It may not be quite as abhorrent as his film, but ‘comedian’ Leigh Francis’s latest use of his perma-tanned, insultingly unfunny Keith Lemon character is about as low as TV comedy can go. Spoofing celebrities and other programmes in a frenetic 30 minutes, it tries to invoke the pace and timing of older, similar shows. But Francis/Lemon simply isn’t up to it.
He appeals to the same tabloid sensibilities that got him where he is today, picking off the easy targets and never going beyond tasteless parody. There is nothing but the low-brow; a ridiculous Embarrassing Bodies sketch turns immediately into an attack on Harry Styles’ penchant for older women, which leads to an uninventive David Dickinson impression. I was surprised that Jeremy Kyle didn’t make an appearance. Every sketch is weighed down by its own sordid humour. The very first one I saw had Dr Christian eating a carrot out of someone’s behind to cure him of his deformity.
One sketch that has picked up particular attention online is the Kardashian/Big Fat Gypsy crossover. It’s a cheap shot, killing two sluggish, overweight birds with one enormous stone, and it isn’t even funny. The actors appear as if they were a group of friends who had decided to go to a bop dressed as the Kardashians, with tight black dresses stuffed with clothes and minimal effort put into hair and makeup.
It looks like, and it surely is, some mates having a bit of fun lampooning the rich and famous. Which is fair enough, but do it in the pub, not on my TV.
I didn’t laugh once. But there is something that annoyed me even more. Keith Lemon is a character who has many fans, even though he is an offensive and loathsome personality. But he doesn’t appear in most of the sketches – Leigh Francis does. The name is there to catch the eye and draw in a crowd, but Francis is singularly unable to justify it. Yes, he hosted the Great British Piss Up segment (which was a good idea, poorly executed), and a cartoon of him dropped onto a stage in the transitions, but otherwise, it has nothing to do with him.
There might be something to praise, if Francis managed to pull off playing a character, playing other characters. Shakespeare loved that sort of thing. But he can’t, and the name sticks only for publicity purposes.
What we are left with is a series of brainless sketches, all based on what everyone has been saying for the past few years. ‘Isn’t embarrassing bodies perverse and weird?’ ‘Mark Wright is a waste of space.’ ‘Kim Kardashian has a big bum.’ Insightful stuff.
As for the celebrity cameos, I was unsurprised at their calibre. I saw Fearne Cotton and Paddy McGuinness and I heard Bill Oddie.
If we ever want to dissuade aliens from invading Earth, I suggest we beam this drivel into space. They’d leave us well alone, and I wouldn’t blame them.