TV: Hospital People, Episode Three, BBC1

Every autumn I judge a competition for UK Gold to find new jokes for Christmas crackers. Tom Binns should enter - the humour in his multi-character-based vehicle Hospital People is just the right mix of corn and cheese for my yuletide challenge.

He might, however, be penalised for lack of originality. One of the running gags in this week’s episode is hospital manager Susan Mitchell (Binns) trying to give instructions to printers but ending up with them being taken literally (ie writing “colon” rather than ”:”). I’m not saying Binns or one of the other writers has seen them, but I've certainly seen countless examples of this sort of thing on the internet over the years, though admittedly usually involving misspelt birthday cake messages.

Elsewhere there is even a bit of “Mike Hunt”-style wordplay which I haven't heard for, ooh, weeks. At least the gags from hospital priest Father Kenny (Binns again) are supposed to be wincemaking: “I’m celibate through choice. Though not mine,” he explains. 

Yet despite this abject lack of a cutting edge there is something enjoyable about this series. In this episode Fast Show star Mark Williams pitches up as generous millionaire entrepreneur patient Tony Jackson - good of him to use the NHS and not go private – and Susan sees a chance to bag a donation to pay for some new video conferencing equipment.

Williams - who appears to have had a dodgy footballer’s perm to get into character – is good value, bantering with the other patients (including stand-up Alum Cochrane) and bonding with Father Kenny - their ad hoc double act is an opportunity to trot out more old comic lines, which deliver cheap but effective chuckles.

The other main plot involves DJ Ivan Brackenbury (also Binns) raising money to send little Henry to America for an operation to regain his sight. If you don’t spot the gag in this set-up you probably need your own sight testing. Or you are the kind of person who thinks Hospital People is one of the most innovative programmes on television at the moment. It isn’t. But then again it does what it is supposed to do. If you don’t laugh there is no point calling for a doctor, you must be dead.

Hospital People, Fridays, 9.30pm, BBC1.

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