Friday, July 29, 2005

TODDLER TV: The presenters

As well as encouraging normally sane, well-adjusted adults to obsess about the regularity and quality of baby poo, parenthood opens up a whole new world of TV. I'd call it a twilight world, but it's more of a pre-dawn one. Designed for hyperactive moppets who think lie-ins are for wimps, it is the world of Toddler TV.

Toddler TV is a brightly coloured place, full of smiles and wacky glove puppets, drug-fuelled cartoon fantasies, ex-jazz stars and bouncy people in dungarees. It sings, it dances, it has some of the worst presenters in the history of television. I'm not joking: this lot make The Word's Hufty look cool.

CBeebies
CBeebies markets itself as a learning zone where tiny minds absorb through fun. All the presenters wear playleader bright clothing and could be seen as a warning to youngsters of the effects of drinking too much Sunny Delight. Their eyes are permanently amazed, and they like to break into song and dance at the slightest provocation. We would like to line all of them up against a wall and shoot them and their weird glove puppet companions.

On the children's TV glove puppet. Look, the Muppets were great. Sesame Street was a seminal programme that introduced Herbie Hancock to a whole new generation, but does that mean that we have to have a psychedelically-coloured alien simpering about caring and sharing in EVERY SINGLE BLOODY PROGRAMME?

Notable exceptions to the earnest playleaders are the Wordsworths on StoryMakers - one of whom used to be The Cat from Red Dwarf, and another was Kelvin in Eastenders. My favourite though, is Byron Wordsworth - a shark-suited nightclub owner who probably thinks he's tripping with a purple Michael Howard soundalike and a green-haired cockroach.

ITV
The modish Rathergood-style animated hamster on ITV's Toonattik (Sat and Sun mornings) used to make a refreshing change from the usual presenters because he kept still and didn't try to teach us stuff at 6am. But last week he was sacked in favour of a nondescript blonde and her Alfie Moon-a-like co-presenter being wacky in an attic.

Channel 4 don't bother with presenters. You can almost hear the regular announcers slurping their cappucinos as they attempt to whip up interest in The Hoobs. Not sure if C4 does any other children's TV because as soon as I see the bloody Hoobs, I hit the remote.

five
Five's Milkshake presenters are our favourites. Every single one a Footballers' Girlfriend who stepped into the magic changing room at TopShop, and found herself in a TV studio with a bunch of home-made cards wishing Kayleigh a happy seventh birthday from Granny and Nampa . Their bleary little faces struggle womanfully with the Milkshake dance (a complicated hand jive/hula thing) while expecting the magic shopkeeper to appear at any minute. This morning, I found Ceej gripped by a former underwear model in a corked bush hat singing about making tacos. Priceless

Five is also home to the only glove puppets we can tolerate. Tickle and Patch are a pair of ADHD guinea pigs with their own farm in Wiltshire. Their jokes are crap, they say "Oooharrrr" after every sentence, and they sound like Ceej's dad.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Apprentice Injustice

This week the task is to sell something on QVC – it is not as entertaining as when the UK Apprentice did a similar thing as there is no footage of people laughing for 5 minutes at a wolf fleece. Also the winner is the team who achieves the highest gross sales – not profit; sales – this is stupid as someone could sell loads of things at a massive loss and still win. Anyway, Trump takes Giantess Pamela off the men’s team and says she has to lead the women. Poor Pamela. She immediately lays down the law and says she will boss people about but it is all in order to win and that she hopes people can leave their personal differences behind. The outbreak of cheek sucking and sour face pulling leads me to suspect that her hopes will be in vain.

