SLOUCH POTATO: Reality TV Special

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Tom Pheby bravely dives head first into a special reality television edition of Slouch Potato.

As soon as you walk into a shop you become fair game for a sales assistant. Before you've even had a chance to see anything they descend on you like a seagull craving a chip. Plying you with insufferable compliments, false charm offensives and, on occasion, endless technical jargon for you to negotiate, plus offering comparisons to other products you've never even heard of. These ploys are especially apparent to anyone who has had the misfortune to go into a phone shop to purchase a mobile. Out pops the long-haired geeky guy who knows way too much about battery life and pixels, and before you know it he's followed you to the bus station to close the deal.
BBC Two's Phone Shop Idol is a beautifully self indulgent piece that celebrates all or most of the above on the lead up to the industries Oscars. That's right, they have a yearly awards ceremony to find the best, the brightest and the 'waffliest' phone sales assistant in the country.

We meet Johnny who is one of 24,000 sales reps, or 'High Street Heroes'. He looks like he's swallowed a coat hanger and sounds like a monotone encyclopedia, but Johnny is a wizard, regularly notching up massive weekly sales. He can also bore a room full of penguins with his techno babble and extensive knowledge of a device that we mostly use to text, take pictures or use as a.... phone. That's right, the main reason we need the damn thing in the first place. It prevents us from passing out in the old fashioned piss puddled communications coffin, which doubled as a giant ashtray or was the go to place for a highly dubious massage, according to the literature inside.

The are two possible routes to the final, either as a 'chosen one' or a 'self nominator', so let's look closer at these terms shall we? A chosen one is some who has been selected on merit by the company they work for - seems fine to me. A self nominator is someone who has just put themselves forward. ??? So what exactly is the point of the awards if anyone can put their name down for one?

Johnny, a chosen one, is worshiped by his collegues and highly regarded by EE, who have thrust him forward for the competition.
"I've worked with a lot of sales advisors and never met anyone like Johnny."
Said one of his colleagues.
"If we had a shop full of Johnny's imagine what the place would be like!"
Yeah, it would be a Chemist! That's right folks, good old fashioned toilet humour is making a come back.

Sadly John didn't make the finals. Apparently he was missing the suitable sunny disposition and friendly nature, but boy could he tell you how big a phones battery life was and if you can add a laptop to it or if it takes away the need for a dongle.

Elsewhere, Tesco's chosen one, Maria Copper, has a customer who's phone doesn't work. She tries a joke.
"It doesn't wanted to play ball, there's probably a few birds up there on the phones masts today."
It wasn't well received! Ayyub, who works for Three, tried the technical approach to impress the pan faced punter.
"This is made with the stuff they use to make planes"
Someone tell that boy he's trying too hard and to ease off with the 'phoney' information.

Phone Shop Idol gave us emotion, pride, passion, envy and unfortunately disappointment. I hate these types of shows normally but this was packed with unintentional humour and quirky contestants. FANTASTIC rubbish!

In last weeks episode of Age Gap Love, titled '33 & Married to Grandpa', we met 65 year old Peter (also known as Flit) and his 33 year old wife Ebony. We joined them on a trip to Norfolk to find the lay-by where they consummated their relationship on the bonnet of a MK III Golf. And they say romance is dead.

When the pair first felt cupids arrow, Flit (what an absurd nickname) was a mere slip of a man at 48 and Ebony was ......16. Obviously nothing went on back then because Ebony was going out with the son of Flit's girlfriend.
"She was a lovely woman, I felt a bit guilty"
Said Ebony recalling her husbands former partner. Clearly not guilty enough to not take it further though. Perhaps Flit is a good name after all, when he gets fed up with a partner he flits off with the partner's son's girlfriend.

Flit then proceeded to go into cringe worthy detail regarding there first ... anyway. Ebony declared,
"I'd never been loved like that before"
What? With the engine running?

The following episode, which goes under the unsurprising title 'My Family Disapproves', was probably, on paper, meant to be a well intentioned programme, designed to empathise with the problems that come with an age gap relationship or maybe offer an attempt to explain the attraction. But as it's on Channel 5 it soon descended into farce at the hands of the production team and the couples involved.

