The Savage tongue of Paul O’Grady

It’s a funny old world where an over-the-hill prostitute and former stripper lands a lucrative deal with ITV Light Entertainment. That’s exactly what happened to Lily Savage, the blond bombsite from Birkenhead, though. Now the man who plays the Blankety Blank-ing drag act, Paul O’Grady, is making a further bid to be known in his own right with his latest travelogue series, Paul O’Grady’s America.

Following on from last year’s series set in the Orient, the opening episode of the US-based sequel is set in New York City. The formula remains much the same: O’Grady takes an occasional tour of the city before meeting up with interesting people. Oh, and he has a row with the hotel staff. One of the highlights of the last series was watching O’Grady get increasingly riled by some perceived discourtesy foisted upon him. While his tirades were diverting first time round, here the abuse meted out to the staff of the New York Plaza comes out of the blue and disappears as quickly. It’s as if he’s performing to quota, with ITV Network Centre demanding at least one bust-up per city.

Busts of a different nature come under the spotlight when O’Grady meet Sherry, a former burlesque dancer who could shimmy across the stage balancing a glass of water on each breast. Even here, though, the ego takes over, as Sherry’s wonderful reminiscences are cut short, reducing her to spectating as a fifty-something man gyrates his hips on stage. It’s a shame, as when O’Grady lets other people get a word in edgeways he shows every sign of having the potential to be a great interviewer, showing real interest and sparking off fondly-remembered anecdotes. Which makes it all the more bizarre that in a show that’s supposed to be about the Big Apple, most of the people he meets are C-list Brits. Why go all the way to America to interview Julian Clary and Cilla Black, for goodness’ sake? You may just as well stick a camera crew in the LWT cafeteria for much the same effect.

It’s all summed up rather neatly when O’Grady meets Miss Revere, a choreographer at the American School of Ballet. After Paul professes a long-held desire to be a Broadway starlet, Miss Revere quickly establishes that O’Grady can neither sing, dance nor act. He sums up his abilities as, “I dress up as a middle-aged prostitute and do a game show.” The look on his tutor’s face says it all.

Originally written for UK. Original link no longer available

Author: Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.