CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Hell is five obnoxious show-offs in a Costa del Legless karaoke bar
Strangers On A Plane
The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, famously miserable even by French standards, hated parties. ‘Hell is other people,’ he said, puffing his pipe.
Grumpy old Jean-Paul barely knew he was born. The deepest circle of Hell is being trapped with people you met 12 hours ago, tanked up on stale lager and doing karaoke in a crowded bar. In Benidorm.
Strangers On A Plane (Ch4) proves it, by sending five obnoxious show-offs on holiday together and handing each of them a wad of euros to organise a day’s entertainment.
The aim, gloated comedian Amy Gledhill’s voiceover, is to get them ‘loving and loathing each other’s idea of fun’. This sadistic format is a twist on the long-running Come Dine With Me, with players blearily rating each party package, the morning after.
Strangers On A Plane (Ch4) proves it, by sending five obnoxious show-offs on holiday together. Pictured: Wyen, Lisa and Exaucé
Unlike the sister show Coach Trip, there’s not even a half-hearted pretence that we’re watching a travelogue. None of these activities is meant to entice us, let alone showcase the Costa del Legless as a desirable holiday destination.
‘Singer and entrepreneur’ Wyen, aged 33, took the group sailing on a yacht — dismissed by the rest as a fishing boat — and served them the sort of fizzy wine that comes with a plastic cork.
Waiter Jason, 37, nearly took his eye out opening it, but that didn’t stop him leaping over the side for a dip. ‘I’m game as a badger,’ he shouted, though his high spirits didn’t last. Before the end of the night, at a dingy pub, he was in high dudgeon, claiming that 21-year-old Glaswegian barber Exaucé, the youngest of the bunch, was sniggering at him.
Exauce denied this. Mind you, he did have a peculiar laugh (‘Like a phone on vibrate,’ commented Amy). He also had a metal fork stuck through his curls like a lightning conductor. Jason could simply have taken the mickey right back, but instead he flounced out and missed the karaoke. That’s probably the wisest course.
The Roy siblings also ended up in a karaoke club, after drama and flounces at the banquet before oldest son Connor’s wedding on Succession (Sky Atlantic).
Connor (Alan Ruck) was venting his emotions by singing along to Leonard Cohen, a songwriter who makes Jean-Paul Sartre look like the third Chuckle Brother. This torment, said Roman (Kieran Culkin), was ‘Guantanamo-level’.
When their father, the fulminating Logan Roy (Brian Cox), turned up, it seemed for a moment as if he was going to grab the microphone and launch into Sweet Caroline. Instead, he soaked up his clan’s ceaseless whinges, shocked them by offering an apology, and then quietly eviscerated them: ‘I love you, but you are not serious people.’
The Roy siblings also ended up in a karaoke club, after drama and flounces at the banquet before oldest son Connor’s wedding on Succession
That line, delivered without his usual curses and imprecations, cut to the heart of the Shakespearean show. All four of the media king’s children are, in every sense, pretenders to his throne.
Longing to inherit their father’s power and status, they can’t understand how he achieved it in the first place. Logan succeeded because he was desperate to escape poverty. His children are prisoners of wealth, which is very different.
As he stormed out of the club, Logan pushed past beggars on the New York street and seethed aloud that it might do Connor and the rest of them some good to try living on the sidewalk.
But Logan knows it’s too late to teach them, just as he knows that his swashbuckling speeches in a TV newsroom can’t turn a bunch of overpaid talking heads into investigative journalists.
All through Succession, we’ve been waiting to see who wins. Now it’s starting to look as if they will all lose.
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