Reborn in the USA
Saturday, March 22, 2003 by Cameron Borland
As the song so beautifully stated – let’s get this straight from the start. Under no circumstances can Davina McCall be considered as a suitable host for a television show. With a painted smile so fake that Stevie Wonder could see through it, McCall positively blunders and blusters her way from start to finish through Reborn in the USA.
What should be a wonderful programme strives to keep its head above the water thanks to the dreadful, pathetic performance of our host. The main reason Reborn hasn’t taken off so far is because of McCall. Like a goldfish with a limited memory span and the restricted vocabulary of a pre-pubescent, the bottom line is that Davina just doesn’t have the class or the charisma to front a show like this. No empathy, no sympathy, no nothing. And, as the current hip book so evocatively puts it, she’s got nothin’ comin’. I’m down with that.
“I’m not fat!” proclaimed Davina, “I’m pregnant” at the top of Saturday’s show. Hang on – she’s got something coming after all. The audience whooped and a-hollered but their heart wasn’t quite in it. Hell, they were there to see the Has Beens they’d never heard of – apart from Your Man from Go West, naturally. After the week one dramatics of Mark Shaw (what Nowhere, Idaho would have made of a performance of Big Area I’d love to have seen) and the week two theatrics of Sonia (“Its the records that got smaller!” could be her mantra) I awaited this edition with well, not quite baited breath, but a sense of devilish enjoyment.
Whilst Reborn has had its moments, it’s evident that the format needs a little tinkering with. Personally, I’d like to see each act do two songs. The idea of the good burghers of Philadelphia or San Francisco being subjected to Mirror Mirror or Ooh Ah, Just A Little Bit has a certain sense of frisson and could give the show an added edge of bitchiness. After all, Sonia, Haydon and Gina don’t exactly have the back catalogue of Tony, do they? But it’s simply not going to happen. This week’s visit to Detroit (there’s a memory – “send him to Detroit!”) had our washed-up warblers forced to sing a Motown standard. And a curiously passionless set of performances we witnessed. The only highlight perhaps being Michelle Gayle’s breasts making a dash for freedom mid-song.
Now, it was plain from the outset that the audience were going to favour certain acts. Despite awful performances from Michelle Gayle and Sonia in particular, The Man had nothin’ comin’ in Detroit. Oh yes, mediocrity rules in Reborn. Only Haydon performed to a standard approaching good – and only because he choose his song wisely. When that lad hits puberty, though, his voice could struggle. Mr Go West was not too bad as was Tony Hadley but there was only room for one white man in the Motor City and I’m afraid the odd sample on a long forgotten track ensured that Tone had no chance against the well known face and voice of Peter Cox. No set adrift on memory bliss alas for poor Tone – no doubt the Kemp Brothers even as I write are instigating a telephone campaign to kick their former front man off the show.
Sonia had the good sense to flash as much of her knickers to the audience as she could. Great tactic – all those performance on Top of the Pops finally paying off. I’m certain that rows one to 10 must have seen more than they possibly bargained for (and 11 to 20 must have got a right good flash too). After a pelvic thrusting performance that would shame Michael Jackson, the Daughter of Wildestein skipped off to tumultuous applause. All that was missing was a pole and some finger-sucking. Sonia, sexy? Please don’t ever send me to Detroit! What with Sonia’s crotch and Michelle’s breasts, this was a show in which the bodies of the stiffs had more emotion than their voices.
The stuttering footage of the stars trekking twixt cities as their tour bus crisscrosses America remains dull, inert and seems stiltedly out of place. The personalisation of the driver would work if only he hadn’t had a complete personality bypass. These segments of the show detract from its raison d’être. Perhaps if the Then Jericho front man was still around we’d be guaranteed some fireworks. But alas, alack we’re reduced to the sight of Sonia washing her smalls and Gina cooing about Peter as she has a manicure (rock and roll!) to intrigue us and captivate us. But it just doesn’t work sadly. Factor in the faux rakishness of Davina as she delivers her pieces to camera and you’ve got the graveyard slots on the show.
The concept of booking the talent into shit accommodation and upgrading the standard as the tour goes on and their number dwindles also fails to captivate the viewer. I’d rather have them booked into the very spots they previously stayed in during their heydays. But then again, I don’t even recall seeing VT of Leee John screaming “Good evening Chicago!” to a massive audience. Good evening Cleethorpes maybe. Somewhere in this section is a good idea bursting to get out but, just like puberty for Haydon, its a case of so near yet so far.
Reborn is good but not compulsive, enjoyable rather than entertaining and could have been – could still be so much more – better than it actually is. The basic idea is sound but from host onwards it seems to be a case of laziest common denominator. Having lived in the States and marvelled at their musical tastes (I recall my favoured nightclub in Oakland would end the evening with a mass rendition of You Shook Me All Night Long complete with everyone head banging – no chance of the Blue Nile being played there then) the concept of a boorish, predictable audience facing the performances of our washed-up crew is undoubtedly interesting.
Anyway, I’ll still be settling down on Saturday night with a plate of cheesy nachos and an ice cold Samuel Adams willing the Spandster on. Any man who sang “She used to be a diplomat, now she works in the laundromat” and sported more tartan than the Rollers at their height deserves my unwavering support. That and the fact he’s the only bugger that can really sing. To cut a long story short, I like Reborn.