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Saturday, 26 January 2008

Magic shows

The Magic of Jesus, Channel 4, Friday 30 December 2005
Did we like it?
It provided reasonable entertainment for an hour, but the quality of the magic far outweighed the likeability of the two presenters and magicians, Barry Jones and Stuart McLeod.

What was good about it?
• The whole idea of re-creating the miracles of Jesus using their own magic was very good. Channel 4's patronage of magickry (yes, we did make that word up, but it'll be in Webster's next year) is also laudable, if perhaps a little desperate to make it cool by taking elements of Jackass on board.
• It was a particularly nice notion to get various people of religion to read the text from the bible that was relevant to each trick.
• The walking on water, the making the blind see and the turning of water into various different drinks at the whims of a wedding party were all very impressive tricks. The virgin birth was incredible.
• The show proved that Jesus wasn't so great at all. Just a very competent magician. I bet the American Christian right are preparing to invade the C4 offices as we speak.
What was bad about it?
• Barry and Stuart are pretty annoying. Their presentation seems desperate and contrived, as if they imagine themselves as the Vic and Bob of magic, but they can't quite carry it off. Their over-rehearsed style only makes it seem as if they're trying to hide a lack of personality.
• The irritating reactions of the witnesses to the various tricks. We don't need to be told whether something is amazing or not, we can work that out for ourselves.
• The good tricks were almost equalled by the poor ones. The waking the dead was pretty lame (as was the woman who they chose to witness the trick - she shrieked when she saw the 'dead' body - what did she expect to see on entering a morgue?) because it was obvious they would never be allowed to use a real dead body for a magic trick. The feeding of the masses with loaves and fish was also very poor - the baskets used were so obviously gimmicked it was embarrassing.
• There was a bizarre, perhaps suspicious, lack of amazement from many of the people involved in the tricks. The woman they used to wake the dead jumped a bit, but that was it, while the Egyptian fishermen seemed totally non-plussed when they caught the fish and found the previously-marked coin inside one of them.

When Magic Goes Wrong, Channel 4, Friday 30 December 2005
Did we like it?
There were some eye-opening, even eye-watering, clips. But overall a whole hour of this was stretching it a bit. And we are really fed up with talking head shows.

What was good about it?
• The woman who was chosen by a magician as a volunteer and ended up having a spike jammed into her hand. The trick involves putting a spike under four cups and thrusting a hand down on three of them. Unfortunately, the magician in question forced her hand down on the wrong cup. The woman claimed never to have received an apology. There was quite a funny, if painful silence when her hand hit the spike, but, amazingly, as the magician claimed he couldn't carry on and took a bow, the crowd gave him a small round of applause.
• Quite a lot of the footage was stuff we'd never seen before - a refreshing change from the usual fare of this genre.
• The clip of the magician crashing his motorbike into a flaming ring was amusing for its sheer stupidity, but Andy Nyman, one of the pundits, went over the top saying he hoped he'd died and all kinds of crap in an effort to make himself look edgy.
• There were some good 'gasp' moments - such as the clip of idiot magician Jonathan Goodwin trying to escape from being tied to a bed before an iron could burn through a sheet above him. He failed and the hot iron slammed onto his stomach.
• The very funny footage from a Superbowl half time show that featured some of the most botched magic and illusions ever seen. Brilliant
What was bad about it?
• It was presented by Barry and Stuart again. They were also on the next programme. Do these two really possess the talent to have an entire evening of Channel 4 dedicated to them?
• The irritating trait of these programmes where some incredibly obscure home footage is dug out and pundits comment on it as if they've known about it for years rather than just having it shown to them previously by the production team. It's a redundant concept, we are able to see what went wrong, we don't need no-marks to point out those tiny details that they think we haven't spotted.
• The fact that the magicians needed different descriptions under their names, like "sleight-of-hand magician" and, worse, "street-magician" which is just a common, lame attempt to be 'down with the kids' by putting the word 'street' in front of something for no reason.
• Dominik Diamond was in it.
• Penn and Teller turned up with 15 minutes left. We were delighted to see these legends on the show, then annoyed because they hadn't been on more often, before realising it was an interview for something else bought in for this show.
Monkey Magic, Five
How many items on Five's Monkey Magic were magical?
• Monkey Boy empties out all his mobile phones to answer a call that actually is on a big normal phone in his jacket pocket. Miscast
• Tufty ties up Papa and leaves him in a phone box to get free. Miscast
• The Colonel plays with a false bogie while interviewing Michael Winner. Miscast
• Monkey Boy performs a coin trick while naked. Miscast
• Tufty does a magic trick while being attacked by a boxer. Miscast
• Monkey Boy performs an old Great Soprendo trick. Magic
• Tufty turns into the Incredible Hulk (Papa painted green). Miscast
• Colonel performs the same coin trick twice. Magic
• Tufty fills up a cup with tea from his T-shirt. Miscast
• Papa does a balloon trick at a temple. Miscast
• The gang perform misspell magic where a rabbit from a hat becomes a rabbi from a hat. Miscast
• Who’s in Papa’s pants? Miscast
• Monkey Boy does a trick with bubblegum and a ring. Magic
• Tufty guesses what topping a pizza waitress likes. Magic
• Papa performs a variation of sawing a woman in half in the gym. Miscast
Totals Magic: Four Miscast: Eleven

Generation Fame, BBC1

Saturday 31 December 2005
Did we like it?
So much effort has gone into finding the right vehicle for Graham Norton. The BBC's top brains have been on the case. SACK THEM ALL NOW. This couldn't have been worse if they'd tried. And the revered Generation Game brand-name has now been tarnished.
What was good about it?
• Harry Hill honking out TV theme tunes on car horns and Johnny Vegas revealing his pottery skills
• The skipping Belgians and the Rolf Harris-like artist

What was bad about it?
• Horrible title sequence.
• Horrible theme song.
• Horrible lighting.
* Horrible little set.
• Lousy opening monologue
• Picking a woman out of the audience to become the glamorous assistant was a good idea. Ruined by picking thick Janet.
• Davina McCall trying too hard – and winning.
• Rupert Grint being forced into this shambles
• James Fleet and Kellie Holmes being underwhelming
• Engelbert Humperdinck being forced to sing Quando, Quando, Quando while the "celebs' cavorted around him

Vorderman's Big Brain Game, Sky One

Thursday 22 December 2005
Did we like it?
People whose lives are only enlightened when the new edition of Puzzler magazine comes out may have loved this. We found it a bore.
What was good about it?
• Presenter Carol Vorderman did an okay job within the confines of the ponderous format. She may be of the same ilk as Nitwit Natasha Kaplinksy, but she's a lot less irritating and a lot more attractive.
• Darren Gough and Lisa Rogers were a good team, along with super-intelligent ordinary person Clark.
• The round on creativity (featuring codes set for applicants to become MI6 agents) threw up some really good brainteasers.

What was bad about it?
• Linking a TV show to "the national craze" of Sudoku is never really going to work. This one certainly didn't.
• Danny Wallace (why is this man so overexposed? he must be cheap, we guess), Josie D'Arby and their none-to-bright punter were lousy.
• The opening round of stupid maths questions and the Krypton Factorish laserfield navigation games were dull to watch.
• The memory round (a sort of hi-tech version of The Generation Game's conveyor belt) may have been okay but we couldn't be bothered to play along.
• The pleas for viewers to text in their answers.
• The impossible-to-read captions containing the questions.

Pantomimes

Coronation Street Panto, ITV1, Boxing Day 2005
Did we like it?
Though in good jest, the entire episode was awkward to watch considering that you’re so used to the actors playing their characters. We were left feeling indifferent about all what was happening…
What was good about it?
• Rupert Hill was in it to show that Corrie has at least one good looking male.
• Susie Blake made a good Fairy Godmother.
• Malcolm Hebden and David Nielson having a blast playing the Ugly Sisters.
What was bad about it?
• The ex goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel's cameo.
• John Savident imitating the Godfather.
• The lack of black comedy. Surely that’s a main ingredient in a panto?
Big Brother Panto, E4
What’s it all about?
Ten former housemates – Jade, Marco, Tim, Narinder, Mel, Spencer, Anoushka, Kitten, “Nasty” Nick and Victor – congregate to put on a performance of Cinderella.
What to say of you liked it
Ten television icons of the past decade engage in a show of stellar energy that would make our very own Sun blush at its relative dimness.
What to say of you didn’t like it
Ten globules of fat spat out of the frying pan of fame are scraped back off the tiled kitchen floor of obscurity and deposited back in the pan for a thankfully finite time.

What was good about it?
• The housemates selected are a potent menagerie of human toxins – Jade’s wilful stupidity, Tim’s classy odiousness, Nick’s privileged putrefaction, Spencer’s moronic laziness, Kitten’s counterfeit militancy and Mel’s delusional intellect.
• Victor is as loathsome as we remember. It’s like accidentally killing your favourite torture victim only for them to be resurrected so you can begin all over again. At the moment, he is acting like a free ire-o-meter that offers you the chance to build up the piquant sensation of rage from the comfort of your own home.
• Victor being taunted over his fragile masculinity for refusing to dress up as a woman, and responding with typical crassness. “I’m from a different culture. We like to see lesbians kissing.”
• They actually seemed to recognise each other, despite most of them being fainter than Pluto for much of the time since their inglorious exit from the BB house.

What was bad about it?
• When the housemates swept into the cottage on a sleigh, they didn’t continue straight into a deep furnace at the other end of the living room.
• Marco’s laugh, although thousands of coma victims have snapped out of their vegetative states since the broadcast at the behest of his shrieking caterwaul. But, alas half of them committed summary suicide as they thought they’d arrived in Hell.
• There were no subtitles for Jade even though it would have only required a maximum of 20 words to fully cover her stunted vocabulary.
• Mel trying to be liberal and cultured.
• Nick trying too hard to exhibit that he is still Nasty with forced and poorly observed criticism of fellow housemates.
• The phrase “very good” seems to have lost the meaning it has in the real world. Housemates used it to praise each other’s thespian abilities. “Abysmal” would have been a better adjective to describe the acting on show.

