Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Time-Warp Comedy Coming Straight from the Eighties; TV WATCH

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Time-Warp Comedy Coming Straight from the Eighties; TV WATCH

Article excerpt

SOME people spend their leisure hours thumbing their Gibbons andlicking their girlfriend's hinges (I refer to philatelists) but, as you know, I prefer thumbing my leather-bound sexto of bizarre patron saints.

It's a list of genuine saints whose specialities have been assigned to them by the Vatican, and my current favourites have expanded to include St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists (even though most people think we're beyond salvation), St Fiacre, who looks after taxi drivers (so it's "Fiacre!"

they're shouting at me when I tell them I only have a [pounds sterling]50 note), and St Clare, who's the patron saint of television.

However, I must admit that I lost faith in St Clare's divine powers a while ago, when I read about a German called Wolfgang Dircks, who was discovered sitting in front of his flickering TV screen, with a listings magazine on his lap. Nothing unusual in that, you might think, except that Herr Dircks had been dead for five years.

A similar fate befell Benny Hill, whose lifeless body was discovered in front of a bank of f lickering TV screens in his f lat in April 1992, at the end of a Red Nose weekend (a telethon that must make very depressing viewing for rosacea victims).

Benny's long-running classic comedy show had been axed a couple of years previously, amid allegations of sexism, and his heart presumably gave out as he listened to endless humourless politically correct rants from the army of condescending "alternative" comedians who'd usurped his role, led by the patron saint of the patronising, Ben Elton.

Nowadays, of course, Elton is happyto write musicals with non-PC associates such as Tory Lord Lloyd-Webber and the rock band Queen (who played South Africa's notorious Sun City venue seven times in the mid-Eighties, at the height of the antiapartheid movement), but he's anxious to show us that he hasn't lost his edge as a ferocious social commentator. Hence his ITV1 series Get A Grip, in which he fearlessly denounces the hypocrisies of modern- day society although, on the evidence of last night's programme, even St Jude (the patron saint oflost causes) wouldn't be able to save him from the wretchedness of his own material.

"Everything is pretending to be something it isn't" was the central theme of this comedian, who addressed his audience in fluent Mockney, despite having a father who's an Oxford professor.

"The world's gone presentation potty," he continued, unleashing what he presumably regarded as a series of razorsharp Seinfeld-like observations about designer coffee and expanding chocolate bars, although the result sounded more like a particularly dismal edition of Grumpy Old Men. Aware of his advancing 'This show, the channel broadcast the voice dead blaring at the living' years, he's equipped himself with an attractive Daisy Donovan-style sidekick called Alexa Chung, who doesn't mind saying filthy phrases like "donkey's dick" or "I'd like to be the filling in an Ant and Dec sandwich", and is supposed to give us "a younger perspective" on life, even though every word she says has been totally scripted for her by her middle-aged co-presenter. …

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