Television Review

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The Independent Culture
THE UNION between Jack Docherty and Channel 5 is heading inexorably for divorce. When they got into bed with each other 18 months ago, they were doing it five nights per week. Exhausted after six months, Docherty begged to be allowed to go down to four nights per week, with the promise that the day off would allow him to put more into his remaining performances. But then Graham Norton stole a comedy award from under his nose for presenting the show while Docherty was on holiday. In time, the rate was further reduced to three nights per week and these days it's down to two. Docherty's contract with Channel 5 expires at the end of the year and he will not be signing a new one.

In effect, The Jack Docherty Show (C5, Tue and Thur) is working out its notice. And boy, does it show. It's as if Docherty is perfunctorily doing his job even as the removal men are dismantling the show and packing it off to the archive. The house band has gone, the flats of the set have been taken down, and the script has been stowed at the bottom of a cardboard box file.

On to the Thursday edition of the show in which the host plainly doesn't appear to believe came Ron Atkinson to plug some video in which he plainly doesn't appear believe. It was like attending a convention of agnostics who have lost their faith but carry on singing from the same hymn-sheet anyway. There was a bit of miscued banter about the origin of Big Ron's moniker. Groins were, needless to say, mentioned in dispatches. Atkinson worried that his mother might be watching, but Docherty was able categorically to assure him that nobody was watching. Whereas once Docherty might have been joking, this time you could hear the bitterness and despair in his voice.

So how does Channel 5 complete with Newsnight without Docherty? Apart from putting out Sex and Shopping every night. Another of the holiday relief presenters to have prospered while Docherty was away is Melinda Messenger. No matter that Docherty has more natural wit in his left nipple than her entire prosthetic appendages, Messenger now has her own chat show.

The most complimentary thing you can say about Melinda's Big Night In (C5, Wed) is that she is brazenly up front about the promotional quid pro quo. Her opening gambit is usually: "So, you've got a new book/show/video." But it can vary. At a time when the headcount of celebrities has expanded to fill the available media space, it could just as easily be: "So, you've got a new ad/magazine spread/hair colour."

You think I'm joking. I wish I was. One of Messenger's guests was a blonde model who came on to talk about her role in the new Pizza Hut ad. It's amazing what a breast enlargement will get you these days: a guest appearance on a chat show hosted by a blonde model with enlarged breasts. I won't name this particular guest because I flatly refuse to augment her portion of entirely bogus fame by even one micromillimetre. The silly girl didn't have much to say for herself, apart from telling Messenger how her agent, standing backstage, made all the crucial decisions. You could actually see the puppet strings. In a triumph of scheduling, Channel 5 showed a Pizza Hut commercial during the break. Sadly, it was a different one.

The guests on The People v Jerry Sadowitz (C5, Fri) get a credit in the title. Sadowitz has the people on his show because no one else will work with him. No one, that is, apart from Judge James Pickles.

The audience is ushered on one by one to put some case or other to Sadowitz. This week, the brief was to describe "the most horrendous death you can think of", but they treated it like one of those vague essay tiles you used to get in school, and wandered off the subject. One bloke played his guitar. Another came on "to talk about acting on impulse". Someone else wanted BT not to charge for local calls. Sadowitz's role is to crush them, but though his job is semaphored in his surname, he is neither sadistic nor witty and his heart isn't in it. The most horrendous death I can think of is dying on this show. But we're not all television critics, and some people are dying to get on the box.