Leigh Francis brings back Avid Merrion

ExclusiveFriday 29th July 2022, 9:12am by Jay Richardson

  • Leigh Francis has shot a sketch pilot as Avid Merrion, more than 12 years after the celebrity stalker character was last seen on screen
  • The Keith Lemon star has been shooting the non-broadcast taster surreptitiously over the summer
  • The project follows news of the end of Lemon vehicle Celebrity Juice, two final episodes of which will air later this year
Bo' Selecta!. Leigh Francis

Following news of the demise of Celebrity Juice, Leigh Francis is already working on his next show, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal - a sketch show pilot reviving his celebrity stalker character Avid Merrion, appearing on screen for the first time in more than 12 years.

With the working title Avid, a non-broadcast pilot has been shooting this summer. It is produced by Great Scott Media, who made E4 mockumentary The Holden Girls last year, featuring Amanda Holden as a fictionalised version of herself and Francis in heavy, Bo' Selecta!-style prosthetics as her grandmother Myrtle.

Avid is directed by Francis's long-running collaborator Dan Johnston but it is currently unknown whether a broadcaster is attached. Francis was spotted filming in character in the town of Amersham in Buckinghamshire last month.

Hailing from Romania and obsessed with celebrities, an early version of Merrion and Francis's other best known characters, Keith Lemon and The Bear, first appeared in 2000 ITV sketch show Whatever I Want, which also featured Davina McCall and Claudia Winkleman.

However, the character came to prominence on Talkback Productions' Bo' Selecta!, which ran on Channel 4 from 2003 to 2009. Scenes featuring Merrion, often in a neck brace and pursuing famous people, uttering the catchphrases "thank you please" and "she makes me do a sex wee", were interspersed between skits of Francis in grotesque prosthetics, playing hyper-exaggerated caricatures of celebrities.

In the early series, Merrion would stalk his famous prey, but by the third profile was high enough to interview them one-to-one. He was last seen on screen in the 2009 special The Bear's Proper Chrimbo, which included two of Merrion's Christmas music singles, Proper Chrimbo and I Got You Babe, the latter featuring McCall and Patsy Kensit.

Despite a loyal following and strong contemporary reviews, more recently, Bo' Selecta! has been criticised for its puerility, bullying of those in the public eye and routine use of blackface in impressions.

Craig David, whose 1999 song with Artful Dodger, Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta), gave the series its name, and who was regularly lampooned in the comedy, said in 2007 that, despite appearing on it, "inside it was absolutely pissing me off and hurtful beyond belief. There were times when I thought, 'I just want to knock this guy out.'"

However, in 2015 he said that his PR team had insisted he "play hurt" and he had since "made peace" with Francis.

Bo' Selecta!. Leigh Francis. Copyright: Talkback Productions

Television presenter also Trisha Goddard objected to the way she was portrayed in the sketch series, feeling it was "racially over the top", she told the BBC's Newsnight in 2020. She added that her children were bullied as a result of the show and that she would try to avoid Francis at public events, feeling "sick to her stomach".

In 2020, an agreement was reached between Channel 4 and Francis that the show was to be taken off streaming service All 4 because of its frequent use of blackface when portraying the likes of David, Goddard and Spice Girl Mel B.

Since 2006 Francis has focused his energies on Keith Lemon, with panel show Celebrity Juice set to air two final specials later this year after 25 series, while Shopping With Keith Lemon will continue on ITV2.

Posting on Instagram, Francis described his experience of making Celebrity Juice as, "truly wonderful", saying he would "miss the good times and having a headache with laughing so much".

He concluded: "If I don't see you through t' week... well I'll see ya later in t' year for more Shopping With Keith Lemon and on whatever fills my Juice-shaped hole. Big love, big cheers! All t' best! Good luck with ya business! Fank you very very much! Keith x (wipes tear away and walks off into the next chapter)."

The Complete Bo' Selecta! - Series 1, 2 & 3 Plus Ho Ho Ho Selecta!

A box set including the DVDs of Series 1, Series 2 and Series 3, plus Ho Ho Ho Selecta!.

First released: Monday 1st March 2010

  • Distributor: 4DVD
  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 6
  • Minutes: 620
  • Subtitles: English
  • Catalogue: C4DVD10302

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If you are in the North America, look out for US/Canadian flag icons on popular product listings for direct links.

If you order from a UK store, please note that the UK is in Region 2 and B, respectively, for DVDs and Blu-rays - check your player's compatibility, or look for multi-region products if you are located in another region.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand (DVD Region 4), note that almost all DVDs distributed in the UK by the BBC and 2entertain are encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4. The UK and Australasia are in the same Blu-ray region (B).

A Bear's Tail - The Complete First Series

From the creator and star of Celebrity Juice and The Keith Lemon Sketch Show, Leigh Francis, comes a different breed of sitcom.

"Starring Leigh Francis and loads of other great actors from the world of acting. This right funny sitcom about a bear living with a family makes the ideal gift for yourself or a friend who loves right funny sitcoms about bears that live with families!"

First released: Sunday 26th April 2015

  • Distributor: Fabulous Films
  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 2
  • Minutes: 189
  • Subtitles: English
  • Catalogue: FHED3311

Buy and sell old and new items
Search for this product on eBay

Not in the UK?

Fear not! Many items can still be ordered. Amazon in the UK delivers to many international territories, whilst their Australia, USA and Canada stores also supply many equivalent or imported items.

If you are in the North America, look out for US/Canadian flag icons on popular product listings for direct links.

If you order from a UK store, please note that the UK is in Region 2 and B, respectively, for DVDs and Blu-rays - check your player's compatibility, or look for multi-region products if you are located in another region.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand (DVD Region 4), note that almost all DVDs distributed in the UK by the BBC and 2entertain are encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4. The UK and Australasia are in the same Blu-ray region (B).

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