Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing review – A soothing, poignant day out with two of our most gifted comic performers

Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing review – A soothing, poignant day out with two of our most gifted comic performers

Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing review – A soothing, poignant day out with two of our most gifted comic performers

Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing review – A soothing, poignant day out with two of our most gifted comic performers

Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing review – A soothing, poignant day out with two of our most gifted comic performers 1

For the first episode of their third fishing series, the comedians Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer go to the middle-Tweed, for a crack at the mighty salmon, which eluded them on the Tay at the end of series two.

“You’re lucky to be here,” the veteran angler Paul explains to his friend, who even after 12 half-hour episodes is about as inexpert as when he started out. Whitehouse means that the Tweed is a prized fishing spot, but there’s also the sense of mortality that underpins the series. Both men have had heart problems and their trips are a chance for them – and us – to admire some magnificent scenery, enjoy their gentle humour, and muse vaguely on life. Initially Gone Fishing was an opportunity for Whitehouse to get his old mate out and about after his operation. When they started in 2018, I don’t expect either man would have imagined that the idea would spawn a devoted fanbase and two more series.

Nothing much has changed since the last outing, which is another way to say it’s not essential to watch Gone Fishing from S1 E1. They are still gently ribbing each other and dispensing unpretentious wisdom. In the opening moments of tonight’s episode Mortimer asks Whitehouse who his favourite artist is. “I’m not very good at art,” Whitehouse says. “I don’t know how long to look at a painting for before I move on to the next one.”


Mortimer goes on, admiring the Tweed sliding past beneath the canopy of oaks and yews and chestnuts: “I think all artists are in this losing battle to try and be as beautiful as nature and they never get there.”

Even if Mortimer had become a rod master, they would probably have to pretend that he wasn’t. Their buddy dynamic depends on his earnest incompetence and Whitehouse’s sometimes exasperated expertise. Mortimer spends lots of time sitting on the bank, asking Whitehouse questions and preparing the “heart-healthy” meals their cardiac frailties demand. The emotional ballast of this first episode comes from Mortimer talking about his father, who died in a car crash when Mortimer was very young. He initially jokes about it, but later clarifies his position.

The duo’s buddy dynamic depends on Mortimer’s earnest incompetence and Whitehouse’s exasperated expertise (BBC)

“You know when I was talking about my dad and making light of the car crash?” he says, sitting in their little rowing boat. “I don’t want you to think that’s how I feel about it.”

“No of course I don’t,” Whitehouse replies.

“How else can you cope with that sort of thing?”

“I know. As I say, the tears of a clown, Bob, I’m sure they fall freely at times.”

Mortimer swallows, almost imperceptibly.

It’s hard to explain the curious alchemy of Gone Fishing, which is rarely laugh-out-loud funny but has a soothing, unforced pace that draws you in. The production helps, using plenty of drone shots to show the country’s rivers in stately majesty, but the programme relies on the performances of its leads, two of our most gifted comic performers. As Whitehouse shows Mortimer when he hooks his first salmon, the key is knowing when to let the line run, and when to reel, and it’s more art than science.


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