TV review Be afraid, very afraid, it’s a new BBC comedy
GIVEN the way Still Game is going downhill faster than an elephant on roller skates, it was with a hammering heart that I
approached the comedy horror Long Night at Blackstone (BBC1, Monday,
9pm). Written by Greg Hemphill, one of the duo behind Scotland’s Last of the Summer Buckfast, would it be a fright night for all the wrong reasons?
Shot as a mock doc, Long Night followed the cast and crew of a ghost-hunting programme as they visited the titular Blackstone, “Britain’s most haunted house”. John Gordon Sinclair played the show’s resident psychic, Lorraine McIntosh the presenter and Julie Wilson Nimmo the director.
There had been no need to worry. From McIntosh’s natural comedy chops – where you have been all my life? – to Nimmo’s on-the-money telly luvvy, Blackstone was a hoot and a half. As for Sinclair, it should be the law that he is cast in every BBC Scotland comedy. Not Still Game, obviously. It is past saving.
Emboldened, it was on to Kiss Me First (Channel 4, Monday, 10pm). Written by Bryan Elsley, co-creator of Skins, this tale of a young woman living half her life in a computer game was targeted at a demographic who know their consoles from their elbows. But any subject can be made accessible with smart writing and an engaging heroine, and Kiss Me First has both. Tallulah Haddon, playing a recently bereaved daughter, has the most extraordinary face and she can act besides. I doubt television will hold her for long.
Another star has now been officially born in Philomena Cunk. The creation of Diane Morgan and Charlie Brooker, the character has gone from appearing on annual news reviews and one-offs
to a series of her own, Cunk on Britain
(BBC2, Tuesday, 10pm). The drill is that Cunk is a thick as two short planks TV presenter. Besides dropping malapropisms (“Tyrannical Sawdust Rex”, “The Baywatch Tapestry”), she asks experts outrageously stupid questions. “How does the Domesday Book compare to The Runaway by Martina Cole?” she inquires of one historian.
Scottish heroes got it in the neck too, with Cunk telling viewers “Walliam Willace” had been hung, drawn and quartered. “Something you can ask
your local butcher to do to a chicken.” All juvenile, snigger-worthy, back of the classroom stuff, and too much of it would be a bore, but in small doses it is funny. Either the experts are extremely good actors who can keep a straight face in the face of intense provocation or they do not know who Cunk/Morgan is. That won’t last forever. Dave Allen at Peace (BBC2, Monday,
9pm) took us back to an era when comedy was more conventional. But the Irish comedian, played by Aidan Gillen, was a mould-breaker in his time, doing a stand-up routine while perched on
a bar stool, drinking and smoking. As a biographical drama it was a stagey, patchy affair but Gillen was as watchable as ever.
Just when one started to think that Easter telly had not been half bad, mum, along came the reboot of The Generation
Game (BBC1, Sunday, 8pm) to restore the nation’s foul mood. Where to start? If one had to answer in the style of the programme’s famous conveyor belt, it would be Mel and Sue as hosts, naff games, Mel and Sue, too many innuendos, Mel and Sue, terrible script, Mel and Sue, canned laughter … did I say Mel and Sue? It’s back again tomorrow night with what the BBC promises is the last instalment (a series was planned before it was cut to four shows, then two). If the plug is not pulled as promised, viewers should Sue and Mel the BBC for taking licence money under the false pretence of entertaining us.
There were more laughs in five seconds of Shut That Door (ITV3, Sunday, 9pm), a documentary on Larry Grayson, former Gen Game host, than in an hour of Mel and Sue. It took the foster child brought up poor in Nuneaton some 30 years to become an overnight success, but he used that time to hone his craft to perfection. “Larry had what Tommy Cooper had,” said Lionel Blair. “You laughed before he said a word.”
Among the many things we learned was that he once made a guest appearance in Crossroads, he loved his poodles and his pals, and he was ace at muddling through amusingly (“You are a bearded collie dog called Bill,” he said to one contestant before realising he had misread the cue card). Above all, he was a natural with people. He liked them and they loved him. His great pal and fellow Gen Game host Isla St Clair still misses him terribly. “What fun we had,” she smiled sadly. Seemed like a nice man. And he was.
Julie Wilson Nimmo, Lorraine McIntosh and John Gordon Sinclair in the BBC Scotland comedy horror Long Night at Blackstone