Great British Hairdresser, aired on E4 on Monday nights, will soon reach its final episode, and no doubt we will all breathe a sigh of relief. On the one hand, the America’s Next Top Model/Project Runway meets session hair styling idea is great, bread-and-butter, fashion-reality TV. The none-too-easy challenges, gossipy house politics and great DIY tips proves a winning formula as it did for the modelling and sartorial equivalent.
Yet the competition is proving a strenuous and drawn-out labour. Last week saw a contestant perform his own elimination after the judges were even asking the hopefuls who they thought should go.
The difference between our “Great British” version and the American cousins couldn’t be more striking. Where the are polished and pre-rehearsed, James Brown and Jo Elvin seem somewhat out of control. Spoilt brat James charges around set with demonic blue eyes, one minute setting difficult tasks with the mantra “you can do this!”, the next thundering about how “crap” they all are and how they just “don’t get it”.
Well, maybe that’s what you need to teach them, James, instead of sneering aboutstylists’ previous work in such insatiable places as Peterborough. No wonder contestant Daniel Granger walked, the stylists are faced with an impossible task. Its called Read James Brown’s Mind. Using an idea of how he would do things as his scoreboard, James is tying himself in knots waiting for the hopefuls to magically “get it”, possibly transforming themselves into a servile clone of himself. Any learning process for the stylists is distinctly missing from the show; while tasks get harder, there seems to be a lack of structure for success.
The celebrity name-dropping is skin-crawling stuff, but most painful of all, he shouts at them, to their face. Last week’s gem? “You’ve done fucking shit hair”. It commands the respect of neither those on-screen or at home, and his greatest fear is the idea of the fledgling stylists might ruin his career. Ironically, his bullying and bitchiness is doing nothing for his public profile.
James Brown wants it all. To spit the dummy out and scream at the stylists he is at the same time enticing with the magical offer of a rags-to-riches professional transformation; he wants to head a competition but have them follow his vision rather than assess their’s; he wants a flock of protégés without the responsibilities if they step out of line. He also wants to be a Real Sleb and name-drop/use Kate Moss at every opportunity.
Its a bizarre mix, and there is a bitter after-taste of misogyny, with only one girl left when it was the final six, and the remaining boys distinctly the best-looking ones. Keris, the gobby Belfast babe, definitely gets our vote. Bad organisation aside, this is enticing and addictive stuff; who will he throw his rattle at next week?