The Great British Amateur Surgery Challenge: A Brand-New TV Show!

surgeons performing surgery
Photo by Павел Сорокин on


Have you binge-watched The Great British Baking Show or The Great British Interior Design Challenge? Millions have. Including me. And I don’t even like or understand interior design. These shows are so popular, lucrative and addictive that teams of great and not-so-great British television producers are scrambling and brainstorming to come up with the next big British televised thing.

The Brits may be screwing up Brexit, but they know how to make must-watch TV. How To Marry A Royal is one of the proposals.

I have been able to confirm that production has begun on The Great British Amateur Surgery Challenge, and was able to snag an interview with Robert “Bobby” Birminghamshire, creator and producer of The Great British Amateur Surgery Challenge.

Q: Bobby, where did the idea for this show come from?

A: We all felt the baking and interior design shows lacked the life-and-death consequences so many millions of viewers crave. Your cake is a little dry, your bedroom renovation is a bit too purple or over the top … so what? Where’s the drama in that? We’re the land of Shakespeare and your actions must have serious consequences. Surgery and all the complications that can result from surgery seemed ideal and quite fascinating. Every one of us on the production team has had a mum or a dad or a mate have something go horribly wrong during surgery. We were sitting around the office, sharing our amusing surgery stories, just cracking each other up, and it just suddenly struck us that this was the ideal show to do.

Q: What a bloody-good idea.

A: Please don’t ever use the term bloody in connection to our show or we will sue the trousers off you.

Q: Sorry. How will you find your contestants, the top amateur surgeons in England?

two person doing surgery inside room
Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. on


A: Great question. At first, we thought butchers would be our target group. We tested some of Britain’s finest butchers and it seemed to be working out well. We also found a wonderful chain-saw artist in Cardiff, and an amazing ice sculptress in St. Ives. However, due to some annoying legal complications, we ended up going with first-year medical-school students. They’re technically still amateur surgeons, but have just enough medical training to satisfy our legal team.

Q: How will the show work?

A: Let me use our first episode as an example. In this episode, our eight amateur surgeons each selected a family member or a mate and performed a rhinoplasty on them. You know, a nose job. Everyone, it seems, has a family member or friend with a hideous nose. It was all voluntary, of course. A professional anesthesiologist knocked out each of our patients and our amateur surgeons had at it. Off you go!

After our amateur surgeons completed their work, our judges – two of Britain’s finest professional surgeons, including a kind one and a mean one – evaluated each of the noses, and one amateur surgeon was eliminated. It was an emotional sendoff. We’re calling this episode, our first one: Noses Off!

Q: How are you going to top that on the second episode?

A: I can’t give away too much. But in Episode 2, our great amateur surgeons will each perform a hernia operation.

Q: A hernia operation? How did you ever find 11 people willing to have an amateur surgeon perform this type of complicated procedure on them?

A: You’d be surprised what people are willing to endure to be on the tellie, especially a show that has the words “Great” and “British” in the title. We were overwhelmed by the number of people with hernias who signed a waiver to be on The Great British Amateur Surgery Challenge.We even had a few ambitious people attempt to lift rather heavy objects to induce a hernia. Some of the videos they sent us were hysterical. I can neither deny or confirm the rumors that a member of Parliament will be on this episode. But I can say one of the original Spice Girls will be in Episode 4, a special plastic-surgery-themed episode. It’s a real tear jerker. And a former Manchester United star will be on Episode 7: I Knee-d An Operation.

Q: What other operations will you have your amateur surgeons perform?

A: I don’t want to reveal too much, but each week the surgical procedure will become more complicated, culminating in, well, let’s just say the heart will be involved in the final episode.

Q: What happens if one of your patients dies? Aren’t you concerned about that?

A: Another excellent question. In the event that one of our patients doesn’t make it, we are legally authorized to utilize their remains for The Great British Amateur Embalming Competition. We have already filmed two episodes. Our amateur morticians are really quite marvelous and artistic, and I think this show has the potential be even bigger and more popular than The Great British Amateur Surgery Challenge.We’re also working on The Great British Organ Donor Contest. It’s rather amazing and inspiring how this has all worked out so well.


Please Don’t Flush This Post…

I just realized I haven’t written about our recent hike around the Isle of Wight (the one in England). Should I write about the incredible Coastal Path, the Tennyson Memorial, the wildflowers and the wild, rocky cliffs?

