The Beaches of Cardboard County; SOAP WHERE THEY SAY IT WITH BUBBLES.
Come with me to Cardboard County, California, home of Sunset Beach (weekdays, C5, omnibus edition : Saturday afternoon).
I've not seen anything quite so sensationally, stupefyingly awful since that other cut-price daytime soap Santa Barbara, where the most moving performances were by the scenery and the lead actor quit so often that every other episode would begin with a caption saying: today the part of C C Capstick is played by... (fill in name).
Sunset Beach is full of the same beautiful people - tanned and willowy creatures with long, luscious legs, big hair, big teeth and big cleavages. And that's just the men.
The acting style is all hand-wringing, eye-rolling, lip-trembling and hair-tossing. Yes, and the women do it, too.
The first thing you notice about Sunset Beach is that there doesn't seem to be a beach.
No one ever goes outdoors, so heaven knows how they got those gleaming suntans.
The second thing you notice is our very own Lesley-Anne Down, out-Sue- Ellening Sue-Ellen as beautiful, rich but tragic Olivia.
Olivia's baby has been stolen by her husband Gregory's secretary Annie, but Olivia was drugged at the time and can't remember a damn thing.
How do I know this? Because all the characters give voice to their innermost thoughts, like speech bubbles hovering over their heads.
This is extremely helpful for new viewers.
Here's Annie eavesdropping outside the door where Dr McRae is hypnotising Olivia and muttering to herself: "That damned Dr McRae! She's the one who ruined everything for me with Ben, helping him to remember making love to Meg in the cave! Now she's going to ruin my chances with Gregory!
"If Olivia regains her memory and figures out I took the baby... Caitlin will realise the baby I gave to her is her mom's, Gregory will never marry me by June and I can kiss daddy's millions goodbye!"
So why did Elaine kill Del?
Over to A J Deschanel (Gordon Thomson, formerly Adam Carrington in Dynasty): "Del kidnapped Col at birth then Del let Elaine believe he was dead, and then Del sold the baby to my mother in return for the Deschanel jewels... No wonder Elaine killed Del!"
Quite. Who wouldn't?
Anyway, little awful Annie has incriminating photos of Dr McRae.
So she blackmails her into hypnotising Olivia again, so that just when she's remembered all about Annie stealing her baby... Hell! It's all gone clean out of her head.
(Olivia shouldn't worry too much. The new-born baby we saw in flashback was about three feet tall and inexplicably covered with blobs of shaving foam.)
I could go on... about the strapping hunk of a priest from the church of St Steroid's across the way... the police station with no phones on the desks...
I could speculate on how producer Aaron Spelling's actor son Randy managed to get a part (Randy Spelling - sounds like an adult board game).
No doubt he turned up for the auditions using a false name. Brian Spelling, perhaps.
Remember how his sister Tori somehow wangled herself a role in Beverly Hills, 90210?
Well, good luck to the boy.
After seeing him in Sunset Beach, I'm confident it won't be long before he makes his acting debut.
Liz has her good points
..so don't knock 'em
WHAT has Liz Hurley done to deserve the sneering, sniggering "unofficial biography" of This Wonderful Life (Tuesday, C5)?
So she's not the world's greatest actress.
Maybe she's not even Basingstoke's greatest actress.
On screen, she possesses all the personality of a crash-test dummy.
And she has Dick Van Dyke's ear for accents.
But according to Craig Fairbrass, her co-star in Beyond Bedlam (which should have been called Beyond Belief): "She's got that magic something. She's a film star. There's no getting away from it."
Exactly. Liz's job is to swan in and out of movie premieres and parties, looking drop-dead gorgeous in frocks that show off her bits.
To knock her because she's not Dame Judi Dench is like criticising Jarvis Cocker for not being Pavarotti.
Leering Leslie Phillips, who toured the Middle East with Liz in a bedroom farce, should never have been allowed to get away with his claim that she "didn't miss out in the Arab world, I can tell you! Heh, heh!". Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.
And a word of advice to that carping film critic Karen Krizanovich (the one with the face like a smacked arse): If you're going on television to pour a bucketload of rubbish over someone who happens to be particularly beautiful, it's a good idea to take a long, hard look in the mirror first.
