Archive for March, 2009

Celebrity Juice

March 31, 2009

celebrity juice keith lemon fearne cotton holly willoughby ITV2

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.

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NewsGush: Secret Millionaire’s Ratings Explosion

March 30, 2009

Last night I watched a middle-aged scrap-yard worker called Gary, who sported a lovely grey mullet, as he exposed himself to a heroin addict, a young man with leukemia and two ancient war veterans.

Stop right there!

He wasn’t exposing his genitals, you dirty sod! He was exposing his emotions!

And the public appear to love it. Apparently, last night’s audience for Channel 4’s The Secret Millionaire grew by 800,000 viewers on last week’s.

You lot can’t get enough of this misplaced altruism! You love the sight of someone with a huge amount of independent wealth giving a sliver of it away in public, enjoying the positive PR and washing their hands of past sins in exchange for a week of  mindless generosity.

It’s like Noel’s Christmas Presents without the Christmas. 

The thing that gets me about this moronic show is that, now we’re a few series deep, surely when an ailing charity get a call from Channel 4 saying someone wants to look around and spend some time with them they’re going to have heard word that it’s probably one of these television millionaires. Won’t that destroy the whole point of the worst part of the programme – the cheque handover money-shot?

Can’t we just get the cheque thing out of the way early on and have an actual money-shot at the end? Imagine those two in the above picture in such a tryst! The viewing figures would properly explode. Explosions all round.

Cue: Snow Patrol and tears.

Interview With a Cannibal

March 30, 2009

In 2002, German cannibal Armin Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to over eight years in prison for killing, dismembering and eating another man.

Most of us have heard of this fellow and what he did with Bernd Brandes, so watching ‘Interview With A Cannibal’ on Channel Five was, on the face of it, no more than one’s own voyeurism taking advantage of the channel’s tendency to sensationalise events.

As the programme trundled inevitably towards the ‘good bits’ I was surprised that Five had made some effort to explain why on earth the man might have a vibrant fetish for the consumption of human flesh. Putting it bluntly, his dad left the homestead when he was nipper, his domineering mum remarried three times to rotten types, all of whom nicked her money before nicking off and when the last one left Meiwes obsessively cared for her until death.

In short Meiwes wanted something permanent for himself – what he described as a ‘brother’. He concluded that, by consuming a lover, the digested flesh would physically transgress into his being for evermore. We learned that aside from a spell in the army, the desire to eat human flesh had been an all-consuming urge (excuse the pun) since he hit puberty.

Whilst his character was being dissected (if you’ll excuse the pun, again) much less was made of the victim. We got a miniscule amount on his background. It wasn’t dissimilar to Meiwes, but there was nothing to explain why he wanted some random fellow to eat him – in particular, his winkle.

I’m not saying I can understand why anyone would want to eat another person, though I can project my sympathies sufficiently to inform you that I’d much rather be the diner than the meal. Incidentally Brandes wasn’t the only person offering himself for consumption; apparently Meiwes had a pick of over 400 individuals that wanted to be his tea…

After meeting online and discussing plans, Miewes arranged to meet Brandt at the station near to his late mother’s 44 bedroom mansion and drove him home. After showing him around, lobby, winter lounge, kitchen, ‘slaughter room,’ as he openly referred to it, they had sex because, according to Miewes, Brandes wanted to. After the latter dosed up on sleeping pills and cough syrup, and following one failed attempt, Miewes cut off his lover’s manhood, as discussed of course.

At this point I started to feel a bit peculiar. Far from a barrel of laughs, Miewes came across as quite affable. He was almost affectionate when discussing his lover, but the manner in which nonchalantly described some of the events had a tendency to suddenly chill the blood like liquid nitrogen. In two or three instances it was impossible not to feel physically sick. One period of nausea arrived when Miewes recalled how Brandes screamed for no more than 30 seconds before expressing his disappointment that it didn’t hurt more, casually acknowledging the spurting wound.

As Brandes ‘relaxed’ upstairs, Miewes popped down into the kitchen, split and broiled the winkle, fried it with some garlic and took it back upstairs for a spot of post-penectomy dining. Apparently Brandes was very upset that it was inedible, which is a disappointment to say the least, especially as he was, by that point, bleeding heavily from the hole where his penis / sausage was.

