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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!

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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 Dragons Den

Dear Dragons Den, (BBC1, Sundays @ 9pm)

I’m really glad to see you back, I wasn’t sure whether you would return or if you’d been merged with The Apprentice and the stinking, fetid remains dispatched to Channel 4 for use in Four Rooms, but here you are and a very welcome sight you are too. Please pass on my sincerest and warmest welcome to the new dragon Hilary Devey who, despite appearances, is bloody awesome.

Little did Cruella DeVille realise, but she was only going to be offered 20% equity in the dalmations...

I must admit that her being awesome was not my first thought upon seeing her. No, in all honesty my first thought was “They’ve replaced someone who occasionally tries to buy babies with someone who definitely eats them on a regular basis.” and whilst that still might very well be the case – I believe all the dragons to be beasts of the netherworld – she is far more interesting, intelligent and pleasant than her ‘she mistook Quentin Blake’s drawings in Roald Dahl’s The Witches for a clothing catalogue’ look would ever have you believe. I truly did judge this book by its cover, and I was wrong to do so. There should be a saying about how that’s wrong. I’m going to invent one now –

Do not try to ascertain the qualities of a work or an individual merely by virtue of their external appearance, for this will sometimes lead to an inaccurate conclusion.

A book you can judge by it's cover. Or can you?

Catchy don’t you think? I certainly don’t think it could have been put more succinctly or in a more memorable fashion. It’s accurate too, because on probably 50% of all occasions you can save yourself a lot of bother by judging people by how they look: If they look like they’re hiding an incredibly dark secret, like an urge to kill, then it’s probably best not to accept the offer of a lift; if they look like they have to wear a bib to eat and a nappy to bed then you’d do well to not make yourselves unelectable by making them your party leader; and if they appear to have a borderline personality and the propensity to jump into bed with anyone that says hello to them then you should probably trust that and not get into an 18 month relationship with them…

Okay, I’ve made this a bit awkward now. Maybe you’re friends with her, maybe you took her side, I don’t know, doesn’t matter. Pretend I never said anything. The point is that sometimes, roughly half the time, judging a book by its cover (some might call it instinct) is a useful timesaver, on other occasions it can leave you looking a proper tit – as it did with myself and Hilary.

So any way, how do you think you got on? Pretty well? I’d agree, it’s pretty much same old same old really isn’t it. Yeah, you’ve got a slightly jazzed up title sequence where all the Dragons are either:

a) Surveying all they own like a Middle Ages land baron, or

b) Contemplating suicide like a mid 80’s stockbroker

Either way it’s just as wanky as all the previous ones and will continue to feed us the same guff it’s been feeding us for years – Duncan Bannatyne proprietor of Health Clubs and the biggest misery factory in Scotland (and that’s really saying something), Peter Jones rich because of crap BT ads, playing tennis and being tall yada yada yada. We get it, they’re rich, they’re self-made – I think you’re labouring the point a little.

Then you’ve stuck with the peculiar Evan Davis hosting, which is fine, there’s nothing all that wrong with him, he just looks like he’s owned by one of the Dragons who keeps him locked away in a cellar, bereft of sunlight and feeding him just enough gruel to survive. Little else could explain his gaunt appearance or seemingly endless excitement at even the briefest moments of human interaction. Thankfully you seem to have done away with all those peculiar crash zooms that accompanied him (I think the proprietor of those now works on Neighbours) and replaced them with simpler cutaways that are a lot easier to take.

Evan 'relaxes' at 'home'

Staying with Evan for a minute, can you please ask him (or indeed order him) to stop asking me questions that I couldn’t possibly hope to answer: “Will that seeTheo make an offer?” I haven’t got the foggiest idea Evan, nor could I hope to have. I could hazard a guess, but what would be the point, it would only distract me from enjoying the show. Surely that’s the sort of question I – someone who wasn’t at all involved in the process of making the show – should be asking you, the host? It’s a nonsense. Whilst we’re at it, please tell him to buy a dictionary. This week he chose to describe the chairs as “infamous”. Now, I’m no expert on chairs, but I think

Have you seen these chairs? They're wanted in connection with the brutal murder of a sofa and the kidnap of a chaise lounge

I’d remember if a chair, or any item of furniture for that matter, had been found guilty of genocide, or even a lesser charge that might lead to it gaining ‘infamy’. I understand that part of Evans job is to use some ludicrous hyperbole to ratchet up the tension and add some fabricated jeopardy, and that’s fine when he’s trying to convince us that Geoff who makes kids toys out of dog shit might have a chance of getting investment, but when he’s misappropriating the English language to lend the props some social weight that they simply haven’t earned? Well that gets my goat sir. The only ‘infamous’ chair I can even think of is man Mao, and that’s not even a chair, but a Chinese dictator who uses chair as the first part of his name. Don’t do it again.