The men decide to sell a grill type machine and the women sell some kid of miracle sponge thing. Pamela has to demote Blinky Maria Jane Wiedlin alike from TV preventing duties. I have already pointed out that Maria blinks a lot and has a tendency to talk gibberish under stress and this week she goes into gibberish blinking overdrive when the cameras come on in the rehearsal. Also, Pamela has many rows with that poison dwarf Stacey. First she tells Stacey to shut up because she keeps interrupting her when she is trying to allocate tasks, then Stacey is supposed to be setting the price of their product but prevaricates so much that Pamela takes the task off her and does it herself. Also Stacey is supposed to be in charge of legal issues and spends hours fussing about whether the labels are covered up on bottles of fairy liquid etc – when Pamela tells her to get on with it she starts moaning about that as well. I have decided that Stacey is the worst of these women by a long shot. As well as being constantly rancorous and bitchy she never actually does anything useful. Both teams don’t really sell lots of product but the men win by $10. Damn, I really hoped they would lose today – also that means we are subjected to endless footage of them tooling around on a tennis court with Trump’s “close personal friends” John McEnroe and Anna Hornyhova.

The women, of course, go into a bitching overdrive and decide that it is all Pamela’s fault, even though they would have been just as useless as before without her. Pamela takes Maria and Stacey into the boardroom with her – Stacey because she is an annoying wee witch and Maria because she said she was good at public speaking when actually: NOT!!! Maria is wearing a weird black jacket with millions of metal eyelsets sewn into it. I think the audition for "Chicago" is in the other room ,Maria. Stacey says that she was just trying to do her legal job properly but that Pamela stopped her and that could have led to another Enron. I must have missed the part of the news story where Enron collapsed because their detergent bottles were insufficiently disguised. Pamela points out that Stacey adds zero value and actually distracts other people because she will never shut up. Absolutely correct. Maria is nominated because she put herself forward as a presenter and was shit at it. Maria says “I wasn’t that bad”. Auton Carolyn: “Yes, actually you were.” Brrr. Stacey and Maria blame Pamela for setting the price wrong (not mentioning that Stacey was too lame to do it herself) and misjudging team members abilities. What was she supposed to do when she had never worked with them before? Trump says that Pamela was decisive but made wrong decisions – as opposed to the rest of those useless bints who were indecisive and also made wrong decisions – and fires her. So unfair, especially when Maria and Hateful Stacey were also up for the boot. Carolyn agrees with the Trumpmeister but older sidekick George seems pretty pissed off. Me too, George, me too. It is as bad as when they sacked Miriam and her wondrous bosoms in UK Apprentice

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Melrose Place Update

Kimberley and Dr Michael’s marriage shenanigans continue – Dr Michael served Kimberley with divorce papers, Kimberley then attempted suicide and Dr Michael had cracked open the bubbly and was set to watch her die when Sydney walked in and spoiled everything. I love the way Sydney just keeps doing mad random things that are completely pointless. Sydney managed to extort a big wad of cash out of both Kimberley (she helped K frame M for moider) and Michael (he had to pay Syd for the suicide note, so he could get off the moider rap) but then decided to throw her money away by investing the blackmail proceeds in Mancini goddamn Designs and is now the President. Given that Mancini Designs only has one room above a shop, that must be like being the President of Heligoland. Sydney’s first executive decisions were to put Dr Michael on the payroll as her gigolo, basically, and to get Mancini Designs embroiled in some kind of mafia pantyhose drug smuggling scam. Good one Sydney. (That plot now seem so to have been resolved, but I think I must have dozed off for the 30 mins or so when it happened).

Meanwhile, Dr Michael is now stalking Amanda (who, of course, has completely recovered from her 24 hour bout of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) and Dr K ran away to a special boot camp to learn how to be assertive. They asked her to leave after she broke the instructor’s arm for kicks. Kimberley has now returned to Melrose to wreak revenge and has teamed up with Amanda to get Michael arrested for stalking/assault (all faked of course). In a particularly hilarious moment, a beardy Rolf Harris alike bloke suddenly appeared to Kimberley in a mirror and started telling her to “Kill! Kill them all!” I haven’t seen such a hilariously crass depiction of mental illness since the talking dog in that “Summer of Sam” film. Matt copped off with a hunky doctor and they actually implied that they had sex. OMG! Hunky doctor got up in the middle of the night to phone someone and I instantly assumed that he was going to plot evil shenanigans with Kimberley (I wouldn’t put anything past her now that she’s assertive!) but instead he just phoned his wife to make a lame excuse. Doh. Will Matt ever be lucky in love?

