Sunday, November 20, 2005

Well, it is for charity...

So, another year, another Children in Need night. Five hours of non-stop entertainment. I use the word ‘entertainment’ in the loosest sense. (In the sense that watching Bruce Forsyth teach John Humphreys to do a two step shuffle is entertainment.)

The evening kicked off with a performance by Madonna. Now, I’m not one to knock charity giving. Generally, on the scale of human activity, charity does score pretty highly. And I know that raising money for disadvantaged children has to be applauded. But I can’t be the only viewer to feel a little queasy when Madonna starts imploring the Great British public to give generously. She earns more in half an hour from the royalties of ‘Like a Virgin’ than was raised by the entire Children in Need event. Later in the evening, we were persuaded to put our hands in our pockets by Paul McCartney (estimated worth £500 million) and Sharon Osborne (£100 million). Financially, I’m really not doing too badly – I have a lovely flat, a car that gets me from A to B without breaking down and I have a holiday once a year – so I’m not going to plead poverty. But it does seem a little topsy-turvy that multi-millionaires are begging me for cash.

Mind you, at least Madonna was using her god given talents for good use. She’s a singer and she sang. Fair enough. It’s when the weather girls start performing a musical number from Chicago and the news readers all don the spandex for a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody that the world seems to be spinning in the wrong direction. What does this say about the British public? I like to think (and maybe I’m being over optimistic?) that people will give generously for a good cause. When the tsunami hit the far east a year ago people put their hands in their pockets and donated what they could. I don’t recall anyone saying “there’s been a terrible natural disaster in Indonesia and millions have been left homeless. So let’s all sit in a bath of baked beans to raise some funds. If we don’t do a sponsored bike ride dressed as chickens the kids out there are gonna starve.”

Equally nauseating were the amount of times the men in the audience pledged cash (one chap offered a grand) if Natasha Kaplinsky would give them a kiss or flash them a bit of leg. Yes, it’s a good cause. Yes, the kids need our help. But should we really, as a nation, be asking professional, intelligent (if unbelievably attractive) women to prostitute themselves on national telly before we’ll dig deep and donate some money?

As well as the cringe-worthy performances from journalists who should know better and the boy bands shamelessly using the event to promote their latest cover version (“We wanted to do something to help the kids – we felt we just had to come along and sing our latest single from our new album which is in the shops from Monday” – sadly, an almost direct quote) there was the obligatory ‘meet the audience members holding unfeasibly large cheques’. I felt so sorry for one woman who had the misfortune of presenting her cheque to Wogan after the chairman of HSBC.

Wogan: Who are you Sir?
HSBC man: I’m from HSBC and we’ve raised £500,000.
(Huge applause from studio audience)
Wogan: And who are you Madam?
Woman: I’m from Pat’s Café in Bolton and we’ve raised £56.

Still, there were some highlights – even for an old cynic like me. Scrappino and I sat poised at 9.00 with bated breath and the video set to record, for the special Dr Who preview. It was only ten minutes long, and considering the tat I’d had to sit through to get to this point it could so easily have been a disappointment. But it was well worth the wait. The dialogue was witty, Rose looked terrific and the new Doctor sparkled. As the end credits rolled I was almost tempted to ask “Christopher Eccleston? Never heard of him”. And later in the evening I was thrilled to watch the cast of The Archers make utter prats of themselves live on TV. (There are some avid listeners – and there are few more avid than me – who deliberately avoid watching the cast of The Archers on TV because they don’t want to spoil the mental image they have of the characters in their heads. But I’m not one of them. I was glued to the set).

And at the end of the evening, the total amount raised was in excess of 17 million. Loose change perhaps to the likes of Macca and Madge, but enough to transform the lives of children all over the UK. And that has to be a good thing. (Though next year, let’s not invite Bruce Forsyth and John Humphreys back. These kids have suffered enough).


Blogger MC Aryeh said...

But if not for such events, when else could you see news readers in spandex sitting in a bath of baked beans? For the uninitiated, who are Bruce Forsyth, John Humphreys and Natasha Kaplinsky?

9:04 am  
Blogger tafka PP said...

But it does seem a little topsy-turvy that multi-millionaires are begging me for cash.

Amen, R.X! I have avoided it steadfastly for some years cos whole thing makes me want to thump Pudsey Bear in exasperation. (Altho I would have liked to see the Newsreader version of Bo Rhap- unless Natasha was in it.)

10:33 am  
Blogger Karl said...

Not wanting to sound like a wet sponge, but if there were a tsunami appeal every year, do you really think they'd get the response like they did the first time? Unfortunatly, everyone hears the Children in Need shpiel every year and people just switch off after a while. There needs to be something exciting or different to get peoples attention and at the same time get them to donate. I dont think there would be such a response without a special performance.
You have got a good point about most people being disinterested in watching someone in a bath of baked beans, but thats just because its so old hat.
I cant answer for the celebs (I dont know how much of that 17M was from them) but I'm sure there were costs to pay for the whole performance that someone had to foot. (Probably the TV licence payers.)

Mac A - Bruce Forsyth, John Humphreys and Natasha Kaplinsky are TV/Radio presenters on the BBC.

6:04 pm  
Blogger bangedmyhead said...

yes, but were they as goofy?

8:50 am  
Blogger R.x said...

mc - i was going to explain who bruce forsyth et al are - but then thought better of it - just consider yourself blessed that you don't know. sometimes, ignorance really is bliss

afkapp - glad you agree - the whole thing is excruciating - a bit like purim at school when the teachers dress up and it seems a good idea at the time but the next day all the pupils just feel awkward and embarrassed

Karl - point taken - charity fatigue does set in after a while - but i'm still convinced that baked bean showers is not the answer

bangedmyhead - your comments make me laugh out loud every time - do you remember absolutely everything??

9:34 am  

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