ITV is many things to many people, but mainly it’s just rubbish. ITV doesn’t give the world much these days, apart from the anomaly of Harry Hill and the occasional Al Murray moment. It’s the gaping hole in the middle of the schedule – a vortex where decent television simply doesn’t occur. It’s television for children and the elderly – bright, flashy and filled with hollow applause. If you find your brain actively engaged by ITV’s output, it’s a sure sign of mental decline.
Piers Morgan’s new show could only be an ITV product, with the third button being the key channel specialising in the kind of glossy dross he tends towards since being kicked out of publishing and having entered the light entertainment arena. When he was at The Mirror, Morgan was a forgivable prick – always managing to rustle up a twinge of sympathy because, for all his myriad flaws, at least he wasn’t the Editor of The Sun. But even in his early days he was caked in the slime of smug self-assurance and seemed to have smarm running through his innards like sap.
His Sunday evening Life Stories vehicle is way beyond the bland rubbish you might expect it to be. In fact, it’s so tedious and vacant, you could be forgiven for thinking your television’s vanished and been replaced with a vague space. You’d actually be better off staring at the wall.
Following on from last week’s episode in which we re-learned that Richard Branson is very rich and smiles a lot, on Sunday evening we were landed with a Katie Price sucker-punch. The show opened, as it does every episode, with Piers talking to camera (or someone just off-camera, to give it an air of reality) about how he wouldn’t avoid any issues and would ask the right questions in order to get us some really meaty answers. Katie, in turn, promised that she would give her all and reply honestly to anything Morgan could throw at her. It was as if, for a second, they actually believed they were about to make some proper television rather than get themselves messy in the overlit, sycophancy-session that followed.
The first topic for discussion was Katie’s apparent schizophrenia and the fact that she ‘misses Jordan’. She made it seem as though the identity she created purely to allow her to build her fortune – using tabloid tittilation and flesh-flashing – had substance. To blur the boundaries between Katie and Jordan even further, ingeniously merging the two personalities, she was then encouraged to show off her jewellery for the cameras like a blinged up material girl. But ultimately it was left unclear, the actual difference between the two. Was it the change of hair colour that signalled the change? Or the graduation from the showbiz pages in the tabloids to the OK and Hello spreads?
We moved on, the question unanswered. They discussed her husband Peter as openly as they could, with the poor sod sitting mere yards away in the audience, wilting bashfully. Throughout the show, Katie talked about Andre as though he’s the randy stalker she fellates out of pity.
‘I can’t have sex seven days a week’, she informed us. ‘so when he gets it, he gets it’. She talked about their shared, sacred moments of intimacy in the functional way you might ask a neighbour to feed the dog while you’re in Cromer for a week’s holiday. In the most non-erotic description of marital relations you’re ever likely to hear, she discussed their first moment of passion and how she stormed his hotel room after the I’m a Celebrity wrap party. He answered the door wearing only a towel, insisting he’d just got out of the shower and hadn’t expected her. ‘I give him a blow job in the toilet’ she declared, smiling at her killer punchline, to the joy of the audience and the sympathetic mugging of Morgan.
The show was interspersed with VT in which members of Katie’s family discussed her rise to fame. Piers’ voiceover could be heard over the top using phrases like ‘Britain’s first couple’ and ‘unlikely modern role model’ – unqualified assertions that slipped by unchallenged, reaffirming brand Katie and making the viewer implicit in the bullshit-flow. To give us a little bit of humanity, Katie’s mum, brother and sister spoke semi-candidly about her implants and how her investment in the chest-bulgers was born out of insecurity – but this wasn’t explored.
Another area that wasn’t dwelled upon was a bizarre and remarkably awkward sequence in which we seemed to hear something about sexual abuse. It was so strange I had to rewind and check I’d heard right. When talking about her first, apparently unsavoury modelling shoots she said ‘worse things have happened to me’. Then, when Morgan asked what she meant, she expanded with the gnomic: ‘in a park’. She then began to yelp a little before composing herself and saying ‘just some weirdo in a park’, alluding to sexual abuse with the scantest details, garnering sympathy from the audience for something they probably weren’t even sure they’d heard right. Watching this weird little sequence felt grubby for multiple reasons, none of which I can quite place.
After superficial discussion of her disabled son, reality television and wealth, the conversation was wrapped up. The promise of depth and insight went sadly unfulfilled. But there was no room for disappoinment. If you’d tuned in to a show like this and found anything profound within, you’d have the mental faculties of a child or an infantile pensioner.
So I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting.