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Sunday, 15 March 2009

Comic Relief, BBC1/BBC2

Did we like it?
For the first time in living memory, it actually lived up to its name.

What was good about it?
• Davina McCall and David Tenant bounded on stage to MGMT’s Kids. It might have been better if Davina had bounded off as well. She now acts like some office receptionist who's got off her head on coke on a Friday night and think she's the life and soul of the afterwork drinks session down the local.
• The recycled Harry Hill’s TV Burp, especially the “shadow of policeman looks like elephant carrying brief case on The Bill”.
• The mini-episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, with Ronnie Corbett as a flatulent Slitheen.
• The quite difficult Mastermind between Tennant and McCall.
• Notwithstanding some minor gripes, the films about the disadvantaged people that Comic Relief will aid were as informative and moving as usual.
• The widespread absence of parasites infesting proceedings with their specious altruism, while butting in to ensure mention of their latest tour dates/ film/ album.
• Daniel Radcliffe sounding like Jools Holland.
• The best comedy sketch in the first two hours was the brilliant Outnumbered, slipping superbly from puerile jokes into sharp, observational humour in the blink of an eye.
• We've not seen the movie Mamma Mia and we never will but got a lot of pleasure from the French & Saunders parody (it was very like the real thing we were later informed by a relative who has seen the film).
• If James Corden's slide in credibility was plotted on a graph it would almost exactly match the slump in the FTSE index. But there's a little upward movement tonight, thanks to his sketch in which he harangues England's football team for not qualifying for Euro 2008. We were as amused as David Beckham seemed to be (but our smile isn't quite as shiny white as the Becks grin). Closing market update: Corden's credibility fell again when he teamed up with Mathew Horne for more of their 21st-century Hale & Pace nonsense in the small hours.
• Fern Britton (in terrible frock) and Alan Carr had a certain chemistry ("We should work together after this," Carr told Britton. "Yes, I'll get my people to talk to your person," she replied). They didn't scream stupidly like Davina and Dave although Carr's innuendo (getting the finger from Sir Alan etc) became tiresome.
• The obligatory subversive sketch in which Ricky Gervais acts like an arrogant bastard was a success. Keen thespians wantng to make The Office: The Opera were denied permission by Ricky, who scoffs whole turkeys, shows off his versatility with his Reading accent and is fed up with Comic Relief's 'Please sir can I have some more' pleading.
• The Royle Family was another triumph (we'd like a new series, please). Jim has manflu, being treated by gin and Locketts, so IT executive Anthony rushes back home ("I came as soon as I heard he asked for the heating to be turned on"), only to get caught up in a conversation about the odour emanating from Jim's beneath-duvet balls ("I sprayed round him earlier with the Febreeze but it's only taken the edge"). Dave and Denise had eaten a Fray Bentos pie for tea, by the way (crust for Dave, meat for Denise).
• Catherine Tate, the star of the last Comic Relief in her sketch with Tony Blair, was again in great form, teaming up with David Walliams for a "computer says no" sketch and then emerging as Gran to rant against the donation to her pensioners' lunch club where "you'd be better off putting a bucket of slop in the middle of the room and putting a few straws in it". The cheque didn't impress her much: "A lousy fucking thousand pounds! Comic relief – what a load of shit."
• Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse – whose comedy reputation has slumped very low in recent years – came up with a brilliant idea, a Victorian Dragons' Den, and executed it faultlessly. Highlights included "James Caan and Duncan Crapper have underestimated the fact that people might want to stick their bums out of the window and poo in the street"; the Deborah Meaden/Queen Victoria hybrid insisting: "I have never excreted in my entire life"; and Whitehouse impersonating Theo Paphitis in Stavros style (and Theo then adopting the same voice)

