This is a great show. True, its not Peter Kay or Jack Dee (as the previous review mentions), but it is equally as funny (funnier in my opinion) in its own way. Sometimes theres nothing more entertaining than a drunk throwing themself around. However this show isnt all about that. 18 stone of idiot has great guests who are asked highly unconventional questions ("Do you stick a finger up your arse while having a wank?" to Ray Winstone), Vegas trying to buy drugs from innocent members of the public, drunk celebrity poker, Neil Hamilton dancing for fish, an angry baboon and a bad budgie, just a few of the delights. My only complaint is that the DVD doesnt provide each episode, and only shows highlights of the series in one long feature. Its still very re-watchable though, and well worth buying.
Please understand that this critique is by someone who gave up watching TV years ago. So I never saw the original show. I've also had about a bottle and a half of rotten-red wine as I write this. Worth mentioning because getting at least half-slaughtered seems to be the pre-requisite for tuning into this comic's singular humour: an acquired taste, as they say.
The disc under consideration presents a highly edited version of the aforementioned show supplemented by extras which illustrate the Johnny behind the scenes, I assume wasn't on the tv version. I found the disc extras are actually more important than the main content.
If you watch the main section you will see a a fat, self-loathing (apparently) Northern comic present a comedy show in which various media celebs, cocky enough to agree to participate as guests on his tv show, (because either they or their agents are so damn desperately cool about being cool, or they themselves are, are tragically up for appearing) mostly make tits of themselves in the interest of public entertainment. And media exposure, of course.
Very foolish. Mr. Vegas is the arch-comedy terrorist of media celebrity culture. As this disc clearly demonstrates. He's anti-cool and very savvy about showbiz B.S. in all it's forms.
Johnny could not only drink for Russia, he could drink Russia under the table. He's the drunk's drunk's comedian. But this persona is all about undermining the media for laffs. Audience and stars, alike. His outrageous 'comic' behaviour is totally gross: pushing the envelope of the traditional earthy, people's comic. He assumes the fool's role to drag you (the TV voyeur) to the bottom of the barrel with him.
On-screen, the people who come off worst are not the hapless media celebs, but the hapless stooges in the audience who think themselves so grounded, and on-level that they can participate unscathed. On both sides of the camera, convention dictates that you have to be a good sport, no matter what the ringmaster orchestrates. Vegas exploits this illusion of being on-level; on-parr.
It's uncomfortably compelling stuff to watch a self-styled hipster like Huey Morgan (of Fun Lovin' Criminals fame) deal with an interviewer who literally pisses himself during the interview. Watch the N.Y. Coolster try to appear unfazed. Not particularly funny, but revealing.
And then there's the good-looking, trendy Welsh thesp who thinks that getting rat-arsed for his on-screen performance will fire-proof him in his on-screen encounter with JV. As if you could prepare for being 'in the moment' with an entertainer who's entire public persona is based upon drinking. Cocky, indeed.
You get the impression that the bright slob who calls himself Johnny Vegas is simultaneously so sympathetically connected and yet so beyond it all, that being bait in his grisly crowd-fest performance, is genuinely illuminating somehow. His self-loathing persona seems to egg-on (and feed-off) the lowest of the low in his audience in the belief that no-one is better than him at base. As if this was the key comic BS illuminator behind everything in his world. Such a bright idea may be just another cheesy SFX , but then again, here's a disc that seems to prove otherwise pretty convincingly (for me, at least).
Personally, though I'm not too keen on the cultural debasement aspect of what I see (or that I paid to see it only to be placed as a voyeur too) I do respect the whole thing as subversive performance. It's real. I'm not sure what it's actual value may be beyond freakshow entertainment and I wonder if the chap who calls himself Vegas does, either.Maybe he enjoys it as performance art. Beats working I suppose.
Important to know that this disc doesn't pack a season of shows into itself. The main section edits different episodes by section theme. In other words, it's a highly edited compilation of the series. The extras reveal stuff that I assume was never aired.
The inclusion of this funny extra material makes the disc for me, because you get to see Vegas working behind the scenes. It shows him in his most appealing light as a highly spontaneous improvisational comic. It also demonstrates how far way-beyond standard limits he's prepared to push things. Much, much further than his peer professionals are used to.
The lock-in pub sequence is hard-core, head-to-head, on-camera, no-limits improvisational comedy engineered by provoking and out-drinking guest performers. Not sure what it really reveals beyond how desperate performers may be prepared to go for media exposure, but it's not stuff you'll see on anyone else's DVD, that's for sure. So you get a glimpse of the sort of world he lives in professionally, and how easily he can seduce fellow players into his comedic net. Johnny really doesn't give a toss how hairy he can make things get because he knows it will generate material that can be cut together to reflect his P.O.V.
All of this he edits into his DVD release to make a total performance document, so to speak. Not such an idiot after all, he effectively lets us see how he pulls-off his unique brand of subversive idiocy.
As Johnny Vegas said in an interview, "we tried to make it so ridiculous that it couldn't ever be commissioned". This is top to bottom the whole outline of the show.
Every part of the show is exactly how you'd imagine Johnny Vegas to be like if it was just you and him on your own, his funny rants and and laugh out loud outbursts. Also his out of control audience participation shows that even though he's now a TV star, he still incoparates the essence of his stand up which made him so popular.
There is cameos from the likes of Neil Hamilton who stands in a tank while fish are thrown at him and Chris Akabusi who is wire up to a machine to give him electric shocks to see how upbeat he keeps despite the pain. Johnny goes on adventures around London doing audience requests in "TV Democracy", such as getting to the bottom of Hamstead Heath's seedy going's on which results in Johnny chatting to a gay man about what he wants doing to him while they walk to a public toilet.
He also conducts in depth interviews with people from his own career such as Kathy Burke, Ray Winstone but also people who you just wouldn't expect such as Elvis Costello, David Soul and Huey from Fun Loving Criminals who in fact is such a good guests relaxes Johnny to the point where he lets his bladder go without warning.
The final part of the show which is done every show is where Johnny rides an odd vehicle down a ramp and over whichever guest is the show that week, just so that they can claim their winnings from Ladbrokes from a bet which was put down to say they wouldn't be able to do it. This is done for the sole purpose to buy booze for the audience so they can all have a party.
This program is the most ridiculous show on television, even though there is set items in the show, there is a real sense of your still not sure whats going to happen, and that is what's great about the show. Johnny endears himself to the crowd because he's not bothered what people think as long as he's giving the audience a good time thats all that matter. He is punched in the face, is nearly sick when trying to eat jellied eels and gets rugby tackled by professional rugby leauge players just for the sake of entertainment.
I don't go along with the idea that you have like Johnny Vegas to "get" this program but i encourage you to buy it just to give it a go because it really is fantastic. You will be on the edge of your seat or rolling on the floor laughing, either way, buy it now!
When I first saw this series, I thought it was the maddest programme ever. No wonder Channel 4 swore they would never air it again.
Although I knew the DVD was a complilation of the shows, it was disappointing that the clips kept jumping about, with no real fluidity. Loved the Celebrity Pub Lock in though. Can't believe it hasn't been done again since.........