With our days of gallivanting about as the weekend begins long disappeared in the rear-view mirror, our normal Friday practice these days is to devour a ready-made TV dinner at 7.00pm and settle in for an indulgent evening of viewing in front of the fire with the children.
Here there is no doubt about it – the BBC has established totally dominance in the peak-time viewing stakes.
For this purpose, let us leave aside both the soap Eastenders and Miranda (the Miranda Hart sit-com), which are acquired tastes and, if my household is anything to go by, I suspect divided upon gender lines. I can happily dip in and out of the former and rather enjoy Hart’s jolly-hockey sticks silliness and self-deprecating humour, but my husband Mike steadfastly refuses to watch either under any circumstances and will walk out if he stumbles upon them.
However, for me, an evening of Question of Sport – creaking slightly now that Barker has been in place for well over a decade and Dawson & Tuffnell since 2008 – followed by Eastenders, Miranda, Have I Got News For You and then possibly Graham Norton, make a very acceptable evening’s entertainment.
We didn’t get that last night. Instead, for reasons that escape this viewer, BBC1 cleared its schedules of Eastenders and Miranda, instead offering Robbie Williams – One Night At The Palladium.
Way back when, Williams was the cheeky young one in the Take That boy band, who then decided to try and grow up by getting tattoos, indulging in drink and drugs excess, and taking his music to more ‘adult’ pastures, seeking to hang out with the likes of Blur and Oasis.
Having achieved stellar success, more by exploitation of his ‘man of the people’ charismatic personality than any talent for singing, Williams has latterly taken his foot off the accelerator, settled down with a wife and child. His current image – if you can get your head around it – is not dissimilar to that of Norman Wisdom, now singing ‘grown up’ modern pop rather than schmaltzy ballads (only technically not quite so well as the original), but taller.
Last night’s show, in front of a packed Palladium audience, had little expense spared – a forty-piece orchestra, laser lights, vast sets, tens of dancers, and Lilly Allen and Rufus Wainwright as guest artistes. One sensed that the producers were a little concerned that Williams would not quite be ‘up to it’ and so, as a precaution, had packed as many props around him as they could muster. Sadly, these also included The Muppets, whose incongruous, tired, unfunny, Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy and Stadler & Waldorf routines and interactions with Williams himself – planted at intervals throughout – uniformly provided a drag upon proceedings.
Try as Robbie Williams did – and his efforts were considerable – his undoubted love of big band swing music and the American songbook classics could only take him so far.
The key issue was whether or not he could sing.
The trouble with last night’s entire enterprise was that – when you take on these kinds of standards – for the audience, you are also taking on the likes of Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Sinatra, whose tones, inflections and vocal quality are part of the Western World’s aural furniture.
I’m afraid that, for me, one night of Robbie Williams at the Palladium was more than enough.
Hopefully, next week, normal Friday BBC service will be resumed – roll on Eastenders and Miranda!