TV review: House Of Fools | Uncle

Uncle. Picture: BBC
Uncle. Picture: BBC
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THE jaunty, parping theme tune sounded like something Ronnie Hazlehurst could have knocked off before his elevenses.

House Of Fools

BBC2, Tuesday, 10pm


BBC3, Monday, 10pm

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

E4, Thursday, 9pm

The front room setting for almost all the action was the messiest, most fire hazard-ish, most tinned-pineapples-next-to-gas-masks collection of junk since Steptoe And Son. Even the set-up – one of the occupants trying to break out of this foosty male world to meet members of the opposite sex, only to be thwarted by his co-habitee – reminded me of at least half the episodes of Albert/Harold malarkey in my treasured boxset. This was House Of Fools, the return of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, welcome any time but especially last week.

It’s Bob’s house, and Vic’s his lodger, which strictly speaking makes them the Hugh And I of right now. I imagine that in every instalment Bob will try to evict Vic, along with his gubbins, and fail. “General fannying about and whimbrelling,” Bob will mutter. Whimbrelling? As I write, there are a mere seven mentions of the word in the whole of cyberspace, with five claiming Reeves and Mortimer have added a brand new word to the language. Not quite true: the other two mentions state that whimbrelling is the high-pitched call of the whimbrel, the wading bird. Then Vic will promise to mend his slovenly ways, only for Bob to sigh: “You can’t change; you’re fully realised.” A running gag, then, or lying-down one. But that’s all right: every sitcom needs one. And the tremendous advantage House Of Fools has over many is that everyone who wanders into the front room must sing a song of introduction.

The other fools include Bob’s Norwegian son, randy cucumber-wielding Julie who lives next door, an ex-con called Bosh, and Beef played by Matt Berry, hot from Toast Of London, a ludicrous lothario in a cravat. “I travel this land removing my pants while making love to African ladies,” warbled Beef. House Of Fools is what in comedy used to be called surreal, before the word got appropriated by sportsmen at the London Olympics to describe the sensation of winning. Vic and Bob have just reclaimed it, and a good thing too.

Now, normally I’d have to search far and wide for the guitar riff to a cruelly forgotten classic. I’d have to burrow deep into the hinterlands of BBC4, which is basically all hinterland but you know what I mean. Generously, though, another new comedy called Uncle began with (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. Brilliant. Nobody plays the Blue Oyster Cult’s only song anymore. At this moment the uncle in question was trying to kill himself after being dumped by his girlfriend. But then his sister phoned, asking him to look after her son – the nephew who until that point he’d barely acknowledged.

Nick Helm plays Andy, who can’t stand kids – “They’re all ‘Oo, look at my cool allergies and my wheelie backpack!’ They think they’re so fascinating” – though he’s no slouch when it comes to self-obsessiveness. Elliot Speller-Gillott is Errol, 12, possessed of a bowlcut only a mother could love and a Britpop-loving wardrobe assistant could give him. Andy is an out-of-work musician. “That’s another way of saying unemployed,” quipped Errol.

First stop was the lad’s football practice, and from there, bizarrely and maybe surreally, it was on to a strip club, with Andy supplying life lessons along the way. Love, he said, was like walking on water, until a shark bites off your foot. Then another shark goes for your testicles. You’re rescued by a seagull, which tosses you onto the jagged rocks. And that’s when the hyenas come along and eat you. Uncle is highly promising and it also comes with impromptu songs.

The week’s third new comedy was Brooklyn Nine-Nine – set in a New York police precinct where the motto is: “We catch the bad guys and look good doing it” – definitely has potential. Errol would doubtless call this another way of saying “not very good” but I’m trying to be kind because this is my last goggle-box review. Seventies-throwback sitcoms? (Don’t Fear) The Reaper? I don’t think the crystal bucket can possibly offer me any more excitement, and especially since those small-screen giants of my youth, Alan Whicker, David Frost and David Coleman, have all recently departed for the dream schedules of TV Heaven. The best gag in Brooklyn Nine-Nine came during a slow afternoon at the station when the ’tecs competed in the “fire extinguisher roller-chair derby”, using the compressed gas to fire them across the floor at top speed. This looked like fun, though not as much fun as watching telly for work these past six years. I don’t know how I managed to wangle that.

But this is not quite goodbye. I’m now going to be watching live sport and getting paid for it.

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