Beat The Star, ITV1

Did we like it?
While it does have the noxious scent of celebrity mania, this is a decent game show for the simple reasons of feisty competition and some innovative contests making it in some ways the testosterone spiritual heir of the Generation Game. And it doesn’t feature Jim Davidson.

What was good about it?
• As with the previous series, the ‘star’ is a genuinely talented sportsman or woman (next week, it’s Martina Hingis) who applies the same bloody-minded ferocity to defeating a member of the public that they did to scaling the heights of their respective sport.
• In this opener, ex-rugby player Austin Healey let spill his rapacious gamesmanship in the buggy drive round a muddy circuit as he double-checked with host Vernon Kaye that he would only incur a five-second penalty if he omitted the compulsory 360 degree spin. He did this on his second of three laps, and achieved his fastest lap time. But Glenn Clarke, the member of the public, beat him by following the rules.
• But the best demonstration of Healey’s feral will-to-win came in the event where they had to pull the type of vehicle urbanites on a weekend away use to mow down wandering cattle, fill it with bags of sugar (not as arbitrary as it sounds – Glenn worked in a sugar factory) and then push it back to the starting position.
Struggling, Healey knew that defeat would mean he couldn’t win and was already well in the lead when he came to push the vehicle back. Astonishingly he launched his shoulder into the metal leviathan as though it was a lumbering French forward, quaking its framework and setting it in motion to complete the event win.
• The fact that Healey was still in contention during that event, and that he ultimately went on to claim victory in the final event, was because of the clever, albeit TV-orientated scoring system that awards one point for winning game one, two points for game two etc.
• And some of the games float away from the muscular adrenaline of the car push or scaling a perilous pole. The best of these was the game in which Glenn and Healey were given a phallic sausage from which they had to cut slices to tactically outthink their opponent by making their slice for each round weigh more than their foe.
• This would have worked even better had Healey’s tactics not been born of a brain liquidised by delusions of his own omnipotence. He surmised that by slicing off very thin portions for the first two rounds, effectively ceding them to Glenn, that he would be able to take the next three. For the third round Glenn simply put almost all of his meat on the scales (that gag trademarked by Vernon Kaye, 2009), while Healey only used about half of his remaining sausage.
• And the Spellback round – spelling words backwards – was a bit Beat The Teacher, but fun nonetheless.
• Perhaps it’s the constant pounding of our sensibilities in much the same way as pockets of political disparities around the globe are battered into ideological submission, but we’ve become accustomed to the awkward vowels of Vernon Kaye – even if it does sound as if they’ve been waterboarded by the CIA. He comes across as a Jim Bowen without the suspect 70s mentality especially when he needlessly told Glenn to “take your time” in the basketball round.

What was bad about it?
• While Austin Healey was a very good rugby player, he was certainly not “a legend”, a myopic, flatulent acclamation that he was adorned with about five times, while on three occasions he was hailed as “ultra-competitive”, which was at least an appellation he lived up to.
• A phone-in quiz question that even those people who shovel out their brains to rent out the cranial cavity to squirrels to store their nuts in until the harsh winter could answer. This week: “Which Six Nations rugby team is missing: England, France, Scotland, Ireland. Is the missing team: Spain, Germany or Wales?”
• The final round, which Glenn and Healey entered dead level was a let down. It was a basketball shoot-out, in which each competitor got five shots at scoring a basket. Sadly both of them were as incompetent from 12 yards as Dimitar Berbatov, and it was only Healey’s fluky shot on his final go that clinched the overall win.

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