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No sparkle to this Superstar

"I REALLY don't know who the viewers at home are going to think is Jesus," said Andrew, aka Lord, Lloyd Webber in the first live show of Superstar, the quest to find a new face to star in, and drum up some publicity for, the imminent touring production of his hoary old rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

I have to say I'm with Lloyd Webber -- who increasingly looks more fish than man with every passing year, an illusion not lessened by his preference for shiny, scaly shirts -- on this one, although probably for different reasons.

The 11 finalists are, without exception, as bland as warm vanilla ice-cream, even if two of them have taken the precaution of turning up with readymade shoulder-length hair and beards.

Meanwhile, the lone Irish contestant -- a curly-haired lad called Niall -- staked his unique claim to the role by being filmed at the foot of the cross on Bray Head.

"We've got to remember that Jesus was a leader of men," counselled the His Piscean Lord. Ah yes, but Jesus didn't have to sing a syrupy cover of Adele's even more syrupy cover of a great Bob Dylan song, now did he?

More worrying is how viewers are going to get through nine consecutive nights of painful Jesus/God-related puns by presenter Amanda Holden without throwing the remote at the television.

"The Good Lord will save the one who has the most superstar potential," she trilled (see what she did there?).

Lloyd Webber himself got in on the act at one point, telling an apprentice Jesus: "You have a classic, God-given rock voice." Ouch!

Of equal concern is how we're going to cope with nine nights of the appalling Dawn French, who joins ex-Spice Girl Melanie C and "the legend that is Jason Donovan" on the judging panel.

French, who has mystifyingly built an entire career on gags about fatness, chocolate and how tough it is for big girls to get laid, theatrically slavered over the tightness of one contestant's trousers, causing the poor chap to protectively, if subconsciously, cover his crotch with his microphone hand.

"Dawn, does Nathan do it for you?" prompted Holden.

"Yes, oh yes, oooh YES!" squealed French. Give that woman a Terry's Chocolate Orange and shut her up.

Celebrity Mastermind is the itch you just have to scratch. You'll doubtless have known in advance that Derek Burke, the rake-thin, crane-legged one from irksome novelty singing trio Crystal Swing, scored a pathetic five right answers on last night's show.

Derek thought venison was the chief ingredient of coq au vin and that the nursery rhyme character who kissed the girls and made them cry was "the werewolf".

Mind you, he was honest enough to admit on screen that he was "no whizzkid" when it came to quizzes and was quite happy to just turn up and bag €500 for his MS charity.

Still, though ... the werewolf? What kind of books did Mammy read to him?

I make no apologies for mentioning Wallander again this week. With subtitled Scandinavian crime drama currently the accessory of choice for the wised-up viewer, it's become fashionable to decry the BBC versions as pale copies of the Swedish originals.

Cobblers. Kenneth Branagh has made Kurt Wallander his own and it's hard to see how this adaptation of The Dogs of Riga (in the chronology of the books, the second of Henning Manning's novels) could have been done better in any language.

The scenes set in the Latvian capital, where Wallander has travelled to unlock the mystery behind two mutilated bodies washed up in a life raft on the Ystad shore, dripped with tension and menace.

In a nice bit of cross-pollination, the honest Latvian cop who visits Wallander's neck of the woods -- and briefly becomes his gloomy soulmate -- was played by Soren Malling, Sarah Lund's sidekick in the Danish version of The Killing.



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