mon 19/08/2019

Steph and Dom Meet Nigel Farage, Channel 4 / Bullseyes and Beer - When Darts Hit Britain, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews

Steph and Dom Meet... Nigel Farage, Channel 4 / Bullseyes and Beer - When Darts Hit Britain, BBC Four

Steph and Dom Meet... Nigel Farage, Channel 4 / Bullseyes and Beer - When Darts Hit Britain, BBC Four

Controversial pub-going politician quizzed by the couple from hell

Guess who's coming to dinner: Nigel Farage has a nightcap with the Parkers

The idea of having a politician crossing the threshold of one's own home is enough to send most citizens diving for the Prozac (or the taser), and Nigel Farage provokes responses at the extreme end of the spectrum. Then again, Farage may have experienced reciprocal emotions on being invited to pop down to the not-so-humble abode of Dominic and Stephanie Parker, the loud and opinionated "posh couple" from Gogglebox.

But Farage would have assessed the potential publicity value of appearing in the programme (***), since he'll be the UKIP candidate for Sandwich, Kent in the 2015 general election. And Sandwich is where the Parkers run their top-end B&B, The Salutation, a grade one listed house designed by Edwin Lutyens.You never know what's been going on in the editing suite in so-called "reality" programmes, so it was hard to tell just how prepared Farage was for his encounter, but he apparently coped comfortably with the barrage of booze, banter and mild abuse dished out by his hosts. Compared to some of the bizarre specimens which keep popping up in the UKIP ranks, this noisome duo may just have been water off Nigel's back.

Dom kicked off proceedings by plying Nige with beer, then he took him down to the George and Dragon for a few more. Steph rang up demanding to know where they were. "We're just going to have another quick sharpener and then we'll be back," promised Dom.

The most revealing part was when he described his history of life-threatening events

"Where the fuck have you been, both of you?" bawled Steph fishwifeishly when they finally reappeared at The Salutation, as she uncorked some pink champagne. Nigel manage to drop his glass and splash the pink stuff all over his trousers, so he ended up in a pair of Dom's ripped jeans.

Amid the ongoing conveyor belt of food and (mostly) drink, the increasingly ragged posh couple pestered Farage with questions. These steered conspicuously clear of the hot-button issues of immigration and the EU, though Steph did bring up the photograph of Farage where the microphone in front of his face looked like Hitler's moustache. "It didn't make me laugh," said Nigel. Why not? "I don't think Hitler's very funny." However, he had encountered Alessandra Mussolini at the European parliament. Maybe she could be his third wife, suggested Dom. "I don't think so," said Farage. "I'm too much of a lefty for her."

Farage doubted he'd become prime minister and claimed he just wants to "change things". The most revealing part was when he described his history of life-threatening events – testicular cancer at 21, then a near-fatal road accident and an air crash. "I'm still here, I live life to the full, and we're only here once," he declared. Then he was whisked off into the Kentish night, having handled his drink far more adroitly than his interlocutors, and with no detail of UKIP policy having been subjected to scrutiny.

We're always seeing Farage in the pub, but does he play darts? The Timeshift documentary Bullseyes and Beer: When Darts Hit Britain (***) was a nostalgic look back at how darts evolved through the '70s and '80s from a smoke-dried saloon bar pastime to a class-crossing entertainment phenomenon, starring such larger, and often heavier, than life characters as Alan Evans, Eric Bristow, Bobby George and Phil Taylor (Bristow, "the Crafty Cockney", pictured above).

Even before TV took an interest, the top players had been scooping up piles of readies thanks to the intense betting interest surrounding the game. It was ITV's decision to televise darts on World of Sport in 1972 that lit the commercial fuse, and when BBC Two followed suit the dartsmen were in clover. BBC producer Nick Hunter not only introduced the metaphor-coining commentator Sid Waddell, but also the revelatory idea of split-screen coverage, so you could see the player's face reacting to the dart hitting the board.

A peg for the programme was the upcoming film of Martin Amis's London Fields, in which his character Keith Talent is a darts player. Amis had studied darts, and unburdened himself of an intricately-wrought soundbite: "On its tiny scale it is elemental – it's really tiddlywinks in a bear pit." Though I'm not sure that quite captures it.

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