OUR Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:
John Bishop, what an inspiration, what a hero.
Millions of us watched as he accomplished a selfless act of endurance beyond the call of duty, pushing back the pain barrier to unimaginable limits, all in the name of saving lives and giving hope to the impoverished.
For an hour and 20 minutes he had to present Sport Relief night, alongside James Corden.
Not sure if he did anything else of note for BBC1’s charity drive this year but it was certainly worthwhile.
Because I’d watch the Corden/Bishop double act again. They gelled by not quite gelling and were by far the best presenters of Friday night’s six-and-a-half hour marathon, an evening of highs and lows – many, many lows – as is the case with these shows.
But it’s for a good cause and you can’t argue with the grand total of £50 million, unless you’re the boss of Chelsea FC and looking at Fernando Torres’s scoring record since his move from Liverpool.
So let’s start with what worked. Freddie Flintoff breaking the world record for the 100m dash in a pedalo was genius, as was finding a format for Strictly Come Dancing – underwater in a tank at Pinewood Studios – that meant Aliona Vilani had to wear a bikini (nice work), despite it being otherwise pointlessly moronic.
Frank Skinner overcoming his phobia of water to swim a length of his local pool was strangely the most awe-inspiring moment of the evening.
There was some fantastic acting during the Benidorm boy band Britain’s Got Talent skit, sadly by Ant and Dec only.
The Celebrity Juice special gave me a late-night chuckle.
And David Walliams breaking down during a surprise video message from Phillip the orphaned street kid he met in Kenya was moving and genuine.
Indeed, some of the footage during the night was harrowing and hard to bear, not least the sight of Davina McCall trying to do “sexy” to LMFAO’s Party Rock while wearing what appeared to be the carcass of an inside-out emu.
Jon Culshaw kept popping up throughout the evening like a floater, with impressions of Griff Rhys Jones doing Nelson Mandela, John Inman voiced by a Dalek, and Bargain Hunt’s Tim Wonnacott with a lisp, although I’ve been told subsequently that they were Fabio Capello, Alan Carr and Simon Cowell.
The BBC created the ultimate axis of evil by pairing Patrick Kielty with Fearne Cotton for the graveyard shift.
Miranda Hart’s Royal Albert Hall tennis sketch involved her falling down a lot and being mistaken for a man (after all, a charity show is an ideal place to try out brand new ideas and material, eh?).
James Corden followed the Absolutely Fabulous special by announcing: “If you think that’s the only brilliantly funny comedy on tonight then you’re as dappy as a loon,” what with Absolutely Fabulous never having been remotely funny.
And with a push to raise money for vaccines for Third World children, the slogan for much of the night was: “Prevention is better than cure.”
In all seriousness, that’s true. And it’s a breakthrough that scientists must search for constantly.
The day they find a prevention for Davina McCall will be a great day for mankind.
Gabby Logan, the winning “sports personality-turned-comedian” on BBC3’s Stand Up For Comic Relief: “You spend a week trying to be a stand-up with Paddy Kielty and all you pick up are some Irish dancing moves. Who would’ve thought it?”
You’d assume by now, after seven previous series and 105 candidates who, lest we forget, have included prize prats like Stuart Baggs, Michael Sophocles and Alex Epstein, that Lord Sugar’s expectations of “Britain’s brightest business prospects” would be realistically low.
Yet here he was, on BBC1, Wednesday night, issuing this rallying call to his class of 2012: “I’m looking for a partner, the Marks to my Spencer, the Lennon to my McCartney.”
First impressions of the latest batch of hopefuls on The Apprentice, the best TV show this side of the Atlantic (jointly with Dara O’Briain’s You’re Fired spin-off), are that he’ll instead find the Aaron Lennon to his McCartney, the Frank to his Spencer.
And if his lordship truly believes, as he mentioned during his opening speech warning them not to try to hide, that he’s not playing “Where’s Wally?” then he should know I’ve already spotted 16 wallies, all hoping for a £250,000 investment.
So it’s my duty to ruffle their ties and splash water on their tailored-suit crotches in the office toilets before they get too comfy.
And I begin with a bloke named Ricky Martin who announced his arrival by saying: “I truly am the reflection of perfection,” and ended episode one wearing a T-shirt with the logo: “Witness the Fitness.”