Big Brother Panto, E4
How old would the audience be if they were a giant face come to watch the performance of the Big Brother pantomime? About 14 and scarred with glowing human acne such as Jon Tickle, and host Jeff Brazier ran down the face like a bead of pus from a weeping sore.
The number of housemates who gave credible performances? Three – Marco, Tim and Spencer who all didn’t bother trying to act and were all the better for it.
How many fur coats could be made from Marco’s chest hair? 19.
The number of cellular fatalities if Marco and Jade’s brains collided. Zero, their brains sail through their dumb existences as lifeless as the Marie Celeste.
If the housemates were spokes in the wheel of a bicycle in the Tour De France, how many gruelling stages would they complete? Given their lack of determination they would drop out after the initial time trial.
If Narinder’s acting skills were made purely of dust, how many bin bags would the dustmen have to remove to the celebrity scrapheap? 129.
How many literary masterpieces did previous incarnations of Jade perhaps inspire? One, Heart of Darkness which details an allegorical journey into the depths of human stupidity.
If the sum of human knowledge was shone into Jade’s eyes how much would be reflected back? Enough to illuminate the wilfully darkened minds of those whom Jade has corrupted into believing that being an idiot is a virtue.
How many Posh Bombs could be injected with Tim’s snobbery so that they instinctively gain such distaste for the poor they only fall on salubrious districts, thus avoiding slums that can only possibly be home to innocent civilians? Six.
How much lifetime is robbed from people coerced into draining conversations with “Nasty” Nick? Eight minutes for each 10 seconds of conversation – you’d be better off chain smoking.
If Jade was leader of a pod of whales how successful would they be under her stewardship? An utter failure, as they would within days wash up on the beaches of the Island of the Terminally Untalented where the malicious cannibalistic inhabitants such as Abi Titmus and Dr Fox would devour the entire 10 tonne beast in the hope of consuming the milligram of talent inherent in Jade’s blubber.
How subtle are Victor’s sly looks? His pupils move across his sockets with all the cumbersome aggression of an imperialist army massing on its borders for an invasion of a peaceful neighbour.
How many pesky Trafalgar Square pigeons could Narinder stun with her hammy acting voice? To the point where a charge of genocide would be perfectly reasonable.
How far would Tarzan get across the jungle if his vines were made from the tolerance of the housemates? He’d break his neck after Victor’s vine disintegrated in his hand.
How safe would Derren Brown be if he loaded the housemates into a revolver for a Russian roulette trick? Completely safe, as none of them possess the corporeal substance to impact on a human being.
The number of rings the Dark Lord Sauron could forge from Spencer’s potent sloth to give to his enemies and keep them in a permanent state of laziness? 12.
If Mel was an Egyptian queen how many of her slaves could she convince to stay with her as she was entombed with her dead Pharaoh husband? None.
The number of joke farms that could make a sustainable living from Victor’s witticisms? None, they would all rapidly fall into a state of arid humourlessness (The Abbot Blight), and their jocular crops would fail year after year.
Such is Kitten’s talent for all living things to assume a natural aversion to her, how long would it take her to clear Antarctica of all indigenous species so an unscrupulous oil firm could despoil the natural habitat with huge oil wells? Six days, as despite Kitten’s ostensible militancy, her appearance in the News of the World illustrates her limited mercenary skills are open to the highest bidder.
If a building was made out of Marco, for how long would it stand? Not too long as it would persistently place enormous stress on its foundations when it felt compelled to transmute into the shape of a knife and stab rival edifices in the back.
If the words Narinder spoke and nobody listened to were carelessly flushed into the rivers how many tainted fish would crawl onto land and try to land a career as a television presenter? The queue of salmon at the BBC gates would stretch back to the River Severn.
If one of the Three Little Pigs built a house from Kitten’s argumentative justifications for her abhorrent behaviour, how long would it take the Big Bad Wolf to blow the house down? He could do it with a single, shallow breath.
If Kitten could be a star which would she be? An unstable Red Giant about to go supernova, so that when it becomes a black hole she can pettily suck in the attention from billions of miles around.

The 1970s Office, Sky One

What was it about?
A bunch of advertising’s finest go back to the 1970s and try to come up with a campaign to flog space hoppers and jeans.
What to say if you liked it.
A great concept taken seriously by the players, and well executed with authentic music, clothes and atmosphere.
What to say if you didn’t like it.
Adland tries to blow hot air into a rubber toy which was crap the first time round.

What was good about it?
• We loved creative director Paul, who ran the project. Scottish, hard as nails and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
• The ad agency name, and the receptionist’s attempts to get it right on the phone. Seven names all beginning with T – Seven Ts – geddit?
• Nicole, one half of the youngest and most inexperienced team of ad people. Full of duff ideas, slammed by the boss the whole time, but a real sweetie.
• The look of the office and the 1970s touches – they can smoke!! The attention to detail and the clever balance between the time spent on the 1970s aspect and the job in hand.
• Some reasonable 70s tunes from Led Zep, Earth Wind & Fire and, er, the theme from Shaft.

What was bad about it?
• It took a bit of time to get going, with most of the first part devoted to everyone meeting and saying how good they looked.
• Joe the teaboy – he just went around moaning and sticking his oar in where he wasn’t wanted. We were fed up with him by half time; his colleagues started to find him annoying towards the end. I don’t see a bright future for the lad.
• The black and white sequences looked as though they’d been shot on video rather than film – bad because video wasn’t around in the 1970s.
All in all though, I’ll be watching it again next week.

Shock Treatment, Sky One

What was it about?
A group of four volunteers spend 48 hours getting the fright of their lives – or so they think.
What to say if you liked it.
A fascinating study into the nature of fear, showing the difference between real and perceived events.
What to say if you didn’t like it.
Do we have to spend our evenings watching a bunch of people having the shit scared out of them?

What was good about it?
• It was really well done and the producers chose the ‘volunteers’ well. They were all more susceptible to suggestion than average.
• One of the guinea pigs, Sean, looked like Ant or Dec. This was good because you could imagine Ant or Dec getting a nail hammered up their nose. If you have a cruel dislike of the genial Geordies.
• Rutger Hauer was the added bonus as narrator. He was doing one of his Hitchhiker turns, setting the scene as each challenge unfolded.
• As it was all a hoax, no one got hurt.

What was bad about it?
• It wasn’t that frightening in the most part, and we kept wondering why none of the volunteers applied any logic to their challenges.
• In the end, we couldn’t really see the point of the programme as its main contention, that perceived fear is worse than the real thing, is well known already.

Musicality, Channel 4

What to say if you liked it
The heartwarming fruition of the avid ambitions of amateur performers who get the chance to star in a West End musical.
What to say if you didn’t like it
The X-Factor for snobs in which the hopeful singers don’t soil their souls belting out pop music.

What was good about it?
• The performers highlighted in the show, notably Deborah Lee-Burns and Alex Wetherall, were often very talented singers who were able to hold a note longer than Simon Cowell can keep his mouth shut.
• There was no mocking of awful performers – because there were no awful performers. While exposing the talentless has been done to death on Pop Idol, it was fresh, bordering on the innovative, for the judges to discuss constructively the merits of each audition privately.
• Dance tutor Stacey Haynes’s passion to discover good dancers and her delight when she stumbled upon a goldmine of them in Manchester.

What was bad about it?
• Musical director Gareth Valentine wearing his glasses on his forehead.
• Many of the performers singing in insincere American accents.
• Whenever any of the judges felt guilty about a decision, they all indulged in group therapy sessions to absolve their consciences of guilt. This was most evident when the talented Rebecca O’Brien was tossed out of the contest for being too short. Stacey
especially overemphasised the realities of musicals that people who are 4’ 10” won’t win roles, while trying to sound as though she was one of the industry disciples following an edict rather than the member of the judiciary she really is.
• The judges performed songs far too often as though seeking to promote themselves. The programme culminated in the worst performance during the end credits as Gareth sat at the piano warbling a dreadful song about Musicality, feebly assisted by Stacey and voice coach Mary King.
• The Friends-style idiot landmark scenery to illustrate to geographical morons in what part of the country they were in, such as the Severn Bridge in to Wales, where Gareth helpfully read out the Welcome To Wales sign.
• The seemingly fake conversation between Gareth and Mary that neatly précised their current situation as they drove to Manchester.
• Stacey’s choice of music for her dance auditions was consistently abysmal and could perhaps explain why she found it so difficult to find decent movers; even Rudolf Nureyev would have flounced about like a Stonehenge obelisk if he had to bop to Lady Marmalade.

