Poor, innocent, uncorrupted, little me. I was living such a happy existence, a worthwhile, meaningful life with a promising future. I had a new job, a new house, a new fuckbuddy (well, I say ‘new’, there was never an ‘old’ one) and all was coming up roses. Then one night two weeks ago, I took a fateful decision, the ramifications of which are still being played out, fated to end with my brain shredded into millions of little pieces, left to gather dust in the corner of the mausoleum that is my dignity.
I pressed the button and waited for it to start. Jaunty music, a forced sing-along, a studio audience that’s far too cheerful to be drunk on the elixir of life alone, and there we have it, ‘I Love My Country’ – a new BBC light entertainment crapfest which ironically has become the biggest factor in my belief that I would be better off in an Albanian forest, chasing wild bores and growing my beard so long I trip over it.
Some television is so bad it’s good. For example, the Eurovision Song Contest is a riot of poor taste and shit music, like Chris Moyles’ old Radio 1 breakfast show but with more sequins and compulsory French translations. Eurovision is utter toilet, undoubtedly ruined by the debacle of block voting. When Montenegro were fighting for independence a few years back, I can’t have been the only person to wonder whether the freedom fighters of Podgorica were secretly battling for the right to give another Eastern European shitehouse douze points. Then there’s the hosts that would make lobotomised chimpanzees look like the height of professionalism.
But it’s engagingly daft, off-beat and bonkers. It’s knowingly cheesy and it brings everyone together. Russia’s worrying recent moves to criminalise and suppress homosexuality would surely be remedied if it were hosting more Eurovisions, as the event is so unapologetically camp it could make Vladimir Putin shout “ooh matron!” while scores of chest-baring hunks breakdance behind an Icelandic siren to a catchy yet vacuous Euro-disco beat.
‘I Love My Country’ is so bad it’s bad. It has zero redeeming features. Mind-numbingly mundane and stupid, it rolls around drunkenly in a Union Jack flag and then vomits down itself while trying to remember the words to ‘Jerusalem’. What terrifies me is that a BBC programme developer obviously sat down with a bigwig at Television Centre and pitched the following idea for a comedy-cum-entertainment Saturday night hoedown:
“We need Gabby Logan, an undeniably steadfast sports presenter but one without a funny bone in sight. If she could look like a worried school teacher dancing at a school disco because the boys and girls are on opposite sides of the hall, nervously tapping their phones and pretending they can’t see each other, more the better. When the house band plays the introductory music, Gabby needs to awkwardly shift her body from side to side, in what could be considered ‘dancing’ by pasty uncool white boys in a hip nightclub.
“Then we need captains, because the rules of the universe governing entertainment shows dictate ‘funeth cannot be haveth without thy teams in suppos’d conflictation’. For such a vital role, we need versatile characters, two Machiavellian chancers who will bring the giggles and good times, making up for Gabby Logan’s matchstick man routine. Both captains should be distinct in all ways possible with the single exception of their species, to allow for the increased hilarity of having two diametrically opposed people engaging in jokey conflict for the benefit of viewers. They will be decreed as Frank Skinner and the unthinking man’s Frank Skinner, Mickey Flanagan. Both will adopt ‘banter’ as their modus operandi, preferably upmarket japes, such as a run of gags in the opening episode about a panellist whose surname is ‘Salt’.
“You may be thinking, “Ah, this appears to be a titular variation on your average game show” but this is not so. We are not pitching ‘Have I Got A Question Of Would I Lie To 8 Out Of 10 Cats?’. This show has a difference, a unique selling point which makes up for the various rounds and aspects we stole from celebrity panel shows down the years. Are you ready for this? This is going to blow your mind to the outer reaches of The Milky Way and probably beyond. Take a seat right there. Here we go. The panellists – ooh, I can’t wait to spill the beans – will all be STANDING UP. Yes!! None of this get-comfy-and-‘ave-a-cuppa nonsense. Audiences have got tired of chests and heads, we want to see LEGS. Lovely lovely legs. Especially the legs of fruity actresses who contribute nothing to the show aside from their olive-tanned pins. PHWOAR!
“To top off the surrealism, we would like Jamelia to head the ‘house band’ which plays off-colour renditions of famous songs, like an instrumental version of Vic and Bob’s ‘Club Singer’ round on Shooting Stars. You might be wondering why we can’t afford a more respectable singer, especially when the budget for chairs has been slashed to nothing. But I promise you that she will join the spirit of things and occasionally lean over a white fence to deliver bon mots to the delight of all present.
“Another aspect of the show is the way points are distributed. Tired formats generally reward skill or intelligence with points or prizes. Not us. We prefer to scatter perfectly good points on Z-listers that can locate Peterborough on a map with a Yorkshire pudding. Or, I kid you not, if they win a glorified game of pass the parcel. A massive, Saturday night, celebrity game of pass the parcel! The trailers must practically write themselves.
“The show will be jacked up on its own spirit, with a yelling, whooping, hysterical crowd presumably rescued from a damp basement after an earthquake, as that’s the only thing less preferable than playing along. The team captains, Messrs Skinner and Flanagan, shall wonder up and down their team to infuse a collective atmosphere of harmony and communal spirit, mainly by describing how gorgeous the token blonde bombshell is and gesturing rudely to the opposing team.
“Lest anyone be confused that the country we’re supposed to be proud of it Britain, the set shall be decorated lovingly with giant Big Bens, a steam train set, more red telephone boxes than even exist anymore, random meadows of bluebells and a recreation of Stonehenge. If you’re thinking “That sounds like a monumental sack of wank”, you will have to see the real thing to appreciate the awe-inspiring vulgarity of it.
“So please, find it within your hearts to allow this show a place on your network. The advantages are manifold, but the most important one is that it will make everything else on your schedules shine like a beacon of hope and glory. Any dodgy new drama with a few windswept moors and a sinister-looking farmhand shall be forgiven on the basis that it is not ‘I Love My Country’. The next time Ben Elton decides we need anything written or produced by him to be broadcast to the nation, we can be safe in the knowledge that whatever plume of cack blossoms from his quill, it will never come close to replicating the bile-flecked, disgusting terrorism that has been wreaked across the airwaves with ‘I Love My Country’. I rest my case”.