Everything else seems the same, to me at least, you’ve still got the same mix of brilliant entrepreneurs with excellent scalable businesses followed by blundering incompetents who, in less prosperous times, would have proudly worn the floppy hat and giddy face of the village idiot, larking around for pennies rather than proposing deals for tens of thousands.

"What I do is...well it's like...kids...birthdays...erm...ahh...money please."

Likewise you’ve still got the cruel rules that mean no notes can be taken in to help with your pitch (just like in the real world!) leading to situations like that poor cow who went on first. By God that was awkward – got to love it though, it may be false jeopardy, but it’s helped make you what you are. You’re still a very entertaining show, frustrating at times when you see the Dragons gang rape a brilliant business to get an extra 5% equity from the poor bastard who’s put their heart and soul (and savings) in to it for ten years, but you’ve stuck to another old adage – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  – and that’s one that the likes of Simon Cowell must have wished he’d paid attention to.

As for the Dragons? Well, that’s a whole different letter – I believe I’ve found an ancient manuscript that reveals the key to success with them. I’ll write next week with it.

In the meantime I’ve got stuff to be getting on with, and for that reason…

I’m out!

R x

PS – I write Letters to Television Shows, I’d like £50,000 for 4% equity.

PPS – I’ve not made a profit, and don’t expect to.

PPPS – I just want some money. Thanks in advance.

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 Lovely Tom (Yes, it’s another Apprentice one, what of it?)

Dear The Apprentice, (Not on any more, finished for now)

So you were reading! That’s a relief, I’d started to think that I must look a little peculiar, but as you followed my instructions in the final – practically to the letter – there can be no doubt that you saw my advice as sage and onion, sorry, was just thinking about roast dinners. You clearly recognised sage advice when you saw it and acted accordingly. If only I’d been around when you invented the emailer.

Any way, looking back over the course of the series it’s actually been clear from the off that you were going to choose Tom, a cynic might even say that the entire series was a 7 minute Dragons Den segment extended to a quite remarkable 12 hours. Fortunately  for you, I am not such a cynic, I’d never suggest that a quarter of a million quid is an incredibly cheap way to invest in someone who already has a successful invention and an ‘in’ at the worlds biggest retailer. I’d certainly never imply that, with the backing of Petty Officer Sugar’s henchmen and number crunchers, the money invested will almost certainly be recouped within the first six months of trading, and I’d certainly never insinuate that the business plans became an utter irrelevance the minute Sugar Daddy was informed that one of the applicants had created, patented, marketed and successfully sold an invention entirely of their own to the aforementioned worlds biggest retailer. No, only a cynic would suggest any of these things, and I am not a cynic – I am a crackpot – and the two are very very different.

So, let’s have a look at why none of the others stood any more chance of winning the contest than I do of winning the dressage gold medal at next years olympics – an award I won’t win for three reasons:

  1. Dressage - why not just give Olympic medals for flower arranging or hairdressing?

    Dressage isn’t a real thing. Horses wearing hairbands dancing sideways?  It’s like awarding people gold medals for sculpting their hedges or getting their dog to fetch the paper – quite impressive, but not a sport. Topiary. That’s what the hedge thing is, topiary.

