herald

Thursday 17 January 2019

Sing? Not a chance

sing! (rte2) sandhurst (bbc4)

AS ITS creators, in their pomp, never tired of reminding us, the format of The Lyrics Board was sold to 26 countries.

A mystifyingly popular staple of Sunday evenings on RTE1 throughout the Nineties, The Lyrics Board probably holds the record as the most critically reviled light entertainment show ever to come out of Montrose.

But, hey, who cares? They love it in Lebanon, Vietnam, Russia and Slovenia. (Incidentally, do you know that the Finnish version of the show is called BumstiBum! I don't know about you, but that works for me.)

Anyway, the truly blood-curdling news is that, years after disappearing from screens, The Lyrics Board has been sold back to us -- or rather sold back to our children.

It's been renamed Sing! and repackaged as a children's show in RTE2's afternoon TRTE strand.

It's shocking to see the television sins of the fathers being visited so brutally upon the sons. A colleague -- who was far more awake and alert this morning than I was -- summed it up succinctly by reaching for the words of poet Philip Larkin: "They f*** you up, your mum and dad."

The format of Sing!, hosted by Brian Ormond, who's fast becoming the go-to guy for candyfloss TV, is exactly the same as that of its predecessor. There are two teams of three, comprising a captain, a keyboard player and a guest.

They pick a number, between one to five, from the board. A word is revealed and they then have to sing a song with that word in the title. It's cringe-inducing stuff, made all the more excruciating by the fact that a toxic new ingredient has been added to the mix: child performers.

Yesterday's guests were John Gaughan and Sharon McCluskey, both 17 and already showbiz veterans. He's won the All-Ireland Teen Idol and RTE Starsearch contests, while she's been in panto with Jedward and Mary Byrne, and sung at Disneyworld in Florida.

I've always loathed child performers, even when I was a child, but as if this wasn't enough metaphorical sea salt being rubbed into the metaphorical wound, the "audience" for Sing! is loaded with precocious stage-school types, culled from a national advertising campaign and ready, at the drop of a hat, to jump up and grab their own 15 seconds of fame.

Bloody teenagers, with their floppy hair, low-slung jeans and poncey musical game shows. Good kick up the arse and a stint in the army, that what's they need!

Although I'm sure any young British man or women contemplating a career in the forces will have been thoroughly dissuaded by what we've been seeing on BBC4's excellent Sandhurst, which offers a fly on the tunic peek inside the tough-as-nails military college.

It's a brave series in many ways, this. Letting the cameras inside is hardly the best way of aiding a recruitment drive, particularly at a time when the army is probably already as alluring a career prospect as bungee jumping without a rope.

This week's episode concentrated on how the college instils the killer instinct in the young trainees. We've all seen those war movies where a stereotypical drill sergeant bawls at and berates the troops in his charge for being useless good-for-nothings.

Well, Sandhurst is exactly like that: a compendium of all the army-training clichés you've ever seen, and then some.

During bayonet training, the sergeant barked and roared his disappointment as a group of trainees chanted "Kill, kill, kill," all the while looking like they lacked the bloodlust to stamp on a spider.

I'm not sure which was the more unsettling, this or the fate of a young man who failed to close his curtains properly. The sergeant ordered him back to bed, then screamed: "Stand to attention while you're in bed!"

Actually, most young men, at some point or other, stand to attention while they're in bed. But probably not in the way the sergeant meant it.







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