WEB EXCLUSIVE: Couch Potato on TV rising from the Olympic ashes

Tulisa Contostavlos, Louis Walsh, Nicole Scherzinger and Dermot O'Leary at the launch of this year's X Factor at the Corinthian Hotel in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 16, 2012. Photo credit : Ian West/PA Wire
Tulisa Contostavlos, Louis Walsh, Nicole Scherzinger and Dermot O'Leary at the launch of this year's X Factor at the Corinthian Hotel in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 16, 2012. Photo credit : Ian West/PA Wire
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Our Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV.

For the duration of the Olympics, ITV kept its powder dry, churning out murder mystery repeats with greater regularity than a Team GB rostrum appearance.

So it was with much anticipation, last weekend, with Mo Farah’s heroics the previous two Super Saturdays already a distant memory, that we finally got to see what the network had been saving up all summer.

And how did it follow those happy and glorious London 2012 Games?

By stitching up an easily rankled Pink tribute act to go bananas, attack the set, shove a couple of cameramen, eff and blind for Queen and country, and ensure via the editing that she’s the panto villain and the producers are Show Whiter Than White.

That’s how, apparently.

Or, to put it another way, The X Factor is back, and with it a new judge, Nicole Scherzinger, and the perennial question: Which panellist made the best start?

Gary? Louis? Tulisa? Nicole?

No contest. It was Mel B, episode one’s guest judge, a human pot who spent her entire time telling a succession of kettles they couldn’t sing.

She’s clearly horrendous, overly harsh and has no recollection of her roots, but here’s the worrying sign for this show.

In Simon Cowell’s absence, The X Factor needs her, or at least someone to play “the nasty judge” convincingly, which Gary Barlow fails to do.

Instead, they’ve gone for bland Scherzinger who tried to sound tough by announcing: “Everyone might take me for the nice, sweet judge but underneath it all...”

I’m the nice, sweet judge.

The need for strong contestants this year, therefore, is more pressing than ever.

But with one notable exception, 16-year-old Ella Henderson, the series hardly looks blessed with talent.

Indeed, once the traditionally amusing curtain-raising auditionee, Sheyi Omotayo, had performed the Fozzie Bear karaoke version of What A Wonderful World, “going from Camden boy to Cookie Monster in 0.5 seconds”, as Tulisa said, the theme for opening night was “geeky boy sings surprisingly adequately”, with the most adequate being nervous Asda discount guru Jahmene Douglas channelling the ghost of Johnny Robinson to Etta James’ At Last.

The X Factor clichés have been drip-fed, of course, with a “You nailed it” here, a ludicrous Louis Walsh comparison there – “You remind me a little bit of Peter Kay. In a good way” – the obviously set-up tantrum episode by Pink lookalike Zoe Alexander, and a gratingly unnecessary dead-grandad sob story, from Ella, the good one they always save for last, whose voice and song-writing received much deserved praise.

A word to the wise for her, though. Don’t get your hopes up too much, kid.

Even winning X Factor is likely to get you nowhere, as demonstrated by the opening VT which featured a brief backstage appearance by Sky Living’s Signed By Katie Price modelling talent show runner-up Rylan Clark but, conspicuously, no Matt Cardle, no Leon Jackson, no Steve Brookstein.

They’ve all been wiped from this show’s selective memory.

Missing presumed touring coffee shops.


This week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:

The BBC repeating the Olympics opening ceremony.

BBC3’s haunting Our War: Into The Hornets’ Nest.

Man v Food: The Carnivore Chronicles, on Dave, with Adam Richman who, faced with a 4.5lb Alaskan caribou-in-a-bun tower, said: “It’s not so much a burger as it is an occupation.”

The return of Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday with the brilliant Jeff Stelling (“A red card for Liverpool but what did Agger do-do-do?”) and this observation from Charlie Nicholas: “Referees are so quick these days to throw the whistle in.”

The wheelchair-version sketch of the Fenton the Dog viral video, featuring a two-legged pooch, on I Am Spazticus.

