Wednesday, August 31, 2005

All For Fun

'Hi-de-Hi' was one of the most successful sit-coms of the 1980s, and repeats of the show continue to attract decent audiences whenever shown. Which must be quite annoying for Channel 4, who don't even own the rights to 'Carry On Camping'. So what do you do if you're short of your own laugh-a-minute holiday camp comedy? Well, you create a new reality show of course, populate it with lookalikes of the Hi-de-Hi cast, and call it 'Wakey Wakey Campers'. If it were any more plagiarising, the BBC could sue.

But until they do, we're being treated to four weeks of fun in the sun at 'The Sunshine Camp', a supposedly authentic 1960s holiday camp, complete with Moroccan themed bar, classical ballroom and outdoor swimming pool. As one of the fifty modern holidaymakers sent there for a fortnight said, "Fiji is one of the most beautiful places on earth". Unfortunately the Sunshine Camp's on the Isle of Wight. And the swimming pool's not heated.

But on the plus side, the happy campers get to experience life in the 1960s, when holidays were, according to the Channel 4 website, about "all-join-in-jolliness". Which translates as donkey derbies, glamorous granny contests, and lessons on wearing a knotted hanky, all under the watchful eye of a Ted Bovis impersonator, a would-be Gladys Pugh, and a man who'd give Clive Dempster a run for his money. We've all seen fiction which is based on real life. Well this is reality based on fiction. We're only a dippy chalet maid away from a stolen format.

For their part, the campers started their holiday in reasonably good spirits, with 92-year-old Elizabeth stating "I'm happy and I'm in good health. Nothing to complain about". Of course, that was before she arrived at the Sunshine Camp. Twenty four hours and a couple of sack races later, and the smile was beginning to fade.

Nevertheless, the group were cheerfully welcomed by the Pink Coats (who sound like a gay cabaret act), and treated to a speech by the general manager, Major Vernon Rees (there's a showbiz name if ever I heard one), who had clearly mis-read the word 'Sunshine' as 'Concentration', and chose to spend half an hour laying down the (many) rules of the camp, and promising to run a tight ship. I expected him to continue by outlining his policy on escape attempts, but instead he introduced us to the official camp greeting: "Fun For All, All For Fun", a catchphrase which was instantly paraphrased by one camper as "All For Fun, All Fuck Off". The holidaymaker in question clearly hadn't read the rule on foul language.

Having been well and truly welcomed (with an iron fist), Ted Bovis lookalike, Buster, led the campers in a sing-a-long rendition of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star', before packing the kids off to bed in broad daylight, and allowing the adults to act as adults... by playing a game which involved passing a balloon down the line between your knees. Most ended up drinking heavily, presumably to dull the pain, before staggering back to their chalets with alcohol poisoning.

There were some minor disturbances after lights-out, but the Major dealt with them efficiently, responding to the personal abuse by stating "I have no idea what a twat is". To be honest, I wasn't surprised. He didn't look like the kind of man who gets out much. He did brazenly call someone a c*** at one point, but to be honest the missing letters there were 'lod', so it wasn't that offensive.

Next morning the campers arose early to attend an early morning keep-fit class run by Kerry (think Sylvia from Hi-de-Hi). This basically involved flailing your arms about whilst repeating the mantra "I must, I must, I must improve my bust", and from the look of Kerry, she's done a fair few self-improvement classes in her time. From there it was on to the Sunshine Camp Olympics, featuring a one-legged sack race, a three-legged race for couples, and a mini assault course. Which is more exciting than you might think when you've got a 92-year-old taking part. One shout of "Fun For All", and I thought she was going to peg out.

Of course, 92 year old Elizabeth didn't win - that would be asking too much. No, the Sunshine Camp Olympics were eventually won by Janet. Who's 87.

Ultimately though, the mood in the camp was a little low, with most of the guests finding it difficult to adjust to the regimented form of the 1960s holiday. But hey, they haven't experienced the full range of entertainment yet. During the course of the programme we heard from the likes of Stan Boardman, Mike Reid and Jimmy Tarbuck, all of whom had been holiday camp entertainers in the 1960s. So let's just say the worst is yet to come.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

In the Doghouse

It never ceases to amaze me the number of reality TV shows which sound like Chris Morris spoofs, but actually turn out to be genuine. ITV have already announced the impending arrival of 'Celebrity Shark Bait', where they plan to dangle caged B-list celebs into shark infested waters, but the BBC have issued a swift counter-punch in the you-cannot-be-serious stakes, with the launch on BBC2 last night of 'Bring Your Husband to Heel', a new weekly programme which claims that "using dog training methods on men really isn't as crazy as you might think".

