Jamie Dream’s Hospital

In Culture on April 2, 2011 at 9:59 PM

As the show starts, the nation’s favourite, and, indeed, only, Naked Chef laments to the camera while driving: “the whole country, well at least those who ‘ent got private healthcare, are annoyed about the way healthcare is run in this country. Good, hard-working people all over Britain are being failed by our shoddy NHS. So, I’ve called in some favours from experts in their fields who I know to try ‘n’ sort this mess out. With the ‘elp of these people I’ve set up a ‘Jamie’s Dream Hospital’. We’ve taken over an old hospital and we’re gonna get in 20 subjects; people with different health issues, whether it’s their body or the things going on in their noggin, who have been failed by the NHS and we’re see if these experts can help them out”.

The first subject we meet is Tammie; a 19-year-old woman who has clearly modelled her look on the characterless, conventional attractiveness of automatons such as Barbie and Paris Hilton, but, due to her anoxeria (and consequent drug abuse), has come out looking more like an addled Lindsay Lohan after a particularly heavy weekend. We then meet Sonya; an 18 year old Vicky Pollard-lookalike who “has got natural big bones ennit”. And no it doesn’t stop there: “AND I is addicted to choclit.*Interviewer presumably meets this assertion with scepticism* “Nah I’m telling you; iz a proper medical condition and the bloody politicians is paying for all these druggies and alhololics (sic) to get recovered with MY taxis (sic – I dare not bother to do this for all mistakes) but not for me. That’s why I’ve come here; to get recovered by James-zy Olivers Dream ‘ospital”.

Jamie Oliver decides to put these two women/girls (‘women’ by age, ‘girls’ by maturity) into a counselling session, despite having completely different (even oppositional) eating disorders. It’s decided that this session is to be conducted by David Starkey on the rather spurious grounds that because both of the girls’ families have a family history of eating disorders, he should take it “’cos he’s good at ‘istory and that kinda stuff”. The session starts with the girls very bravely baring their souls to the nation by explaining about their weight issues and the reasons behind them. With the girls on the brink of tears, Starkey insensitively quips: “well, it seems to me these problems could be sorted by the enforced removal of some of Miss Piggy here’s flab to you, ol’ Flamingo legs”. He then continued to guffaw, very satisfied at his joke which he himself had obviously deemed hilarious. The two girls, however, hadn’t, as they started effing and blinding , calling Starkey “fuckin’ disrespectful” and such like. Starkey proceeded to claim that the two new girls were never going to get anywhere if they didn’t attempt to tackle the subject head on by admitting their obvious ‘problems’ and listening to him “such that (they could) deal with them”. The two girls then walked out of the session.

After the advertisement break, we are met again by Jamie who admits that that “encounter didn’t get off to the best of starts” but that, in his supreme optimism/arrogance he is sure that “it was just a misunderstanding and they could patch things up and get those girls better” as if their eating disorders were mere dirt on their shoulders which could be easily brushed off.

