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I’m a Celebrity: What do you get when you mix cocktails with rapping and parrots?

jimmy-bullardThere was more going on in the jungle last night than in Jake Quickenden’s head, although admittedly that isn’t a difficult feat to accomplish. What started off as a nice cocktail party comprising of blended bull genitals and swine anus (sounds like my wife’s cooking) ended with an X Factor reject, a rap star and a prim and proper newsreader performing the most awful yet addictive jungle ditty since Insania. Meanwhile, Edwina Currie was lying flat on her back (and not for the first time) and passing her thoughts secretively on the other campmates while Vicky Michelle was playing with toy parrots. Kendra was proudly boasting that she doesn’t remember the names of most of her one night stands and finally, Jimmy ‘BullyBanter’ Bullard became the surprise first evictee.

So where do I start with this one? Okay, okay, the beginning it is.  Continue reading


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I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here: Bromances and blowouts

Im-a-Celeb-MAINI’m (kind of) a Celebrity is back- complete with creepy critters and huge challenges; and that’s just the celebs themselves. Ten million of us tuned in last night to see a group of people we’re sure we’ve seen somewhere before thrown together in an Australian torture camp. For most, it would be a horrendous dive in living conditions but for Gemma at least, it was a step up from Essex life.

The series began in the usual way; ten famous-ish faces from footballers to models to Red Dwarf pilots/cabbies to someone who once went out with that Playboy pervert; everyone had a legitimate claim to fame and spent the first five minutes talking to the screen from a comfortable cocktail providing hotel about how excited they were by the challenge that lay ahead. It is destined to be their last feelings of positivity for three weeks.

Michael Buerk, the amiable BBC news guy, was the first to arrive, followed closely by his intellectual match, Tinchy Stryder. After not quite mastering a ‘friends 4 lyf’ handshake, Michael and the Tinch got off to a heartwarming start; setting in place this year’s version of the Joe Swash and George Takei love-in. Michael is a likeable chap; himself pointing out the irony of a celebrity snob entering a celebrity reality show and, like any good journalist; he soon had former PlayGirls teaching him how to twerk.

Once the awkward ‘so erm, who are you?’ conversations were done with (‘Of COURSE I know what ‘Hello, Hello, is!’) it was time to get down to business. One set of celebrities were heading to jail (‘Not AGAIN!’ cried the legendary Craig Charles) while the other would be their rescue team.

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Pineapple Dance Studios: Knowing me Alan Partridge, knowing you Andrew Stone

Andrew Stone went back to his roots. It’s only fair, when you’re a “pop idol in waiting”, to touch base with the folks who nurtured you when you were less famous than you are now. Plus there was a private pressing of his CD to inspect.

Andrew filled up a bit when he saw Starman’s new CD (available today! Get your copy while you still can!), and then duly lugged a box of them to his local shopping centre. He sat signing copies for handfuls of adoring fans, and even stopped to give a special rendition of Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Hello’ to one very lucky lady. We’ll forget the fact that he asked for a round of applause afterwards.

With apologies to the good folk of Norwich – when Andrew pitched up at a local hospital radio station, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that other son of Norfolk, Alan Partridge. Alan Partridge and Andrew Stone don’t just share a birthplace, they share the same desperation to be loved and admired, and that same quality of making it so obvious that they need to be loved and admired that it’s almost painful to watch.

Louie Spence also craves the spotlight, but it’s his anyway by sheer force of his personality. This week he danced in high heels, licked a carpet and gave his nephew Lotan some dancing tips. Louie’s job title is “artistic director”, but he seems to spend most of his time inspecting the toilets and rolling up blinds. It’s all just an excuse to show off to the cameras, and accompanied by Louie’s relentlessly funny commentary, it’s hilarious.

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Pineapple Dance Studios: Much highlier trained

Andrew Stone’s tips for enduring beauty: (1) A little bit of what you fancy does you good and (2) Aloe vera applied after shaving acts like a face-lift. Not that Andrew needs a face-lift.

What Andrew needed was a backing singer, following the departure of Rosalee. New bezzie mate Cleo Rocos trawled through her address book looking for likely duetting partners. “Lily Allen?” she pondered. Andrew was thrilled – Lily Allen would be perfect. Cleo disagreed. “Robbie Williams?” was her next suggestion, and Andrew was more than willing to countenance the Robster adding a few shoo-wops and aahs to the Starman sound (presumably as long as Mr Williams stayed at the back of the stage and didn’t hog the spotlight).

Cleo, however, had a better idea. David Van Day. You know – superstar David Van Day. He was in Dollar, and made a real arse of himself on I’m A Celebrity. Cleo felt he was rather like an older Andrew, and would be a splendid mentor. And once they met, Andrew had to agree. What a spiffingly brilliant, loving, giving chap David was (even though he criticised Andrew’s fashion sense and tried to get him to wear a suit, which Andrew felt would be a bit too Spandau Ballet). Yes, David’s a great guy, and very, very similar to Andrew himself. “Only I’m much highlier trained in dancing,” Andrew said. Of course he is. That’s a given.

