Garry Bushell
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December 31st. IT WAS the year of the Royal Wedding, the Arab Spring and the London riots – proof positive that ITV should never have shut down Sun Hill. The phone hacking scandal went global. Hugh Grant realized his calls were being listened to when he heard the reporters yawning. A barely intelligible gypsy amazed us on Celebrity Big Brother. Thank you, Kerry. And we found out what FIFA stands for: a fee for this, a fee for that... Elsewhere Cheryl Cole was axed from the American X Factor – the most embarrassing public dumping since Paula Radcliffe got caught short at the London Marathon. It was a golden year for drama, most of it imported; but the world of make-believe suffered as the Daleks were retired and Simon Cowell called off his engagement. But what was hot and what was not in 2012? Here’s my definitive guide to TV’s winners and losers.

Show of The Year: Game of Thrones, a majestic mix of fantasy, intrigue, brutality and sex. Like Berlusconi with dragons.

Drama of the year: Boardwalk Empire. Runners-up: The Killing, Romanzo Criminale, Sons Of Anarchy. Best UK Drama: Martina Cole’s The Runaway. Worst Drama: Candy Cabs - an original idea creator Jane Lush had while watching Carry On Cabby, but to give it a modern slant she took out all the jokes. Runners-up: Sugartown, Outcasts, Christopher & His Kind starring Matt Smith (Doctor Who, get you!).

Worst TV Torture: OMG with Peaches Geldof - a chat-show that crashed and burned like a pyromaniac rally-driver. OMG? Oh eff off.

Best Action Drama: Strike Back Project Dawn. Worst Mad Men inspired yawn-in: The Hour. Top Cops: Braquo. Worst cop: Vera, Brenda Blethyn played her as a grumpy Tyneside housewife with a migraine coming on. Maddest Cop: Luther.

Top comedy: Curb Your Enthusiasm. Best Sitcom: Modern Family. Runner-up: The Big Bang Theory. Best Comedy Drama: Mount Pleasant, starring Angela Griffin as stocking-clad Shelley (pleasant mount). Wackiest Comedy: This Is Jinsy. Top Spoof: Harry Hill’s Autumn Watch (Comic Relief). Worst Comedy: Show Me The Funny. Worst ‘Satire’: 10 O’Clock Live. Worst Performance: Chris Moyles at C4’s Comedy Gala. Best: Brendan O’Carroll, Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Best Exchange. Phone pest: “If you can guess what I have in my hand you can have it.” Mrs. Brown: “If it fits in one hand you can keep it.” Wisest Cancellation: Two Pints Of Lager – it ran for ten years and ran out of ideas five minutes into episode one. Worst cancellation: Shooting Stars. Best Comic Ditty: Nelson’s Immigration Song (Mongrels)

Worst LE show: Don’t Scare The Hare. Worst LE presenter: Konnie Huq. Best Reality Show: The Bachelor. Worst: Signed By Katie Price. Best Celebrity TV Contender: Freddie Starr. Runner-up: Paula Hamilton, whose mood swings earned her the nickname Bi-Paula. Worst Judge (Who Isn’t Louis Walsh): Kelly Rowland – tsk, so much better in Dexys.

Top soap: Downton Abbey. Worst soap: all the rest. Worst storyline: Ronnie’s baby-swap saga (DeadEnders). Best Part In A Long-Running Family Drama: Ryan Giggs’s cock. Best Head Transplant: Ben Mitchell, Enders. Maddest Transformation: Jodie Marsh turning herself into a giant creosoted G.I. Joe in drag.

Top drunk: Alesha Dixon. Top Lookalike: Pete Burns and Jigsaw. Top Reality Star: Mr Drew (Educating Essex). Most infuriating: Carianne Barrow (The Bachelor): the body of a Page 3 girl, the voice of Joe Pasquale.

Sexiest Newcomer: Emilia Clarke (Game Of Thrones). Most misleading quote: Pamela Anderson saying of her Big Brother housemates: “I’m going to leave a skid mark on all of them.” If only...