Jake’s no-good half brother has moved in with him and is up to no good. Also he is rotten looking - a giant Fabio-esque “hunk” with an ugly chin beard and stringy hair. Perhaps he is supposed to be “grunge” or something. He is working at Shooters, reading all of Jake’s private papers and putting the moves on Jo. (I don’t mind Jo now that she doesn’t run around squealing “My baybay! My baybay!” all the time). Ugly Brother has been flirting shamelessly – taking Jo to crazy golf and teaching her how to handle his club. Pure filth. Jo said she wouldn’t do anything with Ugly Brother as it would hurt Jake, Ugly Brother asked for one kiss and two seconds later he is ripping off her ugly crushed velour cardigan and pushing her up against a dumpster at the back of the bar. The baby-napping grandparents were right after all! Jo really is a heartless amoral slut! Sydney heard Jake and Ugly Brother knocking boots and instantly grassed them up to Jake. Bitch. Jake and Ugly Bro had a fight (next to a swimming pool but no-one fell in – what’s that all about?) and then Ugly Bro hired some even uglier people to shoot Jake – of course he survived – he is sure that Ugly Bro was responsible but just can’t prove it, dammit!

Charlotte from Sex and the City has turned out to be a right little minx (Billy: “Are you rich?” Charlotte: “Filthy!”). She spent hours telling Billy that he was really sexy (give her an oscar!) while he made his normal constipated faces. Her blatant flattery finally penetrated his thick skull and she got him into bed. At work, she did very well with the (snigger) Glamorous Gowns campaign when she let them use her posh dad’s big house for a photoshoot at the last minute and became Alison’s confidante and right hand woman (Alison is still a bitch on wheels by the way). Alison gave Amanda a lowly job at Depressing and Dysfunctional Advertising and Amanda instantly teamed up with Charlotte and made her her spy. Amanda, of course, did everything she could to get Alison the sack – hiding vital memos, mentioning to clients about Alison’s drunken rehab shame, messing with the Glamorous Gowns print campaign etc etc, the best bit was when she got Alison to pitch an advert to some bloke that reminded him of his mother’s suicide. Ha ha ha, that’s more like it. Meanwhile Charlotte spent all her time pumping Billy for secret information and then making conniving faces over his shoulder when he hugged her. Classic. In the end Alison was sacked in favour of Amanda and order was restored in the Melrosiverse. Charlotte has connived to get Alison a job in Hong Kong (she is still in the programme though, worse luck), tricked Billy into thinking Alison hated him and has got him to propose. That’s an awful lot of effort to land a mega tool like Billy.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

More US Apprentice

I wondered who was going to picked on by the women next and the answer is quickly revealed – Elizabeth! (the blonde with the funny eyebrows who was Project Manager last week). Everyone else thought that she should have been sacked instead of Stacie and everyone had a go at her when she got back. They all had a bitchy catfight and someone said something about “not coming into your sandbox” - very mature. When Elizabeth started crying, the women said that she was having a nervous breakdown and was mentally ill. God, shut up about mental illness! (to his credit, one of the blokes criticised the women for their mental health hate fest re Stacie).

In other news, Donald’s aging bloke sidekick was away on business and was replaced by a handsome young man who turns out to be the winner of series one. I’m glad to see that Ice Maiden Carolyn was still in full effect though. The task this week was to open a restaurant in 24 hours and run it for one evening (they were provided with a chef and a venue) – the one with the highest Zagats rating (as voted by the diners) would win.

The PM of the women turned out to be Jennifer – a tall brunette with a Betty Page hair do – she instantly endeared herself to the team by snapping ”It’s going to be asian fusion! End of discussion” and calling one of her arch enemies “the munchkin” (Stacy – a swivel eyed midget who earned my undying emnity by saying that Stacie’s “breakdown” was the scariest moment of her life. I think you need to get out more, love). They went to the restaurant and dithered around until Betty/Jennifer decided that she would rather work back at an office – cue lots of eye rolling and bitch facery. The women got home and heard that the men had hired cleaners to get the restaurant ready and were like “doh, we have to clean the restaurant!?” They went back at 1 am and had to clean it themselves for hours. Good planning, Betty!

