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Saturday Night TV Just Got Great Again...Or Did It?

As a concept, it's incredible that You're Back in the Room hasn't been thought of before. Maybe it has and no one from the other side had the common sense, bravery or foresight to green-light it. BBC executives will be regretting that decision now.

Recently it's seemed as if Saturday night television would never improve, leaving viewers forever destined to look back to a golden age of programming that doubtless only ever existed in their minds.

Then ITV goes and surprises everyone by pulling an absolute corker out of the commissioning hat. Thereby resulting in a quite brilliant piece of popular broadcasting the likes of which we may not see again for many years to come, but which will in the meantime undeniably help restore the reputation of the nation's premier commercial channel as the only viable provider of quality mainstream entertainment out there.

As a concept, it's incredible that You're Back in the Room hasn't been thought of before. Maybe it has and no one from the other side had the common sense, bravery or foresight to green-light it. BBC executives will be regretting that decision now. One can only imagine them banging their collective heads on the desk at having let this gem slip through their fingers. Of course, the quiz show format coupled with hypnosis isn't immediately obvious as a potential ratings winner, but then again the oddest of ingredients can often work brilliantly together. You only have to watch MasterChef to realise that.

The producers first stroke of genius was getting Phillip (Pip) Schofield as the presenter. Who knew he could be this wonderful? Putting aside his perennially youthful good looks, the combination of his natural charm, charisma, wit and bubbling effervescence all merely hinted at on This Morning, Dancing on Ice and All Star Mr & Mrs, are plain for anyone to see and witness. And to think that we once risked losing him to the theatre which might sadly have happened after his revelatory stage performance in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Here he is so much better suited to the bright yellow sou'wester that he found himself wearing when one scene threatened to get a little too out of hand.

Naturally the show wouldn't be nearly as successful as it is without the contestants. Never intentionally humiliated - as they could so easily have been - we don't for one instant feel sorry for those taking part. These aren't susceptible schmucks desperate for a little bit of TV fame no matter what they have to endure in the process. If anything, we find ourselves wishing it was us up there instead of them.

In one particularly hysterical round, the two men ( Steve and Ross) along with the three women (Carolyn, Kate and Leonie) have to inflate as many balloons as possible and then get them onto a stand in an attempt to win the money.

However, they are hindered in their task thanks to being hypnotised. Steve believes the balloons are filled with helium which cause him to float upwards. Kate is also convinced that the balloons have the same inert gas inside and feels compelled to continually suck on them and sing Happy Birthday in a delightfully high pitched squeal. As for the others, Ross thinks he's naked and keeps running round trying to hide his modesty, Carolyn is constantly trying to pop the balloons and Leonie is certain that she's a famous artist creating such masterpieces as inflatable giraffes. To make things doubly difficult, they then have to duck for cover whenever they hear a loud and frequent bang. This is probably caused by several members of the audience literally exploding with laughter. Yes, it genuinely is that funny.

Keith Barry, the hypnotist, is without question Derren Brown's and Paul McKenna's superior in every conceivable way. In the wrong hands, he could prove to be a potent weapon for someone. With him as UKip's Director of Communication we really could be looking at Nigel Farage as the next Prime Minister.

The tragedy of this show and it's an issue that'll certainly be quickly rectified is that it's only on for a further three weeks. Expect the next series, which really can't come fast enough, to run for a good time longer. Hopefully the celebrity edition can't be far behind either.

On immediately afterwards was The Jonathan Ross Show which this week featured just a single guest. But what a guest. It was none other than Madonna. She was not at all what one might have been expecting.

She didn't come across as some over the hill star fast approaching pensionable age, who was now so eager to still be relevant and as popular as she used to be that she'd appear on any old dross to promote her 13th studio album. Well, any old dross provided it wasn't Piers Morgan's Life Stories. Even the most has-been of celebrities has their limits below which they will not sink, although perhaps not in the case of Gerri Halliwell.

Madonna was open, disarmingly honest and unflinchingly funny. More than that, she was willing to answer anything; no matter how intrusive and personal. The whole hour was on a par with The Nixon Interviews. Wozzy every bit the equal of David Frost.

The questions asked clearly weren't carefully chosen and pored over beforehand by assorted publicists and lawyers. This truly was Madonna, the vulnerable vamp, laid bare.

At last, ITV's decision to take on Jonathan has been vindicated. Those who fear that Jeremy Clarkson will never be the same if he jumps ship can now surely rest a little easier.

Both the King of Chat and the Queen of Pop came out of this encounter renewed and invigorated. One can hardly wait for next Saturday when Liz Hurley will be one of the subjects under the searing spotlight of fame.

NB. While it shouldn't have happened, and I'm not sure how on earth it did, I too was unwittingly hypnotised by Keith Barry. Now fully out of a trance, I can safely report that You're Back in the Room was the biggest pile of steaming excrement ever to hit the screen.

As for the Madonna interview. It was about as incisive and illuminating as a five minute chat with Peppa Pig.

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