TV Review: Walliams & Friend, BBC1

You’ve certainly got to admire David Walliams’ eclectic work ethic. Children’s books, charity swims and he has just been named as the host of ITV1’s new stab at topical satire, The Nightly Show. And then there is this, his return to the sketch genre where he made his name.

Walliams and Friend is definitely not Little Britain though. It is aimed directly at a mainstream audience. I can sit here until the cows come home pointing out how derivative the sketches seem (the opening northerner-knocking intro owed a debt to Victoria Wood, the next sketch to Monty Python) but the question is are they funny?

And actually they are not bad at all. Each week Walliams is joined by a different friend and first up is Jack Whitehall, who works as a pretty good foil, particularly when he plays a dashing Sherlock Holmes and uses his Mind Palace to work out what Watson (Walliams) has been up to with a box of tissues and some hand cream.

Elsewhere there is some further nice chemistry between the two of them. In the Middle Class Jeremy Kyle sketch the star has great fun getting Whitehall – playing a 28-year-old Hooray Henry who is sulking because he parents won’t take him skiing – to giggle. Whitehall’s mother in the sketch, by the way, his played by his real-life mum Hilary (not pictured here - that's Judy Loe).

As I said, it would be easy to point out that a lot of the ideas don’t feel that original. Surely football chants done by opera singers has been done before? And the innuendo-heavy Dating Game parody is so close to Take Me Out they might as well have got Paddy McGuinness to front it.

The writing might not be groundbreaking but it is tight and joke-focussed, as you would expect from contributors including The Dawson Brothers, Jason Hazeley, Bert Tyler-Moore, Kevin Cecil and Joel Morris.

And whatever else you might think of him – and I've heard some pretty firm opinions of him – Walliams is a strong comedy actor. I'd like to see him doing something a little more warped but maybe that’s just me. Whitehall is good and there is further support from Christopher Biggins, Vernon Kay, Mike Wozniak, Cariad Lloyd and The Chuckle Brothers. Now that’s what I call an eclectic cast. 

Walliams & Friend, Fridays from November 25, BBC1, 9.30pm.

Watch a clip here.

 

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