Many moons ago, people watched Big Brother in droves, it lived on Channel 4, and a star was born. Not actually from the house itself (sorry Brian Dowling) but from the snazzy indents that were essentially the bits with a phone company’s logo on and a strange man holding the first Big Brother winner – Craig Phillips – captive in a wardrobe. This was Avid Merrion, creation of Leigh Francis. Bit of an unlikely break some would say, but fast forward a decade-and-a-bit and Francis’ most popular character to date – Keith Lemon, star of Celebrity Juice and soon to have his own film – is now turning the tables on that chrysalis and starring in a brand new reality programme, all about him.
“He hasn’t lost any of his affectionate venom as the years have passed”
It might seem odd to put together a reality programme about a fictitious character, but perhaps it’s a little more honest than taking so-called ‘real’ people and putting them into constructed scenarios; dropping them into a completely contained house for the summer under the assumption that when they come out there’ll be a job waiting for them presenting late night casino telly, or flogging steak knives on the shopping channel. At least Lemon La Vida Loca is clear about its deceptions from the start.
Promising to film behind the scenes of the movie being made (it really is being made!) and his life, this bizarre concept seems to work. With the smattering of celebs surrounding Keith and his girlfriend Rosie it’s actually very funny watching people react to the mini scenes the pair create in front of them. In fact, it’s almost the inverse of the majority of contemporary reality shows, with the stars choosing the dramas and the crew and extras having to respond, providing the ‘naturalism’.
The first event in the peroxide pair’s tumultuous life is Rosie moving down from Leeds and in with Keith. With gratuitous amounts of nudity, pornographic duvet sets and swingball (and you can imagine how well they went down at the swanky estate agent’s office) Leigh Francis isn’t pulling any punches with this latest vehicle for his creations.
Lemon is ideally situated to poke the bear that is celebrity culture – he rubs shoulders with them every week, be they ‘talented’ actors or reality ‘personalities’. Having started with a comment on fandom, it’s good to see he hasn’t lost any of his affectionate venom as the years have passed. Playing swingball with Dane Bowers, the D-lister asks Keith Lemon if he’s played against any celebrities “apart from me”, only to get a boastful and clearly fictitious response. It’s clear that all the cool kids know they’re not really that cool and are content with that. The really cool kids, the ones who won’t appear on the show and whose noses are actually put out by the supposed depiction of their lifestyles, are lampooned by their own aloofness. Could it be that the ultimate fanboy has subversively levelled the playing field of celebrity, turning celebs into his fans? Surely this means the world is about to implode! Best not to think about it too much.
Lemon La Vida Loca, ITV2, (started last week) Thursday 9 August 2012