TV Review: Walliams & Friend, BBC1

It’s about time David Walliams got round to doing some proper comedy. He has been so busy in recent years with so many different diverse projects from children’s books to charity work to camping it up with Simon Cowell it is easy to forget that he broke through with Little Britain a decade ago.

This one-off special is not very like Little Britain. It is about as mainstream as the Two Ronnies. Walliams does wear a few dresses, lippy and wigs, but he doesn’t piss himself or projectile vomit. There is no blacking up and I didn’t spot any obvious prosthetics.

What there are are obvious, broad jokes which hit the spot even if you can see them coming. There’s the nerdy game show contestant who can't stop hitting the buzzer, the stalker with the catchphrase "cheeky selfie", the BBC announcer who apologises for product placements while delivering a catalogue of product placements, the James Bond spoof except that this time James Bond keeps his money in his bumbag. 

Walliams is joined by an interesting cast. The “Friend” in the title is presumably Joanna Lumley, who reminds us of her comic chops in a number of decent skits. In a self-referential opening set-up it is revealed that she manages to find the time for all of her various projects by employing a team of lookalike Lumleys. And of course Walliams frocks up to play one of them. She also displays excellent comic timing in a sketch about a weary wife who finishes her husband's sentences – except that she never says what you would expect.

The cast also includes comic regulars Morgana Robinson, Mike Wozniak and Colin Hoult. Wozniak is great as Walliams’ straight man in a sketch in which Walliams plays the man who invented autocorrect - the wordplay flies thick and fast here. Some of it very good, some of it very cheesy.

But this is really the Walliams and Lumley show. They make a good double act, though whether they have the instinctive chemistry of Walliams and Lucas is another matter. The comedy certainly isn’t as ambitious or daring as Little Britain. Paul Hollywood (DW) lusting after Mary Berry (JL) is about as risky as they get. But then this is mainstream BBC1 and given that Walliams is very much part of the mainstream this is probably the only way we are going to see him doing sketch comedy again. 

 

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