Had you heard of AJ Odudu before she appeared on Strictly Come Dancing? I confess that I hadn’t, even though she’s got more than a decade of TV programmes under her belt. And she’s not someone you’d forget, with that megawatt personality and the strongest Lancashire accent this side of Paddy McGuinness.
Now she’s having a moment, thanks to Strictly. She’s unlikely to win it, because she falls into the category of contestants who start off so well that there isn’t much room for improvement. Strictly viewers like a journey. But I’m sure her agent is fielding plenty of offers, so expect to see her presenting more prominent shows.
In the meantime, we have Emma and AJ Get to Work, tucked away on the W channel. The Emma is Emma Willis, and the idea is that the pair go out to help family businesses get back on their feet after the disaster of Covid. In this first episode, they visited Mumbles Pier in Swansea. It is owned by brothers Fred and Bert Bollom, whose grandfather bought it in the 1930s.
Running a tourist attraction last year was an “absolute disaster”, the Bolloms said, as you can well imagine. On top of that, the Victorian pier is in need of restoration. So what were Willis and Odudu going to do about it?
Well, the problem here is that the pair have no particular skills. Where Mary Portas overhauled businesses and shows such as DIY SOS upgrade the bricks and mortar, Willis and Odudu have nothing but their sunny personalities and willingness to pitch in. So they jet-washed the railings, put up some bunting, worked in the fish and chip shop, judged a sandcastle competition. They did all this with genuine good cheer, even when the weather threatened to make the grand opening a washout. The pair are friends (they worked together on Big Brother) and have an easy camaraderie.
Really, it’s another of those programmes that tries to inject a sense of jeopardy (they only have three days, the launch has to be a success or else) but is really just an hour of free advertising for a business. And it’s pretty effective – if I’m ever in this corner of Wales, I’ll pay Mumbles Pier a visit.