TV blog: mega yachts and M*A*S*H

Benjie Goodhart / 13 November 2015

Our TV critic admires the nautical playthings of the super-rich, takes a sideways look at I’m a Celebrity and reminisces on the glory of M*A*S*H.

Million Pound Mega Yachts, Sunday 15th November, 8pm, Channel 4

Today, I’m going to advocate that you all watch a bit of eye-candy. Step, with me, into a world where size really does matter.

You can’t beat a bit of yacht watching, and Million Pound Mega Yachts doesn’t disappoint. (Although what’s with the title? You’d just about get a Mega Rowing Boat for £1 million. We’re talking £100 million plus, here.)

This one-off documentary visits the Monaco Yacht Show, where a large number of the world’s moneyed elite gather every year to buy yachts. Or just look around yachts while being given champagne, pretending to be interested in buying them. That’s what I’d do. Maybe suggest I took it for a quick test drive. Two weeks in the Greek Islands should do it.

The yachts on show are remarkable in both their beauty and ostentatiousness. And in their expense. You really do have to make Croesus look like a pauper to have one of these boats.

How the other half live

We meet one businessman whose yacht is a paltry 55 metres long, who has a permanent crew of 13. It costs him £1 million-a-year just to own a yacht. It can cost £2,000 just to start a boat’s engines. What do they run on, liquid platinum? Most people have cars that aren’t worth that!

We also meet a rather oleaginous yacht broker called Rupert, who is trying to sell these monsters. Of his clientele he remarks dismissively: “They’re not going to go to Lidl or Waitrose.” Whoa! If these people consider Waitrose to be common, we’re in seriously uncharted territory!

Anyway, some (though by no means all) of the people might be a touch nauseating, but the yachts are simply fabulous.

There’s Solandge, 85 metres long, yours for just £130 million (plus £10 million annual running costs – shall we have a whip round?)

Or Kismet II, 95 metres, a yacht with over 100 TVs (I approve). If you really want to see how the other half – sorry, the other 0.00001 per cent – live, this is a treat.

I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here, Sunday 15th November, 9pm, ITV

The title is something of a misnomer, really. Then again, “I’ve been in OK! Magazine a few times… please keep me in here because my agent says I need to raise my profile to help my book sales” is a bit too long a title for a programme, and it might not go down too well with the participants.

Anyway, the reality show is back for its 15th series. Whichever way you look at it, that’s an awful lot of kangaroo testes.

You know the drill by now. A bunch of pop stars, soap stars, reality stars, retired sports stars and a couple of randoms are bunged into the middle of the bush and given various tasks. Chief among them, if you’re young and female, seems to be to take showers under waterfalls wearing skimpy bikinis.

They all get a bit hungry and ratty with each other, the public decide they hate someone and put them up to face loads of trials, and Ant and Dec (who are the best thing about the show) pop up every now and again with their homespun brand of cheeky Geordie wit.

This year's line-up

The show lives and dies by its contestants. This year looks, well… okay. 

There’s Tony Hadley, formerly of Spandau Ballet; Jorgie Porter, who is/was (I really don’t feel the need to check) in Hollyoaks; posh lass Susannah Constantine; even posher lass Lady Colin Campbell; Ferne McCann (no idea); presenter of ridiculous programmes about ghosts Yvette Fielding; Vicky Pattison (no idea); Brian Friedman (the choreographer from X Factor, for heavens’ sake – do we need the lighting manager as well?); Duncan Bannatyne (grumpy Scotsman); George Shelley (no idea); former punchy-man Chris Eubank; and perennially-injured footballer Kieron Dyer.

Rumour has it that this year the show will be more hardcore than ever (not in the bikini-under-waterfall sense). The challenges, it is said, will be tougher than ever. I think they say that every year. Déjà vu, anyone?

Doctor in Your House, Tuesday 17th November, 8pm, Channel 4

I wrote about the Van Tulleken brothers earlier this year, when they took part in a Horizon programme about the effects of binge-drinking. They are a hugely dislikeable pair. Twins, both doctors, both nauseatingly good-looking, intelligent and simply oozing charisma. Their other brother, meanwhile is a hugely successful director of TV dramas. If there’s such a thing as balance in the Universe, there are three other siblings who all make their living shoplifting from Poundstretcher.

Anyway, in this programme, we only have to tolerate one hugely successful, charming, handsome doctor. Xander is moving in with a family for a few days, to assess their health, their lifestyle and their habits, and to advise how they can improve matters. Only mum, Nicky, knows he’s coming. Guess which of the family members is the most distressed at the revelation that a handsome doctor is moving in to take stock of their lifestyle? The two teenage daughters, or the overweight dad, Dylan, who drinks too much, and eats what he likes?