He’s the berk at work, the galoot in a suit, the orifice in the office, who claims: “By day I’m a business superstar and by night I’m a professional wrestler.”
This one’s turned up with enough material to keep me going until the summer solstice, and that’s before you factor in his name.
I’m not saying the show should cash in on it.
But if Margaret Mountford doesn’t make him take his clothes off and go dancing in the rain, at the interviews task, they’ve really missed a trick.
(Incidentally, fear not. I’ve got 12 weeks of Ricky Martin material lined up).
Of the rest who’ve made their mark early doors, we have:
Duane who said: “I’m a winner. I’m a fighter.” And, presumably, a joker, playin’ his music in the sun.
Gabrielle: “When it comes to business, I’m like an animal.” (A sloth).
Former Blue Peter presenter, probably, Katie who insisted: “I’m not going to shout over the top of people to simply get my voice heard,” and is clearly on the wrong show.
We have Jade who’s voiced by Arlene Phillips, sweaty Michael, “Refrigerator entrepreneur” Azhar who should really be described as a “fridge magnate”, an Iain Dowie/Paul Scholes genetic experiment going by the name Adam, and an Irish gob called Jane who reckons: “I’ve got a product for Lord Sugar that we can take international.”
There’s Lancashire lass Jenna (Gracie, from Take Me Out, after laser eye surgery) and Nick, the sixth member of One Direction, who said: “Business is all about logic. I think of solutions to complex problems quicker than other people,” which he demonstrated by complexly dropping the problematic price of a teddy bear, which wasn’t shifting, from £15 to a tenner in the print business task.
At the end of which we lost risk analyst Bulgarian Bilyana who failed to analyse the risk of not shutting the heck up in the boardroom and talked her way into a firing.
But if this series produces a bigger twonk than shot-from-the-David-Brent-gun sales manager Stephen, who believes “enthusiasm is caught, not taught”, I’d like to shake them by the hand and thank them for the entertainment.
His philosophy is: “Business is very, very simple and it’s made very, very complicated by idiots.”
Sixteen of which will be making my week for the next three months on BBC1, Wednesday nights.
Helen Fospero, guest presenter of ITV1’s Lorraine on Thursday: “After the break, Claire Richards meets the woman who’s made cakes for Madonna, Cheryl Cole and the Queen.”
I’ll bet she does.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:
Rowland Rivron’s Christopher Walken impersonation winning Let’s Dance For Sport Relief, which has hopefully cracked the comics-in-drag acts once and for all (no, I don’t believe that either).
Sky Atlantic showing the greatest documentary of last year, Senna.
C4’s Homeland and, on the same channel, Death Row.
And Sky’s new F1 channel, which is now the only place you can see Martin Brundle’s grid walks and which you can sum up with what BBC1’s unfortunate viewers are left with:
Commentator Ben Edwards at the Australian Grand Prix: “We’re onboard the Sauber here of Kobay... erm... is it Perez? No, it’s Kobayashi, I think. And... yeah. It is Perez indeed.”
No Murray Walker, is he?
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:
Let’s Dance For Sport Relief awarding itself a series highlights package.
Take Me Out losing its two most entertainingly bonkers contestants, Gracie and Stephanie, in successive weeks.
The Sarah Millican Television Programme’s 10 writers running out of material after two episodes.
Stacey Solomon spelling fuzzy as “Fuzy” on Sky Living’s The Love Machine.
Chris Hollins’ Watchdog report that the Angry Birds free app can sap a smartphone’s battery (I think we’ve run out of things to complain about).
And Corrie and EastEnders trying out-do each other’s murder and misery, which on Monday had Ben killing Walford’s Heather who clattered into the sideboard, making the CD that was playing, Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, jump on a loop.
But that’s soapland for you. Every plot’s a broken record.
After bashing BBC2’s Orbit: Earth’s Extraordinary Journey over the past fortnight for sending its two presenters on a licence-fee funded, round-the-world junket, you might believe I’d give its final instalment some slack.
You’d be wrong, obviously.
Episode three saw Kate Humble travel to Chichen Itza in Mexico to see some shadows and the Canadian tundra to see some ice melt.
And it had me filling the pauses in the commentary.
Helen Czerski: “The Earth’s tilt gives rise to some dramatic weather phenomena. The most extreme occurs over...”