So it must just be me then.

The show's presenter is Annie Clayton, a former actress, singer and dancer, who once worked with Bruce Forsyth and Morecambe & Wise, and who's now turned her hand to dog training in an effort to get back on TV. Annie, who's a kind of Barbara Woodhouse for the new millennium, confidently states "I firmly believe you can train a husband like a dog". Of course, if you replaced the word 'husband' with 'woman', you'd become a national hate figure. And replace it with 'black man' and you'll end up in jail. But 'husband', no problem. Give the woman her own show.

And so it began - a programme which promised to cure the bad habits of troublesome husbands using techniques usually reserved for dogs. Of course, I began the half hour with only limited sympathy for the foolhardy bloke who'd actually volunteered to be trained like a dog for a week...

... only to find that he hadn't. Volunteered that is. We were introduced to Margaret and John Elliott, a middle-aged couple from Darlington, who had agreed to be filmed for a week, only to be informed that John had been told he was taking part in a documentary about relationship roles, and had no idea he was going to be treated like a dog for seven days. Is it me, or is that a bit unethical? Oh well, never mind. At least he gets to be on TV.

John, it seems, is a highly successful businessman who goes to work every day, and has provided a frankly stunning home for his family - all black marble, leather sofas, and classic cars in the driveway. The couple are living in the lap of luxury. But for Margaret it's just not enough. She wants John to do the washing up too.

Cue the arrival of Annie Clayton, who informs us that men can be trained like dogs because "both have an unhealthy obsession with balls". I presume she means kicking them, not scratching them. Annie set about teaching Margaret how to handle a dog, and proved that nagging a little shitzu does nothing - you have to jerk his lead a bit if you want him to do as you say.

Margaret soon started putting into practice what she'd learnt, and lo it's a miracle - she found that if she actually thanks John for putting his hat away, rather than constantly moaning about what a waste of space he is (whilst sitting at the luxury marble breakfast bar his money has provided), then he tends to do a bit more around the house.

It was something of a revelation, and makes me particularly excited about the follow up series, which I assume must be in the pipeline: 'Smack Your Bitch Up - The Complete Guide to Keeping Your Wife in Line'.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Who's the Daddy?

The new series of 'The X Factor' began last night on ITV1. It's a sure-fire ratings winner, guaranteed to pull in big audiences, and the BBC are going to need something pretty special to go up against it. So what have they chosen..? A show about expectant fathers. It's not exactly traditional Saturday night fare, but as host Davina McCall explained, "On this show there'll be no singing, we've got no dancing, no panel of judges, it's not a quiz, it's not a competition, it's not about celebrities, and there'll be no one voted out."

It's almost as if they don't want an audience.

But undeterred, 'He's Having a Baby' began with a bang (nine months ago), and arrived on BBC1 last night in direct competition with The X Factor, and describing itself as "a programme about what it takes to become a father". So a show about drunken one night stands then. Maybe it could be a hit after all.

Over the next ten weeks (which is about nine too many) we'll be following eight expectant fathers as they struggle to cope, both with becoming Dads and with being interviewed by Davina McCall on a Saturday night. The saps in question consist of:

Liam, 27, a fitness instructor who kept referring to his girlfriend and baby twins as "my three bears". Which presumably makes him Goldilocks.

Ellis, 21, a sand blaster whose real name is Simon, and whose girlfriend is 17 and called Jayde. With a 'y'. I don't think I need to say any more.

Steve, 28, a driving instructor who met his girlfriend Clare on an internet dating site. He responded to the news that Clare was pregnant, with the words "I'm going to have to build a conservatory then". So he obviously doesn't know the difference between babies and pot plants.

Ben, 29, is an estate agent. So it's a wonder he managed to get a shag at all. While Jonny, 26, is a telephone engineer from Bangor. And yes, he did.

Then there's Jason, 32, an actor who stated "my biggest fear I have about becoming a father is keeping in work", so no prizes for guessing what motivated him to apply for the show. And Shakeel, 27, a Senior Train Conductor (which suggests there's such a thing as a Junior Train Conductor - there's a minimum wage job if ever I saw one). Shakeel seems to have been chosen for his lack of personality, and the fact that he has a ridiculous beard.

