COUCH POTATO: The truth may be out there, but why look?
It has taken two decades but at last we’ve Britain’s answer to The X Files’ Mulder and Scully.
Step forward Ben Shephard and Julia Bradbury, super-sleuth truth-seeking myth-busters extraordinaire.
Aka the presenters of two of the most tail-chasing, wasted hours of telly you’ll see, Mystery Map, which I prefer to call The Why Files.
As in, Mystery Map. Why?
I’ve no idea. And I don’t think ITV, which deemed it primetime, has either.
All I know for sure is this pair faffed around Britain’s towns, countryside and “palatial palaces” examining weird phenomena, like the 10in Egyptian statuette at Manchester Museum that spun 180 degrees in its glass case.
Shephard/Bradbury then set out wacky theories doing the rounds: “Could it be an alternative home for the spirits? Neb-Sanu himself trying to get attention? The spirit of Michael Jackson moving it from beyond the grave?”
And, after the appliance of science, they debunked the crackpot ideas and gave a rational explanation, with much misplaced self-congratulation.
“We’ve solved the mystery of the tiny rotating Egyptian!” Bradbury exclaimed, failing to add Prof Brian Cox wrapped up this particular conundrum five months earlier – vibrations from buses and museum visitors caused the movement.
It was the same pattern wherever they trod.
Devon’s fabled cloven-hoofed Devil’s Footprints in the snow was, Bradbury suggested, either the work of Beelzebub or “a cross between a practical joke and a piece of protest performance art by a sort of 19th-century Banksy”.
Her conclusion? A bunny hopping two-footed.
Shephard hunting answers to “alien spacecraft” seen by US airmen in woods in Suffolk could only agree with the most sensible opinion – a lighthouse mistaken for a UFO.
And while on the trail of Guy Fawkes’ ghost in York, he discovered the folklore behind it was a total fabrication put out by ghost tour guides to lure gullible fools, like an ITV camera crew.
It is a worrying fact, though, that so many Brits happily swallow gobbledygook like the existence of spirits, little green men and horoscopes.
The consequence is we’re getting even more of these paranormal “investigative” TV shows.
History channel has Shaun Ryder chasing UFOs, a series heralded by the likes of Most Haunted and Ghosthunting With... before it.
ITV clearly knows this, which is why Mystery Map’s hosts felt compelled to maintain the pretence of mystery despite hard evidence to the contrary.
So Bradbury, having established raining seaweed was deposited 30 miles inland by a tornado, qualified it by saying: “The same event has happened on exactly the same day in exactly the same place exactly one year later. Now THAT is a mystery.”
No. THAT is a coincidence.
Shephard, investigating 300 children fainting in a field, followed the conclusion of psychological medicine professor Sir Simon Wessely: “The evidence is compelling. This was an episode of mass hysteria,” by adding this baseless remark: “Whatever happened that day is always going to be shrouded in mystery.”
His fatal blow that killed Mystery Map, however, followed his York escapade: “We Brits embrace ghost stories. It’s about the entertainment. The truth isn’t important.”
So why the heck did they bother trying to find out in the first place?
Mulder and Scully. Your jobs are safe.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...
BBC2 spy thriller Legacy.
Strange Days: Cold War Britain.
C5’s harrowing Treblinka: Inside Hitler’s Death Camp.
Tom Baker’s surprise cameo on The Day of The Doctor.
BBC1’s continuity man before Strictly’s results show: “Next on BBC1, the dreaded dance-off and Il Divo.”
I’m A Celebrity’s Declan Donnelly apparently voicing Matt Damon’s Team America puppet (“Caaaave Daaaanger”).
Matthew Wright, cooking dinner in camp, asking: “Right, who can time about four minutes?” Annabel Giles: “I can. I’m a TV presenter.”
Christine Bleakley telling Sunday Side Up host Stephen Mulhern: “To be perfectly honest I loved Columbo. There was nothing wrong with it on a Sunday morning.”
And Katie Hopkins finally finding a home where she can be alone with her thoughts.
Channel 5, weekday mornings, The Wright Stuff.
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...
The sudden outbreak of TV anniversaries.
I’m A Celebrity horror Lucy Pargeter.
EastEnders’ runaway groom nonsense in which Alfie forgot mobile phones exist (just call Kat, bozo) but just happened to have his passport in his wedding outfit when he turned up at the airport with the world’s worst security staff.
Holby City pretending John Michie isn’t typecast as Corrie killer Karl.
Peter Barlow inexplicably getting the pick of Weatherfield’s beauties.
Doctor Who boss Stephen Moffat lying: “Science fiction is all about rules. You can't just casually break them.”
ITV finally admitting Britain’s Got Talent impressionist Francine Lewis was famous all along, with The Chase: Celebrity Special.
X Factor failing to give lyric amnesiac Tamera Foster Ronan Keating’s Lost For Words for a laugh.
And Gary Barlow revealing his X Factor highlight: “I remember the first day I started, being chased around the arena by Goldie Cheung.”
Now you’ve gone too far. Too far, Barlow.
It was at Bootcamp, not the first auditions.
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