FAIR play to those sly old dogs at ITV. They’ve discovered something Gordon Ramsay is worse at than hosting BBC1’s Bank Balance.
It took them less than 72 hours to do it as well.
All they needed was Saturday Night Takeaway’s Read My Lips game, a pair of headphones to muffle the noise and some bloke in Llanelli called Jamie bellowing mystery food items at Gordon via Zoom.
“Sushi. SUE SHE. SUUUUE SHEEEEE,” he kept screaming at the clueless chef, who couldn’t even win poor Jamie the free holiday when he heard himself asking: “Sue who?”
Nor was Gordon able to help out any of the other contestants, Rizwan, Lorna or Mala, in Manchester, who almost ate the camera in frustration, shouting: “CAR BON-ARA. CAR-BON-ARA. CAR-BON-ARA,” because it was just one of those nights when anything that could go wrong did go wrong on Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
Audible obscenities, inap propriate jokes about Stephen Mulhern’s genitals, misfiring props, games where no one won anything, stinging insults aimed at the contestants, hosts losing their rags. The very stuff of light-entertainment nightmares, although I should immediately add the dis- claimer that, like all TV at the moment, it took place in extraordinary circumstances.
Getting any 90-minute show on television, let alone a live one, is an act of technical heroism in itself and it’s entirely understandable if several things go wrong in the process.
However . . .
Saturday Night Takeaway wasn’t just a victim of circumstances at the weekend. This was a 90-minute disaster that’s been building since product placement replaced creativity and imagination as the show’s driving force. To the extent that, aside from a couple of not-fit-for-purpose sketches (Double Trouble and The End Of The Show Show), there’s almost no part of SNT which isn’t given over to some form of sponsorship or other commercial obligation.
Last weekend’s effort began as it meant to continue, with a crashing plug for Rag ’n’ Bone Man. It then moved on to a travel agency tie-in (“Win a holiday . . . any time in the next two years”), a £2-to-enter phone-line rip-off and a namecheck for a toy shop and the WWF, which involved the boys dressing up as pandas.
Final straw, for the unfortunate hosts, appeared to be the Singalong Live segment, where they spent too long plugging 9 To 5 The Musical, not enough explaining the rules and a despairing Ant ended up shouting: “What is wrong with everybody tonight?” Truth be told, though, the show became a hostage to bad fortune as soon as it booked Ramsay, whose presence obliged the hosts to tell their virtual audience the most outrageous lie.
“Gordon,” began Ant, uncertainly, “can we just congratulate you on the new quiz show Bank Balance?” Well you can, but I wouldn’t, if I were . . . “Watched it, loved it.”
Oh, you have. And so the tone was set for what followed on the opening Read My Lips game when Gordon swore, failed to win anyone a holiday and told one contestant: “It’s the gap in the teeth. I can’t understand what you’re saying.”
Oof. You could see Ant and Dec wince with the realisation a show’s in real trouble the moment any part of it turns on its own viewers. It’d be some sort of achievement, of course, if Gordon Ramsay managed to kill off BBC and ITV light entertainment in the same week.
But that outcome probably underestimates the urgency of the issue at the Beeb, which has been kept alive by dancing and Michael McIntyre for 20 years, and possibly overstates the problem at ITV, where they simply need to go away and decide if Takeaway is entertainment or an enterprise.
If it’s the former, great. If it’s the latter, then it’ll be damned as the show where you don’t just watch the adverts . . . you suffer them for 90 bloody minutes.
What was Channel 5’s Ben Fogle describing here: “Arguably, this is the location of the world’s greatest mistake.”
A) The BBC studio where they recorded Len Goodman’s Partners In Rhyme
B) The Synot Tip Arena, Prague, where Craig Levein’s Scotland played in a 4-6-0 formation against the Czech Republic
SKETCHSHOW IS PANTS
OPTIMIST of the week? Comedian Jenny Eclair, who welcomed viewers to Channel 4’s new art contest Drawers Off with the words: “Hello, art lovers!”
There may have been one or two, of course, but the majority were probably pulled in by the suggestive title and its underpants-on-a-clothes-hanger logo which suggested afternoon nudity was involved.
It wasn’t. And the show probably shed about half its audience the moment it became clear drawers were staying on, thank you very much.
Not me, obviously. I was always there for the love of journalism, post-Impressionist art and the comedy value provided by the contestants’ paintings of each other, which resident expert Diana Ali kept insisting displayed “really good energy”.
An art world expression, I’ve subsequently realised, that actually means: “This is a piece of unutterable crap.”
