Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The B-Team

As a certain classic 80's TV show used to say, "If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team". Of course, that was twenty years ago, and times have changed. These days you just pick up the phone and call Ann Widdecombe.

Last night saw the start of 'Ann Widdecombe to the Rescue' on BBC2. It's a bit like 'Troubleshooter' with Sir John Harvey-Jones, but instead of sending in the former chairman of ICI to turn around troubled multi-nationals, we've got a backbench Tory MP telling people not to smoke. Something tells me it doesn't quite have the budget of the former programme.

But on the bright side, Ann does manage to solve three problems per half hour show, which is value for money. Not that she works alone. As the woman herself says, "when I have problems there's a combined effort at solving them - almighty God and me" (no mention of the A-Team at all). So that's Ann Widdecombe and God to the rescue. Which makes a mockery of the programme title.

But ignoring that, we watched as Ann stated her intention to sort out the nation's troubles, before being driven off, complaining about her seatbelt, to the tune of Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. No, I don't know why either. But she soon arrived in Staines, where she met Joy, a mother of three, who was concerned that her husband's love of golf was affecting their marriage and the children. Martin, we were told, went abroad on a golfing weekend five days after Joy gave birth, was absent three weekends out of four, and was threatening to play a couple of rounds on Christmas morning while the kids were opening their presents.

Ann listened patiently to Joy's genuine concerns, before giving her verdict:

"Nag, nag, nag - no wonder he's on the golf course".

Which went down well. As did her pronouncement that "she'll lose him in ten years time if she goes on nag-nag-nagging". Something tells me Ann wasn't quite seeing both sides of that particular problem. But no matter - Martin soon agreed to cut down his golf by one weekend a month, and Anne moved on to Liverpool, where she met Neil, a camp hairdresser, who was worried about his staff ignoring the salon's 'no smoking' signs. Clearly a problem of earth-shattering proportions, and one he could never be expected to tackle alone.

Ann summed up the situation with the words "these staff have turned his salon into an Augean stable". Nice to see King Augeas getting a mention on a primetime reality show. Could be a first. She continued by announcing that "they all need a spell in the army". Which is ironic, considering her party's stance on gays in the military.

Anyway, Ann bustled around the place for an afternoon, apparently doing very little, before announcing that the problem was solved, and having a manicure. She then headed south to Colindale, where she met tattooed mother Ruth (who looked about 25) and her teenage daughter Stephanie, who couldn't seem to get on, and were close to full scale war.

Ann empathised with the situation by stating that "when I was 14, I was a perfectly reasonable teenager", before witnessing Stephanie's outbursts and asking "has she actually seen a doctor?". A couple of rows and some tears later, Miss Widdecombe successfully solved all the pair's problems by... um... well I'm not sure really. She seemed to basically tell them to stop arguing. Does that work? Well, this is reality TV, so I suppose it must do...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

What Rhymes With Minger?

You've got to hand it to Channel 4. I don't know how they do it, but they've managed to unearth some even greater social misfits to add to the Big Brother house. In a surprise twist last night, and just minutes after the eviction of Scouse Italian food-obsessive, Roberto, three new contestants were sent into 'Big Brother's Secret Garden', an understocked green room with a talking stag and no bar. And what a triumvirate of abnormality they were.

First up, we had 20 year old market researcher, Kinga. Which rhymes with minger. I mention that for pronunciation purposes only. The lovely Kinga has two friends (I'm surprised it's that many) and describes herself as a two-faced bitch (one for each friend - handy), whilst her favourite book is Jordan's autobiography. Which I'm not sure counts as a book. Kinga's first words upon entering the house were "Bloody hell, my minge", which suggests she may just have what it takes to fill the void left by Lesley.

Kinga was followed in by Eugene, a 27 year old engineer from Crawley who "throws tellies off cliffs", is "quite good looking" (yep, it's another deluded one) and likes amateur radio and geology field trips. Not surprisingly, Eugene didn't mention having as many as two friends.

Finally we had 26 year old Orlaith (is nobody called Jane or Susan any more?), who confidently declared "I'm one of the top models in Belfast", which is a bit like being one of the most talented members of the Spice Girls, before proudly adding "I was once called Barbie". Yes, but so was Klaus, and he was more of a looker.

The three were sent into the house in fig leaves, not the most flattering of outfits for poor Kinga. Although frankly it didn't do Eugene any favours either. Having set eyes on each other, Kinga told Orlaith "Oh my god, you look gorgeous!", while Orlaith responded by looking her up and down, and desperately searching for a compliment, before eventually going with "Your eyes are amazing".

