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TV View: Curry-gate Gregory Campbell could bring some spice to tired old formula of X Factor


Gregory Campbell

Gregory Campbell

Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry

Gregory Campbell

Television is an unforgiving medium innit? For many, George Galloway, for all his political proselytising, will always be that creepy "would you like me to be the cat" bloke.

You have to hand it to the emoting array of singers of other people's songs on the X-Factor. From sinister sailor Jay James "putting my own spin" (ie centrifuging out all the good bits) on Mad World to droopy faced lothario Stevi Something doing Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera with a straight face (well the half that was unmasked anyway), not one of them misses a beat for the camera, as the voice in their head says "more teeth/look sad like a puppy died/mention your nan" at tactical intervals.

The panel meanwhile orchestrate the baying audience. Make them boo and cheer in one sentence, like Mel B often does, and it sounds remarkably like the marching chant of the winged monkeys in Wizard of Oz.

But it's the sheer clinical professionalism, where they all emote with the perky, ruthless efficiency of a panzer division on their second espresso, that demonstrates just how media savvy the reality TV generation is.

I was thinking of all that remarkable assuredness, when currymyyoghurtgate broke, like a week-old egg, down our tv faces.

When I'd recovered from my own personal offence (you don't curry yoghurt, you yoghurt curry, come on!) I realised that DUP sharp-shooter Gregory Campbell had deployed satirical noise with the assuredness of a mono-lingual mountain goat. I mean, it's not as if the shinners could counter an Irish parody with their own send-up of the Ulster-Scots language, is it? That's the genius of pitting a prêt-à-porter parody-proof parlance against an annoyingly fidgety language. Like most impish wits, Campbell knew this full well, even if he didn't perhaps appreciate the human repercussions.

Even Frank Mitchell, last heard chanting "might play cads here, might play cards here" whilst presenting the UTV weather said it wasn't racist on his morning show.

No, the real killer moment, when I also realised with dismay, that Gregory would be rubbish on the X Factor was the next night on UTV. He fidgeted, yawned and snorted, like a hyperactive kid who's forgotten to take his Ritalin, as Caitriona Ruane tried to take umbrage with him. Maybe she was that boring (I've heard the rumours same as everyone else), but rather I sensed the sort of bad boy antics that land you understudy to Danny Zucko at the playhouse revival of Grease. For tellie addicts like me, it was one of those pause and rewind moments that TiVo was invented for. And it highlights the reason why Gregory Campbell, a usually politically-charged zing slinger on the Hill, would be rubbish on the X Factor.

He'd be singing Summer Loving in that fruity baritone for the judges one minute, the next asking why the stupid Irish gay bloke in the panel was wearing so much make-up. But that's ok - the petty conventions of civil engagement on television aren't to the taste of all mature adults. "What is it?" asked Dermot on Saturday Night to Stereo Kicks after they'd apparently sang better than the week before. "Are you just evolving?" Turns out, depressingly, that unlike Gregory and his "elk", they were.

Now, instead of loyalist camps, let's talk about camp loyalists...

Everybody's fave TV artist Grayson Perry had a belter of a Who are you this week.

For a show looking at tribal identity in modern Britain in all its patchwork glory, it was a dodgy proposition to be confronted with such an inflexible, monochromatic culture as fat fighters. But before that, we had the surreal pleasure of watching Grayson interact with loyalists in Belfast.

He stopped by the Newtownards Road to meet the tribe who "express their Britishness in the most hardcore way I can think of". And he didn't mean they made Seventies sex comedies.

Grayson even found the 100th anniversary of the UVF march "exotic". He also observed, bemusedly: "Thankfully the rest of us live in tolerant, multi-cultural Britain". But you know what? Watching in my living room, just a couple of miles away from the Lower Newtownards Road, it did strike me as exotic. A bit like watching a National Geographic special on the customs of Welsh Patagonia.

His piece of loyalist art vajazzled the "dour aesthetic" with a few sequins. It also took "Prince Billy's" horse and turned it into a "jolly, knackered" nag, with shiney sequinned loyalists atop. It was camper than 20 Twaddells. "It's about embracing what Britain stands for today instead of what it was like in the 1950s" he summed up. I'm personally looking forward to seeing it proudly displayed next Twelfth, to the East Belfast pipers' rendition of "I'm Coming Out".

Some Pointless ruminations from my sick bed

You couldn't explain the rules of Pointless if a maniac held a gun to your head and gave you five seconds.

You'd need a minute, by which stage you'd be on the way to decomposing - a Pointless death if ever there was one. By the same token, it's hard to immediately put your finger on just why Pointless co-host Richard Osman is.

In a weird replica of a public school common room, his role is to act as a favourite swotty fag to Alexander Armstrong's headboy. And it's all kinkily played out in front of bemused home counties couples, hoping for a zero pointer on the husbands of Liz Taylor. It's an ingenius format and all, but the banter between the hosts is more strained than the quality of mercy put through a sieve.

A recurring nightmare is the 80s Christmas special where Armstrong dressed up like somebody from the 70s and Osman came bedecked like my uncle Joe at a wedding.

Why the fixation? Being laid up with a bad back lately watching endless Pointless repeats is why. I also discovered that Osman created the show. Don't worry, the painkillers should kick in at any minute.

Switch on

In very particular order - and there's a lot to get through here: Finale of the best new Dr Who series yet, The Missing, brand new series of the very funny Toast of London. And The Fall. Yes you heard me, The Fall. But a week is a long time in Belfast-based-handsome-serial-killer-type-crime-dramas.

Switch off

The Apprentice: You're Fired. They're fine enough at a distance squirming under the microscope of The Apprentice. Buy why in Gandalf's name would you want to know what they actually thought about anything? I'd much rather ask a chimp about the significance of covalent bonds in chemistry. Actually that gives me an idea for a programme...

Belfast Telegraph