WEB EXCLUSIVE: Couch Potato on Red Dwarf, Hotel GB and X Factor’s sobfest

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Our Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:

It’s the question nobody was asking. What would happen if “Britain’s most-loved TV faces” Gordon Ramsay, Mary Portas, Phil and Kirstie, Gok Wan, Doctor Christian Jessen, from Embarrassing Bodies, and others got together to run a bed-and-breakfast for a week, with the help of 14 work experience kids, and filmed the results?

You’d get a complete mess of a television show with no direction, point or discernible format.

So, on Monday night... “I’m Paddy McGuinness, welcome to Hotel GB.”

Yes, somebody at Channel 4 Towers decreed that this would be ideal fodder for a nightly primetime entertainment programme.

And if you can explain what’s been going on, you’re a better person than me.

Gordon Ramsay tried from the off: “When you think of Britain and what Britain stands for, it’s all about the service industry and how good we can become as a hotel.”

Okay. So Britain wants to be become a hotel? Is that right, Mary Portas?

“It’s about a freshness, it’s about an energy, a little bit of cheekiness, not taking ourselves too seriously, but actually at the heart of it, putting people first.”

Well that clears that up then. What I am certain of is that they have taken over the running of a London hotel where Ramsay manages the kitchen, Gok Wan the bar, Portas the hospitality side, Kim Woodburn is head of housekeeping, and it gets more confusing from here.

All takings are donated to unemployment charities, and the 14 out-of-work trainees have been competing for a couple of jobs with Ramsay and Portas at the end of it.

By which point this series succeeded in reducing the UK jobless figures by the grand total of two, which will probably rise soon with the addition of those responsible for this shambles.

It’s a dizzying mash-up of so many other shows, notably Hell’s Kitchen in that diners can choose to pay, not pay, or tip generously, which many rich customers did to the tune of £1,000, but not David Gest, who wanted change for a tenner from Kirstie Allsopp for sourcing him some breast milk.

There are elements of Big Brother, Kitchen Nightmares, The F Word, The Apprentice, Famous and Fearless, The Hotel, The Hotel Inspector, even The X Factor, with Ramsay telling waiters Will and Ade: “You two in the dining room, own it,” and sob stories:

“I’ve got cystic fibrosis.”

“I’m a recovering alcoholic.”

“I was raised by my nan.”

“I host C4 dating game show Baggage.”

Telling off unemployed people seemed to be the main theme, with the staff given the hairdryer treatment at every turn.

Portas spent much of her time spraying breath freshener into the mouths of the trainees who smoked, like a Crimewatch re-enactment of a woman fending off a street robber with Mace, although she was lumbered with the most useless member of the group, Pyschoville character Tom on reception.

There was one undoubted star, Hilary Devey who ran the boutique, “doesn’t do 9am, darling” and insisted her two dogs were cooked steamed chicken for lunch. Not every day, though, every other day. She’s not barmy.

The Dragons’ Den panellist is grounded and had real time for these kids. When told by female tattooed trainee Rory that her tattoos are “a 21st-century diary”, Devey replied: “Couldn’t you just have written it down?”

Naturally, though, despite the great proclamations about the series’ aim, the focus wasn’t on the unemployed bunch but the celebs and the appalling sense of self-importance TV personalities possess.

Jimmy Carr was genuinely hurt when receptionist Emily asked his name (“I’m Jimmy! Off of Channel 4!”), Jonathan Ross showed up on Thursday with the purpose of appearing loudly on a TV show, and Rory left Portas unable to comprehend the sentence: “I don’t watch television.”

But it’s the two co-general managers who gave the series’ most succinct self-crit.

Portas: “It’s a disaster.”

Ramsay: “Hotel GB could be the biggest s***hole if we don’t get this right.”

Gordon and the rest of the Channel 4 team, you didn’t get this right.


Sky Movies launched a channel on Friday devoted entirely to James Bond films on a constant loop.

The biggest surprise is that it’s called “Sky 007”.

And not “ITV1”.


This week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:

BBC2’s Welcome To India.

Boardwalk Empire, on Sky Atlantic.

Oliver Lansley’s superb, uncanny performance in the title role of BBC4’s The Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story.

