We all love to travel in time on Christmas Day - back to the Morecambe and Wise Christmas special, the Yuletides of yesteryear, when we were wee nippers and we got a Scalextric, and all of that. Nostalgia is as much a part of the whole experience as anything. And BBC1 offered the chance to time travel with comedy twice on Christmas Day - with Ronnie Corbett and Lucas & Walliams. But while Corbett attempted modern jokes (the 'Blackberry' not working for example) in the same old format as his shows with the other Ron, Lucas and Walliams went the other way - straight back to the 70s.
Mm. Look, the r-word isn't coming out. I'm not going to use the r-word. That would be the word of lazy stereotype itself, the kind of thing you'd expect some idiot bleeding-heart liberal to trot out and act all offended. No. I'm not going to use that word. Because Come Fly With Me wasn't that. It wasn't hateful, or nasty, or vindictive, or deliberately unpleasant, or anything like that. Nor do I object to it through offence or shock, because I wasn't particularly offended or shocked - and even if I were, that doesn't mean that I should be disappointed by something. Not that either. And no, I don't want the bloody thing banned, before anyone accuses me of doing so. It's simply this: it was lazy. Feeble, lazy, hackneyed old clapped-out stereotypes that I thought we'd gone past about four decades ago with Spike Milligan's Pakistani Daleks or 'they all sound a bit funny'. Has it come to this? Is this really what we're sitting around the telly watching in 2010?
If you'd like to chip in with the contrarian "Aha, but this is post-ironic use of stereotypes, and who are you to say that people can't black up for comedy, doesn't that make you the real racist?" glibness here, feel free to do so. You might say it's a sign of a mature multicultural society that everyone can make jokes about everyone nowadays - straight people about gay people, white people about black people, and it's no longer the weapon of cultural hegemony, or marginalising minorities by cranking out stereotypes, or whatever. I can see that. And I can understand that, but I'm not really making the point that this sort of thing shouldn't happen because of political correctness having (a) happened in the first place or (b) apparently having gone mad; it's just that I find it such a complete and utter waste. All the talent, all the budget, all the effort that went into that programme, and all we get is a bad impression of Faith Brown doing an impression of Rustie Lee, and "Yingtingtingting" Japanese girls who then go all gruff, you know, like you're doing an impression of a kid in a playground or something.
So, let's leave aside any accusations of political correctness having been breached. Certainly, leave aside the red-flag r-word, because we don't need it. My objection to the Lucas/Walliams vehicle was that it was just so lazy, tired and cliched. A spoof of a programme from the mid-90s - even the source material was going back a bit, let alone the characters. The old lady who pretended to be confused was just like Lou out of Lou and Andy pretending to be disabled; this wasn't doing anything new, anything fresh, anything, well, particularly funny really. And that's the sadness. I like Lucas and Walliams and I think they're capable of a lot better than Come Fly With Me. It's not especially offensive, it's just really disappointing.