There’s just too much drunken shrieking at this hen do from hell: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV

Henpocalypse! 

Rating:

Paranormal: The Girl, The Ghost And The Gravestone

Rating:

The great Mel Brooks, who started his career as one of legendary comedian Sid Caesar’s gag merchants, tells a story to show how intense the demands can be on U.S. television writers.

Struggling one night to come up with fresh material, in Sid’s Chicago hotel room on the 20th floor, Mel begged for a break to get some air. The comedian, twice Mel’s size, grabbed him by the belt and dangled him out of the window, yelling, ‘Is that enough air for you?’

‘He brought me inside,’ Mel said, ‘and out of sheer panic, I must have written 20 new jokes.’

The tradition of the high-pressure writers’ room persists in American TV. It shaped great comedies such as Cheers, Taxi, Will & Grace and Seinfeld, where the punchlines land every few seconds. Steve Martin’s sleuthing sitcom, Only Murders In The Building, now in its third series on Disney+, follows the same supercharged formula.

If only Henpocalypse! (BBC2) had been written the American way, it could be outstanding. The premise is strong — five women on a pre-wedding weekend in Wales wake up to discover the male population has been wiped out by a mega-virus… and the stripper from their hen party might be the only living bloke on the planet. Naturally, they chain him to a radiator to stop him escaping.

If only Henpocalypse! (BBC2) had been written the American way, it could be outstanding

In a very old house, deep in North Wales, Radio 1 DJ Sian Eleri was investigating a real-life Gothic tale in Paranormal: The Girl, The Ghost And The Gravestone (BBC3)

In a very old house, deep in North Wales, Radio 1 DJ Sian Eleri was investigating a real-life Gothic tale in Paranormal: The Girl, The Ghost And The Gravestone (BBC3)

The characters are a well-contrasted bunch, too. Lucie Shorthouse is Zara, the self-absorbed bride-to-be, with Callie Cooke as Shelly, the friend she bullies and exploits. There’s angry Veena (Lauren O’Rourke), who is enjoying the collapse of civilisation more than she admits, and Zara’s accident-prone cousin Jen (Kate O’Flynn).

Ruling them all is the malevolent, manipulative Bernadette (Elizabeth Berrington), mother of the bride and the ultimate bad influence, who doesn’t care if the human race is wiped off the face of the Earth, as long as they leave the alcohol behind.

But the script, by Caroline Moran, lacks shape, sharpness and wit. The first ten minutes consisted of drunken shrieking, and the rest was mostly the same joke repeated in different versions: the women have lots of sex toys and no food.

The creativity of the plot is wasted with bickering and banter that goes on too long. Several scenes feel like first drafts. Even that title sounds like the first pun that came to mind. Why not call it The Hend Of The World, or Hendangered Species… or Trial By Hendurance, Friends And Henemies, The Henergiser Bunnies. I could go on, but Henough Is Henough.

Meanwhile, over on BBC1, the horror-fest Wolf was reaching a blood-drenched climax, with Matilda (Juliet Stevenson) also chained to an old iron radiator. These Gothic tales will never be set in a new build: you can’t handcuff people to the underfloor heating.

In a very old house, deep in North Wales, Radio 1 DJ Sian Eleri was investigating a real-life Gothic tale in Paranormal: The Girl, The Ghost And The Gravestone (BBC3, repeated tonight on BBC1).Penyffordd Farm in Treuddyn gained a reputation in the late 1990s as the most haunted home in Britain. The couple who lived there documented more than 200 instances of religious words in Welsh, carved or stained into the walls, appearing and vanishing.

Other phenomena included shadowy figures, and a bouquet of flowers that became infested with dead wasps. The apparitions appeared to be connected to an 18th-century headstone outside, commemorating a girl who died aged 15.

The tale is told in podcast style, with plenty of creepy music. It’s chilling and intriguing, but needs a more serious, less sensational examination to do it justice.

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