The Bigger Picture With Graham Norton, BBC1

What to say if you liked it
Graham Norton buzzes around the week's news with some waspish stings.
What to say if you disliked it
Not Original, Ridiculously Tame, Off Now

What was good about it?
• Graham wasn't afraid to tackle the London bombings. "Are we afraid, ladies and gentlemen? No! We're shitting ourselves."
• Graham wasn't afraid to tackle the IRA's cessation of its armed campaign: "There was a stunned silence in Balaclava World."
• Graham's sober attire
• It was better than the recent attempts by Anne Robinson and John Sergeant to squeeze humour out of the headlines. (this compliment is brought to you by our Damning With Faint Praise Department)

What was bad about it?
• The atrocious party pieces from guests Jane Moore, Jo Brand and Richard Wilson
• The tired butts of jokes eg Andrew Lloyd-Webber is ugly, Page 3 Girls are stupid, Michael Howard is a vampire, Charles Kennedy drinks, Cherie Blair has a big mouth, female shotputters are masculine
• Graham's over-excited filmed interview with "friend" Sharon Stone
• The level of the "wit" was typified by a Jo Brand contribution: "I'm not wearing any pants. I wet myself earlier."
• Lame puns at the expense of Jude Law for knobbing the Nanny eg Mary Pops It In

The Weakest Link, BBC

Weakest Link: Sports Stars Special, BBC1
Top five contestants
1. James Cracknell – the Olympic rower whose axe-shaped jaw could have inspired Neanderthal man to innovate flint tools thousands of years before their inception. “What is the two-word of the great survey that was commissioned in 1086 by William the Conqueror? “Ordinance? The Magna Carte?”
2. Olympic yachtswoman Shirley Robertson, a woman so blonde in both hair and mind she could pass for the physical manifestation of stupid. “In history, the entertainer of very short stature who toured with Barnum’s circus was known as General Tom who?” “Custard?” “In TV, the British actress born in 1932 and famous for her roles in Fawlty Towers and Asda TV ads is Prunella who?” “Stumps?”
3. Footballer Graeme Le Saux, whose skin was stretched so tautly over his skeletal visage it could be used to keep a bowl of fruit fresh all summer. “In literature, the sentence ‘slow but steady wins the race’ is the moral of which Aesop Fable; the Hare and the what other animal?” “Turtle?”
4. Steve Rider, who still has that rigid, ingrained hairline which is so immovable a stray bullet would need planning permission to pass through it, was eliminated in a round in which he answered all his questions correctly.
5. Colin Jackson was the Weakest Link in the first round after: “What ‘C’ is the geometric shape which follows ‘pine’, ‘ice cream’ and ‘traffic’ to make three well-known phrases?” “Pi?” Still, he at least managed to restrain his epileptic shoulders from those
involuntary spasms which make them appear as fitful as a bagful of unwanted kittens struggling for life as they drown in a disused canal.

The Weakest Link: Reality TV Special, BBC1
Anne Robinson: “We’ll start with the Weakest Link.”
“Jade Goody, who is the reality TV ‘star’ who has bled dry the bank accounts of thousands of overweight, insecure women through her propagation of her ‘miracle’ exercise video, and her promotion of the fatuous ideal that stupidity is a virtue to becoming famous?”
Jade: “36!”

“Wrong. Jasmine Leonard, who is the supercilious irrelevance who has recently become the epitome of the way in which talentless non-entities can ascend through the celebrity hierarchy with the same rapidity and transience as the bubbles on the ocean surface from a drowning sailor’s last breath?”
Jasmine: “James Blunt?”

“Wrong. Danniella Westbrook, who is the actress who long ago forsook any ideas of thespian excellence, and instead has devoted her life to a miasmic indulgence of reality TV shows and cosmetic enhancement?”
Danniella: “Rebecca Loos?”

“Wrong. Martin Offiah, who is the esteemed former rugby player who has abandoned all sense of majesty and admiration accrued during his sporting career to crawl all over the worst shows on television like weeping impetigo?”
Martin “Jeremy Guscott?”

“Wrong. John McCririck, who is the gambling obsessed oaf who is so obese he could be sprayed mahogany, chopped up and made into a grand piano which could have adorned the ballroom on the Titanic; only if he had been on board in any guise the vessel would have sunk long before colliding with the iceberg?”
John: “Fyodor Dostoyevsky?”

“Wrong. Stan Collymore, who is the ex-footballer who squirted away his talent like with the same profligacy as children squirt water at one another from squeezy bottles on hot summer days and now resides in a dungeon deep below the world emerging only to peer into cars at courting couples and bore the world into a slumber with his anecdotes about how all his miscreant actions should be excused because he’s ‘only human’ and ‘everybody makes mistakes’?”
Stan: “Garrincha?”

“Wrong. Jessica From Liberty X, who is the singer who is viewed by the pop picking public as one of those doomed lesser characters from epic war dramas who is killed off in the first few scenes but not before, while choking up blood, recounting some memory which the protagonist holds onto to drive them determinedly through the rest of the adventure?”
Jessica: “Sonia?”

“Wrong. Rowetta Ex-Happy Mondays, who is the admittedly fine vocalist who once sang with a decent band, who was the only member of the finalists in the X-Factor to retain her dignity but has since, perhaps through the vindictive machinations of her record company, been forced to exaggerate her bitterness towards the show and Simon Cowell in order to promote her new album lest everyone has forgotten who she is?”
Rowetta: “Sharon Osbourne?”

“Wrong. Well team, with your appearance on the Weakest Link all of you have failed to scale any more height as you try to reach the top of the Celebrity Mountain. But don’t worry, there’ll be plenty more shows as whore-like for ratings as this one who’ll hire anything so long as it’s been on TV before.”


Weakest Link: Famous Duos, BBC1
Best Contestants
1. Kym Marsh. A heroic effort from the former nobody, who has now slipped even further down the celebrity league table. Despite getting no help from her dumb
other half, Jack Ryder, she still triumphed.
2. Keith Harris. Another solo effort as he was partnered by Orville the Duck.
3. Carrie Grant. She managed to shake off the ostentatious antics of husband David to guide them through to the final.
Worst Contestants
1. Jack Ryder. Even less help than Orville the Duck, he just nodded in a pseudo-sagacious manner whenever Kym got a question right, but his cover was blown when
he answered his only question: “What is 902 + 99?” As Kym stuttered, he piped up: “301!”
2. Stuart Wilson. He showed that even the “cleverest man” on Big Brother is still an intellectual dwarf.
3. Dick and Dom. The CBBC freaky twins’ high jinks were initially amusing, but soon they discovered an adult audience rapidly became impervious to their juvenile humour.
Other highlights:
• Words we’d thought we’d never hear uttered on television: “Statistically, the Cheeky Girls were the strongest link.” Which occurred twice.
• Anne Robinson: “Kym and Jack, have OK given you the day off?”
• Justin leaning over to confer with Colin about the number of minutes in half-an-hour.

Weakest Link: Headliners, BBC1
1. “Pop, as in pop music, is the abbreviation of which adjective.” Pop singer Javine: “Pass.”
2. “In Russia a Semovar is a device used for making which hot drink?” Faria Alam: “Wine.”
3. “Which songwriting duo did Bono compare Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to?” “Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.”
4. Anne to actor Mark Wingett: “Twenty-one years in The Bill and you end up with hatchet-faced June Ackland”. Which wasn’t so funny in itself, more for the reason that the insult was made by a woman who, if she had to exist on a police sergeant’s salary would have a face useful for nothing better than butchering cattle in a slaughterhouse.
5. “In the 1920s song ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for’ what? Equestrian Olympic gold medallist Leslie Law: “Joy.”

The Weakest Link: Comedians, BBC1
Highlights
1. Ted Robins: “Anne, is it true that you make your own yoghurt. You get a pint of milk and stare at it.”
2. “A book publisher attributed the fact that Greek poet Homer was their most popular author to which film?” Eddie Large: “Harry Potter.”
3. Anne to Scott Capurro: “What makes you think you’re gay? Scott: “Looking at you.”
4. Bernard Manning being eliminated in the first round when nobody got a question wrong. Next week, Ron Atkinson appears on A Question of Sport.
5. Ted Robins: “Anne is it true that your first producer died on purpose."

