Thursday, 26 March 2009

A dirty business

Oonagh Robinson on Week One of The Apprentice, Series Five

So here we go again, then. These are the 15 idiots, sorry, hopefuls we’ll be spending the next 12 weeks of our lives ridiculing and deriding.
Ah, don’t you just love reality television?
I must admit there was that familiar brief moment of doubt when I first glimpsed The Fifteen triumphantly trundling over the bridge pulling their little cases behind them.
“Oh no, this isn’t going to be as good as the last series!” I worried.
Fortunately, such concerns were swiftly put to bed as soon as Idiot Number One started waffling on about making money being better than sex.
And then Eloquent Anita made the killer statement: “I am outstanding - that’s a given!”
Yes that’s right, Anita was the one who later got fired.
I knew then it was all going to be all right.
S’ralan warned the hopefuls he wasn’t going to be taken in by people who were just good at using words.
“I know the words to Candle in the Wind,” he said, rather dubiously. “Don’t make me Elton John.”
He also revealed that one contestant - “Matey” - had already dropped out because he wasn’t up to the pressure needed to become S’ralan’s “diamond.”
The others could barely hide their glee.
Onto the task, and it was an apparently straightforward one. Go out and make money by cleaning something. Anything.
Most of the lads team, by now calling themselves Empire, headed down to a cab firm and spent what seemed like several hours pressure washing just one vehicle (with the door open).
“Never have so many people spent so much time cleaning so few cars,” said the marvellous Margaret Mountford, who was observing them.
The girls (aka Ignite), led by Mona - pronounced Monna for no particular reason - cocked the whole thing up big time by not spending their budget frugally.
Things didn’t look good when Mona at one point asked: “What’s this?”
Her colleague had to explain calmly: “A duster.”
Oh dear.
Sure enough, the girls lost and went off to get the obligatory “spanking in the board room,” as Nick Hewer would put it.
Surely it was going to be between hapless Mona, who thought she’d been a “fantastic leader” or scary Debra, who complained she’d been put in charge of a couple of puppets.
But no. Anita might as well have had “fire me now” written on her forehead as she admitted she’d made mistakes with the budget but would learn from them.
Bye bye love.
“In ten years time, he’ll think maybe I made the wrong decision,” Anita commented as she took that lonely cab ride back home.
I doubt it, love.
Like the rest of us viewers, S’ralan probably won’t even remember what you’re called in a couple of weeks when this series has started to kick off...

Clough (ITV1, 10.35pm Wed)

"HELLO young man!"
There he was. Brian Clough, back on the box; large as life and twice as natural in Clough (ITV1, 10.35pm).
Hazel eyes, crackling with humour, sizing up his interviewer to see what kind of reaction he’s provoking. And a mouth turned in a steady half-smile, always ready to say something outrageous.
And, by ‘eck, how we’ve missed him.
It has to be said, the last time ITV attempted a documentary about any of Nottingham’s sporting heroes, it was a great hide-behind-your-hands-in-horror disaster. Their tacky Torvill and Dean "tribute" involved such leading luminaries as Suzanne Shaw and Bonnie Langford giving their views on iceskating’s greats.
But the Clough family probably reckon things can’t get much worse, as far as portrayals of their patriarch are concerned. They’ve seen David Peace’s The Damned United – a "faction" they regard as an offensive fallacy – turned into a film. In this, the week of the movie’s release, they demanded their say.
And the result was a deeply moving, tremendously entertaining look at the life of Brian, seen through the eyes of his nearest and dearest. Brian’s beloved wife Barbara, his sons Nigel and Simon, and his players were all present and correct.
Narrator Pete Postlethwaite rumbled in the background. What was not to like? (At least, until Geoff Boycott appeared).
As you’d expect in a Cloughie retrospective, there were ripples of controversy. It turned out he never stood a chance with the England manager’s job, despite 95 per cent of the country baying his name. – Sir Harold Thompson, the FA’s domineering chairman, had already plumped for Ron Greenwood. And you could see the hurt The Damned United had wrought on Barbara.
"Have you read a novel with a real person’s name in it?" she demanded, angrily.
Still, we also saw Forest’s European triumphs, via a few clips of vintage Cloughie.
"I would sit ready for what he was going to say next," said Barbara, with a nervous laugh. "You sort of got used to it!"
There was no shying away from the misfortunes that beset Clough’s later years – recounted movingly by Nigel – who has now inherited his dad’s Derby mantle.
"He’s turning into my father," quipped a mischievous Simon.
"They should have got together again. It was ridiculous," sighed Barbara, before smiling. "They probably are together again!"
My only quibble was the timeslot. 10.35pm made it a late night for anyone wanting to see ITV finally do something right.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Comic Relief Apprentice

