Sunday, 28 July 2013

Milton Berle – Low Impact / High Comedy Workout

The name Milton Berle meant absolutely nothing to me prior to doing this workout. So in case you’re me, Milton Berle was an actor, comedian and the first major US television star. I don’t think you’re me, though. I’m me over here. You’re you. That’s how individual reflective consciousness works. Without that we might as well be living in a Charlie Kaufman movie.

If you’re an American then you are (a) definitely not me (I’m not an American. I’ve been tested) and (b) likely to be more familiar with Uncle Miltie, “Mister Television.”
Mister. Goddamn. Television.

I’m certainly not looking to disparage the man. He appeared on the Muppet Show for goodness sake. The proper one back in the 1970s. This makes him approximately 80 bazillion times more famous than any other celebrity we’ve featured here. Did Marky Mark ever get to do a duet with Fozzie Bear? Did Cher? Well, Milton Berle did AND he sang with Rowlf the dog. Of course, fast-forward 17 years and he’s making this rubbish fitness DVD but you can’t peak forever.
The epitome of human achievement.

I really had no business watching this workout at all. At the beginning of the DVD, Laura Gladwin of the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America introduces us to a couple of charts – one to check our heart rate and the other showing how we can assign a number to how puffed out we are. I say “we”. The charts only cover the ages from 60 to 100. Anyone younger can fuck off back to Kim Kardashian’s “Fit in your Jeans by Friday” workout as far as Uncle Miltie is concerned.

You know descriptions are supposed to be descriptive, right?

Milton was 86 when this workout was made. This would be impressive if he actually took part in any of the exercises but he doesn’t. He confines himself to watching from the sidelines mostly offscreen occasionally addressing a humorous remark to camera. Sometimes he offers advice while trapped inside a floating rectangle like one of the bad guys in Superman II.

Just don't let it smash, for god's sake.
Milton’s other contribution  to the workout are a couple comedy sections where he dresses up as celebrity fitness gurus Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda and makes some terrible jokes. “I don’t allow any of my pupils to drink, smoke or have sex.” says ‘Jane Fonda’, “at least until the workout is over.”  His posse don’t actually fall about laughing but this is largely because their hips wouldn’t be able to take to take the strain. They’re doubled up with mirth, though. I suspect this is because they are delighted to have been invited along and are far too well mannered not to laugh at Berle’s gags.
Tell me I'm funny. Please.
The interesting thing about the comedy segments is that we are encouraged to carry on working out while they are going on. “Remember to keep moving during this next segment!” admonishes trainer Merrily Smith who then demonstrates some workout moves we can do whilst watching the hilarity unfurl. Thing is, once you have introduced the idea that you can exercise while watching something other than an exercise DVD, it raises the question of why you need to bother with the workouts at all. Why not just follow Merrily’s exercise tips and then watch the whole of Milton’s Muppet Show episode instead?
Because it's got Zelda Rose's Singing Owl in it.

That way you wouldn't have to watch Berle’s clumsily deliver baffling lines like “Oh God, I’d like to have the prune concession for this lot.” and “Were you a lifeguard at a waterbed motel?”

Instead you could enjoy  Berle being heckled by Statler and Waldorf which is much more fun.

“I have been a successful comedian half my life!” Berle tells them. To which Waldorf replies “How come we got this half?”

Berle: I’d like to see you come down here and be funny.
Waldorf: You first!

Difficulty Level
This workout is aimed at users aged up to 100 years old who may have limited mobility so it is safe to say that this is the easiest workout we’ve reviewed at CLCW.  Good thing too. If it had been like Josie Gibson’s workout from a couple of weeks ago, not all of the OAPs would have made it out.

The best bits

Would I do this workout again?
Maybe once I become a senior, this workout will make all kinds of sense. I’m sure I’ll appreciate a workout which enables me to jog on the spot while sitting in a chair.  If not, I’ve got a few decades yet to source out an alternative.

Weirdest Bit
Berle includes what he calls the cookery section and is in fact one recipe for baked fish and steamed vegetables. It is cooked by chef Patricia Hill who looks so uncomfortable in front of the camera that it is painful to watch. She looks moments away from running in the opposite direction while screaming at the top of her lungs. She is clearly utterly terrified of Berle.  I think he may threatened to kill her entire family if she didn’t take part. I wouldn’t put it past him.
Scream and I will cut you.
Worst Bit
Milton Berle was in show business for most his life. He started in music hall as a child and was still working a couple of years before his death in 2002. So I guess the guy must have been doing something right. In this video, however, he is absolutely terrible. The one thing worse than the quality of Berle’s gags is his delivery of them. He stops and starts. He messes up punch lines. Did the man learn nothing from his time working with Fozzie Bear?
One of the greatest comics of our time and his performing human.