Spelling Bee, ITV1

Favourite – “Definition?” The most liked of a particular group. Alternative definition (British TV): the best we could afford with a budget not even long enough to strangle Chris Tarrant.
“Example?” With your favourite celebrities Edwina Currie, Roger Black, Patrick Mower, Fiona Phillips and Andrew Castle.
Ultimate – “Definition?” The last one; the best instance of a kind. Alt (British TV): A word stripped of all meaning through overuse by blank-faced hosts when they want you to deify their genius at a humdrum format dreamt up in a rushed five-minute meeting as executives were forced to find a filler after axing poorly performing reality shows.
"Example?” Edwina Currie is the ultimate endorsement for compulsory, democratic adult euthanasia.
Charity – “Definition?” An act of selfless benevolence usually manifested in the form of money or time. Alt (British TV): A fatuous justification for a cheap, moronic TV show to be broadcast because, hey, as long as one hospitalised child benefits, it’s all worthwhile.
“Example?” I will donate a million pounds to charity if you can guarantee that Fiona Phillips will never appear on TV again.
Genius – “Definition?” An intellect or artistic skill way beyond the capabilities of the majority. Alt (British TV): A disposable sobriquet furnished by an excitable, exclamatory host upon anyone who happens to do something slightly better than average which would otherwise pass unnoticed by the sweetly sedated audience.
“Example?” It’s pure genius the way in which Tara Palmer-Tomkinson has become famous despite exhibiting less talent for television than a dried trickle of blood which oozed slowly out of a squashed badger.
Contestant – “Definition?” Those participating in a challenge of some sort. Alt (British TV): Desperate, slimy, odious half-human entities that have undeveloped photographic fluid running through their veins and that will crawl on to any TV show as long as they are certain of meagre exposure.
“Example?” Please welcome contestants Edwina Currie, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Patrick Mower.
Secret Weapon – “Definition?” Armament which one side will use to conclusively shift a conflict in their favour, often through the element of surprise. Alt (British TV): Stupid, non-entity who has no other positive characteristics and so has to be awarded a silly name which will give her some illusory potency.
“Example?” But Patrick’s team have their secret weapon, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.
Precocious – “Definition?” Outstanding talent, often among the very young. Alt (British TV): Annoying, arrogant little brat named Samir who if he wasn’t such a damn fine speller would spend all day having his knuckles rapped by fellow pupils transformed into vicious bullies by his supercilious nature.
Arguably – “Definition?” Moot point of a discussion which can swing opinion one way or the other. Alt (British TV): Highly implausible theory which only gains credibility because it’s been spoken by a TV host who has the trust of the British populace.
“Example?” Roger Black is arguably the least charismatic man ever to appear on British television, even the cloth capped old grump who turned the scores on We Are The Champions was a bonfire of charisma in comparison.
Famously – “Definition?” Something of note, often from a long while ago. Alt (British TV): Any event that has happened on American TV ever, and is so much “cooler” than anything we Brits could ever come up with.
“Example?” Gracious is famously a word which has never been placed adjacent to the name Chris Tarrant.
Cutthroat – “Definition?” Phrase meaning to ruthlessly apply, originated among 18th pirate captains who would agree to split the spoils of a joint venture but then one would end the contract by cutting the throats of his rivals and claiming all the treasure. Alt (British TV): Corporate expressions of dashing vigour used to embolden the motives of asinine game shows.
“Example?” Over three cutthroat rounds the celebrities will be whittled down to a single winner.
Teeth – “Definition?” Organic enamel tools affixed to the upper and lower jaw used to cut, tear and grind food. Alt (British TV): Superficial extension of an expertly carved plastic face which is whitened to the glare of the midday sun and then flashed like a lighthouse beacon to ward off vessels from running aground.
“Example?” When Fiona Phillips grinned, she ensured that her teeth were exposed; while in their homes, hundreds of mortally-scared pensioners rang hospitals to claim they were eerily travelling down a tunnel towards an opaque bright light in the distance.
Applause – “Definition?” Cumulative noise made by an audience simultaneously clapping to indicate their approval of a certain element of the performance. Alt (British TV): Myopic, pre-programmed reaction induced by amoral floor managers to ensure that the Spelling Bee studio was forever filling up with fake warm appreciation rather resemble the empty, icy tomb of some Norse chief.
“Example?” “Tara’s spelled “Posh” correctly. A round of applause, please.”
Smile – “Definition?” A facial expression which shows approval and delight. Alt (British TV): A wholly false expression of happiness used by TV veterans to mask the genuine sensations of bitterness and jealousy they feel towards their celebrity rivals.
“Example?” When his team were eliminated, Andrew Castle cast warm smiles in the direction of his victorious adversaries.
Crossed Fingers – “Definition?” An act of pulling the index finger over the forefinger in the hope of bringing good luck. Alt (British TV): TV host desperately concocts a futile and meaningless physical gesture to pad out some time.
Celebrity – “Definition?” Someone in the public eye, usually because of some outstanding talent in the arts or sport. Alt (British TV): Anyone who has ever appeared, only if it’s just an fake-tanned foot, in the paparazzi section of the tabloid weekend supplements.
“Example?” Tara Palmer-Tomkinson is the archetypal modern-day celebrity who achieved fame through her zany, madcap personality which if, she didn’t have a double-barrelled surname or “know” royalty, would be enough to section her in the nearest asylum.
Conceit – “Definition?” The belief that you are superior to your peers, often delusional. Alt (British TV): Trait held by 11-year-old spelling prodigy shipped over to Britain to spit out his cute bile at Chris Tarrant in the futile hope of securing a permanent cameo role in the new series of CSI as an office-bound teen-phenomenon.
Tough – “Definition?” Difficult to cut through; hard to overcome; dogged. Alt (British TV): Astonishingly easy questions in an idiots’ spelling test.
“Example?” If Tony Slattery turned cannibal, he would find it tough to bite through Chris Tarrant’s leathery skin.
Innuendo – “Definition?” Ostensibly harmless words or phrases engendered with a mischievous, licentious double-meaning. Alt (British TV): Desperate gags concocted by scriptwriters to elicit uncontrollable, and slightly embarrassed, cackling from elderly harridans in the audience who last saw a penis when they gave birth to their now adult son.
“Example?” The next round is ‘I may be small, but I’m hard’.
Dignity – “Definition?” The quality of being able to retain self-respect in trying circumstances. Alt (British TV): None, the attribute has been extinct since 1997, and can therefore only be expressed as an antonym – Edwina Currie.
“Example?” Despite being surrounded by exemplary acts of dishonour, Samantha Bond maintained her dignity.
Flotsam and Jetsam – “Definition?” The splintered remains of a sunken ship (often cheaply and shoddily fitted) which resurface after the vessel has sunk to the depths. Alt (British TV): Any group of celebrities called up like unwanted spirits at a séance to appear on a cheap and shoddy game show, often for charity.
“Example?” Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Edwina Currie are the flotsam and jetsam of reality TV, floating aimlessly from show to show.
Sincerity – “Definition?” Words and sentiments expressed with genuine feeling. Alt (British TV): Empty words exchanged between celebrities as they are eliminated from game shows and then return to their dressing rooms to stick pins in effigies of their successful rivals.
“Example?” When Tara got a question wrong Andrew Castle cried: “Oh! Bad luck, Tara.”
Right back – “Definition?” To return instantaneously from a destination. Alt (British TV): To return after a tortuous five minute advert break during which time slugs in human form (known colloquially as “advertisers”) try to sell you products which will pollute the environment, your body or your soul.
Great – “Definition?” Of particular worthiness, often indicative of being lauded for an extended period. Alt (British TV): Anyone who is leaving the show no matter how pitiably they performed.
“Example?” “Well done, Edwina. You were great.”
Terrorism – “Definition?” Acts of creating fear in a populace through threats to kill and maim and carrying out those threats. Alt (British TV): Phrase employed by television news stations to increase their viewing figures three-fold to please their advertisers.
“Example?” Trevor McDonald: “Find out more about the bombers in 20 minutes.”

What The Butler Saw, Channel 4

What was it about?
The working class Callaghan family goes to live the life of the Upper Classes in a big house with staff. Of course, it's really about the relationships within the family unit. The one who adapts best gets 50 grand.

What to say if you liked it.
A valid social experiment which looks at the differences between the classes.

What to say if you didn't like it.
A waste of money because leopards can't change their spots.

What was good about it?
• The servants are the judges and the family don't know that
• The family has to perform a task each week, which is always embarrassing and good for the viewers.
• We the viewers get to see the servants laughing their heads off at the family's antics and sneering at tattoos, tacky jewellery etc.
• One of them gets kicked out each week.

What was bad about it?
• We cringed virtually the whole way through
• They really picked a classy family. "Who'd have though a half pikey like me would be living in the lap of luxury." "Garlic makes you stink", "This is well fuckin' pukka." "If you weren't my bruvva, I'd kick the shit outta you." "I don't like fashion, I like classic cloves."
• The in-fighting started as soon as they arrived, with some taking it seriously and others not so.
• The bouffant hairstyles of the men
• The complaint that the Steak Tartare was cold

The Curse Of..., Five

The Curse Of Radio 1, Five
What to say if you liked it
An acute compendium of catastrophes in which the pompously premier radio station in Britain stumbled from one crisis to the next like a DJ overdosing on iniquitous insincerity and calculated conceit.
What to say if you didn’t like it
A typically tabloid vindictive assault on a national institution that mendaciously sought to illuminate the odd mishap while obscuring the teeming triumphs in a blizzard of white noise.

What was good about it?
• The often bizarre locations for the talking heads that were more interesting than what was said – Colin Murray whined in a London Eye capsule; Paul Morley spoke portentously from a park on top of a skyscraper; and Nicky Campbell grumbled on a stairwell in a derelict tower block as if begging for spare change.
• Joy Division’s Transmission was appositely used to soundtrack the desperate inanity of the Radio 1 Roadshows.
• The late John Peel’s accurate assessment of Tony Blackburn. “Tony Blackburn is a totally created person. Jollity at the flick of a switch. You wonder if he goes to the toilet.”
• Once more reliving the joy of Dave Lee Travis’s hilariously haughty resignation from Radio 1. Listeners were finally able to emerge from their soundproof shelters under dinner tables and sheds at the end of the garden as the popular airwaves were cleansed of his baleful ego.
• The awful Status Quo demanding that Radio 1 play their new single.
• Bruno Brookes looking and sounding like a once luscious and verdant field that is now barren and infertile, and is destined now for all eternity to be wasteland where gangland killers burn the corpses of their recently executed enemies.
• Mike Read’s very scary stalker. Shopkeeper: “I thought he was gay”, Stalker: “Don’t you ever say that about him!”

What was bad about it?
• Tony Blackburn “accidentally” dropping his listening figures into the conversation.
• The manner in which small incidents, such as a DJ resigning, were frequently heralded with the sort of exaggerated headlines used by the Sun or Daily Mail.
• Sun journalist Dominic Mohan ignorantly perpetuating the myth that in 1997 there was a “Cool Britannia feeling around the country”. That miasmic stench didn’t stretch very far beyond the borders of Camden and Islington.
• The fact that, like in the Curse of Noel Edmonds, there was very little evidence of a “curse”. Radio 1 has existed in the media spotlight for almost 40 years and the various troubles only looked like a curse when condensed into a cheap hotch-potch of subjective clips and opinions.
• The way in which dips in ratings were presented as national calamities and the blame universally placed in the lap of Radio 1 bosses, largely ignoring the increased deregulation of commercial and specialist radio stations
• Radio 1 winning “credibility” by having the Gallagher brothers (from Oasis, in case you forgot) swear for an hour on Steve Lamaq’s show.
• Chris Tarrant’s condescending narration.

The Curse Of Noel Edmonds, Five
What to say if you liked it
It was a wonderfully spiteful biography of one of the most malignant broadcasters of the last century.

What to say if you didn't like it
It was a tawdry, witless examination of Noel Edmonds that consistently sought to exaggerate minor foibles into deeds that could have brought about the collapse of Western civilisation.

What was good about it?
• When Noel was poetically duped by Chris Morris to campaign against the proliferation of "made-up drug." Cake, most keenly when Noel earnestly remarked: "It stimulates the part of the brain known as Shatner's Bassoon.."
• The Brass Eye sketch that reported Noel had shot dead Clive Anderson and tossed his severed head on to his front lawn.
• Noel's best Gotcha Oscar when he sabotaged Dave Lee Travis's Saturday morning pub quiz show with two awful teams.

