Magazine article The Spectator

The Squirm Factor

Magazine article The Spectator

The Squirm Factor

Article excerpt

Television

The squirm factor

Back in the Ordovician period, we learnt on Sea Monsters (BBC1), the earth spun so fast that days were only 21 hours long. What would you drop from your life if you had three hours less each day? Television, I expect, starting with all those programmes in which bossy women tell you how to clean your house or what to wear. Anything in which an ordinary middle-class family decides to sell up to buy a home in Tuscany or Portugal, or - and this would be really interesting - northern Uganda, where they have a hilarious time with recalcitrant plumbers and whingeing teenagers. All life-exchange shows, which used to be fun but are now just squirm-making.

The latest is Celebrity Wife Swap (Channel 4), featuring - and this stretches the term 'celebrity' as thin as it will go

Jade Goody of Big Brother and Major Charles Ingram, who won on Who Wants To be A Millionaire? by having a friend cough the right answers. How does this crime, for which he was convicted on overwhelming evidence, make him a celebrity? Obviously he wouldn't have acquired the same status by nicking car radios. Would he be on an agency's books if he had tried to steal the million quid from the company accounts? Or is it because he tried it on television? In which case, everyone on Police, Camera, Action! would be a star.

There were two mildly amusing moments. One came when Mrs Ingram, speaking as if she were picking up a small corpse the cat had just dragged in, enunciated: 'The word "minging" is used a lot in this house. I don't know what it means, but it is clearly derogatory.' Yes, Diana, it is. And I liked it when her opposite number, Jade, announced that 'If you don't cook the eggs, you'll get semolina.'

Louis and the Brothel (BBC2) had Louis Thcroux visiting a luxurious new knocking shop, a sort of resort bordello near Reno, Nevada. All Theroux's shows are about him, or rather about how a handsome, faintly eccentric and utterly self-deprecating young man gets along with truly strange people. It usually works well, though this time he was upstaged by Hayley, one of the prostitutes, who easily commandeered the programme until she was fired for drunkenness.

As Theroux told her, she was weird, to which she spat in reply: Tm weird? Foreigner!' Endearingly, she thought that by taking her top off she could make the footage unusable. How little she knew about British television! She spent ages trying to get him into bed, which I assumed was designed to make us realise what a stud Theroux is (and not the nervous geography teacher he appears to be) until she charged him $200 for a massage. …

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