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Saturday, 19 January 2008

Faking It, Channel 4,

Faking It Special, Channel 4, Thursday 29 December 2005
Did we like it?
Kate Harding's transformation into a pop video director didn't quite hit upon the magical formula of some of the classic editions, but there was still lots of pleasure to be had.
What was good about it?
• Kate managed to pull off the mission without being wrecked in the process. Despite mixing in air-kissy, pop-starry circles, she wasn't seduced by the "glamour" and treated video directing as an artform rather than part of a crass corporate game.
• Even if the reality show element wasn't of interest, this also served as a compassionate study of a woman debilitated by a lack of confidence. "I don't want to say what I like or don't dislike because I think I'll look stupid," said Kate, who has reached the age of 32 without hardly ever to make a decision or assert her views. She cried, she trembled, she wailed ("I don't like people seeing the real me."), she froze but she still came through, probably because of the kindness of her mentor rather than the bossiness of self-styled confidence coaches.
• We quite like the fact there there are people, including Kate, who love dressing up in 18th-century costumes and dancing around to classical music.
• We enjoyed the parallel transformation of Kate's mentor Harvey Bertram-Brown. He started the show as Annoying Camp Man in Bad Jumpers but ended it as Lovely Man with Hot Boyfriend.
• Glimpses of work on the Tony Christie video for Avenues & Alleyways
• The tearful climax.

What was bad about it?
• The final test involved directing a Liberty X video for a dull, gospelly track .
• None of the four directors got Kevin and Tony from Liberty X to get topless.
• Fearne Cotton spoiled the game by spotting Kate was the fake, simply because she was wearing brand new trainers. The other two judges failed to see that Kate was the novice with her petals and clouds video, although they were helped a little by the rather poor efforts by established directors Tara and Demelza.
• Co-mentor Carolyn Corbyn's remark after Kate had been for a makeover: “Wow! You look beautiful. A bit like me.”
• As Kate was whirled through the world of pop promos, she had encounters with Lucie Silvas (dull), girl group Cookie (bimboish version of Sugababes), Triple8 (another unrequired boyband) and a rather ugly chap called Paton who is a "major new signing".
When Kate completed Paton's video, Harvey was almost proud. "She shot a video today. A shit video. But a video." But it was the sort of bland soul song that deserved a shit video.

The Worst Christmas Jobs In History, Channel 4

Monday 26 December 2005
Who would we most like to see condemned to perform the vile tasks detailed by Tony Robinson?
Roman vomit collector: Tara Palmer Tomkinson, so she would realise what it’s like to cleanse herself from the TV screen.
Church bell ringers, who had to ring the bells once for each year since Christ defeated Satan, this year would be 2005 times: James Blunt, to drown out his voice.
Faggotters, peasants who collect pieces of wood to sell for a pittance at market: Pussycat Dolls, to reveal to them their true worth to the music industry.
Snaring a boar, and then preparing it for a feast: Simon Cowell, so he has a clearer understanding of the evil of killing a free animal and manufacturing it into a lifeless, pre-prepared effigy for consumption by the mindless masses.
The justice of the peace, obnoxious puritans who enforced Cromwell’s edict on the populace that Christmas was Satan’s Workday and that shops should remain open, but were often assaulted by the irate proletariat who objected to their mood being determined by officious busybodies: Anyone who has said to someone not sharing their myopic, rootless optimism over the past two weeks “Cheer up it’s Christmas”.
The back end of a pantomime horse: Whoever commissioned Soapstar Superstar as such a sterile imagination should not be in control of even the most rudimentary vehicles.
Dollmaker, children as young as six work with hot wax, and the hair weaved into the heads could be diseased: Louis Walsh.

Balderdash & Piffle, BBC2

Monday 2 January 2006
Did we like it?
It would be easy to say this series on the derivation of words lived down to its title, but, despite some flaws, it looks like being an interesting series, full of the sort of facts that get Stephen Fry excited on QI
What was good about it?
• Victoria Coren is a good presenter – not too serious, not too worthy – but she reminds us a little of Abi Titmuss which is a bad thing.
• Fascinating facts: eg there are 15,190 words beginning with P
• The sprinkling of My Favourite Word inserts from the likes of Ian Hislop, Bettany Hughes, Rory McGrath and Jerry Hall
• Mark Ravenhill's piece on gay slang Polari (bit unhappy that he presented it from a public convenience, though). We never knew that naff was an acronym for Not Available For Fucking.
• Concentrating on words beginning with one letter per show – P in this opener – was just like Sesame Street.

What was bad about it?
• We've never taken to double-barrelled celeb experts Adam Hart-Davis and Clarissa Dixon-Wright so we didn't really enjoy their insights into pear-shaped and pigs.
• The Great Word Hunt, the bid to get three stern boffins from the Oxford English Dictionary to accept new evidence about the origin of words, was a bit of a bore, even if they did acknowledge that Ploughman's Lunches were consumed before 1970.

ITV single documentaries

Teenage Tourette’s Camp, ITV1, Tuesday 3 January 2006
Did we like it?
Yes, we admit we were looking forward to giggling at the outbursts of course language as much as Catherine Tate’s Nan would do but in the end this was a moving, inspirational and insightful programme – not the usual exploitative fodder we’d expect from the channel that brought us The Jeremy Kyle Show.

What was good about it?
• The teenage sufferers–- who faced their condition head-on and embarked on a rather challenging, alternative form of therapy in America – were a thoroughly likeable bunch. Each one was brave in their own right and absolutely determined.
• Additionally, it was refreshing that the programme portrayed the teenagers as just that – at camp, they formed alliances and fell out with each other like any other ordinary adolescent, they rebelled and they bonded. This realistic, human portrayal went some way to challenge the misperceptions surrounding Tourette’s syndrome and those it affects.
• Some of the stories and histories of the sufferers were fascinating. Jessica, now 15, was diagnosed at the age of five and amazingly is fearless enough to go shopping knowing she will shout “nigger” at black passers-by; Sam uses his local, rowdy football matches to disguise his verbal tics; while Ben has no verbal outbursts at all but constant shrugging and sniffing instead.
• Jessica’s courageous and engaging mum Anne. We loved how caring and logical she was with her daughter’s situation but still able to see the humorous side of things. When one shop assistant explained she already knew Jessica had Tourette’s due to an earlier incident, her reply was “Well, you wouldn’t really forget meeting her I suppose”.
We’re ashamed to say we couldn’t get enough of the clip shown throughout of the sufferers entering camp and Jessica greeting it with “ARSEHOLE!” at the top of her voice.
What was bad about it?
• The condition’s origins and history were skimmed over. While we were given a number of statistics and told Tourette’s is genetic, there was no explanation of how it is defined, what can be done to lessen the symptoms and why it differs between sufferers.
• Although the programme had a sensitive narration from Timothy Spall, there was the odd stinker of a line such as “None of these teenagers have been to an American Tourette’s camp before”.
• Since the therapy camp was set in America, there had to be an obligatory teen dance to finish things off. A rather cheesy ending to an otherwise perceptive piece of TV.
A Night Out With The Girls, ITV1
In 1967, zoologist Desmond Morris published his famous book The Naked Ape, in which he claimed (among other things) that nights out with the lads were part of men’s genetic programming, a remnant of the days when they bonded together in hunting packs, and unparalleled in women, who were evolved to stay home and look after the kids. Now, 36 years later (not long in evolutionary terms) it would be interesting to know what he’d make of A Night Out With The Girls, which showed packs of women hunting down a good time with a ferocity that would make a caveman tremble.
It was striking how similar the girls’ idea of fun was to that of the typical party-animal male. Clubs were their chosen hunting ground, alcohol and sex their preferred stimulants, and rowdiness and baring of flesh their way of expressing enthusiasm. The main difference was that the girls partied a lot harder, probably because they were able to get away with things that would have got boys either locked up or beaten up.
The most obvious was their touchy-feeliness with male strippers (with, it must be said, the strippers’ evident consent), although their minibus driver might not have been so indulgent if it had been five men baring their arses through his side windows, either.
There are downsides to this kind of thing, as the film was at pains to point out. The worst is the effect of massively excess alcohol consumption, as in the case of the teenager who, already drunk, downed a third of a bottle of spirits in one go, then half of another, then died.
Sexually transmitted infections are also a danger, especially as women are more likely than men to have their whims in this department indulged by passing strangers. But none of this seriously worried the girls, who seemed intent on making up for a million years of missed pack-bonding.
Back in the 1960s, Desmond Morris suggested that working-class and aristocratic men indulged in more pack-play than the middle classes, the former because their unstimulating jobs were poor hunting-substitutes, the latter because they simply didn’t have jobs. Interestingly, the wildest group of party-girls in this film worked together in a Mansfield factory, and spoke of feeling the need to let off steam after a hard week’s toil.
Perhaps Morris was half-right, and the pack-bonding instinct is genetic, but not limited to one sex. Exposed to the lads’ traditional hunting-substitute environment, and freed from the cultural conventions of “ladylike” behaviour, the girls seem to be every bit as good at it as the boys.
Holiday Airport: Lanzarote, ITV1
The British Tourist Authority must, surely, be sponsoring this series on the quiet. While other airport shows offer a mix of travellers tales, staff lives and behind-the-scenes workings, this one focused almost exclusively on passengers having a miserable time. After 60 minutes, the overwhelming urge was to avoid holiday airports, holiday airlines and, especially, holidaymakers like the plague, and book a nice fortnight in Bognor instead.
An airport bus strike didn’t help, somehow causing check-in queues that stretched out into the road under the blazing midday sun. Many of the passengers didn’t help either, by being drunks, chancers or sad cases (or all three). One sad, drunk chancer opened his bags to look for his passport and revealed (to the entire check-in area) that they were full of contraband fags. Two sober chancers proposed to remove all the clothes from their overweight luggage and wear them instead (the airline told them, politely, to sod off). An incredibly sad woman, holidaying alone, was so pissed she kept falling over, while a truly desperate one had been left penniless by her (former) best friend, along with her hyperactive three-year-old grandson.
Not surprisingly, the (all-British) ground staff took a robust attitude to all this, including not giving a toss about the contraband as long as its owner sobered up. Passenger sobriety was evidently a major issue, with staff patrolling the queue on the lookout for sozzled ticket-holders, who could be refused a seat on the whim of the supervisor. So keen were they that they pulled one stumble-prone man out of the line, only to find that he wasn’t blind drunk, but simply blind.
This wariness was, no doubt, the result of years of bitter experience, but it seemed to have developed into a zero-tolerance attitude in which the tiniest misdemeanour was severely punished in order to keep everyone else on their best behaviour. If you want to know what it’s like to be a Millwall supporter at an away game, Lanzarote airport seems to be the place to go. Or it might, of course, just be the way the film was edited.

