Christ­mas cheer with chest­nuts all round

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

LOOK, let’s be hon­est. This show looks like a bit of a turkey, stuffed with cliches, old gags and comic busi­ness that should have died in vaude­ville. But it’s just the thing for Christ­mas night when you’re feel­ing a bit wob­bly your­self.

Who needs edgy drama, post­mod­ernist com­edy or an­other cop show crowded with child abusers, pros­ti­tutes and se­rial killers af­ter a day of ran­corous fam­ily con­fronta­tions and too much red wine when there are still dishes to wash?

It’s Christ­mas Eve at the Riviera Ho­tel in East­bourne, a place of such sag­ging me­lan­choly that Tony Han­cock might have in­vented it. As­sis­tant man­ager Ashley Dodds ( The League of Gen­tle­men ’ s Reece Shear­smith), a young man of des­per­ate buoy­ancy and the ho­tel’s res­i­dent hare-brain, is ex­cited to be un­ex­pect­edly left in charge at last.

He’s de­ter­mined to make it the best Riviera Christ­mas ever for his guests. Un­for­tu­nately the brandy but­ter is ran­cid, the cook threat­ens to re­sign, and un­ruly chil­dren cre­ate may­hem. Soon, half of the guests have nearly drowned in the frozen fish pond and the other half have hy­pother­mia.

There’s man-eat­ing di­vorcee Avril ( Pam Fer­ris), for­bear­ing Rita ( Bar­bara Flynn) and her tetchy ex-po­lice­man hus­band Mau­rice ( War­ren Clarke), and randy rev­erend Miles Roger ( Alexan­der Arm­strong) and his al­co­holic wife ( Anna Chan­cel­lor), about to be em­broiled in a sex scan­dal. Then re­cently be­reaved Den­nis ( Sam Kelly) and his son Tim Dunn ( Dar­ren Boyd), who both want to be any­where but home this Christ­mas, ar­rive with mum’s ashes in an urn.

This star-stud­ded Christ­mas spe­cial is writ­ten and di­rected by Mark Bus­sell and Justin Sbresni of The

Randy rev: Alexan­der Arm­strong as the phi­lan­der­ing vicar Roger Miles Worst Week of My Life fame. That show, also built around the con­ceit that ev­ery­thing that can go wrong will go wrong, was larce­nously hys­ter­i­cal and should have been banned for its sheer comic ef­fron­tery: it was ou­tra­geous, provoca­tive and of­ten of­fen­sive. This team is good at tar­get­ing those in­con­sis­ten­cies in in­di­vid­ual be­hav­iour of­ten mis­taken for hypocrisy; they do com­edy of mor­ti­fi­ca­tion al­most as well as Ricky Ger­vais does.

Their style is kind of brusque, knock­about, of­ten risque, with the oc­ca­sional in­sin­u­ated wink that Benny Hill might have ap­plauded. They are alive to that nig­gling, hu­mil­i­at­ing side of life that none of us re­ally wel­come but have to ac­cept. And if we are to ac­cept it, we may as well do so with laugh­ter.

All right, I know it’s not Alan Ayckbourn; not one of those Bri­tish so­cial come­dies that, still light­hearted and rather silly, reach a higher plane of real hu­man emo­tions that most so-called farces miss.

But even if most of the jokes are old, this Christ­mas turn does oc­ca­sion­ally sur­prise with both its pathos and bit­ter­ness. Now that’s hard to pull off.

Graeme Blundell

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.