Despite never having actually seen ITV’s hit Saturday night show The Masked Singer, forty one year old Coventry shop assistant Trevor Chokes believes that he has an idea which could improve the format immeasurably. “Look, I’ll be quite frank, I’ve never watched The Masked Singer on ITV. In fact, I’ve never had any desire to watch The Masked Singer. But, as with all contemporary pop culture phenomena, I can’t help but be aware of the programme and what is happening on it,” he explained to The Sleaze. “Consequently, I know who has been unmasked (most of them are, at best, C-list celebrities), not to mention the sorts of wild guesses as to the contestants’ identities on the part of the judges – including Jonathon Ross’s wild speculation that Natalie Cole could be under one of the masks. Despite the fact that she has been dead for several years. But why not? I asked myself.” In Choke’s opinion the format would be greatly improved if the mystery performers were all deceased celebrities, revived by necromancy.
“Perhaps, it could be re-branded The Shrouded Singer?” he muses. “It would widen the field of possibilities and make it easier to get proper A-listers as contestants. Just imagine an elephant, say, being unmasked as Elvis Presley, or a natterjack toad as John Lennon.” Choke, who so far hasn’t received a response from ITV to his proposals, which he emailed to them, argues that if the celebrities were revived as zombies, then the masks wouldn’t be needed, as their mouldering reanimated corpses would be in such an advanced state of decomposition that they would be virtually unrecognisable. “The challenge would be to guess who they were from their singing – or more likely, gurgling – voices before they completely disintegrate,” he chuckles. The question would be, ‘can you spot which tottering skeleton is Frank Sinatra before his jaw drops off?’!” Not satisfied with these innovations, Choke has devised further variations for his format.
“I thought that another great variation could be where celebrity contestants have to assemble a performer from the best bits of deceased singers that they can grave rob,” he says. “It could all culminate in a sing-off between the rival Frankenstein monster-style creations. Which will prove more entertaining – something vaguely male cobbled together from the head of Jim Morrison, the body of Jimi Hendrix, the arms of George Harrison and the legs of Roy Castle, or an androgynous abomination combining the head of Tiny Tim, the chest of Janis Joplin, Elvis’ hips and the legs of Cyd Charisse?” Choke admits that he has no background in television or any branch of the entertainment industry for that matter. Nonetheless, he has maintained a steady stream of formats and programme ideas submitted to various TV companies over the past twenty years, although none has been accepted. “Personally, I see te fact that I’ve never actually been involved in TV production as an advantage,” he opines. “The trouble with much of today’s TV is that it is made by people who are completely up their own arses. They’ve never done anything except work in the media – they live in their own bubble and have no idea of real life or what real people want to watch! That’s why so much TV nowadays is utterly shit!”
In fact, Choke believes that modern TV is largely too bad to actually watch. “I haven’t bothered actually watching it in years – but I used to watch hours of it, when it was still good and not produced by some poncey metropolitan elite,” he says. “All those years of viewing are what qualify me to be a better judge of public taste than the insular clique who currently run TV.” Choke is undeterred by his lack of success in persuading any TV company to so far take up any of his ideas. “It’s hardly surprising, is it? Realistically, there’s no way that they are going to admit that my programme ideas might be better than theirs,” he explains. “But the fact is that everyone down the pub I’ve spoken to reckon that my ideas for shows are far better than anything on TV at the moment and it is that sort of public opinion that matters!” Devising TV formats runs in Choke’s family – back in the eighties, he explains, his father offered Noel Edmonds an idea foe a show that could have revitalised the DJ and TV star’s career. “It was just after that contestant died rehearsing a stunt on Edmonds’ Late, Late Breakfast Show,” claims the shop assistant. “The show was taken off the air and Edmonds’ career looked finished – so my dad sent him an idea for revamping the format to capitalise on his new notoriety as a bringer of death. It was called the Late, Late Viewer Show and involved the suicidal and terminally ill doing incredibly dangerous stuff. He even built a scale model of the ‘Whirly Wheel of Death’ – which would match contestants up with challenges like ‘Eaten by Sharks’, Boiled Alive’ and the like, from cardboard. He never did hear back from Noel, but the BBC’s lawyers did send him a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter.”
For his part, Choke is hoping that he might have more success pitching his ideas for new formats to independent production companies, although his latest ideas have a familiar theme. “I still think that grave robbing for entertainment could make for great TV,” he says. “I’ve often pondered on a supernatural version of that series Shed and Buried that Henry Cole made for Travel Channel: Dead and Buried.” Instead of having, as per the original, a pair of middle aged men rummaging through sheds and barns in search of mechanical treasures they can restore, Choke’s proposed version would have a pair of middle aged necromancers rummaging through graveyards in search of corpses they can revive. “Not only would there be the drama of seeing if they can actually get any of these musty piles of bones up and running again, but also the ever present risk that any one of these revived corpses could turn homicidal and try to strangle the resurrectionists,” enthuses Choke, who has already tried to contact producer and presenter Henry Cole via Facebook. “It would be fantastic TV to see them chased around a fog bound cemetery by a living corpse, before they manage to turn the tables and beat it back to death with a shovel. It would all be good unwholesome fun for all the family.”