Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

An Outen out Winner

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

An Outen out Winner

Article excerpt

Byline: VICTOR LEWIS-SMITH

Johnny & Denise - Passport to Paradise BBC1

HAVING just become bi-jobual (I'm moonlighting as restaurant critic with one of the broadsheets), I've been thinking about the worst gastronomic experiences I endured when I held a similar position on a glossy magazine.

I recall a cocktail bar so filthy that the management should have been served with a subpoena colada, I've eaten fission chips near Sellafield, and I once dined at a dire establishment atop the Calgary Tower in Canada, which displayed an electronic sign over its entrance reading "welcome to the revolting restaurant".

On closer inspection, I discovered that a neon strip had malfunctioned, and the sign ought to have said " revolving"; but "revolting" proved to be an equally accurate adjective, so much so that, during dinner, I planned an exquisite retaliation.

As revenge for their terrible cuisine, I'd rent the top apartment of a nearby skyscraper, unfurl a huge banner reading "the food in the tower stinks", and until the management agreed to pay me thousands in compensation, the field of vision of each slowly-rotating dinner guest would be filled with my unmissable sign, once every 20 minutes.

Calgary was utterly dreadful, so when the presenters of Passport to Paradise began by describing the place as "a romantic holiday destination", I immediately feared the worst. Furthermore, the start of BBC1's latest attempt to revitalise its Saturday-night schedule looked thoroughly dated and tacky, with camp retro dancers ( wearing trousers that looked as though a wholesale delivery of root vegetables had just taken place), acres of tinsel and an unremarkable opening song, unremarkably sung by Johnny Vaughan and Denise Van Outen.

After their successful partnership on The Big Breakfast, I'd seen the pair flop separately in dire TV sitcoms, and even though she's recently had onstage success in the West End and Broadway, I still feel that her natural place in the theatre is a leading role in the stalls (leading people to their seats with an usherette's torch).

And yet, once this onscreen couple got into their mutual stride, it was clear they were shining more brightly and bravely than ever, thereby confounding this critic's expectations, and demonstrating that (despite the recent pronouncements of certain "experts") the concept of Saturday night "event" television still hasn't run entirely out of steam.

According to the old adage, "success has many parents, failure is an orphan", in which case this show's original-conception must have been one of the biggest gang bangs in televisual history. It's very much in the Game For A Laugh mould (and I mean mould), but I also detected the DNA of Mr & Mrs, Don't Forget Your Toothbrush, and even a hint of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. …

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