What was bad about it?
• Noel didn't seem to be cursed at all. At the age of 25 he had already scaled the peaks of radio as he took the helm of the Radio One Breakfast Show; by 30 he was presenting the most famous Saturday morning kids' show in BBC history; and by 35 he had established a successful Saturday evening show. Sure, his career came off the rails a little in the 90s, but he is compensated by living a life of luxury in a castle in Devon with a multi-million pound fortune. If that's a curse we're off to the local witch to get her to hex us.
• In what was essentially a character assassination, exemplified by Alexander Armstrong's sneering commentary, it was quite distasteful to exhibit the most potent standard of Noel's "curse." being the death of Michael Lush while he prepared for a stunt on the Late, Late Breakfast Show.
• However, abominable Mr Blobby was (even though his Gotcha with Will Carling was very funny) the influence of the roly-poly freak was utterly ephemeral and harmless, and perhaps it's this reason why it is difficult to garner much enthusiasm a decade on to vilify him (and Noel) for his existence. Tommy Vance still hates hi, though, describing Mr Blobby as "a pure low of broadcasting" and "a terrible indictment of where the British mentality was at the time."
• The predictably dull talking heads – Myskow, Morley, Bushell, Hyland, Diamond.
• Mike Smith – the Gary Neville to Noel's David Beckham – claiming that he and Noel had been described as "the best double act since Morecambe & Wise"
• Desperate DJ Mike Read being hired to don a false beard and read out quotes by Noel who had refused to do an interview.
• The sanctimonious scorn of the odious DLT as he sat in supercilious judgement on his former colleague's career alongside Paul Burnett in a Smashy and Nicey combination
• As Ant & Dec have pilfered many of the best items of Noel's House Party for their own Saturday night show (NTV and the Gotchas), the Geordie duo should beware of the public getting as sick of them as they were of Noel in 1995.
• The collapse of Noel's House Party themed amusement parks was not illuminating and seemed to be crammed in as desperate evidence to prove Noel was a failure.

Road Raja, Sky One

What to say if you liked it
Another fun-filled reality show with six celebrity drivers being made to sweat for our viewing entertainment.
What to say if you disliked it
The biggest mountain out of a molehill you ever did see. The celebrities' challenge – driving in Mumbai – is no harder than shopping in Sainsbury's when it's full of dithering pensioners and sullen shelfstackers.
What was good about it?
• Julie Goodyear. If she was a car she'd be a battered old Bentley, prone to explosive noises and with an overflowing ashtray. The most entertaining of the six celebs, especially when she was reluctantly forced to mount an elephant. The cigarette holder may be elegant but her language isn't eg "They're aggressive little fuckers aren't they?", "I shit myself", "Jesus bloody wept", "I thought I'd died and gone to hell"
• Tanya Strecker. She's got more humanity that most of those Ittish Girls.
• Dennis Waterman. Showed a healthy lack of interest in cars.
• Keith Allen. Although his mischievous nature was somewhat undermined by his constant struggle with his car's gearbox.
• Presenter Jaaved Jaaferi's rich voice.
• The title sequence – best we've seen this year.
• The beautiful old Ambassador cars

What was bad about it?
• Caprice. If she was a car, she'd be a 4x4 parked across a disabled crossing in a crowded London street. She moaned throughout, not realising that if she wasn't such a slap-covered, gum-chewing talentless nonentity, she wouldn't have to be whoring herself on reality TV.
• Russell Amerasaka. He does reports for BBC1's Holiday but we've never seen him before and therefore cannot be regarded as a celebrity. Boy, we're glad we have never seen him before. He's camp and giggly and has dreadful fashion sense. If he was a car, it would have one of those annoying Colonel Bogey horns
• Seeing poor elephants being forced to act as transport for the likes of Caprice.
• Seeing an elephant's erection. Not a pretty sight.

24 Hours With… Bobby Brown, ITV1

24 Hours With… Bobby Brown, ITV1, Monday 11 June 2007
Did we like it?
An innovative format with a genial, adaptable host in Jamie Campbell was largely ruined by an irrelevant, dull guest in Bobby Brown.
What was good about it?
• Jamie Campbell has potential as the host. He approached Bobby Brown not like, say, Michael Parkinson navigating his stammering inquisition through the choppy waters of celebrity indifference, but rather with the same primal devotion of a Neanderthal hunter circling a lumbering mammoth chucking spears at its leathery hide trying to make it squeal with an indignant rage.
• He only once penetrated the ex-celebrity’s thick skin when he made a flippant remark when continuing the analogy that the pair were like cellmates in prison. “You’re dangerous!” said Bobby of Jamie, which seemed as though he was trying to use modern street slang but came across as an out-of-touch middle-aged crone. To which Jamie replied: “And I haven’t even made any sex moves on you, yet.” A comment, especially the ‘yet’ clause, that sparked the lethargic Brown to some sort of rigid horror. Jamie exploited Bobby’s discomfort for a little while, but as Bobby is essentially an idiot with a mouth like an out-of-control hippo nothing more was gleaned from his psyche.

What was bad about it?
• The central concept of 24 Hours With… is admirable as the obvious aim is to probe beneath the glossy surface that is laid thickly on the famous like steaming tarmac. The main problem with the programme was that Bobby Brown isn’t famous, and his views haven’t been worthy of broadcast for at least a decade. And even if he was famous, he is so utterly superficially sensual that Jamie may as well have taken a pick-axe to granite.
• Ironically, evidence that Bobby has fallen further than Lucifer can be found in the very fact that he agreed to appear on the show in the first place and mingle with the rest of the ex-celebrity detritus herd following their noses to whichever show anywhere in the world that offers the biggest cheque or greatest exposure.
• Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, Stan Collymore and Lee Ryan are appearing in future episodes – such a basement standard of guest means the series has the feel of an extended pilot episode with dummies filling the place of real guests.
• When Bobby demanded to know if Jamie was gay or not, it seemed to hint at Bobby being homophobic, although Bobby said it wouldn’t have made any difference to him, the sad thing is even if Bobby was homophobic he’s far too pointless for it to be significant – he’d just be AN Other bigot. Even Jeremy Clarkson’s malicious ‘ginger beer’ snide would be more noteworthy.
• Although bigotry might also be high up on Jamie’s list of things to do. After teaching Bobby pidgin French, he assured a bemused Bobby that “the French don’t say anything other that that”. Where “that” was a series of grunts and snorts that Vic and Bob made a mockery of around the same time Bobby was last famous. Of course, he may have been trying to lure Bobby into a trap to encourage him to make a similarly disparaging remark in the knowledge that, even with his fame at its nadir, it would be Bobby’s prejudice that would attract more attention than his own.
• Bobby was perhaps selected because of fame-by-proxy because of his marriage to Whitney Houston, but Bobby only mumbled some boring stuff about this. Which is hardly surprising given that Whitney Houston produced some of the most tedious songs in history with a voice that sounds as if it’s travelling from one depressed mining town in Siberia to another like a penniless whisky salesman who ends up sozzled by drinking most of the supplies to stop his inexorable plunge into terminal despair.
• It’s also about 12 hours too long. That’s about the time Bobby and Jamie turned in, and after they wake it’s apparent that Bobby just wanted to leave. In fact, the conversation got so desperate Jamie had to seriously question Bobby about the CIA propaganda that Osama Bin Laden wanted him dead so he could marry Whitney Houston.
• Jamie sounds disturbingly akin to Tom from Spooks.
• As with Big Brother, any impression of Bobby, or any future guest, has little value as the 24 hours of ‘conversation’ could be edited to portray Bobby in any desire way. However, given that after the minor altercation about Jamie’s sexuality the next most engaging highlight was Bobby teaching Jamie to ‘box’ it’s doubtful if there was enough decent material to fill an ad break.

Frank Skinner’s Tough Gig, ITV1

Tuesday 12 June 2007
Did we like it?
Like Lenny Henry, beginning a BBC1 series tonight, Frank Skinner is a Midlands comedian who has gone out of fashion, but while Henry has become a childish embarrassment, Skinner showed in this programme that he's matured and can become a Michael Palin-like national treasure.

What was good about it?
• The old Frank would have humiliated the people from a New Age commune in Dorset, but he kept an open mind as he got to know them through group hugs ("I feel like I've scored a really good goal"), meditation and early morning dancing to cheesy house music.
• The clip of the middle-aged red-headed woman during the tantric sex session reaching to the skies and crying out in orgasmic joy. Frank failed to stifle his laughter and afterwards wondered: "Who at the point of orgasm puts their hands up in the air unless they're at gunpoint?"
• Frank has always been able to get laughs from lads so this was a big challenge, but he managed to raise chuckles amid the chakras by being good natured and accepting of his hosts' sometimes strange behaviour.

What was bad about it?
• It should have been an hour long so that we got more than a superficial understanding of what it was like for an outsider inside a rather insular community.
• The typical tacky titles from ITV. No class.

Would You Buy A House With A Stranger?, BBC3

Friday 18 November 2005
Did we like it?
Not that much. There are so many of these contrived reality shows nowadays that it's a buyers' market. The idea is reasonable enough: a first-time buyer picks from three other people hoping to get "a foothold on the housing ladder" to join them in purchasing a property. But there were not enough desirable features.
What was good about it?
• Watching the deteriorating relationship between sensible army girl Gemma and frivolous shopaholic/call centre drone Sarah. They started off smiling and having petty disagreements over decor. They ended up screaming: "If you're gonna be a bitch, I'm gonna be a bitch."
• The script was well written; the sprinkling of contemporary music was used well; getting the contestants to hold up their own captions worked well. Indeed, the programme makers probably came up with the best possible execution of a series called Would You Buy A House With A Stranger? But that still didn't satisfy us – maybe our DNA doesn't contain enough of that houseprice horror gene.

What was bad about it?
• The audition process turned out to be dull, even with some really tense music during Gemma's make-your-mind-up meal before she delivered the show's catchphrase: "the person I would like to come by with me is..."
• Horse-faced, posh property finder Sarah Van der Noot – the show's expert – is no Kirsty A or Sarah B.
• The barman in the cocktail bar visited by Gemma who couldn't resist showing off for the cameras. Tosser!

