BEWARE the seductive embrace of Auntie Beeb, that python in a twin set and pearls. One minute you are a politician-slaying radical comedian from Glasgow, the next you are Judith Chalmers with a ginger beard, locked in the cosy coils of a BBC2 travel documentary.
In another post panel show twist to his TV career, Frankie Boyle took on the role of travel guide last night in Frankie Goes to Russia.
Boyle introduced himself as a comedian who liked football, so who better to take a two-part look at Putinland in advance of the World Cup hoofing off in Moscow on June 14? Somewhere out there, Sue Perkins and every other Whicker wannabe were gnashing their teeth.
Fear of flying meant Boyle had taken four days to get from Glasgow to Moscow, where among other things he visited the Luzhniki stadium and sat in on a training session for some of the 6000 young Russians who will act as World Cup ambassadors.
He dutifully gave us all the facts and figures, how much the World Cup was costing ($20 billion) and so on. He joked about Putin, Fifa, and allegations of Russian meddling in the US elections, but this was nothing like the take-no-prisoners Frankie of old. When he went to Rostov-on-Don, one of Glasgow’s twin cities, he riffed about the two places having cirrhosis and fighting in common. It was all about as cutting edge as a burst fitba’.
Give Boyle his due, he pulled up the interviewee who said there were no gay men in Russia. Couldn’t he see, asked Boyle, that to the outside world the country’s anti-gay laws were “regressive and bigoted”? The moment passed awkwardly and it was on to the next jape, laying down a track with a Cossack rapper after spending the day slicing cabbages with a sabre. Judith Chalmers never did that.
It took the Salisbury poisoning story, breaking back home, to get Boyle into his groove. “It’s quite possible it was Russia,” he mused. “Maybe it was Britain. Maybe it was someone else. To be honest, a guy nearly dying on a bench outside Zizzi, that’s got British workmanship written all over it.”
More of this impudence in the second part and less of the One Show travelogue and he might have a hit on his hands, and a new strand to his career. Who knows, Auntie may even let him loose around Scotland.