Funniest Image: Darryn Lyons’s Mutant Turtle abs. Scariest: Edwina Currie flashing her pants on Strictly – Vincent nearly fell in. Worst ‘Medical’ Show: Diagnosis Live. Best viral infection: Molluscum Contagiosum - it sounds like a Harry Potter spell. Top Dwarf: Tyrion (Game Of Thrones). Top Toff: Dame Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey. Top MILF: Julie Benz (I bet she does).

Best Performance by an Inanimate Object: Sarah Lund’s jumper. Runner-up: Joey Essex. Small Joys of 2011: Pippa’s posterior. Harry Hill as June Boolay (Jinsy), Catherine Tate “beard-nibbler” (Jinsy). Matt Le Blanc (Episodes). Gypsy wedding dresses. The Great British Bake-Off squirrel and his spectacular nuts.

Top Quote, Sam Faiers: “Something definitely poked me in the tunnels. It was lots of soldiers. I want it to happen again.” Oh, it will, love, it will. (Ghost-hunting with TOWIE).

Top Documentary series: Civilization, Is The West History? Most moving doc: Lenny Henry’s Famous, Rich & In The Slums for Comic Relief.

Top Actor: Stephen Graham. Top actress: Sofie Grabol. Honorable mentions: Ruth Negga (Shirley), Robson Green (Being Human).

Frankie Cocozza Tattooed Arse of The Year Award: Peaches Geldof. Runner-up: James Franco at the Oscars. If a bong could speak...

Dominique Strauss-Kahn ‘Smashing Chaps’ Award: Andy Gray and Richard Keys. Man of the Year: Freddie Starr. Woman of the Year: Hilary Devey, aka Cruella De Till. Heroine: Kate Winslett. Turkey of the Year: Red Or Black. Top Irritant: Jedward. Star Of The Year: Dynamo, Magician Impossible.

WAS Ebenezer Scrooge running Xmas TV? Where were the laughs? Other than in the endless repeats of comedy how it used to be... The only warmth on BBC1’s flagship EastEnders was from the blaze of Doc Doom’s funeral pyre. Death, arson, fear, loathing, betrayal... all together: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year...” You waited in vain for fresh family comedy. Xmas Day’s much-trumpeted Ab Fab was the biggest let-down since Rapunzel’s hair. While Boxing Day’s Royal Bodyguard was so feeble it made Prince Philip seem positively glowing in robust good health. Beatrice’s wedding hat was funnier. On the plus side, Doctor Who captured the real festive spirit with an episode that was as heart-warming as it was magical. Downton was a soapy joy. And Great Expectations was superbly crafted, if not exactly seasonal. But The Borrowers squandered the charm of the story and wasn’t a patch on the 1992 TV version. Sadly, there is no modern equivalent of Eric and Ernie or the Trotters, not because we lack the talent but cos TV bigwigs are more concerned with ‘demographics’ and fashion than popular humour. Doesn’t it show?

HOT on the Xmas Box: Doctor Who... Downton Abbey... World’s Strongest Man (C5)... Great Expectations... Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

Rot On the Xmas Box: The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff – unfunny Dickens spoof, please sir I’ve had enough... Ab-Fab – shabby and flabby... The Royal Bodyguard – a turkey stuffed with ham and basted in corn.

WORLD’S Strongest Man is back! Hurrah! Nothing says Xmas like blokes with biceps as big as David Walliams’s head lifting unfeasible weights till their noses bleed. And I guarantee there wasn’t a man in the country watching who doesn’t privately believe that if he laid off the pies and pints, and got down the gym for a couple of months that this could be him next year.

*WSM commentator Paul Dickenson said giant contender Brian Shaw had “a little jerk half way up the thighs.” But I’d sooner risk nicking Brian’s roast ox breakfast than make any smart-arse remarks about that...

