TV times: Alexander Armstrong
- Brian Donaldson
- 24 October 2019
Comedian and game-show host discusses some of his televisual favourites
Alexander Armstrong has long been a popular face on the box with his hosting duties in Pointless, while less younger viewers might recall him as one half of comedy double-act Armstrong and Miller. He's now about to hit the road with a solo stand-up tour entitled All Mouth and Some Trousers, and in our TV Q&A he tells us why he stopped watching Nashville and which sitcom makes his guffaw the most. But mainly, he simply can't understand why he hasn't had the call from Julian Fellowes …
What is your first memory of watching TV?
I remember watching Yellow Submarine on telly probably when I was four or five, and not understanding a THING but loving it all the same. I've watched it several times since and, if anything, I understand it even less now. Otherwise I guess it would have been Roobarb and Custard and Screen Test (just two examples of the very finest broadcasting…).
Which programme that's no longer on screen would you love to see return?
Holiday 76, some of Michelmore's very finest output. The sheer glamour of foreign travel had a vice-like hold over us. Our holidays (spent, without fail, in Northern Ireland) were obviously unspeakably glamorous but just not always sunny.
You're a prime-time chat-show host: what's your ideal guest line-up?
If I had a chat show, I'd be straight onto David Niven (he's bloody hard to get hold of these days…). I'd have someone exciting like Joanna Lumley, and I'd get, oh I don't know, Phoebe Waller-Bridge because then everyone would watch it.
Which sitcom have you laughed at the most?
I've come to love This Country on BBC Three. It takes a while to get into the swing of it because the humour is very subtle, but it's very beautifully done and there are quite a few guffaws to be had.
When was the last time you felt scared while watching TV?
I don't know about scared, but Chernobyl definitely made me deeply uncomfortable. Almost addictively uncomfortable: don't know what that says about me. But I came to love the tatty Soviet brutalism of it. I do love a good atmospheric soundtrack, me.
What's the best TV theme tune ever?
I think the old Paddington soundtrack (when it was on children's telly in the 70s) was one of my all-time favourites. Also All Creatures Great and Small. However my favourite – and most evocative – bit of telly music has to be the old Thames TV interstitial on the French horns (played over St Paul's Cathedral disappearing into its own mirror image). It's only three bars long but it's ACE.
Which programme (past or present) would you have loved a part on?
Downton Abbey, for heaven's sake. To this day I am baffled not to have had the call-up on that one; surely there's SOMEONE I could have played. Occasionally I bump into Julian Fellowes (I'm enormously fond of him, we did an episode of Sharpe together back in the 90s that involved lots of night shoots and he was fabulous company, just the sort of person you'd want to be holed up with over a long night's filming) and I keep waiting for him to have a eureka moment when he'll clap me on the back and say 'OF COURSE!! You're my Marquess of Strathallan!' It hasn't happened yet …
What was the last show you binge-watched?
Someone put us onto Nashville which we loved. To start with anyway. It was trash but proper trash if you know what I mean. T Bone Burnett was in charge of the music so it was fantastic (if you like country). After a couple of series though, I think all the superstar writing talent drifted off to other projects and it got quite annoying. Always hard to leave those shows though, isn't it? You're kind of invested in the story arc so you have to know WHAT HAPPENS! We bailed, I'm afraid.
Who is your all-time favourite fictional TV character?
It has to be Homer Simpson. He's the greatest comic masterpiece television has produced.
Alexander Armstrong: All Mouth and Some Trousers is on tour Sunday 3–24 November; Pointless airs on BBC One, Monday–Friday, 5.15pm, with episodes also available on the BBC iPlayer.