Friday, June 30

Boring birds

TV's chicks are letting the gender down, says Helen Parton

Wednesday was not a good day for womankind, in TV land at least. And it all started off so promisingly too. A sprightly Sue Barker put the piss poor Gabby Logan well and truly in the shade in sports TV anchorwoman stakes at Wimbledon (Whenever it Doesn’t Rain, BBC1 and BBC2): all lilac Jaeger suits like the smartest Mum on school sportsday, and coquettishly flirting with the cupboard-loving Boris Becker (a man whose strangulated German accent was
last seen on Lieutenant Grueber on ‘Allo ‘Allo I swear).

But no sooner had coverage started than things began to get distinctly heat magazine tinged.
“Ooooh, hasn’t Venus Williams put on weight! So and so’s outfit is by Stella McCartney don’t you know!”

And it’s infectious too – as Blondie’s ‘Maria’ was busily soundtracking Ms Sharapova frolicking about in photoshoots in sparkly frocks, I wondered to myself how long it’d be before a similar montage of footage of the unfortunately masculine top lady's seed would be accompanied by Aerosmith’s ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’.

I thought some respite from the Mean Girls world could be found in The Convent (BBC2, 9pm). This is largely such an original (if you, er, forget that they did The Monastery last year) insightful, and at times emotional programme about a group of four women trying to find a spiritual side to themselves, that it barely warrants any snidey comments from me. Apart from
the God-awful cod soul rendition of Amazing Grace at the end by Iona, which deserves a thunderbolt at the very least. And the fact that being madder than a box of frogs and in a three way relationship (with TWO GUYS before you’re thinking Sugar Rush style horny lesbians) must surely qualify Victoria fast-track entry to the Big Brother house. Nuns though. Great.
Every home should have one. Fuck Supernanny – let’s be having Supernunny I say! Peter Stringfellow too was most evangelical in Sex in the 90s: Lap Dance Wars (Channel 4, 11pm) but only about the appeal of big boobs. His nightclub business was about to go tits up in the early 90s before he went to a club called Pure Platinum in New York and decided the answer was tits out. Pure Platinum was owned by Michael J Peter ‘the man who invented
lapdancing’ – that’ll be one to tell the grandchildren then - and he and Stringfellow basically battled it out for a few years over who had the worst mullet and oh yeah, who was king of the lapdancing clubs. Turns out, neither of them were – it was down to John Gray (presumably not the same guy that wrote Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus but you never know) who gave London its first club with nude table dancing at Spearmint Rhino.

Stringfellow tried some dirty tricks – including hiring a pair of private investigators to find out what was going down at Spearmint Rhino. Turns out it was lapdancers – boom boom! To nobody’s surprise.

“Some of the females pressed their breasts into the face of a man and moved up and down his body” deadpanned one of the Grant Mitchell soundalike detectives. This sorry excuse for a documentary ended with the shocking revelation that Stringfellow had to go nude too. All I’ll leave to you to get that horrendous image out of your head.

Wednesday, June 28


David Cook says the rubber-faced puppets have stood the test of time better than the channel which created them

It says a lot about the state of weekend telly that the best thing on was a talking heads highlight show about Spitting Image. Yes, the oddly-titled The Best Ever Spitting Image (ITV, 10.30pm, Sunday) was the only real highlight of the last couple of days – given that Dr Who was a bit, well, gash on Saturday – and it gave rise to four interesting points.

1) Even now, the people it lampooned don’t seem to have quite grasped the point of what Spitting Image was actually for. Cue Edwina Currie: “All MPs used to watch Spitting Image and hope they’d be in it, and be portrayed in a positive light.” A positive light? It’s Spitting Image, you daft tart. It never portrayed anyone in a positive light, because what would be the point in that? There, people, is a mere glimpse of the heavyweight intellect that seduced John Major. Then there was Paul Daniels, still sulking to this day that he didn’t feel his puppet was realistic enough, saying “I like credibility”. This from a man who humiliated himself on national TV mere weeks ago, massacring the already quite-massacred Let Me Entertain You.

2) John Culshaw’s quality of work has dipped in direct proportion to the stratospheric rise of his ego. Spitting Image: sharp, hilarious satire. Dead Ringers: the lamest, laziest impressions show ever, seemingly reliant on Culshaw dressing as Ozzy Osbourne and howling ‘Shaaaa-ronnnn!’ for half an hour. And yet his ego continues to go through the roof, to the effect that he seems to sweat smugness. You could probably draw quite a nice graph to display this phenomenon, if you could be arsed. He also looks a bit like Mr Toad from Wind In The Willows.

3) It would have been much better to just show a couple of the best episodes of Spitting Image itself, rather than this docu-lite. Which is, in fact, what ITV actually did (or thought they did) directly afterwards. Except they showed them on ITV4, which precisely no-one watches. And they chose the first and last editions, which were far from the best ever Spits. Cripes.

4) This will, despite point three, be the best show ITV broadcasts this decade. Up next week: Club Reps Go Wild On Celebrity Love Island – From Hell! Well, probably.

Sunday, June 25

Clash of the car shows

There's a reason to watch Channel 5 that isn't CSI:Miami. Gareth Crew wonders whether it's as good as Top Gear

It used to be so simple. There was only one, it had the budget of David Beckham’s weekly lip balm allowance and less style than those two Princes (chino’s and woolly jumpers – come on! This ain’t an advert for Harvard) but it told you about cars. Tony Mason, Tiff Needell, That Tall Mouthy Hairy Bloke™ and that northern bloke talking about motorbikes. That was it. But then it changed……

It wasn’t just enough to tell you the MPG (whatever that means) of the latest Peugeot 205, you had to be ‘entertained’.