SO farewell Fat Pat. The marriage-wrecking former brothel madam ‘smashed’ more of East London than the Luftwaffe. She betrayed her husbands, persuaded Mary to go on the game and killed a girl while driving drunk. Gawd bless her! Will we ever see her like again? Of course. The EastEnders writers haven’t had an original idea since 1990.

*SEPARATED at birth: poor brave Masood and a koala?

*THE last Walford Xmas song: ‘Oh the b&b’s burning brightly/Yusef’s bad, to put it lightly/And Phil’s back down the nick/Make it quick, make it quick, make it quick...’

WHO was surprised by The Krankies’ sex confessions? Hubby Ian encouraged his miniature missus to dress as a school-boy. They were kinky from the start. The couple even had “krankie-panky” on a golf course. Ian presumably turned his feet out for a stable base before delivering a mighty splash shot in the bunker.

*THE Krankies New Year Resolution? To wife-swap with Keith Harris and Orville. Pluck a duck!

RANDOM irritations: new Xmas comedy – ho-ho-hopeless. Xmas cooking shows – 101 ways to ruin a turkey. No proper ITV tribute for On The Buses writer Ronald Wolfe, RIP. The World’s Strongest Man not being followed immediately by The World’s Biggest Hernia.

SMALL joys of Xmas TV: Military Wives. The Butlins Story. Mrs Brown performing Rawhide. The Many Faces of Les Dawson. Dave ‘Chizzy Rascal’ Chisnall thrashing Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. Steely Claire Skinner telling Doctor Who: “Till it hurts, is that what you mean, Caretaker? Till it hurts?” Oh yes!

QUESTIONS of the Year: would we take Brian Cox seriously if his first name were Isaac? Does Charlie Sheen have tiger blood or just Tiger Woods’s blood? Is the “train of exhaustion” that finished off Kim Jung Il what we know here as the Northern Line?

*CAROLINE Flack revealed that when she dyes her hair she just “dips the end”. Hope Harry Styles manages a bit more than that.

*MARK Cavendish won Sports Personality of the Year and to prove they’re not sexist the BBC have said that girlfriend Peta Todd can polish it.

*DID you see Howard Jacobson on Imagine: The Art Of Stand-Up? Clever guy, funny writer, but he has a nose like a penis. It makes you wonder if he also has a penis like a nose. And if so, how does he blow it?

Dec 28. BEN Elton was in smug, self-congratulatory mode presenting Laughing At The 80s, so no change there. The 90 minute yawn-in was just Ben and his pals showing clips of comedies they’d made and agreeing how brilliant they were. Some of it was. Blackadder Goes Forth and The Young Ones were undoubtedly the pinnacle of Elton’s (co-) writing. But these tasty treats were never as popular as Fools & Horses or as clever as Yes Minister. And even at the height of his fame, Ben’s weekly BBC1 show always trailed in three or four million viewers behind Stand Up Jim Davidson on ITV. No prizes for guessing which got re-commissioned though...

The biggest trick the Devil (Elton) played was to demonise all ‘mainstream’ comedians as being politically ‘suspect’. Every turn over forty was tarred unfairly with the same brush. Back in the eighties, motor-mouth Ben’s false logic was used as an excuse by ITV to axe Benny Hill. Po-faced bores lectured us on the evils of Carry On films (C4 banned them), the BBC sacked the brilliant wordsmith Les Dawson for being “old-hat” and Alan Yentob solemnly promised us that French and Saunders were “the new Morecambe & Wise.”

