British television is often praised for its searing wit or cool intelligence. But, boy, do they know how to do trash too. (Or would that be “rubbish”?) Over the holidays in London, I was enormously pleased by the raucously humored, foulmouthed, gleefully twitty The Charlotte Church Show, a variety talk hour hosted by the titular (first-syllable emphasis, considering her particular tabloid-photo notoriety) 21-year-old Cardiff-born singer who surprised her U.K. fans by transforming herself from a good-Catholic child-star soprano who warbled for the pope into a bubblingly crass, boozy, voluptuous, boyfriend-hopping pop singer and gossip-rag staple. (Asked in a TV interview last year to name the best thing about her teens, she blurted out honestly, “Vodka!” And no, you weren’t supposed to be shocked by the answer, the way we would be here in America, just charmed by her Welsh insouciance.) Church’s Channel 4 variety show is, to put it mildly, a far cry from Donny & Marie, consisting of a bawdy opening number (“I’ll sing my theme tune/this is my theme tune/you might not like it/who gives a shit”), bawdy celebrity chat (comedian/author Ben Elton telling Charlotte all about how he’s losing the hair on his balls), bawdy hidden camera/reality bits (Charlotte makes a boss — via secret earpiece — do all sorts of lewd things at his office Christmas party) and a generous helping of groan-worthy one-liners. But it’s boisterous junk, unapologetic and fast-paced, and Church has a devilish gleam and pub-slut bravado that make her an oddly winning comedian. And now I realize the brilliance in replacing the faux sophistication of her launch into fame as a classically trained recording phenom with something as decidedly unpretentious as a middlebrow piece of cheeky light entertainment: It feels like genuine rebellion to go from arias to toilet humor, and to embrace your love of drink and raunch instead of bemoaning how your personal life is covered by the media. In other words, whatever Charlotte Church is, she’s an entertainer first and foremost. And what do we get over here from our own little-divas-lost? From Lohan, leave-me-be petulance. From Jessica Simpson, witless sexpot shtick. And from Spears, the stupefyingly dull Britney & Kevin: Chaotic and clubbing without underwear. Does anyone know if Britney Spears can even tell a joke?
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