I am still having trouble telling the men apart. One of them (Chris?!?) who used to be a waiter was quite funny – giving a spiel about how to suck up to the public whilst still loathing them – I think he is something of a tool though. Another one John had to endure jokes about being “artistic” (nudge nudge, wink wink) when he did some generic abstract art for the restaurant walls. John is quite cute so I remember him quite well. Elizabeth started crying again when she was given a flyer distributing task and felt that she was not given sufficient resources and was deliberatley set up to fail. Take a chill pill, Elizabeth.

The restaurants were fitted out as if by magic. The US version does not give nearly as much detail into the process of achieving their goals and tends to focus more on bitching and conflict. That is quite a shame as I enjoy watching all the running around/schmoozing/problem solving (or not) that goes into achieving (or not) these tasks. Both venues were ready on time and they both looked pretty good.

On the night, the men helped with the waitering and were endearingly clutzy. At one point some gay blokes complained that their starters were shit, so they sent out Cute John to mildly flirt with them and butter them up as he was the best looking. He was a good sport about it and none of the other team mates made fun of him or the gays, which was refreshing – if Paul Torrisi had been asked to that he would have literally exploded.

The women hired waiters and all just basically stood about nervously in their best frocks and loomed over people who were trying to enjoy their tea. Not a good move. (Ivana noticed this and tried to get them to be less clumpy – she was not too annoying this episode). There was a hilarious moment when Blinky Maria (wearing a nice black dress and with about 15 yards of green beads wrapped round her neck) was greeting some diners and said something like “I see that your table is currently being prepared and made ready for your arrival so I should be grateful if you would come with me in this direction of the table.” WTF??? At one point two old grannies moaned to Betty that they were uncomfortable etc etc. This is important for later.

It turned out that the men got a higher score – the women were mainly dissed by the diners for the venue design (too abstract, cold and uncomfortable) and for the way the women lurked around and made everyone feel weird. Of course, the women instantly went into super bitch mode. Betty started going on about “those two Jewish ladies” who slagged them off and ruined everything for her – she is a tool, obviously, but I don’t think it was that bad , anyway, apparently she had to apologise on national TV and lost her job etc etc for being anti-semitic. Yikes. Betty moaned that her traitorous minions were “havoc wreakers!” Evil dwarf Stacey went around telling everyone that Betty was (a) rubbish and (b) anti-semitic (Stacey turned out to be Jewish too) while Betty lurked round corners and made hacky faces and literally shook her fist at her. They had a dramatic confrontation and Stacey said she wouldn’t talk to Betty and Betty said that Stacey wasn’t as popular and well-liked as she thought. God, it feels like I am watching ”Clueless” at times.

Back in Donald’s throne room, Robo-Carolyn pointed out that they failed because of their design. She said that the restaurant was in a fairly casual type neighbourhood and that although everything looked brilliant, the restaurant was too smart and the women were too over-dressed and formal. Carolyn and Winner Bloke said that Betty should choose to sack people based on their performance (ie, she should choose the girl who did the d├ęcor) not based on personality, so of course dim bulb Betty selects her two arch enemies Stacey and Elizabeth and lets Designer Girl (blonde, ironed hair, happens to be her best friend, Sandy?) off the hook. Elizabeth started moaning that she had been set up to fail on the flyer task and Stacey was all “Bring it on, bitch!”

