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No fizz in Keith's LemonAid

KEITH Lemon's LemonAid is something of a sweet-and-sour experience. On the plus side, Lemon -- aka, the talented Leigh Francis, who also gave us the brilliantly creepy celebrity stalker Avid Merrion in late-night Channel 4 hit Bo' Selecta -- is one of the most colourful comedy creations of recent years.

On the other, it's on ITV at 6.15 on Saturday evening, which makes you feel you're hallucinating being trapped in the 1980s of Beadle's About and Blind Date. The illusion was reinforced by the presence, as Lemon's guest "celebrity helper", of a slightly bemused-looking Cilla Black.

Lemon/Francis has been tickling audiences pink for seven series of panel game Celebrity Juice on ITV2, a channel where anything above half-a-million viewers counts as a roaring success. LemonAid is his inevitable bid for mainstream stardom.

It's a tough call, though; only Harry Hill's TV Burp, whose slot he's inherited, cracked the tricky balancing act of entertaining an audience of adults and children simultaneously. LemonAid never pulls it off.

There's a silly game (parents dressed as camels drenching their children with water), a Jim'll Fix It bit (one kid met her idols, featherweight Brit-rappers Rizzle Kicks, while another got to dress up like Keith and spend the day with him) and some general foolishness (big lemons with prizes inside are dropped into the audience).

The whole thing has the look of something that was carelessly thrown together from various bits and pieces in the hope some of them would stick, and the presence of an audience member dressed as Santa Claus suggests it's been sitting on the shelf for a few months.

You can see the host visibly straining to resist his trademark double entendres, and not always succeeding: "I'm like the genie of the lamp, just give me a little rub and I'll make your dreams come true." I hope, for his sake, those lemons dropping aren't a bad omen.

It's practically impossible, I would have thought, to make a dull programme about the great Spike Milligan. Sergeant on Spike managed the practically impossible. Like millions of others, former BBC political correspondent John Sergeant, a vicar's son who started his career as a comedy actor ("Good training for political journalism," he quipped), loved Spike's comedy.

To prove how much, he sang Spike's Goon Show-era hit I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas while doing just that in a train station full of commuters. And it wasn't even Christmas. What a wacky dude! But then we knew that from his fabled appearances on Strictly Come Dancing.

Sergeant revisited the house he grew up in, where he and his brother used to sit, ears glued to the radio, listening to The Goon Show, much to the bemusement of their strait-laced parents, who just didn't get it.

Spike was a huge influence on post-war comedy and on other young fans who, unlike Sergeant, made comedy a full-time career. Eddie Izzard, whose dad was living in Bexhill-on-Sea, where Spike was posted for his wartime army service, got to say again how Spike was "the godfather of alternative comedy" -- a statement which conveniently ignored the fact that the prickly Mr Milligan detested a lot of the brash, '80s' PC brigade of stand-ups.

Musing on Spike's numerous mental breakdowns, Noel Fielding admitted it can be difficult to keep churning out material. Michael Palin reflected, yet again, on how Spike's Q series influenced Monty Python's Flying Circus -- and how Spike often accused the Pythons of stealing his clothes.

What was missing from all this was Spike himself. Aside from a few Goon Show audio clips, there were precious few examples of Spike's television work. Only Norma Farnes, Spike's longtime (and long-suffering) secretary and guardian of the Milligan legacy, had anything half-interesting to say.

Anyone who knows Spike's work will have been bored. Younger viewers wondering why he was so great will be none the wiser.

Keith Lemon's LemonAid 1/5

Sergeant on Spike 2/5