Who Do You Think You Are?

‘This is my manor,’ said Danny Dyer, at the start of this, the first of a new run of the celebrity genealogy show and, as it turned out, an all-time classic.

He was talking about Albert Square, but Dyer is no plastic East Ender. ‘People are gonna to expect me to be related to criminals,’ the reformed cockney tearaway admitted – so he was keen to prove them wrong by discovering he was descended from ‘aristocracy or summink’.

Things didn’t get off to a great start on that score, as Dyer visited the Mile End Workhouse where his great, great grandparents had lived a life of grinding poverty straight out of Oliver Twist. But further back, in the 1600s, he found his roots entangled with Suffolk landed gentry – including a dandy Cavalier in the English Civil War who, concluded Dyer, sounded like ‘a proper geezer’. (Even discussing 17th century history, he sounds like a man who’s about to start a pub fight.)

He went to meet his distant relative, the fifth Baron Tollemache – who lives in a castle. With a moat. ‘Geezer’s got a drawbridge,’ marveled Dyer. And it was here he made his most astonishing discovery: that he is, in fact, the 15x great grandson of Thomas Cromwell. Yes, that Thomas Cromwell – from Wolf Hall to the Queen Vic in 500 years.

At the ‘gaff’ where Cromwell made his fortune – Hampton Court Palace, to you and me – he learned how Henry VIII’s right-hand man had craftily engineered his own royal bloodline by marrying his son to Jane Seymour’s sister – little knowing that bloodline would one day produce the presenter of Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men. And through Seymour, Dyer could trace his heritage all the way back to his 22x great grandfather – some geezer called Edward III. Yes, I know.

Once he’d processed this information (‘in me nut’), Dyer responded as any reasonable, blue-blooded male would. ‘I’m gonna treat myself to a ruff,’ he declared, ‘and just bowl about the place.’

Fair enough. And don’t be surprised if, next time he shows us round his manor, it’s got a moat.


TV extra:

Walliams & Friend

The premise for this sketch show – in which David Walliams is joined by a different comedy partner each week – has legs. And both Walliams and his first stooge, Jack Whitehall, are funny, extremely likeable men. So it’s a pity the jokes are so flabby, with spoofs of Sherlock, James Bond and Jeremy Kyle all falling flat. Plus, it was too rude to appeal to Walliams’ vast army of young readers, which feels like a missed opportunity. We’ll be sticking to Horrible Histories, I’m afraid.


We Have Been Watching Christmas Special

This celebrity Gogglebox with a retro twist saw various sitcom couplings – Only Fools’ Marlene and Boycie, Miranda’s Steve and Tilly, etc – settling down to watch classic clips of Christmas comedies past, and widely agreeing everything was ‘genius’. It ended rather touchingly, though, with Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little – no slouches when it comes to sofa slouching – watching their late friend Caroline Aherne being heartbreakingly brilliant in a Royal Family Christmas spesh. Laughter and tears – that’s Christmas all over, isn’t it?

Published in Waitrose Weekend, December 1, 2016

(c) Waitrose Weekend