There were real divisions in comedy back then, two of them. The most obvious was the gap between working class and middle class styles of humour; the other was between those who wrote their own material and those who just told jokes or used comedy writers. (The universally acknowledged greats, Tommy Cooper, Eric and Ernie, Frankie Howerd etc all used writers; the joy was in their unique performances). Today the old divide between ‘alternative’ and ‘mainstream’ is increasingly meaningless, largely because denied regular TV work, ‘mainstream’ acts now play to smaller live audiences than many an ‘alternative’ star. While, just as Hegel foresaw, the thesis of old-school and the antithesis of ‘new wave’ comedy have bred a synthesis of young working class comedians happily performing their own gags. The problem for TV viewers, especially at this time of year, is that not many of them have the family appeal to make a decent, pre-watershed festive show. And no broadcaster has had the gumption to say to Peter Kay or Michael McIntyre or Lee Evans: here’s some money, make something funny all the family can watch together over the teatime turkey sandwiches. Brian Conley could do it, but he’s not considered hip. So we sit around watching repeats, laughing at the ghosts of Christmas comedy past, secure in the knowledge that Brigstocke et al will never be our Xmas TV future. Hey Ben, your lot are the establishment now, and you still can’t bloody deliver.

Dec 18. POOR Princess Anne had a near-death experience last week – the Royal Variety show. I’m not saying it was dull but halfway through, Anne was checking the obituary pages just to cheer herself up. It opened with a man in a loin cloth swinging a big clanger – just like dinnertime at Elton John’s house - and swiftly went downhill, with too many piss-poor pop singers, so-so comedians, and an anti-climatic headliner. Tony Bennett is class, of course, and at his age probably deserves applause just for getting himself dressed in the morning. But his voice sounds shot; his slot was so-what.

Peter Kay did a reasonable job of hosting in difficult circumstances, but most of the comics were as substantial as the Higgs Boson. There are streakers with more decent material than Jason Manford. He’s likeable but where are the laughs? Omid had one half-decent gag; just the one. And as a stand-up Greg Davies makes an okay supply teacher. On the plus side, Tape-Face Boy was a joy and Teller amazed us by producing cash from a bowl of water. Or as Nicolas Sarkozy calls it “Plan B.”

Annoyingly the great Mick Miller had his slot cut to pieces by the cretinous producer. ITV left in just two of his one-liners and the classic Noddy routine. A travesty. Why be afraid to use comics who can work mainstream audiences? Forget fashion, give us funny! Adrian Walsh deserves a shot, as does Johnnie Casson (who should be Mavis Wilton’s long-lost brother in Corrie.)

Right now, the Royal falls between more stalls than a sozzled Carla Connor. It needs real characters; pros who know how to make stage time count. Living legend Joe Longthorne would have made more impact than Cee Lo in his jim-jams or Leona singing about dying (merry Xmas!). Turns like Kev Orkian, ventriloquist Steve Hewlett and smart young stand-up Rod Woodward would make the most of a prime-time break. Variety bills should be put together by show-people who understand popular entertainment. Leave it to TV execs, and you’ll get a poorly edited, over-running shambles; odd magic moments scattered across an ocean of mediocrity. Personally I’d have used the Singing In The Rain set to water-board the producer.

*PETER Kay on Jason Manford: “Wonderful. Close personal friend of mine. I’ve known him for years. Jackie Mansfield. What a voice.”

*HOT on the Royal: violinist David Garrett, Tim Minchin, Penn & Teller, Mick Miller, Tape-Face Boy, and Nicole Scherzinger in Phantom.

THE lamest-ever X Factor limped to a lacklustre finale as the Poundland Girls Aloud beat the 99pence store version of Bruno Mars. After all the hype and hysteria, the show delivered Little Mutts, an underwhelming knock-kneed girl group with average voices and a single that probably won’t even make Number One. Series highlights? The 20minute power cut, Kelly Rowland’s “sickie” phone call, and axed Amelia coming third – which tells you all you need to know about Kelly’s judgement. Show lows? The ridiculous puffed-up judges with their fatuous comments and faked sincerity. Gertcha.

*WORDS that might have perked up the final: “And now, performing with his judge, Phil Spector...”

