Still, what’s becoming a continual delight is Jennifer Saunders’ Jam and Jerusalem, currently keeping what will always be thought of as the “Fools and Horses” slot warm until the Beeb shits out another series of My Family. It’s witty, it’s warming, Sue Johnston is wonderful, Jennifer herself keeps mostly out of site but when she surfaces it’s to be waspish and brilliant, Dawn French clearly has a ball every time, and the more Mrs Doyle on telly the better.
ITV are wading in too, with the second episode of Moving Wallpaper, which will go down in history as a great-idea-done-badly or a fundamentally flawed attempt at originality. Either way there’s something to applaud in the attempt if not the execution. Avalon TV came back all guns blazing with Al Murray’s Happy Hour. Talking properly about this will mean a quick slip into the first person, so apologies for that in advance. I never used to like Al Murray much, I thought he was lowest-common-demonolater pap with no real jokes. I kind of beer-swilling Bobby Ball. Then I started working for Avalon (I don’t any more. Don’t hold it against me.) and went to see him do a warm up gig for 50 people in a tiny theatre. Virtually the whole thing was off the cuff, it was brilliantly witty, the man clearly has one of the fastest working minds in the business. I was genuinely impressed. When sticking to the material it all feels a little old, but when he lets fly, when that brain is allowed to work at full tilt, sieved through a character it knows back to front, Al Murray can really justify his popularity. His chat show is alas a little too much prep and not enough fly to really work well, and post-Parky if ITV are looking for a new flagship chat-king they need to look harder. But he does the job.
Of course it doesn’t really matter…as devoted as Murray’s fan base is (and trust me it’s both massive and a bit obsessed. I’ve seen the fan mail.) it was never going to contend with Wossy, whose BBC1 show overlaps for half an hour with the’ Guvnors. No doubt it will please many at the BBC to stick one to Avalon, particularly in the realm of chat shows. But when you get down to it there are few that can compare to Jonathon Ross anyway. In 2008 it’s the perfect chat format, and regardless of guests it’s always funny. That the guests themselves were all A-Grade or achingly hip (Tom Hank, Chris Rock, Hannah from Primeval, Reverend and The Makers) while Murray’s were all chat-show faithfuls of yesteryear (Barbara Windsor), irritatingly bland (James Blunt) or annoying tab-trash Reality TV nonsense (Cerys, Marc Bannerman) probably didn’t hurt either.
I miss proper Friday night comedy.