First up, the reality shows. You can never have enough of these, as a brief flick through the Radio Times will hammer home to you:
Touch The Coma Girl, a spectacular live 24-hour event in which members of the public, desperate for much-needed organ transplants, must remain in constant physical contact with a brain-dead road accident victim in otherwise excellent health.
A Mummy For Matthew, in which a young boy with severe behavioural problems is placed with a different foster family every week. In the first episode, Matthew meets recovering heroin addict Janette and her on-again/off-again boyfriend Garry. Will Matthew form that crucial bond with his ‘mummy of the week’ or will the presence of Garry’s boisterous Staffordshire terrier Moatie trigger one of his seizures? Next week, Matthew is introduced to needy fund manager Lorraine and her adopted son Ishmael, a former Rwandan boy soldier.
Inmate, Outmate, in which members of the public voluntarily trade places with patients from Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital, to see who copes better. In week one, accounts adviser and father of three Chris submits to a programme of electro-convulsive therapy and pig tranquillisers, whilst delusional sociopath Ewan takes Chris’ family to the local garden centre, with unpredictable results…
Fame Battalion, in which a selection of former soap stars, barely literate sportsmen, disgraced politicians and reality whores are taken through the gruelling process of basic training by the Royal Anglian Regiment, before shipping out for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. In week three, the stars are tasked with policing a known hotbed of insurgents some 20 miles from the nearest support, if they are to earn enough stars for a fresh supply of ammunition and clean water. Watch out for Coleen Rooney’s hilarious attempts to conduct a perilous house-to-house search with only a dysentery-stricken Joe Pasquale for back-up.
Dancing With Tears In Their Eyes, in which a group of people with terminal illnesses compete in the intense world of ballroom dancing. Each week, we follow them through the highs and lows of learning new steps, bonding with their professional partners, undergoing chemo and periodically expiring in mid-tango. As a panel of bitter old choreographers, rampant egomaniacs, preposterous euro-twats and Dr Hilary Jones pronounce judgement on the performances of the increasingly gaunt and hollow-eyed contestants, we give you the audience the opportunity to vote which will receive a much needed ‘stay of execution’ in a hospice to rebalance their meds, and which will be forced to literally ‘dance till they drop’.
The Madrassa, in which a selection of disaffected youths, credulous buffoons and religious nutbags attend a hardline Islamic education camp somewhere in western Pakistan. In week two, former wiccan Becky is beaten for not lowering her eyes before the men, and Kieran, now Jabalah, studies the processional route of the forthcoming Royal Wedding.
Next, some new additions to the already saturated quiz-show market…
The Vanilla Quiz – 30 minutes of questions fired directly at the viewer, delivered by an unseen voiceover. No rounds, no bonuses, no contestants, no prizes. The only concession to tension is a heartbeat-style sound effect, played in the background, which gradually increases in tempo and speed as the end of the quiz approaches. Viewers like me, irritated by the ‘thinking aloud’ padding of Eggheads or the embarrassing ‘getting to know you’ bits in Mastermind, will welcome the introduction of 100% uncut quizzage.
The Slightly Different Quiz – basically the same as Fifteen To One or The Weakest Link, but whenever someone gets a question wrong, the contestant to the left must slap them full in the face. In the final head-to-head round, the quizmaster, armed with a dead halibut, stands directly in front of the two finalists, delivering a teeth-loosening two-hander for every wrong answer. The winner gets to take the fish home. A TV must for clever clogs, sadists and anglers everywhere.
Just to switch over to the wireless for a moment, here’s my idea for a disappointing 6:30pm Radio 4 situation comedy series. It’s called It Takes Two To Quango. It probably revolves around the chalk-and-cheese relationship between two dull and unoriginal sub-Yes Minister characters. It will feature otherwise reputable actors unwisely choosing to perform the sort of light comedy that should have been compassionately euthanized in the 80’s.
And finally, inspired by our recent New Year’s hols in the West Country, here is my latest drama submission for your approval: Jessie Wallace plays a single mum struggling to survive as Devon’s least likely call-girl. It’s called Westward Ho’. I think it will do well in the prestigious Doc Martin slot.