CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: All of Mel’s jokes are a bit wooden


CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Without her sidekick, Mel’s jokes are a little wooden

Handmade: The UK’s finest woodworker

Rating: **

The repair shop

Rating: ****

Few things are more run-down than half a double act. Just one comedian is a lot less than two.

Dear old Ernie Wise was a lost soul after the death of his partner Eric Morecambe. No doubt Little Ern still had funny bones in him, but he soon became a sorry spectacle, reduced to doing panto rounds at Christmas.

And my heart goes out to Paul Elliott, half of the brilliant Chuckle Brothers until older brother Barry’s death in 2018. Paul seems like a nice guy, but he clearly longs to trip up stairs and fall into giant pots of paint with his brother next to him country without earning his crust in reality TV shows.

Mel Giedroyc has always been the better half of her dual role with Cambridge Footlights pal Sue Perkins – but she also struggles on her own, as Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker (C4) makes clear.

Since leaving The Great British Bake Off, Mel and Sue have filmed the moderately successful Hitmen sitcom for Sky about a pair of incompetent gangster hitmen. (And it’s best not to mention the mess they made when they revived The Generation Game.)

Mel Giedroyc (pictured) has always been the better half of her double act with Cambridge Footlights pal Sue Perkins - but she also struggles on her own, as Handmade: Britain's Best Woodworker (C4) makes all too clear

Mel Giedroyc (pictured) has always been the better half of her double act with Cambridge Footlights pal Sue Perkins – but she also struggles on her own, as Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker (C4) makes all too clear

But in fact, the comic couple could not find a vehicle that could accommodate them and sustain them for long. Perhaps the problem is that they no longer connect: when Sue appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? earlier this year, Mel’s quick cameo stole the show, leaving her old friend looking slightly stuffy and heavy.

Still, as the sole host of Handmade, Mel is left with too much work to do. She has to set up her own jokes and then deliver the punch lines.

Running around the workshop trying to find things to tease, she looks like a terrier looking for a rabbit. Most of the time, she resorts to ambiguity. And we all know Mel can bring up dirt in a convent, so coming up with innuendos on a woodworking show is all too easy.

“Lauren doesn’t have a clumsy triangle,” she scolded a judge who complained about the shape of the table leg. And, standing by the lathe, she murmured, “It is wonderful to have a turning piece of wood in your hand.”

Breakfast surprise of the week

While hiding from terrorists stalking his hotel in Crossfire (BBC1), Jason (Lee Ingleby) heard a shout of “Buenos dias, room service” – and opened his door to take a peek. What a doll! Some people just can’t resist the offer of coffee and croissants.

But without a fellow slut to share her giggles with, the jokes fall flat. Solo sex banter isn’t very satisfying.

That leaves us looking for fun in a joinery competition. And unfortunately, unlike the home fashions of The Great British Sewing Bee or the jewelery at All That Glitters, woodworking projects are simply too big to be engaging.

It’s hard to get terribly excited about wobbly tables. And the tension drops even further when Mel warns the carpenters that half their time is up. . . they only have 24 more hours to get the job done!

Part of the pleasure of The Repair Shop (BBC1) is that there is no time limit. We are never told how many weeks passed between order and completion. Instead of restorations done in haste, we see every step made with love. It is both relaxing and satisfying to watch a craftsman return the edge to a pair of tailor’s scissors or replace the capacitors in a military radio.

Tanner Susie demonstrates a technique called “two-needle stitching,” sewing the seams of an old bag with a single piece of thread and a needle at each end.

However, the real joy comes when customers collect their favorite heirlooms. A lady named Judith was joined by her daughter and granddaughter to be reunited with 74-year-old ‘Goldie’, her teddy bear, whose screeching growl now worked for the first time in decades.

You can’t help but flow when three generations are in tears.

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