Spills ’n’ thrills and bellyaching but Bez is star of Dancing On Ice

SUNDAY night’s “Bez On Ice” extravaganza was, by a distance, the funniest and most entertaining thing I watched this week.

But let’s get one thing straight.

Contrary to Phillip Schofield’s suggestion, it’s not the first time they’ve sent someone on to the ice “with a helmet”.

Only a year ago, for instance, they sent poor Robin Johnstone on to it with Rufus Hound, who is a much bigger helmet.

And before that, there were similar issues with John Barrowman, Antony Cotton and Joe Swash.

Hell, it’s practically been an entrance requirement for Dancing On Ice.

We’re in slightly different territory with this year’s ITV intake, though, who all appeared to be worshipping at the Church of Torvill & Dean, during the opening credits, where they were pictured ­gazing towards the heavens at the famous ice-dancing duo.

A fairly obvious distraction technique, I thought, to try to divert the viewers’ gaze away from the general obscurity of the 2022 contestants who include (wait for it): Olympic BMX rider Kye Whyte, The Vamps’ bass player Connor Ball, Gazza’s son Regan, Paralympian Stef Reid, and Ria Hebden who probably sealed her own skate-off fate when she claimed: “Most ­people know me for talking all things showbiz and entertainment, on Lorraine.”

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No people, Ria. Not even me and I watch that show, in a purely professional capacity, nearly every single day.

To try to counterbalance the anonymity of the Rias and Kyes, of course, there were also a few celebrities you probably recognised.

Sally Dynevor, off Coronation Street, Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt and Strictly’s Brendan Cole whose dance background, Phillip and Holly kept assuring us, would not help him at all.

Just as they kept assuring us James Jordan’s dance ­back- ground wouldn’t help him either, right up until the point he won Dancing On Ice 2019.

They know as well as I do, however, this year’s show is all about one man, Bez, from the Happy Mondays, who — just to put things in context — has probably spent more time off his nut than Brendan Cole’s been alive.

His entrance then required no little fanfare and a hell of a lot of “production” which, I’m happy to report, ITV ­certainly delivered.

It felt like an eternity before we finally saw him, on ­Sunday, though.

A long 40 minutes had passed before we caught a glimpse of Bez, resplendent in a watermelon crash helmet, being very gingerly lowered from the ice rink ceiling, wedged between two giant maracas, to the sound of Step On.

There were slices of dancing watermelon as well, plus inflatables and a bit of a ­hiatus as Bez disentangled himself from the rigging and found his partner, Angela Egan.

But then he was off, like Riff Raff’s one-legged cat ­trying to bury a turd on a ­frozen pond.

A routine with lots of jeopardy but no actual choreography, as far as I could tell, although I may have missed half a dozen flying teapot lifts on account of the fact I was laughing so much.

The very familiar rule at play here, of course, was that you improve any TV show by about 50 per cent, just by adding a member of the Happy Mondays.

If you throw in Shaun Ryder as well, on board an ice-resurfacer? You’re talking nearer 90 per cent.

The viewers understood this completely, thank goodness, which meant Bez — despite being 12 points off the judging pace — skittered through to the next round, much to the delight and relief of both Holly and Phil.

There is, obviously, still a danger ITV will overplay the joke, and an even bigger one that all the most tedious people in Britain will fail to get it at all and complain that “he’s ruining it for the good skaters”, as if Bez was undermining the very principles of democracy itself and the ­contest was ever a fair one to begin with.

It isn’t and he’s not, ­obviously.

At the exact moment the country needs laughs, he’s ­providing them in abundance.

So sod the fun sponges and Covid. Bez to win.

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Curb Ricky's big ego

THE final series of After Life is neither as good nor as touching as Ricky Gervais clearly imagines it to be.

But then how could it ever reach those dizzying heights?

The man is possessed of such an extraordinarily vast and unattractive ego I’m sure he clamped on one After Life subplot just to demonstrate his prowess at tennis and ping pong.

A level of conceit that’s more in keeping with North Korea’s ruling Kim dynasty than a comedian.

The rest of the story, acting and dialogue is similarly uneven and so disjointed, at times, a couple of the more dreadful characters, Brian and James, don’t even seem to be taking part in the same show.