First to pose, with a lot of her clothes removed, was Shevon, an undeniably attractive part-time model.
Or she was, until a couple of the show’s other contestants took their brushes to her, added 30lb weight and sawed-off at least a foot from her legs and painted what looked like Princess Anne’s Spitting Image on top of her neck.
Fair play to Shevon for just laughing and not turning violent. Revenge, though, was brutal on Tuesday, when she turned Sara’s “seductive” chaise longue pose into Dot Cotton “assuming the position” at her local health clinic.
“If you went into a gift shop and saw that on a greeting card,” said an apparently impressed Jenny Eclair, “you’d buy it, wouldn’t you?”
Only if the message read “Good luck with the colonoscopy”, Jenny.
UNEXPECTED MORONS IN THE BAGGING AREA
LIGHTNING, Zoe Lyons: “The M25 is an orbital motorway that circles which English city?”
Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “In terms of area, which of the Channel Islands is the largest?”
Jack: “The Falklands.”
Bank Balance, Gordon Ramsay: “Name four past and present members of the Rolling Stones.”
Eren and Kurt: “Barry Stone.”
RANDOM TV IRRITATIONS
MID-ATLANTIC weather presenters telling me temperatures will be “maxing out” at 13 degrees, rather than peaking.
The incredibly disappointing vanity of Jimmy Carr and all his pointless cosmetic procedures. The mad, foot-stamping advert women who “wear the pants . . . THE INNOVO PANTS”.
ITV crime-fighting duo McDonald & Dodds blaming yet another murder on capitalism. And MTV’s Shelby Tribble, Rebecca Vieira and Sophie Church, who deserve a slightly more honest documentary title than Famous & Pregnant.
CHANNEL 4’s brilliant and sobering documentary Max Clifford: The Fall Of A Tabloid King. BBC2’s slow-moving but superbly acted drama The Terror.
Big Frank skipping off into the sunset, on Sky Documentaries’ otherwise disappointing Bruno v Tyson film, with the announcement: “I’m going back to England a very, very, trillion times a happy man.”
And the unforgettable comedy death, at a hugely enjoyable Stand Up And Deliver finale, of Love Island’s Curtis Pritchard, who managed to turn an audience’s charitable goodwill into outright loathing, within the space of two minutes and 18 seconds, via a routine about sexual lubricants which ended abruptly with the words: “Right, ladies and gentlemen, it looks like that’s all I’ve got time for.”
He’s been Curtis Pritchard. Goodnight.
LOOKALIKE OF THE WEEK
THIS week’s winner is death-cult follower Shamima Begum and the late, great Bernie Winters. Sent in by Keith Webster. Picture research Reena Ratan.
ITV/Channel 4 schedule clash of the week. Britain’s Fattest People: Where Are They Now?/Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.
So there’s your answer.
GREAT TV lies and delusions of the month.
Dancing On Ice, John Barrowman: “Rebekah (Vardy), you really encapsulated Audrey Hepburn and her persona.”
Stand Up And Deliver, Katie McGlynn: “Thank you very much, I didn’t die.”
The Real Housewives Of Jersey: “I am Doctor Tessa Hartmann, a mother, wife, PR guru, a doctor in fashion.”
Ah, right. Not actually a doctor at all then.
MEANWHILE, on what remains of Dancing On Ice, reserve contestant Matt Evers tells Phillip and Holly: “Let’s set the scene. Tuesday afternoon I got a phone call. I was on the couch watching Loose Women, eating last night’s cottage pie and then they said, ‘Get to Manchester’, and now we’re here!”
Which just goes to show, when you think you’re at your lowest ebb and things will never improve, they can get worse.
MEGSPLITMeghan Markle plunges Firm into worst crisis in decades after calling them 'liars'
DOG SAVE THE QUEENQueen gets two new corgi puppies to help her through Meghan crisis
MURDER PROBEWoman, 29, is found 'murdered' in Leicester cul-de-sac as cops arrest man
EXTRA STRAINNew Covid variant under investigation in UK after 16 cases found
BEHEADEDMoment dad carries daughter’s severed head through the streets in 'honour killing'
THE LIVING DEADBloke kept brother's ROTTING CORPSE on sofa for months as ‘he was lonely’
GREAT SPORTING INSIGHTS
PAUL MERSON: “For every two chances, Aguero scores one and a half goals.”
Kris Boyd: “The main thing about goalscorers is they score goals.” And Paul Merson again: “I’ve never seen anything like it before. Thierry Henry did it a few years back.”
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