Questions

What kind of idiot invites Michael Winner round their house?

Even Michael Winner doesn’t invite himself round his house for summat to eat. He’s clearly so low on friends that he’s needing to participate in Michael Winner’s Dining Stars (ITV1, Friday, 9pm)

One thing is guaranteed – he won’t keep any of these new prole friends for very long as he’s guaranteed to be an obnoxious tit the first chance he gets, willing to pass it all off as high-jinkery with a translucent wink of his ageing eye-lid.

Of course, there’s only ITV daft enough to commission this show.

There’s only Five or BBC Three I could imagine taking him on… and in the case of the latter, he’s not a former member of Atomic Kitten, so he’s out of the race.

Apart from being famous for being that man who says “Calm down dear…” and producing one of the Death Wish flicks, our man Winner is a foodie. Yep, the worst type of human of all.

This series sees him eating in people’s houses and comparing them unkindly to some of the swank restaurants that he’s eaten in.

The ones that get his seal of approval will receive a rubbish Perspex trophy.

With his undeserved ego in tow, you’ll get to see him blindly wobbling about the place like Mr Magoo and hurling insults at his PA and make-up woman.

He thinks that he’s gliding from the heavens to cast his holy hand over mere mortals when, the truth of the matter is, we’ll get to see him exactly for what he is – a jumped up, peevish little shit.

Naturally, it could make for some astonishing… if dreadful and infuriating… television.

Paul O’Grady‘s Channel 4 chatshow was pure trash. However, it was very enjoyable trash. It was perfect just-finished-work viewing. Overly sentimental, camp and self effacing. It’s exactly the kind of tonic you need after a crap day of work.

However, O’Grady left the show and subsequently, left a big hole in the listings. This has seen something of a TV scrum to land the job of hosting a chat-show around the same time.

Reports suggest that Davina McCall and Vernon Kay are heading up the battle. According to The Mirror, both presenters have been lined up for ‘live auditions’ along with Phil Spencer and Kirstie Allsopp.

Apparently, around ten stars have been approached by bosses to host the show one week at a time. Whoever appeals the most will then go on to become a permanent replacement for O’Grady.

“We have been inundated,” an insider is quoted as saying. “The teatime slot is a real favourite because it means they can be on telly every day but there is less pressure than with a primetime show.

“We plan to have eight to ten presenters for a week each in spring. Then we’ll decide whether to give the gig to one or carry on with rotating names. It’s a bit like staging live auditions.

“People are desperate to get involved – having a chatshow is the Holy Grail for lots of these presenters.”

Some of you may remember that Davina has dipped her toe into the world of chatshow before… which bombed. She is, underneath the gurning, a very likeable human being, so stands a decent chance of landing the gig.

Who would you like to see landing the role?

Iiiiin the red coooorner, Goooordon’The Cyclops’ Broooown! And in the blue coooorneeer, David ‘Pillow Face’ Cameron! And in the yellow coooorneeer… that bloke… uh… Nick Clogs or something.

Yep. British politics is slowly coming to the realisation that we, the British public, are far more interested in American politics because it’s more fun to watch.

The Obama/McCain throwdown was one of the most captivating and brilliantly crass TV series ever. The way Joe The Plumber was dragged into it… then dragged over hot coals… the squaring off, the high production values… it had everything.

British politics meanwhile, is still kissing babies and evading the answers. Of course, there is something wonderful about the House of Commons and the panto bickering of Prime Minister’s Question Time… but it doesn’t feel like a TV show does it? It’s peering into a fusty old world and often wondering what the hell people are talking about half the time.

These debates will, for the first time, see our politicians arguing with each other knowing damn well that they’ll have to speak in a language WE understand or lose.

And so, our MPs agreeing to live, televised debate shows is rather exciting for anyone who gives a fig about the way our country works. In addition, we can cross our fingers for someone getting verbally slapped to the point of tears on telly. It’ll be the thinking man’s equivalent of waiting for a crash in F1.

Next year’s general election campaign will be fought over in public, eye-to-eye and shown on three channels.

