SLOUCH POTATO: Reality TV Round-Up - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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SLOUCH POTATO: Reality TV Round-Up

Tom Pheby takes a look at some of the weird and wonderful reality offerings on multi-channel TV...

It seems that if a man starts bashing a tambourine in Times Square, it won't be long before a man shakes his maracas in Milton Keynes. TV is so bereft of original ideas that formats are prostituted back and forth across the pond between the US and UK without a hint of embarrassment. But just lately this has been noticeably one way traffic, with the blatant use of 'UK' in the main titles.

Shipping Wars UK introduces a group of very English idiots to the thriving transportation business. We meet Laurie, a very petite and slightly naive trucker. Russell, who resembles Mr Potato Head and is also known as the pukka trucker, perhaps because his waistline is full of pies. Shehbaz, a break dancing enthusiast who's name sounds like a Israeli wizards spell or a limescale cleaner. Stu and Jemma, the couple who's permanent love nest includes a steering wheel and a horn. Raymond and Grant, a Scottish father and son team who will ship anything for the price of an egg and bacon butty. And last but not least, Rachel and Rolf, the truckers equivalent of Motorhead.

They all go online to bid for loads and try to undercut each other to win "trucker of the week", but to do that they need maximum customer feedback and full payment, which is then calculated per mile. So it's exactly the same as the US version I hear you say! Well, that's where you are wrong. The Americans, for the most part, seem capable of achieving the task in hand, whereas the British version makes you wonder if the UK counterparts are even capable of maneuvering a melon into a hat box.

As if to illustrate this, Scottish brick tops Raymond and Grant agree to ship 300,000 bees to a new location for £100, but they take an additional load of circus posters which they can drop off on route. Unfortunately, neither had a calculator to hand during the bidding war and they ended up making 42 pence per mile between the two of them.

Richard Branson can rest easy in his bed knowing his business empire is not under immediate threat from these two blundering Celts. Russell even mused that he could've earned more money with a paper round. So you surely wont be shocked to find they came third after they were beaten to second spot by Stu and Jemma, who nervously transported a boat over 300 miles. Nabbing first place was the dizzy Laurie who miraculously shipped two carved wooden Gruffalos weighing a tonne and a half each to two different locations.

Meanwhile, Raymond and Grant managed to lose the odd bee on route, lucky for them the recipient wasn't in the frame of mind to count them.

It appears that being phenomenally untidy and generally filthy is great material for TV. If you're one of those people who has made their vacuum cleaners obsolete or chosen to banish the humble cleaning cloth then fear not as there are others that will comfortably spend the entirety of their day preventing germs from bedding in and even gathering up dust before it has the temerity to settle.

One such dirt Avenger is Louise (33) who spends up to 6 hours a day cleaning in the home she shares with her husband and nine Children. NINE Children? Well, she does have another hobby then.

In fact, Louise, a driven and slightly sharp individual, mentions her offspring at regular intervals to almost underline that 'if she has the time to clean, everyone should have the time'. Yes, this female gestating machine takes no prisoners in terms of squalor and frowns upon those that don't have the same high standards.

This leads me nicely to Paula, a 44 year old wife and mother from Portugal who now lives in Wokingham with a host of cats, food bowls and a stack of litter trays that seem to be in every room. The cats appear to be prolific... each tray brimming with what resembles Aldi muesli.

It's not long before Louise and Paula clash.
"Everywhere you go there's cat shit."
Louise said incredulously.
"Not everywhere."
Paula retorted (one sensed she was a bit of a frustrated comedian). Well, yes it was Paula. Just like your child's toys which were covering every carpet as far as the eye could see. Louise was reaching the limits of her limited patience.
"I've got nine children and..."
...She was off! Using the volume of offspring from her sexual escapades as an example of time management and cleaning schedules. When she noticed a washing basket brimming with clothes and a secondary pile nearby that was too exhausted and heavy with dirt to clamber into the receptacle, Louise asked why they were on the floor. Dissatisfied with the answer...
"I've got nine children and...."
This was becoming more annoying than Paula's lack of hygiene. It wouldn't have surprised me if Louise had given birth to another child during the cleaning regime just so she could really prove her argument!

We moved on to meet Tom (30) who spends 15 hours a week cleaning his house and car. He showed us his gleaming sink that looked like a mirror, and his vacuum that had its own cover to keep dust particles at bay and which broke EU rules by being too powerful. Call the appliance police, we've got ourselves a ruthless sucker!

And then... we see the 'show bin'. What's one of those I hear you cry? It's a bin that is too good to be used and lives in a cupboard. Mmmm, Tom's not really firing on all his highly polished cylinders is he?

Off he goes to meet Gareth (42) who uses his vacuum as a foot-stall and the floor as a waste bin to such a degree that he has to gingerly plot a path over the debris to enter and exit the lounge. If only he could have prised himself off his chubby cheeks to find the genuine bin, he might not been on the verge of breaking his neck every time he had to open the door or go to the toilet.

Gareth had food in storage that was a discovered to be nine years out of date (one year for every one of Paula's children), but he remained unphased by his obvious short sighted approach to stock rotation and food poisoning. He led us to the dining room which had become a bit of a dumping ground
"It's become a suppository for things I don't want."
Yes, he meant depository but is it any wonder he wasn't thinking clearly with this environmental hazard of a home.

