OUR weekly web columnist’s wry look at the week’s TV
As all-time-great April Fools go, television has delivered the most memorable.
Panorama’s famous spaghetti-trees spoof has been repeated more often than Come Dine With Me. Well, nearly.
Who could forget the convincingly staged backroom-boys bust-up behind Des Lynam’s shoulder on Grandstand?
And this year, Channel 4 gave us a real classic – a man staring at eggs not hatching in a Perspex box, for two hours.
Wait a sec. Knowing C4, that might not have been a prank.
Turns out it wasn’t. It was Easter Eggs Live, a “unique TV event” even less thrilling than it sounds.
Hard to believe, I know.
Because, fresh from boring the nation to sleep with Bedtime Live, the network’s surpassed itself with a 120-minute, two-night joke without a punchline.
Not that host Mark Evans didn’t try his socks off to inject some high-octane, white-knuckle excitement into the studio hatchery.
“We will keep you posted as the dramas unfold.”
“It’s so mesmerising to watch them develop.”
“This is an extraordinary event.”
It’s a farce, from start to finish, that unravelled every time Evans overdid the hype, beginning with the presenter calling a freshly hatched incubator chick: “Gorgeous.”
Gorgeous? It looked like Warwick Davis had been tarred, feathered, beaten black and blue, gunged, and left in a helpless heap on the floor of ITV’s The Cube.
A hairy tarantula that looked like death on eight sticks and a fruit beetle cocoon made from its own excrement were also “gorgeous”, apparently.
Of course, two hours is a long time to fill when there’s nothing doing.
But I’ve no sympathy for Channel 4 which for some reason has fallen in love with needlessly live TV.
As the continuity woman announced before Sunday’s show: “Anything can happen.”
It didn’t, though. Not even with the spread-betting 50 species they had in egg form.
Point a camera at them and get Evans to promise they’re about to hatch imminently and, as sure as eggs is eggs, they’d freeze like musical statues.
The rare moments something did happen, the director had already given up and cut to a pre-recorded segment, like Jimmy Doherty at “the Oscars of the chicken world”.
Or “Reading and District Championship Poultry Show”, as I’m sure we all prefer to call it.
Easter Eggs Live wasn’t without its moments. Russian astronauts fannying around with weightless quails in space was the funniest minute I’ve seen on telly this year, and a mother duck miraculously leading her ducklings across a busy motorway was pure Buzz Lightyear and co crossing the road to Al’s Toy Barn, in Toy Story 2.
Some of the experts’ insights were priceless: “The giant African land snake comes all the way from Africa,” and, “This is an African egg-eating snake. It eats eggs.”
As was Evans having the nerve to ask an engineer creating the world’s first synthetic egg by removing a quail’s eggshell and replacing it with a manmade one: “What’s the point?”
Most of the time, however, the show seemed to be beating itself up: “This looks like some massive dropping.” “Without knowing anything else, you would say it’s bananas.”
It is. Bananas, nuts, an entire fruit-loop cocktail.
But the question remains, will Channel 4 stop making laughably dire live TV shows for the sake of it?
Only one answer to that.
Don’t count your chickens.
Claudia Winkleman on BBC2’s mystifying Great British Sewing Bee: “Sandra is making a denim tailored shirt dress. Her floral fabric will form the cuffs and the collar.”
And if the cuffs and collar don’t match? Fear not.
She can always call her outfit a Geri Halliwell.
A major shock on week two of The Voice... it took 52 minutes before the first dead granny rocked up as a sob story.
Swiftly followed by a deceased mum, as normal business resumed on the show that insists it’s everything The X Factor isn’t, but SO is.
It’s not helped by Jessie “Can I just say?” J’s desperate grovelling for acts, Danny O’Donoghue’s indecision and the hopefuls recruited from only three places – busker subways, West End shows and the 1990s.
So when Holly Willloughby rounded off last night by saying: “Let me know when this is over because I can’t watch,” I had an instant reply.
Me neither, Hol.
Jonathan Creek, ahead of another case of the mysterious disappearing body (brand new ground for this show, eh?):
“There will be an explanation. It will be all very weird and wonderful. Once you’ve fathomed it, everyone will be deeply underwhelmed. You’ll wonder why you bothered.”
Well, you said it, pal.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes go to:
The selfless humanity shown by staff and patients’ relatives on BBC2’s Keeping Britain Alive: The NHS In A Day, the best thing on TV right now.
Ant & Dec spanking The Voice in both the ratings and the pop charts.
Sky Atlantic repeating the Scorsese-directed pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire.
Easter Eggs Live’s awesome space quails.
Corrie finally bidding good riddance to hubby-beater Kirsty.
Saturday night TV hero Richard Osman announcing on Pointless Celebrities: “Alistair McGowan, Gina Yashere, Julian Clary, Lee Nelson, Stephen K Amos... they’re all pointless.”
And Channel 5 jettisoning Brian “I like it” Dowling as the host of Big Brother.
I like it.
Michael Ball gave an unsettling reminder to open ITV’s Andrew Lloyd Webber: 40 Musical Years: “Andrew has been responsible for some of the world’s longest running musicals.”
Certainly puts Stalin and Hitler’s crimes against the human race into perspective, doesn’t it?
Though this was, I confess, a not entirely un-enjoyable 90 minutes.
Best bits included Sir Alex Ferguson saying: “I don’t know anyone that doesn’t wake up in the morning whistling one of his tunes.” (That’s probably because you’ve never met me, Fergie).
Myleene Klass’s wet T-shirt competition routine (Shakalaka Baby, indeed).
And Michael Ball threatening to sing after the break, adding: “I’m the gift that keeps on giving, aren’t I?”
Something like that, Michael, yes.
The simple baguette, as made simply by BBC2’s Paul “making bread is simple” Hollywood.
Simply mix flour, salt, yeast, water and olive oil, then knead, cover with clingfilm, leave for two simple hours, shape it, stretch it, fold, flatten, fold several times, flatten a few more, fold again, taper it off, cover for another hour, top with semolina and flour, slice at an angle, create a steam bath in the oven, bake for 30 minutes...
And there you have it. Simplicity on a plate.
Hilary Devey said before her new Channel 4 series The Intern: “It’s nothing like The Apprentice.”
She’s right. Aside from her being chauffeured around London in a black Rolls Royce with a personalised number plate (1 HLD instead of Alan Sugar’s starkly contrasting AMS 1), the dramatic orchestral music, the “candidates”, their inflated boasts, and the show being a “job interview from hell”, it’s nothing like The Apprentice.
It’s actually a carbon copy of Channel 5’s Secret Interview.
But don’t, whatever you do, say it’s the same as The Apprentice.
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates go to:
Out-of-control ego Clare Balding doing The Boat Race umpire Matthew Pinsent’s job for him by explaining the coin toss to the crews.
Everyone on TV who thought a mind-numbingly puerile April Fools jape was side-splittingly hilarious (I’m looking at you, Daybreak’s Rylan Clark).
Broadchurch sidetracking itself with a paedophile storyline.
The Voice presenter Holly Willoughby’s inability to hold it together emotionally at the drop of a sob-story hat.
And The One Show going to the trouble of putting a blindfold and earmuffs on arachnophobe Claudia Winkleman so she could avoid a piece about spiders.
Because they could’ve gone the whole hog and gaffer-taped the exuberance-overload sufferer’s mouth too.
Holly Willoughby on Wednesday’s This Morning: “A survey has revealed eight out of 10 married women still do more housework than their husbands.”
Phillip Schofield: “So today we’re debating whether men should be made to do more around the home.”
No, they shouldn’t.
Happy to clear that up.