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This is reality TV gone totally mad

Halfway through the docusoap Pineapple Dance Studios, I felt like someone was pulling my leg while simultaneously wiping my eye. "This can't be real," I thought. "It has to be a spoof."

And yet, terrifyingly, it IS real, but somehow it manages to be surreal as well. The surreal feel is intensified by Michael Buerk's voiceover. That's right: the same Michael Buerk whose flat, sombre Birmingham tones lent added gravitas to the footage of the Ethiopian famine that prompted Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to organise Live Aid.

I'm sure Buerk is laughing on the inside; here, though, he plays it completely straight -- which is more than can be said for anyone on screen. Uniquely for a series with a pineapple in the title, Pineapple Dance Studios is populated almost exclusively by shrieking lemons.

The shriekiest, most lemony of the lot is Louie Spence, who's so camp he makes an episode of Supermarket Sweep with Dale Winton look like Robert De Niro's mirror scene in Taxi Driver.

Louie's official title is artistic director, though it's hard to fathom exactly what it is he does beyond furiously hamming it up every time a camera lens swings in his direction -- which, as you can imagine with a docusoap, is quite often.

At the first sign that anyone's watching, Louie starts to pirouette about the place, pulling his body into curious contortions. The combined effect of his writhing and his face, which has been Botoxed into a semi-scowl, is to make him look as if he's engaged in an epic struggle to dislodge a stubborn stool.

Pineapple Dance Studios is so deranged it's almost compulsive viewing -- and that's before we even get to Andrew Stone. In reality, Andrew is a dance instructor; in his head, he's an international pop idol waiting to explode. We'll get back to him before he does, I promise.

John Creedon is a busy man. In No Frontiers, he was on the Shetland Islands, trying to photograph elusive otters. Watching someone else taking pictures is as boring as watching them eat their dinner -- and just to illustrate the point, we got to see John doing that, too.

He was also on The All-Ireland Talent Show, though his act didn't triumph. That honour went to a child, tutored by the insufferable Dana, called Chloe Coyle, who has a pleasant but unremarkable voice, the kind of which you'll hear in any school choir around the country.

It took six months, five judges, three presenters (if you include Dustin) and, in the early stages, an additional 10 mentors to reach this point.

That's six months of your life you're never going to get back, along with a hell of a lot of licence-fee money.

TOMORROW: Pat reviews Cougar Town (RTE2), starring a Friendless Courteney Cox

Stacey's Stars

Pineapple Dance Studios **

No Frontiers *

The All-Ireland Talent Show *