OVER at the Lea Valley Athletics Centre, an emotional Christine McGuinness was sounding less like a 100-metre hurdler and more like Lee Harvey Oswald as she geared up for ITV’s latest celebrity challenge, this week.
“The thought of the crowd, the people, the gun . . .” the grassy knoll, the CIA cover-up.
“I’ve only got one shot,” she sobbed.
But who would she take out? A fellow competitor? One of the ITV presenters?
Or, better still, the cretin who brought this thing back from the dead?
It’s The Games, which ran over four series, in the mid-Noughties and is remembered, if at all, for Bobby Davro’s spectacular bellyflop in the ten-metre diving event.
The show was axed in 2006 when even Channel 4 realised there was no more mileage to be had out of watching minor celebrities discover there were lots more things they couldn’t do very well.
NOSTALGIC BRAIN FARTS
However, as you saw with The Ipcress File, the main commercial network is horribly prone to nostalgic brain farts, so it’s been revived with a five-night live run and no little fanfare on ITV, who threw almost everything at Monday’s big launch show.
As well as the 12 celebrity contestants, there was a marching band, acrobats and a mob-handed team of presenters and pundits who included Holly Willoughby, Freddie Flintoff, Tyson Fury, Kammy, a “comedian” called Yung Filly and the compulsory Alex Scott, who switched between a Kermit green business suit at Crystal Palace and some Ming the Merciless clobber at the Olympic pool.
The high level of personnel was designed, of course, to disguise the fact there was very little action going on here over the course of 90 minutes and they needed to flannel and banter for their lives.
What it can’t ever do, though, is gloss over the fact The Games remains a whole world of s**t*.
A sorry state of affairs that became even more apparent during its first event, the women’s 100-metre hurdles, which Christine, Olivia Attwood, Chelcee Grimes and three others negotiated with all the grace and ease of electroconvulsive therapy.
If you thought that was as bad as it would get, though, you didn’t stick around for the (un)synchronised diving or the men’s hammer-throwing, a pre-recorded contest which recreated all the magic of your dad flinging two bags of garden mulch at the local recycling centre’s green skip and landing it in “household waste”.
Since then, we’ve also seen Coronation Street’s Colson Smith upend himself in the canoeing and ITN newsreader Lucrezia Millarini recreate Jimmy Cagney’s death scene from The Roaring Twenties in the 400 metres.
Occasionally, through complete ineptitude, The Games can also enter so-bad-it’s-good territory, as it did when, after 12 weeks of training, Strictly’s Kevin Clifton and Olivia Attwood performed a five-metre jump during the ten-metre diving event.
None of it, however, could be described as a spectator sport, which is why ITV’s team is going to quite extraordinary lengths to make you believe you’re watching the very essence of Super Saturday at London 2012.
“Tonight is set to be a belter.” “It’s absolutely breathtaking.” “Watching this at home you’ll be in out-of-your-seat mode.”
The evidence of your own eyes does not lie, though. Nor do the small details like the fact they didn’t even have a functioning stopwatch on the women’s hurdles, where Chelcee Grimes and Phoenix Gulzar-Brown finished so far ahead of the stragglers they ended up in a different postcode.
Holly Willoughby also gave the game away, day one, when she suggested there should be a handicapping system because: “It’s unfair.”
She’s got a point as well. Christine McGuinness could shoot Wes Nelson in both legs and he would still probably beat Colson Smith over 400 metres, the viewers would still probably struggle to give a toss and I’d still find it impossible to explain why ITV brought The Games back or answer any question more complicated than Holly’s humdinger at the start of the week.
“Kevin’s background as a dancer, will it help him with hammer-throwing?”
Only the Susan Calman series.
UNEXPECTED MORONS IN THE BAGGING AREA
THE Chase, Bradley Walsh: “Which Detective Inspector first appeared in the novel Frost At Christmas?”
Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “Which word for a small house goes before the name of a dish made with minced beef topped with mashed potato?”
Clive Myrie: “The national park established in west central Scotland in 2002 is called Loch Lomond and the what?”
