At the risk of upsetting angling fans, who would have thought a series about two blokes sitting by a river could be so enthralling and unmissable?
Probably not many non-fishermen and women, until Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing came along anyway.
The first series aired during the summer of 2018 and showed us a different side of the funnymen. Before the opening episode, they were best known for their participation in a variety of comedy shows.
Whitehouse first came to fame as the sidekick of Harry Enfield before becoming a star in his own right via The Fast Show, creating a vast number of unforgettable catchphrases in the process.
Mortimer, of course, is the solicitor-turned-performer whose partnership with Vic Reeves is the stuff of British comedy legend.
The pair had been friends for decades, and it was Whitehouse’s efforts to help Mortimer recuperate after a life-saving coronary bypass in 2015 that led to this programme being made – he hit on the idea of taking his pal fishing because although it’s a stimulating activity, it’s also relaxing. Mortimer, meanwhile, had decided to say “yes” to as many new experiences as possible, so accepted Whitehouse’s challenge to spend time messing about by the river.
The public lapped up that first run, and have been tuning in in their millions for subsequent series.
“The response has been a little bit overwhelming,” says Whitehouse. “We’ve had the most incredible messages from people who have suffered similar issues with their hearts or have had long-term illnesses and have found something in the series that has resonated with them.
“We’re really pleased that people can see the joy that fishing can bring and I’m also very proud that people who wouldn’t normally watch a fishing programme can enjoy the series too.”
It’s the relationship between the pair that is particularly touching and has helped turned them – and the constantly falling-over Mortimer in particular – into national treasures.
“With Bob and Paul, we capture something very special – genuine, authentic conversation,” claims producer Lisa Clark, owner of the show’s other star, canine companion Ted. “Much has been said about the magic of the series and all I can add is that making it is unlike any other programme I’ve worked on.”
Now Whitehouse and Mortimer – as well as Ted, who has a birthday celebration during the run – are back for a sixth series, which sees them cast their lines in Wales, Shropshire, Wiltshire, the Scottish Borders, East Yorkshire’s Driffield Beck and Burgh Island, a place popular with Agatha Christie, off the Devon Coast.
The really great news is, a seventh series has already been commissioned, which will feature eight episodes rather than the usual six.
“When we started the series five years ago I’m not sure we ever dreamed we’d still be travelling the UK’s river banks, but the love for Bob and Paul and their fishing adventures is phenomenal,” concludes Clark. “We’re delighted to be continuing to deliver their magic to the screen along with Ted and the glorious views of the British countryside.”