By contrast, Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing (Sunday, 8:10 p.m., BBC Two) is down there, meandering, and if you want to watch it, watch it. Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse are fishing. That’s it. There is a certain narrative: Bob cannot fish, while Paul can identify a trout 100 yards away simply by a fin flapping out of rusty brown water; Bob makes simple food for them by the river by pouring boxes of potatoes into a pan on a camping stove; they lazily crisscross the UK, dipping in and out of various provincial rivers, then scampering off to a pub or rented cottage for a glass of white wine (Paul) and a lager (Bob). Basically, though, everything is the same: two men in their early 60s, both recovering from fairly severe heart problems, swarming in the background, throwing lines, sometimes catching a fish if they’re lucky. There’s so little planning, so little structure, so little actual TV entertainment, it’s almost anti-TV: ambient comedy, with the same resting heart rate as a good nap.
I mean, I love it. The Christmas special is truly a festive highlight: Bob, with all the seriousness of a toddler, keeps asking Paul what Christmas means to him, and Paul grumpily responds “nothing” trying to tell. ‘catch a salmon. And then they go here and there – across the River Tees, via a wistful little trip to Bob’s childhood home, then out to sea, then back to the river – and nothing, really, happens. Chris Rea shows up for one of the most spectacular TV cameos I’ve ever seen – socially distanced at the end of a dinner table in a pub, drinking from a mug and saucer of tea and telling the guys how his pancreas got carried away – and there is something lovely about it.
Men, on the whole, are incredibly bad at talking or thinking about their health or taking their health in any way seriously, but here are three of them who are candidly discussing how many pills they’ve got. take various life-changing surgeries every day. they’ve had, their new post-scary diet and lifelong recovery, and I think that’s an important conversation to have on UK TV. They just hid it in consciousness via a non-threatening fishing show. In many ways, Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing is just the trip on statins: none of the competition knockoffs, home phone calls, or shagging, but a similar pair of old deer jousting from comedy, driving around picturesque vistas trying to make each other laugh lazily. Learn something from this, the rest of TV! Stop telling me that you are going to entertain me and just entertain me!