Picture the scene. You're a hard-working Daily/Sunday Express scribbler, chained to that desk 24/7 trying to carve out half-decent articles to a deadline, all the time attempting to maintain a veneer of credibility and integrity. Sure, you know your newspaper is turning into a bit of a BNP recruiting leaflet at times, but you don't work on that bit of it - you soothe that conscience with the knowledge that you're just doing the TV and showbiz stuff. It's not as if you're anything to do with those headlines on the front page or the slightly smelly agenda that comes from the top. No. You're just doing the candyfloss, the cheesecake, the bits that fill in the spaces, the telly stuff, the celebrity bits - and what's wrong with that?
And then you get told to write something good about Vanessa Feltz.
Those crumbling dreams. Those distant, hazy memories of when you wanted to be a journalist, and wanted to do something good - wanted to make a difference, be a good writer, see that name on the printed page next to something really special. All those hopes. Those aspirations. Those things you wanted to be, and do, and have.
And now... now you've got to write something good about the Vanessa Feltz show. Not because it's good - you know it's not good; you struggled through five minutes of it the other day, until whatshisname stumbled over his words for what seemed like the millionth time and called her 'sweetheart', your buttocks vice-locked together in squirming agony, transfixed by the awfulness yet desperate to change the channel to something, anything; anything but this. No, because it's on Channel Five, and, yes, it's now a Richard Desmond product, so you've got to write something good about the Vanessa Feltz show.
I know it's cruel of me, but I've started scouring the Express and Star websites for Good Things Written About The Vanessa Show. I can almost scent the tear-stained keyboards and the soft sound of sobbing in every paragraph, though they gamely battle on, and full credit to them for that. You can almost see the sandcastles of ambition being washed away in the tide. I don't get the sense of a programme these people really love, but an overwhelming sadness between the words, as if to say "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I had to." We've all been there, having to do something we didn't particularly like in order to pay the mortgage, but come on - writing positive reviews of the Vanessa show is really cruel and unusual punishment.
Look, I may well be wrong. Maybe it is a fantastic TV show that happens to be on Five and happens to coincidentally get good reviews from Richard Desmond's newspapers from reviewers who completely love everything about it. That's not beyond the realms of possibility, is it? Well, you be the judge. Have a look at the programme - see if you can make it through ten minutes without flailing around the living room in a whirl of hate, knocking over bookcases and sending the cat flying behind the curtains - and you tell me it deserves reviews like this.
Further reading: Tabloid Watch - Express and Star plug new Channel 5 show