MOST awkward encounter of the week? Shania Twain confronted by three Shania Twain impersonators, on ITV’s Starstruck.
A tense affair the real Shania endured by getting her mouth to say, “Great job”, while her eyes screamed: “Hatchet job.”
How can I be sure? I can’t, obviously.
However, 20 minutes earlier she’d been ordering Christina Aguilera to hire the show’s three tribute versions as her backing singers and now, when she was actually in a position to do the same?
Nothing but empty words.
A moment that goes to the heart of the sincerity issue on the Olly Murs-fronted show which delights and depresses me in roughly equal proportions.
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Just like Stars In Their Eyes, the format Starstruck shamelessly copies, the major plus points are the makeovers, where the golden rule is the older the performer, the funnier the transformation.
Week one, for instance, offered us “team Tom Jones”, who comprised, left to right, “Fred West”, “Ted Rodgers” and “Fu Manchu”, on account of his detachable moustache.
While week two’s highlight was definitely “Meat Loaf”, where the costume department had gone a bit overboard on the red hankies, so they looked like Vanessa Feltz’s Spanish bull-fighting poster.
The singing quality tends to vary wildly as well.
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Within each team there’s usually one who can sing (Fred West) and two passengers. Apart, that is, from an entirely unsalvageable trio of Taylor Swift impersonators who, I swear, even though they didn’t sing it on the night, could make you believe Shake It Off was her follow-up single to the old Shake n’ Vac advert.
Good or bad, it’s as entertaining as hell, of course, and absolutely begging for someone to have just a tiny bit of fun at everyone’s expense to fill the gap between makeovers. But this, I’m sad to say, is not the way ITV operates in the woke era.
So instead we have the most random, worthy and bland panel of “Wow” merchants assembled on a talent show since 2017’s Let It Shine, with Gary Barlow.
Four rictus grins with zero chemistry, belonging to Shania, Beverley Knight, Adam Lambert, who’s the closest this lot gets to a Mr Nasty, and comedian Jason Manford, who’s reached the wacky suit stage of his career.
Jason, obviously, is the one you’d expect to inject the laughter, but he seems cowed by the presence of three singing legends and the possibility of getting cancelled if he says one word out of place, which means all four just spew out empty phrases that are as meaningless as they are flattering.
“You’re owning it.”
“You smashed it.”
“You brought it.”
“You completely nailed Christina Aguilera,” with a Black+Decker staple gun to Britney Spears’ basement floor.
You’d also need the Bletchley Park team to decode what all of these bland-ishments really mean, which makes me wonder how many millions the network wasted on bookings who could, quite happily, be replaced by four speak-your-weight machines.
Not that the right-on fools who now run ITV will care. As the Piers Morgan affair demonstrated, they seem hell bent on crushing all spontaneity, dissent and comedy in their brave new Guardian-grey world.
Someone needs to remind them, though, this is not how any of their viewers think or talk, and direct them to Friday’s Gogglebox, where the reaction to team Tom Jones could not have been more perfect.
“What the f***?” “Oh no.” “Is that Jackie Chan?” “No, it’s Ting Tong.”
This is why I love Gogglebox. It’s almost the last place on TV where you hear the truth and they do not come any more truthful than Jenny, in her static caravan in Hull, who is, by a distance, the funniest woman on TV.
“Starstruck?” she asked her friend Lee, on Friday. “Is that the one where there are three people and they don’t look nowt like the person they’re taking off?”
It is indeed, Jenny (ITV, Saturday, 8.30pm).
SEX? IT'S ALL SO BLEAK
OVER on Channel 4’s Sex Actually series, Louis Theroux protege Alice Levine is hanging around with assorted smut gremlins and whackalots in the desperate hope it’ll take us all on “a voyage of sexual discovery” and help us “truly know ourselves”.
These shows are always the darkest and most depressing spectacle of the telly week and about as arousing as Welsh First Minister’s Questions on the Parliament Channel.
And so it proved on Sex Actually where Alice’s first stop was South Carolina to meet a poor, lonely soul called Alexander and his Latex doll partner of three years, Mimi, whose artificial intelligence is so sophisticated it can mimic almost every single basic human response and emotion, bar one, as Alice demonstrated when she asked it: “Have you heard of The Beatles?”
“Yes,” Mimi responded robotically, “Magical Mystery Tour is my favourite album.”
Which was a bit of a relief to hear, frankly.
’Cos the day a Latex doll tells us her favourite Beatles album is Rubber Soul is the day it’s developed a sense of humour as well and we’re all screwed.
UNEXPECTED MORONS IN THE BAGGING AREA
TIPPING POINT, Ben Shephard: “Which ship canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Caribbean sea?”
Ben Shephard: “Mary of Teck was the wife of which British monarch, who reigned from 1910 to 1936?”
Rosie: “Henry VIII.”
The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “In which indoor sport do players compete for The Jocky Wilson Memorial Cup?”
RANDOM TV IRRITATIONS
BBC1 and ITV simultaneously filling nearly 11 hours of prime-time with football.
Channel 4 wasting 120 minutes on the question: “Bronson: Fit For Release?” (No.) Coleen Nolan beginning a Loose Women discussion with the words: “Janet Street-Porter, would you ever tell a partner they’d lost their looks?” (I wouldn’t.)
BBC1 inventing The Gold’s DC Nicki Jennings character just so it can remind us it thinks all men are weak and stupid.
And Six Nations Sin Bin host Gabby Logan seriously asking the drumming Welsh weatherman Owain Wyn Evans: “Are you a rugby fan?”
Answer: No, he just likes appearing on TV for the sake of it and the BBC indulges him.
THE Queen Elizabeth arriving back in Portsmouth, with a real sting in the tail from Ronnie Lambert, on BBC2’s Warship: Tour Of Duty.
Anton Lesser stealing every scene as Vernon Marley in BBC1’s Better.
Jeremy Clarkson attempting “operation hearts and minds,” a procedure he could no more perform than his own vasectomy, with a pair of turkey twizzlers, on the entirely brilliant Clarkson’s Farm.
And Bradley’s verdict on his bottle of snake-themed Anti-Venom exfoliating cream (“The more I look at it, the more I like it”) proving to be somewhat at odds with Lord Sugar’s on The Apprentice: “It looks like someone’s crapped out a mint Aero.”
LOOKALIKE OF THE WEEK
THIS week’s winner is Una Healy, from The Saturdays, and the demon doll from horror film M3GAN.
Sent in by Thomas Burrows.
Picture research: Amy Reading
GREAT SPORTING INSIGHTS
ALLY McCOIST: “He just needed to whip the ball in with his right-hand boot.”
Robbie Savage: “City are going to be rubbing their lips.”
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(Compiled by Graham Wray)
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