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Technology leaves Wilson cold

I DON'T believe it! Richard Wilson didn't once say "I don't believe it" during Richard Wilson On Hold.

Maybe the man who famously played the world's favourite grump, Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave, has it written into his contract that he never again has to utter the catchphrase that made him famous, but it must also drive him mad when idiots shout it at him in the street.

Richard was pushed to brink of madness several times during Richard Wilson On Hold, which pitted him against the modern evil of automation -- or "ottomation", as he called it in his soft Scottish accent.

That accent caused him no end of trouble when he tried to book a cinema ticket over the phone in the funniest sequence of the programme. "The Adventures of Tintin," Richard told an automated voice-responsive machine on the other end of the line.

"I'm sorry, I didn't get that," said the non-responsive voice response.

"The Adventures of Tintin!" repeated Richard.

"The Three Musketeers," offered the machine.

"The Adventures of TINTIN!"

"We Need to Talk about Kevin."

"No we don't," said Richard, hanging up.

Hilarious as this was, automation is no joke. Banks, service providers and other big companies tell us automation is all about US; it saves us time and makes things simpler. We're not idiots, of course, even though companies insist on treating us like ones.

Everyone knows automation is really about saving THEM the money they would otherwise have to spend on training and employing human beings.

To prove it, Richard and a group of his peers from Age Action UK (for which he's a patron) set up their own call centre and spent three days making 400 calls to eight of Britain's biggest companies to test their efficiency.

Electricity provider EON was the biggest offender, keeping one caller on the line for an outrageous 58 minutes.

Oddly enough, the banks were the most efficient, taking under a minute to connect callers with a human being. Mind you, banks aren't doing a lot these days -- and certainly not lending money -- so they probably have time on their hands.

There wasn't really enough material here to fill a full hour, so the programme was padded out with largely unrelated stuff about how advertisers share our online information, but plenty of viewers will have related to Richard's struggle with one of those annoying self-service supermarket checkouts.

"Unexpected item in the baggage area," the machine repeatedly nagged. That would be the bloodied head of a shopper being repeatedly banged against it in frustration.

In contrast, there was far too much of The Golden Globes. Even trimmed to 90 minutes of highlights (plus 20 minutes of adverts), which left no room for a mention of Downton Abbey's win in the mini-series category, this was a bore.

Host Ricky Gervais's performance wasn't quite as lame as some critics claim (there were some genuinely funny bits), but it was still more a case of fondly nuzzling the hand that feeds him than biting it.

The Globes, chosen by the grandly named Hollywood Foreign Press Association (in reality, 90-odd non-American journalists), used to be the younger, boozier, less respectful cousin of The Oscars. Like Hollywood movie budgets and star egos, they've become grossly over-inflated.

There should really be an award called The Olden Globe, for the plastic surgeon who's given the best jowl-supporting performance on an ageing female star. Was that really Madeleine Stowe, so gorgeous in 1992's The Last of the Mohicans, desperately trying to smile, or was it an extra in a Madeleine Stowe mask?

Jessica Lange, who won for TV's American Horror Story, looks just like she did in 1979's King Kong remake -- from the neck up, anyway -- while Jane Fonda turned up to prove that, even after all these years, 80s fitness craze "the burn" still works.

Provided you have a big enough and powerful enough blowtorch.