TV: THOMAS SUTCLIFFE

Whatever you think of innuendo as a form of wit, it is wonderfully obliging in the way that it spares the innocent and the ignorant. Like some comic smart bomb it finds its legitimate targets with perfect precision and knocks them in the aisle, but leaves the uninitiated looking only mildly bemused by the explosions of mirth all around them.

"Oh look" said Julian Clary, holding up a perspex key fob, "there's nothing worse than an empty ring". The 12-year-old boy who had come to argue the case for being allowed his own house key didn't appear to fully appreciate this joke but his parents obviously did, along with the rest of the audience. None of them appeared very worried that a child should be so proximate to a sly gag about the pleasures of sodomy. I'm not worried either, in case this sounds as if I'm working myself into a froth of indignation, because whatever you think of innuendo as a form of wit it is wonderfully obliging in the way that it spares the innocent and the ignorant. Like some comic smart bomb it finds its legitimate targets with perfect precision and knocks them in the aisle, but leaves the uninitiated looking only mildly bemused by the explosions of mirth all around them. What's so funny about an empty ring, after all?

All Rise for Julian Clary is one of those programmes that exist solely to provide a frame for the talents of their presenters - in this case a languidly suggestive charm and a capacity for snappy double entendres. (Not all that snappy, actually, since some of the best are clearly scripted in advance and have to be crowbarred into the general banter with the help of June Whitfield, who consolidates her game old dame reputation by acting as Clary's feed.) The notion is that members of the public bring long-running disputes for arbitration; Clary cross-examines the relevant witnesses in a desultory sort of way, makes some vaguely rude remarks and then hands down his verdict, after about one and a half seconds of deliberation. It isn't a game-show exactly (though the losing parties have to pay some kind of forfeit) and it isn't a plain person's chat-show either, given that those who take part are merely the willing butts (as it were) of Clary's insinuation. Indeed the only televisual category you could safely file it under is "just a bit of a giggle".

As such it will not bear much critical weight (you either giggle or you don't) but it is intriguing to note how the terms of camp have been changed by more liberal attitudes. The set for Clary's show includes the Polari inscription "Julian Bona Regina", a reminder that there was a time when it was necessary for gay men to speak in a way that would not be understood by outsiders. Innuendo, too, is a kind of subversive code, a way of mentioning the unmentionable, but it is undermined here by the unfussy candour with which Clary reminds you that he's for real - not a man pretending to be gay but a gay man not pretending at all.

"Obviously on my side of the fence we don't have to worry about these things" he explained to a burly, crop-haired Geordie who was listing the seven children he'd had by various women. As a result, for all the sexual nudging (and for all that Clary offered to vasectomise the Geordie with his teeth) the show has what you might call a queer kind of innocence.

You might say the same thing about the Adam and Joe Show, but only if you had in mind the archaic use of "innocent" to mean silly. This is not an insult, necessarily - even Channel Four's on-air trails admiringly refer to the programme as "stupid" and it goes out at a time when alcohol is likely to have made the audience amenable to a bit of nonsense. I was stone cold sober when I watched it but it made me laugh all the same. Adam and Joe are camcorder jokers whose contributions to a compilation of home-made television so impressed the producer that he gave them their own series. The big time has not spoiled them - there are still plenty of rough edges - but the modest budget does mean that their stuffed toy remake of The English Patient could include some beautifully detailed sets. Indulged amateurism is usually excruciating for everyone except the performers but on this occasion the rest of us get to have some fun too.

Comments