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TV review: Pam & Tommy is an unexpectedly smart retelling of tabloid scandal

Lily James and Sebastian Stan in Pam & Tommy
Lily James and Sebastian Stan in Pam & Tommy

On paper, a drama about Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s infamous sex tape sounds like it’ll be a tawdry affair.

But put those low expectations aside because the unexpectedly smart and compelling Pam & Tommy (Disney+) is one of the best things on TV right now.

Anchored by two remarkable (and transformative) performances by Lily James and Sebastian Stan, this eight-part series delves into the murky background of the 90s tabloid scandal and delivers something that carefully avoids exploitation or tackiness.

Like The People Versus OJ Simpson – another series that took a thoughtful look at a headline-grabbing scandal – Pam & Tommy presents an alternative narrative to the one that the public was fed by the media at the time.

The series starts by showing how the tape found its way online, with embittered joiner Rand Gauthier (played by Seth Rogen) stealing a safe from the couple’s home as a way of getting revenge for an unpaid building job.

Rand Gauthier played by Seth Rogen and Uncle Miltie played by Nick Offerman

In amongst the personal items (and an arsenal of guns) Rand finds the tape and, along with his porn producer pal (played by Nick Offerman), begins to shop it around.

The breezy tone of the first few episodes belies the darker turns that the story takes, namely the brazen and unrelenting misogyny that Pamela Anderson faced from the public, media and legal profession.

Pamela Anderson refused to take part in this series, perhaps feeling it would be another excuse to rake up one of the most unpleasant moments of her life, but she definitely shouldn’t have been concerned.

Although much of Pam & Tommy is light-hearted and breezy – with a great 90s soundtrack to match – it definitely has compassion for her at its core and in no way wants to re-victimise her all these years later.


Star Wars spin-off is big disappointment

I think even the most die-hard Sar Wars fans would need to admit The Book of Boba Fett (Disney+) was a bit of a whiff.

For most of the series things moved at a glacial pace and, in a damning indictment of its title character, only picked up in the episodes when Boba Fett was relegated to a supporting role.

The Book Of Boba Fett.

The last three episodes were a definite improvement, but they still felt more like part of The Mandalorian series rather than The Book of Boba Fett.

Before this series Boba Fett was a beloved fan favourite in the Star Wars universe who was full of mystery and charisma, but Temuera Morrison’s bland, lifeless performance hasn’t done the character any favours.

Let’s hope the upcoming Obi-Wan series with Ewan McGregor is a return to form.


Mystery menu

The new-look line-up of judges on Great British Menu (BBC2) has brought a new lease of life to the show, but one thing constantly irks me.

The brief for this series that all the dishes must be inspired by TV programmes, which is all fine, but I do wish the chefs would put a bit more effort in.

I’d happily foot the bill for anyone who can correctly deduce what TV show this elaborate dish was inspired by: roasted veal sweetbread with smoked butter, smoked pomme puree, malt vinegar gel, leek in butter emulsion and a whisky and bacon jam. Any guesses?

The correct answer is … Peaky Blinders.

Sorry, what?

Apparently, the “smokey atmosphere” of the crime drama inspired the dish. I’m smelling something, but it certainly isn’t smoked pomme puree.


Pale imitation

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding Netflix’s US remake of Murder in Successville a huge disappointment given how marvellously daft the British version is.

Murderville, as it’s now called, replaces Tom Davis’ DI Sleet with Will Arnett’s Terry Seattle and sees a series of celebrity guests improvise their way through a mystery (with mostly bland results).

It has none of the inspired lunacy of the BBC series.


Film of the week: Titane (available to rent online)

I must preface this review by stating that Titane is not a film for everyone.

It’s sexually explicit, remarkably violent, brain-meltingly weird and features a main character who is regularly lactating oil after seemingly getting impregnated by a car.

Julia Ducournau’s strangely moving body horror opus picked up the top award at the Cannes Film Festival and if there’s a better film to come out this year I’d be very surprised.

Titane

The central character is Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), a young woman with titanium in her head after a childhood accident and who has the ill-fated encounter with the car.

But that’s just the half of it. Titane zig-zags between subplots and genres for most of its two-hour running time but never feels like a muddle.

By the time it morphs into an emotional moving family drama involving a missing child and a case of mistaken identity, I was all in.

Utterly sublime.

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