Counch Potato on Simon Cowell, Thatcher and catching fish in the Sahara Desert

Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell
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OUR Sunday columnist’s view on the week’s TV:

You’d assume, as ruler of his own TV production company, Simon Cowell watches a lot of British television.

Unless, of course, you’ve seen any of his shows.

In which case you’d come to the logical conclusion that he has someone do that for him.

Because if he’d actually sat down and taken in more than 20 seconds of Great British Bake Off, Gino D’Acampo’s There’s No Taste Like Home or This Morning’s People’s Pizza competition, he’d have dismissed Food Glorious Food as the lousy home-grub copycat it is.

And if you want further proof, look no further than Britain’s Got Talent’s series curtain-raiser.

Out trundled 14-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Jack Carroll on a walking frame, going down a storm with gags that had Alesha Dixon chuckling: “You made me laugh before the act even started.”

About five and a half months before, in fact, as anyone will attest who saw the Pride of Britain Awards, where he out-funnied Alan Carr with the same jokes as last night and from which he was recruited by BGT’s headhunters, like no one would notice.

What’s especially worrying for Simon “I’ve got to tell you” Cowell, though, is that even if you hadn’t seen Jack the lad on ITV last October, it was painfully obvious how he’d fare.

He’s disabled, he’s a kid, he’s sailing through.

If that sounds harsh, it’s actually a heartfelt plea to stop a programme I love going down the pan.

Britain’s Got Talent is the finest of its ilk. And and Dec are brilliant in the wings, David Walliams, its best ever judge, orchestrates front-of-house entertainment (even if that double-teamed lapdance for Cowell was overly self-indulgent), and it kicks The Voice’s backside.

Speaking of which, none of the BBC show’s hopefuls could touch the talent of 11-year-old show-stealer Arixandra.

So it pains me to say this was the worst series opener ever.

All element of surprise, a crucial factor to its success, has been lost.

The producers are clearly aware of its importance, hence the live-action Dolby Digital surround-sound gospel choir where the singers sprung up in the theatre boxes, which sounded like an unholy racket to me.

But they’re unable to unshackle BGT from its own crushingly rigid formula – woeful act opens proceedings (mum and daughter killing off country music, no bad thing), decent acts preceded by terrible ones so it’s telegraphed who’s good, a judges montage, and the funny foreigners package.

Though I’d liked to have seen more of manic Italian Marina Calabrese, evoking the spirit of Margarita Pracatan, and less of Hungary’s Got Shadow Theatre.

The panel loved it, Amanda Holden was in tears, but it’s shadow theatre. Get over it.

It’s all making the small irritations more noticeable, like having no idea why Alesha Dixon’s there, Walliams upping the ante with: “It’s a trillion per cent yes,” and Holden claiming: “You did literally lift the roof off this building.”

She literally did not, Amanda.

And when jobbing-jazz-club-singer-to-be Alice Fredenham asked after her audition: “Where do I go now?” I found myself answering: “Usual procedure, Alice, is to lose out to a journeyman impressionist in the live semi-finals and spend the rest of your career billing yourself as: “Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist, 2013.”

So I’m lighting a candle for this once-great show. It’s lost its mojo.

No, strike that.

It’s lost its SuBo.


This week’s Most Touching TV Tribute To Margaret Thatcher award goes to...

Loose Women’s Lisa Maxwell: “She always looked very much like a woman.”


Old people doing daft things on telly is nothing new.

Last year, grey-army rappers The Zimmers made it onto Britain’s Got Talent’s live shows.

And only the other week, Celebrity Juice had Geri Halliwell as a guest.

But I admit enjoying much of ITV’s Off Their Rockers featuring a cast of charmingly disarming pensioners playing hidden camera pranks on the public.

Just one complaint though.

Why isn’t it called OAP-eadle’s About?


This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes go to:

Channel 4 subconsciously delivering their own verdict on Bedtime Live at the top of Tuesday’s episode by playing Dizzee Rascal’s “Bonkers”.

Stephen Mulhern injecting sorely needed wit into tired old Catchphrase.

John Stapleton’s openly frank film from his childhood home on The One Show.

The absurd, unintentionally hilarious sight of EastEnders’ Tyler Moon kicking down the R&R office door, to free Phil Mitchell and Jack Branning, because the nearest set of keys were in Joey’s jacket back in the Queen Vic which, to be fair, was several yards away.

And This Morning’s 11.30am freak-show interview slot on Tuesday, with Mariam the bearded lady, followed immediately by an advert for Versace Eros aftershave.

The mark of a woman.


According to BBC2 last Sunday night, the Toughest Place To Be A Fisherman is Sierra Leone.

Clearly nonsense.

Try catching fish in the Sahara Desert.

Then tell me that’s not a tougher place.


Monday lunchtime, Margaret Thatcher dies, and the rolling news channels scramble to DEFCON One.

ITV’s Nina Hossain: “It will be a big funeral, by the sounds of it.” (You reckon?)

C5’s Simon Vigar: “A senior royal source has told me there is no date yet for the funeral.”

Quite the scoop there.

Sky’s Jeremy Thompson: “What are your recollections?” Lord Howe: “It was a long time ago.”

BBC’s James Roberson outside her childhood home in Grantham: “There’s one small bunch of flowers here.”

And Sky’s Paul Harrison: “The Union Flag is at half-mast here at Buckingham Palace because the Queen is in fact at Windsor Castle where her Standard is flying at full mast but of course if the Queen was here the Union Flag would not be flying and of course the Queen’s Standard would be flying and that, for obvious reasons, couldn’t be lowered in any shape or form because of the inevitable reason that it is only lowered when the Queen dies and so because of course the Queen is not here, that enabled the Union Flag to be flown at half-mast and that’s why that is not the case at Windsor where the Queen currently is but, as I say, it is at half mast over Clarence House and...”

Yep, think I’ve got that now. Thanks.


Five Minutes to a Fortune?

Five seconds to another channel.


Another wedding called off at the last minute in Walford, this time Jack and Sharon’s, and another week where absolutely nothing remotely made sense on EastEnders.

Not least the groom announcing there’s nowhere else in London but the Queen Vic to have a stag do, the magically appearing bottle of vodka in the R&R office when Jack said the previous night Sharon kept Scotch in there, Max who’s fathered four kids and turns 44 next month suddenly wanting to go travelling instead of being a dad again...

And Ian Beale saying of Shirley: “I’m not letting her finger my buffet.”

Actually, that one makes perfect sense.


This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates go to:

Made In Chelsea getting a Bafta nomination (not an audience award, a proper Bafta).

EastEnders failing to mention Margaret Thatcher’s death on either Monday or Tuesday night, despite shoe-horning in a mention of Michael Jackson’s death in a hastily added last-minute scene in 2009.

BBC4 sending Dr Helen Czerski to Reims in France to sip champagne in the name of physics, apparently, on Pop! The Science of Bubbles.

And the feeblest excuse ever for a licence-fee junket, Victoria Wood jetting off to Shanghai, Assam in northern India, Kolkata, Boston and New York for BBC1’s Nice Cup Of Tea.

Was it worth it? Not for all the tea in China.