VERNON Kay is the human-equivalent of a wasp. It probably serves some purpose in the grand scheme of things but what it is you haven’t got a clue. Maybe it’s to annoy me.
The similarities between Vernon Kay and a wasp go beyond lacking any obvious function. Like a wasp he buzzes around meaninglessly, looking lost and frowning when I scream “go away, leave me alone!”
Quite why ITV then decided he’d be the perfect replacement for Les Dennis to host Family Fortunes is beyond me.
But if, like me, you lay awake at night, tossing and turning trying to work it out, I think I’ve cracked it.
For a start, this sparkly re-imagined version fulfils a number of Saturday night’s celebrity-orientated TV executives’ wet dreams:
1. We need an annoying host whose previous body of work consists of crap teen programming but isn’t as good as Simon Amstell.
2. Celebrity. We can’t have normal people saying amusing things, we need celebrities. Preferably recalling chance encounters with Fearne Cotton or Holly Willoughby.
3. Have a cheesy opening title sequence with Vernon Kay on a lift (which you wish would crash to the floor) before gazing at the camera and tugging his collar.
With all the boxes ticked off Vernon Kay, with his height and brown hair, fidgets onto the screen. Ugh.
The announcer even thinks he’s too tall: “He’s so tall, birds nest in his hair” shouts the voice-over man. I imagine the only bird willing to nest in Vernon Kay’s head would be a cock.
This week’s offering serves up Brian Blessed (who hasn’t got a hinge on his jaw) and Rebecca Adlington (who has).
Anyway, Brian Blessed is brilliant and Vernon Kay’s constant impressions of him aren’t.
Brian and his daughter make it through to the final and both give excellent answers on “name a type of food you would keep in the freezer”. His daughter offers milk and Brian gives yoghurt. Without this the show would be as annoying as Eggheads.
But I still long for the haze-tinted Saturday nights of 1994 when Les Dennis was at the very pinnacle of his presenting career. Pre-Amanda Holden, he breezed onto the screen like a pleasant deodorant. Fortunately you can relive those heady days by tuning in to Challenge (Sky 125) at the same time and catching proper Family Fortunes with real people.
Les comes chortling onto the set full of energy and youthful vigour and says something funny, unlike Kay. Then he uses his thumbs to point out the two families. In the new version you have to watch a film about them.
Hilariously one of the real people accidentally called Les “Des,” and Les did a mock look of pain to camera. The audience fall about (which to be fair they do with Kay but I reckon they’re being prompted by a bored producer).
Some of the real people have funny stories to tell and Les does his best to laugh at those stories and does impressions of Mavis Wilton or Frank Spencer. He even did a John Wayne on Saturday which caught me off guard but the audience really enjoyed it. (To be fair the audience enjoyed Kay’s impressions of Brian Blessed but, as I say, they’re being prompted, I’m sure of it)
Sexual innuendo constantly creeps into the show. I remember one question was “name something you take to bed with you when your partner is away.” Oh, how the audience tittered, spurred on by Les’ scurrilous looks to camera.
The Bring Back Les Dennis campaign starts here.