THE CHOIR, Thursday 11th October, BBC2, 9pm
Stephen Fry is the archetypal national treasure, having spent thirty years in the public eye as a comedian, novelist, and raconteur. He is beloved of people Left and Right, young and old. Ditto Sir David Attenborough. Recently, divisive figures like Boris Johnson and Jeremy Clarkson have been anointed into this prestigious club, muddying the waters as to what constitutes national treasure status. Itâs as if all thatâs required is to be over the age of forty, preferably with a long-running presence on the BBC, and to possess obligatory Middle England curtain-twitcher appeal.
The Choirâs Gareth Malone, 37, is fast approaching national treasure status, despite looking like one of the leads in a primary school production of Jeeves and Wooster. With his unwavering smiley upbeat persona, Gareth wouldnât know anxiety if it grabbed him by his bow tie and smacked him in the face. Heâs a bit too nice. Someone needs to cut his endorphin supply.
This week Gareth visits the Midlands to gather 30 Severn Trent Water employees to sing in his choir. Severn Trent Water is very corporate, with 5,000 employees in a wide range of departments: from sewage maintenance technicians to the fatcats in the seventh floor boardroom.
After scouring the company far and wide, Gareth whittles down the candidates by getting them to sing the classic nursery rhyme Row, Row, Row Your Boat, culling the weakest tryers before working out which sections of the orchestra to shoe-horn in the successful singers.
Gareth umms and ahhs over his selection like a seasoned football manager tinkers with formations, unable to decide whether to go with the operatic equivalent of a continental 4-3-3 system or a traditional 4-4-2. Personally Iâd have gone with a false nine, but this analogyâs already careering off the road and into a garden wall, so let’s move swiftly on…
Leakage technician Josh is earmarked for the high tenor role until he has to pull out due to family commitments, which is a shame as he does have a good voice and evidently some untapped potential. Gareth even describes him as a ârough diamondâ?.
The makeshift choir vote on which song to sing, with Take Thatâs The Flood a popular vote until senior manager Andy Smith pisses on everyoneâs chips: â?Floodingâs not a good concept… sadly we did flood a treatment works in 2007 so we just have to be careful with that.â? Smith displays comic timing that wouldnât look out of place in an episode of The Office.
The choir settle on Ready for the River and perform it in front of some âreal menâ? who wear fluorescent jackets and dig roads to much acclaim.
Gareth takes time to visit a sewage works and asks the worker: âwhatâs the worst thing youâve had come through the sewer?â? Who responds matter-of-factly with the bizarre revelation: âWe had a manâs willy come through once.â?
Baffled, I spent the rest of the show trying to work out how a penis found its way into a sewer. Frankly, Iâve got absolutely no idea. But it would make for a more interesting show than this one.