Nah, I’m gonna write about the toilets. Well, one particular toilet. A square one. That’s right, at two different places, I came across one of these…


A square toilet seat! What’s up with that? And how many millions of years will it take our butts and bodies to adapt and become square?

My friend Tania wondered if people’s butts are becoming more square “because we sit so much.” Sounds logical.

Phil asked if we were staying in Trafalgar Square. Ha, good one.

Turns out, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about toilets. Nor will it be the last. In the midst of my 2018 bike trip through Bordeaux, I came across an all-in-one toilet sink. I don’t know about you, but washing my hands that close to where countless people did you know what, is not very appealing. Or sanitary. Here, take a look…


All the way back on October 12, 2000, in my More Stuff column, I wrote the following…

The French pride themselves on their cheese and have something like 800 million registered brands. That’s nothing compared to all the different kinds of toilets they have, not to mention all the different ways there are to flush them. I think they do this to confuse and disorient weary travelers.

It works.

So, I’m at a cafe, the hub of social life in France, and a place people often enter just to use the facilities. I find the WC, enter and, it’s a squat toilet. No seat, just a large porcelain bin on the floor and two porcelain spots that are sort of shaped like feet and upon which you are supposed to put your feet. I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.

Then there’s this: A normal toilet, except no seat. When this happens, it takes me an extra few minutes to arrange my protective layer of toilet paper, which, in France, is usually pink, if there even is toilet paper. The goal is to arrange my protective layer in such a way that no part of me will touch anything other than pink toilet paper. And then, as I prepare to sit down, half the damn pink toilet paper usually falls to the disgusting floor, and I have to start all over.

And then there’s the challenge of flushing, which you wouldn’t think would be difficult. Let’s just say there are so many different things to push, pull, poke, prod and pound in frustration.

Then there was this…

I’m at a restaurant and head to the bathroom. And can’t find the light switch. Anywhere. It’s not on the wall outside the WC, it’s not on the wall inside. It’s nowhere to be found. It doesn’t seem to exist. And then … a bathroom brainstorm! I shut and lock the door, and, when I click the lock, voila, the light goes on.

This column seemed to strike a chord with a lot of readers, and I did a followup on October 22, 2000…

One reader, who didn’t give his/her name, wrote: “Please, the next time you feel the urge to disclose your bathroom techniques, simply lie down until the urge passes.”

Someone else wrote: “One of the most beautiful countries in the world and all you can write about is its toilets?”


Joanne Fulcoly wrote: “I could really relate. This summer, I went with my two daughters and their husbands and children to Paris. The restrooms are hard to describe! I was not thrilled with the unisex ones, and hated that pink toilet paper! We had the most trouble with the round, silver ones that took coins to get the doors to open. It was an enlightening experience to all.”

Dave Bayer wrote: “I guess you discovered why we are ahead of the Europeans intellectually, they don’t read as much as we do. With toilets like that, how can they?”

Anne Scheidell wrote to tell me “a professor from St. Joe’s wrote a book called Flushing Your Way Through Europe or something like that. I looked on and couldn’t find this book, but did find The Porcelain God: A Social History of the Toilet, The Johns We’ve Known: Humorous Short Stories and Essays About Restrooms and Flushed With Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper.

Vicki Miller, 16, told me all about her bathroom adventure: “I went to Japan in 1998 with the 4-H Exchange Program (and) we decided to try and figure out the toilet. Since we’re Americans, we knew we could figure it out.

“The toilet had all these interesting knobs and gadgets on it and we wanted to know what they did. So we pushed the buttons and played with the knobs and nothing happened. We figured out the toilet was pressure activated, you need someone on the toilet for it to work. So, we had someone standing on the toilet seat and then pushed the buttons.

“Curiosity killed the cat, but in my case I just got soaked. A thing like a bidet came out and started spraying water EVERYWHERE! We all got soaked, the bathroom was all wet, and we didn’t know how to stop it. We were hitting all the buttons and nothing worked. It finally stopped when the person standing on the toilet seat lost their balance and fell into the bathtub.”

This summer, Vicki was in Peru and she said that the tip “Sure made me thankful for toilet seats.”

See, travel really is educational.