Television Review

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The Independent Culture
AND YOU THOUGHT you were the one who ate too much this Christmas. I will now itemise every instance of an upset- stomach gag on terrestrial programming in the past week. On The Christmas Armistice (BBC2, Tue) Armando Iannucci farted copiously while interviewing an old buffer from the pro-smoking lobby. On The Jack Docherty Show (C5, Wed) the host apologised for the tummy rumbles which punctuated his (dire) opening monologue. And in Bang Bang, It's Reeves and Mortimer (BBC2, Fri), a nightclub bouncer broke wind while briefing his staff. Is there an excess of gaseous emissions in television? Or are farts, like cardigans, making a comeback?

Vic and Bob have not made a sketch show for three years. They spent that time wisely making Shooting Stars, a homage to game shows in the form of a raspberry. Like, I suspect, many others, until then I was immune to their brand of what we critics loftily call surreal humour. In a reassuring way, this is still Shooting Stars. They're behind a desk, clouting each other with frying pans, and reliant on celebrities keen to be seen as good sports. ("Damon, after a Grand Prix, do you get out of your car and have a nice relaxing poo?")

The difference is that I've gone and suffered a recurrence of bloke-who- doesn't-get-the-joke syndrome. The Hull nightclub sketch illustrated the bind they've got themselves into, where they don't know whether to do accurate comedy, or slake their thirst to be - that word again - surreal. Paul Baron, Reeves's grotesque flaxen-haired club owner, was funny because it was (just about) plausible, but his brother, played by Mortimer, spoke with a Hong Kong accent plucked from their bag of wacky tricks. Maybe it should be called Shooting Feet.

In a clever piece of scheduling, Young Guns (BBC2, Fri), which told the story of Culture Club's rise in the early 1980s, segued straight into The Boy George Video Diary (BBC2, Fri), which told of the band's tour of America last summer. They are all much fatter now, and the singer and the drummer are no longer sleeping together. But some things never change. In a group that started out as a collective, Boy George is still pulling rank, alternately playing the diva and apologising for doing so. One act of petty egotism was to ban the drummer, Jon Moss, from doing any interviews, after he claimed in a Washington paper that he and George had never had the affair that he talked about in detail in Young Guns.

This first episode of Young Guns was narrated by Marc Almond, another gay pop star from the period who, unlike Boy George, either failed or refused to turn himself into a cuddly pantomime dame. If you listened carefully, you could hear the spite being trowelled onto a soil already rich in bitchiness.

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