Film and Television Features

Slack-Jawed and Square-Eyed #9

...and we're back...

I suppose that, in the unlikely event that anyone's been counting, I should apologise for the unplanned couple of weeks off, but you know what they say: life moves pretty fast in the crazy world of TV reviewing, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Not that it had anything to do with my spending days trying, and failing, to capture in words the intense terror of the climactic interview with John Fashanu in Britain's Gay Footballers (Monday 30th January, BBC3). I always suspected that his stint hosting the 1990s' Saturday tea-time favourite Gladiators had a sinister energy to it, but I thought that that was just down to the gratuitous amount of lycra on show.

Anyway, my delusions of professionalism have caused me to wade through far more uncomfortable stuff for this column in the past, and it was in that spirit that I (briefly) subjected myself to the neon headache that is children's TV, to report back on everybody's favourite X Factor contestants/Eurovision entrants/novelty pop moppets foray into the field, Jedward's Big Adventure (Monday, BBC1), in which the twins were tasked with become tour guides at the Tower of London, which, needless to say, was undertaken in their default setting of a constant state of awkward, ever so slightly blank over-excitement.

I suppose I only have myself to blame really – after all at this stage it's not like their act's any sort of unknown quantity (you could say that they're the defining celebrities of our age: a bit useless but ultimately harmless and mainly sold on their ironic value) – but it was still hard not to echo the half bemused, half horrified exclamation from one of the unwitting tourists; “I thought they weren't real. But they are!”.

Much like young children I concede that the duo are perfectly pleasant in small doses (they genuinely were robbed at last year's Eurovision) but, also like small children, their sheer bloody energy got exhausting very fast: their logic seemeing to be why walk somewhere like a normal person when you can cartwheel there instead. And the show itself very much played up to this, not just by giving them rather questionable “celebrity” assistants (Big Brother's Brian Dowling and Joe Swash... I can't even summon up the enthusiasm to actually do a google search to find out who he is) to bounce off of, but by shooting everything in a nightmarish collision of crash zooms, horrible typefaces and jerky “Jedcam”, sprinkled with sub-Terry Gilliam daydream sequences.

Still I did learn something, even if it was mostly in spite of the hosts, and the UK's tourism boards could do worse than showing the programme overseas, as it does paint Britain as being a permanently sunny, oddly enthused place; nothing like the miserable reality we're all aware of (although, *serious face* you could say that, with some of the teenagers roped in to be Jedward's unwitting audience saying that they'd never visited the landmark despite living in the same city as it, that it did in some small way reflect the inner city malaise that we all got so heated about last summer).    

One suspects that the tourist industry would be far less keen for Bouncers (Thursday 3rd February, C4) to prove to be a successful export, detailing as it did the carnage of an average night out in the godforsaken place that is Newport's high street. Even though the central characters proved to be a surprisingly lovely bunch, and the lilting Welsh accents gave it some charm (and, apparently, provided me with a perfect opportunity to patronise a proud nation), it was for the most part, spectacularly grim, and I don't think I could single out the most depressing moment even if I wanted to. If you were looking for misanthropic dread, the kind stirred up by the sight of an amply-sized woman's emotions swinging from “I love you” to “I'll smash your face in” within the same sentence, as she was being escorted from a club, then there was plenty of that to go round, but there was also an abundance of moments that could just make you weep as well, such as the sweet, ever so slightly simple Jamie proudly declaring “I'm terrible as I'll spend 20 odd quid just on a pair of trousers”. Not that that it had really anything to say that anybody who's ever been out in a provincial British boozer on the weekend wouldn't already know. Other than that when you next find yourself in such a situation, odds are the most interesting, witty and coherent (and Oscar Wilde-quoting) company will come in the form of the doorman, which is not something I remember from any of my (sadly/thankfully rare) experiences of a night out on the town.