A character created for BBC2's Shooting Stars, burger van owner Angelos Epithemiou has now landed his own Channel 4 spoof chat show; following a pilot originally intended for last year's Comedy Showcase season. Dan Renton Skinner is the man behind the gormless loser, and his oafish creation remains someone I just don't warm to or find especially funny. It's hard to see what the joke is, other than the chance to laugh at someone who's ugly, stupid, and unfashionable—but in today's world there are plenty of real people for audiences to point at laugh at, crammed into various reality shows. A comic exaggeration of the kind of plastic bag-carrying weirdo you'd avoid in a kid's playground isn't something that deserves screen time these days. We've moved on culturally; or so I thought. I just find it sad that the '90s gave us character-comedy from the likes of Mrs Merton, Alan Partridge, the Pub Landlord, Ali G, and Borat (complex comic personalities with things say about our society and culture) while this century's thrown up… um, vulgar irritant Keith Lemon and simpleton Angelos Epithemiou. Are audiences happy with that drop in quality?
Admittedly, Angelos is marginally funnier in his own show than his bit-part role on Shooting Stars—which would come to a shuddering stop every time Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer indulged him. But sticking him in a chat show format is both lazy and unsatisfying. Skinner demonstrates little wit or improvisational skills, so it was noticeable just how much of the show was scripted. All of the show's funnier moments were pre-written (with the help of Bob Mortimer), which admittedly led to some amusing questions asked of Embarrassing Bodies star Dr Christian Jessen. But there was a brief moment when Angelos ambled towards the front row to interact with real people (much as Al Murray does as his Pub Landlord character), but Skinner soon backed off after a few perfunctory and unfunny jibes.
The rest of the show was stretched thin in terms of material, even with less than 30-minutes to fill including adverts. Perhaps that's why they decided to introduce an additional character in Gupta (Four Lions' Adeel Akhtar), who popped up when things started to drag too much. Worryingly for Angelos, Gupta is considerably funnier, although dancing perilously close to racist. A huge amount of the show also felt like a Vic n' Bob show, owing to a reprise of Angelos's "What's In Your Bag?" ditty from Shooting Stars, various surreal elements (like a dog marking the Match of the Day theme tune), and a final game where Gupta shot objects out of his backside (that felt like something Vic & Bob had in their Stars reject bin.)
It wasn't very funny, when all's said and done, although if the studio audience is representative of fans watching at home, I guess simple minds were able to giggle at a creepy idiot asking dumb questions of two Z-list celebrities (seriously, who the hell is Conor Maynard?) The influence of Bob Mortimer just made it feel like a lacklustre extension of what Angelos did on Shooting Stars. Still, credit to Mortimer and Skinner for finally recognising Ulrika Jonsson isn't anyone's fantasy these days and replacing her with Gabby Logan.