In the sacking part there was lots of snivelling and back biting. Carolyn asked why the hell Betty didn’t select Sandy and said that all their carrying on made her ashamed to be a business woman. Also Donald and Carolyn had to tell Betty to stop interrupting and listen to them about five times. Betty made an arsey face as though she couldn’t believe she was being told to shut up. Oh Betty, do you want to be sacked that badly? Of course, she was fired and Donald said it was a very easy decision. Ouch. As she drove away in the EE style Cab of Finality, Betty said that Sandy had betrayed her (WTF?) but that she hadn’t lost the ability to trust people. That’s alright then.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Spelling Bee

Spellbound was one of my favourite films of 2003 and afterwards I kept saying to anyone who would listen that they should have spelling programmes on TV. BBC1's Hard Spell was pretty good and I enjoyed Celebrity Hard Spell, except for that bloody idiot Dick (or Dom) who ruined it for everyone by being useless. Anyway, I'm going to watch ITV's effort and see if it's any good.

Right. It's hosted by Chris Tarrant, which seems better than the Eamonn Holmes version. There are also three different teams and they're playing for charidee. Unfortunately the only people I've heard of are Edwina Currie, Tony Slattery, Samantha Bond and Tara Palmer-Tompkinson. That's only 4 out of 12. Very poor sleb-count, if you ask me. They also have a precocious kid called Samir from the US National Spelling Bee as Expert Help. This seems like a bad idea.

First round. Fiona Phillips, Edwina Currie and Patrick Mower. It's category related and they get to pick the level of difficulty. The category is politics and Fiona gets "adjournment" correct at level 2. Edwina goes for a high level of difficulty (3) and gets "constituency" correct. Tarrant, of course, can't resist delivering his lines as if he was on Millionaire ("That's the right answer - you've got 30 points!" etc.) Mower gets "filibustering" and has to ask Samir because he's not sure about the number of Ls. It turns out that each team can ask Samir twice each and if he gets it right they get the point. Basically it's 'Ask the audience of one' and the one happens to be a spelling expert. Anyway he gets it right and smart-arsedly says, "It's a good thing you waited because you might not have got it right" with a shit-eating grin. Tarrant looks like he wants to slap him but he's protected by a video-link.

Commerical break already. Bah.

The round continues. Just Slattery from Fiona's team. He goes for level 3 and gets "Guadaloupe". He gets it wrong. Tarrant: "That's the WRONG answer". Roger Black is next for Currie's team and gets "Philippines". he gets it wrong too. Andrew someone next and gets "Montserrat" at level 2. He gets it wrong too. Tarrant looks desperate to say, "Is that your final answer?"

Samantha Bond, from Currie's team now. The category is 'Living La Vida Loca'. The category idea is stupid if you ask me - it doesn't add anything at all. Sam gets "Superfluous" right for 30 points. Tim Vine now, level 3 again. He gets "nymphomania" correct, also for 3. Trudie Goodwin now. (Who?) Level 3 again, even though she admits she'd rather choose level 2. Her word is "ostentatious" and she asks Samir. The little blighter gets it right. Tarrant tries to psyche him out by doing the Millionaire thing of going, "Samir...(big pause)..." but Samir basically tells him to fuck off because he knows he's right. Ha ha!

Next up is Wendy someone. Her word is "chihuahua" and she asks Samir too. He gets it right. Anthony Cotton's turn now - he gets "rottweiler" at level 2 and gets it wrong with only one L. TPT now. She opts for the easiest level and says, "I don't mind if I get it wrong - I've got a nice dress on." She gets "Leopard" and spells it out on the desk like a 5 year old. She also repeats "L" but Tarrant lets her off.

The scores are now Edwina's team: 60, Patrick's team: 70, and Fiona's team: 70, although Patrick's team have exhausted their Samir option.

It's quite badly structured, really. I hope they vary it later on. At least the BBC version had several different rounds and tested both speed and ability.

Round 2 now. "Decision Time". Oh for God's sake. It's basically the same thing again, only once one person has attempted a level no-one else can do that level. The category is "I may be small but I'm hard", which sounds awful, but it's about small words that are hard to spell. Wendy gets "phlegm" correct for 10 points and Anthony gets "abysmal" right too. Tara gets "liaise" wrong, which is silly considering the round (she spells it 'liase'). She says "Did I not say that?", rather amusingly.

