Television Review

IT COMES as a shock to see Bruce Forsyth as he was 28 years ago, introducing the first ever Generation Game: the sheer energy of the man, the elastic tension of that stupid silhouetted pose he used to strike, the twinkle-toed precision with which he kicked out of it and half-pranced to the front of the stage - it seems odd that I didn't remember it being so exciting.

Cuddly Toys and Conveyor Belts (BBC1), a retrospective got up to mark the start this weekend of the 22nd series, provided a neat lesson in the fallibility of memory - not so much the audience's memory as the BBC's. In its early years, The Generation Game was a production-line for catchphrases unequalled until the advent of The Fast Show - half the reason for tuning in was to have your expectations of these gratified. Here, we got a few "gay days" and "shut that doors" (though these were part of Larry Grayson's shtick long before he camped out on the BBC's lawn). But we didn't see Brucie yell "Nice to see you, to see you...?", or hear the audience chorus "Nice!"; we didn't hear him instruct Anthea to "Give us a twirl"; Larry didn't ask to see the scores on the doors; and there was none of the frantic cataloguing of prizes nodded to in the title - nobody gabbling "Cuddly toy, cuddly toy!" or trying to explain a fondue set.

Instead, we got a lengthy series of extracts from the show in its modern incarnation, under Jim Davidson's plodding stewardship, and just enough footage of his illustrious predecessors to show him up thoroughly. Fascinating to observe the sharp contrast in Forsyth's and Grayson's styles. To begin with, there was Bruce, the consummate variety performer, hardly able to comprehend the indignity that was being pressed on him - the air of superiority to his surroundings punctured by a gleam of horror in his eyes, as if he was suppressing the knowledge that, after all, this was all he was fit for. (Things had changed when he returned for a second stint, a decade later: by now physically less dominating, he carried a whiff of manic desperation.)

By contrast, Grayson was ready, even eager, to look as bad as his contestants did, his limbs flopping limply about the stage, his face fixed with a look of surprise tinged with pleasure at having got this far. The sheer expertise behind this act, and the personal warmth, were palpable.

After this flawless impression of incompetence, it was not merely depressing but demeaning to see Davidson wholeheartedly embodying the real thing. The funniest incidents from the Bruce and Larry years were all happy accidents, the stars improvising around fluffs or unforeseen absurdities, sparking off the contestants and the camera. With Davidson, tellingly, nearly all the moments chosen were carefully contrived bits of business, the humour supplied for him by trick camera-work or elaborate make-up jobs. Oddly enough, many of them involved Davidson doing imitations of such now and happening stars as Rod Stewart, Elton John and the Village People: if they could inject such a sense of history here, why was it missing from the rest of the programme?

To be fair to Davidson, life has got tougher for television shows that rely on the ability of the general public to make fools of themselves; we're all a bit too sussed these days.

Streetmate (C4) exemplifies one response to this difficulty: propel the public into ever more embarrassing and pressurised situations, in this case, by getting them to go on a date with a complete stranger. This rarely produces any chemistry, even when you get a couple as apparently well- matched as Hans, a manager of fashion designers who (according to a friend) "likes his German meat", and Uli, a fashion designer who was German. Still, at least they had something to talk about, unlike Steven, an Oxford undergraduate ("He never showers," explained an awed friend, "he always has a bath"), and Lydia, who worked in a clothes shop.

These damp squibs were enlivened, not particularly effectively, by the camera-work - speeded up, flicking from colour to black-and-white, with all the usual weird angles and jerky cutting. And we got the edifying spectacle of Davina McCall trying to raise a few sparks by approaching innocent passers-by and asking "What makes you happy in bed?" "Plenty of oral sex," was one answer; "Yeah!" said Davina, punching the air happily, "Me too!" Really, the whole thing leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat