WEB EXCLUSIVE: Couch Potato on Will and Kate, urban foxes and why The Voice needs a back-up parachute

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Photo credit  John Stillwell/PA Wire
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Photo credit John Stillwell/PA Wire
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Our Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:

BBC1’s continuity woman, the tease that she is, had this little tempter for us last Saturday night: “A sensational new twist now... on The Voice.”

So I watched as the live shows began. And I waited. And waited. And, a week later, I’m still waiting for it.

I’m sat here wearing the same clothes, much like the contestants, hosts and coaches on Sunday’s results show, and can only assume that I’ve missed the obvious.

In a sensational new twist, they’ve turned the show into the one thing, according to its own publicity, that it definitely is not – The X Factor.

Except it’s The X Factor minus any moment of light relief, fun or “little Lenny Henry’s”, and channelling what Psychic Sally Morgan might suggest is the ghost of Fame Academy.

But before we delve into the obvious comparisons, Holly Willoughby had to explain the format like it was a new branch of particle physics: “Your votes will guarantee that three acts from each team will stay in the competition. But that will leave Tim and Tom and Will with two artists in a danger.”

Which begs the question: “Who’s Tim?”

So Tom Jones, legend that he undoubtedly is, decided to move swiftly on: “Live television is not like recorded television. It’s like sky diving.”

At which point I pulled the emergency cord and realised this series has no second back-up parachute.

It’s all about the voice? It’s all about the blind auditions.

And, now they’re a distant memory, it’s going to hell in a handcart packed with a vast majority of underwhelmingly average singers, flanked by backing dancers.

But, of course, they’re papering over the X Factor-shaped cracks with hype.

Danny O’Donoghue to Sam Buttery, who was voted out after blustering around the stage to Erasure’s A Little Respect while impersonating what appeared to be seven different pop stars simultaneously: “That was a timeless performance.”

Holly Willoughby: “He’s our very own guitar hero, it’s Adam Isaac,” who was more like Adam Sandler, in The Wedding Singer.

Will.i.am: “Jaz Ellington is the second coming of singing.”

“The world needs a group like Matt and Sueleen.”

And Jessie J, who’d already described the show as “a process” like she was Karren ruddy Brady on The Apprentice, to Tom’s bottom two acts: “The standard is so high that even if you go home, it’s the beginning of a massive opportunity.” Or, indeed, the end of one.

Suitably, though, X Factor jargon was the language of choice.

Joelle Moses: “I feel like I need to own it.”

Will.i.am: “You nailed it.”

Holly: “Tom, you took Leanne out of her comfort zone with that song.”

And Danny was using American Idol judge Randy Jackson’s Big Book of Music Critique, telling no fewer than four singers last weekend that they were “pitchy”.

If anything, Sunday’s show, pre-recorded the night before, was even worse (“We’ve had a tweet from Gok Wan!” no less) with the coaches walking a tightrope of continuity to make it appear live.

Tom: “I thought they were all strong last night.”

(Keep up the pretence...)

Reggie Yates in the needless “V-room”: “Loads of you noticed throughout Saturday’s show that will.i.am was tweeting.”

(Keep up the pretence...)

Danny O’Donoghue: “Sophie killed it tonight.”

Ooh. No cigar.

And now 18 remain in the competition, with the first casualty being Sam Buttery, which leaves me with this simple gift of an assessment of what’s to come.

Buttery’s not included.


Schedule clash of the week: Keith Lemon’s LemonAid/Pointless Celebrities.


This week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:

Escape From The World’s Most Dangerous Place, on BBC3.

Channel 5’s Who Do Think You Are homage War Hero In My Family.

The Apprentice: You’re Fired not for the first time outperforming the main show, capped with Dara O’Briain telling an Essex member of the audience offended at the county being stereotyped as fake-tan addicts that he was “looking red in the face”.

BBC2’s beautifully filmed and hideously disturbing This World: The Shame of The Catholic Church, which exposed the conceit with which allegations of child abuse by priests in Ireland were systematically hushed up all the way to the top (reporter Darragh MacIntyre ambushing Cardinal Sean Brady was a masterstroke).

And Homeland, the best series of the year, building to a dramatic crescendo tonight.

9pm, Channel 4, be there.


Following the sell-fake-tan-to-people-in-Essex task it was farewell to The Apprentice’s “master puppeteer” Azhar, Mr Strategy himself, who’d boasted: “I am the killer whale of the sea world,” which I’d always assumed was the killer whale, what with it being in the sea world.

He takes with him the finest moment so far of a good but not vintage series, the Groove Train video from the fitness task a couple of weeks ago, complete with those tight 1980s shorts he wore (Olivia Neutered John).

He was accused of being dull. So here’s a dull fact. Seven episodes into this series, Lord Sugar has fired the grand total of zero losing project managers.

There you go. Azhar doesn’t seem so dull now, does he?


No finer a masterclass in brown-nosing you ever will see than William and Kate: The First Year which, owing to a scheduling miscalculation, should have been called William and Kate: The First Year... And A Bit.