Home From Home, Channel 4

What’s it all about?
Two families exchange homes to enjoy a 10 day holiday in the other’s country. In this opener, the Jacksons, residents of the quaint Cornish town of Bodmin, swap with the Fischoeders, who hail from the remote French village of Poisson.
What to say if you liked it
A genial jaunt that exposes the hilarious truth about converse national characteristics.
What to say if you didn’t like it
The mutated progeny of Wife Swap and Grand Designs Abroad that has neither the confrontational qualities of the former and the obsessive purpose of the latter.

What was good about it?
• Richard Briers’ sardonic narration that dripped with the same subtle derision that made Roobarb And Custard such a success. At one point, we even thought he was
going to convey his disdain for the hapless Jackson family through voicing the insults of an orchestra of cacophonous birds, but even our feathered friends seemed wise enough to avoid the rural corpse of Poisson.
• We developed a sneaking admiration for the Fischoeder family, which burgeoned throughout their jovial jaunt. They had perhaps suspected the Jacksons' ignorance and therefore fully enjoyed their vacation around Cornwall, knowing full well the Jacksons were stuck in Poisson which is closer to the Moon than any tourist attractions.

What was bad about it?
• The diaries of each family seemed to be edited to primarily ensure they adhered to national stereotypes (German efficiency and the English delusions that Europe is essentially the same from the frothing Bosporus to the Icelandic volcanoes). As the Jacksons drove through miles of picturesque countryside to an amusement park, mum Joanna moaned: “I’ve been to France before and I thought it was all fairly similar.” And later on: “When I booked the holiday, I didn’t really plan it.”
• The stereotypes were also emphasised in the script, most conspicuously when Angela Fischoeder set out early to avoid losing time, Briers noted: “And Germans hate losing anything.”
• The apocryphal etiquette of house swapping that forbids swappers from snooping through their hosts possessions. In all other walks of life this is referred to by the more prosaic term of “good manners”.
• The format, which consciously aimed to avoid any sort of confrontation – the staple diet of reality TV – and therefore denied any hope of resuscitation through ill tempered arguments, leaving it instead to drift into the same bland obsolescence as the village of Poisson.
• The script wasn’t really cruel enough to the Jacksons, who fully deserved their awful break. And while the Spartan décor of the Fischoeder abode offered plenty of scope for comic description, the best anyone could come up with was young Sam Jackson’s observation that the cellar looked like it was used for Satanist practices.
• Very little actually happened to the Jacksons (the highlights being the children trying to gain entry to a locked, empty room and the thin toilet paper), which led to the focus of their trip being boredom – a feeling that transmitted very smoothly to the viewer.

Light Fantastic, BBC4

What’s it all about?
Cambridge professor Simon Schaffer chronicles humanity’s understanding of light and all its properties.
What to say if you liked it
A fascinating insight into how our knowledge of light has aided in our scientific evolution, and will continue to do so deep into the future.
What to say if you didn’t like it
A drab examination of something that interests only socially inept geeks who herd together in their esoteric reservations chomping on cheese sandwiches prepared by the mothers.

What was good about it?
• The way in which Simon describes not only the development of our education of light, but each step was accompanied by examples of how this advance promoted civilisation. For instance, early Greek research determined that light travelled in a straight line which was extrapolated by sailors who sailed to distant shores using starlight as a guide.
• We also learned that an Arabic scholar disproved the erroneous Greek belief that light came from the eyes, and posited that the illumination was sourced at the Sun which led him to establish the ideas of reflection and refraction both of which were crucial in the invention of spectacles and telescopes.
• We also learned that English friar Roger Bacon discovered that light could be manipulated by shining it through glass, and ultimately revealed how rainbows occurred. Unfortunately, during the 13th century, rainbows were considered to be a glimpse of Heaven and he was jailed for heresy.
• We also learned that it was the commonly arcane Church that performed complex experiments to discover the mutable date of the Spring Equinox to determine when to celebrate Easter, a system predicatively accurate centuries into the future.
• We also learned that the Protestant Isaac Newton was resolute in his quest to rubbish the theories of Roman Catholic French Rene Descartes and in doing so found that light was made up of primary colours, a “spectrum”, and not white as Descartes had claimed.
• The dramatic reconstructions were often atmospheric, with those scenes that lucidly illustrated the often complex philosophy that Simon conveyed the most satisfying.

What was bad about it?
• Despite delivering an appealing monologue, Simon can sometimes gesticulate his arms a little too much as if waving us towards the latest nugget of history he was about to disclose.
• The dissection of the cow’s eyeball wasn’t very pleasant to look at.
• Simon recounted how Newton had pressed a stick between the eye and its socket in an experiment and was rewarded with little circles of spectrum coloured light in his vision, before quickly adding: “Don’t try this at home.” Of course, we did and our eyeballs still ache this morning. But please, don’t try this at home.
• The complementary show Night Fantastic on BBCi urged us to watch for five minutes before venturing outside to gaze at the celestial heavens yourself. Alas, they didn’t reckon on this advice being potentially lethal given the freezing temperatures outside that would have coerced even Captain Oates into having second thoughts.

Bomber Crew, Channel 4

What’s it all about?
A mix of reality TV and history show, as a group of twentysomethings train for the jobs their grandfathers' generation did as RAF bomber crew in World War Two.
What to say if you liked it
Like C4's earlier Spitfire Pilot, it brings the reality of war home by a well-balanced combination of hands-on involvement, historical footage and personal testimony.
What to say if you didn’t like it
Perhaps the British obsession with WWII is getting a bit unhealthy.

What was good about it?
• It showed just how terrifying the experience of flying a bombing raid was, and how brave the crew were to do it.
• The planes (an American B-17 and the legendary Avro Lancaster) – you could almost smell the aviation spirit.The neat twist – the participants all had grandfathers who'd actually flown in Lancasters, creating a strong personal link with the past.
• The veterans – ordinary blokes talking about extraordinary experiences in a matter-of-fact way.

What was bad about it?
• An occasional reminder that there were people under those bombs, and that war is actually a bad thing, wouldn't have gone amiss.
• Presenter Brendan O'Brien's irritating flyer-jacketed playboy image. The Old Smoothie may be OK for Spitfires, but not for the more sober world of Bomber Command.
• Would-be pilot John being permanently over-excited (he didn't get the job).
• Gunner Luke couldn't seem to keep his hands off crew-mate Tanya. Concentrate, man!

Britain AD: King Arthur’s Britain, Channel 4,

What to say if you liked it
A fascinating expose of the reality of Dark Ages Britain, which dispels the traditional opinion of Romans as destroyers of our ancient culture.
What to say if you didn’t like it
A discordant jumble of half-truths and supposition presented as a coherent revolutionary revelation that cynically exploited the public’s general ignorance of pre-history.
What was good about it?
• Francis Pryor was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable host who exhumed some intriguing details about Britain 2000 years ago, such as the tradition of warriors
depositing their sword in water (apparently the inspiration for the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur).
• When Francis was guided around the foundation remains of Roman settlements, computer graphics were used to “build” the original structure around them.
What was bad about it?
• The tone was always heavy in hyperbole; everything was “an extraordinary landscape”, “a remarkable discovery” or “a fantastic cathedral”.
• A frequent sneaky semantic leap was used by Francis to posit his theories. Take the notion that the Romans began their invasion at Chichester Harbour after an
invitation from a British tribal ally. Words like “possibly” and “maybe” were used to describe the landing, yet within minutes this was presented as fact in the next portion of the tale.
• And the Roman baths in Bath were dedicated to both Sulis and Minerva, where Minerva was definitely a Roman goddess while Sulis was only “presumably” an Iron Age goddess that Francis used to justify his theory that the Romans respected British culture and customs.
• King Arthur was simply a ratings boosting device, and he was only mentioned in the first five minutes of the show, and even then it was said that he was “only sleeping” and he would return when his country was in danger.
• Francis Pryor and all the professors who aided him seemed to have come free with a breakfast cereal “Stereotypical Mad Scientist” promotion with their wild beards and freaky hair.

