The week in TV: A nation of eccentrics

(Published here at Celebmix)

Imagine you’re a television producer sat around a swanky Channel 4 board meeting, free rolling ideas, brainstorming knowledge, scoffing on croissants and trying to think of yet another way to entertain the masses while having to spend as little of the budget as possible.

Obviously, it’s going to be another reality TV show; the public are always in supply (there’s a country full of them); and what’s more, going by the lot you see on television, the internet, Facebook and twitter – most of them are nut jobs – quite a few have lost the plot altogether: watch a random ten minutes of Come Dine With Me – your gaping mouth will be dribbling in bewildered stupefaction – “Am I like those people?” You’ll be thinking.

So here’s the new pitch: each week, obsessive compulsives turn up at a country estate (we’ll get a good dose of class resentment in there too), where the eccentric owner, who has long since given up, cares about nothing, is clinically depressed and has allowed their home fall into disrepair – there’s shite (literally), dust and insects everywhere, it’s total hell.

The other wackos, the obsessive cleaners, are mortified when they see the dump, and have no option but to clean the place spotless. Sound like a good idea? Well that’s the thinking behind the new series of Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners (Channel 4).

Needless to say the house is a cesspit – even the scruffy old tomcat Toby thinks so, we see him wrench and vomit (poor thing), which in turn makes diagnosed OCD sufferer and obsessive cleaner Denise gag, which then makes fellow obsessive cleaner (undiagnosed) Vinny throw up, which in turn made me cringe and almost turn off the TV – the whole thing was like a vomit inducing domino effect.

The only person not affected by any of this putrid mess seemed to be the lazy resident owner Tiggy, who exclaims that they’re all exaggerating.

Apparently, Tiggy let ‘get go’ after the death of her parents, not just of the house, but also her appearance – she was quite a looker back in the seventies, as the old family photos attest; but now she looks like Anne Widdecombe and everything’s gone to pot. She’s also trying to flog the family home, but the estate agents are so disgusted and confused by the site of the place, that they’ll never be able to sell it – not even for free.

The obsessive cleaners have five days to put it all right – what could possibly happen?Since we’re on the topic of crackpots and cats, a new one off special 90 Cats and Counting: Cat Crazies (Channel 5), is about cat addicts whose lives have been overtaken by felines, often at considerable cost and to the detriment of personal relationships.

We meet cat breeder Kelly, who’s adapted her home and living arrangements to fit in with her 40 ‘friends’ and it’s costing her £14,000 a year. She also has a pet Chihuahua – only one though – dogs just don’t do it for her like cats do. Her two kids help out in the feeding frenzy before school, there’s no television, as one son said ‘Why have TV when you have all these cats?’ Her husband has long gone – it was either him or the cats.

We meet a 74-year-old lady, for whom ceramic cats have replaced the real thing, she doesn’t like ‘real ones’ kept in the house, they should be out hunting, she says. She has over 2500 cats in her collection, ‘the internet keeps showing me things I desperately need,’ she says, as she bids online for yet another addition to her collection. (There’s this really creepy moment when she’s gazing into the eyes of one of the statues – or ‘soul mates’, as she calls them.)

Next, there’s the British expat couple that roam the feral streets of mainland Greece, feeding and rescuing stray cats in the early hours, costing them up to £1000 a month, they’ve even set up a rescue shelter.

Then there’s the owners of a luscious boutique cat hotel (prices start at £19 a night), who spend all their cash on the up keep, while their actual house falls apart – cracked windows, broken shower, sellotape practically holding the place up; maybe when they save enough, they said, they can finally get round to the children’s bedrooms.

Finally, there’s Barbarella, the local Lanzarote eccentric, who’s decided to marry a couple of Tabbies, ‘It was love at first sight,’ she says, as she renews her wedding vows – she’s got a certificate and everything. Just one question though. How do they afford it all?


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