Monday 23 October 2017

Last night’s TV: Praising Cheryl, burying Ashley

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Diarmuid Doyle

Television channels cope with the dog days of summer in several different ways, depending on the imaginations and creativity of the people in charge, and on the budgets available to them.

RTE is responding to the summer lull with a series of repeats, several movies and the occasional health programme like Health Of The Nation.

Channel 4 has held on to a couple of acclaimed US tv shows (Shameless and The Killing, which starts next Thursday) and shows the occasional health programme, like Embarrassing Fat Bodies.

TV3 has embraced the whole notion of DIY tv, and throws out the occasional health programme like How Healthy Are You?

DIY tv is a cheap and cheerful response to tiny summer budgets, which allows a very small staff to put together a documentary using easily available footage and an array of talking heads. These guests are not obliged to know anything about the subject under review, other than what they’ve read in the papers. All that is required is that they are not shy about giving their expert opinions.

The Ups and Downs Of Cheryl Cole, on TV3 last night, was one such programme. As you’ll have guessed from the title, it was a look at the rise and fall of the former Cheryl Tweedy, from talent show winner, through sudden fame as a member of a popular girl band and one half of a celebrity couple, to divorce, near death from malaria and her current travails in which she can barely buy a job.

TV3 managed to find about a dozen people, all Irish, who were willing to talk, and who were all admirably well-read on the life and times of Cheryl Tweedy Cole.

Some of them looked a bit sheepish at being called on for an expert opinion on somebody they’d never met but others, like Breffny Morgan, Amanda Brunker and Ray Shah, have never knowingly stayed silent in the presence of a microphone and were therefore ideal for such a programme.

None of the experts had ever claimed to have spoken to Cheryl Cole, or even breathed the same air as her, but they were more or less all agreed on her problem . She has been badly let down by the men in her life she most trusted – her once, and possibly future, husband, the Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole, and her X-Factor mentor Simon Cowell, who was blamed for losing her herjob on the American version of the show recently.

After about 30 minutes, it became clear that the purpose of the programme wasn’t to praise Cheryl, but to bury Ashley. Various horror stories about his past were recounted with shocked glee.

There was the time he offered to pay for an abortion for a one-night stand, who turned out not to be pregnant. There were the six women “who claim to have been seduced by the lonely Ashley Cole” while he was with Cheryl. There was the time he threw up in somebody’s back seat and responded to the complaints of the irate owner by telling her she should feel privileged he got sick in her car.

Ashley was turned into such a pantomime villain by the end that when one of the guests raised the possibility that he and Cheryl might get back together, I found myself shouting at the telly: “He’s behind you, Cheryl. Run for your life”.

The Ups And Downs Of Cheryl Cole immediately followed Supernanny on TV3, and in some ways complemented it.

As always with these shows about parents who can’t cope and their errant offspring, a completely obnoxious child is turned in to a barely tolerable one in the space of an hour. Success is quickly declared and the nanny gets the hell out of Dodge before the brat erupts again.

The subject of last night’s programme was an angry, violent nine-year-old called Meghan Cooke, who created misery everywhere she went, particular for her Mum, Dad and siblings.

Many viewers would have looked at her and thought: “This girl needs a good slap”, but that opinion is regarded as old-fashioned, apparently, and liable to get you arrested. It’s all about patient smiles, eye contact and “reflection rooms” these days.

Whatever the solution, last night’s television did teach us one thing: bold children don’t go away. They grow up to be Ashley Cole.

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