–Thursday July 14th-
Lordy lordy. Fuck me. Another double bill. So, not only is the show on five nights a week, but two of them are double bills. That’s a staggering three and a half hours of original content per week; an hour longer than The Great Escape. And if you’re wondering how the Emmerdale team manage to maintain the quality, they don’t.
Actually, I’m being unfair. This was comfortably the best episode(s) of the week so far. It was warm and chirpy with lots of attempted jokes of which two or three were genuinely funny (let’s face it, that’s a higher success rate than Citizen Khan – and this blog). The most enjoyable thing about the episode was that it branched out and focused on some new storylines and characters. There were even a few new locations, including a beauty salon (every village needs one) manned, or, rather, womanned, by two cheeky gossips and visited, quite peculiarly, by a man who looked like Sloth from The Goonies and his very young daughter. The very young daughter wanted her hair like Holly Hagan.
‘The wrestler?’ replied one of the gossips. Good joke #1.
The most refreshing aspect of the show, though, was the amount of crisps being shoved into the characters’ gobs. You seldom see people eating crisps on television but tonight’s episode showed the villagers cramming them in; after the nonsense in the vestry yesterday, it was good to see the director experimenting with a more cinema verite flavour (they were out of prawn cocktail). Try as I might, I couldn’t work out which brand of crisp they were eating. I’ve always been a fan of make-believe soap opera brands, from Eastenders’ Cromer beer to Corrie’s Freshcos supermarket; I was hoping that the Emmerdale crisps were made by an equally silly variation on an accepted brand, like Wankers or Smyths, but no such luck. Later on in the episode, some bespectacled buffoon celebrated a job promotion by necking a can of the shiftily-named ‘Energy Drink’. But that was as good as it got on the own-brand front.
I suppose it’s possible the Emmerdale production team are on the down-low with product placement. Even for their own-brand gear. They’ve been criticised for going over-board with in-show advertising in recent years, particularly with McCain products. Characters have been regularly popping McCain jacket potatoes into the microwave and pouring McCain oven chips onto baking trays. What’s worse, they’ve been saying things like ‘Finally, a jacket potato that doesn’t take an hour to cook’ and ‘Ooh, lovely oven chips – and only 5% fat!’ The British public will put up with a lot of things – gender pay gaps, line rental price fixing, big business tax avoidance – but they won’t tolerate being given the hard sell on oven chips during soap operas. I believe there’s even a line or two about it in the Magna Carta. Oven chips occupy a dark chamber in Britons’ hearts due to their chronically underwhelming comparison to actual chips. It’s scientifically proven that oven chips are impossible to cook properly. They either come out burnt at the tips or hard and white. ‘Gently cook for 25 to 30 minutes’ it says on the package. It’s the biggest lie in the culinary world. Fifty minutes later, at an oven’s hottest temperature, and they’re still nowhere near done.
It’s said by food industry insiders that oven chips are the main reason Gordon Ramsey became so angry.
Stubble-Sporter and Lady Vicar had a much better night of it compared to yesterday. Their affair had been given the all-clear by Bishop Barry, on the condition, she said, that she kept her ‘head down’. Why a respected Bishop should advocate such lewd behaviour is beyond me. I shall be writing to my own Bishop to ask for his take on the matter.
Lady Vicar then bumped into Stubble-Sporter’s grumpy daughter in the salon and they had a bit of a squabble before making friends and chinking wine glasses together towards the episode’s end. All’s well that ends well. Stubble-Sporter had a quiet day, putting in the odd appearance here and there. There were no vestry sex marathons or fights with inner city drug lords. The high point was his classic Pub Leather jacket which he wore with pride, generally carrying the demeanour of a man who might drink the milk off your doorstep. Female vicars, I’m told, love that shit.
With the general lack of stabbings, there was more time for me to take in the sets tonight. In a programme where nearly every house looks like a page from the Habitat catalogue, my two favourite interiors were trend-buckers: namely, Stubble-Sporter’s insane hotch-potch of a living space and Jake Humphrey’s chilling domestic vision of tomorrow.
Stubble-Sporter’s house, for reasons I can’t explain, was basically an open-plan granny annexe. The kitchen area was dingy with browned nets in the windows. On a lopsided kitchen worktop sat a tea-drenched cosy suffocating a broken tea pot. The cupboards and units were of a raw 1940s vintage. There were things flung everywhere, with knitted throws draped over all available seating. It was one of those rooms that looked like everything smelt of dog. It was basically the Yorkshire equivalent of a shack from Deliverance. At t’other end of spectrum was Jake Humphrey’s house: a cross between a trendy male hairdressers (lots of black leather upholstery, framed pictures of cars, vibrating chairs) and the apartment Joey moves into in Friends when he gets the part of Dr Drake Ramoray on Days Of Our Lives (glass skulls, wooden carvings, ceramic animals).
Jake and his husband, Aaron, you may recall, were due to do a runner tonight. They were going to pack their bags and flee. Well, they got as far as packing their bags. Then Aaron found a scan of Humphrey’s unborn baby and got all angry thinking about how his husband and Posh Edinburgh Festival Girl had done the deed whilst he, Aaron, was in prison for entirely noble reasons. Enraged at the sight of the baby’s stupid, yet-to-be-formed face, he chased Humphrey down with a wrench and threw it at him, narrowly avoiding his head and smashing a car windscreen.
‘Eh!’ shouted an onlooker. ‘I’ve been lookin’ for that wrench!’ Good joke #2.
Posh Edinburgh Festival Girl arrived, adding fuel to the proverbial. Earlier in the episode, Humphrey had told her his secret plan to leave. She wasn’t best pleased. Especially after he’d promised to help her raise the child earlier in the week. To cushion the blow, he gave her two presents. First, a cheque for £100,000. Second, a photograph of his dad standing next to a tractor.
Back at the scene of the annual North Yorkshire Wrench-Flinging Contest, Aaron got into Posh Girl’s face:
‘Ever wondered what I’d do to you if you were a bloke?’ he sneered at her. It was meant to sound intimidating but it sounded a little erotic.
By the episode’s close, Aaron had worked himself into such a stupor that his self-inflicted stomach wounds (from Tuesday’s episode) began to bleed. He and Humphrey had a little sit down discussion and came to a conclusion. They’d decided that, what with the self-harm, wrench-flinging, money-burning, posh-girl-shagging, drug-dealing, photo-smashing and what-not, maybe they shouldn’t stay together anymore. And for all my jokes, the scene was unexpectedly moving, with Aaron, in particular, putting in a tear-streamed performance that could only be the result of a) talented acting b) working incredibly long shifts to create three and a half hours of Emmerdale a week. I’m sure it was down to his talents, but I expect most of the cast could cry at the drop of a hat if required. I know I might be able by the time Friday’s episode finishes.