Last Night's Viewing: Hot Like Us BBC3, Fresh Meat Channel 4


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The Independent Culture

The contest to find the most dimwitted programme on BBC3 is an open-ended one, but Hot Like Us, a modelling challenge that pits real couples against one another in a test of looks and lurve, is surely a good bet for a high placing. "Sex sells and celebrity couples are big business," runs the opening credit's pitch line. Because Posh and Becks and Brad and Angelina can pretty much name their price for a joint photo-shoot, the suggestion goes, then there must be a seller's market for the modelling equivalent of a twin-pack. "If we can find a real couple who are gorgeous and in love they'll make a killing," said one of the show's judges. This is obvious nonsense, I would have thought, since ordinary models can do a perfectly good job of pretending they adore each other for an hour or two, if that's what's required. And while these couples might be able to learn how to pout and pose, they're never going to be able to learn how to be globally famous, which is what really pushes up the price tag on a Posh and Becks shoot.

It's dodgy from the foundations up, in other words, constructed from industry-standard components (the footballer's mansion that houses the contestants, the expert mentors, the man who says "this competition is going to make or break me"), but built in such a way that pretty much everything wobbles when you lean on it. Take this week's test of emotional commitment, for example, in which all the couples had to stage their notion of a romantic gesture: "If they're going to do this challenge, I want to make sure it's completely authentic and from the heart," said Emma the resident intimacy judge earnestly. Well, that's going to work, isn't it? Nothing more authentic than being told you've got 24 hours to come up with a spontaneous expression of mutual love. The results were less than impressive and seemed to rely heavily on props and supplies that must have come from the production company, rather than the heart.

It's a good job that they're not running a contest to find a married pair of rocket scientists, as well, because none of those involved seems likely to overturn the common prejudice about models and intellect. Mun (so determined to make a career in modelling, he said, that he'd even had his nipples surgically shortened) somehow hadn't worked out that turning up on time might be part of the deal. And the results of his modelling session with his partner, Rachna, suggested that he isn't likely to be able to get by on looks alone. Posing on a Blackpool sand-dune, which was itself posing as a Caribbean beach, Mun managed to make the surfboard he was leaning against look relaxed by comparison. He and Rachna are now gone, and well out of it in my view. The rest are still Tepid Like Them.

Thank goodness for Fresh Meat, which has steadily been building its credentials as a comedy-drama, rather than straightforward sitcom. Last night, it was Vod's turn to do a presentation for her English seminar group, an assignment she started well (she'd plagiarized an Amazon reader's review of Midnight's Children to get underway) but couldn't quite sustain. "I never read it!" she yelled defiantly about half a minute in. "I got to the bit where the boy with a nose like a cucumber realises he can read people's minds and I thought, 'No, sorry, I'm not having this'." Robert Webb made a excellent cameo appearance as the needy geology lecturer and Oregon thrilled to the fact that Professor Shales's wife was being all sophisticated and soigné about their affair: "It's like something from a Woody Allen movie or something," she told Vod. "Yeah. Dirty old man and pretty young girl. I think I've seen that one." Its best jokes aren't quotable, though, because they come out of that strange amalgam of what the screen delivers and what the audience already knows and feels. Not just for students.