Wednesday, March 05, 2008
COMPETITION! Rock Rivals, ITV1, 9.00pm
ITV1's new drama hope opens with an impressively convincing take-off of The X Factor, with one glaring omission: in around three minutes of show-within-a-show airtime, none of the contestants mention a dead parent, even once. You'd think they'd get such basic detail right, wouldn't you? Thankfully, order is quickly restored when that week's rejected contestant turns out to be a blind man singing a mediocre version of 'You Raise Me Up', though the Louis Walsh-alike (whose main act is Irish, you'll note) doesn't get a chance to say "the poor boy's blind!"
And so begins the series that we hope will fill the gaping hole in our lives that was left by the axing of Footballers' Wives. It's ballsy of ITV to risk another TV-will-eat-itself drama so soon after Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach debuted to indifferent viewing figures, but at least this series comes with the pedigree (well, that's what we're calling it) of being from the makers of our aforementioned WAG-focusing favourite, and sets its cap squarely in the high camp arena from the word go. Case in point: one of the characters is called Jinx Jones. Another is called Sunday Gorgeous. And another is called Angel Islington. So if you ever spent any time in the company of Tanya Turner and co, however brief, you'll know what to expect from this.
It gets off to a good start, although this opening perhaps isn't batshit enough for our tastes - the big set piece involves Karina (Michelle Collins, doing her best Sharon Osbourne impression but letting the side down by the fact that her face actually moves) driving husband Mal's (Sean Gallagher) prized Ferrari into his swimming pool, but it falls a little flat, to be honest, and really could have done with a crazy nurse having sex with a comatose patient in the background, or perhaps someone liberally applying fake tan to a newborn. Although there is one moment that suggests a sick brilliance to come, involving show-within-a-show contestant Bethany doing something rather drastic on live television. We won't spoil it for you, but it does suggest that the producers haven't lost their sense of watercooler moments.
Also bubbling away nicely in the background is a subplot involving a delusional gay fan of hottie contestant Luke (another reality failure: all of these people are too attractive to be on an X Factor equivalent), who sits and eats tinned spaghetti hoops while talking to a blow-up doll with Luke's face attached. Cree-pee. Oh, and for those who miss the formidable agent Hazel from Footballers' Wives, watch out for the admirable Alison Newham as Bethany's pushy stage mum.
It's early days, of course, but the initial signs here are promising. We warmed to Crazy Bethany and Fierce Sunday in the opening episode, and forgave Michelle Collins's woodenness on the grounds that at least 50% of the cast of Footballers' Wives was made of balsa at any given moment, and rather than hampering our enjoyment, it often increased it. And apparently we get to decide who wins the show-within-the-show at the end of the series, which would be cool if we weren't secretly fearful that the eventual winner might be as rubbish as Leon Jackson. Please God, never again.