How often would you like to see a naked Paul Burrell? I’m going to wager that the answer is “never” but the producers of The Real Full Monty: Jingle Balls (ITV1) believe otherwise. The programme started with him strolling into a theatre, nude but for a Santa hat, showing off his tattooed buttocks. That wasn’t the last of it. He was naked at every opportunity, including a barbecue at which all of the other guests were fully clothed.
This is ITV’s annual event for a good cause, in which a bunch of game celebrities, whose lives have all been affected by cancer, strip off to raise awareness of the disease. The line-up includes former rugby player Ben Cohen and former Towie star Gemma Collins, but Burrell was the only one who kept reminding us about his previous employment. The bum tattoo was of a Welsh dragon in reference to Diana, Princess of Wales, he explained.
While stripping down to a gold thong, he sighed: “What has it come to? I used to live in a Palace.” And: “If Diana was here she’d have her binoculars out just to get a good view.” I rather suspect that if Diana was still here she’d have tired of Burrell some time ago.
Setting him aside, though, this programme is worthwhile. The cast prepare, under the guidance of Diversity’s Ashley Banjo and gobby Loose Women presenter Coleen Nolan, for a Full Monty-esque striptease in front of a theatre audience. There is fun to be had, particularly in the form of ex-Towie star (yes, another one) Pete Wicks. But the rehearsals and various related activities – the women having their breasts cast in plaster, for example – are a vehicle for the celebrities to talk about their experiences, reminding us both of the importance of regular health checks and of the awfulness of this disease.
Countryfile presenter Julia Bradbury and actress Victoria Ekanoye (formerly of Coronation Street) both spoke of their experiences of being diagnosed with breast cancer and having reconstructive surgery. It was difficult to hold back the tears as Vanessa Bauer, a sweet young skater from Dancing On Ice (who won the contest in 2018 with Jake Quickenden), talked about losing her father to throat cancer, or ex-Coventry City footballer Ashley Cain describing the barely imaginable horror of watching his baby daughter die of leukaemia.
Watch the programme, which continues tonight, donate to a cancer charity, make sure you go to the GP with any concerns about your health. Just try to keep naked Paul Burrell out of your thoughts.