In order to justify this as an actual television show, the ITV series explains that Christopher Biggins, John Fashanu, Linda Robson, Pam St Clement and Bobby George all have medical conditions which could be eased by the use of medical marijuana products. So with that in mind, they’re all going to puff, eat and rub weed into themselves, and meet those who grow and use it.
Whilst BBC1’s The Real Marigold Hotel was a rather whimsical series that asked celebrities like Miriam Margoles, Lionel Blair and, yes, Bobby George to see whether retiring abroad can bring about a better quality of life, Gone to Pot seems to have basically just halved the budget, chucked in a bag of skunk and sat back as Biggins loses the ability to talk or walk and forget where the hell he is.
The celebs are first bundled on to a bus that kids would be told to stay away from if they saw it pull up outside a playground. As they climb aboard a vague recreation of Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Machine, we’re promised “highs and lows” in the series. Of course.
A high, according to Linda Robson, is seeing “Pat Butcher smoking a bong”. So maybe it’s unsurprising that the low turns out to be Bobby almost OD-ing and throwing up into a Bag for Life at the back of the bus.
They begin their journey at a rather plush B&B in San Francisco. Tour guide Chris (look up the word ‘hippy’ in the dictionary – that’s him) takes them to the region called Haight-Ashbury and regales them with stories from the 1967 Summer of Love, when Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix performed and young Americans were having a cultural revolution.
Pam St Clement, who was a teenager at the time, shares her own memories.
“The Summer of Love… it was so exotic,” she wistfully reminisces. “It smelt of joss sticks, and all the tie-dye stuff. We all had joss sticks, we thought they were tremendous.”
Bloody hell, steady on Pam! We’re not sure that’s suitable for a pre-watershed audience.
It’s all similarly civilised as they have a wander round the shops and take in the atmos. Clearly, this is all getting a bit too cosy.
So it’s out with the nice hotel and in with the grubby motel. The celebs leave San Francisco laden with products containing cannabis and drive towards LA. Making a pit stop at a motel, they check in to their rooms.
“I’m not a snob or anything,” says Linda, taking in the dripping tap and washed out decor. “But this ain’t my usual standard. A serial killer could get in here…” she ponders, before comparing it to the Bates Motel.
Soon the celebs (aside from John Fashanu – more on him later) get their first (tiny) taste of pot under their tongues and they’re all lounging about together on the beds, off their tits watching Wheel of Fortune.
Linda is shouting, “Final spin, final spin!” at the telly as the colours whirl around, and shortly afterwards we see her up at 4am, saying she can’t sleep and is going to eat some hash.
That escalated quickly. It’s almost like a public information video ITV is making on behalf of the NHS to show in schools about the impact taking drugs can have. Look, kids: one minute you’re in a beautiful hotel sightseeing in San Fran, but one puff of pot and you’re stepping over needles in a back alley motel with Linda Robson wishing your life away watching gameshow re-runs.
The real treat here, though, turns out to be John Fashanu.
The former footballer is staunchly anti-drugs and spends his time tutting at the others, looking disapprovingly as they buy hash cakes or get high at a ‘puff, pass and paint’ class (Bobby get so high he washes his paintbrush in his glass of wine – then finds the whole thing absolutely hilarious).
John doesn’t want to confess to the others that he’s never smoked pot before because he doesn’t want them to think he’s the “poo poo boy” (his words, not ours).
He’s so nervous about everything, extolling the virtues of sobriety as he anxiously observes the rest of them. John even manages to give Alan Partridge a run for his money explaining that he doesn’t need drugs or alcohol because he’s “high on life”, and frets as he considers the effect taking a tiny amount of drugs might have on him.
“I’m worried if I take it, might I become extremely aggressive and start using martial arts?” he ponders. “You don’t know. I’ve got 16 years, four black belts. So that would be horrible.”
Then he has some hemp massage oil rubbed into him by a nun (we really aren’t making this up) and almost tuts as he says: “What was really disturbing me was for the next three to four days everyone would be smelling marijuana, thinking I’m a junkie.”
Maybe over the course of the week we will see John turn into a junkie. He and the others will slide into a drugs hell where they become hardened addicts, snorting coke off Pam St Clement and bundling Bobby George and his bling off to Cash my Gold as they desperately search for money for their next fix?
Maybe, just maybe, this is what the commissioners were plotting all along. Five once-sober celebrities will return to the UK, lives in tatters and ready to sign up to the next gem in ITV’s schedules: Celebrity Rehab, coming to ITV in 2018…
Gone to Pot airs Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9pm on ITV