Saturday, October 29, 2005
Saving Private Ryan
The programme takes six minor celebrities to "a secret military training establishment" (or 'a bog in Scotland' if you want to be more precise), and attempts to turn them into Royal Marine Commandos in the space of a couple of weeks. It sounds slightly implausible already, but when you realise the line-up includes a former member of Steps, you begin to see just how barking it is. Not that Lee Latchford Evans doesn't appear tough, but he has spent his career standing next to H, so it's not exactly difficult.
Joining Lee in the commando boot camp is Nigel Benn, who remembers his time in the army as a 17-year-old fondly. He tapped the side of his head and said "It's a long time ago, but you still don't lose it up here". Which sounds so unlikely coming from a boxer. Benn's fellow pugilist, Steve Collins, was also in the line-up, as was actress Heather Peace (and I'd certainly be willing to give her a chance), who's apparently supremely qualified for an assignment like this, due to her role in SAS drama 'Ultimate Force'. Although let's not forget she was previously in Emmerdale for a year - something the programme failed to mention.
Bringing up the rear (of the year) was Jason Cowan, or 'the best buttocks in South Lanarkshire', as I'm sure he still likes to be known. Jason started by announcing "I'm probably the fittest person here", before going on to state that "this might not be tough enough for me, to be honest". This from the man who couldn't get out of dressing gown for ten weeks on Big Brother.
And last but not much more than least, was Ryan Dunn from American TV show 'Jackass'. Private Ryan turned up looking like Grizzly Adams, or, if you prefer the words of SAS veteran and Commando VIP instructor Dave, "like a bag of shite".
But undeterred, Ryan and the other five set about basic training with Royal Marine instructor Morgan Johnson, who dropped them in at the deep end by giving them canoes and making them paddle out onto water a good three feet deep. Nigel, who's faced some of the most fearsome men in the world inside a boxing ring, appeared to have an unconquerable fear of cold water, and started making a strangulated mewing sound which led Ryan to comment "I thought someone had killed a cat behind me". It wasn't so much a cat as a pussy.
Next up was a 10k march with loaded backpacks, a task which had Ryan developing an urge to speak to his agent, before the recruits embarked on their first mission - to rescue a downed pilot from behind enemy lines. Which basically involved paddling down a river, picking up a bloke from the bushes, and running through some Hollywood-style explosions whilst being shot at by extras with paintball guns. The result was Steve being named "top recruit" by the instructors, and "an arrogant piece of shit" by Ryan. Just a slight difference of opinion there.
Day two saw Private Ryan saving himself by refusing to climb every mountain. Making him slightly softer than Julie Andrews. It did mean, however, that he was forced to face a firing squad of his celebrity colleagues. All successfully hit him in the stomach with a paintball gun, except Lee, who managed to miss and hit his nipple. The assault over, Ryan was allowed to go back to bed while the others climbed a mountain with 30kg backpacks. Suddenly Ryan didn't look so stupid after all.
On the third day, the recruits faced their toughest challenge yet - two hours of educational videos in a scout hut. I thought they were going to break at one point, but they made it through, only to be captured for a chance to experience life as a POW. Which to Jason is probably a sound effect from a Batman film, but to everyone else is a prisoner of war. All six were subjected to sleep deprivation and all-night interrogation, four of them choosing to remain silent, Steve deciding to argue back, and Ryan essentially talking bollocks for three hours.
Heather was the first to break, quickly followed by Lee, who blamed his withdrawal on an old sporting injury, saying "It's annoying, because I'm prepared to go through a bit more". You have to feel for the man. He wanted to carry on with the torture, but he was getting a bit of a twinge. The guy had no alternative.
Next to go was Ryan, who decided to confess all and blame everything on Lee, and after another four hours, the interrogators stepped up the pressure and inflicted on the three remaining recruits a level of torture not seen in any civilised western society. Yes, that's right, they started playing 'Tragedy' by Steps on a continuous loop. Jason coped remarkably well. But then he did endure Nadia's laugh for two months in the Big Brother house. Let's face it, the man's coped with far worse.