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The Luvvies – The Awards the Stars Don’t Want

Saturday, February 15, 2003 by

Irony is a much abused concept in television. It’s why no self-billed “in-depth” look at showbiz ups and downs can go without interviewing Keith Harris, and why Tony Blackburn has had a complete change of public profile in the last year. And so we get a prime-time Saturday night show billing itself as The Awards the Stars Don’t Want. This is by no means a new concept – consider Private Eye spin-off Bore of the Year and the Victor Lewis-Smith produced Barfta Awards, none of which worked on screen. This time it’s showbiz’s wiles alone under the post-modern microscope, and on prime-time Saturday night ITV1 with a huge studio audience too. If we really have to have a “Heat generation”, this was surely a show for them. Given that neither Victoria Beckham nor Jade Goody featured over the 90 minutes, it must have been.

If this was a true awards ceremony, among most people’s favourites for a gong would be the likes of stroppy and dislikable reality TV contestants, hosts of bad quiz shows and stars of piss-poor American rip-off sitcoms. However, awards show hosts being among the nominations is always vaguely embarrassing, and so Rhona Cameron’s name was not put forward. Another of what the female ABC1-aimed magazines would describe as a “TV turn-off” is pointless talking heads, an idea completely browbeaten to death by lazy clip shows employing know-nothing columnists and comedians. Well, as we move into the first category, for barely-there dresses of the type said “Heat generation” supposedly flock to newsagents to get a look at, here’s Neil Fox predicting someone will turn up naked to a premiere. And here’s Paul Ross and Jenni Falconer discussing Meg Matthews’ Vogue shoot in so clich├ęd a tut-tutting tabloid way that they must have been overdoing it deliberately. Oddly, a category for minor TV presenters aiming to get noticed by appearing as pointless talking heads wherever possible was overlooked. And while we’re about it, should ITV1 be showing nipples before 9.05pm on a Saturday?

Anyway, winner Tracy Shaw turns out not to be in, despite an uncredited reporter, for which read runner, asking passers-by if they know where she is and receiving blank looks in what is probably meant as an embarrassing but actually superbly funny moment. So the production team catch up with her backstage at The Blue Room – where she’s happy to take the award and give a speech. And here’s where the idea falls down to even the dumbest viewer. Later on, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson turns up in the studio to chummily chat with her mate (“I’ve spent my life blagging it – that’s why I’m here tonight”), only for Rhona to announce that she hadn’t actually won, as “this girl would definitely turn up to the opening of an envelope – it’s Jordan!” And sure enough, the former Katie Price is present and correct. The award the stars don’t want, eh? They seem quite happy to pitch up and take the piss out of themselves. Or maybe they were just eager for prime-time exposure? But then, what’s the show, and Cameron’s involvement, about in the first place? The only proper showbiz strop captured is when Angus Deayton is seen driving away from the cameras – not wanting further embarrassment? Or maybe just in denial as he was scheduled to present the show until the BBC cited his exclusivity contract with them?

Unbelievably, the shots got cheaper as Rhona got smugger. Russell Crowe won the When Stars Attack category – a short selection of nominees, including Jay Kay for being headbutted – and an unidentified Australian woman spent three minutes walking down deserted roads, around creeks and into bars, because that’s what Australian men do, isn’t it? The Hamiltons won a separate award for ubiquity, yet ITV1 were keen during the breaks to get us to watch The All-New Harry Hill Show, as the Hamiltons star in it. “Who on earth would agree to spend 10 days surrounded by hidden cameras with complete strangers?” Cameron completely failed to deadpan as she introduced Worst Career Move, for which the nominees included Angus again, Tom Jones “getting hip” (as opposed to the number one, career reviving Reload album, you understand) and Les Dennis supposedly breaking up on Celebrity Big Brother. At least they didn’t include John Leslie as feared. And here’s Piers Morgan to discuss it all, being his usual sneery self about Deayton. Could his much-aired enmity with Have I Got News For You be born of genuine disgust for the show’s ways, or could it be to do with his one appearance, described on a HIGNFY fan site as “he was completely outdone by the knowledge, wit and backing of the regulars … no-one in the history of the show was subjected to quite such bileful treatment or put under as much pressure”? Les wins, anyway, and runs off – because he lost it on national TV before, you see? – in a clearly set up moment, given he’s already running when he first appears in shot. Further suspicions are raised when Patsy Palmer, winner of Frock Horror (didn’t they do that earlier?), is seen in a car surrounded by so many 12 year olds that Westlife would feel jealous – there when you found her, were they? The whole show climaxes with Ego of the Year, which Simon Cowell wins, and whaddaya know, he’s there to pick up his award. One he didn’t want, of course, being a star.

It has to be remembered at this point that this was a Saturday night show, flanking up alongside Casualty, The West Wing and CSI: Miama, not a Steve Penk-esque midweek filler before the 10pm news. We should be accustomed by now to ITV1 not having a clue with what to do with their light entertainment remit, hence the staggering on of Blind Date and the many and varied ways Millionaire is being propped up. All the same, it’s difficult to think of another show broadcast in such a slot that left itself so open for ridicule, even when working under the pretence of ridiculing others itself, by its methods. A teeth-grating host reading smarmy sarcasm of the lowest common denominator aided and abetted by the cheapest talking heads available? A series is probably being commissioned as you read this.

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