TV re­view Be afraid, very afraid, it’s a new BBC com­edy

The Herald Magazine - - ETC | TELEVISION - ALI­SON ROWAT

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

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