The fear, of course, is that by the year 2030 everybody in Britain will have been required – legally or otherwise – to participate in a reality show competition. Always two judges, always a double-wide table for each contestant, always stress and tears and protective aprons, always a cheerful hosting duo making jokes. We started on the normal things humans do for hobbies – baking, sewing, pottery – and now we are here, at Pooch Perfect (Thursday, 8pm, BBC One), blow-drying a pomeranian at Sheridan Smith’s behest. Sometimes, if you look closely, you can see culture collapsing like a cliff face into the barren sea. You can see the cracks in society that allowed a TV producer to lean back in a pitch meeting and go: “Pricks like dogs, don’t they? How about: an hour of dogs?”
I don’t know what else to tell you: it’s a competitive dog-grooming show. I know this country likes dogs, and I know this country will do embarrassing things in regards to dogs (Crufts; talking to them like they understand you; picking up their excrement with a gloved hand), but even this feels a step too far. Sheridan Smith’s co-host is a dog. She does skits with the dog where she pretends the dog can talk. I’m thinking about what would have to happen to my brain, how much of it doctors would have to remove with gothic Victorian tools under no anaesthetic, for me to find this amusing, or good.
The thing about Pooch Perfect is it doesn’t seem to have the requisite level of camp, knowing fun behind it to really land a TV competition concept this absurd. Sheridan Smith is trying her best, but she’s trying her best with dogs (can’t talk), dog people (can’t talk because they are busy grooming dogs) and the two judges (can talk, yes, but lack the “Paul Hollywood sparkle” I have come to expect from TV experts). Then you watch a final round where four people panickedly put a diamante necklace on a poodle and think: this isn’t just bad, it’s obscene.
I am wondering, of course, what future competitive event I will be forced to embarrass myself in on national TV in the near to not-near future. Britain’s Best Cuppa, or something, where I and five others – all office drones, cheerfully adept at making 10-brew rounds for our call-centre buddies – compete as to who can make the best tea. Two competitors are axed from the first round for messing up an oolong (“I’ve never worked with oolong!”). I impress the judges with my unorthodox teapot technique and a milky earl grey. In the final round, 12 builders are bought in, each with slightly different but mostly the same tea orders (“eight sugars”; “nine sugars”), and I have to make each cup and carry it out to them in the garden on a slightly too-small tray. “Joel, you did really well,” former Blue Peter presenter Katy Hill tells me, firmly but fairly. “But sadly, you are going home.”
I have to ceremonially break a Sports Direct mug on the side of a kitchen counter, take my apron off, and trudge home. Everyone on Twitter calls me a “tea cuck”. “At least,” I think, in a moment of absolute misery that I will never truly recover from, spiritually or physically, “at least I wasn’t on Pooch Perfect.”