OLD ONES ARE STILL THE BEST
BY SOME fiendishly clever trickery, Bob Monkhouse has managed to transform himself from the man we all loved to hate to the man we all hate to admit we love.
Who else could throw a 70th birthday party for themselves on primetime TV, and NOT come across as a smug, self-satisfied big-head?
On Bob Monkhouse: Over The Limit (Saturday, BBC1), he portrayed himself the way he always does - as a doddery, bumbling old fool ("I'm so old I can remember the First of the Mohicans... My sex life is as great at 70 as it was at 69... Last year my wife gave up sex for Lent and I didn't find out till Christmas..."
In fact, he's got a razor-sharp wit and a brain that stores gags like a computer.
Bob knocks himself down to set himself up.
He revelled in introducing old clips from embarrassingly bad shows such as My Pal Bob and Saturday Spectacular and ancient TV commercials, displaying a smile dripping with such insincerity that his teeth must have ached.
Then he knocked us dead with a stand-up routine that got bluer and bluer as the evening went on.
"When I said I wanted to be a comedian, everyone laughed at me," he said, putting on his pretend sad face.
You knew the punchline: "Well, they're not laughing now..."
Oh, yes they are.
KNICKERS IN A TWIST
DIDN'T Coronation Street lose the plot last night?
Greg (Stephen Billington), who is trying to get Sally Webster (Sally Whittaker) INTO knickers for a change, told Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) he was going to have a word with her about the "underwear parties you were talking about."
Mike said: "Yeah. You do that. She's a smart girl. Got her head screwed on."
In Sunday's episode, Sally had come into Mike's office and told him that she'd changed her mind about the underwear parties and she was ready to give the idea a go.
Don't you think Mike might have mentioned this to Greg the next day?
DOGGONE... Holly, the dog which Harold chased out of his garden in Neighbours, was a smooth-haired labrador.
But when Holly was poisoned and left for dead she was a long-haired retriever.
LIKE Ronald Clark of Blackpool, you could win pounds 30 by writing (on a postcard or the back of a sealed envelope only) to: TV Clangers, The Mirror, One Canada Square, London E14 5AP.
Fawlty Towers (Friday, BBC1, 8pm)
SIMPLY the best sitcom on the box. And it's 23 years old.
What does that tell us about the state of comedy today?
DESPITE all attempts to blow it out of the water (mine included), Duck Patrol is bobbing along nicely in the ratings, with a steady audience of around nine million viewers.
I know it's been hot lately, and a touch of sunstroke can do funny things to the brain, but have you all gone quackers?
The joke in this week's episode (Sunday, ITV) was about a model dressed up as a mermaid (Josie Lawrence) who persuaded the barking-mad skipper of a boat laden with goats, chickens and runner beans (Freddie Jones) not to sail across the Channel to France.
I noticed that one particularly hilarious character - a gormless, shambling photographer - was called Slimey Catchpole.
Now I happen to know Gavin Petrie and Jan Etherington, creators of Duck Patrol.
I've admired their previous work, like Second Thoughts, Next Of Kin and Faith In The Future.
I've been to their house - more than once - and drunk their wine.
Really, I thought we were friends.
Slimey Catchpole, eh?
Dear Gavin and Jan: How would you like a REALLY bad review?
CALL me callous, but I can't help feeling the trouble with Animal Rescuers (Monday, ITV) is that the animals are always rescued.
Wouldn't it liven things up if once in a while we saw some furry or feathered disaster?
A mallard could get entangled in overhead power cables and become a No. 18 (crispy fried duck). Or an RSPCA man could retrieve a cat stuck up a tree, bring it down - then reverse over it with his van.
Better still, with the RSPCA always going on about being short of "resources, they could announce that this week they could only rescue one animal.
Viewers would be asked to phone in and choose between, say, a cute fox cub caught in a trap and a mangy mongrel with its head stuck in a saucepan.
Which would get the cuddly, Animal Hospital-style makeover? And which would get the lethal injection?
It would do wonders for the ratings.