TV Review: Backchat, BBC3

jack whitehall

People might criticise Jack Whitehall for all sorts of things, but you can't knock his work ethic. On Monday night he was simultaneously guest-hosting Never Mind The Buzzcocks on BBC2 and putting in a star turn on C4 in Fresh Meat. And tonight he made it three channels in three nights with the first episode of Backchat on BBC3. In fact his stand-up show was on BBC3 at 9pm tonight too, making it something of a Jack Whitehall love-in.

While he is the star of Backchat he is not holding the fort single-handed. He has some help from his father, 73-year-old erstwhile theatrical agent Michael Whitehall. The format of the show is fairly straightforward. It's a lightweight celebrity chat show – the opening guests were Jeremy Paxman and Danny Dyer. In return for plugging their new book/film, guests get to sit on a sofa and watch the Whitehalls on either side of them - Jack behind a desk, Michael in a comfy leather armchair a la Cyril Fletcher, have a domestic ding dong in front of the studio audience and the viewers at home. In between the tittle tattle the Whitehalls also, of course, get to plug their own co-written book, Him & Me.

The TV series came out of an Edinburgh show the Whitehalls did together and, needless to say, they have such natural chemistry they could almost be related. Oh. They are. Jack is particularly skilled at doing that thing that young adults do when they go home to their parents for Xmas and revert to childlike behaviour. He squeals like a girlie and camply hides his red face behind his cue cards whenever Michael mentions something vaguely embarrassing like Jack's mum's strong wrists or his problems with the strain his member puts on the pant elastic. It's not great art and I prefer Whitehall Junior in Fresh Meat and Bad Education, but it does the job.

It all works very nicely and while it will do Jack Whitehall's career no harm whatsoever it will also probably work wonders for his father, echoing the way that Harry Enfield's pater Edward built up quite a media profile in his later years. Whitehall Senior certainly seems happy to play up to the idea of an old fogey who is entertainingly baffled by pretty much every aspect of the modern world from social media to cosmetic surgery. On second thoughts maybe it isn't such an act. And if it is an act he is a actor of De Niro-esque stature.

This is not the first time comedians and their parents have hooked up on TV. As well as the Enfields, Adam Buxton had his dad Nigel on the Adam & Joe Show as Baaad Dad. And more recently Matt Lucas had his mum on The Matt Lucas Awards and Sarah Millican had a video link-up with her father on her BBC2 series. I guess it makes perfect sense for Jack Whitehall to have his father on his show. I'm surprised he doesn't have his mum on it too. He is so busy these days it is probably the only way he is going to be able to see his family.  

Backchat is on BBC3 on Wednesdays at 10.30pm.

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