Last, but not least, was Matthew, 32, an IT consultant who doesn't own a TV (but is quite happy to appear on it), and whose partner Roberta has opted for a hypnobirth. No, me neither. Matthew stated that "after labour, I'm sure we'll both be exhausted". Yes, but your wife possibly slightly more than you, Matt.

As a concession to Saturday night reality shows, the men walked onstage looking like X Factor finalists, waving to the audience, who had no idea who they were, and probably didn't care either, before being lined up on a big sofa and chatted to by Davina. Interestingly, the men were then handed over to Danny Wallace, who was taking a break from starting his own country on BBC2 in order to supervise the fathers-to-be on a series of 'Dad Challenges', which basically involved holding newborn babies and watching a video about childbirth without fainting.

The sentiment level was soon cranked up with a bit of Coldplay backing music and a few tearful shots of Liam's partner Becky trying to choose a date for inducement, and by the end of the show we'd discovered that Jonny and partner Claire have already had their baby. According to the BBC website, they've only been together for nine and a half months, so they're clearly not averse to having unprotected sex less than a fortnight into a new relationship, which is nice to know.

We were then treated to five minutes of syrupy tributes to the new arrivals, and some emotional declarations of birth weights, before Davina closed the show with the moving words "To all those expectant Dads out there, remember one thing: you're not losing a wife, you're gaining a family".

I nearly threw up.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


They think it's all over... it is now. Well, part from the reunion show on Sunday night. I always love a reunion 48 hours after I last saw someone.

But anyway, despite a late challenge from the evil Eu-genius, Anthony was duly crowned winner of Big Brother 6 last night. Whereupon he proved that he still hasn't learnt more than about three 70s dance moves, and declared that the highlight of his time in the house was being shut in a box for two days.

An hour earlier, Kinga had been the first of the final four to leave, cheerfully walking out past an inflatable magnum of champagne, and a banner which read "Ten green bottles, Kinga shagged 'em all", before looking blank and declaring that she had no idea what incident she'll be remembered for. But hey, when you mention your minge on a daily basis, talk about sticking cucumbers up your fanny, and get your breasts out at a moment's notice, having sex with a bottle is clearly no big deal.

Kinga was followed by Makosi and her six faces and three hairstyles. Having been odds-on favourite to win it a few weeks ago, she must have been thrilled to poll just 8.7% of the vote, and walk out to endless boos and some well co-ordinated chanting of "Liar!". It might have been enough to make most people reconsider their behaviour, but fortunately Makosi regretted nothing. She'd obviously forgotten about her weave.

Runner up was Eugene, who emerged from the house finger on nose and making spectacles out of his hands, having clearly decided he didn't look enough of a geek already. Fortunately he managed not to cry, which is a bit of a first, but he did manage to chat to Davina in Morse code, which certainly pleased me. He's so much more entertaining when he doesn't attempt to use actual words.

But ultimately it was Anthony who emerged victorious. Allowing me to post an entirely gratuitous nude photo of him. Craig looked particularly fed up with the result, presumably because Anthony didn't use his victory spech to announce his homosexuality and propose marriage to the nearest hairdresser. But as Anthony said, when asked if he thought Craig fancied him, "No, I didn't think he fancied us at all". And to think some people say he's not very bright.

Anyway, the future looks bright for our Anthony. And if he doesn't have a 70s dancing fitness video in the shops by Christmas, I'll eat my hat. And a slice of Kemal's Mongolian Coconut Cake.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

End Of

Craig's gone. End of. He won Miss World, gave birth to a baby, snogged two girls whilst simultaneously admitting he was gay and refusing to discuss his sexuality, impersonated a German, and invited the housemates to hit him one more time. An offer they sadly declined. But ultimately he refused to diminish his character to survive. Which is obviously where he went wrong.

Craig may have gone in looking like Howard Jones, but he came out (no pun intended) looking like the kind of psychopathic partner that Glenn Close plays in Hollywood films. Let's just say that if Anthony had owned a rabbit, Craig would've cooked it. Thank god they only had that kitten for an hour.

Not that Craig fancied Anthony. Oh no. He "respected him as a person" and "began to look at him as a member of my family". The member of the family in question being husband. Although naturally he always insisted that Eugene was more in love with Anthony than he was. Which is surprising - Eugene's so busy destroying other people's lives, it's a wonder he found the time to muscle in on Craig's boyfriend.

