Patrick Freyne: Why’s Danny Dyer challenging an Irishwoman? He messes with your nut

I’d watch The Wall host in anything, though. Cast him in your prestigious HBO drama, you cowards

The Wall: Danny Dyer with contestants Aoife and Paul. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC

The Wall: Danny Dyer with contestants Aoife and Paul. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC

 

Sometimes all you need is advice from someone with a bit of life experience and wisdom. “The wall can give you grief,” says Danny Dyer. “You attack the wall, the wall ducks out of the way. It can mess with your nut.”

It feels like hard-won knowledge, although I’ve never had to fight a wall myself. From his world-weary tone, I imagine Danny Dyer was constantly fighting masonry until a television producer suggested that he and his arch-enemy unite their eldritch power for the greater glory of quiz programming. And so it was that Danny Dyer succumbed to The Wall, much like Frodo succumbed to the Ring or the Green Party succumb to coalition, and now The Wall is on every Saturday on BBC One and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Paul and Aoife must place large balls into a pneumatic tube that shoots them to the top of the big blue gherkin-shaped wall. It is, quite literally, balls to the wall

The wall itself is shaped like a Fisher-Price gherkin. Furthermore, when I think about it, Danny Dyer is shaped a little like a bestubbled Fisher-Price person. What I love about Danny Dyer is that he’ll reliably swagger like he’s one of the Krays even though he’s a genteel Pinter-endorsed actor presenting a light-entertainment quizshow on a bright-blue set. “Time to introduce the real guvnor around here,” he says at one point. “It’s Angela Rippon!” And it’s true. Angela Rippon is the “real guvnor”. In this instance her disembodied voice utters the wall’s trivia questions, much like Metatron speaks for God.

This week’s contestants are two Essex-based teachers, Paul and Aoife. Aoife is Irish. I’m only mentioning this because, if my editors headline this article with “Danny Dyer challenges Irishwoman”, way more people will read it. And if they go with “Danny Dyer, who has met Prince Charles, challenges Irishwoman”, it will both break records and inspire many people to tell us how uninterested they are in the British monarchy.

Paul and Aoife must place large balls into a pneumatic tube that shoots them to the top of the big blue gherkin-shaped wall. It is, quite literally, balls to the wall. Depending on how the contestants answer Rippon’s riddles, the colour of these balls will change.

Then the coloured balls fall randomly down what looks like an upright pinball machine before dropping into slots representing different monetary amounts. If the balls are green, they win an amount of money corresponding to the slot into which it bounces. If the balls are red, they lose a corresponding amount.

Sometimes, depending on the particular game, a colourless ball will fall to earth, at which point Danny Dyer will inquire of the wall whether Aoife and Paul gave the correct answer to Rippon’s question. “Wall,” he asks, deferentially, “is it right or is it wrong?”

‘You’ve made your call, Paul, and I respect it,’ he says, and I realise that I would love to hear Danny Dyer saying those words to me about my decisions

At this point the wall glows red or green, depending on the answer. The Wall exists in a very black-and-white moral universe. Or, more specifically, a very red-and-green moral universe. Consequently, all the light and shade on this programme is provided by Danny Dyer. He’s a very affirming presence. “You’ve made your call, Paul, and I respect it,” he says, and I realise that I would love to hear Danny Dyer saying those words to me about my decisions.

Then, in an early question when the couple win just £10, they have this interaction, which I treasure:

“A tenner,” says Paul, “You wouldn’t walk by it in the street, would you?”

“I like that, Paul,” says Danny Dyer appreciatively, but then, momentarily troubled, he adds: “What if there’s an old lady and she’s dropped it?”

“I’d give it back to her,” says Paul, quickly.

“Good boy,” says Danny Dyer, as though this were the true test of this show all along. And, in a way, I think it is.

Paul and Aoife are deserving of any money they win. They seem lovely, and they will use their winnings to help secure a home for their multigenerational household. This makes us root for them. It also reminds us that, like most televisual games of chance, The Wall could just easily be titled But Wouldn’t They Be Better Off Under Socialism? (I’m also suggesting this as a headline because, if I know people on the internet, they’re pretty relaxed about mentions of socialism.) 

As Irish Times readers, you will of course already know that quizshows function culturally as reminders that our happiness is dependent on impersonal casinos operated by billionaires and their tame mathematicians.

My main takeaway from The Wall, however, is that I could watch Danny Dyer’s benign wide-boy shenanigans in anything. Danny Dyer as Winnie the Pooh, Danny Dyer as R2D2, Danny Dyer as Hal the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey (“I’m sorry, Dave, you top geezer, but I’m afraid I can’t facking do that”). Danny Dyer playing against Danny Dyer as Riggs and Murtagh in Lethal Weapon. Cast Danny Dyer in your prestigious HBO drama, you cowards.

Kaylee Cuoco in The Flight Attendant
Kayley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant

In The Flight Attendant (Friday, Sky One, but all episodes available on Now TV), an actual prestigious HBO drama, Kaley Cuoco from The Big Bang Theory, not Danny Dyer, plays our heroine, Cassie Bowden.

Cassie is on a downward spiral of messy alcoholism even before she wakes up beside a murdered man in a Bangkok hotel. She proceeds to do all the wrong things while investigating the murder, hallucinating full conversations with her murdered bedmate, being overcome with memories of her dysfunctional childhood, drinking constantly and also holding down a job.

It’s a programme about addiction/work/life/murder-investigation balance and it’s gripping, stylish, upsetting and funny. The drama also reaches out into subplots involving Rosie Perez as Cassie’s prim but excitement-seeking colleague, Zosia Mamet as her compromised mob-lawyer friend and Michelle Gomez as a neurotic hit-person with perfectionist tendencies. Strangely, I can relate to all of them. Before you know it, Cuoco is the queasy, chaotic centre of a fully realised universe.

She’s brilliant in this. Great comic actors are often the best people for darker roles. This is because comic actors intuitively understand that absurdity is the secret sauce of reality (a fact underpinned by modern physics research). So I’m loving The Flight Attendant. I don’t think it could be improved, even with Danny Dyer in the main role, to be honest with you, but I’d definitely watch some scenes if you shot them.

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