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Category Archives: Bad

Dear Him & Her

Dear Him & Her, (BBC3, Tuesdays @10.30pm)

Well, Tuesday nights eh? They used to be rubbish. I’d come back from my Mad Lizzie exercise class (think Zumba but with big hair and neon leotards) via some form of fried chicken emporium (every action needs an equal and opposite reaction) and sink into both the sofa and a greasy state of self-loathing. Like I say, Tuesdays were rubbish. Then it all changed, because along came a show so fresh, inventive and funny that it quickly became ‘must watch’ TV. I stopped going to Poultry Bungalow and started enjoying a salad or quiche on my return home. I stopped hating myself and life in general. In short I stopped and smelled the roses, and they smelled wonderful. Tuesdays at 10.30 no longer represented everything that was wrong in the world – it was a time for us all to gather on the sofa and laugh our respective socks off – and it was all thanks to one show, Wilfred. Simply brilliant television.

Wilfred - made Tuesday nights something other than an orgy of chicken grease and onanism

Why am I telling you about how great I thought Wilfred was? Well I’m hoping that you’ll feel suitably shamed, because by comparison you make the greasy self-loathing look like a two-week all-inclusive holiday in the Algarve, local alcohol included. To go from the quirky, original and genuinely funny Wilfred to the seen it all before, stilted, awkward, puerile laugh desert that you presented me with was akin to going to bed with Angelina Jolie and waking up with Dom Joly. In fact it’s even worse than that, because whilst that scenario would be massively disappointing there’s still an outside chance you’d get a laugh out of it. I think you get my point though, I loved Wilfred, and I loved it precisely because it was everything you are not.

"No, he thought he'd gone to bed with Angelina Jolie! What? Of course I let him!"

In fairness to you I should have known what was coming as I had already subjected myself to the horrors of watching half of series 1 (a feat for which the medal I should have been awarded never arrived) and struggled to raise anything beyond a stifled obscenity and a look of sad bemusement. However, the powers that be saw fit to grant you a second series – “It must have picked up in the second half!” I thought to myself, temporarily forgetting that ‘the powers that be’ at BBC3 are the same people who kept re-commissioning 2 Pints of Lager until even the cast and crew hated it – so, I figured I’d give you a second chance too. Mistake.

I don’t know what it is I like least about you. Well that’s not true, it’s the fact that for a ‘comedy’ you’re not what I like to call ‘funny’. Not even vaguely. However, that’s

Pete Burns - pop star, pin cushion, primate

obvious, any old fool with a sense of humour and opposable thumbs could write to you and point out that you’re not funny, like you don’t already know it, but what’s the point? Like if Pete Burns asks “How do I look?” responding  “You look like a monkey that’s been in a car crash. A really bad one. Whilst not wearing a seatbelt. And carrying a box of nails.” isn’t going to help, he knows this so it’s a worthless and pointless observation that isn’t going to help you one bit. ‘Be funnier’, while great advice and certainly something you should consider (alongside ‘stop altogether’ and ‘sod off’) is too vague, and one could argue too easy – being funny at all would achieve that goal. So, setting the obvious aside what are my gripes?

Well, I think I’ll limit myself to the top three, and to make it feel exciting I’m going to start at three!

3) Charm

You haven’t got any and it’s a vital part of comedy. You don’t need it by the bucket load, just a smidgen here and there, but it

Remove the charm from this beauty, go on, I challenge you. Oh you have? Already? Oh...

feels utterly absent throughout – like with Ed Milliband (in fact I like that analogy better – you are Ed Milliband to Wilfred’s David). You’ve even managed to somehow clinically remove the charm from the bewitchingly sexy Sarah Solemani which should not only be impossible, but should be punishable by imprisonment. How have you done this? Well I think it’s in your efforts to…

2) Mimic Reality

Doing this is all well and good, if you actually do it, but you’ve got all the ‘real feel’ of Ricky Gervais’ humility or Amy Children’s breasts. I’m assured that I’m supposed to feel like I’m peaking through the window on to a couple going about their everyday lives, so why do I actually feel like I’m watching a highly contrived effort at commonness, crudeness and banality? It’s not because of the performances of Tovey or Solemani because these two are actually alright – though the supporting cast could turn to appearing smoked, sliced and glazed in honey at the local Deli such is their hamminess – no, it’s because whilst aiming for the position filled by The Royle Family you’ve fallen well short, and that’s partly because of the…

1) Dialogue

The number one sin in trying to be realistic. Don’t feel bad, loads of much bigger budget productions make a far bigger hash of it than you have (see The Shadow Line). In fairness a lot of your dialogue is really quite good in this respect; at times I found myself believing I was listening to actual conversations – but my God those conversations were dull. If the News of the World hacks had listened in to these conversations for all those years they’d be heading to an asylum, not a prison. Sure, some people probably do talk like that to each other, and conversations of a similar ilk probably happen up and down the country on a daily basis – but that doesn’t make them good TV. Unfortunately when the dialogue isn’t dull it dives headlong in to ‘heavily contrived’ territory – I mean what’s all that ‘apple rubbing’ thing about? It felt like it was trying to be Quentin Tarantino. It didn’t work.

A middle class couple having a dull conversation about guacamole and loft insulation. I don't want to listen to this either. Dullness is not limited by class.

Look, you’ve got plenty of people who think you’re great just the way you are and that all that occurs is ‘wryly observed’, the poor bastards, their lives must be painfully dull. My point is though that this is just my opinion – it’s right, obviously – but you’ve got plenty of easily pleased idiots you can turn to if you want to feel better about yourself. And no, I’m not just talking about the BBC3 Commissioners.

So don’t go changing (though you probably should)

Tatty Bye

R x

PS – If you missed Wilfred then I’d seriously suggest getting the box set.

PPS – And then watching it on Tuesday nights at 10.30pm

PPPS – It’s good to be back!

Dear Celebrity Big Brother

Dear Celebrity Big Brother, (every night @9ish, 5)

Welcome back, though I think it’s only fair of me to say that a) I was glad to see you leave in the first place , and b) I’m not particularly pleased to see you back so I suppose c) I shouldn’t really have said welcome back. I’ll start again.

