Two middle-aged blokes on a riverbank may not sound like riveting TV, but Tim Gibson reckons it’s the best thing he’s watched in years
By Tim Gibson
I’ve never been fishing in my life. Not properly, anyway. I vaguely recall dangling a rod over the side of a boat off the Devon coast when I was young and catching a few mackerel. But in as much as the skipper used fish-finding devices to locate our haul, baited our rods and took over the minute we had a bite, I don’t think it counts as a genuine angling experience.
|Gone Fishing is the perfect showcase for Mortimer’s charm. His interactions with Paul Whitehouse are unscripted, natural and revealing.|
Which is why I have been surprised by my enthusiasm for Whitehouse and Mortimer Gone Fishing on BBC Two. The first series aired last year and I’ve watched each of the six episodes at least a dozen times. My only disappointment about the imminent screening of Series 2 (the first episode goes on out Friday, 2 August) is that it means the first series has been removed from the BBC iPlayer.
So yes, I’m a fan. It helps that Bob Mortimer is the funniest man alive and by far my favourite comedian. In fact, after listening to his brilliant Desert Island Discs I think he may be my favourite human being. He’s humble, wise, clever and kind. Or at least that’s how he comes across.
Gone Fishing is the perfect showcase for Mortimer’s charm. His interactions with Paul Whitehouse are unscripted, natural and revealing. Both stars show a lot of leg while discussing subjects as diverse as heart surgery (they’ve both had big ops in recent years), fears about mortality and fading celebrity, and family life.
The series is from the same stable as The Trip, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s acerbic restaurant-review series. But it has a kinder heart, is far more authentic. Whereas Coogan and Brydon were playing fictionalised characters who happened to have their names, Whitehouse and Mortimer are very much themselves. Just two old mates, chatting on the riverbank.
None of which sounds like a hugely exciting premise for a TV show. And yet, once you get into it, you’ll find it utterly addictive. It’s not even as if the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny, although it certainly has its moments. The joy comes from watching two people with an obvious rapport spark off one another, muck around with a complete lack of self-consciousness, and ruminate on life's mysteries.
The scenery is stunning: the show is expertly filmed by Fleabag director Tim Kirkby. If you love the UK’s distinctive rural scenery, you’ll wallow in aerial footage of verdant swards and low-down shots of the sun rising over mist-strewn pastures.
Likewise, if you’re interested in fishing, you’ll no doubt enjoy the occasional asides about species, techniques and locations. Whitehouse is an accomplished and knowledgeable angler. But he wears his expertise lightly, making it accessible even for a fishing ignoramus like me.
But the real strength of the show is its protagonists. They bring warmth, wisdom, wit and humour. I didn’t think my love for Bob Mortimer could get any deeper, but this show confirms that it knows no bounds.
Whitehouse and Mortimer Gone Fishing is an antidote to the stresses of modern life. A show with real heart. And that’s why I am counting down the minutes until 8.00pm on Friday, 2 August.
Published: 2 August 2019
© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd
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