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Why is bland one show so popular?

Since Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley, former presenters of The One Show, made their big-publicity, big-money defection to ITV to co-host breakfast show Daybreak, they've been struggling to keep viewing figures above the half-million mark as the audience drains away like water through a leaky bucket.

Back at The One Show, now hosted by comedian Jason Manford and former S4C presenter Alex Jones, the audience is sitting at a comfortable 4.6 million.

Ponder that for a moment. Four. Point. Six. Million. People.

It's a quite extraordinary figure for a teatime programme that's neither a soap nor a news bulletin. It's the equivalent of the entire population of this country.

If proof that we and the British are alike in many ways, yet completely unalike in many others, was ever needed, here it is, because The One Show is phenomenally popular while at the same time soul- destroyingly, brain-fryingly bland.

It's inoffensive to the point of being offensive -- a double-helping of vanilla ice-cream with a side order of vanilla pods.

Last night, Manford and Jones, who couldn't be more lightweight if you pumped him full of helium and hooked her up to a windsock, had The Goodies -- Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor -- on to plug the 40th anniversary release of their DVD.

The three of them looked faintly embarrassed by the whole thing, not least when asked to ride a trandem, the three-seater bicycle that was The Goodies' mode of transport back in the comedy day.

Gamely, Brooke-Taylor tried a joke: "We know where the bike's gonna be parked" -- a reference to Billy Connolly's once-edgy gag about the man who murders his wife, buries her in the garden but leaves her bum sticking up so he has somewhere to park his bike. WHOOSH! It sailed over the heads of the presenters and the studio audience.

Throw in a sentimental report on the gas explosion that destroyed a row of houses in Salford, an item on a 12-year-old budding comedian with cystic fibrosis joining Manford during one of his stand-up gigs, a kind of mini-Who Do You Think You Are? featuring the annoying Gyles Brandreth investigating an ancestor who was hanged for treason, and you have a glutinous mucus of a programme.

I don't get The One Show at all. Clearly, though, the people running UTV do, or else they wouldn't have come up with The Seven Thirty Show.

The format of two hosts, one celebrity guest (Phil Coulter in this case) and a ragbag of soft news items and quirky reports is a direct lift from The One Show, but with one crucial difference: it's got Malachi Cush.

Malachi Cush may sound like a Turkish holiday resort but is, in fact, the name of The Seven Thirty Show's co-host.

A Tyrone-born singer and radio broadcaster who, according to his online biography, came fifth in the first series of Fame Academy, Cush is a singularly strange presence.

He speaks in a weirdly flat, faintly unnerving lilt. If you can imagine Daniel O'Donnell, under the influence of tranquillisers, impersonating HAL the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey and then filtering the resulting sound through an Auto-Tune machine, you're on the right track.

Actually, oddity is an appropriate word, because Cush has some extremely odd on-screen habits.

When his co-host, Tina Campbell, is doing the talking, Cush either stares at the side of her face or stares directly into camera, as though trying to hypnotise the audience at home, all the while doing this peculiar little nodding thing.

It really is quite an unnerving experience -- even by the standards of the TV channel that once gifted Julian Simmons to an ungrateful world.


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