The day little John and Edward Grimes lacquered their matching mops into straw monoliths for their X Factor audition, they couldn’t have imagined that in just over a year they’d be sat opposite a comedian with an orange tache arguing over which one of them should race him in a lemon eating contest. Such things are best left unimagined, let alone filmed and beamed into our homes. But a few weeks back, beamed it was. Having so far dodged Keith Lemon’s screechy panel show, Celebrity Juice (Thursdays, ITV2), I forced myself to sit through, not only the Jedward/citrus stunt, but the whole episode.
For the uninitiated, it’s Have I Got News For You for people with more toes than brain cells. Instead of current affairs, they try to riff on star gossip from the last week. It’s an area ripe for terse mocking but, alas, you’ll see none of that here. It’s so brain meltingly bad, I went back for more the following Thursday.
Lemon (Leigh Francis) wafts bad jokes, mainly about wanting to shag team captains Holly Willoughby (Holly Willo-booby) and Fearne Cotton. They’re aiming for a Vic and Ulrika-ka-ka dynamic, but with Lemon in the horny dog role it’s just not funny. And while sniffing around the attractive female guests is just part of Shooting Stars' shtick, sadly, it’s Lemon’s biggest gun. He comes off as a dull, mock misogynist and his head girls don’t have the comedy nous to bite back. “You’re so bad!” whinges Booby when Lemon attempts to take an up-skirt shot.
Celebrity Juice is fantastically unfunny, to the point where any genuinely witty observations are so out of context you miss them. The first episode's only laughable lines came from one man: Richard Bacon. When an ex-Blue Peter presenter is your lead gag machine, you know you’re in trouble. And if you’re lucky enough to score Verne Troyer as a guest (as was the case more recently this series) you should probably try to come up with something more original to spit at him than, “Who would win in a fight between you and a gremlin?”
The show’s other permanent team member, Rufus Hound, is a capable comedian and panellist but here he mainly keeps quiet and looks embarrassed. Possibly they’ve installed a cattle prod under his desk because a couple of times, out of nowhere, he did jump up and do some work. It didn’t go especially well but it was a relief to see he wasn’t dead.
The big celebrity news story the week of my Celeb Juice initiation was Lady Gaga’s meat dress. As a tribute, Lemon disappeared and re-entered covered in steak. Suspended from his groin was a gigantic salami. Again, Vic and Bob could probably have made this work, but Lemon’s unbearable verbal add-ons destroy his visual gags. These also included a dog dressed as Lindsey Lohan and simulated shagging between Lemon and Katie Price, then Lemon and Brian Dowling. I think I had a nightmare like that once.