There's a new Cant on EastEnders and for once I am happy

WELL, if EastEnders can’t wipe the showbiz smirk off Brian Conley’s face, nothing can.

Look at what it did to poor Bobby Davro and his character Vinnie Monks.

He arrived full of the same “cheeky chappy” spirit, in October 2007. Ten months and a fling with Shirley the Terrahawk later, he left “for a new life in Southend”, a broken man.

Admittedly, the show did also bring about the most remarkable transformations in Shane Richie and Mike Reid.

You still worry slightly, though, for Conley, who appeared in Walford this week burdened with similar expectations and the most appropriate character name since Rainie Cross. He is Terry Cant (London’s full of them).

He’s also Sonia Fowler’s long-lost dad and is known to his friends as “Rocky”, after the famous film where, I’m assuming, he stunt-doubled for Eric Stoltz.

EastEnders is a much more modest production, obviously, and it often feels like it’s getting more modest by the minute.

Since the last update, it’s lost: Kush, under a train; Ian Beale; Bronson the dog; Chantelle (death by dish-washer); Tina; and Max the Mekon, who was beamed back to the mothership shortly after impregnating Linda Carter. So you can expect a little, ginger alien to burst out of her stomach some time in the early autumn.

In terms of global homicide rates, Walford is probably now up there with downtown Tijuana, which shouldn’t be such a surprise given there are currently nine killers all living within a 30-metre radius of each other, including serial murderer Gray Atkins, the so-called CCTV Killer (he always strikes when it isn’t working), who’s bumping off the deadwood at a rate of one cast member every two months.

A big part of me still wants to believe Gray’s doing this on behalf of senior BBC executives who want Albert Square cleared of all human life by Christmas 2024, latest.

Yet I’d be lying to you if I said something strange hadn’t happened to EastEnders over the whole lockdown period.

“Enjoyed” is too strong a word ever to attach to EastEnders. It is the chore to end all TV chores but there was a certain reassurance and vicarious pleasure to be had from watching the regulars drinking in The Queen Vic while pubs were off-limits to the rest of us.

It can’t all be explained by pub nostalgia, though. It also owes something to the generally awful quality of TV drama this year, as you may have noticed if you got bogged down watching ITV’s Innocent, or BBC1’s The Pact this week. Call it levelling-down if you like but there’s been a sea-change in the tone of television as well.

EastEnders, of course, will never be anything other than massively pleased with itself and its right-on agenda.

But at least it hasn’t got any smugger recently, unlike the rest of the schedule, which rarely stops preaching and virtue-signalling from on high.

It means I now feel less brow-beaten and patronised by EastEnders than I do by Coronation Street, Good Morning Britain, The One Show and even Sky Sports bloody News, occasionally.

I’m also better able to appreciate the technical brilliance of the EE production crew, who’ve made social distancing vanish, and talented actors like Maddy Hill, who reappeared recently as Nancy Carter, took one look at the Walford gene pool and decided: “I want to be sterilised.”

Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

If they can curb Conley’s tendency to show off and EastEnders don’t drown his character in the usual misery, I may even warm to Terry Cant, a likely lad who’s spent his first two episodes dropping names and spinning tall tales about his showbiz life in The Queen Vic.

According to his own legend, Terry worked with “Sly Stallone”, “U2”, “Sean Penn, Madonna . . . ”

Then he recorded Brian Conley Sings and the poor sod washed up here.


BIG Weekends Away host Gregg Wallace greeting everything from the Acropolis to a box of Greek doughnuts with the same underwhelming shout of “Wow!”

Channel 4 awarding Naked Attraction a “highlights” show.

ITV’s latest “hedunnit”, Innocent, outstaying its welcome by about three hours and 59 minutes. Fashion experts and stylists who start sentences by saying: “Can we just talk about . . . ?” (No, you can’t. P*** off.)

And Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer performing the last, desperate act of a very desperate man. Or, as it will appear in the schedules, Life Stories With Piers Morgan.

lINCIDENTALLY, if BBC rules strictly forbid Nick Knowles from trading off DIY SOS to advertise Shreddies, why was it OK for Sandi Toksvig to use QI to advertise Carte D’or ice cream?


A GENUINELY refreshing moment in the opening few minutes of Sunday’s second episode of SAS: Who Dares Wins, as transgender Holly ripped off her armband with an outburst of honesty that was way beyond anyone at Channel 4. “Physically, I’m not up to the job,” she admitted. “I want to be honest with myself, face reality and VW.”

