In 1984, Michael Buerk’s harrowing Ethiopia report sparked Band Aid and forever changed our view of Africa...
“Dawn, and as the sun breaks through the piercing chill of night it lights up a biblical famine.”
Spin on 30 years to Monday night and, hark! Is that the sweet song of the Outback’s feathered inhabitants I hear?
“Squee-squaw. Squee-squaw. Brrrr tweet! Kor-ke koo-kah. Hoocl-poocl. Hoooocl-poocl. Dunka-punka. Hanky-panky... I feel like a complete prat.”
Ah, my mistake. It’s I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! contestant Michael Buerk, in a seamless career transition, squawking fake bird calls on a high wire to Yvette, the ’Allo ’Allo waitress, for the chance to win some crumpets.
Or, as Jimmy Bullard renamed the show from inside a rat-filled coffin: “AARGH GET ME OUT OF HERE CELEBRITY JUNGLE GET ME OUT RANGER SHARPISH RANGER GET ME OUT!”
Two high points from the most disappointing and infuriating series ever.
It has been hampered at every turn by the incompetence of ITV which appears tragically to have forgotten just what an absolute gem of a programme this is.
You can blame Tuesday night football interruptions and the most woeful line-up since the Dougie Poynter class of 2011.
But the producers are to blame, meddling where it was not only unnecessary it actually stopped the action in its tracks.
They timed almost every stunt wrong, like the CIA secret missions for the two late arrivals Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie who should have been the target for immediate vilification by the camp.
The elaborate helicopter treasure hunt sucked the tension out of simmering confrontations that were about to boil over.
And I’ve never seen such counter-productive editing.
Last Saturday’s “bantergate” painted Bullard, the indispensible entertainment catalyst, as public enemy number one for apparently overstepping the mark taunting Quickenden.
He hadn’t, as the bloke who finished X Factor in 12th place confirmed: “It’s funny. It’s good to have guys in the camp that can take a bit of banter.”
But the ever-forgiving British voting public booted out Bullard first anyway, cutting off their nose to spite his face.
It’s the first time I can recall looking forward to each night more with dread than joy.
Only Ant and Dec were keeping it afloat at one stage, but even they suffered a rare mid-series dip.
Expectations were at an all-time low, then, entering this final week, traditionally the dullest part of any series.
The fact that it’s turning out to be better than the first fortnight probably says more about what’s gone before.
But it has at least tried to kick into gear – Foggy’s Boulder Dash trial direct from Total Wipeout, Melanie Sykes slowly losing her mind and growing narky over possession of the cooking pot and Buerk coming into his own on being made Bush Boss.
Just in time to be voted out.
That’s series 14’s ultimate downfall. Every time it almost got going, events conspired to trample it back into the undergrowth.
They wasted a great signing in Foggy and I’ll never forgive them engineering the departure of Bullard whose banter “victim” Quickenden has at least one fan, Nadia, who was asked in her exit interview by Dec: “Who do you want to win?”
Nadia: “Jake will win. He’s won everything so far.”
Dec: “Except The X Factor.”
Now that’s banter.
Like ITV3’s answer to Jack Bauer, Phillip Schofield completed his 24-Hour Text Santa TV Marathon, “something that has never been done on British television before”.
That is, if you conveniently forget Michael Aspel’s three, 27-hour ITV Telethons.
Fair play to the man, though. He endured Chris Moyles, Gemma Collins (her again), a panto quiz, BGT flops cabaret and a 1.50am workout with Josie Gibson before asking at 4.45am: “Why am I pulling a mushroom?” (Because you’re hallucinating.)
And he presented ITN’s weather, asking Lucy Verasamy: “What words do you use to describe grey and dull?”
Verasamy: “Cloudy, gloomy, dank, dreary...”
... 24-Hour TV Marathon...
The One Show’s Matt Baker asking David Attenborough: “What is your getting-close-to-animals technique? Because I like to stand up, I look down, I try to get them interested in me a little bit and then edge ever so closer and...”
Whoa there, tiger, before someone calls the RSPCA.
I’m A Celeb’s Edwina Currie answered Kiosk Keith’s question “What percentage of Brits have sex in the workplace?” with: “We never used to do it in the workplace,” creating a mental image I’d rather not share.
But it involves John Major. And a desk. And a scantily clad Edwina Currie, wearing nothing but suspenders, sprawled out before him.
As I say, I’d rather not share it.
Compare and contrast. November 18, Gemma Collins quitting I’m A Celebrity: “It’s put me off TV for life. I won’t be coming back for more, that’s for sure, ever, ever, ever, ever. Ever.”
December 3, This Morning, Amanda Holden: “Today Gemma Collins brings us the jungle gossip.”
Phillip Schofield: “And we’ll see you again tomorrow, yeah?”
Collins: “Yes, I’ll be back.”
Reports of Gemma Collins’ TV death have been greatly exaggerated.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...
Katie Price finally finding her TV level – vanishing through Keep It In The Family’s trapdoor.
The Apprentice odd couple Felipe and Daniel holding hands to cross the road before giving each other a “fishmonger’s handshake”. (I’ll bet they did.)
The hear-a-pin-drop silence between This Morning hosts Amanda “Botox” Holden and Gok “I Lost 10 Stone” Wan reading a viewer’s tweet on body image: “It’s really sad that people can’t be comfortable how they look.”
And Phillip Schofield getting 20 hours into his Text Santa Marathon without so much of a yawn until London film tour guide Val Blackburn told him: “Up on the left is Covent Garden where My Fair Lady wasn’t filmed.” Zzzzz... Phillip? Phillip?!
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...
Roughly 23hr 57min of Phillip Schofield’s ITV3 Marathon.
I’m A Celebrity contestants pretending they’ve flunked Bushtucker trials.
Sue Perkins concluding her BBC2 South-East Asia jolly by thanking “the people of the Mekong River for this extraordinary adventure” instead of licence fee payers.
C5’s Autopsy taking an hour to reveal Elvis Presley died on the loo from heart failure.
The BBC investigating whether Samantha, Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue scorekeeper, is a “victim of sexism”. Despite. Not. Actually. Ruddy. Existing.
And Lord Sugar to The Apprentice’s Daniel: “This is not all about free therapy for the deluded.” They’d best change the entry requirements then.
Meanwhile, in Walford... Max Branning laying down the law to his daughter: “Listen, Abs, you ain’t going out with a gay convicted murderer!”
So don’t accuse him of being a bad father.
This week’s Mindless Optimist of the Week award goes to...
Edwina Currie, clearly succumbing to the heat in the Aussie jungle: “Jake Quickenden is going to be famous for a very long time.”