Level 2 words for round 2. "It's All Greek To Me" - foreign words that are used in English. Samantha Bond gets "Hacienda" correct, Tim gets "Karaoke" correct (and yes, I am writing these down before they spell them) and some other woman gets "pirouette".

Level 3 words for round 2. The category is "Reverse Spelling" and apparently they have to spell the words backwards. This is just getting stupid now. Fiona gets "Irreversible" and gets it right. Roger gets "bankruptcy" and asks Samir. Samir gets it right, precocious little Boy Genius that he is. Patrick Mower gets "misconstrue" and gets it right.

Scores are now: Edwina's and Patrick's teams have 120, Fiona's team have 130 pts.

Mystery Spelling Round now, with rapid fire spelling at 10 points a word. No, I tell a lie, it's worse than that. Slattery is given several words and has to say whether it's "i before e" or "e before i". He gets 8 right and 80 points. Edwina gets "a or i before b" with -ible, -able words. She gets 6 and 60 points. Andrew gets "a or e before n". He gets 40 points. Scores now: Patrick: 160, Edwina: 180, Fiona: 210. Patrick's team have to leave, which is a shame because TPT is the most entertaining contestant and I'd have liked to see her struggle with something better than "liaise" and "leopard". Bah.

Basically, this is a case of too many celebrities and not enough words. I'd rather watch them all in a straight knockout, like in the States. Fools.

Round 3. Scores back to zero and another team will get knocked out at the end. Level 1 words no longer allowed. I was hoping for a bit of variety but no, it's the same format. Category is "I'll have a P please, Chris." The audience are so bored they applaud half-heartedly every time someone picks a difficult level. Fiona picks 3 and gets "paediatrics" correct, Anthony gets "prerogative" correct and is rather happy about it. Slattery vs Vine now. Category is about phobias. Slattery gets "triskaidekaphobia" and says, "I beg your pardon", after a Comedy Pause. He gets one letter wrong (he says "ophobia" not "aphobia"). Vine gets "arachnophobia", which is nowhere near as difficult. He picks the Boy Genius option and Samir gets it right. Samantha vs Edwina now. Category is "Types of Italian Food". Sam goes for 3 and gets "cannelloni". She asks Samir and he gets it right. Chris tries the fake-out thing again and Samir still knows he got it right. Edwina picks level 2 and gets "linguine" wrong. So do I, actually - I would have spelled it "linguini" too. D'oh! New category: "Back to School." Wendy gets "trigonometry" correct and Roger gets "apostrophe" wrong. Fool. (He spells it "apostraphe".) Tarrant can't help himself and keeps giving extra information, as if it helps. It's now Edwina 60, Fiona 90.

This is more like it. "Speed spell". Both teams are all lined up and have to spell as many words as possible in 2 minutes. Apparently they each get 10 seconds per word too. They're not sticking to the rules either - they're allowed to restart without any penalties. They all do well though. Edwina's team have 110 and Fiona's team have 160. Fiona's team are Slattery, Samantha and Wendy - they now split up to find a single champion for the £25,000 prize.

Hmmm. This round is silly - they have to spell a word between them, one letter at a time. They each have 2 lives. Wendy goes out. Next word is "onomatopoeia". Slattery: "Oh, for God's sake!" Slattery is the only one with both lives left. Fiona's out too, on "renaissance". It's Slattery vs Samantha Bond, which is cool because a) I know who they are and b) they were my two favourites.

This is more like it. It's now "Best of 5" with a Sudden Death round if they're level at the end. Slattery gets "effervescent" correct. Sam gets "perspicacious" correct. I think I might fancy her a little bit. Slattery gets "Leprechaun" wrong - he spells it "Leprachaun". Sam gets "Poltergeist" correct. Slattery gets "assassination" correct. Sam gets "pteryodactyl" which is a bitch of a word to have in your head. She spells it "therodactyl". Oh dear. Maybe I don't fancy her after all - I could never be with a woman who couldn't spell pterodactyl. Slattery gets "iridescent" wrong. Sam gets "minuscule" correct and Slattery gets "opthalmologist" wrong (as do I). Sam wins! Hurrah! She gives the money to McMillan Cancer Relief. Marvellous. I bet I'm one of the only viewers in the country who didn't turn over to Big Brother at 10pm though.

