herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Hollywood's half baked highway to hellish boredom

PAUL Hollywood loves Aston Martins.

As a kid, the Bake Off bloke owned the Corgi toy of James Bond’s famous DB5 from Goldfinger, which came with a working ejector seat and little plastic machine guns that popped out the front.

Millions of kids owned one, me included. It’s one of the biggest-selling toys in history. Unlike most of us, though, Hollywood is now rich enough to own a real Aston Martin, albeit a second-hand one without an ejector seat or machine guns.

He’s also famous enough to be given a whole hour of television to expound on his passion. Personally, I wish he’d kept it locked up in the garage.

Licence to Thrill: Paul Hollywood meets Aston Martin was, and there’s really no other way to say this, a half-baked, soggy-bottomed mess.

Hollywood may love getting behind the wheel of a fast car, but he has no idea how to steer a documentary.

Licence to Thrill – a title as inapt as it is lazy – veered wildly from one side of the road to the other, never quite making up its mind which direction to take.

Hollywood flit bewilderingly between telling the story of the company, which appears to have operated on the edge of bankruptcy virtually every year since its inception in 1913, joining its racing team, seeing the cars being built, test-driving the newest models (little more than free advertising, this) and drooling over various cars from the Bond movies in the company of franchise supremo Michael G Wilson.

BORING

All great fun for him, I’m sure, though not terribly exciting for the rest of us. Aston Martin makes fantastic cars for those who can afford them (prices start at €120,000 for a basic model, so no wonder its struggling to make a profit), but this was a fantastically boring documentary.

If, as LP Hartley wrote in the famous first line of The Go-Between, “the past is a foreign country”, the 1970s depicted in BBC1’s new sitcom The Kennedys, adapted by actress and TV presenter Emma Kennedy from her memoir The Tent, the Bucket and Me, is more like an alien planet.

Yes, all the requisite tropes are present and correct: the hideous clothes and hairstyles, the crap-bucket cars, the garish wallpaper. There’s even a kid on a space hopper bouncing across the screen in the very first shot while ELO’s Mr Blue Sky thumps away on the soundtrack. Every shrink-wrapped 70s cliche is thrown into the pot and boiled until it shrivels.

It’s all in the service of the kind of phoney-baloney nonsense that makes Danny Baker’s similar Cradle to Grave look like a piece of gritty social realism. The Kennedys comes across as a version of the 70s imagined by a committee of people born in the 80s.

The 10-year-old Emma, played by Lucy Hutchison, is a Star Wars-obsessed tomboy. That’s some trick to pull off, since this is clearly set in the early-70s and Star Wars wasn’t released until 1977. Neither, for that matter, was Mr Blue Sky. If you’re going to take the piss out of a decade, at least get your cultural references right.

The first episode revolved around Emma’s social-climbing mum Brenda (Katherine Parkinson, great in The IT Crowd, increasingly mannered in everything since) throwing a dinner party. She wants to cook lasagne, so dad Tony (Dan Skinner) is sent to find some “pasta that’s not in a tin”, which was hardly a rarity in supermarkets back then.

The Kennedys doesn’t ring true for a moment, and it’s direly unfunny.

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