If you despise Keith Lemon, now really is not a time to be staying on to watch the telly. With Celebrity Juice having just begun its eleventh series and his revival of Through the Keyhole landing on ITV tonight, it looks like Leigh Francis’s irrepressible alter-ego is here to stay for quite a while.
Fans of the original series, fronted by the late Sir David Frost until 2008, will have been relieved to see that the format has remained relatively unchanged. Apart from a jazzy new set and edgier presenter, the concept is the same: a celebrity panel watch a VT (‘that stands for video tape’) of a tour around a mystery star’s home, with various clues scattered throughout the video, and attempt to decipher, with the help of the audience, who lives in a house like that. As with the best gameshows, it’s such a simple concept which makes for an entertaining and long-running show.
Stepping into the shoes of Frost and Loyd Grossman, and preparing to make their show “rudererer”, was Celebrity Juice host, Keith Lemon, and answering the question ‘’Oo ‘abitates in an ‘ouse like this’ this week were the usual panel show fodder of Eamonn Holmes, Martine McCutcheon and Through the Keyhole regular, Dave Berry.
I expected to dislike this revival. With the ghosts of Sing if You Can and LemonAid still haunting ITV viewers, it would be fair to say that the channel took something of a punt on getting Keith Lemon onboard to host it but it appears that they may just have found the ideal format – outside of ITV2 – for him.
You see the truth is that Through the Keyhole is quite an enjoyable show. For once there’s no prize involved – be it novelty or otherwise – and no scoring system to result in a panellist being crowned that episode’s champion: it’s just a fun little game – albeit one which would be made more enjoyable if we were allowed to play along, and the audience and viewers weren’t given the correct answer so quickly.
Granted, it’s not the 55 minutes of non-stop laughs that ITV might have us believe (as a gameshow, none of the magic has been lost, whereas as a comedy, next-to-no magic has been created) but there is a certain charm to Through the Keyhole which, try as I may, I simply cannot deny. I think I’ve inherited my nosiness from my mam (who, if a neighbour’s house is up for sale, can’t resist going on the estate agent’s website and having a look at their kitchen and bathroom) so I relished seeing how many shoes Louis Smith had, how messy (a somewhat slimmer) John Prescott’s book shelves were, and what was inside Duncan from Blue’s wardrobe. Usually you have to pay for a copy of Hello! magazine for that sort of access – but ITV are generously giving us it for free.
‘A WISE DECISION’
Keith is also surprisingly palatable as a host. The reason why most people love him on Celebrity Juice is that he can be as rude and crude as he likes – and astonishingly gets away with it – because that’s just the character. He is a very crude person. It also helps that it’s post-10pm ITV2, of course. Conversely, the reason why most people hated him on the aforementioned Sing If You Can and LemonAid is that they were scheduled at such a time on ITV that he just couldn’t get away with saying nearly half of the stuff that he does on Juice and the like. People love Keith when he’s being rude, and ITV have made a very wise decision in putting Keyhole in a post-watershed slot so that, while a few F-words have to be censored, Leigh Francis can get away with saying a bit more than he usually would and therefore comes across as a much better host – or rather the character does.
And for those who will continue to slate Keith as Keyhole’s host (for there will be many), just remember that Sir David Frost, who was at the show’s helm for over twenty years and still partly owns the rights to the format, attended the recording of the revival’s pilot, and gave his blessing for it to go ahead. And be honest: could you possibly argue with David Frost? I mean, it didn’t do Richard Nixon much good, did it?
So I was pleasantly surprised by Through the Keyhole. Whereas Julia Raeside warned Guardian readers, ‘Whatever you do, don’t peer Through the Keyhole,’ I thought it was a very good successor for the original series, and a great way to round off ITV’s (relatively) strong Saturday night line-up.
Through the Keyhole is on Saturday nights on ITV
What did you think of Through the Keyhole? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.
You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.