Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer's low-velocity cosmic roadshow, Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, returns for a third series this Sunday, and if you're in need of the televisual equivalent of a head rub and a Horlicks, this is it.
Ironically for a programme that came about because Paul had gradually coaxed Bob out of a deep post-triple heart bypass funk with fishing trips – an operation so serious that Bob got married at the hospital before he went under, and from which his recovery was so shaky that he nearly died the day after it – the stakes in Gone Fishing could not be lower.
Bob and Paul potter to a nice bit of countryside (this series starts with the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders and then goes to Paul's childhood haunt, the Lea River in Hertfordshire) and attempt, in the broadest possible sense, to catch a different fish each time. Paul knows about fishing; Bob makes heart-healthy meals and sorts out the accommodation. You get some very nice drone shots looking down at green and pleasant bits of the UK, and Bob falls over once an episode.
It's incredibly restful watching, especially as Paul and Bob's talks bend to the lightly philosophical. Their quest for a salmon on the Tweed takes them into chatting about art, time, celebrations, Bob's dad's death in a car crash, friendship, gratitude, and a free kick Bob once scored which was so beautiful that "the goalkeeper ran into the woods and set fire to himself". (We are a Bob Mortimer stan account.)
The new series is more of exactly the same: wistful and funny and stupid and open-hearted. Bob gets a chance to avenge his failure to catch a salmon at the end of the last series, as long as he doesn't accidentally murder Paul while learning a new cast. Succession, this is not.
It's a deeply charming watch in normal times. But now that, like Paul and Bob, the height of most adventures this summer have been to get away to the country for a few days, it feels particularly perfect. Not to go all Enigma Variations, but we do live in a really beautiful country, and more people have stopped to have a look around it over the last month or so. Finally, we've been able to get away and catch up with friends without the scaffolding of a Zoom quiz, and it feels so, so, so good.
That, more than anything might be the point of Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing. Itgives you hope that you'll be able to have your own daft adventures into your autumn years, hanging about with a mate who knows you really, really well, talking a lot of nonsense as the sun starts to go down.
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing is on BBC Two on Sunday at 9pm
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