DIDN’T you want it to be Jonathan Ross who got fired? He was so teeth-grindingly annoying on Comic Relief Apprentice (BBC1, Fri).
Plus, we took so blimming long to even reach the actual firing, each snippet intersected with hours of – yet MORE – Jonathan Ross, this time in the Comic Relief studio.
We thought the editing HAD to be building towards a wed card for Wossy.
Everyone in the Great British nation who wanted the Beeb to sack him last year, following Sachs-gate (most of us simply because we can’t stand Ross, rather than out of sympathy for that Satanic Slut woman) finally seemed to have been granted their wish: namely Sr’Alan Sugar, pointing his finger across the boardroom table, informing him of instant dismissal.
But no. Even though the boys’ team lost and even though their failure in the task – to design a new toy – seemed to be largely down to Wossy’s vast ego, Gerald Ratner failed to bring him into the boardroom. Pah!
Ratner, of course, is famous for wiping £500 million off the value of his jewellery company after declaring he was selling “total c**p”.
Clearly he hasn’t learned his lesson because he made the same mistake with the boys’ team product – a “swap belt” (a belt on which little collectables could be hung) – was a “s**t or swim” product. Charming.
Well Sr’Alan decided it was the former.
“But kids have loads of Pokemon characters!” protested Wossy. “Yes, but Pokemon is a popular cartoon that didn’t originate in the mind of Jonathan Ross,” we wanted somebody to point out but no-one did.
In the end, it was squealy-voiced Alan Carr who went but nobody – not even Sr’Alan – was taking it terribly seriously.
All except Patsy Palmer who had kicked up a right old stink on the girls’ team. The girls’ winning design, a velcro suit that sticks you together with somebody else, looked fab. We’ve already got one on mail order. But Patsy was too busy playing Bianca: “Down’t you tell me what to do!” she screamed at her team leader, businesswoman Michelle Mone. “’Ow dare you?”
You can take the woman out of Walford... sadly there seems to be no removing Ross from the BBC – even temporarily.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Let's hear it for the boys!

Oonagh Robinson on the new BBC3 sketch show Horne & Corden...

Well, all things considered, our boy Mathew Horne and his pal James Corden didn’t do at all bad in their first outing as sketch show kings.
"Promising" - that’s how I’d describe Horne & Corden (BBC3, Tues).
"A lot better than I thought it was going to be after their terrible stint on the Brits" - is another way of looking at it.
The dull and embarrassing intro bit with the pair as "themselves" (a la Mary Whitehouse Experience) needs dropping immediately.
Some of the sketches went on far too long without really going anywhere. Superman and Spiderman, for instance. That was really good for the first minute, but got irritating after a further four. Same with Xander, the boarding school chum from hell.
And there was rather too much reliance on James Corden taking his clothes off and wobbling his fat belly for my liking.
He’s a large man with a big gut. Can we move on now, please?
But all in all, there were several glimmers of hope.
Camp News 24 war correspondent Tim Goodall was hilarious with his " 'iya from Basra!" routine. "OMFG, what just happened?" he minced as a huge bomb exploded in front of him.
Corden’s excellent impersonation of Ricky Gervais in Karate Kid 14 also made me titter.
Not sure what the viewing public are going to latch on to as the main catchphrase from this series.
Because, let’s face it, without a silly catchphrase, no sketch show can ever survive.
We’re banking on Jonny and Lee Miller, the anti gun crime magicians, with their: "When I say you say we say you say..." act.
Like all good catchphrases, it doesn’t look anything written down.
But repeat it enough times every episode and you might just get away with it.
Similarly, repeat some of those good characters and drop the dross, and Corden and Horne (sounds much better that way round to me) might also have a hit on their hands.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Ready Steady Cook with Becky