Channel 5 then occurred and as well as being the leading voice questioning whether Hitler was gay and enhancing the careers of Rutger Hauer, Steven Seagal and Shannon Tweed, they also created a little car program.

Back with Auntie Beeb and That Tall Mouthy Hairy Bloke™ left and even though it had Kate Humble presenting it, Top Gear was scrapped. (Now I’m not sure that’s all historically accurate – but you get the idea)

Click it into sixth to the modern day: Top Gear v 5th Gear – who’s better??
Let’s start with the laughable Top Gear.

Presenters: That Tall Mouthy Hairy Bloke™, even taller, fatter, mouthier but less hairy; that posh bloke who doesn’t like Bill Bryson; that small bloke who stood in for Paul ‘I’m David Letterman don’t you know’ O’Grady, and The Stig.

The Show: Ok, first off, in my objective way. It’s rubbish. Top Gear was and always should be a show about cars. It’s not about racing mountain bikes, car football and ‘The Stig’ it should be about how the cars have improved, why they’re better (I’m not talking cost here). I’m honestly convinced that if you approached the Top Gear production team, and I use that term loosely, you could convince them to run a piece for their show that involved taping a load of ferrets together and racing them, up a hill, against a TVR driven by That Tall Mouthy Hairy Bloke™ and Davina McCall. Now what does that prove?

Let me, dear readers, discuss a piece on their last show. Football cars. How very entertaining. But didn’t you see that it rained, then ‘as the game progressed’ the car park was dry, then wet again? And the score, 3 – 3 I think. Excellent, you couldn’t write a script like that could you? This was also the launch of the new Volkswagen Kitten or something. I’m sure they would be so pleased to see their cars smashed up – really demonstrating their potential there guys! So, a new economy car on the market, wouldn’t we, gasp, want to know how e-c-o-n-o-m-i-c-a-l it would be? I must be old fashioned.

And then there’s the Stig. Good driver, but has he been in a smelting accident that means he looks worse than That Tall Mouthy Hairy Bloke™? Why does he have to be covered up? Does he have less middle England views than That Tall Mouthy Hairy Bloke™? Oh yes, and don’t get me started on those CD’s he listens to on his hot laps – could they be dubbed over anymore obviously?

But where, if we don’t have the internet and live in a cave, can we get the information that matters such as the insurance group of a Honda Jazz? Oh yes, Channel 5 (or snowland as I call it with my terrestrial signal) and 5th Gear.

Presenters: Vikki-Posh-Totty-Henderson-Plum-In-Her-Mouth, That bloke who’s like Justin Lee Collins and those two racers.

First off. It’s cheap. I’m not talking cheap in the sense of Blue Peter mothers’ day present cheap, I mean it is shot in an office block, and not a nice one at that. Obviously someone bought a camcorder off E-bay once the Blair Witch Project had flickered out and that was the ‘studio shots’ sorted.

Now for the testing, yes that’s right, testing. When they drive a car, they (whisper it) tell you what the car is about. They still use stupidly catchy music and vertigo inducing shots (see, the camcorder’s cheap – you can throw it about) but they tell you about the car.

I, with my thermos flask, boiled eggs and envy of Duane Dibley’s confidence want to know how much more torque the 1.6 engine has over the 1.4. I want to know the fuel consumption figures, depreciation figures and to see Vikki in her short skirts! Oops. That last one slipped out there…
She’s wicked, although she does sound like a cross between Kathleen Turner and Michael Gambon. Which brings me to my next point. You want to hear what these presenters have to say. They’ve actually been there, (even the Justin Lee Collins look-alike). They’re racers and journalists, and that’s who should tell you what cars to buy; not people who’s secret ambition is to be a guest on ‘Loose Women’ and chew the fat with Nadia Sawalahaha.

But, like every show apart from Spaced, it does have a down side, such as: adverts, being on Channel 5, and those competitions (obviously, due to the unique way the BBC is funded those jokers can smash up cars at our expense).

An example of one of Channel 5’s ‘competitions’:

Win a brand new Bugatti Veron, a mansion in Buckinghamshire and a month in Australia. All you have to do is answer this simple question:

Fernado Alonso is the current F1 World Champion. Who is the current World Champion?

Fernado Alonso

Tony Blair

Jorge Lorenzo

Text a, b or c to 5675868 and you can win. Texts cost £78 plus standard network charge, and you’ll be bombarded with additional text messages that will cost you £50 a go and you’ll get 5 a day. To stop Texts, simply discover a way to levitate and go to the offices on the 25th hour on the 13th Month. This does not affect your statutory rights.

But, I guess they have to pay for the throat spray for Vikki.

To conclude: 5th Gear’s a car show, if you want to see cars tested, watch 5, and if you’re stupid enough to enter the competitions, you deserve everything you get.

If you want to be loosely entertained after Malcolm In The Middle on a Sunday night by people who think Wankel is a rude word, stick with Top Gear.

Thursday, June 22

Butter and Brazil

Richey Nash watches butter sculpture, a BB7 porn-a-like and the mental image of Mark Lawrenson’s smacked arse face. Is there no escape?

You want to watch Brazil? Really? Even if Changing Rooms dandy Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen’s presenting the last in the series about the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition (BBC2, 8pm)? You fool.

