Tapp on TV - Saturday 16 November 2013

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Watching the tv watchers is real telly gold

There cannot be a better way of finding common ground with someone than discussing something you have both watched on the television.

Which is largely why the brilliant Gogglebox (Channel 4 Wednesday 10pm) has gained such a following. The format is beautifully simple: put a camera in the homes of about a dozen strangers, from completely different backgrounds and let them discuss amongst themselves what they are watching this week.

I am a latecomer to the 21st century’s answer to Points of View and am in danger of being utterly hooked by the wonderful characters and their opinions - some of which are remarkably similar to mine, some less so.

You cannot fail to smile when watching pals Sandy and Sandra from Brixton watching the box while stuffing their faces with takeaway grub while discussing Sandra’s sex life. During their review of last Saturday’s Match of the Day larger than life Sandra confided in her pal, and millions of us watching at home:

“When I want to be with Derek and want to get the best out of Derek (said with a proverbial nudge and a wink) I watch the football.” It was very much a case of way too much information but TV gold nonetheless and underlines why she, along with her fellow armchair reviewers have quickly won a place in the nation’s hearts. Yes, some clearly play up to the camera, particularly Merseyside pensioner Leon who revels in making his mild-mannered wife June squirm. Of all the novice critics ,Leon’s views are the most forthright.... he questioned the state of mind of Chelsea manager Jose Mourhino and passed his own withering judgement on MOTD’s host Gary Lineker: “I cannot stand the man...and he’s got big ears.”

Leon is Googlebox’s comic heart, and the laughs are largely down to the couple’s many anecdotes the funniest of which came when he and June watched Channel 4’s Bouncers, a documentary on the doormen of Essex. While watching paralytic herberts roll around on the pavements of Colchester, June reminded her husband of the time he was worse for wear at a friend’s party.

She said: “You were sick on the carpet,” before he replied with a hint of a sigh: “He’s dead now”.

You could not get further away from such real life comic moments than a drama which started life as a gripping thriller but ended with a neat, American crime series ending.is

Quite what the scriptwriters of the hitherto excellent Escape Artist (BBC1 Tuesday 9pm) were smoking when they concocted the third and final episode of this legal-based mini series, only they know.

The previous two episodes had been fast moving and, although I am sure legal professionals will completely disagree, seemed to have basis in fact, but the finale was a let down, largely because it was totally out of keeping with what had gone before.

What the viewer was subjected to was an hour of fantasy, when it could have easily been wrapped up in half that time. We were supposed to believe that the excellent David Tennant’s Will Buxton (the best young legal brain in the land) was so overcome with grief and rage after his wife’s twisted murderer’s acquittal that he could come up with a murder plot of his own, so complex that it would not look out of place in a Dan Brown novel. With the help of a disappointly cliched Eastern European criminal, he tracked down killer Liam Foyle to a Scottish hideaway where he managed to slash him with a knife which he had previously used to prepare shellfish, to which Foyle had a catastrophic allergy.

If this was not fanciful enough, this grief stricken widower was able to have the presence of mind to build the perfect legal case, which of course he presented himself from the dock.

Although a happy ending, viewers could be forgiven for wondering why they had bothered sticking with it.