I have to say I found the next part the hardest bit of all to comprehend, which may come as some surprise with regard to what has happened so far. Miewes ran his pal a hot bath and, whilst he went downstairs to read a Star Trek book, left him there for a few hours to ‘bleed out.’

I don’t think this translates as well in writing as it does when spoken by Miewes, and this was the programme’s strength. The interviews were inter cut with footage of the actual locations within the house – kitchen, slaughter room, bed, hook in the ceiling etc… This gave the variously unpleasant stages an insidious quality which occasionally convulsed into unmitigated horror.

Brandes was still alive after his bath – by now more blood than water (‘as he was still spurting’) – and after getting out and collapsing a few times, eventually he passed out for good.

Miewes made it clear he wasn’t interested in killing anyone (weirdly I sort of believed him, killing was a means to an end in the same way as carnivores buy meat at the supermarket) nonetheless, after a small struggle with himself he slit his lover’s throat, removed his head and hung him on the meat hook where he was disembowelled and dismembered in accordance with instructions attained online. The body parts were packed as choice cuts (65lbs worth) and placed in the large chest freezer in the kitchen. For the next 10 months he ritually cooked and ate Brandes daily (describing its taste as ‘rich Pork’) with his best dinner service by candlelight.

Incredibly none of these facts are remotely contentious. From the outset Miewes and Brandes agreed to film the whole evening, particularly as Brandes was keen to watch himself having his penis cut off. When 20 minutes of the more grisly ‘highlights’ were shown to the jury all but two vomited in their seats as Miewes stood by watching calmly.

This will probably be the part of the programme that will stick in my brain. Miewes’ calmness, his matter-of-factness, made the events he described seem virtually normal, like he was talking about two mates on a Saturday night eating pizza, getting drunk and one of them passing out from over-indulgence…

But there was something else in this interview that concerned me and it took me a while to work out what it was. Initially I thought he was a little arrogant, almost smug – but it wasn’t just that. As the credits rolled I got it. Miewes appetite had been sated. He was full.

Just a Thought: Weekend Watching

March 27, 2009

So – another week’s passed in a hail of frustration, boredom and bickering and we’ve reached Friday afternoon.

The question on my mind is, what are you lot planning on watching over the weekend?

Any good telly on? What’ve you set your VHS / Sky+ / Virgin Media / brain-memory box for?

Or maybe you’ve got hold of a film to while down the hours…

I reckon I’ll definitely be watching:

Eastenders – A given.
Genius – Because it translated well from radio 4 and I am a fan.
Jonathan Ross – Simply because Larry and Babs are on it.
Newsnight Review – I am a sucker for punishment.
The England Game – Though not in a pub as it’s not worth the hassle.
Harry Hill’s TV Burp – Another given.
Come Dine With Me – Because I’m a pleb.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Volcanos – I am volcano ignorant.

Let me know if there’s anything I should be watching…

The Friday Question: TV Time Travel

March 27, 2009

Image by BP Perry

Peggy Mitchell: What can I get you, darlin’?
Michael Caine as ‘Alfie’: (To camera) She’s a bit of a rangy old bird, but she don’t ‘alf go like the clappers in the bedroom department. That’s the fing wiv yer older woman … what they lack in looks, they sure make up for in experience, see?
PM: Sorry, what was that?
MCaA: (To camera) Cor! She’s got a mouth on ‘er, I’ll give ‘er that!
PM: I beg your pardon?
MCaA: (To camera) I’ve always found it’s best to give ’em a slap, early on, like. That way, they’re easier to control later on in the …
PM: Give me a …? Oi! Who the ‘ell do you fink you’re talking to?
MCaA: Now, now, sweetheart. You’re not too old to be bent over my knee, girl. Remember that.
PM: Bent over your …?
MCaA: (To camera) Blimey! If she turned any redder, you could bottle ‘er up and sell ‘er as fruit juice dahn my local hypermarket!
PM: GET OUT OF MY PUB!

On the above evidence, I think we can all agree that time travelling some of our favourite stars / characters from long, long ago into today’s shows would be the best thing to happen to TV ever. Yes? Good.

Just imagine it …

  • Les Dawson shows ’em how it’s done on QI
  • Brian Clough takes no prisoners on Football Focus
  • Albert Steptoe has no time for the ‘bleeeeedin’ woofters’ of Queer As Folk
  • Tony Hancock’s four hundred hour-long Room 101

The possibilities, ladies and gentlemen, are endless.