This programme’s most entertaining moments were also its most bizarre. Artist Davina Garrido de Miguel made a clay head sculpture, in a way akin to the blind woman in Lionel Ritchie’s 'Hello'. Sadly, the sculpture was as convincing as the one in the Lionel Ritchie video – not at all – so now the head model has to pull a stupid face 24/7 to look like the sculpture. Woe is him.

But at least clay’s a sensible medium: flouncy Lawrence did a bit saying it’s easier to sculpt using butter than marble because butter is more, well, buttery. Guess what, Lawrence: it's also easier to spread butter on your loved one to recreate saucy scenes from Last Tango In Paris. Marble isn't as malleable. But he'd still try. The rogue.

And talking of rogues, I switched to Big Brother (C4/E4, for the rest of your life). I must admit, I like this series. Why? Because the ‘orrible people are voted out each week – Sezer, Grace etc. – meaning we keep getting new idiots to villify. Hooray. But there’s only so much bitching I can watch so I left, after consulting The Richey Nash Animal-O-Meter (it never tires) about new inmate Suzie:

Brunette version of softcore porn temptress Shannon Tweed
Animal: pouty duck, so will fight for bread with Aisleyne

And then I went back to the football, to catch the end of Brazil vs Japan on World Cup Match Of The Day Live (BBC1, started 7.30pm). Now, I like Brazil because of its stars: that Rolandinho and Sussuvio (or is that a Phil Collins song?). But apart from them, I ain’t bothered, so here's what I thought about the coverage:

(1) I don't like Mark Lawrenson: either he’s being whiny, or he's sitting in the studio sour-faced, like he's chewing on a poisonous wasp, and you’re waiting for something whiny. The latter's worse.

(2) I want “Gooooooooooooaaaaaaallllll!!!!!” when someone scores, not a muted “What a goal” 20 seconds later and…

(3) The split-screen is great because I only need to sit through one stint of men slightly older than me kicking a ball on a patch of German grass. Hurrah.

In the end Brazil won 4-1, so we all headed back to the studio for awkward matey matey banter between Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and the two unfortunates who drew the short straws in the BBC trailer. Entertaining and enlightening? Err, yeah, whatever...

I couldn’t stomach it so switched off the TV, but only until those late night call-in quiz shows fronted by nubile women come on at midnight. Don't look at me with those accusing eyes. That doesn’t make me a pervert: if they put them on instead of softcore porn (preferably starring pouty BB7 duck Suzie), what do you expect?

Wednesday, June 21

Auction, election and action

Nick Yates gets a taste of what life would be like if he ever got found out at work

Ah, the delights of mid-week afternoon TV. Not only do I have a day off work, but I can fill it with some cheaply-produced television: programmes too dire to assault viewers’ eyes post-6pm. Will it be antiques game shows, live politics, repeat cop series? Or maybe top class international football? Yes, everything was going to build up to Portugal vs Mexico, one of the highlights of the World Cup Match of the Day (BBC1, 3pm).

Before this, however, were many hours to fill. First up was Bargain Hunt (BBC1, 12.15pm), where a selection of crusty antiques were watched by me and a whole load of other people with nothing better to do. Flicking back and forth between BBC1 and BBC2, there seemed big similarities between the two channels’ offerings. The Daily Politics, a live broadcast of politicians arguing in a room, was after all a selection of crusty antiques watched by me and a whole load of other people with nothing better to do.

Bargain Hunt is presented by that bloke they got in to replace David Dickinson. He’s got the waistcoats, he’s got the eye-wateringly colourful ties. But he’s not got the perma-tan or more importantly the perma-personality. TV has never been the same since the Duke fox-trotted off to dance competitions on prime time.

Starting slightly later was House Auction. Here, it’s homes under the hammer, rather than century-old sideboards. Nevertheless, it has the same turgid voiceovers as subjects compete in the supposedly gripping art of bidding. Sadly, it hasn’t half the cult appeal of Bargain Hunt, even with the watered-down Dickinson clone.

Some dodgy goings-on were occurring in a health club in The Rockford Files (BBC1, whenever there’s a gap in the schedules). It was the episode where the PI is hired to investigate an insurance claim over the safety of a swimming pool. Needless to say, the waters he steps into are murkier than they first appear as Rockford stumbles across some suspicious business dealings and some even more suspicious seventies fashions. One of the villains is a guy who can clock people’s professions from their clothing. If only, he could apply the same knowingness to his own outfits. Some of them wouldn’t have looked out of place in David Dickinson’s wardrobe.

What’s become of the north’s third best soap? Helen Parton reckons it’s almost come to the [East]ender the line.

“It’s nothing but suffering and heartache!” - no that’s not a lament from Colleen and Co examining their bunions and STILL not being able to track down the perfect pair of Louis Vuitton lederhosen after a hard day hitting the shopping boulevards of Germany, but the desperate cry of Disarmingly Young and Attractive Mother on Hollyoaks (6:30pm, Channel 4) of her time in Chester. I swear it wasn’t like that when I was growing up there. It was
literally, er, fields.

And I swear it wasn’t so goddam depressing last time I watched Hollyoaks either. Within the first five minutes - as well as the obligatory close up cleavage shots and male model poses to a thumping indie bassline (just to ensure that this programme is most definitely aimed at DA YOOF) - there was Tony being asked to go and identify a body which what might have been his missing wife Mandy, plus Becca and Random Goth Schoolgirl arguing dramatically as only over-enunciating stage school teen queens can.

