Man To Man With Dean Learner. Image shows from L to R: Matthew Holness, Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade). Copyright: Avalon Television
Man To Man With Dean Learner

Man To Man With Dean Learner

  • TV comedy
  • Channel 4
  • 2006
  • 6 episodes (1 series)

Spin-off from Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. Renowned club owner Dean Learner invites you to meet some of his closest celebrity friends. Stars Richard Ayoade, Matthew Holness, Satu Suominen, Kim Noble, Stuart Silver and Matt Berry

About Man To Man With Dean Learner

Man To Man With Dean Learner. Image shows from L to R: Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade), Matthew Holness. Copyright: Avalon Television

Club owner, film producer and publisher of "high-class gentlemen's magazines", Dean Learner invites VIP friends from the world of arts-slash-entertainment to his £5m penthouse apartment in London's East End.

Learner is, of course, Richard Ayoade's jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur first noted for his rather stiff acting style in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace a couple of years previously - although, as it turns out, he was also once the host of another long-forgotten late-night show, Deano's After Dark (coincidentally the working title of Man To Man), which is best described as a cross between a private event at the Playboy Mansion and the infamous unaired BBC Two pilot Mainly For Men.

Man To Man sees Learner's character further expanded from his interview segments in Darkplace. We learn he's not averse to self-promotion, even at the most inappropriate of times, and is prone to the odd tangential tirade about wet wipes or philosophy's inability to address the lack of toilet facilities at parties.

Learner's guests are all portrayed by Ayoade's Darkplace co-star and co-writer Matthew Holness, who returns as "dream weaver" Marenghi in the opening episode. The other guests are racing driver Steve Pising (who bears more than a passing resemblance in looks and tone to F1 champion Nigel Mansell), sci-fi actor Glynn Nimron (who bears no resemblance to anything else on Earth), folk guitarist Merriman Weir (John Martyn fans should look away) and psychic Amir Chanan (who Uri Geller should really have seen coming).

Man To Man With Dean Learner. Image shows from L to R: Matthew Holness, Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade). Copyright: Avalon Television

Best of all is the late character actor Randolph Caer, whose downward career trajectory since his regrettable appearance in the slasher movie Bitch Killer (written by Marenghi and produced by Learner) is not dissimilar to that experienced by legendary director Michael Powell following the release of Peeping Tom in 1960. While Peeping Tom is now considered a masterpiece, it's fair to say that Bitch Killer has fared less well, although you can be sure Quentin Tarantino's got an old VHS copy in a box somewhere.

Buried away in a later-than-usual slot for Channel 4 comedy at the time (a fate that also befell Darkplace), perhaps in this case to give the show a deliberate "after hours" feel, Man To Man wasn't as well received as its predecessor by critics or audience. Unfair comparisons at the time with Knowing Me, Knowing You (already more than a decade old in 2006) didn't help either.

It's aged well, though, mostly due to the spot-on character traits of the guests. Learner, as host, also straddles the eras well, exhibiting laughably outdated attitudes from a less enlightened age while being somewhat ahead of his time as a self-publicist, compared to today's much younger (and far less interesting) starlets across all media, mainstream and new.

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