Did we like it?
We had severe fears that this could be the sterile dangling testicles of ITV’s obsession with celebrity, any celebrity, that would be mercifully gelded by low viewing figures and thus recede to become a placid eunuch reaping corn in the distant out-of-the-way fields of ITV2. However, it was pretty entertaining hybrid of the Krypton Factor, Top Gear and This Morning village idiot quizzes, largely because the ‘star’ in this episode was a genuine star who was doing something he was good at and also was possessed by a ruthless, somewhat unpleasant, will to win even if he was competing for pride and not the £50,000 prize.
What was good about it?
• Vernon Kay was a tolerable* host, even if he did unnecessarily lug the transparent case containing the £50,000 prize on stage with him as if to placate any impression that there wasn’t really a £50,000 prize and that the £50,000 prize was an fiscal phantasm brought to you by the same mendacious producers who devised You Say We Pay for Richard and Judy.
* ‘Tolerable’ in this instance means that you won’t thrust your cranium headfirst into the TV set like an enraged bull, as you may have done with Celebrity Family Fortunes as Vernon gurns with all the tumultuous, elastic dexterity of the San Andreas Fault circa-1906 San Francisco.
• The ‘star’ both in the title and sense of the show with a £50,000 prize was boxer Amir Khan. Not a has-been, not a bedraggled TV presenter holding on to fame with his shit-stained tongue, but an athlete in his prime. The fact that Khan came across as quite arrogant and even disdainful of his opponent added to the tension.
This was most apparent when Khan and the non-star questing for the £50,000 prize, 30-year-old, 6’ 5” copper Dan Ivey, had to hang from a suspended metal bar for as long as possible. This was one game you knew that Khan would win easily, and after Dan fell off after two minutes, Khan responded by doing a couple of chin-ups and claiming that he could have “done easily another five minutes”. That the competitors weren’t smothered in a blancmange of sportsmanship gave the games a real edge.
• The first game that Dan had to beat Khan at to claim the £50,000 prize was banging 20 nails into a plank of wood. Because of its bizarre agricultural nature, you soon became au fait with the pitfalls of bending a nail early on and willed the contestant on to the next nail rather than waste time. Unsurprisingly, the boxer won this.
• The second game involved climbing to the top of a telegraph pole and ringing a bell. Both failed to meet this challenge, with Khan in particular trembling like a little girl. The highlight here came when adjudicator, and ex-Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher received a kiss on his bald bonce from an exuberant Dan after he was judged the winner, earning him his first points in his attempt to win the £50,000 prize.
• Milking a cow to yield the most milk from her teats was the compulsory ‘make a celebrity look stupid’ game, and it worked as a comic interlude amid the more machismo tasks in this game show with a £50,000 prize.
What was bad about it?
• While he may have been nervous about being on TV vying for the £50,000 prize, this didn’t excuse Dan from throwing up clichés like the vomit he encounters in the flats of junkies who he regularly busts on his Plymouth beat. “Losing is not an option” is a mantra for people who order bottles of concentrated testosterone from the milkman; “Over the moon” should be a capital offence unless uttered by lobotomised footballers; and “Bring it on” is the national anthem of Moronshire.
• While the athletic content and silliness of milking a cow worked well, mental acuity was not really required by Dan as he strove to win the £50,000 prize. Khan and Dan had a facile buzzer round that depended on their knowledge of famous faces, emblematic of an ITV’s unseemly addiction to human pollution. But just as Khan was a dead cert to win the bar hanging, so they must have guessed that his prowess is in his fists and not his cerebrum as he appeared to be quite thick. He genuinely thought that Daniel Radcliffe was Harry Potter, got confused between Leona Lewis and Shakira, and worst of all mistook Alistair Darling for Trevor McDonald.
• The penalty shoot out should have been a thrilling climax to the show, and it would have been had either Khan or Dan had more football skill than an octopus with eight amputated limbs. Khan wasn’t that bad, but still mostly resembled a five year old jabbing the ball like he was poking the eye stalk of a snail (his second penalty was decent, though). Dan, on the other hand, was terrible. Leading at the time and with the £50,000 prize almost within his grasp, he scooped two penalties over the bar, while the other was a weak prod that Khan easily saved. He should have used the failsafe technique that all football novices used and just toe-punted the ball.
• After the zenith of a superb, active sportsman as the ‘star’ hoping to block the award of £100,000 to an ordinary Joe, next week it’s semi-retired cricketer Darren Gough; still, his adroitness at ballroom dancing should enable him to partially overcome the crippling athletic handicap of being a cricketer.