Best Bit
The group of seniors doing this workout  absolutely delightful. They range in age from 62 to 91 and are keen and enthusiastic. It’s like watching a session at a very upbeat Old People’s home. They’re like the guys in Cocoon who were pretty sprightly even before they got alien-juiced up.
Berle couldn't afford these guys prices, though.

As the credits roll,  Milton, Merrily, and Milton’s non-exercising cameo-appearing brother, Phil are shown first and then each of the participants’ picture, name and age - starting with the oldest. On one hand it makes sense – highest billing based on seniority. On the other it makes the later entries seem very unimpressive. You nod an admiring head at Warren Helvey and Esther Prezant as their ages appear on the screen. “Still doing sit-ups at 91, Mr Helvey? Good on you sir. 81 years old, Mrs Prezant? Well I never! You don’t look a day over 78.”

It makes the septuagenarians look less remarkable by comparison and by the time you get to those in their sixties, you have to stop yourself berating them for daring to look like actual old people. “Why do you need that chair, eh Margaret Berry? You’re only 62. Warren Helvey’s not using a chair and he’s old enough to be your father!”

She's having a lovely time, mind.

Even the youngest amongst them will be over 80 by now. I wonder how many of the Milton Berle seniors are still with us.  I hope there are plenty of them still going enjoying their lives to the full. Maybe hanging out with their grandchildren and asking them if they want to hear about the time Grandma made a fitness video.

“You tell me every time I come over. Are you going to make me do the Charleston workout with you again?”

At the end of the DVD, Berle delivers what may be his only non-excruciating line of the whole workout.

“It’s people like you,” he says “that give aging a good name.”

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Vicky Entwistle – Weight Off Workout

After last week’s Hollyoaks workout, now it’s Coronation Street’s turn. CLCW is clearly on a mission to prove that Eastenders doesn’t hold the monopoly on soap star related fitness DVDs.

Unlike Eastenders which takes place amongst the civilised postcodes of the South East of England, Coronation Street is set in the grim North and is full of characters who train whippets, make hotpots and speak as they find. Probably. Despite it being the world's longest-running TV soap opera in production, I’ve never actually watched an episode and have extrapolated all my understanding of the show from its theme music.

This week’s celebrity played Janice Battersby , the street’s loudmouth factory worker. Is there are a more northern-sounding name than Janice Battersby?

Well, yes there is. Vicky Entwistle. The name of the actress who played her.

Entwistle. Entwistle. It’s great, isn’t it? “Get Entwistle over t’mill. One on't cross beams gone owt askew on treddle.”
Occasionally Coronation Street required her to dress as the Queen

Vicky Entwistle, like so many soap stars before her, has suffered the trauma of having her photograph taken from an unflattering angle by the tabloid paparazzi while daring to sport a swimming costume, no make-up and post-swimming hair.
Losing 2 stone and releasing a fitness DVD is one response. This would have been another.

Now much as I hate the shrub-skulking lowlifes who contribute these photos to the UK’s most exploitative newspapers, they do seem to provide the catalyst for a lot of the celebrity workouts that get reviewed here. Perhaps I  should concede that there is some virtue in what they do. Well, that’s clearly not going to happen. Total fucking scum. Every one of them.

In addition to losing 2 and a half stone, Vicky has also dropped 10 dress sizes which is a pretty startling weight loss/ dress size conversion rate however you slice it. Still given the disparity between size measurements across shops, I could drop 6 dress sizes just by selecting different items of clothing from my wardrobe so maybe that accounts for some of it.
Although there was definitely exercise involved as well.

Not that she isn’t clearly a fraction of the lady she used to be.  “I know I’m never going to be a supermodel,” she says in her introduction. “But I’m gobsmacked how much I’ve changed.” She seems like a nice lady. For the workout, she’s  rocking a vest-top and shorts combo which make her look ever so slightly like a tennis ball.
Ceci n'est pas une balle de tennis.

Vicky is joined by trainer Richard Callender who we last saw humouring Katie Price in the Jordan workout. He was also one of the trainers on the The Biggest Loser although it is hard to imagine as he seems like an absolute sweetie.

