ITV’s Bradley Walsh & Son: Breaking Dad is his least convincing role to date

The documentary shows Doctor Who's Bradley Walsh in possibly his least-convincing role to date

Bradley & Son (ITV)

The quote from Bradley Walsh, chosen by ITV to promote this new four-part series, reads as follows: “Ah guys. I’m not looking forward to this. I’m really not looking forward to this at all. I’ve got itchy bits now. That’s all I need.”

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In a, well, nutshell that’s the premise of Bradley Walsh & Son: Breaking Dad – that Bradders is a 58-year-old jumbo grump and curmudgeon who’s “stuck in his ways”– and it’s fair to say it’s his least-convincing role to date.

Bradley, we’re told, just wants to be left in peace in front of the telly and not harassed by his 20-year-old son, Barney. But Barney has other ideas. He’s dragging his dad out of his armchair and flying him to America so the pair can embark on a 2,000-mile road trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans.

Cue Bradley. “No, I’m not going on a road trip. I told you that.”

But that wouldn’t make much of a TV show, so here we are in Hollywood where the Walsh boys’ first stop is going to pick up their transport: a 36-foot RV. Bradley’s reaction? “You’re having a laugh in’t ya? This is mad.” Eventually he gets in. “Have I really got to drive this?”

This continues for a solid 24 minutes, Walsh Sr and Jr winding their way between activities and States, Bradley looking gently exasperated the entire way. Other grumbles include: “I don’t want to get up, I’ve just sat down”, and eyeing up a light aircraft with a withering: “Look at the state of it, it’s like an Airfix kit.”

Bradley & Son (ITV)
Bradley & Son (ITV)

You don’t have to be a member of the Bradley Walsh Fan Club to know that, actually, far from being an idle git who needs to be confronted with alligator kayaking (a thing, apparently), tank driving or being shoved into a space simulator to spur him into action, the presenter-actor-singer is arguably one of the hardest-working people in TV.

Walsh juggles filming two of the biggest shows on the box, darting between London and Cardiff for The Chase and Doctor Who, while sustaining a successful sideline as a singer (his first album made him the UK’s biggest-selling debut artist of 2016). The last thing he could be accused of is laziness. Unlike, say, this TV commission.

The parent-offspring celebritytravelogue is a well-worn path that’s previously been trampled by the likes of Russell Howard, Romesh Ranganathan and Jack Whitehall. So what is the unique thing proffered by Bradley Walsh & Son: Breaking Dad?

If you’re a fan of poorly-written comedy, this is something of a treat

Well if you’re a fan of poorly-written comedy (and if you’re watching ITV at 8pm on a Wednesday, you almost certainly are), this is something of a treat. Somehow, despite the father and son dynamic, there’s a distinct feel of scripted banter that hangs in the air almost as long as Bradley’s 1,000-mile mock-irritated stares. Take, say, the line from Bradley to his son: “When have you jumped out of a plane? You can’t even jump out of bed.”

There’s also a clear case that Bradley Walsh & Son: Breaking Dad is not only a travelogue, but quite possibly the most elaborate showreel ever made. We’re told, more than once, that Bradley’s son Barney is an actor. Barney also wastes no time demonstrating the versatility of his CV. He can do pull-ups! He can ride a horse! He can play the piano and the harmonica… at the same time.

The climax of the opening episode sees both Bradley and Barney doing a skydive. Not only is this a handy audition tape if either of them ever want to do I’m a Celebrity, but it also provides what is perhaps the only full-throttled and genuine moment of the episode.

After Bradley predictably says “I ain’t jumping out no plane”, he jumps out of a plane. Falling at 12,000 feet, he swears the whole way down, clutches his heart, and slurs about his son as if in an oxygen-starved stupor: “He’s so great. He’s so brilliant. I wish I was like him,” he half says, half dribbles.

Touching down, for once Bradley’s lost for words. All he can muster is: “Christ, I need a drink”. After watching this, Bradley, so do I.

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Bradley Walsh & Son: Breaking Dad airs on ITV on Wednesday 2nd January 2019 at 8pm