THE Comedy Awards continued a proud tradition of detesting anything and everything the public find funny. Lavish praise was heaped on shows that stink like the settee in a home for the incontinent. Elitists were honoured. And viewing figures shrunk like Lib-Dim votes. I laughed when Helen Mirren asked what “clunge” means. It’s a relief Jo Brand didn’t strip off and show her. But even funnier was Charlie Brooker being nominated for Entertainment Personality. Really? That’s like putting Frankie Cocozza up for a gong for sobriety. Or making Tracey Emin Professor of Drawing. There is more chance of Mr Magoo finding the God Particle than of any of these clods making another Fools & Horses.

*MOST frequently heard comedy catchphrase on C4: “and now, with very strong language from the start...”

HOT on TV: Mongrels... Nick Hewer... Aussie comic Steve Hughes... Daniele Virgilio (Romanzo Criminale)

ROT on TV: Black Mirror – slower than Fick Rick on Mastermind... X Factor final - pox factor... BBC News: Lies, Camera, Action... That’s Britain – Yeah? Okay then, let’s emigrate.

THIS just in: Xmas carols as sung by the Walford Escape Committee. There’s Good King Wenceslas: ‘Bad Phil Mitchell crushed Jack’s car/In case he was his stalker/How long before he’s pissed again, back on the Johnny Walker?/Brightly shines his nose in drink/And he can barely talk/It’s no wonder he’s such a grump/Shagging a Terrahawk-aw-awk.” Away In A Manager: ‘In love with a minger, a plot full of rot/ Poor Andrew Cotton must woo Heather Trot/Fans of Ricky Grover, just shake their sweet heads/Should he sue his agent? Or shoot them instead?’ And don’t forget the classic: ‘Ding dong merrily on high/Fat Pat is finally dying!’ All together: ‘There won’t be a Merry Xmas/There’s never a merry Xmas/There can’t be a merry Xmas till this show’s off air.’

*VINNY Cadman made the final of New Faces in 1986 (Wonderland), but before long he was banged up for drunk-driving and spent a year living rough in a bin... so there might be a happy ending to the Jedward story after all.

*PLENTY of plush gowns and plastered grooms on My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas but not much in the way of Xmas. And still no clue to how the colourful travellers can afford all that fabulous finery and fleets of Range Rovers. Come on C4, give us My Big Fat Gypsy Tax Return.

*SALMA Hayek said that she as a girl she rubbed holy water on her chest and asked Jesus for boobs. I think Shakira must have sat in it.

*MORE4 knocked Carry On films and Baywatch for “promoting and exploiting sex.” Yeah. This from the people who bombard us with The Joy Of Teen Sex, Sexperience, The Sex Education Show (etc) File under ‘Beyond Irony’.

*MEMO to EastEnders writers: for the last time, Big Mo Harris is NOT Stacey Slater’s Nan and never has been.

RANDOM irritations: Brian Cox’s simpering voice. Steve Jones – minor talent, major ego. The BBC’s one-sided coverage of the EU fall-out. The shaming fact that European TV is beating us hands down with great, gritty dramas like Braquo (FX) and Romanzo Criminale (Sky Arts).

SMALL joys of TV: Mad Jean’s “fishy basket” on EastEnders – apparently it serves two. Swamp Loggers. Tommy Tiernan. Norris Cole. Ken Livingstone speaking exactly like the cat from Rhubarb & Custard.

SEPARATED at birth: Sid The Sloth and Stacey Solomon – one a strange creature with ping-pong eyes, buck teeth and long claws who seems almost human, the other a character from Ice Age. Bad taste runners-up: murder suspect Gary Dobson and Shaun ‘Fat Barry’ Williamson.

MYSTERIES: why did Louis Walsh spend £30K on his hair when it’s his hearing that needs the work? How can it be a ‘People’s Choice’ gong (Comedy Awards) if the people get told who they can vote for?