Monday, July 11, 2005

FIVE REASONS TO CONTINUE WATCHING BIG BROTHER

1) Craig's descent into a wailing abyss of self pity as everybody he speaks to, nay cleaves to like a drowning man to a match, gets evicted.

2) Orlaith's Boobies Drinking Game. Every time she flashes her threps, drink a finger of alcohol (for authenticity, this should be Smithwicks); every time she gazes lovingly at her perfect nipples and strokes them Linda Lusardi stylee, finish the glass.

3) Makosi tells Vanetha what she should have told Anthony and tells Derek what she should have told Eugene. Then spontaneously combusts as truth meets anti-truth, and spends the rest of the series drinking cherryade in q rip in the space/time continuum.

4) Eugene invents a machine for counting blades of grass and measuring how much they actually grow in a day. More popularly, he works out how to make alcohol from grass cuttings and Kemal's hairspray.

5) Instead of getting evicted, Vanetha hides in a cupboard for the rest of the series. Nobody notices.

Apprentice US Stylee

As a keen viewer of the Sir Alan Sugar Apprentice Experience, I was intrigued to watch the US version on BBC3 the other day. It is very much the same format, only it is set in NYC with Donald Trump and his bizarre and scary comb-over as the entrepreneur in question. I suppose when you are that rich you could have a pile of dead mice on your head, loosely stitched together with raffia, and still no-one would say anything. As well as the splendour that is Donald, we have many scenes set in Trump Tower, which looks like a Vegas casino and is unremittingly tacky – still, they don’t have Amstrad’s rubbish emailer phones dotted around every scene, so in one respect they are actually LESS tacky than Siralan. Donald’s sidekicks are an older white haired bloke who seems quite normal and a younger blonde woman with an unmoveable hair helmut who never says anything and makes no facial expressions whatsoever. I am a bit scared of her, to be honest.

The contestants are the usual assortment of muppets and dilettantes – the main difference is that the production of the US version just comes across as really cheesy and juvenile – like at one point the male team were “brainstorming” and whenever they came up with a lame idea there was a comedy “boinngggg!” noise on the soundtrack. Hello, are we watching Rainbow here or something? Also, the editing is a lot more soapy, i.e. in the title sequence the Apprentices are all named and there is a shot of eacjh of them smiling or answering the phone or pointing at a flow chart or something. It is like the beginning of “Dallas”! There are also many shots of people making hacky faces and glaring at each other for no reason. (I actually approve of this innovation). Even the receptionist who says “King Donald will see you now!” had about three hacky faced reaction shots – FOR NO REASON!!!

The first time I watched it was in week three, so I don’t really have a clue about any of the contestants. The weekly task was to take $50k and stage a marketing event for a leading-brand-of-toothpaste’s new vanilla and mint flavour. Vanilla and mint? Vomit. PR shills for the Leading Toothpaste Company would judge the winner on how much buzz they generated. The men’s team (called something subtle like “Team Giant Penis”) wanted to put on a Dr Evil style Meellion Dollar sweepstake, but “legal” wouldn’t let them do it. Instead they just hired some circus freaks and jugglers and gave away toothpaste in the street. How boring. If I was Donald I would have sacked all them just for the sin of making jugglers feel useful for a day. The women (Team Ovary) decided to hire a celebrity and have an event with him brushing his teeth in the street with new vile sounding toothpaste. The celebrity was some New York sports bloke I have never heard of – someone suggested LL Cool J but he was rejected because apparently he was too “edgy”. Buh buh but I thought Ladies Loved Cool James??? Also, LL Cool J? Edgy? “Deep Blue Sea” was hardly like the fricking Cremaster Cycle, not even when LL Cool J rapped at the end and pretended that he was a shark. The women were clearly set to win due to their slightly better ideas but unfortunately they overspent the budget to the tune of $5,000 on flyers and promo materials and were thus declared the Losers. Doh, easy mistake to make, I suppose – if you’re a total idiot.

