TV REVIVALS. They’re all the rage. In the recent past we’ve had the return of Dallas, with added Larry Hagman eyebrows, Doctor Who, with flying Daleks, Minder, with Shane Richie, and Jim’ll Fix It, with Shane Richie.
Okay, the less said about that one the better. Minder was diabolical.
But the network that seems most reluctant to let sleeping dogs lie is ITV, particularly its light entertainment department.
It was, therefore, perhaps inevitable, after All-Star Family Fortunes and All-Star Mr&Mrs didn’t completely bomb, that it had a stab at bringing back Surprise Surprise after 15 years.
Why in the name of Bob Carolgees they thought anyone needed it, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter.
There have been so many copycats of the give-nice-stuff-to-mildly- surprised-deserving-folk format – Hearts of Gold, Pride Of Britain Awards, Noel’s Christmas Presents, elements of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Tonight’s The Night – that the only benefit I can see in its return is that it doesn’t feature the gnawyour- own-hand-off presenting style of John Barrowman.
It does, however, have Holly Willoughby, who has been elevated to the lofty position of go-to female TV host for the Girls Aloud generation.
She may have the puppy-dog eyes for this gig but possesses the interviewing technique of a Neolithic cave echo, as per this exchange with two best mates, one of whom, Luke, donated his liver to save his friend Billy’s life: Willoughby: “It wasn’t that long ago, was it?”
“February was the operation?”
“And you’re fine now?”
Billy: “Getting there.”
“Getting there. But you’re much, much better?”
“Thanks to him?”
Billy: “Yeah. Thanks to him.”
“And you’re fine?”
Luke: “Yeah. I’m fine.”
“You’re all well?”
Scintillating stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. But if you think I’m being unduly cynical, what really grates is that this show should be all about the awe-inspiring members of the public.
Sadly, if Christmas is about the giving, Surprise Surprise is about the givers.
Special thanks for the gifts money can buy went to Delta Airlines, Destinology (“experts in luxury travel”, don’t you know), the provider of a home cinema system who’ll be furious that their name was drowned out by the applause, and Thorpe Park who, it was decreed, deserved a four-anda- half-minute advertorial.
It was also about Willoughby for whom: “It’s been an emotional one. I feel like I’ve been on my own rollercoaster.”
Speaking of which, I’m not convinced a hero soldier, Lance Bombardier Gary Prout, who received the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for risking his life to save a comrade in Afghanistan would have been all that thrilled to be sent back to the Middle East for a ride on the world’s fastest rollercoaster.
Not least because he has a phobia of them.
Still his brother turned out to be called Stephen, making him a S Prout, one of only two inadvertent high points, the other being a couple married 42 years plucked from the audience and told by Willoughby they were about to meet: “A man who they will never forget for the rest of their lives.”
In walked a burly bald bloke with a tiger-face tattoo on his head and a spider’s web on his throat who, alas, had their long-lost wedding cine film, and didn’t announce: “Hello Mum, hi Dad, it’s great to meet you..”
But you can’t have everything, I suppose. So I’ll take comfort in the one crumb Surprise Surprise can offer.
Cilla Black didn’t show up to sing.
● Homeland series two reaching boiling point after just three episodes.
● Strictly Come Dancing’s judges sparing Michael Vaughan with the promise of his quickstep this weekend (I can’t wait) and the public saving drunken-aunt-at-a-wedding Victoria Pendleton. (Incidentally, did her rumba with a white-Navy uniformed Brendan Cole to Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong make the pair An Officer and a Pendleton?).
● Louis Walsh turning up on X Factor as a blackjack dealer on Casino Deck of the Starship Enterprise.
● BBC1’s Pointless co-host Richard Osman announcing: “Cher Lloyd, Christine Bleakley, Holly Willoughby, they’re all pointless.”
● ITV4’s stunning Barry McGuigan: Sports Life Stories which thankfully, despite the title, had nothing to do with Piers Morgan but was the opening documentary of a new series presented, co-produced and directed by Gabriel Clarke, one of television’s true unsung heroes.
● And an unequal quarter-final match on impossible BBC4 quiz show Only Connect between: “Three beer drinkers and a trio of mathematicians”. The poor blighters didn’t stand a chance, against the triumphant beer drinkers.
● Simon Cowell’s The X Factor giving more on-screen time plugging his buddy Sir Philip Green’s Topshop with a visit by boyband Union J.
● The insurmountable problem with Elementary, Sky Living’s US adaptation of Sherlock – it’s not Sherlock.
● Rolf Harris having to appear on Channel 5 for Rolf’s Animal Clinic. Poor little fella.
● BBC2’s Prehistoric Autopsy “bringing us face to face with our most ancient ancestors,” yet not once did I spot Bruce Forsyth.
● And ITV1 asking the question Exposure: Who Cares? At 10.35pm on a Wednesday night? Nobody.