The sections of the workout are the Warm Up, Fat Burner, Body Tone and Belly Shrinker. The exercises are rather great. At the end of the cool down Vicky says, “Now I have to be honest with you. The first time I did this, I couldn’t walk for a couple of days afterwards.” You’re telling me this now, Entwistle? Don’t you think it’s a bit late for that? I may have stuff to do over the next couple of days that requires the use of my legs.
It’s now 24 hours since I did these exercises and luckily I don’t seem to have any trouble walking. Perhaps  I wasn’t pushing myself enough or  maybe I’m a lot fitter than Vicky was at the beginning of her fitness regime. It’s more than likely that Vicky has a tendency towards hyperbole. Actors often do, you know. Even the straight-talking Northern ones.

Best Bit
At the end of the obligatory “Making Of” DVD extra, we are shown Vicky variously eating a chocolate cupcake, drinking champagne and feeding Richard something that looks suspiciously like mashed potato with a massive spoon – like a baffling re-imagining of Bodger and Badger. I applaud such behaviour in a C-List Workout celeb. You wouldn’t get it from Penny “Chocolate Sniffer” Lancaster.
Party time!

Weirdest Bit
There are times during the workout that Richard has a perceptible outline round his head as though he has been super-imposed in the workout room via the magic of film camera trickery.
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

I was going to make a joke about how the whole thing was really recorded in an alien space-station or in a magical fairy kingdom and they blue-screened it to make Richard appear like he was in a perfectly normal fitness studio.

Thing is, I’ve watched the DVD extra and it really does look like some of it was filmed in front a blue screen. I have no idea what’s real and what isn’t any more. Maybe none of these DVDs are really real. Maybe they just exist so that I can review them here like some kind of massively unsuccessful version of the Truman Show.
"That's great Vicky. Now we'll just get our CGI guys to painstakingly create an unremarkable workout space around you."

Is Richard Callender even a real person? I mean, sure I’ve seen him in the DVD extras but you know what, I’ve seen Buzz Lightyear in DVD extras and I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of trickery involved there too.

Worst Bit
Yet another pointless eating plan. There isn’t sufficient information here to plan anything. If the DVD producers aren't going to get Vicky back in to talk us through it and wave some Mange Tout at the camera, then quite frankly I’m not interested.
Or maybe dress as some Mange Tout. That would be good.

Difficulty Level
There are two types of ‘difficult’ when it comes to C-List Celebrity Workouts. Difficult to understand and difficult to do. It’s possible for a workout to be difficult because the instructor rattled through the instructions, didn’t really explain where your legs had to go and then expected to change from squats to lunges on no notice. It doesn’t mean that the workout necessarily did you much good.

Ideally you want the workout to be easy to understand but a bit of a challenge to complete which is exactly what Vicky Entwistle delivers here. Well, Richard Callender really deserves the credit but he wasn’t a cast member in the Best British Soap 2013 (according to the British Soap awards) so sorry, Rich.
Got this on your CV, Callender? No, didn't think so.

Everything is explained properly and demonstrated before you need to do it. In the warm-up section Richard introduces the new moves one at a time after making us complete the routine each time from the start. It’s the exercise version of that memory game where one person says “I want to the shops...” and you have to keep adding things to the list until someone forgets it.

Would I do this workout again?
Oh, I think so. I may be woefully ignorant with regard to most of Vicky Entwistle’s oeuvre but I’m happy to exercise with her again.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Hollyoaks – Dance Workout

This DVD starts by warning us that strobe effects are going to be used and so we had better take whatever appropriate precautions there are against strobing – deep breathing, tin foil hats, magically not being epileptic anymore – that sort of thing.

The other thing I saw recently with a strobe effects warning was Ben Wheatley’s “A Field in England” in which him off A League of Gentlemen takes magic mushrooms and trips his balls off in a field during the English Civil War. I am afraid that the Hollyoaks Dance Workout doesn’t fare that well in comparison.
This move doesn't feature in the workout, sadly.

The three Hollyoaks alumni here are Sarah Jayne Dunn, Jodi Albert and Ali Bastian who played Mandy Richardson, Debbie Dean and Becca Dean on the soap. They are joined by their trainer, Tristan Temple.
The gang's all here!

The DVD starts off with a quick interview and a fascinating behind the scenes look at their life on Hollyoaks in which we get the chance to see the sofa in the green room, learn that the girls like drinking tea in the morning and discover that nobody really appreciates just how hard soap stars work. It’s not all awards and parties, you know. Sometimes there is actual getting up in the morning involved.
I have the hardest job in the world.