Britain's Got Talent, ITV1

Thursday-Saturday 13-15 June 2007
Did we like it?
It probably should be called Britain's Got Sob Stories but, aside from the tales of dead and sick relatives, the live programmes in this talent show series have provided us with the feelgood TV event of the year, uncovering some great acts and forcing us, reluctantly, to put our cynicism on hold for a few days.

What was good about it?
• The judges had the sense to avoid filling the final with singers. There are plenty of opportunities for them on TV. It may have been unpopular to ditch Tony (dead brother) and Damon (everyone alive and well) but we're glad that unique acts have been given the chance to shine instead. It's not as if the singers have all sunk without trace: operatic tenor Paul Potts and adorable girls Connie Talbot and Bessie Cursons made the final.
• Damon Scott's puppet act, The Kombat Breakers and The Bar Wizards prove that variety need not remain dead and buried.
• There was plenty of eye candy on offer – the Crazeehorse bloke with megapecs who lifts up his wife, the member of The Free Runners who went topless and one of beatboxers Crew 82, who sadly hid behind the others most of the time.
• Amanda Holden has been far more likeable then we could ever possibly imagine.

What was bad about it?
• Our favourite act – baton twirler Craig Womersley failed to make the final. He made the biggest impact by far (and had the good sense to ditch the sequins and get more street for the semi final). We were also hoping Peter Kay-in-the-making Jake Pratt would qualify.
• After an exhaustive talent search, it is bewildering that places in the semi-finals went to warty Madonna impressionist Caroline Boyes, those stupid line dancing dogs and "magician" Dr Gore.
• The distasteful skimpy outfits worn by the troupes of little girl dancers.
• The Piers Morgan-Simon Cowell rows became uncomfortable. Both are odious chaps but at least Simon has the ability to spot talent, even if he then forces them to become bland money-making machines.
PS We'd have preferred the Barstewards to have won the final, because they'd liven up the Royal Variety Performance. But we're not too upset about Paul Potts winning.
Britain’s Got Talent, ITV1, Tuesday 12 June 2007
Did we like it?
Some of the acts undoubtedly have fabulous talent, but it’s a pity the same cannot be said about Simon Cowell. Or that anything at all can be said about Amanda Holden. And the only things we can say about Piers Morgan bring out our worst sarcastic tendencies.

What was good about it?
• Despite our reservations, a number of the acts are genuinely talented. The difference between this and, say, X-Factor is that the applicants are allowed to demonstrate imagination and creativity rather than just sing Angels with the emotion of a botoxed face and the spontaneity of a broken toaster.
• The best of the acts.
Saturday's best: The baton twirling lad and preteen comic Jake.
Sunday's best: the boy who sang (surprise, surprise) Unchained Melody, the rapping gran and the woman who danced with an angle grinder.
Monday's best: drag act The Kit Kat Dolls, Crazeehorse's acro-balancing act, the Free runners from Essex and amazing six-year-old singer Connie.
Tuesday's best: Crew 82’s beatboxing, George’s robotic dancing, the cocktail making and Tony’s delicate original composition about his late brother captured in about 10 minutes a billion times the potential of all three series of X-Factor.
• Ant & Dec. Like an SAS team called in to perform a perilous rescue mission, ITV have enlisted their most reliable and talented presenters to ensure the safe-keeping of one of their crown jewels. However, we’re getting a little tired by the number of comments they are making during the acts – some are amusing, but others are banal.
• The glorious Piers Morgan. Not since Josef Stalin stamped a regimental boot and said to ugly Adolf, “I won’t stand for any more of your tyrannical annexations of sovereign European states, I’m joining the side of the angels – great Great Britain!” has one man achieved such glorious redemption in the eyes of the great Great British public. Piers also gloriously mirrors Uncle Joe’s divine diplomacy in the way he handles Simon ‘Adolf’ Cowell.
• When Piers gloriously managed to get precocious drummer Cameron through, he mocked Cowell with “the public roared their approval”, to which old grumpynuts snapped back: “Like I care!” In this moment Piers ascended to the glory of TV panellist heaven as he had exposed Cowell’s greatest insecurity – that the love of ‘his public’ might one day pall.
• And that smile he used when reminding us of his glorious history as a tabloid editor during which time he promoted Take That and Bros to the glorious zenith of the showbiz world. That, he claimed, was his main role as an editor as if exposing atrocities and educating readers was just a minor function.

What was bad about it?
• As everyone knows, before the acts get through to the TV stage they are filtered to remove the mediocre leaving just the good and the egregiously terrible. This means that even as you’re introduced to an act it’s pretty obvious which camp they fall into (only Neil Diamond-to-George Formby cabaret impressionist Richard Bates has seriously divided the judges – and that was more to do with Morgan's quest to nullify Cowell), stripping much of the tension away from the judge’s deliberations. The buzzers don’t help matters, either: if the act has been buzzed by all three they won’t qualify and vice-versa.
• It also ostensibly seemed that the judges were split on the merits of 14-year-old drummer Cameron with Simon branding him as boring, and Piers championing him. The whole scenario had the noxious odour of being stage managed when Ant & Dec popped out from stage right to perform their classic hit Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble to sway the simpering Amanda into putting Cameron through to the next round where, incidentally, he doesn’t have a prayer.
• Simon Cowell has been an obsolete obelisk of awfulness for some time now, and his crass attempts to generate audience genuflection towards his every word is stealing the limelight away from the deserving acts. For the talented Crew 82, witness his enervating efforts to create melodrama. “Guys, absolutely… (cue a pause for a longer duration than some empires have stood) … brilliant.” Because of his smarmy selfishness the applause are more fervent than those that greeted the climax of Crew 82’s act.
• Yet his inability to communicate anything beyond the most basic articulation was exposed with his evaluation of the wonderful dancer George, 13. “One word,” Cowell declared, “brilliant!” Which was the same dumb acclaim he’d delivered to Crew 82. But he is perhaps aware of the dubious credibility of his praise as he instantly qualified and compounded the ‘brilliant’ with: “Seriously – brilliant. You are a phenomenal talent. Really.” A delighted George exclaimed: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard Simon say ‘brilliant’ before.” He obviously wasn’t watching 20 minutes earlier.
• Meanwhile, any act that has a synthetic-sympathetic introduction will definitely make it through. “Crew 82 – four friends from Leeds”, “Thirteen-year-old street dancer George is hoping to make a better life for him and his family”, and “It’s been a tough time for Tony who recently lost his brother to cancer”. But we wager there were plenty of less talented people who had suffered a parallel sadness in their lives who were weeded out at the non-TV stage so the judges didn’t come across as heartless bastards.
• Amanda Holden’s pointlessness. She was introduced as "one of Britain's most-loved actresses" and, Ant told us, “Amanda’s looking lovely today” – the empty compliment that is said about a someone who has no other function other than to impress others through their appearance. She even used the phrase “It’s genius!” to describe Crew 82 (who were good but not that good), a phrase that people should only be permitted to utter five times in their life rather than as an ineloquent exaggeration to mask their cerebral limitations.
• Some of the editing is very bizarre, especially concerning audience applause. From time to time, the ovations appeared to be unrelated to the act that was supposedly being lauded and often the clapping was abruptly cut off like a miser slamming his heavy oaken door shut on a bunch of jolly carol singers. Often there are so many of the reaction shots that we hardly get to see what the audience and judges are reacting to.
• The false narrative in which the viewers are supposed to swallow the conceit that rather than the truth of the decent acts and appalling acts being dotted arbitrarily about the day, they come in separate waves of the good and bad. After a succession of dreadful acts Ant confided: “All is not lost in Manchester!” The alternative theory is that the acts have been arranged by the production team to appear in waves of good and bad thus reducing the authenticity of the show even further.
• The way in which the judges have clearly been directed to make a facial expression to sum up their initial impressions. Frequently after only a few bars of a song, or a few dance moves the camera will cut to Simon with an obviously fake visage of astonishment/derision, the same applies to Amanda but she is obviously a better actress. Piers, meanwhile, seems genuine. The consequence of this is that we often see more of the judges’ frozen visages than the act themselves, and combined with the incessant cut aways to Ant & Dec, this diminishes the act’s impact.
• Richard Bates’ qualification for the next round, despite Simon’s protestations, was accompanied by one of those lifeless record company sponsored ‘uplifting’ songs (think Westlife’s You Life Me Up), the kind that causes razor blades to scuttle into the dark corners like cockroaches when the bathroom light is turned on fearful that their master will slash their own wrists in despair at the insipid sterility of human imagination.
• The worst of the acts. Most involved animals or magic but other horrors included a nervy knife thrower, a Homebase version of Pet Shop Boys and a man playing the ashtray.

OFI Sunday, ITV1

Sunday 20 November 2005
Did we like it?
Just as when Neville Chamberlain returned jubilantly from Berlin, where his delusions foreshadowed six years of catastrophic war, so the moment when “audience member” Emily introduced Chris Evans will be looked back on in the future as the point which signalled the new, inexorable rise of TV’s biggest fascist for a period of undetermined woe.
What was good about it?
• In an act perhaps more impressive than her excellent turn on Doctor Who, Billie Piper maintained her dignity and even came across as funny and charming.
• The ironic joke of using Take That’s Back For Good as Billie Piper’s entrance music.

