TV Highlights

Mrs Merton

Mrs Merton
Character: Mrs Merton - bespectacled wrinkly played convincingly by youthful Mancunian stand-up Caroline Aherne.

Comedy: The Mrs Merton Show (1994 - 1998)

Set-Up: Spoof chat show in which Aherne's senior citizen interviewed real guests and used her deceptively sharp persona to draw out some hilarious and revealing quotes.

Standout moment: Merton had an inspired way of phrasing loaded questions, most famously asking Debbie McGee, "So, what attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"

Memorable catchphrases: No catchphrases, just a great way with a quickfire remark. To Chris Eubank when he clammed up and didn't get the joke: "You're going to punch me, aren't you?"

Lowest ebb: Interviewing the late Bernard Manning and confronting him about his racism was admirable, but maybe she shouldn't have given him airtime in the first place.

Big screen potential: Mrs Merton seemed to have bags of potential, but Aherne followed the chat show with a disappointing spin-off sitcom, Mrs Merton and Malcolm, which was not such a success. Still, it would be nice to see Nicole Kidman donning the blue rinse wig and having a bash at a movie version.

Why are they a hero?This came in the middle of an era when the chat show was constantly being reinvented, with spoof guests and spoof host (Knowing Me, Knowing You...with Alan Partridge) and spoof hosts and real guests (Ali G/Dennis Pennis). But few took it into the mainstream as well as Caroline Aherne.

Factoid: I first encountered Mrs Merton in 1992, when she played a neighbour of comedian Frank Sidebottom in the obscure regional chat show Frank Sidebottom's Fantastic Shed Show. Could that show have been part of the inspiration for her own chat show?

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