Apologies to regular viewers for my lack of knowledge of actual character names, but in my opinion this doesn’t repay the effort put in, as they will doubtless be supplanted by identikit ones in a matter of months. I know who Becca is though and no mistake. She is the slaaaaaag of Cheshire who has seduced the young schoolboy Justin, making her husband Jake abandon his entire range of Stu..stu…studioline haircare products in the process. He now favours mooching about with a can of Heineken in hand, fringe pushed forward. Oh the shame!

But back to Tony. What has become of the poor chap and his odd little forehead scar? Once upon a time, he was worrying about not winning best souffl√© in the north west and horsing around with Bombhead. Now he’s in turmoil over wife disappearance and being cuckolded by his brother, to the point where he even throws Max to the floor in one scene. And to think, we
assumed Max’s character was only good for frollicking round in a bath with OB, like a junior version of Last of the Summer Wine. C’mon Hollyoaks, cheer up! Where’s the lamely scripted jokes, useless babble about footballers and seeing who can appear most orange on screen? Oh yes, that’ll be the ITV World Cup commentary team then.

Monday, June 19

Hits and misses

Piers Morgan makes Steve Coogan's new character seem more agreeable than a teatime biscuit, says Mark Lewis

Saxondale (10pm BBC2) is Steve Coogan’s latest attempt to crawl from under the shadow of Alan Partridge. That it has taken so long is testament to his original genius. David Jason shook off Del Boy by being the best television actor of his generation, and growing a big hairy grey moustache; John Cleese shook off Fawlty by merit of his previous canon, and his transformation into film actor/director; and, despite Extras, Ricky Gervais is yet to disown David Brent.

Coogan is in the same situation. Saxondale is occasionally laugh out loud funny. But the character’s similarity to Partridge is impossible to disavow. He is like a cross between Partridge and Brent, with the former’s ability to destroy people with cutting put-downs and the latter’s almost endearing inability to recognise his own vulnerability. It is a little churlish to criticise a sitcom whose first episode was quite so genuinely funny, but high standards beget unreasonable criticism.

The biggest problem with Saxondale is that its tone is so similar to I’m Alan Partridge. In Partridge, the plot and characters’ actions allow near-cartoon situations where the audience don’t have to believe what’s on screen could be true. So nobody on screen laughs when Partridge does something funny. Saxondale is deliberately more realistic, and yet the onscreen characters are still not allowed to laugh.

Still we’re laughing at home.

But not as much as Piers Morgan, the former Mirror editor who has been laughing since he published fake pictures of British soldiers abusing Iraqi citizens, and yet somehow continues to conjure new TV jobs for himself. Apart from his semi-regular celebrity based dirges, his weekly political show with Amanda Platell was like a competition between the two to be the most disagreeably rubbish political commentator. And was promptly canned.

But still he appears. You can’t sack me, I’m famous (BBC1, 10.45pm) is Morgan’s latest lightweight television documentary. It follows the story of FA secretary, Faria Alam’s affair with England football manager, Sven Goran Eriksson. It features an Alam interview with Morgan during which she kisses and tells while asking, ‘why am I battered, bruised, slated in every paper?’ of the former Mirror editor on primetime TV.

Even so, Morgan – who somehow manages the gall to use Platell as a pundit – performs his biggest trick yet. He manages to let the public believe that Alam is only the second worst person in the world.

Wednesday, June 14

It’s All Grady

Forget Edmonds and Lynam, Helen Parton worships at the feet of the true king of Channel 4 afternoons

Growing old in Big Brother Land clearly means getting your bazookas blown up to ridiculous proportions and trying to forget your date of birth among a rabble of gazelle thighed bitches. Fortunately, the real world for the TV viewer (different from reality TV world – gaaah it’s getting too semantically cumbersome) means an increasing fondness for the unislipper, those tea trays with a soft beanbag-style underneath and the Paul O’Grady Show (Channel 4, 5pm).

If any of those things mean anything to you, you are officially PAST IT. I may as well hang up my Hoxton haircut, miniskirt and FMBs, because, whisper it, I love Paul and his pensioner-friendly slice of daily light entertainment. It could be the fact that the host is a gay man and his assistant is a small dog – two demographic groups I delight in spending time with. Or more likely, it’s that my standards for TV have slipped somewhat since I started working from home – anything’s better than Jeremy bloody Kyle, Loose Women or programmes with the words ‘antiques’, ‘attic’, ‘living abroad’ or ‘renovating your house’.

For starters on PO’G there’s the occasional joy of seeing stars involved in something surreally beneath them – today Anthony Head and Juliette Lewis were involved in a Caribbean boogie with some Peckham oldsters. Plus, there’s Paul’s constant allusions to his hellraising past, which for me makes me want to take him down the pub, much as Kate Moss seemed to find Marianne Faithfull endlessly fascinating for a while. And yes, that was a blatant attempt to shoehorn in a similarity between me and Moss, other than our gender, which side of the river we live in and our penchant for skinny indie twats. Anyway Paul, you rock and Richard and Judy will have an act to follow when they return shortly.

And from one Channel 4 institution, I deftly end with some ponderings on another. I refer of course to Big Brother (All Times of the Frickin’ Day If You Insist) - will they introduce a Ceefax page 888-style subtitle service for Mikey’s Scouse mumblings? Is Imogen still in the house? And finally, will Davina reveal a gallows on Friday night for the public hanging of Grace that the British public is so clearly craving? You decide!

