Benetton’s Unhate Campaign – leaders of the world, kiss and make-up

Benetton Unhate Campaign China USA

Jintao and Obama

If you cannot love your neighbours then at least unhate them!

It’s been a while but United Colours of Benetton are back with another campaign – should we call it an advertising campaign or are they political campaigns – or is there no distinction? Both as they are being acts of persuasion in the art of selling, whether goods and services or ideas?

Benetton’s campaigns usually make it off the advertising pages and on to the news pages. Their latest the Unhate Campaign is no exception. And as advertising goes 24 hour news coverage is hard to beat – it costing them not a penny in airtime – and in advertising being noticed is everything, better still to be loved as well but if you cannot be adored then better to be hated then ignored.

The campaign came to my attention via this blog post on the My Modern Net site and the posted manipulated images of various world leaders in intimate kissing.

Benetton Unhate Campaign Pope and Imam

The Pope and the Imam

However as noted this Benetton campaign has quickly migrated to the news pages. I had first heard about it just hours earlier on the radio in respect of the withdrawal of the image of the current Pope Benedict XVI kissing a senior Egyptian Iman Ahmed el Tayyeb.

The only question for me on hearing this was which of them would be the first to express outrage. On this occasion it was the Vatican unhappy it seems with the commercial intentions of the image as whether it was blasphemous or not.

An ironic outcome for Benetton bringing Catholics and Muslims together in mutual antipathy!

Benetton say their Unhate Campaign was established to ‘invite the leaders and the citizens of the world to combat the ‘culture of hatred’.

I wonder why the word Unhate was chosen rather than the word Love? Perhaps they are suggesting that the hate-filled parties must first learn not to hate before they can love?

Executive Deputy Chairman Alessandro Benetton goes on to say “At this moment in history, so full of major upheavals and equally large hopes, we have decided, through this campaign, to give widespread visibility to an ideal notion of tolerance and invite the citizens of every country to reflect on how hatred arises particularly from fear of ‘the other’ and of what is unfamiliar to us,”.

Benetton Unhate Campaign Obama and Chavez

Obama and Chavez

Perhaps unsurprisingly Barack Obama as leader of the world’s most powerful country is featured twice, the first kiss with Chinese Premier Hu Jintao and the second kiss with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. These are kisses then not so much of love but ‘of kiss and make up’?

The one image I find the most puzzling though is the one between French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – I had thought from my British perspective their diplomatic relationship already quite friendly, even cosy – indeed in the press their names are often unflatteringly conflated together as ‘Merkozy’ suggesting that they are of one mind, one heart – or something like that!

I would have thought a more appropriate kissing partner for the German Chancellor would have been our very own British Prime Minister, David Cameron, seeing as their current political friendship seems far more frosty.

Likewise for Sarkozy the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might have been a better world leader to exchange spittle with after his recent off-mic remark to Obama that ‘he cannot stand him. He’s a Liar’ (!) – though likely that remark occurred after Benetton had made their leader selections.

Benetton Unhate Campaign Merkel & Sarkozy

Merkel and Sarkozy

Netanyahu in any case is pictured kissing Mahmoud Abbas President of Palestine.

The final image is of Kim Jong-il the Supreme Leader of North Korea  bridging the divide as it were with a peck on the lips with Lee Myung-Bak the President of South Korea.

And indeed why should such images be controversial? World leaders should make more of an effort to get along – to engage each other diplomatically rather than militarily. And perhaps UNHATE is a better term than love which itself is not necessarily a desirable thing in world politics. It is like the so called implied Love In of Governments of National Unity. Sounds nice and reasonable but it lacks plurality – as a democrat I want the market-place of ideas not a cosy cartel of them where all the political parties have merged into one effectively leaving us the electorate disenfranchised.

In the UK we already have a coalition government of Conservative and Liberal Democrat, and the leaders of each, Cameron and Nick Clegg, already holding hands with each other, I don’t want to see the leader of the opposition Labour party Ed Miliband with his tongue in either of their mouths as part of a Unhate Triangle!

