One for the bin… The Wright Stuff. Left to right: Luke Gell as Clive Beeches, David Haig as Gerald Wright, Mina Anwar as Malika Maha and Toby Longworth as Bernard Stanning. Photograph: BBC/Phil Mcintyre
One for the bin… The Wright Stuff. Left to right: Luke Gell as Clive Beeches, David Haig as Gerald Wright, Mina Anwar as Malika Maha and Toby Longworth as Bernard Stanning. Photograph: BBC/Phil Mcintyre
lucy-bellerby-byline-photo-bwA sitcom relying on an over-full bin for laughs is a stinker that should be sent to landfill says Lucy Bellerby


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A few months ago I laid into the televisual disaster that is Mrs Brown’s Boys. I thought TV couldn’t get any worse, and yet I’ve just spent the last 30 minutes watching Ben Elton’s new sitcom The Wright Way (BBC1).

This “comedy” is, to put it nicely, atrocious. Watching it is painful. It made my insides twist uncomfortably, and my toes curl up. It was like nails down a blackboard; completely and utterly unwatchable.

The show feels like a low rent panto, on in a dingy theatre in Slough, with a cast of supremely untalented and washed up soap actors; a broken Les from Corrie slipping on banana skins, then going into his dressing room to drink a bottle of Aldi gin and cry. I used to go to drama classes when I was a kid, and the show feels a lot like when we (a bunch of pretentious and precocious 12 year olds) were given a prop of a traffic cone and were given five minutes to improvise a sketch.

In Elton’s case, the prop of the day is a bin. The health and safety officer can’t get the bin bag out of the bin! The audience’s canned laughter builds. He still can’t get it out! Everyone is in hysterics, tears leaking out of their eyes as they slap their thighs in merriment. Five whole minutes later, and he’s only gone and ripped off the top of the sodding bin bag by accident! Good god someone help me, I’ve keeled over with laughter.

I reached the end and didn’t even know what the episode’s storyline was; the whole thing passed me by in a fog of Dick Van Dyke cockney and tumbleweeds rolling past Elton’s slack mouth and massive eyebrows. I hate to say it, but I think I may even miss Mrs bloody Brown.

A programme set in one of Manchester’s STI clinics may seem like an easy target for me, what with my love of all things trashy, reality and disgusting (Unsafe Sex in the City, BBC3). It’s true that the scope for herpes jokes is a pretty attractive prospect, and seeing cocky young lads reduced to shaking wrecks because a single swab to the nether regions is strangely satisfying.

Although the programme trades in the same gross-out mingingness of Embarrassing Bodies, the subject matter here is a lot more serious. The clinic sees hundreds of clueless jack-the-lads and gormless lasses cheerfully passing chlamydia between each other every day; totally unaware of the consequences.

They will openly brag about the vast numbers of partners they’ve slept with, but every time the nurse mentions the word “condom” they dissolve into mortified giggles. Sex education in this country is clearly dropping the (metaphorical, you pervs) ball somewhere. I’m not sure what the solution is; maybe we should force teenagers to Tweet the word CONDOM ten times a day till they aren’t scared of it anymore, or we could show them Instagrammed photos of a nasty case of syphilis.

The staff in the clinic should be knighted; they are completely unflappable and never judgemental. The lads who wear each bout of the clap like a badge of honour don’t even merit the bat of an eyelid from the stoical nurses.

If you’re squeamish then I would probably avoid watching Unsafe Sex In The City. But if you are the parent of a teenager I reckon you should load up iPlayer, sit them down and force them to watch it, preferably with you looming over their shoulder. When they see what they could catch, condoms suddenly won’t seem so scary.