Sunday, October 28, 2007

To begin with, let me just say that I like Al Murray. I think that the Pub Landlord is a superb character, and a wonderful comic grotesque. 'Happy Hour' was a delightful demolition and reconstruction of the chat show format. If nothing else, 'Fact Hunt' deserves respect for putting something very close to obscenity into continuity announcers' mouths. Before he crossed most comedy lovers' radar by winning the Perrier, I remember him writing funny articles about drumming (he's rather good on the tubs, I'm led to believe) in 'Rhythm' magazine back in the early 1990s.

However, despite having these many points in his favour, I don't understand why he was considered worthy of the 'Audience With...' treatment again last night. When I watched his first stab at the show, back in March 2005, I thought it lost the chummy banter of the original 'Audience With' shows, slightly missing the point of the format. In place of questions from the star-studded audience, Murray asked them questions, many rhetorical, and pulled a few out from their comfy seats to participate in funny, but vaguely humiliating stunts - a trend started on the show by Freddie Starr, when he taunted his show business peers with a bucket of maggots. Of course the questions and responses in the old-style show were rehearsed, but the McGuffin was that the star was being forced to think on their feet. With people like Billy Connolly, Kenneth Williams and Bob Monkhouse, all known for sawing off comedy gold by the yard, the illusion was perfect. In Murray's version, the tables were turned. While thinking that it wasn't really what 'An Audience With' should be about, I enjoyed it a lot, so was prepared to forgive ITV as long as it was a temporary deviation from the original format.

Then, with indecent haste, along comes 'Another Audience With...', the audience being suspiciously full of personalities with soon-come ITV1 vehicles to promote. Yes, the business with Holly Willoughby was amusing, but it was hard to escape the feeling that this was an hour-long trailer for 'Dancing on Ice'. By all means, have a series called 'Al Murray Humiliates the Stars' (hang on, isn't that 'Happy Hour'?), but don't devalue the currency of 'An Audience With...' any further.


Phil Norman said...

Hello there!

An Audience with Al Murray may be suspect, but his Christmas book may be quite good, as he's gone on record saying he wanted to do a proper comedy book a la The Goodies' Book of Criminal Records, with loads of bits of printer-scaring business and in-jokes, as opposed to the default comedy book you get nowadays, ie. an unadornsed bunch of scripts with a 'serious' photo on the cover. Whether he succeeds is another matter, but good for him, I say.

Now, whaen's An Audience with Fred Harris taping?

Clair said...

That's my kinda show, Phil. I don't undestand ITV's canonisation of Al Murray, but I guess it's because he and Harry Hill are ITV's only jokers in the pack and they have to spread them out pretty thin.

LF Barfe said...

And they're both represented by Avalon who also package and produce their shows. Similarly Frank Skinner. Between them, Murray, Hill and Skinner are responsible for most of the viewable ITV comedy in recent years, so I fear that ITV needs Avalon more than vice versa. Consequently, when it comes to contract negotiations, it's a case of "You want 'An Audience With'? Have 3".

As I said, Phil, I like Al Murray a lot, but I just think giving him 2 Audiences With in as many years is pissing on Kenny Williams' grave slightly.

'An Audience With Fred Harris' - could we get that going as a private Cream-type event? Maybe hire the NFT or something? Show an edition of 'End of Part One', have you or someone interviewing him, then questions from the floor, then he can play jazz saxophone or drums (which he does very well) for us at the end? I'd love to see that. Great man, the Harris.

Clair said...

That Karen Taylor thing is pretty good, and that's Avalon, isn't it?

LF Barfe said...

Even though I dislike it less than a lot of people I know, I'd hesitate before I called 'Touch Me, I'm Karen Taylor' "pretty good", but yes, it's Avalon.