Benetton Unhate Campaign North & South Korea

Jong-Il & Myung-Bak

Is this campaign displaying a confusion between Love and Unhate? Is it being implied as the same thing if we see world leaders represented kissing each other? Not hating someone and wanting to kiss them on their lips is quite an emotional jump?

The Unhate campaign is challenging world leaders to put aside their ideological differences of politics and religion but in picturing leaders of the same gender kissing they are challenging yet another emotive issue?

The campaign has homophobia in its sights too?

There is only one image of a female world leader kissing a male world leader but then that is as much due to yet another issue of gender discrimination and the dominance of men in politics and the global power-play.

Though the campaign included just six images – and now five! – with a world in which alas there are so many global, regional and local conflicts clearly there are many more images of leaders kissing their ostensible enemies that could yet be mocked up.

I am expecting a fair share of spoofs on this campaign too. And as is well-established all publicity is good publicity, then well done Benetton for that.

I am still left wondering if this campaign is a cynical commercially self-interested one though. By withdrawing one image so soon there is already a question about the strength of their convictions as surely they must have anticipated the nature of some of the responses they would get. And the fact that there is an outcry about it and I am blogging about it…job well done. I’ve been played?!

I do hope there is more to the Unhate campaign than that.

Benetton Unhate Campaign Palestine Israel

Abbas & Netanyahu

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen Program LogoSuperior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen has just finished its first series on Channel 5.

The program starts by announcing that Kelly Hoppen is on a mission to tackle bad taste in homes all over the world. Transforming inferior interiors as she goes.

On the Channel 5 Program web-page she is described as ‘Britain’s first lady of design’ – another great quote and bold claim. I had never heard of Kelly Hoppen before this series aired but then again I am not a paid up subscriber to Home & Design and the like either so would be none-the-wiser if that was a claim that was wholly realistic or outrageously audacious! Each show also starts with some endorsements of Kelly Hoppen from those of the celebrity firmament – first up is athlete and now Dame, Kelly Holmes – I was then expecting more Kelly endorsements of Kelly such as from Rowland and Clarkson but alas I was disappointed on this score!

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen - Kelly Hoppen

Host Kelly Hoppen

She then goes on to say that she wants to show that good design and taste can be achieved with a small budget. I am sure it can. But not on the episode I watched at least where the client featured saw their final bill come close to £35,000 all told – nearly as much as I paid for my own home – I do not have any problem with TV shows about the homes of the rich and famous but let us not have then the ridiculous claim that this was home redesign on a shoestring budget.

The web-page goes on to describe her style has ‘minimalist but opulent’. A Phil Spector of interior design – that I like the sound of!

As well as keeping abreast with the show via the Channel 5 website Kelly Hoppen also has her own blog detailing her thoughts on the five part series and the various interior designs she was commissioned to undertake for each of the episodes. I like this idea. It would have been interesting to have had journal entries for the clients too alongside to compare and contrast!

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen with Clients

With clients

And then there is the casual matter of all of this commissioning and designing process taking place before television cameras and an audience of at the very worst hundreds of thousands and at best several millions – and that for the client however small or big the viewing figures will be they will almost certainly include your closest friends, work colleagues and your very extended family network. You will want to put on a show even if that should be the last thing on your mind.

And for the designer however well established they are in their professional practice such a series is not just an opportunity for their fifteen minutes plus of celebrity fame but a fantastic way to promote their brand and business and hopefully get at least a second series out of it along the way, if not a string of commissions arising.

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen - in client's home

In client’s home

And how then might they achieve this? How should Kelly Hoppen play it? Should she play it safe with unobtrusive small c conservative wares. Or instead go for the flamboyant and attention grabbing. As there is always the real risk that they will abandon their client and their wishes altogether in favour of appealing to the wider TV audience. It is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle for Reality Based TV – the very act of observing real people going about their lives is a guarantee that the last thing we will see is real people going about their lives!

