A couple of years in the past, early in his time as controller of BBC Two, Patrick Holland bought a name asking if he’d have a gathering with Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse, who needed to pitch an thought. After all, he was an enormous fan: they had been comedy heroes of his within the 90s. However then the assembly occurred and Holland’s coronary heart sank, as a result of the undertaking turned out to be one about … fishing.
“I assumed: I’m new on the job, the very first thing on my to-do record was not going to be a present about two previous guys going fishing collectively,” says Holland, earlier than altering “previous guys” to “older gents” after which deciding on “middle-aged” (Mortimer and Whitehouse are actually 61 and 62).
Because the assembly went on, although, it turned clear that it wasn’t all, and even very a lot, about fishing however extra about friendship and mortality. It could be very humorous as a result of Mortimer and Whitehouse are very humorous. They solid their wit and their appeal and Holland took the bait, although when he informed his channel staff “I type of barely cringed as a result of I assumed nobody goes to suppose that that is the way forward for tv.”
Perhaps it’s although: with the credit just about nonetheless rolling on the finish of the third sequence of Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing (over a drone shot of the attractive River Wye), Holland has simply commissioned a fourth.
The concept began off, earlier than that assembly, not as an thought for tv in any respect. Mortimer had had triple coronary heart bypass surgical procedure; he was depressed. Whitehouse, who’d additionally had coronary heart issues, supplied to take him fishing. “Paul is a really considerate particular person,” says the present’s govt producer, Lisa Clark. “He knew Bob was feeling fairly down and scared to exit.”
It was solely after they bought to the river and began chatting and larking about that they thought there might be one thing in it. That authenticity is the present’s secret, says Clark. “We didn’t put them collectively as a result of they’d be humorous, they’d been buddies for years, it was a real supply from Paul to assist Bob.”
Any doubts Holland had about giving them the inexperienced mild disappeared when he bought to see it. He knew it will be humorous, “however I had no thought till these first episodes began to come back again simply how particular and touching it will be. And open and tough, in the best way each of them strategy topics that males of the age may discover onerous to debate.”
The primary sequence was quite a bit about being ageing males and their dicky tickers. They’ve gone on to speak about childhood, friendship, mother and father, loss, recollections, kids. Fishing and fish, too: they’ve even caught a number of, earlier than placing them gently again into the water.
It has performed effectively, rising to somewhat underneath 2 million viewers. It has additionally hit one thing of a nerve. A fast Twitter scan for #GoneFishing reveals, from @1StevieKilner: “Actually good to listen to Bob Mortimer discussing despair @MVGoneFishing. For me, the person has lengthy been a pick-me-up throughout tough occasions and he and Paul have gone an extended approach to reminding us of the fantastic issues that come from true friendship.” From @FrancescaCawood: “Mortimer and Whitehouse’s Gone Fishing is the most effective antidote to ‘all of this’.” And so many extra.
Dr Anand Patel, a GP and males’s well being specialist on the Centre for Males’s Well being, appeared on the ultimate episode of the final sequence, becoming a member of Mortimer and Whitehouse to speak about males’s stuff – down there, up there, throughout. His impression was of a really complementary relationship. “You get an awesome sense of what male friendship is,” he says.
Friendships are so essential, Patel says. Males aren’t at all times sensible at conserving them going, about getting again in contact with somebody they haven’t seen for some time as a result of work or household has bought in the best way. “It’s not about saying: do you wish to come and discuss? It’s like: do you fancy coming and doing one thing – the cinema, the pub, no matter your bag is? Bumping alongside shoulder to shoulder relatively than essentially head to head appears to be essential, it takes the strain off speaking.”
Males are additionally negligent of their well being, each bodily and psychological, Patel says. “One of many causes males’s life expectancy is shorter is that they often arrive [at the doctor] a lot later in an sickness, in most cancers say – they’ve had most cancers for longer.”
Together with erectile dysfunction, psychological well being is essentially the most tough factor to deliver up. It’s bettering, says Patel, youthful generations are higher about speaking, to docs and to buddies. However in over-50s, three-quarters of suicides are males. “Males can speak about their emotions and their well being, but it surely does in some sense require a catalyst,” he says. “It’s about normalising stuff as effectively.”
That’s why it’s excellent news that Mortimer and Whitehouse are discussing despair in addition to heart problems, their prostates and their willies so publicly on the telly. “It’s so instrumental in getting individuals to consider themselves,” says Patel.
Clark says the response has been inspiring. “We’ve had letters from individuals saying ‘I’m going to speak to my physician about psychological well being’. I do know Paul and Bob: each time they’re out, individuals say ‘thanks’, ‘that helped’. Our sequence two director, Will Yapp, we had been filming it and he felt a bit humorous, he bought checked out, and he ended up having coronary heart surgical procedure. I used to be like, bloody hell, it’s catching.”
Clark gained’t say the place they’ll be fishing within the subsequent sequence, but it surely gained’t be wherever distant. In addition to all these different issues, Gone Fishing is about celebrating the pure loveliness of this nation. Like the ultimate scene of the final episode, Mortimer floating off down the Wye in his “boat” (extra like a bowl, as Whitehouse says), accompanied by Andrew Gold.
“Fingers up who wept at Thank You for Being a Pal” tweeted @magnet25433. I think about fairly a number of arms went up.