Our web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:
Since it aired, on Monday night, I’ve seen many a TV pundit utter the words: “Worst television show ever made.”
It’s an overused and often flippant phrase whose effect, like antibiotics, weakens the more times it’s bandied about.
And for my money, it is only valid if the commentator proclaiming it has watched the current incumbent for that title, which isn’t, as has been suggested, Keith Chegwin’s todger-dangling Naked Jungle or the mad ravings that was Noel’s HQ, on Sky1, although these are podium contenders.
No, the worst television show ever made, as of November 2012, was ITV1’s All-Star Impressions Show, beamed into the nation’s living rooms through a haze of near-empty Courvoisier bottles, on Boxing Day, three years ago.
So let me assure you that, taking this nadir into consideration, together with the memory of Stephen Mulhern on a seesaw with Paul Daniels which to this day goes unexplained, the first and most certainly last live episode of The Only Way Is Essex on ITV2 has now assumed that mantle.
It’s the TV programme that, by comparison, makes chemical weapons seem a good idea and was, we were told, all in aid of Breast Cancer Care, thereby making history as the first televised charity fundraiser to provide viewers with no means whatsoever of donating money.
Up until 10pm on December 3, TOWIE was an inoffensive, neatly edited structured-reality show, the small-screen equivalent of a glossy gossip magazine that you could pick up with ease and put down even easier.
With the format replicated by so many others, it had become almost a lampoon.
And the one thing you cannot do with a lampoon is lampoon it, which is what the oh-so-clever producers attempted here.
To say it was a shambolic, complete mess would do a disservice to shambolic, complete messes.
It is truly hard to know where to begin but I can safely say that the opening scene, backstage at a charity cabaret show, where James “Arg” Argent was running around in his underpants looking for his trousers, was the cultural high point of the night.
The on-stage acts included Kirk Norcross, the man who finished ninth in Celebrity Big Brother IX, howling Dean Martin’s Ain’t That A Kick In The Head (yes, it really is, Kirk, and a knee in the groin, if I’m honest) like a cow at the slaughterhouse, five twerps bouncing around with their backs to the audience to a One Direction song, and Arg’s tribute to Singin’ in the Rain which washed away the memories of Gene Kelly and Morecambe and Wise.
And those were the best bits. In between were set-up conversations behind the scenes which were cut short mid-sentence, the statuesque characters looking off-camera for their cues, like the last scene of a Naked Gun episode, floor managers audibly telling them what to talk about, Joey Essex nonsensically jabbering on for an excruciating five minutes at the end where he was supposed to either propose to or ditch his girlfriend and forgot to do either, and shots of Pat Sharp in the audience, along with a Colin Farrell lookalike, but nobody knew why.
If Victoria Wood had made an Acorn Antiques sketch like Live: TOWIE, viewers wouldn’t have believed it bore any resemblance to the real world.
There is, though, one happy camper as a result. Scott Maslen is no longer “the one who fluffed his lines” on EastEnders’ live episode.
Everyone involved fluffed this one.
As Tom Pearce said just before his One Direction dance number: “This is a nightmare. This was a terrible idea.”
Too late, I’m afraid, Tom. Way too late.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:
Peter Mullan’s convincing gangland-boss-with-dementia in C4’s otherwise disappointing The Fear.
The classic Celebrity Juice with Ant and Dec repeat on an otherwise forgettable Keith Lemon Night on ITV2.
Louis Walsh turning up at The X Factor rehearsals in a onesie to become “the fifth member of boyband Union J”, when in truth he looked
more like the fifth member of the Teletubbies.
The funniest ever exchange on The One Show when Alex Jones asked Sarah Millican, in a rare television appearance, about her new house:
“How has your cat settled in?”
“Quite well, but you realise the cat now owns the house and you are living with him when you have to sit on the edge of the sofa because
he’s spread out all the way along.”
Jones: “Our cat used to be like that.”
Millican: “Really? Not anymore though?”
Jones: “No. She’s dead.”
And the leg-crossing moment on Channel 4’s The Real Man’s Road Trip: Sean (Lock) and Jon (Richardson) Go West, where a Louisiana rancher
castrated a bull, being followed by Marks and Spencer’s advert for “crispy crouton-covered king prawn balls”.
These aren’t just any castrated bulls; these are M&S castrated bulls.
Stepping Out With Katherine Jenkins? Pain and misery.
Stepping Out In Front Of A Bus with Katherine Jenkins?
Not so much.
Rylan Clark, in all fairness to him, was 10 times better as Daybreak’s guest entertainment editor this week than he was on The X Factor.
Which elevates him to “mildly annoying”.
Asked by Aled Jones on Wednesday: “Dare I ask what you’re doing today?” he replied: “I’ve got loads of meetings today.”
Well, those signing-on forms don’t fill themselves in, you know.