Shazia Mirza: “Loch Ness Monster.”
RANDOM TV IRRITATIONS
ANT & Dec giving their golden buzzer to Keiichi Iwasaki, who’s already done Spain, Italy, Germany and Bulgaria’s Got Talent.
The once brilliant SAS: Who Dares Wins turning into Deidre’s Photo Casebook with “Sarah’s lesbian bridesmaid dilemma”.
Jaydee Dyer’s Soccer Saturday ramblings making Paul Merson’s reports sound like Alistair Cooke’s Letter From America.
Freeze The Fear’s baffling desperation to crush Patrice Evra’s competitive spirit. And the BBC1 show’s host Lee Mack asking “When is it going to go from light entertainment to panic?”
Rather than the question on viewers’ lips: “When is any of this crap going to turn into light entertainment?”
BAFFLED BY WOKE BAFTAS
SUFFICE to say, if you really think foghorning oaf Big Zuu is a more entertaining TV performer than Michael McIntyre and Graham Norton then it’s not a Bafta vote you need, it’s watering by the neighbours when your owner goes away on holiday.
But that’s the level of the lies they now have to tell themselves at BBC1’s annual Bafta ceremony, where a basic ignorance of the TV medium and snobbery (Line Of Duty has never won a major award) has been bolstered by the cult of woke.
On Sunday night, this meant there was not even a shortlisting for arguably the past year’s two best shows, Clarkson’s Farm and The White Lotus, but there were telling nominations for the likes of Steph’s Packed Lunch (C4), Alison Hammond’s performance on I Can See Your Voice and Married At First Sight UK (C4).
It wasn’t all bad, obviously. I was personally delighted that BBC1’s outstanding drama Time won two awards, and relaxed about the fact Channel 4’s over-rated It’s A Sin got nothing.
Although it was never going to stop the dressing-up box community attacking the Government’s plan to privatise Channel 4 or conjuring up fantasy images of a long lost network that, according to actress Cathy Tyson, still “gives a voice to the unheard”.
As was so perfectly demonstrated by a big announcement the very next day.
“Katie Price has landed a second series of her Channel 4 house renovation show, Mucky Mansion.”
TELLY quiz. What characteristically “high-end” ITVBe production featured the following quote, earlier this month? “There’s 40 mice having 80 s**ts a day. I’m no Carol Vorderman but that’s, like, 800 s**ts in my loft.”
A) Ferne McCann: First Time Mum?
B) The Diary Of Anne Frank?
RATHER than go through the tired old rigmarole of giving Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars a 200-word kicking, here’s a picture and subtitle that saves me the bother.
GREAT TV lies and delusions of the week. Eurovision heats, Rylan: “This is what you need to start a semi. Albania.” (She’s not)
Big Zuu’s Big Eats: “I’m London Hughes and I’m really funny.”
Open House, voiceover: “In a luxury retreat people are rebelling against thousands of years of tradition by opening up their monogamous relationships in a safe house.” Or just whoring their dignity to Channel 4 — you decide.
INCIDENTALLY, if London Hughes married the host of Big Eats and became London Zuu, would she still not be funny?
LOOKALIKE OF THE WEEK
Emailed in by Fab Flo.
GREAT SPORTING INSIGHTS
SIR Jeff Stelling: “Bristol Rovers need seven goals. They’re 4-0 up, so four more would be unthinkable.”
Glenn Murray: “An afternoon like tonight is so special.”
Clinton Morrison: “I bet next season will be a different season.”
(Compiled by Graham Wray)
BBC2’s Commando: Britain’s Ocean Warriors. ITV’s The 1% Club.
The frantic accordions of Moldova stealing the show at Tuesday’s Eurovision semi-final, on BBC3.
And the year’s best show, Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty, concluding with the news that a second series is due to arrive at about the same time the first one is ignored at the 2023 Baftas.
Or as John C Reilly’s Dr Buss character said: “Swan songs? This ain’t mine.
“Watch me paddle, motherf***ers.”