He then leads us on to a brighter note: “a lot of operating theatres these days are depressing places and not like theatres at all. We have a good old fashioned operating theatre at our Dream Hospital, so, I thought we would get star of the stage, me ol’ mucka Brian Blessed, to try and put the ‘theatre’ back in ‘operating theatre”. And so it was that we were faced with the bizzare spectacle of an actor with no medical, let alone surgical, training, operating upon Chris with his fractured left zygomatic arch (cheekbone to me and you…. and Brian), supervised by a proper surgeon, but still. The camera panned round the assembled audience of Dream Hospital ‘subjects’ (or at least those healthy enough to attend), who variously offered “WOOOPS” and “GO ON BRIAN/MATE/FATTIE”s , with no mention of whether Mike has given the other patients in Dream Hospital permission to be there. Brian Blessed starts the surgery by offering a booming “HELLLLLOOOOO EVERYBODY” then takes it upon himself to add some drama to the procedure by detailing Chris’ backstory in his the stunting, shouting, up and down, ultra-dramatic manner that he has made his trademark on and off stage. “POOR OLD CHRIS HERE had his FAACCEEE knocked about by some RUFFIANS after couRAGEousLY diving for a ball in a full blooded game of RUGGER. Those blundering busybodies at the NHS haven’t given him treatment in TWO FULL MOONS…OUTRAGEOUS. So I am here to use the power of the theatre to aid COURAGEOUS CHRIS’ RECOVERY!”. Then, with an assumptive arrogance which probably tops even Jamie Oliver’s he bellows: “I may not have done this EX..ACT…LY before BUT I have played a surgeon AND I can play a mean little tune on the ol’ ebonies and ivories so LET’S HOPE THAT DEXTERITY WORKS IN THIS THEATRE”, which is met with a hearty guffaw. The anaesthetist then comes up in to “send Chris away to where fantasies do lay”, after which Brian brandishes a surgical knife and shouts “EN GARDE” whilst feigning a fencing move. Sitting down at the chair, he fiddles with the knife in the manner a bored school pupil would with his pen and exclaims “where to incise on this EVER-SO handsome VISAGE?!”. The ‘real doc’ then points to the place and Brian proceeds to cut into the visage with comparative careless abandon and several exhortations of “CORR, BLIMEY” as he discovers previously unseen recesses of the face. The supervisor eventually gets Brian exhibiting more care with the knife and amazingly the operation is successful and ‘courageous Chris’ is brought back from the land of fantasies to reality (‘reality’?) as Brian declares “ARISE, GOOD SIR!”. The crowd then cheer and applaud (on cue) and two lads respectively shout: “nice one, mate” and “BACK OF THE NET, Brian”! Conveniently, the producers deem this a suitable time to cut to the ad break.

On the return for the ad break, Jamie is quick to herald the operation a “massive success” which they “must build on”. In a shocking display of insensitivity, not to mention wanton disregard for the woman’s wishes, Simon Callow is sent to raise the self-esteem of shy Tanya – a woman who has been the subject of domestic abuse – through the medium of drama, so that she can “stand up for herself”. He tries a variety of shouting exercises to get up her to open up, but to no avail. After the session Simon complains that he “just can’t get through to the woman…don’t know what’s up with her”.

Despite two abject failures of the three featured sessions, Jamie remains sanguine about the whole project: “ that didn’t go quite to plan, but I’m sure we can break through to these people and sort them out”. Cherie Blair/Booth Q.C. is assigned to counsel a person with multiple personality disorder, “misunderstood by ****in’ NHS” on the rather dubious, even offensive, grounds of “dealing with two people arguing day-to-day”. The ‘subject’, Kwame, claims that his normal alter is a calm, relaxed, ‘sane’, person but his other, oppositional alter is a dangerous, destructive force which drives him to drink, drugs and violence. Cherie, rather misjudging the atmosphere, even workplace, goes in bluntly by demanding “what is the case to be heard here?!”. The session then carries for about 20 minutes without major hitch, though Kwame has an almost constant expression of bemusement painted on his face as Cherie speaks in verbose, largely irrelevant legalese. This is until Cherie says “obviously legal representation for you people is harder to come by…” and Kwame retorts “what do you mean ‘you people’?!” Cherie replies, completely straight-faced: “well, ‘bananas’ of course”, to which Kwame replies “you ****ing dirty, racist whore…you just ****ed your way to the top anyway” and storms off.

Kwame storms across the car park and bursts into the lounge area where all the ‘subjects’ await their fates: “THIS IS BULLSHIT, MAN. THAT LAWYER WOMAN WAS RACIST. THE WHOLE THING IS SHIT. WORSER THAN THE ****IN’ NHS. I AM OUT OF HERE! WHO’S WITH ME?!”. A good another ten of them mutter their agreement and walk out in support of Kwame, to the chagrin of an exasperated Jamie Oliver calling after them, desperately shouting that he was “sure it was just a misunderstanding” and that “they can talk it over”. Even after this debacle, Jamie Oliver remains relatively upbeat about the whole project: “well, it hasn’t all worked out brilliantly, but I think we have shown how hard it is for doctors, nurses and everyone else in the NHS and I think we have given some of these kids a little bit of hope and suggested some really positive changes that I hope my chum David Cameron can act upon…”. This viewer for one hopes David Cameron doesn’t act upon these ideas….

Joel Durston

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