Where on Earth did this one come from? Shooting Stars out of Celebrity Death Match is the probable answer, creating what can best be described as I-can’t-quite-believe-it’s-reality TV.
The show pitched The Office’s Ricky Gervais against Anthea Turner’s husband, Grant Bovey, in a real-life boxing match, with a prize of five grand to the winner’s favourite charity. The choice of contestants was bizarre, as was the idea of two celebrities (well, one plus a sort of E-list Prince Philip) actually landing blows on each other, while the format – part documentary, part pseudo-live sporting event – was pretty strange too. It could only have been born of a Reeves and Mortimer mindset, and it was – Bob Mortimer produced and presented it, which explained a lot.
The first 45 minutes were fly-on-the-wall sequences of the two being taught to box. Gervais demonstrated that, as he freely admits, there’s a fair amount of real David Brent in him, arguing with his trainer and showing a comical reluctance to hit his sparring partner for fear of being hit back. The lean, steely-eyed Bovey, meanwhile, showed no such inhibitions, and on pre-match form it looked set to be a massacre.
In the event it wasn’t, and Gervais won narrowly on points after four and a half minutes of what had looked remarkably like two five year olds scrapping in a playground, all wild flurries of punches and two pushing-overs. There was no doubt that it was real though, as both men had real injuries, with blood running from Gervais’ nose and lacerations on Bovey’s cheek. The British Boxing Board of Control had tried to get the fight banned, fearing that it would bring boxing into disrepute. They were right – it did, though only by reminding us how barbaric the sight of a room full of people cheering as two men assault each other actually is. Perhaps that was the idea.
If so, then good luck to it. Even if not, then at least it was genuinely different and made you actually think, if only to wonder how it could possibly have happened. That’s more than can be said for most of this year’s Yuletide TV.