OUR web columnist’s wry look at the week’s TV:
It has taken two decades but at last we’ve Britain’s answer to The X Files’ Mulder and Scully.
Step forward Ben Shephard and Julia Bradbury, super-sleuth truth-seeking myth-busters extraordinaire.
Aka the presenters of two tail-chasing hours, Mystery Map, which I prefer to call The Y Files.
As in, Mystery Map. Why?
I’ve no idea. And I don’t think ITV, which deemed it primetime, has either.
All I know for sure is this pair faffed around Britain’s towns, countryside and “palatial palaces” examining weird phenomena, like the ancient Egyptian statuette at Manchester Museum that spun 180 degrees in its glass case.
Shephard/Bradbury would set out the wackiest theories: “Could it be an alternative home for the spirits? Neb-Sanu himself trying to get attention? The spirit of Michael Jackson moving it from beyond the grave?”
And, after the appliance of science, they debunked the crackpots with a rational explanation, with much misplaced self-congratulation.
“We’ve solved the mystery of the tiny rotating Egyptian!” Bradbury exclaimed, failing to add Prof Brian Cox wrapped up this particular conundrum five months ago.
It was all going reasonably well, a victory for commonsense.
Shephard managed not to laugh when two Cornish lads who’ve wasted 20 years hunting the non-existent Beast of Bodmin Moor presented their trump card – “Big Cat” crap in a lunchbox that DNA tests revealed as fox’s.
And while on the trail of Guy Fawkes’ ghost in York, he discovered the folklore behind it was total fabrication put out by tour guides to lure gullible fools, like an ITV camera crew.
Many Brits, however, happily swallow gobbledygook like the existence of spirits, little green men and horoscopes, which feeds television’s increasing appetite for paranormal “investigative” shows.
ITV is clearly aware these people don’t want satisfactory, plausible answers, they want unanswered questions, which is why Mystery Map’s hosts maintained the pretence of the unknown despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
So Bradbury qualified the Met Office’s assertion that a tornado caused seaweed to rain from the sky 30 miles inland by saying: “The same event has happened on exactly the same day in exactly the same place exactly one year later. Now THAT is a mystery.”
No. THAT is a coincidence.
Shephard, checking out a UFO sighting in Suffolk woods, declared: “Whether it was an alien aircraft or a lighthouse, it’s really, really difficult to decide.” (It’s the lighthouse, Ben.)
And when psychology professor Sir Simon Wessely gave his assessment on 300 children fainting in a field: “The evidence is compelling. This was an episode of mass hysteria,” Shephard retorted: “Whatever happened that day is always going to be shrouded in mystery.”
The blow that exposed the whole exercise as entirely pointless, however, followed his Guy Fawkes hunt: “We Brits embrace ghost stories. It’s about the entertainment. The truth isn’t important.”
So why bother trying to find out in the first place?
Mulder and Scully. Your jobs are safe.
Warning! Southend Airport security breach!
Suspect is Alfie Moon, runaway groom last seen on Tuesday doing a bad Quadrophenia re-enactment.
Moped acquired from a rider happy to swap it for Ian Beale’s watch, worth £19.99 from H Samuel for all he knew.
Do not approach. Mentally unstable – fancies Kat Slater – and forgot mobile phones exist. Didn’t try calling or texting to find out where she was heading.
Accomplice is Bianca who just happened to have enough petty cash on her to buy him a plane ticket to Ibiza.
World’s lousiest security staff allowed him onto a fully boarded and locked aircraft. Luckily had his passport in his wedding outfit.
New alert! EastEnders. Mentally unstable.
Do not approach...
False niceties ended abruptly on I’m A Celebrity as cripplingly insecure, venomously jealous Lucy Pargeter’s showbiz mask unpeeled to reveal a horror, accusing Amy Willerton of crocodile tears to get fame.
Odd, then, that she didn’t say the same when Rebecca, Alfonso, Matthew, Annabel, Steve, Kian, Laila or Vincent cried.
Pargeter told beauty queen Willerton: “Do you feel like a piece of meat? It always seems one dimensional. It’s all about how a girl looks.
“Surely you are self-perpetuating the industry by looking the way you do and entering these things.”
That’s Lucy Pargeter, beauty contest perpetuator and Miss Great Britain judge, 2007.
MasterChef: The Professionals’ fearsome Monica Galetti to a contestant preparing a saddle of lamb for roasting: “Have you boned one out before?”
Yes, but he got away with a police caution and a restraining order.
Alien abductee Stefan Lobuczek recalling the terrifying night he was taken, on Shaun Ryder on UFOs: “There was this beam of light which they told me was making me not fall off the roof. There were two short guys beside me and we travelled up in that light together.”
Come on out, Ant & Dec. You’ve been rumbled.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...
BBC2 spy thriller Legacy. Strange Days: Cold War Britain. Homeland.
C5’s harrowing Treblinka: Inside Hitler’s Death Camp.
BBC1’s continuity man before Strictly’s results show: “Next, the dreaded dance-off and Il Divo.”
I’m A Celebrity’s Declan Donnelly apparently voicing Matt Damon’s Team America puppet (“Caaaave Daaaanger”).
Matthew Wright, cooking dinner in camp, asking: “Right, who can time about four minutes?” Annabel Giles: “I can. I’m a TV presenter.”
Christine Bleakley telling Sunday Side Up’s Stephen Mulhern: “To be perfectly honest I loved Columbo. There was nothing wrong with it on a Sunday morning.”
And Katie Hopkins finally finding a home where she can be alone with her thoughts.
Channel 5, weekday mornings, The Wright Stuff.
This week’s Journalist of the Year award goes to Sunday Scoop’s Kaye Adams: “Joan (Collins), you had a bit of a rift with Jackie at one point, didn’t you?”
Worst lunchtime narration ever? Ben Fogle’s Animal Clinic: “The cow’s stomach has quadrupled in size. Jo pierces the stomach wall and inserts a tube to siphon out the contents.
“But the pressure in the stomach has been building and 25 litres of liquid gush out all over Jo and Charlie.”
Vet Jo Oultram: “It stinks and it’s a disgusting colour. There’s blood in the dung which begs the question...”
Why did C5 air this at lunchtime, perchance?
Sky Sports’ Glenn Hoddle at Cardiff City v Man United: “Fraizer Campbell scored two goals against Man City and today he’s scored nearly two here.”
So one then.
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...
The sudden outbreak of TV anniversaries.
Holby City pretending John Michie isn’t typecast as Corrie killer Karl.
Peter Barlow inexplicably getting the pick of Weatherfield’s beauties.
Doctor Who boss Stephen Moffat lying: “Science fiction is all about rules. You can’t just casually break them.”
The horrific mental image from The Wright Stuff’s Richard Madeley: “I haven’t worn underwear for about 25 years.”
ITV admitting Britain’s Got Talent impressionist Francine Lewis was famous all along, with The Chase: Celebrity Special.
And X Factor failing to give lyric amnesiac Tamera the perfect song, Ronan Keating’s Lost For Words. Go on, for a laugh. She’ll make it her own.