Thursday 22 February 2018

Last Night's TV: Xpose & Babes in Hollywood

Xpose is in drastic need of more than a new time slot says Diarmuid Doyle

Xpose needs a facelift, and quickly. When TV3’s nightly tribute to fashion and fame began many years and a million celebrities ago, it made great play of its decision to go head to head with Six-One on RTE.

The country was living high on the hog, had plenty of money to spend and didn’t want to be dealing with all that complicated stuff about the peace process and the economy. Xpose would give people an early evening alternative – glitz, glamour, gossip and gorgeous girls. Only boring people watched the news.

All has changed. This week, Xpose has moved from 6pm to 6.30, an earthshattering change in the world of celebrity tv, and an admission that viewers are no longer happy to live on dessert alone. A high-fibre diet of information about the world they live in is also required.

Preferring Xpose to Six-One in the good times was a kind of pose – a fashion statement, almost – but these days, it seems almost reckless, like whistling past the graveyard. Viewers are not as in love with Xpose as they once were, therefore. This week, TV3 raised the white flag.

It’ll take more than a time change to stop the rot, however. In its current format, Xpose is dull, clichéd, tired and unimaginative. The awareness that led to the move to 6.30 has not extended to the show itself, which remains in thrall to the world of celebrity and fashion.

There’s no wit or humour about it, no raised-eye cynicism which would communicate to the viewer that this is all nonsense really, but let’s enjoy it while it’s on.

It takes itself and its raw material terribly seriously. Last night presenter Karen Koster informed us solemnly that “celebland has expressed its concern at what’s happening right on their doorstep” in London.

She then read out tweets from a guy who used to be in The Blizzards, from Dara O’Briain and Patrick Kielty, none of whom had anything original to say. Kielty is thinking he might go back to Belfast for a few days, if you’re interested.

There was also a piece on celebrity family feuds in which we were informed that Lindsay Lohan doesn’t get on with her Da, and that Jon Voigt and Angelina Jolie don’t like each other very much either.

It was the kind of thing that could have been put together by the intern (maybe it was), breathlessly convinced of its importance as a topic. I get that even celebrity tv has a silly season, and that you sometimes have to do stuff just to fill space, but to put it together it in such a predictable, sleep-inducing way is almost unforgiveable.

Xpose’s predictability might be its biggest problem. There are no surprises here. The presenter reads from a clichéd script and then hands over to a reporter - Glenda Gilson, for example - whose job seems to consist principally of sticking a microphone near somebody’s mouth while they apply make-up to a celebrity. Sometimes they even get to interview the celebrity.

None of the Xpose girls, as they became known over the years, seems to have an ounce of spontaneity or wit about them. If they do, they keep it very well-hidden. It’s as though even the slightest acknowledgement that this is all enjoyable nonsense would bring the whole house of cards down on top of them.

The show needs a whole new crew of witty, bitchy and literate writers and presenters or it will fade away intro irrelevance.

Still, there will always be people in search of an encounter with fame, and last night Babes in Hollywood, part of More 4’s True Stories series, introduced us some of them, the wannabe child actors who gather in a guesthouse in California every year for what’s known as pilot season.

This is the three-month period in late winter and early spring when television networks are making the pilots they hope will turn into successful series. A well-cast child could make a crucial difference.

Documentaries about child stars are usually fill of unwatchably precocious little tykes, but in Hollywood Babes, the kids were all remarkably level-headed. It was their parents who came across badly, ruthlessly disrupting family life and education in pursuit of vicarious fame.

Eleven-year-old Megan and her mother went to Hollywood for pilot season three years ago and have never gone home. Megan’s dad, who lives in Missouri,

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