Big Brother then gave them one minute to collect "enough food to last you through the night", causing Kinga to run out of the diary room with a cry of "My boobs are so heavy!", and start emptying the fridge. She proved herself an enterprising girl however, by handing Eugene a cucumber and telling him to "stick it up my fanny". It's clearly the most efficient way to transport fruit and veg.

Orlaith, meanwhile, was busy going for the essentials. She returned at the end of the minute with the all-important announcement "I managed some wipes for our make-up". Yep, that should keep them going for a few days.

So there we have it. Having viewed this trio of oddballs for little more than twenty minutes, I'd already like to nominate Kinga for Queen, and if anyone so much as thinks of evicting her, they'll have me to answer to. The woman's solid gold, and with Lesley gone, and Paul Danan temporarily off our screens, we can't afford to lose her.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Bone Idle

The good thing about political correctness and the rightful equality of women, is that it's made it perfectly acceptable to laugh at how useless men are. So with that in mind, ITV Day have come up with 'Mum's on Strike', a new reality show which gives us all the opportunity to do just that, five times a week.

The programme poses the question, "What happens when two hard-working Mums down tools for three days and go on strike, leaving their homes and children in the hands of their husbands?"

What happens? Well, hilarity ensues, obviously.

In today's show, bus driver Tom Goddard, who likes to play Playstation for three hours a day and thinks the bed linen gets changed about once a month, was abandoned for three days by wife Michelle, who headed off to a luxury spa for the duration. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Darren Lupton was suffering a similar fate at the hands of partner Claire.

Rory McGrath informed us via the voice-over that "Darren works night shifts as a fork-lift truck driver. He's bone idle". Yes, Darren works long nights to earn enough money to support his two children and ensure that his wife doesn't have to go out to work, but for the purposes of this programme, he's bone idle. We're here to laugh at men, let's not forget that.

And oh how we laughed as Tom and Darren attempted to get the kids to nursery on time, do the cooking, the washing and the ironing, go shopping for clothes, and get the children's hair cut, all under the watchful eye of 'Parenting Advisor' Anna Raeburn, while the wives chuckled their way through the footage, commenting on just how badly their hubbies were doing.

The three days over, Michelle and Claire returned to their respective homes and gave a verdict on Tom and Darren's performance. Michelle went with "the stairs could do with a brush down", while Claire spotted an ornament on the TV, declared "That shouldn't be there!", and promptly moved it six inches to the right.

Yes, the men were indeed laughably useless. Unlike Michelle and Claire, who naturally would have coped just fine driving a bus and a fork-lift truck for three days in the companion programme 'Dad's On Strike'.

Or maybe not. But fortunately for them, ITV wouldn't dream of making such a show.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Geordie Slapper

The reality TV gold which was 'Celebrity Love Island' finally came to an end last night after five long weeks of b-list celebs acting like 15 year olds in the south pacific. And sure enough, ITV1's continuity announcer set the tone for the evening by promising viewers the chance to "choose which couple will come first in the live climax". Is it just me, or is there a double meaning there?

Not that all those involved have been acting like teenagers for the past month. After struggling with the autocue for 36 shows now, Kelly Brook's reading age still hasn't progressed much beyond that of an 11 year old. And having seen a relaxed and articulate Dakota Fanning on GMTV yesterday morning, Kelly's even got comptetition in that age group.

But after shamefully voting out national treasure Paul Danan at the end of last week, the British public were left with four loved-up celebrities for last night's live final: Fran Cosgrave ("a diamond geezer"), Lee Sharpe ("a top bloke") Liz McClarnon ("everything you could ever want in a girl"), and Jayne Middlemiss ("the Geordie slapper"). From those four we were expected to choose "Love Island's Golden Couple". Though how you choose a golden couple from such a shower, I've no idea. Although if we're talking golden showers, I wouldn't put anything past Paul Danan.

Anyhoo, the climax to the five weeks of loving was emotional for all concerned. Jayne, the island's resident bunny boiler who was becoming scarier by the day, and clearly needs an urgent psychological assessment in the same way that Abi Titmuss needs a dietician, declared it to be "the best thing I've ever done", before deciding to give her measured response to comments made in the press by Lord Coe.

Lord Coe (Sebastian to his friends) had publicly stated that the show's participants were "the wrong kind of role model" for today's youth. Jayne was clearly keen to prove his lordship wrong, and sought to dispel this myth on national television with the words "Don't f*cking judge me when you haven't f*cking walked in my shoes, you stupid f*cking Tory, f*ck off", before sticking two fingers up at the camera. Which just about puts paid to any accusuations of her setting a bad example. She clearly speaks to the children in a language they can understand.