Tristan asks the girls why they wanted to make a fitness video. “We just thought it would be something different” replies Sarah Jayne. Of course. Because soap stars releasing fitness DVDs is something that hardly ever happens. 

Ali tells us that they wanted the workout to be “fun and dance-based.” Which is a pity because it really isn’t either of those things. The producers have elected to take the ‘dance’ out of ‘dance workout’ and instead replace it with ‘grinding tedium’.

This is the least of its problems, frankly. The  Hollyoaks Dance Workout is the worst put together, cheapest-looking DVD that I’ve reviewed so far. And, you know, CLCW prides itself on its commitment to reviewing shoddily put-together bits of crap.

The whole thing is terrible. The picture quality and editing make it look like it was recorded on a mobile phone by a randy fifteen year old.
Not even slightly exaggerating.

The girls look unrehearsed and out of synch with one another. I’m not expecting Diversity-levels of co-ordination here but come on, at least try to maintain the illusion that you have the faintest idea what to do. Ali keeps having to look over her shoulder to check what the others are doing.

The music is both pointless and far too loud – Tristan is rendered almost inaudible during the first section. Even when his single word instructions aren’t being drowned out by the music, they aren’t much help. More than once I had to extrapolate what’s going on by focusing on Jodi’s midriff.

People who want to focus on Jodi’s midriff are without doubt the target audience for this DVD.

I imagine their ideal customer is someone who has already bought the Hollyoaks special episodes DVDs, books, calendars and limited edition Eau de Toilette and feels the need for just that bit more Hollyoaks in his life. Maybe he has set up a little shrine to Hollyoaks in the spare room – nothing fancy just a wall of photos and some candles. Somewhere to relax while he watches this dance workout on a continuous loop. The DVD looks like it has been shot in a tiny whitewashed basement somewhere which helps our viewer visualize exactly how the girls will look once he’s successfully managed to chloroform them and smuggle them into his specially-prepared suburban dungeon.
The typical viewer of this DVD.

There are three main sections to this DVD: the inspiringly named “Warm Up”, “Main Workout” and “Cool Down” sections. There is also a baffling extra section after the main workout where the girl don teeny tiny mini-skirts, stand in three inches of water and strut their funky stuff for 3 minutes. 

It has the flavour of one of those adverts that you get late at night for sex phone lines. The producers really do look after for their target audience. Because who doesn’t want to see girls who look like they’re being held against their will in the back room of a lap-dancing club after its suffered extensive flooding?
We checked with our focus group. That is exactly what they want to see.

Best Bit
In fairness to the girls, they do all seem perfectly lovely. (Apart from the flogging shoddy merchandise thing, obviously.) Sarah Jayne was in The Dark Knight, you know. And Jodi used to be in the Irish Girl group “Wonderland”. She’s married to one of the Westlifes.

Worst Bit
Look, I don’t want to get all schoolteachery here but I wish someone would take the makers of celeb workouts to one side and tell them that spelling does matter.

First there was Natalie Cassidy’s Eastenders character being referred to as “Sonja” rather than Sonia on the DVD box. A couple of weeks ago the DVD credits and enclosed booklet for Ministry of Sound couldn’t agree on whether one of the dancers was called ‘Stephen’ or ‘Steven’.

This week it’s Jodi Albert’s name which is clearly far too complicated for anyone to get right.
It’s Jodi not Jodie you imbeciles.

Seriously, if someone doesn’t sort this shit out I am going to start writing stiff letters of complaint to the newspapers. Probably in green ink and each one beginning “Why oh why oh why”.

Oh god, please help me.

Difficulty Level
We’re told this is a Dance workout – it’s right there in the name for goodness sake, but it really, really isn’t . It is a sequence of stretches interspersed with jogging on the spot. You know me, I’m no fan of dance workouts but I don’t think that pretending that you’re going to do a dance workout and then delivering something else is really the answer.

I was expecting a difficult dance workout. Instead I got a not-difficult not-dance workout. This should have made me happy but instead I feel cheated and let down. Stop playing with my emotions, Hollyoaks.

Would I do this workout again?
Definitely not. In fact, I’ll leave the final word to the guy who wrote the workouts only 5 star review on amazon.
Stay classy, James.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Josie Gibson – 30-second slim

Let’s get one thing straight. This workout does not last 30 seconds. Good news if you are looking to get value for money from your Celebrity Workout DVD purchases. Bad news if you were looking for a workout you could do during an ad break in Come Dine With Me.

