Arts & Books Comment

Television: The biggest celebrities you’ve never heard of

Rylan Clark is the only recognisable face on Celebrity Big Brother's Bit on the Side (PA)

Conversations with my mother about celebrities are like a game of Guess Who? She’ll say: “Who’s that man I’m thinking of? He’s married to that woman.” I’ll reply: “What woman?” “The one with the hair.” “Who?” “Oh, you know.” I never know. And nine times out of 10, that man wasn’t even married to that woman in the first place. Sometimes, he’s not even a man.

So watching an episode of Celebrity Big Brother’s Bit On The Side (Channel 5, 11pm) with mum is a particular joy. This is the show that comes on an hour after CBB – and features an all-star panel of people whose names we’ve both forgotten discussing the antics of people we
never knew.

We know the name of the presenter, of course. Rylan Clark-Neal was a bad act on The X Factor that people voted for to irritate judge Gary Barlow. CBB’s Bit on the Side is a good gig for Rylan. He looks like he knows that life has been far more generous towards him than he really deserves. He bounces about the set, cajoling his panel of somebody-or-others to say cruel things about the whassisnames locked up in the Big Brother house.

One of these people we do recognise: it’s Leslie Grantham, aka Dirty Den off EastEnders. Rylan asks a quick question: “What’s Leslie Grantham been doing since EastEnders?” Leslie, a venerable actor, tries to give a full reply and Rylan interrupts with: “So you’re doing OK then, you’re happy?” Yes, he is. And he’s also writing a book. Which explains his appearance on this tawdry show – and his agent probably said to him: “Whatever you do, darling, make sure you sell the bloody book.” So Rylan asks him to describe the book and Leslie says: “If you liked Harry Potter and you liked The Birds – well, it’s better than that.” And somewhere, an agent reaches for his heart medication.

But all of this is moot because mum is trying to place the face of a bloke who may have been on Celebrity Pop Factor on Ice – and I reach an epiphany. Celebrity is in the eye of the beholder. You are whoever we choose to remember you are – if we remember you at all. And I must remember never to watch this rubbish again.