Bruce’s Britton

I’m no social or cultural historian, as if you hadn’t noticed already, but I do take an interest in fashions and fads; in particular the question of whether the sort of fads that seem to grip the nation are dictated by what people actually want to wear, watch or listen to, or whether there’s some kind of conspiracy by higher powers to see what people can be made to wear, watch or listen to.  I can understand the popularity (past or present) of X Factor, Downton Abbey, Masterchef, Ugg Boots, Take That in boy and man incarnation, jeans tucked into boots (Uggs or otherwise), small plates of food and pop-up restaurants and cinemas.  I can even just about comprehend the very short lived fad of staying up half the night to watch some hatchet-faced Scottish Grandmother win a Curling medal at the Winter Olympics (it was only a one-night thing, after all).  I’m not sure why my ‘Dead Pool’, in which one predicts which celebrity deaths will occur over the next twelve months has not caught on yet, but it’s got time to become a fad that’ll grip the nation, and my next blog will feature the crop for 2012.

The latest TV fad seems to be the travel + food-umentary, and it looks as though everyone’s cottoned on to this sure-fire ratings winner.  The Hairy Bikers, Oz and James, Jamie Oliver, Michael Portillo, Ade Edmondson, Rick Stein, some posh twit mates of Hugh F-W, Rory McGrath and Paddy McGuinness and the soap dodger from single-serious curate’s egg ‘One Man and his Camper-van’.

The premise is quite simple, and by this, I mean cheap.  It involves a man, or maybe a couple of men, or sometimes even three men, driving around Britain, meeting local people, usually doing a bit of cooking along the way and generally reminding us what a great place this island nation is to live.  The rules seems fairly simple, and consist of the following:

1.  A regional stereotype must be wheeled out at every opportunity.
2.  The vehicle in which the man/men travel around the country must be ‘vintage’, ideally caravan/campervan.
3.  Any cooking must be done on location, ideally using a mini-stove from said campervan.
4.  (optional) – some kind of challenge might be involved, presumably to add a competitive edge.  This might involve the protagonists needing to cook only food that they can catch/barter/work for/steal.  It is never explained why this should be necessary.

A perfect example of how one can cram all three of the above rules into just 5 minutes of television came from the truly awful ‘Ade in Britain’, starring Ade Edmondson.  This show seems to have been put together simply because someone thought the title was good, and there’s only one famous Ade out there of course, which at least keeps him in work.  One stop on Ade’s trip was Morecambe.  He pulled up in his Mini Cooper, complete with small cavannette/stove being dragged behind.  He visited a local man that made potted shrimps, obtained the recipe, re-created it from his very own camper-stove before feeding the fruits of his labour to four buck-toothed men from the George Formby appreciation society (we knew this because they each had a ukelele); all this took place in the shadow of the Eric Morecambe statue.

Why has there been a sudden explosion of TV shows of this kind?  Has there been an outcry from the public, demanding a fusion of game-show, travel and al fresco culinary travails?  Or have a group of media moguls suddenly come to the same conclusion that this is what our screens have been missing?  Or are they just cheap, and require little or no budget/planning?  I think I know which one it is.

Hugh F-W seems to have had the best idea, in that he doesn’t even appear in his latest culinary road-trip.  Instead, three snaggle-haired photogenic posh-boys hammer round the South West in (you guessed it) a camper-van, with no money, eating only food they have earned, before cooking it all up on a ring-burner in the back of their vehicle.  Hugh merely provides a voice-over, and even that looks to associate him a little too closely with this rot.

I await the next installation of the format with baited breath.  ‘Bruce’s Britton’ perhaps, featuring Bruce Forsyth and Fern Britton.  Bruce and Fern drive around the country in a 1973 Austin Allegro, compete with the sort of caravanette you used to win on Bullseye.  They visit artisan food producers, but can only eat the food if they manage an arm-wrestle win.  Voice-over by Vernon Kay.  I’d watch it.  Wouldn’t you?

