What Britain needs at a time of recession, industrial unrest, snow, misery, coldness, fear and general gloom is a hero who can lift our spirits out of this mess. It's becoming increasingly clear that the Noughties are turning into the 70s - strikes, factories closing, rocketing unemployment, Arctic Roll coming back (great!) and even a report on Twitter last week of white dog poo - and, just as that decade had a rollerskate-shod Frank Spencer as the haplessly bumbling everyman clinging on to the back of a Routemaster, fumbling around for change, we have Todd Carty on ice.
It's inviting to draw parallels with John Sergeant's ineptitude on Strictly Come Dancing, to remind ourselves of him dragging his dancing partner around the stage during the Pasa Doble like a bag of grass cuttings on his way to the dump, but that's not the whole story, I reckon. Whereas Sergeant was amusingly clumsy, you get the feeling that this whole sequins-and-skates business is bringing a hitherto unseen side out of Carty, unleashing a new slapstick star who can take on the baton from Spencer.
Until now, and ever since the "flippin' eck!" days of Tucker Jenkins, Carty seems to have been burdoned by 'serious' roles - a runaway son who ended up with HIV in EastEnders, and then the sinister copper in The Bill. What we didn't know then - but which now seems blindingly obvious - is that all along, there was a Buster Keaton struggling to be free of those soapstar restrictions. After all, there aren't many times when Mark Fowler went careering around on an icerink.
If you haven't seen Carty's performances on YouTube, you simply must go and find them now - it's genius. Easy to dismiss him as someone skidding around like Bambi, but look more closely. Look at the joy with which he went flying off the arena a week ago in that orange jacket - yes, he nearly went stacking off into the stage set, but somehow kept it all together as he careered away, then reappeared a few seconds later. Magical. The essence of brilliant slapstick is, after all, to make it look like you're desperately trying to keep things together. And look at last night's routine - ostensibly it might appear that he simply decided to go rolling around on the ice at the end, like a cat scratching its back in a dustbowl, but I think there's more to it than meets the eye. I'm not saying he's a great skater fooling us all, because he clearly isn't that, but I do wonder if he's not just adding some brilliant comic flourishes to keep us all curling up with laughter.
It's also pleasing to see some good old-fashioned British defiance of authority. We've seen it in other shows, of course, with judges' views being deliberately ignored by viewers just to piss them off. The snottiness with which Carty's attempts are derided by the risible "Ice Panel" is in direct proportion to the amount of viewers who think "Fuck you, I'm voting to keep him in, pal". And rightly so. A serious competition? It's some people off the telly in sequins and spandex, for fuck's sake! Sure, the little freak off the X-Factor's going to win it, or that woman from Liberty X - we all know that. But what's wrong with having a little bit of fun in the meantime?
Nothing at all. Let's keep Carty in there, flying the flag for the losers and the kids who always got picked last for the football team at school. He's one of us, not some cookie-cutter brat straight out of stage school who's been learning to sing and dance since he was in nappies. And once this is all over, give him a slapstick comedy show of his own - it's going to be great.
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