Dylan, it turns out, is a tough nut to crack. He doesn’t think anything of having a few beers and at least a bottle of wine night after night. He doesn’t really believe in worrying about tomorrow. Meanwhile Nicky is a constant worrier, and she’s not sleeping well.

Oh, and the kids’ diet is the kind of thing that would have Jamie Oliver breaking out in a cold sweat. They live on crisps, pizza and white bread rolls with ketchup (is that even a thing?) Not surprisingly, tests show they are iron deficient.

Converting the unhealthy

For some slightly inexplicable reason, Xander then brings in another doctor, Ellie Cannon, who does a lot of talking about poo. I imagine that’s just the way the programme is cut, but even so, you’d not want to be sitting next to her at a dinner party. Especially if they were serving Cumberland sausage.

Anyway, at the end of the programme, the good doctor has got his point across – and the biggest convert of the lot is Dylan, who has had a dry month, is doing exercise, and lost four inches off his waistline.

Apparently – get this – drinking less, exercising, and eating healthily is good for you. Hey, maybe that’s why they call it eating healthily!

Doctor in the House, Thursday 19th November, 9pm, BBC One

Ah. Oh. Well, this is awkward. You know that feeling you get when you turn up at a party in the exact same outfit as someone else? I mean exactly the same. You’re both in the same tight spandex shorts, the same cow-hide shirt and velvet balaclava? (I know, it would happen to me less often if I didn’t dress so conventionally).

48 hours after Channel 4’s Doctor in Your House, we have the BBC’s Doctor in the House. The, got it? Not Your. The. I emphasise this point because this is basically the only difference between the two programmes. I mean, this one’s not presented by Dr Xander, it’s presented by Dr Ranjan Chatterjee who is – you’ll be astounded to hear – good looking, confident and charismatic.

Anyway, old Dr Adonis is moving in with a family for a few days, to assess their health, their lifestyle and their habits, and to advise how they can improve matters. And yes, I just cut-and-pasted that sentence from the previous preview.

A case of Déjà-vu?

Once again, we have a dad, Sandeep, whose weight and health is a real concern, and who is cheerfully keeping his head buried in the sand. And we have a worrier of a mum, Priti, who has problems with anxiety and sleeping. We even have a teenage daughter who is tired a lot because she’s suffering from iron deficiency.

In both programmes, the mum is encouraged to take up meditation, and the dad has to radically restructure his diet. In both instances, the dad, initially sceptical, becomes something of a convert. In both cases, they lose four inches off their waist in a month.

It’s like Groundhog Day. Except in Groundhog Day, at least occasionally, something different would happen.

Neither of these are bad programmes. And both have their hearts firmly in the right place. But, with the fairly obvious advice being dispensed (don’t exist on a diet exclusively of sugar, chips and curry, don’t have gallons of booze every night, try not to be stressed every second of your life), I’m not sure you actually need to watch either. You definitely, definitely don’t need to watch both. And the BBC’s is the first of a three-part series, no less!

M*A*S*H Box set

On 28th February 1983, the United States ground to a halt. For two hours, streets were deserted, restaurants and bars remained empty. Then, at 11:03pm, the New York Sanitation Department’s plumbing system broke down because it seemed like the entire city was going to the loo at once.

The cause of all of this was the last-ever episode of M*A*S*H, a feature-length special that drew in an astonishing 125 million viewers (dwarfing even the Who Shot JR episode of Dallas). The audience figure record stood for almost 30 years. The audience share will never be beaten (back then, only 83 million US households had TVs, compared to 120 million today).

The show marked the end of an 11-year run of a comedy that was remarkable in its ability to combine slapstick, satire, serious political and moral discourse, and heart-rending pathos.

Well-written comedy

As if you didn’t know, the show was set in the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. The stories – often based on the experiences of real MASH surgeons who were interviewed by writers – was a rumination on the futility and lunacy of war. It was also very, very funny.

M*A*S*H was an ensemble piece, with actors at the top of their game, playing terrifically well-written characters, but the beating heart of the show was Alan Alda, who played sarcastic, rebellious and humane surgeon Hawkeye Pierce.

Alda won Emmy Awards and Golden Globes by the sackload, mainly for his depiction of Pierce, but also for his writing and directing of the show as his influence grew. It is impossible to think of the show without thinking of Alda.

Comedy is something that doesn’t always age well. But M*A*S*H constantly surprises me with its routine and consistent excellence every time I watch it. And there have been many, many times.

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