And what's more, it appears to be a vote-winner. When the results were announced, it was Jayne and Fran who emerged victorious and pocketed the hundred grand prize. Fran was philosophical, stating that "I've had an experience that I'm going to bore everyone to death with for the rest of my life". What does he mean 'going to'??? Jayne meanwhile responded with a cry of "Fiji Massive!". She must've spotted Abi on the horizon.

The Golden Couple crowned, all that was left was for Paul Danan to rush in off camera, tread on Jayne's foot, and leave her bleeding through the final interview. You just can't keep that man down.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


It's always good to see the arrival of a new prime time docu-soap on the BBC. Without them, reality shows with the word 'celebrity' in the title wouldn't have any contestants, and the charts would be devoid of novelty records. So hot on the heels of Maureen from 'Driving School', Ray the Clamper, and Jane McDonald of 'The Cruise', BBC1 last night attempted to launch a new star on an unsuspecting public, namely one Karen Carr, marketing manager of the MetroCentre in Gateshead, and a woman who's no stranger to fake tan.

The show, which charts the day-to-day activities inside Europe's largest shopping complex, is wittily entitled 'Trouble in Store' (though personally I'd have called it 'MetroSexual'), and over the next eight weeks will follow dull-as-ditchwater, sorry I mean larger-than-life, characters such as Karen, as they go about their daily lives.

We watched as Karen, who will no doubt be launching a purely coincidental singing career within the next couple of weeks, met celebrity fashion witches Trinny & Susannah, who kindly told her that her jeans were "hideous", and looked like they'd come from a market stall. Karen protested that "they're Mango", receiving the curt response, "I don't care". So that went well. But on the plus side, she did agree to cut down on the fake tan, so she might look a bit less like a Caramac Easter Egg in show two.

The supporting cast included Bill Pointer, the MetroCentre's resident traffic warden, and a man who clearly enjoys his work. He was attempting to beat his record of 61 tickets in one day, commenting that "if all else fails, we'll take the handbrakes off and push them onto double yellow lines". With an endearing attitude like that, it's not surprising Bill has his own security guard. Though as he says himself, "They call me Billy the Bastard, and it's not true". So obviously Bill's not his real name.

Then there was Graham, head of the Metro's undercover squad of store detectives, and a man "known as The Duck". Presumably because he has webbed toes and waddles when he walks. I didn't have a problem with Graham per se, but after you've heard the voice-over refer to him as The Duck about ten times in five minutes without a word of explanation, you do begin to feel like throwing a brick at the telly.

Finally (with the exception of a couple of DJs, who were just too darn annoying for me to even mention), we had Chris Clarke, the centre's security advisor, who stated "It's not a 9-5 job, it's a 24 hour, 365 day a year job". Blimey, the man must be knackered. He should learn to delegate.

All in all though, the most important thing I learnt was that if you line a carrier bag with foil, you can place as many clothes into it as you wish, and the security tags won't set off the alarm when you leave the store. That tip comes courtesy of PC Gary of the Northumbria police force. Thank him for me, will you - I'm off down the shops.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Camp Cupcake

Last night at 10pm the result of the Michael Jackson trial was announced in Santa Maria to a pensive audience of social misfits, the mentally subnormal, and people with doves. The timing of the decision was spooky, as it immediately followed the broadcast of 'Martha & Me' on BBC2, a documentary about another American multi-millionaire jailbird with freaky fans: Martha Stewart.

Martha (think Delia Smith without the drunken outbursts on football pitches) was investigated last year for insider share dealing, and accused of lying to the FBI, but unlike Michael, who was clearly not guilty all along, and has been sleeping naked with young boys for twenty years in a purely innocent way, Martha was found guilty and sent daaaaan for five months. At which point film-maker Jamie Campbell, who'd previously been seen on Channel 4 posing as the novelist Alex Garland, and trying to rig the BARB viewing figures, arrived to cover the story.

Martha was sentenced to a stretch at 'Camp Cupcake', which sounds like Barbara Windsor's pet name for Dale Winton, but is actually a prison in Alderson, West Virginia, a small town of taxidermists, trailer trash, and rabbits on strings. Jamie Campbell fit right in, setting himself up in a trailer park a stone's throw from the prison, and decorating his static home the Martha Stewart way (all cock clocks and hors d'oeuvres), whilst seeking out some of the woman's more dedicated admirers.

Admirers such as Linda Smith, the proud owner of a 'Save Martha' hat, who had recently been to New York to protest. Protest about the way the police insist on arresting criminals, I presume. It's outrageous. She hadn't actually met her heroine, "other than when I was outside the court house and she waved", but when asked if she felt there could be something 'almost spiritual' about the woman, Linda replied "Yes". It sounds unlikely to me. Anyone who watched 'Judging Michael Jackson' on the same channel last week will know that he, not Martha Stewart, is the true creator of mankind. Something I'm sure Martha would be the first to admit. When previously asked on national TV about the possibility of her receiving a custodial sentence, the endlessly humble Martha had replied "There are many other people who have gone to prison. Look at Nelson Mandela".

