Through the Keyhole

Monday, June 12, 2000 by

David Frost drawls his way through another tedious show. It appears as though he must get blasted before ambling onto the set and to be honest the viewers ought to as well.

Through the Keyhole started life in the mid ’80s as a segment on TV-am, when “Hello” was just a greeting, but now it occupies the wasteland that is BBC1′s afternoon schedule, limply presenting the houses of the once famous.

Once upon a time David Frost was the presenter of a ground breaking satire programme, he later became a power behind the scenes of television, the peak surely with the formation of LWT or perhaps when he did it again at TV-am. Now he must be reflecting on how he has fallen since those heady days as he shifts and slurs in front of the camera. His halting delivery is painful to watch and I’m squirming in my seat.

The show was desperately bad 10 years ago, but now? The sheer fact it’s on television shows there is something dreadfully amiss with the methods used to commission programmes. Its sole saving grace surely must be that it is cheap and produced in bulk, like cans of cut-price lager bought from Netto. Whoever wrote Frost’s script really needed to be taken out and shot as corny one-liners introduce the panel, themselves fading “stars” of television. As Jeremy Spake, Nina Myscow and Carol Barnes are introduced to the camera I’m left feeling that Call My Bluff is a high budget production. Lloyd Grossman is by far the most watchable character on the programme as he strolls around some B-list celeb’s house – he at least knows that this is where he started and seems happy to pay his dues.

We’re meant to work out “Who lives in a house like this?” but instead of leaving us to guess along with the panel the identity is revealed to us and the audience. And to be sure we don’t mistake them for somebody else their name is helpfully plastered across the screen, which frankly helped me, David Carradine not being the hottest property in Hollywood at present. Carol Barnes seems to be mysteriously clued up on the identity of the mystery guest, thus prompting Frost to immediately capitulate and bring Carradine on for the obligatory powder puff interview. Dull is not really a sufficient word to describe this, Carradine having had a personality bypass at some point.

Throughout the whole show Grossman is the only person not to fall into caricature. Spake, has taken to telly with indecent gusto, camping it up – albeit competently – in front of the cameras. Nina Myscow, the venom-spitting scourge of the dailies during the ’80s, now mews, fearing where her next fix of media attention will come from. Carol Barnes, husky and sultry, appears uncomfortable throughout.

Then it’s on to the second house. The clues suggest a dancer or classical singer: can it be Darcey Bussell or is it Lesley Garrett? Do we really care? Not much, actually. As the anaemic Wayne Sleep appears I finally lose all interest.

Precisely how are we meant to get pleasure from this programme? It’s not as though Grossman rummages around the underwear drawer or laughs at the lapses in taste in their record collection. This is a carefully guided tour of how the personality wants to be shown. We get interviews that Terry Wogan at his worst would find embarrassing, and we’re left knowing nothing more of the celebrity than before. Through the Keyhole serves only to waste a perfectly good half hour of somebody’s time.

Can I get a refund? David, it’s over to you…


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