Mark (28) and wife Pat (60) hardly helped matters as Pat revealed her husband had no experience and had moved in straight from his Mum's house without so much as a snog under his belt. Pat, on the other hand has plenty of experience, as Mark was to be hubby number 9 (she must love cakes, buffets and discos).  She seemed to have a bit of trouble remembering the names of her previous spouses, which is understandable I guess, she was, after all, only two away from her own football team.

Pat spoke lovingly about confidence shy Mark, as she surfed through a box of photographs from previous wedding days. Her faced glazed over slightly before announcing,
"There was Michael, Jeff ....err...Michael and...Jeff. I can't remember."
But undeterred, she wanted to show a lifetime commitment to Mark, just like all the others, whatever they were called.

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse, we went to Norwich to meet James (28) and Yet Wha (48), who met online at Toyboy Warehouse. I swear I'm not making this up but why admit meeting on there? I would have exploded with embarrassment. James was by far the most annoying of them all, when he's not gaming, he's filming R2-D2 roaming around the shops, and when he's not doing that, he declares his undying love to Yet Wha in a strange strangulated voice, about 20 times an hour. I kid you not.

This could have been a positive programme about love regardless of age but it all felt a bit cheap and dirty. This was not entirely the fault of the programme makers, who chose the more outrageous couples to create interesting TV, but they could have been a little bit more responsible.

As for the Mark III Golf, I'm sure someone is using it for its intended purpose.

Whilst we're on the subject of Age Gap Love...

On paper, The Great British Bake Off should be about as exciting as watching paint dry, yet it is among the top rated shows on the box, making the BBC massive amounts of money and turning its two judges into television royalty. That's them above, on the left we have a fairly splendid barn owl...

...joining that magnificent specimen, in a bid to add some sex appeal to proceedings, we have Zelda from Terrahawks...

Adopting the stage names of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, they can be found supposedly baking cakes for purposes of entertainment, but we now know that they have secretly been fornicating in a laboratory to create the ultimate genetic super baker.

Supermarket shelves will be creaking under the weight of gateauxs, thick filled sponges, heavily iced fairy cakes and chunky pies, until they have a monopoly far greater than Mr. Kiplings could ever imagine. Their master plan also includes spreading their dominance across other well established TV shows by subtley changing the odd name here and there. Look at for Yeastenders, A Question of Sponge, Flanarama and Top Tier. Ever tried icing a cake whilst driving around the Nürburgring? Me neither but it will make great telly.

So whilst we wait for the master plan to hatch the pair are using their supposedly harmless baking show to gain further exposure, this time with celebrities as part of a fundraiser for The Great Sport Relief Bake Off. Well, when I say celebrities, I mean Kimberly from Girls Aloud, former professional footballer and sports presenter Chris Kamara, ex Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and Victoria Coren Mitchell (whoever she might be).

Kamara confused as to who these people are.

Balls turned out to be quite the creative sort, fashioning a ski slope from a conveyor belt of sponge bases. Kamara struggled with the complexities of walking, talking and cooking AT THE SAME TIME, ending up with a blue blob. What's her face off thingy made the Quasimodo of cakes. The sort that a ten year old might bring home and expect you to eat after his/her first ever home economics class.

Kimberly, however, had no such problems. She made one near perfect specimen after another and one suspects she will be offered a lofty position in the forthcoming revolution. Her skills were extraordinary, leaving the competition slightly embarrassed. She could easily bring out her own cake range but I don't think that will go down to well with Zelda and her Feathery Lieutenant.

Oh good Lord!

34 year old single mother Lisa Marie Whitcombe was excited by the prospect of her daughter Emily's first word. What would it be? Mummy? Dada? Apparently not. Lisa Marie was convinced it was more likely to be Chanel or Dior.

