My first experience of WifeSwap was watching a Wifeswap marathon on New Years Eve a couple of years ago. I had never seen anything like it - couples from different social classes swap partners for two weeks, with explosive results. The episode with Lizzy Bardsley had me literally shaking. Jobless, with eight children, and claiming £37,500 a year on benefits, Lizzie was also foul-mouthed, jealous, paranoid and a chain smoker (and her children were asthmatic for goodness sake!) But worst of all, she was shameless and didn't care. She was like a Daily Mail demon-from-hell. Lizzie cut her Wifeswap experience short, her jealous paranoia convincing her that her husband was being seduced by blonde middle-class Emma (he wasn't). The ensuing insane confrontation was car-crash tv at its most cruel (Lizzie lost the plot). Lizzie should have been sectioned afterwards for her own safety and the safety of the British public.
But she wasn't.
Instead the tabloids loved her, a chav icon - one minute she was being berated in the Star by Dominic Diamond, the next, appearing topless in the Sunday Sport (sporting frighteningly pendulous breasts - I'm sure a lot of Sunday Sport readers decided to go gay that day.)
Since WifeSwap though, Lizzie has triumphed - she won The Weakest Link donating the prize to charity) and appeared in the awful Channel 5 Big-Brother rip off show "Back to Reality", where, gripped with that all-too-familiar-paranoia she aided a psychological breakdown among the participants, who were certain that there was a "mole" in the house (there wasn't). And now, Lizzie's back on Channel 4 (the channel with no social conscience) taking up a "challenge" to run a tacky bed and breakfast (the carpet looks like someone vomitted then bled to death all over it) in Blackpool (where else?) in order to show that she is not bone idle after all. The programme is called Bed and Bardsleys. And it's wrong wrong wrong.
The jaded producers have produced a line-up of the most outre, controversial and annoying guests for Lizzie as possible (that must have been a fun brain-storming session). First, Liz Goodyear (Bet from Coronation Street a million years ago) lasted all of five minutes, refusing to climb into a bunk bed (probably just as well - she could have fallen and broken a hip). There have been scary tattooed bikers (one who exposed himself to four terrified Japanese female tourists - the most controversial thing they'd ever seen previous to that was a Hello Kitty handbag), some posh "It-girls" from London who bravely offered to give Lizzie a makeover - foolish girls. The producers know that Lizzie's 'weakness' is posh, pretty women. They drive her mad! Lizzie sent them and their trademark camp little dog (the latest accessory for posh women who can't get a boyfriend to last more than 3 months) packing after a few minutes. There have also been various fetishists (who seem to have wandered in from filming a Channel 5 "documentary" next door). In last night's episode though, the producers decided to stir things up even more by throwing Lizzie's "sworn enemy" and "nemesis", Dominic Diamond from the Star into the mix. Dominic's quiet sarcasm and mocking laughter was given short shrift by Lizzie, and it seemed only a matter of time before police helicopters would have to be called, in order to clear the area and lock the pair in separate cages. However, things did not go according to plan. Unable to resist, the producers threw another notorious Wifeswap couple Barry and Michelle into the house. Michelle is a Lizzie clone - equally mad, dog-rough, loud, terrifying-funny. Except for one thing - Michelle is just a trifle OCD when it comes to cleanliness and the sight of a half-full ash tray in the bar made her brain do a loop-de-loop. This caused full-scale nuclear war - Clash of the Common Women. Michelle is probably jealous of all the media attention that Lizzie is getting (the voiceover warns us that Michelle was the Queen of Wifeswap until Lizzie came along - she too had posed topless for the Sunday Sport), and this final battle was going to determine who walked away with the Crown.
Meanwhile, Dominic smirked in a corner, loving it, until (as always with these public fights), Michelle decided he was a better target and started calling him a "knob-head". Dominic and Lizzie merely exchanged knowing glances and an alliance was immediately formed. After that, Dominic kicked Michelle and Barry out of the B+B and from then on it was plain-sailing. Dominic and Lizzie were new best friends, even experiencing some sexual excitement at the climax of a pub quiz that had Lizzie whip Dominic's bottom (blame the fetishists).
Despite the high-octane crazy of this show, all is not going well for Lizzie. My local news programme Granada Tonight, has excitedly reported that Lizzie is currently being prosecuted for benefit fraud and could face a prison sentence. I so hope that she treats the judge to some of her trade-mark haranguing during the court-case. Channel 4 must be licking its lips in hope of its next reality smash - Lizzie Goes To Jail. Who's going to be the bitch now?