Would this be the case with the Drewitt Barlows? This the family whose own Chelmsford home interiors featured in the final episode of this series and which aired Tuesday November 1. The Drewitt Barlows are husband and husband and parents of one daughter and four sons.

Though there are seven of them in their household the interior décor is very much the work of just one of them, the father Barry, whose taste is gaudy or at best flamboyant depending on, well, whether your own taste is flamboyant or gaudy. Put it this way this is a man who likes ornaments, really really really likes ornaments!

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen - client bedroom

Saffron’s bedroom before Kelly

Despite saying that Kelly Hoppen has complete free reign to redesign his daughter’s bedroom the father Barry cannot help himself and interfere – sorry intervene – wanting at least some of Saffron’s bedroom to stay as it is, some testament to remain of his own tastes. Kelly Hoppen is focused on what Saffron wants, and will have to ensure that Barry does not get what he wants. And so sets up the episode.

Kelly is ultimately an autocrat not a democrat of design and she will get her way – eventually.

At first Barry is insistent that the redesigned bedroom should include an en-suite bathroom. Kelly Hoppen manages to repel that idea. Then he becomes set on a purple sofa as a centre-piece for his daughter’s bedroom. On seeing this for the first time via a photograph on her laptop she describes it initially as ‘like a pair of lips’ then after a few seconds further reflection ‘as like a woman’s lady parts’! Needless to say this sofa goes the same way as the bathroom.

Superior Interiors with Kelly Hoppen - client bedroom after

Saffron’s bedroom – after Kelly

As indeed all that Kelly Hoppen and Saffron wants comes to fruition and the only concessions to the father’s wishes are to the other father Tony and his more subtle taste.

And so we leave the Drewitt Barlow’s but as the camera’s pan away there is always the suspicion that when they and Kelly Hoppen are long gone that father Barry will be back in his daughter’s bedroom suggesting if not insisting on some of his own design ideas being reapplied. And can we expect his daughter to be as resistant to him as Kelly Hoppen is?!

Were the Channel 5 camera’s and production crew to visit a year from now would we see the design ideas of Kelly Hoppen pervading the rest of their home or discover that father Barry’s taste has re-established itself upon his daughter’s bedroom?! Such is reality TV on and off camera…

In my previous post about this show’s credit sequence I stated that I thought there must be a sweet-spot for an Interior Designer somewhere between Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and Ann Maurice. Kelly Hoppen is certainly nearer to Bowen than Maurice but not too close. She may well indeed be this interior designer sweet spot.

Him & Her – The Sleepover

Him & Her The Sleepover EpisodeHim & Her is back on BBC 3. And fans of this bedsit comedy will be glad to hear that very little has changed, indeed almost certainly nothing has changed.

Imagine The Royle Family if Craig Cash’s Dave Best and Caroline Aherne’s Denise Best had left the Royle family home to set up in their own bedsit. Or Ideal without the blood and guts. Or what Mike Leigh would have directed had he gone into TV sit-coms rather than really real realist cinema

And like the Royle Family the outside world is only ever implied, never ventured. And also like the Royle Family this too is no blissful tale of domesticity. The Him and Her characters are more Terry and Julie than Terry and June.

Him & Her is from Big Talk Productions who have established a creative pedigree producing both films (Scott Pilgrim Versus the World and Hot Fuzz among others) and TV – on their current roster alongside Him & Her are Friday Night Dinner, Free Agent and Chickens. Past productions have included the seminal Black Books and Spaced.

Him & Her Big Talk ProductionsHim & Her is written by Stefan Golaszewski a relative newcomer to TV comedy writing – he did write and star in the 2009 comedy series The Cowards. He studied at Cambridge University and is one of a new generation of Cambridge Footlights (University Dramatic Club). The Cowards started life on the web before moving to radio and then TV. The show was critically acclaimed – it was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA – though I have to confess it escaped my goggle-eyed attention.

His Him & Her creation has lasted longer at least than The Cowards back as it is for a second series.

