Film and Television Features

Slack-Jawed and Square-Eyed #8

January is the worst. It's far too cold to go out and every resolution has fallen by the wayside, the shops are already selling Valentine's Day stuff after we've only just got through the horror of New Year's (which also serves as a reminder that equally the worst February is on its way), and, worst of all, there's nothing to watch on TV. Or at least there isn't now that Sherlock's finished (anybody care to offer any theories regarding that ending by the way? I have a complicated one involving smoke/mirrors/cloning/time travelling robots/actual magic up my sleeve, but considering how they explained the cliff hanger at the end of the first series, the solution will probably be really quite mundane - something involving sticky backed plastic and a couple of old coathangers perhaps?).

Only in January would TV networks try and convince us that New Girl (Friday, C4) really is America's hottest new sit-com, and that Zooey Deschanel isn't at all irritating. Or try and get away with putting Masterchef - the most inexplicably tear-filled hour of TV this side of The X Factor - on every night. Or claim that Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy (Thursday, E4) actually is an adequate substitute for a real programme and not just a bunch of deliberately "random" stuff with no ambition higher than pleasing the post-pub "ironic" student market, that mistakes (admittedly fairly imaginative) costume design for bothering to write a script. I'm not saying that it's one of the worst TV shows I've ever seen but... (CUT TO A CARDBOARD CUT OUT OF RULA LENSKA EATING A JAM SANDWICH).

So, (and I can't quite believe that I'm saying this but) hallelujah for America's Next Top Model: All-Stars (Monday, Sky Living). Yes, it may be merely the latest installment in a seemingly never ending franchise, and it might have aired in America an eternity (or, at least a few months) ago, but at the moment it's the closest thing to artistically challenging TV that the networks are offering.

Don't believe me? Just look at host/creator Tyra Banks, who somehow manages to strut the hitherto unmarked line between maternal/Oprah figure and pantomime dame/drag queen with supreme "fierceness". Or how the show genuinely stretches the English language with an artistry worthy of Shakespeare, somehow claiming the word "ghetto" to be a suitable adjective for just about anything, and, thanks to a branding exercise that's probably best left unexplained, actually attempting to sell hot dogs with the concept "survivor". There's even a bit of action if you count the scene where the girls were hoisted up in stilettos so high that even Grace Jones would balk at wearing them.

Perhaps its most significant triumph is that it actually does the impossible and makes fashion models seem like interesting people. As with any reality TV contest there are a few duds in there - such as Kayla, a girl so boringly obsessed with her own lesbianism that she willingly chose to wear a rainbow flag as a dress in the first episode, or Camille, who seemed to confuse the direction to be "candid" with just being a spectacular bitch to everyone - but on the other hand there's gothic lolita babydoll Allison who personifies the real dark heart of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and has already inspired more than her fair share of internet memery or Angelea, the "ghetto princess" who would gladly scratch your eyes out if you stood in her way. 

And if that's not enough of a recommendation, at least it'll make you feel better for giving up on your New Year's diet - surely the reason that these girls are so spectacularly horrible to each other is because they're just desperate for something to eat. 

Besides, it's not like there's anything else on (well, there is Borgen on BBC4, but things are bleak enough as they are without having to spend countless hours sat in front of another grimy Scandinavian drama).