  2. I’m not a horse. Let’s be honest, if any bugger’s going to get a medal for this farce then it should be the one doing all the work, not Zara bloody Phillips whose job basically consists of putting on jodpurs, looking good and sitting there.
  3. I fear horses. Not because they’re particularly sinister or anything, but they weigh a ton and can run faster than me, jump over my head and kill a man with a single kick. Not only that but they get spooked and kick out over practically anything: thunder, dogs, cars, ghosts – there was even that one who leapt over a shadow thinking it was a fence. They’re huge and they’re muscular and they’re stupid – not a good combo. Also there was that one who could talk, though that might have just been on Rent-a-Ghost.
I digress, the basic point I was attempting to make is that – when you have a proper look at it – none of the others were ever going to win, thus making the 12 episodes – whilst incredibly entertaining – a bit superfluous. So, here’s why they were never going to win (in the order they were eliminated)

The group of people assembled to make going in to business with Tom more interesting

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Edward “It’s all there” Hunter (Accountant) – Whilst Edward might not have ‘fit the mould’ for accountants, he was still an accountant. As much as I would have loved him to stay in just so I could hear every single non-sequitur he had in his armoury, the truth is that his fate was sealed the second he wrote ‘accountant’ on the form.
Reason – He’s a service provider. And he talks gibberish.
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A Foxtons 'twat tank', they don't even have the decency to hide from the public.

Alex “I look suspiciously Californian” Cabral (Estate Agent) – Whilst estate agent’s might not be the purest form of evil on the planet they are pretty f**king close. I’m sure there was a time when estate agents did something to actually earn their money, but now it’s just become a systematic wallet raping machine. To para-phrase Sugar Pie – what estate agents know about anything other than greed and hair gel is f*ck all. If you need someone who can’t make anything and whose only role is to introduce someone who wants to sell something to someone who wants to buy it and somehow make them both feel utterly cheated in the process then call Alex or one of the identikit shitpots at Foxtons, just don’t expect to leave with your dignity intact.

Reason – He’s (technically at least) a service provider, the primary service being making you feel a little bit better about the choices you made in life.
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Gavin “I’m the Scouser” Winstanley (Online Retailer) – Hands up who honestly thought that La Sucre was ever going to hire a Scouser? Seriously now. There’s always a Scouser and they never win – why? Well it could have something to do with the fact that every ticket tout in the world is a Scouser, so when you hear that accent you can’t help but picture the speaker outside the Hammersmith Apollo offering you an overpriced ticket for Kings of Leon, or offering you a fiver for the one you paid £30 for.
Reason – He’s a shop keeper and as such doesn’t make anything. And I think he actually told people to ‘calm down’. Unforgivable.
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Felicity “Oooh, Arty” Jackson (Creative Arts sort) – Do you really need me to write anything here? I mean she’s a creative arts entrepreneur! You’d have

If the phrase "You're fired!" was a movement it would look a little like this...

thought she’d have workshopped the possible scenarios in which she might win The Apprentice and, upon seeing that they all involved all the other contestants dying in a minibus crash/monkey attack/Die Hard scenario she would have realised that never in a million years is Executive Producer Sugar going to give so much as a shiny shit about the business of creative arts.

Reason – He’s an electronics magnate, she gets people to use creative movement to interpret what sadness might look like – you figure it out.
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Ellie “The Northern Bird” Reed (Building Recruitment) – I’m Northern myself – and proud of it – so I say this with a sense of regret and with no malice. Ellie has accomplished a great deal and is, I’m sure, very intelligent – but by Geoffrey Boycott’s lady beating stick she doesn’t sound it. Unfortunately she’s from a band of the country (stretching from Hull to Blackpool) where even if you have a PhD in incredibly difficult sums you’re going to sound like you’d struggle with the complexities of working behind the counter at Gregg’s. It’s a curse.
Reason – She’s a service provider. Is it me or is a pattern developing here?
.

" I'm fired? What a dreadful bore!"

Vincent “Disney Store” Dinosaur (Telecom Sales Manager) – I loved Vincent. Not for any good reason of course, more in an ironic way. He looked and acted like a panto villain and he looked greasier than a cast member of the musical Grease eating at a greasy spoon on holiday in Greece – and it made him brilliantly entertaining. He was also, of course, comically inept, but that’s not necessarily a bar to success. The main problems for Vince lay in the fact that, whilst looking a bit like David Niven, he had the business acumen of reptile fan David Icke and the charisma of Michelangelo’s David.

