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What's On


TV review

Published Friday 21 January 2011 at 11:26 by Hattie, BBC4, Wednesday, January 19, 9pm

Dancing On Ice, ITV1, Sunday, January 16, 6.35pm and 9.30pm

Comic’s Choice,C4, Sunday 16 to Thursday 20 January, 10pm, 11.05pm or 11.10pm

Production information

Dancing on Ice shares a format with Strictly Come Dancing, but with the major distinction that it is performed wearing skates on ice. Which isn't conducive to standing upright, let alone expressing oneself through dance., While Strictly's competitors - Ann Widdicombe aside - can usually be relied upon to dig deep and deliver routines that are actually worth watching, Dancing On Ice demands a level of expertise way beyond its keen but woefully inadequate celebrity amateurs. What it effectively serves up is various levels of Ann Widdicombe.

There is a degree of sniggering enjoyment to be gleaned from the occasional slippery indignity or clumsy posture - lifts frequently result in the male skater's face being buried in his partner's crotch - but its basically amateur hour on prime-time TV.
As for the celebrities involved, I didn't recognise a single one. I did, however, spot ex-Spice Girl Emma Bunton on the judging panel, who presumably qualifies as an expert because her singing career has itself been on ice since the mid-nineties.
Leading up to the British Comedy Awards, Comic's Choice invited five celebrated comedians - Alan Davies, Sean Lock, Jo Brand, Jessica Hynes, Lee Mack - to choose a shortlist and winner from among their own personal past favourites. Bill Bailey played affable host, something he does effortlessly.
Forgetting for one moment the universally acknowledged truth that no comic truly enjoys any laughter they haven't themselves produced, the show's premise was flimsy in the extreme. Not to mention confusing - Alan Davies nominated Chris Morris as Best Breakthrough Act for work done in 1994.
Davies also took part in a film recreation of an unsuccessful audition he once attended, as gratuitous a piece of padding as I have seen in a long time. This lack of coherence was reflected in the meaningless studio set design which threw together leather armchairs, old boilers, stuffed elk heads and bicycles combined to create the effect of a gentleman's club located in a garage.
Basically Comic's Choice was yet another excuse to disinter old archive clips instead of producing fresh comedy. Although, having said that, the archive clips were rather excellent, so I'm not complaining too loudly.
Well, who'd have thought it of Hattie Jacques. According to BBC4's latest showbiz biopic Hattie, the celebrated comedienne, played by Ruth Jones, conducted quite a carry on of her own back in the sixties. Married to the actor John Le Mesurier, Jacques took a lover ten years her junior and proceeded to move him into the family home as their lodger. Upon discovering the infidelity, Le Mesurier declined the invitation to move out, choosing instead to swap his bed for that of the boyfriend and become cuckold/lodger in his own house. A bizarre compromise that satisfied no-one.
As always with BBC4 biopics, the period was beautifully recreated and the performances top notch, but I never came close to comprehending the characters' behaviour. Nor did I like any of them, although Jones' worked hard to show Jacques charming side. Perhaps Hattie can best be understood and appreciated as a triangular love story fuelled by selfishness, shallowness and cowardice. Not a bundle of laughs, it must be said, but gripping in its own warped way.

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014