Sir Tom Jones is The Voice of wisdom as he calls this year's talent 's**t'

The Welsh singer later insisted he'd only been joking, but as Homer Simpson says, it's funny 'cause it's true, says Ellen E Jones

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After 50 years in the entertainment business, you can’t blame Tom Jones for cracking. Evidently, there’s only so much air-kissing and arse-kissing a man can take before he has to call things as they are and to hell with the consequences.

That moment arrived earlier this week during a press conference for the new series of BBC1 singing show The Voice. When fellow judge will-i-am was asked what he thought of this year’s crop of contestants he began: “The talent this year is...”, but before he could finished that sentence, Sir Tom jumped in to say: “S**t.“ The Welsh singer later insisted he’d only been joking, but as Homer Simpson says, it’s funny ‘cause it’s true.

The producers of The Voice may disagree, but Jones’s experiment with radical honesty couldn’t have been better timed, since it heralded the return this weekend of the original s**t singing contest. The inimitable imitation show Harry Hill’s Stars In Their Eyes starts at 7pm on Saturday and with it, a cure for all the ills that ten years of X Factor dominance has wrought in British society.

The original Stars in Their Eyes ran from 1990 to 2006 and regularly attracted around 13 million viewers for the grand final (last year’s X Factor final managed just 9.1million). The format was simple; a member of the public would appear first as themselves and be interviewed by the host, Matthew Kelly. After dropping a few hints about the star they were planning to impersonate, they’d utter the immortal words: “Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be…[insert act name]” and disappear backstage. The next time we saw of Sandra from Stoke or Gary from Glamorgan, he/she was emerging from a cloud of dry ice, transformed by the magic of television into a favourite singing star.

Unlike The X Factor, The Voice, Popstars or any of the other reality shows which came after, Stars In Their Eyes never claimed to be creating the next big star. Nor did the contestants feel compelled to bang on tearfully about the dead granny/ granddad/ gerbil who had always believed in them. Like the karaoke night at your local pub, Stars in Their Eyes had no pretensions to be anything other than what it was; a good laugh.

Harry Hill surrealist humour has already transformed You’ve Been Framed from a depressing collection of clearly staged clips into comedy gold, so he’s the perfect choice of presenter. He can also boast first-hand experience of walking through those sliding, smoky doors. You can still find clips on YouTube of a gladioli-clutching Harry appeared as Morrissey to sing ‘This Charming Man’ in a celebrity special. He was great, although not as great as Preston-born Terry Slater who sang the Tom Jones classic ‘Help Yourself’ on an episode in 1994. Wouldn’t you love to know what the newly frank Sir Tom made of that?

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Not a day goes by when I don’t wish I was still a lazy student layabout, but the feeling has become more intense lately, since daytime television upped its game from re-runs to really quite exciting. There’s Father Brown, the adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s cosy detective stories is back for a third series on BBC1, starring The Fast Show’s Mark Williams as the eponymous priest-turned-private investigator (set your TiVo for 2.15pm). Gameshow Pointless continues to gather a cultish following on the same channel and on Monday, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins will be back in daytime slot for the first time since the much-mourned (by me, anyway) Light Lunch ended 17 years ago. Not that you needed any more encouragement to pull a mid-week January sickie…


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