Crisis Command: Could You Run The Country? BBC2

What to say if you liked it
A chilling game show dramatisation of a national catastrophe that accurately portrayed fictional events as presided over by a bunch of realistic amateur megalomaniacs.
What to say if you disliked it
An alarmist fantasy that callously cashed in on public insecurities over implausible disasters, the possibility of which are often exacerbated by irresponsible journalism.
What was good about it?
• The three “ministers” represented three distinct areas of human nature – the gruff northerner who would shoot civilians without a thought, the procrastinating blonde who cared too much for the media perspective, and the pompous philosopher who believed that thousands dying from a plague was preferable to shooting a few to contain the outbreak as this would assuage his guilt over the whole affair.
• The stark choices that the ministers were faced with didn’t enable them to shirk morally questionable choices such as condemning the patients in the infected hospital to death by quarantining it.
What was bad about it?
• The self-appointed intellectual minister (imagine Anthony H Wilson pontificating about human life in the same haughty manner he reserves for music) perfectly demonstrated why philosophy and government are incompatible by persistently obstructing the practical options favoured by the other ministers.
• Amanda Platell, one of the advisors, kept appearing like a recurring morality beacon imploring the ministers to consider the human cost of their actions when in every case her pleas were the incorrect choice.
• The choices offered to the ministers were too basic, and left little room for innovative thinking on the ministers’ part. And each time they queried the chance of doing something outside the narrow parameters, the ministers were told to hurry up and choose one of the options.
• With reports from BBC hacks, such as Sophie Raworth, it sometimes appeared to be little more than a big-budget corporation training exercise for a national cataclysm.
The advisors often sought to influence the ministers through vague disinformation, such as when the scientists discovered the virus was genetically different to what they had seen before and there were mutterings of Soviet experiments on germs.
• The scoring was rigid and immoral. The ministers handled six dilemmas right and two wrong. Sophie Raworth then popped up to say that 17 people died in the plague outbreak (perhaps including the four shot by police) as if to present some kind of points tally for the team in human life, which was a little sordid.
• After the show ended the audience were offered help if they “had been affected by the contents of this programme”, which is mediaspeak for trying to justify a cheap sensationalist ratings ploy as an educational necessity, like soaps do when they feature mass murderers.

Demolition, Channel 4

Saturday-Tuesday 17-20 December 2005
Did we like it?
The foundations were firm – an exploration of Britain's "eyesores" by Kevin 'Grand Designs' McCloud – but the edifice crumbled a little.
What was good about it?
• Janet Street-Porter as the show's troubleshooter, tackling planners and developers responsible for the unpopular buildings in her forthright manner. Trips to Holmfirth and Bournemouth had her moaning about a horrendous supermarket that upset the folk on the Last Of The Summer Wine coach trip and an imax cinema that destroyed the view of the coast – but she stood up against a man who wanted to pull down the wonderful council building in Aylesbury.
• The close-up view – and timelapse photography – showing the demolition of a Sheffield office block
• Trick photography showing buildings washed away by the waves or sent into space.
• The justified hatred of the Tudorbethian Utopia being created by Britain's housebuilders for easily pleased middle Englanders.

What was bad about it?
• Kevin McCloud is a fine presenter but he was overwhelmed by the talent show aspect of the series in which an X List (echoing X Factor?) is being drawn up of the buildings which need to be removed from the landscape.
• The knee-jerk reactions against many modern buildings and the support for anything old or, even worse, resembling old. The hatred of the Scottish Parliament and some other feted buildings smacks of visual illiteracy. The Gateshead Multistorey Car Park, used in the 1960s film Get Carter, is a great landmark, not an eyesore. We also liked the Cement Works in Rugby. Even the Greater London Council overflow building has its merits.
• The worst building – the horrible out-of-place Westgate House in Newcastle – only came in at number 12 in the list of the Dirty Dozen.
The Dirty Dozen
1 Cumbernauld shopping centre
2 IMAX cinema, Bournemouth
3 Bus station, Northampton
4 Crown House, Kidderminster
5 Cement works, Rugby
6 Park Hill estate, Sheffield
7 Gateshead car park
8 Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh
9 The Tower, Colliers Wood, London
10 Lodge's supermarket, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire
11 No 1 Westminster Bridge (aka the GLC overflow building
12 Westgate House, Newcastle

The Pedants’ Revolt, BBC4

What was it all about?
Victoria Coren examines the theory that English is being corrupted by a submissive acceptance of poor grammar, txtspk and misspelling.
What to say if you liked it
Noble crusaders of the English language strike deep into the sacrilegious verbal territories of infidels who openly worship at the heathen church of poor grammar and spelling.
What to say if you didn’t like it
A spiteful denial of the rights of our language to evolve in alignment with social trends propagated by the same luddite mentality as those fish that scorned brave amphibians who dared crawl from the seas on to land.

What was good about it?
• John Kelly’s observation that morphing English into errant phrases means the loss of an “elegance of expression”.
• Victoria Coren’s mordant presentation of an exquisitely roguish script, which sought to mock the haughty defenders of archaic English but also raise concerns about the atrocities of txtspk and Americanisms.
• Highlighting the way in which vowels are being ethnically cleansed from the language by the prevalence of txtspk.
• Victor Borge’s routine from the 60s where he added verbal punctuation marks to his monologue through a series of bizarre sounds.
• John Humphrys slowly transforming into the journalistic equivalent of the Incredible Hulk while discussing marketing’s lame lexicon such as “pushing the envelope”.

What was bad about it?
• Many of the contributors were old embittered men, with faces so wrinkled they looked like wheezing accordions when the spoke, who wrote to the Daily Telegraph to express their grievances at the butchery of the language. If this “corruption” of language is upsetting Telegraph readers it has at least one boundless merit.
• Apparently, there have been plenty of authors exploiting the supposed dumbing down of English to compose self-help books that offer verbose circumlocution where there is a far more simple solution – read more novels.
• The exaggerated reactions of such people as John Richards of the Apostrophe Protection Society, who was “fairly horrified” by the sign St Georges.
• Promoting the recent Hard Spell as a virtuous method of encouraging child literacy when it is the contemporary equivalent of forcing infants down t’pit until their lungs are chronically blackened with coal dust.
• The problem is little more than a trivial tiff as none of the instances of grammatical barbarity comes from anybody of consequence, even Blair’s toomorrow error was before he had Alastair Campbell to set him straight. This is because the publishing and PR industries operate with their own grammatical secret police in the shape of sub-editors who, because of a naturally obsessive compulsion, take the offending sentences and brutally rearrange their features while also snapping any vulgar prepositions in two so they adhere to proper English standards.

Young, Posh And Penniless, ITV1

What was it all about?
Three privileged young people experienced life on the other side of the breadline when they jettison their luxurious lifestyles for 10 days to live with working class families.
What to say if you liked it
Three spoilt individuals, who believe money flows around the world as copiously as blood flows through their veins, are cruelly sucked dry of all their lavishness to the vicarious delight of the viewing public.
What to say if you didn’t like it
A documentary with little worth to the average viewer, but an invaluable cautionary educational video for posh parents to warn their children that they too will be sent to the working class dungeons if they misbehave.

What was good about it?
• A chance to feel the piquant sensations of outrage as the three youths showed a callous ignorance of the world outside their opulent bubble. The worst offender was 17-year-old Tom Smith, a plastic punk who remarked: “How can they hope to solve problems in Iraq when people here still wear jeans for four pounds?” How we laughed when his favourite shirt came back from the wash with a starched collar.
• The arrogant Ollie Milton was almost as obnoxious. The aspiring helicopter pilot said of polo: “It gives you a rush you can’t get from any other sport.” A translation of which roughly reads: “I can assert my class superiority through playing a sport you oiks are too poor to enjoy.”
• Donatella was the only one of the three to come out with a favourable impression, as she got stuck in to the grime and dirt of a job at a truckers’ motel.
• Farmer John, wife Jan and their two daughters, put up with Tom , really did seem to work hard, evident in their hulking physical frames that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a wrestling tag team.

What was bad about it?
• As the vulgarity of the three youngsters showed little indication of abating, it became increasingly apparent that the viewers’ opinions were being manipulated through the editing. And by about halfway, we held far more antipathy towards the producers than the subjects for duping us into such loathing towards Tom, Donatella and Ollie.
• It was little more than a peephole for the upper classes to condescendingly gaze at how poor folk manage to eke out an existence in the same way scientists observe insects.
• The forced morality of the contrite three at the conclusion (more subjective editing, probably) where they spoke of how they now appreciated more their wealth. But this was tainted by the earlier portrayals of them as superficial wastrels, meaning that the
viewer would assume once they had returned to their own abundant habitat, any lessons they learned would quickly be forgotten.
• We would like to believe that Tim, Donatella and Ollie took part to increase their breadth of understanding of humanity but it was more likely they want to become television presenters; indeed Donatella already has worked for insignificant cable channel Chelsea TV. And all three perhaps hold Tara Palmer Tomkinson and Tom Parker-Bowles in shining idolatry, who both prove that breeding and class are far more important than talent in the media.
• The host families’ assessments of the three youngsters lacked any real insight and seemed to adhere to the stereotype that poorer people are less intellectual. The best Ollie’s foster mother Val could come up with was that Ollie seemed “lonely”, while John and Jan could only come up with a list of mindless platitudes to describe Tom.
• Tom finding happiness doing what rural folk and the upper classes singularly have in common – hunting animals. Tom was seen shooting rabbits for no other purpose than his own pleasure.
• Donatella discovering that the poor folk she met “work hard and are a lot happier than a lot of people I know”, as if she were the first to stumble across the phenomenon that money doesn’t equate with happiness.

Bricking It, Channel 4

What to say if you like it
A stirring tale of triumph over adversity, as unemployed, untrained teenagers overcome incompetence and internal friction to build an enduring monument to their fortitude (a "luxury" flat in south London).
What to say if you didn’t like it
The detritus of English youth are dumped together in one location to exhibit their negligible worth to humanity in vulgar, vicarious victuals for vile viewers.

What was good about it?
• Project manager Phil Ashton is a decent considerate professional, who is perhaps learning as many new skills as his novice builders by having to arbitrate between fractious puerile teenagers.
• The graphic representation of the flat to illustrate what the teenagers need to accomplish on each step of the project was clear and informative.
• It was difficult to pick out the teenagers who appeared to be pleasant and competent as they hardly got a look in, but David, Hannah and Laurence seem to be in that category.

What was bad about it?
• The whole concept of building is very, very dull.
• It’s very difficult to feel empathy with the teenagers as only those who caused trouble got much airtime – the emotionally distraught and inept Dan, apprentice thug Ricky, sanctimonious Zac, tardy Gregory and gobby troublemaker Lauren.
• The teenagers were almost all characterised through the editing in a negative manner, either through lack of ability or emotional fragility.
• As with many other reality shows, the whole show is wreathed in an aura of amoral manipulation. Throwing together 10 teenagers for an almost incidental task they are ill-suited to perform was bound to cause bitter conflict. Plus, the bonus pool of £50,000 that is reduced for each individual misdemeanour is designed to increase the tension as the hard workers feel resentful to their lazier colleagues.

The Man Who Broke Britain, BBC2

What was it about?
No, it wasn't a biography of Tony Blair. This bloke was a fictional City trader whose dodgy dealings broke a UK investment bank, just as terrorists attacks in Saudi Arabia were sending the price of oil rocketing.
What to say if you liked it
A chilling wake-up call to the new threat of financial terrorism, and the effects it could have on all our lives.
What to say if you didn't like it.
Yet more unconvincing post-9/11 scaremongering.

What was good about it
• The accomplished drama-documentary style – you could hardly tell it wasn't real.
• The brave attempt to explain derivatives trading (basically it's gambling with other peoples' money).
• The neat twist at the end – Saudi-born trader Samir wasn't a terrorist after all, and the real crook was his Brit boss.
• Brilliant use of actual footage of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, proving that their speeches really are designed to mean almost anything you want them to.

What was bad about it
• Terrorism or not, the bank's collapse didn't actually break Britain's economy, leaving the BBC guilty of serious exaggeration in the show's trailers.
• It was too long – they could have told the story in 60 minutes, not 90, just by cutting those endless shots of City skyscrapers (the 'outward ripple of doom' special effect was great though).
• The neat twist at the end – another example of timid controversy-avoidance in the run-up to the BBC's charter review?
• Presumably David Blunkett will now use the 'proven' threat of finance-terrorism to pass a law giving traffic wardens access to our bank accounts.

The Power Of Nightmares, BBC2

What to say if you liked it
Probably the best documentary series of the past decade
What to say if you disliked it
Who wants stuff like this after a hard day? Certainly not when Titchmarsh is on the other side.

What was good about it?
• Adam Curtis examined the shocking similarities between American neo-conservatism and Islamic fundamentalism in a manner that was stylish, easy to follow and even playful in parts yet was never gimmicky or dumbed down.
• Curtis sifted like a forensic scientist through the evidence which proved his stance: "Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us from nightmares – dreadful dangers we can't see and do not understand – but much of this is just fantasy."
• Archive material was used with panache. Thrown expertly into the visual mix were clips of church dances, cheerleaders, bowling alleys, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, some horrendous torturing, some fantastically cheesy Egyptian TV ads and, best of all, a clip from a propaganda film showing blood being poured over a globe.
• The soundtrack was good, too, ranging from Western movie songs to sinister swirly music. Curtis was at his most playful when the popular standard Baby It's Cold Outside played beneath footage of clean-cut Americans as well as exuberant Taliban fighters in the desert
• It was quite staggering to learn that two influential philosophers from seemingly diametrically opposed standpoints – Egyptian Sayyid Qutb and American Leo Strauss – actually shared many ideas in their desperation to control "selfish individualism". The result? A paranoid America and an extremist Islamic movement.
• Curtis exposed how stupid the neo-conservatives were: they tried to convince the CIA to produce a report to the president that the Soviets were behind all sorts of worldwide terrorist groups, but were oblivious to the fact that much of their evidence was appropriated from wilfully false CIA propaganda bulletins. And then, even more bizarrely, the sympathetic CIA head William Casey acceded to the demand.

What was bad about it?
• Realising that our fate is in the hands of people such as Donald Rumsfeld, who has been a warmongering fool since 1975 and was behind a CIA report claiming the fact that Soviet weapons couldn't be found meant for sure they must exist.
• The sort of people who should have been watching this were probably preoccupied by The Great British Spelling Test on ITV1 where Neil Fox was being so, so crass making out that this men versus women spelling bee was "the mother of all wars."

Britain's Youngest Mums And Dads, ITV1

What was it about?
The stories behind some of the country’s teenage parents. Most of them appear to come from the north west.
What to say if you liked it.
It should be shown in all schools once a week instead of sex education lessons.
What to say if you didn’t like it.
These kids shouldn’t be allowed out on their own.

What was good about it?
• It had the potential to be unremittingly sad – but in each of the case studies there were signs of hope.
• The programme used a professional nanny to show one couple how they should look after their child – and her advice seemed to have been heeded.
• The narration (by Fiona Foster) was intelligent and the producers didn’t try to sensationalise it.
• Virtually all the teenage mums and dads looked and sounded as though they were in it for the long run.
What was bad about it?
• It was a bit long and could easily have sat at an hour.
• Childless couples desperate for a child would have found this a very difficult and challenging watch.
• The UK has the biggest number of teenage mothers in the world. If that isn’t bad, we don’t know what is.

Time To Get Your House In Order! Channel 4

What to say if you liked it.
TV comes to the rescue of more ill-educated oiks
What to say if you didn’t like it.
Not even good enough for daytime when viewers are so indiscriminate they'll watch programmes hosted by Claire Sweeney

What was good about it?
• Nothing at all. It's ironic that a programme that advises on how not to waste time is a total waste of half an hour.
What was bad about it?
• Channel 4 has had a good record in finding Britain's chavviest people, but Shellie and Ray – the subjects of programme one – were only mildly pathetic.
• Presenter Tim Hadcock-Mackay tries to pretend he's a bit of a dandy with his breast pocket hanky and tightly-rolled brolly, but really he's just a ghastly upper class twit with a hint of Dick Emery's toothy vicar.
• The stupid cartoon title sequence
• Shellie's laziness was a bit annoying ("I'm laidback but not lazy," she said from the sofa where she spends 5.3 hours a day) but we're sure that there was some fakery involved eg we bet the producers gave her the whistle she blew to attract Ray to make her another brew or shave her thick legs
• The statistic that men spend an average of 14 minutes a week ironing was a bit frightening. We realise we need to do quite a lot more to catch up

Full On Food, BBC2

What was it about?
News and views about food.
What to say if you liked it.
Imagine a food programme made by the Top Gear team.
What to say if you didn’t like it.
Imagine a food programme made by the Top Gear team.

What was good about it?
• The two male presenters Richard Johnson and Stefan Gates were excellent. They looked relaxed and were interesting and amusing.
• The items on mushrooms and Japanese food were very good, well shot and with good scripts.
• Guest Nigel Havers cooked a mean Halibut with Caper Butter.
• The show was well paced and didn’t drag.
• It may be like Top Gear, but it doesn't have Jeremy Clarkson.

What was bad about it?
• The third presenter (the improbably named Roxy Beaujolais) didn’t match up to the boys. She was nervous, looked amateurish and it was clear she was a newcomer. That’s alright for cable but not BBC2.
• The floor manager appeared to be overworking the crowd at the start, but they quietened down later on in the show, suggesting someone had had a word, or they were getting tired standing there all that time.
• Every recipe seemed to involve a great dollop of butter, making it the most cholesterol-heavy cookery programme since the Galloping Gourmet.

What were the Top 5 ingredients of the fabulous Full On Food, BBC2, Wednesday?
1. Butter. It was everywhere, making this the unhealthiest cookery show on TV. Professional brass (sorry, pub landlady) Roxy Beaujolais lobbed half a pound in just to fry a few mussels.
2. Sean Hughes. If there was any danger of newbie presenter Richard Johnson getting too cocky, Hughes quashed it by asking him how you actually get a lazy job as a restaurant critic (Johnson's honest answer: "You have to know someone").
3. Pollock (it's a fish). "We've got a load of pollocks here" said presenter Stefan Gates to the bemused patrons of a Cornish chip shop. We thought that too.
4. That soya protein stuff that Hughes bunged in his chili fry-up (everything's fried on this show). It looked like dessicated dog's mess, and by the look on Johnson's face tasted like it, too.
5. Goose fat. Yes, more grease from the high priests of high cholesterol, as Roxy shoved some in the pan to fry her sausages (perhaps she was running short of butter). Haven't these people heard of the George Foreman Health Grill?

Full On Food, BBC2
1. Goat's Cheese (full fat) marinated in oil (more fat)
2. Ice cream (fat) fried in oil (more fat)
3. Seasonal fruits (low fat) sauteed in butter (presumably to make them high fat).
4. Chips fried twice (in fat) . They'd previously been boiled with blow-torched hay, so the frying was the normal bit.
5. Walnut oil (more fat) dribbled over the marinated goat's cheese.
Exclusive: The Custard's Full On recipe for a cheese sandwich. Take two slices of bread, soak them in oil. Fry the cheese in some butter and duck fat (gives it a marvellous taste). Butter the bread, assemble sandwich if you can stop the bread slipping out of your hands onto the studio floor. Serve with a garnish of buttered rocket and deep-fried beetroot, liberally doused with almond oil and beef dripping. Delicious!
(Note for Full On Food's producers: You've been had. High-fat French cuisine was a hoax invented by Napoleon to give the English heart attacks. French people eat grilled chicken and Ryvita when the Brits aren't looking).
Five facts about Full On Food's pub landlady Roxy Beaujolais
1. Her real name is Jenny Hoffman, and she comes from Adelaide, Australia.
2. Her pub, the Seven Stars, was built in the last year of Elizabeth I's reign (look it up), about the same time as Roxy first applied her trademark coating of all-weather makeup.
3. She used to be front-of-house manager at Ronnie Scott's jazz club, and a chef for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
4. Trombonist Mark Nightingale wrote a song about her ("Miss Roxy Beaujolais") which has become a minor jazz standard.
5. She's older than Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Platell And Morgan, Channel 4

What to say if you liked it
Two of the most potent interviewers in British journalism flick verbal venom at bumbling politicians to get to the heart of the matter on an issue of current affairs.
What to say if you didn't like it
Two monumental egos use the charade of a political interview to gush forth their egotistical views on the state of the nation, while a meek MP acts as a straw dog for them to incessantly bayonet with their dubious dogma.

