TV review: Baboons with Bill Bailey

Share this article

Baboons with Bill Bailey STV, 8pm

A few years ago, Bill Bailey hosted the wildlife show Wild Thing I Love You.

Many fans of the long-haired comedian were expecting plenty of laughs between the conservation issues, but they were few and far between.

However, this new show should be rather more entertaining.

Bill will be taking a light-hearted look at three troops of baboons, charting their varied existence that, surprisingly perhaps, comes complete with politics, sex, violence and crime.

Bill sums them up as: "The highway robbers of the Smitz troop, the rustic rascals the Tokai troop and the urbanites of Da Gama."

These are animals full of character and charm, but for many humans, they're only thought of as pests.

In this first instalment, Bill heads to the coast south of Cape Town to follow the Smitz troop, led by criminal mastermind Merlin, as its members deviously lie in wait to raid the cars of tourists distracted by the sight of whales close to the shore.

Merlin and his gang aren't daft - they've learnt how to open car doors and quickly procure whatever it is they've got their heart set on.

If the show is a hit there's a good chance Bailey could be snapped up for a lot more prime-time wildlife docs.

Born Mark Bailey in 1964 in Bath, he gained the nickname Bill at King Edward's School, where he surprised his teachers by excelling at sport.

In his youth, he spent a lot of time listening to Monty Python records, and formed a band called the Famous Five.

After landing an associateship at the London College of Music, and working with a theatre troupe, he accidentally wandered into a John Hegley gig, where he decided to become a stand-up comedian.

He started touring with the likes of Phill Jupitus and Mark Lamarr, before forming a double-act in 1989 with Martin Stubbs.

Bill's big break came in 1995, with the show Bill Bailey's Cosmic Jam, a performance of which was filmed and broadcast on Channel 4.

In 1998, he scooped his own comedy show on the BBC, Is It Bill Bailey?,

and enjoyed a series of successful guest slots on shows such as Have I Got News for You.

His life could have taken a rather different turn if Peter Jackson had chosen him to play Gimli in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Although he lost out to John Rhys-Davies at the audition stage, the latter had such a miserable time when his skin reacted to the stick-on prosthetics it seems Bill had a lucky escape.

Jackson's loss was the comedy world's gain as Bill went on to deliver a series of outstanding tours, mixing his enviable musical skills with some wry observations on life.

He also starred in Simon Pegg's sitcom Spaced, Dylan Moran's Black Books and assorted projects, including the movie Hot Fuzz.

Like that police-centric comedy, this series also makes for arresting viewing.