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This Sinbad leaves us all at sea

ITV lowered its game quite magnificently on the first weekend of the BBC and RTE2's saturation Olympics coverage by filling its schedule with wheezing repeats of Midsomer Murders, Marple and A Touch of Frost.

It might just as well have thrown a sweat-stained towel into the middle of the screen and screamed, "Take me, Clare Balding, I'm yours!"

Channel 4 (more of which presently) hasn't tried much harder and as for RTE1's weekend flagship Saturday Night with Miriam, well: let's just say it's never nice to speak ill of the dead.

Which pretty much leaves us with the dismal Sinbad, Sky 1's retooling of the old Arabian Nights staple, filmed at considerable expense in Morocco and given some post-production polish by the Dublin office of Impossible Pictures.

I don't think Sinbad is aimed at me, since I gave up being a 12-year-old boy a long time ago. Whether 12-year-old boys think it's aimed at them, however, is moot. Sinbad has been sailing along for several weeks now and it's easy to see why it's not caused much of a ripple so far. Pitched at the audience that enjoyed Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, it's a bit on the dull side.

This episode found adventurous sailor Sinbad -- played by a Birmingham-born newcomer called Elliot Knight, who looks like he couldn't run a bath, let alone a ship -- and his motley crew stuck on a becalmed sea under boiling sun.

They spent a great deal of time standing around on deck moaning about how none of them had had more than a sip of water in days, and doing it in a baffling variety of accents and styles.

One moment a dreadlocked young dude who's overdone it on the guyliner is coming on all contemporary London with that annoying, upswinging "Yeah?" at the end; the next a grizzled old Norseman is hammily growling, "Vengeance is a thing of destruction."


After what feels like an eternity, a ghostly ship glides into view. There's a lot of maggots aboard but only one human passenger: a kindly old man who turns out to be the personification of DEATH HIMSELF!

Who knew the personification of DEATH HIMSELF! looked exactly like Timothy Spall?

I guess Sky 1 pays better than Mike Leigh movies.

There were a few decent bits of shivery CGI, but Sinbad is way too po-faced for its own good. It really needs to stick its tongue that bit harder into its cheek.

There were plenty of tongues stuck in cheeks (and lots of other places, too) in Sex Story: Fifty Shades of Grey, which ostensibly set out to examine the phenomenal success of the smutty novel by EL James (aka mother-of-two Erica Leonard).

Variously described as "Mommy porn" and "chicklit with spanking", Fifty Shades started life as a piece of Twilight online fan fiction, became an e-book and then turned into the fastest-selling paperback in publishing history, with 30m copies already shifted in Britain alone and its two hastily written sequels racking up the same kind of numbers.

For about 20 minutes the film stuck to the remit, as a variety of well-known women, including Bonnie Greer, Pamela Stephenson, journalist Kathy Lette, blogger/novelist Brooke Magnanti (aka Belle de Jour) and TOWIE's Amy Childs, took turns unpicking why this apparently badly written tale of the sado-masochistic relationship between a virginal student called Anastasia and a handsome billionaire called Christian Grey has been getting women around the world hot under the knicker elastic.

Sociological investigation was soon dropped, though, in favour of a seedy sidle down the sleazy side-alleys of sex shops and spanking clubs. Fifty shades of grey there may be, but this remained firmly at the grubby end of the colour spectrum.

Sinbad */**** Sex story: fifty shades of grey */****