So it's official - Michael Jackson may be God, but Martha Stewart is the new Nelson Mandela.

Although it's an analogy lost on some of Martha's fans. A fellow resident of the Alderson trailer park was unimpressed with Nelson's contribution to the twentieth century, feeling that despite her law-breaking, Martha had done more to create jobs. Though on that basis, the Mafia should be getting a government grant. But the bottom line, as Jamie Campbell pointed out, was that "Mandela didn't make household products". The man agreed, adding "No, I really don't know what Mandela did, to be honest with you".

Me neither. But I do know more about Martha Stewart now. Apparently she saw a gap in the market thirty years ago, when she realised that "people don't even know how carrots grow... they don't know how a fig grows", and set about rectifying the problem. Personally I don't give a fig about carrots, but enough people did. They bought her videos, her magazines and her best-selling books about throwing cocktail parties for three hundred, making Martha a billionaire in the process. Let's face it, this was a woman well prepared to do a bit of porridge. Which, judging from the clip of her old TV show, she'd have served in the garden on an old wooden cart.

She was also a good woman, stating that "dishonesty bothers me a lot", as does "a distinct lack of morals", though she clearly doesn't have a problem with hypocrisy. One of her oldest friends, meanwhile, was happy to go on camera to describe Martha as "greedy, prideful, righteous, indignant, snobby, unkind, mean..." Oh, and "tremendously talented". Before going on to call her "a worthless piece of shit". Which is the kind of glowing recommendation I get from all my friends.

Martha's fan club, however, were slightly less subjective, stating categorically that "if she'd been a man, there's no way she'd be in jail now". Yeah, and if Michael Jackson had been black, he'd have been found guilty too. But them's the breaks.

Ex head teacher, and self-confessed Martha fan, Michael Wright added "I am in no way comparing Martha to the Queen of England" - oh go on, she's already the new Nelson Mandela - "but it's that feeling you get when you know the Queen or a member of the royal family's coming down the road". I'm not sure what road he lives on. Probably The Mall.

But in the words of a female protester outside the court house, who happened to mention, in passing, that her banner ('Seattle Supports Martha Stewart') was made from a Martha Stewart sheet with a 240 thread count, in periwinkle gingham with a delicate white flower (not that her fans are odd at all), "She's the American dream come true".

Yep, she made a fortune, went loopy, and ended up in prison. You can't get more American than that.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Is My Minge Showing?

Honestly, sometimes the British public just can't be trusted. Two years ago it was the legend that is Jon Tickle; this time around they've gone and evicted the second biggest breasts in Huddersfield.

Do people have no idea how this thing works?? You don't vote for the person you hate - you vote for the least entertaining. Good god, if we evicted everyone we hated, the house would be empty in week one. No, what we need is objectionable slappers. And anyone who enters the Big Brother house in a PVC nurse's uniform, spends two weeks slagging everyone off to their faces, and then leaves as 'Sergeant Sexy' complete with truncheon and handcuffs, is not someone we should be discarding.

Lesley will be much missed. And not just because she had the kind of accent you could take the piss out of for hours. I particularly enjoyed her telling Saskia that she could picture her with "really sticky-out ears". I'm still not quite sure what the point of that was, but it pissed off Saskia, and that's the main thing.

On the bright side, Lesley was "really happy" to be evicted (aren't they all), and her biggest fear was that "they're gonna throw mushrooms at me". With that kind of attitude, no wonder they're so short of food in that house. But I'm sorry, any BB contestant who leaves the house with the words "Is my minge showing?", is clearly someone we can't afford to lose. The woman was solid gold, and we're a poorer nation without her.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Inner Nikki

There's no doubt that the brightest star in the reality TV firmament over the past few weeks has been Paul Danan on 'Celebrity Love Island'. Unfortunately it's been verging on the impossible to write anything about him. After all, how do you take the piss out of someone who spends twenty-four hours a day doing it for himself? The man's beyond parody.

So far we've seen him break-dancing with a stupid haircut, falling in love with Lady Isabella Hervey, asking her to share his bed, trying to kiss her, and telling the world that she's his ideal woman and they're made for each other. Of course, that was before the arrival of Nikki Ziering, an American glamour model who's about as big a film star as Paul is. According to the official Love Island website, she's also a regular on the US version of 'The Price is Right'. The price in Nikki's case being 'cheap'.