Him is Steve played by Russell Tovey (who has a large TV CV but most likely if you do know him of late it will be as George in Being Human). Her is Becky played by Sarah Solemani (of Psychoville Emily fame among other parts).

I said that Him and Her is a bit like Royle Family but whereas that tended to be based in the lounge with occasional forays to the kitchen for a Cuppa and choccy biscuit, Him & Her is as likely to see Steve and Becky in the bathroom as any room. And if you think this might be Steve shaving or Becky blow-drying her hair then think again. Think toilet seat up, think toilet seat down – I will say no more.

Him & Her Becky & Steve

Her and Him

Though we never see Steve and Becky leave their bedsit they are never usually left alone for long.

In the most recent episode ‘The Sleepover’ they are visited by Becky’s sister and the sister’s fiancée along with their mother Shelly. Later their neighbour Dan appears.

The Sleepover sees Shelly, played by Camille Coduri, crashed-out on the kitchen floor, whilst the remainder of the uninvited company are readying for shut-eye in the bedroom/living area – the uninvited all being drunk and having missed the last night-bus home.

Steve and Becky allowing them to stayover despite themselves having a ‘big-day the following day and needing to be up early’.  At first I assumed that as the couple were both unemployed that perhaps one of them had a job-interview however we later discover they have rather bought a DVD box-set of the latest series of 24 and want to watch the whole of it in 24 hours! I confess this is something I have done once too and suspect am not alone in doing so?

The Sleepover episode opens with Steve and Becky debating who should retrieve a soaked toilet-roll dropped into the toilet bowl. This is not an unusual scene in Him & Her, rather all too usual! Seconds later Steve is urinating and Becky asks him if he wants any water to drink to which follows his reply another variation on men not being nature’s multi-taskers!

I can’t wee and talk at the same time!

Him & Her The Sleepover Laura

Becky’s sister Laura

Much of the remaining half-hour is spent watching them all trying to get to sleep – in real-time! This they fail to do as sister Laura (played by Kerry Howard) in particular cannot shut up having to share anything on her mind no matter how mundane.

Later they are joined by neighbour Dan (played by Joe Wilkinson) who has first been dumped by his girlfriend, then mugged and hit on the head with a brick and cannot bare the thought of facing his own flat alone.

This pretty much is the story-line, the importance of being idle. Him & Her is comfortable in being boring – Steve and Becky are at ease with their humdrum existence, and the show itself is untroubled by its own banality. It bravely hopes we the viewers will be happy to twiddle our collective thumbs whilst watching its thirty odd meandering minutes and won’t at any point be inclined to reach for the remote.

In one scene where Becky does an impression of Steve’s mother he counters with his impression of her mother which is basically just an opportunity for a character assassination.

‘I’m a silly little bitch, and my husband basically walks all over me, and I’ve got a shit sense of humour and I go to church’!

Him & HerLater we see Steve grumbling to himself in bed with Becky that the zip on their duvet is in his face.

Another conversation follows around ghost-believing Becky and ghost-disbelieving Steve ending with Becky saying:

‘I’ve got a sixth sense for it. All the normal five senses, seeing, hearing, thinking (!) and touch. But I’ve also got ghosts’!

Later Steve discovers from Laura that her mother does not like him leading him to comment ‘that he has never had anyone dislike him before’. Alas and inevitably for him this invites a long list from Laura, her boyfriend Paul (played by Ricky Champ) and Becky herself of people who do not like him!

The Sleepover episode ends with Laura and Paul absconding Steve and Becky’s bed while they had popped out to the kitchen only for Laura to offer the remaining bed-space to her sister Becky saying it will be ‘like when we were children’ leaving Steve evicted from his own bed. Just how is he supposed to be wide awake for twenty-four hours of Jack Bauer if he can’t sleep upon his own mattress the night before!

And reader not once did I even think to reach for my remote.

