LAST WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS …
THANKS to the commercial instincts of our American cousins, Halloween is bigger than ever. It feels as if it goes on for about a month now, so that, like a tired and fat goth Christmas, by the time the night itself arrives, all you want is to clear a quiet space amid your plastic pumpkins and doze.
It’s weird, then, that, every year, British TV seems to make less effort to do anything creepy or special on All Hallow’s Eve. Last Tuesday was looking pretty much like any other Tuesday night, including the Midsomer Murders repeat. But it turned out there were two tasty little surprises in store after all. The first was Pru Leith’s goosebumpy decision on Halloween morning to go completely rogue berserk and reveal the winner of the Bake Off a good 12 hours before the finale was broadcast. You have to admire the cut of her jib. In one terrifying tweet, she combined sugary treats with the most bewilderingly malevolent trick imaginable, placing the sour, bloodred cherry on the cake marking the end of Channel 4’s hitherto successful first year in charge of the programme.
The other surprise was more encouraging: the arrival on CBBC of a new drama, Creeped Out. Scary parables for young viewers, the series has some aspects, and a lot of music, that we could do without. But in places it works wonderfully as a kind of Hammer House Of Horror for kids, and gets away with more than you might expect.
The first story, set in a run-down seaside town, was a warning to the frustrated, about longing for greener grass. Jess, fed up with her embarrassing parents, entered a pact with Mr Blackteeth, a malevolent puppet from a Punch And Judy tent.
(Voiced brilliantly by genuine Punch And Judy man Robert Styles, Blackteeth, with his tiny pinstripe suit and spats, and his silvery thatch of eccentric hair, suggested a nightmarish little wooden UKIP homunculus.)
Inevitably, this proved not such a good idea. But, more unexpectedly, amid the moralising, the story was allowed to end on a downbeat note, with some psychic slavery, and a young girl left hunting off-season Britain’s deserted beachfronts for another victim. Like the old Hammer TV series, the story set supernatural activity shivering against drab, familiar British landscapes, catching a blank, humdrum strangeness. Something similar happens in this week’s tale (Tuesday, 7pm, CBBC), set in a suburban street, where unfolds a tiny tale that mixes Rear Window, a little Bodysnatchers and a lot of catfood, and the most terrifying thing in sight is the old woman in the cardigan across the road.
The series is a co-production with Canadian TV, which is nice in many ways, but unfortunate in others. There are, naturally, 13 episodes, and of the three I’ve seen, the Canada-set one was the disappointment, suddenly all malls and immaculate dentistry. Give me blackteeth any day.