Paul immediately declared that he'd never been interested in Isabella, had only ever wanted to be friends, and had no idea where she'd got the idea that he'd been coming on to her. He then declared it a miracle that Nikki had walked into his life, described her as "definite marriage material", and announced that he was in love. All within half an hour of meeting her.

After which he sat by the pool and stated that all Jewish people are tight. But I think he meant something else by that.

Add to this the fact that he turns into a psychopath after one drink, and had to be escorted off the island for 24 hours by security guards after telling half of his fellow castaways to f*ck off, and threatening celebrity minder Fran Cosgrave with physical violence, and you realise just what a national treasure this man is. I'd give him his own show immediately.

But the programme hit a real high last night, with the return of Nikki Ziering from the Love Shack. Reunited again, Paul stated that "love is definitely there" (in his imagination, that is), before announcing that "I'd like to know the inner Nikki". If it was the outer Nikki, he could just buy a copy of Playboy, but no, Paul wanted to go deeper. And it seems he may have got his way...

The point at which true love blossomed would appear to be the moment Paul and Nikki discovered that they share a mutual friend. Nikki happened to mention a conversation she'd had in L.A. with Fabrice Morvan of pop fraudsters Milli Vanilli, prompting an excited Paul to respond with "Fab??! He's my best friend!!!". Personally I find it hard to believe that Paul has any friends, let alone that they include former members of Milli Vanilli, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he sang on their records.

It was obviously enough for Nikki anyway. Now convinced that not only is Paul a major movie star, but he also hangs out with failed pop groups, she happily jumped into bed for a quick fumble, before leading him off for a private session in the boys' bathroom.

Two minutes and fifty-eight seconds later (he doesn't hang around), Paul emerged looking drained from his performance, and immediately thanked the British public for their support. No, thank you, Paul. You've made us all feel better about our lack of sexual stamina.

Of course, we don't know exactly what went on in that bathroom, but in the words of Paul, "She was very kind to me". Yesssss..? And..? "I'm not telling what happened but she was really kind to go so far. I'm still in shock".

So I think she must have let him borrow her mouthwash.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Duck Butter

Switching channels at the end of 'Fat Families' on Tuesday night brought me to 'Judging Michael Jackson' on BBC2, an hour-long precis of the king of pop's recent court case, as seen through the eyes of those on the fringes of the trial. And, for the most part, on the fringes of society. It was one in the eye for those who think there's no one madder than Jacko in Santa Maria at the moment.

First up we had Diane Hansen, who arrived at the courthouse at 4am on day one, declaring "I'm here to support this victim of child abuse". Funnily enough, she didn't mean Michael Jackson, she meant Gavin Arvizo, but hey, it's so easy to get those two mixed up. Never one to acknowledge a double standard, Diane was there primarily to raise awareness. Awareness of her new book, that is, snappily entitled 'Those Are My Private Parts'. Which sounds like home-produced porn, but isn't. Diane read aloud from her book, a work of some genius, which contained such moving poetry as this:

Anyone that I love and trust,
Listen to me it is a must,
You will never ever touch or play,
With my private parts in any way.

Reading it reduced her to tears. Hearing it had a similar effect on me.

Having spread her emotional message in a dignified, understated fashion, Diane then went back to shouting "Those are my private parts!" through a megaphone, and we moved on to Liddy, a mother of three from the UK.

Liddy was very definitely in the Michael Jackson camp, stating "I couldn't be at home looking after my kids, going through day to day life with them, knowing that this important thing was happening and I wasn't there to see it". No, of course not, that would be ridiculous. Though at a push you could've brought the kids and asked Michael to look after them.

She continued, "all of my morals, everything, was built around Michael. To love people, to be kind, charitable, to heal the world". No, that's Jesus you're thinking of. Michael Jackson was more about selling records. Although he does have a lot in common with certain Catholic priests.

The opposing view was presented by Ralph, a tree surgeon from Santa Maria, who turned up at the courthouse with a banner which read "Neverland A Sex Trap for Children", an act which had led to him receiving death threats. I'm not surprised - his punctuation was criminal. At the very least he needs a colon after 'Neverland'. But Ralph summed up Jackson's situation with these insightful words: "If he acts like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, he's a duck". Well he certainly looks like a duck. Although I'm not sure you can convict someone for that, even in America.

Back home in Dagenham, Essex, Liddy was busy acknowledging the religious angle, asking "Why is it weird to follow him, and not weird to follow a religion?" before declaring "I'm lucky, because people don't get to meet Jesus". True - he's been dead for two thousand years. Although on the plus side, he wasn't a paedophile.

But it hasn't been easy for Liddy, who painted an eloquent, and moving, picture of her deprived childhood. I believe her exact words were "we were shit poor and had fuck all". Which of course led her to Michael Jackson. Whose albums only cost a tenner or so.