The justification for the name presumably comes from the fact that this workout uses interval training and consists of 30-second blocks of high impact training interspersed with periods of “Active Rest”.

(“Active Rest” by the way is a grossly misleading term. It’s up there with “Public School” or “Friendly Fire”.)
Pictured: Friendly Fire

It’s a fucking liberty. A workout where bits of it last for 30 seconds isn’t a “30-second Workout” any more than Lord of the Rings is a “3 page book” just because sections of it are three pages long.
Not that I’m laying any of the blame for this at Josie Gibson’s feet. She seems like a perfectly nice girl who’s just trying to keep her media career alive after her departure from the Big Brother house in 2010.
Now here's a workout DVD double act we'd like to see

“Big Brother’s Josie Gibson is more a little sister now!” says the DVD box. Because she’s gone from being big to being little, do you see? Much like she’s gone from being a boy to being a girl. No wait, she hasn’t done that. I’m not really sure that comparison was really thought through.

Josie took part in Series 11 of Big Brother which was the last series of Big Brother to be broadcast on Channel 4. I had completely lost interest in Big Brother by this time and it seems I wasn’t the only one as Channel 4 were so desperately trying to ‘freshen up’ the format that it became a bit of an embarrassment.  For example, they had one of the housemates dress up in a mole suit live in a Mole Hole. They also instigated a Tree of Temptation which prompted contestants to do such hideously antisocial things like throw housemates' vegetables, fruit and bread into the pool and destroy someone's cigarettes. It’s like they actually wanted the housemates to kill one another.

It was - apparently - an actual tree

The format seems a confusing mess by this point – 81 hopefuls turn up on day 1 with one of the contestants being chosen by random draw and a bunch of new contestants being flown in by spaceship of day 31? What gibbering madness is this?

Still gibbering madness or not (and it was. Clearly.), Jodie must have been doing something right as she not only won the competition but did so with the highest percentage of the public vote ever. 

This DVD was released in January of this year which makes it a startlingly up-to-date review for CLCW. We’d better watch ourselves. We’re in danger of becoming cutting edge, here.
There are three workouts covering three different difficulty levels as well as a “Josie’s Story” extra which purports to give us a behind the scenes look at Josie’s incredible weight loss. Mostly it includes footage of Josie exercising at the beginning of her fitness regime when she was still plus-size. She has been squeezed into a pair of exercise shorts three sizes to small which causes her belly to overhang the waistband uncomfortably. Presumably to provide a contrast with the way she looks now.  And to provide an incentive to the rest of us.

It doesn’t have to be like this Josie. They make shorts in all different sizes.

The voiceover tell us it was “cruel” pictures taken of Josie on holiday that made her want to lose weight. Well, if they were so very cruel, voiceover lady, why are you showing them, huh?
And why am I showing them now? It’s like we’re ALL monsters.

She certainly looks like a new woman by the end of it. And she deserves to if she’s doing these exercises on a regular basis. They are unbelievably hard work. This may actually be the toughest (as opposed to just incomprehensibly convoluted) workout we've had here. You don’t expect it when you've got a celeb who was formerly actually overweight rather than merely photographed by the paparazzi at an unflattering angle. 30 second workouts can be pretty exhausting when you stick a load of them one after the other.
Suffer as I do!

Difficulty Level
As I mentioned, this is really hard work. Trainer James Stark isn't content just to make us do press ups. It’s more like: do a press up then touch your toes and a do a star jump and a squat thrust all within 2 seconds. And Repeat! Lots!

We've barely even started, people!

Would I do this Workout Again?
You know I am going to have to. Basically, you’re expected to master Level 1 before you move on to Level 2 then get the hang of that one before moving up to Level 3. I feel like a bit of a fraud even playing the later sections. Like I wasn’t really authorised to do so.  I will be back and  I will earn those Level 1 stripes godammit.  

Best Bit
Josie’s accent is just delightful. I honestly didn’t know that Bristolians spoke like that. I am clearly not spending enough time there. Who doesn’t want to spend time with someone who looks like Barbie and sounds like the Wurzels?

I got a brand new combine harvester and I’ll give you the key

Worst Bit
The workout appears to have been recorded in a school gym. There are wall bars and a old-fashioned vaulting horse. It took me right back to PE lessons at school. I’ve just about stopped screaming now.
The horror.