Thursday, April 12

Watch The Birdie

Helen Parton is mesmerized by fores, fairways and five irons


Viewing the human race from outer space, golf must seem a pretty peculiar activity to any alien life forms and watching it on TV must count as even stranger. So many strokes per hole predetermined by it’s never clear who and whoever has the most under par, assuming the cut of your plus fours is right, and dividing the number you first thought of – wins.
But the expanse of calming greenery and lack of anything too taxing on the brain (ignoring aforementioned logic-less scoring) is perfect for Sunday night TV, which is why I was tuned into the US Masters (BBC2, Far Too Long). Given that the most televisual excitement you’re likely to encounter TV-wise on this day of the week is an elderly Yorkshire gentleman falling off a dry stone wall or someone stealing a pig, again in Yorkshire, and making off in an Austin 7 soundtracked by the Hollies, it’s perfect scheduling. And so in Augusta, there was nothing much doing: Tiger Woods got a bit angry and managed to snap one of his clubs in two, one shot went in the crowd narrowly missing some dullard golf fanatic and at home we all involuntarily went ‘Uhhhhhhhhhhooooohhh’ as another ball nearly went in, in a response nearly as Pavlovian as grabbing the top of one’s head at a penalty miss. Oh for the days of John Daly, who caused uproar in golfing circles years ago by only having one technique, namely ‘twat the ball as far as you can’ or tres silly Frenchman Jean Van der Val, who squandered the British Open a while back by playing a ball even though it was partly submerged in a pond and sacrificing numerous swinging splashes at it in strokes. No such characters this time around, it was all bland blokes with flat bottoms squeezed into bad slacks. Our own wacky Ian Poulter could only muster a Doherty-like trilby, but in a distinctly un-Babyshambles like shade of baby pink and with no staircases on the course to do a comedy roll down clutching aforementioned headgear, the similarities ended there.
The only real joke of the tournament being Gary Lineker’s airfare over there to do, well it appears, very little, aside from topping up his tan and chatting to some old pros. Even then the old crisp muncher wimped out and got a sore throat. I’d like to think this was from shouting ‘Uhhhhhhhhhhooooohhh’ to women with names like Dixie Lee and Krystal in Hot Legs 11, Georgia’s finest lap dancing emporium, on a racy night out with Peter Alliss and Sam Torrance. But a Quaver probably just went down the wrong way instead.
With Manish Bhasin having bagged the cushy Cricket World Cup presenting slot in the West Indies, the ever dependable Ray Stubbs and Adrian Chiles must be wondering what they did wrong to be stuck with some sweaty blokes in XXXL acrylic at the darts, or discussing United Biscuits’ share price on Working Lunch respectively.
The golf was won by some God fearing American, our boys having patriotically choked in the last round, in case you were wondering. Never mind the aliens, what on Earth was I thinking putting in so many hours to find out?

Wednesday, April 4

Phats Entertainment

Helen Parton finds TV’s blonde females rule

Those expecting a further installment of Vanessa Feltz meltdown on this celebrity edition of Wife Swap (Sunday, Channel 4, 9pm) will have been disappointed, but otherwise this was TV gold. In what is now rather a tired format, Feltz agreed to trade places with Debbie McGee, and spend a week in the home of magician Paul Daniels. I suspect after his dismal performances here – failing to get a candle to ‘jump’ he may as well have got his coat. Or should that be magic cloak. Meanwhile McGee was finding a week as Vanessa was exhausting as she not only hosts a morning radio show but trails her boyfriend Ben Ofoedu, ten years her junior, to endless PAs in provincial nightclubs by night. He only seemed to have one song though, a Phats and Small number (was he Phats or was he Small, we never did find out) which he would belt out at any opportunity: ‘Hey what’s with you/you’re looking kind of down to me/And things ain’t getting ovvvvvvverrr/Listen to what I say. Got to turn arooooooound’.
Vanessa was finding the solitude in whichever godforsaken bit of the Home Counties Daniels now calls home a trifle trying and after the swap dragged him to the pub where she proceeded to invite locals to slam tequila with her. The next night, the odd couple headed to a West End club where his magic failed yet again to cut the entertainment mustard, not when la Feltz was on the dance floor, a sea of sequins and d├ęcolletage, at least. Under the McGee regime, Ofoedu was banned from ‘celebrity’ dinners with the likes of Shane Lynch from Boyzone and had to spend more time at home learning more than one song. Which he didn’t seem that keen on. McGee and Daniels just seem downright strange and introverted, whereas I’d happily do a shot with Feltz any time. I do worry though that a remarkably lucid woman has such a fatal flaw in not spotting a toyboy layabout when she sees one. Maybe I’ll call her radio show and tell her.
Speaking of blonde bombshell female DJs (oooooh, the seamlessness) I went to a recording of the Culture Show (Friday, 7:30, BBC2) this week, presented by Lauren Laverne who is to my mind hovering dangerously close to Jimmy Carr-like ubiquity. And unlike Nick Yates’ review of the Al Murray programme, I had quite a good time, apart from the having to pretend the guests weren’t there and we just happened to find ourselves sipping soft drinks in a dimly lit bar on an unremarkable Tuesday thing. “Gentle chatter” the director would call as we all tried not to gawp at gorgeous, leggy, urbane Laverne. Guests included John Simm (shorter than you’d think, bit boring) Mark Kermode (huge man, rock solid quiff) Frank Skinner (can’t tune a banjo to save his life, just about the right side of the funny/irritating divide). Music was courtesy of several boys from Sunderland with amazing cheekbones and even more amazing guitar effects’ pedals. It was a supergroup consisting of members of Field Music, Maximo Park (currently on heavy rotation on webmaster Lewis’s MP3 player) and the Futureheads. But those lads have a way to go before they steal Phats and Small’s crown of best ever album title. Its name? Now, Phats What I Call Music. Genius.