Matt Butler: ‘Last Leg’ may still be standing, but rivals are on the skids
View from the sofa: Alan Davies Après Ski, BBC 2; The Last Leg, Channel 4
Sunday 16 February 2014
You never see mould form. One day your bread is edible, the next it is coated with fluffy spores. A bit like the relatively recent phenomenon of irreverent looks that tack themselves on to major sporting events. They weren’t always here and few could tell us when they arrived, but they are now part of the landscape, as difficult to remove as mildew on the bathroom wall.
Perhaps they started with London 2012. Maybe it was James Corden’s fault with his car crash of a series based around the last World Cup. It may even have been Andrew Flintoff’s doing.
ILs have a familiar formula: often they have a panel show regular as a host, with a sportsperson and a minor celebrity with a passing interest in the event on an adjoining sofa. There is a brief stand-up session to begin. Then an irreverent look at the day’s action. Possibly an interview with a participant. Then the credits roll and we bemoan the fact that we have lost another half-hour of our time on this planet.
Some ILs work. Channel 4’s The Last Leg is consistently hilarious. Its set pieces are original and the dynamics of Adam Hills, Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe work brilliantly. Crucially, the trio actually seem interested in the sport and current affairs that they are casting an IL at. Friday’s interview with Lizzy Yarnold’s dad, detailing his celebration of his daughter’s gold medal with Russian beer, was priceless.
Then there is Alan Davies Après Ski. Replete with the host dangling from a chairlift on stage, speaking with all the spontaneity of someone reading someone else’s jokes from an autocue. Which he was.
In the first episode he took great delight in calling Amy Williams’ sport of choice, skeleton bobsleigh, “sledging”. In the second he extended his embarrassing dad routine by trying to use the words “stoked” and “rad” when introducing the snowboarder Aimee Fuller, who did the same resigned eye-roll as Williams had done the previous week.
Fuller was, of course, the subject of much wrath after her exuberant commentary during Jenny Jones’ run to slopestyle bronze. And she did a good job of defending herself on Davies’ show: “It was a genuine whoop of excitement,” she said. “My best friend had just won a medal; I am entitled to be a little bit excited.”
This was the cue for Davies to start an overlong routine, devoid of a punchline, in which Fuller was asked to commentate on curling. Silence from the studio audience.
Davies was not to be denied – he then asked another guest, Else Kass Furuseth, a Norwegian talk show host, to do the same thing. And it didn’t work. Again.
The best thing about Friday’s episode was an interview with the Austrian skier Franz Klammer, but apart from that, it was all too laboured – like a dinner table at a company away day. Fuller looked uncomfortable. Bill Bailey, the comedian, kept trying to rescue matters by making jokes. And Davies kept reading other people’s jokes from the autocue.
The good news is that Après Ski has only one more episode to go – and we have to hope that this is the nadir of the irreverent look; that they are on their last legs. Except for The Last Leg, of course.
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