It was 122 minutes into the Royal Variety Performance when voiceover man announced: “Still to come, a show-stopping performance from Rod
But no cigar. The show didn’t stop. It went on. And on. And on, on ITV1, on Monday night.
In fact it went on almost as long as the amount of time Bruce Forsyth milked the applause, before tap-dancing on a stool and yelling at
the autocue: “I can’t read the bloody words,” during the 100th anniversary of the show, hosted this year by David Walliams who was
overdoing the camp.
So what’s new?
Well, quite a bit, actually. The venue was all wrong, inside the cavernous echoes of the Royal Albert Hall. And Jimmy Tarbuck’s potted
history of the great comedians on the bill of yesteryear reminded us of Tommy Cooper and Morecambe and Wise, while the 2012 class amounted
to Alan Carr in a Flintstones dress, Bill Bailey on the bike horns, and Rhod Gilbert blathering on for an eternity about potatoes, ending
without so much of a punchline.
But the line-up, I’ll concede, was pretty strong all round and, in a welcome break from tradition, included the cast of only two West End
musicals, although there was the regulation, unpronounceable Latin modern dance troupe.
No one can deny the star quality of Kylie, Rod Stewart, Plácido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli, Neil Diamond, even Robbie Williams who evoked
memories of John Lennon’s “rattle your jewellery” one-liner with a cheeky pop at Gary Barlow’s OBE: “You organise one birthday party...”
Bradley Walsh is unlikely to make a greater contribution to television than his introduction of One Direction, likening them to foot and
Voiceover man followed up his superlatives of: “The legendary Plácido Domingo,” “The much-loved Ronnie Corbett,” and “The incredible
Alicia Keys,” with: “It’s Amanda Holden.”
And stealing the show were China’s Three Tenors, who chirruped their way through “funny Chinese folk song” which was undeniably an
accurate description and accompanied by the translated lyrics on a big screen:
“I cannot marry a good wife in my lifetime,
“Other wives are good at embroidering,
“But my wife has a pair of big feet,
“More than 33cm,
“Yi Ya Ya Hu Hey...”
T V porky pies of the week.
ITV1’s continuity woman: “You do not want to miss today’s Loose Women.”
Lorraine Kelly on Daybreak: “Rylan Clark is here all week with the showbiz news. It’s going to be great.”
Loose Woman Carol Vorderman: “We’re all looking forward to The X Factor final.”
And Richard Bacon, on Golden Rules of TV: “You can’t overestimate the cultural impact that The Only Way Is Essex and Made In Chelsea have
Partridge is dead. Long live Madeley.
Richard Madeley, that is, who fronted the most unintentionally funny programme of the year on Thursday night.
Yes, if you thought ITV1 could no longer do comedy, Madeley Meets The Squatters must have changed your mind.
I say “unintentionally funny”, but the producer clearly knew exactly what he was doing, from casting the Richard half of Richard and Judy,
a man with almost no self-consciousness (an endearing quality in his case), sending him into squalid squats and recording the ensuing
collision of worlds.
The voice of the common man is our Richard, whose two best questions to the people he met were on the subject of foraging in shop bins for
food: “What’s your supermarket skip of choice? I personally shop at Waitrose,” (they didn’t have one), and, “So no one has asked you to
get them some pâté de foie gras?” (they hadn’t).
He even started quoting literature, as he followed Bristol squatter Tristan over a wall, Alan Partridge-esque, to rifle through a grocer’s
rubbish: “So in this case, oranges are the only fruit.”
I sincerely hope Madeley Meets... is the start of a long and prosperous series, especially as it changed his opinion on the issue from his
position at the outset: “The thought of squatting has never filled me with anything other than repulsion.”
Hey, Richard, whatever you and Judy get up to behind closed doors is your own business.
David Walliams to Bruce Forsyth at the Royal Variety Performance: “I watch you every year on Strictly but you never win.”
Brucie: “But I’ve never been voted off either.”
Just give us the chance, BBC.
Katie Price’s cross-dressing, cage-fighting ex Alex Reid on Channel 5’s BAMMA 11, the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts’ fight
night from the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham: “When I’m in the changing room with my guys, I’m not the Reidernator, I’m not Alex
Reid, I’m Alex Reid, the fighter.”
Thanks for clearing that up.
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:
Every news and breakfast programme wheeling out anyone who’s ever suffered from morning sickness for the Kate Middleton pregnancy story.
Everyone, from Rod Stewart to Michael Buble to Katherine Jenkins, wishing us merry Christmas and happy new year, via the medium of song,
more than three pigging weeks before December 25.
E4 bothering to air the soulless, already-axed Inbetweeners USA.
C4’s The Fear going down the EastEnders route as the end credits rolled with the continuity man announcing: “If you’ve been affected by
any of the issues in this programme...”
... then you probably can’t distinguish fact from fiction?
And ITV2’s Lemon La Vida Loca: Merry Keithmas.
Oh grow up.