Dec 11. WHAT the hell has happened to Mrs. Masood? The woman used to be a Rottweiler in a sari, so fearsome that when she ran Walford Post Office she didn’t even need security glass. It was the only shop in E20 no-one robbed; no-one dared. But look at her now. The Square’s toughest Mum has become as timid as an agoraphobic titmouse, completely under the thumb of Yusef Khan, the man even Conrad Murray calls Doctor Death. This guy has not only drugged her, he faked a DNA sample to try and prove that her gay son wasn’t her grandchild’s father. (Keep up). Worse, Yusef once tried to barbecue her alive, scarring her for life. And how did the once-mighty matriarch respond to this shocking news? By bringing forward their wedding of course! Even Max Mosley would be impressed by the amount of punishment the woman can take. Doc Death could slice out her gizzard without anaesthetic and she’d just smile and suggest they served it on the stall with a nice saag aloo.

Ah EastEnders, a place where character traits are as changeable as Kelly Rowland’s mole (see also shag-happy Christian morphing into a love-sick puppy over Syed, a man so wet his pants have mildew.) The evil doctor comes straight after Lucas, the killer preacher, and Corrie’s killer teacher. In soap, all middle class professionals are dodgy – it’s an iron law; think of Willmot-Brown, the gentleman rapist, and Stella Crawford the child-torturing lawyer. It’s easier to believe in the Eurozone. Or Mandy marrying Ian Beale. Elsewhere Masood has given Jane a good shaslik. Max, a man who looks increasingly like a giant peeled prawn, is back in love with Tanya, the sexy, thunder-thighed ex who buried him alive. And Phil is being rattled by someone who remembers all the loose plot ends the writers have left over the years. Several million viewers may be taken in for questioning. All the pieces are now in place for some traditional Xmas misery: arson and manslaughter followed by a New Year’s Eve death. Good tidings of comfort and joy? Not here. If Walford had a Santa, he’d be a child molester.

IN Black Mirror, a British Prime Minister was forced to perform an unnatural act to save the life of a kidnapped princess. To wit, he had to poke a pig live on television. The swine! This is what experts call going the whole hog. Asked how it felt to have sex with such a creature, the pig replied “I’ve had worse.” Clever folk tell us that this revolting C4 drama was “satire.” Hardly. To work, satire has to be based on a recognisable truth. Being funny also helps. This was neither. The sight of the PM getting his pinky perky with a porker was like something out of Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights – but minus the savage hit-and-miss wit. There was no real explanation as to how the “art terrorist” behind the stunt kept ahead of the state. The only reality touched on was the way spineless PR-obsessed politicians are panicked by Twitter. Naturally they missed the ‘pork sword’ text jokes that would have followed; and the ‘To Rasher With Love’ headlines.

IN Enlightened, Amy Jellicoe, a high-flying buyer for Abaddonn Industries, gets shunted to Cleaning Supplies after her married boss gets bored with their office mergers. Mascara running like hen night tights, she goes bananas, prising open lift doors with her bare hands to give the slippery git some stick. Cue three months at a hippy rehab retreat. Amy returns with a head full of touchy-feely tosh. The suits can’t sack her, so they transfer her to data processing with all the other misfits. A clear case of: Abaddonn hope all ye who enter here.

*ABADDONN is Greek for “the depths of Hell”, or as we know it today, Emmerdale.

*AMY star Laura Dern is so good at playing demented it’s surprising they don’t ask her to front Loose Women.

HOT on TV: Anna Friel (Without You)... Miguel Cotto... Romanzo Criminale (Sky Arts)

ROT on TV: Black Mirror – pig sick... Death In Paradise – Sleep In Viewers... Perez Hilton Superfan... Caitlin Moran – Prattlin’ Moron.

*HALF-CUT Alesha Dixon told Alan Carr “everyone is horny” on Strictly. “The year I was a contestant everybody was really gagging for it,” she said. What? Even Willie Thorne? In off the pink? Screw back for brown... Dominic Littlewood was a contestant that year. Not so much Don’t Get Done, Get Dom as “Do Get Done By Dom.”

