Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing returns for a second run

The first series of Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing was a big hit last summer, and now it's returning to BBC Two for a second run. Georgia Humphreys hears all about the filming process from its stars, comedians Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer.

By Iain Lynn
Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 1:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 2:24 pm
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing is a reminder of just how wonderful the British countryside really is.

But one beautiful filming location for series two - the River Usk in Wales - was particularly poignant for one of the comics at the helm of the BBC Two series.

"That's where I caught my first trout," reminisces Paul Whitehouse, 61.

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing

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    The star, who was born in Wales but grew up in London, continues: "That means a lot to me that river. I did put some of my dad's ashes in the Usk."

    When Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing first aired last summer on BBC Two, it went down a storm with viewers.

    The premise is simple - viewers follow keen fisherman Whitehouse and his long-time pal, Bob Mortimer, as they cast their rods in a different spot each episode.

    This series feels more comedic than the first outing

    This series sees them visit England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with each trip centred around one key species of fish.

    But it's as much about the chats they have, in their deckchairs on the riverbank, as it is what they catch. As you'd expect, the conversation is brilliantly humorous, but often very touching, nostalgic and candid too, as the pair discuss their health, their families, their careers.

    Discussing how the show could be described as "slow TV", Middlesbrough-born Mortimer, who turned 60 in May, says: "I think it does have that feel to it. When we edit it, we're not scared to put in just a lovely shot of the river."

    Looking to his co-star, he adds: "When we first did the first series there was no requirements for us to be funny, was there? It was just fishing. But because we are so hilarious it crept in a little bit."

    Perhaps why the show works so well is that the banter between these two friends, who have known each other for 30 years "on and off", is clearly natural (witnessing them tease each other throughout our chat, they're just like they are on screen).

    The pair started fishing together after Mortimer had a triple heart bypass in 2015 - shockingly, doctors discovered his arteries were "95% blocked".

    Whitehouse himself has had heart problems - he received arterial stents in 2010 - and has found taking part in regular rehab exercise has helped his recovery.

    So, to help Mortimer in his own rehabilitation, he decided to encourage him to get out of the house by offering to teach him how to fish.

    The idea to turn it into TV came later on.

    "On the first day we started filming there was a nagging voice [in my mind] saying, 'What have you done? You've invited the cameras into something that was always an escape'," admits Whitehouse, famous for co-creating BBC sketch show The Fast Show

    "It's such a peaceful, benign world - once you're in it, there are no intrusions. So I get into that mindset where I'm just fishing.

    "Bob has to try and drive a narrative! Because we have a vague idea of a theme [for each episode] but we always forget it. I don't want to talk, really."

    Paul is firmly in charge of the fishing, while Bob is the one who finds their accommodation in each place, and rustles up heart-healthy meals for them both once there.

    This series, reveals the duo, feels more comedic than the first outing.

    "I think it comes from the fact that we were more confident that it's alright to be talking and not talking about fishing," notes Mortimer, known for his work as a double act with Vic Reeves (such as their comedy panel game show Shooting Stars).

    "It's funny - when we've had little ideas about set comic routines they often don't work as well as stuff that just comes out," recalls Whitehouse.

    Mind you, there are plenty of amusing planned sequences, such as the pair playing golf in Scotland - Mortimer describes it as "farcical" - and their visit to a beauty salon in Essex, where Whitehouse was offered a wrinkle treatment and hair transplant (Mortimer was told his hair was too far gone...)

    Asked whether they've thought about bringing in celebrity guests for future episodes, Whitehouse quips: "He claims that he'd replace me with Holly Willoughby," before offering a more serious answer.

    "We have talked about it, haven't we? I don't know... would it then just become like a lot of shows? 'Oh let's get a celeb in' - it's such a formulaic thing to do."

    "There's some of the [shows] where it's two people travelling around the world, or whatever they're doing, and I've never enjoyed them because they won't shut up," suggests Mortimer.

    "There's too much chat. And I think the show is as much about where we are and the peacefulness of it. With a third [person], there might be a tendency for too much of this."

    For both of the stars, getting out into the natural world is a huge draw of doing a show like this.

    "I don't know whether it's an age thing," Mortimer begins with a chuckle, "but sitting and just becoming part of a little tableau on the riverbank for six hours is very refreshing. It's a kind of meditation I suppose."

    "It's an unconscious meditation," echoes Whitehouse, nodding.

    As for the wildlife they get to see, "kingfishers are always a joy".

    "They're incredible things," Whitehouse elaborates excitedly.

    "Often when you're fishing it's an incredible moment - it breaks the landscape up completely. Just an electric whoosh! 'What's that? Whoa, a kingfisher!'"

    Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing returns to BBC Two from Friday August 2