Vic and Bob’s Lucky Sexy Winners, on C4, reminding us what a terrible decision BBC2 made axing Shooting Stars.

My Sky TV on-screen planner omitting the last word, “food”, from a BBC2 cookery series so it read: “Lorraine’s Fast, Fresh and Easy.” But don’t judge her.

And Total Wipeout back on our screens, albeit tainted by the knowledge it’s the final series, with the contestants’ nicknames including General Jon “who’s a soldier, not actually a general”, Obi Chris Kenobe, Tash Gordon, Crash And Bernard... and Pritam, from accounts.

I’m already missing it.


Throw a bunch of famous people together for any longer than an hour and there are two certainties.

Egos spiral rapidly out of control. And there’ll be an unofficial contest for best anecdote.

It’s a title currently held by Julie Goodyear who, on Day 6 in the Celebrity Big Brother house, riding with Julian Clary in a swan pedalo up and down a 5m swimming pool, while wearing an orange lifejacket, recalled one of her fondest memories.

“I’ve met Laurence Olivier. He was working at the studios at Granada. What a lovely man. He said, ‘Would you like me to teach you how to vomit on cue?’”

That’s Julie Goodyear. Actress, raconteur, reality TV goddess, and provider of my favourite TV moment of the year thus far. In fact, possibly my top three moments.

For she’s a dancer too, as anyone will testify who witnessed her impromptu, straight-out-of-bed, alarm-call dance routine to Big Spender, followed immediately by a smokers’ coughing fit from the pit of hell itself.

Oh, and she talks to the dead, through the medium of seagull which, she believes, is the reincarnation of a recently deceased friend, resulting in this two-way conversation on Sunday: “Janet! Janet! Baby! Baby, stay! I need yer!” (Squawk-squawk). “I know.” (Squawk-squawk). “You promised and you’ve done it. You’ve done it, girl.” (Squawk-squawk-squawk). “I know. Thank you. I love you.”

So it shouldn’t require any further evidence from me to prove that the Corrie legend is stealing the show, over on Channel 5. No mean feat as this series is shaping up to be a vintage year.

The tasks have been terrific, the blend of housemates perfect, and the collective arrogance overwhelming, not least from model Jasmine Lennard, voted out on Wednesday after a valuable contribution, whose “natural reaction to fear is aggression”, as is her natural reaction to air.

In previous years, a feisty character like that would have been sorely missed.

But the golden moments just keep on coming – moments like MC Harvey, from So Solid Crew, having to wear as many onesie Zentai suits as possible and ending up looking like Bugs Bunny disguised as Daffy Duck to fool Elmer Fudd during “wabbit season”, and Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp tasked with trashing a “hotel room” rock-n-roll style, which was sheer Black Sabbath in their heyday, right up until he lost his balance and the wooden bed frame he was carrying fell on him.

And if you’re still not interested in watching the series, you’re no friend of mine.

Celebrity Big Brother, every night on Channel 5.


This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:

Channel 4’s sporadically funny, four-part disability hidden camera show I Am Spazticus lasting three-and-a-half episodes too long.

C5’s Secret Interview ripping off every other TV reality format ever created, from Secret Millionaire to Kitchen Nightmares.

The One Show’s Alex Jones pronouncing JR Ewing “JR Ooing”.

Celebrity Big Brother host Brian Dowling overdoing the camp routine.

And ITV1 believing a spelling contest between Carol Vorderman and Jonathan Ross, on Red Or Black, is primetime Saturday night entertainment.

So I’ve got one of my own for them: D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R.

That spells disaster.


A brief history of TV.

October 1925: John Logie Baird invents the television.

July 1969: The Apollo 11 Moon Landing is beamed around the world.

February 1990: Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.

7pm, August 20, 2012: Sky Living launches Sing Date, “the musical dating show in which singletons duet to karaoke tracks via webcam”.

7.01pm, August 20, 2012: John Logie Baird turns in his grave.