*STRICTLY’s movie week was disappointing. I was expecting Brucie to appear in black and white, like films did when he was middle-aged; and in silence so we wouldn’t have to suffer his rotten jokes.

*SITCOM Does Xmas? It doesn’t any more.

*I’VE got my turkey early – Sarah Millican’s stand-up DVD.

*ITV should create a Bushtucker meal in Dougie’s honour: the McFly burger – made of actual flies. Imagine that, cold, repulsive, full of poison... no hang about that sounds more like Cotton.

*WHAT about those winds on Thursday? They were so strong I hear the cast of Geordie Shore were temporarily blown upright.

*JUSTIN Timberlake recently won an award for ‘Friends with Benefits’ according to teacher Alex (Million Pound Drop). Who did she think would give out that kind of award? Boris Johnson perhaps?

SOAP puzzles: Masood’s Xmas decorations. Max and Jack never once bothering to visit brother Derek (Del-Boy Rotter) in prison. Non-locals having hen nights in the Rovers – was the cemetery shut? That has more life. How gormless must the groom be if Kirk was a better option?

RANDOM irritations: Marcus Brigstocke’s forehead: it’s the biggest since Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s monster. Have a look next time he’s on, it’s like something from a hall of mirrors. His Mekon-like brow takes your mind off the blithering nonsense he comes out with.

SMALL joys of TV: Tipsy Alesha. New boxing pundit Jeff Turner (Bunce Nation). Dave Cairns of Mod legends Secret Affair on Buzzcocks – or as Cilla called him “Dave Curns of Secret A-Fur.”

Dec 4. When Emily Scott got the boot from the jungle on Tuesday, I expected Mark Wright to make a move on the camp-mate with the biggest breasts and most feminine voice. But mercifully Willie Carson managed to get through his next two days unmolested.

Some have complained about Carson’s crankiness on I’m A Celebrity but be fair, the old boy is 69, he was only booked for Ant’s Little Willie jokes and he did have to endure prolonged exposure to Antony Cotton. Or as Cotton sees himself, Saint Antony, the holy martyr of the outback (motto: it’s all about me). The wee jockey’s best moment came when he drunkenly fell into the whinging Corrie star’s bed. Mercifully he didn’t offer him a hot tip. Cotton was vain, self-centred and wobblier than the world economy. He got up more noses than Fatima’s cockroach. And yet he had the cheek to call her “moody”. Gertcha.

Maybe I’m suffering from jungle fatigue, but the challenges have started to become a bit so-what. It’s personalities that bring the show alive and this year it didn’t really spark. By sending Peter Andre back in to talk about the good old days (of 2004), ITV were acknowledging defeat. That brilliant series had Katie teasing Peter about his acorn, and a treacle-smeared Johnny Rotten getting pecked within an inch of his credibility by a dozen hostile ostriches. It had everything this one lacked: big characters, genuine sexual chemistry, wit, surprises. And Charlie Brocket.

This year’s run belonged to Freddie Starr even though he only lasted a couple of days. Willie appeared never to have seen a reality show before, and undeserving winner Dougie only seemed to wake up for the last few days. I loved Fatima. No-one bobs for stars in a tray of sticky green gunk quite like she does. Fats was determined in all tasks, but reduced to girly blushing by Andre who was greeted, ludicrously, like the second coming of Elvis. She’ll probably be sneezing out roaches till Christmas. And of course Mark Wright played the game just right, treating older contestants with respect, flirting as required, befriending rotten Cotton, stripping off, mocking himself and taking on the Pits Of Peril like a pro. He couldn’t have done better if he’d been coached by the producers.