Talking of the evil genius, he's now a rich evil genius, after accepting a tax-free gift of fifty grand from Big Brother. I wish I had a brother like that. It was clearly a double-edged sword though - on the one hand he was given £50,000 just for going into the diary room; on the other, the guilt of taking the money will no doubt cause him to slash his wrists by the end of the day. That's if he can stop crying long enough to open the knife drawer.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Correct Me If I'm Wrong

It's nice to know that these days, no matter what area of domestic life you might be having trouble with, there's a reality TV show that can sort it out for you. Kim & Aggie will clean up your house, Gillian McKeith will change your diet, Supernanny will sort out your kids, and the Sex Inspectors will solve any problems you might be having in the bedroom. You can't go wrong. Unless of course you have a hopeless husband.

But fear not. Spotting a gap in the market, ITV1 have rushed in with 'Transformed', a new three part series which began last night with a show subtitled 'Hopeless Husbands'. The programme introduced us to three such men, while constantly playing the theme to the old 'Peanuts' cartoons in the background. No, I'm not sure why either.

First up was John from Newport, who stated that "every woman loves a bastard". Well his wife certainly does. John justified his decision not to do any housework with the cast-iron reasoning that "you don't have a dog, and bark", before holding up a roast potato and declaring that "this is what a wife is". So clearly being Welsh is the least of his problems. The man can't distinguish women from root vegetables.

Next came Kam, a customs manager who seemed to prefer the customs of the 19th century. He told us "I don't like the chores in my home to be split", before adding "it's better to be laid back now, because by the time I'm 60 I'll be knackered out". Which is true. Nothing guarantees an early death like a bit of ironing.

Finally we had David from Norfolk, who'd taken early retirement to become a gamekeeper. He admitted he was out of the house all day, every day, seven days a week, but as he said himself, "it's disappointing for Marilyn, but it's my life now". Yeah, what's that woman complaining about? She needs to learn to get over her disappointment.

Anyhoo, the three men were duly dispatched to 'The House of Correction' (which sounds like the kind of place a Tory MP would pay good money to attend), where they met the triumvirate charged with making new men out of them: life-coach Kate Marlow (pictured above, looking far more glam than she really is), ex-marine Scott Ritter, and psychologist Philippa Davis, who was attempting to make sense of the 'Peanuts' theme by offering psychiatric help for 5¢.

Saying goodbye to her husband, John's wife Tanya attempted to explain that she feels he doesn't appreciate the fact that she works a 40 hour week. His response of "And?? I'm not bothered. I couldn't give a shit" suggested that maybe she was right. Meanwhile, David was getting more upset about leaving his dog than his wife.

Once arrived at The House of Correction, Kam made his way upstairs, put down his bags, and declared "I'm actually knackered. Really, really knackered". Thank god they didn't ask him to do any ironing. So it was straight to bed, before facing their first daily task - working as chambermaids in a nearby hotel. Kam managed to change a couple of pillowcases before collapsing from exhaustion, while John just spent the morning giving Scott the finger.

Back at the house, Kate reflected on the task by asking John "How do men make women happy?". John thought for a moment before responding with "Give them a month's wages". Which turned out to be the wrong answer. According to Kate, "you give them your time". Which explains why Michael Winner gets all the pretty girls - he's obviously got a lot of time on his hands.

The second day was perhaps the most intriguing. Unless of course you're familiar with the concept of solving relationship problems by stroking horses. David was partnered with a stallion called Butch, Kam a large mare named Zara, and John a Shetland pony called Mopsy - a fearsome beast which naturally he was too scared to touch.

But having attempted to get in touch with their equine sides, the men moved on to a lesson in wining and dining. They already knew how to whine of course, but this time they had to do it in a restaurant with a member of the opposite sex. The three showed starkly different methods of chatting up a lady. Kam listed all the major A-roads near his home, David talked about his background in instant mash, while John just went straight in for a kiss. Clearly the horse-stroking had taught them nothing.

The remainder of the week was spent cooking, dancing, and self-defence training (which is pretty much all you need to survive a modern marriage), before the trio were sent home new men. Apparently. And the verdict..?

Well, Marilyn was happy, Tanya complained that she was confused and felt like she was living with a stranger, while Kam's wife Alpa, who sounds like muesli and is about as nutty, found she couldn't cope with Kam's insistence on doing the household chores, and told him "You irritate me. You're trying to please too much", before listing everything she hates about his new attitude, seeing the look on his face, and adding "I knew you'd take it the wrong way".

