Johnny Vegas: 18 Stone of Idiot Review
Rather than opt for a collection of all six episodes of its first series, this 18 Stone of Idiot disc instead offers up a 78-minute compendium of highlights and previously unseen footage. Some would no doubt say thankfully so as the show was a sprung from a wilful idea, Essentially, Vegas and his cohorts wished to make a series which would never be re-commissioned. Oddly enough a second run is on its way fairly soon, yet such a target – though perhaps demonstrating a certain bravura quality – has produced much which is simply unwatchable.
18 Stone of Idiot isn’t without interest, however, primarily as it allows us to see another side of the Johnny Vegas persona. Prior to this series he was perhaps best known for his acting roles in Happiness and Dead Man Weds, and his appearances on the likes of Room 101 and various I Love… programmes, all of which presented him as some kind of cuddly innocent. Drunken and unwashed perhaps, but not without charm. Here we keep the drunkenness, add the idiot of the title and end up with haggard blend of stand up, chat show and “yoof TV”.
It’s the latter which proves most important with 18 Stone of Idiot sharing a clear lineage with the likes of The Word and TFI Friday (unsurprisingly, Chris Evans’ name appears as one of the producers). There’s an aspect of stunt TV in play here which seemingly overrides and other considerations. The majority of the participants are clearly pissed, bad language is rife and the various components stand out in a similar manner. The stand up, for example, if it can be described as such, see Vegas aggressively bait his audience and, at one point, quite disturbingly feel up a woman in front of her husband. The chat show element is intended to replicate pub banter and therefore revolves around sex with pets and the like. The Candid Camera-style segments see Vegas trying to score dugs and gay sex. And elsewhere we’re assaulted with such strange sights as Neil Hamilton dancing in a cage whilst fish are thrown over him and Roland from Grange Hill downing a bottle of ketchup in less than 33 seconds.
In part this does create some kind of structure of to the show (which is emulated here – the disc essentially representing an extended episode), but then it’s still incredibly messy. Despite offering what is effectively a “best of”, it’s difficult not to get the temptation to channel hop; the show’s just too indulgent, often unfunny and frequently the sketches, if you will, go on for far too long even in their edited form.
In this respect you have to take what you can from it. Sometimes 18 Stone of Idiot can be oddly fascinating such is its edginess. The goading of the audience and their clear discomfort is strangely compelling, as is the sight of Elvis Costello almost hiding in his chair as Vegas heads off on another drunken ramble. Elsewhere we also see the host pissing himself in front of Huey from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals (the commentary reveals this to be fake, though no-one else in front of the camera is in on the joke) and on another occasion getting punched full in the face. Yet ultimately it’s all too one-note to really warrant its existence. The drunkenness takes control making this a show which is prone to sentimentality, prone to aggression and using any excuse it can lay its hands on to justify its inherent shittiness.
18 Stone of Idiot comes to DVD in fine form. The presentation is as good as you’d expect and there are a number of interesting extras. Firstly, however, the audio-visual qualities: the disc comes anamorphically enhanced at a ratio of 1.85:1 and seemingly without technical flaw. There’s no damage to speak off making this easily the equal, if not superior to its television transmissions. As for the soundtrack, we get a simple DD2.0 mix, but this ably copes with everything from Vegas’ asides to his karaoke version of ‘Wham Rap’.
Of the extras, it is the commentary which proves most interesting. Of course, you wish to hear Vegas’ thoughts on acting like an obnoxious idiot or getting punched in the face, but far more enticing is the overall honesty of himself and his co-commentators. If you’re after their thoughts on individual guests, various gags and sketches, or the show itself, it all comes out. Indeed, it never once becomes a problem to sit through these 78 minutes again.
Elsewhere, we get to see the Celebrity Lock-In programme which Vegas made for E4. It makes a good partner to the main show as it similarly shows the star getting increasingly aggressive and acting nothing more like a bully. Yet whilst you may laugh along as he baits Timmy Mallet, at times he does overstep the mark. It isn’t easy viewing then, but strangely fascinating.
The rest of the disc made up mostly of outtakes. We get to see the ‘Celebrity Poker’ sketch in its entirety – and as such it’s all the more interminable – alongside a frankly unfunny ‘Angry Baboon’ piece, plus 17 minutes worth of other snippets. Unlike the other extras these are strictly for fans of the show, though even they may struggle to make their way through all of them.
Optional English HOH subtitles are available on all extras save for the commentary.
Watch the Trailer.