What was good about it?
• The subject was a topical and contentious issue: Despite being the official government opposition, why was the Conservative Party acquiescing to Tony Blair's nationally unpopular policies in Iraq?
• Michael Ancram's views being as spineless as a worm seeking sanctuary in the soft earth from the rending talons of Amanda Platell and Piers Morgan.
• Michael Ancram's ludicrous suggestion that the fledgling Iraqi government was determining policy.
• Amanda saying to Ancram: "I understand we've asked you a lot of difficult questions tonight, but you've just sat on the fence"

What was bad about it?
• The eternal problem of interviewing politicians. Michael Ancram simply batted away the variegated array of questions bowled at them with a single stock answer. Even Paxman would have struggled.
• The studio and introductory music made it seem like a real-life Day Today.
• The weak selling point of the two hosts not always agreeing.
• Amanda's accent seems to be the winner of a Pin the Tail on a Donkey contest only with a global map. Ancram avoiding the question of civilian Iraqi deaths.
• The live format was counterproductive, as Ancram often blustered, and wasted valuable time repeating himself.
• The friction between Piers and Amanda seemed often to be indulgent as though two lions squabbling over the spoils of a corpulent corpse of a zebra, whose nutrition rotted away as they argued.
• The anecdotal evidence offered by Piers and Ancram seemed highly subjective. Piers' was from his serviceman brother, while Ancram's was a "friend".

Showbiz Moms & Dads, LivingTV

What to say if you liked it
There's nothing we love more than a reality documentary series exposing deluded wannabes and focusing on shattered dreams…
What to say if you disliked it
…but not if it's at the expense of innocent kids whose parents who are scarily determined that their offspring will become stars

What was bad about it?
* The insistence of the parents that their children loved being thrust into the spotlight even when the footage showed otherwise. Most cruel was Debbie Tye whose sobbing four-year-old daughter Emily wanted the potty not another pointless pageant. "You are four years of age! Act liked it!" Debbie barked.
• The insistence of the parents that they were not living their dreams through their children even when the footage showed otherwise. Worst offender was Duncan Nutter who forced his kids into five auditions a week ("I wanna see thrills, air and fun like these things are happening right now") and were likened to performing seals by an astute casting director.
• Duncan's scary verdict on his seven kids. "They're just fascinating creatures."
• Duncan being so stupid that he didn't realise that the TV producers who wanted to make Meet The Nutters weren't planning a family sitcom but were hellbent on making an exploitative docusoap instead.
• Wannabe actress Jordan being bloated on fast food by her indulgent mother Tiffany
• Four-year-old Emily being forced to wear a wig, make-up and an all-over fake tan.
• Four-year-old Emily singing about being in "my baby's arms".
• Four-year-old Emily being forced to pose for a picture even though she'd just lost her third pageant in a row. The resulting smile showed she's a Stepford Wife in the making.
• Kimberley Stephens – mother of That's So Raven actress Jordan – may have been the nicest of the parents but we soon tired of her whining on about not knowing how she copes with being so busy and brilliant.
• Shane Klingensmith, a 13-year-old who appeared like a fleshy robot as his mother tried to make him into a teen idol. "He's got appeal. It's his stage presence," she insisted, even though his unsuccessful Orlando Idol audition singing Hot, Hot, Hot left us and the judges feeling cold, cold, cold. That boy needs a Simon Cowell figure to tell him to forget showbiz and just enjoy some stamp collecting, catapulting, Harry Potter or whatever it is normal kids are supposed to enjoy these days. Even smoking crack seems preferable to a life of wearing loud shirts and holding back tears of disappointment.
• Shane's mother Debbie who once ran a twirling studio but now bangs on about the sacrifices she's made for her son, oblivious to the fact that he's sacrificed his childhood

How To Start Your Own Country, BBC2

What to say of you liked it
A delightfully quirky quest as Danny Wallace tries to claim land over which to rule benignly.
What to say of you didn’t like it
An idea dreamt up after a night on the beers which has been allowed to blunder onwards until it’s become one of the most indulgent and pointless TV shows this side of Changing Rooms.

What was good about it?
• Danny Wallace made a likeable host, and, even as his mission became ever more absurd, he rarely descended into irritation.
• We learned that one portion of Antarctica is unclaimed after the USA relinquished its right to snare a section of the continent. Greenpeace has set up a base there.
• The overall notion certainly has potential, and it wasn’t Danny’s fault that much of the first episode was brimming with diminished self-proclaimed icons under severe delusions of megalomania, whereas Danny seemed to be doing it for a bit of a jape. When he begins recruiting his citizens should provide the opportunity for better TV.
• Danny’s hapless invasion of Eel Pie Island in the River Thames. It began badly when he ineptly tried to row to its shores, only to abandon a seaborne “assault” once he saw the connecting footbridge. With just his friend John, who was once a security guard at Tescos, Danny set about winning the hearts and minds of the islanders with soothing posters and pacifistic loudhailing. He then set up a border checkpoint (a piece of striped tape spanning a walkway), but his invasion was concluded prematurely when a policeman drove past menacingly in his car.

What was bad about it?
• The faux intimacy of using a video camera to record intimate thoughts.
• Despite Danny’s genuine efforts, it’s difficult to regard the whole escapade as little more than a self-indulgent sashay across our TV screens. Each visit he made seemed to be to extend the joke that little bit further past its natural snapping point, and everyone he met was ostensibly a dumb stooge to facilitate the gag.
• Prince Michael of Sealand, the “independent” state on a disused World War Two fortress that stands in international waters. He looks like an émigré bouncer from London’s clubland and if he were incessantly chewing gum he would be bound by the International Convention of Stereotypical Appearances to abandon his throne and seek employment thumping blameless students in the West End.
• Prince Michael also exclaimed: “After World War Two, the government should’ve destroyed it (the fortress). They went against every international convention by not destroying it.” His embittered tone suggested that by not destroying the fortress, the British government had committed a war crime parallel to some civilian massacre, when in fact they had merely abandoned a rusting construction supported by rotund pillars like Vanessa Feltz’s thighs that was a minor blot on a
godless, featureless seascape.
• Also, having journeyed all the way out to Sealand, Danny didn’t venture on board. This meant that all the questions about it were left largely unanswered: How many people lived there? How do they get their supplies? Has anyone left to settle on the mainland? Would the Daily Mail object to any Sealander settling on the mainland? Would the Daily Mail conduct a witch-hunt culminating with any Sealander immigrant being burnt at the stake? Would ITN sponsor that stake and claim exclusive TV rights to the event? Sadly, we never found out the answers to any of these questions.
• Erwin Strauss, who wrote a book on starting your own country, was perhaps the most boring man to appear on television since After Dark finished. He had lists and programmes to guide him methodically through the day with tags to remind him to brush his teeth.
• Dennis Hope, who declares he owns the Moon. He doesn’t. He just “exploited” the international agreement that no nation shall own celestial bodies by saying he was claiming it as his own and that the UN and Russian and American governments should notify him if they had an objection. They simply ignored him.
• The gullible idiots who have “bought” three million plots on the Moon. Even if they were to win the right to contractually own areas of the Moon, what good will it ever do them? Unless, like it a game of stellar Monopoly, they will demand compensation should a spacecraft land on their plot.
• Danny’s inclination to ask the most banal questions in a pseudo-Jon Ronson style, but without the devious ulterior scheming. He asked an Army Major: “Why does a country need an army?”
• The decision (which he “arrived” at while gazing dolefully into his beloved video camera) to set up his own country in his flat was more born out of desperation than inspiration.
The House of Obsessive Compulsives, Channel 4
What to say if you liked it
A programme that helped provide a real understanding of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
What to say if you disliked it
Well-meaning but exploitative.

What was good about it?
• The initial, unintentional humour of the programme (e.g. Wendy being scared of flicks of glitter, Gerry tying chains around his feet to prevent sleepwalking) soon wore off as the three Obsessive Compulsive Disorder sufferers demonstrated how deep-rooted, and ultimately devastating, their conditions were. This wasn’t a programme of grotesque exploitation – we were in for a fascinating, and highly disturbing, exploration of a modern disease.
• The severity of OCD was staggering. Sophie’s obsessive cleaning meant it took her three hours to get ready for bed; Wendy was shown literally living her life through a protective stack of kitchen roll while Gerry had to keep pens away from him for fear of confessing to fictional crimes. "If you said to me, I guarantee you that if you chop your hands off with a kitchen knife, you will be rid of 50 per cent of my OCD, I'd go to the kitchen and do it," he admitted.
• The partners of the three compulsives heightened the programme’s emotional impact. Their patience, endurance and commitment to their loved ones in more-than-difficult marriages (Wendy’s husband spent nearly all of his time checking for dirt and paint near her) were admirable and endearing.
• Christopher Eccleston as narrator. Could nearly have ruined the programme’s heart and conscience with a fantastical and theatrical narration but he was warm and sympathetic.
• The treatment for the compulsives was satisfying to watch. Halfway through and we were rooting for the three to rid themselves of their “false friend”. Wendy simply being able to touch Sophie without fear of contamination was a moving and uplifting piece of television. The simplest tasks became monumental triumphs and we felt involved in the process.
• “It’s there in all of us,” concluded Professor Paul Salkovskis – a statement unsettling for the viewer but illustrative of the compulsives’ normality, all of who deserve our empathy.