The best Doctor Who episode for two series, which was genuinely scary and featured showrunner Steven Moffat’s finest creation, the Weeping Angels.

Peter Capaldi’s brilliance as Malcolm Tucker on another excellent The Thick Of It, particularly his assessment of whether to exploit a suicide for political gain: “Come on, you can’t look a gift corpse in the mouth.”

The comeback to end all comebacks by Europe’s heroes on the final day of the Ryder Cup, culminating in this wonderful one-liner from Sky Sports’ Ewen Murray: “Seve must have enjoyed that.”

And the return of Red Dwarf on Dave, which is back to its best, having resorted to being a sitcom again in front of a studio audience, rather than a tumbleweed-filled comedy drama, and, crucially, is laugh-out-loud funny.

Smoke me a kipper. I’ll be back for breakfast. (Yes, I am a dweeb).


MTV’s The Valleys, episode two.

Even worse than episode one.


Handkerchiefs at 20 paces and lousy sob stories in the luggage compartment as the remaining two dozen X Factor contestants jetted off to Judges’ Houses (or “hotels” as they’re known) in exotic climes around the world – Las Vegas, Dubai, St Lucia, Lincolnshire.

A three-hour-and-10 minute sobbing marathon, played out over two gruelling nights last weekend, that summed up everything that’s wrong with the show this year.

Its sense of fun has finally been pushed out completely by an unstoppable tide of woe-is-me.

So we were missing Sinitta in an inappropriate outfit, while Louis packed his groups category with boyband clones, Victoria Wood-alike Lucy Spraggan trampled all over the memory of Whitney Houston but was still put through ahead of the more talented Amy Mottram, and the suspense of the identity of the final three boys chosen by Nicole Scherzinger was slightly ruined when their pictures were clearly visible on her table at the end of Saturday’s show.

The producers’ reliance on over-inflated back stories – failed IVF, self-confidence issues, single mum living in a tower block, teenager living in a small council house – became more objectionable than ever when it emerged the younger brother of one of the boys, Jake Quickenden, had succumbed to bone cancer during filming, a genuine tragedy that should have stopped the others in their tracks.

But what I’ll remember least fondly of all is someone else at Nicole’s “house” – Essex buffoon Rylan Clark, after performing in a Kylie Minogue hand-me-down, thrashing around like a tot in the jaws of a great white, losing the power of speech and embarrassing the nation on being told he’d made the finals.

He’s a man with only one ambition – to become famous no matter what, having tried to become a model, on Sky Living’s Signed By Katie Price, and because that didn’t work he’s decided singing will do, even though he’s got a voice like a BBC newsreader, on Red Nose Night.

Rylan has been chosen as this year’s comedy turn, which every X Factor series needs, but it’s atrocious casting.

So I’ll leave him for now as I’ve an awful feeling he’s going to be un-flushable this autumn and move on to the traditional moment when I predict the winner and instead inevitably pick the runner-up.

I’m going with Ella Henderson. Congratulations, Ella, on finishing second.


Make up your own answers on ITV1 daytime’s extortionate phone-in competitions this week.

Loose Women asked: “Money in savings is often called a...

A) Nest egg

B) Boiled egg

C) Poached egg”

Or D) Necessity if you’re entering a £1.03 ITV1 phone-in competition.

And in complete contrast, This Morning asked: “Complete the well-known saying, ‘Saving for a...’

A) Windy day

B) Sunny day

C) Rainy day”

Or D) £1.54 ITV1 phone-in competition.

Try not making them as easy next week please, ITV.


This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:

The American fans shouting: “Get in the hole!” every time a player hit the ball off a 500-yard tee at the Ryder Cup.

Watchdog wasting everyone’s time investigating the number of “whole crisps” in a bag of Walkers Deep Ridge (between 11 and 14, for the record).

All Star Mr & Mrs feeling the need to inform us that Claire from Steps farts in bed.

The fact that The Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story will be the last brilliant biopic made by BBC4, after the corporation pulled the plug on them.

And ITV1’s Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile which, while hard-hitting and important television, left one of only two possible conclusions.

Either the women were lying and the good name of a man who raised millions of pounds for charity has been dragged through the mud with no right of reply, or a vile, controlling, serial child molester went undetected, deliberately or not by the BBC, and will never be brought to justice.

Everyone a loser.