Hello. You are back.

That’s better. Right, to business. I’m hoping that you can help me because, after watching as much

A scan of my weeping brain shortly after the 'assault' reveals several 'mind tears'

of your visual enema as I could manage (it was approximately 28 minutes before my brain crept out of my head, dragged itself to the bathroom and sat under the shower, gently sobbing and rocking – you’d violated it you see. You raped my brain) any way, none of that matters, we’ve made up, my brain’s going for counselling and I’ve promised not to leave you two in the same room ever again. Where was I? Oh yes, how you can help me. The thing is that I think, that is I’m concerned, worried even, that I might be, what you refer to as…a celebrity.

In truth I’ve had my doubts for a while – shows like Celebrity Family Fortunes, Celebrity Masterchef, and even the recent BAFTA’s have had me so bewildered about what actually constitutes ‘celebrity’ that I’m in constant fear that I myself might be one of the most famous people in Britain. What if I have a stalker? What if my fans think I’m aloof, arrogant or simply a prick because I ignore them? These are genuine concerns, and they’re only there because the likes of you and seemingly the entire commissioning board of ITV have decided that some cretinous spunk dumpster from Essex who says “Oh my God, I’m so jel” about anything and everything (though presumably it’s always about the same thing – the process of independent thought) is a genuine bona-fide celebrity. I shouldn’t have these concerns, unlike most of these fucktards I’m a normal person and wish to remain so.

Amy Childrens - just like a Barbie doll, but with fewer uses and less brain power

Let me tell you the reasons for my concern. They are manifold so I’m going to use a list. I hope you don’t mind but don’t actually care either way.

  1. I’ve been on TV several times.
  2. I am recognised by several people, probably in excess of 500.
  3. If I google search my name I get several results about me.
Now I realise that none of these results sound impressive enough to justify use of the term ‘celebrity’ – I certainly didn’t think so at any rate, not until I saw the rag-bag bunch that entered your house the other day (and will probably have left by the time you get this). I’m not going to pretend to recognise most of them, so here’s my understanding of who went in and why they’re famous:
  • Sally The Cow – Famous for marrying a man of arguable importance and then doing everything in her power to sabotage his career.
  • Little Bobby Staples – Famous for having pretty hair
  • Tara ‘The Defendant’ Reid – Formerly famous for being a small part of the American Pie team, now famous for her drink, drugs and fanny flashing debauchery. A classy lassy.

"Miss Reid, Miss Reid! You've accidentally covered up one of your breasts." Cries her carer forlornly

  • Paddy Doherty – Famous for being on a reality show about gypsies and being a bit fighty.
  • Amy Childrens – Famous for something called ‘TOWIE’, being jealous of everything, sticking beads and glitter on various lady gardens and having the intellectual capacity of a mollusc.
  • Viscount Lucien Von Trap III – Apparently an actor, famous for being very pretty.

What? You heard that Lucien had had it away with Kym Marsh? That's just Hear Say! Thank you, I'm here all week. Try the fish.

  • Kerry Katona – Originally famous for being in the very first of the 96 incarnations of the pop band that will never die, Atomic Kitten, then famous for marrying Boyzone/Westlife (delete for accuracy) then famous for being famous, then famous for a lack of self control, then famous for being an utter fuckwit, now famous for being a famous fuckwit with no self control.
  • Darren Lion Bars – I know that he’s technically famous for taking photographs of mildly famous people, but you have to presume that in all actuality he’s famous for being a massive bell end.
  • Pamela ‘Not Anderson’ Baywatchface – Famous for being married to Mitch Buchanan, then divorcing him before he started drunkenly guzzling burgers on the bathroom floor.
  • Sickeningly the last thing that Tigger ever saw was a pair of happy morons. If rumours are to be believed they also have coats made from 101 Dalmation puppies and their wallets are crafted from the Little Mermaid's tail.

    Edwohn – Even I know these two crazy Irish bastards, genetically engineered by the finest Gaelic scientists as revenge for making their nation host Eurovision 15 years in a row. They’re famous for achieving a new level of mediocrity on a ‘talent’ show that already excelled in this department and being generally irritating. Still less annoying than Bono though, sorry Irish science guys.

Now I think you can probably see why I’m confused. I’m at least as famous as half of these buggers. Admittedly I’m not married to someone famous, but I have said hello to Mel Gibson (before he was a Jew hating racist mental case) and once shook hands with Michaela Strachan – and when you combine that with all the other stuff it’s a fairly compelling case I think you’ll agree.
Any way, that’s why I’m worried so if you could just answer me these three simple questions I can either stop worrying because (as I hope) I’m not a celebrity, or I can at the very least fire my agent (do I have an agent? Make it four questions) for not telling me I’m a celebrity in the first place.
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  1. What exactly is the cut off point for ‘celebrity’? Would, for example, the man who waxes David Beckham’s (where am I going? Balls or car, balls or car?) wife’s moustache (fooled you) be classed as a celebrity?
  2. Do I have an agent? If so could you please tell him to call me
  3. Am I a celebrity? You make the rules, you make the call!
  4. If I’m not then how come these no-marks are? Maybe you should re-name it Been On Telly Before Big Brother? Or ‘If You Watch ITV2 You Might Recognise Me But Probably Not Big Brother’.

One of the people who is probably a die hard example of those who are not my fans, but I can't be sure until I know if I have fans, or people who are intentionally not fans or if no-one really knows who I am. God I'm confused.

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Please let me know ASAP, I’m sick of trying to avoid people who probably have no interest in having their picture taken with me.
.
Thanks,
.
R
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PS – What were you thinking with Brian Dowling? Oh dear, oh deary deary me.
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PPS – Seriously, look up the word ‘celebrity’ I think you think it means something else.

Dear Torchwood: Miracle Day

Dear Torchwood: Miracle Day, (BBC1, Thursdays @9pm)

Well well well, you’re certainly not a kids show any more are you? Crammed into that very decent opening hour you had kiddy fiddlers being put to, well not death, but made to shake a bit by being given a lethal injection.

