This article was originally published in The Dundee Courier on 26 August 2017.
LEN GOODMAN’S PARTNERS IN RHYME: Saturday, BBC One
THE STATE: Sunday to Thursday, Channel 4
I was saddened by the death of the great Bruce Forsyth recently. He was one of the finest talents in television history, the hoofing embodiment of light entertainment itself.
But I’m glad he didn’t hang around long enough to witness LEN GOODMAN’S PARTNERS IN RHYME, an atrocious new Saturday night game show in which his erstwhile Strictly colleague soiled the genre that Brucie helped to build.
Len’s corny rhymes are a popular, if minor, part of the winning Strictly formula. Basing an entire show around them is clearly a terrible idea, but that hasn’t stopped Radio 1 DJ Matt Edmondson, who devised this drivel, from doing just that.
The word ‘surreal’ is often misused, but how else to describe such an utterly bewildering misfire?
It announces its awfulness immediately. The opening theme song is a lethargic, unsettling rap from Len. It sounds like Hooky Street from Only Fools and Horses at half speed, the sort of sonic horror they tortured prisoners with in Guantanamo Bay.
It was followed by an introductory monologue delivered entirely in rhyme, in which Len claimed to have shared champagne with a Great Dane and a stew with a Shiatsu.
He then performed an awkward ‘street dance’ with a black contestant, while introducing a team of celebrity helpers including his old Strictly china Anton du Beke and Big Mo from EastEnders.
The contestants are shown a series of absurd images and have to guess the correct rhyme. It’s Catchphrase for idiots. These rhymes include: Anton Du Beke with a really long neck; a scotch egg with a broken leg; Jack Whitehall on a wrecking ball. Those are some of the better ones.
There’s also a Give Us a Clue-style round in which the celebs mime a rhyme (Tom Cruise looking for clues; Mel and Sue cleaning the loo etc.). At one point, ‘90s relic Mr Motivator turned up for no discernible reason.
The jaw-dropping weirdness is compounded by an unseen studio audience, who are audio-mixed so thinly and distantly, they sound like they’re responding sarcastically from another dimension.
This is the sort of show that people will dimly recall in years to come, while questioning whether it ever actually existed. Even while watching it unspool in front of you, it still doesn’t feel real. Naturally, it’s already been commissioned for a second series.
I’m a staunch defender of the BBC, but they don’t half make life difficult sometimes.
Len Goodman is an affable soul, but he’s no Bruce Forsyth. Brucie was such a gifted host, he could transform even the most unpromising format into entertaining TV gold. He wouldn’t have touched this garbage with a 50-foot bargepole.
Writer/director Peter Kosminsky is renowned for dramas based on controversial and complex subjects torn from the headlines. THE STATE was no exception.
Based on extensive research, it followed various young Brits as they travelled to Syria to fight alongside ISIS. Initially, their encampment felt like a friendly gap-year commune, albeit one based along extreme religious guidelines. Inevitably, the true horror of their decision gradually emerged.
This was, in typical Kosminsky style, a serious, unflinching, clear-eyed attempt to make sense of a disturbing contemporary issue. It offered compelling insight into the inner workings of ISIS from both male and female perspectives.
Only when we begin to understand why someone would wish to join a terrorist organisation such as this, can we begin to eradicate their reasons for doing so. The State won’t solve this problem overnight, but it’s a bold step in the right direction.