It has been agreed that three programmes will be broadcast in peak time in front of studio audiences… a bit like Question Time. Each will be between 85 and 90 minutes long.

ITV is to stage the first debate, which will be presented by Alastair Stewart. Sky will produce the second debate presented by Adam Boulton, and David Dimbleby will present the final programme on the BBC.

We’re not sure whether the questions will come from presenters or members of the public in the audience… I’m hoping it’s the latter.

Channel 4’s Wife Swap is about to throw its last hissy fit ever. The trailer for the last-ever programme plays stirring music and proclaims that this is the end of an era.

Really?

The show has been aired for 6 years and in that time, there’s been some staggeringly crass broadcasts.

One of the first stars of the show was the walking urinal-cake that was Lizzy Bardsley. Remember her? She thrilled TV viewers by claiming £37,500 a year in benefits and using language that would make a chair cry.

Thanks to Wife Swap, the nation got to see Lizzie showing her mammaries in The Sunday Sport. So yeah, the beginning of an era of golden television.

The show, basically, thrived from getting people who would clearly despise each other and making them live in each others houses until they snapped. They purposefully picked the most prickly gits they could find and then set them loose while we all brayed and honked at the TV like animals.

It goes without saying that, occasionally, we like berating our brothers and sisters. We like to see people we think are idiots… or too stuck-up… or too dippy… or whatever… humiliated in a public forum. However, what happens when the joke wears thin?

Well, then the show becomes a lesson in cruelty. That’s why Channel 4 decided to get celebrities involved because, as everyone on Earth seems to agree, it’s okay to put famous people through abject misery. They’ll get over it because they own massive houses, right? They’re not even human, right?

So we got to see John McCririck living with Edwina Currie… we got Freddie Starr living with Samantha Fox… Rhona Cameron and living with Stan Boardman… and a whole lot more.

Tuning in for these shows would supposedly allow us to see the foibles of the kinda-rich and kinda-famous. This would make us all feel better wouldn’t it?

Well, no.

You see, what Wife Swap (and the spin-offs) did was to actively make us self-harm. Instead of laughing at someone, we saw how horrible human being intrinsically are. We don’t get along with each other. We’re prejudiced against people on grounds of colour or class. We take sides and hope the other fails. Failing that, we just hate everyone concerned and that’s more depressing than singling one group out.

Wife Swap turns your averagely sweet person into a misanthrope.

So now that’s it is vanishing from our screens forever and ever, will we miss it? I hope not. I certainly won’t. Whilst I have enjoyed the hate it conjures up in me, I’m glad that it is getting buried in a lead box six miles into the soil. It didn’t start a debate, rather, picked a fight. I’d like to think that this is the endgame for HateTV. Big Brother, another show that provokes hatred for mankind, will be joining it soon. The immediate outcome is that tabloid rags will have to look elsewhere for people who will get their baps out… and maybe our self flagellation will stop just long enough for our sores to heal up.

Pass us the ointment when you’re done with it.

The brilliant readers of TV Throng predicted that Joe would win The X Factor. If I remember rightly, over a quarter of you said as much.

Personally, I was convinced that Olly was going to nick it at the death, but mercifully, I was wrong. Alas, last night’s finale didn’t really mean much away from the televisual spectacular. As is de rigueur, both Olly and Joe will get at least a 12 month career out of this.

So after the immediate Christmas Number One battle (which is being hotly contested by Rage Against The Machine’s limp wristed broadside ‘Killing In The Name’ thanks to a Facebook campaign), what happens next for our final two?

It’s hard to see their lives getting any better than the weekend just passed to be perfectly frank. Both artists got to sing with Paul McCartney (which will invariably drive musos up the wall until the world implodes), do a duet with other famous people and generally get caught up in the whirlwind of a pop-cultural phenomenon, the likes of which has been rarely seen on TV.

While it’s true that Cowell & Co don’t seem to rush albums out like they used to, preferring to at least try and make a decent long-player, this next 12 months is going to be rather telling.

