For genuine unpredictability call Ross Noble. In a world of signed release forms and scripted “reality” television, is it possible to make genuinely spontaneous television? If anyone can, Noble can. As a stand-up, he’s famed for freewheeling flights of fancy and it’s this spirit of randomness he’s hoping to bring to a new travelogue series on Dave.
Ross Noble: Freewheeling is an internet-age update on Luke Rhinehart’s cult Seventies novel. Instead of “The Dice Man”, Ross Noble is “The Tweet Man”, and he's relying on the whims of his Twitter followers to direct him, his motorbike and a camera crew on a haphazard journey around the UK.
We began in the middle; a village called Weedon Bec, which sits at the exact mid-point of Britain (well, according to some bloke on Twitter, anyway), and from there unfolded several serendipitous adventures of varying entertainment value. Noble hosted ceramic a dog show, guest-edited an issue of the Swindon Advertiser, and gave several different fictitious explanations of his programme to any passer-by who asked: “Ross Noble Meets High Vis Cowboys”, “One Man and His Dogging”, “Great Pavements of Britain”. This was another serendipitous consequence of living life by the tweet: a satire of the pointless celebrity-led doc genre, within a pointless celebrity-led doc.
There were definitely moments last night when we might rather have been watching “Great Pavements of Britain”. Not every member of the public “gets” Noble’s particular brand of whimsy and his encounters with these blank-faced Britons were usually awkward, or even sad, as opposed to funny. But though he led us down several dead ends, Noble did eventually turn onto the road marked “quality television”.
His confrontation with a homophobic shopping-centre evangelist, for instance, would make a good companion piece to another recent celebrity-led doc, BBC’s Stephen Fry: Out There. After delivering a rousing sermon on whether dropping toast on your neighbours’ carpet is a sin, Noble eventually agreed to disagree re gay sex: “There you go, you have your Bible back and I’m gonna go and kiss a man on the lips.”