Saturday, 18 August 2012

Review: VERRY TERRY, Channel 4

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Kayvan Novak transfers his popular Fonejacker/Facejacker character Terry Tibbs to a spoof chat show, where the brash East End car salesman interviewed Hollywood legend Mickey Rourke and ex-Blue Peter presenter turned domestic goddess Anthea Turner (her appearance filmed weeks before her recent marital problems, sadly). We've grown so accustomed to spoof chat shows that they rarely surprise or delight in the same way Knowing Me, Knowing You or The Mrs Merton Show did in the '90s, but Verry Terry was markedly better than The Angelos Epithemiou Show. This was only a back-door pilot, heralding Channel 4's "Funny Fortnight" season, but it felt deserving of a full series commitment.

A big part of the reason Terry works where Angelos fails is down to Novak's funny performance. Angelos' creator Dan Renton Skinner is believable as a gormless weirdo, but Novak's voluble creation is more extroverted and agreeable to watch. It also helps that Novak's a far better improviser thanks to his prank show background, and Terry's better suited to interacting with celebs and the general public. There's a strange comic dissonance whenever Angelos says something sharp and clever to people, because the character betrays itself by showing intellect. In stark contrast, you can accept a cockney salesman will be witty and fast-talking. I found Terry an engaging presence when grilling Mickey Rourke; something Angelos reading joke cards to the likes of Theo Paphitis (coming second in a battle of wits) just can't compete with.

As a chat show, Verry Terry even managed to reveal something of the guest's personalities, although Turner was unfortunately too dull and peculiar to be of much interest. But Novak managed to get some decent material from a perplexed-looking Rourke—like the grubby anecdote about the time he asked Kim Basinger to have sex with him for real while making 9½ Weeks. At least Verry Terry felt like a proper chat show, too. Angelos Epithemiou is so badly suited to the task that his show is filled out with weak sketches and games salvaged from Shooting Stars' reject bin. Verry Terry broke up the chat with a few forgettable sketches of its own, brief interaction with the studio audience, and a lousy duet with the house band's singer, but for the most part it was focused on the spoof chat show objective: having a fictional character disarm and mesmerise famous guests into dropping their guard and revealing some deeper truths. At one point, Rourke essentially confirmed with a feeble denial that he had sex with 15 women in one night, and generally came across as a coarse oaf. I'm glad.

While a classic format was deployed well in Verry Terry, and Novak's stanch performance kept things lively and interesting, you could tell the quality of written material wasn't very good. Novak and Phil Bowker were responsible for the script, and it was noticeable that the biggest laughs came from Novak's improvised ripostes. There was the occasional pre-written joke that amused, but for the most part this wasn't anywhere close to the standard of, say, Da Ali G Show.

If Verry Terry show returns one day, which it just about deserves to, I hope the writing gets as much attention as Novak's make-up job.

written by Kayvan Novak & Phil Bowker / directed by Barbara Wiltshire & Ed Tracy / 16 August 2012 / Channel 4