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Friday 22 September 2017

Wind-up merchants put the boot in

Bremner, Bird and Fortune: The daily Wind-up (More 4)
Coronation Street (TV3/ITV)

It's a tough call trying to satirise the current crop of British political leaders. I mean, look at what comedy writers are up against.

There's Labour's Gordon Brown, gruff, growling, scowling, gurning and angry as he grumpily stomps around dreary shopping centres, frightening young and old alike with his twisted, "Hello, nice to meet you" rictus from beyond the grave.

There's the Conservatives' David Cameron, a smug, pompous, privileged, overgrown public schoolboy unconvincingly posing as a man of the people, while harbouring a heart, soul and manifesto as empty as his big, shiny balloon of a head.

And there's the Lib-Dem's choirboy Nick Clegg, who's got nothing more of substance than the other two, except extra blandness and . . . well, extra-extra blandness.

What do you do with material like that? How do you send them up when they're doing such a brilliant job of sending themselves up every time they look earnestly into a camera and open their gobs?

Maybe that's why all the proper TV satirists have given up the ghost. Or rather, most of them have. There's still the wonderful Rory Bremner and his collaborators, John Bird and John Fortune, who have been valiantly putting the boot in on The Daily Wind Up.

It's a little hit-and-miss, this, as all topical political satire is, but there are some brilliant patches. The most brilliant came when Bremner, impersonating Brown, went out and about in Salford, accosting passers-by and dropping into a branch of Iceland to offer commiserations about the volcano.

Best of all, he turned up outside the local Labour Party HQ, where they held the door closed against him. Labour's sitting MP, the expenses-guzzling Hazel Blears, arrived and scurried hurriedly inside, with Bremner/Brown in hot pursuit.

He repeatedly tried to barge his way in, looking for some election material. Blears eventually emerged, shielded by party flunkies holding two enormous billboard posters, and dashed into a waiting BMW.

"Ah, a German car for the British people!" bellowed Bremner as it sped away. This is precisely the kind of heckling, hassling behaviour TV comedians should be engaging in.

It's a shame, though, that Bremner, Bird and Fortune are tucked away on More4 instead of being showcased on Channel 4, where more people would be watching.

Meanwhile, over in Coronation Street, Norris Cole was having a misery moment. Not just the normal misery moments Norris habitually wallows in, but a special kind -- straight out of Stephen King's Misery.

Suffering from a sprained ankle and being held captive by mad Mary, his competition-winning partner and would-be fiancee, in a Yorkshire cottage out of phone reach, Norris grew convinced she was going to kill him.

First she accidentally/deliberately broke his glasses, leaving him as blind as a bat. Then he thought she was feeding him poisoned fish salad and switched the plates when she wasn't looking, sparking Mary's anchovy allergy. Finally, he crept up the stairs, peeped into the bedroom and -- in an echo of Hitchcock's Psycho -- discovered her talking to her presumably dead mother.

All this plus the news that Blanche had discovered love just before dropping off the perch in Portugal. It reminds you why Coronation Street, though ostensibly a soap, still features some of the best comedy writing on the box. It's just a pity they don't unleash the writers on the election.

STACEY'S STARS

Bremner, Bird and Fortune: The daily Wind-up ***

Coronation Street ****

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