Of Tomatoes and Home Shopping

OK!! Stop… I’ve got to tell you about this before I forget. Bear with me because I do like going off at bizarre tangents but the payoff…wow, you’ll love it. My mother recently returned from a trip to Italy, and being the typical mad Italian brought back a whole load of insane things. Among these were a cake dish and an ice cream tub full of fresh tomatoes – tomatoes being almost impossible to find in this country, as you know. Now, the cake tin was dented in several places, but (and this is where it gets interesting) none of the tomatoes were even slightly damaged. Hmm, you may be thinking, what’s your point?

Here’s my plan. We construct all aeroplanes out of tomatoes. Genius! Now, if a plane crashes, everyone will be unharmed, as the strength of the tomato covering will keep everyone alive. This also means that if the plane crashes on a mountain in the middle of nowhere (see Alive, or better still, see Survive. No, better than that, copy the first 15 minutes of Alive, then add the last 60 minutes of Survive for the ultimate movie), you won’t have to eat fellow passengers because you can eat the plane. Or if you fancy the look of stewed stewardess you can flavour the pot by chucking in some tomatoes. I’ve not looked at the pros or cons of other fruit/vegetable plane construction techniques yet, but I do know that making a plane out of tomato ketchup just won’t do. Too much glass, you see? Mark my words, this time next year, some enterprising aerospace giant will be launching the Tomato 747 and you’ll be able to say, “I heard it here first”.

I feel it only fair to point out the following facts.

  1. I have never spoken to a French man and enjoyed it.
  2. I have never spoken to a white South African and not wanted to punch his face off (smug fuckers)
  3. I lied about number 2, there was one, Stephen, but I’ve not talked to him since he went back to South Africa so he could have turned into a wanker.
  4. I actively look forward to the return of soap opera Crossroads to our TV screens.
  5. I can give it out, but oh boy – I most certainly can’t take it.
  6. I can take an instant dislike to anyone, but, perversely, they must all love me for the god I am.
  7. Nick, Nick, Nick. There, see I told you I’d shoehorn your name in again somewhere.
  8. When Jim moves to the States, will there be a bloody power struggle between himself and the lovely Chris as to who becomes the “Official Trash City American correspondent”? Yes, I know, that’s not a fact, but I’m waiting for my coffee and you’re not really caring are you?
  9. I give it approximately 2 weeks before every lame 4th grade British comedian starts pathetic “Wazzzzzzzzup?” skits or comedy routines.
  10. While I enjoyed the movie version of Oliver!, I don’t like slicing tiny pieces off my ears.

Right, don’t you feel closer to me now?

Let me tell you a little something about the crazy world of television home shopping. That was the plan, until last night anyway; channel hopping, I found a channel that all-out, balls-out headfucked both QVC and Ideal World (the pretender to QVC’s throne – I’m not going to mention Shop! in the same breath for reasons I’ll go into later). The channel I’m talking about is called, wait for it, wait for it: Bid-Up TV. Broadcasting from 8pm till midnight on Sky digital channel 647, BUTV as I shall call it, is an insane mix of the worst home shopping channel presenters, Paul Ross and 60p a minute premium rate call madness.

How does it work? Well, from what I can work out, BUTV’s extensive line up of three presenters will show you a product, and again, from what I can work out, the products consist of bottles of wine, Dunhill watches (as was made clear last night, these are real Dunhill watches, not those dodgy ones you get from the market) and mountain bikes. The presenters will wheel out a mountain bike and say, quite proudly, that is costs £400 in the shops – quite what shop I’ve not been able to work out yet, I’ll get back to you – and that they will open the bidding on this bike (of which they have the grand total of two) at £200. Then we get one of three promos hosted by wacky Paul “I wish I was my brother” Ross, telling us that we call the 60p/minute phone line with a bid, and we really, must call now (I think they get paid extra for shouting every second word). Then there is a surreal 5 minutes, where one of the presenters stands there looking off-screen saying arcane things like “Oh, come on now, Steve, you’ll have to bid a little more than £201 for that lovely bike – show them the seat again Linda” and “Oh, this is all very exciting”.

I’ve not been able to watch any more than 10 minutes of it (Paul Ross every two minutes is too much even for me), and as BUTV only ever seems to sell 2 of any particular item, I honestly can’t see it lasting very long. Somehow though, the experience is hypnotic (even as I type this I want to go home and see what they’ve got next). Check it out and let me know what you think, but hurry!!

Elsewhere on the shopping channel front, QVC seems to be getting attacked from all sides. For a long while they were the kings of home shopping, essentially having stolen the format directly from their American cousins (although dropping the little counter in the corner of the screen that lets you know how many of the “Hand powered steam cleaning diet carpet cleaning night lights” they’re selling). Things started to change around a year ago when Shop! – yes, with the exclamation mark – started. Owned mainly by Granada, this poor excuse for a shopping channel (or should that be Shopping! Channel!) is still limping along, presented by all sorts of fourth-grade (QVC employing third-grade or higher only) ex-local news presenters and, quite frighteningly, Anthea Turner for a while, trying to get rid of some awful clothes line – no, not for washing, but a line of clothes she’d designed. Romper suits and split crotch panties, I think. It was, and still is, no competition to QVC.

Then, in April, Ideal World appeared. For those who didn’t see the fascinating documentary on Channel 4 a while back, it’s the brainchild of a couple who run a company which shoves those shonky mail order catalogues through your door (you know the sort of thing: sub-Sharper Image type stuff, plastic winter shoes etc). The ace up their sleeve though, was to poach some of QVC’s more popular presenters, namely Paul Lavers (kind of like the Uncle who scared you slightly), Debbie Flint (loud woman) and most interestingly of all, Steve Watley, who used to present on QVC until he was dumped from the channel just after Lady Diana’s death. Why? He tried selling a ring by saying something along the lines of “It’s just the sort of thing Lady Di used to wear” which was considered bad taste. They’ve also poached some other minor presenters, an annoying ginger fellow, etc.

The most frightening face on Ideal World is not, surprisingly, Steve Watley – though he is the most amazingly camp presenter on any television station, even if he does mysteriously mention his “wife” occasionally. It’s the DIY “expert” who they’ve called Bill the Drill. This man is truly the stuff of nightmares, a huge 1970’s German porn star moustache and an evil cravat-type deal, which obviously hides some sort of nasty DIY accident. Bill does nothing more than scare people into buying items.

Highlights of the products they’ve sold so far? Let me see: there was the Audi TT sportster they tried selling in their first few weeks on air (no, not a model – the actual car, a snip at £34,000. I bet the phone lines were burning up at that one); the plastic toilet roll holder; and only yesterday, the Dracula fancy dress outfit (good, we were told, for Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties as well as Halloween) for a low, low price of £50.

I do believe that Ideal World (channel 642 on Sky Digital) is the best in “road accident” television: no matter how bad it gets, you just can’t keep your eyes off it. So much so, I think it’s taken over as my number one shopping channel choice. Other pretenders to the throne have also recently appeared, being nothing more than infomercials strung together, or in the case of “Shop America” having the worst in “self improvement” products sold by the worst in plastic presenters – nothing quirky enough to keep me watching there.

There you have it, all you need to know about the fabulous world of TV shopping. Or your money back. Please note this offer is not available to people living… That’s it – just living people,