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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 Britain’s Got Talent

Dear Britain’s Got Talent, (ITV1, Saturdays @8pm)

Five weeks. That’s all it took. Five weeks without daddy at home to steer the ship and the wheels come off. I know you think I’m mixing my metaphors, but I’m actually talking about an amphibious vehicle that is both a ship and a wheeled vehicle so in your face. I digress, I am, of course, referring to the Highwaymen debacle. I personally found The Highwaymen mildly entertaining and would have put them through for three separate reasons:

  1. They were more entertaining than half the crap that you do put through
  2. They’re different, they represent what I like to call ‘variety’ something that is often sadly lacking in your singing and dancing competition but somewhat in demand at The Royal Variety performance
  3. They’re Marines, people who are trained to kill. I always do my best to make people who are trained to kill happy, not angry.

A Judge judging. He does it because it's his job (and becauseprivately he likes sending poor people to prison).

I, however, am not a judge – obviously I’m massively judgemental, but I’m not a judge so it’s not my call whether any act gets put through or not. Neither is it a democratic decision to be made by the gibbering, hollering masses. No, the job of deciding who makes it through to the later stages of the competition has been given – rightly or WRONGLY – to the three highly paid celebrities who occupy those office chairs right at the front. They’re in command, or at least they used to be. After Saturday all bets are off. It all used to be so easy before your dad and weird uncle Piers left:
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Dad was the brutal, unadulterated truth. He was the one you really wanted to impress, if you got the thumbs up and that cheeky wink you knew that you’d set the little cash register he has in his head instead of pesky emotions whirring and you were in. He was, of course, also capable of being an utter bastard.
Weird Uncle Piers was the snobby pompous one who would look down his nose at some acts and like some that in all honesty you should hate.
Mum was the softy, easily impressed (perhaps because of her own distinctly limited talents of marrying Les Dennis and divorcing Les Dennis) and ready to gush over any old shit.
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We liked that, it was simple. Now? It’s a right old mess.
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Shortly after her promotion to 'Dad' Amanda fathered a child with Chris, a lady golfer from Croydon

Mum’s been promoted to dad, but it’s really difficult to believe her when she is mean (again partly because we’re so very aware of her lack of talent it sets us wondering as to “Who the f**k is she to judge?”) and when she starts gushing now it seems like weakness – she really can’t win, but then based on ‘The Grimleys’ she doesn’t deserve to. Ever. She has, however introduced two cracking new features – the ‘fourth panelist’ already mentioned, and what I like to call ‘The Heckling Harlot’ – this is when she interrupts a singer who’s had the nerve to not only sing and play guitar but write his own song as well. What a bastard. Thankfully mum put him in his place and got him singing a song some people might know. Hopefully she’ll apply the same criteria to the twenty thousand or so dance acts that make it through, stopping them when they start their eye-catching original routines and demanding they perform The Lambada – The Forbidden Dance. Afterall a talent show is no place to experience new things.
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Replacing mum is lovable drunk and all round 80’s icon David ‘I ain’t Looking for Freedom’ Hasselhoff, and in so many ways it’s a good call. He’s lovely, charming and so cool you could stick your ice lolly in his armpit while you go out for a crafty fag and when you come back it’d only have melted a little bit. He’s no push over, but he’s certainly ‘the nice guy’ – until he grows a goatee of course, that’s when the Hoff gets evil.
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Finally there was the task of replacing pompous git Uncle Piers – an acquired taste at best and one that, once you’ve acquired it, leaves you wanting to cut your tongue off with some secateurs. In previous years this might have been a tough ask (replacing Uncle Piers, not lopping off your own tongue – that remains a frightful and difficult act of self mutilation) – not now, it was a no brainer: seemingly no-ones favourite multi-million DVD selling comic Michael McIntyre. Much like Piers he sneers at some of the paupers that arrive to entertain him, and much like Piers he can barely hide his disdain when they fail to meet his standards – often before they’ve even begun. You can’t beat a bit of sneering mockery to calm those ‘first ever performance’ nerves, put ’em down to build ’em up would seem to be his motto.
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So all seems pretty much as it was yes? Well no BGT, actually it isn’t. The problem is that your dad hasn’t been actively replaced and none of the current incumbents are prepared to properly play the bad guy – and unless you’ve not seen any shows with judges on before, you absolutely have to have a bad guy.
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'That lucky cow's kissing Simon Cowell' thinks Simon, filled with envy

The reason your dad was so pivotal to your show wasn’t just because he said mean things – anyone can do that as I believe I’ve proved time and again in this letter – it was because everything he saidhad the ring of truth to it. There were things he didn’t care for that were good, of course there were – namely anything that wasn’t singing or dancing – but when he praised you knew it meant the act was genuinely (at least) quite good. Or attractive enough to want to do sex on. You knew this because any flaw in the act and he’d seize upon it and, despite the baying audience and the genuine pity that viewers might feel for the fat fifteen year old whose dreams he’s destroying before the whole nation, you’d find yourself agreeing with him. He’d never have been swayed by the audience – they barely even register as anything more than delivery devices for premium rate text messages to him. To ordinary folk your audience are a bunch of rubberneckers at a constantly evolving car crash, spectators who’ve decided that because they’re at a theatre it must be panto and the poor sap at the front won’t be hurt by your boos or demands for them to leave – or contrastingly if they liked the performance, no matter how mediocre, that it’s suddenly the done thing to holler and boo over someone delivering, more often than not, accurate judgement.
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Your father is a greedy and selfish man, but that makes him determined and driven which in turn leads to those ever so painful truths and his absence has left a gaping hole in your judging panel that needs to be filled. McIntyre is busy filling Uncle Piers’ hooves – and doing a fine job as the irritating posho – so it’s not him that needs to change and it’s not him that needs to go. It’s a known fact that firing The Hoff is physically impossible, the words simply won’t come out of your mouth. Try it now, look at the picture below and tell him he’s fired.

'Fire me and I'll cave their brains in. It's your call.'

You couldn’t do it could you? Besides, he’s done a far better job of being Amanda Holden than mum ever did. Partly that’s because as The KnightRider and the man who brought Pamela Anderson’s boobs into our lives he’ll always have a place in our hearts, partly because he’s so effortlessly cool and likeable but mainly because she, for some reason it’s difficult to put my finger on, is so very easy to dislike.
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So I’m afraid that’s it, curtains for Amanda.
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Who to replace her? Well that’s for another letter, but you best get on and break the news to her. Do it when she’s just had botox, it’ll be less upsetting for you if she doesn’t look upset.
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So it’s two yes’s and a no from me,
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Rxx
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PS – Please have someone who doesn’t sing or dance win, you know for a bit of variety.
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PPS – And if a little girl screws up in the final and starts sobbing her little eyes out, don’t bail her out and reward her tears. Make her stay on stage for her allotted time and teach her a valuable lesson about show business – namely it’s full of bastards who can’t wait to see you fall on your stupid face.
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