CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Shivering Poms, grey skies… it’s more Bognor than Bondi
Ten Pound Poms
Unless you know the history of that phrase Ten Pound Poms (BBC1), it’d be reasonable to infer a reference to the charity shop budget of this drama.
Characters were moaning about the Australian heat but shivering in their threadbare cotton dresses and frayed trousers. The sky was overcast, the air dripped with damp and, when a group of actors rushed over a sand dune and into the sea, it was all they could do not to shriek with the cold.
This was more Bognor than Bondi. To disguise the absence of Aussie sunshine, most scenes were shot on studio sets so cramped that the camera didn’t dare move. This gave a soap opera quality to a story that already relied on stereotypes and stock characters — the bigoted Australian braggart, the teenage girl hiding her pregnancy.
Warren Brown plays Terry, a shellshocked World War II veteran who books £10 passages Down Under with all his family for a new life, in 1956. Terry’s wife Annie (Faye Marsay) hopes life in Oz will cure him of his drinking, which is like moving to Las Vegas to break a gambling habit.
They’re given a lukewarm welcome by Australians who accuse them of being homesick whingers and mock their ‘posh’ accents. The banter tips into overt racism and bullying, building into drunken antics that end with an Aborigine youth run down and killed at the side of a road in the bush.
History: Warren Brown (pictured) plays Terry, a shellshocked World War II veteran who books £10 passages Down Under with all his family for a new life, in 1956
Scheming: Michelle Keegan (pictured), as runaway bride-to-be Kate, is seducing an immigration official so she can steal his office keys and rifle through his filing cabinets in search of information about her missing son
Family: Terry’s wife Annie (played by Faye Marsay, second to right) hopes life in Oz will cure him of his drinking, which is like moving to Las Vegas to break a gambling habit
It’s a bleak twist in a drama that veers from comedy to family melodrama and romance to political preaching.
Meanwhile Michelle Keegan, as runaway bride-to-be Kate, is seducing an immigration official so she can steal his office keys and rifle through his filing cabinets in search of information about her missing son.
There’s certainly enough material here for a rich, involving series. The mistake has been to try to cram all of it into the first episode. It’s a shame Ten Pound Poms hasn’t started at a steadier pace, the way Call The Midwife did — letting us get to know the central characters before plunging them into a tangled mess of storylines.
Challenge Anneka: Dementia Special
The characters mattered more than the artificial deadline in Challenge Anneka: Dementia Special (C5), which saw our ever-cheerful Girl Wonder given three days to to build a ‘memory village’ at a day care centre on the Wirral.
The memory village was a clever idea, a collection of old-style shops with a cafe and a pub, to create a sense of nostalgic familiarity for people with dementia.
Annie hurled herself into the task with her usual gusto. She gatecrashed a local radio station to appeal for volunteers, and strongarmed small businesses.
In Challenge Anneka: Dementia Special (C5), Anneka Rice is given three days to to build a ‘memory village’ at a day care centre on the Wirral
Cop-out of the weekend
Britain’s Got Talent (ITV) is usually a Saturday night staple, even on Coronation day last week.
But schedulers ducked out of a head-to-head with Eurovision, and the show switched to Sunday instead.
Simon Cowell & Co didn’t fancy nul points.
‘Don’t clean us out,’ pleaded the boss of a bakery, as she loaded up with muffins and sausage rolls for a knees-up with the old folk.
When she needed labourers to dig a trench, she descended on a nearby rugby club. The lads were willing but, as it turned out, the ladies team were the natural navvies.
A couple of those female prop forwards were wielding pickaxes like it was all they’d ever wanted to do.
Despite all this, after 72 hours the job was far from finished. That wasn’t important: by now, we were far more interested in the people Anneka met.
Ronnie was playing pool when he spied her in her orange anorak and gave her a hug that lifted her off her feet. A natural performer, he greeted her like a long-lost love every time she dropped by.
Sadly, Ronnie died shortly after filming was completed. But she certainly brightened his last days — and he brightened her show.
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