Liddy admitted that "Michael has the freakiest fans in the world", and that "the poor guy has to meet them as well", before going on to state "I'm not a weirdo", and starting to arrange her next trip to Neverland.

Meanwhile, back in Santa Maria, tree surgeon Ralph was becoming concerned for Michael's wellbeing. He said "I don't think he can make it through this trial. He ain't got the cojones - Spanish for testicles". Well not his own, no. But with a bit of alcohol and a porn mag, he could probably get his hands on somebody else's.

Over at the courthouse, however, Diane was arriving for another day's campaigning, this time armed with a plastic duck on a pole. And why? Because "Michael Jackson allegedly calls sperm 'duck butter'". Which explains everything. The crowd, to their credit, responded as one, with a cry of "Shut your lesbian cake hole". Which seemed a bit harsh - she's married to a plumber called Rob, y'know. Though she does look good in dungarees.

But guilty or innocent, there's no denying that Michael Jackson has worldwide support. Most notably in the form of Dieter, a young European who's recently risen to fame in California. Apparently "Dieter is famous amongst the fans for shouting 'Belgium loves you, Michael'". Blimey, you don't have to do much to become famous these days, do you. Someone should've told Ellen MacArthur. She could've stayed at home all these years.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Let Them Eat Cake

You know a show's going to be good when the very first words spoken on the opening voice-over are "man boobs". And so began 'Fat Families' on ITV1 last night. It's like 'Celebrity Fit Club' for marginally less famous people.

As the introduction explained, "we've found three very fat families" (where, down the cake shop?) and set them against each other in a competition to see who can lose the most weight. The winners will receive an all-expenses-paid safari holiday in Kenya. Presumably for a chance to meet like-minded hippos.

The voice-over went on to inform us that the families would have to "go to hell and back for six gruelling months" to lose the weight. So just eating a bit less and exercising more isn't good enough these days? You have to visit hell now. Maybe Satan's holding a slimming class.

Fortunately each family have been assigned a personal trainer, or as the melodramatic voice-over artist liked to refer to them, "lard busters", "fat fighters" and "diet dictators". The first buster of lard was Julie Dawn Cole, in charge of the Dale family from Maidstone, who need to lose 17 stone between them. Having met the family, Julie stated "I was surprised at their poor level of fitness". Has she not seen the programme title? The show's called 'Fat Families'. Just how athletic did she expect them to be? In the Dales' defence though, they've already lost a few pounds. Two thousand, to be exact. Which is what they've spent on exercise equipment they've never used.

Next up were the Brinkleys of Doncaster (who sound like a department store). Mother Mandy is apparently "looking at a future devastated by osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes and breast cancer", although personally I think she's just big-boned. Their trainer, John Shehan, was standing for no nonsense, stating "If the family don't pull their weight, I'll wire their jaws shut". Which is all very well, but can anyone really pull that much weight? Apart from Geoff Capes. Who could probably do with losing a few pounds himself.

Finally we had the Donnellys of Shrewsbury, and their little helper, Adrian Burton. Mum Rhiannon stated that she gets out of breath pushing a hoover for five minutes, so it was obviously a toss-up between this and 'How Clean is Your House'.

Having met their lard-busting, fat-fighting, diet-dictating Jiminy Crickets, each family had to place onto a table the amount of food they buy in one week. Intriguingly, the Donnellys' table contained a large box of Ariel automatic. It's no wonder they're overweight - everyone knows Persil is lower in calories. But hey, at least their teeth are white.

We also had to endure the sight of each family lining up against a height chart in their swimming costumes. It was like a photo shoot for 'The Usual Suspects' swimwear calendar. I'm not sure it'll be a big seller, but I am sure the familes will do well. Although programmes like this always make me hungry, so personally I watched it with the remote control in one hand and a sandwich in the other.

Update, 9th June 2005: 'Fat Families' has been axed by ITV after only one episode, which apparently attracted a disappointing 2.1 million viewers, representing just 10% of the peaktime audience. The other 90% were probably down the shops buying Turkey Twizzlers.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Brazilian in Hollywood

I've just been watching an LK Today special on bikini waxing. It was very informative. I've learnt that you should take a paracetamol fifteen minutes before your appointment, wait to be asked before taking your pants off (that's true in so many areas of life), and most importantly of all, "don't have it done mid-cycle because your pain threshold is lower".

Now, putting aside the fact that any beauty treatment which requires you to take painkillers before you start doesn't sound like my cup of tea, why would I even want to have it done mid-cycle? Lycra shorts are hard to get off at the best of times, and my helmet would get in the way.