Reason – He’s a salesman. he produces nothing. Getting a bit predictable? I think it might be.
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Edna “The Three Degrees” Agharba (Business Psychologist) – In the world of service providers there is a hierarchy: Those who actually provide a service sit proudly at the top (IT technicians and the like), then it’s those who don’t really provide a service, but talk a lot to people who do (Consultants and that sort) and then, sitting at the bottom you’ve got those who don’t provide an actual service and talk a lot to other people who also don’t provide a service (Edna). It’s role creation taken to the nth degree – a job that is impossible to both understand or defend and unnecessary in every way imaginable (or yet to be imagined).
Reason – She masquerades as a service provider, which is even worse than actually being a service provider.
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Glenn “I’ve reserved you a bed in the Emergency” Ward (Design Engineer) – Glenn was a funny one, a bit like Marlon Brando he coulda been a contender but it all went wrong. Why? Well it wasn’t the fact that he had the cold dead eyes of a killer, it wasn’t his performances – he showed creativity and ingenuity – no, it was his job description. By calling himself a design engineer rather than an inventor he shot himself in the face with a gun loaded with Sugar and prejudice. Big Al don’t think engineers can be creative.
Reason – Bad luck and poor research, Glenn actually did fit the brief on this one.
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Leon “I’ve got a girlfriend” Doyle (Fast Food Entrepreneur) – Leon’s another one with a made up job. Ronald McDonald and Wimpy are fast food entrepreneurs. Colonel Sanders took the time not only to achieve

Colonel Sanders - never heard of Leon. Also, not a real Colonel.

his lofty rank, but to perfect his secret recipe for delicious and fattening chicken, he too was a fast food entrepreneur. Leon, on the other hand, is a man who has a website. You can’t eat a website any more than you can properly digest a Big Mac. He is a fast food entrepreneur in the same way as I am the star of Channel 4’s mythical shitfest Camelot – i.e. not at all, but I have mentioned him on a website.

Reason – Not even a service provider. A non-service provider. It’s getting pretty obvious where this is going now.
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Zoe “Monotone” Beresford (Project Manager, Drinks Industry) – Zoe is possibly the dullest enigma in the history of television. She always seemed to have something about her – from the moment she utterly dominated Susan to her appearance as a stewardess on ‘You’re Fired’ you were always waiting for that moment when she’d spring out of her shell and reveal herself to be something. Anything – brilliantly creative, convicted killer, sexual predator. But nothing ever materialised. She was just wall paper, background noise to the interesting stuff.
Reason – There was simply no reason to ever contemplate hiring her. I doubt her business plan of ‘Belittling Susan until she cries’ would have generated much income any way.
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Melody “The Name Dropper” Hossaini (Bullshit Consultant) – Melody, half of the league of evil, talked more than all the other candidates put together, but despite this she never actually said anything. She talked herself up constantly, talked about her business, how Jesus himself taught her how to play tennis and how she’s spoken to every child in the Western world about what they want to do after school, and yet no-one knows what she does. Genuinely, hand on heart, do you know what she does? One things for certain – it has the word ‘consultant’ in it!
Reason – If she provides anything at all (other than a Melody Hossaini promotion service) then it’s a SERVICE! You’re really not getting this at all are you?
.

I think it's cute, you think it's cute. Natasha thinks it's breakfast.

Natasha “Puppy Killer” Scribbins (Recruitment Manager/Demon) – Completing the league of evil, Natasha took noise generation to a new level. With Melody you could be fairly sure that what she was saying was geared to promoting herself, whatever Natasha was saying was anybody’s guess. The only times she was ever direct and to the point involved her repeating something someone more intelligent and less sinister had just said or when she was blaming others for her own failings. A genuinely unpleasant human being (based on every nonsensical word she uttered).

Reason – Other than the evil? Well, guess what she does? She doesn’t make anything does she, so what is it? That’s right, she’s a service provider.
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Jim “Puppet Master” Eastwood (Sales and Marketing Manager) – No-one could deny Jim’s rating as ‘most charming man in Britain’ and he could probably sell Hugh Grant an evening of chat and ginger sex with Rebekah Brooks such is his talent in that field, but get beyond people skills and what do you have? Seldom did Jim come up with any great ideas, and a business plan that revolves around a business that Sugar (they’re close, he can call him that) already has is an interesting approach. Like most charming men he was always going to lose out in the end – that’s why I’m never charming.
Reason – He’s a salesman. That’s the start of it, and the end of it. He could be the best salesman in the world – maybe he is – but he couldn’t sell himself (ooh, deep)
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Susan “100% Organic” Ma (Skincare Entrepreneur) – Having already explained in some depth my irritation at Susan’s immaturity I will forego the pleasure of repeating myself and instead go on to the small matter of her business plan. the most obvious business plan in the brief history of ‘guessing the business plan’, a game that’s only just been invented with this series. Her plan consisted of doing what she’s already doing, but more. The only problem with that being it’s just about the most congested and competitive marketplace in the entire world. Otherwise excellent.
Reason – Naivety. A great thing if you’re trying to talk a 21-year-old in to bed, a bad thing if you’re investing a quarter mill in their business.
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So let me get this straight, she's intelligent, beautiful and she works for Gregg's The Bakers? I'm in!

Helen “How sexy did I look on You’re Hired?” Milligan (Executive PA) – All the wins in the world couldn’t hide the simple fact that Helen is just an organiser. When I say ‘just’ I don’t mean it derogatively – if I wanted someone to run my business she’d be right up there – but ‘being organised’ isn’t a great business plan and that’s essentially all she brought to the table. She’s confident and capable and polished and good with people and assertive and organised and organised and boy is she organised – but she’s not creative. I doubt anything new will ever come from Helen, which is a shame.
Reason – She’s a service provider really, it’s just hers is a very personal service – and you can’t turn that into a mass market thing.
.
So there you go. A sea of service providers, pseudo-service providers and sales people – a lot of the sort of people who you employ, not the sort of people you go into business with. If you were asked at the start of this process what kind of person Lord Sugar would have been looking for you would have given the answer “an ideas person” or “a creator” and really, truthfully and honestly speaking there were only ever two people in the competition who stood a chance – Tom and Glenn (I discount Susan on the basis of £250k is a drop in that ocean) – and Tom was so far ahead of Glenn in every department that really the contest was over long before Glenn got the boot.
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So yes, maybe I am a cynic, but I’d argue that the job was Tom’s from the moment he was cast, because looking back I can’t envisage it going to anyone else. Now that’s hindsight (a trait that Tom has never ever demonstrated, he showed quiet foresight).
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Thanks for the fun,
.
R xxx
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PS – Next series maybe include a few viable candidates – it’ll be obvious if you do this again.
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PPS – Also next series can you replace “You’re fired!” with “Thanks for your participation, but you’re no longer part of this process.” as, technically speaking, you have to employ someone to fire them, and even then you have to give them written warnings and all that. Except in cases of gross misconduct of course, but that doesn’t cover ‘being inept’.
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PPPS – Also, “You’re hired!” bit of a patronising way to greet an equal partner isn’t it? Don’t be so condescending. How about “So, do you fancy going in to business with me?” it’s not as catchy, but it would make you seem like less of a presumptuous tit.

Dear The Final Four (Apprentice, obviously)

Dear The Final Four, (BBC1, Sunday (ooh, that’s new)@9pm)

Look, I know I promised to deliver my Unifying Theory of The Apprentice by now, but there’s been a problem. It turns out that the Brian Cox I was taking science advice from is not Professor Brian Cox, no, instead I’ve been learning about the laws of thermodynamics, quantum theory and fancy equations from Brian Cox the Scottish actor. He’s a lovely guy and a talented actor, but he knows bugger all about science. He knows a lot about the Nazis for some reason, but that’s no help at all. Why it took me four weeks to figure that out I cannot explain.

The 'other' Brian Cox heads to a rather suspicious party, he's not a scientist.

Any way, I’ve released him now and abandoned my efforts for the time being – I also realised that science requires cause and effect, consistency and logic, and the fact that L’Alan can (and will) ignore anything and everything he chooses in order to select who he likes means that none of those will ever be present in this process. For evidence of this please see almost every other series of your show where invariably the strongest candidate has managed to avoid being hired and on many occasions managed to dodge the final altogether.

If you’re interested, the science I did do would see Tom win. Not just because he’s so lovely (I only attached 10% of the overall importance to loveliness), but because he’s genuinely superior to the others. I’ll explain more in a bit.

So I'm like, basically, in actual fact, a tropical bird, yeah?

