This Week In Weird TV: Lionel Blair and Living Dolls

This particularly disconcerting week in TV saw middle-aged men donning bondage gear and Mrs Doubtfire style body suits.
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Have you been watching Celebrity Big Brother? Nor had I until Sunday night. I was only vaguely aware that it was still on at all. The programme is like that guy who turns up to a party and is fun for the first hour but quickly overdoes it and ends up slumped in the corner puking into his lap. It’s a little embarrassing but we put up with it because it used to be quite funny. Well, last night it wasn’t so much funny as a mind meltingly horrifying foreshadow of what the world will be like after the Rapture.

In the celeb house there is the usual smattering of reality stars plus people like Jim Davidson, Lionel Blair, Dappy and Lee Ryan. So far, so dull. Or it was until one of the producers had a brain aneurysm and his screams of agony were mistaken for production notes.

So they came up with the idea of splitting the housemates in two and having one half perform a ‘U’ rated task and the other an ‘18’ rated task. (If you think you can see where this is going, trust me, you can’t. And if you genuinely can then god have mercy on your soul).

The U rated task required participants to dress up like toddlers and act all babyish while someone in a purple bear costume flung cream-pies into their faces. Of course it did. If someone made a version of The Ring for 3-year olds, it would look something like this. Actually it was a lot more scary than that. Just ask yourself who would you rather have jump out of your telly on a dark, stormy night: a demonic girl or Jim Davidson in bright dungarees.

But now we come to the main course. And when I say main course I mean the stuff you would find in John McCririck’s dishwasher filter. The 18 rated task. This required the remaining housemates (including Lionel Blair) to dress in bondage gear, pole dance and generally gyrate all over one another. You may imagine that they would all awkwardly plod around desperately trying not to look too ridiculous but, sadly, they did the opposite. They just seemed to go slightly mad and began jigging and rutting so much that I was genuinely worried that Lionel’s hip would crumple like a wet match-stick.


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It was like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest set in one of those provincial strip clubs named after a semi-precious stone. Whether they forgot about the cameras or whether they played up (or way way down) to them was had to tell, but it certainly made for memorable television. The only problem is you can’t unwatch it. I’ve now got a be-leathered, thrusting Lionel Blair stuck in my mind forever, right next to cherished childhood memories of long summers and first kisses. I might have to get a large Indian gentleman to smother me with a pillow just so the thrusting stops. The endless thrusting.

A programme that was a normal as a bowl of porridge in comparison was Secrets of the Living Doll’s on channel 4. This was a classic channel 4 doc following around people with unusual habits. This particular habit was called ‘masking’ and involved men putting on a Mrs Doubtfire style body suit and a mask.

The body suits themselves were actually rather brilliant. All hand crafted by a one family-run business called FemSkin, they were eye-wateringly realistic. Every nook and cranny of the female body was lovingly recreated and cast into what was essentially an unorthodox wetsuit (just don’t pee in it).

The only slightly unsettling aspect of the whole thing were the masks. After such detailed and realistic body-suits the masks were basic to the point of terrifying. As one of the ‘maskers’ themselves said, some of the masks made the wearers look like they were either about to rob a bank or embark on a nationwide killing spree. The problem is they don’t move. There is something deeply unnerving about an expressionless face – the humanity is lost. That’s why people are so scared of Simon Cowell.

The documentary actually turned out to be a rather uplifting study in tolerance. The friends and families of many of the men were wonderfully understanding and supportive of what must be a difficult thing to get your head round. Maybe I should be more tolerant of Lionel? But, honestly, the thrusting.