“... the Mid West of the United States.” Which of course meant she had to go paragliding in Colorado.
Czerski: “As May turns to June, the volatility of our atmosphere drives the single biggest weather event on the planet. An event which centres on...”
“... the Indian Subcontinent.” Which of course meant Humble had to go to Rajasthan to see a monsoon, only to come across glorious sunshine, which must have been very annoying for her.
Still, where best to see this phenomenon?
Humble: “There’s a wonderful place to appreciate the significance of this event...”
In the slums?
“... here at this cliff-top palace.”
Czerski: “The key to understanding the monsoon is...”
Somewhere wet, presumably?
“... here on the beach.”
Still they weren’t done.
Czerski: “The smallest variations in the angle of the Earth’s tilt can have profound effects. Remarkable evidence for this can be found in the...”
Black Country? Potteries?
“... Egyptian desert.”
Goes without saying.
But at last, Humble gave a clue to her location that could be only in England: “There are few more significant places to be for the summer solstice than...”
Stonehenge. Has to be...
“... the temple of Kom Ombo near the ancient city of Aswan on the Nile.”
Enough already. The final word went to Czerski: “In this series, we’ve travelled more than 900 million kilometres around the sun.”
Which is almost half the total distance travelled by the presenters.
Engelbert Humperdinck, speaking of his Eurovision entry on Tuesday’s The One Show: “It’s a great song. It really is a great song. It has great lyrics and a great melody. It’s such a strong melody. It’s a beautiful song.”
Bless him. He obviously hasn’t heard what he’s going to be singing yet.
With the return of Britain’s Got Talent and the arrival of BBC1’s The Voice last night (a full report from me on those next week, folks), Sky1 launched its own new talent show a week early.
And, as the continuity man announced, Don’t Stop Me Now “is not for the faint hearted”.
You’re telling me it’s not. It’s an hour of torture that’s enough to make even the hardiest of TV critics watch through their fingers.
If I tell you that it began with a short bald man in a spotty shirt singing Simply Red badly, so badly in fact that they opened a trapdoor under him, you’ll have a fairly accurate idea of the level they’re operating at.
Comedians, singers and variety acts perform for 100 seconds or until half the studio audience, armed with keypads, has had enough of them, resulting in the poor saps getting reverse bungee-twanged off the stage, or, as in the opening act’s case, the ground literally swallows them up.
The host, Amanda Byram, does what she can to salvage matters but she’s fighting a losing battle on a show that’s set to be renamed New Faeces.
It’s as if the guests for The Jeremy Kyle Show got lost on the way to Granada Studios and ended up here.
Such turns included “Shampagne” – a housewife whose stand-up routine highlight was her standing up – Giant Haystacks tribute singer (I think) Matthew Hewitt – an enormous man who sings in his bedroom and did an uncanny impression of X Factor’s Johnny Robinson post-menopause but still managed to win the £25,000 prize – and pretend WAG Chenille Steele, described on-screen as a “glamour model/singer”, so she decided to try some comedy. And failed.
And last up was Dirk N’ Betty, a double act playing ridiculous cross-dressing characters who weren’t in the least bit funny.
So expect BBC2 to sign them up for a full series any day now.
The stage manager decided to end their performance in a ball of fire, to which Byram declared: “Let’s have another look at that moment where it all went up in flames.”
It’s when the opening credits started, and every second afterwards, Amanda.
Billy Connolly and, to a lesser extent, Ross Noble got the on-tour comedy TV format right by embracing the culture of their locations and incorporating it in their stage material.
Such a delicate endeavour, it always occurred to me, could easily backfire and appear insulting in the hands of, say, a London public schoolboy numpty whose view of the area outside the M25 reeked of pomposity.
Turns out I was right, having watched Channel 4’s Hit The Road Jack, with London public schoolboy numpty Jack Whitehall who promised: “Each week a different region of Britain is the star of the show.”
It’s not. It’s the butt of humiliation, beginning with the opening episode from Blaenavon Working Men’s Club where, within half an hour, the comic managed to label the Welsh as a race of incestuous, witch-burning, sheep-lovers.
It’s an outrageous slur, of course. They don’t burn witches in Wales anymore and incest has been banned by the Welsh Assembly in most counties.