The kids hadn't been this scared since unwittingly agreeing to join Gary Glitters 'secret' gang

Well, not lethal, but unpleasant without causing any lasting damage. Any way, you had all that then you had naughty words being used – which is very grown up – and a bit that you borrowed from The Terminator where the torched body still has movement and that bit you took from Final Destination where a highly unlikely series of events led to Dr Pratt out of ER getting turned into a kebab. I’m pretty sure there was also some sexy touching in there as well. All things considered the message was well and truly sent out in that first show – “We are not for kids!”

And that’s fine, genuinely. Recent events have told us what kids like: rioting, looting, arson and the occasional murder, so if anything you’d probably be a bit tame for them any way. However the difficulty I’ve had is that as you’ve progressed, as you’ve lumbered along at the speed of a tired tortoise with chronic arthritis dragging a safe up a hill, it’s become more and more apparent that only a child would buy into your ridiculous story. What started as an interesting concept with a few plot holes has quickly deteriorated and is now one giant hole with a few wafer thin wisps of plot drifting across it. To add insult to what might previously have been a life threatening injury you’ve also got a host of characters it’s absolutely impossible to give a shit about because they’re all so awful and, I presume in an earnest attempt to carry some subtext, you’ve become dull. Last weeks episode saw me looking at the clock after ten minutes and wondering if our world had succumbed to ‘the miracle’ because it felt like a genuine lifetime had passed.

The TV shouted "Torchwood, right now" the kids of London misunderstood

You had a good idea for an episode – possibly even a double or triple episode – and you threw money at it and stretched it out until it was ten hours long. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is not a good move. In an effort to help you avoid making the same mistakes again I’ve compiled a list of some of the larger failings of ‘Miracle Day’ it’s not an exhaustive list because I don’t have the ‘gift’ of everlasting life, but it should be enough to start you off. So, starting with the characters:

1) Oswald Danes

One of these men is NOT Bill Paxton

Ooooh, edgy. Yeah, get Hollywood star and former cheese coated President of America Bill “Not Paxton” Pullman to play a demented and unapologetic murderous kiddy fiddler type, and then, here’s the twist, you’re going to love this because it’s so like, you know, unexpected, then you make him like, into a hero, a sort of spokesman for the masses sort of thing. Isn’t that just the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard? Well, quite frankly, no. You see what you’ve done there is taken it that one step too far and taken a giant leap into the utterly implausible. People don’t forgive those who fiddle with or murder children. It doesn’t happen. You murder an adult then there’s some chance that you can be redeemed, you touch a kid and you’re the devil – there was a mass public outrage when Myra Hindley was allowed out of prison on a shopping trip and when rumours spread that James Bulger’s killers (only children themselves at the time) were being considered for parole much of society was disgusted – in short the picture you have painted wouldn’t happen. No way, no how.

You’ve reached, and that’s admirable. You’ve tried to be contentious, and that’s good. You’ve written  storyline that only the most deluded paedophile would allow themselves to believe for the briefest of moments, and that’s just fucking stupid.

2) Oswald Danes

Yes, I know he was point one, but this is a much quicker one, and it’s connected. You haven’t had him do anything that might even come close to aiding him in this highly implausible ressurection of his. It’s all well and good bandying around phrases like “trending on twitter” and “followers on Facebook”, we get it, you’re down with the kids (no mention of MySpace or Bebo though, where’s their love?) but it means bollocks all if you don’t have the character do anything even mildly compelling to prompt this massive sea change. If you’re going to ask us to believe the impossible at least give us something to cling on to – to just presume we’ll go with it is arrogant in the extreme.

3) Dr. Vera Juarez

Now there’s a face you’d never get tired of punching. I know what you were going for, you were aiming for the feisty maverick who’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. You missed. What you ended up with was the irritating bitch who spoke to everyone like they’d personally slighted her and treated everyone like they were incompetent halfwits not worthy of breathing ‘her’ air. I guess I was supposed to care about her, rather than cheer when she got shot (christ, she even got shitty with the bloke who’d just shot her) and holler when she got barbecued.

4) Mekhi Phifer

How did you coax such a poor performance out of such a good actor? Seriously. I mean he’s not even phoning it in, he’s written a note and stuck it to the fridge hoping we’ll read it when we get in.

5) Esther Drummond

Again, a character I’m sure I’m supposed to be sympathetic towards, but I find myself wanting to scream at practically every time she opens her mouth. Is she the wettest character ever to appear on grown up TV? She might

Esther was distraught to hear that the rats she'd called the council about had been killed

be. My favourite bit was where she seemed not only devastated but genuinely shocked when she heard that her niece and nephew had been taken away from her sister, whose been taken for psychological evaluation and put into care. I agree that this all sounds quite harrowing, but there are a finite number of things that can happen when you call the authorities telling them you fear for your niece and nephews safety because you think your sister might have gone bonkers – and this is top of the list. Swinging wildly between confident and terrified, competent and useless Esther isn’t a character as such, merely an entity with a script, an afterthought or an amalgamation of many characters the budget simply didn’t accommodate.

Now that we’ve dealt with the biggest character problems let’s have a quick look at those giant plot holes shall we? Okay:

1) Security

The world, the whole world mind, is in crisis and  yet it’s easy enough for people to walk around the most closely guarded places on the planet unhindered. No disguises, not even a costume change – Harkness doesn’t even have to take off his coat – come in, have a wander, rummage through our files, try to take your dad home. It’s all fine. Come off it. I have to provide two forms of ID to join Blockbuster but Rhys ‘Gwen’s Husband’ Williams who must be on any number of security forces watch lists and who was, let’s not forget, in hiding in the back of beyond when this all began, can get a job in a secure area that starts that day. Yes. Very good.

