Rylan is proof that reality TV works and the hero we all need

He might look a Freddie Mercury hologram but Rylan Clark-Neal is far better than the frigid format of quiz show Babushka

No one needs another quiz show. TV is crammed with quizzes that manage to cater to every facet of the precarious mental state. If you're feeling bad about yourself and think you've amounted to nothing more than a pathetic porridge-brained appendage growing from your couch, you can sit and drool as a row of terrible haircuts on University Challenge bleat out the periodic tables like toppings on the Domino's menu. You can be bemused by how the smug pub-quizzers on Only Connect even know the names of the hieroglyphics to be able to answer the series of impossible questions in the first place. Then there's the tea-time cosiness of Pointless, the arcade-game goofiness of Tipping Point and twinkly-eyed Bradley Walsh's The Chase.

The latter has amassed a bafflingly ardent fan-base who recently began an online hate campaign aimed at its summertime replacement. There are people who feel so passionate about an afternoon quiz that's a bit like Eggheads and presented by a wheezing blooper reel that they were compelled to issue death threats on Twitter. Not even in the height of Deal or No Deal's weird mind control experiment did Noel Edmonds use his cosmic ordering or cult following to organise a reign of terror on his teak coloured telly rival, Bargain Hunt's David Dickinson.

Babushka (which by law, should be sung in an Alan Partridge voice) is The Chase's summer stand-in. It is a Russian doll-themed quiz presented by Freddie Mercury hologram Rylan Clark-Neal and is unashamedly ridiculous.

Its rules are a mash-up of The Weakest Link, Deal or No Deal and that quiz that Joey was asked to front in Friends. For all its convolutedness it's essentially about choosing one of the Russian dolls and seeing what cash is inside. This is not a game of positive vibes, Machiavellian cunning or even vague intellect. Instead, it's a quiz that compares Gail from Corrie to Henry VIII and genuinely asks, like a mam at Christmas, if "a Twirl is one of the chocolates in a box of Celebrations?" On the show, window cleaner Martin muses that he has a box somewhere in his conservatory then proceeds to rattle off the names of several chocolate bars noting his and other family members favourites as if scrolling through a shopping list. He's lost in this confectionery fugue-state for what seems like an eternity until his patient wife Debbie nudges him back to reality. It's a lost quiz-show sitcom scripted by Caroline Aherne.


There are times when Rylan looks like a bewildered budgie, his rictus grin comes unstuck, and there's a slight air of frustration about how long it's taking this tedious thing to end. Frankly, he deserves better. Hemmed in by the format he is not able to add his usual quick-fire wit and ad-libbed flourishes to proceedings. Rylan, with his charming,personable manner needs a Blind Date or a Family Fortunes, a show that can be sold on his personality rather than this quiz equivalent of a cruise ship restaurant that could be presented by a floor-mop.

Rylan should be a ghoulish hate figure or a Wikipedia footnote for the year 2012 but the best friend of Katie Price and former X Factor annoyance has managed to carve out a unique career as a reality show survivor turned consummate presenting professional. While Ant and Dec were busy becoming a tribute to Jimmy Tarbuck, Rylan was adopting the warmth of Dermot O'Leary and the energy of Zoe Ball to transform into a thoroughly modern presenter.

His USP is his enthusiasm: he still comes across as a giddy fan who got lucky as he pinches himself on the This Morning sofa sat beside Baby Spice, making viewers believe he has more in common with us at home than he does with his contemporaries. His style, like a pleasantly over-familiar co-worker, is not a hollow affectation. He breaks the fourth wall to acknowledge a rum piece of Emmerdale gossip because he's invested in this madness:he genuinely needs your Auntie Sheila to know what's going on in the Dales. In a world where most reality "stars" are vacuous narcissists, Rylan succeeds because he is interested in something: that something may not be the facts that'll get him through the second round of Mastermind but it has aided his longevity well past his allotted 15 minutes.

Why would anyone go on Made in Chelsea?  

A question that could be regularly asked of the cast of Made in Chelsea (E4) is: why would you crave this Warholian nightmare? If you are already heir to the McVities fortune why bother dunking your Hobnob into the murky tea of cheap telly? Reality TV is the final frontier for enterprising Del Boys and Girls looking to get rich quick: it's not the natural landscape for divot stomping, champagne guzzling poshos, you'd assume.

Thankfully, fame, even the most limited kind, is an alluring mistress and Made in Chelsea is the most enduring and best of these scripted "reality" soaps. Maybe it's because it looks beautiful – the filtered camerawork leaves its subjects looking like peachy perfection – or maybe it's because the problems of the absurdly wealthy are truly hilarious.

Made in Chelsea is the updated incarnation of society scandal sheets where you could imagine an errant Mitford sister lolling about being unnecessarily mean to a girl with only two names. The drolleries and disdainful comments of their actual aristo-in-residence Mark-Francis Vandelli are full of Nancyesque bile. There is always a crisis in everyone's love life where some spoon-faced toff has been "indiscreet" with an anonymous blonde with a nickname like Refunda, which sees them fleeing to the south of France or taking refuge in a stately home in Shropshire. There is always a scene where someone is involved in a posh person pastime like falconry or swan barbecuing, and there is guaranteed to be some Dynasty-style drink discarding.

They are unafraid to cast someone as the villain: in the past it's been human ham-hock Spencer Matthews but never has there been a Made in Chelsea cad quite as unapologetic as Harry Baron (left). Even his name sounds like the noise the Queen emits when she sneezes. He is straight from the Evelyn Waugh handbook of handsome heart-breakers, with his wriggling eyebrows and hair bobbing about like a follicle comma attached to his head.

Having only arrived on the show in the past two weeks he’s already managed to break up one relationship and partially destroy another friendship, which he shrugs off with a wolfish grin. The rules of reality telly are unforgiving, everyone is replaceable but until the buzzer goes and his time is up, E4’s answer to Errol Flynn has only just begun.