BACK in the 17th Century, some of our ancestors started sticking their oar into India and other parts of the world.
Results were mixed.
6 New ITV drama Beecham House is the result of liberal self-loathing over the British Empire and sheer panic over the end of Downton AbbeyCredit: KUDOS/Itv
About a decade ago, though, television decided it was an evil almost beyond compare and we had to be apologetic about the British Empire, for all eternity, even during ITV’s Sunday night 9pm to 10pm slot.
Latest result of this self-loathing is Beecham House, a lavish and expensive, not to mention dreadful, new ITV drama which is supposedly set in 1795 Delhi but can be far more accurately carbon dated to the early 21st century period between March 2015, when Poldark took his top off, to 10.45pm on Christmas Day, 2015.
That was when the last ever episode of Downton Abbey finished, ITV execs panicked and suddenly thought: “Oh s***. We need another show with a big house and a strong, silent, topless gardener who gallops around searching for love, fulfilment and all that toss.”
So we’ve now got this six-part series fronted by Tom Bateman, who actually made a promising start to playing soldier-turned-trader John Beecham.
He got shot.
I’d have run the closing titles right there and then and promised viewers: “ITV will return in about 2025, when it’s got some new ideas.”
According to the caption, however, “three years later” John Beecham was back and he’d brought his extended family with him to fill the big house.
They include: His dear old racist mum, played by Mrs Patmore off Downton, a motherless baby, wayward brother Daniel, some pot-stirring French git called General Castillion and two underwhelming bits of female love interest, who won’t get any bloke switching over from Love Island in a hurry. Also present is Citizen Khan himself, Adil Ray, who’s moved in next door wearing a glued-on beard that last saw serious action in Carry On Up The Khyber.
So I hope no one was expecting a laugh, or a plot. Because Beecham House hasn’t really got one, apart from the baby issue and Beecham’s grovelling desire to be granted a trading licence, which both generate lots of sarky backchat from the locals, but not much else.
It all stands or falls then, almost entirely, on the leading character.
And, oh boy, does this one ever fall.
6 For the want of charisma, ITV have had to dress poor Tom Bateman up as Indiana JonesCredit: KUDOS/Itv
6 John Beecham and his extended family fill the big house
As absolutely everyone’s noticed, for the want of charisma they’ve had to dress the poor bloke up as Indiana Jones, which can’t be a lot of fun in that climate.
Even with the overcoat, cowboy hat and women throwing themselves at him, John’s brother still thinks he’s “the dullest man in Delhi”.
The thing that really weighs him down, though, is Empire guilt. The righteous berk can hardly look at an Indian without apologising.
“Your Imperial Highness, I implore you judge me by my actions not my flag.”
“I am not like my countrymen.” “Their hypocrisy sickens me.” “The East India company’s policy of expansion is shameful.” “I love your country and believe India should be ruled by Indians.”
1795? He’s so woke he could be reading last night’s Channel 4 News.
An approach that’s unlikely to win the show many friends, I’d have thought, or stop the more right-on viewers accusing him of having “big white saviour syndrome”.
Ultimately, though, I have absolutely no real idea whether John Beecham will strike a chord with the viewers, because, like most shows broadcast in the Sunday night 9pm to 10pm slot, I am not part of the target female audience.
All I’m meant to do is sit dumbly and join in the apologetic Empire chorus.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m not sorry at all.
Trailer for ITV drama Beecham House with Tom Bateman, Lesley Nicol, Gregory Fitoussi, and Adil Ray
TV answers of the week
TIPPING Point, Ben Shephard: “In Only Fools And Horses, who plays the character known as Del Boy?”
Ben: “David Frost.”
Fifteen To One, Sandi Toksvig: “What is the two-word term for a flashing orange globe mounted on a striped pole, used at pedestrian crossings, named after a 1930s minister of transport?”
Kresha: “Traffic light.”
And Love Island, Molly-Mae: “What is the capital of France?”Tommy: “I don’t know.”
(All contributions welcome.)
Don’t get over-Psyched
PSYCHOPATH With Piers Morgan (ITV, Thursday, 9pm) requires expectations to be managed, because it’s barely a minute old when Porky-Talkie reveals: “The prison considers Paris Bennett so dangerous they insist I interview him behind toughened glass.”
And if that’s not health-and-safety gone mad, I dunno what is, frankly.
RE: Love Island. If Joe and Lucie were “Jucie” and Jordan and Anna “Jordanna”, did that make Elma and Scottish Anton “Elma Fud”?
Debate primed to fail
NEVER a good sign when you can tell a show’s going to be a disaster just from the furniture.
But that was the case with last Tuesday’s big political bun fight, on BBC1, which looked more like a dating show or fire sale at Louis Walsh’s gaff than a debate to decide Our Next Prime Minister.
