The Sopranos

Come Dine With Me

TV is the new cinema, which makes staying in, the new going out. A trend that has led to supermarket popcorn sales growing exponentially. And it’s all down to the success of the long form TV series pioneered by The Sopranos, which was considerably better than the Godfather trilogy. Oh yes it was!

But while TV drama hits new heights, the rest of it is going South, rapidly. Don’t even ask why the BBC wastes our money on emulating every successful hit show that pops up on ITV. That’s what leads to aberrations like The Voice.

But its not the ill-conceived “me too” myopia that bothers me, even though it leads every channel to make its own version of successful formats from Ice Road Bakers to the Deadliest Batch. No, it’s the manipulation and deceit that is routinely visited upon us by the broadcasters, supported by their co-conspirators, the critics. Who, collude in making woefully thin constructs, sound like sure fire winners.

Take Monday night. Whilst Hugh Farnley Whitwam was earnestly encouraging the supermarkets to put a stop to food waste (a true scandal) some complete nobody was trying to shaft Aldi, on Channel 4, by portraying them as the Ryanair of retail. Billed as a major expose, it soon became clear that the mega successful discounter had a loyal customer following, who totally understand that you pays your money and takes your choice. Then you go to the betting shop and blow the savings. Aware that “customer understands proposition” doesn’t make good telly, the programme resorted to the old trick of finding some disgruntled ex employees and spreading rumours that they exploit their staff. Meanwhile some old fart with a PhD in Aldi Studies rambled on about employment law – just because Aldi insist, quite rightly, that staff arrive 15 minutes ahead of shift, in order to be ready to start at the allotted time.

It’s all very poor indeed. And it gets worse. Some TV shows start out plausibly, but then the producers lose faith in the format. That’s why the masterpiece that is Come Dine With Me was ruined, when each evening had to have “entertainment” and every group had to contain someone who is allergic to life itself. Maybe it’s a Huddersfield thing but I don’t expect my friends to have entertainment at their houses – plying me with drink is more than enough.

So, to the big A – the Apprentice. Once upon a time you could almost believe that the challenges were set to test the overall acumen, judgement, people skills and sales ability of the contestants. But now Lord Grumpy presides over challenges designed specifically to cause conflict and humiliate the contestants. Why else would they be shown digging manure in high heels and business suits? Why oh why would they be asked to conceive, plot, write, illustrate and then pitch, a children’s story? Roald Dahl would struggle with that one.

So to this week’s challenge, in which Team Colossus and Team Perineum are asked to make a porn movie. The cars will no doubt be outside, at short notice, at some ungodly hour. Lord Amstrad will appear between Karen and Clod to announce the challenge and explain why the candidates are all handcuffed to the walls. The teams will have to decide what type of movie they think they can pitch. MMF, Girl on Girl, S&M. And the end of the challenge at least one the candidates, will be tired. Or as the Lord of the Fires put it “Right Vana we need to see a lot more of you. You will be cheerleader, sorry team leader. You claim you can hold your own against a man – now’s your chance. Team Colossus – time to rise to the occasion and see what you are made of. In the team that fluffs it, at least one of you will get fired.”