Are you not entertained?

Rachel Moloney questions why ITV and the BBC find it so hard to hold onto their female judges.

I was complaining not so long ago about the horrendous vacuum emerging on my TV screen. I need that final ever series of Gossip Girl (Blake Lively seems too busy marrying Ryan Reynolds), I’m dying to know if Carrie’s memory will return in Homeland (Claire Danes is too busy being pregnant) and there’s been an Olympics-shaped hole in my life ever since we handed over those silly flags to Rio.

Nevertheless, there is a little shimmer on the TV horizon that will just have to do in the meantime. Incapable of coming up with any new and original ideas, BBC and ITV are sticking to their predictable Saturday night formulas, with Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor trundling slowly towards the first of their live shows. Ever since Autumn 2004 (yes, it’s been that long!), there’s been a familiar page in the TV guide, as these two giants persistently battle it out in the ratings war.

However, it’s not all sparkles and glamour, and there’s always a bit of controversy lurking in the wings. From Brendan Cole’s tantrums to Frankie “Casanova” Cocozza, both shows revel in a touch of the sordid and continue to intrigue everyone with their unexpected dramas and backstage antics.

The ‘musical chairs’ game that the judging panel seemingly play is an endless source of both amusement and controversy. While Craig’s ‘cha-cha’s and Len’s ‘Sevvvenn’s have been permanent fixtures throughout Strictly’s history, it’s been chop and change in that final seat ever since Arlene Phillips’ very public departure. Similarly, you never know who’s going to turn up on The X Factor, with Mel B, Rita Ora and Geri Halliwell all taking it in turns to cover for the main event: Nicole Scherzinger (who’s reportedly now facing the axe). No surprises there then.

So why is it so hard for the BBC and ITV to hold onto their female judges? All I want is for a panellist to sit still, settle into their role and be comparatively worthy of that grotesque paycheck. But the women just come and go as they please, and their hasty exit really says little for the producers or stars themselves, who simply give the impression of having the attention span of a gnat.

But it’s these shock dismissals and replacements that set the British public alight. Ultimately, we just can’t get enough of some dirty dealings, like Simon getting rid of Cheryl, or Kelly bitching with Tulisa, and above all, we love somebody to hate. Particularly if their outspokenness is unpredictable.

For instance, Benedict Cumberbatch, a thoroughly nice chap, recently described Downton Abbey as being “f****** atrocious”. Now, I’m sure a lot of my friends would agree, as I remember my housemate commenting on my channel choice with “God Rach, my Nan watches this”. However, Cumberbatch’s words were angrily received by a legion of Downton fans, who were quick to label him a ‘Cumberbitch.’

This ingenious nickname wouldn’t have happened three years ago, as I remember my English teacher once telling us how she’d recognised him outside a West End theatre, where he’d practically admitted that he was a nobody. Yet in 2012 and with two Sherlock series done and dusted, that’s all a bit ironic now.

He’s also since won an Olivier Award for his portrayal of Frankenstein on the London stage; a trophy that he had to share with co-star Jonny Lee Miller. They took it in turns to play the ultimate bad guy, whether you think that’s Frankenstein or the monster he created, in a greatly received adaption directed by Olympics’ mastermind Danny Boyle. Even Danny couldn’t help but add a touch of the evil and macabre to his opening ceremony, with a gigantic Voldemort figure soaring up to the skies. In an attempt to reflect British literature, he could have chosen some prim and proper characters from Jane Austen or The Famous Five, but instead felt that our glorious country would be summed up best by the most threatening villains imaginable. Well, that’s reassuring.

So, with our obvious love of dark matters, it’s no wonder that Tim Burton has revamped Shelley’s popular tale in the horrifically titled Frankenweenie. The film hits cinemas on October 12th and tells the story of Victor Frankenstein’s pet dog Sparky, who dies and is then (excuse the pun) sparked back into life again by his loving master. Happily ever after? I don’t think so.

Burton is the undisputed king of the odd and threatening, and adds an even more gothic tinge to proceedings with his use of black and white animation. On first glance, the film is let down by the title, but based on Burton’s previous films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride, it’s clear that there’s more to the tale than just adventure and talking animals. And although the director seems to have crossed Johnny Depp off his contact list, he nevertheless manages to enlist the help of old favourites Christopher Lee and Winona Ryder, who lend their vocal talents to the film.

Now, Winona is a talented actress and has starred in over 40 films, yet what do we all remember her for? Being naughty and shoplifting in 2001. It just goes to show how the public never tire of someone doing something bad, out of the ordinary or faintly rebellious. Whether it’s deliberately breaking the law, speaking out of term, or controversially leaving a show, people love the drama. And the entertainment industry will exploit it for all its worth on the big screen, small screen and news headlines.


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