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TV review: Johnny Vegas: Carry on Glamping

Benjie Goodhart / 30 April 2021

Johnny Vegas plans his dream glamping site, complete with vintage buses and outdoor cinema, in new reality series Johnny Vegas: Carry on Glamping.

Johnny Vegas and Bev
Johnny Vegas and Bev in Johnny Vegas: Carry on Glamping, Channel 4. C John Manktelow

Johnny Vegas: Carry on Glamping 1/4, Wednesday 5th May, 10pm, Channel 4

Oh lawks. Camping. My wife has signed us up for a camping weekend with families from my daughter’s class in early June. I have a number of problems with this, but it all essentially boils down to one thing: I loathe camping.

I mean, what’s the point? We all have perfectly nice homes, with deliciously solid walls, double glazing that keeps out the noise, insulation that keeps us warm, and curtains that block out the light. We have heavenly flushing toilets, running taps, fridges to keep things cool, ovens and hobs to heat them up. We have sofas, tellies, beds, duvets, light switches, wardrobes, computers, electricity. And yet, for some utterly unfathomable reason, we choose to eschew all of this for a weekend so we can go and sit in a field, possibly in drizzle, almost certainly freezing our nipples off, eating food that is either charred beyond recognition or terrifyingly raw, before going to bed stinking of bonfire and praying we don’t need the loo in the night. Or, indeed, for the whole weekend (a long shot, that…)

In an attempt to mollify me, my wife has booked a spot of glamping for us. So we’ll have a bell tent already put up when we arrive (which at least limits the likelihood of tent-erecting divorce) and kitted out with home comforts like beds and chairs. Slightly less-good versions of the things we have left at home, in fact. I don’t hold out much hope, but we’ll see how it goes.

If I have to go camping, though, I think I know where I’d like to do it: Johnny Vegas’ campsite. Instead of tents, he has vintage, converted buses, which offers more in the way of both aesthetics and home comforts. Plus there’s a bar.

At least, that’s the idea, as sketched out in the opening episode of this four-part series that follows his efforts to start his dream glamping site. I don’t actually know if the campsite is up and running, because I’m only one episode in. And at the end of the first episode, it doesn’t look too hopeful. Mind you, that tends to be the way these series work. If it was plain sailing from beginning to end, it would basically be a series about successful admin and a little bit of straightforward building work. We need the disasters to make it watchable.

Which, it must be said, this series certainly is. Johnny Vegas is as funny, charming, self-deprecating, scatter-brained and daft as you’d expect him to be. (For those of you unfamiliar with his oeuvre, Vegas is a comedian and actor, with credits including Benidorm and Bleak House). His dream is to set up a bespoke, boutique campsite, consisting of five restored and converted old buses, the bar, an open-air cinema, a picnic area and sculpture park. “It’s an idea to do something proper, away from TV,” he explains. Which is all very well, but he has invited a camera crew along to film the ride…

Friends and family are sceptical that Vegas will see the job through. Apparently he has a tendency to start all sorts of projects and not see them through. More often than not, it falls to his long-suffering PA, a bubbly and brilliantly efficient woman called Bev, to take the reins.

But, to give him his due, things get off to a decent start. Vegas has found a bus online and bought it. The only problem? It’s in Malta. Despite this geographical hiccup, Vegas is thrilled with it – his childish glee is contagious (not a word with happy connotations of late, but you get the idea). Now they have to ship it home. They’ve also found a location – some National Trust land near Snowdonia. And it looks beautiful.

So far so good. But when things start to fall apart, it’s safe to say, they really fall apart. Disaster follows catastrophe, on a spectacularly epic scale. Johnny’s dreams are left in tatters (although we’ve three more episodes to fill, so unless the last three are just him sitting in a rusty old bus crying, there’s plenty more story to come). In the meantime, he does what we all would when things go wrong, given half a chance: He goes to visit his mum. And she, as it turns out, is rather splendid…

Ian Wright: Home Truths, Thursday 6th May, 9pm, BBC One

Being a parent isn’t an easy business. I appreciate that, as revelations go, this is up there with “ice is cold”. It’s a truism, parenting is fraught with difficulty. I genuinely feel I get it wrong every day. I am grumpy and irritable, I can often lack consistency, and I automatically tune my brain out every time my son starts telling me about computer games. (Although I defy anyone to listen to him talk about Call of Duty for an hour and not weep bitter tears of boredom).

