Thursday, 15 July 2010

Living With Brucie - Review

Last night my lovely girlfriend was cleaning out her new Guinea Pigs (frustratingly, not named Tango & Cash) in very close proximity to our TV, thus I decided to save my Wednesday night must-see TV line-up of White Collar, Sons of Anarchy and Justified for another time when I won’t have to contend with soiled newspapers wafting in my face.

Instead I decided to see if I could find anything even remotely worth watching on one of the other myriad channels we have. As I flipped through the dismal crap that forms most of digital TV these days I saw that Channel 4 were airing a documentary I’d seen advertised a couple of times in recent days.

Unlike 99% of Channel 4’s documentary output, this one wasn’t about a man who’d had surgery to look like a Cat or a man who has a family of Inuits living in his beard from the channel’s, obviously popular, ‘Mark Dolan meets freaks’ series.

This documentary from supposed, as the name would suggest, cutting edge documentary filmmakers Cutting Edge took us behind the scenes with a man truly deserving of the moniker ‘national treasure’ Mr. Bruce Forsyth.

‘Living with Brucie’ was many things, at times it was in poor taste, at times it was a little uncomfortable to watch and at times you kind of wondered what the whole point of it was but that made it no less fascinating to watch.

At 82 years young Bruce, or Sir Bruce as he should be known if there was any justice in the World, has been performing nigh on all his life; he has almost seventy years in show business and is beloved by most of Britain.

Hailing from a golden generation of entertainers, most of who are now long gone, Brucie is the consummate entertainer but we know very little about him when he’s not entertaining.

That is where this documentary seemingly wanted to go with the film but with a camera in the vicinity, Bruce Forsyth just didn’t seem to be able to be himself. He practically stage-managed every shot, the concept of a documentary seemingly lost him, Bruce was constantly asking the filmmakers “was that alright?” etc.

It must be hard for anyone who’s been in front of the cameras for the best part of seven decades to act ‘normal’ with a camera shoved in their face.

We did get to see some sides of Bruce Forsyth that we don’t see as the jovial, well-meaning host of Strictly Come Dancing – an irritable Bruce kicking off with the security at the resort in Puerto Rico, where much of the footage was shot, after they nearly hit his golf buggy in their car trying to pull him over.

The filmmakers were probably salivating with excitement during that incident but it didn’t really have a revelatory feel to it, because let’s face it; we’d have all probably done the same thing, especially if we were in our 80s.

We also got to see Bruce at home, putting his blueberries into his porridge carefully so that they don’t clump up, washing his shirts and explaining his health regime – drinking lots of water and wearing socks to improve circulation.

It was also somewhat sad to see just how much performing took out of Bruce these days – his hosting of Have I Got News For You almost wiping him out completely.

I always imagined Bruce Forsyth would be on stage until he no longer physically could, but when asked if he could quit he responded that he could jack it all in any time he wanted to… I don’t think I quite believed him though.

This documentary was hardly on a Louis Theroux kind of level, the filmmakers mainly succeeding in proving what most people already knew: Bruce Forsyth is an old man.

They didn’t really probe too deep in to what must be one hell of a life, seemingly more concerned with what Bruce’s former Miss World wife Winelia actually saw in him. If this was a new marriage this might have been a viable line of questioning but after 27 years of seemingly happy marriage I think they’ve proven that what ever it was that might have first got them together, they are in love and this is no flash in the pan.

Anyone with a brain knows you have to take documentaries with a pinch of salt and I’m in no doubt the filmmakers cherry-picked the footage that would get a reaction. The Forsyths obviously opened themselves up to being taken advantage of by allowing the camera crews into their lives and with Brucie having spent so much time in the business you’d think he’d know what he was letting himself in for…

With the filmmakers seemingly intent on perpetuating the ‘doddery old man’ stereotype that Bruce has been labelled with in recent years, I thought he managed to counteract that image as much as he could given that he is in fact a doddery old man; especially through a couple of scathing remarks about the filmmakers, that seemed to show that there was more going on behind Brucie’s eyes than he was being given credit for.

This documentary was hardly Cutting Edge as we were supposed to believe, it felt more like it would be at home in a gossip column in one of the dirt sheets. If the intention was, as it seemed to be, to depict loveable old Bruce Forsyth as some sort of grumpy old ogre then they failed dismally.

Because, although we did see some layers of this great entertainer that you would never see on the BBC, after 70 years in showbiz Bruce Forsyth appeared to still know how to play to the camera and managed to lead us on a merry dance.


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