Monday, June 12

Tools take centre stage

So far, the BBC is winning the battle of the World Cup coverage hands down, says Mark Lewis

‘I always get very excited when I see a nice looking tool,’ said the jewellery expert on the Antiques Roadshow on Sunday (5pm, BBC1). He’s not alone. For when the BBC is not earning its licence fee with antiques fare it has given admirably ample space in its schedule for the World Cup. Two years ago at the European Championships we were given small flags in the corner of the screen to signify the linesman had flagged an offside. This year’s new coverage tool is the split screen beloved of WWE wrestling.

The flag graphic is so innocuous it’s difficult to know whether the BBC is still using it or not. And the split screen, which was aired briefly in the first game to show Jurgan Klinsmann (who may or may not have been in California at the time) celebrating his team’s first goal, has not been seen since.

Over on exhibitionist ITV, meanwhile, the channel’s new ‘arrow’ technology is rarely in its electronic trousers. The ever willing Andy Townsend plastered the screen with little green and red ones which apparently showed how much more effective Portugal’s Luis Figo was than his compatriot Christiano Ronaldo. But, as good as he is, without his pitch side pulpit and the company of Ally McCoist, Townsend looks a little forlorn.

No chance of that back at the BBC who appear to have brought every ex-professional they could drag out of the bookies. Foreigners, in the shape of France’s Marcel Desailly and Brazil’s lovely Leonardo have been used to good effect, and Martin O’Neil has simply been the best thing on World Cup TV. He is lucid, passionate and, like all the best pundits, prepared to tell you something you didn’t spot yourself.

The BBC’s biggest tool, of course, remains Mark Lawrenson whose wit lights up the commentary like a back to front balaclava. But against ITV’s Gareth Southgate, whose silent authority on the pitch, is literally recreated in the commentary box, Lawro is like Oscar Wilde. On the upside for the struggling Barry Davies, should a Pizza Hut advert come up during ITV’s unfortunate half time ad break, Southgate will be all over that.

Friday, June 9

Depressingly late

Big Brian Yates says (late) last night's TV was darker than an episode of Twin Peaks with the lights off.

Welcome to the dark night of the human soul. Only people with totally irresponsible social lives or those with no jobs to go to in the morning watch the telly after midnight, but I’d been out to see Gomez (that’s rock and roll, baby) and came in late so I gave it a whirl. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Big Brother (Channel 4, E4, More4, all the time) where I was led to believe ordinary people make a spectacle of themselves by pretending to be extraordinary people pretending to be ordinary.

But no luck, so I tried Panorama (BBC2, some god awful time of night). This told us that we were all going to die a nasty and untimely death very soon. Something to do with climate change. It proved this by showing a clever-looking bloke talking to the camera in extreme close-up with some fire in the background. Not impressed!

I tried BBC News 24. This told me about horrific shootings in both Iraq and Hampshire: by a 14-year-old! As if this wasn’t grim enough, we moved onto a story a about someone raping a 3-month-old baby. How much can a human being take?

I switched channels to the most terrifying show of all: ITV’s The Mint looked like a dumbed-down version of the lottery show with grinning presenters who you knew were the kind of people you didn’t talk to at school because they were (a) stupid, (b) loud and (c) stupid. They were trying to give money away by inviting viewers to guess what was in their heads. Tough one! I soon suffered a near-death experience and switched finally to Channel 5’s Golazo Football Show (1am). Apparently everyone’s very excited about some football tournament that’s coming up soon, and Italia is expected to put up a good show. This cheered me up no end! Gomez, in contrast to all this, were wonderful.
Dear Dermot…

After waking up with Dermot O’Leary, prickly rogue Richey Nash can’t help an early morning rant.

So I woke up with housewives’ favourite Dermot O’Leary in my bedroom. The swine. It’s fine though: I’d left my TV on all night. That doesn’t mean Dermot had got in through my window like a TV-loving moth, just that Big Brother’s Little Brother (Channel 4, 7.25am) was on when I woke up. Phew. But it’s Friday, it’s sunny, it’s my day off: that’s not what I want. You see dear Dermot, bless him, takes Big Brother too damn seriously. In this BBLB, a repeat, he was asking serious questions to semi-celebrities. Again. It’s what he does best.

“So the Armstrongs…” (y’know, the real David Brents from that BBC2 show) “…which BB inmate would you hire?” What? Who cares? And why are you asking the Johnsons? I saw that show (y’know, the one about Coventry’s third biggest double-glazing firm) and the Armstrongs only employ talentless fools with no social skills. Actually on second thoughts, the BB house is probably a fertile hunting ground. In the end they opted to employ Sam: well, heshe’ll need something to do after being evicted.

And Dermot also talked to chef Aldo Zilli about Glyn’s laughable efforts in the kitchen. So what was he going to say? “Oh, I'm not sure life in the kitchen will ever be the same after Glyn's revolutionary approach”? Of course not. Dopey giraffe Glyn hadn’t boiled an egg or made a sandwich before going into the house. Really. And who cares what these semi-celebs think anyway? Eh? I mean, maybe I’ve been watching Russell Brand on Big Brother’s Big Mouth too much, but BBBM is what Big Brother should be all about: the great British unhosed shouting loudly. Mainly about how much they hate Grace. Hooray.

Why can’t BBLB do more of that? We don’t want over-serious Dermot and a troupe of dancing psychologists analysing the freaks in the BB circus. We want to laugh, to whinge, to bitch, and it’s shocking that Dermot hasn’t grasped that, even after six series of BBLB. Crikey. It’s not like he hasn’t got time on his hands: he could give that some thought during the nine fallow months when BB’s not on. I mean, does he actually do anything else? At least Davina did a sycophantic ill-fated BBC primetime chat show. True, we didn’t ask her to, but at least she’s keeping busy.

