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5 TELLY TALKING POINTS: The Traitors, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, Fool Me Once and more

Here's what's got me talking this week...



Every Sunday I'll be revealing my five telly talking points of the week, whether that's from shows I'm watching, some big news that's got me excited, or anything else telly-related, if it's got me talking, I'm sharing it with you.


So, what's got me talking this week? Well, after seeing in the new year with Rick Astley, I became obsessed with two brilliant new dramas, EastEnders continued on its winning streak and the second series of The Traitors certainly lived up to the incredibly high expectations I had for it.


Oh, and there are some slight spoilers ahead, especially if you haven't watched The Traitors yet. So if that's you, get to iPlayer now. You won't regret it.


1. "...but Ross is."

Diane's big reveal during episode 3 of The Traitors



The Traitors was the runaway reality TV hit of 2022, arriving on BBC One just days after the I'm A Celeb final with very little fanfare and finishing just days before Christmas with a nailbiting final that no one could have predicted and that EVERYBODY was talking about. This week, the series returned and thankfully, it very quickly allayed my fears that it wouldn't be able to live up to the first series.


From Sonja walking into breakfast on the first morning and asking Ash with no pre-warning "Are you a Traitor?" to Claudia's twin scarecrow (seriously, just watch it), Harry's lip licking and Paul and Harry's not-so-subtle secret message across the roundtable, in just three episodes, this series has already produced several incredible moments.


But no moment was as iconic as retired teacher Diane saying those three little words that will no doubt go down in reality TV history, "...but Ross is." Whilst speculation in the castle led some to believe that Paul was Diane's son, it turns out they weren't too far from the truth.


Speaking in the 'diary room' for want of a better name, Diane said "I can't believe it was suggested that Paul was my son when he's about three times taller than me, he's got red hair. Paul just couldn't be my son... but Ross is." And it was at that moment that gasps could be heard across the nation as jaws dropped to the floor.


In the same way that they dropped three episodes all at once at the start of the last series, the same happened this year, which meant I rather enjoyed all the die-hards (myself included) rewatching on Thursday and Friday night just to be able to act surprised and write that "I can't believe it" tweet.


But Diane's big reveal wasn't the only surprising thing to happen during episode 3 as the roundtable vote ended in a three-way tie, meaning Ash, Brian and Diane were each facing banishment and a new vote would have to take place until there's a clear winner.


Of course, the week ended on a cliffhanger so we didn't find out on Friday who was banished. But with Anthony still left to vote and Ash the favourite to go (thanks to fellow Traitors Paul and Harry turning against her in the second vote), if he chooses to banish Diane, that would result in another tie and there would need to be another vote. I'm literally counting down the minutes until I find out.


One thing's for sure though, and that's that this series of The Traitors is already proving itself to be unmissable television and I'm cancelling all my social plans until the series is over.


The Traitors continues Wednesdays to Fridays at 9pm on BBC One with the first three episodes available to watch now on BBC iPlayer



2. "I don't have that money."

Monica Dolan's performance in Mr Bates vs The Post Office



I love it when a brilliant drama launches, somewhat under the radar (no The Tourist levels of hype, for example), and becomes a ratings hit and part of the national conversation. And that's exactly what happened this week with ITV1's first brand new drama for 2024, Mr Bates vs The Post Office.


The four-part drama, which was made available in its entirety on ITVX on New Year's Day, or nightly on ITV1, tells the story of one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in British legal history and was watched by 3.9m on New Year's Day, with 4m tuning in for the final episode of Thursday.


It details what happened when hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters and postmistresses were wrongly accused of theft, fraud, and false accounting due to a defective IT system. Many of the wronged workers were prosecuted, some were imprisoned for crimes they never committed, and their lives were irreparably damaged by the scandal.


Toby Jones played Alan Bates, who in 2009, together with a group of sub-postmasters and postmistresses from across the UK, decided enough was enough and formed the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance. 10 years later, in 2019, they won their High Court case after evidence found "bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon system caused discrepancies in postmasters' branch accounts".


Whilst every performance in the drama was exceptional and the injustice unbearable to watch, one performance in particular that stuck with me came from Monica Dolan whose vulnerability and desperation as Jo really shone through in every scene, each as heartbreaking as the next. She really is one of the finest actors we have. I implore anyone to watch her performance and not be moved by it. Especially with it being a true story.


