Wednesday, September 20, 2006 by Chris Lowdon
Despite the best efforts of the government to conceal the true casualty figures, British soldiers are struggling to cope with the ferocity of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. Luckily, I have a cunning plan with which to undermine the fighting ability of those shock troops. I’d sit down with Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and make him watch ITV1’s Loose Women.
I’m certain by the time we’d reached the “loose morals” section he’d recognise the need to reverse his movement’s education policy and insist all Afghanistani women are educated to doctorate level.
As part of the lightweight TV programming which makes up ITV1 schedules from today’s GMTV to tomorrow’s, Loose Women aims to transfer to TV the blend of features found within magazines my mother is so fond of purchasing when she does the shopping. So, it’s a bit of diet info (“Lose 10 pounds while watching TV and eating chocolate!”), some celeb fluff (“Peter Andre on his best buy coffee machine!”), a real life story (“My son learned maths by selling drugs!”) and – my favourite part – the problem page (“My man keeps badgering me to have a threesome – should I?”)
The show is ably anchored by main host Kaye Adams, although holed below sea-level by crewmates Coleen Nolan (ex-Nolan sister and former Mrs Shane Ritchie), Carol McGiffin (the original ex-Mrs Chris Evans) and Denise Welch (ex-Corrie, but not a divorcée). What use an anchor is to a sinking ship is a moot point, as despite Adams’ best efforts to avoid icebergs, her crew seems set on a collision course thanks to their constant internecine bitching.
The show kicks off with some slimming chat as Coleen talks about her non-solids diet, which was rather apposite considering the last time her BMI was in reasonable shape was during her original pre-solids days. She witters on about changing her relationship to food, although you’d think the human-grub set-up is pretty one way – you eat it, it doesn’t eat you. Unless it’s some form of GM killer tomato.
Rarely able to focus their attention on a topic for too long, the conversation soon sets sail for distant shores. Coleen, apparently, is big in Japan, although unless her diet starts to have a more drastic effect she’ll be big everywhere. Boom boom.
With the show shipping water fast, and this being ITV1, it moves on to its premium line competition plug, with the following challenging question to win £2000:
Albert Square is the setting for which soap:
I thought the government was supposed to be taking action against these kind of no-brainer £1-a-minute quiz lines?
Just in case the above question is too taxing, on came first guest Todd Carty (ex-EastEnders) to jog your memory. At this point I begin to wonder if Carty’s microphone is malfunctioning as I am unable to hear much of what he say. I think the conversation goes something like this:
Loose women: Coo! Coo! Tucker Jenkins!
Todd Carty: Mmm, hmm, hmm, mmm.
Loose women: Coo! Coo! Mark Fowler!
Todd Carty: Mmm, hmm, hmm, mmm.
Carty is asked about his views on corporal punishment, serving as a none too subtle plug for ITV1’s forthcoming documentary I Smack and I’m Proud, which gives the girls a chance to extemporize wildly about their own personal experiences.
Both Colleen and Denise are in favour of kids and smack, but Carol doesn’t hit her kids – although that’s because she doesn’t have any. At this point the tension between the women emerges, as Carol’s liberal stance is defensively met by cries of, “You don’t have kids so you don’t know what it’s like!” With such sisterly solidarity, is it any wonder the patriarchy survives?
With Carty gone, and after another plug for the competition, the show moves into its version of the problem page with that “loose morals” segment. Neil from Manchester has written to the show, worried his girlfriend is a bit of a lush due to her aggressive and abusive behaviour when on the grog. How should he broach the subject with her?
Rather than an attempt at empathy, Carol, Denise and Coleen become instantly defensive, as if their own drunken antics are on trial. Carol gives the advice you’d expect from an ex-wife of Chris Evans: she suggests he get inebriated with his woman so he doesn’t notice her behaviour (two drunks always being better than one). She also adds it’s a bit much of a man to criticise his beau’s behaviour just because it “changes after a couple of drinks”. At this point the show has sunk further under the weight of the hosts’ bitching, with Carol once again being the group scapegoat.
Kaye accuses her of being “stroppy and deluded” when drunk, Colleen says she’s never felt concerned about leaving her “in many a gutter”, Denise – having quit the booze due to her own embarrassing behaviour – now reckons she hates being around drunks and pretty much accuses Carol of being an alcoholic. Carol: “I’m not ill!” Kaye: “But you are defensive.”
With the lifeboats at the ready, on comes Monarch of the Glen actor Hamish Clark, providing the inevitable innuendo among the girls about his kilt and “which part of it he wore out” on set (Denise).
With the show a wreck on its way to Davy Jones’ locker, there is just enough time to plug the competition again with the promise that the answer will be revealed the next day, as if this was necessary.
Womens’ magazines perform a valuable function, providing housebound WAGS mental relief from the interminable rounds of hoovering, doing the washing-up and getting the dinner ready for their subjugating partner. However, a TV equivalent includes the superfluous chit-chat that a Now! editor might encourage in the office but would baulk from sending to the typesetters. When the regular sections (eg soap star interviews) fail, the segments where the girls bicker among themselves are like watching a crew firing a cannon at its own deck.
But that’s not to say the format doesn’t have potential. Shifted to a post-watershed slot, and with the girls allowed to get loaded in the green room beforehand, the inevitable drunken catfight that would erupt would be preferable to the watery death the programme suffers in its current midday berth.
Until this time, in shipping terminology, if Loose Women was a deck it would most definitely be the poop.