Jaci Stephen's Reviews

Good to see you, Back; The Mail on Sunday; June 17, 2001; Jaci Stephen

Big Brother E4, daily*****

People Like Us BBC2, Sunday*****

Nice Guy Eddie BBC1, Thursday*****

A&E ITV, Thursday*****

Dallas UK Gold, weekdays*****

What a difference a gay makes.

One minute Big Brother was the most tedious programme on television, the next the most watchable. Enthralling. And the reason for this turnaround in perception?

Josh. A gay hunk who joined the house after Penny was evicted.

Josh is very different from Brian, the already resident gay.

Most significantly, he has a tattoo and a very well-muscled, broad back.

On Wednesday morning, stripped to the waist, there was a lot of it on show (thank you, thank you, for the hot day) when he got up early to make the tortilla for lunch. The previous night, I stayed up until Josh went to bed because when he's gone the house reverts to its old self - Bubble in his silly reversed baseball cap, girls doing nothing but holding out their chests, Stuart looking dangerously certifiable when he gets upset about things, like Josh having a better tan than he does.

But when Josh turns up again, the atmosphere is heightened. For lunch, he chopped onions and worried when someone told him Elizabeth didn't like them; he whisked eggs; turned the tortilla out of the pan with mathematical intensity.

They picnicked outside, thanked Josh for the wonderful lunch and one of the cameras gave us lots more shots of The Back. Never has a tortilla seemed so attractive.

Before entering the house, Josh had the foresight to make a video about himself which is going to be shown at a gay festival where his already large legion of fans hopes to encourage others to vote for him. Get those keypads ready now.

One of the outcomes of shows such as Big Brother and Survivor is that the public has been turned into a nation of actors. Docusoap fanaticism, followed by Popstars (Soapstars is coming soon), gives participants delusions of talent, but in truth it is their very ordinariness and, for the most part, their complete lack of talent, that makes them popular.

There are already too many actors in the world as it is, many of them with even less ability than the general public, and reality TV only encourages more.

Now, some of my best friends are actors. A greater number of actors are my ex-best friends. The whole of human life is visible in the acting profession, from the selfish to the excessively generous, the prudish to the profane, the thick to the insightful. But what most actors have in common (not my best friends, obviously) is taking themselves sooooooooo seriously.

The self-obsessed nonsense spouted by many of them gave rise to the term 'luvvie', and this week Chris Langham's brilliant spoof documentary series People Like Us explored luvviedom through the life of jobbing actor Rob Harker (David Tennant) as he hoped for his big break. Langham's creation, the presenter Roy Mallard, is barely seen on screen, but his presence dominates throughout. The documentary voiceover exposes the ludicrousness of the interviewees' lives and the worlds they inhabit, as do the interviewees' own analyses of themselves. 'When you're working, it's full time,' said Rob. 'In fact, it's much more than full time; but most of the time you're not working, which in some ways is harder than working; but then what you have to remember is most actors talk rubbish most of the time.' This was such a beautifully observed piece (written and directed by John Morton) about auditions, casting directors and egos; and Mallard's being drawn into it all was an unexpected and funny conclusion.

One of Britain's most popular and down-to-earth actors is Ricky Tomlinson, who played Jim 'my arse' Royle in The Royle Family.

In fact, it's easier to name the dramas Tomlinson has not been in of late, but in Nice Guy Eddie he is the lead as the private detective with a heart.

Tomlinson is joined by Rachel Davies as Eddie's wife Ronnie, and as the McMullens prepared to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary, Frank (Tom Ellis) turned up announcing that he thought himself to be Eddie's son. It wasn't until the end of episode one that we learned of an incident back in 1977 which could well have turned into the fateful, drunken night when Frank was conceived.

Tomlinson, who couldn't be unfunny if you roasted him on a spit, is perfect for a series which depends on many one-liners but also has shades of blackness. Ellis brings a charm to Frank that makes him the perfect foil to Eddie, and they make a convincing double act.

When you've finished watching Nice Guy Eddie on BBC1, there's an equally enjoyable drama on ITV. A&E has more doctors than patients, and given the time they spend seducing each other it's a wonder anyone ever gets sliced open, let alone stitched back up again. They still manage to get more done than the real NHS, though, but then as actors they get paid a darn sight more.

To be honest, sex is always more interesting than surgery. This week, Sam (Jane Danson) told Christine (Niamh Cusack) that she had had sex with Jack (Michael Kitchen).

Christine punished him by leaving him in the rain.

When he turned up later, he said neither had ever said they would be exclusive. Christine has always seemed the kind of girl who would want exclusivity, but no. 'I want you to get out of those wet clothes,' she said, which is what any sensible lass would say if a bedraggled Michael Kitchen happened to turn up on her doorstep of an evening.

It rains a lot in A&E, and the rain always has the effect of throwing Christine and Jack into each other's arms, and the equally charismatic Cusack and Kitchen (the camera loves them both) are a compelling pair - wet or dry.

It was Sue Ellen's marriage to J.R. in Dallas this week, and the repeats are a good reminder of just how bad television was during the so-called Golden Age. A Hammond organ played the wedding march, matron-ofhonour Pamela was being swallowed whole by her wig, and Sue Ellen turned up dressed in grey and looking for all the world like Blithe Spirit's ghostly Elvira.

'Back tomorrow at the later time of one o'clock,' said the voiceover at the end of Thursday's 12.35am showing. Cliff Barnes had just stood up to object to the marriage. I never found out whether the ceremony went ahead. Over on E4, it was time for Josh to be getting into his pyjamas.