Him & Her Title Credit

Would I Lie To You? – telling the facts from the fiction

Would I Lie To You? BBC ShowLook closely into my eyes, Larry David Style if you please. And watch my lips. In this review there will be no word of a lie. Trust me!

Would I Lie To You? is one of those TV comedy shows that arrives on our screens without fanfare and will as likely leave them without fanfare and which is none the poorer for it.

Would I Lie To You? is another contribution to the vast BBC Comedy Archive having commenced its tell-tale life back in 2007, and has continued its half-truths and spinning sallies to this its fifth 2011 series.

This is made for radio TV for those who don’t know what a radio is.

The original host was Angus Deayton still, 9 years later, in the wilderness from Have I Got News For You – next year he will be a decade away and do you feel it will be his second coming? TV can be sentimental. We will see. Anyhow Deayton was only two years at the helm of Would I Lie To You but did not this time leave for any sexual transgressions – at least I think not. I am assuming he just got bored with it or wanted a new challenge or a better paying gig, and I digress.

Would I Lie To You? Host Rob Brydon

Current host Rob Brydon

Now it is hosted by Rob Brydon – who himself has hosted a panel show before, well a fictional parodic one – remember Reeling in the Years on Annually Retentive? His role is serious, as serious as comedy should be anyway, and he does resist too his other talent that of impressions, forgiving the one time when he lapsed into Terry Wogan when the recently knighted one was sitting aside him as one of the contestants.

I wonder though if comedians are the ideal profession for Would I Lie To You? The show is a comedy so comedians are naturally on show but are they the best dissemblers? Brydon as noted himself is also an Impressionist and perhaps that is a profession with its art of disguise that is better suited to this show – and perhaps the likes of Steve Coogan and Rory Bremner or even those described ambivalently as mentalists such as Derren Brown and David Blaine would rack up the Would I Lie To You points as prime practitioners of deceit.

Trust – or rather mistrust – is perhaps the candidate quality. Alas we live in times when many high-ranking professions such as politics, law and dare I say it journalism are no longer held in the same reverent-esteem though perhaps that is also rose-tinted spectacles and it was ever thus that those who have occupations and positions close to the seats of power achieved such as much for their scheming and flattery as their own particular talents. Each after all are professions where the power of persuasion is paramount.

Would I Lie To You? Lee Mack

Captain Lee Mack with guests Barry Cryer and Sue Perkins

Unlike Have I Got News For You where politicians are keen to appear as panel contestants as much to show that they have a sense of humour and ‘really are one of us’ – you know of the 99 and not 1% – I cannot see very many of our MP’s queuing up to appear on Would I Lie To You?! Though I guess we could play our own version of ‘Would I Lie To You’ watching Prime Minister’s Questions of a Wednesday afternoon – okay enough easy remarks at the expense of our politicians!

Estate Agents are another profession not known for their veracity and integrity but I am not aware of any famous realtor’s that could be called upon – I don’t think Phil Spencer and Kirsty Allsop quite count?

Yet another profession of liars where false-hood is not merely practised but is praised and is requisite is poker. And one member of its twilight profession, Victoria Coren, appeared on the show. She afterwards tweeted that she was so focused on doing her poker profession proud by calling out all bluffs on the show that she completely forgot about being witty!

Would I Lie To You? David Mitchell and team

Captain David Mitchell and guests Chris Packham and Mackenzie Crook

The two regular team captains are David Mitchell and Lee Mack …where Mitchell is Rodney Bewes Bob to Mack’s James Bolam Terry. What Ever Happened to the Likely Lad’s? – the show got decommissioned by the BBC in 1974, that is what.  And for those of you too young or not British that was my allusive way of saying there is a slight North South comedy divide in the Would I Lie To You? studio.

The format is simple enough – in fact without having seen the show if you were to take a guess I am pretty sure your first guess would be close to correct – that contestants have to lie to each other and those successful in pulling the wool over the others eyes get awarded points and those whose porkie-pies are not swallowed forfeit a point to the other team.

