CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Floundering Gordon as host of a gameshow is simply half-baked

Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance

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Murder in a Small Town

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The first question at every brainstorming session for a new telly show is: ‘Who do we hire to present it?’ — and what that really means is: ‘Can we get Claudia Winkleman or Bradley Walsh?’

Since it’s impossible for that pair to present every single programme on every channel (though Lord knows, they try) the next question is: ‘What worked last time, and how can we copy it?’

Sometimes this leads to inspired choices. More often, it becomes repetitive: Is there a stand-up comedian in the country who hasn’t fronted a travelogue?

When ITV revived Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? two years ago, they took a gamble replacing veteran host Chris Tarrant with Jeremy Clarkson. The former Top Gear motormouth took his time settling in to the role, but now he’s hit his stride — openly partisan, urging some players on and showing contempt for the ones he regards as timid or stupid.

Gordon Ramsay, pictured, is a practiced TV performer but without a scripted quip he is ten seconds behind the action while presenting Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance on BBC1

Everyone at the Beeb clearly hopes Gordon Ramsay will be an equal success on his prime-time quiz gameshow, Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance (BBC1). He has all the traits of a Clarkson: Rude, uncouth, impatient, sarcastic, arrogant and ineffably pleased with himself. A practised TV performer, he also possesses that crucial quality for light entertainment —smarminess. We think of Gordon as abrasive but, when he’s putting on a friendly act, he’s so greasy you could use him to oil a frying pan.

But it’s obvious within minutes that he doesn’t have the telly skills for this show, because he simply cannot think on his feet. Without a scripted quip, he’s floundering, ten seconds behind the action.

His first contestants, brother and sister Tosin and Tobi, were a polished double act of noisy show-offs. Bickering like children, they’d have been a gift to a real gameshow host. Alexander Armstrong and Joe Lycett wake up praying for a couple like this in the studio.

Gordon had no idea what to do with them. He behaved like a maitre d’ in a restaurant, politely waiting to one side until his customers finish having their public row. Simpering with embarrassment, he chipped in: ‘Psst! I’m still here, you know.’

Also continuing tonight is the true crime documentary Murder In A Small Town (C5), about the blood-drenched killing of 14-year-old Jodi Jones in woods outside Glasgow in 2003

As for the game itself … well, don’t ask me. I’ve only seen one episode. I haven’t got a clue about untangling the rules. It involved a four-armed crucifix cut into steps and balanced on a fulcrum like a staircase fashioned into a helicopter blade. Players had to balance gold bricks on the steps without tipping it over and — oh, I don’t know. I’ll watch the second episode tonight to see if I can figure it out.

Grim pickings of the night: Presenter Hugh Dennis and the archaeologists on The Great British Dig (C4) uncovered medieval human remains under the Bruce Arms beer garden in Masham. That would put you right off your pork scratchings. 

Also continuing tonight is the true crime documentary Murder In A Small Town (C5), about the blood-drenched killing of 14-year-old Jodi Jones in woods outside Glasgow in 2003.

Investigative reporter Neil Mackay called it ‘the most shocking and horrific murder in Scottish criminal history’.

If he’s talking about violent deaths this century, that’s probably true. Jodi’s boyfriend, Luke Mitchell — also 14 when she died — was charged with her murder ten months later and sentenced to life in jail, with a minimum term of 20 years.

In a phone call from prison, Mitchell insisted he was innocent. That’s to be expected, but a pair of private investigators hired for the programme quickly came up with two other credible suspects ignored by police at the time.

Whether Mitchell really was the killer will be hard to establish in two hours.

But this programme raises important questions about the reliability of the trial, which need to be addressed.

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