Gone Fishing viewers divided as Lee Mack replaces Bob Mortimer in latest episode

Gone Fishing fans have been left divided over Bob Mortimer’s replacement in the latest episode.

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing aired its latest instalment on Sunday (1 October). Mortimer, however, was not present due to illness.

It was announced last week that that the presenter “had shingles” when this particular episode was recorded, with his co-star Paul Whitehouse revealing on BBC One’s Morning Live that Lee Mack would replace him.

While elaborating on Mortimer’s absence from the episode on Friday (28 September), Whitehouse asked: “How can anyone be a substitute for Robert Mortimer?”

It turns out a lot of viewers are asking this same question following the episode’s broadcast, with fans agreeing that, while they are a fan of Mack’s, the lack of chemistry between Mack and Whitehouse “ruined” what makes the show so special.

Many also criticised the BBC for organising the Not Going Out comedian as Mortimer’s replacement – despite the fact that it was Mortimer himself who had “lined” Mack up for the role.

One viewer, who “didn’t enjoy the episode one bit”, levelled: “You can’t replace Bob or Paul. It’s the banter between them that’s makes this such a special programme. Love Lee Mack but not in this situation.”

“Of course it’s not going to be anywhere near as good as when Bob’s there,” another person added, with an additional viewer stating: ”I don’t mind Lee Mack but his filling in for Bob is unnecessary, isn’t it? This episode is just awkward for all involved.”

At the beginning of the episode, when Whitehouse asks Mack if they should “go and have a fish”, the comedian tells him: “This is why I was worried about doing it when Bob asked me to come: I don’t fish. And when I say ‘I don’t fish’, I don’t mean, ‘I can’t fish – teach me, grasshopper.’ I mean, I won’t fish; I’m a vegan.”

Whitehouse replied: "Did Bob know this when he put you forward as a candidate or did everyone else say no?" During the episode, Mack ends up participating in what he describes as “vegan-friendly” fishing.

Bob Mortimer was replaced on latest episode of ‘Gone Fishing’ (BBC)
Bob Mortimer was replaced on latest episode of ‘Gone Fishing’ (BBC)

One fan, defending Mack from particularly cruel social media posts levied against him by X/Twitter trolls, wrote: “I need to make it clear cos I’m seeing a lot of hating on Lee Mack. I really like Lee Mack, it wouldn’t matter how good he was, it’s a chemistry thing. You can’t do a goddam thing about that. It’s fate.”

Mortimer will return to the series for its next episode.

The TV star had a triple heart bypass operation in 2015 after he was diagnosed with coronary heart disease. Whitehouse, who was also diagnosed with heart disease, has had three stents inserted to help widen his coronary arteries.

Gone Fishing was born when Whitehouse, who Mortimer had known for 30 years, invited his longtime friend fishing to get him out of the house after his heart surgery.

“That’s how we sold [the show],” Whitehouse told The Independent’s Ed Cumming in 2020. “We’ve got this show and we’ve both got heart disease, so with a bit of luck, the jeopardy is that one of us will drop dead on the riverbank, and that’s TV gold. So far it hasn’t happened. We keep dragging it out.”