It would be dumb and dishonest of me to dismiss After Life completely, though, given I watched the lot in just two sittings (BBC One’s Rules Of The Game took me 17) and found it no real hardship, given there were at least two scenes that were beyond the reach of any other current television satirist, apart from Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David.

The first was episode three’s cafe scene, about 12 minutes in, where Gervais dementedly ad-libs his very obvious and sincere loathing for noisy parents who engage in baby talk.

The second, Kath’s chilling episode four date with the brilliant Tim Key, who plays a far more loathsome form of human life and someone we’ve all met.

That passive-aggressive man or woman who thinks their toxic, condescending, agree-with-me-or-else personality and utter disdain for the working-class is all neutralised by a smile of supreme self-satisfaction and just four words.

“I read the Guardian.”

(After Life is available to view on Netflix.)

MEANWHILE, the host of The John Bishop Show admits: “In lockdown everyone was saying, ‘comedians will be sat at home writing jokes. I can’t. I live my life waiting until something happens.”

And waiting. And waiting . . . 

Unexpected morons in the bagging area

THE Weakest Link, Romesh ­Ranganathan: “The 1974 novel by John Le Carre featuring the intelligence agent George Smiley is titled Tinker ­Tailor Soldier what?”

Bianca Walkden: “Baby.”

Romesh Ranganathan: “In maths, what is 48 plus 11?”

Lucy Beaumont: “48.”

Mastermind, Clive Myrie: “What’s the usual word for a female sibling?”

Tom: “Pass.”

The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “Oscar Wilde lived his whole life during the reign of what British monarch?”

Sharma: “Churchill.”

Random TV irritations

ITV sounding horribly like it intends going ahead with Oti Mabuse’s musical dating show Romeo & Duet.

The shameful, hand-wringing, excuse-ridden BBC News reports about Britain’s latest Islamist terrorist Malik Faisal Akram.

Center Parcs’ new advert absolutely murdering Stevie Wonder’s For Once In My Life.

Around The World In 80 Days stopping in its tracks to lecture us all about mental health.

And the sight of Sue Perkins vanishing into the woods, on her Big American Road Trip, with a roll of toilet paper and a trowel, which can mean only one thing.

Series three of Hitmen, incoming.

Great sporting insights

Robbie Savage: “The strikers will be looking at that, rubbing their lips.”

Paul Merson: “It was a game worthy of winning any goal.”

Jay Bothroyd: “The football in Japan is, as you’d expect, really nippy.”

(Compiled by Graham Wray)

Stopping time

ON BBC1’s landmark series The Planets, Professor Brian Cox argued the only effective way of stopping time would be to travel 48million miles to the hot, lifeless planet of Mercury, which exists in a spin orbit resonance with the sun, meaning it rotates precisely three times on its axis for every two orbits.

So, if you walked slowly across its surface, at a steady two miles per hour, while keeping the sun at exactly the same point “you would have stopped time and a day would never pass”.

Conclusion: Professor Brian Cox has never tried watching BBC1 drama Rules Of The Game.

A bit of olive oil

TELLY quiz.

On what show would you have heard the following: “I’m thinking of getting a really hot frying pan and tossing over a bit of olive oil?”

A) Rick Stein mentally preparing a seafood pasta dish on Saturday Kitchen Live?

B) The Adventures Of ­Popeye?

INCIDENTALLY, I’m all for in-jokes and teasing the audience with a comedy title.

But come on . . . 

Romesh Ranganathan: Avoidance?

It’s bloody impossible, isn’t it?

TV gold

BBC2’s This Is Joan Collins.

The ability of BBC2’s Michaela Strachan to tell Winterwatch viewers: “There’s never a beaver around when you want one, is there?” without even blinking.

Diane “Kath” Morgan acting all of the other After Life regulars into panto.

And the landmark performance that put Bez straight through to the second round of Dancing On Ice.

Even if it did open up the faintly terrifying prospect of placing Shaun Ryder and Gazza in the same studio audience.

Good luck with that one, ITV.

Lookalike of the week

THIS week’s winner is New World Order comedian Susie McCabe and Earthy Mangold from Worzel Gummidge (what do you mean “a bit niche?”).

Emailed in by Paul Burkett, of Millwall.

Picture research: Amy Reading

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