There was a moment on TV this week that will go to the grave with all those fortunate enough to have witnessed it. In other news, there was a much-heralded, talent-laden new BBC1 ‘comedy-drama’ — two words that strike fear into your heart when in close proximity (like James and Corden).
he Outlaws is largely the work of Stephen Merchant or Ricky Gervais’ gangly mate for those of you still wondering who we’re talking about.
He is six foot seven and it took all of about five minutes before he rammed it into the dialogue and there is an awful lot of this to contend with in the first of six one-hour dates with the carefully assembled bunch of cliches, sorry, characters, who make up the Outlaws.
They are, in short (unlike Mr Merchant) a group of people being forced to do community service in Bristol for various crimes and misdemeanours and the big news (not Mr Merchant) is that we have a Hollywood star on board.
Christopher Walken plays Frank, just released from prison and electronically-tagged to stay at his estranged daughter’s house, who tells her kids that their grandad is ‘funny and charming and you’re going to like him very much but… he’s a lying, thieving, selfish old b*****d.’
The show opens with Rani, the daughter of Indian-Polish parents, who has taken time out before taking up a scholarship at Oxford by taking stuff away illegally from shops.
Her mum is played by Nina Wadia who was on screen for a couple of minutes, just slightly less time than she was on Strictly, but unless she bucks her ideas up, Rani is more in line for the can than the can-can.
And here is the crux of the matter.
There are, in her words, every ‘type’ in our motley crew, ‘you’ve got your right-wing blowhard, left-wing-militant, celebutante, shifty old-timer and whatever he (Mr Merchant) is (tall).’
She is the ‘studious girl’ getting on far too well with the ‘bad boy’ and while they all offer up some pretty cheap laughs it is when the latter two get mixed up in ripping off drug-dealers in a gangland feud that it all gets a bit weird.
It’s all fun and games clearing up an old house with funny lines being chucked about but when you bring guns, drugs and all sorts of evil into it, then, mark my words, somebody is going to lose an eye.
But there is hope for Rani, the deeply dim supervisor Diane persuading her to be her eyes and ears because she ‘must be a pretty smart doughnut.’
“Don’t you mean ‘smart cookie?’ came the reply.
“Both work,” concluded Diana and I have no doubt Ben Shephard sitting tucked up at home in his Piers Morgan pyjamas will have been hurling abuse at the telly at this point.
I bring you now to possibly the greatest moment on TV quizzes since that man completely lost the run of himself on Family Fortunes years ago (Google it) when he answered ‘turkey’ to everything.
On Monday, Tipping Point had reached a tense moment, the semi-final if you will, where the winner gets to play for the big jackpot in the huge machine like the ones you used to play in Portrush.
Dom, a primary school teacher, was narrowly in the lead when Ben asked: “In his epic poem, Homer often refers to nectar as the drink of the gods and what other substance as their food?”
Dom took his time, pondered and then proffered the following nugget: “I know he likes doughnuts.”
At this stage, Ben couldn’t have been more shocked had Christopher Walken turned up in a bus in Bristol, until Dom decided that ‘I think I’ll go with doughnuts please, Ben.’
By now Ben was visibly eating his tongue and not helped by Dom’s rival, Linzi, backing up him up with, ‘I would have said doughnuts as well, doughnuts and beer.’
I don’t want to ruin it for you, but the correct answer was ‘ambrosia’. Dom and Linzi wondered what creamed rice had to do with it, and incredibly she was just two inches short of winning £10,000.
Back to The Outlaws, and like Homer (the Springfield one), there is a lot of duff stuff to get to grips with and really the main issue (apart from the really annoying western music that keeps playing in the background) is that, like Ben, you really don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Hard to deal with funny lines when characters are snorting them off glass tables and wielding guns. That may be the tipping point away from comedy.