I actually quite enjoy this version, truth be told. Not so much the personnel in question, who range from quite endearing to making you want to put your fist through the wall, but because they have some rather good challenges in this incarnation. The ingredient recognition test was always one of my favourites and I’m pleased to see it’s made a comeback, even though some of the items are insultingly simple. Red pepper, seriously?! Although I’d suppose you’d technically get brownie points for knowing it is a bell pepper, but this wasn’t adhered to.
The disparity between competence levels is both amusing and frustrating and makes you realise all the more they had to take who they could get, so thinly stretched is the ‘talent’ available. These Celeb versions littering the schedules rely on us, the ever-slavering public, giving two figs as to whether so-and-so who once presented something on an obscure cable channel is now able to boil an egg satisfactorily. You do get one or two bona fide big names per series, Vic Reeves being one this time round. Shame he couldn’t have been paired with Ulrika Jonsson. Or Ulrika-ka-ka, as she’s better known from their time on Shooting Stars. He might have relaxed her slightly. She looks like she’s being almost constantly tortured, which makes you wonder why she’s subjected herself to it. Oh yes, for cash probably. Continue reading
New Year’s Day, always the most inert day of the year, both in the VG household and seemingly also in telly programming land. Endless repeats of lower-rung kiddie films here, a dash of The Sound of Music there. But step away from the Potter, people, there is shockingly something new yet still decent on. Let joy (and the last of the selection box) be unconfined!
Eric and Ernie (BBC2) is a biopic (the type of thing which I have loved ever since an unfortunate collision with Abba: The Movie at the age of 7 from which I shall most likely never fully recover) depicting Morecambe and Wise’s meeting on the child performers circuit and eventual mutation into the double act that proved them so much well-deserved success (I laughed more at their sketch with Elton John in the Christmas Special shown before Eric and Ernie than I have at almost anything else throughout the year).
Daniel Rigby and Bryan Dick as Eric and Ern, with Victoria Wood as Mother Morecambe
The script is probably the best I’ve seen in any drama in months. It manages to be poignant without being too sappy and deeply witty without being irritating. It is also sadly old-fashioned by modern telly standards in that every line is there to furnish the story and flesh out the characters, rather than just to fill time or pile on the cliché (controversially, I won’t even exclude Downton Abbey from that stinging criticism. Whilst hardly of the London’s Burning standard, the excellent Upstairs Downstairs only served to highlight Downton’s total lack of historical linguistic accuracy. But that’s another blog, I suspect…). “You can’t play Cowboys and Indians all your life, Eric!” “Can’t I?” This being a portrayal of Morecambe and Wise’s early years before their untold success in the 1960s and 1970s, there are also clever little nods to the future without overdoing it in that way that biopics often do, such as the scene where young Eric and Ernie are forced to top and tail in bed whilst both wearing matching striped pyjamas and also the derogatory reference to Des O’Connor.
Along those lines, the interplay between the characters is excellent too. I really believed in how fond Eric and Ernie were of each other. Daniel Rigby (Eric) and Bryan Dick (Ernie) are both absolutely outstanding. It seems unfair to pick one out over the other, but the way in which Rigby captures Morecombe’s vocal tics (“haa-heeey!”) and mannerisms bordered on frightening at times. In fact, all of the performances in this drama are faultless. Jim Moir (aka Vic Reeves, though using his real name for acting purposes here) does funny and thoughtful in equal measures. And nobody does good-natured bonhomie fuelled by quiet sadness like Victoria Wood, whose idea this drama was in the first place. The scene where Eric waved her off on the train having just dispensed with her services as their manager had me in absolute pieces, yet didn’t resort to the histrionics that so often stain modern television programmes. There’s also a nice turn from Reece Shearsmith as Ernie’s thwarted father, though his black face (stage make-up, I hasten to add) made it seem as if he’d popped out during his tea break from his League of Gentleman days as Papa Lazarou. The shouts of “Hallo Ern! You’re mah wife now!” still resonate around VG Towers 24 hours on. Continue reading