The Week In Weird TV: Living With Parasites And Vanilla Ice

What's stranger than watching a grown man purposely ingesting a tapeworm? Watching Vanilla Ice integrate into the Amish community. Luckily, both were on offer this week.
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What's stranger than watching a grown man purposely ingesting a tapeworm? Watching Vanilla Ice integrate into the Amish community. Luckily, both were on offer this week.

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You know what you never hear about these days? Tapeworms. They’re a bit like moustaches: people used to have them in the seventies but now they just seem like carelessness. However, last week they made an unlikely comeback inside the small intestine of a BBC presenter (no, not Kate Humble). The presenter was Dr. Michael Moseley, who set about enthusiastically infecting himself with a variety of parasites in the subtlety named Infested! Living With Parasites.

First of all he had to find the little blighters, which you may be surprised to know isn’t that easy. In fact Moseley had to go all the way to Kenya to find a girl who knew a guy who might have a couple of juicy tapeworm cysts, ready for him to gobble down like gristly malteasers (by the way don’t type the words ‘tapeworm’ and ‘cyst’ into Google whatever you do).

The cysts come from the infected meat of cows and pigs, which is then injested by unfortunate humans who think they’re just eating a chewy steak. Moseley plopped the cysts – which look like the contents of John McCririck’s handkerchief after a week of severe bronchitis – into a breaker of water and downed it in one.

Now here comes the really disgusting part. Moseley was told that if the tapeworms were left too long, eventually segments of them would detach themselves and make a bid for freedom. Think about that for a second. Bits of tapeworm under, what the expert described as, “their own steam” would “crawl” out of somewhere that isn’t your mouth.

And that was really the point of the programme; disgust. The pitch for this documentary could have been written by Charlie Brooker – except that he would have insisted the cysts be used for the next series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. That’s not a bad idea.

The best bits were when it stopped trying to be so disgusting and became truly horrifying. A sample of Moseley’s blood was infected with the most deadly form of malaria and the results were appalling. Under the microscope a sample of his red blood cells was utterly destroyed in a matter of seconds by the malaria parasite. It was like watching that scene in a horror film when the two doctors look at one another for a beat and then leg it. Except this is real and kills thousands of people a day. Hurry up Bill Gates.

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Another man who is trying to do his bit for society after massively profiting from it is, of course, Vanilla Ice – or Robert Van Winkle to nobody – in Vanilla Ice Goes Amish. Yes, this is yet another TV idea that proves parody never goes far enough. ‘Youth hostelling with Chris Eubank’ can’t be far away.

In this particular gem, the lazy documentary’s favourite community, the Amish, welcomed an early nineties pop sensation into their lives. And do you know, he hasn’t changed one bit – except for his hair.

That famous anvil of bleach-blonde quiff has been replaced by, well, by a hat. Not once during the programme did he take it off, which begs the question: what exactly is he hiding under there? Perhaps there’s another Gnostic Gospel up there or maybe a map to the true location of Atlantis? We just don’t know.

The Amish took him in with open arms and set about giving him lots of chores to do. One chore in particular stays in the mind: shovelling a pile shit the size of a Vauxhall Astra. There was something quite magical about watching Ice move a large quantity of faeces from one place to another for no discernable reason. Well, more magical than hearing him sing anyway.