The two opposites of this show don't seem to realise that the chaos they either cultivate or try to keep at arms length dominates their existence and prevents them from living life to the full. That said, it makes for obsessive compulsive viewing.

In this show we meet Sean, Lauren and Angela, who believe they could die at any moment from a whole host of ailments. Their concerns include tumours, growths, an array of cancers, aneurysms, rashes, lumps, bumps, lung disease and heart disease, but there were more, lots more. As always with these types of shows they shine a light on a subject that few of us understand or can relate to in anyway, but occasionally they also provide innocent, unintentional humour to lighten the mood.

Lauren is a timid, insecure blonde who doesn't allow people to use the her toilet because they might sit on it and sh.... well, you get the idea. She also washes her plates in the bath to avoid transferring bacteria to her gleaming sink (so it's OK to contaminate the bath then?). She has other quirks too, like wearing woolen gloves around the house and rolling back the bread wrapper so it goes inside out in case the staff in the supermarket have touched it. She freely admits to feeling constantly ill and thinks that avoiding bacteria or germs is the way to stay healthy. Curiously, she never pays a visit to her doctor's surgery for exactly that reason, preferring to fight infections on her own terms in an environment that she controls.

Angela is constantly checking herself as part of a daily ritual. Glands, breast and throat are just some of the areas she has concerns about. Then there's Sean, and after we are informed about a family tragedy his condition initially seems to have some understandable legitimacy...

I say initially as we see Angela and Sean at the GP's surgery watching a monitor to give them both some idea of the volume of visits the surgery receives and how many are perfunctory. Angela revealed that she told her dad she may have Leukemia. He had told her that she was too small to get leukemia, but before she could finish Sean interrupted...
"I had that last week"
Ooo-k then.

Dr Christian Jessen (the one with the crazy hair cut) tried to give each of the sufferers tasks that would lessen their concerns and curb their hypochondria. Gradually Angela and Sean made a degree of progress, but Lauren admitted the programme was too early for her and went back to her tried and trusted methods.

The NHS receives 24,000 calls a day, a 1,000 calls an hour, and nine million ambulances are dispatched to emergencies every year. Getting three people to look at their hypochondria is not going to make a huge difference, but awareness of the condition and sympathetic treatments may eventually do the trick.

From hard to cure hypochondriacs to hard to cure pets.I have to admit that going into this I didn't hold out much hope. I've seen lots of vet shows over the years and they are all really boring, even the recent one with John Barrowman (who seems to have now decided that he's Scottish). But I wasn't really prepared for the likes of Noel Fitzpatrick. When it comes to treating ailing pets Fitzpatrick is part veterinarian, part engineer and part wizard!

In the episode I watched he virtually rebuilt a cats lower jaw after it was shattered by a dog attack. It proved tricky and time consuming but he won the day in the end, just as he did with a number of other pets on the show. One by one, Noel patched each animal up or stitched them back together by conventional or unconventional methods. However, even an exceptionally talented vet can run short of miracles...

Chris arrived at Fitzpatrick's referrals with his dog and best friend Spud, who had gone lame on his rear hind leg. Unfortunately, it wasn't good news. Spud had cancer in the knee joint which would result in amputation. Sadly, only weeks later it was clear time was short.

I'm really not a sucker for these types of shows but you have to hand it to Noel Fitzpatrick, he is a truly gifted, compassionate man who has genuine skill for treating animals, he even paid for a large part of Spud's treatment himself.

Yes, it's exactly what it says on the tin! No, it's not from Channel 5, although you'd be forgiven for thinking that based on 95% of their output. This 'delight' popped up on More 4 recently and features the day to day goings on at brothel in Sheffield, run by mother and daughter team Kath and Jenny.

The City Sauna is situated within the highest concentration of massage parlours per square mile in the country and is run in a very unfussy, no frills, no spills fashion. It even has the support of the Sheffield City Council, although they don't condone the activities and Kath denies anything inappropriate goes on by stating,
"What goes on upstairs is nothing to do with me. I just provide the tea and coffee."
...And the crumpet, I might add (I think you knew that was coming).

Kath doesn't earn her money from the nudge, nudge, wink, wink activities that don't go on upstairs. No, she earns a wage from the door fees and commission from the massages.

We meet Sean, a loyal customer who occasionally drops in for a cuppa, a chat and a massage. In fact he claims that he has received a massage from all the girls at some point, although, as he points out, not at the same time of course. Of course!

Kath rarely has any trouble at the City Sauna, although there was the matter of the man with the food fetish who decimated the bathroom. There, scattered around the lip of the Jacuzzi were various containers of half full custard, coleslaw, Greek yogurt and fish chowder - the mind boggles. She called him to complain about the mess as some poor luv waded in with a spray bottle and a kitchen cloth.

In the distinctly rundown rooms, Kath reveals that men come for the company, companionship and "friendly family atmosphere". She proudly shows off the array of products available to the customers, which include oil, talc, wipes, and a large blue roll, the type that mechanics swipe their grubby hands on. In amongst the fish nets, high heels, short skirts and bulging cleavages was a black fish in a tank who they refer to as 'The Pimp'. There was another called 'Hooker' but no one really took to it. One assumes it went to a good home but it may have just as easily ended up as part of a wild Jacuzzi session or wedged in a crease in the mattress.

Towards the end of this bizarre hour of television, Kath said her dad was unaware of the nature of the company business.
"He thought I ran a clothes shop, but if he had found out I'm sure he would have been a customer."
I'm speechless.

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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