2) Travel

Cholera is rife, tuberculosis is spreading, typhoid and the plague are on the way, but we wouldn’t want to make it difficult for people to travel now would we? Come on Torchwood, come on Russell, that’s just plain lazy. You know as well as I do that way before it reached this point all air traffic would have been grounded in an attempt to stop the spread of these (and worse) diseases – ah, but that would have made it really hard for the irritating Juarez to get down to California or for the really very entertaining Gwen to get home to Wales wouldn’t it? Best to keep them flying. Do you know what though, I think I’ve inadvertently stumbled on another problem – assuming the authorities had taken the bizarre decision to allow air travel to continue the airlines would probably be a bit busy don’t you think? Flights booked up for weeks or even months, airports crowded and chaotic as people try to sort their lives out. Nah, that sounds too much like hard work, let’s just have people turn up at the airport and jump on a plane quick sharp.

Dust - this is how you stop international air travel. Take that Ebola virus!

3) Medical Staff

I realise that the scenario painted in Miracle Day is a tricky one – what do you do if nobody dies etc – but I’m pretty sure that what you don’t do is suddenly switch from a compassionate care giver who’s in the business of saving lives to a callous shit basket who seemingly couldn’t give the tiniest little chuff about any human life or the emotions of their loved ones. Strangely though that’s what seems to have happened to all the doctors and nurses of the world in your little drama. They no longer care, and not in a “The situation’s changed, we have to stay detached in order to do our jobs” sort of way, but in a “I really couldn’t give a shit” sort of way that is, once again, implausible.

We can only assume that The Doctor was busy settling some 'unfinished business' in another dimension...

4) The Doctor

Or the absence thereof. Are we really to believe that The Doctor, who has turned up on Earth countless times to investigate relatively piddling little problems that would have probably blown over without too much of a fuss any way, who can’t help but get involved whenever anything even vaguely interesting happens, who is inextricably linked with Harkness and Gwen and Torchwood as well as the rest of humankind, are we really supposed to buy in to the idea that he wouldn’t turn up to see what was going on? We are? Oh, right. You see there’s the problem when you create a universe with rules – you probably need to follow them. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he turns up and saves the day, but you’d at least think that Jack might question where he is when he’s so clearly needed and there’s a case that’s so very much his cup of tea. If I, a mere mortal who has neither met The Doctor nor saved the Universe with him, have queried his absence then surely someone who has spent a considerable amount of time with him would do. To not is, guess what? That’s right, implausible.

5) Life

Early on in the series an unconvincing Dr Pratt said something flowery and nonsensical about people having “So much life” or “Being so alive” or some such bollocks. Which is fine. Except they’re not are they? The whole series has become firmly focused precisely on the fact that people are weak and feeble and barely alive at all. In all honesty this is probably the pettiest of my points, but it’s such a huge contradiction that it can’t be ignored. It all adds to the general feeling that the premise of the show is flimsy and ill thought out. I’ll buy into anything if you give me reason to, I love buying into far-fetched stuff – it’s escapism at its finest and I’ve got a lot to escape from – but what have you given me to latch on to? Contradiction and inconsistency – that’s not a sound investment opportunity. It’s implausible and for that reason I’m out.

Well that’s far longer than I anticipated, but this is what happens when you’ve got me riled up.

You didn’t need to take American money and confuse yourself, but you did.

You didn’t need to take ten hours to tell a three-hour story, but you did.

And you didn’t need to add controversy that adds nothing other than an extra layer of implausibility into the mix, but you did.

It’s almost like this ship has several captains and they couldn’t agree on a route so instead they just allowed it to float with the current and, unfortunately, that’s seen you hit some pretty big rocks and now it looks like you’re going to sink. And that’s a shame, it really is.

R

PS – I really like Claire out of Six Feet Under, she’s brilliantly manic.

PPS – I didn’t like the bit with Pratt and his dad, that was utterly pointless.

PPPS – Seriously, no mention of The Doctor? At all? Think about it Russell…

Dear Show Me The Funny

Dear Show Me The Funny, (ITV1, Mondays @9pm)

First of all I’d like to say welcome, and thank you for trying to bring stand-up comedy back to the fore on mainstream British TV, the idea of it is very welcome and it’s so nice to see comedy presented in some way other than a panel show. So yes, thank you for trying. Sincerely. Now on to the multitude of reasons why you’ve already failed.

Enough about the Merengue, did you find the fluffy dice?

You know the bit in Strictly Come Dancing where the contestants go around Cheltenham on a scavenger hunt – desperately scrambling around trying to find a wooden leg, a ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hat and a rape alarm – and the first team back with all the stuff gets to choose between the Bolero and the Lambada (yes, the Forbidden Dance!)?

You don’t?

"If dreams were wings you know, I would have flown away from you, you bitch"

Well surely you must be familiar with the show ‘A Place in the Sun’ where couples who are desperate to flee Britain seek property abroad hoping to get away from their mentally unstable exes and believing, wrongly, that being in a sunnier climate will somehow rescue them from the misery their sham of a marriage has become? Yes? Excellent. Well you know the bit right at the beginning where there’s three couples and only the pair who manages to give the best performance of Kylie and Jason hit ‘Especially For You’ gets the free trip to Greece where they almost certainly won’t buy any property?

No?

I don’t know what to say. Oh yes, that’s right. You don’t know of these because they’re fictional. You see, for some reason the producers of these incredibly succesful formats have kept things simple. I know, buffoons eh? They’re under the impression that someone tuning into a show called ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ is, primarly, interested in seeing what the celebrities are like at dancing, sure they throw a bit of a training montage in there, but the general theme remains on the dancing. Likewise ‘A Place in the Sun’ tends to focus on the properties, with only a small dose of the general dismay at the route of the fleeing couples flight of fancy – there’s quite literally no mention of any of their duetting prowess.

Why am I waffling on about all this you’re probably thinking, well it’s because you lack focus. If you were focused the point I was making would have been obvious about 150 words ago.

Yes, so I tuned in, excited to watch ten working comics fighting tooth and nail to deliver the best five minutes of new material they could muster for their specific audience. “That…” I thought to myself whilst making a pre-broadcast cup of tea (white, one sugar) “…is a strong format. This…” I continued to think, having accidentally poured water from the kettle straight into the sugar bowl because I was thinking too much about your show and, ironically enough, not focusing on the matter in hand “…should be good.” then I stopped thinking and cleared up.