6 Emily Maitlis barking on BBC1’s Tory leadership debateCredit: supplied by Pixel8000 07917221968
It sounded like it as well, from the way host Emily Maitlis kicked off, barking: “Five men. One job.” A phrase I don’t think I’ve heard any presenter utter since Kerry Katona was fronting ElimiDate, back in 2002.
Long before it got to air, Maitlis and the BBC had also clearly decided Boris was the “Islamo- phobic” booby prize, because not one of the researchers saw any warning signs being given off by Abdullah, from Bristol, who’d deactivated his Twitter before appearing on the show. The prize guy, naturally, was meant to be Rory Stewart, who liberal political commentators all think would make a great Conservative Party leader, in the same way they probably think Iggy Pop would make a great lead singer of One Direction.
Turned out, though, he’s a fidgeting little oddball who was political toast long before he sighed at Boris: “I’m sure, like me, you’ve been in Enniskillen sitting with sheep farmers.”
So, by the end of the night, an attempted BBC stitch-up had accounted for: Rory Stewart, one anti-semite, from Bristol, some other bug-eyed Corbyn cultist demanding an early election and probably Emily Maitlis’ credibility as well.
Boris, meanwhile, just ploughed on regardless.
Well done, everyone.
Great TV lies and delusions of the weekOur Next Prime Minister, Emily Maitlis: “My job is to seek clarification.”
Celebrity Crystal Maze, Gemma Collins: “Just being honest, it’s an honour for you to have me.”
And The Last Leg, Alex Brooker: “The problem with me swimming The Channel is I can’t swim.”
Bag of s***
ON Thursday’s Shopping With Keith Lemon, former market trader Rob Beckett claimed: “I used to sell compost and you can’t up-sell a bag of s***, can you?”
Yet it never stopped him trying on All Together Now.
6 This week’s winner is Rory Stewart and the puppet from Interpol’s Evil video
Sent in first by John Wheatley.
Picture research Alfie Snellling.
Amazed by Gem’s hissy fits
IT’S nearly six months since that great foghorning orca, Gemma Collins, last made an exhibition of herself on television.
So I suppose we were overdue Friday’s appearance on Celebrity Crystal Maze, where she rumbled round the course, like Indiana Jones’ concrete ball, alongside Carol Vorderman, Ellie Taylor, Rick Edwards and her on/off boyfriend Arg.
6 Gemme Collins insulted her Celebrity Crystal Maze co-stars Carol Vorderman, Ellie Taylor, Rick Edwards and on/off boyfriend ArgCredit: (Channel 4 images must not be altered or manipulated in any way) CHANNEL 4 PICTURE PUBLIC
And how that pair avoided wedging themselves inside one of the show’s duct shafts will remain for ever one of the Channel 4 show’s great mysteries.The rest of Celebrity Crystal Maze was a bit less of surprise, though, to be honest.
Gemma bellowed over everyone, insulted her co-stars, threw a hissy fit inside one virtual reality game – “Nah, sorry. Stop the game” – and told host Richard Ayoade: “You must be clever ’cos I’ve got the mind of a genius and you’ve made me laugh.” She also attempted to create some sort of mystique around “The GC” tag, claiming it was nothing to do with her initials and inviting alternative suggestions from Carol, who remained diplomatically silent, even if I’d swear you could see in the thought bubble above her head . . . “Gigantic consonant vowel consonant consonant.”
Gemma Collins screams for the Crystal Maze producers to ‘stop the game’ in epic meltdown
THE Real Chernobyl proving the perfect accompaniment to Sky Atlantic’s show of the year.
Susanna Reid’s digestive tract going into deep spasm when Geoffrey Boycott asked her out for lunch, on another unmissable Good Morning Britain.
Top Gear’s Chris Harris attempting to drink a glass of water while being electric-shocked by Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness.
And Alien Fun Capsule host Harry Hill responding to Stephanie Beacham name-dropping former Dynasty husband Charlton Heston: “Yeah, Charlton Heston. He was slumming it a bit after Ben Hur, wasn’t he?”
ITV has just one brilliant comedy show. Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule, co-written by Paul Hawksbee and Dan Maier.
Slightly to my surprise, I’ve learned it also has a Head of Comedy called Saskia Schuster, who’s just told something called the Diverse Festival – and what a laugh riot that sounds – she will no longer commission shows written only by men.
In the great sweep of ITV history, the possibility exists, of course, that someone has made a more stupid, pointless, self-defeating, virtue-clogged, brain-fart of a commitment than this one.
It’s just that I can’t think of it at the moment.
Great Women’s World Cup Insights
LAURA Bassett: “She had her arms by her side behind her body.”
Casey Stoney: “Cameroon have got that no-lose attitude, even if they lose.”
Jordan Nobbs: “If England keep believing, the second half will come.”