THAT WAS THE BOX – March 2014 (Week Four)
‘THE VOICE – LIVE SHOWS‘ (BBC 1 – BBC iPlayer)
So is ‘The Voice‘ going to find a star this year? At a guess, I would say no. I don’t know what it is, but this show just hasn’t got whatever it is that ‘The X-Factor‘ possesses. I might be forced to eat my words, and a new British superstar might emerge from the third series of the BBC talent show, but I can’t see it somehow.
If I wanted to hazard a guess why ‘The Voice‘ doesn’t work is that too much time is spent on the chair rounds. By the time we reach the battle rounds, it’s hard to remember who has got who in their team. Unlike ‘The X-Factor‘ where each mentor has a category, with ‘The Voice‘ it’s all mix and match. A case in point, is last year, for instance, if someone was really into Sam Bailey, but they weren’t sure who was mentoring her, they would only have to remember that Sharon had the overs and they’d know whose group she was in. By the time we reach the battle rounds of ‘The Voice‘, they just come across like a bunch of wannabes with middling talent, and no one particularly stands out and even if you’re a big fan of one of the mentors you’re going to be hard-pressed to remember who is in their team.
Secondly, I don’t condone cruelty, but sometimes the British public likes to get behind an underdog, and if they have a favourite, and one of the judges gives a scathing critique (even if it is partly justified), the audience will feel more passionately about them and vote. Because the live shows run for 10 weeks on ‘The X Factor‘, it gives us nearly three months to get to know these people and travel with them on their –ahem – journey. By the time people emerge as individuals on ‘The Voice‘, we are at the Quarter Final stage and quite frankly, it’s hard to give a hoot about them within the two weeks until the final. With Kylie not joining the panel next year, I suggest they find a straight-talking woman who will actually give some criticism. Telling everyone that they were ‘good’ ‘awesome’ ‘world-class’ etc, actually just ends up sounding like platitudes with no genuine feeling behind it.
Interestingly, this year, the only contestant who got mass media coverage on the run up to the live shows was Georgia Harrup, who is Adele’s long-lost cousin (i.e. they’ve never met). I think the BBC PR department thought that by playing upon this family connection, people would get behind Georgia. Unfortunately it backfired. No-one likes nepotism and given that Georgia seemed to labour under the misapprehension that melodies weren’t important to singing songs, and also that it might be worth developing a likeable personality, she was voted out in the quarter-final. Now their only ‘star’ is gone.
I would also suggest they confiscate Will.I.am’s phone whilst the show is on so he stops tweeting and taking selfies. If one of the judges can’t be bothered to watch the show, why on earth should the rest of us?
‘MY SPIRAL INTO DEBT HELL‘ (Channel 5 – Demand 5)
This week, Channel 5 are tacking debt. Thankfully there was no Katie Hopkins involved, giving her oh-so-informed opinion, so I decided to watch. This being Channel 5, of course we had to go extremes and concentrate on people who had got themselves into terrible debt, running up tens of thousands of pounds, seemingly without reason. Most of us have been in debt at some point, but it was still hard to watch this show without being judgemental. As much as I felt sorry for Deborah, who took a £500 loan from so-called friend Harpo, so she could buy her children a computer for Christmas, it is hard to understand why she allowed it to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds of debt before approaching the police. This guy was someone she knew from school. Even if one of my closest friends lent me £500 and kept slapping on interest and never letting me pay it back, I’d be down the cop shop. It even appeared this Harpo didn’t threaten her until the debt got serious. Surely she should have sought help from the police earlier, before selling her house, possessions and running into other debts, just to pay him off.
There was posh boy Justyn who gambled hundreds of thousands away, losing his wife and his kids in the process, and being bailed out by his parents. Worryingly, he doesn’t seem to have got any counselling or help for his addiction – he just moved in with mum and dad and has stopped gambling. What happens next time he’s under stress? Addictions rarely go away without professional help.
We also met Candice who was the archetypal silly girl who fell in love with her credit cards and ended up £15k in debt. She was young and learned her lesson and is now paying her debts back. Frightening as it sounds, fifteen thousand pounds isn’t an exceptional amount of debt these days, and I got the feeling it was more about getting Candice on the TV than making a statement about debt.
Star of the show for me was Bryan, who looked like the bastard child of Ricky Gervais and Doug Stanhope. Bryan had run up forty-odd thousand in debt, after being signed off sick, but still having credit thrown at him by credit card companies and banks. Bryan was a bit of a Robin Hood, without the giving to the poor bit. His argument was that if credit card companies were stupid enough to give him huge sums of money, even though he wasn’t working, then he had no intention of paying it back, and a part of me felt good on him. Many credit companies are far too eager to give money away, looking forward to the big, fat interest payments they can slap on top, so if someone sticks two fingers up to them, well they get my admiration as I’d be far too timid to do the same thing.
