Look on my plight, Greg Wallace, and despair!
No viewer now remains. They all have fled
For roller-coaster dumbed-down sensations
And US-style cheap-thrill bedazzlements.
This is the age of change. Nothing is sacred. All is flux. And now one of BBC Television's most-revered institutions has itself been toppled. For cookery programme Ready Steady Cook - in which members of the public brought 50p-worth of ingredients to the kitchen to be transformed into a hearty meal by competing celebrity chefs - has got the chop, writes Shelley Wordsworth, Vast and Trunkless Legs of Stone Correspondent.
It seems that BBC chiefs can no longer stomach the show's reduced ratings ration. Audience figures have reportedly halved since the Ainsley Harriott and Fern Britton vehicle first hit UK screens in 1994.
The show enjoyed a huge slice of the audience pie for a long time, scoring three million viewers when hosted by mumsy frump Fern Britton, 76, who enthralled fans with her daily 'Fern's Food Knits', crocheted representations of the previous show's winning meal.
Things went off the boil, however, during the lukewarm reign of leering lummox former Gravesend whelk-stall entrepreneur Ainsley Harriott, 64, who became as notorious for his idiotic catchphrases like 'Bertie Butter Dish', 'Oliver Oil' and 'Fanny Fat', as he was reviled for his tendency to envelop contestants with his lolloping limbs and lubricious lips. The Daily Mail's television critic John Witchfinder famously described Harriot as 'a cross between an obese octopus, an overfed excitable baby shark and the salivating curate who took my virginity when I was all of eight years old'.
And it has now been revealed that the final episodes of the show were filmed 5 years ago in a disused fish-gutting warehouse in Harriott's old Gravesend whelking-ground.
Harriott, 71, stated in a statement yesterday:
"I am honoured to have been the star of Ready Steady Cook for the last 150 years. Without Ready Steady Cook I should have still been hacking the heads off cod and herring, skinning live eels, and selling whelks in my spare time down at Gravesend pier. Now I can afford to spend more time with my beloved flock of Jacob's Sheep at my 'ranch' near Broadwoodwidger, Devon, and developing my collection of sepia photographs of defeated Japanese Admirals in full regalia, complete with epaulettes and feathered helmets."
The move to pare away Ready Steady Cook is part of a strategy by the BBC's Head of Daytime Braindeath Kelvin Soma to pare away Ready Steady Cook. This strategy is itself part of a larger strategy which encompasses the smaller strategy part of which is aimed at paring away Ready Steady Cook.
Kelvin Soma said: "Ready Steady Cook has hung up its oven gloves and plastic aprons. It has put away its corn-on-the-cob jokes and its saucy banter. We have to be proud of a show that ran for 150 years, which is far longer than any other cookery programme, with the notable exception of Johnny Craddock Tries To Sober Up While He Is Chased Around The Cheap Studio-Set By Fanny Craddock Wielding A Rolling Pin which of course first hit the nation's screens during the 1745 Jacobite Rising and dominated the schedules until the rise of Pinky and Perky in the sixties finally put it to rest. Ready Steady has however now been consigned to the pig-bin of culinary history."
I understand that the show's format has been sold widely abroad, and that prospective foreign programme-makers have met with the BBC in order to identify and groom presenters with just the right combination of cheesy familiarity and incipient sadistic menace to appeal to the targeted comatose dependency daytime demographic of the show.
Meanwhile, Ready Steady Cook will be replaced on BBC TV by what Kelvin Soma calls "more dynamic, zeitgeist-savvy culinary interactions".
Two of these shows have already appeared on our screens:
First we have seen Masturbating Ego Kitchen with Greg Wallace, John Torode and the terrifying hatchet-faced dominatrix Manica Stiletto, Sous Chef at Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis-Clos Michelin-starred Holborn eaterie. Here, two bloated ignoramuses eat buckets of food thrown away by exclusive London restaurants, drink a crate of Chateau d'Yquem 1811 each, then vomit and masturbate onto plates of designer food prepared by narcissistic upper middle class control-freak contestants who are trampled beneath the black heels of Manica Stiletto and have to beg to go through to the next round while talking about their windmill conversions and weekends in the Dordogne.
And just started on the new BBC Gluttony Wank Channel is The Ugly Fat Hairy Tossers' Great British Village Spunk-Off starring "The Sweaty Arseholes", in which two short, fat ale-cans called The Two Fat Alans belch and fart their way around the minor roads of Britain in a 1960 Bedford Dormobile Van, stopping off to organise Jacobs Joins in village halls, where they proceed to engage old ladies in embarrassing innuendo, before masturbating into the assembled traybakes, trifles and bowls of special frumenty. The climax to each show is called "Alan and Alan Get Shit-Faced": after drinking themselves into a stupor in the village Inn, the irrepressible pair return to the village hall and defecate onto each other's face. There is a competition running through the series called "Alan and Alan's Favourite Shit-Faced Sign", in which a trophy sculpture of the Alans' turds will be presented to the owner of the best-named pub.
"This is the kind of TV that is right on the faltering pulse of today's idiotic viewing demographic", says Kelvin Soma, and he should know, being heavily involved in the manufacture and maintenance of both.