One slight variance and concession to spending up the budget is an invited guest who is related to one of the team members in some way past or present and who is not famous, where again the other team has to establish which of the other team they are related to by distinguishing the facts from the fictions.

…basically then it is just a parlour game in our collective parlours – does anyone call their living rooms parlours anymore?! – in the same way that Whose Line Is It Anyway? was or Argumental and King Of are.

Would I Lie To You? Host and captainsThough the purpose of the game is for one team to out-lie the other team rather like other comedy panel-shows such as QI, 8 out of 10 Cats and Have I Got News For You we the audience do not really care about the score or who the victors are (anymore then the teams do themselves). Rather we are hoping to be entertained and informed and frankly we can be outright misinformed as long as we are made to laugh along the way.

And both team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack manage that – either seems to be able to pontificate on any subject under the sun and ring a few jokes out in the process.

Most of the guests tend to be fellow comedians but not all of them. And it is often the non-comedians that prove to be if not especially more mendacious then the comedians the more entertaining. In the most recent series this year Nick Hewer (one of Alan Sugar’s henchmen on The Apprentice) and actor Nigel Havers turned in memorable performances as well as proving to be able liars – well okay I guess a business-man and an actor are two other professions where a little spin and creative fiction are more of a help than a hindrance in your day-to-day. Hmm – are there any other professions left for me to slander?!

My favourite downright liar in the last series was Irish comedian David O’Doherty – as much for the ineptness of his lying as the creative and rambling nature of his tales.

Would I Lie To You? reminds that a big budget does not a TV success make, that with imaginative ideas and creative guests all the change that can be mustered from the production company’s petty cash box is actually all you need.

Women! – plenty slapstick and tickle

Vous les FemmesWomen’s cast includes many women but the two main women are Judith Siboni and Olivia Côte, its lead stars and writers.

Women! currently airing in the Thursday midnight hour on BBC 2 is a French comedy sketch show. It is known in its mother country France as ‘Vous Les Femmes’ which translate as ‘You Women’ though I think ‘Women’ with the exclamation mark is a better title, if not translation.

Along with its night-owl scheduling by the BBC, information available on the show is not exactly forthcoming on their website program page either, merely stating that ‘it is an all female cast written by the stars of the show’. Which itself is not even accurate as there are very definitely males on the show, and some of whom do have speaking parts!

I would have thought that they would want to explain if not promote the show a bit more than that. Still at least they are broadcasting it.

Women! - M6 Web PageMore information though can be found on the French TV channel from whence it came, M6 (Metropole TV) – assuming your French is up to it – or at least that Google Translate is! And I am not quite sure that it is since it is indicating that the show is on its 4 series but 439th episode – surely not – 100 odd episodes per series? Perhaps this is how they do it in France but I am thinking perhaps the site is referring to the number of sketches in total, the sketches lasting as they do anything from mere seconds to several minutes at most.

Women! Vous les femmesThe show was first broadcast on French TV in 2007 and is now in its fourth series. I am presuming the BBC have started us from its beginning but I am not clear.

Being as it is an unusual mix of both slapstick and surreal sketches. Some of the humour is observational, some conceptual. Each of the sketches are segued by striking visual animations themselves humorous. Anyone know who the animators are/is?

The episode reviewed here is the third of the six being shown by the BBC and broadcast Thursday November 3.

One recurrent sketch of this episode and the entire series involve Siboni and Côte doing charades to each other but the items mimed are not the standard TV show, book, movie and song title rather obscure physical or even abstract ones such as ‘A French Teachers Red Pen’, a ‘bulb that’s about to blow’ and a ‘Blow Dry’!

Women! Vous les femmesSome of the sketches are definitely risqué and close to the bone.

One such as a scene on a bus where Côte sits down next to a sleeping male passenger who slumbering slumps on her shoulder, then his hand accidentally rubs against her breast resulting in Côte taking the opportunity to place his hand in her – I will leave you to guess the rest – it’s exactly what your dirty mind is thinking!