Thursday, June 8

Grace under fire

He's thicker than a tar milkshake, but Glyn might just win it says David Cook

They didn’t nominate Grace. Jesus, what’s wrong with them? This is a woman so awful, so up herself, that she’d glance at Aisleyne and then say, "Well, I think most men prefer a classical beauty," clearly meaning herself and desperate for everyone to agree. Word to the wise, Grace – you ain’t no Marilyn Monroe. You’re barely a Marilyn Manson.

Anyway, the level of bitch-fighting doesn’t appear to appreciably declined since Sezer’s departure – if anything, it’s escalated, and it’s mainly aimed at Sam because s/he’s "too nice". And there’s no space for niceness in the Big Brother house – if you’re not a manipulative, backstabbing little stoat, you’ll struggle to fit in. Notice how quiet Pete’s suddenly become, aside from his usual variety of clicks and whistles? That’s because he’s finally realised how little he’s got in common with everyone else, and even the solace of being smothered by Lea’s bongos every day does little to ease the pain.

Because of Pete’s decline, Channel 4 have decided to elevate Glyn – the pipe-cleaner – and try to make him appear like a viable winner. They’ve gone for a two-way approach on this – firstly, they’re making him look like the classic amiable buffoon and secondly they’re (and I’m not sure how this is supposed to make him look likeable, it’s more, well, terrifying) by presenting him as a massive pervert. C4 delights in broadcasting shots of his face looking scared-yet-entranced every time one of the girls, usually Lea, flashes their tits or ass and he never seems to stop talking about shagging these days. This means his conversations generally run along the lines of, "Durrr! I can’t even boil an egg! Durrr! Ooh, I’d like to pork Lea! Phwoaaarrrr! What is an egg anyway? Did you know I’m a lifeguard? Durrr. Tits!"

Hell, who wouldn’t vote for that?

Tuesday, June 6

Television from Hell

Mark Lewis finds watching ITV1 on a Tuesday night is about as good a decision as voting off Sezer

I’ve just had one of my own so called Honeymoons from Hell (Tuesday ITV1 8pm). I went away for two and a half weeks, came back, and ITV1 had turned into Channel 5. I’d compare it to Sky 1, but at least those guys would have the decency to soften the blow by scheduling 12 consecutive hours of Malcolm in the Middle, after it. ITV1 went with Britain’s Biggest Spenders.

Honeymoons had the sort of chirpy voiceover which belongs on those programmes they schedule after ITV football games just in case they have to drop them if the football goes into extra time. It wasn’t Robbie Williams’s boyf… erm friend, Jonathan Wilkes presenting it but it should have been. And it went on for an hour at primetime. An hour!

Still we did learn a thing or two about the classes. Here’s the first thing: the crappiness of a honeymoon is directly proportionate to how common the couple. One posh couple brought a pig on their honeymoon and had a marvellous time. One seriously common couple went to Sri Lanka, and got stuck in the middle of a Tamil Tiger firefight. Here’s the second thing: posh men marry acidulous pigs. One sour-faced bitch nearly split with her husband because the safari guide annoyed her.

And just look at Prince Charles. He went on holiday to his own house in Balmoral, brought a pig and still looks jolly cheerful.

Speaking of cheerful people pigs and being too nice, what about Sam eh? Five nominations for being too nice. Godammit. Too nice? You were wrong David Cook (see post from June 2): You and the 92% of people who voted off Sezer last week. Before then no-one was nice to anyone on Big Brother (Channel 4, 9pm). Now they’re being voted off for being too nice, or ‘just a weird bitch,’ as Mikey would have it.
Here comes the sun

Phew what a scorcher! Helen Parton is momentarily distracted from what’s on the box.

Has anyone seen that brilliant advert for Boots, where everyone’s running for the beach, slathering themselves in sun cream, painting their toenails on-the-go at the first ray of summer sunshine? Well, it’s genius and that was the weekend that just was, that is. What I’m trying to say is that anyone who stayed in and watched television last Saturday and Sunday was an idiot. With one notable exception – to check the Weather Forecasts (All Channels, All Times of the Day) of course! I still can’t get used to the BBC’s move-y round-y map thing, and I must say it makes me quite nauseous watching it. Possibly more so than when enduring the predictable schmaltzy endings of every single sodding episode of Grey’s Anatomy (Thursdays, 10pm, Five) … and then everything’s alright and they’ve all learnt something about themselves and each other in a horrible hybrid of Dawson’s Creek/Ally McBeal. Ugh, don’t get me started. Where was I? Oh yes, weather. I don’t think we need all this high tech jiggery pokery do we? We’re only a small island. Please stop swooooooshing down to Cornwall and then up to the Isle of Mull and just give the presenters those funny little weather symbols to slap on the patently non-adhesive map. Where will the need to fit in to modern times end? Next, they’ll be asking the reassuringly mumsy-figured, Bhs-attired presenters to go all Paris Hilton. I can’t watch ITV weather either, because Sian Lloyd freaks me out with her all pervading smile, which seems to grow as the rest of her body shrinks. I fear one day she’ll be the like that bit in Alice in Wonderland where the only part of the Cheshire Cat that remained was his grin. Scary. Speaking of bits of the body you can’t keep your eyes off, I’ve become mesmerised by Russell Brand’s beard in Big Brother’s Big Mouth (Friday, 11:55, Channel 4). It looks like he’s waxed off his pubes and stuck them onto various areas of his visage in yet another demonstration of his virility. As if we needed one. Hats off to the little tinker though – come rain or shine (see what I did there, linking beginning to end of article fans) he seems to go through north London blondes the way most men go through man size tissues. Blinding!

