In my end-of-year gongs hand-out last Christmas, the "Big Fat Festering Maggot Award" was instituted for John McCririck following his odious and freakish stay in the Big Brother house. It took 10 months, but in Celebrity Wife Swap (Channel 4, Monday), he showed exactly why he was so deserving, when he formed the centrepiece of what will surely turn out to be the most enduringly repellent image of 2006.
Picture him in the Tracey Emin-like bed where he spends all the time he's not doing his TV work. He's asleep, on his front, and the camera pans lingeringly up the bed, past his billowing white underpants that look like paper, then up along his bloated torso as he dribbles into his pillow. A lump of lard so large it would count as a geographical feature if it didn't stir for the occasional race meeting. This is what humanity was designed for, here is proof of God's existence. It does all mean something.
Channel 4 would, you feel, be hard pushed to provide a worthy adversary, someone even half as grating and obnoxious. Someone who might even make you think he's not so bad after all, even? Step forward a hideous has-been who sucked (eggs) as a politician and for some reason is still in demand as a pundit.
"Oh my God, Edwina Currie, I don't believe it," McCririck lamented when he saw who he'd got for the week. "I was hoping it would be someone young with a nice chest, someone who could get me sexually excited." If it was almost anyone else, you'd have sympathised. But someone like Currie, ever ready to make a fool of herself on national television, deserves everything she gets.
She began by making a decent fist of standing in for his wife Jenny - or "Booby", after the flightless bird that flaps around squawking. For 30 years Jenny has been PA, chauffeuse, cook, maid and holder of the cigar when her lord and master is on camera. Currie soon rebelled, of course, accidentally on purpose leaving his bag in the press room.
"Edwina, what have you done?" he wailed as she drove him home. "I don't leave things on race courses. Not your finest hour, dear, is it?"
When the rules changed in midweek she was rapidly on his case, disgusted by his habit of eating upstairs in bed every evening, picking his peas out of the duvet.
Switching off the power to his den so he couldn't watch TV, she finally stalked upstairs and interrogated him. It was about as spontaneous as a priest saying mass, and she even checked the camera was getting everything before she chucked her wine in his face.
In Wife Swap: The Aftermath (E4), the results of a personality test they'd done beforehand were revealed. Overbearing and arrogant was the gist of it. That was for both of them, almost identical, the Festering Maggot meets the Bad Egg. It was the grisliest piece of TV all year.Reuse content