Distracted by pain (TV review)

The Balls of Steel cast

I’d always thought Distraction was about as good as it could possibly get when it came to in-your-face bad taste shows. It’s always nice to be proved wrong.

Balls of Steel goes that one step further, pushing the bounds of good taste and providing plenty of laughs at the same time.

The concept is simple: a bunch of people compete to claim the Balls of Steel trophy by being, well, ballsy. There’s a cast of a dozen or so and each has a theme from Thaila Zucchi the bunny boiler, who flirts with blokes in front of their girlfriends, to the Pain Men who, as their name suggests, deliberately inflict pain on themselves and each other. The very first episode of this programme featured a meeting between a belt sander and a naked buttock. Ouch.

You know it has to be good when it bugs the you-know-what out of everyone’s favourite cradle-robbing Scientologist, Tom Cruise. He was unimpressed when a performer from Balls Of Steel squirted him with a water pistol disguised as a microphone when he was in London for the premiere of War of the Worlds a while back. Apparently, Cruise got peeved and the police made some arrests but no one was actually charged.

Kiwi “stunt man” Randy Cambell (of Back of the Y fame) also features, performing his daring stunts that inevitably go wrong in what is the only fictional segment of the show. This is one of the acts that has been retired from the show for its second season. I can’t say I’m really surprised or disappointed. While I suppose some might find it funny it doesn’t really fit the criteria because there aren’t really any balls, steel or otherwise, involved in performing a fake stunt.

On the other hand, the Bunny Boiler is always at risk of being set upon by a jealous woman (yes, it has happened on the show) and the Pain Men put life, limb and bum cheeks on the line every time they appear.

My favourite act, though, is Neg and his Urban Sports. This guy has far too much time on his hands and a bent mind. What a fantastic combination.

His sporting efforts have included jumping on to the backs of and riding big strangers in Big Stranger Rodeo and Urban Sprinting, where he set off alarms in shops and provoked the security guards to chase him. He was downed on the escalator of one shopping mall by a retired security guard.

Balls of Steel is nicely sandwiched between Supernatural, which features the Winchester brothers (along with a 1967 Chevy Impala and grunty soundtrack) as they travel around investigating paranormal events and battling ghosts and ghouls, and repeats of the United States version of Distraction.

Friday nights, traditionally one of the worst nights on telly, have become a whole lot more interesting.

>> This was one of a short series of TV reviews I wrote while our regular reviewer was on maternity leave.


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