Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Man Called Gust

In the spring of this year, Channel 4 launched 'Playing It Straight', a late night reality show which challenged a half-wit called Zoe to select a straight man from a line-up of twelve blokes. Whereupon she spent six weeks getting to know them... and then chose Mr Gay UK 1998. Which amused me anyway.

So I was particularly pleased to discover that now the school holidays are here, Channel 4 have turned down the chance to show mid-morning repeats of The Hoobs, and have instead elected to broadcast the original US version of 'Playing It Straight' at 10am on a daily basis.

The show was a major hit in the States. So much so that Fox TV axed it after three episodes. Which must have been mildly irritating for people like me who make a good living from betting on the outcome of such shows with their loved ones. My girlfriend's been living in poverty since the UK version of 'Playing It Straight'. But America's loss is our gain, and assuming Channel 4 manage to keep the show going until the end of next week, we should be able to successfully sort the Dale Wintons from the Laurence Llewellyn Bowens.

In today's first edition, hosted by Daphne Brogdon (who scores over the UK version by virtue of not being June Sarpong), we were introduced to college student Jackie, who describes herself as "a fun girl, down to earth..." and "probably a gullible person", which explains why she was chosen for the show. Jackie in turn was introduced to fourteen guys, and told that half of them are gay. A revelation she took well by immediately bursting into tears and saying "I can't do this".

But fortunately, having heard about the million dollar prize on offer (which makes Channel 4's hundred grand look cheap), Jackie soon perked up, and set about trying to root out the gay guys by talking about hairdryers.

My personal favourite had to be real estate agent, Gust, who in addition to having a ridiculous name, cheerfully informed us that "I've thought of doing hair as a career", without once wondering if it might count against him. As he himself admitted, "I'm kinda wishy-washy..." before thinking about what he'd just said, and quickly adding "but I'm not gay".

Gust wasn't the only one willing to offer helpful advice to any would-be sexuality diviners. Love rival Lee commented that "some people may very well construe baking a cheesecake as being gay". So it's official - my mother's gay. While Banks, a software consultant who was rivalling Gust for the title of 'Most Stupid Name', was keen to stake his claim to heterosexuality by stating early on "I enjoy decorating, I enjoy plants".

Others were less forthcoming: "I don't think there's anything about me that would make someone think I'm gay", said Luciano, posing in his skin tight vest.

Among the more lovable contestants was Ryan, a waiter, who stated "there's a fine line between confident and arrogant. I just tend to walk it better than most people". So he's not arrogant, he's just better than everyone else.

Ultimately though, in the supercharged atmosphere of a midwestern barn, Jackie had to send two of these eligible bachelors home, and with the kind of keen insight demonstrated by our very own Zoe, she confidently homed in on the homosexuals, and picked Louis and, horror of horrors, Gust.

Both of whom turned out to be straight.

Personally I was devastated at the loss of my favourite, but like a breath of fresh air, the wind of change swept into that stable, and Gust was blown away. It's no wonder the show got cancelled.