A small slice of Hollywood has turned up in the Celebrity Big Brother House on Channel 5 in the UK.
Reservoir Dogs actor Michael Madsen is in there, along with the famous twins who once shared Hugh Hefner’s bed – and they’re all looking a bit baffled.
Unbeknown to Madsen, who was second in, the first housemate - actor Natalie Cassidy - had been given secret tasks, one of which was to tell Madsen that she was his greatest fan and loved him in the movie Free Willy. He looked as if he had been hit over the head with . . . well, a wet fish.
Later, she had to go to the twins and speak with an American accent and then tell them she had done a lot of modelling. Lovely and talented as she is, Natalie is no Playmate bunny, and the twins could not hide their incredulity. It was hilarious.
As the show was being broadcast, the whole country of Wales was in shock, too. Grown men sobbed. They shook their heads in disbelief. They clutched their foreheads and held on to each other as if clinging for the last moments of life on a sinking ship.
What could possibly have happened? Who had died? Which national hero had passed away, who might be capable of eliciting such outpourings of grief?
The reason for the national tragedy quickly became apparent: Gareth Thomas – the Welsh international rugby player who came out as being gay in 2009 - had entered the house.
For those not in the know, the Channel 5 show (bought from Channel 4, who dropped it last year) returned on Thursday night and introduced us to the 13 celebrities who will spend the next three weeks holed up together. As each one mounted the fateful steps, Twitter went into overdrive as people began the predictable round of complaints.
These were B list celebrities, Channel 5 is awful, why do people humiliate themselves like this – on and on and on. My voice was a very small one in the wilderness of criticism because, quite simply, I think this series promises to be brilliant, and Gareth Thomas is 100% right to be there.
From the outset, it was inspired, and Cassidy just got funnier and funnier as she completed each task with seemingly relative ease – and none of them were easy, as they had to be performed “immediately”.
She even managed to kiss sacked X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza on the lips - twice (poor Frankie was totally intimidated throughout and reduced to a rare humility in the presence of Madsen). By the time she completed the last – getting everyone to join hands, delivering a motivational speech and subsequently crying – I was helpless with laughter.
It was an award-winning performance and I suspect her agent is already inundated with offers for when she returns to real life.
The decision for anyone to participate in a reality show is one not to be taken lightly. I criticised Welsh rugby international Gavin Henson for taking part in The Bachelor because he did so at a time when all his energies should have been directed at training for the Rugby World Cup. The Bachelor – a US format - is a desperately tacky show that requires great acting, a fantastic personality and an ironic wit to carry off the central role successfully – and Gav . . . Well, bless him.
Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice in the UK are shows that are almost foolproof in their ability to resurrect celebrities’ careers, because they have self-improvement at the heart of their formats. Similarly, I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! which reveals quite astonishing levels of endurance in the most unexpected individuals.
Celebrity Big Brother is a tougher nut to crack because, in the essential task of “just being”, the housemates’ weaknesses are more exposed.
Gareth will do brilliantly. I have no doubt. He has overcome the biggest obstacle he will ever face – having the guts to come out in the macho rugby world.
Having endured an embarrassing interview by ruthless TV commentator Eddie Butler on TV, he subsequently declared his homosexuality (although I am not suggesting that Eddie has hidden powers as an outer of gays) and transformed himself overnight. Suddenly, here was an articulate, witty, immensely likable person and a fantastic role model.
His performance on the Ellen de Generes show in the US was breathtaking and brought him immense support on that side of the pond – no mean feat for any personality. There is a film, starring Mickey Rourke, being made of his life. And he will never be short of shoes, having impressed Christian Louboutin so much, he was given a pair of slip-ons embroidered with his tattoos.
"Alfie", as he is known in Wales, is being spectacularly managed and his arrival in the Big Brother house should be greeted not with derision but with encouragement and praise (and please get behind him to win by joining my Facebook page, “Alfie to Win Big Brother 2012”).
The man inspires nothing but pride.
Wales has conquered yet another little piece of Hollywood.
Go, Alfie, go!