Television Review

THE FUNNIEST THING about the catastrophic h&p@bbc is the way the schedulers keep trying to hide it from view, like concealing an immensely fat man behind a lamppost. Launched in the 9.30pm slot on Thursdays, the latest hidey-hole into which it has folded its ungainly form is 11.10pm on Friday. You can see BBC1 controller Peter Salmon thinking, "Hah! They'll never find it there". Anyone who did would have been confronted by the grotesque deformity of a guest list consisting of two television critics and a swimmer. The swimmer was presumably there to keep the critics, who were way over their heads, from drowning.

As it enters television's hall of shame alongside this year's other entrants - Gimme Gimme Gimme, Days Like These and anything on Channel 5 - the one thing you can say for h&p@bbc is at least it tried. Minting a fresh light- entertainment format grows more difficult and these days most people don't bother, with the result that there are more clips programmes on television than at any other time. Thus The Big Match Live segued straight from Manchester United's knees-up into a dismal anthology of sporting punch-ups called When Athletes Attack (Wed ITV). What A Performance (Sun ITV ) is ITV's answer to all those BBC series which scavenge the sitcom archive. And there's always Terry Wogan's Auntie's Big Bloomers (Sat BBC1).

When the BBC doesn't know what to do to its superannuated light-entertainment hosts, it gives them a clip show, which brings us to Noel Edmonds' The Secret World of the Camera (BBC1). It is at least as much of a dog's dinner as h&p@bbc but because it doesn't pretend to be original, it has somehow escaped the mauling it richly deserves. I think it's meant to be a compilation from various candid camera shows around the world, with a stunt of its own thrown in each week. But it has ended up looking like a ragbag of pranks, pratfalls and risible high jinks, shuffled into no particular order and palmed off as a novelty in a most insulting way. Has Edmonds' career come to this, falling between two stools marked "Tarrant" and "Beadle"?

In the most hideously misshapen part of the programme, they reproduced a 10-year-old stunt from the US in which a man and a woman start snogging in a dating agency in front of the receptionist's eyes. It was couched in the form of an experiment, to see whether a tele-literate person in 1999 would still fall for such an obvious set-up. It's desperation enough to play old clips, but bankruptcy of a spectacularly new order actually to re-enact them.

And so to Guinness World Records (ITV), presented by the likeably cocksure Ian Wright and incorporating a similar mixture of live entertainment and clips hired from the franchise licensor in America. "OK, we're off to America again," says Wright rather too often, and at the end of the item you cut from a shot of an American studio audience clapping to a British audience clapping. Someday someone will break the record for the number of layers of an onion you can get into one lazy light- entertainment format.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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