‘A calamitous national embarrassment that made me want to emigrate’ – Couch Potato

Gabby Logan
Gabby Logan
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OUR Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:

Ah, London 2012. Such memories, Super Saturday, the magical Opening Ceremony, the legacy...

(Scratched record needle sound effect...)

Ah, the legacy. Sorry to darken the mood.

Television wise, what did the Olympics leave us?

Pro-celebrity diving from a Luton leisure centre (Splash!) and the world’s most stretched-out game show hosted by Dame Clare Balding (Britain’s Brightest).

And as of last night, a calamitous national embarrassment on primetime Saturday night that made me want to emigrate, change my identity, falsify my dental records, fake my own death and then finish it all anyway.

It’s BBC1’s I Love My Country, a celebrity panel show riding a wave of forced patriotism bordering North Korean levels, where almost everything host Gabby Logan says sounds like a thinly veiled threat.

“Tonight we’re going to generate more pride and excitement than Brian May rocking out on the roof of Buckingham Palace.”

We are?

“Tonight we’re putting our teams’ Britishness to the test.”

Okay. Too scared to argue.

“Behind each team are their loyal supporters who are going to clap, cheer and sing them to victory.”

Whatever you say, just don’t hit my face.

The wild studio audience have either been brainwashed or are having some pretty strong substance piped under their seats.

The result is a frenzy of fabricated enthusiasm, led by Gabby, team captains Micky Flanagan and Frank Skinner, who’s undoing all his great Room 101 work, and Jamelia’s house band that, from the opening titles, could have done with the giant pointing comedy hands of Kenny Everett’s Brother Lee Love for light relief.

Instead, with Gabby clapping and dancing with quite the gusto, it was like a cult had taken over the Beeb.

Frankly terrifying.

Even more so when the host persuaded the audience willingly into the kind of singalong we haven’t witnessed since the Blitz, 20 minutes in, the point at which events turned off-the-scale doolally and it became more like a banking sector teambuilding away-day excursion than a light entertainment TV programme.

And there’s no explanation for any of it – images of stags next to red telephone boxes, model sheep on shelving, or the games, like exploding pass the parcel (non-fatal, alas), guess the weight of the mayor of High Wycombe (honestly) and one that included Gabby Logan utter this instruction to Skinner: “Put that Yorkshire pudding in the map where Lisburn is.”

By the time she introduced the captains’ challenge round with: “Here at I Love My Country we like to celebrate British traditions and pastimes that make us who we are,” I’d abandoned hope anything would make sense.

And right on cue, out strode that most entrenched of British institutions.

“Please welcome, the London School of Samba!”

I hope you’re happy, Lord Coe.

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BT Sport’s live launch show came with the hard sell to lure £12-a-month subscribers.

Jake Humphrey: “Look at these Premiership games – Arsenal against Palace, Norwich versus Villa.”

Craig Doyle: “Clare Balding has her own chat show. Matt Dawson has a sporting panel show. This is the only place you can see the lowlights in our rugby magazine show.”

Darrell Currie: “We’ll be making history tomorrow night. We’ll broadcast Partick Thistle versus Dundee United. And that’s not all...”

... Lofty, from EastEnders, will be discussing lower-league football.

Nah. You’re alright, thanks.

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Nick Grimshaw, host of C4 poor man’s Never Mind The Buzzcocks, That Music Show, revealed James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful performed a miracle in 2006 by waking someone from a coma.

“Why would you play that song to a coma victim?” he asked.

Isn’t it obvious? It’s the same song that put them in a coma in the first place.

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This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...

Celebrity MasterChef’s return to form and to primetime.

The long-awaited return of Jeff Stelling and the Sky Sports Soccer Saturday crew.

Soap’s funniest character Steve McDonald’s impression of his dad Jim on Corrie, which is great, so it is.

Daybreak’s overlooked John Stapleton showing Matt Barbet and Aled Jones how to anchor breakfast TV.

ITV’s fitting tribute to a TV legend, Alan Whicker: Journey’s End (“Today we’re used to television being our window on the world but it wasn’t that way before Alan Whicker. He was the man who changed everything.”)

And You Saw Them Here First’s Michelle Collins on attempting a northern accent during her early TV acting days: “You see. I couldn’t do it then either.”

Stellar.

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This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...

The tragic shutdown of ESPN Classic, a TV sanctuary for men everywhere.

Celebrity MasterChef’s Jo Wood creating a pudding with brown sugar but failing to add: “How come you taste so good?” (Ask your grandparents.)

This Morning’s sloppy on-screen typo: “My youthful looks are ruining by life.” And indeed “my” life, I assume.

And C5 reject Brian Dowling masquerading as a telly expert on This Morning, assessing Matt Johnson’s Your Face Sounds Familiar chances: “He was guaranteed a place in the final anyway because no one is eliminated,” three days after two contestants were eliminated in the semi-final.

Polite memo to Brian: Try watching the telly you’re talking about if you’re going to pretend to be a telly expert, bozo.

Okay, maybe not that polite.

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Some real gems on ITV clip show You Saw Them Here First.

Daniel Craig in underpants on a 1992 episode of Boon, Daniel Mays’ boyhood Jacko dance routine and Denise Van Outen as one-half of a pop duo on Des O’Connor Tonight, apparently modelling herself on Private Helga Geerhart, stood out most.

Only one complaint.

I never saw any of them there first.

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A silly-season piece of old guff, yes, but ITV’s Your Face Sounds Familiar had its crackpot moments to treasure.

Matt Johnson’s package-parading Rod Stewart (The Small Faeces) was an accurate Limahl.

Bobby Davro’s Tammy Wynette was played by Sean Bean’s Accused transvestite Tracie without anyone noticing the switch.

Alexander Armstrong’s Pavarotti couldn’t have been less authentically Italian if he’d come out juggling poppadoms and changed the lyrics to Nessun Korma.

And Cheryl Fergison tried to find her “inner vixen” as Madonna (kebab) but instead found her inner hippo, with judge Julian Clary remarking: “We have you doing Madonna doing Marilyn Monroe but we ended up with Diana Dors.”

Marjorie Dawes, I think you’ll find.

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This week’s Memory Champion award goes to...

Arlene Phillips on seeing 1978 footage of her with Bruce Forsyth, on You Saw Them Here First: “I’ve no memory of this whatsoever. I should absolutely know I’ve worked with Bruce.”

Do the words “Strictly Come Dancing” ring any bells, Arlene?

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Eileen Grimshaw to boyfriend Paul, on day 7,386 of Corrie’s ill-conceived racism storyline: “I don’t want to hear it. I am sick of it.”

You, me and seven million other viewers, chuck.

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Appearance-fee-magnet and rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins was back on Daybreak, claiming working mums unfairly receive preferential treatment over their colleagues.

“Mothers typically get to leave on the dot of 3pm. You’re not employed so your employer can let you trot off whenever you feel like it.

“I make sure that when I’m paid to be at work, I am there full time.”

Barring, of course, weekday mornings when she’s fully booked on ITV’s rent-a-gob daytime slots.

Until further notice.