Amateur Scribe

(The Original)

Beat the Panel

Note: There haven’t been many new pieces posted recently – but I wanted to make sure I found a worthy story to talk about. Something topical. Something meaningful and important that will challenge the way people think. I’m aware that all too often I slip into lazy celebrity parody – and that’s the last thing I wanted to do here.


INT BMG Records (Day)


SIMON stares icily out of his penthouse office window as various underlings fuss around nervously. Suddenly he claps briskly, spins on his heels and addresses his staff.


Simon: “Right! Angelica, stay here and take this down. Ellen, go and get me a Frappacino, some tic-tacs and a copy of Smash Hits. Tony find me the latest Gareth Gates numbers – let’s see if we can’t dump that stammering little scrote for good. The rest of you can fuck off and leave me alone.


Most of Simon’s team scurry away while ANGELICA, a buxom Personal Assistant in severe spectacles and an Armani trouser-suit, scribbles manically on a notepad as the great man speaks.


Simon: So everyone’s going mad for the panels at the moment, OK? But we need to stay ahead of the curve. The BBC have cottoned on and are throwing Graham Norton plus a ton of cash at every dreary Lloyd-Webber snoozefest they can lay their hands on. We need to break it down, reposition it – what’s the word - deconstruct the format. People are sick of talent, or what passes for it these days.


Paul Potts? Are you fucking kidding me?? What the hell am I supposed to do with that moron? And I can’t even remember which guttersnipe won the last X-Factor – If I’d known that the pinnacle of that sorry franchise was going to be Will Sodding Young, I’d have blown my brains out before Sharon Osborne asked for a pay rise.


No, this country’s gone to the dogs when a pre-pubescent break-dancer with a sob story can win TV’s biggest talent show – and don’t even get me started on the Yanks. If one more overweight black woman who thinks she’s Aretha Franklin sucks her teeth at me when I tell her she can’t sing, then I swear to God I’ll pound her in the face, no questions asked.


But the panel thing works. If only I could freshen it up a bit… I don’t know… reinvent the wheel…


After a moment’s silence SIMON hammers his fist on the desk triumphantly


Simon: BANG! Got it!! It’s been staring us in the face all along!


We FORGET about the talent! SCREW the talent!



Shit! I’m the fucking talent anyway – always have been. Who wants to see a gurning idiot murder Flying Without Wings when they’ve got Cowell rolling his eyes and taking the piss out of Randy Jackson?


We’ll call it Beat the Panel. No singing. No dancing. No drama school dropouts blubbing and dedicating Bridge Over Troubled Water to their recently deceased grannies. Just panels of experts spitting bile at one another and squabbling over who can come up with the pithiest put-down, or the most obsequious, misty-eyed commendation.



SIMON leaps up and paces the office excitedly while ANGELICA follows attentively, desperately trying to jot everything down.


Simon: Now… Who to have on my team? I’ve been on so many of these damn panels, I’ll need to be careful to get the right mixture of canny old harridan and desperate, sycophantic slut.


Hmmm. A tricky one. Dannii? Amanda? That Cheryl Cole’s very keen, I’ve noticed. And then there’s Paula Abdul – though I’m a bit over that whole drunken swaying and routine hysteria after yet another dreary Mariah cover. Tell you what: I’ll take each of them out to lunch and the first one to bring me off with her stockinged foot under the table at the Ivy is the winner.


Angelica: I’ll check their availability right away. Oh and Sharon Osborne’s been in touch – says she’s sorry about the misunderstanding and…


Simon (interrupting): Fuck Osborne – she could get down on her knees and blow me six ways from Tuesday if she thinks she’s getting on my team. Make sure Louis Walsh is on board though. My Christ does HE make me look good.


And then it’ll be a straight “panel-off” off with all those other smarmy tossers. Have a word with Len Goodman’s people. I’m sure we could get the Strictly mob over if we can cover Arlene Philips’s bar bill and provide oiled-up dancing boys for Bruno Tonioli.


And I’ve been waiting for a chance to piss on Nigel Lythgoe’s chips ever since he got a Frenchie off Dannii Minogue at the X-Factor wrap party. See how he fares when he’s up against me armed only with his washed-up mob from Popstars. Doctor Fox?? Even Louis’s got more charisma than him – and that’s despite the nagging paedophile rumour.


The Dancing on Ice team are a shoe-in as well. Those money-grubbing whores will be all over it like shit off a stick. Actually – great idea for one of the rounds: We’ll get Holly Willoughby mud wrestling with Tess Daly, and we can all judge them based on artistic interpretation and technical merit - Saturday evening - a bit of Generation Game slapstick – the punters will love it. If we can get Brucie to referee it in full bib and tucker, there’s your BAFTA, right there…


SIMON pauses momentarily and stares into space, before coming to his senses…


Simon: Right – what else?


I know – Each panel can compete over who has the best “Mr Nasty” character. (Chuckles) - as if that prick Lythgoe can hold a candle to me. I’ll just need to throw on the back polo-neck and tut loudly about everyone else being “distinctly average” and “not suitable for this competition” and the points are in the bag.


Campest team member? I can see it now, Craig Revel-Horwood and that frightful old queen with the beard from Dancing on Ice mincing it up in sequined catsuits on some kind of glittery catwalk…(Pause) God! What am I thinking??? JOHN BARROWMAN! We HAVE to get Barrowman! Have you got his number?


Angelica: Er… I think he’s tied to the Beeb…


Simon (Interrupting): Doesn’t matter – I’ll call in a favour from Wogan - Christ! Barrowman! Louis will jizz in his Topman slacks!


Then of course each panel will have a hateful, menopausal witch figure who will win points for peppering their performances with shrieking and drunk, incomprehensible nonsense. Bloody Hell – that seals it. I’m DEFINITELY having Abdul. And we’ll make sure that Arlene’s vodkas are watered down in the green room – nothing like a little insurance.


Now - I’m picturing a big set. The NEC, maybe. Let’s see if we can get the Albert Hall for the final – black tie for everyone – I’ll wear that ice white shirt – unbuttoned – with high trousers and khaki tux. You know, that one that makes me look like Roger Moore in Live and Let Die…


Angelica: I’ll take it to the dry-cleaners…


Simon: …and the grand judging panel – see if Paxman will do it. Failing that, Trevor McDonald – we need the damn gravitas. ITV viewers may have the brains of amoebas, but they hang on every word that imbecile says – that way they can read the Daily Mail without thinking they’re hateful Nazi simpletons.


And we need some washed-up entertainment veteran, plus a joker-in-the-pack to round things off. Let’s think… (Strokes chin)  Les Dennis?  Would be great for the tension with Amanda… Timmy Mallet? Bob Carolgees?  No, no, no! Think man, THINK….


Pauses dramatically then slaps forehead in disbelief at his own genius


Simon: Michael. Barrymore. Murder. Intrigue. Sexual ambiguity. Can’t see HIM showing any favouritism towards Piers Morgan…


Now. Who to present? Thornton’s just popped a sprog, and I’m not putting something this big in the slippery hands of Ryan Seacrest, the oily git.


It really has to be Ant and Dec. Not only are they the most beloved auto-cue monkeys in ITV history, but they make me look taller too. They should also be able to rig the public vote to make sure I win…


SIMON sits back down and stretches out luxuriously


Well this has been a very productive brainstorming session – well done sweetheart. Now – get me a large glass of Cristal and Michael Grade on the blower…





July 2008

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