So, on to the important stuff, and I was sad to see Natasha go, not because I have any sympathy for her you understand, but because every pantomime needs a villain and that’s a role she filled with aplomb. In fact it’s the only role she filled. I find it difficult to believe that anyone has ever contributed less to anything and somehow made it so far. Everyone was really very generous to her on her firing, even Susan for some reason, but the fact of the matter is that she has done nothing of note during the entire process. More than that, the girl (if indeed she is human) can’t even speak. Nothing that comes out of her mouth means anything at all – it’s a series of words, often only vaguely connected, and seldom more than just a couple of bits of management jargon topped off with a couple of ‘yeahs’. More often it’s just repeating what the last person to speak said, but putting a couple of other words in like ‘really’ or ‘basically’ to make it sound like she’s got a thought that isn’t pure evil swimming around in that fringe she calls a head. I’ve got a mate who often repeats what people say, well, I say a mate, he’s a three-year old, and I say he, it’s a parrot – and I wouldn’t trust him with my business (he was declared bankrupt in 2010). So yes, she has the speech patterns of a parrot, and similar business acumen to boot.

Air Quotes. Only used by twats. 'Allegedly'.

Perhaps more importantly she doesn’t know how to use air quotes. Maybe she thought it would make her endearing like Joey out of Friends, but when we saw this exchange in the boardroom…

“I did do a degree, BA Hons, in concentrated evil, blame shifting and pulling a face like you’ve just tasted something that’s gone off in the presence of someone you really don’t want to offend, but I didn’t ‘claim’ to have expertise in it.”

…it was pretty nailed on that here we have a total dickhead. Using air quotes is bad enough, but using them wrongly? Totally ‘unforgivable’.

It should also be mentioned that this was the clearest cut task of the series. The right team won, and for the right reasons – yes, their history is more than a little shonky, and yes they missed a trick by not calling their menu the Pie Chart (TM Instantly Forgotten), but they nailed this task and it made such a refreshing change to know that one team had made it through competence – gives you real hope!

So, we’re now down to a final four, and whilst I might not have science on my side I’ve still got ludicrously strong (and often unfounded) opinions about everything, so please print off this guide and give it to Air Marshall Sugar before Sundays final, it’ll help him make the right decision.

So, we’re left with (in order of how successful they’ve been)

Like many gingers, Helen can often be found in the shade and near orange objects that detract from her copper top. She might be pretty, but she's 'one of them'

Name: Helen ‘Touch of Class’ Milligan

Record: An astonishing Won 10 Lost 1 – 1 Boardroom appearance

Strengths: She’s a very nice person, but not afraid of confrontation. Business wise she’s generally very astute and helps to get the best out of others. When she does sexy photo shoots she looks a lot like Shania Twain.

Weaknesses: Shania Twain hasn’t been famous for a long time. When she makes a wrong decision she makes it so wrong that it almost goes the whole way round the cycle to being right again. She doesn’t seem to be very creative. I think she’s ginger – you have to be wary of the gingers.

Business Plan: She might have considered opening a school for witches (not that she’s evil, she just looks like she might be a witch), or acting as a go-between for businesses and wholesalers (aka ‘a delivery business’), but I think her business plan will be to let Tom run a business and she’ll be his PA cum Boss and possibly wife.

Should Finish: Second, she’s lovely and certainly talented, but she’s not an entrepreneur – she doesn’t have ‘it’ whatever ‘it’ is (now that’s how you use air quotes!)

Moments in Time - If Susan had just leant forward and punched Natasha in the face the world would have been a safer place...

Name: Susan ‘That’s so unfair’ Ma

Record: A very respectable Won 7 Lost 4 and 3 Boardroom appearances

Strengths: Before the ‘Final Five’ show I would have really struggled here, I’d probably have said that she’s a great punchbag for teammates to take their aggression out on (which remains true). However, we’re now all wiser and she’s obviously got great big bucketloads of drive and determination and no shortage of business nous – anyone who can pay off their mum’s mortgage by the time they’re 21 (did she mention she’s 21?) is doing something right. Also she’s run her own business before and she speaks Chinese which can’t hurt these days.

