DVD
Man to Man with Dean Learner

Starring: Richard Ayoade and Matthew Holness
Avalon Television
RRP: 19.99
C4DVD10154
Certificate: 15
Available 03 September 2007


Live from his luxury apartment in London's glittering East End, Dean Learner: club owner, celebrity manager, restaurateur, entrepreneur and publisher of high-class gentlemen's magazines, invites you to meet some of his closest friends, Man to Man. Offering an oasis of culture and sophistication in the rancid scrubland of depravity that passes for modern television, Dean's special guests include the living legends Garth Marenghi, Steve Pising, Glynn Nimron, Merriman Weir, Amir Chanan and the recently-deceased Randolph Caer...

Man to Man with Dean Learner is a spoof chat show in which Dean Learner (self confessed one man brand) opens up his penthouse flat to the world and invites one special guest each week to share their life story. Of course there is a conflict of interest, as Learner is also the manager for each of his guests.

Throughout the six episodes (or seven if you include the pilot - which is included as an extra) Richard Ayoade plays Learner and Matthew Holness plays the various guests. Unfortunately as the series progresses, Ayoade becomes more and more like Alan Partridge - which is a shame - but then I suppose any spoof chat show is going to be compared to Steve Coogan's greatest creation.

Learner's guests, each living legends (well, apart from one who tragically dies the day before the show airs), include Gareth Merenghi (the UK's foremost writer of horror fiction); Steve Pising (former Formula Five Motor Racing World Champion); Glynn Nimron (an actor whose most famous role is as Bot the robot in the classic sci-fi series Galacticops); Merriman Weir (legendary folk guitarist); Amir Chanan (self-confessed 'Master of the Psychic Arts' and bender of keys); and the late Randolph Caer (the underrated character actor famous for his roles in Nun Party! and That Duck! 2 (Duck on the Run)).

Gareth Merenghi (who fans of Ayoade and Holness will already know from Garth Marenghi's Darkplace) kicks of the series and, on reflection, is surprisingly the least entertaining guest. This is probably because Marenghi is basically a one gag character, and that one gag was practically kicked to death in Darkplace. Steve Pising is obviously loosely based on Nigel Mansell and Glynn Nimron, I was convinced, was partly inspired by Robert Llewelyn (Red Dwarf's Kryten) but is also an amalgamation of any sci-fi actor who has found it almost impossible to break away from that genre. The rest of the guests are caricatures of well established celebrity types (the musician, phoney psychic and depressed out of work actor).

While the shows themselves are entertaining enough, what is really impressive is the almost endless stream of extras that are crammed onto this 2-disc DVD collection. I think, on balance my favourite, just because it's so naff, is the 17 minute Easter Egg where Pising provides 13 mins of raw home video footage of a Camel park - with dull commentary.

We also get to know Learner a little better. While in Darkplace it is heavily hinted that he has a habit of killing people who p*ss him off, in Man to Man it's obvious that it's something he does quite often. At least one of his guests has managed to survive Learner's attempts to kill him - Pising's car crash was certainly not an accident.

Extras the list of extras appear on the episode menu pages (so it's easy to watch the deleted footage for each episode) and even the menu pages themselves contain additional footage not in the episodes. There's plenty of deleted scenes; trailers for the episodes; and there's even a selection of music tracks. But if there's one thing that lets this DVD down, it's the fact that there are no audio commentaries, and at no point do we get any behind the scenes material where the actors are out of character.

While not an overly original concept, Man to Man with Dean Learner is extremely entertaining and is certainly a series you'll want to watch more than once.

Darren Rea

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£11.98 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
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£11.99 (Play.com)
   
£11.99 (HMV.co.uk)
   
£14.95 (Empirefilmstore.co.uk)
   
£12.93 (Thehut.com)

All prices correct at time of going to press.