This week we met Louie Spence’s nephew Lotan. He’s a 21 year old window cleaner, but he can do the splits almost as well as his uncle. In fact Lotan could be a pretty good dancer if only he could be faffed. Turning up at Pineapple for his first dance class in three years, Lotan found it hard to keep up with the people who – gasp – train there regularly. He wanted Louie’s partying with celebs lifestyle but wasn’t prepared to put the sweat in first, apparently.

Louie was meanwhile showing off his pirouetting skills while taking the piss out of a man who wanted to run a swordfighting class at the Studios. “I’m a fully trained baton twirler!” Louie chirped, spinning his wooden sword expertly round.  The swordfighting teacher didn’t share Louie’s sense of humour, and told him off for brandishing his weapon inappropriately.  He was never going to last long at Pineapple with that attitude.

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Pineapple Dance Studios: Flexible friends

It was a very Andrew Stone-centric episode this week. Even Louie Spence was sidelined, confined to a bit of (very funny) schtick with a plumber’s toolbag (this is not a euphemism, though I expect Louie wouldn’t have minded at all if it was).

Following last week’s shock revelation that a record company exec deemed backing singer Rosalee to be Starman’s “wow factor,” rather than Andrew, something had to give. Andrew despatched youthful manager Rob to give Rosalee the news that she was being “let go” from the electro pop powerhouse that is Starman.

Rob gave an object lesson in how not to sack someone, but Rosalee wasn’t all that bothered as she was under the impression she’d already told him she was leaving. So exit Rosalee, and the hunt was on for another backing singer.

Posters were hurriedly printed (so hurriedly that Rob’s name was mis-spelled and they forgot to stipulate it was a female they were looking for) and distributed around Pineapple. Andrew felt the toilet doors would be a good place, so the ladies would see them while spending a penny. Someone suggested the inside of the doors would be a better option than the outside.

They weren’t looking for just anybody, mind. They had to be female, able to sing, under 5’7″ tall (guess how tall Andrew is?) and be prepared to dye their hair blonde. Band member Jesus sat in on the auditions and sulked throughout because he felt that no-one could replace Rosalee. Andrew sulked because Jesus was sulking.

Andrew has got a new haircut. Give it a few weeks and it’ll be the old haircut again (ie basically short but with some long bits on top) but it’s a lovely shade of grey with purple streaks in it. Louie watched the remodelled and refurbished Andrew taking a dance class and commented that he  looked like an old lady. A very, very flexible old lady.

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Pineapple Dance Studios: Lemons for Andrew

You’ve got to admire the resilience of Andrew Stone. Life gives him lemons and Andrew makes lemonade. A few more lemons, and he makes a nice lemon drizzle cake. More lemons and – well, you’d think eventually he’d just get sick of lemons.

This week Starman’s youthful manager Rob had some good news and some bad news for Andrew. The good news was that a hotshot music bigwig was prepared to back Starman, and someone who’d produced Kylie (in the musical sense, I don’t mean the Minogue parents) was happy to come on board as producer. Hurrah! Surely that Brit award could be just months away now?

Sadly, Mr Bigwig was only happy to do this as long as Andrew (“He’s not gay? Well, I’m… surprised”) was no longer sole frontman. He wanted backing singer Rosalee front and centre with Andrew.

Well, Andrew wasn’t having that. Invoking dreadful X Factor losers Same Difference, he declared that cheesy pop duetting was not what he was about. Rob agreed, and turned the offer down. So it’s back to square one for Starman. Or is it? Andrew, whose showbiz talents are only exceeded by his ambition, took Rosalee to one side. He’d had an idea. She was so talented, why didn’t she come more to the forefront of the proceedings? Rosalee seemed unsurprised by this about-turn (last week he was conspiring with Louis to keep her mainly in dark corners where she wouldn’t upstage him).

Andrew isn’t the only super-ambitious person on Pineapple Dance Studios. There’s also the dreadful Tricia Walsh-Smith, a woman with no discernible talent, the charisma of a three pin plug and eyes that have apparently been so surgically enhanced that they won’t close on their own. The big difference between her and Andrew is that he has charm and a sort of sweet vulnerability, and you end up rooting for him.

So what of Louie Spence this week? By his standards, a bit of a low-key episode, enlivened by some cake sabotage (only Louie would contemplate decorating a cake with some highlighter pens and a photo of himself) and clearing up some (human) poo from the fire escape. The poo was pixelated but I think we could discern that it couldn’t have been left by a ballet dancer, because, as we’ve learned previously, they don’t eat enough to produce solids.

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Pineapple Dance Studios: Electro-pop royalty. And Andrew Stone

What did we learn in this week’s Lycra-clad episode of Pineapple Dance Studios?

