I don’t watch television on Saturday nights. It’s a monastic, ritualistic kind of thing. Not that I’m the Venerable Bede or Pliny the Elder; I don’t sit in the living room, illuminating parchments or writing history. No, Saturday night is a time for quiet contemplation, where I cultivate my aesthetic sense through study while communing with my higher, better self as I seek the life of a true existentialist.
Had you there, didn’t I? No, I don’t contemplate my soul on Saturday nights and neither do I fly to Monte Carlo to play baccarat with Omar Sharif and Prince Albert of Monaco while Silvio Berlusconi holds my coat (Silvio, call me!).
I don’t watch television on Saturday nights because, like death or a world shortage of milk chocolate, I can’t bear to think about it. I’m not talking here about Casualty, though I can’t bear to think about that, either; I mean all of those brain-pulping “light entertainment” shows. Apart from Hole in the Wall, which I loved and which I mourn and which I am excluding from the remit of this particular column.
I mean stuff like The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins. Or Popstar to Opera Star. Or Ant and Dec’s Push the Button. Or absolutely anything with a studio audience. Saturday night telly is one big noisy party to which not only have I not been invited, but I don’t want to be. I’ll just sit here with a special edition Toblerone and my well-thumbed copy of L’Etranger.
Saturday-night telly is weird, it’s alien and strange and does things that it would never consider doing on any other night of the week. Can you imagine Total Wipeout on Wednesdays? Not right, is it? It’s as if someone has decided that on Saturday nights we want the TV equivalent of alco-pops and a kebab.
So will my absolute, utter favourite comedian, Lee Mack, change all that with Lee Mack’s All Star Cast on BBC1 this Saturday? And if you don’t agree that he’s the funniest, sharpest, wittiest man on television then we will have to have a little word outside.
It sounds like an old-fashioned variety show of the type I avoided as a kid (Seaside Special, anyone?) so presumably everyone involved is making a conscious decision to return to those big “light ent” shows of the past, the tentpole events of the night that would unite audiences.
All Star Cast has guests, comedy sketches, stand-up and audience participation. It might sound like Hell on toast, but if anyone can turn variety on its head, it’s Mack. He’s a terrific, gifted stand-up and, as anyone who has seen an episode of Would I Lie to You? can attest, he’s quick on his feet. He’s not egregious or smarmy and he’s not offensive, he’s too clever for that.
I hope it works; Mack probably isn’t everyone’s idea of Mr Saturday Night, but I think he’ll bring his own kind of stardust to the strangest TV night of the week.