What was bad about it?
• Evans’ introduction which, true to type, was concerned utterly with him, him and him. He went to the dentist’s on Friday, you know. He’s such awful teeth, and even showed us a picture of him. And, bless him, he’s even invited his dentist, and her assistant, to the show.
• The content was mostly superfluous tosh. At one point, Evans’ mum drove gingerly around the studio on her “granny cart” as she’d just had it fixed.
• Evans’ ever-so-wacky new stooge Hitem. You can almost see the Evans holding him on a leash/noose treating him like an over-privileged poodle until he tires of him. At which point he might hang him over the abyss of anonymity and cut the rope condemning him to a career producing children’s shows and appearing on retrospectives of the 2000s where he will bitterly vent his spleen about how Evans abandoned him once he’d served his vague purpose.
• Evans just couldn’t resist references to TFI Friday, as if saying: “It was good, look at these clips Mr Channel 4 Producer and tremble. TFI was a work of ginger genius and you tossed it away replacing it with garbage like The Simpsons.” It also meant the evocation of that musical nightmare The Riverboat Song by the now thankfully forgotten Ocean Colour Scene. In fairness to Evans, TFI Friday was as many times better than OFI Sunday as the whole of eternity is longer than the shelf life of Boys And Girls. But it was still shit.
• Evans gallivanting about a park with two balloons decorated as “giant boobies”; when the BBC wanted to fill up dead time they used to put up Pages From Ceefax.
• When Evans was wasting more time with an Al Pacino doll, he sneered to it: “What do you say to our competitor on Channel 4.” We instinctively switched to C4 as respite from Evans’ enervating ego, but rather than a “competitor” it was only a film.
• Few items signpost the decadence of Western capitalism as much as gadgets. And, appositely for such a decadent show, half the air time was consumed by a senseless feature on new gadgets during which a mini-vacuum cleaner received a round of applause.
• The audience. They seem to have been mindlessly shovelled in from the last ever episode of TFI Friday where they have lain dormant like tuberculosis ready to infect a whole new generation who haven’t yet built up an immunity to their virulent vulgarity of mindless cheering, sporadic throaty assent of Evans’ dogma and pre-programmed Nicolae Ceausescu-acolyte ovations.

Tiswas Reunited, ITV1

Saturday 16 June 2007
Did we like it?
After seeing the reception the BBC reunion of Swap Shop received, some nostalgic 30-something commissioning editor at ITV made the obvious move of bringing back together the Tiswas team for one night only. So Chris Tarrant, Sally James, Lenny Henry, the Phantom Flanflinger et al dusted down the jeans and T-shirt and dug out the custard pies for one last time. This is what they want!

What was good about it?
• Sally James has aged very well.
• They’d tracked down some of the kids who were on the show originally, including the five-year-old who sang Bright Eyes dressed as a rabbit and the lad who interrupted the prize draw to inform Chris that he needed to go to the toilet. Both guys had got into the spirit of the show, one dressed in a rabbit costume; the other consumed five drinks just before the programme, so he was desperate for the toilet.
• They’d managed to get a load of original guests back for the show – including Sir Trevor Macdonald and David Bellamy
• The Cage was back, and Tarrant didn’t miss an opportunity to soak the imprisoned audience or cover the with gunk – it must have been a long night for them…
• Apart from being slightly greyer, both Bob Carolgees and Spit the dog looked exactly as they did in 1980 – and the act hasn’t changed a bit.
• Tarrant revealed how Rick Parfitt from Status Quo lit up a joint while trapped in the cage! This not being the sort of thing they wanted live on Children’s TV, a couple of hastily thrown buckets of water sorted things out.
• Tony Brutus, the self-styled ‘Strongest Man in the World’. Result? Manning and Daddy sprawled on the floor, Manning having split his trousers and Tony Brutus having wrecked his knee.

What was bad about it?
• Though everyone concerned seemed to be having a good time, there was something faintly embarrassing about an middle-aged audience sporting David Bellamy beards and singing along in Compost Corner.
• We were ‘treated’ to a live performance from Status Quo. The upside being that Quo got covered in custard pies and buckets of water.
• The clip of Tarrant interviewing Muhammed Ali, showed how in awe of the Greatest he was. Sadly, it was obvious that Parkinsons disease had already begun its hold on Ali.
• Bernard Manning cropped up in quite a few of the clips; the fact a rancid old bigot like that was a kids TV regular reminding us that things weren’t always better in the old days. RIP – not!
• Creature Feature brought us the edifying sight of a bear in a studio full of children, and a bloke boxing a kangaroo. Can you imagine that on Saturday morning TV these days?

Bamboozle, E4

Thursday 24 November 2005
Did we like it?
We enjoyed the actual tasks – three ordinary girls pretending to do ridiculous things for six months to try to get as much media exposure as possible – though the game show set-up itself was annoying and tacky.

What was good about it?
• The basic concept is good: a trashy TV game show sending up trashy celeb culture.
• Emma Fitch’s stunt of getting a, frankly hideous, fake tattoo to celebrate Kelly Holmes’ 2004 Olympics victory, and deliberately missing out the ‘L’ in Holmes. It had to be touched up with marker pen a few times, but she managed to fool Sky News, the tabloids and Jonathan Ross. As she pointed out “I got extra airtime for my pure stupidity”.
• Caroline Pollidedri’s mock New Age self-help group, Lion Therapy. From what we saw, it involves “unleashing your inner beast”, wearing tiger face paint, and roaring, though you have to start off with “gentle purring”. We saw a clip of her going on This Morning explaining it all and the incredulous look on Phillip Schofield’s face was priceless.
• Caroline referring to Howard Brown only as “that bloke from the Halifax adverts”.
• It was a lot of fun remembering that we saw or heard about all of the stunts when they were taken as genuine, and it was actually quite satisfying to learn that they were stunts.
• The programme highlighted just how desperate the tabloids, celeb magazines, daytime TV and reality TV are for utter crap to fill up airtime and column inches.
• Ed Hall’s contributions. We agree with him that Emma should have won instead of Caroline, although we also agreed that Caroline livened up This Morning for Phillip Schofield: “He has to talk about diets and death everyday!”.

What was bad about it?
• Alex Zane’s terrible wooden presenting, with jokes both bad and bizarre (“truth flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana”).
• The three contestants all looked like a cross between Jade Goody, Jordan, Kate Lawler, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and the girls from the Sheila’s Wheels advert.
• Chloe Bailey’s rather dull false campaign to make Big Brother 6’s Derek Laud the next Tory leader. It says more about how desperate the Tories are in their public image that ex-Tory MP Michael Brown agreed with her. She was also responsible for flying that banner on an aeroplane past the house.
• Caroline’s irritating voice and for cracking even worse jokes and puns than Alex Zane (“roaring success”, “feline philosophy”, “the Lion Queen”).
• The gaudy Eurotrash style set.
• The three ‘judges’ who decided the winner. They are all only slightly more famous than the contestants: Sunday Mirror TV critic Ian Hyland, Lucie Cave from Heat! magazine and TV’s Ed Hall. Hyland was the worst, being bothered by “the rules” of the game show, Cave was just annoying, but Hall was sort of OK.
• It was difficult to shake off the feeling that these girls are genuinely desperate for fame. The pride in which the girls talked about how much screen time they got was particularly irritating: “one minute and nine seconds”, “a whole five and a half minutes”, “five minutes 41 seconds.” Combined, that isn’t even 15 minutes of fame.
• We can’t really see much mileage in it, especially as the girls all apparently chose their best stunts for this opener.

Tycoon, ITV1

Tuesday 19 June 2007
Did we like it?
A cheap, backstreet knock-off of the Apprentice forged in the dingy sweatshops of ITV lorded over by a fiscally pious megalomaniac who gets his kicks from mutilating the emotions of his charges as if they were ragged voodoo effigies rather than people.

What was good about it?
• Unintentional it may be, but the preening pomposity of some elements of the show are utterly hilarious. The base which houses all the businesses bears the grandiose appellation of Tycoon Tower (more laughable as it merely occupies an old warehouse tarted up with some MDF).
• The officious manner in which Peter Jones delivers a ticking-off. He drags the contestants out of Tycoon Tower and into the street just like a headmaster demanding that an unruly pupil come to his office for six of the best. The way in which it is done affords the candidate just enough time to emotionally crumble before they reach Peter in the street so he can stretch and bend their will to match his own.
• Even worse than ‘the street’ is ‘the pier’, a dark place to where Elizabeth was summoned and for one moment you believed Peter was going to fix manacles to her ankles and attach a sack of cement to her hair and boot her into the Thames. But it was much worse than that – ‘the pier’ is where Peter threatens to close down a candidate’s business. After much pleading and the obligatory tear-shot, Peter, with this episode’s imminent cliffhanger very much in mind, said to a weeping Elizabeth: “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to think about it.” At which point she would probably rather have been told: “Tonight you sleep with the fish!”