And besides, beauty's only skin deep. Although I am quite thick-skinned.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Chav TV

Hot on the heels of the sadly short-lived 'People's Court', ITV1 have changed tack slightly and decided to fill the slot vacated by Trisha with another show featuring likely veterans of the British legal system (ie. people with ASBOs): the all-new 'The Springer Show'. Which is nothing to do with spaniels, and everything to do with people in baseball caps who like two-word rebukes ending in 'off'. You've never seen a better argument for culling half the population.

Today's first edition was entitled "Am I the Dad?", thus missing out on the obvious "Who's the Daddy?" line, and according to former mayor, future president, and star of west end operas, Jerry Springer, featured "three men who are desperate to know if they're fathers to their excess children".

I was quite shocked by the term "excess children". Until I realised Jerry had said "ex's children". That's the American accent for you. But hey, the man was still easier to understand than his guests, most of whom had turned up demanding DNA tests. Presumably to find out if they're human.

First up was 18 year old Daniel, whose girlfriend Jessica had got herself pregnant by another man a month after taking up with with our Danny boy, who was now doubtful about the parentage of her second child. Jessica was naturally outraged at the suggestion that she might have been unfaithful (as if she'd ever do such a thing... again), but was up against Danny's Mum Lindsey, who could put a foghorn out of business, and was scarier than a charging rhino. And about as pretty.

She told Jessica (at a high decibel level), "I pity the poor mucker [I think she said mucker] who ends up marrying you", proving that not only does she look like Mr T, she talks like him too.

Jessica retaliated by informing her ex mother-in-law that the baby girl is "the spitting image of you". If that's true, I'd have her adopted. Or put in a circus.

But Lindsey wasn't the only looker on the show. When responsible father Danny was asked how he'd react to the news that the baby was his, he replied "I don't think I'd have anything to do with her". And why..? "Because the sight of Jessica physically repulses me". Presumably he wore a blindfold during sex.

But it was all resolved with a simple DNA test, a few upturned chairs, and a lot of excited cries of "'ave it", which I think is chav-speak for "you see, I was right all along".

Next up was Kerry. She'd split up with Matty after she'd caught him in bed with another woman a week after their baby was born. Or, if you believe Matty's mother's version of events, because "Kerry turned evil". Either way, the past was all forgotten with another DNA test which quickly proved Matty to be the father of Kerry's two children. A result which left them both in tears. Possibly for different reasons.

Finally we had Kelly and Terry (is there anyone whose name doesn't end in 'y' these days?) a young couple who'd "had a one night stand at a family barbecue". Haven't we all. They'd "met in the street" earlier that day, and were soon shagging behind the beefburgers in front of Auntie Pauline. Kelly was soon pregnant, and probably wondering if that was really mayonnaise on her dress.

Unfortunately, the entire family were all far too reasonable, and refused to so much as pull each other's hair or chuck a chair around. They just wouldn't enter into the spirit of the thing. Frankly I don't think they'd seen the show before. But eventually the results arrived, and Terry turned out not to be the baby's father. Which makes you wonder what Kerry had meant when she said she was off to get another sausage...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Ditch the Witch

So Mary's gone from the Big Brother house. A little unfair, seeing as she received just the one nomination (from Saskia, who'd previously begged her to stay), but at the very least it goes to show how sceptical the British public are about witchcraft. After all, given the choice between a scary psychic with the power to cast evil spells, or a hairdresser whose idea of wreaking a terrible revenge would be to give you blonde highlights, whose wrath would you rather incur?

Needless to say I voted for Craig.

But you have to admit the timing of Mary's eviction is quite spooky - the new series of 'Housebusters' started on Five tonight, and if Mary can't find a job there, amongst some of the biggest new age cranks on the planet (and Janet Ellis), then she's not half the mermaid I think she is.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Booze Monster

There's nothing I like more than a cheap reality show which classes itself as a 'social experiment'. It's like advertising a culinary masterclass, then presenting us with 'Ready, Steady, Cook'. So I particularly enjoyed the start of ITV1's 'Ladette to Lady' tonight, which began by describing itself as "The most ambitious social experiment since 'My Fair Lady'".

Er... has anyone told them that's a work of fiction? Mind you, most reality TV is pretty fictional at the best of times, so maybe it doesn't matter. The social experimenters behind this particular masterpiece, however, went even further, defining the current culture of 'ladettes', before announcing that "we've come up with a radical solution to this new phenomenon".

Ah yes, there's nothing like a low budget reality show to single-handedly cure all of society's ills. And just how does this programme plan to do it? By sending ten girls to a mock finishing school. Yup, that should change the face of Britain.

