Home shopping: Attention all channel shoppers

Things have changed since QVC epitomised television shopping. Maxine Frith checks out some of its many rivals
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The Independent Online


Scary. To a super-fast disco beat, the presenters shout at people who have logged on to buy whatever piece of tat they're pushing: "JACKIE FROM WALSALL - YOU KNOW YOU WANT THIS HANDBAG!" Prices plunge as time goes on and so does Jackie from Walsall's bank balance. Like going to the January sales at an Argos store on amphetamines.



Less noisy and manic than many of its rivals and, with segments like the Jacqueline Kennedy jewellery hour, QVC is obviously aimed at women of certain age. But with its emerald necklaces and Christmas decorations and fixed prices it's all a bit too calm for dedicated shopping junkies. If it were a store it would be a county town branch of Debenhams.


Gems TV

Second-hand car salesmen flogging "Tibetan sunstone" rings that make the stuff from Claire's Accessories look classy. Saying that, 20 people bought one in a minute when the price came down from £400 to £200, so what do I know? The equivalent of a Ratner's seconds shop.


Bid TV

Almost turned into an episode of Casualty when the presenter explained he had got a bit of a guarana tablet stuck in his throat and appeared to be choking to death, although that didn't stop viewers from continuing to snap up the mini televisions ("with your VERY OWN remote control") he was selling at the time. Think Dixons with a bit of regurgitated Holland & Barrett.



I've seen some disgusting things in my time, but the matching tiger and jaguar print blankets on this show will take some beating. Even knocking £20 off didn't tempt anyone to buy from off the man who was standing rather forlornly on a podium and fingering these horrors. Like being at a large outdoor market in Essex.



Totally addictive. After an hour I truly believed that my life wouldn't be complete unless I bought a heated gravy boat. And a little toy car. And a mop that mops like no other. Irene from West Yorkshire called in to say she was very happy with the toy car she had bought, but it sounded as if she had also been hitting the sherry. The telly version of the Innovations catalogue.


Price-drop TV

This one appears to be filmed in a broom cupboard with two women talking about their love lives and occasionally trying to flog a £20 amber necklace. Things got exciting when the price did indeed drop and 20 of the "jewels " sold in 30 seconds, but by that time I was more interested in the discussion about whether it's better to dump or be dumped.


Thomas Cook TV

Why flog £10 mops when you can sell 14 nights in Cuba for £700 instead? Lots of shots of podgy people sunbathing on a rather windswept beach, interspersed with links from two presenters who have been St Tropez-ed to within an inch of their lives. Very seductive on a cold December afternoon. Much more fun than staring at the window of your high street travel agent.



Two chirpy Americans spent 20 minutes chirruping about the "Truesleeper mattress topper" made from "hi-tech material designed by Nasa" before I realised it was a simple piece of foam. This being American, the action moves out of a broom cupboard and into shopping malls for "real life" testimonies to the wonders of a bit of foam. More like an extended advert than even the semblance of a programme. Imagine being trapped in DFS with one of their salesmen for 12 hours.



Lots of squeaky clean Americans trying to sell you gadgets that promise either to a) get you a perfect figure with a minimum of effort (the Six Second Abs machine) or b) make cheese omelettes/muffins with a minimum of effort (Magic Bullet, "The Countertop Magician"). For the couch potato who dreams of a fit body while piling into the Pringles it must be compelling stuff. There must be folks all over the States with cupboards full of this sort of stuff.


Jewellery Vault

With a host who sounds like Frank Skinner, Jewellery Vault is set up like a game, where you race to get your hands on items of jewellery before the sands of the egg timer run out and the vault door closes. The game's chief skill appears to be taking your credit card out of your purse and phoning over the numbers, as the Skinner character, dressed in a white shirt and white tie, urges: "I don't like to rush you with your decisions."



What possesses a fat woman to go on TV in her knickers and have her love handles prodded before she is squeezed into something that I think may have once been called a girdle and is now branded as a super-slim toner tight system? This is how Big Brother makes me feel - addicted and incredulous, but slightly ashamed of myself. Remember the episode of Father Ted when a group of priests get lost in the lingerie section of a department store? Just like that.