television Room 101 (BBC2) Filling the void left by the death of the chat-show. By Jasper Rees
Saturday 02 September 1995
The granting of a second series is a benediction from on high, but it can't have been a tough decision. Room 101 pretends to be a radical new format, but the parts that make up the whole are actually all reliable second-hand stock. Killing a flock of birds with one stone, it indulges our craving for nostalgia, panders to the national appetite for putting things down, fills the void left by the death of the chat-show, and gives the BBC carte blanche to raid its own vaults. And somehow, it still feels fresh. If that's not clever, what is?
There's probably a clause in the invitation obliging guests to name at least one popular BBC programme they detest. Wilson dutifully listed Songs of Praise and Come Dancing. They're both easy targets, as neither is made with a care for posterity any more than the news is. When did you last see a repeat of Songs of Praise, apart from within another programme making fun of it? But they're deserving targets anyway.
The researchers have worked hard to dredge up the most toe-curling clips. It must have taken several uncomfortable hours on the fast-forward button to come up with the footage of Porthcawl's cha-cha-cha champions: the female partner wore the sort of hairdo that would have looked more complete with a Flake dunked in it. Hancock captioned the clips with some handy jokes that, like a diligent Blue Peter presenter, he'd prepared earlier. He fantasised about modernising the God slot for the new religious satellite channel, bringing in shows like Disciples in their Eyes, or Whose Wine Is it Anyway?
It was at this point that Wilson pulled his face, because one weakness of the format is the imbalance between the scripted host and unscripted guest. This may well be why Wilson wasn't invited on before. In theory, the actor who plays Victor Meldrew ought to be the ideal fit for a show that calls for concentrated misanthropy. He might have been avoided out of the fear that a real display of grumpiness would not be as funny as his fictional one. In fact, he deftly made a meal of his scriptlessness by forgetting the running order when Hancock teed him up to announce the next item. When he cued him in again, amnesia struck once more.
Room 101 is one small sign of the media's torrid love-hate relationship with the early 1970s. When today's pubescents become tomorrow's commissioning editors, there'll doubtless be a lot of laughs to be had about the haircuts and mores of 1995. But they won't be able to sneer at this, unless wit and knowing frivolity go out of fashion.
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
- 3 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
- 4 Nicki Minaj finally releases predictable 'Anaconda' video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women