Urban Myths

Sky Arts’ series of semi-apocryphal celebrity tales caused something of a hullabaloo last year when an episode starring Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson was pulled following complaints from the King of Pop’s daughter.

This week, the show returned in less incendiary fashion with a trip to a Hollywood backlot in 1958, where a frazzled Billy Wilder (James Purefoy) was heroically trying to wrestle a scene from Some Like It Hot into the can. 

All his leading lady, Marilyn Monroe, had to do was say three little words – “It’s me, Sugar”. And, like Eric Morecambe, she could manage the words – just not necessarily in the right order.

Building a 25-minute comedy around something as peerlessly funny as Some Like it Hot is a risky gambit – like doing a thumbnail sketch of Rembrandt – but writer David Cummings did a better job than you might reasonably expect from the former guitarist with Del Amitri. 

Similarly, it’s a big ask for anyone to play Marilyn Monroe – cinema’s own Helen of Troy who, according to Wilder (via Raymond Chandler) looked ‘good enough to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window’. But if anyone’s up to the job it’s Gemma Arterton, who is traffic-stoppingly beautiful, of course, but also teased out the intelligence and vulnerability of a woman desperate to play more than the dumb blonde, while currently struggling with even that task.

The OC’s Adam Brody also had huge high heels to fill as Jack Lemmon-as-Jerry-as-Daphne, but made a decent stab at it, with Dougray Scott and Alex Pettyfer adding to the critical mass of 20thcentury icons as Arthur Miller and Tony Curtis.

And, let’s be honest, however good or bad the scripts, that’s half the fun of this show: the ‘Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes’ factor of watching famous people play other famous people. So in future weeks, look out for Jack Whitehall as Marc Bolan, Noel Fielding as Alice Cooper, Steve Pemberton as Bill Grundy and Frank Skinner (yes, really) playing Johnny Cash, shacked up in an East Midlands hotel room with a killer ostrich. True story. Well, true-ish.



TV extra:

 

Made in Yorkshire

What is it with Channel 5 and Yorkshire right now? There’s The Yorkshire Steam Railway, The Yorkshire Vet, Housing Yorkshire and now this, in which John Prescott investigates the county’s food industry in a selection of fetching hairnets. This week’s highlight was Baron P’s attempt to keep up with the fastest pork pie-slingers in the north, resulting in a calamitous pastry pile-up. As someone made in Yorkshire myself, I thought it were a right laugh.

 

Wannabe

Fans of the recent David Brent mockurockumentary (yes, it’s a word – I just invented it) should enjoy this comedy about a faded girl group singer-turned-aspiring manager who’s best client is Dane Bowers (ask your parents). Not all the gags land, but writer-star Lily Brazier is terrific as the deluded narcissist Maxine, a classic sitcom monster who’s too busy vlogging to collect the kids from school. You can cringe through the full series on iPlayer.

 

Published in Waitrose Weekend, April 19, 2018

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