Other scenes of a less than maternal nature are mined for comedic effect. Such as Côte seated in a spotless flat revealing her secret to her friend as dipping her heavily swaddled baby in to a warm bowl of soapy water and allowing the baby to then dry off by crawling all over the kitchen and bathroom floors.

Another scene sees an enthusiastic boy with his mother and another admiring mother commenting how magnificent to see such ‘Joie de vivre’ in one so young only for the mum to display not maternal pride but existential ennui commenting that she finds it ‘positively indecent how anyone can display their happiness in a world so shitty’!

Women! Vous les femmesOther sketches of a different potty variety are not easily described with a straight face save to say that one involved a care-home for the elderly and one of its elderly woman residents missing her dentures, and another sketch involving Siboni with Côte in diplomatic conversation before the former farting and reprimanding the same region of the body that the missing dentures were found in another elderly man!…

Surreal turns are taken too such as a wedding reception scene with the bridegroom burrowing into his bride’s wedding dress to retrieve her garter only instead to bring back items like a steam-cooker, a goldfish bowl, a man in a motorcycle helmet, a basket ball hoop before finally revealing the garter, itself discovered beneath the gas cooker!

Other sketches are more conventional such as a club scene where Côte is asked by a man if she wants to dance with the expectation she will say no so that he can get her to hold his coat to avoid paying the cloakroom charge – just the sort of proposition we all love!

Other sketches spoof cinema moments such as From Here To Eternity and the Ursula Andress Dr No ocean scene both reprised with an expected irreverent twist.

Yet other sketches are physical slapstick and really have to be seen to be enjoyed – or not depending on your particular penchant for this brand of humour. I myself enjoyed the ‘Too Much Love’ scene. Let us just say that these are women who like to gurn. Try and imagine a more sexy Les Dawson – if that is not too disturbing for you!

Sketch shows such as this are hit and miss by their nature but this show definitely sees the misses hitting more than they miss.

The Ricky Gervais Show – kicking Ducks where the sun don’t shine

The Ricky Gervais Show Title PagePsstt!? Do you want to listen in to a pub-chat? If yes, then bring your own beers and settle down to The Ricky Gervais Show.

The Ricky Gervais Show was initially made for radio, broadcast on XFM, before later making the switch to TV, being commissioned by and broadcast on HBO, and shortly after on British Television courtesy of Channel 4. It is currently re-airing on E4.

It is one of those shows like Seinfeld and Father Ted I could watch on an infinite loop or as easily dip in and out of containing as it does so many standalone comedy gems.

The title is perhaps now a misnomer. The original radio show featured Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant with little broadcast input from Karl Pilkington, its show producer. But over the years his input has increased and now is pivotal and the show could just as well be called the Karl Pilkington Show – if almost certainly not having the same ratings-pulling power.

In any case the show works because of the sum of the Gervais Merchant and Pilkington parts, not due to any one of them left alone.

The Ricky Gervais Show Studio CartoonEach show begins with the three of them sitting in a studio behind a desk as Ricky Gervais introduces all of them to us as we watch each morph into cartoon caricatures of themselves.

And better prepared as cartoon forms to inhabit the surreal fantasy world of their rambling imaginations.

Merchant and Pilkington are captured pretty faithfully if Gervais not quite his spit as having the distinct style and look of Fred Flintstone  – whenever we are shown his wife she too as the uncanny resemblance of Fred’s wife Wilma – I have not seen Ricky Gervais’ wife but I am betting she does not look very much like Wilma Flintstone! The cartoon-style of the entire show is in the spirit of Hanna Barbara if with an audience of adults in mind.

Three people in a studio is a cheap idea for a TV program and just shows you don’t need millions of dollars or even thousands of them to make engaging telly.

The Ricky Gervais Show - bar sceneAs previously suggested The Ricky Gervais Show is like listening into a bar-room conversation – but being teetotal is not a prohibition to appreciating it and certainly you don’t need to be dirty drunk to get the best from it either though a beer or two may better ready your spirits for it.

