SLOUCH POTATO

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And that's a no from me, says Tom Pheby.


The 'talent' show's an odd beast, one which thankfully disappeared from the television schedule in the 80's when viewers discovered that there were other more entertaining pursuits, like going to the dentist or counting the kitchen tiles. Sometime, about a decade or so back, the networks started flooding the schedules with cheap reality programming and this type of variety show made an unwelcome comeback, with Britain's Got Talent being the biggest offender.

I can't say that I've ever been interested or intrigued enough to watch Britain's Got Talent before. On the odd occasion the wife uses it as a threat in case I don't complete a DIY project or I fail to hand over my debit card at a shoe sale, so under such phenomenal pressure it's obvious that I generally comply with her wishes to avoid subjecting myself to such odious delights. Unfortunately, this week I failed to decorate the hallway on time and as a result my adorable wife and her vengeful sense of humour  made me watch the BGT semi final.

I bought it on myself.

Simon Cowell (a former human being), David Walliams (a former comedian), Alesha Dixon (a former pop star) and Amanda Holden (a former..... knobbly knees finalist? I'm not sure what she's famous for?!) sit at a desk passing judgement on a series of acts who all dream of performing in front of a 90 year old woman in a bejeweled hat. Over the years, we've had a man in Lycra swallowing umbrellas, a squat hairy Scottish woman with bad hair dressed in a potato sack singing a song from Les Misérables, and a tap dancing Chihuahua. The poor luv has been entertained by people who can't even get a busking license and only get a standing ovation if there's a fire in the theatre.

This being the 2016 semi-final much was at stake. There was many a point to be proved and the wife simply wouldn't let go of the remote. She even took it to the toilet.

Ant and 'Dick' the Geordie munchkins were on hand to mock the acts, the judges and the audience with their earthy 'northernerness' (I made that up). They kicked off by introducing two singing drunks called Ann and Ian Marshall who managed to do a ragtime version of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance and set the dogs off next door. Simply put it was bloody awful and even the wife must have wanted to hand over the remote, regretting her earlier decision.

Cowell, who these days resembles a redundant polo neck model, winced, groaned and snarled his way through the entire show. Occasionally he'd rack his brains to find a memory that consisted of standing up, clapping and saying something nice. This is called playing to the camera and is part of Mr Pop Tart's disguise. But don't be fooled! He's a vindictive devil worshiper whose only wish is to torment an old royal lady with a really shit act.


TOP GEAR RETURNS AND LEBLANC IS THE UNEXPECTED STAR
Top Gear made its way back to the schedules on Sunday evening without the Three Amigos. Clarkson, Hammond and May have found another home so it was now up to Chris Evans to re-invent the show. Did I say re-invent? That may be an exaggeration.

If there was a mistake in Sunday's opener it was sticking tightly to the old format which restricted Evans significantly. Even the Stig was under utilised to the point of embarrassment, and for the first time ever he seemed rather pointless.

This being said, it wasn't the disaster the press wanted. It was the usual slick, well shot and well conceived affair. Yes we'd seen similar from Clarkson and Co, but they'd given us plenty of that over years and served it up to us without even blushing. One suspects some sections of the press are looking for any discrepancy to hang Evans by his coat tails and watch his fall from grace for a second or even a third time.

Tiff Needell, a former Top Gear presenter said
“It will be like [BBC’s] The One Show on wheels, all bubbly jubbly … they won’t get the same numbers.”
Which is quite laughable because Mr Needell currently resides on a terribly boring car programme which hardly anyone watches.

Evans only sin in the first show was his obvious nerves. Yes, the Ginger Wizard actually showed signs of the jitters. This took the form of prancing and shouting his way around the studio, but what he lacked in finesse,  he made up for with enthusiasm, and when it came to the film content Evans seemed to finally find his stride, looking at ease with co-host Matt LeBlanc.


When I first found out Matt LeBlanc was to be involved I immediately thought it was a printing error. The American heart throb, who appeared in the soppiest American comedy ever, was hardly the obvious choice. However the actor seemed at home in his new role, more so than Evans, and he performed to Top Gear standard without breaking a sweat. He knows what he's talking about, can handle a car of any kind and certainly looks cool.

LeBlanc was, to my surprise, an unexpected hit, and I believe he may be a firm favourite with the 'Laydeez'. Something which may help with the ratings, and, I may be cynical but, perhaps the Americans involvement might also help attract a larger audience across the pond, as Top Gear still aspires to be a global brand even without Jezza.

LeBlanc's wit was welcome and on point, referring to the Mayor of Blackpool as 'the robes guy'. He was undeterred by the British climate, the culture of the antiquated seaside resort or the provincial and almost unpronounceable place names such as Black...pool and Black ...burn. He seemed to relish the challenge of spending the majority of his first show in a knackered Robin reliant, on a tow truck in the freezing cold.

There were other highlights from the star who at times oozed oodles of restrained sarcasm. He explained that he was about to be chased across a desert landscape by the paparazzi, or scum as he referred to them. They would employ various contraptions to take a clean shot him, but before battle could commence he introduced them one by one, each with their various gadgets. One had a drone, one was on a dirt bike and the last "will be following ....on whatever that is". It was a sort of airborne fan with parachutes (a parafan glider?). LeBlanc was in a no frills, high suspension off-roader, whose only solid feature was "a windshield. ...for wind."

