From Cash in the Attic to Countdown: Dave Gorman on the TV formats that need fixing

Exclusively for RadioTimes.com, Dave peruses the TV listings and points out the fatal flaws in these TV shows

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Whether taking on advertising, the world of celebrity or even just light bulbs, Dave Gorman has become renowned for drilling down into the minutiae of the everyday and finding the foibles in, well, almost everything.

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So we asked the Modern Life is Goodish comedian to pick apart some of our best-loved TV shows, and he certainly didn’t disappoint.

Here’s what Dave had to say about Countdown, Cash in the Attic and Thomas and Friends…

Thomas and Friends

“Thomas & Friends is something I wouldn’t be watching if I didn’t have a two-year-old. And it’s lovely – it’s beautiful in lots of ways. But my problem with it is that there are human beings visible in the cab of every train and I don’t know what their role is supposed to be.

“They’re train drivers… but for trains that talk, are autonomous and are just going to decide what they want to do of their own volition anyway. These human handlers are not able to control them and makes no sense whatsoever. That, for me, is the fatal flaw.”

Countdown

“My one issue with Countdown is the way in which they reveal the conundrum. It’s a minor detail, but it’s an important one all the same. Let’s say you’ve got the conundrum up there and the nine-letter word is ‘wardrobes’.

“If someone buzzes in and they’re right, they’ve obviously won – and if they’re wrong, the other person has got however many seconds left to continue to guess. But what happens on Countdown is that the contestant gets the right answer, the presenter says “let’s have a look and see”, and the minute you say that we know that they’ve got the answer right.

“Because if they’re wrong, what they can’t do is turn the conundrum over and go “Oh no, it’s Wardrobes. OK, we’ll turn it back – you’ve got 20 seconds left to give it a go, see what you think…” So I don’t understand why the presenter has never in the entire history of Countdown gone “you’re right – let’s prove it!” This pretence has been going on since the very first episode. Why have they all said, since Whiteley onwards, ‘let’s have a look – see if you’re right?’ Literally all they need to do to fix the entire programme is have a presenter go ‘correct!'”

The Apprentice

“I’ve sort of stopped watching The Apprentice because for me, the moment it jumped the shark was when Alan Sugar stopped giving the winners jobs and started backing their businesses.

“Firstly if you’re going to back somebody’s business idea, you assess all of the business ideas, and you go, ‘This is the best one’, you don’t go, ‘But who’s the best at selling £8 radios at a market?’ It has no bearing whatsoever on the likely success of that business idea.

“And are we meant to believe he genuinely doesn’t know what their plans are at the start of the process?

“The last time I watched it there was somebody who wanted to open up a vegetarian cake shop in Barnsley or something, and there is not a world in which Alan Sugar was going to back that.”

Cash in the Attic

“The granddaddy of all antiques television programming is Antiques Roadshow. No-one on that show is selling their antique and yet we all know that the money shot is literally the money shot. It’s them saying, ‘This is worth £10,000’, or whatever.

“And when they say that, the typical Antiques Roadshow person clutches her pearls and says, ‘Oh, but I’d never sell it’ – and it’s the most BBC thing in the world. It’s a bunch of wealthy middle-class people discovering they’re actually a bit wealthier than they thought they were, and that’s lovely.

“On the BBC there’s this weird feeling that money is ugly, and they don’t like admitting that people need it or want it for more things. So with Cash in the Attic, they have a conceit where everyone has to need it for a particular purpose, and the purpose has to be worthy. So it’s always ‘a bench to commemorate my late father’, or ‘French lessons for my teenage daughter’ or whatever, when what all of them really mean is: ‘I want to be on telly.’ But we’re not allowed to admit that on the BBC.

“The truth, though, is no one who is selling actual antiques – actual proper antiques that are worth a couple of grand – needs to sell them to get £800 for their father. They’re all quite wealthy people who can afford to do it anyway.”

Eggheads

“As with most people on quiz shows, the contestants on Eggheads aren’t used to being on telly. They’re a bit nervous and someone’s coached them on how to be on camera and said, ‘When you’re answering, don’t just give us your answer. That’s boring. You’ve got to get your personality out, and tell us why you’ve come to this answer.’

“So you’ll get someone faced with a question like ‘What brass instrument did Roy Castle play on an episode of Record Breakers?’ is it A) trumpet B) guitar or C) violin?’

“Everyone knows that the correct answer is a trumpet because it’s the only brass instrument, but on Eggheads, you have someone saying ‘well…my son plays a guitar at school…and I don’t think that’s a brass instrument… so I’m going to rule that one out…’ They’re just playing this weird game because they’ve been told to explain their answers. But then everyone just sounds like an idiot because sometimes the answer should be ‘it’s a trumpet because it’s a trumpet’.”

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Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish airs Tuesdays at 10pm on Dave