Weaknesses: Everyone who spends any time with her, no matter how nice they are, ends up wanting to drown her in a canal. She’s far and away the most immature on the show, her regular cries of “That’s so unfair!” remind me of my 8-year-old niece being told she can’t have another cigarette just yet, and it feels like only a matter of time before she claims “I know you are, you said you are, but what am I?”. She also didn’t take the opportunity to stick the knife in to Natasha who so blatantly hated her she would have actually laughed in her face if Susan had been fired. Literally. In her face.

Business Plan: Almost certainly something in the world of fairness. Maybe an iPhone app that will determine whether something is fair or ‘so’ unfair, possibly a consultancy that will arbitrate on disputes both in the boardroom and on the playground.

Should Finish: Fourth. It’s nothing personal, but all of the other contestants are a similar age to me, so them being more successful I can just about take. At 21 she’s already achieved more than me and therefore should be barred from further success until I’ve got a piece. You might call it bitterness, I call it, well actually yes, that’s what it is. It’s bitterness.

Do not look directly into his eyes - even a still of Jim can control you

Name: Jim ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ Eastwood

Record: A loss leading Won 5 Lost 6 with 2 Boardroom appearances, both as PM

Strengths: The charm, oh the charm. It has worked on absolutely everyone – even Nick clearly got a bit of a man crush on him last week, and you could see Karen trying to figure out ways she could explain to her husband why she was on national TV having sex with Jim in a Mexican kitchen – I’d go with chilli fumes. He’s a strong decision maker who likes to get others involved. Seems like a very nice guy. Oh yeah, nearly forgot, he can control people with his mind. That’s an important one.

Weaknesses: He makes the wrong decision so often it would appear to be a hobby of his – and he tries to make each wrong decision more wrong than the last, like he’s in competition with himself. Sometimes he pours the charm on a little thick and all that serves to do is weaken the strength of his argument – it makes him seem like he’s selling snake oil when he’s actually got fair and valid points. There’s a 50/50 chance he might be evil.

Business Plan: It could be to build a giant space station and rule the galaxy, but I doubt it. I think his plan is to set up a shell company (front, not a company that sells shells) and use it to get close to Sugar Daddy, within a year he’ll be adopted, within two years he’ll be running the empire, within 5 years Sugar will be granulated – dead in a freak ‘dramatic entrance’ accident and Jim will own the lot.

Should Finish: Third, you simply can’t hire him because as Joaquin Phoenix once said “If you dance with the devil the devil don’t change – the devil changes you.”

Tom's cats - Emperor Palpatine and Seven of Nine - not only keep him company, but talk to him when he's lonely

Name: Tom ‘Lovely Tom’ Pellereau

Record: A shameful Won 3 (all when paired with Helen) Lost 8 with 3 Boardroom appearances

Strengths: You mean other than his loveliness? In all the important areas he is the stand out candidate – he’s creatively the best and logistically he seldom makes an error. Where he really comes in to his own though, is his foresight. He should be called Mystic Tom. Whoever he’s been teamed up with, and whatever the task, Tom always sees the pitfalls that await, marks them clearly and warns all his teammates who immediately head directly towards them and without hesitation dive face first onto the massive failure spikes he told them about.

Weaknesses: He has a tendency to listen to – and be influenced by – utter imbeciles, which explains his losing record. Can be too quiet in his opinions and often too nice when confronted, we’ve only seen his claws come out on Melody, and that was pretty much an open goal. Is dyslexic, which is fine up until he misreads a sign “Do not feed the bears” as “Feed the bears donuts” and you find yourself a business partner light. Looks sufficiently like Michael Sheen as to be mistaken for him – not a problem now, but if Sheen gets a crazed fan… Knows almost nothing about Columbus.

Business Plan: Battlestar Galacticat. A theme park for cats based around the cult sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica. If successful this would lead to other sci-fi based theme parks for pets: HamStar Trek; Quantum Leopard; Doctor Whorse and ultimately Flash Gordogs.

Should Finish: Top of the pile. He’s the obvious winner and the only one who would obviously make a fortune (or destroy the universe trying)

So there you go, make sure this is seen by the proper authorities and my instructions are followed.

I’m going to miss you

R xx

PS – Seriously now, why aren’t you honest when people like Natasha leave? Why not say “She was f**king useless” I’d respect you more.

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.
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