IT was the morning after the shag before on Desperate Scousewives, and Big Joe told Layla those three little words every woman dreams of hearing: “You still here?” The romantic fool! This is Liverpool’s answer to TOWIE, a show acted with impressive awkwardness by a cast of wannabes including Abbey Clancy’s cousin Chloe. The title is inspired, it’s just a shame that none of them are wives, half of them aren’t Scouse and the only thing they’re desperate for is camera time. “We’re loud and proud,” insisted bottle blonde Jodie. Yes but of what? Oompa Loompa colouring? Botox paralysis? Being the fourth ‘reality soap’? Liverpool used to be known for musicians, comedians, playwrights, poets, great singers. And Cilla Black. Not wannabe WAGs and orange women (talk about To The Tanner Born). They may be gorgeous, but they’re as shallow as a puddle of piddle in a toddler’s potty.

*IF Newcastle and Merseyside can have their day, why not the young nitwits of Birmingham (One Up Brum, No Harm Done), Wales (Look Back & Bangor), West London (Sexual Ealing) or East Sussex? Upper Dicker? It’d be rude not to.

RANDOM irritations: Xmas TV shows starting already – as welcome as Clarkson at a dinner-ladies’ strike rally. Puffed-up antique dealers giving themselves ridiculous names like ‘The Lionheart’ and ‘The Detective’ – you’re finding porcelain not fighting organised crime. BBC drama, it’s either soap, set in the past, or beating us over the head with bleeding heart Hampstead values.

THERE’S much to love about Peter Kay: Phoenix Nights, Amarillo, those superb beer adverts, his brief turn as Corrie drayman Eric Gartside... Granted there are things not to like too, like Geraldine, a joke that went on way too long, and DVDs full of regurgitated gags: all the jokes you’ve heard him do before but in a different venue! C4’s Peter Kay tribute night continued the recycling, but also reminded us how laugh-out-loud funny he is. At a time when stand-up seemed to be turning into a branch of social work, Peter brought it gloriously down-to-earth again mixing observation with affectionate nostalgia. It’s just a shame he takes seven years off between tours.

HOT on TV: Ola (Strictly)... The Walking Dead (FX)... Braquo... An Audience with Bob Monkhouse (C5).

ROT on TV: Desperate Scousewives – Liver turds... Charlie’s Angels – Hell’s belles... Seann Walsh – about as funny as Osborne’s Autumn statement... Antony Cotton – can’t they leave him in the jungle?

JANICE on Money believed that by saying “I am a millionaire” every morning she would become one. If saying things aloud guaranteed results, all I can say is Emily Scott has got a treat in store for her if she ever visits my local. The show was about “wealth gurus” – clever folk who selflessly teach gullible dreamers how to get-rich-quick in return for a few measly grand per head. In a nutshell: buy and rent property. Or hold wealth seminars.

*I LOVE American Horror Story. Each episode features characters you thought were dead – a bit like Celebrity Coach Trip, but not quite as scary.

*MICHAEL Barrymore busted for cocaine? He’s gone from “alright up the back” to all white up the beak.

*HOW can BBC1 justify paying two writers to churn out/remember Bruce’s feeble gags on Strictly? He gets through more old chestnuts than a Dickensian street vendor.

*IF you missed America On A Plate, one simple image sums it up: Roseanne Barr’s arse.

*CHARLIE’S Angels? Nice charlies, shame about the plot.

*THREE things more believable than Charlie’s Angels: Balamory, an X Factor judges’ row, a Clarkson apology...

*OF course Clarkson was joking about executing strikers. Bad jokes are what he does. For proof, read his column. If he’d been serious, he would have suggested drive-by shootings.

*ITV’s Saturday, 7pm: Harry Hill’s You’ve Been Framed. BBC1’s Saturday, 7pm: Bruce Forsyth’s You Need A Zimmer Frame.

SMALL joys of TV: Fools & Horses afternoon repeats. Digging The Great Escape. Riding Waves (BBC4). Muppets on The X Factor (as well as on the panel). Milla Jovovich in bandages (Fifth Element, C5) – a lot more fun than Casualty.

SEPARATED at birth: Hunter S. Thompson and King Of The Hill’s Dale Gribble. One’s a paranoid gun-nut touched with genius, and so was the other one.