Warlords, Channel 4

What to say if you liked it
A profound plumbing to the depths of the distrustful dialogue between two of the most prolific murderers of the last century.
What to say if you didn’t like it
A jumbled mess of a chronicle which evinced little insight other than the typical TV fraud of ghoulishly serving up Russian and Nazi atrocities to beguile a gullible, insatiable audience.

What was good about it?
• David Morrissey’s authoritative narration who, at times, let his own personal disgust seep into his otherwise sonorous tones.
• Initially, the phrase “Hitler had set his heart on invading Poland” made the Fuhrer seem as emotionally trivial as a lovelorn, geeky schoolboy fixing his adoration on the prettiest girl in class. But later on this was revealed to be a perceptive description of Hitler’s mentality as he was shown to act impulsively and irrationally such as when he noted how on a trip in the Austrian wilderness he was captivated by “mountains lit up by the Moon”.
• It was also episodes and anecdotes like that which illuminated the chasm in attitudes between Stalin and Hitler. While Stalin would methodically crawl through signing death warrants for each of those whom he sentenced to death and pore over the details of gold mining, Hitler was too impatient for such matters and would spend much of his time dreaming. The denouement of their also showed how this dichotomy in their
thinking fostered paranoid intimations of betrayal, as Stalin refused to believe, even as the Wehrmacht piled up forces on the Eastern Front, that Hitler would launch an assault until he had allied Germany with Britain and America.
• How necessity can often make bedfellows of opposed ideologies, a trait which still resonates today with such alliances as America and Pakistan.
• The revelation that Heinrich Hoffman, Hitler’s photographer, took pictures of Stalin so Hitler could check his earlobes. He believed that “joined” lobes constituted Jewish genes.
• When the Russia-Germany alliance collapsed, because of the protagonists’ paranoia, Hitler initially fixed his guns on Moscow because he thought the Western Front already conquered and that Britain was not surrendering because they had a secret pact with
Stalin. Of course they didn’t, but his own apprehension was enough for Hitler to invade Russia to coerce Britain into yielding. He later claimed, however, he began the invasion to crush Bolshevism.

What was bad about it?
• It’s yet another documentary which exploits the public’s endless fascination with horribly evil despots. But the makers allow them to do so from the cosseted safety of their own living room thus never fully instilling the horror of the appalling regimes in their viewers.
• The brief conflict between Russia and Finland, which began after Finland refused to cede territory to Stalin to create a buffer between Russia and the Wehrmacht (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia all “agreed”), was not covered in much detail other than as an example of the Soviet dictator’s ruthlessness and stupidity as his best generals were shot for their perceived incompetence.
• As the hub was utterly on the two despots, it meant that detail was sacrificed elsewhere and the focus was a little narrow. An instance of this was “mass murder
was just another weapon of their ideology” with little information of their barbarism.
• One of the teasers to come back after the ad break was: “Their delusions locked them into massive error, and the bloodiest conflict the world has ever seen.” But was said in such a way as if it would reveal what that conflict was.
• The decision to use only testimony from the diaries and notebooks of those directly involved (Stalin, Goebbels, Krushchev) rather than from contemporary experts awarded the documentary the feel of a dusty lecture and lacking the humanity of the excellent Auschwitz series on BBC2 in which survivors from both sides revealed first hand the horrors of the carnage.

Departure Lounge, BBC1

What to say if you liked it?
A lively travel magazine for people who love minor celebrities and silly nonsense and have a need to hear at least seven superlatives per minute.
What to say if you disliked it?
The sort of anarchic approach to travel TV that would have the orange draining from the cheeks of our beloved Judith Chalmers.

What was good about it?
• Simon Calder – the Lee Evans of TV travel – excitedly guiding us past the pitfalls of going abroad. "I am on hand to perk up your package," he promised. Cheeky.
• Angellica Bell is quite perky without quite hitting the level of being irritating.
• The suitcase destruction test made good TV, with packed cases being subjected to bungee jumping and catapulting to see if tacky china souvenirs inside could survive.

What was bad about it?
• Nick Knowles' unkempt appearance. We normally find him insufferable, but his presentation of this programme wasn't too bad. However, his scruffy appearance made him seem like one of those poor bastards who has to spend a week on a bench at Heathrow while the French air traffic controllers play out yet another dispute.
• Setting the programme at Manchester Airport gave it a sense of being at the heart of the matter. Pity that so much was almost drowned by tannoy announcements.
• Jilly Goolden, the acceptable face of winoism, was still as annoying as ever in her fatuous little segment (buying wine in France while hypnotised)
• Kirsty Gallagher, the poor man's Lisa Riley, was still as bland as ever in the Departure Lounge Challenge (Saira from The Apprentice is undertaking the budget travel task in show two, which'll be much more fun)

Born To Be Different, Channel 4

What to say if you liked it
An impossibly poignant portrait of six children to whom God didn’t deal a fair hand of cards.
What to say of you didn’t like it
Documentaries about distressed and seriously ill children are just as cynically produced to draw in the viewers with simplistic, instinctive and hypnotic footage as some lazy ITV celebrity obsessed game show.

What was good about it?
• The educational element which lucidly, and with little hyperbole, delineated the ailment each child was suffering from. We learned about Tuberous Sclerosis, which William endured, which are lesions on the brain which cause epileptic fits. Emily had Spina Bifida, which literally means “split spine”. Shelbie was blighted by a chromosome disorder which meant that, when not in hospital, she needed a constant supply of oxygen. Nathan had Down’s Syndrome, which impeded his speech. Zoë has hands and feet that turn inwards. And Hamish struggled on with Dwarfism.
• The matter-of-fact manner in which both parents talked about their child’s disabilities. “All I do is break the bones…” a doctor blandly informs Hamish’s parents about an operation to give him a few extra inches in height.
• Also Paul Nicholls narrated in a similarly flat and composed tone, never letting the severity of any child’s plight distort his apposite monotone. “William has been confined to a small room with 37 probes attached to his head.”
• The searing empathy felt for the parents when the children were ever in gravely poor health. As William was admitted to the theatre to have one third of his brain removed to help ease his fits, his father Nick remarked: “I don’t think the corridors are going to be long enough to pace.”
• The horrid pain the children had to tolerate was utterly unpleasant and often unwatchable, but was effective in expressing the narrative of each tale. For instance, Emily had to have major surgery just hours after being born to help correct her Spina
Bifida, but since then has been able to lead a relatively normal life.
• Hamish’s father Nick using humour as a way of coping with his son’s Dwarfism. “He’ll have a final height of between 4’ and 4’ 2”. He won’t be able to reach the dirty magazines on the top shelf.” And: “Most people have to wait 30 years before they know their son isn’t going to be an international rugby player.” Of course, coming from someone else (or Ricky Gervais) such remarks would be offensive, but coming from a loving father they were simply touching.

What was bad about it?
• The sense that the viewer’s mood has been artificially manipulated by the editing and plaintive piano music. The clinical composition was wrought so a scene of happiness and tranquillity was almost always succeeded by some trauma. Perhaps for a less searing documentary such crass techniques may be necessitated but here they simply were merely gratuitous.
• Because of the varying degrees of disability, sometimes you start to feel that some of the complaints ostensibly aren’t that serious. For instance, since her operation soon after being born, Zoë is able to live a normal life except for her incontinence while Shelbie seems to be in a persistent battle just to stay alive. But later, you learn that
to remedy her problems Zoë will require surgery in which her bladder will be enlarged by affixing part of her bowel to it.
• When Shelbie is rushed to hospital the camera continues to film her mother Vicky outside as she shakes with worry about her daughter dying. This was perhaps too raw to be shown (and certainly wouldn’t have been had Shelbie died).
• The final ad break was offensive on two counts. Firstly, it came when Shelbie had just been admitted to hospital and appeared to be struggling for life. It was almost a case of aping those old Flash Gordon serials which conclude with a cliffhanger of Flash’s
rocket crashing into the deserts of Mongo. “How will he escape? Tune in next week to find out!” With Shelbie, the intimation was: “Can Shelbie pull through her latest trauma, or will the Grim Reaper pluck another sapling from the garden of humanity? Find out after the break!”
• And secondly, it featured a trailer for Big Brother which followed on afterwards. Never has Makosi’s drab selfishness been more abhorrent, “I think I’m going to be the last one out. I feel I’m going to be the last one out.”

The Best And Worst Places To Live In The UK, Channel 4

What to say if you liked it
Our favourite TV pairing – Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer – get to rate and slate places around the UK in a fast-paced entertaining hour of telly, showing us picture postcard heaven and satellite-dish scarred hell
What to say if you disliked it
Kirstie and Phil, who've built up a solid, sensible reputation on Location, Location, Location, smash their credibility to smithereens by trying to become the Little & Large of property programmes

What was good about it?
• The script wasn't all trite (most of it was, though eg "cream of the crud"). Our favourite description was of Harrogate: "All your gran's favourite TV shows rolled into one. It's also famous for its spa and I don't mean the cornerstore."
• Lots of shots of shirtless chavs
• We learned the people in rotten areas are all pixelated; those in the nice areas aren't similarly afflicted

What was bad about it?
• Based on the dubious claim that "property prices are still on everybody's lips", Kirstie and Phil were obsessed with investment opportunities. For them, a home isn't somewhere to live, it's somewhere to sell at a profit in a year or two. There was no chance of cashing in on the Top 10 places anyway. Instead, they seemed to be suggesting we buy a place in the Worst 10, cover the windows in grilles, pack the kids off to private school, live without latte and cross our fingers that things will improve.
• The contrived bickering between Kirstie and Phil and stunts such as making Phil chauffeur Kirstie around
• A lot of the statistics were out of date
• The use of rap music during reports on the bad areas was an ill advised hint at who was to blame for low house prices
• The facts about the towns were all over the place. Surely Merthyr Tydfil has more claims to fame than being the "first place where Petula Clark performed"?
• Phil's horror that you couldn't get a latte with marshmallow on top in Blaenau Gwent. We think that should be in the Welsh town's credit column, not a reason to slag it off.
• Kirstie's shoeshop fixation became very tiresome
• Most of the Worst 10 were illustrated by shots of fat bellied folk, yet none of the overfed, overprivileged people in the Best 10 were shown.
• No mention of Scotland.

