Monday, February 18

Review - Shrinking My 17 Stone Legs. An Extraordinary People Special.

It proved impossible to review this, writes Mark Lewis
Bad or no signal, said my set top box (Channel 5, 9pm). I suspect its the former.

Wednesday, February 13

Review: Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners

We really need* more programmes that artificially set mutually antagonistic people in conflict against each other, writes Mark Lewis

Shitty house. Shitty idea 
Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners (Tuesday Channel 4, 8pm) puts super-clean people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the homes of obsessively unclean people with whatever the opposite of OCD is. The supercleans are bright orange harridans with faces so buffed they look like burns victims. The revolting uncleans... well, the revolting uncleans have got shit in their kitchens.

I really don't know where this ends. But if any Channel 4 commissioners are reading, here are some suggestions:

It's Raining, Cats and Dogs: feral toms and hungry pitbulls are put outside in appalling weather and asked to share an umbrella.

Or this:

Obama’s Republican Tea Party: The US President discusses the abolition of the British monarchy with 911 Truthers over a lovely cup of Earl Grey.

Or this obvious TV gold:

Holy Land Cartoon Critique: A Palestinian would-be suicide bomber is made to evaluate a picture of Mohammed drawn by an Israeli Mossad assassin.


Reviews: Alex Polizzi - The Fixer and The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track

You can't move for TVs business bastards, says Mark Lewis

Polizzi - business bastard
Expert derivative bastard goes into family establishments and shouts at intransigent simpletons. It’s Alex Polizzi – The Fixer (Tuesday BBC2 8pm). It's Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares with fucking curtains. And it's the first of six inevitably identical episodes.

Three East End brothers need desperately to fix up their independent curtain shop, Alf Onnie, before a grand re-opening, imposed on them by Alex Polizzi. A wholly artificial conceit the deadline may be, but the woman formally known as the Hotel Inspector on Channel 5 is going to camp up the bogus ticking clock for all its worth.

“I'm worried that we aren't going to finish in time,” she bleats ad infinitum, as if the old ladies in next door's Oxfam shop are going to set fire to the place if the signage hasn't been changed by deadline day. “I'm really cross,” she goes on as she heads back to East Ham to bash the brothers' heads together over their stubborn unwillingness to do everything she tells them.

At least Ramsey pushes his victims around using his own ideas about how to run a restaurant. Polizzi commissions teams of painfully cool interior designers, shop fitters and marketing bastards to do her dirty work for her. The boys don't like it. Well fuck you, boys. Your shop's going to look better than the neighbouring Subways, Sports Directs and fried chicken shops whether you like it or not.

The shop does look streets better by the end. Alf Onnie has a nice little bit of publicity. And Polizzi will one day get to write a worthless report on saving independent shops for a craven government trying to associate itself with celebrity – no matter how awful.  “Darling I feel a little tear behind my eye,” she says as she sees the newly refurbished store for the first time. (As if she hasn’t already sold her tear ducts to manufacturers of swimming pools for drowning children in.)


If you are searching for words for your sentence and decide “dynamic” and “inspirational” are the best options, stop writing. Stop working. Have a long hard think. You are writing a company mission statement. You are a manager at a lacklustre business. And you are one of the least inspirational people anyone knows.
You are not alone. Uninspirational business leaders in lacklustre companies exist anywhere you find Marks and Spencer shirt-and-tie combos. Steve Newland, the boss of East Coast Trains, lover of visions and professional business idiot, is just unfortunate he’s been exposed on television.

London’s Kings Cross was the setting for the first of six episodes of The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track (Tuesday, BBC2 9pm). Newland was only the most burlesque of the characters in this fly on the wall, which also featured terrific old school union bastards who loath the company as much as the company loathes its passengers, and cartoon angry passengers with hilarious haircuts shouting nonsensically at unmoved staff replying with things like “well that's your prerogative sir.”

The programme veered between meta-parody (apparently lampooning programmes like The Airport, which parody programmes like The Railway), and pathos as the staff who people the station reveal aspects of their sometimes tragic lives.

While box tickers seeking to implement Newland’s “vision” were asking staff to remember an occasion when they had delivered excellent customer service or worked in an effective team, here was the cleaner, “who often goes unnoticed”; “removes the rubbish, vomit and worse” from the trains, but cannot imagine ever going on a long journey herself. Here too is the retiring guard of 37 years’ service, who hands over the keys and manuals from his locker to a young kid cracking wise while the older man fights back tears.

In the most moving part of the programme, a customer service worker told frustrated passengers that a person had earlier thrown himself under a train. She later recalled the final conversation she’d had with a similar victim and his father who had sought her out. “He wanted to know who he’d had his final conversation with,” she said.

It had nothing to do with “creating a dynamic team with inspirational leadership,” Or “championing a 'just do it' approach to delivering what we call a five star quality service” but it was moving television and a clue that this programme might have some legs.

Tuesday, August 23

Review: Horizon - The Nine Months That Made Me

Horizon's hedonists' charter moved Mark Lewis to new health lows

The thing about The Nine Months that Made Me [Mmmmm]... the thing about The Nine [chomp]... The thing [munch]... I’m sorry, let me just finish eating this.

It doesn't matter folks
That’s better. I’ve just been so busy eating packets of deep-fried cigarettes that I’ve barely got time to speak. Since I finished watching Horizon’s the Nine Months That Made Me (Monday, 9pm, BBC2), I’ve just had this real hankering to treat my body really appallingly. I just smoked a cake.

But I’m one of the lucky ones. I have what Professor David Barker describes as a good constitution. "Clearly there are people with good constitutions who live long lives,” he says. “For them healthy lifestyles might not matter so much." Ace! I know I have a good constitution because, according The Barker Theory, there is a sliding scale of constitutional health which can be determined by your birth weight. Little babies have bad constitutions. They will be unhealthy adults. Big babies have good constitutions. They will be the kind of healthy adults who can eschew healthy lifestyles in favour of competitive eating.

If that sounds to you like a simplistically reductive analysis of lifelong health outcomes, then keep it to yourself will you? Since discovering that my baby weight was similar to that of an average Tongan rugby player, I have taken this programme for the hedonists’ charter it was presumably meant to be. As the voiceover man made clear, by the time we are born our health and our age are already largely determined. So all us parents can stop being so uptight as well.

"Parents have to deal with both sides of it,” says Janet DiPietro the most terrifyingly irresponsible developmental psychologist in the history of lightweight pseudoscience. “If your child turns out to be a happy child it's not your doing. But if your child turns out to be a difficult unhappy child, it's also not your doing." Fucking hell!

The rest of this “truly remarkable scientific project,” is spent shuffling off between India, The Netherlands, The US and Saudi Arabia to effectively tell us that good nutrition during pregnancy leads to healthier people. On the grand scale of scientific breakthrough, it is up there with: keeping your hands out of food blenders will leave you with a fuller complement of fingers.