Monday, 6 November 2017

Last Night's Tele: Sheridan, ITV

An old fashioned variety showcase for Sheridan Smith, the Doncaster girl who has come a long way from her days as the star of BBC3 sitcom Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. Having wowed the nation with her straight acting roles in must-see dramas such as Mrs Biggs, Cilla, The C-Word and The Moorside, Smith became a West End star when she took the lead role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. A singer since she was a child, it was only natural that an album deal would come beckoning and this one off special was certainly designed to showcase this latest venture from the national treasure.

The elephant in the room of course is that runaway success has come at a price. Last year was a particularly turbulent time for Smith thanks to the death of her much loved musician father from cancer. A hiatus from Funny Girl occurred, as did a spell in rehab. This special could arguably have been the opportunity to show that she has come back stronger and better, but I'm not convinced. Twitter, being the domain of complete and utter bastards, delighted in ridiculing Sheridan's appearance. It's true that she has gained weight (a natural physical reaction to anti-depressants that she may very well have been taking at the time the special was recorded) and it is equally true that she has committed to a lot of tattoos recently and that the make-up and costume department possibly didn't serve her well in the show, but the reaction online made for grim insensitive reading and given that we're talking about someone who is openly admitting to vulnerability after tragic circumstances, it seemed especially cruel. 

And yet, I must tactfully suggest that there was something undeniably uncomfortable about Sheridan here. The interviews between the songs (from a deeply complimentary, gentle Alexander Armstrong) revealed that Sheridan had turned down several offers to make a record previously to the disappointment of her father. Now that he has passed, she confessed it felt the right time to do so and to dedicate the album to him. It's an understandable reaction to the loss she has suffered, but I couldn't escape the sense that this project may just be too much, too soon. Perhaps the clearest answer to this concern is in Sheridan's music; a striking, stripped-down version of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going sees Smith openly weeping as she performs - it's not an act, it's coming from a very real place.

As for the show itself, your enjoyment depends not so much on whether you're a Sheridan Smith fan but on whether you can stomach the kind of show that essentially sees its star sing a medley of musical numbers, classic ballads and chart hits. It's a cheesy affair, the kind of 'extravaganza' that was very much at home in the '70s and '80s. I do wonder if a more An Audience With... format would have suited Sheridan better and I did find it strange that Armstrong's skip through Sheridan's TV career didn't touch upon the show that effectively made her a household name: Two Pints. I know it was a marmite show and that it is probably very out of favour now, but to completely ignore it just seemed wrong.

The highlight of the special has to be the moment when Sheridan, during filming for Cilla, had a night off and brought her friends back to her hotel room for a drunken game of Blind Date complete with the prop department 'Cilla' teeth!


  1. Before reading your comments, here's mine. It was DIABOLICAL - Sheridan has been overworking in recent years and should take a long break - (like her annoying pals Corden and Walliams). She has had a tough year and is surely being badly advised - that look was totally wrong: the hair, makeup etc & those tattoos on display - a bit too chavvy? Also if one entertains one should keep one's private life off-stage and not use it for sympathy - the show has to go on? Plus a song and then chat with Alexander Armstrong (does he have to be on tv EVERY day?) destroys the concert mood - save the interviews for Jonathan Ross. These sunday night shows to plug new albums are becoming a bore - same with Ball and Boe - are they comedians or singers?
    I like Sheridan a lot, ever since she was the vegetarian girlfriend in THE ROYLE FAMILY, and Brandy in BENIDORM, and have seen her on stage twice, so I hope she can get back to being fabulous again. I was looking forward to her "And I'm Telling You" - but Amber Riley should have no worries - getting involved with the song and crying is the route to Judy Garland or Amy Winehouse territory.

    1. Whilst I more or less agree Michael (indeed if you've since read my comments you'll see we touch on many similar issues) I do wonder if any one in showbiz these days is allowed a private life off-stage. It's less an individual issue and more a widespread expectation now to discuss things personal to you, be it on twitter, on the pages of a gossip magazine or on prime time TV. It's an odd world we live in, but I guess if you were going to be interviewed about where you are with your career and why you now choose to release an album, you're going to have to touch upon your recent bereavement and personal difficulties. And I think those woes bled into the performance of that song, I don't for one moment consider her tears a starry affectation and it enhanced my fears that this is still too much, too soon for someone still recovering.

      On the plus side, Sheridan looked in much better health on Strictly a couple of weeks ago and I'm presuming that this was filmed before that live appearance on the results show, so maybe things are on the up?

  2. Missed this (will check out catch up) but from what you say social media has been very cruel, especially as she will still be very vulnerable. I re-watched the drama Cilla recently and was blown away by how good she was in it - Can imagine the drunken game of Blind Date would have been a hoot.

    I did watch the episode of Who Do You Think You Are when her family tree was investigated - Right through the show it shone through how close she was to her dad and how much she adored him. Can see how it hit her so badly.

    1. Social media utterly mauled her, from harsh language regarding her physical appearance to criticism that she was being feted as a national treasure when, in their opinion, she was little more than a chav (I do so hate that word, it is in our vocab to divide class and ensure we criticise and fight among ourselves and perpetuate the notion that we are all somehow better than someone else) To my mind, she is a national treasure and you only need to look at Mrs Biggs, Cilla, The C-Word and The Moorside for confirmation, to say nothing of the years she put into Two Pints. It may not have been to everyone's taste, but you can't argue with her work ethic and the appeal it had in some quarters.

      Be advised Alyson, this show made for awkward viewing at times. And the sound was really off in the interview moments. If you're like me, you'll be turning it up there and then finding yourself having to turn it down for the music for fear those performances will burst your ear drums if kept at the same levels! The Blind Date story is brilliant, as is the moment she talks fondly of her family - her mum and brother being in the audience.