TV Review: Squeamish About...Entertainments, BBC Two

Review: Squeamish About...Entertainment

After a one-off about Brexit last year Matt Berry returns as somewhat eccentric historian Michael Squeamish to offer his thoughts on various subjects. Coming up in future weeks we have Squeamish about relationships, London and the countryside, but first it's a look at Entertainments (sic).

If you saw the Brexit show or the previous shorts Matt Berry On... you'll know what to expect. A decidedly wonky view of history and culture delivered in those distinctive dulcet tones that have helped Berry bank plenty of dosh from voiceovers. 

In terms of factual accuracy the narration swiftly veers off course. "The north is almost as old as England itself," we are told as Squeamish explores the history of music hall and vaudeville before coming up to punk and the end of entertainments as we know it.

In Berry's Toast of London, which like this was co-written with Arthur Mathews, one of the joys was the names people have and Berry pulls off the same trick here, mentioning such lost historical figures as Sean Curlies, Hetty Fire-Escape, Horace Workhouse and Roberta Flack-Sabbath. It's a similar gag to the one Bob Mortimer does with his online cat names for sale and as Berry and Mortimer have collaborated in the past I did briefly wonder of Mortimer was involved.

The comedy does not come just from Berry's distinctive delivery or the references to Buzzcocks or Joy Division when you least expect them. It also comes from the bizarre footage – respect to whoever came up with the archive clips, many of which are so downright odd you wonder if they are genuine. Did vole culling, for example, really go on in the way it is described here?

I wouldn't go as far as to say that Berry and Mathews have invented a whole new genre of comedy, but these shows do have a strong, unusual flavour. The only thing close to them is the work of Rhys Thomas, whose mock documentaries such as his recent one on the Kemp brothers also mix fact and absolute twaddle with such a straight face you can't help but snigger.  

Squeamish About...Entertainments, 10.30pm, Thursdays from August 6. All episodes on iPlayer now.


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