Ready Steady Cook (BBC2, 4.30pm weeknights) doesn't bother with boring members of the pubic as contestants now.
Instead, its kitchens are a celeb-only zone (well, we say celebs, we mean minor characters off Holby City).
But last night, they had Mansfield superstar Becky Adlington and her mum Kay competing to win that special Ready Steady Cook plate thing that has "straight to eBay" written all over it, plus the chance to donate money to charity.
We used to like the lovely Fern Britton as presenter but, of course, she defected to ITV years ago. So now we've got former Ready Steady chef Ainsley Harriott. We used to think the problem with Ainsley was that he wasn't quite used to being a presenter yet. He's always awkward and gurning. But it's been about 10 years, for pity's sake. 10 YEARS! And Ainsley still behaves with the gritted-teeth bonhomie of your dad at a dinner party, trying to cover up for the fact there's been some massive family row. The outsized helpings of forced jollity drive us insane.
Becky, she of the golden hair and the golden medals, confessed she wasn't actually an amazing cook. That was good - we'd be far too jealous otherwise. Her "goody bag" contained steak, an enormous potato, cheese, brocolli and a carrot that rolled on to the floor. "We'll WASH IT, it's alright!" cried Ainsley to the viewers, already in a tizz. Is he worried about being the subject of a letter on Points of View or something? Then he told Becky she could put the broccoli in a flask and take it to training. Hah?
Over on the other side (the red tomato kitchen), Becky's mum Kay had one of those fab Italian chefs called Aldo, who says everything once in English, then repeats it in Italian. As in "Perfect! Perfecto!" He thought he'd do soul meuniere with the fish Kay had brought. "With the rest, you will see something you have never seen before" he said, with Mediterranean panache. "Ooooooh!" went the audience. "Making it up as he goes along" we thought.
Kay is, apparently, an excellent cook. It runs in the family. "My nan-ah was a dinner lady and she was brilliant," she says.
Nan-ah! How fab to hear that on national TV! As the saying goes, you can take the ladies out of Mansfield...
The 20 minute countdown began, as did Ainsley's questions of randomness to his guests. But he actually managed to uncover a scoop. Did you know that Becky Adlington, winner of two Olympic gold medals for swimming, doesn't like the sea?
"I love water, I just don't love it with fish in it," she says. "It's fear of the unknown. Sharks and things that might eat you."
Aldo the Italian, clearly had no such qualms and was busy slitting Kay's lemon soul and sprinkling it with salt.
"Becky won't eat fish," adds Kay. "She won't even come in the kitchen when I'm cooking fish."
We reached the grand finale, which is always amusing, because it involves our contestants trying to simultaneously scoff five dishes and go: "Mmmm! It's lovely!"
Of course, Becky, in the green pepper kitchen, won. She is the nation's sweetheart, after all. And the Asian steak thingy with cheesy bread looked "Mmmm! lovely!"
"Here's a woman who achieved a challenge in the water, along with her mum!" cried Ainsley, in a confusing summation. Now, we have to say, our eyes were very bleary when we watched Becky achieve her Olympic glory. But we never noticed her mum splashing around in there with her. Maybe she was fending off the fish?