Comparisons between this series and the last are completely futile. What was, is no more. It was good while it lasted, but in all honesty it was running out of steam and had been for a while. Top Gear is now back to being a show that isn't just about Clarkson, Clarkson's mates, and Clarkson's dislikes or likes. It feels different on a number of levels and can only get better in the coming weeks.

I loved the Three Amigos but I love Top Gear more. I'm sure that given time Evans can make this show his own, especially with a little help from his Friends. Or at least one in particular.


WHEELER DEALERS
I'm well aware that many people didn't come away as impressed with the ginger fronted Top Gear as I was, or maybe you're just one of those people twiddling your thumbs waiting until Clarkson reappears on our screens to offend people from a minority. If so then it you might want to check out Wheeler Dealers on Quest, starring two petrolheads/car enthusiasts, known as Mike Brewer and Ed China.

Brewer is a leather jacket wearing, Cockney Elf ,who buys cars that are almost past their sell by date. China is the talented mechanic who manages to turn the car equivalent of Quasimodo into a road worthy, flirtatious collectors item.

This week Mike waddled off in search of a Nissan Skyline (don't worry, I didn't know they existed either). After a number of significant failures, Brewer resorted to phoning his contacts in the trade. This concerned me, but surprisingly when he arrived to view the vehicle it still had all four wheels, a roof and steering wheel. You may detect that I have little faith in second hand car dealers, whom I view with all the suspicion of an abandoned rucksack at an Airport check-in.

Mike and Ed seemed boyishly enthusiastic about the prospects of refurbishing this so called 'street classic' for the purposes of 'drifting'.

Now, I might sound a bit uncool here. I like car shows, I like nice looking cars and at a push I'll watch a smug faced celebrity swear their way around a race track, only to have their time written illegibly on a magnetic strip, but I freely admit that the art of 'drifting' leaves me cold. It just reminds me of a series of dreadful action/racing films for the mindless masses staring people like Vin Diesel (with a name like that he was clearly always destined to star in the 'Dense and Spurious' series).

Anyway, apart from buying the car Mike did 'chug all' while Ed worked his undeniable magic, patching up, tweaking, welding and upgrading. It looked good, really good, but I somehow lost interest knowing that some mallet head in a tracksuit and faux leather driving gloves was going to use it to almost veer off a ring road in Staines. I'm just not that sort of car enthusiast I guess.


JENNER VS THE KARDASHIANS
It seems there is a genuine public desire to watch any or all of the Kardashians clan brush their hair, file their fingernails, play tennis or go shopping. Yes folks, this is the age of shallow meaningless celebrity.

I went in search of a synopsis from their series and was delighted to find the perfect example of how turgid this show is...
"In the Season 11 finale, Kim learns that her house won't be completed on time and that her baby is breech as her due date nears. Meanwhile, Scott returns from rehab ready to prove to Kourtney that he is a changed man. And, while in Australia for the launch of their new clothing brand, Kylie confronts Kendall about being a team."
And this morning I boiled the kettle and put my own trousers on. FILM THAT!!!

It's now got to the point where the Kardashians outnumber the Osmonds and the Waltons collectively. One surmises that they must be virtually out of names beginning with the letter K!

Lets be honest, the Kardashians have had it too good for too long, mystifyingly earning fortunes in the process, perhaps they should have been called the 'Kashguardians'. But it seems that someone else is muscling in on the act for a vast fee, and it's not someone from outside the kingdom of America's 'favourite' family. Waiting in the wings, about to take a slice of the sizable cake is Caitlyn Jenner.


You may know that Caitlyn was originally Bruce Jenner, was Mr Kardashian and turned from a vacuous headed man into a vacuous headed transsexual. Now that kind of life change must have been traumatic, especially with so much money rolling in from magazine photo-shoots, but instead of television respectfully allowing a degree of privacy for Jenner to complete a personal transformation executives flashed the cash to secure a deal for 'I am Cait'.

What may have seemed like a good idea and could have gone some way to educating the masses became just another excuse to film lots of nothing with the core element being endless conversations about transsexuals. I'm not narrow minded, nor have I got a discriminatory agenda, but is this really entertainment?

That being said, Jenner fairs much better than our own Kelly Maloney, who was Frank Maloney, a boxing promoter/manager. Maloney looked like he had been badly beaten whilst trying to achieve a look that almost came naturally to Jenner. In fact Jenner resembles a better looking version of Janice Dickinson (who is a screaming female with the manners of a sailor and now has a face like an inflated life jacket).

Although I hadn't made a conscious effort to tune in (it was already on) I was hoping I might learn something. However, it was just a group of sympathetic people congratulating and praising the 'star' (I use that term loosely) whilst standing up, sitting down and walking around. The only things of note was when Jenner was wondering how to sign her mother's birthday card, as either Bruce or Caitlyn, and when she was going through the contents of the wardrobe with her daughter to choose an outfit that won't clash with his former wife's.

It's a form of television I hate. A sensationalist, pointless piece of nonsense that contributes nothing to entertainment or education, but that's not Jenner's fault. There is an appetite for such programmes, whether I understand it or not.

I did read online that the show may be cancelled because its viewing figures are down by 500,000. So that's good news! 500,000 people have come to their senses and located the off button.

Having found this show by accident, I will certainly make a concerted effort to avoid it on purpose.

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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