So, which classic character / actor / comedian / what-have-you would YOU time travel into today’s TV shows?

What impact would they have on the storyline?

What would they do?

Would they end up washing their underpants in Ken Barlow’s front parlour when he’s just brought this sophisticated bird back from his weekly art class, or would they go careening down a hill in a tin bath in answer to one of Paxman’s impertinent University Challenge questions?

WWMers, it’s over to YOU, YOU, YOU!

Just a Thought: Who Will Win The Apprentice?

March 26, 2009
Clue: It wont be her

CLUE: IT WON'T BE HER

This is your chance to pick the winner of The Apprentice 2009. If you comment here with an accurate choice, come the end times your brilliant foresight will be recorded on the indelible pages of this website for posterity.

You’ll be able to brag to your friends that you’re as good as, if not better than Alan Sugar when it comes to recruitment!

It doesn’t get much more exciting than that.

So – who is most likely to get kicked out because they’re distracted by the fact they have a partner and kids?

Who will be the villain of the piece? (My money’s on Debra).

Who will put on an animal costume?

Where will the friction come from?

Who will WIN the damn thing?

And if you’re still thrown by the sheer number of them, here they are again.

The Apprentice 2009 – Episode 1

March 26, 2009

apprentice-2009-episode-1

Put names to faces over here.

Down to business then, and unless you’ve been hiding under a desk for the past fortnight, you’ll know that The Apprentice 2009 began last night.

The first episode’s always absolutely rammed with information, stuffed with soundbites and edited to within an inch of its life in order to make candidates more memorable. Add to this the presence of fifteen blustering braggarts running around like confused toddlers and you’re left with a dizzying hour. As a result, some candidates slip under the radar totally – this week Paula, Kimberly and James barely got a shot – and it’s easy to figure out who’ll be in the firing line when things inevitably go cock-up.

That’s fifteen braggarts rather than the sixteen that should have turned up – we were told early on that one chap had ‘bottled it’ – which gave Sir Alan Sugar an opportunity to berate them before they’d even done anything and bang on about the pressure involved in the world of business – which is patently bollocks because business is all about meetings. Streams and streams of meetings, like turds bobbing on an acrid canal. Meetings about how other meetings went and meetings to arrange more meetings. Business is as banal and uneventful as breakfast in a Basingstoke B&B and as unpressurised as a lingering, dispersing fart.

He also declared himself to be a violin and the potential Apprentices ‘bongo drums’. A clumsy metaphor which might’ve worked if they were about to form a busking collective and earn money on street-corners like corporate minstrels, but in the event they were ordered to set up a cleaning firm – boys versus girls.

But what to call the teams?

‘Genesis’, one man suggested, not realising that it sounds like the name of a gay gymnasium. ‘Empire!’, decided the boys. ‘It’s distinctly British’ they said, forgetting years of oppression and imperialism in one foul swoop.

The girls went for ‘Ignite’ – but if you were able to work out the process by which they came to that conclusion from the barking rabble their voices became, you’ve better ears than mine.

Howard led the boys, because he was up for it – even stating his credentials after he’d got the job – whilst Mona led the girls simply because all the others were too daunted by the task, gaining some credit in the viewers mind from the off. Some more soundbites, ‘ I’m a rough, tough, cream-puff!’ particularly sticking in the mind for its emptiness and stupidity, and then we were off in those cramped cars they whizz around London in.

As team leader of the boys, Howard was up against the broken-headed, immediately obnoxious Phillip Taylor, who made a terrible first impression. Where Howard was reasonable, if a bit wet, Phillip – with the face and accent of an irate Jimmy Nail – was an annoying berk. He sniped behind Howard’s back and led off some of the boys to clean cars using methodology that’d require them to actually work hard – an almost fatal error. They could have collapsed on the job if Howard hadn’t turned up later after a stint as the shoe-shine kid, getting berated by old folks in a shopping centre, and organised their onions.

Now – rule one of car-washing is clearly ‘close doors and windows when hosing’. I didn’t get pocket money if I didn’t clean the car, so the directives are lodged in my grey matter like most people have a system of morality. Where others have ethics, I have a system of squeegee holding techniques. So the boys’ haphazard attempts at scrubbing vehicles – five men on one car – were mind-boggling for me.

