Archive for August 14th, 2007

Desperate Times

August 14, 2007

Smell my cheese 

It’s finally happened. Television programme makers are so desperate for ideas that they’ve resorted to watching that old episode of ‘I’m Alan Partridge’ for fresh concepts. You know the one – Alan has a lunch meeting with the Commissioning Editor of the Beeb and, realising that his failing career is about to go down the shitter once and for all, panics and resorts to pitching a stream of ever more ridiculous ideas for telly programmes. How else can you rationally explain the following programme?

‘Robbie Coltrane’s B-Road Britain’

Yes, you read that right. The fat Scottish comic turned fat Scottish credible actor is plonked behind the wheel of a classic 1950s car and embarks on a journey from London to Glasgow, avoiding the motorways and stopping off wherever his fancy takes him. In my mind, the programme conjures up visions of Coltrane parked up in a lay-by, sweating profusely as he struggles with an oversized road map of Britain, espousing the joys of the B4009, which “…follows the route of the ancient Roman road, Icknield Way, and is *takes slug from giant bottle of Glenmorangie* the besht fucken B-road EVAH!”.

OK, so when you actually get away from that godawful excuse for a title you start to realise the programme may have some depth. Coltrane is a genial fella with a decent sense of humour, and the Great British Public™ are eccentric enough to ensure he’s bound to encounter some interesting people along the way. In fact, as per Napoleon’s piece below, it’s got classic Sunday methadone telly written all over it (it’s being shown on a Wednesday though, which seems to me to be a massive scheduling error).

In the first episode, Coltrane is in High Wycombe where he watches the Mayor getting weighed. He also meets some girls performing acrobatics on biplanes, and plays Frisbee golf in Warwickshire and tiddlywinks in Cambridge. See – the old farts will love it. And anyone who’s had a frontal lobotomy. Smackheads. The infirm. Obese people who’ve eaten their remote control and can’t be bothered to get up and change the channel. There’s a vast audience there for sure, in combined weight at least.

It seems to me like they must have came up with the title first, stuck the fat bloke behind the wheel and sent him off praying to Bruce Forsythe that something representing entertaining telly would be the end result. They probably had John Thaw pencilled in to do it, but then remembered he’s dead, so approached John Nettles (touring in Bergerac’s Bentley), but he turned them down. Les Dennis in a Skoda? Nope, Cracker in a vintage Jag – BINGO. Televisual gold.

Suddenly ‘Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank’, Partridge’s final, desperate roll of the dice, feels like not that bad an idea. Imagine it – the monocled buffoon, in a wooden shack up a mountain in the Cairngorms, lisping through an awkward conversation with a group of bemused German teenagers. It’s got legs, admit it. Even ‘Arm Wrestling with Chas ‘n’ Dave’ doesn’t seem that ridiculous now. In the 2am slot it has the potential to become a cult student classic. Definitely an improvement on those tedious 9-hour quiz shows. Every show could end up with all the contestants swilling lager round the old Joanna as they belt out a reworked version of ‘Snooker Loopy’ called ‘Arm Wrestling Loopy’. It still needs some work, but ITV have got creative departments to sort out the finer details. The concept is a strong one.

Next week also sees the return of the daytime ITV show, ‘Have I Been Here Before?’. If you’ve got a job, you probably will have missed the first series, but the concept is that Z-list celebs are regressed by a hypnotist, and encouraged to delve into their previous lives. Fucking bizarre. I’m not really a believer in reincarnation, though nor are the participants in this piss poor excuse for telly. But they are great believers in half an hour of telly devoted to themselves and the furthering of their fading careers. I’m only flagging this up because on the same day that ‘B-Road Britain’ airs, ‘Have I Been Here Before?’ features John Barrowman and the premise is just so ludicrous I felt it had to be shared –

“John Barrowman goes back to his previous life as a clown in Budapest during the 1800s.”

I’m almost lost for words at what staggeringly “so bad it’s good” television that has the potential to be. I’ll definitely be setting the video. The following week sees David Seaman entering into a bloody medieval conflict as a gallant knight. With real blood I hope, and his to boot, the deep-voiced Gooner bastard. This whole shitstorm is presented by Philip Schofield, who really needs to get himself a new agent.

‘Robbie Coltrane’s B-Road Britain’ starts this Wednesday 15th August at 9pm.

‘Have I Been Here Before?’ featuring John Barrowman as a Hungarian clown is shown the same day at 1pm.

I’m currently formulating a pilot episode for ‘Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank’, which I plan to pitch to ITV. I might even make the development and pitching process into a fly-on-the-wall documentary. Channel 4 are already interested. If you know of any good youth hostels in your area, please send them to me at