CHRISTOPHER STEVENS on last night’s TV: The tonic we all needed… a drop of Eric & Ernie sunshine


CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: The tonic we all needed… a drop of Eric & Ernie sunshine

Dementia Choir At Christmas

Rating:

Gordon, Gino And Fred: Desperately Seeking Santa 

Rating:

The sign did it. I managed not to choke up until amateur singer Mick arrived at the Coliseum Theatre in London, home of the English National Opera.

Above the stage hung a banner: ‘Welcome Mick, enjoy your special day. Love from the ENO.’ After that, until the credits rolled… well. Reader, I blubbed.

Mick, 54, was one of the stars when actress Vicky McClure staged a concert last year to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases.

When she checked up on some of her performers in her Dementia Choir At Christmas (BBC1), Vicky was horrified at how badly lockdown has affected many of them.

Vicky McClure roped in her Line of Duty co-star Adrian Dunbar to help thrill Mick on Dementia Choir at Christmas

Vicky McClure roped in her Line of Duty co-star Adrian Dunbar to help thrill Mick on Dementia Choir at Christmas

The Mail has been campaigning vigorously for months to reunite residents of care homes with their families this Christmas.

Millions of people who have relatives in care are stranded in an angry, helpless limbo: we are forced to watch from a distance as their enforced isolation magnifies the confusion and loneliness of dementia.

For those caring for loved ones at home, lockdown has been just as tough. One woman looking after her grandmother said sadly: ‘She thought we were keeping her prisoner. She did say: ‘Why are you keeping me locked in?’ That was hard.’

Mick’s wife and daughter were frustrated beyond words to see his last opportunities for normal family life slipping away. By the time the pandemic is over, even if that happens quickly thanks to vaccines, it will be too late for Mick. His disease is progressing much faster than expected.

Noble lapse of the week:

Fiona, Countess of Carnarvon, was grumbling at her husband on Christmas At Highclere Castle (C4), home of Downton Abbey. He ‘forgot he was married’ — and hadn’t made her breakfast. Isn’t that Carson the butler’s job?

But when Vicky saw him in early autumn, he could still sing — and he still had an undimmed ambition to perform on a grand London stage.

The song Vicky picked for Mick to perform was Eric and Ernie’s signature tune, Bring Me Sunshine. That’s a duet, of course, so she invited a colleague to join in — her Line Of Duty co-star Adrian Dunbar, who plays Supt Ted Hastings.

How could he refuse? Adrian stepped up to the second microphone, and then we were really sucking diesel.

It was a barnstorming performance from the pair of them, topped with an impromptu dance routine. ‘I try me best,’ Mick said happily.

There was no audience, but that made no difference. Plenty of TV shows have found ways to work around coronavirus restrictions but this one went further — it found a way to alleviate some of the damage and misery… for Mick, and for all of us watching.

One thing we discovered on Gordon, Gino And Fred: Desperately Seeking Santa (ITV) is that none of the presenters can sing, at all. They rounded off this festive special in Lapland with a truly tuneless version of Merry Christmas Everyone. At least, I think that’s what they were attempting. Music that bad can’t be faked — they have to be actually tone deaf, all three of them.

Gordon Ramsay, Fred Sirieix and Gino D’Acampo call themselves The Three Amigos. The Three Egos would be closer to the mark. This was an hour of macho pretence and showing off, from a trio who are visibly bored of each other.

Their banter lacked energy, the high jinks were as forced as the grins. Fred in particular looked like he’d rather be anywhere else on earth.

The only sequence that had any real life was, tellingly, a challenge they undertook separately. A champion diver taught each of them in turn to swim under the ice of a frozen lake.

When Fred emerged, he had icicles in his beard. Gino’s goggles were frozen over. That’s taking a white Christmas too far.

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