But nothing boggled quite so much as the girls’ decision to spend 200 quid on cleaning materials. This was their entire budget – and they could have got by with seven buckets, as many sponges and two or three shammy leathers.

When they finally picked up their products they were a mess of skirts, legs and cleavage – so it came as no surprise that a blushing Nick, with steamed up spectacles, used a ‘spanking’ metaphor to describe how they’d get on come judgement day.

It’s easy to mock these ’empty business suits’ retrospectively the way Sugar does, relentlessly, and if I’d have taken part I’d have probably gone and hidden from the scary men. But it’s always nice to see that the mistakes of past series are completely forgotten in the midst of a new task’s chaos. Team leaders are ignored and strategies are flushed down the bog as boys and girls wobble around with a headrush, ballsing up every thing they think they should have done.

The best moment in the girls’ non-campaign had to be when the mighty Mona, a woman who speaks as though she’s constantly reporting a fire, told the owner of a garage that he was wrong about his own budget. The viewer was forced to watch with an uneasy mix of repulsion at her arrogance alongside a weird affection for her childlike approach to negotiation. She was so clearly out of her depth it was a wonder Nick – as Apprentice lifeguard – didn’t pluck her out, give her a towel and condemmn her to the changing room.

And on the boys side of the fence, special mention must go to Ben Clarke and Majid Nagra. Ben, simply because he looks like a hybrid of Tommy Carcetti and Teddy Ruxpin; Majid because he fancies himself as a bit of a wag – sexist jokes followed by non-sexist disclaimers.

Incidentally, Rocky must be ignored for now – he’s clearly only there for a laff, like, la.

Come the end of the task, it seemed obvious that the girls, particularly after Debra’s mental breakdown, would fail. And thus it came to pass.

Empire were sent off for a cocktail night – cue a stolen scene from Bachelor Party – while the girls went off to bicker some more, then return home, where Kate Walsh managed to flirt with seven men simultaneously. Hot cha!

In the boardroom, the delightful Yasmina was never going to be in any trouble and it was clear Mona would drag Anita and Debra in with her for the showdown. Anita visibly crumbled as though the volume around her was causing her head to implode, while Mona’s shrill voice combined with the slime-dripping sarcasm and snickering of Debra, making the scene almost indecipherable. Turns out that Mona and Debra despised each other, Anita got caught up in the crossfire and the poor, hapless girl was inevitably fired.

Clearly Debra should’ve gone – what with her being a terrifying android from Essex – but if you want a fair round this early on you’re watching the wrong show. Anita was considered chaff and so has been sorted from wheat.

As a result, we have weeks of Debra-footage to contend with in the meantime. Aren’t we lucky?

Next week:
Those crazy contestants will take on corporate catering for ‘City slickers’.

(Presumably this was filmed before everyone went home from the City with their redundancy letters, and back when people could afford to buy lunch rather than bring in thir own peanut butter sandwiches)


All of last year’s reviews are here.

Just A Thought: The Colour Of Money

March 25, 2009

I’ve found it’s only possible to watch ITV’s The Colour Of Money if I’ve recorded it. The reason for this is quite a lot of its one-hour run time is taken up with recaps of stuff you’ve only just watched, plus the usual advertisements you never wanted to watch in the first place. It’s probably the most fast-forwardable show on British TV.

To give you an example: say Andrea from Wigan has managed to get £8,000 from the Emerald cash machine, £11,000 from the Charcoal cash machine and £6,000 from the Cream cash machine and you’ve just watched this happen, ITV cares not a jot. Despite some of the action having taken place mere seconds before, it’ll still show you a highlights package before going into the break.

And then, after you’ve sat through drivel inviting you to buy stuff you don’t want, ITV does it again by showing you another highlights package when the show returns! So, in the space of fifteen minutes, you’ve watched nine minutes of someone trying to nervously guess when one of the show’s machines is about to run out of money, three minutes of adverts and three minutes of repeats.

This happens every time the show goes into and comes out of a commericial break. By my reckoning, and considering you also have a five minute ad break at the end, that means you get twelve minutes of in-show ads, twelve minutes of repeats and only thirty one minutes of new programme. Thirty one fucking minutes of actual original content!

So, the next time you see Chris Tarrant and he tells you he works hard for his money, can you tell him he’s a fucking liar, please?

Oh, and can you tell him his new show’s shit too? Thanks.