100 Years of the Royal Variety Performance: Review

100 Years of the Royal Variety Performance

ITV1, Friday December 7, 9pm

Imagine the concert of your nightmares and you might envisage having to sit through hours of Des O’Connor, Michael McIntyre and Cliff Richard with a permanent rictus grin on your face. Most normal folk will never have to endure such horror in reality, so spare some pity for Her Majesty The Queen, who goes through this ordeal every year at The Royal Variety Performance.

2012’s event, during which our unfortunate head of state managed to get through a succession of David Walliams, Bradley Walsh, Rhod Gilbert and walking hairstyles One Direction without screaming “Please, God, I can’t take it any more!â€?, celebrated no less than its 100th anniversary. Never missing an opportunity to roll out the fetid corpse of nostalgia, ITV1 marked the occasion with docu-thon 100 Years of the Royal Variety Performance.

It slotted neatly into an increasingly prevalent category of programmes targeted with elite-level precision at, as former Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell might say, us plebs. Whether Downtown Abbey, Inside Claridges or this effort, these are the shows offering a tantalising glimpse of the gilded lifestyle that 99 per cent of the population can only dream of, punished as we are with austerity for an economic crime we didn’t commit.

Of course, that’s the point. The audience that actively tunes into what I am going to dub ‘pleb porn’ will never watch with even the slightest sense of rage that the people it depicts are either those born into money and a network that ensures they are made for life, or the serfs in cattle class who serve their every whim. Instead, like televisual heroin, it gives them the warm yet illusory glow of comfort that their otherwise pitiful and meaningless lives cannot provide.

All of which makes me sound like the bitter and twisted republican I am, whilst negating the responsibility of telling you if the show was any good or not. Well, if your idea of TV heaven is repeated images of Elizabeth Windsor wearing said rictus grin and a number of posh frocks, interspersed with the likes of Michael Ball, Wayne Sleep and Jimmy Tarbuck telling us how honoured they were to perform for Her Madge, then you were in for a treat.

If, on the other hand, an hour and a half of this guff sounds worse than A Clockwork Orange’s Ludovico Technique, then you were probably better off down the union, waving your hammer and sickle pennant and thumbing your way through the latest issue of the Socialist Worker. As Andrew Mitchell might say.