‘I just don’t see a way how you can come back into it,” Andy tells Croz, effectively sacking him. “I don’t know what to suggest – I dunno, change your look, do something else.” Croz is one of these Lookalikes (Channel 4), and the reason Andy doesn’t see how he can continue is the person Croz looks alike and plays is … Rolf Harris.
Ah yes, I can see that could be a problem, there’d probably be less demand for Croz these days. Yeah, Rolf, you didn’t just mess up the lives of your victims, and ruin your own career, you also ruined the careers of the people (if there were more than just Croz) who impersonated you for a living.
Andy doesn’t just run the Eastbourne agency, he’s a lookalike himself. A lookabitalike. David Beckham (though he turns, alarmingly, into Charlie Brooker when he frowns). There’s a Posh too, plus George Clooney, Ed Sheeran, Colin Farrell, Ricky Gervais or rather David Brent, Barack Obama, just about anyone you can think of.
But aren’t lookalikes, and lookalike agencies a bit old hat, done to death? Killed off by that artist, Alison Jackson, whose photographs of lookalikes were popular, particularly among the editors of newspaper magazine supplements, a decade or so ago? Yes but this is lookalikes plus; not just another observational documentary about an agency and the people on its books, but scripted (or structured as they now seem to be calling it) reality. The people are real – and really trying to pass themselves off as real celebrities. “However, some scenes have been produced for your enjoyment,” says narrator Alan Green (the one off 5 Live, most infuriated and infuriating man on the radio, unless of course it’s an Alan Green soundalike).
There’s a sort of plot then. Andy is trying to breathe new life into the agency, bring back the good times, re-gild his own balls. He’s freshening up his celebrity lookalike variety act The Chippendoubles. And there’s a plan for celebrity lookalike sperm donors (Mr Bean genes anyone?); not totally thought through yet but he does at least have a name: Fame Fertile.
Plus there are subplots. Like poor Croz and the didgeridoo no one wants to hear any more. And Shy Martin (Gordon Ramsay!) who doesn’t have much luck with the ladies, though he does have a date with Ranelle (Linda Robson). Trouble is Tim is helping out with the cooking; and Tim doesn’t just look (a bit) like David Brent, he has actually turned into David Brent. He’s so good at being David Brent in fact that you soon don’t notice that he doesn’t really look like him. So, in a structured reality television show, you’ve got a real man called Tim who works for a packaging company in East Grinstead playing a pretend man called David who, in a television mockumentary, works for a stationery firm in Staines who in turn is played by a famous man called Ricky … all of which takes a little getting one’s head around, and leaves you wondering who’s really who and what’s really real. Into the pot (Tim’s helping shy rubbish chef Gordon Ramsay with the cooking for his date remember?)goes celebrity, reality TV, script, structure, everything and everyone else; it eats itself, vomits itself up again, then eats itself again. Hilariously though.
Oh, and hang about, Croz. Maybe if you shaved off the beard, blacked up those eyebrows, could you think about … maybe Max Clifford?
Britain at the Bookies (BBC1) is more traditional observational documentary, about a bookmaker in Huddersfield. The same Huddersfield of the recent BBC2 observational documentary about a bank. Is this part of a new BBC funding model, to set everything in Huddersfield?
It’s a good subject though, with an important issue – the betting boom and the explosion of bookies, in town centres, online, everywhere – at its heart. I’m glad it doesn’t just focus on jolly Tony and his smiley staff, kindly handing out free tips and coffees to the punters to keep them coming to their shop rather than one of the other 10. But also on compulsive gambler Stuart who kindly hands his fortnightly benefits straight over to William Hill, Betfred, Tony’s Coral etc.
There could have been more on that side of things though – the misery on which the industry is based. And it could have asked why, among Huddersfield’s 11 city-centre betting shops, there are two Corals, just 70 yards apart. Could it be that each shop is only allowed four highly addictive fixed-odds betting terminals; so two shops means twice as many machines for people like Stuart to push their benefits into. Crack dens, basically, with government approval; it’s a scandal.