Culturally, the United Kingdom is a confusing place. It's like America, but with less shouting and more antique shows; like mainland Europe, but with slightly better clothes and worse crisps. Dotted around our lumpen grey rock are an assortment of weird and wonderful celebrities – the flag bearers of our Isles. To foreign eyes they might appear confusing – inexplicable, even – so with that in mind, these seminars intend to elucidate who they are, and why. Welcome to British Studies. Lesson 1: Noel Edmonds.
For British people, Noel Edmonds has always been present – a cultural figure for all our adult lives. Yet to compare him to a benevolent father figure, or even a funny uncle, would be mis-selling him somehow. Despite often wearing the wooly jumpers of an off-duty vicar, or the snazzy shirts of a cuddly bank manager at a Christmas party, there is in fact something alien, non-corporeal about Edmonds – a television presenter who contains within his head the weight of the universe. Light entertainment, heavy heart.
First, to understand Noel Edmonds, it's best to do a quick visual breakdown. It's important to recognise that Noel Edmonds has never aged. He looked exactly the same on the front of the Radio Times in 1987 as he does appearing on This Morning in 2016. His look – a sort of coiffured, cherubic Richard Branson vibe – has remained unweathered, untarnished by the sands of time. He has a perfectly shaped gauze of stubble wrapped around his chin, as though comprised of iron filings held to his face by the constant electromagnetic pulse that courses through his veins. He speaks with sincerity and a deep, unshakable conviction, awarding cash prizes in the same hushed tones you'd expect a terminal diagnosis.
He speaks, some might say, as God might.
Noel Edmonds began his career as a pop radio DJ in the 1960s. It was here that the little lion man honed his affable – yet weirdly intense – patter, forging a relationship with a public he would come to adore and rely upon like family.
Rising through the ranks of radio, Noel ultimately became the king of prime-time British television. He was our Ryan Seacrest – if Ryan Seacrest looked like a carpet salesman from Barking. Between 1970 and 1999 he presented Top of the Pops, live televised jumble-sale Swap Shop, meta-gameshow Telly Addicts and a seemingly infinite list of shows called things like Noel's Big Breakfast Roadshow… On Tour!
Then, in 1991, his ascension to the top peaked with Noel's House Party – a Saturday evening vehicle, best described as a peak-time, cottage-based, pastoral variety show. Each episode, set in the fictional village of Crinkley Bottom, was a mixture of live performance, special guests and elaborate pranks called "Gotchas", during which Noel played practical jokes on celebrities, e.g. tricking Barbara Windsor into driving around Basingstoke really slowly on a double-decker bus.
Noel's House Party was also the first platform for perforated, phallic demon Mr Blobby – Noel's sidekick throughout the series. We don't have time to explain Mr Blobby, but maybe just watch this and we'll do Mr Blobby another week.
These were Noel's salad days. Weekend after weekend, the roars and screams of his beloved fans rising to the rafters of his branch-of-Harvester themed studio. Then, in 1999, on the eve of a new millennia, the temperature changed. The water grew cold, the laughter stopped and Mr Blobby was packed away into a BBC store-cupboard, left to rot in the furthest, most-nightmarish recesses of the minds of children born circa 1990. Noel's House Party was axed.
I bet you think you know this story, don't you? Light entertainment presenter, huge in the 1980s and 1990s, whose popularity waned, causing him to disappear. I bet you're expecting to hear how he went off the rails, how he ended up dancing the macarena dressed as Muammar Gaddafi on Celebrity Big Brother. Think again. Noel Edmonds would not disappear silently into the night, for he had the stars on his side.
In 2005, Noel began presenting Deal Or No Deal – a sort of massive 3-D scratch card turned social experiment, during which he conversed with mortals and assisted their emotional journey towards a modest cash prize. There is an American version of the same show, but in the UK it was more like a weird cult meeting in a community centre than a shiny-floor extravaganza, with Noel encouraging the most bizarre theories about the game being a pre-determined spiritual exercise in positive thinking.
The show was, for some reason, an unprecedented success. Noel enjoyed a rumoured £3 million fee to stay with the project in 2007, making him one of the highest-paid personalities on UK television, nearly a decade after his house party went up in flames.
What was the secret of Noel's big comeback? Well, in Noel's words: "You are allowed, whatever your faith, to say to the cosmos, 'This is what I'd like.' You place an order. Some people talk to the moon, some people go and stand on a cliff and stare at the breakers, or you do what I do, which is write it on a piece of paper. One of the wonderful things about Deal Or No Deal is that it reflects life."
So, to be clear, Noel Edmonds believes his comeback came about as a result of asking the universe for it on a piece of paper. Now, who are we earthly-beings to question the methods of celestial creatures? Perhaps, in the order of all things heavenly, it was imperative that Noel Edmonds returned with a 60-minute studio-based gameshow. Perhaps.
But more likely, Noel's belief that his career in daytime television lies written in the stars reveals the core truth that burns within him. We might think Noel Edmonds is a telly presenter, but he believes himself to be something more; much, much more.
Noel's renewed celebrity allowed him to spend more time on his hobbies: like hosting a pre-Brexit anti-PC carnival called Noel's HQ, which he put on for absolutely free, and was the closest Britain has ever come to a Fox News-type extravaganza: railing against yobs, hoodies, drugs and licensing laws.
Noel's HQ was just the beginning. Consider the following statements, all true, about Noel Edmonds.
– He runs a service calling people's pets to offer them emotional support.
– He has also just launched the world's first radio station for animals, along with a slew of other stations all aimed at providing spiritually-enriching positive energy.
Technically, Noel Edmonds has gone off the rails, yet it's hard to describe it as a breakdown because he seems so in control, so confident (it's safe to say, were he an American, he would definitely be a Scientologist by now; instead, he occasionally mumbles stuff about reading The Secret). Far from going fully off-piste he has become a sort of new-age raconteur. He might have started out a telly presenter, but he has discovered so much more in himself since those days. He is a soothsayer, a doctor, a cat-whisperer, a socio-cultural healer. He is also surely the only multi-millionaire to drive a black cab with a mannequin stuffed in the back seat in order to use bus lanes.
In explaining Noel Edmonds, we are explaining a man who – whether as a result of his own hubris, or a genuine belief in the cosmic power of positive energy – has chosen to transcend his earthly state and become an angel. We could mock, but he somehow managed to continue regularly appearing on television, managing to balance his otherworldly outlook with a healthy career in showbiz. He is a bearded star-child, a disciple of the light, a soul not meant for the vulgarity of this realm. He also thinks there are too many immigrants cos the traffic is really bad.
The question now is, what next? Channel 4 have just announced that Deal Or No Deal's hugely successful run is coming to an end. Noel has found himself axed once again. But this time he knows better. He knows now that glowing orbs flank his every move. That he flies on gossamer wings. Prince of Light, Son of God, the First Noel.
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