Tag Archives: Endemol

Total Wipeout: Mud, sweat & big red balls

a vision of masculinity for 2011When I was watching the splendid Just William recently, it occurred to me that the Outlaws, strutting along, chests stuck out with the bravado of the young buck, mouths bigger than their short trousers, blagging and boasting about being bigger and cleverer than they actually are, reminded me of a youthful version of the Top Gear presenters. That vision of masculinity for the twenty-first century: Clarkson, Hammond and May.

Now Top Gear was not a programme that crossed my mental path very often. Before I had a son, that is. Now I get the full gamut of things I’d almost certainly never have thought of watching – Top Gear, Richard Hammond’s Blast Lab, James May’s Toy Stories – and Total Wipeout.

My son adores all the Top Gear presenters, and refers to them by their first names, as if they were his mates. Actually, despite the many appalling, reprehensible things about Top Gear, (petrolhead politics, casual sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, cultural insensitivity), I do quite enjoy it. It’s frequently offensive, but can also be funny.

And Toy Stories, the series where James May revisited classic toys of his youth, such as Lego, Meccano and Hornby trainsets, with a crazy projects involving tons of volunteer help, can be fascinating, if at times slightly painful viewing, since May’s ‘delegation’ of tasks seemed to involve leaving a lot of young people doing all the hard work. The glorious lunacy of the Plasticine Show Garden made for the Chelsea Flower show by a raft of volunteers, of all ages and ethnicities, almost had me in tears.

But it’s Richard Hammond who is ubiquitous, presenting a ridiculously large number of children’s shows. And my son’s favourite, the Endemol-produced Total Wipeout, returns for a new series  starting Saturday, 6pm. Primetime family viewing. There’ll be no escape. The format is that presenters Hammond and the beautiful, but merciless, Amanda Byram, watch various men and women boast of their athletic talent and sporting prowess, before mocking them trying to navigate the seriously difficult, water-based obstacle course in Buenos Aires (no, I have no idea why it’s held there either). So you see pride coming before a series of, frankly nasty, falls. Off floating mats  into cold water, ‘punched’ until flat on their faces in mud, bouncing off giant red balls like rag dolls. It’s like an elongated, sadistic It’s a Knockout course, with the Jokers being the two people staying dry and doing sarcastic voiceovers. Continue reading

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Coach Trip: Are we there yet?

There is, for me, no deeper circle of hell than the idea of being stuck on an endless coach trip with strangers and a relentlessly cheery tour guide. Day in/day out of hours sniffing that particular odd upholstery smell that will for ever remind me of school day trips and being sick. That weird intimacy of everyone using the on-board toilet, or stopping every three hours to shuffle off to a municiple roadside toilet block. Daily packing and unpacking suitcases, staying in cheap hotels, enforced jolly day trips and group activities. I’d rather be in Bedlam.

Coach Trip is not a new programme, but a new series has just begun on Channel Four at 5pm weekdays. I’m pleased about this, because when I’ve described it to people, they think I’m making it up. But actually, when you know it’s an Endemol creation, it suddenly makes sense.

The set-up is that you begin with a group of total strangers. All are couples of various sorts. You get old retired folk, young unemployed people, students. They might be friends, partners or husband and wife. They are taken on an endless (50 days actually, but it does seem endless) coach tour around Europe by driver Brendan, a cheerful chap (he needs to be) who wears distinctive glasses.

I haven’t yet figured out how anyone does their laundry. But this is not a programme where anyone is stylish. A tracksuit or variant on M&S leisure wear for the over 30s. Jeans and t shirts for the under 30s.

At the end of every day, usually after a group trip or activity, every couple votes for the pair they want voted off. This takes place in front of everyone else, and they have to give a reason. Whoever they pick can answer back. It is never pretty. Frankly, if there was a spin-off series of Midsomer Murders on Coach Trip, it would come as no surprise to me.

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