What’s the title of this song, a quizmaster asks. Two hearts, Two hearts that beat as one, Our lives have just begun … Easy, I know that. And so does Kate, a 30-year-old polo club manager from Hertfordshire. It’s Endless Love, the Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross version, 1994.
Oh, then Kate wraps herself around the man asking the questions, slow dancing (possibly grinding), then whispers in his ear. “We should really meet for a coffee some time.”
Whoa, that’s not normal family quiz-show behaviour is it, trying to cop off with the host? But You’re Back in the Room (ITV, Saturday) isn’t a normal quiz. Because Kate – plus Steven, Leonie, Ross and Carolyn – have been hypnotised. By a man called Keith Barry, a “mentalist” (are you even allowed to say that?) who says he can shut down the conscious mind to plant thoughts and influence behaviour, allowing someone to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do …
Can you, though, Keith? Can you really? “100 per cent yes,” he says. “I think the question sceptics maybe have to ask themselves is: would these people really be doing the crazy and silly and outrageous things that they’ll be doing tonight, which will inhibit them from winning the money, if they weren’t hypnotised?”
Hmm, well the money thing does mean something, I guess; there’s 25 grand at stake, the silly stuff certainly isn’t helping Kate and the others get their hands on it. It’s Kate’s behaviour towards the host, though, that finally convinces me. Not because Kate has been happily married for five years, and has a lovely little girl; but because the man she’s getting adulterous with is … Phillip Schofield, from This Morning. I mean you wouldn’t, couldn’t – it would be physically impossible – to pretend to be in love with Phillip Schofield if you hadn’t successfully been hypnotised right? That’s good enough for me then – this Keith is the real deal.
Next up is pottery, but Keith has hacked into their minds. So to Leonie the clay smells of dog poo, Steven thinks the others are making willies with their clay, Ross believes he’s Patrick Swayze in the 1990 film Ghost and every time he hears a certain song (Unchained Melody, obviously), he will think that Steven is Demi Moore …
Tee hee. It’s quite funny. For a while. But hardly original. Paul McKenna was doing this – getting people to make idiots of themselves under hypnosis, purely for our amusement – years ago. Then Derren Brown went a bit further. So the way to keep hypnosis interesting would have been to push things further still. Perhaps hypnotise celebrities, or better yet, politicians. Turn Cameron into James Brown for PMQs: “Fellas, I’m ready to get up and do my thing! Yeah! That’s right! Do it!”
So there might be some logistical issues, possibly a few legal ones too, but it’s not my job to worry about that. My job is to say what’s wrong or right with something, and what’s wrong with Back in the Room is that it goes backwards from Brown (Derren, not James) to McKenna. You’re Back in the 90s. It’s not just the music and film references, the whole thing is quite retro, and the quiz format adds very little. Phillip Schofield makes it a bit more annoying.
Less annoying is Nina Conti Clowning Around (BBC4, Sunday). The ventriloquist’s 2012 film Her Master’s Voice – about going to a convention in America with her monkey and another puppet of her recently dead mentor and lover Ken Campbell – was one of the most imaginative and hilarious things that’s been on TV recently, and you should see it if you haven’t already.
This time she is learning to entertain children in hospital. Without her monkey, for reasons of health and safety. So she’ll be a clown. But clowns have their issues as well; everyone hates them – children, parents, charity donors – clowns even hate themselves, that’s part of their innate tragedy.
So Nina’s up against a lot – not just acquiring new talents, but overcoming clown-prejudice, and – most of all – learning to find the strength to be with very sick kids. It’s still mostly about Nina of course (mostly via Monkey, who is reprieved, via a hot wash) but it’s also about the kids, which is why it can’t be as funny as HMV. There’s not much laughter around where it’s most needed, in the wards of seriously and terminally ill children. It’s almost unbearably sad then. But touchingly human too, brave and important.