A nice cup of tea - surprisingly easy to mess up.

You can, I’m sure, imagine my surprise when the first part came and went without any stand up whatsoever. Fair enough, or at least it would be if you’d spent any time at all introducing these ten comedians to me (for the sake of accuracy I’m going to presume that I’m the only person in Britain that watched the entire show, so ‘me’ = your audience), but you didn’t do that did you? No, you paired them up and sent them on a series of dull and meaningless fools errands around Liverpool. Don’t get me wrong, if there was a show called “Shitty City Centre Shit Search” I’d Sky+ the bastard faster than you can hilariously say “Are you called Michelle?”, I’m sure that show would be an unending rollercoaster of excitement, lurching from one dull hunt to the next and looping the loop of banality.

There isn’t a show called that. There isn’t a show like that – and do you now why? It’s because even for those doing these ‘tasks’ it’s an exercise in utter futility, a waste of time and energy almost beyond compare. The fact that this shit storm took up the whole first half of the show was, at best, bewildering and at worst a cry for help from the producer. The fact that it was so arse clenchingly bad that I kept jabbing myself with a compass just to make sure I could still feel something – anything – is unforgivable. “When are they going to show the stand up? For God’s sake when?” I found I had carved into my forearm, losing quite a lot of blood in the process.

Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long for the answer: Never.

Your human senses might not be sensitive enough to detect it, but this is actually the film we saw of Alfie Moore's act

Yes, technically you showed a bit of each of them: An intro from the opening act that clearly was not ‘all new material’; nearly a minute from the pretty woman; the opening line from police officer Alfie (who I’ve seen, and I know is funny) and a few lines here and there from others – some clearly written for this audience, others clearly not – and then a long and painful stint from the Fred and Rose West of comedy (i.e. they spotted comedy on the street, took it home, made it watch whilst they performed unspeakable sex acts on one another, killed it, buried it in the garden, and somehow got away without capture for years) Prince ‘being London-centric is funny, apparently’ Abdi and Ignacio ‘couldn’t gauge the mood at an autopsy’ Lopez. I’d like to say that these two were comfortably the worst, but I don’t know because:

a) I didn’t see enough of the others to make any kind of judgement

b) I actually heard more from Jason ‘can’t believe he used his own twitter account’ Manford, and

c) I’m not prepared to take Alan Davies word for it when it comes to stand-up

So before I knew it the stand-up had come and gone, two we didn’t really see got praised, two we didn’t really see got chastised and marginally the lesser of two evils got given a belt, a stool and was sent back to his cell to ‘have a think’.

That was it. I looked everywhere, fully expecting there to be something more, and found nothing. A whole TV hour about stand-up comedy, featuring 10 of the best ‘undiscovered’ comics in the country and it featured about five minutes of people standing up and telling ‘jokes’. Look in the mirror and tell me that you’re proud of that. Seriously.

Jason Manford (pictured here as the more talented Peter Kay) is surprisingly quite good as a host

ITV have given you a big pot of cash and (I think it’s fair to presume) a pretty blank canvas and said “Go forth, brave Chief Big Talk, and bring me some comedy!” and this stinking, confused pile is what you manage? Pardon my French, but how fucking pathetic is that? You had not only an amazing opportunity, but a responsibility here and you blew them both. Here are your faults and their solutions. It’s nothing insightful, it’s all obvious, and how you managed to miss them is a mystery to me.

Fault – The Tasks – nobody cares. They’re pointless. People did not tune in to this show to see a shitty watered down version of the worst episode of The Apprentice.

Solution – Just let them draw straws to see who goes where. Or take it in turns. Nobody cares. Immediately I’ve freed up about 25 minutes that you could spend letting us get to know the people or, I don’t know, making us laugh.

Judge Alan Davies in his stand-up days

Fault – The ‘Specific’ Audience – this one’s two fold, because firstly we don’t actually get to learn enough about why the comics are going to find it difficult (we get snippets, but that’s not enough) and secondly because it would seem that some of the comics can just choose to ignore the “Write a new 5 minute set” and just regurgitate old stuff.

Solution – Spend some of that extra time with a bit of a tutorial on why audiences are difficult to write for, how routines get written and worked on and so forth. On the second point, any comic who doesn’t show sufficient focus to new material should get a yellow card – three yellows and you leave the process (I went to the Graham Poll school of refereeing)

Fault – The Performances – surely the main point of the show? No, clearly just a minor inconvenience to you, showing – on average – about 20 seconds of each routine.

Solution – Lose all the superfluous crap that litters your show like dog shit pn a football pitch and show more of the routines. Show at least one in it’s entirety and actual highlights (at least a full minute) from each of the others. It’s why we tune in. It’s what we’re interested in. It’s what will have people at home picking their favourites and caring in the slightest about tuning in again. Mores the point it’s what the show is about. Stand up. Comedy. People telling jokes. Jesus, this is simple stuff.

Judge Kate Copstick seems strangely familiar

Fault – Jason Manford – normally this would be followed by some snidey comments about how he annoys me, which he does, but there is no question that on this subject he knows his onions, and his insights on the process were not only interesting and informative but also very welcome. So why have you made nothing of them? Why is he lurking by the stage door like a middle aged Take That fan hoping to stroke Gary’s crotch as he hurries passed?

Solution – It’s a simple thing that you might have heard of, it’s called structure. Throw a VT or two into the show where Jason and/or Alan and possibly even old Chopsticks tells us a few of the tricks of the trades or some of their anecdotes from their many years as professional comedians. That’d be brilliant.

So it’s either do some of that, or change the name of your show to “(We’re Not Going To) Show You The Funny, Here’s Some Pointless Crap Instead”

I deserve better, stand-up deserves better and the nine remaining giant balled bastards who put the very centre of their being on the line every time they get up on that stage? Well they deserve a hell of a lot better than you’re giving them.

Seriously, get your act together.

