It's also a time when comedy experimentalists get to cut teeth and edges. Last night, in London Shouting, it was the turn of Alan Parker, the soi- disant Urban Warrior, to argue the case for getting his own series. He's the brainchild - make that mouthchild, as there's no appreciable evidence of grey matter - of Simon Munnery, who plays him with gag-writing back- up from Graham "Father Ted" Linehan. Parker is the pop-eyed descendant of Wolfie Smith, another hapless spouter of agitprop, but he's more paranoid and less certain of his ideological position. His radical mantra, as woolly as the lining of his bomber jacket, is "Truth".
Out of his confusion comes some enjoyable comedy. The setting is a studio with a live audience and all the latest gizmos. OK, a facts machine (sic). The first, and indeed only, message to spew out of it reads "Test Transmission Over". "Bad news for Test Transmission fans," Alan reckons, mournfully. That's the joke underpinning the entire show: that no one could be less suited to hosting their own pilot. When the Super Furry Animals (a real group, this time) have done their stuff, he takes his earplugs out and says, "Great band. Presumably." Alan's purist stance on music is to listen to the Clash only.
There's not quite enough of this to go round, though. To plug in the holes, London Shouting polyfillas itself with homages to other programmes. A report about a plague of danger-seekers in Burnley who leap off letter boxes looked uncannily like booty from a raid on the Friday Night Armistice ideas tray. The live links with a winking American bimbo, who's planning to spring a surprise on someone somewhere in Kent, sends up Katie Puckrick even higher than she sends up herself. And those studio events that somehow go wrong, leaving the host with egg on his face, could easily provoke a letter from Alan Partridge's solicitor. Parker is a much more original comic idea than these steals allow him to be. He's too interesting to be merely someone else's guest, but misplaced as everybody else's host.
Another rummage through the schedulers' rubbish heap yields Only an Excuse, entirely devoted to impersonations of Scottish football folk. There was some pretty recherche stuff here, accessible only to Scots over the age of 50. Punchlines about Slim Jim Baxter, anyone? The take-off of Hugh McIlvanney, a Glaswegian metaphor-monger nostalgic for the poetry of piss- soaked terraces, worked a treat. Football, he hymned, was "a concerto for the criminal classes". Not long now till the even sillier season begins. But while the mimicked are away, the mimics will play.Reuse content