Saturday, 2 May 2020

Be of Good Cheer

Cometh the hour, cometh the man* – and that man is, of course, Monty Don. What surer balm for the soul is there in these troubled times than an hour of Gardeners' World? The soothing sound of Monty's voice, and the sight of him ambling around his Longmeadow garden with my canine namesake at his heels (and Nellie and the new yorkie) are proof that somehow all is still well with the world, or at least with England: Monty's GW is a quintessence of Englishness, a microcosm of Platonic England. And, it must be added, Gardeners' World in lockdown is a technical triumph, filmed entirely by remotely controlled cameras (and you'd never guess). Monty and Nigel will get us through this – whatever this is, and I'm still far from sure...
  By happy chance, it was possible to switch straight from last night's Gardeners' World on BBC2 to Peter Kay's Comedy Shuffle on BBC1. Like Monty, Kay is a tonic to the nation, one of the few contemporary comics whose sole aim is to make people laugh and feel happy, to spread the joy. In this, though his style is very different, he is the natural heir to Ken Dodd (himself the subject of an excellent documentary profile that was repeated the other day). And Kay has the advantage of being just about the most talented – multi-talented – comedian in the business. Last night's show was a compilation of his various charity singles, and it was an index of Kay's astonishing ability that he made even these usually lame affairs actually funny, laugh-aloud funny (and sometimes oddly moving).
  And as if that wasn't enough for one night, there was the last ever episode of Friday Night Dinner on Channel 4. I know this is a comedy that divides opinion sharply – and it doesn't help that the occasional episode just doesn't work – but at it best Robert Popper's character-based Jewish family sitcom was, for my money, a classic. And last night's finale was one of the best episodes ever; I'll certainly be watching it again.
 So all that added up to two hours of cheering and (after GW) laugh-filled television. I can't remember when that last happened.

* Like everyone else, I assumed this was a quotation, perhaps from the Bible, or Milton, or even Wordsworth. In fact it has no known origin. Rather like 'between a rock and a hard place'...

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