“Where else would one want to be on the face of the earth other than doing this?” asks Simon Callow as he finds himself on Channel 5 doing a show called Celebrity Carry on Barging.
The thespian is joining Nigel Havers, Debbie McGee and Lorraine Chase as the foursome take it up the canal for a new four-part series that has little if any premise.
There’s a bit of travelling (Celebrity Coach Trip), a bit of group cooking (Celebrity Come Dine With Me), a bit of living together (Celebrity Big Brother) and a lot of barging (John Sergeant’s Barging Around Britain).
There’s no real format to the show. The four celebrities of dubious caliber are put on two narrow boats and tasked with making their way along the Kennet & Avon canal to Devizes. Why? Well, that’s never explained.
There’s no competitive element between the two boats, no time limit, no tasks and no red cards. It’s refreshing.
Aside from Nigel Havers’ endless mission for booze (packing a suitcase full of wine and visiting a vineyard doesn’t stop his excitement at the sight of a pub) the main point of the programme seems to be discovering that Debbie McGee puts watermelon in a cucumber salad and getting the chance to see Lorraine Chase fall in a river.
The only real moment of drama is when she and Simon smash into another boat at a terrifying four miles per hour. It’s enough to get an action replay as we see the thoroughly pissed off owner leap from his barge and jump on board the pair’s boat to yell at them.
What happened next remains a mystery. Did he calm down when he saw it was Callow and a TV crew behind the rudder? Did Channel 5 have to pay him off? Who knows, because it’s never explained and we don’t get to see what went down.
All we do know is that Simon comes away thinking he has post-traumatic stress and likens the incident to running over a puppy.
More drama shortly follows when an incident prompts Havers to reflect: “F**k me. I didn’t know what to do. I’m not trained enough to deal with that situation.”
Although it sounds as though he’s talking about bomb disposal, he’s actually referring to the moment he slowed his barge to a gradual stop after he spotting a narrow bridge and another barge coming (very, very slowly) towards them.
As is clear, not a lot happens when you’re drifting down a canal for four hours on primetime TV, which was evident when a considerable amount of airtime and comment was handed over to a pet skunk the group spy in one of the pubs they visit.
Cue Nigel joking about good quality skunk and comments about how it “didn’t smell, he was lovely”, as well as plenty of shots of said skunk.
If this is what we can look forward to in the next three episodes, we can’t wait. As Alan Partridge would say, water-way to have a good time.
Celebrity Carry on Barging airs at 8pm on Friday February 10 on Channel 5.