ITV’s not exactly ruled the panel show show format over the years and the odds are they’re not about to start with ITV2’s Celebrity Juice, hosted by Keith Lemon.
Keith Lemon is, of course, the man who used to don a neck-brace and play the giddy goat on the disconcertingly popular Bo Selecta, with its cavalcade of non-impersonations and irritating catchphrases. Since being dropped by Channel 4, Leigh Francis (for it is he) has taken on the persona of Keith – a ginger moustache, casual dress and bleached hair combining with a pronounced Yorkshire accent to manifest this new character. And it’s a character based on nought.
It’s not a hilarious stereotype, it’s not a grotesque amplification of a known type and it’s not something so new and surreal that it makes you question the very fabric of comedy – it’s simply a man from Leeds, in a costume, dicking about. If some people find that funny, then good luck to them, but after five minutes of Celebrity Juice surely the joke wears thin even for those defective enough to have found it funny in the first place?
He says things like ‘bang tidy’ and makes jokes about tits and arses and cocks, but the only people laughing at the right points are the panel. The studio audience simply applaud for the full 25 minutes. Their applause doesn’t let up at any point throughout the show. Occasionally it may be overshadowed by ominous whooping at an ear-splitting volume, out of whack with the speech onstage, but the applause just goes on and on and pitilessly on so that your mind’s not allowed to rest. It’s a barrage of cretinous hand-clapping that upsets, unsettles and unnerves, and it lasts right up until the bitter end.
The regular team leaders are Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton. Holly and Fearne, the unthinking man’s crumpet. Holly & Fearne, pedestrian totty for the asinine bumbrains of this great nation. Holly and Fearne, corroding your eyeballs as they laugh at Keith Lemon’s jokes, playing along with his gags because they’ve been misinformed by their terrible agents that it might boost their profile – making it seem that they can laugh at themselves. They think they’re playing Ulrika to Lemon’s Vic Reeves – but haven’t registered that the chemistry is non-existent and that none of the players have any of the wit, likeability or humour of any of the Shooting Stars crew.
Speaking of Shooting Stars, Celebrity Juice is, at the core of it, a blatant attempt to thieve that format and hot-foot it over the channel-divide. But everything’s wrong. Where Shooting Stars would have, say, a musician, a page 3 girl, a 70s celebrity and a Radio 1 DJ, Celebrity Juice puts Rufus Hound on one team and Dick ‘n’ Dom on the other. And one of the Loose Women. Thomas Turgoose was also there in the episode I watched, but he’s exempt from criticism because he’s only nine years old.
With Fearne and Holly to head up the ranks, neither of whom have ever been paid for being funny, where the hell is the good stuff meant to come from? Shooting Stars had charismatic Ulrika, comedian Vegas, comedian Lamarr and intellectual Self to throw around the banter with the likes of John Peel and Jarvis Cocker, but this kind of talent is completely absent from Juice – Shooting Star’s runty, limping sibling.
Where are the bon mots? Wither the witticisms? When am I supposed to laugh?
The jokes aren’t erupting out of Hound’s mouth. Dick ‘n’ Dom look lost. The Loose Woman just shrieks and poor old Turgoose looks like he’s walked into the wrong studio. As a whole, the thing’s a gag-free stream of shouting, split-second clips and badly conceptualised stunts.
At the end, as a way of signing off, the losing team gets ‘gunged’ by the winning team, in a worrying flashback to the grim old days of Noel’s House Party. And when I got to that point, I have to admit I stifled a laugh at something onscreen.
A small, sinister snicker creeped out of the side of my gob and lingered as I rewound to watch the moment again and again. Lurching forward, Lemon slipped on some slime and fell on his arse, all the way over his tit. But it wasn’t the slapstick of the moment or the intentioned comedy of a clown that had me ho-ho-ho-ing. I was chuckling under my breath at the fact that his coxix-jarring somersault actually looked really, really fucking painful. Just desserts for the agonising infliction that wasted the preceding twenty-five minutes I’d say.