Thursday, April 5, 2001 by

Still there exists this unceasing desire to produce a British television equivalent of The Late Show With David Letterman. BBC Choice’s The Recommended Daily Allowance though, (back for a second series) is rather strange and amateurish, and all the more endearing as a result.

Key to its success has to be the easy charm of presenter John Gordillo, who’s ramshackle but relaxed presentational style is a refreshing change from the cynicism of (this programme’s most obvious antecedent) The 11 O’clock Show‘s Iain Lee. On the face of it, The RDA is an obvious, rather weary blend of boringTFI-style stunts, amusing Dennis Pennis-style showbiz reporters and C-list Jack Docherty type guests. Yet there is something subtly different about this programme that – for now – makes it a pleasant weekday, late night fixture.

Perhaps of most interest, is The RDA‘s fascination with its own existence as a television programme on a little watched digital channel. On a later show there is a reference to the fact that rehearsals have been continually interrupted by activity taking place in the adjoining studio. Not the stuff of most entertainment shows surely? However, The RDA actually elects to jettison an interview with guest Wincey Willis, in favour of sending her next door to find out what’s going on.

Tonight’s show begins by informing us that not only are we in for “28 minutes of inclusive airtime”, but that the programme is also running seven minutes late due to the culmination of the “Who shot Phil Mitchell?” episode of EastEnders. Gordillo, obviously not yet accustomed to the mores of television presenting, spends time thanking the audience for coming and fulsomely expresses his hope that we have “a great time”. With that we have the opening music, accompanied by a caption explaining that the programme has been recorded in “BBC TV Centre, Studio TC2″ and that this is “Episode IV”. The belief that we care about such details is intriguing and as such ensures that – in fact – we do. More strangeness follows with an unprompted and seemingly motiveless tribute to Trade Unionist Rodney Bickerstaff. After this, it looks as if we are heading for traditional light night fare as Gordillo presents round one of “Britain’s Gayest Man”. True to form this is pretty forgettable and only The RDA‘s willingness to disclose where they advertised for contestants being of note. This rather trivial disclosure, along with Gordillo’s admission that each of the “gay men” have their name surreptitiously written on their backs (to ensure he does not forget their names) ensure this item is not entirely forgettable.

The RDA is billed as providing a topical reaction to the day’s news, yet it is patently more concerned with its own existence then reflecting what’s going on in the outside world. The only real concession to its billed manifesto is the inclusion of a guest reviewer who is (in the fashion of these things) expected to cast a wry eye across the day’s headlines. Yet even here, the focus is not on the content but more on the method employed to deliver the message. In a few days time we are able to enjoy the thoughts of two teenage girls (who reflect with typical cynicism on the goings on in EastEnders), but tonight Gordillo’s car mechanic, Walter Cress proves an entertaining and charming amateur reporter. Assigned to cover both the Choice FM Black Music and Maxim Women of the Year awards, Cress proves himself no Dennis Pennis, but is treated with suspicion by his celebrity interviewees nonetheless. The best moments here are when Cress decides to tell a bemused Eubank a little of his life story, and when black music act Damage re-appear at the Maxim Music awards and greet Cress like a long lost friend. Cress genuinely mistakes one of the award’s waitresses as a potential nominee (such is his ignorance of popular culture) and has to ask others the names of passing celebrities. Such moments would seem to be pure RDA.

The RDA has failed to make any kind of impression in the popular media (with those few comments being mostly negative), but that’s the way the programme seems to like it. For now it works because it is “our little secret”. It will probably fizzle out in a couple of months never to return (daily topical comedy shows are notoriously hungry beasts), yet for now, it is worth your attention, even if it is just as a passing piece of flotsam which if ever chanced upon in future years will surely – due to its transience – evoke far stronger memories of spring of 2001 than either Hear’say or Foot and Mouth.


Comments are closed.