In space, no one can hear you scream.
As Channel 4 proved last Sunday, however, they can hear the host of The X Factor asking what the view is like from the International Space Station.
Every other minute. For two-and-a-half hours.
Yes, when John F Kennedy famously committed America in 1961 to “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to earth” by the end of the decade, he probably hadn’t bargained on the logical pinnacle of mankind’s exploration to the final frontier 53 years later.
Dermot O’Leary hosting a live TV link-up with astronauts on the ISS, Live From Space: Lap of the Planet.
Commander Koichi Wakata and his crew may have been flying at 17,500mph 250 miles above the Earth, but not even a voyage through a wormhole at warp factor nine could have outrun O’Leary’s questions, which he fired on a loop from Mission Control in Houston.
“Koichi, do you have any favourite sights?”
“Rick, what’s your all-time favourite view?”
“Koichi, do you have a favourite view?”
(Yes, Dermot. The same as last time you asked.)
“Koichi, what can you see right now for us?”
“Rick, what can you see for us right now?”
“Koichi, what can you see?”
“Rick, what can you see?”
(“Yes, Dermot,” Rick Mastracchio replied, “you caught me in the loo right now.”)
And: “The views must be astounding up there. How do you get any work done?”
Well, Dermot, usually they’re not interrupted for an entire orbit and can crack on with vital zero-G scientific experiments that could save the human race from deadly, drug-resistant superbugs.
But don’t you worry about that. Not when there are more pressing matters on your mind, like: “I read that you had mouse sperm up there. Is that right?”
“The big question we obviously need answering is how do you recycle your own urine?”
“I’ve seen a lot of footage of you guys eating tortillas. It’s like currency up there. What have you had for dinner tonight?” (Lasagne, if you’re interested.)
Where’s Dara O’Briain when you really need him?
Yet never did this verge on becoming the grand TV cock-up it seemed destined to be.
Because while I counted 10 counts of O’Leary describing the view as “beautiful”, six “stunning” and seven “wow” (technically 10 wows, but there was one: “Wow, Wow, Wow!”), he was in the safe hands of brilliant studio expert and veteran astronaut Mike Massimino, who “knows his onions from his asteroids”.
A man I’d love to see more of on television.
Likewise, the ISS crew were warm, engaging, accommodating, always cheerful and, at heart, just big kids who, like the host and many of us watching at home, remain awestruck by space and will never tire of the beautiful, stunning views of the planet. So not once did they tell him: “Dermot, for crying out loud, we’re trying to get some work done up here.”
In fact all it needed at the end of 155 minutes was for O’Leary not to sign off with some lame pun.
“Thank you for joining us tonight. It’s been out of this world.”
Dermot, we have a problem.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...
Line of Duty’s exquisitely judged climax.
Davina Beyond Breaking Point For Sport Relief’s agonising Lake Windermere swim.
EastEnders’ Stacey Slater, hiding her head under a white woolly hood, turning into Pootle at a reunion of The Flumps.
Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman asking would-be BBC owner/saviour Noel Edmonds if his consortium of “like-minded people” were, “with the greatest respect, lots of blokes with beards who present afternoon television programmes?”
Abbey Clancy recalling her dance practice for Strictly, on The Michael McIntyre Chat Show: “I was doing seven hours a day. 10am til 6pm.”
And the dad of Mark Wright’s Aussie outback host family delivering the perfect ending to Party Wright Around the World as the Essex plank disappeared from view in a tearful farewell: “Thank God that’s over.”
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...
Daybreak sending weather girl Laura Tobin to Rhossili Bay in Gower after TripAdviser named it Britain’s best beach – at high tide so you couldn’t see the pigging thing.
ITV2’s Educating Joey Essex attempting to turn the dingbat into Sir David Attenborough, drawing this observation on South African lions: “Why has that one got a big bush around its head?” “It’s the male.”
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show host announcing: “Please welcome the beautiful, wonderful, fabulous, wondrous, glamorous Abbey Clancy!” So at least he’s toned down his introductions.
And actress Sarah Parish insisting viewers could mistake BBC2 spoof W1A for a documentary. Well, there’s no danger they’ll mistake it for a comedy.