"I'll be rounding up sheep, or is it the other way round?" asks Rory Bremner as he fucks about in a field and "That's the one officer" while pointing at an entirely innocent sheep. No, this isn't some terrifying peyote-induced nightmare, this is "Rory Bremner's Great British Views" on ITV. Rather than doling out steaming portions of ripe political satire, he's vising a pencil museum and saying things like "That's a big pencil" when he sees a big pencil. The production is twee, the background music is chirpy, his presenting style is terrible and he has nothing interesting or funny to say. He just bumbles around and looks at things and nods appreciatively visiting the kind of places that drive pupils on school trips to glue sniffing. Nothing...ever...happens. And he's not alone.
Former iconoclastic punk comic Ade Edmondson is even more guilty as he presents the unbearable 'Ade in Britain.' It's like River Cottage meets queuing. His small talk is so tedious that even the business owners he interviews look like they want to wander off mid-sentence. "We're potty about pottery" he chirps as he visits a factory that puts varnish on pots, to the obvious discomfort of the staff. If his character Vivian had worked there, he would have grabbed a box of pots and slammed them over the head of this bumbling old fart. "No, no, no...I hate it, it's so bloody nice."
Edmondson is trying to become the "lovable middle-class eccentric" that Vivan so hated and perhaps he isn't entirely to blame. It is quite clear that ITV are throwing money at these people, and as neither Edmondson nor Bremner seem willing to put out any comedy at the moment, piss weak daytime TV formats must seem preferable to downsizing or bizarre and mawkish Aviva adverts (sorry Paul Whitehouse, but there's no need. How dare you use your considerable talents for evil. Wait. You've died and you were a ghost all along watching over your family, so it was a good thing you got life insurance? WHAT?)
Ever since Michael Palin went around effortlessly charming the pants off normal people across the world, execs at ITV must have assumed that this was a skill shared by all middle-aged comedians. Sadly not. Perhaps ITV are trying to appeal to the elderly or the terminally unimaginative, but there must be a better way to showcase the scintillating wonders of the biscuit making process. At least get that witless twat-du-jour Phil Spencer on the case. His entire career has been crafted in a shame-free vacuum.
I suppose we must allow people to grow up and grow boring, but there must be some better way to put your kids through private school without defecating quite so openly on your own legacy. Hats off to Rik Mayall. He may be doing beer adverts but at least he does plenty of his trademark shouting in the process.
Rik Mayall: Selling out with dignity.