No appetite for big fat show

Katherine lynch's big fat breakfast show (rte2) last tango in halifax (bbc1)

Pat Stacey

There's something very wrong with a show when you almost feel sorry for Paul Daniels. It's some feat, believe me.

If you saw Louis Theroux's film about Daniels, or watched him drive Vanessa Feltz nuts in Wife Swap a few years ago, you'll know he's a charmless, irony-free individual with some fairly repellent views on everything from the homeless (they should get up off their arses, basically) to hereditary peers (they're better at running countries than commoners).

Yet there were moments during Katherine Lynch's latest offering Big Fat Breakfast Show -- a case of slapping a new label and sell-by date on the same old shop-worn tat -- when you hoped he had a magic wand hidden about his person, so he could make Lynch, adopting the tiresome guise of Traveller C&W star Singing Bernie Walsh, disappear in a puff of smoke.

Daniels' ever-present wife and stage assistant "the lovely Debbie McGee" tried to make the best of Lynch's tedious shrieking, screeching and gurning, but Daniels, during those moments when he thought the camera wasn't picking him up, often wore the bemused expression of a man who'd rather be sawing his own leg off.

When she first burst onto television, Lynch was something of a breath of fresh, politically incorrect air. Whatever edginess she had at the start, however, has been worn smooth through overuse and overindulgence.

Big Fat Breakfast Show (and we're offered no clue to as to why it's called that) is a woeful, complacent mess of a thing, the inevitable result of RTE taking a promising but still unpolished television talent and throwing shows at her, like someone showering ducks with stale bread.

The one who emerges best -- and this is a sentence I never thought I'd type -- is Lynch's sidekick, Brian Dowling. Tolerable enough when he's not being rammed down our throats in one reality show after another, Dowling attempted the odd half-decent question; inevitably, he's drowned out by Lynch's overbearing need to be the centre of attention, and compelled to engage in some wretched rehearsed banter.

The programme also displays an unpleasant trait present in a lot of RTE2's light entertainment/chat shows: making mincemeat of a Z-list guest while giving the bigger names an easier ride. The sap being set up this week was Tallafornia's witless Cormac 'The Corminator' Branagan.

"Are you as thick in real life as you look in the show?" Lynch bawled at him. The idea of one terrible programme being ridiculed by another programme that's every bit as terrible was Big Fat Breakfast Show's best gag.

It's a pity television doesn't make many single plays these days; there's a good 90-minute story hiding inside the 'dramedy' series Last Tango in Halifax (that title alone makes you think of Alan Plater or Jack Rosenthal).

Those excellent actors Ann Reid and Derek Jacobi play Celia and Alan, widowed Yorkshire septuagenarians who rediscover one another on Facebook, 60 years after they were at school together.

They meet up for tea and spend the rest of the day together after Alan's car is nicked. She tells him she loved him back then. He tells her he never received a note she wrote him before she moved away -- although he did end up marrying the girl who was supposed to deliver it to him.

What we had here was a lovely, warm, poignant story of missed love and lost opportunities, beautifully played out by the two stars. Unfortunately, modern TV demands that dramas must be bigger and longer than they need to be, which is why there are six episodes of Last Tango in Halifax, which also takes in the trials and tribulations of Celia and Alan's respective daughters (Nicola Walker and Sara Lancashire).

It's very well acted and there's more punch to the dialogue than you might expect, yet it drags whenever the seniors aren't on screen.

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