For my money, I think Olly is going to end up getting snared by Chanelle Hayes (of Big Brother fame) and end up dead-eyed and drunk, holed up in a wing of Elton John’s mansion with Robbie Williams. The two will embark on a Lennon-esque ‘lost weekend’, complete with tampons sellotaped to foreheads and magnificent arcs of brandy puke. He’ll release a really big pop single at some point too.

Joe meanwhile will continue to be The Daniel O’Donnell For The Millennium, sweeping the nation with fuzzy wholesomeness, before getting embroiled in some horrific sex scandal with a vicar or someone from the WI (listen, I’ve no idea which way he swings… like Martin from The Simpsons, he’s “nothing yet!”).

While it’s clear that Joe has a great set of pipes on him, he certainly seems to lack the danger required to be a pop-sensation… and ballads only get you so far. Is is spectacularly sweet though, so all we can hope for is some hidden darkness to emerge over the coming months.

Alas, now the competition has finished, it’s difficult to see the interest in the two remaining as glowing hot as it has been. Effectively, what I’m saying is, that these two might struggle to capture attention now that the show is over.

Unless, of course, we get the scandals and arcs of booze-puke.

Such is the life of a pop-star in 2009. I’m afraid that being a good singer simply isn’t enough. How else would you explain the baffling success of John and Edward?

Week 2087 of The X Factor has just rolled by and once again, we’re faced with the question: Who will win The X Factor 2009?

Of course, the answer – as ever – is Simon Cowell. He always wins. He’s like a casino who reaps up all those failed gambles from bored travelling salesmen looking for a bit of thrill and glamour in between glasses of mid-priced whisky and thoughts on pawning that yellowy-gold bracelet for one more throw of the dice.

We’re all that bored business man.

Which, of course, is fine. In a climate that sees every talking head and newsroom firing off a dizzying amount of scary stories, like climate change, knife crime, actual hoods mugging babies for their still beating fatless hearts and immigrants coming wooing our foremen, The X Factor rises up and outward like a bit plastic signpost for good times. Forget about all that serious stuff and watch some people sing their little faces pink.

Yesterday’s show saw Danyl getting booted off the show, which he did with alarmingly good form. He grinned, didn’t break down into a weeping mess and sang ‘Man In The Mirror’ very loudly indeed.

Sadly, this outcome was startlingly predictable. Since Jedward left the show, there’s been a stifling sense of familiarity, with the results going exactly as everyone expected.

However, we’re now in the business-end of the show. We’re now faced with three final contestants and it’s impossible to pick a winner, thanks to the fact that you can give good reasons for all of them winning.

Blubbering ankle-faced Olly looks like a good bet as he’s won two very important votes. The housewives seem to love him (and as such, can’t decide whether to mother him or ride his perfectly round doughy head)… as do Ver Yoofs. The kids like him because he tends to do uptempo party numbers and dances funny, like a man with a rubber skeleton.

Then we’ve got Stacey. When she talks, she sounds like a bag of giggling cats. Words try to form in amongst the excited rush of noises that erupt from her mouth. If I were to ride a penny farthing down a cobbled street at high speed, I’d sound exactly like her. However, when I sing in the shower, that’s when Stacey beats me hands-down. She’s got a decent set of pipes on her and, thanks to being the Everywoman, she could land a lot of votes. We all know a Stacey… or at least, went to school with a Stacey. She’s a refreshing change to the polished idiots that have come from Brit School that have swarmed the charts in recent years.

However, looking for all the world like the winner is Wor Joe. He’s composed and irritatingly likeable. His little grinning face and genuine sense of happiness at still being in the competition is incredibly charming. His voice is so note-perfect that there’s a good chance that he’s not actually human and in fact, an incredible experiment by some pop-obsessed scientist who wants to show off his lab creation. He’s young and wholesome and looks to be just edging it at the moment.