So there you go. Conclusive proof that if you want your wife to be happy, forget the horse riding and Salsa, and just stay as you are.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Cross the Golly

It's been an interesting week in the Big Brother house. Kinga duly returned, downed a couple of drinks, and proved she had a lot of bottle. Makosi and Craig did a bit of line-dancing on their way to buggering up another week's task. And Derek shot Saskia. While nasty piece of work and all round evil genius Eugene spent the week trying to destroy everyone in the house. That's if you're as paranoid as Craig. If you're not, he basically just cowered in the corner whimpering in morse code.

But at the end of it all, someone had to go, and seeing as Eugene could barely stop crying long enough to clean his teeth, that someone had to The Dark Deceiver and future Tory Prime Minister, Derek, who became evictee number 10. Kind of appropriate for a man with designs on Downing Street.

Personally I was sad to see him go, but only because I'm sick and tired of Eugene ruthlessly destroying people. Oh no, that's not real is it. Well even so, I felt Eugene hit his peak ten days ago when he started telling anecdotes which began "De-dot-de-dot-de-dot-dot-dot...". He's gone slightly downhill this week, whereas Derek has started seeing smiling monkeys coming out of the ceiling, so frankly now is not the time to be evicting the man. Another seven days and we could have seen a full scale mental breakdown. Possibly accompanied by Kinga singing.

But Derek clearly learnt a lot during his time in the house. As he told Davina, "I discovered that I'm a nicer person than I thought I was", a statement clearly confirmed by such comments as "they're all wankers without the co-ordination", calling Craig a stupid child, Orlaith an brain-dead blonde, and saying Science made him want to join the BNP. It makes you wonder what he thought of himself before he went into the house. He was probably on a par with that amoral despot, Eugene. Honestly, is there anyone that man won't try and destroy? I pity the members of his Radio Club.

But anyway, as Derek himself said, "It's better not to cross the golly". Which I presume is something to do with breeding marmalade. Unfortunately though, the British public have crossed him off their shortlist, and the nation's favourite Conservative is out. And promising to inflict a book of children's stories on us. Talk about getting your revenge...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Empire Strikes Back

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to declare yourself a king and start your own empire? Well if you have, you've probably already visited and bought his book. But if you haven't, then there's always 'How to Start Your Own Country', which began tonight on BBC2. It features Dave Gorman's former flatmate, Danny Wallace, who began by stating that "a little over six months ago I decided to start my very own country".

Of course, a little over six months ago, King Nick's website was already up and running, and his book was at the printers. But I'm sure that's just a happy coincidence. Danny's probably never even heard of Nick. Although he does seem to frequent the same clothes shops...

... and, interestingly, has the same publisher.

But putting aside these spooky (and purely coincidental) similarities, we followed Danny on his quest to set up an empire of his very own - a quest which began with a visit to 'Sealand', a derelict fort in the North Sea, the residents of which have declared independence from Britain, and whose nearest neighbour is... well, me actually. It's about seven miles east of my flat. So if the government ever decide to retake it, they could launch the invasion from my kitchen.

From Sealand, Danny headed to New Jersey to meet Erwin Strauss, author of a book entitled 'How to Start Your Own Country'. Hang on, that sounds familiar... Anyhoo, I'm no medical expert, but our Erwin was clearly barking, although a quick search on the internet reveals that he's also written a book called 'The Complete Guide to Science Fiction Conventions', so frankly the clues were there. And once he started playing the theme from 'Star Wars' on the electric organ, there really was no room for doubt. Although clearly 'The Empire Strikes Back' would have been more appropriate.

Next stop was The Lunar (possibly short for lunatic) Embassy, where Danny met Dennis Hope, an American who makes a good living selling real estate on the Moon. He might sound insane, but Dennis has successfully sold plots of moon land to over three million people, so ask yourself who the stupid ones are. It turns out that George W Bush has bought an acre. Not a huge surprise, that one.

A quick visit to Ireland to view a castle, and Danny returned to London, where he attempted an impromptu invasion of Eel Pie Island. A brief chat with a policeman later, and he decided to change tack, heading for Salisbury Plain to enlist the support of the army and propose the invasion of France. Frankly I was with him on that one, but sadly the Major General wasn't.

Back home at his flat, Danny took stock of the situation, before finally settling on a course of action. With great flair and originality, he boldly decided to set up a website, call himself King Danny I, and claim his own home as his empire.

So nothing at all like King Nicholas I,, or an empire based in a caravan.
You couldn't make it up. Well, clearly Danny couldn't.