Saturday 18 November 2017


The Biggest Loser Tuesday, TV3/ITV Operation Transformation Wednesday, RTE 1 Eternal Law Thursday, ITV Sherlock Sunday, BBC 1 New Girl Friday, Channel 4

I don't think I saw an adult cry until I was in my teens. Nowadays you can't turn on the telly without seeing grown-ups weeping. Not so in the olden days. Check out the great vintage telly programmes up on RTE's online player to celebrate their 50th birthday. Not much crying there.

Now, I'm not saying that emotional repression is a good thing, just that the alternative isn't as cathartic or meaningful as contemporary telly producers would have us believe. Crying is just crying. But from X Factor to Wife Swap, leaking eyes have become television shorthand for emotional growth. And audiences love it. It's only a matter of time before there's a whole network showing round-the-clock footage of people having a weep -- the Sobbing Channel.

Nothing makes people cry on telly as much as weight gain or weight loss. This week, new series of The Biggest Loser and Operation Transformation began with so much sobbing it was like Weepfest 2012. That said, apart from a shared weeping-and-weight-loss theme, Operation Transformation and The Biggest Loser are quite different.

The former is a well-intentioned, if dull, cross-platform (radio/telly/internet) attempt to get the whole country living healthily. My only problem with it is that, despite the wonderful possibilities inherent in the name, Operation Transformation only ever transforms participants into boringly skinny people (TV has plenty of those already). It would be nice for a change if one transformed into a cyborg, werewolf or duck.

The Biggest Loser is more cynical. I'm not sure a programme which shows slowed-down footage of obese people eating cake and then gets wiry-bodied fascists to yell at them while triumphalist classical music plays, really has their best interests at heart. Furthermore it's hosted by Davina McCall who has cold, dead shark-eyes. She looks on at the exercising commoners with ersatz concern on her face, but you know she really wants to be at home using hair-care products. "Let them eat cake," she's probably thinking.

Davina is different from you and me. An otherworldly entity come to earth to empower us through light entertainment, she'd fit right in on Eternal Law. This new ITV drama is a mix between Law and Order and '80s classic Highway to Heaven and is about a couple of lawyers who are really space ducks. I mean angels. I got confused by the way their big feathery wings pop out of their jackets at times of stress (like space ducks . . . or someone shoplifting a stuffed swan).

Thankfully they're not boring angels who pray all the time, but bitchin' angels who punch baddies and fall in love with human ladies. (Angels! they come down here taking our lawyer jobs and women!)

One angel is a cynic with a secret past. The other is constantly amazed at ladybirds and human emotions and is a bit thick (he's surprised that "fallen angels" were once normal angels, even though the clue is in the name).

Their nemesis is a demonic prosecuting lawyer who chews the scenery, laughs evilly and says things like: "I see a bad moon rising." Is he warning of ominous things to come? Or does he just really like Creedence Clearwater Revival? Time will tell. For my high-concept crime-fighting I'll stick to Sherlock, which kicked off with a typically stylish episode on Sunday.

Indie-movie darling Zooey Deschanel certainly needed angelic help last night in new sitcom New Girl. A recently dumped manic-pixie-dream-girl, she spends her time singing to herself, weeping (again) and bumping into things . . . much like a toddler.

Luckily the three men she moves in with find her self-centred helplessness delightfully kooky and go out of their way to look after her. It's basically the plot of Three Men and A Baby. It made me cry.

The Biggest Loser HIIII

Operation Transformation HHIII

Eternal Law HHIII

Sherlock HHHHH


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