Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The bitch is back

Batten down the hatches people - Anne Robinson's coming after you, and she's pissed off. Not that you can tell though, given that her face has been frozen in a rigor mortis smirk since she first discovered the joys of plastic surgery.

Not content with harassing innocent game show contestants and making John Noakes cry by needling him about his dead dog, the hard-faced harridan returns this month to the show where she first made her name as a broadcaster. That's right, Watchdog is back, without the insufferable Julia Bradbury and Nicky Campbell.

The show returns in a new hour-long, prime time format allowing the 'queen of mean' to bite the heads off small animals and throw molotov cocktails through the windows of passing school-buses. OK, that's not strictly true. She'll actually spend most of the time smugly interrogating ill-briefed PR people from British Gas, but the approach will be no less confrontational.

This is Anne's schtick, and it's one that's helped her amass a considerable fortune, despite having all the appeal of a backed-up sink. Anne has never actually done warmth, but at least when she fronted Watchdog in the early nineties she merely had the fearsomely flinty air of Bronte-era governess - a stern patrician with a well-concealed heart.

However, after the success of Nasty Nigel on Popstars and Simon Cowell on pretty much everything else, the world realised that it found unpleasantness to be unmissable when it came to light entertainment. And so The Weakest Link was launched, with Anne briefed to jokingly eviscerate the hapless contestants, while dressed like a cross between a menopausal headmistress and an angry crow.

The public ate it up, and the format was successfully sold to the US network NBC, where Anne continued to ply her well-practiced (and heavily scripted put-downs). The show was initially a big smash, but ultimately only lasted for a year or so, displaying all the staying power of Lindsay Lohan's work ethic.

Clearly influenced by the hunger for all things youthful that she encountered in the US, Anne returned to the UK determined to battle the aging process head-on, and subjected herself to a dramatic make-over. But whereas most women Anne's age would start with a few subtle enhancements, Anne spent £9,000 and had a complete facelift that pulled her skin so tight her face could have been used as a bongo.

Suddenly, photos of Anne needed captions to explain who was being pictured, but Anne handled the controversy with characteristic defiance. Her view was that this is what wealthy older women do, as illustrated by the comment that the work cost 'the price of one and a half Hermes handbags'.

But growing old gracefully isn't something Anne's entirely comfortable with. She believes that the TV industry is both sexist and ageist, and recently told the Radio Times that she would be out of a job if it wasn't for her "wit". So it's a shame that when faced with veteran broadcaster David Hamilton on a special edition of The Weakest Link, Anne made a variety of blatantly ageist comments directed at 'Diddy' David, such as 'Who are you broadcasting to now? Care homes?'

Hamilton's not best pleased with this, and has spoken out at his mistreatment at the hands of the freakishly ageless battle-axe. "I thought it was rather amusing that someone who's had facelifts should pick up on somebody like me, who's about the same age, because of my appearance and my age. I took it on the chin but I think a lot of people will think it a bit hypocritical."

The thing is, Anne's always given as good as she gets, and would probably take it on the chin too, if only she knew where it was.

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