Peter York On Ads No 241: Holsten Pils - Paul pulls a fast one

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Paul Whitehouse is the most diamond of geezers. Since the money is going he might as well have it. It's there, just sitting around the Holsten Pils office, and if he doesn't take it some- body else will. Actually not, since only Whitehouse is able to sell The Fast Show for advertising. And, given its credibility with the Holsten Pils target market, it must command a huge premium.

So he delivers up a large part of The Fast Show repertoire: the hacking, coughing country commentator; Mr Nice in his garden; the trampy fashion icon in the woodshed ("this week I am mostly wearing ..."); the two pub proles; the suburban, man-of-the-world car salesman; and the "Suits you Sir" menswear assistants.

A selection of the nation's favourites, but not quite all. The young toff and his unrequited love for his old Irish estate worker, the repressed Fifties-style football pundit, the Greek colonel-style Seventies TV station with its military newsreaders and daft weather girl (could they have been somehow problematic?) are all missing. And there's no Caroline Aherne so far.

And all the sketches directly involve Holsten Pils, which introduces a note of predictability into things.

But there's still a sketch in which Whitehouse is at his most runty, proletarian, prickly and absurd. It's Two-Blokes-In-A-Pub given a beer, and Whitehouse launches into a rant about his theme-park criminality: "Don't leave it there Tone. I'll only nick it. I'll nick anything. You can't trust me with anything. I'm a geezer. I'm lairy. I'm a little bit whoa-ay, a little bit whoa-ah".

Whitehead knows that his relationship with the new contradictions of the British class system is central to his appeal to TV producers, other - upper-middle - players like Harry Enfield, and the public. He is and isn't a geezer (after all he's been to university, which is more than traditional below-stairs comedians like Freddie Starr or Jim Davidson). And he's very metropolitan and knowing about social nuance (the ver' ver' drunk old barrister type is spot-on).

The beer-age are great patrons of comedy, and Whitehouse is hardly new to commercials - he's done a lot with Enfield, for instance. But selling what seems, in effect, the rights to The Fast Show, most of its ensemble and intellectual properties is an interesting decision, and the jury's out on what it'll do to all concerned.