Lisa Marie is one of a new breed of mothers who spend thousands of pounds every year on designer clothes, shoes, jewellery, fake tans, false nails and make up, not for themselves but for their little princess's. Now call me odd, old fashioned even, but I like to think children are under enough pressure to conform as they develop without having to deal with the obsessive behaviour of a parent who wants them to look like a miniature adult.

Lisa Marie declares that Marilyn Monroe was a big influence on her and her appetite for bling, because she was the first 'model' to advertise Chanel. And there was me thinking that she was known as an actress. One who topped up her income by promoting expensive products for an enormous fee.

It gets worse as we learn that Lisa Marie has a five year old daughter called Lacey, who also dresses like she's off to the ball or on a plane to Ibiza. For her birthday her mother has purchased a bright pink party dress but she had to add the fairy lights herself. At this point I wanted to shake the mother senseless but quickly realised that she beaten me to it.

To go with the dress, her actual birthday present was a replica white Audi, covered in fake diamonds. The car was a snip at £400, the diamond effect was an additional fee but at least Lisa Marie saved on labour by sticking them on herself.

All this craziness made me begin to act like my dad, I found myself shaking my head and tutting quite loudly. I could feel I was about to say 'it wouldn't happen in my day.' God help these poor kids who live out the fantasies of their stupid parents.

One assumes that there is a degree of irony in the title of this Channel 5 show, and, indeed, it's not long before we get evidence to support that theory.

Enter the aspiring, yet spectacularly untalented, Robert Evans, who wants to be a magician... oh and an actor..... and a hospital radio host.
"Because that's how Noel Edmonds started"
Mmmm, at this stage I consider that Bob is the worlds most optimistic human being ever (OptoBob), and if that post ever comes up he should definitely apply for the job.

We learn that OptoBob has a bottomless wish list, there's no base he wont attempt to touch to get his hands on the chalice of fame. After appearing as both the Blues Brothers at an Ilford Bingo hall (kinda weird) he reveals that he is also entertainer and singer. OptoBob is a one man entertainment industry! He's very reminiscent of Mr Benn in many ways. What outfit will he try on this week?

As if by magic the shopkeeper appeared! Well, actually it was Bob's supportive girlfriend Jackie, who accompanies him on a bus journey to a wrestling master class, because this week Bob wants to become the prince of spandex and undisputed king of the canvass.

OptoBob is not alone in these misguided wisps of fantasy. Meet Donna, a 55 year old model..... author...... poet.... and actress.

Donna is deep in debt but she won't let that little inconvenience distract her from her destiny. She has adopted the catchy stage name of 'Donna Africa' in an effort to set her apart from the crowd and to establish her stranglehold on the road to riches. Donna's been known to waltz around a stage clutching a spear, talking gibberish like a cave woman, but to her credit she's also been on 'The Weakest Link', although quite what Anne Robinson made of her isn't clear.

Donna claims to have high standards and can't face the prospect of ever lowering them, even if she has been on the dole for a staggering 11 years. Hardly worth looking for a job, she'll be retiring soon. After reiterating that her standards couldn't possibly be lowered, she nipped into Aldi and then the local charity shop for a jacket, a pair of colourful mitts and a hand carved ornament. Shopping over, Donna then decided to organise a mature model calendar shoot and hopes that this time the neighbours won't complain like they did when she had a boyfriend!!!

Donna, who you'll remember is claiming benefits, receives the images from the photo shoot and loads them onto her website in the hope that she'll be spotted by an agent or model agency. No doubt the sight of her dressed in a leopard skin bikini and nearly piercing the ceiling with a large spear will see her phone ringing to the point of exploding.

This was a slightly odd, awkward and cruel programme, but no more cruel than the endless stream of talentless disciples willing to appear on The X-Factor or subject themselves to the vicious barbs of the musical porn god Simon Cowell.

As we venture into music territory...

This BBC Four series explores the role and development of the music artist manager from the eras of Elvis to U2. The first episode, Masters of Pop, was presented by Simon Napier-Bell, a music mammoth who looked after George Michael's Wham!

