THE COUCH POTATO: Dire show, BBC1’s I Love My Country, puts Britishness and patience to the test
AH, LONDON 2012. Such memories, Super Saturday, the magical Opening Ceremony, the legacy...
(Scratched record needle sound effect...) Ah, the legacy. Sorry to darken the mood.
Television-wise, what did the Olympics leave us?
Pro-celebrity diving from a Luton leisure centre (Splash!) and the world’s most stretched-out game show hosted by Dame Clare Balding (Britain’s Brightest).
And as of last Saturday night, a calamitous national embarrassment that made me want to emigrate, change my identity, falsify my dental records, fake my own death and then finish it all anyway.
It’s BBC1’s I Love My Country, a celebrity panel show riding a wave of forced patriotism bordering on North Korean levels, where almost everything host Gabby Logan says sounds like a thinly veiled threat.
“Tonight we’re going to generate more pride and excitement than Brian May rocking out on the roof of Buckingham Palace.”
“Tonight we’re putting our teams’ Britishness to the test.”
Okay. Too scared to argue.
“Behind each team are their loyal supporters who are going to clap, cheer and sing them to victory.”
Whatever you say, just don’t hit my face.
The wild studio audience have either been brainwashed or are having some pretty strong substance piped under their seats.
The result is a frenzy of fabricated enthusiasm, led by Gabby, team captains Micky Flanagan and Frank Skinner, who’s undoing all his great Room 101 work, and Jamelia’s house band that, from the opening titles, could have done with the giant pointing comedy hands of Kenny Everett’s Brother Lee Love for light relief.
Instead, with Gabby clapping and dancing with gusto, it was like a cult had taken over the Beeb.
Even more so when the host persuaded the audience willingly into the kind of singalong we haven’t witnessed since the Blitz, 20 minutes in, the point at which events turned off-the-scale doolally and it became more like a banking sector teambuilding away-day excursion than a light entertainment TV programme.
And there’s no explanation for any of it – such as images of stags next to red telephone boxes, model sheep on shelving, or the games, like exploding pass the parcel (non-fatal, alas), guess the weight of the mayor of High Wycombe (honestly) and one requiring the contestants to place a Yorkshire pudding on a map to locate Peterborough, Lisburn and Lickey End.
I’ve seen the second episode and if you think that particular game is infantile fear not. They don’t do it again. No, they use a pork pie instead.
By the time Gabby introduced the captains’ challenge round with: “Here at I Love My Country, we like to celebrate British traditions and pastimes that make us who we are,” I’d abandoned hope anything would make sense.
And right on cue, out strode that most entrenched of British institutions.
“Please welcome, the London School of Samba!”
I hope you’re happy, Lord Coe.
● Southcliffe, especially Sean Harris.
● Peter Capaldi named the 12th Doctor, a great signing for Doctor Who, a gamble for the actor.
● Another enjoyable romp through the TV archives on You Saw Them Here First, especially another glimpse of Simon Cowell dressed as a novelty record 6ft blue dog.
● Soccer Saturday’s Jeff Stelling going all Basil Fawlty as the scores failed to come in: “I’m warning you, videoprinter, if you don’t get your act together I’m going to thrash you to within an inch of your life.”
● Daybreak hero John Stapleton firing back at rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins who said: “The British public are sick of hearing about human rights.”
“Well, you are.”
● And the explosive aftermath of Big Brother’s inspired decision to get the housemates’ friends and family to do the diary room nominations, with Charlie, exposed as a schemer, mixing her words pleading: “I’ve never spoken behind Gina about her back.”
I believe you, Charlie.
● Porridge getting bumped because of, according to BBC2’s continuity announcer: “The late finish to the women’s golf.”
● Alesha Dixon rounding off Your Face Sounds Familiar with this threat: “See you next year.” (Not if I see you first.)
● The almighty relief that This Morning’s interview with the parents of brave three-year-old eye cancer sufferer Tyler Martin didn’t, for once, feature Katie Hopkins.
C5 reject Brian Dowling attempting to reinvent himself as This Morning’s “TV supremo” when it’s clear he hasn’t watched telly since Radio Rentals closed their stores.
● And Zoe Ball’s ludicrous BBC hype on Doctor Who: The Next Doctor (“The internet is melting!”) accompanied by this question to Bernard Cribbins: “It was your character Wilf who caused the last regeneration of The Doctor. Do you still feel a bit guilty?”
“No I don’t.”
What with it being a FICTIONAL KIDS’ SHOW.
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