She played Jo Hamilton, the sub-postmaster from South Warnborough in Hampshire who was falsely accused of stealing £36,000 by the Post Office. After remortgaging her home twice and ending up with a huge amount of debt, Jo was fired and charged with theft, appearing in court two years later where she accepted a lesser charge of false accounting. And as recently as 2021, she had her conviction overturned.


Monica Dolan of course, has form in playing real people brilliantly. In 2022 she played Anne in The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, the wife of John Darwin who faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy.


In 2018 she played Countess of Harewood Marion Thorpe in A Very English Scandal, the wife of Jeremy Thorpe, whose political career effectively ended after he was tried on charges of conspiracy and incitement to murder, arising from an earlier clandestine relationship with Norman Scott. And in 2012, she won a BAFTA for her performance as serial killer Rosemary West in Appropriate Adult.


I love the power that television drama can have, and whilst it shouldn't have taken a four-part ITV1 drama for this to happen, I'm glad that in the wake of the drama, the Metropolitan Police have announced that they are investigating the Post Office over potential fraud offences committed during the Horizon IT scandal.


And just this morning, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking to Laura Kuenssberg admitted that everyone has been "shocked" by watching the ITV1 drama, describing it as an "appalling miscarriage of justice" going on to say that "It's important that those people get the justice they deserve." confirming a review of Post Office prosecutions and powers.


Mr Bates vs The Post Office is available to watch now on ITVX



3. "...please welcome, Rylaaaaaaaaaaan!"

Rylan's surprise performance with Rick Astley at New Year



Back in 2012, when Rylan Clark took part in The X Factor, he was considered the joke act of the competition, but he's been having the last laugh ever since, transforming himself into one of the most in-demand, capable, and likeable presenters on British television.


Whether it's Big Brother's Bit on the Side, Eurovision, Strictly It Takes Two, or more recently as one of the main co-hosts on This Morning, Rylan has rarely been off our screens. And rightly so. But never did I expect to see Rylan back on television singing, yet on New Year's Eve/Day, that's exactly what happened.


Since 2013, the BBC has seen in the New Year with a special concert from the likes of Gary Barlow, Queen + Adam Lambert, Bryan Adams, Robbie Williams, Chic with Nile Rodgers, Madness, Craig David, Alicia Keys Years & Years and Sam Ryder and this year it was the turn of Rick Astley.


Broken up into two parts, after the New Year fireworks Rick Astley treated us to the performance we'd all been waiting for, Never Gonna Give You Up. But that was just the start of the treats as once he'd finished that song, he told the audience at The Roundhouse that the only way he could follow that was by bringing out someone to the stage.


Before I could even guess who it might be, Rick goes "Will you please welcome Rylaaaaaaaaaaan!" And yup, sure enough, for the first time in (I think) 11 years, Rylan took to the stage to sing Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) by Dead or Alive with Rick Astley.


I know we were only 15 minutes or so into 2024, but that certainly wasn't on my 2024 Bingo card. But you know what, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did it look like Rylan was having THE TIME OF HIS LIFE up on that stage, but his vocals were on point.


There are moments in that song that are incredibly difficult to sing but he did so with ease and easily on par with Rick Astley. Now, I'm not saying he should give up the presenting to pursue that singing career, but I don't think he should leave us waiting 11 years for the next big performance.


Rick Astley Rocks New Year's Eve is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer



4. "Fuck off!"

Dame Joanna Lumley and Michelle Keegan's sweary stand-off in Fool Me Once



There's something about a Harlan Coben drama that makes it impossible to wait for the next episode and Fool Me Once, which launched on New Year's Day on Netflix was no different. Only this time, I attended the press launch back in December, which means I've had no choice but to wait for WEEKS to watch the rest.


Fool Me Once reached number one in 28 countries on Netflix and after my pretty-much-one-sitting binge, it's clear to see why. This has to be up there for me as my favourite yet. For those unfamiliar with the other Harlan Coben adaptations, I'm talking about Safe, The Stranger and Stay Close, but also The Innocent, Hold Tight, Gone for Good and The Woods.


So what is Fool Me Once about? Well, adapted by Danny Brocklehurst, it stars Michelle Keegan as Maya Stern, who is trying to come to terms with the brutal murder of her husband, Joe, played by Richard Armitage. But when Maya installs a nanny cam to keep an eye on her young daughter, she is shocked to see a man she recognises in her house. Her husband, who she thought was dead.