Something viewers could’ve told them on day one, of course. And it’s probably no coincidence that, without the camera-hogging dead weight at the back of the field, SAS: Who Dares Wins improved no end as other contestants finally got a look in.

The series is still seriously overburdened with X Factor-style back-stories but it did allow the show to unravel the mystery of Irish dancer Connor, the show’s outstanding performer, who’s so far ahead of everyone else the Special Forces veterans have become convinced he’s hiding a secret military background.

There was only one way to test that theory, obviously. So halfway through the second episode, he was hauled in for interrogation and ordered by Ant Middleton and Foxy to: “Dance!” Which he duly did, competently but with the look of a man who expected to be shot in both feet halfway through his jig.

It was, by a distance, the funniest, darkest and best thing I saw on television all week, though all Connor got for his troubles was the sweetest of farewells from Melvyn, the new instructor: “All right, John Travolta. F*** off.”

The metaphorical bullets, I’d hope, are reserved for whichever Channel 4 numbskulls thought this show needed sob stories and a great big dollop of political correctness to help it along.


Gary Lineker: “Brendan Rodgers becomes the first manager to win both the Scottish and FA Cup. The only other man to do that was Alex Ferguson.”

Clinton Morrison: “Wolves just can’t get a steam of head up.”

Kris Boyd: “When Steve Clarke turns up on the grass, he knows exactly what he’s doing.”

And on that bombshell . . . 

(Compiled by Graham Wray)


TIPPING Point, Ben Shephard: “What type of big cat is used as a symbol on the brown traffic signs that direct visitors to safari parks?”

Kim: “An elephant.”

Ben Shephard: “The name of what human body part follows ‘big’ in a term that means a round of applause?”

Laura: “Clap.”

TalkSPORT Breakfast Show, Alan Brazil: “What is the highest mountain in Europe?”

Gabriel Agbonlahor: “Mount Everest.”

And Bradley Walsh: “Which famous ballet dancer was born on the Trans-Siberian Express in 1938?”

Will: “Billy Elliot.”

(With thanks to TalkSPORT geniuses Hawksbee & Jacobs)


HITLER’S Secret Sex Life, on the History channel, continues to go where even Escape To The Country fears to tread.

Specifically the Waldviertel in his native Austria, where inbreeding was once so rife that the local mayor’s coat of arms was an 11-taloned eagle with two cross-eyed canaries passant.

Most married couples here, including Hitler’s own parents, were cousins.

A fact, the documentary suggested, which may have warped the Fuhrer so badly he liked his niece to “urinate on him”. Mere rumours, of course, spread by informants who “had it in for Hitler”.

Although I’m sure I had exactly the same thought as everyone else when the narrator added: “The stains of suspicion remained.” Cillit Bang, Adolf. BANG! And the stain has gone.

FINALLY, an encouragement to watch Eurovision at the weekend – if not for me then for the Russian Dalek dress, the mad Ukrainian bird who “practises the open-throat technique” and looks like she’s violated Orville the duck, and German entry Jendrik, whose ukulele and song title is an incitement to extreme violence if ever I saw one.

I Don’t Feel Hate. (BBC1, tomorrow, 8pm)


CONNOR’S “dance for life” on SAS: Who Dares Wins.

The Simon Says episode of BBC2’s Inside No. 9.

Ukraine’s utterly insane entry Shum, by Go_A, making it through Tuesday’s intoxicating Eurovision semi-final on BBC4.

Priceless footage of an old Tony Knowles press conference on Beeb 2’s brilliant Gods Of Snooker: “I have not, at any time, sought sexual pleasure from wearing women’s underwear.” And Jimmy Carr saving BBC1’s I Can See Your Voice, if not Alison Hammond’s blushes, when she revealed: “I’ve been to quite a few wrestling matches.” “Did you win?”


THIS week’s winner is EastEnders’ Danny Dyer and Frank Fipperfist from Paradise PD (me neither). Sent in by Kaggy, via email.

Picture research: Jim Taylor.

OPTIMIST of the year? EastEnders’ Sonia Fowler, who arrived at the hair salon clutching a photo of Dua Lipa, only to be told: “Dua Lipa’s not exactly you.”

“Then who exactly am I?”

You’re Dua refund.

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