Big Brother’s Jedward represent a new stage in celebrity evolution
As they make a mockery of the other contestants in the Big Brother house, I find my heart swelling with national pride
Why are they doing this? Why does the birdy sing? Why does the lion roar? Jedward enter the Big Brother House: Photograph: Channel 5
Over the weekend, someone released some Jedwards into the Celebrity Big Brother All Stars house. This year’s catchment of obscure goons has already been through the celebrity digestive cycle many times and through Celebrity Big Brother (Channel 5) at least once.
They bicker and tantrum over perceived slights and real slights, flirt and weep upsettingly, and are preyed upon by disembodied voices who orchestrate mind-games and make them vote on each other’s continued residency in hell. I know how it is; I was raised Catholic.
Here are some things that happen in particular: Coleen Nolan from Loose Woman does a lapdance for thin-skinned playtoddler Calum Best; James Cosmo from Game of Thrones guides a Shetland pony through the house declaiming “I am the Lord Commander and this is my steed!” (This is, to be fair, the best thing that’s happened in television, and possibly “life”, all year); Strictly dancer James Jordan teases the dimmer celebrities, like angry semi-nude American (I think that’s his job-title) Austin Armacost, who is cursed by knowing he is always right.
“Biyonka,” Austin calls to Bianca Gascoigne, who is the fourth cousin of Paul Gascoigne or something. “Bianca not Biyonka,” says Bianca, who would settle for him calling her “B”. This exchange ends with him saying “Don’t tell me what to call you”, because elitist experts like Biyonka insisting on the pronunciation of her own name have no place in Brexit Britain.
My favourite of the wild goons are Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, LA rich kids who first came to notice on scripted- reality show The Hills, over in scripted reality country the United States. They are completely beige. Every part of their body is beige, except for their hearts, which are charred and scabbed over with social-media sponsorship deals.
Spencer likes to discuss “power plays”. He considers “the most powerful position in chess” which involves “putting a hand down”. He plots and schemes as though he and Montag are courtiers in the court of the Borgias and not clowns captured by Endemol and put in a circus cage (in the old days, you could keep clowns in cages and no PC busybodies told you off for it).
But the best are undeniably the Jedwards. There’s something about them that makes a mockery of the other celebrities, with their human needs and corporeal appetites. They are a new stage in celebrity evolution and I am filled with national pride watching them.
See them belly dancing wearing nothing but towels before a mirror. Why are they doing this? Why does the birdy sing? Why does the lion roar?
The others are mystified by them and will, if I’m reading the archetypes correctly, eventually love them, follow them and finally crucify them. At one point, one of the Jedwards demonstrates how he stagedives, while the other appears to casually throw orange-peel on the floor.
“Why are they just chucking food on the floor?” asks glamour model Nicola McLean as she storms over to complain. “Not even in this weird f**king house can I accept people throwing food on the floor.”
Ha! The joke is on her because the Jedward is actually throwing food on the coffee table. “You’re trying to make out that Edward is throwing food on the floor which he would never do because he loves the environment so much,” says the other Jedward.
Later Angie Best, detox-obsessed mother of Calum (I don’t think she gave birth to Calum in the house, but I missed the first episode so could be wrong) seeks seclusion to mediate. She is roused from her trance by a Jedward sitting beside her loudly humming.
“You are on an island surrounded by dolphins; one is called John and one is called Edward,” he tells her (John and Edward are the names of these particular Jedwards). How can you argue with that? You can’t. It’s unarguable.
If the Nazis had won
Okay, we finally have access to some elements of Amazon Prime in Ireland and at last I got to watch that programme they have about what would have happened if the Nazis had won the war. It’s called The Grand Tour and it’s led by Jeremy Clarkson, who was fired by the BBC for punching an Irishman.
I joke. Clarkson did punch an Irishman, but Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond are not Nazis. That gag was, of course, a reference to The Man in the High Castle, a serviceable if clunky adaptation of Philip K Dick’s dystopian premonition of the Trump administration, also on Amazon Prime. Indeed, the aforementioned BBC refugees’ jocular, chummy political incorrectness seems both desperate and quaint in these pre-apocalyptic, Trumpian times.
But while the context has changed, the basic ingredients are the same. Still resembling the cast of Last of the Summer Wine blended with members of late-period Take That after a horrific teleporter accident, Clarkson, Hammond and May travel the world performing expensively absurdist stunts.
In the most recently uploaded instalment, they arrive in Stuttgart where they imitate German accents, mock the local sense of humour, and wrestle with topical German issues like whether Nena, the singer of 99 Red Balloons, would travel using 99 red balloons. They like to laugh: they chuckle, they chortle, they whinny, they derisively snort, all the while contemplating the vast collection of sports-coat/jeans combos they have purchased with their Amazon dollars (Jeff Bezos has his own currency).
They laugh at a German Green politician who wanted to have them banned. They laugh at smog warnings. They laugh at the concept of renewable energy. They do this by trying to generate electricity from, variously, a revolving door, a dog out for a walk, and some exercising children. They conclude that petrol and fossil fuels really are the way forward. Presumably Amazon has given them their own oil well.
They also each have a go at creating their own car. May drives a little electric shopping cart powered by the assembled might of a hunk of sweating gym bunnies on treadmills (a hunk is the collective noun for gym bunnies). Clarkson merges a Land Rover with a sports car in order to create a monstrous hybrid vehicle at which his colleagues laugh and on which he loses 14,000 Amazobucks at auction.
As with Official Top Gear over at the BBC, Continuity Top Gear is funniest when its budgetary excesses are at their most farcical. In the final segment, glorified monchichi and Clarksonian mini-me Richard Hammond creates a bespiked and armoured post-apocalyptic survivalist vehicle in which he drinks his own filtered urine (he pretends not to like it, but I imagine in real-life Hammond curates collections of his wee) and keeps a hen (this is gender diversity by the standards of Top Gear). This bit is funny but also moving because they’ll be re-showing it in six months as a how-to guide rather than as a joke.
Hammond has three goes at creating his end-times-mobile, but each time his work is destroyed by bigger boys. The first is machine gunned by Jeremy Clarkson then exploded by James May using a rocket launcher. The second is blown up by Clarkson and May in tanks. The third is, and I really hope this was real, destroyed by a missile from an offshore gunship.
The reason I’m not 100 per cent sure it was real is that Clarkson and May ended the show by pretending that Hammond was in the vehicle when it was targeted. The BBC probably wouldn’t allow them to kill Hammond. But who knows; now that Clarkson operates “offshore” in cyberspace with no national boundaries and has a barcode instead of a passport (all Amazonian staff are legally reclassified as “cargo”), maybe old media rules no longer apply.
I certainly hope so.