Robert Smith: Armchair Critic

ROBERT SMITH introduces his summer column, full of ways to avoid the sunshine.

BBC Three Eggheads Glastonbury Lauren Laverne Mark Labbett Peter Quaife Ray Davies Simon Brodkin The Chase The Kinks Wolfson Howler youtube

The summer’s here and it’s time to take a well earned break. Sure, you probably have at least one assignment due in the first week back but don’t let that get in the way of a good summer. After all what harm can leaving it until the night before it’s due in do?

With freedom from the dreaded weekly essays or problem sheets comes the freedom to watch as much television as possible. Sure you can watch iPlayer or 4oD during term time but it just aint the same. With everything at the click of a mouse there’s no aimless channel hopping, no discovering daytime TV gems and none of the fervent discussion of adverts which only the true armchair critic is capable of.

I’ve spent this week, therefore, easing myself gently back into the television’s waters. My new daytime TV crush is ITV’s overly dramatic new gameshow The Chase. The Chase takes Eggheads whole ‘beat the experts’ gimmick and throws in Bradley Walsh so the ITV audience feel like they’re in safe hands. The experts, or ‘Chasers’, are all wonderfully arrogant but Mark Labbett, also known as ‘the beast’, steals the show. He is an unstoppable force of nature, and listening to his self-satisfied quips as he devours the lowly mortals placed in front of him is fantastic.

After seeing Simon Brodkin at the Wolfson Howler earlier this year I watched his new BBC Three series Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show with some trepidation. Seeing Simon live was fantastic as his audience participation as the well-meaning chav Lee Nelson is incredibly creative and slick. I’m happy to say this interaction with the audience provides the focus of his new show. Unfortunately some truly dreadful sketches are thrown in the midst of all this but it’s still worth watching if you’re stuck for something to do on a Thursday night for Brodkin’s ad-libbed banter alone.

My TV highlight of the week is taken from an unlikely source. Although I inevitably end up watching it every year, the Glastonbury coverage usually makes me want to take a cold shower to wash all the middle-class smugness away. Hearing about the all the money raised for charity by the Somalian smoothies stall or watching the band we all have to pretend we’ve heard of because Lauren Laverne says they are ‘fantastic’ is enough to make a little bit of vomit rise in the back of my throat.
Seeing former Kinks front man Ray Davies perform last Sunday, however, was a surprising treat. Kinks bassist Peter Quaife passed away only a few days beforehand and as Ray performed Days, a song celebrating the time spent with someone now lost, you could see him fighting back the tears. This is the only time the Glastonbury coverage has gone beyond sanitised arse-licking of overpaid musicians and actually moved me in anyway. See it for yourself here on YouTube.