Tuesday, February 26

Review: American Inventor and Supersize versus Superskinny

The latest reality programming reveals a dearth of imagination stinkier than an anal thermometer, says Mark lewis

Here’s an idea for a programme: A variety food show in which teenagers vote whose celebrity excrement Gillian McKeith will sing a business proposition to.

We could call it American Shit Idol, and have Alan Sugar head a panel of bastards telling deluded teenagers their turds aren’t shitty enough.

If Channel 4 doesn’t commission it, then Virgin 1 will.

In American Inventor (Tuesday, 9pm, Virgin 1) it almost has. Even if the concept isn’t inherently shit Simon Cowell’s involvement as executive producer is a guarantee.

Cowell, the critic, has already cracked America by sitting on one side of a panel and telling deluded teenagers how to sing. He was followed by Piers Morgan, the former newspaper editor, who has also cracked America by sitting on one side of a panel and telling deluded teenagers how to publish faked pictures in their own newspapers (possibly). Now Cowell is looking to crack America with Peter Jones, the wealthy entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den bastard, who sits on one side of a panel and tells crackpot inventors why they’re wasting their time.

But try as he might, Jones just isn’t camp enough. Yes, he’s English; yes he’s a bastard, but he’s no ugly sister. Cowell, meanwhile, camps his way through American Idol like a construction worker in ballet shoes. But in trying to reproduce the Evan Davis-inspired, cross-eyed brilliance of Dragons’ Den, Cowell has fallen right on his tutu.

No matter the million dollar prize for the best invention; no matter the sexed up graphics; screaming hopefuls in the crowd; and camera work designed to set the judges up as WWF-style villains, American Inventor is not nearly as compelling as Dragon’s Den. It’s not even as compelling as American Idol.

Its one saving grace is George Foreman, whose qualifications for being on the panel is 30 years of getting punched in the head and ten years of endorsing a portable cooker. He is like a drunk tourist in a sombrero shop. “I could use something like that,” he says tucking a straw donkey under his arm. “I could use something like that,” he says with a suitcase full of miniature Eiffel Towers. “I could use something like that” he says to a man who has invented an umbrella/radio.

The terrible thing is this: Foreman’s acquiescences are no more rash than the commissioner of light entertainment on Channel 4. Evidently “I could use something like that,” is exactly the sort of phrase he used when someone pitched the idea of an hour long, primetime dieting variety show which would pit a very fat person somehow against an unhealthily slim person, and run various features about dieting in between.

The name: Supersize versus Superskinny (Tuesday, 8pm, Channel 4).

The premise: fat lass and skinny lass eat each others’ diets for a week.

The twist: this week the fat lass ate healthy food and the skinny one ate the unhealthy takeaways. Cue much contrived revulsion from the fat girl at the prospect of eating chips and sausages, and much genuine chaviness from the skinny one at the prospect of eating anything not available in McDonalds.

Now split the narrative up with Gillian McKeith, taking a long enough break from poking through people’s turds and pretending to be a doctor, to introduce some tedious feature on snack food.

I couldn’t watch it to the end but I assume supersize and superskinny eventually both decided their diets were equally unhealthy and resolved to change their dietary habits in future. Hurrah! Then viewers text voted for the fat one to eat the skinny one with a fat-free side salad.

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