Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #30

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Gigglebox Weekly With Ian Wolf

Ian Wolf this week encounters some alliterative bells and some dodgy piano playing.

The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff

It’s odd for a new sitcom to start with a Christmas special, but The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff has. Clearly the BBC has faith in it.

Perhaps that isn’t surprising. Being based on the popular Radio 4 Dickensian sitcom Bleak Expectations is already a good enough start. Throw in a cast of, amongst others, Mitchell and Webb, Stephen Fry, Katherine Parkinson and Pauline McLynn into the mix then you should end up with a wonderful piece of work.

Robert Webb plays Jedrington Secret-Past, the owner of The Old Shop of Stuff, London’s leading retailer of miscellaneous odd things. The special revolves around his attempts to pay off a certain debt he owes to evil solicitor Malifax Skulkingworm (Fry) before London’s three great alliterative bells (Big Ben, Massive Morris and Tiny Terry) ring in Christmas Day.

Anyone familiar with Bleak Expectations will know the sort of humour to expect. It’s silly and unashamed of it. This is the only show to feature such things as a bird known as the tinsel tit, Santa Claus on a crucifix, The A to D of London and a man being arrested for crying. Some critics may think that this programme is too silly, but I say sometimes you need something silly to lift up your spirits.

My only problem with this show is that I’m somewhat perplexed by the fact that they didn’t just simply adapt the original Bleak Expectations for television, rather than create a brand new project. Yes, I like Jedrington Secret-Past and Malifax Skulkingworm, but I like Sir Philip ‘Pip’ Bin and Mr. Gently Benevolent too. I’d love to see them appear on screen some time…

The Many Faces of Les Dawson

If a documentary’s purpose is to makes you want to find out more about the subject then The Many Faces of Les Dawson was a huge success.

Dawson is one of those classic comedians that, annoyingly, I haven’t paid as much attention to as I should have. That’s a shame, really, because there’s a lot to like about him.

The fact that he had to overcome the adversity of poverty and was selling vacuum cleaners for years and years until he became famous was new to me and an interesting segment of the show.

However, I think the thing I most like about his early career was that he appeared on Opportunity Knocks – and failed to win – but became just about a bigger success than anyone else who appeared on it. Even back in 1967, comedians were proving just how stupid and pointless talent shows were.

There were a few other fascinating factual nuggets in this show, too. The fact that Dawson’s show Sez Les was the only TV show that John Cleese did between Monty Python and Fawlty Towers was a revelation. I never knew the two of them worked together until now.

Yes, he is mainly known for mother-in-law gags and deliberately playing the piano badly, but there’s much more to Les Dawson than that, as I’ve just found out.