Series 3, Episode 6: Very Pongy Cheese. Episode first broadcast on Cbeebies on 2 November 2014.
review by Emma Shane © 4 December 2014
(Stars Justin Fletcher as Justin, Steve Kynman as Robert The Robot, and Katherine Smee puppeteering Little Monster. This episode Guest Starred, Louise Gold, puppeteering Funella Furchester, writing credits Tony Reed)
I don’t normally watch Justin’s House. I think the show could be a bit irritating, but as a one off it’s fine, and quite funny, and of course this particular episode had a very special Guest Star Puppeteer on hand.
The episode opens with Robert the Robot entering with his feather duster and singing and dancing. It soon becomes apparent that Robert, played by Steve Kynman is really a sort of metal equivalent Gentleman’s Gentleman. I could see parallels between his and Justin’s interactions with Jeeves and Wooster. Robert discovers there is a mouse in the house, he is ashamed of it, because he keeps the place so clean. I noticed that the mouse looked a bit muppety, but did not immediately recognise him, though maybe some of the programme’s target audience did. To try and forget about the mouse problem Justin and Robert sing a song. But it doesn’t entirely work as a way of forgetting. Then the doorbell rings, Justin ends up answering it, and finds a parcel on the doorstep, from his neighbour “Mac”. He says “She’s an explorer”. When Justin opens the parcel he finds it contains some very pongy cheese from Ping Pang Pong. The trouble is Justin and Robert can’t stand the smell. Justin borrows Robert’s favourite industrial grabber to take the cheese out into the studio audience to see what the audience thinks of it. Wondering what to do with a cheese whose pong they can’t stand they offer it to Little Monster, as apparently she likes Pongs, but this one is too much even for her, and she leaves. We hear her run off and the sound of a car driving off.
Justin and Robert try taking the cheese over to the front door and wafting the smell out. This is comical in a slapstick kind of a way. Next they try covering the cheese (which is now on the sofa) with a blanket, this works until Justin accidentally sits on it. Suddenly there is noise over by the kitchen area, is it the mouse again? No, up pops Funella Furchester, from The Furchester Hotel. Of course Justin has to ask why she’s here. Funella explains “My husabnd Furgus thought we had a problem with the drains at the hotel. But it wasn’t that.” She goes onto explain she followed the pong and this is where she ended up. So the smell of the cheese has drifted all the way over to the Furchester Hotel. Justin explains about the cheese to Funella, and that “the pong was even too much for little Monster” who has left. Funella says that Little Monster has just checked into The Furchester Hotel. Justin says that they have to get rid of the pong of the cheese “so that Little Monster can come back to Justin’s House”. Funella says she is great a solving problems, as they have a lot of problems at the hotel. She suggests “Why don’t we put our furry heads together and think” (this phrase will immediately be familiar to those of us who are already Furchester viewers. Justin promptly says that his head is more hairy than furry, “and mine is more metally” adds Robert. Funella is quick to respond “Well in that case we’ll put our furry, and hairy and metally heads together”. They try but Justin at least finds it hurts. Funella says “That’s no good, try again”, so they try again, and this time succeed in putting their heads together without getting hurt. This action gives Funella an idea “Nose Coises” she says, at first the others say “bless you”, but she explains “I mean NOSE cosies”, the disappears down behind the kitchen counter for a few moments and then bobs up with three little nose cosies. She puts one on her nose, and hands the other two to Justin and Robert. They put them on. For a while this seems to work, they can’t smell the cheese anymore. But unfortunately Justin and even Robert, find that the nose cosies tickle them, and make them sneeze. It doesn’t work “We’ NEVER had a problem with nose cosies before”. She drops down under the counter to put them away. In doing so she finds the note that came with the cheese. Justin and Robert already read the front, but Funella notices there is something written on the back “The worse it pongs the better it tastes”. Good at problem solving she certainly is, for she announces that the way to get rid of the pong is to eat the cheese. Justin and Robert seem to be appalled by the suggestion. Just then the mouse reappears. Robert and Justin and Funella all set about trying to catch the mouse. In Justin’s case using the blanket from the sofa (that was earlier used to cover the cheese). Meanwhile Funella is down behind the counter again, but we can see her orange hair waving about in its distinctive manner, only Robert mistakes this for the mouse and throws the blanket over Funella., who slowing rises from behind the counter, Robert says “I think you’ve caught Funella, sir” Once either Justin releases her or she fights her way out from the blanket, Justin says “Sorry Funella”. They are still looking for the mouse, who has taken the cheese, and now they find a nearly empty cheeseboard, with two crumbs of cheese left, which Justin and Robert eat, at which Justin realises that the cheese actually would have tasted very nice. Meanwhile Funella has ended up with the mouse, whom she recognises. She explains “It’s Mr Cheesechomper from the hotel, he’s always going off looking for something tasty to nibble”. Justin wants to protest about the mouse having eaten the cheese, but thanks to Funella he can’t get a word in edgeways as she says “Wasn’t it nice of Mr Cheesechompeer to get rid of the pong” and so on in a similar vein, until she says “Well I’ll be going and I’ll take Mr Cheesechomper with me”. And with that she goes. Shortly after she departs Little Monster returns, and has brought with her a little bit more pongy cheese, this time for Justin and Robert to eat. Then Justin and Robert welcome back Little Monster with a song “Monster Movers”, and then it’s time for the end credits. Which along with their usual credits (including Katherine Smee as Little Monster), the Guest Star puppeteer Louise Gold is of course credited.
It was very interesting to see Funella Furchester in a different context to normal, and this time in a situation where she had to act with humans. Of course her special friend Louise Gold is well used to operating puppets who have had to interact with humans, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. After all she was trained on The Muppet Show for a start! But it is also somewhat unusual to find Louise puppeteering one of her regular characters in a guest slot on someone else’s show, of course she has done Spitting Image’s The Queen on various occasions but that has been mainly for Spitting Image tribute documentaries and similar. Here she is doing a character for no special reason other than, or so it seems, the scriptwriters and produces deciding to have a cross-over guest character. As far as I am aware it’s only the second time I have heard of Louise Gold doing the honours of being a Guest Puppeteer on someone else’s TV show, the other time was a few years ago when she performed those termites with Warrick Brownlow-Pike (the moment when us Muppet Buffs all realised just how seriously good a puppeteer Warrick is). This time it’s Katherine Smee’s show, and so a bit different, because Louise and Catherine have worked together before. Katherine They both puppeteered on the third series of Jim Henson’s The Animal Show, and indeed Katherine also puppeteers various bit parts on Furchester Hotel. it was also very interesting to have Funella Furchester addressed just by her firstname, “Funella”, Normally on Furchester Hotel she is “Miss Furchester” or “My dear Madam”, of course Fergus does call her by her name but with him its usually “Funella my sweet”, and Elmo calls her “Aunty Funella”. Although I am sure that all the performers were following a script, I was struck by how talkative Funella was, and how she often she was very noticeable the action during the bits she was on, its wonderful to see the way Louise can transmit her stage presence into her puppetry. Although I don’t think Justin’s House is a programme I would normally choose to watch, I did enjoy seeing this episode, particularly because of Louise Gold’s guest starring role in it.