Sob stories have reduced Channel 4’s brutal SAS show to Who Dares Whinges

IN October last year the Ministry of Defence suddenly announced that women could serve in the Special Forces.

A political decision that was clearly designed to distract voters and get an easy round of applause.

Contestant Rick feels the chill
Channel 4

Contestant Rick feels the chill[/caption]

Two things that were never going to stop Channel 4 enforcing the same rules at its own brilliant version of selection, SAS: Who Dares Wins, even if it was the last show on television that needed any fixing.

Its three series have been close to works of art, in fact, largely thanks to their breathtaking settings and four instructors, Ant Middleton, Jason Fox, Matthew Ollerton and Mark Billingham, who gave it such an air of authenticity you could suspend disbelief and imagine you were watching the real thing.

As the show’s introduction would have it, though, everything’s changed and they’re a band of brothers no more.

The fourth run has 13 female recruits including a mole called Petra who’s served, for nine years, with Swedish Special forces, on their “front line”.

Louise was the only woman bold enough to challenge a man in the boxing round, and suffered an uncomfortable beating for her troubles
Channel 4

Louise was the only woman bold enough to challenge a man in the boxing round, and suffered an uncomfortable beating for her troubles[/caption]

A place which — full ignorant disclosure — I didn’t think extended much beyond the first day of Ikea’s January sales when it all kicks off on Malmo High Street, but actually involved several tours of Afghanistan.

Her job here was to spy on all the contestants, and Petra’s certainly done a better job than the production team, because I’ve been watching it for three weeks and can only name three men.

First to show, in Chile, was a Muslim called Qash, who voluntarily withdrew after discovering he’d have to share bathroom facilities with the women (he just wanted to Qash and go).  There’s also been no avoiding mentally fragile Nathaniel, or Milo, who’s so camp he makes Alan Carr sound like Lee Marvin.

The rest of the 12 blokes, though, have just become anonymous blips on the horizon while the camera fixates on the women.

Milo, who’s so camp he makes Alan Carr sound like Lee Marvin
Channel 4

Milo, who’s so camp he makes Alan Carr sound like Lee Marvin[/caption]

Among their favourites have been: Saranya, who became the first candidate ever to shout “WHEEEEEEEEEE!” during the 200ft abseil, tattooed Tracey, blunt Aberdonian Lou, with the voice that goes through you like a rusty bayonet, and television natural Louise, who was the only woman bold enough to challenge a man in the boxing round, and suffered an uncomfortable beating for her troubles.

Standards vary, but the brutal, straight-down-the-line approach of the four instructors rarely wavers on screen, no matter the gender or how much noise they make.

“You having a baby?”

“No staff.”

“Then shut the f*** up.”

Nathaniel left an emotional letter for his rivals as he told them 'This is just the start of my journey'
Channel 4

Nathaniel left an emotional letter for his rivals as he told them ‘This is just the start of my journey’[/caption]

This is why you’d probably trust Ant Middleton and the other three with your lives.

Politicians and TV people, on the other hand, I trust about as far as I could piggy-back them up the Andes.

Almost no encouragement is needed, but if you give them any they will try to reduce every show on TV to one long procession of box-ticking contestants with a crowd-pleasing, right-on ­conclusion.

That’s why the most over-worked recruit on this series is the pianist on sob story duties.

It may always have had an element of this, of course, but the point when the scales really fell from my eyes was Sunday’s voluntary withdrawal of Nathaniel, who left a letter for the other weeping recruits announcing: “This is just the start of my journey.”

You wish him well, obviously, but use of the dreaded J-word wasn’t just the moment I could no longer suspend disbelief, it was also the moment I started to think television was turning SAS selection into Bootcamp on The X Factor.

And if that’s the case, Channel 4 can have my badge. I’m voluntarily withdrawing from their process.

Special Forces soldier Petra Malm, right, with TV contestant on SAS: Who Dares Wins
Special Forces soldier Petra Malm, right, with TV contestant on SAS: Who Dares Wins

Gemma leaves me cold

The Gemmasaurus performed at least three television miracles at Sunday’s Musicals-themed night

DANCING On Ice viewers can’t say they weren’t warned.

“After the break,” said host Phillip Schofield, “Gemma Collins is Marilyn Monroe. Don’t go away.”

A big ask. But then so’s stifling a fit of the giggles when Richard Blackwood describes himself as “the king of cool”, and trying to look at Ryan Side-bottom’s Beauty and the Beast make-up without thinking of Terry Waite chained to a radiator in the Lebanon.

The Gemmasaurus, though, performed at least three television miracles at Sunday’s Musicals-themed night.

The first was being hoisted into the DOI rafters, on  board a giant ring, within 20 seconds, by the same team who got the London Eye upright.

Gemmas Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend routine
Gemma’s Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend routine
Rex Features

The second involved claiming the moral high ground, from Jason Gardiner, during a spectacular toddler tantrum at the end of her Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend routine.

And the third, but biggest of all, was somehow getting voted through to next week’s show despite re-writing the entire history of musicals. Gentlemen, it transpires, no longer prefer blondes.

They can’t  stand them, in fact.


