Jarvis Cocker pulps Bez in a very special, surreal episode of Bargain Hunt – review

Bez and Jarvis Cocker with the Bargain Hunt team - PA
Bez and Jarvis Cocker with the Bargain Hunt team - PA

Boggle-eyed Bez from the Happy Mondays is renowned for his prodigious drink and drug intake. He happily confesses to shoplifting and pill-dealing in his youth. He has crashed motorbikes and jeeps, has a conviction for assault and has been declared bankrupt twice. But cheating on Bargain Hunt (BBC One)? That’s just going too far. 

The stalwart antiques series celebrated BBC Music Day by roping in some famous faces for a special charity edition. Even the most cynical producer can’t have expected quite the chaos that would ensue. 

On the blue team were frontman Jarvis Cocker and keyboard queen Candida Doyle from Britpop favourites Pulp. Ever the iconoclast, Cocker eschewed the show’s traditional branded polo shirts and fleeces - although he did make the concession of wearing a navy blue suit along with his geek chic specs. 

Presenter Charlie Ross asked if Jarvis was a lover of antiques. “I am one,” he deadpanned. Cocker remained dry-witted and insouciant throughout. At one point, he could be spotted casually peeling a satsuma. 

In the red corner were the clown prince of Madchester, maraca-shaking dancer Mark “Bez” Berry, alongside Happy Mondays bandmate Rowetta Idah. I didn’t hold out much hope for Bez’s bargain-hunting skills. “Usually I buy everything brand new,” he confessed. “I don’t really like old things. In my opinion, a lot of it’s junk.”

The teams were given £300 (“Where’s me spondoolies?” asked Bez) and scoured Kent County Showground for three items to take to auction and turn a profit for charity. Well, that was the idea anyway. 

Pulp let their thrift shop hearts rule their entrepreneurial heads and made disastrous purchases. Cracked vintage plates and an art deco record player saw tumbleweed blow though the auction room. Bids were humiliatingly scarce. They made a loss £95 after Cocker blew most of their budget on a kitschy Russian painting of a “semi-nudist camp somewhere”. 

Presenter Charlie Ross relished the opportunity to play dress-up, donning wigs and leathers for an introductory skit. He said “you’re twisting my melon, man” not once but twice, and clumsily crammed his voiceover with endless musical puns: “let’s make tracks”, "strike a chord”, “hit a bum note”… Cheers, Charlie, we get the idea.

Ross also paid a visit to Rockfields Studio in rural Wales, where the likes of Oasis, the Stone Roses, Coldplay and Queen made some of their classics. We saw the equipment on which Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded. Even a glimpse of the studio’s guestbook was oddly fascinating. 

Back at the showground, Bez found a pair of antique maracas, so he and Rowetta treated viewers to an impromptu acapella rendition of the Happy Mondays hit Step On, complete with his trademark “freaky dancing”. You don’t normally get that before the BBC lunchtime news. 

Their purchases - a rustic mirror in the shape of a horse collar, a collectable Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin and another retro gramophone (well, it was BBC Music Day) - did marginally better than Pulp's and they made an £8 profit. 

It looked like being a happy Friday for the Happy Mondays - until a late twist. Footage was rewound and revealed that Bez's girlfriend had bid on two of his team’s lots. The red team were disqualified, Bez sheepishly handed back the £8 and Pulp were declared winners by default. 

Bez’s rule-break was only discovered after recording had finished, which meant that the end of the show needed to be reshot. Jarvis couldn’t make the filming, making the scene all the more shambolic. Ross reckoned it was the first time he’d ever had to consult the Bargain Hunt rulebook. 

"It was a genuine error,” insisted Bez. “My girlfriend thought she was helping out.” “I’m speechless,” said Candida. After this twist ending to a downright surreal episode, many viewers would have been lost for words too.