’s on a subconscious level and actually I buy loads of shit when I’m not looking. Which would be as if, in some bizarre consumerist version of the biblical take on charity, my left hand didn’t know what the right was doing. Anyway, watching something about wolves, grandmas and small children being eaten by lupine predators seemed particularly inappropriate whilst watching The Lovely Bones (if you don’t know the plot, small child gets killed by paedophile).

Then there’s those bloody adverts for Wonga. Actually, they are quite funny. Deceptively funny until you have a little think about what they are selling you. The basic premise seems to be that your lovely granny will lend you a fiver. Or, well actually, she’ll lend you a few hundred quid for a few days. But this grandma has teeth. At 4000% apr,  it’s enough to make any wolf blench. And lets be honest here, if you had a choice of an overdraft at 10% or a payday loan at a few thousand %, you would opt for the overdraft. So these type of loans are generally for the desperate and nowhere does granny tell you how you get through to the next payday, when you will have the same shortfall you had before, plus a loan, plus interest. Take my advice. Don’t go near a granny selling a loan, unless you think there might be someone with an axe nearby to help you out.

As a group (I can’t really tell the fine differences between brands) the adverts I hate the most are the ones for sanitary products. My least favourite tag line of all time has to be ‘Just because it’s your period, we still believe you can be beautiful’. Great idea, thanks for that. Let’s play on women’s often low sense of self esteem and use it to sell them products. Wonderful. Feeling a bit shit for a couple of days a month? Don’t worry. There will always be someone low enough to use that fact to sell you something.

But the thing that really, really annoys me about those ads, is the fact that 9 times out of 10 they are trying to sell their product on the basis that it’s somehow more discreet than anyone else’s. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about discreet as in you can’t see them when they’re in use. This isn’t the roller skating in white shorts thing, mad and annoying as that is. I mean the way the products are sold as somehow quieter and less visible. Ooo they’re so quiet no-one will ever know you’re unwrapping a sanitary towel. Ooo, they’re so small no-one will see them in your handbag unless one of them gets stuck to your Chihuahua. Ooo, you can insert them in the dark if you’re frightened of moths or whatever the fuck that ad was about.

Here’s the thing. Half the population will menstruate at some point in their lives. We spend as much of our time menstruating as we do sitting at traffic lights, a fact I just made up entirely. So, if the woman in the next cubicle to me thinks I might be mid period because she hears a rustle of plastic, I don’t give a stuff, and I don’t suppose she does either. Frankly I’ll empty my pockets out on my desk at work and if that happens to be a tampon or two, I don’t give a monkeys. It’s an entirely natural bodily function and I resent advertisers playing on the idea that it’s somehow shameful.

If there are any other ads that come close to annoying me that much, it’s generally high street opticians. There’s the whole specsavers schtick of ‘oh I know, let’s take piss out of people who can’t see properly without their glasses on’. How? How the hell does that ever work as a strategy? Taking the piss out of the very people you are trying to sell to. How? Why god, why? Anyway. The other one that also pissed me off was whichever company used to tell me that they could make my glasses in an hour. I don’t want you to make my glasses in an hour you fuckwits. They’re my glasses. I can’t see without them, remember. Get them wrong and you could make my eyesight worse than it already is. So do me a favour, take your time and make them properly.

Actually, if I’m really honest, I don’t go through hell in the advert breaks. I mute them, wander off and do the washing up, make a cup of tea or go and change my sanitary product of choice. I assume they have some effect, all those ads, or why would anyone bother making them. But right now, Go Compare are doing their best to ensure that I never use their website, on the grounds that their ads are the kind of sexist drivel that make me want to shoot someone. Oh my eyes. It’s like feminism never happened. And what is it with the Lloyds TSB music? Is it some kind of trigger? Are we being programmed so that in future generations we’ll all go out on some kind of rampage when we hear it? Right, that’s it. Time for a nice cup of camomile.