Monday, June 5

Nice to see you

David Davies finds no room for Les Dennis in his list of top 10 all time light entertainment hosts

It all started innocently enough. Who was the best light entertainment host ever? I thought to myself as I watched Deal Or No Deal. It seemed Noel was the ultimate, never to be beaten. Then other contenders came to me, and then more, and then I brought it to the workplace and before I knew it I was gathered around a table at lunch vociferously fighting my corner for the person I thought should win. I lost. However, in the spirit of democracy I have left the list as agreed with my colleagues. So, a big thank you to Dave, Emma, Gareth, Josh and Michelle for helping to compile this list, and if you don't like it, blame one of them instead. Here, then, are the 10 greatest light entertainment hosts of all-time.

10. Chris Tarrant
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire revolutionised the quiz show format. Gone were the bright colours and synthesised music, in came classical opera, more cowbell and the sudden, very serious business of playing for Big Money. Sitting in the presenter's seat was Chris Tarrant, a man so rum he could enjoy non-alcoholic tiramisu. Yes, sometimes he drags it on a bit, sometimes he says 'is that your final answer' one too many times, and the poor schmuck sitting opposite goes away with that most humiliating of sums: £1000. But without Tarrant, Millionaire wouldn't be half as good as it is, and countless families would still be talking to each other ('I told you it was B'; 'Yes, we know Dad'). Throw in Tiswas, the original show-for-kids-but-made-for-adults, and he's a shoe-in for number 10.

9. Jeremy Beadle
Watch out, Beadle's about... with a withered hand. Shot exclusively in close-up, Jeremy Beadle was the second hand car salesman who made it big. Struck dumb by the roundness of his head, audiences would watch as he reversed white vans off the edge of a pier, pretended aliens had landed in a small midland village, and did at least one set up involving baked beans, every series. Many questions were left unanswered by the show's demise: were Chas & Dave really singing the theme tune? How could anyone fail to recognise Jeremy Beadle with his moon-shaped head? By the time we'd thought of these, Beadle was in his stride with You've Been Framed, and the fate of 2006's early evening TV was sealed. Like seeing an old photo of yourself with a bad haircut, we remember Beadle by cringeing affectionately.

8. Terry Wogan
Wogan is such a legend he finds time to appear on this list, even though he's better on the radio. The bewigged one makes Eurovision worth watching, and takes a moment to address Children In Need. Cementing his legendary status, he hosted Blankety Blank, the only show to beat Bullseye in the crap prize giving stakes. With his long drumstick microphone, he commanded the screen with a hairdo so wide he beeped whenever he walked backwards. Like the uncle you wish you had, he was welcome in my Nana's living room, and that's all the approval he needs to make this countdown.

7. Matthew Kelly
Before that thing what happened a while back, Matthew Kelly was the squeakiest cleaniest bloke on the box, cleaner even than the guy from Brushstrokes who does the Flash adverts. Still, this is about career, not personal life, and Kelly had two of the biggest shows of the 90s. First up was You Bet!, which was in fact presented by two others, one being Darren Day, the other appearing elsewhere on the list. But who remembers them? Kelly dominated the show, like a jolly green giant without the green bit, watching someone trying to balance one egg on top of another using a JCB. Then there was Stars In Their Eyes, now officially an institution. We only realised how good he was when Cat Deeley took over. How I miss his verbiage, he was like someone with Tourette's who doesn't know any swear words.

6. Cilla Black
Right, let's get the teeth out of the way first. Nope, they're too big to move! Arf arf. Seriously though, those are some offensive gnashers. Still, it didn't stop Cilla from a Matthew Kelly-beating one-two combo of Surprise Surprise and Blind Date. Cilla was a bona fide TV dame. When she asked Graham for a rundown of the Blind Date contestants, we trusted Graham because we knew Cilla trusted him, even though we never saw his face and he might well have been that bald guy from the Goonies. Surprise Surprise was actually a load of arse, but we watched because Cilla was on there. Most of us even tuned in for The Moment Of Truth. We'll skip that one because this list is about the good stuff.

5. Ant & Dec
PJ and Duncan already have a CV that puts most of the others on the list to shame. From the top: SM:TV, Pop Idol, Saturday Night Takeaway, I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!, Gameshow Marathon, and now Soccer Aid. Three things stop them from making the Top 3 instead of the Top 5. Firstly, Ant's forehead is way too big - you could park a car on it and it distracts viewers with its fluorescent shine. Second, they haven't been around long enough for us to know whether any of their shows will be remembered in the same way we remember the others on this list. Finally, and crucially, there are two of them, which means they have to be twice as good as everyone else. Unfair? I'll see you in court.

4. Michael Barrymore
If this list was a Top 10 of musicians, Barrymore would be Michael Jackson: a big freak who was very, very good at what he did. Jackson had sha'mon, Barrymore had alwight. His career isn't all that impressive, with Strike It Lucky and My Kind Of People being the biggest things he did, but it was his sheer charisma and our belief that he was actually a good guy that gets him to fourth place. Now that we know his kind of people lead to big police-related problems, that striking it lucky may not imply winning prizes on a game show, and that he found a few hotspots of his own, he might slide over time. I bet he can't fit that many puns into one sentence either.

