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Lynch treads a well-worn comic path

"Viewer discretion is advised," warned the continuity announcer before the start of Wagons' Den. This is always sound advice when approaching a new home-produced comedy on RTE2, especially one starring Katherine Lynch.

Lynch made quite a splash a few years ago when she graduated from Dublin's gay cabaret scene to her own three-part mockumentary series, Katherine Lynch's Working Girls. The first one was hilarious, the other two merely middling; nonetheless, the series announced the arrival of a new(ish) television talent with plenty of potential -- provided it was nurtured properly.

RTE, being RTE of course, it wasn't. Lynch was swiftly given a new six-part series, and then another, and the results were sketchy and half-baked. This has always been the RTE pattern with comedy: find something promising and then milk it until it bleeds -- and to hell with quality control.

Although the viewing figures and DVD sales might suggest a different story, everything Lynch has done since Working Girls has been a downward slide. Her 2008 Christmas special, An Audience with Katherine Lynch, was as nauseating an exercise in unchecked self-indulgence as you're likely to come across.

But here's a funny thing: Wagons' Den, a mash-up of chatshow and celebrity gossip that's basically an excuse for Lynch and her sidekick, Brian Dowling, to open fire with a volley of scabrous jibes at a sitting-duck gallery of celebrities, some of them institutionalised RTE faces, works surprisingly well.

It's not exactly a break with the past. Lynch still inhabits one of her well-worn characters, "Tallaghtfornian" Sheila Chic, and the format itself is hardly groundbreaking; Barry Humphries' Dame Edna Everage and Caroline Aherne's Mrs Merton were doing the same thing, on a grander scale, 20 years ago.

Much of it is extremely crude and lewd, as you'd expect with Lynch, yet there's enough genuinely funny stuff to keep you watching. The material also has a satisfyingly jagged edge.

Unfortunately from a reviewing point of view, the bulk of the gags are unrepeatable in a family newspaper, although one we can let through is Lynch's/Sheila's withering description of Fair City: "Think EastEnders filmed on a camera phone."

One point, though: whoever did the editing should consider becoming an apprentice butcher, because the show looked like it had been cut together with a blunt meat cleaver.

In all, this was a promising opening . . . although we said that after Working Girls, too, and look what happened there.

I never thought I'd find myself saying what I'm about to say, but a tiny part of me is hoping that the newspaper reports of the last few days are a subterfuge and that Jedward really are the two spare parts due to be parachuted into I'm a Celebrity, if only to observe the look of loathing on Nigel Havers' face.

When this year's line-up was announced, Havers -- bland inhabitant of countless suave charmer roles -- was the one you mentally filed under "Inoffensive". Ha! How wrong we all were.

Havers is quite possibly the grouchiest man on the planet. EVERYTHING gets on his wick. The food, the lack of intelligent conversation, the ceaseless chatter from Linford Christie and Aggro Santos, and -- most of all -- former MP Lembit Opik.

"How could they ever, EVER have elected him?" seethed Havers, whose irritation with Opik has hardened into incandescent hatred. Even the sight of Obit harmlessly whittling a stick with the only knife in camp sent Havers into a white-hot rage. "You're going to blunt the shit out of it!"

Bring on the twins . . . just keep that knife away from Nigel.

STACEYS STARS

Wagons’ den ***

I’m a celebrity, get me out of here! ****


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