Last Night's TV: Viagra: Ten Years On the Rise FIVE
My New Best Friend BBC4
The Apprentice BBC1

These limp gags couldn't raise a smile

"I can, hand on heart, say I've never had a tofu experience," said a journalist called Jenny Davis in Viagra: Ten Years on the Rise. Jodie Marsh had, though, and she recalled it in terms of wondering bemusement, a moment when her ability to induce turgidity had momentarily failed her. They weren't talking about food but responding to an unusual piece of equipment intended to help doctors gauge the precise extent of their patients' erectile failure. It consists of a small rack containing a cucumber, a banana, a peeled banana and a square of tofu, each of which the sufferer is invited to compare, in terms of rigidity and resilient bounce, with his own sluggish organ. The cucumber struck me as cruelly redundant, frankly, given that only men with a problem are likely to encounter this diagnostic kit. It protruded at the end as a grade-four erection, a mocking green reminder of lost glory for those still haplessly mired in the territory of the grade one (tofu) and the grade two (a peeled banana). But who knows, perhaps it offers hope as well.

In the old days, there wasn't a lot of hope around. Getting the salad- days crispness back in your erection was a laborious business involving pneumatic pumps, self-administered injections into the penis (even the female narrator gave an audible squeak at that point) or full-blown surgery. But then a pharmaceutical company testing a new heart drug discovered that their male guinea pigs were unusually reluctant to hand back the surplus pills when the trials were over – and Viagra was born. To celebrate its 10th birthday, Five had glued together this loose assembly of anecdote, innuendo and television cliché with a script that sounded as if it was sidling around a bedroom in a rubber nurse's uniform. We got saucy talk about lead in pencils and descriptions of how combat pilots had been given the drug so that they would have "better control of their joysticks". We got reversed film of factory chimneys being demolished. We got stripper jazz on the soundtrack and soft-focus reconstructions involving improbably toned models. We even got that old trope of interruption: the gramophone needle skidding across the grooves. I think the whole thing was supposed to do for our attention span what fluffers used to do for male porn stars before Viagra made them redundant, but I'm afraid it just left me with viewer's droop.

Not as much as My New Best Friend, though, a new series about children making the transition from primary school to secondary school that, on the evidence of the first episode, could successfully be marketed as an aid for insomniacs. I can't work out why this is, because there's nothing inherently dull about the lives of children and the subject here – the fraught diplomacy of playground relationships – is a perfectly good one. It proved to be a very long haul, even so. This first episode followed Daisy, Nanae, Annabelle and Lydia, four girls taking up places at Cheltenham Ladies' College, and there was the odd flicker of class tourism in watching them pack their tuckboxes and trunks for the start of term. But the real problem, as any parent will know, is that 12-year-olds aren't very forthcoming when questioned by adults about their inner feelings. "What does making really good friends mean?" one girl was asked. "I know them a bit more than I did and I play with them a lot," she answered, less than enthrallingly. "And how do you sort things out when things go wrong?" the off-camera voice inquired of another. "Well, in the end we just do, I can't really explain it," she said. I suspect that if they'd left the camera and removed the grown-up from the room – as video-diary films have successfully done with children in the past – they'd have ended up with something a lot more satisfactory.

Raef got the push in last night's The Apprentice, after both teams were asked to produce a TV ad for their own brand of anti-bacterial tissues. The winning team came up with a surprisingly plausible name for their product ("Atishu") and then crafted a pack and a pitch that were so awful they made you want to crawl under a table. Raef, however, decided to let his inner luvvie out to play and went all theatrical, copywriting a touching little vignette of school-day tenderness to advertise "I Love My Tissues", his team's baffling attempt to arouse feelings of attachment towards a product entirely defined by its disposability. Raef's advert could be watched without involuntary grimacing, but he'd forgotten that its purpose was not to get him a place at film school but to make money. He opted for the soft sell while his rivals chose the hard. Fatally, he had forgotten that when it comes to marketing thrust, Sir Alan is a grade-four cucumber man all the way – tofu just won't cut it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model of a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution