TELEVISION: Jack and Jeremy's Real Lives (C4)

Messrs Dee and Hardy take a hammer to crack an old chestnut
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Jack and Jeremy's Real Lives grows, not quite naturally, out of a one-off the twosome presented to the nation last year. Jack and Jeremy's Police 4 was a febrile, restlessly sharp send-up of all factual programmes starring the fuzz. Stuffed with good ideas but spectacularly formless, it was not a million miles from quality stand-up, the area of performance in which Jack Dee and Jeremy Hardy both cut their teeth. Still, there was enough there to bag them a series, and now they're on the tail of other blameless stereotypes.

This time round, they're attempting something more ambitious. For a start, none of the new victims they've lined up is quite so omnipresent on our screens, or boasts such a recognisable set of televisual tics, as the police. (But then who is, or does? On ITV these days, you're rarely less than a few frames away from a flashing blue light.) To stack the odds even further, they've binned the sketch format, so accommodating to comedians with more ideas than they know what to do with, in favour of the single half-hour film. A bit like models who want to be actresses, this is the gearshift that comes in the end to all comic writers who want to be Taken Seriously.

The rest of the series may surprise us all and deliver perfectly formed dramas, but from the evidence of Aristocrats, Jack Dee and Jeremy Hardy are still hammering out skits and simply nailing them together. Like the wobbly dining chairs knocked up by Hardy's infirm aristocrat, structurally the script looks as if it needs a wedge of folded-up newspaper shooed under one of its legs.

This is not to overlook the local pleasures strewn in your path. Hardy's weedy sibling, denied anything but watery broth on account of his constitution, was a fun re-reading of all those hypochondriacs in Victorian fiction you want to electrocute. Dee's oafish cad was a less subtly drawn caricature. You got a shrewd idea of him early on as he snapped a blonde dolly bird draped revealingly over a tyre. "You're gorge," he said from behind his Hasselblad. "Oh sorry," said the damsel, covering the part of the anatomy she thinks he's referring to. "No, you're gorgeous,'' Dee explained, for the benefit of viewers under powerful sedation.

A bit like Dickens inveighing against the workhouses when they were already obsolescent, you could argue that the all-but-disenfranchised aristocracy is a worthless target for spoofers. If Labour wins the next election, lest we forget, there will be no Etonian in the Cabinet for probably the first time in the history of either Parliament or Eton. Aristocrats was best viewed, therefore, less as satire than as comic archaeology.

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