Comic Relief 2019: A tear-jerking Four Weddings sequel, David Beckham with jokes and just a flash of a sonic screwdriver
The noses were red. But would Comic Relief paint the screen 50 shades of hilarious as the traditional stampede of self-satirising celebs rolled in for the BBC fundraiser? Ambitions were certainly at a lofty pitch with a sequel to Four Weddings and a Funeral, a revisiting of Bodyguard and an a-lister packed Mama Mia 2 pastiche among the chucklesome treats.
Yet amid the gags, guffaws and occasional gaff lay the challenge of balancing laughter with pathos. The plight of the less fortunate who would benefit from the millions raised was unflinchingly documented in a series of frontline reports from celebs (including a Stacey Dooley piece that had prompted an outcry in the run-up). It added up to a night of highs, lows and sights that seared themselves into the memory – and that was just Lenny Henry’s red and charcoal striped suit.
The Four Weddings sequel was a tearjerker
All the stars were out as Richard Curtis and Mike Newell revisited their classic rom-com in the form of One Red Nose Day and a Wedding. Alicia Vikander and Lily James were the loving couple tying the knot. Watching on were proud parents Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Charles (Hugh Grant) and Carrie (Andy McDowell). Also back was Rowan Atkinson as tongue-tied Father Gerald – his mind reduced to jelly by two women walked down the aisle.
What a soft and cuddly cuddly love-in it was, with everybody far more crinkly than we remembered from 1994 (John Hannah, James Fleet, David Bower and David Haig were also back). There was a glimmer of poignancy, too, as Charles and Fiona paused to acknowledge the loss of Scarlett (actress Charlotte Coleman passed away in 2001).
Truthfully, it was all icing and not much cake; this was a big soppy Hallmark Card for the screen rather than a substantial sequel. And yet, judging by the online response, hearts melted en masse as Hugh Grant stood for his father of the bride speech.
But was the Bodyguard special a misfire?
A riot of single entendres ushered in the Comic Relief Bodyguard special. PS David Budd (Richard Madden) was back, looking after a new Prime Minister (Joanna Lumley). To reduce the burden on tax-payers she insisted they share a room when on the road.
Several fnar fnar exchanges ensued (Budd threatened to whip out his “Glock” etc). Then Adrian Dunbar popped up as Line of Duty’s Ted Hastings and uncovered Keeley Hawes, aka Budd’s recently expired Home Secretary with benefits Julia Montague, hiding in the boot.
“You’re dead,” said Budd. “Am I?” wondered Hawes and off they sped. It was slick. But was it any good?
Watch out, David Beckham was being funny
“Like a lot of people I’ve done some really daft things to raise money for comic relief,” proclaimed Lord Beckham of Keepie Uppie Manor in the broadcast’s cold open. “In 1998 I was sponsored to appear in public in a sarong. It was tough but worth it.”
Beckham is typically about as rib-tickling as a crack over the back of the head with a wedge of plasterboard. But here he exuded respectable levels of wit and self-awareness. The camera pulled back to reveal him belted into, yes, the very man-dress to which he owed his sartorial notoriety. After that it was upstairs to share a bath with James Corden. I laughed.
Was Paddy McGuinness being a bit rubbish on purpose?
Celebrity Big Brother presenter Emma Willis knows all about keeping calm in ridiculous circumstances. But her early broadcast co-host McGuinness displayed telethon night jitters as his gags swung and missed. Or was that part of the joke? It was hard to tell whether McGuinness was radiating shambolic charm or just experiencing big night shakes.
Later, David Tennant and Zoe Ball were a study in slickness while Alesha Dixon and Romesh Ranganathan shared a grumpy chemistry. Literally gazing down on them from his balcony of power was the ghost of Comic Relief past, present and future, Lenny Henry. He was resplendent in a red and black suit that, on a hi-def television, blazed like a thousand sons.
The new Top Gear was off to an interesting start
Andrew Flintoff screamed off the grid as new Top Gear presenter with an amusing practical joke at the expense of guest Robbie Savage.
The gag was that Savage thought he was starring in a real episode of Top Gear and so was shocked as his car commenced cornering and reversing of its own accord.
Actually a second driver was stashed in the boot. “It’s driving itself!” screamed Savage. It was a blast of matey humour that augured well for Top Gear when it returns in earnest.
Doctor Who’s cameo was over in one flash of a sonic screwdriver
Jodie Whittaker jumped out of the Tardis to ask donors to take advantage of the Gift Aid programme. And then, with one shake of her sonic screwdriver, she was gone. It was less Doctor Who, more Doctor Where’d She Go?
Jennifer Saunders’s Mama Mia 2 parody had more stars than the actual Mama Mia 2
Carey Mulligan and Gemma Arterton were joined by Philip Glenister and Alan Carr while Saunders played Cher.
That was a cast almost as glittering as that of the actual Mama Mia sequel, with the bonus of nobody singing Abba. Jurassic Park!
Speaking of Alan Partridge… his sketch was better than all of his new series
It was over to North Norfolk for a live link-up with the Bouncing Back host. Alan’s comeback BBC series, This Time, has divided the Partridge nation.
But it was very much back of the net here as he pegged around trying to fill a conga line for charity.
Highlights included Alan slammed head first into some bins and then pepper spraying Sidekick Simon. If only the new show was half as cruel and uproarious.
Stacey Dooley’s visit to Uganda was screamingly uncontentious
The Strictly winner was caught in a “white saviour” controversy when photos emerged of her hugging a child in Uganda while filming for Comic Relief. But the youthful documentarian was assured and empathic reporting from a maternity hospital and interviewing a doctor whose salary is funded through the charity. The debate about celebrities on tear-streaked missions to the Third World will rumble on. But Dooley was doing nothing out of the ordinary.
Yes, that was Ed Balls singing Little Mix
“Here's to my ex, hey, look at me now ” You weren’t suffering oxygen deprivation – Ed Balls really was crooning his favourite Little Mix refrain to the band’s Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock.
They were part of a celeb crack-squad that had scaled Kilimanjaro and raised £2 million. With a result like that you’d be belting out Simon Cowell-approved r’n b too.