For one thing, we discovered that, when Louie Spence was 20, he was bloody gorgeous. What a face! Louie came face-to-face with his former face when he visited his old dance school to give the students a bit of a masterclass. As well as confronting the fact that, in your 40s, Mother Nature needs the help of Father Science (in the form of Brother Botox), Louie also found he wasn’t quite as fit as he used to be. Participating in a warm-up routine with the students, he found himself slumped in a sweaty heap while the perky teenagers were still bending themselves into inhuman postures. But, whatever Louie had lost in bendability and stamina, he’d gained in life experience and sheer pizzazz, and he still had plenty of breath left to impart this to the students.

Louie of course has an opinion on everything, including Starman. Andrew Stone’s band were doing a showcase show to try and impress industry bigwigs. One of them was Martyn Ware. Martyn Ware, from The Human League/Heaven 17! Electro pop royalty! Well, I was impressed. And he was a bit impressed by Starman, too, so maybe things are looking up for Andrew.

Louie took Andrew aside after the gig to have a word about backing singer Rosalee. Andrew’s been worried that she hogs too much of the limelight, and Louie confirmed this. Make her stand a bit further back, was his advice.

Elsewhere the Pineapple Dance Group were shooting a promotional video, which at one point involved them stripping down to almost naked, oiling up and writhing together in a very small trench. I wasn’t quite sure where the “dancing” element came into this, but it certainly looked like fun.

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Pineapple Dance Studios: It’s not easy being fabulous

In last night’s sparkle-tastic Pineapple Dance Studios, we learned that Andrew Stone is absolutely serious about his plan for musical world domination, Starman.

As he perched in the make-up chair prior to his debut gig, the man who’s previously been an ego on a stick looked decidedly nervous. He admitted he had “a lot riding on Starman. I’ve sold my house for this,” (which explains why the “crib” he showed us round last week was a very tiny flat). “I’ve lost possibly everything I’ve ever owned to make this happen, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said. I felt for him, I really did.

But then this was coming from the self-proclaimed “triple threat,” the man who is a brilliant singer, dancer and actor – so was he acting? This is the problem when you’re fabulous.

Another problem is dealing with the more unsavoury aspects of life. One of Louie Spence’s jobs, as he tells us each week, is inspecting the Pineapple toilets. This week he gave us more of an insight than we might actually have wanted. “Honestly, it wasn’t nice in there,” he complained, retreating swiftly from a cubicle. “Ballet dancers, you know. All Coca Cola and yogurt, it can get very messy in there. There’s nothing to make you solid.” Apparently this is a problem confined to ballet.  “We get more solid when it’s more jazz and evening people from the offices,” Louie says. “More on their solids. Toasted cheese sandwiches and things, binds everything together. When you’re on a ballerina’s diet, or a ballerina’s wage you haven’t got time for solids.”

Louie is a natural comedian, but I’m finding that at this point in the programme’s run, it’s only the bits with Louie and Andrew that I really enjoy. This one focused a bit too much on “internet sensation” Tricia Walsh-Smith, who shows what dogged ambition and a knack for self-promotion looks like when it isn’t served up with a massive side-order of Andrew Stone-like charm.

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Pineapple Dance Studios: Deliriously deluded divas

Sky 1’s newish fly-on-the-mirrored-wall documentary series Pineapple Dance Studios could well be the funniest thing on telly ever.

It would be worth watching for Louie Spence alone. He’s the artistic director of the eponymous dance studio, and frankly this man was born to star in something, even if it’s just a Broadway musical of his own life. He’s always on – never not performing (and not just 24/7:  “I’m 25/8” he says). He doesn’t walk if he can pirouette, he doesn’t open a door if he can fling it dramatically. He lives life on his tippy toes and seems to be permanently mid-flounce. He must be a nightmare to work with. You’d never be allowed to be depressed or dowdy with Louie around, and that alone would be enough to make me feel depressed and dowdy, but for an hour a week on the telly he’s brilliant.

“Brilliant” is one of the less complimentary adjectives Andrew Stone would apply to himself. He’s a dance teacher, but he’s so much more than that (according to Andrew Stone). He’s a better dancer than Justin Timberlake (he thinks), and he’s a better singer than George Michael (he says). Andrew Stone is on a mission to become a recording superstar. His band is called Starman, and it’s not just their name that has a retro feel. The look, the hairstyles, the sound – Starman are locked in a 1980s time warp where legwarmers, neon and tie-dyed hairstyles hold sway. The only thing standing between Andrew and global superstardom (apart from his lack of talent) is his feud with his backing singer. “She’s too prominent!” he whines. “This band is all about me!”

All of this is narrated in a totally dry style by none other than the elder statesman of newsreading, Michael Buerk, which lends the proceedings an even more surreal edge. Throw in a few naked dancers coated in black treacle, a team of builders who break into a dance routine when Louie isn’t looking, and a family trip to Harley Street for Botox, and you have the weirdest and most wonderful hour of telly you’ll see all week.

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