Bitter truths exposed

02 November 2006

THOSE WHO work in the entertainment business (parish clergy, for exampleare only too aware of the catastrophic disjunction between how we perform ipublic and what we do in private.

The main reason that vicars, whenever possible, persuaded their wives to ruthe Sunday School, was so that Sunday lunch would not be soured by a recital othe discrepancies between the holy injunctions delivered earlier that day frothe pulpit, and the reality of the ordained ones personal life.

Why do weedy liberals allow their stroppy teenage children to stay in bed oSunday mornings? I feel it is because, with the relaxing of public manners ithe young, there is every chance that they would stand up and denounce umid-sermon, edifying the congregation with the bitter truth of what life ireally like behind the parsonage door.

Rob Brydons Annually Retentive (BBC3, Tuesdays) is built arounthe same nexus; the difference between Brydons fictional comedy quiz programmas it is broadcast, and the scheming, anxiety, and general bitchiness thaactually characterises the whole operation. Brydon, the quiz host, alternatelpatronises and undermines his celebrity guests. They loathe him. But, on aireverything is sweetness and light.

There are subtle layers to this comedy: in his encounters with thproduction team, he is generally right, and the quiz is very funny. But it iwonderful to see the bonhomie and mateyness on screen undercut by thcompetitors desperate attempts, off-camera, to undermine each otherperformance.

The ecclesiastical parallels do not stop with the discrepancy between homand sanctuary: as I watched, I found myself imagining a series that wouldepict how far apart is the sanctity of the chancel from the bitter rivalry othe servers vestry, the power struggles between warden, verger, and organist . .

If one comedian is funny, then two ought to be side-splittingThe Story of Light Entertainment (BBC2, Saturday) started off btelling us all about comedy double acts, from Laurel and Hardy to Ant and DecHere, too, the emphasis was on the difference between the laughter on stageand the sad reality behind the scenes, where duos who couldnt bear each othewere consumed by power struggles and jealousy.

The impression I gained from the abundant clips was that, apart from Reeveand Mortimer, Pete and Dud, and, celestially, Morecambe and Wise, was that mosof them were desperately unfunny on stage. Of course, here, too, the Church hasomething to say, for we have our double acts; music hall turns such aCanterbury and York, Bath & Wells, Sodor & Man . . .

Double acts are famously like marriages, and, for some people, two simplisnt enough. Big Love (Five, Mondays) is the new cult series from thUS, a drama about life in a polygamous marriage. This illegal and clandestinMormon splinter doesnt cut much ice with me although I must admit thapolygamy isnt particularly rife in Kensington (at least among the Anglicansso perhaps I dont know what Im talking about. They all seem too attractivand clean-cut. Id expect something far more inbred and furtive, what with althat religion swilling around.

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