2001 TV Moments

Saturday, March 16, 2002 by

Celebrity audience. Two words guaranteed to strike fear and terror into the heart of this viewer. I break into a cold sweat at the thought of yet another self-indulgent love in featuring the luminaries of the small screen. Still, it was Saturday night and, with the liberal ingestion of copious amounts of alcohol, I had reduced my fear and loathing into a mild contempt.

Hosted by a preternaturally indifferent Parkinson, 2001 TV Moments teetered on the edge of mediocrity from the opening shots. Any thoughts that this show could rise to the challenge and fight above its weight were well and truly shattered when Parky declared that the moments considered were selected by a “panel of industry experts” – cue a shot of the eternally effervescent Anthea Turner. Matron, the screens! Parky’s entrance was prefaced by a clip from the abominable Kumars at 42. I always thought that the BBC would have to go some to proffer up a worse comedy than The Fitz, but thanks to the deeply unfunny Kumars they managed it with consummate ease. Any industry that lauds Meera Syal has serious, unresolved issues. As does Parkinson. A wise friend once stated that the qualitative demise in Parkinson could be easily attributed to the fact that he is no longer one of us, he’s one of them. Accorded divine status by the BBC and gratuitously and obsequiously lauded by his guests, Parkinson is, arguably, a spent force in chat show terms and a complete non-starter in hosting terms. Hampered by a dreadful script and his own innate lack of comedic timing, he was simply the wrong man for the job.

The first category was titled “Best Factual TV Moment”. Hell, that left a whole lot of scope for inclusion. By now, I was even becoming mildly interested. Tottering onto announce the candidates came the charmless Professor Robert Winston. A man made famous (in relative terms) by television, this irksome little man has all the charisma and grace of a snotter and a putrid sense of self worth to match. Making a crass and snide snipe at Jerry Springer (now there would have been a host!), the Charmless Man stepped back to allow a glimpse of the four candidates (The Blue Planet – a whale clip natch, Faking It – the “Ed the Burger Man” episode,Ellen McArthur: Sailing Through Heaven and Hell and When Louis Met … laying down his groove and funking with Christine Hamilton) which were vying for this award.

Out the four, I must admit to cherishing the Faking It episode above all others. It was a wonderful slice of television (The “it must be fucking lonely being Gordon Ramsey” moment being a particular highlight for me) and richly deserved to win. The look on Ed’s face whenFaking It got the nod was one of pure, unexpected joy. His simple but genuinely moving speech was the only moment of the evening that could, in any way, shape or form be construed as a highlight. The man’s humility in mentioning the three chefs he had beaten in the cookery competition featured in the episode was a touch of class as was his telling of his mother’s admonition not to swear on the BBC. In relative terms, the Ellen McArthur documentary was perhaps worthier but it lacked the manic frission and rocking joie de vivre that infused theFaking It episode.

There then followed a montage of “stars” being savaged or embarrassed. Far from being amusing, this merely pandered to the over-inflated egos of those featured. I really don’t need to see a clip of Shane Ritchie behaving like a tosser. I know he’s a tosser. Point of clarification to the drunk bloke haranguing Vic Reeves. You missed out several derogatory words after “fucking” and before “wanker”. See the English and swearing? A shallow, meandering and manfully dull segment that served only to remind us all that whilst television maybe a young democracy it certainly isn’t a meritorious one.

So, we fitfully proceeded to the sporting moment award. There was a certain sense of symmetry here, with this award being doled out the same day that Nathan Astle produced one of the greatest displays of batting in the history of cricket. Pity that no-one saw fit to mention it. Conversely you could have got ridiculously short odds on Angus Deayton making some craven, fawning remarks about the other team in Manchester. This was a joke of a section; it being blatantly obvious that Beckham’s free kick equaliser was going to win. England’s 5-1 demolition of Germany and Goran’s Wimbledon triumph certainly merited inclusion but last year’s Grand National? It wasn’t even the best horse racing moment of 2001. That went to Lafranco Dettori ripping up the turf at Longchamps and romping home to majestically win the Arc – his 100th Group 1 triumph, no less. But, alas, it was on Channel 4. Strange that not one of the industry experts sought to include this. Mind you, any opportunity to witness the witless Beckham attempt to string a coherent sentence together is to be savoured. On wobbled a pale, ashen George Best to accept the award of behalf of Beckham only to discover that Deayton had buggered off with it. All that now remained was for Parky and Bestie to have an orgasmic, mutual love-in over Beckham. My stomach was churning at this point and it had hee-haw to do with the bucketful of beer sloshing around my guts.

Thank god for alcohol – not only does it dull the senses and pickle your brain; it also makes dreary television like this passable. I have a vague recollection of a segment featuring “TV Villains” but it featured moments of such stultifying banality that I’ve managed to erase it from my short-term memory. No doubt, in months to come, I’ll start to get horrendous flashbacks of moments selected by a panel of industry experts. Now, there’s a horrific thought.

The awards rolled on; “Best Soap Moment” – take your pick from “Who Shot Phil?”, Alma popping her clogs, Janice dumping Les for Dennis (how can you take a love triangle seriously with two guys called “Les” and “Dennis”? – every time they shared a scene on Corrie I conjured up a mental image of Dustin Gee doing Vera) and the “I’m Your Mum” moment down Albert Square. I spent my time before “Who Shot Phil?” inevitably won by attempting to make anagrams out of the phrase (“Lot o’ pish” being my best – and eerily prescient – attempt.

Despite the best efforts of Charlie Brooks, the mere sight of the unfathomably overrated Meera Syal coming on to present an award (“Best Dramatic Moment” – winner, I can’t remember) and the decision to open another bottle of wine was immediately taken. I recollect that an excess of time seemed to be allotted to the clip of Clocking Off but that’s about all that I do remember. The phrase “watercooler moment” was used at some point before the “Best Comedy Moment” award. Had I been capable (and possessed of enough cash) I’d have hurled an empty bottle through my screen. Anyone who uses this hideously insipid phrase deserves to be murdered. Wonderfully, The Office took the comedy award. It was fully deserved and afforded us the opportunity of seeing the classic “I’ve got some good news and some bad news” scene once more. Prior to falling into a coma induced by this catalogue of blandness, the “Best Entertainment Moment” was carried off by Vanessa Feltz for her contribution to Celebrity Big Brother.

Essentially, I struggled to maintain any enthusiasm whatsoever for this dog’s dinner of a show. Fundamentally, it represented 2001 in only the narrowest of contexts yet purported to be so much more. It was badly scripted, dreadfully hosted and remained almost defiantly self-indulgent to the bitter end. A noble idea savagely borne, the next day I looked knowingly at my notes and read my alcoholic, spidery scrawl which asked the pertinent question, “at this point, who cares?” – who indeed. The point of the audience passed me by, other than an opportunity for the good and the great (sic) to remind us that their stars still shine brightly in the firmament. I’m pretty certain there was another award but with my liver screaming out for mercy, the blessed relief of sleep finally won.

What this show was certainly not was primetime Saturday night viewing. It’s truly a sad state of affairs when rubbish like this is pitched up against Reg’s singalong – hardly the stuff of dreams that salivates the viewing publics’ tastebuds. The downward spiral of Saturday night viewing continues unabated, and it’s a tad ironic that it occurred in a week when a senior BBC official railed against the disproportionate viewing habits of the white middle classes. In an age of prissy, demographic sensibilities and spatially aware ethnicity, the BBC would be better advised to rage against the machine within for producing junk like this. This was one long moment better left forgotten.


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