A NEW SPIRIT of wonder is in this land of Great Britain. People are smiling, people are cheering, people are positive, caring, inclusive, helpful. Well, there was a new Olympic spirit until Celebrity Big Brother (Channel 5, Wednesday) started and offered us a much-needed antidote.
Bring on the back-biting, jealousy, one-upmanship and unbridled selfishness, soon-forgotten traits that had made this country great. Let us not abandon our natural talents for the sake of a few gold medals. If an unfortunate Olympic gold medallist made it into the Big Brother house he or she would be eaten for breakfast and spat out for lunch.
The appeal of this show, which is surprisingly enduring, is that both audience and contestants don’t know what they are getting into.
This may mean that you find yourself watching through your hands as George Galloway does hideous things in a catsuit. Equally, you can now find yourself confronted by Julie Goodyear, late of Coronation Street, a TV legendess and a woman with the drollest, deadpan manner who may potentially have already made a hit of this year’s enticing series. It’s all in the casting, they say, and for once they are right.
I began in the Eighties. I saw a gap in the market
Julian Clary
My favourite moment was when Goodyear made her way to the front door expecting a trouble-free entry into the Big Brother house, as you would. Oh no. “It’s effing locked!” she blurted. It was priceless. You could hear thud after thud as weary TV executives fell flat on their backs laughing like drains.
However, the comedy was just beginning as we saw the arrival of fellow soap queen Cheryl Fergison, late of EastEnders. The mere mention of the phrase “she was hit over the head with a picture frame” had me laughing. She was what? Next thing, characters in soaps will be dying after knocking their heads against tea cosies.
Moments later, Fergison and Goodyear were putting themselves about like a female Morecambe & Wise, droll, twinkly and hilarious. It was more what they didn’t say than what they did.
After they had greeted each other there was pause before Cheryl politely asked: “What do we do now?” Goodyear replied: “I’ve no idea!”
The two were then asked by Big Brother to fashion a scenario as warring actresses. They needn’t have bothered. I think it would have happened anyway. “Big Brother” bellowed: “Cheryl and Julie, can you come to the diary room?” Goodyear was bewildered: “Where is he?”
Before long they were joined by another grand dame, Julian Clary, who started out as he meant to go on: “I began in the Eighties. I saw a gap in the market.”
A mysterious American chap called The Situation then hoved into view down the stairs (pity he didn’t fall over) and a nation scratched its head, before Clary offered brilliantly: “What’s your function?” We did laugh. If younger viewers and voters don’t throw out the oldies we may well be poised for a classic.
Actor Sean Bean looked like he’d come from the Celebrity Big Brother wrap party when he appeared in Accused (BBC1, Tuesday). He was playing a tranny in a blonde wig with shaved appendages and more slap than a Max Factor warehouse.
It’s easy to get confused in this shifting world of sexuality but Bean was playing a transvestite rather than a transsexual.
This means he’s not prepared to, ah, hum, go “all the way” towards becoming a woman (without the aid of delicately placed scalpel) but would rather just do it for fun (that’s dressing up) on Saturday nights when there are no repeats of Frost on the telly.
So it was then that Bean popped out for a little bit of what he fancied, only he happened to pick up the town psycho, played by Stephen Graham. Now Stephen Graham is a wonderful actor, last seen as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire. However, when I see Graham pop up in a drama you can bet a box of kitchen knives that he’s going to have blood on his hands by episode’s end.
Sure enough, Graham, a closet gay, found the modern world a little troublesome before using said kitchen knife in anger.
Mr Bean, meanwhile, was invited on a nice day out by Graham to the Lakes. It all ended in tears of course, and a court of law.
The only winner was the wig manufacturer. Mr Bean will undoubtedly get a Bafta for wearing an impossibly short dress, and the nation’s men can hope and pray that repeats of Frost will continue forever on Saturday nights.
Who knows what we might get up to, otherwise. Best line from Bean: “I never claimed to be Cheryl Cole!” Not even Cheryl Cole is any good at that any more.
Finally, baking: we’re assured it’s the next sun-dried tomato. Indeed, one young chap on the first episode of Great British Bake-Off (BBC2, Tuesday) cooked an upside down cake with tomatoes. He needs help, not a reality show about baking.
This series has it all. It has baddie judge with a ridiculous name, Paul Hollywood, a very funny co-host, Sue Perkins, and dowager cook with a name made for baking, Mary Berry, plus a pleasing array of Smeg refrigerators.
There are ovens, too, which contestants stare into hopelessly, hoping for a rise. The appeal of this show is that it makes you impossibly hungry, unless someone makes a cake with parnsips in it.
By the end of proceedings under the marquee someone was “evicted” and everyone cried.
I didn’t, of course. I just wondered whether or not Julian Clary had yet been turned by Samantha Brick, whoever she is.