OUR Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:
Good news, Amanda Holden.
It’s taken four years but finally you can be seen out in public again without the shame of having: “Star of worst sitcom ever,” invisibly emblazoned across your forehead.
That’s right, BBC1’s 2009 circus-based abomination Big Top has been toppled.
So don your hard hats, grab your hi-vis fluorescent jackets and complete a risk management plan for the new title holder, the catastrophically god-awful new series from Ben Elton.
It’s called The Wright Way, set in a health and safety unit, and the TV listings said it’s a sitcom.
Though the evidence from episode one suggests otherwise, right from a stick man being electrocuted in the opening titles.
He turned out to be the lucky one.
Everything, and I mean everything, about the show is diabolical, from the lame pun in the programme name to the minor point that there’s nothing whatsoever to laugh at to the material that’s straight from telly’s pre-remote control days.
Seriously, the ground is so well-trodden they may as well have named this Oxford Street Boxing Day Sales.
There are jokes, for want of a better word, about women taking forever in the bathroom (tee-hee), public toilet push-button taps (snigger), the word “erection” (phnar), the Nuremburg Trials (slap-a-my thigh) and misplaced receipts (please, stop, my sides).
Which wouldn’t be so bad, if the gags weren’t telegraphed to within an inch of their lives: “Would you like me to press (the tap) for you?”
“Yes, but be gentle. The pressure’s a bit erratic...”
Wet crotch hilarity ensues.
That’s by no means all. It’s appallingly scheduled (even Big Top got that one right, an early evening slot), the acting’s from a year-seven production farce, it makes Citizen Khan look like Porridge and seemingly spends half the time filing its own self-assessment form: “What we’re looking at here is a complete BALLS UP.”
And because it’s the right-on, politically correct, box-ticking BBC, it took all of one minute and eight seconds before David Haig’s character Gerald Wright announced his daughter’s “lifestyle bombshell” that she’s a lesbian.
Furthermore, I’ve no idea which decade the OTT black female cleaner, with a pronounced West Indian accent, is from, although her last screen role was possibly voicing broom-wielding, multiple frilly petticoat-wearing Mammy Two Shoes in Tom and Jerry.
I can but speculate Ben Elton was either unconscious when he wrote this or he rediscovered a long-lost dust-covered script last seen in his attic, in 1973, inside a cardboard box marked: “Whatever you do, do NOT open.”
Herein lies the mystery. How could the man who wrote The Young Ones and the three classic Blackadder series (II, The Third and Goes Forth) and blazed the 1980s alternative comedy trail (“Double seat, double seat, gotta get a double seat...”) be responsible for this mess?
Somewhere along the line, probably while penning We Will Rock You, Ben Elton has forgotten how to do comedy.
Because, with the possible exception of Ricky Gervais, if anyone else had gone to the BBC with that script, they’d have been laughed out of the office, thereby raising its solitary chuckle.
There is, though, something to be said for Gerald Wright’s love of acronyms which he pointed out: “Speed communication and thus increase efficiency.”
So how’s this for speedy, efficient communication, starting with the show’s title?
Ticks all the boxes, doesn’t it?
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes go to...
The immaculately observed 30-second silence by 36,000 London Marathon runners.
Olivia Colman in Broadchurch’s finale (even if she did teeter momentarily on replicating a Max Branning fingers-down-the-throat moment).
ITV News’ Luis Suarez coverage panning from Anfield’s Kop to the Quick Bite takeaway.
The revelation, thanks to a Daybreak report, that the professional body for boob-job surgeons is BAAPS.
Nina “Zainab Masood” Wadia admitting on Loose Women she doesn’t watch EastEnders.
The One Show’s Alex Jones asking two-fifths of The Eagles what advice they’d give JLS.
And Daybreak’s Aled Jones telling boyband Blue: “If your new single doesn’t get to number one, nothing will.”
So the charts end at number two this week.
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates go to...
The fact The Politician’s Husband, starring David Tennant, about a minister who resigns controversially from the Cabinet, isn’t called Doctor Huhne.
10 O’Clock Live ending up less topical than The Wright Way (Gazza, fried chicken and a fishing rod, Jimmy Carr? Really?).
Rent-a-gob faux extremist Katie Hopkins getting more than zero TV outlets.
BBC2 sending Bill Bailey halfway around the world to prat around with a butterfly net in Borneo, for Jungle Hero.
The hideous mental image conjured up by TOWIE’s Gemma Collins on This Morning: “I can’t wear thongs, they cut in,” which put me right off my jacket potato and grated cheese.
And the entire nine weeks of Simon Cowell’s Food Glorious Food amounting to a new M&S chicken korma ready meal.
This isn’t just any waste of TV airtime...
Loose Women’s Andrea McLean: “Artist Tracey Emin has questioned what titles should be used for older women and said you could only be called ‘Miss’ if you’re under 10 or over 70.”
Just a pity Sherrie Hewson wasn’t on the panel that day.
Apologies, where are my manners?
I mean Miss Sherrie Hewson.
The One Show host Matt Baker to The Wright Way’s David Haig: “How do you keep a straight face during scenes?”
By starring in a Ben Elton sitcom?
Loved BBC1’s Great Bear Stakeout with that big ugly ill-tempered, easily provoked grizzly.
Don’t know the name of the bears Billy Connolly was narrating about though.
I misread the billing for Paul Hollywood’s Bread which said: “The master baker (no, not that part, steady) demonstrates how to make Swedish semlor buns,” as: “... Swedish senior buns.”
Which is in fact the technical term for Ulrika Jonsson’s buttocks.
Heartbreak for all JLS fans with the lads splitting up.
Still, ITV2’s Big Reunion 2023 has its first act.
Loose Women’s phone-in quiz question: “According to the song, what ‘... makes the world go round’?”
The answer, of course, is D) Leftover angular momentum from Earth’s formation as matter drew together from spinning pockets of gas and dust scattered throughout the solar system that collapsed under their own gravity...”
... makes the world go round.
C4’s The STI Clinic follows patients at Birmingham and London sexual health centres.
BBC3’s Unsafe Sex In The City follows patients at a Manchester sexual health centre.
So don’t tell me there’s no variety on telly.
Back again to The One Show where Alex Jones said: “David Haig’s character in The Wright Way is a local council safety officer who delights in measuring speed bumps and making sure kids wear goggles when they play conkers.”
Matt Baker: “Yeah, you may laugh...”
I sincerely doubt that.
The Interminable demise.