It delved into the merciless and corrupt business dealings of Colonel Tom Parker and his influence on Elvis Presley, milking him for every cent, thrusting him into a series of dreadful films and marketing him like cornflakes. On the other side of the coin there was Brian Epstein, the man who discovered The Beatles in a sweaty, smoke filled club and exposed them to the world without emptying their bank accounts.

However, the most intriguing story was that of Don Arden, father of Sharon Osbourne and known in the business as 'Mr Big'. Here was someone who was out to make as much money himself as possible by "f--king the artist, before the artist f--ks you". He was a thug in a suit, who used violence as a tool to achieve his ends, regardless of the impact on others.

Arden was the manager of The Faces, who had consecutive hit singles but had not seen a penny. They appeared at Robert Stigwood's office seeking new representation, but when Arden found out he took two burly chaps with him and dangled Stigwood out of a window. When they eventually turned up at Napier-Bell's office, he wisely avoided that situation by calling Arden directly,
"I've got The Faces here, they wanted to change management. I'll give you half of what I make and you won't have to do anything if they sign"
To which Arden is said to have replied,
"They'll sign or I'll break their legs!"
Arden fell from his perch after stealing $4 Million in unpaid royalties from E.L.O. but he was shrewd enough to avoid creditors by putting everything in his daughters name. As a result Sharon had to deal with the chaos that followed. Thankfully those days are gone and people like Paul McGuinness (U2) and Peter Grant (Led Zeppelin) changed the perception of the pop manager and the way they did business.

From Mr Big to...

We've had the boundaries of decency and taste pushed to its natural limits, usually by Channel 4 and more often Channel 5, but here's one from the BBC Three archives that proves every subject has the potential to be a television programme, even a man's vegetables, and in particular the ones belonging to Lawrence Barraclough.

Lawrence has become obsessed with Larry Junior and has been fretting for a number of years that he's simply not .....blossomed. Surely this is an area that a large percentage of males in the population tend to lose sleep over? I'm sure its often for no good reason, but in an effort to quantify the concerns we learn that Lawrence has a penis which is 3 inches when fully erect and half that when flaccid. All this unwelcome detail made me feel a mixture of awkward and intrigued. Awkward because I wondered what was the motivation to expose oneself to national ridicule on television and intrigued to know what effects this had left on Barraclough. This was not an easy watch.

Even worse, it came to light that this is not an unusual problem because it appears to have blighted the Barraclough men for generations, causing awkwardness and despair in the trouser department. Barraclough is obsessed with his penis size, utterly convinced that if his tackle was bigger that he may be more content and confident instead of being consumed by insecurities. Curiously enough his long-term girlfriend seems less concerned but doesn't wish to be known as the one that goes out with the guy with the small dick. Too late Luv!

You would think, giving his insecurities, that Lawrence would not want to advertise the matter quite so publicly for reasons of confidence, yet regardless of the repercussions he embarks on a two year journey of discovery to canvass opinion and obtain the ultimate answer to the question 'does size matter'. I suspect he could have saved himself the journey by acknowledging the obvious but bravely he talks to a number of woman who give him a resounding and unsurprising YES.

Undeterred, Lawrence continues his research. Who better to discuss this delicate subject with that your dad, so off he trots to Birmingham to relive someone elses insecurities instead of his own. He goes back to school, dredging up more bad memories of taunting and bullying and you can't help but wonder if this will have a detrimental effect instead of the positive one he had in mind.

Barraclough is charming and his concerns are genuine but the problem was highlighted in a slap dash and slightly disingenuous way by the production crew, which felt as if they were sniggering behind clipboards and cameras. The documentary wasn't exactly revealing or scientific, and by the end you just got confirmation of what you knew already, and so did Lawrence, more's the pity.

My Penis and I is, perhaps, a very apt documentary to dig out from the BBC Three archives, as this time next week the channel will have 'switched off', making the move to an online platform in a bid by the Corporation to save millions. The recent Save BBC Three campaign has proved to be unsuccessful, as it seems that the channel was the small penis of television, offering some enjoyment but in small doses, and not enough to please the masses.

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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