Yes, precisely one year and two days to the day after the wedding of the decade, ITV1 echoed to the sound of some serious puckering-up by a loitering of royal correspondents, to give the correct plural noun.

ITV News’ Tim Ewart: “As a double act, you can’t get much better.”

Mail on Sunday’s Katie Nicholl: “When Kate stepped out of her limousine, my goodness. She dazzled. She literally sparkled.”

CBS News’ Victoria Arbiter: “William and Kate will be fantastic leaders.”

Even the voiceover woman, at the end of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s North American tour: “After a spellbinding performance worthy of an Academy Award, it was time for the royals to return home.”

They’re great, basically, but they’re also down with the likes of you and I, as everyone was at pains to point out.

“They’re just very normal, they’re down to earth, they’re caring.”

“They identify with the ordinary working man.”

“They’re totally in touch with not being stuffy.”

Their OBEs are in the post, I gather, although perhaps only an MBE for Arbiter: “I felt a little heartbroken on the wedding day that we weren’t seeing Diana in the abbey.”

I can’t tell you how relieved I was that they abandoned that particular stunt beyond the planning stage.

What was most laughable about all this was the body language expert, Elizabeth Kuhnke, they’d hired to tell us: “They smile at each other,” and: “It looks like they like to touch each other.”

Still, no news on the baby front as yet.

But it did answer one question by the narrator when Kate was choosing Christmas presents for her new relatives: “What do you give the family that has everything?”

A fawning one-hour documentary should do it.


BBC2’s continuity man teeing up Wednesday night’s snooker: “If you’ve ever wondered how Ronnie O’Sullivan got his nickname The Rocket, stay tuned.”

He’s been placed on top of a block of flats near the Olympic Stadium?


Depending on your point of view, The British Soap Awards 2012 was, as Phillip Schofield suggested: “A celebration of the nation’s favourite programmes.”

Or, if you agree with me, the 14th annual CPR of a genre in steady decline which, judging by Downton Abbey’s viewing figures, isn’t even the nation’s favourite drama anymore.

Ties optional, top two shirt buttons done up likewise, apparently, at the ITV1 bash nobody takes seriously, least of all the actors themselves, which attracted the 13th biggest audience in its history.

For what it’s worth, the nine panel-voted gongs were more or less spot on, specifically two nods to Becky’s Corrie exit, the Emmerdale assisted-suicide plot winning best storyline but not, and rightly not, best single episode, Jo Joyner for dramatic performance, and Ben Mitchell failing to win best villain.

The public, as always here, were way off the mark, crowning EastEnders best soap on a night when it was trounced by Coronation Street.

These are, however, worrying times for both shows.

’Enders has had a terrible year, even by its standards, and Corrie’s lost its sense of humour, which was even more revealing than Jerry Hall’s plunging top in the Best On-Screen Partnership shortlist, a cornerstone of soapland, where it had zero nominations.

It wasn’t the only moment to despair. Walford’s Rudolph Walker (Patrick Trueman) said of Pat Butcher: “That sort of character only comes once in a lifetime.”

I think you’ll find feisty, shouty women come around twice in a week on EastEnders.

And stablemate Shona McGarty (Whitney): “The dialogue is repetitive in all the right places,” which I agree with up to the fourth word.

Still, it wasn’t a completely wasted evening, with highlights including the Betty Driver tribute which ended with the producers going to a break minus the jingle, Home and Away’s Lynne McGranger announcing best exit: “We’re here to give the award for the most recently sacked actor,” Sid Owen’s Two Ronnies glasses, and the look of genuine panic on Keith Lemon’s face, on ITV2’s after-show The Party, when he dropped the C-bomb and Joe Swash convinced him they were live.

It was there that Perry “Billy Mitchell” Fenwick drunkenly admitted EastEnders had robbed Corrie, and Ricky Norwood, who plays Fatboy, said: “It’s amazing what you can do with a good script and three cameras in one room.”

Ah, so that’s how they make EastEnders – with just three cameras and one room.

Wonder what it’ll be like with a good script?


This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:

ITV1 taking the sensational story of The Hunt For Bin Laden and making it one of 2012’s dullest couple of hours.

Celebrity Deal Or No Deal holding out only two episodes before booking the reclusive Sarah Millican for a rare TV appearance.

Britain’s Got Talent’s auditions dragging on three episodes too long, to the point where they’re now showing wastes of spaces who’ve already been kicked off Sky1’s Don’t Stop Me Now.

And Channel 4 completely losing its marbles with Foxes Live: Wild In The City, a sympathetic live nightly series championing urban foxes which, last time I looked, kill pets and savage sleeping children in their beds.

Perfect early evening viewing, eh?


Lessons in how to round off a television interview, number 2,473, from This Morning’s Phillip Schofield after a chat with 19-year-old Marquita Church who, after unprotected sex with a string of boyfriends, had Chlamydia at 15 and “aged 16 had such a severe case of genital herpes she was hospitalised”.

Schofe: “Thank you very much indeed for talking about it today and clearing it up.”

No need for her to go on Embarrassing Bodies then.