That all said, anything could happen next week. Sure, we’ve seen it all before and the format will be crushingly familiar… however, for once, it really does seem that we’ve got a close-run X Factor final and that’s just the tonic we’ve needed after the crashing boredom of the last two weeks (apart from fine performances from Rihanna and Lady GaGa… but that kinda doesn’t count).

So. Who will win?

I asked if reality TV was rigged (here), thanks to some folks moaning about Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor.

Now, we’ve got the same question for I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

You see, Joe Bugner seems to think so… with his weird ape-paw head.  He’s suggested that the reality show is fixed by producers.

The former boxer told The Sun that ITV rigged his exit to allow Stuart Manning (Russ from Hollyoaks) and Sabrina Washington (Her from that pop band) to continue their playground flirting.

He claimed that the task he failed, which included reading codes off jail cell bars with an ultra-violet torch, was chosen because he’s got shitty eyesight. If you saw the challenge, you’ll know that Bugner pawed around like a Scooby-Doo mummy and failed to get anywhere fast whilst Manning scurried around underground like some weird worm with human arms.

Bugner said: “I’m convinced it was a fix. In fact I know it. Do I think they wanted to keep Stuart because of his lovey-dovey friendship with Sabrina? Well, of course I do. It’s obvious. It was rigged – absolutely!”

Naturally, an ITV spokesman said: “I can categorically tell you that Joe’s eviction was not rigged.”

To be perfectly honest, speaking as someone who doesn’t spend a penny on voting on reality shows, I don’t care if these shows are fixed. If I did vote, it’d be a very different story I imagine. However, I know that the world of TV can be a pit filled with snakes, so you shouldn’t be surprised if it is.

What do you think?

The boring news from the world of media is that ITV have bought the rights to GMTV. Really, there’s only a trace amount of people who watch television who like to keep up with the movers and shakers behind the scene. For the most part, we like nothing more than to sit down and watch stuff – to hell with whoever the commissioner is or damn the eyes of the director.

Generally, we just don’t care.

However, in the case of GMTV, changes behind the scenes could mean one of two things happening.

The first is that it could get an editorial overhaul. This means that ITV could well look to something a little more stern and meaty first thing in the morning. Effectively, they’ve looked at BBC Breakfast and thought ‘Hang on! We’re like Cuddles and Orville compared to those guys!

Of course, it won’t be too heavy… that’s because the British viewing public can’t be bothered engaging thair brains at 7am. It’s too early. You may as well have a screen that flashes the word “NEWS IS HAPPENING – WE’LL TELL YOU ABOUT IT LATER… HAVE A NICE DAY AT WORK” while the soothing sounds of The Carpenters plays you through each disgusting slurp of your porridge oats.

The second thing that could happen… but is less likely… is that ITV simply scrap the whole thing. For my money, that could well be the best option.

It’s only because our minds are so addled first thing in the morning that ITV has been able to get away with showing such dross on our screens. I mean, someone, somewhere has put forward the idea that Eamonn Holmes is a good person to have on a screen… ever. If that’s not a death-knell, I don’t know what is.

In Lorraine Kelly, we’ve got someone genuinely warm and harmless, if slightly irritating at times. For my money, they could scrap the whole breakfast format and simply install a set of cameras in her house and we’ll tune in to watch her potter about her kitchen, singing along to the radio and burning her toast and we’ll mirror her morning and begin to say “Oh dearie me!” in a Scottish accent like it’s a new catchphrase. We’ll all fart in unison together and a nation will bond over monumental, but refreshingly honest, banality.

Last night, The X Factor got rid of John and Edward, or, as they’ve become known, Jedward. Such has been the interest around the pair that we all saw fit to give them their own brand name like they were a franchise of some sort. Like mass produced sausages or cat food.

With a surprising bottom-two of Jedders and Olly (I say surprising because marble brains no-mark Lloyd still continues to be something that is merely a thing to occupy a pair of trousers), there was only going to be one winner.

Jedward could’ve comfortably seen off anyone in the competition, save for Olly or Stacey. The Jedward steamroller could’ve – bafflingly – made the final three.

However, it was not to be.