The subjects are often random and rambling, sometimes making a point, other times pointless, and the pointless subjects being none the poorer for having little purpose.

There is much laughter in the Ricky Gervais Show despite no studio audience present or canned laughter on tap, rather Gervais and Merchant, and Gervais in particular, are often unable to contain their mirth and sometimes even reduced to tears by the statements of Pilkington.

The last episode I dipped into was the Future episode from Series 2 which re-aired Sunday November 6.

Future as you might imagine was their musings and Karl Pilkington’s in particular of how the future might look, in particular the not-too-distant future, toward this century’s end. And their predictions for how the 21st Century might pan out were never going to be as high-minded and rigorously researched as those pondered in the current Channel 4’s science series Brave New World with Stephen Hawking.

The Ricky Gervais Show - Future episodeThe first of which was read out by Gervais from an academic study speculating what the world might be like in 75 years time and considering that androgyny could have become a common-place. And this being the Ricky Gervais show and in particular this being Karl Pilkington this topic is not taken up but completely digressed with him retorting that ‘this isn’t what I’ve heard (!)…I’ve heard that we’re all going to go ugly’! And this because ugliness will need to act as a form of population control – ‘we won’t want to do it with each other as much!’.

The Ricky Gervais Show - Karl GoogledPilkington then continues on how we have changed physically over time and how this will likely develop with parts of our body becoming like our appendix, redundant! Giving as an example our little fingers ‘who don’t do much compared with our other fingers’ and this being the boozy logic of a pub another body part is not offered up as a redundant example but the chat changes track with Merchant then suggesting that in the future we will become ever more integrated with technology (which does actually mirror a prediction in the first episode of Brave New World regarding remote mind control but I digress!) giving the example of a chip in our head to allow us to access the world wide web directly, or more specifically the human mind home page Google!

This then leads Pilkington to make the metaphysical point of whether we will any longer be us  – where would we end and Google begin…but we did not linger on this sobering thought long instead moving on to BBC Quiz Show University Challenge and how Pilkington in awe of how much knowledge these Degree students have and how in order to try and get at least one question correct he answers ‘Egg’ for each! And that rather than even trying to answer the questions asked by quizmaster Jeremy Paxman he instead tries to predict which of the university students will answer the next question correctly! As said this is the conversational logic flow of alcohol accept they are in a studio with tea or coffee the only liquid available!

The Ricky Gervais Show - Evolution of PantsNext up is Satellite Navigation and how poorer our lives will be now we can never got lost on our travels! Pilkington asking whether Columbus would have found America if he had had access to GPS, based on the reasoning that ‘he only found it because he got lost’!

The show then moves onto Pilkington being asked to make some predictions for the future. As this was Pilkington I knew only to expect anything – and I was not disappointed. The screen-shot at the foot of this post lists his entire ‘Top Five’ and I will merely focus on three of his fevered imaginings.

HIs first one was that trousers would stop being made! His rationale being that ‘kids today are wearing trousers ever closer to around their their ankles’! So naturally we will come to a time when we just won’t bother wearing them anymore.

His second prediction was that we are all going to get (physically) weaker. The basis for this being that ‘they used to say an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ but now we are recommended five fruits per day. This is an observation that may not resonate outside of the United Kingdom!

His final conjecture was that there will be more letters in the alphabet. This because we are running out of words (!), then citing ‘Bozwellox’ (and no this word is not made up but a recent addition to Shampoo!) as an example of desperation for a plausible sounding new word.

Finally Merchant asked Pilkington what he would do if he discovered this was the final day on earth, not just for him but the whole of humankind. Merchant himself first reflected that he may smash up a bar and darkly that  he might even murder a person as there would be no repercussions and it would be both his and the victim’s final day on earth. Gervais commented that he would still be depriving that person’s final eight or so hours on earth before looking to Pilkington for what he would do. Pilkington pauses.

‘I’ve always wanted to kick a duck up its arse’!The Ricky Gervais Show The Future