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Wrestling with Jesus

What is the plural of "Jesus"? It's a question that has bedevilled pedantic Christian grammarians for more than two millennia. Thomas Aquinas may have been unwilling (or unable) to provide an answer, but Andrew Lloyd Webber's Superstar shows no signs of such reticence.

It's "Jesuses". Let me repeat that: Jesuses. We know this because Amanda Holden, the awkward host of Superstar, says the word "Jesuses" about 436 times an episode. It is, by far, the most entertaining thing about the show.

"It's time... to meet... the Jesuses," a disembodied, X Factor-esque, voice really did say one evening. In case you missed it, Amanda enthusiastically hammered home the underused plural moments later, with a spirited cry of "Ladies and gentlemen, our lovely Jesuses!"


Apart from its pleasing and consistently hilarious, sprinkling of "Jesuses", Superstar is little more than another in a long line of tedious and formulaic TV talent shows.

Enlivening proceedings, in idiosyncratic fashion, is Lloyd Webber -- a chief judge whose oddball attempts at humour are so cack-handed that his one-liners almost end up becoming absurdist gems.

On Monday he treated us to this side- splitter: "If your baby has a beard, take him to a doctor." Cue an agonising pause, punctuated only by nervous tittering from the audience, and desperate guffawing from his fellow judges. It's the (excruciating) way he tells 'em, folks.

The bearded baby in question was, I think, Jeff from Belfast. On Sunday, Jeff provided the highlight of the show thus far when attempting to interpret Don't Speak, by No Doubt, as if it were a conversation between Jesus and Judas. No, really. I'm not making that up.

Over on Channel 4, performers of a different and more compelling kind were strutting their stuff. The Wrestlers: Fighting in the Family followed the fortunes of 'Rowdy' Ricky Knight, his wife Julia and their three wrestling-obsessed children as they attempted to run the WAW (World Association of Wrestling) from their council house in Norwich. Early scenes of modest bouts taking place in half-empty bingo halls suggested that The Wrestlers was going to push the kind of hackneyed narrative one routinely gets in such documentaries. Namely, a pathos-drenched tale of tragic but lovable small-town "losers" who dream forlornly of the big time.

To the credit of all involved, there was a refreshing lack of condescension on show. What came through loud and clear (and frequently movingly) was the family's love for their chosen "sport" and for each other. As 18-year-old Saraya-Jade prepared to jet off to Florida, in pursuit of wrestling glory with the WWE, her mother (and tag-team partner) Julia emotionally eulogised her daughter's athleticism, like any proud parent. "It's like watching a brilliant ballet dancer," she said. "You get lost in the trance of it all."


It's all too easy to glibly dismiss professional wrestling and the culture that surrounds it, as a vulgar "joke", but the laudably respectful and affectionate approach of The Wrestlers proved far more revelatory than cheap sneering.

On Waterways, Dick Warner found himself, like the "Jesuses" of Superstar, "under scrutiny from ancient amphibian eyes". Not, in this case, the amphibian eyes of Andrew Lloyd Webber, but those of the frogs and newts who loiter in the weeds of the newly restored Royal Canal.

Warner likened his ongoing journey, aboard a 133-year-old tug barge, to a "long rambling sentence", with locks and bridges acting as "important punctuation marks". A charming and beguiling sentence it continues to be too.

superstar HHIII the wrestlers HHHHI waterways HHHII