Daytime TV: Needs must

Like cleaning skyscraper windows, the job of helping children in need is never finished, says Gary Day

November 25, 2010

Credit: Miles Cole

Despite years of fundraising, Pudsey Bear still has a handkerchief over one eye. In case you have been away for the past quarter of a century, he is the mascot for Children in Need (BBC One, Friday 19 November, 7pm). Pudsey is also the only bear in existence to have had a Criminal Records Bureau check. He waves to the primary schoolchildren and he jumps up and down, but you can tell that his heart isn't in it. He may look happy, but only because he's stuck with a smile that some idiot stitched across his face. No matter what he is feeling inside, all that the world can see is a big grin.

People don't know what Pudsey suffers. And they never will because he can't tell them. He has no tongue, you see. He can only nod or shake his head, but even then he has to be careful in case it falls off. He's also completely blind, which makes you think that the person who put that bandage over his right eye did so as a cruel joke. Or else it's there because he keeps crashing into things. Give him a stick, for goodness' sake.

This was the year that Pudsey finally snapped, as might anyone who had to work with Sir Terry Wogan for years on end. (More of him in a moment.) Pudsey invaded the recording studio at Stratford-upon-Avon College, pushing the students aside and messing with the controls. "I hate that bear," one of them muttered.

A shabby-looking Pudsey was later seen staggering around a set that flashed like a fruit machine paying out a jackpot. It must be hard knowing that he will only ever work on Children in Need. There's just no opportunity for a gigantic yellow bear in any other field of television.

But Pudsey's troubles may be at an end, for he has recently been joined by a female bear called Blush who seems to share all his afflictions. It is a marriage made in heaven, just like William and Catherine.

Sir Terry's co-host Tess Daly had fun with the English language. "Why don't we let the people who've been helped by your money thank themselves," she trilled. But her prose didn't quite match Terry's spectacular non sequiturs. "You don't need the likes of us to tell you that your money makes a difference," said Terry, who five minutes later told us that he was going to spend the entire evening pleading with us to donate.

Terry is reported to be the only presenter who is paid for his participation in this event, but my goodness he earns every penny of his £9,000-plus fee. There's his skill in keeping his wig in place. There's his twinkling charm. "What's your name?" he asked a woman in a T-shirt and a yellow hat. "Jan," she replied. "Give us some money," said Terry. And there's his sparkling wit. "I wave at the audience and they wave back at me," he said, pausing between each word so that the audience had time to laugh. "Now I know what a dictator feels like." Ah, that's why he kept climbing up from the studio floor to the balcony.

The show kicked off with Cheryl Cole, "the nation's favourite sweetheart". She had forgotten to put on a skirt and so her rendition of a song whose lyrics included the repeated line "Spread your wings over me" was one of the few sincere moments of the evening. Most of those came from the children. Victoria, who has cerebral palsy, said that she had looked forward to starting school, but that it had soon become clear that she was not going to be accepted. "My classmates thought I was stupid because I needed a walker." They used "to spit on me and trip me up". Some children, it seems, need something more than money to help them. Victoria got a dog from last year's show, which has given her "confidence and independence", but it hardly addresses the problem of prejudice against disabled people.

Hey, enough of the misery, let's get on with the entertainment. That's what we're all here for. Next up was a Strictly Come Dancing competition between Rochelle from The Saturdays and Harry from McFly. Each tried to shake off what few clothes they had on and Harry was the winner. The hit It's All About You, Baby played. It was the perfect song for an evening of moral exhibitionism by have-a-go celebrities. Chris Evans joined window-cleaner Paul Wright as he squeegeed the expanse of glass covering One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, the tallest building in the United Kingdom. It has 4,000 windows and it takes four men one month to clean it. "And then?" asked Chris. "We start again," said Paul. And next year children will still be in need. No wonder Pudsey's depressed.

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