QUIZ show doughballs of the week. The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “The Burger And The King is a documentary about which singer’s eating habits?”
Gianluca: “Billie Jean King.”
The Time It Takes, Joe Lycett: “If I meow, what animal am I?”
Poppy: “A goat.”
Celebrity Mastermind, John Humphrys: “In an 1819 poem, what season of the year does Keats describe as ‘the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’?”
Monty Panesar: “Oliver Twist.”
Joe Lycett: “The fictional Champion the Wonder Horse is actually a what?”
Ben: “A zebra.”
(All contributions gratefully received).


RANDOM TV IRRITATIONS

  • Would I Lie To You? guest “comedian” Rachel Parris giving the impression making people laugh is both beneath and beyond her.
  • More EastEnders springing back to life than they had on the last series of The Living Dead.
  • Showboating pain Oti Mabuse imagining The Greatest Dancer auditions are all about her.  Any talent show that presses the Ain’t No Mountain High Enough button.
  • And BBC2 becoming so consumed by the political correctness of its Icons series that the entertainment section claimed “Marilyn Monroe used her profile to stand up to the male Hollywood machine,” but made absolutely no mention of her role in Some Like It Hot, the greatest comedy film of all time.
  • Box-ticking BBC heathens.


THIS Morning handover of the week. Holly Willoughby: “Love against the odds is the subject of the phone-in today. Vanessa Feltz, what kind of calls are you hoping for today?”
“We’re looking for calls from people who think their love is against the odds.”
And that’s why it’s about to win a National Television Award for the ninth year in a row.


Deluded Spencer so dull

No-one is listening when Spencer and Vogue bang on about the tiredness, sleepless nights and blah blah blah
CHANNEL 4

No-one is listening when Spencer and Vogue bang on about the ‘tiredness, sleepless nights and blah blah blah’[/caption]

ANOTHER week brings another incompatible pair of reality TV gimps, with an E4 title that also sounds suspiciously like their viewing figures.

Spencer, Vogue and Baby Too, a fly-on-the-wall documentary, about Matthews and Williams of that ilk, which is based  on the classic misapprehension of every first-time parent: The world is simply full of people who give the slightest toss about their newborn.

It’s not. Nor is anyone listening when they bang on about the “tiredness, sleepless nights and blah blah blah”.

The only reason I kept watching this one, in fact, was to try to establish exactly how Spencer and Vogue earn a living, as they’re one of those independently wealthy couples who give very little clue as to why they’re always so “busy, busy, busy”.

This is based  on the classic misapprehension of every first-time parent: The world is simply full of people who give the slightest toss about their newborn
CHANNEL 4

This is based  on the classic misapprehension of every first-time parent: The world is simply full of people who give the slightest toss about their newborn[/caption]

It took a couple of episodes, but eventually Vogue muttered some- thing about her own fake tan range and Spencer said something even less convincing about cooking, before adding: “We bring different things to the table.” (He’s on starters, she’s on the dessert trolley.)

The urge Spencer really wants to milk, it turns out though, is a creative one. So, at the climax of episode two he’s striding into London’s Soho Theatre for an audition, with the defiant announcement: “I’m going to open or shut the door on my childhood dream of becoming an actor.”

And how’s that going?

Make sure it bangs your a*** on the way out, Spencer.


TV GOLD: The Paras: Men Of War, on ITV. BBC2’s Revolution In Ruins: The Hugo Chavez Story detailing exactly how socialism, with Jeremy Corbyn’s connivance, destroyed Venezuela, the most oil-rich country in South America.

Sky Atlantic repeating series one of The Sopranos. And Jeremy Kyle’s captions offering us: “My deceased mother told me on the way to Peter Andre that my dad is my step-dad.” A family trauma so painful, it could not cease until he’d closed the set with Mysterious Girl.

GREAT Sporting Insights. Paul Merson: “They cut through them like a butter through knife.”

Martin Keown: “He takes both eyes off the ball but still sees it.”
And Garry Monk: “I’m not going to talk about the decision. But their players made a meal of it and it was the wrong decision.”

(Compiled by Graham Wray).

DANCING On Ice update. Gemma Collins: “I’m the GC, remember?”

Only the C bit.


LOOKALIKES

THIS week’s winner is one half of The Greatest Dancer’s lesbian ballroom partnership, Santra & Piia, and journalist Andrew Pierce, who plays Les Dennis to Kevin Maguire’s Dustin Gee, on Good Morning Britain. Sent in by Dessie Boy, Leeds. Picture research Amy Reading.


LTH Corner. Eurosport, World Cup luge, Colin Bryce: “Strap on at the start, Tristan Walker in front, Justin Smith behind, but just one heavy tug and it snaps off.” And good luck explaining that one to the A&E nurse.

MOST depressing cookery dialogue of the week. This Morning, Ainsley Harriott’s spicey ­Caribbean soup.

Ruth Langsford: “Can you put a lid on it?”

“No.”

What if I begged?Next.

FILTH Corner. Eurosport, World Cup luge, Colin Bryce: “Strap on at the start, Tristan Walker in front, Justin Smith behind, but just one heavy tug and it snaps off.” And good luck explaining that one to the A&E nurse.

MOST depressing cookery dialogue of the week. This Morning, Ainsley Harriott’s spicey ­Caribbean soup.

Ruth Langsford: “Can you put a lid on it?”

“No.”

What if I begged?


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