This shows the difference between X Factor viewers of old and those that joined the car-crash quite recently. Y’see, those that have watched the show for a number of years clearly gun for a very specific type of pop-star… either someone who looks like they’ve been given the keys to a Next catalogue (The Bored Housewife) or those that prefer young, hairless, character-free twinks (The Screaming Girl).

Jedward however, were favoured by The Cynics. Those that love the show as a singing contest couldn’t wait to see the back of the weird little prancing clones, whilst those who like to watch it as a confusing, TV meltdown wanted them in. Simply willing someone to stay on a show will never defeat the actual phone-votes.

And so, Jedward leave the show with their hair held high. And now what?

With the leaving of John and Edward, it seems that a lot of the fun of the show has left. Those that have tuned in each week for fun will now be faced with a show filled with earnest performances of dreary back catalogues.

I’m not sure I would’ve sat through the drippy, saccharine flim of George Michael’s hits if it wasn’t for the prospect of seeing what John and Edward decided to maul. I certainly would have given the pompous cock-pop of Queen week a miss if it wasn’t for the futile hope that Jedward were going to tackle ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

Each singer, thus far, has made a joyless procession, each pleading with each note to stay in the competition, rather than wear the song like it was their own. Jedward provided so much bizzaro glee that at times, they wrapped songs around them like a scientist wearing a freshly skinned Elk, bloodied legs jerking wildly through each electronic muscle reanimation experiment.

What we’re now faced with is Yet Another X Factor. Opinions will be polarised based on ‘I Don’t Like His Face’ or ‘She Seems Nice’ rather than ‘You Have To Keep Those Two In Because I’ve Never Seen Anything Quite Like It’.

So will a newly recruited viewing section now glumly walk away from the show looking for other weird kicks? It seems possible. The show is far from in trouble at Jedward Deadward crossroads, but it feels like this has been an opportunity missed by the makers of the show to create some truly astonishing television… by which I mean Television To Gawp At.

And now… it’s time for Jedward’s assault on the charts, the inevitable kidTV show and one of them to have a massive mental breakdown. Where they go, we will follow.

There’s two news stories knocking around at the moment and I can’t tell whether it rings true or whether it tastes like sour grapes.

Basically, the kicker is, Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor have both been accused of being a fix.

Joe Calzaghe has claimed that Strictly Come Dancing is “a fix” after he got the chop on the show. He told the Daily Mail that producers forced his exit because of an insult he directed at rival dancer Craig Kelly.

Calzaghe said: “Don’t you think it’s odd we went out when we were in the bottom for four weeks and the public kept voting for us? We had the highest votes every week, the producers told us. Then all of a sudden we lost out in the judges’ vote. Something was up.”

He added: “‘I know it’s down to something I said about Craig Kelly. It was worse than a swear word. They were really angry with me. So you can say it – Strictly Come Dancing is a fix. I don’t care, we shouldn’t have gone out so early.”

Meanwhile, Simon Cowell has been accused of conspiring against Jamie Archer in the run-up to Saturday night’s X Factor. According to The Mirror, Archer’s friends (who are not biased in any way at all… no no no) believe that Cowell stitched Jafro up because he knew he was likely to lose an act in Queen Week.

A source close to the singer is quoted as saying: “The whole show is being made a mockery of. Simon was the only judge with all three acts left – he knew he had to lose someone this week and so he offered up Jamie.

“It doesn’t take a genius to see how he did it. He stuck him first on the bill which is the worst place to be. He made sure he dressed him in dark clothing so it all looked very drab with no colour. And he gave him a very average Queen song in ‘Radio Ga Ga’ and left him there on the stage on his own. There was no production, no backing singers, no choirs, no pyrotechnics like the other contestants had.”

So what do you make of all that? It has to be said that, personally, I though Joe Calzaghe couldn’t dance for toffee and that Jafro was due the chop for a while (although, I would have throught that Lloyd would’ve gone by virtue of the fact that he’s the blandest human alive). Do you think the shows are fixed? Do you even care if they are?

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