The masterstroke was the inclusion of Jim Davidson - an interview far more convincing about Reeves' and Mortimer's virtues than the most glowing praise
Fun was rather more important than pop, a point nicely made in Tina Jenkins's film by a machine-gun montage of disc-jockeys uttering that talismanic monosyllable. Any real passion for the music itself was viewed warily; "It was genuinely seen as a bit of a disadvantage," said John Peel, with the rueful chuckle he has had many years to perfect. As the station's resident brainbox, he was usually allowed to sit up in his bedroom with his friends playing records but every now and then he would be forced to go on a ghastly family outing. He recalled one surreal occasion on which the sight of frantic Bay City Roller fans being extracted from a protective moat by members of the BBC Sub-aqua Club was enlivened by the arrival of Tony Blackburn in a speedboat driven by a Womble.
You could tell that Jenkins regarded Peel as a voice of sanity because she employed none of the rug-pulling tricks practiced on other interviewees: "I was the face of children's television," said Mike Read, explaining why he had objected to the lyrics of "Relax". As he said it, you cut to a picture of him in fishnet tights and falsies. Adrian Juste's startling description of Dave Lee Travis as "very deep thinking" was similarly punctured by a picture of the hairy philosopher wearing a set of plastic beaver teeth. A quick word of approval, too, for Daniel Aberini's One Hit Wonders later in the evening - a lively assembly of pop trivia that proved as moreish as Pringle's crisps. If you didn't know that Joe Dolce's "Shaddapa Ya Face" had been translated into Aborigine, you do now.
For some time, I couldn't work out whether Paul Morley's Omnibus (BBC1, Sun) film about Reeves and Mortimer was a knowing spoof of the dangers of comic analysis or a demonstration of them - he's not exactly been a stranger to pretension on previous excursions into cultural commentary and there were lines that seemed to offer the old Morley hallmark of sonorous vacuity ("If The Big Night Out was their Alice in Wonderland, [The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer] was their Through the Looking Glass"). But after a while, you could see he had pulled off something rather tricky here - there was talk of Joseph Beuys and Gilbert and George but it was sufficiently off-hand and bashful to sneak the idea past your defences. What's more, although the documentary touched all the usual bases - the chemistry of partnership, the genealogy of influence, the chronology of success - it did so with an ambling, imitative wit that allowed both men to enjoy themselves. Reeves's discussion of his own comic tastes, for example, took the form of a sequence in which he identified surrounding trees in the "wood of comedy". There was also a funny scene in which they teased a camera-shy lighthouse keeper and a nicely solemn interview from Bob's former employer, in which it became clear that he had been no great loss to the legal profession. The masterstroke, though, was the inclusion of Jim Davidson - an interview far more convincing about their virtues than the most glowing praise. I've occasionally had my own problems with seeing the funny side of Vic and Bob, but if Davidson doesn't get it then they must be doing something right.
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