I surely can’t be alone in noticing the ITV rite of passage where celebrities indulge in a vanity project dressed up in the guise of a documentary, can I?
Just a couple months ago we had Paul O’Grady gushing with adoration about Gypsy Rose Lee in an hour-long rehash of that scene from Wayne’s World where Wayne and Garth fall to their knees at the feet of Alice Cooper wailing ‘we’re not worthy’.
Last night’s take saw David Walliams throwing adulation upon none other than David Walliams.
In case you missed it, this show saw the erstwhile comedian attempt to reassemble his former classmates to recreate a photograph from his very first starring role on stage at the age of 11.
Although the play was obviously a turning point in his life – not least because playing the effeminate card for laughs would later become the gag he flogged all the way to international fame – the other participants all seemed a bit nonplussed by the whole ordeal.
Not surprising really when out of the blue they were asked to travel half-way round the world for the self-aggrandizing nostalgia trip of a celebrity they could barely recollect.
Indeed, when the camera wasn’t showing Walliams grinning so broadly his cheeks could rest on either side of the Atlantic; the documentary was largely filled with hunting down the boys that were also in the play.
It did beg the question of why it took him half the show to enlist the help of the Facebook search bar like any normal person, but c’est la vie. Logic would have killed the show at inception, so at least the makers were consistently obtuse.
It all had the feeling of a present from the commissioners at ITV to a man who’s slowly assumed the role of quirky, reliable host in the ‘national treasure’ mould. Much like Bruce Forsyth you get the feeling he’ll be wheeled out for every talent show and low-budget national event until they have to ask for his opinion on pirouetting dachshunds via live séance.
The flip side of course is that he’s also becoming increasingly bland. No longer is he pushing the limits of decency, he’s just hawking cheap telly.
And the ultimate gaping flaw with the documentary was that you had to adore David Walliams as much as he adores himself to find it anything other than insufferable. Besides losing your remote, the only other reason for staying with the show for 60 minutes was if you wanted to see moving colours; in which case I suggest buying a lava lamp – at least that’s powered by 230 volts and not unrelenting adoration.
Sure, there were some scenes that were touching, but they stopped short of really telling us anything about Walliams that you couldn’t have read on his IMDB profile.
There were a couple of instances where you caught a glimmer of the socially-awkward boy who took solace in comedy LPs and used the source of his teasing as his defence. Sadly these moments were too few and far between to salvage the documentary.
Perhaps what aggravated me the most is that his talents could have been better served on a subject where he has genuine knowledge. For instance, his children’s books have been incredibly successful – indeed, you may well have caught the adaptation of Mr Stink last Christmas. Could we not have had a documentary about children’s literature instead?
“We can never forget what happened that day,” he intoned. It’s a shame this eulogy to his youth was ultimately so forgettable.
Robert James Taylor