3. Noel Edmonds
This is where we enter true legendary territory. Noel's House Party is, bar none, the greatest saturday night entertainment show of all time. Sure, it flagged towards the end, but in its prime we really did love it. There was Mr. Blobby... no I won't go there. It's true, Noel has a massive frickin head, and his hairstyle comes to a point, and he wears the kind of shirts blind nomads go for, but that's why we love him. He's the ultimate dad on TV. Telly Addicts, Swap Shop and his recent comeback with Deal Or No Deal get him to number 3. All hail Noel, for he knows things we shall never know. Like where he gets those shirts from. Take the letter 'r' away and you might have an answer.

2. Bruce Forsyth
If you've been strong and haven't scrolled to see who was in the top spot already, you may be surprised to see uber-chinned Brucie in the silver medal position. For many he is numero uno, and he only just lost out in the group vote. Unfortunately it seems no amount of sandbox dancing wearing a fez and knee-length socks can save him from his fate. Just look at his track record: Sunday Night At The London Palladium, The Price Is Right, Play Your Cards Right, Strictly Come Dancing and, yes, The Generation Game. He also has a monopoly on the best TV catchphrases of all time: "Nice to see you, to see you nice"; "You get nothing for a pair √≥ not in this game"; "Good game, good game"; "Didn't they do well?"; "What¥s on the board, Miss Ford?" Oh, and remember I said someone else had presented You Bet! before Matthew Kelly? Bruce knew a good thing when he saw it, that's why he's the only person apart from George Best to sleep with two Miss Worlds. Who could hold such a legend off the top spot?

1. Bob Monkhouse
First I'm going to let the shows show you. The Golden Shot, Opportunity Knocks, Celebrity Squares, Bob's Full House, Candid Camera, Wipeout, The $64,000 Question and Family Fortunes. It's often forgotten that Monkhouse is the king of TV quiz shows, the ultimate light entertainment family format. In Family Fortunes, he helmed what is regarded as the best quiz show conceived for television. Having a coco pop stuck to his face could not deter him from his quest to fit over 9 trillion jokes into his welcome. It's true that most of them were misses, and that he lacked the natural all-round charisma of Forsyth, yet he was relentless with his comedy and eventually, with one of those jokes, you would smile. He may not be better at any one thing than anyone else in this list, but he is as good as them. Add to the mix the kind of tan the man from Del Monte would be shamed to death of, a propensity for looking slightly confused, those knowing looks and the kind of warmth you just can't fake, and you have your ultimate light entertainment presenter.

So there you have it. Disagree? I hope so. Drop us a comment with your top 10.

Friday, June 2

He has to go

Hate makes David Cook tear up his usual rule book on BB evictions

Memo to the Big Brother contestants: saying ‘he/she/it is playing the game’ is a rubbish reason for nominating someone. IT IS A FUCKING GAME YOU FUCKING FUCKING MORONS.

Anyway, let’s take a look at this week’s nominees...

Lea: What’s the point of Lea, really? She’s got a face that looks as if ET went to a plastic surgeon clutching a picture of Donnatella Versace and said ‘that, please,’ and, other than accidentally giving Glyn morning wood every day, she doesn’t actually do much other than peer over the top of her breasts and complain about everyone else. Mind you, given the people she’s in there with, you can’t really blame her.

Richard: Most people in the house hate Richard, because he’s got the audacity to talk to everyone and be friendly, rather than segregating himself into a group of whispering backstabbers (like the less-than-awesome foursome of Sezer, Imogen, Grace and Pikey). In actual fact, he seems… well, not nice exactly, but certainly more tolerable than most of his inmates. But please, man – take that bloody hat off.

Sezer: The worst human being who ever lived ever. Although ordinarily the best thing is for the most hated potential evictee to survive (because they make better TV than a dullard), in this case the reverse is true. This is partly because, having said that he’d easily survive an eviction contest against Lea, the look on his smug weaselly little face were he to be booted out would be priceless. It’s also because if I have to watch him for much longer, I might have to kick my television in and I can’t afford to buy a new one. Evict him, please. And then shoot him in the face.

Incidentally, BB’s only been on for a fortnight but it already feels like about seven years. Still, only another eleven weeks to go…

Thursday, June 1

Pump Up The Volume (please)

Andrew Kidd finds the final episode of The Line if Beauty isn't nearly as beautiful as a Booker adaptation should be

The first two episodes of Andrew Davies's adaptation of the Booker Prize winning novel The Line of Beauty left more answers unanswered than it answered. What exactly does Nick do for a living while crashing at the home of Tory MP Gerald Fedden, year after year? Why did his hairstyle remain as constant as Tim McInnerny's overacting as Fedden, and most importantly, why did the BBC think it could stretch this adaptation to three episodes, when it so obviously only has two hours of TV material in it? So was the final episode (9pm BBC2) any better?

Thankfully the plot finally managed to stir itself to something above the pace of a tractor towing a bailer down a single track lane on a Sunday afternoon, but how could it not? The 1987 General Election (‘No-one can really imagine this country without Margaret as Prime Minister. Its as simple as that,’ Ledden reassures himself early on), scandal revealed, manic depression and the rise of HIV/AIDS ensured there were plenty of issues to explore.

But sadly no-one, especially Davies or producer Kate Lewis thought to tell the cast. Dan Stevens strolled through another episode as Nick Guest, giving blank looks most of the time and McInnerny let his increasingly mad hair do the acting although Alex Wyndham as Wani Ouradi did his melancholy best from the off as his medical condition worsened. I haven’t read the book and this did nothing to change the situation. Nice soundtrack though. Pump up the volume.