Belfast Telegraph

UTV's Brainbox, BBC NI comedy shows: here's my wishlist for 2011

By Gail Walker

What will 2011 bring? Well, and among other things, fewer attempts by BBC NI to make comedy programmes would be great. Here's my wish list for the new year ...

1. A little less X Factor please. Yes, I still tuned in dutifully and, yes, it still provided some watercooler moments but isn't it just getting a little bit too much? Are they miming? Is it a fix? What exactly are the rules? Gamu-gate. Autotuning-gate. Cheryl's no-vote-gate. Something changed during the last season, with the most consistently hit note a sour one. Does anyone care as passionately about the show as they did a year ago?

2. Talking of Saturday night TV, maybe Strictly should hotfoot it for a while, too. Or at the very least it should drop the 'novelty' acts. Sorry, but Ann Widdecombe never came close to the humour and charm of John Sergeant's previous turn on the show. At best, worth watching for the look of humiliation on partner Anton du Beke's face, at worst, cringeworthy.

3. A goodbye to scary economics. It's the worst recession since the Eighties, no the Seventies, no the Thirties. Every day is a white-knuckle ride of often conflicting analysis, with the majority of us just nodding sagely as if we understand what the hell is going on. The euro in meltdown, public spending cut to the bone, everyone frightened for their jobs. Depressions really are depressing ...

4. A Brit to win Wimbledon. A bit of a personal one this. But come on, Tim, sorry, Andy - do it for us. If only so we don't have to keep hearing the phrases "way back to Fred Perry in the 1930s", or "Ginny Wade during the Queen's Silver Jubilee".

5. A really good Royal wedding. Yes, the first bloom - and some of the thatch - has worn off William and he looks increasingly like Prince Edward. Yes, Kate is lovely, but in a bland English rose kind of way. But still we really could do with a wee bit of romance and a smidgin of pomp and circumstance. Ok, it won't be Charles and Diana but then that's no bad thing. And, when the time comes, it will give us all a bit of a pick me up.

6. The end of UTV's late night quiz show Brainbax, sorry Brainbox. Do I need to elaborate? I do? Ok ... It's the show that proves that even in the wee small hours of the morning you are never truly alone. Compelling and appalling, Brainbax features a pouting hostess desperately begging you to give her ... a call with the answer to some inane question. ("Go on. You know you want to ...") A heady mix of pub stool glamour and tariff information, this must be one of the most cynical local programmes ever made. Still, there's a thing - it is a locally-made programme, which must count for something. Mustn't it ... ?

7. Things beginning with a small i or e. iPhone, iPad, eBooks, eZines. They all tell us they're bringing about a revolution. True or not, I've had eNough.

8. To get to grips with all those Christmas gifts of TV box sets. We've all got them, still virginal in the wrapping, staring balefully at us in reproach. Why don't we settle down with the complete Sopranos/The Wire/Howard's Way? I don't know why but one day, one fine day ...

9. An end to footballers caught playing away. But I'm not holding my breath.

10. And while we're at it, an end to all the roadworks in Belfast city centre. An end to the chicanes, to the pocketa-pocketa roar of the digging machine, the ear shattering brrrr of the drill ... and all to make the pavement look much like it did before. Why? Why?

11. Less Liz 'Elizabeth' Hurley please. Apart from kerfuffling with Warnie, what exactly does she do these days?

12. Politicians to wise up a bit. So, two pretty young 'constituents' come into your weekly surgery and want to know your views about policy - not to complain about their blocked drains. What do you do? Obvious. Ignore the whirring of the tape recorder and play up your importance with "frank" and "candid" remarks (ie, ones making the politicos seem really important). And these are the people running the country ...

13. BBC Northern Ireland to make a decent comedy programme ... I mean, Sketchy? LOL? Our William? With offerings like that no wonder we felt like we would never laugh again. Ever.

14. For people to lay off Christine Bleakley - no more vicious remarks about her accent, her clothes, her tan, her "ambition" (for no woman shall ever dare have that), her relationship, her friendship with co-presenter Adrian Chiles. One minute she was the heroine who water-skiied across the Channel for charity, then she moved from BBC to ITV for a tidy sum and the knives were out. Look, the only thing that changed was the channel. Christine's still the same down-to-earth, likable local girl made good. Why can't we just be proud of someone from here who hits the big-time instead of trying to cut them down to size? PS: Guess what? Daybreak's ratings are rising.

15. A ban on the word "absolutely" in broadcasting. As in reporter: "I don't know about you, Brian, but it's far too cold to be standing here with a microphone." Brian: "Absolutely. Now the weather." Simply saying "Absolutely" does not wit and repartee make. It just makes it really obvious the presenter can't think of anything remotely interesting to say.

16. Anniversaries, centenaries, bicentenaries, sesquicentenaries ... enough already. Every 15 minutes is a look back at something or other. We've only just got over them the first time round before we're being served up seconds. (That big word beginning with "s"? It's 400 years by the way ...)

17. And while we're at it, let's wrap up all the inquiries over the next 12 months. If we put our minds to it, we should be able to put most things to rest without keeping cops, lawyers, judges, investigators and personal assistants in jobs for the next 10 years and the rest of us in penury. Inquiries are for the boom years.

18. An evening economy for Belfast, ie: cafe culture. What about an Americano and a blueberry muffin at 5pm after a hard day down the mine, instead of a squirt of disinfectant so pungent it takes your breath away, accompanied by the scraping of chairs being piled onto tables (weird after disinfecting said tables) and a glower saying, "An Americano? Now? I'm outta here, so sling your hook").

If Londonderry can be UK City of Culture 2013, surely Belfast can put together cappuccinos, empty the city centre bins and put some decent street lighting up?

19. For my fiance to stop saying: "Gail, quick! C'mere 'til you see this goal ... they're showing it again ... quick! Ach, you've missed it. What's the point?" etc etc. Note to fiance: you may have made a ghastly mistake. Make-up. Check. High heels. Check. Long hair. Check. I'm a girl.

20. To get through 12 months without talking on the phone to someone in India about a very complicated problem with my internet access. In fact, to get through one month would be nice ...

21. Cheryl Go to America. Now.

22. For local politicians to stop trying to convince themselves - and us - that they are simply indispensable and HAVE to have two full-time jobs. (Yeah I know, but this is a wish list ...) Still, it puts into context all those statements about how concerned they are about jobs here.

23. An end to people revelling in one-upmanship in regards to the new austerity. As in: "You paid £1.95 for a cup of coffee? We just use gravel and water these days ...". Or: "Shoes? We make ours from paper mache using old copies of the Radio Times ..."

24. Proper civic recognition for Alex Higgins. Why not dump some long forgotten Lord or Earl and name one of our main thoroughfares after the Wizard of the Baize?

25. A little less of Stoodents. Well, not so much students themselves but articles comparing current student protests with the 'revolutions' of 1968 - in other words allowing a lot of broad of beam journos to relive their supposed youth smashing "the system" and fighting "the establishment". Pah!

26. For our cafes to stop serving food on wet plates which they put on still wet trays. Yes, it's great to know you're washing everything but is there any chance you might dry it too?

27. For Michael Douglas to get well enough to tackle that proposed role as Liberace. If ever one man was born to play another ... this is it. Can't wait.

28. I know Ormeau Avenue is attempting to break moulds and make omelettes but those nights when two same sex Newsline anchors present the show just don't work. We miss the sexual tension, the flirty badinage, the innuendo-laden reading of the farming news ... let's face it, it's often a lot more interesting than the actual news.

29. Never to hear the word "grit" again.

30. Or "snow" come to that.


From Belfast Telegraph