What was bad about it?
• Why was the announcer American? Were 60 million other people otherwise engaged or has Comic Relief swallowed that dubious conceit that nothing can be of any worthwhile significance if it isn’t recognised by America?
• Davina McCall mouthing the word “sorry” after Angus Deayton had used the mild, and acceptable, profanity of “bugger”. Soon repeats of Dastardly & Muttley will be accompanied by BBC chief Mark Thompson weeping with penitence each time Dick mutters, “Drat! And double drat!”
• The Saturdays’ Just Can’t Get Enough. While we’re adamant that no song is so sacred that it shouldn’t be covered, such as this average Depeche Mode ditty, wounding it with that senseless Mariah-moaning halfway through the chorus to try and instil some emotion into the plastic duplicate is folly. The choice of JCGE perfectly encapsulates the record company lumbering behemoth as it dumbly observes that electronic music sung by women is the ‘in’ thing, and then sets about stripping out the imagination, individuality and wonder so you go from the brilliance of The Knife, Crystal Castles and Ladytron to the palatable swinefeed of Lady Ga Ga in one easy step.
• The corrosive blight of tedious ‘uplifting’ music patched on to the end of the excellent films about what Comic Relief money is used for. We’re not suggesting they use Dead Souls by Joy Division, but merely employ some innovation so the music matches the viewer’s empathy, rather than having it destroyed by a tune indelibly affixed to images of plump, crumbling faces of pseudo-talented youths losing a meaningless singing competition.
• And the films also weren’t helped by the calculated deployment of slow motion, a technique that liberates the human face of its soul far more adroitly than Faust.
• The T-shirts “designed by Stella McCartney”. Perhaps we should salute the way in which CR ruthlessly exploits the cerebral weakness of celebrity to raise cash, but if these T-shirts were designed by Basil Brush (and they could have been) they would have sold bugger all (sorry, Davina).
• Dick & Dom, we thought they were expunged from the human consciousness about the same time as SARS.
• Simon Cowell visiting Nairobi and pretending to be human, exposing his detachment from feelings with an overuse of the redundant adjective (“I can honestly say...”, “Honestly, it feels…”) Any person who boasts of his wealth with egregious superciliousness forfeits any right to feel pity and hurt when visiting the indigent. If, of course, Mr Cowell was so moved by his visit that he’s sold his yachts, speedboats and two of his mansions to help these people out of the mire then we stand corrected.
• The near-beatification of the “heroes” who scaled Mount Kilimanjaro. The achievement was instantly crippled by the fact it was managed by someone such as Chris Moyles. If this lump of oafen flesh can walk up a mountain, then we must assume it wasn’t too much of a hardship.
• And also the notion that these ‘celebrities’ should be lauded for giving up their valuable time for such an expedition is a fallacy. Every single one of the participants falls in that bracket of fame who aren’t talented enough at their chosen profession and are essentially puppets (Ronan Keating, Cheryl Cole etc), or who crave elevation up the celebrity ladder to a position they feel more befits them (Ben Shephard, Denise Van Outen etc), and as such participation in charity events is simply part of the job rather than some generous extra-curricular activity, and so they shouldn’t be garlanded with praise. This also evokes the spectre that whenever Moyles indulges in one of his unspeakable acts of odiousness, the consensus will be that he is a ‘good person’, and incapable of malice.
• Comic Relief Top of The Pops had little going for it, with Noel Fielding's surreal "jokes", Ferne Cotton's Davina-style hysteria and Reggie Yates's blandness in between the music. Nessa and Uncle Bryn from Gavin & Stacey singing Islands in the Stream is just bad karaoke not good comedy; Franz Ferdinand and Oasis were merely acceptable; Take That, U2 and James Morrison bored us. However, we have been infected by the nation's number one, Right Round by Flo Rida, so it went out on a high.
• The Apprentice: not funny, not interesting and more of a downer amid the comedy than the celeb-cries-over-tragedy inserts. The only good line: Alan Carr talking about never been fired. "I've had them say 'Perhaps it's better if you don't come in on Monday' - is that the same thing?"
• We could just about tolerate the humdrum music from the likes of Adele, Annie Lennox and Take That but were appalled by the Script's mawkishness-laden cover of Bowie's Heroes.
• The terrible twist in the Ricky Gervais-Stephen Merchant sketch which involved Lousy Louis Walsh in a bubble bath with paintings of him naked on the walls. Sick-making.
• The comic who wasted his appearance most was Al Murray, back in his Pub Landlord guise, stranded in a jokeless pub quiz sketch which mustered only three "celebrities" Phil Daniels (he's in a soap), Lemar (he sings some songs) and the ugliest of the Dancing on Ice judges.
• There was a horrible cruelty behind the idea to get impressionists including Rory Bremner to phone people and fool them into thinking someone famous was on the line. And it wasn't even funny.
• Worst sketch of the night – by far – went to "I love you more than..." starring Little Britain plus Robbie Williams. That was followed by the almost-as-bad Friday Night News in which Alan Carr demanded: "It's for charity, laugh!" when the material fell flat.
• Mitchell and Webb and Armstrong and Miller showing that if you double the double acts you halve the humour. The RAF heroes scene was quite funny but Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar is a stomach-turning comic creation (like Frank in Shameless but less hygienic) and the jokes about pissing over the buffet were puerile.
• Kate Moss and Sadie Frost sending themselves up in a sketch with Katy Brand. If they know swanning around London as if they are God's gift to mankind is wrong, why does that talentless pair do so much of it?
• Tiredness had set in by the time we got round to the excerpt from Cage Aux Folles before Graham Norton took over as the post-midnight host; the striptease by fat-bottomed F Listers and Jason Manford's comedy routine. But even if we'd been fresh we don't think any of that lot would have impressed us much.

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