Last Night's Television - All blah blah in La-La land
Piers Morgan On..., ITV1
A Very British Storm Junkie, Channel 4
Friday 13 February 2009
Ah, Piers! Nice to see you. So far the former tabloid editor has taken us to Dubai and Monte Carlo in ITV's three-part series Piers Morgan on..., and this week, boys and girls, we're off to Hollywood where –this is key – Piers is a big success.
Yes! He has made it in Hollywood. He is, much to the disgruntlement of his rain-sodden former detractors, Properly Famous. And boy, were we not allowed to forget it.
ITV is selling the show as an "access-all-areas look at some of the world's most glamorous settings". Far more fun, surely, was the access-all-areas look we got at Morgan's address book. Over the course of an hour, he zoomed around in his red sports car, introducing us to his famous friends. We met former Spice Girl Mel B, who, we were told somewhat implausibly, is "the ultimate Hollywood success story". Then came tough guy Vinnie Jones, who's known in America as a movie star, not a footballer. Vinnie's loving it, generally speaking, though he is having difficulty getting to grips with the culture. "You have to be all nicey nicey," he moaned, tucking into his fried eggs.
Of course, it didn't stop there. We went to the set of the daytime soap The Young and the Restless, and then to the home of Sharon Osbourne, who reminded us just how much plastic surgery she's had (well over 100 grand, by my maths). We saw Ioan Gruffudd, the Welsh star of Fantastic Four, and his wife, Alice Evans. He was doing well. Her? Not so much. Then there was some bloke off Hollyoaks who hadn't landed a job in three years, which was a bit depressing, and lunch with Lady Victoria Hervey and her former gang-runner life coach. Poor Victoria wasn't doing quite so well as she'd like, though she had just found out she was related to Princess Di, so things were looking up.
There was a bit of toing and froing with paparazzi – a photo of Piers snogging Angelina Jolie would, apparently, fetch upwards of $10m. And there was a bit of small talk with TV execs. But, otherwise, that was pretty much it. A whirlwind tour of, well, Piers's mates, with lots of scenic beach shots thrown in. Occasionally, there'd be some self-analysis, just to keep the regulators happy. "Why?" Piers would wail. "Why do they love me so?" "It's the accent," shrugged one pundit. Sharon Osbourne put it more elegantly: "It's because we can say shit bollocks and it sounds nice."
Rather less glamorous, though no more substantial, was Channel 4's A Very British Storm Junkie. The hour-long documentary focused on Stuart Robinson, who's a storm-chaser. Why he's a Very British one remains a mystery, though perhaps it was just less cruel than calling him Very Bonkers, which is what, most of the time, he appeared to be. Stuart lives in Leicester, where he works as an IT consultant. He also flies around the world seeking out storms to follow. His goal for 2008 was to track down a "monster hurricane" and enter the eye of it. Hovering in the background was his patient fiancée, Alison. Poor Alison. The show's real heroine, she's constantly being left behind so that Stuart can fly off whenever there's a catastrophe. He calls her his "storm Wag" and they've even arranged their marriage for March, so it doesn't clash with storm season. At times, she moaned, she doesn't know whether Stuart's married to her or "a bloody hurricane".
Anyhow, Stuart had managed to locate a typhoon in Taiwan. He does it all from his attic, where he has enough equipment to rival the Met Office. Of course, once he's found it, he has to go after it. So off he flew, to Taiwan, with his high-tech survival kit: goggles, glow sticks and a tin of baked beans. Taiwan proved disappointing, so it wasn't long before he took another trip, and then another. Along the way he met up with his storm-chasing buddie, Roger. They travelled the globe, never quite finding the thrill that they were hoping for.
Until, that is, they headed to New Orleans, where they found Hurricane Gustav, a big bellowing bull of a storm. Which, temporarily, seemed to satisfy Stu, though it did little to placate an increasingly irate Alison. She'd begun to wonder whether she'd chosen the wrong chap and so presented Stu with an ultimatum (of sorts): come home or I'll be very cross indeed. For a while, it seemed that Stuart might actually ignore her. He dithered around making phone call after phone call (there was another storm, see, and it was about to hit Florida). At the last minute, though, he did the right thing, flying home just in time for Sunday lunch. Phew! That was close.
It was all utterly pointless, of course, but irresistibly, wonderfully, compelling, if only for the minutiae of Stuart and Alison's relationship. In fact, were I someone important in television, I'd pounce – these two could be the new Gavin and Stacey.
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