Good Morning Lemmings and todays Questionable Time comes from Llandudno, seaside town par excellence and universally-recognised Lovely Part Of The World. Not for us the seafront, the Great Orme, and an afternoon trip to Conwy Castle, though: our lot is to listen to politicians say “all the spam on my email, that’s what winds me right up” in the first ever 68-hour episode of Question Time. I’m Mike and I’m taking over from his Loudribsness this week, so trust my luck to get a real baptism of Something Like Fire But Boring. As I watched the crowd move from “disinterested” to “borderline catatonic” I began to go a bit strange, and found myself wondering if the reason for the panel’s dullness was that they were hiding secret identities as superheroes. Surely, only the Clark Kents of this world say so little… but if they were concealing secret powers, what would they be? And more importantly, could I actually get a Questionable Time article out of it? Read on…
Liz Kendall, The Human Windmill: Liz Kendall’s arms are the closest thing that mortals will ever see to perpetual motion. Every time she spoke her arms took over, whirling in a way that’s unfortunately reminiscent of a very agitated Kermit The Frog. Liz would undoubtedly be the plucky-but-always-in-trouble one of the superhero group, until the chips were down and Mecha-Kendall would chop up the villains in a spurt of impassioned fury with her aircraft-propeller limbs. Or perhaps we could combine her with Simon Scharma and wipe out the necessity for all of the UK’s wind farms.
OK, let’s get the for-the-record bit in: Kendall had a good night. The NHS question was something of a grenade, but she negotiated it (just), partly by spinning a smart “How dare Cameron say Wales is crap” but mainly with the unusual tactic of actually sounding like she gave a damn about the subject. Her performance wasn’t without wobbles – interrupting an audience member is always dodgy ground – but she wasn’t patronising and came across as a rare thing, a politician who’s both knowledgeable and – shock horror – likeable. But well-deserved praise is no fun and I’ve got a tenuous analogy to continue, so let’s keep going.
David Jones, The Human Suit: If you show me a photo of Jones in a T-shirt, I’ll simply assume that a: you’ve gone to unfeasible lengths to hire a double or b: I’m hallucinating. Jones is clearly The Boss in our superhero collective, who runs some shady government department or other and tells all the other superheroes what to do while negotiating with his shadowy masters. He rather looks like he’d enjoy it. Plus, like all those figures, he has a mistake hidden deep within his dark past. It seems he broke the two primary Westminster rules: Don’t Seem Too Posh and Don’t Do Anything John Prescott Ever Did. A hundred-yard Jag ride is very Bloke In Charge.
Hywel Williams, The Human Shadow: I generally like the Welsh episodes because Plaid Cymru have a solid repertoire of good QT performers and can present an interesting alternative voice. Williams may even fit the bill, but it’s difficult to tell because he barely bothered to turn up at all and ended up resembling a sort of avuncular absence. Having spent most of the show avoiding answering anything in any meaningful way – his invoking of the IRA on the terrorism question looked like it might go somewhere interesting, but he then effectively shrugged and changed the subject – he finished off with the most spectacular backfire of a joke since, um, last week. I think it was meant to sound like “I lie to telesales peoples so they leave me alone” but instead came out as “Nobody can sell me anything because I’ve already got it, I’m so insured you’d be amazed.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the man who wasn’t there… but might good for the end-credits bad gag in our superhero show.
Isabel Hardman, The Human Chameleon: I suspect Hardman would be pretty good on a livelier panel, but she couldn’t lift this tepid affair and the most creditable thing she did was opt out of the POW-negotiation question. What started as sharp analysis lapsed into seventy-four variations on I Love Accountability, Me and her “I can’t stand pizza menus” contribution to the last question was a peak of banality. So I just found myself looking at her weirdly familiar face trying to work out who she looked like, and this morning I still haven’t managed it. My search for the answer has so far revealed she doesn’t like anyone in The Breakfast Club, Dark Season, Blake’s 7, Elastica, or my class at school. If nonspecific familiarity isn’t a superpower, I don’t know what is.
Nev Wilshire, The Human… Human? Apparently I was supposed to know who Nev Wilshire is, and I didn’t. Gah! Some frantic research revealed a BBC3 docudrama and that most things written about him use the phrase “real life David Brent” at some point, so you can understand why someone thought he’d be good Question Time box office. Well, sort of… after all, nobody wants to spend an hour with David Brent. So it was a relief when he turned out to be just some slightly gruff bloke, but the superhero throughline clearly collapses and dies here. He didn’t do anything terrible, and shrugged off the telemarketing question with a sort of weary bravado, but if you told me they’d pulled a randomer from the crowd and made him sit there I wouldn’t be so surprised.
(Not short of) Animation
(Brought me much) Aggravation
(A bit short on) Oration
(Nope, I can’t even be bothered)
The Crowd: 5/10
(Were practically in a) Hostage Situation
And that’s that, an episode that started out as a reasonably diverting and informative affair but tailed off into something between “dreary” and “I have a nostalgic yearning for the days of Closedown.” Look to the future, Lemmings. King’s Lynn awaits.