The two women responsible were a Jane Wiedlin look-alike called Maria, who had weird pencilled-in eyebrows and blinked a lot – she supposedly negotiated the price – and the budget manager; an Asian girl called Ivana (I bet she was only selected because of her name). They were both pretty dreadful and refused to even accept the idea that they could have been remotely responsible for the mistake. Blinky Maria: “I told the printer I could only spend $2,000 and he said he wasn’t sure he could do it for that price, and then he couldn’t do it! How is that my fault???” etc.

At this point the show got (a) really nasty and (b) really interesting. Team Ovary were so awful that they make UK Apprentice’s Melty-Face Adele seem like the voice of reason – it turns out that Stacy (the only black girl in the team, which was all white apart from her and Ivana) had had a minor freakout in week one and all the other women had decided that she was mentally ill and had teamed up to shun her and blame her for everything, even though she hadn’t done anything wrong since. Seriously, it was like Lord of the Flies in snazzy business suits. The team leader (some blonde with weird eyebrows) selected Stacy and Blinky for sacking and Stacy got the sack after a depressing scene where all the other women lined up to question her mental health and blame her for disrupting the task, even though none of them could give any examples of actual disruptive behaviour. Um excuse me, Ms Bridal Shop Manager – do you have a psychiatry degree to go with your ugly white meringue dresses? If not then shut up! It is possible that Donald’s Fembot Aide disapproved of the sacking, though it was hard to tell given that she is about as demonstrative as an Auton. Actually Stacy is better off away from those heinous bitches – it will be interesting to see who they turn on next.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

GUILTY SECRET: TOP GEAR

My name is Sarah. I recycle my newspapers, compost my leftover veg, and regularly threaten to vote Green every election if Labour don’t buck their ideas up. I have never passed my driving test and either walk or use public transport to get around London. I have even investigated installing a solar panel in my garden.

I love Top Gear.

Why? It's all about men driving cars around race tracks or around leafy Surrey lanes. Or men cooing over useless sports vehicles that come equipped with a personalised micro-climate, the equivalent of 15 stampeding elephants for an engine, and seats made from the skin of unborn baby marmosets. Then they argue about which is the most expensive, and consequently, the most useless.

The Tall Old One (Jeremy Clarkson) regularly challenges the Other Two - Richard Hammond (short but cute in a crazed hamster kind of way), and James May (I'd say he was dressed by his wife but it says here he’s single…)- to travel to, say, Oslo using public transport while he drives overland from Guildford in a 60 squillion pound Mercedes supercar.

Jeremy wins – usually because the other two can’t read a bus timetable or think that flogging the guts out of a powerboat in inclement weather is a good idea. Mind you, I have never seen a face as green as Hammond's as he leaned over the side of the boat and was sick at 70 knots. That’s an awful lot of slightly pissed-off herring.

Given that the Other Two’s strategy was so daft, Clarko could probably have won it in a 15-year-old Volvo and used the money saved to pay off the national debt of Burkina Faso or something.

But that’s not really the point.

The point is that this team knows that what they do is wasteful, profligate and irresponsible, and they quite sincerely don’t care. A proper motoring programme, as Top Gear used to be, discusses sensible family cars, fuel efficiency, safety features and so on, while driving gently around Surrey lanes to demonstrate the car’s handling. That’s what the manufacturers like to see. You’re asleep already, aren’t you? I'ts not that they ignore the family car, but they get their mums to do all that stuff.

By appealing to our inner petrolhead, Top Gear has hit on a winner. Take three scruffy presenters old enough to know better, who know even Kofi Annan would probably give up saving the world to spend the rest of his days playing tiddlywinks with old Volvos; a bunch of cars that nobody could ever afford even if they auctioned their entire family on eBay; a minor celebrity racing a family car; ban being sensible, and there you have it. Perfect Sunday veg-out TV.

And our 2001 Polo doesn’t even make it into the Seriously Uncool list.

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