Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Fuel Crisis

'Britain's Worst Celebrity Driver Live', which began on Sunday and continued last night, is, according to Five, "the first reality show to take its contestants out of a controlled environment and onto the roads of Britain". It's about time. I could name a hundred reality TV stars I'd like to see dumped on a busy road at rush hour. I just wish someone had thought of this before.

But putting aside my desire to see Maxwell & Saskia under the wheels of a juggernaut, I watched the first two editions of 'BWCDL' (I do like a nice acronym) with interest. The programme makers have expanded the format from the first series, and in addition to chucking eggs at celebrities while they do a 3-point turn, this time around they're also forcing them to drive from John O'Groats to Lands End. Because after all, what better time to embark on a thousand mile journey than when petrol has just hit a pound a litre.

The six celebs (more AA-list than A-list) consist of Radio 1 DJ Joel, former love-rat-lover Suzanne Shaw, Bad Girl Antonia Okonma, TV legend John Noakes, unemployed yank Erik Estrada, and lovable lunatic Brian Blessed. Suzanne's first question on day one was "What's a T-junction?", while Brian's daughter Rosalind summed up her father with the words "He has a very small ability to live in the real world". Neither sound like the kind of people who should be out alone in public, but hey, that's reality TV for you.

Having arrived in John O'Groats, the six were given a vehicle each, ranging from a Cadillac to a clapped-out mobile home, and they all set off for Inverness. John Noakes, who was accompanied on the drive by Peter Purves (Valerie Singleton clearly had more sense), has apparently never had a lesson in his life (the words "and it shows" spring to mind). He enjoys coasting downhill in neutral with his hands off the wheel, making it a wonder Shep survived as long as he did.

Suzanne, who was driving a London taxi, but without any knowledge whatsoever, chose to pick up every hitchhiker she could find, while Brian spent the journey singing 'Flower of Scotland', before arriving at a kilt shop and treating us all to the kind of Scottish accent that makes Mel Gibson look convincing. Frankly it sounded more like Johnny Depp in 'Pirates of the Caribbean'.

But hey, at least Brian knew where they were. Quentin Willson, presenting live in the studio, welcomed us back to the Science Centre in Glasgow after the first commercial break with the words "Welcome back to Britain's Worst Celebrity Driver, live from Newcastle". Bit of a navigation problem there.

Joel ParkingBut having covered the first 270 miles of their journey, the celebs were set the everyday task of reverse parallel-parking up a hill behind a tractor in an artificial rainstorm. I can't tell you how many times I've attempted that manouevre. First up was Joel, accompanied by his friend JK (whose surname is probably Rowling) in a white BMW. I'm not saying his attempt was a complete disaster, but he did melt the starter motor, barbecue the clutch, and basically write off a thirty grand car. Frankly it's a good job they were being sprayed with water, otherwise he'd have burst into flames.

Brian was better, as was John, while Suzanne ruined the replacement Audi, Antonia was put off by the smoke billowing from her engine, and Erik slammed his car into the tractor. I'd suggest valet parking in future.

The group were judged in the studio by former rally champion Penny Mallory, and psychiatrist Dr Gareth Smith, who knows a lot about driving. Well, driving people nuts. Penny gave her expert opinion, Brian gave his - "She's talking crap" - before co-host Jenni Falconer attempted to build up the suspense regarding the location of Thursday's show.

It was finally announced (after a dramatic pause) by Quentin, with the words "I can now reveal that the next destination will be... Newcastle".

I didn't see that one coming.