SEVERAL years ago, I found myself in an Edinburgh nightclub holding hands with Boris Johnson.
• Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise, BBC2, Monday, 9pm
• Anna & Katy, Channel 4, Wednesday, 10.35pm
• Kids With Tourette’s: In Their Own Words, STV, Thursday, 9pm
This was, I suspect, entirely accidental, the result of getting separated as I attempted to report on his unsuccessful canvassing of a young and drunken electorate for the university rector vote.
As I tried to keep up with him, he grabbed my hand and held on to it, while all around us squiffy students rolled up to him screaming: “You’re a legend mate, when are you on Have I Got News For You again?” into his increasingly rosy-cheeked face.
Johnson’s reaction was typically Johnson-esque. “Cripes,” he said, squeezing my hand in his great paw. “This is a bit mad.”
A bit mad is exactly how Bozza came across in Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise, Michael Cockerell’s compelling documentary on the man who declared at the age of five that he wanted to be “world king”, as his mother helpfully informed the interviewer.
Indeed, family members were queuing up to stick the knife into the mayor of London, with his journalist sister Rachel Johnson particularly keen, a moment made even more delicious thanks to the inspired idea of sitting Boris in front of the footage and then filming his reaction to it.
Therefore, as Rachel Johnson gleefully declared: “David Cameron looks at Boris as though he was still head boy,” we cut to an embarrassed Boris blustering “this programme was such a bad idea”.
Well, possibly. Conrad Black remarked that “he’s a sly fox disguised as a teddy bear”– well it takes one to know one – and it is this theme, that there are two Boris Johnsons, one the cuddly, I’m-overwhelmed-that-people-could-possibly-like-such-a-buffoon-as-me chap, the other a deadly serious political operator, that was examined throughout the programme.
His complex relationship with Cameron was on the table, as was Bozza’s “problem” with women – Max Hastings told Cockerell that when Boris came to him for advice about running for mayor, he replied: “lock up your willy” – and while it was filmed before his monstering by Eddie Mair on last Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show, his ability to talk his way out of a problem, be it the London riots or an infidelity, was also fondly recalled.
As with that peculiar evening in the nightclub, I found myself liking Boris throughout the documentary, despite, or perhaps because of his seemingly split personality. It is a very un-British trait to be nakedly, obviously ambitious. Yet as we learnt here, Johnson is. And cripes, I rather admire him for it.
“It’s quite hard to explain if you’ve never seen it,” declares one of Anna and Katy’s zanier sketch creations in a statement that could equally apply to Channel 4’s latest venture into sketch show comedy. Anna & Katy has garnered mixed opinions in its first few weeks with its Vic and Bob-esque surrealism combined with razor sharp pastiches of TV shows such as The Great British Bake Off and The Apprentice. And the fact that it stars two women (all by themselves! Aren’t they clever girls!) has caused a certain amount of feather ruffling amongst the still-depressingly-male British comedy establishment.
Well, I love it. I particularly like the spot-on pastiches of naff German TV shows, which this week took on the guise of a sitcom named “das Michael” and was accompanied by an over the top laughter track and some wonderful mangling of the German language – “egg off” and “du is ein octopiss” were two choice insults. It was genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, as was the Apprentice rip-off, which was set in a carwash and mercilessly poked fun at nonsense management-speak: “that’s we, and by we I mean us”.
There was also a darkly weird vignette involving some biscuit monitors in a factory with a male boss who wore high heels, which felt like a Chekhov play rewritten by Tom Wolfe.
Not everything worked. The Jamaican accents in the daytime TV spoof Congratulation! were jarring, while a sketch featuring Eamonn Holmes felt dragged out. But Anna & Katy makes compelling viewing because it is brave, clever and different.
The same cannot be said for Kids With Tourette’s: In Their Own Words, which took the increasingly popular documentary approach of following the fortunes of those suffering disabilities. Despite its ghastly title, this was a sensitively drawn portrait of three young boys and their families as they struggled to deal with the very real impact of the condition, and their treatment at Great Ormond Street hospital.
Watching a cafe clear of customers as one of the boys let loose with his tics while his family sat by rammed home just how debilitating Tourette’s can be. As one mother remarked through her tears: “I lost part of my son.”