ITV1 have reopened Eggleston Hall in Teesdale for five weeks, during which time they'll teach flower-arranging to the ten volunteers and turn them into ladies. The girls themselves include such little women as Claire, a hairdresser whose mother describes her as "a booze monster", while her more open-minded father says "I think she's a drunken bum". Not that either of them are accepting any responsibility for the state of their daughter, obviously.

Then there's Hayley, who on hearing the word 'deportment', thought it meant she'd be shipped abroad, and Jessica who declared "I don't always want to come across as a little f*cker". Her and me both.

They were pitted against a triumvirate of ladylike poshness, in the form of headmistress Jean, cookery teacher Rosemary (who doesn't have much thyme), and the formidable Mrs English who called one girl "blobby", and told another "you haven't got the boobs for it".

But after a few days of intensive training, and one burping contest, the girls were off to a cocktail party choc-full of eligible bachelors, where they blended in seamlessly. As a public school educated young gentleman smiled and complimented Jessica on her accessories, saying "the gold sets off your hair", the young debutante giggled coyly, before replying with "I think it makes my tits look good".

I think there may be some way to go there.

But the bachelors were generous with their appraisal, describing the girls as "absolutely lovely", "charming" and "very sweet", whilst in the other camp the evening was summed up with the words "I'm pissed as a flaming fart". Two different sides of the same coin there.

The week over, each ladette was given a grilling, before two were chosen to be expelled. The effect on the girls was profound. Gas fitter Michelle stated "I need a shit", while Geordie Sarah-Jane told us "I really could've spewed".

Give her another drink and she probably will.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Carry On Camping

'Holiday Showdown' was back for a new series tonight, and much like the participants of 'Wife Swap', who always seem surprised when the programme-makers pair them up with a couple whose values they don't entirely share, ITV1 have successfully managed to find another batch of families blindly willing to describe their idea of holiday hell to the camera, only to then look shocked when they get it. But it's a tribute to the arrogance of the average Briton that the producers are still able to find enough people who fully expect to be able to convert a bunch of polar opposites to their way of thinking over the course of a three day camping trip in north Wales.

Tonight's show featured the Cox family from Gloucestershire, near neighbours of Prince Charles, and dedicated lovers of luxury. Dad Dennis is an expert on Renaissance art, Mum Isabel makes Camilla Parker-Bowles look common, and the kids are public school educated. Their idea of a nightmare holiday would be roughing it under canvas, and being deprived of a wine cooler.

So who on earth might they be matched up with on 'Holiday Showdown'..? Hmmm... it's a tough one...

Well blow me down and quelle surprise, it's the Townsends from Solihull, who like to share a toothbrush, don't wash, and think 'Carry on Camping' looks a bit decadent.

I didn't see that one coming.

The Townsend family are lovers of Shell Island, presumably because they spend their lives in the suits of the same name, so it was first stop north Wales, and the biggest campsite in Europe. Under these circumstances, it's important to make a good first impression, and both sides clearly did so, with Tracy Townsend confidently declaring "I think Dennis is up for a laugh". Dennis's response of "Bollocks" suggested that perhaps he disagreed, while his wife summed up their companions with a magnanimous "They shit in the trees".

I think she's getting the Townsends confused with monkeys there.

On second thoughts, maybe she has a point.

But the families were soon getting on famously, with the Townsends explaining that they limit themselves to one toilet roll per week (between the four of them), and use the communal toothbrush to clean the canines of their dog, Kaiser. So called because he has a spike on his helmet (probably). They set about frying a bit of bacon anyway, leading Tracy to ask Dennis if he'd ever cooked outside before. She was naturally surprised to find they had more in common than she'd thought, when he replied "Yes, in Maine I cooked lobster".

But all good things must come to an end, and sure enough the families soon left Wales for the delights of Florence (the city, not the Magic Roundabout character). Dennis attempted to give a lecture on the city's cultural highlights to the sound of Tracy blowing her nose in the background, and the group toured Florence's art galleries and museums, stopping only for Craig to squeeze his wife's blackheads and comment on the amount of pus he'd removed.

The culture clearly had a profound effect on the Townsends. Having studied Michelangelo's 'David' first hand, Tracy paused for reflection, before announcing to the group "When you've seen one willy, you've seen 'em all". And as if to prove it, Craig then lowered his trousers. All of which is enough to give anyone a healthy appetite, so it was off to one of Florence's top restaurants, where Tracy declared "we don't eat fish", and promptly called out for a pizza.

All in all it was the kind of holiday you go on holiday to get over. And what have the two families learnt from the experience? Well I'm not entirely sure - they were too busy swearing at each other and storming off at the end to find out.

But I'm sure they'll keep in touch.