Saturday, July 23, 2005

Man, It's Insanity

I missed the first edition of ITV1's new Saturday evening show 'Rock Around the Block' last week, due to having an urgent appointment to watch some paint dry. But I caught up with it tonight, and probably just in the nick of time - it looks like the kind of thing that could be axed at any moment. It's like an embarrassing low-budget cable show that's slept with the right producer and made it onto prime time.

The idea of the programme is to take two neighbouring families, give them 48 hours and an army of stylists and vocal coaches, and expect them to turn out a decent musical performance at the end of it. Which is where the programme falls down. I don't want to ruin the ending, but let's just say they were all rubbish.

The show's voice-over is done by Neil Fox, so ITV have clearly listened to the millions of viewers who say they don't want to see him on their TV screens any more, but have slightly missed the point by continuing to give him work. Neil's disembodied (I wish) voice introduced us to the Swains and the Adams family. Cue much clicking of fingers and jokes about Morticia. They weren't funny to begin with, and they still weren't 45 minutes later.

The Swains were challenged to perform 'Baggy Trousers' by Madness, while the Adams family were handed Ricky Martin's 'Livin La Vida Loca', a difficult song, yes, but Dad Keith was full of confidence due to the fact that his daughters are "naturally musically gifted". He went on to add that "we have a good advantage because the girls are so talented with music". I won't pass any comment on those claims, except to say that I'll be writing to the Broadcasting Standards Commission in the morning.

The challenges set, both families were allocated the odd expert (emphasis on the odd) to assist with their transformation. Top of the bill was stylist to the stars (apparently), Erik Rudy, an American who'd clearly failed the audition for 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy', and was doing his best to make up for it by out-camping Dale Winton on a Saturday night. While he was rummaging around in the Adams' cupboards, white LA rapper, Kaz Gamble was arriving at the Swains'. He'd been hired because... well because the programme-makers seemed to think 'Baggy Trousers' is a rap song. Seriously. You couldn't make it up.

As Kaz himself said, "when the song came out, people probably didn't consider it to be a rap song". True. But... "it sorta is". I'm assuming Madness can sue.

They were joined by choreographer Paulette Minott, who quickly disproved the old adage that anyone can learn to dance, and singing teacher Kim Chandler. Apparently she's coached Westlife, so the woman's used to working with limited talent, but even she had her work cut out here.

Ultimately, two days of hard work and commitment completely failed to pay off, and the families took to the stage for two of the worst showbusiness performances you're ever likely to see. And I speak as someone who watched Jemini on the Eurovision Song Contest. Trust me, it was bad. So bad, in fact, it was almost good. Well ok, that's an exaggeration. But I did have to rewind my video and watch the Swains doing 'Baggy Trousers' for a second time. It was the kind of visually and aurally horrific experience the brain can't quite manage to process the first time around. I'm expecting the delayed shock to set in about this time tomorrow.

But in situations like this, there unfortunately has to be a winner, and tonight's winning family (by virtue of being the marginally less dreadful), were the Adams, who were escorted off stage and handed £5,000 for their efforts. In the words of Kaz Gamble, "Man, it's insanity".

I couldn't agree more.