What was bad about it?
• The power has gone straight to Peter Jones’s head. On Dragons’ Den he always comes across as likeable and astute but here he is a businessman Bono – dissatisfied with his success in his chosen field he now wants to be loved, too.
• So much is made of Jones’s alleged sacrifices he’s made for Tycoon. Sure, he has thrown initially £60,000 of his own money – but what price an hour’s free advertising on primetime ITV1?
• “I’ve got my money on the line, my reputation and my sanity,” he fretted. He has a fortune of about £200 million, not £20 in a Barclays current account; his reputation will only be enhanced in the murky world of business as they are as awestruck as the next soulless cadaver by anyone appearing on TV in whatever guise; and his sanity will hardly be stretched by 10 weeks of carefully staged, near-scripted television.
• At one point Peter, is sitting in his office moaning to nobody but the insignificant camera crew: “This is my own personal cash I’m investing in these businesses.” Cue camera close up to snare all that fevered emotion businessmen let slip from their pores like the throbbing ocean through a cracked dam. “And what if they just blow the lot?” Well, you’ll be down to your last £199m, Peter. Plus the couple of million you’ll earn in networking and goodwill from Tycoon.
• Many of the candidates have been immersed in the 20 Dullest Business Clichés seminars. “I can’t put it into words”, “It’s not an option to lose”, “Failure is not an option” were just a couple of phrases used by people you wished could have been flushed away with the rest of the evolutionary cul-de-sac known as the dinosaurs.
• Peter Jones’s advice seems primarily to juggle their emotions, as if savouring the pleasure of being able to prevent someone from sleeping so severe is his lacerating disparagement, as happened to Kathy and Helen and Justin. And only as an afterthought is the promotion of their business at the root of his criticism, with his constant reminders that he is contributing his own money to deflect the viewer from this observation.
• The weakest candidates – Tom and Elizabeth – appear to have been coaxed by the producers to become intoxicated by their own delusions of business grandeur to make their falls from grace that much more vicariously painful. Elizabeth has re-named herself ‘Elizabeth Gets-Things-Done’ Hackford, and can’t find a name for her vodka juice let alone sell it.
• Meanwhile 17-year-old Tom’s naivety is gloriously exposed for everyone to claim their pound of visual flesh at his discomfort when Peter vilified his Snap student newspaper – the ‘mock-up’ of which he’d produced without the aid of professional designer and editors, which gave a bristling Peter the chance to dismiss it as “something my 11-year-old daughter could do”. Sadly, this means that next week Tom is packed off to work for the repellent paparazzi vermin Darryn Lyons – even Faust got a better bargain from Mephistopheles.
• Justin has been similarly stereotyped, in his case as a ‘family man’ who can’t stand to be away from his wife, all with the ultimate aim of making him appear insipid and weak especially when contrasted against his macho former claim to fame of being ex-karate world champ and a bodyguard to Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. Peter’s glowing egotism was probably visible from space when jittery Justin confessed to him that “your voice makes me go to pieces”.
• Peter’s manipulation of the candidates resembles Simon Cowell in slow motion, in the way in which he slammed Kathy and Helen’s initial pitch only to later praise them for their efforts. On the way back home on the train, they opened a bottle of Champagne and we bet Peter could taste every single succulent mouthful of their gushing gratitude at his capricious munificence.
• The word ‘inspirational’ announced its immediate retirement from the English language after it was used to describe Lauren’s hair extensions. In a press release the now-defunct adjective said: “For a couple of hundred years I have been proud to be one of the foremost synonyms to capture that moment of human genius when an idea springs forth from apparently nowhere. But now, having been used to describe cosmetic doggerel that helps women get long hair immediately rather than growing it, I feel I have no option other than to offer my resignation from the English language.”
• The candidates are encouraged to rub each others’ noses in the dirt by wordlessly howling at the top of their voice or sounding a blaring fire alarm siren whenever they make even 1p in sales. There’s also a nauseating aroma of the “I like him but…” in which candidates qualify their subsequent bitchiness with a prefix of faux mateyness. “I hope Ian doesn’t get any orders,” sneered Justin, before remembering that Ian was a ‘friend for life’. “In a nice kind of way,” he added.
• The bit in which each business has to pitch for the next £20,000 of Peter’s money was a mini-Dragons’ Den. The BBC should sue.
• When Peter called Tom from the office (“Quickly, I’m going home” – Translation: It’ll look really dramatic on TV when I drive off leaving you choking on my dust of fury) about a similar newspaper to Tom’s starting up, he bawled: “Tom, you do have competition and it’s run by one of the biggest, most respected editors this country has ever seen – Piers Morgan.” It was such an obsequious ode to Morgan and stank of ITV corporate branding to the point where if Tycoon had been scheduled to begin two weeks ago we imagine Peter would have appended his rant with: “– Piers Morgan, who will be on your screens next week as one of the star judges on ITV1’s fabulous new talent show Britain’s Got Talent.”

Millionaire Manor, BBC1

Saturday 3 December 2005
Did we like it?
No. This isn't a manor to which we'll become accustomed.
What was good about it?
• It's not the worst of the lottery-linked game shows (Red Alert was worse)
• Contestant Dan Bone outranked X-Factor's Shayne as the hottest guy on Saturday night TV this week
• Alan Deddicoat still does a fine job as the voice of the balls

What was bad about it?
• Host Mark Durden-Smith trying to hype things up despite being just about the only TV presenter with less charisma than Kate Thornton (and he's fast becoming the chubbiest TV presenter apart from Eamonn Holmes). Other hosts could have had fun with the four family pairings competing to win a week in the manor – but Durden-Smith could only indulge in the sort of small talk one would employ before one has necked enough drinks at a dull party. His best "gag" was "It's simple, just like me."
• The three rounds of quizzery are all based on greed/luxury/extravagance – so that's a bit tasteless. Round one called on contestants to decide which celeb was richer (Michael Owen beat Orlando Bloom but not Bob Geldof); round two demanded the contestants pick the most expensive from three items (amusingly, the Essex family thought the £185 chair was more valuable that one worth £85k); and round three featured a few tame questions on the rich, famous and jewellery (not knowing that Vera Wang makes dresses was the clincher).
• The set was lousy, featuring those podiums not seen outside daytime TV since the 1980s

Space Cadets, Channel 4

Wednesday 7 December 2005
Did we like it?
If Space Cadets was made in mediaeval times, it would consist of a man being compelled to watch his family be horribly and gruesomely tortured before being disembowelled, and then be told by a chortling inquisitor they were already dead anyhow. And then the man is forced to laugh with a dagger at his throat.
What was good about it?
• Imagine the sound of tumbleweed drifting across your screen and watch carefully as it blows out of sight down the abyssal depths of worthless reality TV.

What was bad about it?
• The whole show is founded on spite. It’s little more than a sadistic exercise of raising the hopes of ordinary, quite often stupid, people simply to crush them for the transitory vicarious delight of a loathsome audience who are taking a break from bullying at work or school.
• Johnny Vaughan. He is far too smug and incessantly perpetrates that annoying habit he has of accentuating syllables in sentences to glorify the most mundane events.
• And Vaughan whispering quietly “just outside” where the cadets are “playing pool” is fooling no one. Given the lengths already gone to in order to convince the cadets of the genuine nature of the “Russian base”, they’re hardly likely to want to risk blowing it by Vaughan jabbering on in earshot.
• Babylon Zoo’s Spaceman was abysmal in 1996, and remains so to this day. It only got to number one through being on an advert, and the only people who buy singles from adverts are the specimens who are chained to walls in the cellars by their despairing parents, gnawing on the bones of neighbour’s cat which was unfortunate enough to creep through a narrow opening ventilating the improvised prison on sweltering summer days.
• The extraneous sounds of fizzing electrics when the lights were illuminated in the “lecture room”.
• Gavin, a serial reality show parasite (he’s been on Coach Trip and Dragons’ Den), tried to intrude on this show but was eliminated at the final hurdle.
• As the contestants were selected purely on their susceptibility and stupidity, the tests were extremely dull as none of them possessed either charisma or eccentricity. This meant that even when introduced formally on the runway before their trip to “Russia”, they came across as an amorphous blob, the kind you see congealed in to blubbering mounds of mediocrity queuing outside formal dress nightclubs on any day of the week (except Tuesday).
• In fact, if the contestants were blasted in to space and colonised their own planet, their offspring would have regressed intellectually to the mammalian equivalent of horse radishes within three generations.
• Space Cadets relies heavily on its contestants having a fathomless ignorance of Russia, yet endorses this symptom amongst its viewers with Vaughan repeatedly pandering to Western fallacies about Russia – “cheap as chipskis”, “trickski” or divulging that the research team had to film undercover in a Russian supermarket as the Russian authorities didn’t like their cameras, as if implying if they were caught they would be interrogated by Steven Berkoff’s imposing James Bond Russian General before being transported to a gulag in deepest Siberia where they would mine salt from unyielding cliffs with blunt pick axes until their dying day.
• It seems so utterly pointless; it’s a one-joke ruse. Everyone can already see the punchline on the horizon moving closer and closer until the hoax is revealed, but even such a jape could be done by Jeremy Beadle in 10 minutes. Spreading it out over a week won’t make the joke any funnier; if anything, it’ll dampen the hilarity.
Space Cadets, Channel 4, Friday 16 December 2005
The ways in which the climax of Space Cadets became more an exercise in alleviating the guilt of Channel 4 than the punch-line of a five day jape.
1. The three cadets winning £25,000 and a trip to STAR City for a zero gravity flight may have been dressed-up as a prize, but was compensation in all but name. And what’s more, the cadets apparently earned £5,000 for each day they believed they were in space, which is rewarding gullibility.
2. The way in which in the latter days of the ruse, increasingly obvious clues were laid (Charlie’s illness, the memorial to Mr Bimby) in order that the cadets may guess the true nature of the predicament and so be proclaimed as modern day Hercule Poirots for solving the hoax.
3. Johnny Vaughan’s risible efforts to convince the cadets that their mission had substance beyond being the butt of an overlong joke with no discernible punch-line. “You’ve experienced things we never have,” he gushed.” You actually believed you were going in to space. You’ve known what it was like to believe you were looking down at Earth from a space shuttle. I’ll never have that!”
4. Johnny Vaughan revealing the lengths the production team had gone in order to pretend that the Suffolk airbase was STAR City, Russia was half self-congratulation and half-faux admiration for the cadets as if saying “we knew we had to create an utterly convincing environment to fool your razor sharp minds”.
5. The nature of the gag was slowly revealed to the cadets as they sat in a cramped pod, on their way (or so they thought) to go on a spacewalk. The gradual manner in which they realised they had been conned seemed to be a device to dampen their disappointment.
6. Johnny Vaughan: “We applaud their courage.” Ovation from the assembled audience. “We really do.” What courage was that? They did nothing that could even approach being described as brave.
7. Johnny Vaughan: “Real astronauts don’t have that much fun. If you meet them, salute them as the heroes they are.”
8. When Cadet Billy was crestfallen that as he looked down on a peaceful Earth, with his impressions were of a sense of peace and the absurdity of war, were exposed as a sham. Vaughan comforted him by claiming Buzz Aldrin visited his school and “word for word” his views were the same as Billy’s.
9. Johnny Vaughan: “Think of the money! Was it a good experience?”
10. As the cadets clambered from their pod into the studio, Johnny Vaughan toadied: “Aaah, heroes. You’re heroes!”

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