Since leaving Coronation Street almost 10 years ago, Michelle Keegan has thankfully not stopped working. From her first role since leaving the cobbles in Ordinary Lies (also written by Danny Brocklehurst) to a career-defining role in Our Girl and five soon-to-be six, series of Sky comedy Brassic, as well a plethora of roles in between and since, it's Michelle's performance in Fool Me Once, that to me, is her strongest to date.


Which, when you're starring opposite a Dame, Dame Joanna Lumley no less, isn't an easy thing to achieve. Joanna plays Joe's protective mother, Judith Burkett and it's the moments where Judith clashes with Maya that you long for throughout the eight episodes.


None more so than the moment in episode 4 where, and don't worry, I won't spoil the specific reason, Maya goes to confront Judith over a recent discovery, only to be told "Please stop bellowing, you're sounding deranged." in that delicious way that only Dame Joanna Lumley can.


What follows are four sublime uses of the F-bomb, as Maya and Judith really go at each other with Judith telling Maya "Don't ever tell me to fuck off in my home again, understand? Because, quite frankly, Maya, you can fuck off!" Again, delivered in a manner that only Dame Joanna can.


And it's that tension between the two characters that really builds throughout the series and comes to a head beautifully in the final episode. My only regret? That I binged through the series too quickly and now I'm at a loss. But, and I already have several times, I can go back and watch that scene whenever I want and it never stops being incredible.


Fool Me Once is available to watch now on Netflix



5. "The rest can wait."

George Knight's farming storyline in EastEnders



There's no doubt that EastEnders is at the top of its game at the moment and has been for the best part of a year, if not longer. Christmas Day's big reveal as to who The Six murdered in The Queen Vic, drew in 3.6m viewers which has now consolidated to 6.54m views with a total of 26.28m streams for the soap over the festive period, making it the most streamed programme on BBC iPlayer.


This week however, the focus shifted away from The Six (only briefly, they're very much back next week) to make way for new storylines, such as Lauren and Penny Branning's arrival, Zack and Whitney's fostering journey and surprise pregnancy, but it was the arrival of George's parents Gloria and Eddie which made for the most impactful storyline of the week.


Played by Elizabeth Counsell and Christopher Fairbank, Gloria and Eddie arrive in Walford to tell George that he was adopted via a process known as farming which saw children advertised for money for parents looking to give children a home.


As George digs deeper into his heritage, he discovers during Wednesday's episode that the identity his parents impressed upon him since his adoption, isn't who he is. Having always believed that his biological family is of Jamaican heritage, it's not until Cindy reveals to him that the children advertised had been the children of African immigrants, that George realises how deep the lies were. Later telling a concerned Elaine "I don't know who I am anymore."


Thursday's episode produced some incredibly powerful and emotional scenes between Elizabeth Counsell and Colin Salmon, in the kitchen, as George confronts Gloria over lying to him about his heritage, leading her to admit that she did and that his birth parents came from Ghana.


The moment that broke me emotionally, and made me think of all those disagreements you sometimes have in a family, was when Gloria says to George "I swear on my life, you have been loved every minute of every day since I first set eyes on you. Don't hate me, Georgie, please. I couldn't bear that. I love you Georgie." to which through tears, George replies "I love you too, mum."


As I wiped the tears from my eyes, it was time to watch Gloria and Eddie say their goodbyes, but as they walked through The Queen Vic on their way out, it was clear that this storyline is far from over, and that George still doesn't know the full story.


Turning to Gloria, Eddie questions just how much she told George, to which she assures him only what they agreed. But when Gloria questions "Are you sure we shouldn't tell him the rest?", Eddie replies with "He knows all he needs to know for now. The rest can wait."


Could this be paving the way for Aunt Babe, played by Annette Badland, to make her return to Walford? After all, we saw Shirley expose Babe's secret, that she and Queenie stole the babies of young women to sell, running an illegal adoption service. Could the two storylines be linked? Only time will tell. But one thing's for sure, EastEnders isn't showing any signs of slowing down following an incredible Christmas Day episode and build-up.


EastEnders is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer and continues Mondays to Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One with first look episodes available from 6am on BBC iPlayer

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