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Dead Pool 2011

We’re almost a couple of months into the new year, and the dust has well settled on my New Year’s eve trivial pursuit and bollinger-sponsored ushering in of 2011. A new year gives one the chance to take stock, to re-appraise, to set one’s priorities for the year ahead. These are very personal, specific, but above all, dull tasks to report, and hence it’s my dead pool that you really want to hear about, don’t you?

For the uninitiated, this is a marvellous parlour game for all the family. It’s not exactly fast-paced, bearing in mind that you’ll have to wait 365 days to find out who’s won. But it’s free, and you really do get out what you put in. Those who approach the game with a casual air of picking names out of a hat will rarely succeed, but those who spend hours engaged in careful research will find themselves richly rewarded.

So here’s how you play. Decide how many names you’re going to pick (everyone picks the same, and I’d suggest 8 for starters). This is the number of celebrities you are going to have to gamble that will die in the next year. You can pick them by order, and then you receive 8 points (on a sliding scale down to 1 point) for your number one choice. There’s no rules that apply re: celebrity ages and health conditions, but you should be aware that though no points are awarded for flair picks, the sense of satisfaction one gains when a real gamble pays off can’t be underestimated (think of the 15 year old Schoolboy Ben who picked out Freddie Mercury back in 1991, or those more up to date gamblers who went for Brittney Murphy a couple of years back).

I’ve posted my choices on twitter already, but this is my final selection. In case you feel that I’ve boobed by missing out a couple of obvious ones, I’ve refused to pick the following people:

Zsa Zsa Gabor: as much of a gimme as you can get; in fact, I’m not sure that she hasn’t croaked already. She seems to be losing limbs at a rate of knots, and she’ll have turned into some kind of OAP version of ‘boxing Helena’ well before the year is out. She’s the dead pool equivalent of the 1 yard open-goal tap in, and hence is not one to be celebrated.

Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, Kim Jong-Il: they may well all already be dead. Even if they are, or if they pop off during 2011, we’ll never know about it, and as they get lowered into the ground, we’ll still be assured that it’s nothing more than a cold, and that it’s a mere percautionary measure.

The list:

1. Bruce Forsyth: rapidly becoming a liability, even on saturday night snooze-fest strictly, and makes Paddy McGuinness look like a master of the auto-cue. Undoubtedly a trooper, but looks to be on borrowed time.

2. Kerry Katona: the ‘I’ve got my life back on track’ mantra isn’t fooling me. You’re still doing ads for Iceland, and you’re only one batch of dodgy showbiz sherbert away from me being quids in.

3. Bob Dylan: this is more about gut-instinct. Health scares, limited output for the last few years and he must be getting on more than a bit. Still sings like he’s listening to one of his own songs on an ipod, but that’s not a reason to put him on the list on its own.

4. Gregg Wallace: sad to report this one, as no-one licks chocolate mousse from a spoon quite like Gregg. Have you seen him lately on Masterchef though? He looks like a barrow-boy who’s eaten all his produce, and the barrow too. He’s gaining weight in a hurry, and looks to be out like Atkins.

5. Terry Christian: can’t believe he’s still in work, but he also looks like a skeleton these days. Reminds me of the chap from the Stereo MCs.

6. Daphne Fowler: you know, the old one (oldest one?) from eggheads. Bit of a cheap pick, but can’t see her getting through the winter.

7. Margaret Thatcher: she almost made it into my Castro etc list, though I suspect there’ll be a few street parties when she heads up to the great trade union in the sky. Shame to see her go, but when you’re too ill to have a cup of horlicks at your own party, the next 12 months look a very long way away.

8. James Corden: I’m not sure that being fat and a shamelessly un-funny England footballer suck-up qualifies our James to be a victim of the grim reaper at any time in the next 300 days or so, but wouldn’t it be great? Wouldn’t it?

So there you have mine. Who’s in yours?