R

PS – I had a Ploughman’s lunch the other day. He wasn’t very happy. (Tommy Cooper)

 

Dear Odd One In

Dear Odd One In, (ITV1, Saturdays @7.15pm)

Have we met before? I think we have, because I tuned in to you on Saturday for what I believed to be the first time and I recognised almost everything about you. Where is it I’ve seen you, where do I know you from? Oh yes! That’s it! The entirety of the 1980’s.

Mick Hucknall was popular in the 80's - enough said about the decade methinks

Yes, from the ‘weaker than diluted water’ concept, through the ‘as already seen on 3-2-1’ set and the ‘hasn’t been particularly good since first rising to prominence in the 80’s’ Bradley Walsh, every single tiny little thing about you felt massively outdated. That’s not to say, however, that it is outdated. You see nostalgia’s a very big market and TV is a sucker for it – if an idea’s worth doing once then it’s worth repeating again and again until you flog every last little ounce of entertainment out of its battered corpse.

Whilst I believe that all commissioners do desperately want to find ‘the next big thing’ that desire is, unfortunately, hampered by an all-conquering fear that they’ll make a mistake. One mistake, that’s all they think it’ll take to steal their handsome pay packet and fancy lifestyle away from them, one mistake and it’s no more sniffing coke off the breasts of a 19-year-old Lithuanian lap dancer, instead they’re giving hand jobs to truck drivers so they can afford just one glass of Prosecco – and even that probably wouldn’t be chilled. This is the fear they live with, and this is why – despite their protestations of desperately seeking originality – we keep on seeing the same old faces presenting the same old shit on TV.

Sometimes that can work quite well: Strictly Come Dancing is probably the most striking example of how LACK OF ORIGINALITY+CRIPPLING FEAR OF FAILURE+PROMINENT TIME SLOT (can)= HUGE WORLDWIDE SUCCESS, but it’s that (can) that’s the key factor in all of this, because the truth of the matter is that most of the time it doesn’t work. Take, for example, you ‘Odd One In’, I’m led to believe that the format first began during The Black Death (a plague that tore through Europe in the 14th Century, cutting the population in half) where you had to guess who had the plague and beat them to death with a stick if they refused to leave the city. It was an entertainment smash and the ‘guess who’ spirit persisted throughout the centuries:

 

  • Say what you like about the French, but they knew how to add a bit of jeopardy!

    In Tudor times it was “The Axe Factor”, the game was spot the Catholic – the prize being a haircut, with an axe.

  • The Pilgrim Fathers took the concept to America, renaming it “You Have Been Witching?” but who had? Everybody! The solution? Burn them of course.
  • Then the French had a go with their revolutionary take on the theme “Posh or Pauper” which was very popular for a few years until they ran out of poshos and had to start making up other reasons for beheading people – “Come Die With Me” was, however, not popular and commissioner Robespierre ended up getting the chop.
  • There was also a UK revival “The Spy at Night” that the entire town of Hartlepool lost when they incorrectly identified a monkey as a French spy and hung him.
Clearly this was a format with legs, and one that lasted for hundreds of years – progressing from barbaric slaughter to new, enhanced form of barbaric slaughter with the odd parlour game version in between – but then something happened. An invention arose that rendered this game, this somewhat pedestrian game, moot. That invention was the television.
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Walsh wonders why he's still working, Manford laughs at his wife's trust whereas lovely Peter Andre has obviously been thinking about a squirrel. Again.

With the development of network television the stakes were raised, people started to expect more and more in order to be entertained – for a while it was enough to watch something like a fat man sitting at a desk, and I’m sure that in those days Odd One In would have been a resounding success. TV quickly moved on though, so why didn’t you? What is it about three minor celebrities and a sex texter guessing which random idiot can do what utterly banal thing on the basis of absolutely no information that is supposed to entertain us so? Is it the ‘witty banter’ that Bradley ‘Actor, Comic, Tit’ Walsh so spectacularly fails to engage in? Is it the comedy stylings of husband-of-the-year Jason Manford? Is it the fact that no-one really says or does anything to relieve the tedium at any point? Is that it? It is isn’t it, we’re supposed to be entertained by the mere fact that your show exists aren’t we?
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Well I’m afraid to say that I’m not. Sorry about that. Time for some home truths I think.
You are not a good TV show. You are a bad TV show, bad because there is no point to you, no entertainment factor, little originality and you are so intensely and unflinchingly dull that at one point I found myself dismantling my clock to see if it was broken – time was moving so very slowly that I feared it had stopped all together.

Grass - I'll be watching some of this grow next Saturday at 7.15pm!

There is no hope for you, there really isn’t. Sell the set to a nostalgia night club – Flares or Reflex perhaps – send Manford back to the Travel Lodge his wife makes him stay in, thank Peter Andre and tell him he’s lovely, and take Bradley Walsh round the back of the barn and put him out of his misery. It’s not that you can do better, it’s that you would genuinely struggle to produce something worse than this derivative dirge.
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I do have one idea though, maybe you can pass it on for me. It’s also called ‘Odd One In’.
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What you do, is you get all the commissioners in a room together and you have to spot the one who’s going to take a chance and commission something new, fresh and original. The prize could be that they keep their job. For those that lose? Well, the French had an idea or two (well it was just one, but it was a good one wasn’t it?)
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Let me know what you think,
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Rx
PS – When you go to finish Bradley, don’t look directly at him – you’ll never go through with it.

Dear Dirty Sexy Things,

Dear Dirty Sexy Things, (E4, Mondays @10pm)

I’m so sorry that it’s taken me until now to write to you, according to my doctors I fell into a banality induced coma about halfway through your debut on Monday. I did regain consciousness for a short while on Tuesday and watched the second half of the

How I believed I looked in my catatonic state - note the beautiful lilac plumage which is very in this season. Who's a pretty boy?


show, but in an effort to protect me from myself my brain went into overdrive and I became convinced I was a budgie. I’ve spent the last 24 hours staring into a mirror and eating the odd seed (ironic really, I’d probably fit right in with your lot) but now I have regained my senses, promised my brain I will never put it through such traumas again, and in return it has promised to help me write this letter begging you to stop.

