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How to ruin a bit of fun

Charity ICA Bootcamp is the perfect example of a modest and enjoyable little concept being crushed by the weight of rapid overkill.

The original ICA Bootcamp, piloted in 2010 and followed by a short series earlier this year, featured quartets of pampered urban chicks being sent into the country to be educated in traditional homemaking skills by a trio of matronly ICA hens who know their onions from their shallots.

After much good-natured comedic stumbling about and the occasional bout of high-pitched screaming, invariably at the sight of a dead animal on a chopping block or a lump of something a live animal had deposited on the ground, the girls usually departed, if not quite transformed, then at least cognisant that there's more to life than high heels, lip gloss and glistening, diamond-hard nails.

This bloated, pimped-up spin-off features 16 "personalities", mostly C-listers, packed into groups of four and competing for charity in episodes staggered across the week, climaxing in a live final, hosted by Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh.

Neither Ni Chofaigh, RTE's most over-employed face, nor Lucy Kennedy, who provides the faintly vulgar voiceover, were involved in the original series, which is some indication of the needless hyper-inflation at work here.

In honour of its new status, the series has been upgraded from a late-ish slot on RTE2 to a primetime berth on RTE1.

The ICA women -- Imelda, Josephine and new addition Marie -- remain as warm and likeable as ever, but in line with the series' new air of forced competitiveness, they were lined up like military martinets on the steps of ICA HQ in Termonfeckin, Co Louth, as the first batch of celebrities -- former rugby star Peter Clohessy, burlesque dancer Emma Quinlan, ex-Green Party TD Paul Gogarty and Operation Transformation's obesity guru Dr Eva Orsmond -- rolled up in limousines.

Orsmond set the tone straight away: "I'm extremely competitive. I don't know how to explain it, but, yeah, I'm very competitive." Sounds like a good way of explaining it, if you ask me.

Clohessy, who you'd imagine would know better than to be spouting such guff, quickly got with programme. "I don't do something and do it by halves," he growled, "I just go for it." Yeah, right, Peter. You tell those knitting needles who's boss.

As the four of them gathered in an old-fashioned living room for the preliminaries, Orsmond immediately staked her claim to the title. "I thought this was celebrity bootcamp, but I don't know who any of you are! I'm the only celebrity here."

I sincerely hope that was Orsmond's attempt at a little self-conscious humour, because if it wasn't, the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

The fun in ICA Bootcamp usually comes from the fish-out-of-water angle, as the novices cack-handedly try to get to grips with cooking, ironing, making their own clothes and a variety of farmyard chores -- in this case, clipping goats' hooves. But any amusement value was drowned out by the deafening sound of egos clashing.

Gogarty, whose sole claim to political fame is spraying Labour deputy Emmet Stagg with the F-world in the Dail, threw a hissy fit when required to prepare a fish platter and make some black pudding. "I don't touch anything I don't eat," he insisted prissily, before adding, "I'm not being a prima donna." No. Of course you're not.

Orsmond, on the other hand, relishing the prospect of dancing in front of a roomful of ICA women for her party piece, declared: "I have NEVER felt this prima donna before, and I am LOVING it!"

Mind you, she didn't relish it when Clohessy, wearing a hat, waistcoat and trousers he'd stitched together from sackcloth (how fitting), beat her dancing, Emma Quinlan's snake act and Gogarty's dreary, self-penned ballad, strummed out monotonously on his guitar, to take a place in the final.

With a bit of luck, tomorrow night's four will rise to the task of hand-knitting some entertainment value, because there was precious little here.

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