But I love my children with all my heart. I might get it wrong as often as I get it right, but they know they are loved, and loved unconditionally. That doesn’t make me a hero, or a saint, or anything even remotely out of the ordinary. It just makes me a parent. Like any other.

Or like almost any other.

Some parents don’t get it. The footballer Ian Wright was on a (quite brilliant) episode of Desert Island Discs last year, in which he spoke publicly for the first time about growing up in an abusive household.

Now, after a year like no other, domestic abuse is on the agenda for tragically prescient reasons. In the last year, 1.6 million people in this country will have suffered domestic abuse. In 90% of cases, a child will have been present. In this searingly honest and powerful film, Wright wonders what the impact of all of this will have on these kids – and what impact it still has on him.

Anyone who has ever watched Ian Wright, on or off the pitch, knows that he possesses a capacity for great joy, and is a hugely charismatic, emotional, larger-than-life character. But behind the scenes, he’s also consumed by sadness and anger that stem directly from the abuse he suffered as a kid.

“We all lived in constant fear,” he recalls of living with his stepfather. The man beat Ian’s mother mercilessly, while Ian’s big brother would put his hands over his smaller sibling’s ears so he didn’t have to hear it. But Ian, too, was abused, both physically and emotionally. For me, one of the most devastating parts of Wright’s brutally honest and candid recollections involved Match of the Day, the programme on which he now works. As a nine-year-old, he adored the programme. But his stepfather used to make him stand and face the wall whenever it was on – just because he could.

Wright’s mum, abused and damaged herself, also went on to abuse her son. He goes back to the single room that all four of them lived in in Southeast London, and the memories come thick and fast. “There’s no love here,” he remarks, as he leaves. It is heart-rending to watch, one can only imagine what it must have been like to live.

During the course of an hour that is as informative as it is affecting, Wright meets other victims of abuse, has a session with a psychiatrist, and looks at schemes that are in place to try and identify at risk families and stop abuse from happening. He visits his old school – a place which saved him, thanks to the kindness of a teacher, Mr Pigden, who changed his life. Today, there is a delightful and dedicated head of pastoral care who seeks to inject positivity into the lives of children who may not get it at home. And he meets a man with a violent past, who is determined to change his ways now that he has become a father.

I the end, though, this is a film with Ian Wright at its heart, and it is his journey that is the most affecting. His bravery and commendable openness in discussing the traumas of his past is genuinely heroic. But his pain is also a sign that the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons. Kids carry this stuff forever. As parents, we all need to remember that.

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The best… and the rest:

Saturday 1st May

The Great Garden Revolution 1/4, 8pm, Channel 4: People around the country transform their outdoor spaces with the help of a team of experts. Tonight, how to create a garden the whole family can enjoy.

Zara and Mike: No Nonsense Royals, 9pm, Channel 5: Documentary looking at the relationship between the pair, from unlikely beginnings, through highs and lows, to the successful partnership they have today.

Sunday 2nd May

Line of Duty 7/7, 9pm, BBC One: Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey, could we just find out who H is please? It’s been seven series now!!! Anyway, tonight sees the last in the series of the phenomenally successful police thriller. Now we’re sucking on diesel!

Monday 3rd May

Beat the Chasers, 9pm, ITV: New series of the show that pits teams of contestants against a terrifying combination of the chasers, for some serious money. Stripped across the week.

Tuesday 4th May

The Money Maker, 9pm, Channel 4: Brand new series in which entrepreneur Eric Collins sets out to help struggling businesses with both his expertise and a cash investment.

Thursday 6th May

Millie Dowler: The Botched Investigation 1/2, 9pm, Channel 5: Two-part true crime documentary series looking at the terrible case of Millie Dowler, and the questions that have to be asked of both the police and the media in its aftermath.

Friday 7th May

Revealed: Cleopatra’s Lost City, 9pm, Channel 5: The results of a three-decade investigation to uncover one of ancient Egypt’s greatest lost cities, Canopus, which has been lost beneath the waves.

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