Monday, July 14, 2008


I have found my new Hotel Babylon, and I'm so pleased. After a week of no television, I finally caught up with this. And I'm so glad I did. I kept remembering bits of it in the shower this morning, and then thinking "no, you dreamt that bit. That didn't happen."


It is simply BANG. It is so joyously wrong it makes you wonder if the commissioning brief said "We are looking for a glossy drama that the Gays can laugh at." Everything about it is perfect - the cast are lovely, it's beautifully shot, and has had money poured over it. But the script...

A few years ago the BBC made "The Young Visiters" based on a 9 year-old's story. Bonekickers goes one better and devotes an entire series to a child's crazy logic. It's like an Armstrong & Miller sketch lasting an hour. Stuff just happens, and keeps on happening, because some screaming brat is yelling AND THAT'S WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. AND THEN THEY FIGHT. LOTS. COS I SAY SO.

So the cast just say stuff that's either wildly clunking or daft. Hopeful young Viv keeps saying that "God is in the little things", and unit head Dr Gillian Magwilde (I had to look it up, but no, that is really her name) talks to her trenches like errant pot plants, cooing "Come on, give up your secrets!".

And yes, suddenly Knights Templar stalk the streets. Brilliantly, they cast Paul Nicholls (last seen kicking gays to death in Clapham Junction) as the loony one who beheads Muslims. Is his agent carving him some sort of niche as a minority slayer? The best thing, though (and I was warned about this, but didn't believe it) is that every one of his lines has been dubbed on afterwards, so it's almost like he's narrating. Sweetly, the two Knights Templar are both pretty boys who share a bedroom, but spend a lot of time in frustrated weeping. "Keep drinking till it gets better" one tells the other. I took this as an instruction. Both end fairly unhappily, and on balance, it would have been better if they'd just shagged.

I could list all of the wonderful moments (but then the internet would fall apart). There's the dead secret order of "Geomantine Monks" whose papers are hidden across time. Or, seemingly, in a university library on a shelf neatly labelled "Geomantine Monks".

There's the lovely local who, when our heroes are looking for the Templar church says, "It's closed, but if it's sightseeing you're after, you can look at my dovecote." And lo and behold, the immaculately clean dovecote contains a neatly sealed paving slab that handily leads to a Secret CGI Templar Chapel. Who would have thought it?

It is at this point that I should point out that the dovecote contains absolutely no birdshit. This distracted me. As much as when one of the characters looks around and says "12 rows, with 56 pigeon holes in each. That's 666 - the number of the beast,"

Two things were wrong with this. Firstly, there were clearly way more than 12 rows in the dovecote. Secondly, 666 divided by 12 is 55.5. Okay, I had to check that, but it seemed fishy maths at the time. Clearly the child in charge was screaming "IT IS RIGHT" and waving around maths homework smeared with jam and melted chocolate.

Anyway, at this dizzying point, they descend into the CGI cavern full of priceless versions of the True Cross. Dr Magwilde promptly sets fire to them ("It is okay, they are just CGI"), and then has a fight over them on ropes with Paul Nicholls and a sword, while underneath plucky Viv sings Jerusalem.

Bang. If ever there was a non-sexual money shot, this was it. I genuinely thought television couldn't get more exciting than Doctor Who the other week, but I was wrong. I tried to stop myself from simply weeing with joy, and couldn't. I had to pause and then watch it all again, jaw swinging gaily in the breeze.

Minutes later, it's over. Not only the True Cross, but also the priceless CGI chamber and the dovecote are destroyed. The owner seems cheerfully delighted at this. The remaining pretty boy Knight Templar is left devastated. What do the main cast do? They trot off to the pub. Laughing.



Perry Neeham said...

I don't watch a lot of teevee but, thinking the continuity gal had called it 'Bonelickers', I left it on the telly in the kitchen while I cooked (OK, heated pizzas & drank heavily).

OMG, it was staggering. I alternately forgot to drink - and then glugged Chateau Waitrose by the tumbler as the true awefulness unfolded. It was if the casting director for CSI had been poached by The Time Team to do a Davinci Code episode of a made-for-TV version of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And they had left the script in the back a taxi.

Like that poet chappie said, it had "a terrible beauty". Made me burn my capricciosa anyway.

Skip said...

oh perry: "was if the casting director for CSI had been poached by The Time Team to do a Davinci Code episode of a made-for-TV version of Raiders of the Lost Ark."

That. Yes. That.

Lippy said...

It is truly dreadful isn't it. Compellingly awful - the true heir of Hotel Babylon and probably Hex!!
Needless to say I love it!

Skip said...

Harley Street is nearly as wonderful - but not quite so. No exploding fireballs. Tish.