Yes, normally I’d write with a few helpful hints as to how to get a show back on track (I’m generous like that) but once in a while there comes a show so utterly beyond hope that you just have to hold your hands up and say “What the f**k am I supposed to do? These people think Zoolander is a documentary.”.

I mean seriously, from top to bottom what are you about? It’s a genuine question, because although you filled my screen for an hour (and will continue to fill my nightmares for months to come) there was maybe 90 seconds of content. Digital storage space may be cheap and easily available these days, but that’s still no excuse for you to be such a grotesque waste of it. Hang on, I’m thinking about you too much, I’ve gone all feathery…

Trill - a delicious treat. If you're a bird. Which I'm not.

I’m back. Right, obviously this could result in a serious and permanent mental funk if I think about you for too long, so I’m just going to go down the old-fashioned route and list the most obvious faults I can think of, beg you to stop again and then go spend the evening ringing my bell and eating some trill. Pizza, I mean pizza. Right, have to be quick.

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  • Dirty Sexy Things? Eh? What? Are you competing for the most stupid name in TV history? It means literally nothing and is of no real relevance to the show. You may as well have called yourself ‘Model Train Set’, it would have meant just as much. The only thing I can think is that it’s a play on either a) The little watched marginally entertaining C4 show ‘Dirty Sexy Money’ or b) The little watched band fronted by original Pete Doherty robbery victim Carl Barat – ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ you know, they did that one song that got used on everything for a while. Maybe it’s a mix of the two, either way I suggest a change of name – ‘Pointless Shitpots’ sounds good to me. Go for that.

The 'Pointless Shitpots' from L to R - Lord Hunk of Beefcake, Fun Time Frankie, Gladriel, Little Miss Chaste, Johnny Cheekbones, Apprentice Candidate, Nick Grimshaw and Miss Council Estate 2011

  • Perou? Eh? What? Continuing the theme of ‘what sort of f**king name is that?’ is this jug eared photogratwat who’s obviously mistaken himself for a Brazilian footballer when deciding upon his moniker and mistaken his ability to press the shutter button on a fancy camera that does a lot of the work for you for the ability to cure cancer just by looking at it. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it takes a lot of hard work to be a good photographer, I have no doubt it’s a real talent…ooof…sorry I just tripped over one of the umpteen names that Pernod dropped. Where was I? Oh yes, he’s skilled, obviously, but it’s not the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is it? Which brings me on to…

Perou (yes, that's what he calls himself) contemplates the true meaning of 'Being a Twat'

  • Eight photos? Seriously, that’s the foundation for this mess is it? Eight super special magical earth shattering photos of models? Wow, you might just have found the flimsiest premise for a show since someone at the Beeb said “You know walls? Well what if you cut a whole in one stuck Darren Gough in a leotard and shoved him through it?” on the plus side though they at least didn’t take themselves too seriously – Perou takes himself so seriously he’s in danger of becoming a one man human centipede, and those Pet Shop Boys inspired shades…
  • The models:
  1. You keep referring to ‘the beautiful people’ but I seem to be watching a different show, one that’s filled with six fairly average looking people, an elf and Nick Grimshaw.
  2. It was made very clear that they were being selected because of their personalities – it’s so important in a model don’t you know – so I have to ask where you got that magic camera? You know, the one that can tell you everything you want to know about someone’s personality based on three photos. It’s either that, or they were selected base on their looks. Which would make more sense. Because they’re models.
  3. I think it tells you all you need to know about a group of people when they consider ‘walking’ to be ‘tricky’. I’ll admit that I once found it difficult – for the first eight months of my life. Since then it’s not provided me with too many challenges and I’m quite confident that I could walk equally well in London, Paris or Milan and in a wide variety of clothes…

    A model makes the fatal error of thinking whilst already walking and wearing clothes

  4. Basically can you please ask them to stop insinuating that being a model is difficult? That’s not to say it’s not hard, I’m sure they have a lot of demands placed on them and they might sometimes be a bit cold or uncomfortable, like a homeless person but with more expensive ill-fitting and ridiculous looking clothes. However anyone who believes that wearing clothes and ‘looking’ at the same time is – in any way – difficult, must surely have to sit down every time they’re asked a question. I know I’d be fearful of falling over if I upset that delicate balance.
  • The content. There wasn’t any. We learned that hunky beefcake man likes to workout, didn’t see that coming, Nick Grimshaw will throw up if you call him fatty gaylord, and that blonde snooty chops won’t get her non-existent tits out. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and that not every model gets selected for every job. Insightful. An hour and that’s all we get.  You may have missed the memo, but you never get a second chance to make a first impression and your is a mind-numbing fog of dullness almost beyond comprehension. How you will fill another seven hours without being engulfed with self-loathing is beyond me. Thankfully I shall not be finding out.
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So, I thank you for further lowering a bar of shallow and vapid programming that was already interfering with the Wombles headroom, and I ask that you look in the mirror (glass not newspaper) smash it and take a jagged piece to whichever dipshit commissioned you – it’s they who truly deserve my wrath.
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Yours with contempt,
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R
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PS – Seriously, watch Zoolander again, you’ll see that what Ben Stiller’s actually doing is taking the piss out of you.
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PPS – Sunglasses are generally used to deflect sun from your eyes, not to help self-appointed demigods avoid the gaze of mere mortals
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PPPS – Why did nobody tell Perou (seriously, I can’t get over that name, didn’t he play for Benfica?) that a calendar needs twelve pictures? I mean he’s going to look like a right twat when he approaches WHSmith with a calendar missing September through December.

Dear The Marriage Ref

Dear The Marriage Ref, (Saturdays, ITV1 @9pm)

Or should that read: Oh dear, The Marriage Ref? I was going to write a letter proclaiming that it should; decrying you for being such a shambolic waste of talent, money, time and oxygen; expressing my shock and awe that no matter how low I place the ITV bar you simply scoot under it like a limbo champion on roller skates. Yes, I was ready to rip you to shreds, eviscerate you and throw you to the dog – then take you away from the dog because I like the dog and I wouldn’t want to poison it with this dross, maybe I’d put you in the recycling, I don’t know. What I’d do with your remains is unimportant. The important thing is that whilst not considering you a worthy way to spend my time, I would ‘do time’ in order to prevent your continuance, such was my disappointment.