‘W1A‘ (BBC2 – BBC iPlayer)
Episode Two saw a marked improvement from last weeks’ opening show. There was less about Ian Fletcher’s stupid folding bike and more of Siobhan Sharpe. Ian was travelling to Manchester to be interviewed on ‘Women’s Hour‘, and not only was he accompanied by straight-talking Communications Officer Tracey Pritchard, he was also lumbered with Siobhan, who is working hard to raise his profile as the new Head of Values. On a two-hour train journey she created a Twitter account for him, tweeted that Carol Vorderman would be presenting the new show ‘Britain’s Tastiest Village‘ and all the while back in London, Vorderman was being given the news that original choice, Clare Balding would be presenting instead. Of course once Balding found out Vorderman had been asked, she dropped out too and Ian cleverly talked his way out of scandal by offering the presenting role to the woman who has accused the BBC of ageism, sexism and being anti-West Country.
The scene where Ian was being interviewed, and Tracey and Siobhan were scrapping, trying to vie for his attention to let him know who was going to be presenting the show, was inspired, and proper laugh out loud television. Another telling moment was when Ian shared a semi-awkward lift moment with producer Lucy (who I think is a potential love interest), who informed him that all the chaos that had ensued over the presenter problem was quite normal and happened all the time. It does make you wonder if the BBC is really as badly run as it appears on this show. It is, after all, a public sector organisation, and having worked in the public sector for a very long time, I am quite aware that one often has to fill in a form, just to get permission to fill in a form, and that, added to the natural egoism that is inherent in media-types, would surely lead to all sorts of chaos. An organisation that is answerable to the government can never be instinctive and has to conform to many of the same petty bureaucratic rules as any other department, and surely creativity is all about going with the moment?
If ‘W1A‘ carries on improving in such leaps and bounds, it will be a match for ‘Twenty Twelve‘. And oh, can I say I now love Will the Intern? I still think they could have got him to be the twelfth Doctor and no one would have noticed Matt Smith had gone; but the character is so vacant and stupid, you’ve got to love him. I have a feeling he could end up as Director General one day.
‘DEAD FAMOUS DNA‘ (Channel 4 – 4OD)
This programme was classic ‘why am I watching this?’ television. Indeed, also, ‘why has Channel 4 thrown money at such crap?’’ Mark Evans used to be a nice vet on ‘Pet Rescue‘, but now he’s calling himself a scientist and I get the feeling he’s slipping into that sort of God Complex, slightly insane Icke/Edmonds territory, where he feels he’s somehow responsible for answering the questions that may have perplexed us for years, and in turn making the world a different/better place.
The concept of the show was that Evans went around buying body parts of famous dead people and having their DNA analysed to determine why they became the people they were. Or in Elvis’s case, why did he die at such a young age? First of all, Evans visited an American hair dealership (yes, really) where he was offered copious amounts of hair belonging to ‘mad King George III‘ for which he paid $5000!! Of course, it turned out to be a wig and they couldn’t get a DNA reading anyway.
After visiting a woman who had what was allegedly Elvis’s wart, but wouldn’t sell, he then managed to buy some hair collected by Elvis’s barber over fifty years ago. The hair was analysed, and in the biggest ‘No Sh!t Sherlock’ moment on TV in the past ten years, the DNA sample revealed that The King had a gene which gave him a propensity to obesity and another that could cause cardiomyopathy, which is what killed him in the end. Given that Elvis’s mother died at just forty-six from heart failure, it was hardly a surprise that he had inherited the gene that gave him a dodgy ticker. It’s not as if Elvis’s life has gone undocumented. We know that too much food, too many prescription drugs, depression and a bad heart killed him at a young age; we didn’t need a DNA test to tell us that.
Most disturbing was Evans’ willingness to do business with Holocaust-denier David Irving, just to purchase hair belonging to Adolf Hitler. Evans reckons that he wants to find out if Hitler’s evilness was genetic or if there was another cause. When the scientist who was conducting the DNA tests refused to work with any sort of sample from Hitler, feeling it was unethical, Evans claimed he was doing it so they could learn from it and prevent it from ever happening again. I feared he was doing it because he was tempted to clone a human being, using Hitler’s DNA and create his own master race of evil vet/TV presenters.
I still don’t know the point of this programme, and in my opinion, if you must test the DNA of dead people, there are a lot of unsolved murders out there. Spend your time and money on finding out what happened to those people and bring the perpetrators to justice. Do we really need to know why Hitler was evil? What is evil anyway? I could get into a long debate about it, but I guess it’s just in my DNA to question everything.