Did we like it?
While it resembles in some aspects a counterfeit Eastern European copy of the gleaming BBC original, it retains the most important elements of a mildly engaging obstacle course, semi-celebrities trying not to be sucked into the quicksand of oblivion and adorable dogs.
What was good about it?
• The excellent commentary of Jessica Holm, always unobtrusively informing the viewer about the intricacies of what was happening, such as if the heel technique was being performed properly and methods of coercing reluctant dogs to scamper through the tunnel, while scolding excessive force against the dogs.
• The joy of watching a bunch of mostly desperate celebrities thrashing about in the desiccating puddle of their own fame.
• Raef from The Apprentice had the customary audacity to call himself “a television personality”, before spouting some his equally trademark nonsense: “Suz [his dog] definitely puts the point across that small doesn’t necessarily mean no energy”, but when has “small” ever meant this?
• And during his slipshod round on the obstacle course at one point, he told his dog to sit while he fumbled in his groin area as if about to cover her in a golden shower.
• Kevin Sacre, who used to be in Hollyoaks apparently, was the best competitor, scoring 25 points. On the other hand, Lembit Opik’s smug reflection in a stained teapot was more qualified to appear as a “familiar face”/”celebrity”/”famous face” than him.
• In a similar vein to Raef, ‘MC’ Harvey claiming that he was “a musician, actor and entrepreneur”, all of which he may well be but if he was any good in those fields he wouldn’t be appearing on The Underdog Show.
• Brian Blessed was the biggest/ only celebrity (it wasn’t much competition though, rather like a Blue Whale comparing itself in the men’s urinal with a row of chimpanzee eunuchs), and while he didn’t bellow instructions at his dog he was still engaging. Camilla Dallerup, Ninia Benjamin, Jason Wood and Elize Du Toit were also likeable, albeit small fry, “familiar faces”.
• While the 10 dogs do have to tackle the same course, there was enough unpredictability – especially at this early stage – to warrant a focus on everybody’s round. Highlights included Raef’s dancing, Elize’s dog Gloria just running about all over the studio with an absence of interest in the course, the successes of Kevin, Camilla and Brian, and the failure of ‘MC’ Harvey and Javine.
• After the judges’ scores and audience vote had been tallied up, either Elize or Javine would be eliminated on the judges’ final vote. Steve voted for Elize, and Donelda plumped for Javine, which prompted Mark Durden Smith to proclaim, “That means Brendan Cole has the casting vote!”, which was amusingly followed by frustrated gasps and moans of derision.
• The 10 adorable dogs.
What was bad about it?• Brendan Cole as a judge – a move as inappropriate as Marge Simpson sitting in judgement on Radovan Karadzic. Maggots munching away on fresh corpses could offer a better insight than his misguided rambling that frequently saw him out of sync with his fellow judges, with Donelda generously branding him “mean” rather than incompetent (for instance awarding Raef ‘three’ even though he completed the course, while Javine got ‘five’ despite failing to finish).
• Lesley Joseph was introduced as “sultry and mischievous”, a description of a sitcom character she played about 20 years ago rather than an accurate appraisal of her now.
• The rich man who is going through a midlife crisis and who has burnt all his clothes and set fire to his mansion’s Peter Andre and Jordan, ‘MC’ Harvey and Javine. Before the show started we offered up prayers to whatever deity controls the fates of reality TV to at least relent and give us succour from the impotent onslaught of the So Solid Crew for just one show. But the gods weren’t listening, although perhaps they had a hand in the pair being among the worst to perform with Javine eliminated (largely because Brendan Cole probably thought Elize Du Toit was prettier).
• Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, a weeping gangrenous wound on any TV show that she ‘hosts’. Paired once more with the affable Mark Durden Smith, they resemble a pair of Siamese twins with the weaker one sapping the constitution out of the stronger until they both collapse into ineptitude.
• In talking to ‘MC’ Harvey judge Steve Mann fell into the white-middle age mantrap of addressing young black men in an excruciating faux facsimile of hip-hop slang: “You’ve not done enough work, dude!”
• The ponderous “The first pair to be rescued is…” tedium of stringing out the results far longer than is necessary.