ITV Commissioners are yet to meet an expectation to low to stoop beneath

Like I say, I was going to write all that.

Then I saw through the matrix.

You see, I’ve sussed what’s actually happening. You may have pulled the wool over the eyes of everyone else, but not me. I’ve spotted you for what you are Marriage Ref – a red herring. You’re a fool’s errand, a smoke screen – you are a spy sent by ITV to confirm what we all know – namely that no bugger’s watching. ITV, the network that brought us such cultural delights as ‘Kerry Katona- This Time I’ll Hurt The Kids’ and ‘Jordan – Marrying a Gay Vicar? Why Not!’seems to be, bewilderingly, having a

ITV have refused to scotch rumours that sexy poster girls Jordan and Katona will have sex changes and then marry each other for new ITV2 show 'My Transgender Best Friend's Gay Wedding'

bit of trouble getting viewers. I’ve even heard whisper that even those who have ITV on the box aren’t actually watching it, instead playing Connect 4 or thinking about what they want for Christmas. The big wigs wanted confirmation of this, and I’m afraid they used you, Marriage Ref, as bait. “Surely” they pontificated “if anyone sits through this crap they’ll complain.”. Well, glutton for punishment that I am, I did, and now I am (complaining that is).

I understand that this is a lot for you to take in, after all you were just trying your level best to be an entertaining show. That you failed miserably is neither here nor there, you tried – and against horrible odds – but you were merely a pawn in a game that few can play, most don’t understand and nobody cares about.

Confused? Me too, a bit. Let me explain the clues that should have enlightened you as to your role as ‘sacrificial lamb’

  1. The Title – ‘The Marriage Ref’ is a dead give away isn’t it? I mean it’s fine as a working title, but if they wanted you to stand even the vaguest chance of success they’d have given you a proper name before going to air – it’s not a phrase in common usage, it’s not a play on words, it doesn’t mean anything. To anybody. It’s like parents calling their daughter ‘Cristal’ and not expecting her to grow up to be a lap dancer/prostitute/porn star or possibly a combination of the three. If you’re called Cristal then your parents ambition at your birth was that one day you might gratify rich men for money, if you’re called ‘The Marriage Ref’ they don’t expect even that much.
  2. The Opening Titles – I know, we’re not even in to the show yet and the evidence is mounting. Ignore the fact that it looks like it was concocted by the lowest bidder, in a rush, after a heavy night. Ignore the fact that it actually uses the term ‘mullet’, the biggest clue is that if you rearrange some of the words used they say: “If you don’t stop watching this you’re a complete idiot. We hate you.” this is almost entirely true.
  3. The Concept – Whilst it’s true that some of the best ideas are written on the back of a fag packet during a heavy session (see The Million Pound Drop) there’s a very good reason why this isn’t standard procedure (see Don’t Scare the Hare). You fall very firmly in with the latter. The whole show has the feel of a half thought, the start of an idea that was, for some reason, not followed through. Don’t get me wrong, I like hearing about the banal problems of dull but slightly quirky strangers as much as the next man, but unfortunately the next man doesn’t give the slightest shit. To Do Lists? Pickles? A man-child? Come on, how about a second family or selling crack? Jeremy Kyle should be your benchmark.
  4. The Concept, Again– The judgement of the refs carries absolutely no weight – this is a problem. If we’re going to have a kangaroo court lets at least have their summary judgements mean something awful and humiliating happens immediately – think your husband makes too many pickles? Well we don’t, so now you have to sign a legally binding document that states upon your death you will both be preserved in vinegar in giant pickle jars and the whole process will be covered live on ITV2- this is a show I would watch.

    "My husband won't stop being racist." vs "My wife complains about my racism"

  5. Time, My Concept Of – Maybe it was the interminable VT’s, perhaps it was the excruciating bit where the hapless couples came on, I don’t know, but somewhere along the line my entire concept of time went out the window. How long is the show? 3, 4 days? It certainly felt like it was never going to end.
  6. Dermot – Lovely Dermot. He’s lovely, a genuine talent, and he’s clearly lovely, but when he’s phoning it in – as he was with you – then you know something’s a miss. Never has the term ‘Contractual Obligation’ been more apparent on-screen. he looked unprepared and deeply unmoved – can you confirm that the idea was thought up late one night and then filmed the following day? That’s how it felt.
  7. Gerri Halliwell – Gerri Halliwell? Seriously?
  8. The Audience – Who exactly would you be aimed at if it’s not people who you’re certain aren’t watching? Not families because you’re post watershed. Not young adults because you’re incredibly dull. Not the elderly because they’re all asleep. Perplexing.
  9. The Execution – What you lack in so many ways. A literal execution would be an extreme but entertaining way of punishing a spouse for some trifling habit like drinking milk from the bottle. Likewise it would be a fitting punishment for the execs in control of your production. ITV are past masters in making silk purses out of assorted pig bits, yet with you they just put a bit of lipstick on the pig, shoved it on stage and told it to dance. Pigs are not good dancers.

Beautiful woman or pig in lipstick? Clue to ITV execs, it's a f**king pig.

So tell your bosses at ITV Towers that I, Instantly Forgotten, have rumbled their little ruse. TV this bad doesn’t happen by accident, and it’s wrong to use Dermot O’Lovely, Jimmy Carr and Sarah Millican to play your silly little games. It is, however, fine to use Gerri Halliwell in this fashion.

Also tell them I have an ultimatum: You are to improve (including an immediate change in title) or go off air, or both – else I shall go to the papers with my findings.
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Sorry for your pain,
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R x
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PS – Alternate Name – Mum Was Right – I Should Never Have Married You!
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PPS – Or – I Gave You The Best Years of My Life
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PPPS – Or – I Hurt You Because I Love You, It’s Your Own Fault
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PPPPS – Gerri Halliwell, seriously?
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