Best 10
1 Epsom and Ewell
2 Westminster
3 Harrogate
4 Ashford
5 Stratford Upon Avon
6 East Hertfordshire
7 South Cambridgeshire
8 Mole Valley
9 Guildford
10 West Oxfordshire

Worst 10
1 Kingston-upon-Hull
2 Nottingham
3 Strabane, Northern Ireland
4 Hackney
5 Middlesbrough
6 Mansfield
7 Blaenau Gwent, Wales
8 Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
9 Salford
10 Easington

Paparazzi, BBC3

What to say if you liked it.
A riveting fly-on-the-wall account of the lives of the paparazzi (the Big Pictures Agency and its staff).
What to say if you didn’t like it.
The so-called celebs are as bad as the papps. They feed off each other in a symbiotic frenzy. Take the cameras away and it becomes stalking.

What was good about it?
• It showed the warts and all life of the paparazzi, from following Charlotte Church around Cardiff to annoying Victoria Beckham on the ski slopes.
• The head of Big Pictures is the archetypal Aussie. Loud, brash and motivated by big wadges of cash. Darryn Lyons is exactly the kind of man you’d expect him to be.
• We got a glimpse of what it’s like through the eyes of the papp on the street. Lots of waiting about, whether it be outside the Ivy or on a beach in Barbados.
What was bad about it?
• The programme lacked interviews with either the targets (‘celebs’) or the picture editors (customers).
• No one questioned the ethics of sticking a camera up some girl’s skirt to see whether she’s got any knickers on.
• We started to feel sorry for Victoria Beckham. And that's not right, is it?

Sandbanks, ITV1

Did we like it?
An unsightly trawl through the unclean lives of the south coast’s filthy rich that was metamorphosed into an arch satire by master presenter Piers Morgan, for whom godhood now surely beckons!

What was good about it?
• Piers Morgan is the most talented man working on television today, and probably in the world. Every atom of his body is like a little egg sac of ingenuity, screaming his genius at a world that is only just waking up to this Einstein of the airwaves.
• Piers archly stating that Sandbanks has aspirations to become “Britain’s Monte Carlo”. And Piers, of course, is just the man to draw comparisons between the two places blessed as he is with a jet-setting lifestyle that befits such a TV titan.
• Smashing his way past the flimsy artifice like the Julius Caesar of real estate, Piers quickly got to the bottom of what makes Sandbanks such an exclusive area. “I’m going to get down and dirty with the new money!” he scorned, in that rasping satirical voice of his that could roast to unchewable char the sugary cakes of lies spouted by Sandbanks’ estate agents.
• And where better to spit his verbal venom than at the number one estate agent of Sandbanks Tom Doyle, who “has two Bentleys” and a permanent grin on his face – aha, aha but Piers has two brains (how else could such genius be contained within one oblong cranium?) and a permanent smirk on his face, the kind of smirk worn by gods when their little human minions get ideas above their station.
• Louis Theroux eat your heart out! You may enjoy your merry jaunt around a dangerous American prison talking with lowlifes who will never amount to a hill of beans in this world, but take a leaf out of Piers’ book, good man. He has gone right to the top of society, and is asking them more provocative questions than you could ever imagine. Take his interrogation of Doyle – there was no jumping in their all guns righteously blazing – he took his time before sinking his fangs right into the aorta of Doyle’s existence. “This home is worth £8m,” boasted Doyle. “How much does £8m get me?” the master questioner asked, biting his lip with feverish joy as the lumbering Doyle stumbled into his masterfully-laid trap. “The view,” Doyle asserted. Barely able to stifle his joy at Doyle’s philosophical clumsiness, perfect Piers sarcastically replied, “Pretty amazing, isn’t it?”
• Short of handing him the spade, Piers was helping Doyle dig his own (moral) pauper’s grave. “Is there anyone you wouldn’t sell to?” Piers asked archly. “Osama Bin Laden?” This was probably the most tensest moment on TV since EastEnders on Christmas Day; Piers has done Doyle up like a kipper – he has placed him in the dilemma of causing his overriding and primary ideal for living, his avarice, to clash with the man-in-the-street’s notion of common decency. “I’d probably have to draw the line there!” quipped Doyle, bottling it.
• We were far more impressed, as was Piers, by property developer Eddie Mitchell. Piers highlighted that he was a Barnado’s Boy made good who now jazzed up homes on Sandbanks by knocking them down and building them up again with the kind of imagination that hasn’t been seen in Europe since the passing of Leonardo Da Vinci. “This is art for example,” Piers observed one of Mitchell’s properties called Thunderbird which was packed to the rafters with opulent art only a keen eye like Piers’ could appreciate. “You have had this vision and personally got this art made.” Poor Eddie is obviously dealing with aesthetic Palestines as Thunderbird has been on the market for two years and still remains unsold, which is like auctioning the Mona Lisa on eBay and only getting a biggest bid of £6.39.
• It was a brilliant way to start the New Year, with someone telling it like it is. After a year of lies and scandal on television we’re glad that Piers Morgan has galloped on to our screens like a modern day St George (and if we’re going to have Jeremy Clarkson as PM (yay!) let’s have Piers Morgan as our new patron saint). This is a man, a prince, a demigod whose reputation is unbesmirched by scandal and lies, who speaks the gospel truth when offering ‘opinions’ on America/ Britain’s Got Talent. So if you do one thing before this week is out, we beg you, it’s watch this programme to see a true master at work.

What was bad about it?
• What the hell is this doing on at 10.35pm? When Jesus rose from the dead he was carried aloft through the streets of Nazareth he didn’t meekly creep through the streets politely knocking on doors to announce his resurrection, which is the sort of treatment Piers has been subjected to. ITV, for god’s sake, this man could single-handedly save your channel – put him on in primetime, shoulder charge Moving Wallpaper into touch if you have to but get him on earlier. God makes the sun rise at about 6am each summer morning and remain glowing in the sky for 12 hours or more – ITV could do much worse than to have Piers on for a similar duration this summer, and we mean projecting his face onto the sun so he can offer the same quality advice and philosophy that he dishes out on Sandbanks. Imagine the joy!

No Waste Like Home, BBC2

Thursday 18 August 2005
What to say if you liked it
BBC2 bids to save the planet from global warming with a don't-waste-resources advice show.
What to say if you didn’t like it
It would have been more beneficial if BBC2 had just turned off its transmitters for half an hour.

What was good about it?
• The acting abilities of the Tibbet family – but we could still tell they were putting on their witless love of wastefulness.
• Eco-expert Penney Poyzer is gently assertive and doesn't overplay her part (even though she looks Dawn Frenchish) – a lesson that should be adopted by some of the other 97 gurus bossing us around via the box this week (McKeith, Kim & Aggie, that ugly woman on 10 Years Younger etc)

What was bad about it?
• Penney tried to make the battle against climate change fun (a worm box, hens in the garden, meals made of leftovers, using lanterns at night, revival of the washboard and mangle etc) but it was still just another I-know-best exercise.
• The tiresomeness of the Tibbetts who have their heating set at tropical (which begs the question, why do thermostats go up to 30 degrees when the comfort zone is a mere 19-21?). The Cambridgeshire family also generate 20 loads of washing a week and throw out more food than most of us can only dream of buying.
• There was no dramatic before/after conclusion apart from some dry statistics shoved on screen as if this was some anarchic kids show.
• The punny title
• Making narrator Andrew Lincoln spout stupid statistics. We learned, for example, that Brits get through enough waste each year to fill enough double decker buses to stretch from London to Sydney.

Trinny And Susannah Undress, ITV1

Did we like it?
A little bit more individuality is erased from existence as the two plastic automatons drill their sartorial philosophies into weak, psychologically-damaged people the pair hope to cure of all their ills with a new shirt and tie and a flattering bra.

What was good about it?
• Sue and Scott Mills undeniably look much better, on a superficial level at least, after a couple of weeks being brainwashed by Trinny and Susannah. But the central conceit of the programme is hugely flawed – that confidence, elegance and optimism can be instilled by a trip to a clothes shop.

