If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to set foot in a Jobcentre Plus! (it works better with you imagine someone shouting it I find) you will have come across Hayley Taylor. She might have had a different name, even a different face – albeit not that different – but it was her. A tedious woman in some indefinable stage of middle age, prone to malapropisms and characterised by a certain smugness that is the result of her knowledge that you are in thrall to her. When you talk, the middle-distance stare that is only vaguely inclined towards you indicates that she is simply waiting for you to stop talking before she can regurgitate the next corn fragment of the bureaucratic turd that is her job. Certainly not listening to the words you’re trying to say. Probably, in her private life she smells like she had an accident in the bargain section of Boots and drinks nasty white wine and prefaces every other sentence with ‘I’m not being funny’.
Ahem. You might have heard a lot of people are out of work at the minute. So of course, a reality show, complete with a quantifiable measure of success or failure, was inevitable. Et voila, The Fairy Jobmother (C4). The idea is innocuous enough – find some unemployed folk and help them get a job. Fine. However the focus is clearly on the less privileged members of society, which reveals two things about the programme. Firstly, at a point where unemployment is as much of an issue for graduates as it is for people who left school at 14, this seems disingenuous and indicitive of a failure to grasp the zeitgeist. This approach can only work with a certain type of job – namely one that doesn’t require specific qualifications. This is not to say anything against such work, but you feel any ambition beyond this would be met with a firm rebuke. Secondly it is indicative of a lowblow approach. By picking low income families – maybe with a child in tow, maybe with a Staffie, maybe rather fond of sports brands – the makers are clearly trying to inspire a distinct response from the Daily Mail crowd. The idea seems to be that we should boo and hiss, and mutter ‘chavs’ and ‘scroungers’ (led by our Prime Minister). This must be a tactic to get us on the ‘right’ side, because Hayley Taylor is devoid of charisma. But perhaps I’ve said enough about that already. In the interests of balance, how about a couple of arguments in her favour? One – she does seem to acknowledge that the couple chosen (in the first episode) actually seemed to be decent enough people and two – it’s not her fault that she was so wonderfully parodied on The League of Gentlemen before she even had a chance (I couldn’t wait for her to hand out some pens). But look here, some people just aren’t designed for TV. On reality shows with ‘experts’ there is often a scene where we get to see them walk dramatically up the street, eyes narrowed, muscles flexed and ready for action – much like the build up to a final showdown in an action film. It doesn’t work in Taylor’s favour at all that her drama walk is shot in a manner so similar to that of Mary: Queen of Shops. Mary Portas is sophisticated and glamorous. She exudes power and character, and hell, she’s even well dressed. Dowdy Taylor stands no chance with her wheely suitcase. Unemployment looks like it might become one the key issues of the era, but sadly 4 have missed the mark with this. It feels inconsequential rather than representative. Go film the government, or the Job Centre Plus! for that matter, let’s see what they’re doing about this rather than obsessing over the poor victims of their failings.
Shooting Stars (BBC2) is back for another run. I must admit I didn’t catch any of last year’s run, and am essentially working from childhood memories. But that doesn’t matter, because IT’S EXACTLY THE SAME. Resultantly, it’s a little tired (man Mortimer looks old now), as any show would be that had been doing the EXACTLY THE SAME JOKES for nearly 20 years. Somehow though, it’s not brutally grating, which is a victory in itself. Kudos to you Reeves and Mortimer, you guys are alright.
Old Jonathan Ross said his farewells to Friday Night (BBC1) too. Now I’m a big fan of the guy. He might be sycophantic (it was particularly cringe-worthy when he told David Beckham he was a fantastic person) but to me it’s always felt like an earnest guy trying to express his admiration for people you felt he genuinely respected. He’s a fan done good – there can be few people around whose knowledge of mainstream film is as comprehensive (good luck to you Winkleman) – imagine how much arse you’d kiss if you met half the people he mixes with. Best of all was how uncomfortable he managed to make some of his guests. There are few better ways to reveal a person’s true character than by seeing how well they can take a joke, and he certainly managed to out some pompous celebs as shameless self-promoting pricks with his unrelenting dad humour. And that was it; it was like watching your dad run the BBC’s flagship chat show. The man asked Cameron whether he wanked over Thatcher (of course he does). Fucking brilliant. When Graham Norton takes over, I think a few people are going to realise that Ross was worth it. I, for one, will be trying to overcome my fear of ITV to tune in to Wossy’s latest effort.