TV Tonight: Dave Allen Documentary Reveals Hidden Gem

It's Monday night, and there's no 'Broadchurch'. That's the bad news. Fortunately, the BBC2 schedule has tossed up a heartwarming documentary, which inadvertently throws down the gauntlet for another delve into its archive.

What am I talking about? Well, 9pm on BBC2 sees 'Dave Allen: God's Own Comedian', telling the story of the much-loved Irish comedian, through a conventional mixture of archive footage, interviews with Allen himself, with his family and friends, and some of his most famous television moments.

Allen, who died in 2005, is chiefly remembered for two things. One was his wonderful, way with a monologue - adopting the laid-back stance of a bar-room raconteur, either leaning back in his chair, or perched up against the mike, cigarette in hand, drink to the side, using his famous half-finger happily as a prop, the loss of the other half never fully explained, or rather explained in a hundred different ways, depending on the comedian's mischievous mood.

His other singular schtick was his sketches, not always but most often poking fun at what he saw as the hypocrisy of the Catholic church that he grew up with in his native Ireland. His irreverence, including performing a Pontiff's striptease, garnered him fans, but also death threats, and a ban from Irish television.

What really caught my eye in this engrossing programme, though, was footage from Allen's 1974 series, 'In Search of Great Eccentrics', in which the comedian played it completely straight and empathetic - not grinning or judging - as he scoured the country for people living on their own terms, sometimes in a small box, sometimes with mice on their hat, not harming anyone else, but not bowing to societal conventions, either.

If ever a series was due a re-run on British television, this is surely it. Apparently, the BFI are housing this series in their archive. So, please, BBC and BFI, put your heads together, and give us another run of this, with Allen at his warmest, most inclusive and with another side of the irreverent, quirky Irishman on display.

In the meantime, 'God's Own Comedian'... tonight, BBC2, 9pm. Here's a sketch from Allen's early days, showing a strange combination of presenting, humour and factoid, and presumably no Health and Safety officer in site...

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