What was bad about it?
• The bedrock of the ideology that underpinned the whole show was one of scorn for Sue and Scott, something which was intensified when the couple had been converted to believing that clothes were the root of all happiness. At the start, the observations were mildly spiteful. “Sue works as a police community support officer,” the narrator informed us as she strode along a street in her police uniform, before sneering, “Fashionistas need not apply.” Later on the comments became more caustic with: “Have Sue and Scott been rescued from the fashion gutter?”, “Sue’s rebirth into womanhood is complete” and “Trinny and Susannah have taken two thirtysomethings devoid of style and transformed them into sharp-looking individuals”.
• The root of Sue’s lack of confidence lay in a comment her father had made when she was a child when he called her “fat and ugly”. When Trinny drew this confession out of Sue, Sue started to weep and Trinny’s aspirations of morphing a coercive clothes show into a ‘life-coaching’ clinic were dashed on the rocks of her own indifference as all she could do was whisper a series of “OK”s, which were about as soothing as a chainsaw.
• At the meal attended by Sue and Scott’s friends and family, Susannah attempted to confirm her surface analysis of their troubles with a leading question. “Do you think the way they have been dressing is affecting their social life?”
• In the Naked Truth section of the show where Sue and Scott undressed behind a screen, Susannah and Trinny looked on with the squeamish revulsion of schoolgirls forced to watch an autopsy on a goat.
• To boost their relationship, Sue and Scott were sent on a break to Rome. Susannah said to Scott: “You’re in one of the most romantic cities in the world – so there’s no excuse for no canoodling, no loving.” Always one to perpetuate a stereotype, Susannah, not satisfied with making Sue and Scott look exactly like any other 36-year-old couple, she tried to compel them to act as everyone else strives to do in Rome, yet the apparent romanticism of the place is nothing other than a marketing ploy built on people’s delusions of Roman Holiday from more than half a century ago.

Mary Queen Of Shops, BBC2

Thursday 31 May 2007
Reviewed by Mephistopheles, who is a past-master of coercing people to selling their soul for ephemeral financial well-being for the affordable price of a soul.
Did it go down well in the fiery pits of Hell?
Marvellous Mary is the masterly mistress of making mindless morons mimic her macabre mentality, and Tim and Soly were perfect sacrificial lambs to be slaughtered at the high altar of high fashion.

What was diabolical about it?
• Mary’s sneering introduction to Soly and Tim, who were portrayed as clueless bumpkins on a day out from the Asylum for the Criminally Unfashionable. As Mary stated: “The couple pride themselves on being creative”, an example of their creativity was illuminated in the shape of a ham-fisted papier-mâché shark affixed to the wall.
• Mary soon showed them who was boss with: “I’m giving them a month of my time”, as if they should be grateful to be even breathing the same rarefied oxygen as her, let alone assisting resuscitate their moribund shop.
• Mary also wore sunglasses even though it was an overcast day, which just goes to show how public-spirited and safety-conscious she is as should she turn her gaze on anyone unfashionable she would instantly turn them to stone, with the pebble-dashed corpse relocated in the garden of mock Tudor mansion.
• The depth of her analysis of what is wrong with Ju-Ju marks her out as the Einstein of fashion. “This shop feels like it was once cool. But the clothes are now naff, naffer and hideous,” she correctly observed before noting its resemblance to a cheap bordello. “This shop is a fashion car crash,” she concluded, spinning webs with silken words plucked from the mouths of a thousand bawling teenagers.
• Mary’s uncanny talent to discriminate icons amid the amorphous fashion herd. To an eye less perceptive than Mary’s, her tribe the ‘Fashion Rebel’ which she wanted to attract to Ju-Ju, would appear to be nothing more than a dumb slave who senselessly squanders much of their cash on dull over-priced garish garments that make them look slightly different to their peers but that damns them as scrambling superficial squid.
• By taking Soly and Tim out on the Brighton streets where nobody knows their shop causes Soly to break down and weep. And not only does this mean the TV producers can savour their Holy Grail of the ‘Tearshot’, but also makes them more receptive to subsequent stages of their souls being extracted from their bodies to be flayed with lashes forged from grey cardigans.
• After establishing that ‘Fashion Rebels’ are unique, Mary dragged Soly and Tim to south-east London (“the coolest part of the capital”). Mary then showed them how fashion rebellion means that a thousand people all try to look different but end up looking the same – which is the key attraction of fashion rebellion as they haven’t copied everyone, they, like all great minds, simply think alike. It’s also why “any good fashion magazine will show you that punk influences and skinny fit jeans are everywhere”; and the reason they’re everywhere is that ‘Fashion Rebels’ instinctively know what is on-trend.
• Mary also knows how to colour in her philosophy with the most salient easy-to-understand facts so fashion novices like Tim and Soly can understand her. Witness that she included the fact that “£100m is spent on lighting in Britain” – a fact chosen solely because the expenditure was nicely rounded-off to a figure that sounds impressive rather than because it was the most relevant fact.
• Mary also knows how to humiliate her subjects should they resist the will of her fashion tsunami. She asked Tim and Soly to dress some group for Mixmag, but the group hated the clothes they were forced to wear, until “embarrassingly the fashion editor has to step in to save the day.” It’s also nice to see music mags such as Mixmag not restricting themselves to the dull drizzle of music, but also flourishing with the rainbow of fashion.
• Whenever Tim and Soly offered the slightest resistance to the naked pillaging of their souls, Mary is quick-witted enough to suppress any dissent. “If you don’t buy the designer collection you won’t have a business.”
• Mary is also aware that anybody watching is doing so to watch her and her alone and don’t care about a couple of Brighton wannabe-hippies. “I think you’ve done a good job. I feel really happy now. I wasn’t sure you’d be able to do it, but you have.”

What was sickeningly pious about it?
• Mary’s bravery was astonishing. In wars, they give out medals for crawling out into no-man’s land to rescue fallen comrades, but Mary deserves so much more than that for risking contracting contagious unfashionability from Soly. The clothes she picked out to show off her unique sense of style were a top that looked as though it had been dyed with mud and a vest that appears to have been scavenged from the bloody corpse of a human sacrifice.

The Million Pound Footballers’ Giveaway, Channel 4

Thursday 7 June 2007
Did we like it?
Hastily assembled like castaways making an improvised vessel upon which to sail to salvation with anything they can get their hands on – sand, coconuts, animal carcasses, seaweed – which will only be strong enough to take them as far as the horizon at which point it disintegrates into a bubbling broth of its own impetuous ambition.

What was good about it?
• Noreena Hertz’s naivety about the football world was in turn both irritating and endearing. When she tried to impress Ryan Giggs that she knew about the international matches he’d mentioned by saying “against Spain and Israel”, Giggs had to inform her that they were in fact England’s opponents.
• Jamie Redknapp being disparagingly referred to as an “ex-football pin-up”.
• Noreena’s campaign was a qualified success with about half of all Premiership players signing up to donate a day’s wages to help the nurses.
• The single image which demonstrated that footballers are indeed grossly overpaid was the whitewashed room in former West Ham captain Nigel Reo-Coker’s mansion that contained a single Nintendo games console. But in fairness to Reo-Coker he did more than any other player to get Noreena’s admirable cause off the ground.
• Erudite Noreena’s fortitude in lucidly explaining the motivation and purpose of her campaign to the various assembled squads of Blackburn, Fulham, Reading and West Ham, whose players struggled with the novel experience of someone speaking to them for a period of longer than 15 minutes while also avoiding the use of mind-numbing clichés. One Reading player was driven so insane by this event that he hitched up his shorts and rolled around on a couch like a dog about to be lethally injected to cure its dementia.

What was bad about it?
• Noreena’s constant whining that she knew nothing about football. At first it seemed excusable but soon it became almost a cheap gimmick with which to characterise her, and ended up making her venomously vexing. At a car park waiting for Andy Gray she fretted: “I don’t know what he looks like.” It’s not as if Andy Gray is JD bloody Salinger – why didn’t she search for a picture on the internet? The same could be said of her ignorance of Blackburn manager Mark Hughes.
• And the obsession with every five minutes of interrupting the narrative to just confirm one more time how ignorant Noreena was about football fractured the flow of the documentary. But, sadly, there was little narrative flow to disrupt as Noreena was swept along like a little leaf in the foaming rapids, one minute she’d be lunching with a camera-shy David James, the next chatting with Gianluca Vialli in the back of his car as he raced to the airport about his ultimately abortive efforts to convince John Terry to sign up.
• And some scenes appear to have been staged to show how lovably ditzy Noreena is. While her ignorance of football was understandable her idiocy around technology was less plausible. After she received a message from Freddie Ljungberg’s agent giving her an email address to send her correspondence to, Noreena very clearly said, “I’d better not delete that message” before she promptly deleted it.
• Noreena’s cause was ‘worthy’ but whether or not it was worthy of a TV documentary is another matter as there was little insight into a footballer’s mentality about their enormous wealth. The only thing we had confirmed rather than learnt was that footballers quite often are essentially lumps of raw gold whose every thought is manipulated by their agent to ensure that they continue as dumb cash cows illustrated when Jermain Defoe was advised by his agent Sky Andrew not to respond to a question with an answer that could not be expressed with either a ‘yes’, ‘no’ or typically inane clichés from the vernacular of a village idiot.
• The now-obligatory tearshots on 29 and 56 minutes.
• Alastair Campbell’s continued efforts to rehabilitate his public image from that of Satan’s more diabolical and despicable younger brother to some kind of reasonable, media-savvy sage. Still, he’s only number six on thecustard.tv’s most odious person on TV after Piers Morgan, Jeremy Clarkson, Max Clifford, Jade Goody and Simon Cowell. The odd thing is that both Campbell and Cowell have or will appear with Morgan in a situation similar to an ugly bloke taking his even uglier mate on the pull with him to bathe him in a comparatively pulchritudinous light.
• Mohammed Al-Fayed rivalled Alastair Campbell as the most odious man in the programme. It was almost as if his endorsement and sponsorship of Noreena’s campaign was with the proviso that he could be given airtime to launch into one of his squalid little rants about Tony Blair; it was only a wonder he didn’t vilify Prince Philip as a murderer.
• Glenn Roeder’s risible reliance on the power of ‘positive thinking’, he sent Noreena a message which included the sentimental sentence: “Every 60 seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you will never get back”. We wonder how many “minutes of happiness” Glenn lost when he resigned four days after Noreena’s visit.


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