Saturday, 12 January 2008
News Knight With Sir Trevor McDonald, ITV
Did we like it?
Like the emergency services preparing for a the touchdown of a crippled passenger jet spluttering its way on to the runway on half an engine, we really did fear the worst. But thanks to Marcus Brigstocke and an acknowledgment that Sir Trevor has the comic timing of a breeze block it was quite amusing. In parts.
What was good about it?
• The National Television Awards have hammered home the point, year after year, that Sir Trevor cannot tell jokes or inject spontaneous humour into scripted witticisms; a flaw exacerbated by the fact that three professional comedians were sat to his left. However, what he can do is act like a stooge in the same way Boris Johnson in one of his thankfully sporadic outings as guest host of Have I Got News For You.
• Like Johnson, Sir Trevor is given ludicrous statements to read out in his flat delivery such as “I can’t remember the last time I went to Glastonbury, but that’s mushrooms for you.” If it was read out by someone who wasn’t a conservative member of the British establishment, for instance Jonathan Ross, it wouldn’t be funny as the link between memory loss and mushrooms is too predictable. The humour is gleaned from the unexpectedness of the orator in the same way as it would be just as funny had the Queen said it.
• Marcus Brigstocke delivers most of the funny lines fulfilling a similar role to that which he did on What’s The Problem? With Anne Robinson, with the crucial difference being Sir Trevor’s willingness to play the stooge and not attempt to measure his wit against a comedian. Brigstocke is also much closer to the host, unlike with What’s The Problem?, when the Moon was in nearer orbit to the Earth than he was to Anne Robinson.
• After Sir Trevor was referred to as Mr T, Brigstocke quipped: “If anyone offers you milk and you wake up on a plane…”
• Reginald D Hunter’s envy of the debauched delights he thought had come Salman Rushdie’s way when the Fatwa was placed on him in the mid-80s. “I want a Fatwa,” raged Hunter. “I’m going to write me a book called ‘Allah, The Qur’an And Your Momma’!”
• And on the same subject, Brigstocke noted that he was “going to Islamabad and opening a flag and match shop”.
• The only time Trevor appeared to be anything more than a comedy dummy resting on a ventriloquist’s knee was in his vilification of Bernard Manning. “I never thought of Bernard Manning as a racist comic,” he began, “just a fat, white bastard.”
What was bad about it?
• Boris Johnson’s turns on HIGNFY work because of their infrequency and the novelty of having a clueless buffoon present a quiz show notorious for its slickness and humour. It’s possible Sir Trevor’s ineptitude in comic delivery will soon become a joke that wears very thin as his practised stiltedness becomes more and more transparent until he simply degrades to the bad presenter he is at the National Television Awards which he hosts as a virtue of being the last rotting totem pole of ITV’s integrity.
• Another fault is that New Knight brazenly pilfers ideas from other shows, but suffers in comparison when they aren’t as good. The HIGFY trait of applying a topical news story to an unrelated bit of film is done with particular clumsiness. Film of two ITV regional newscasters talking about rats is claimed to represent media opinion on the latest Big Brother housemates was a trite, outdated and predictable barb.
• Similarly, Sir Trevor’s contrived naivety as host can mean that potentially funny gags are ruined. The best example came in the ‘Gay or blind’ segment in which an American newscaster lauded the achievements of a man conquering a mountain peak “even though he is gay… sorry I meant blind”. Imagine how much wittier this would have been in the hands of Harry Hill.
• The ham-fisted effort to make it seem as though David Cameron was rolling up a joint. Firstly, the hands pasted on to the film were out of proportion to Cameron’s body and that whole joke is about two years old.
• Sir Trevor: “My top three news stories…” Ripped off from Eight Out of Ten Cats.
• The abysmal film quality of some of the footage. They seemed to have either been downloaded from YouTube to save on costs or were last broadcast around the same time Sir Trevor appeared on TISWAS.
• Transposing Tony Blair on to Britain’s Got Talent for his premiership to be lambasted by the judging panel suffered because there are few people in the country with no right to sit in moral judgement on Blair, and two of those people are Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell, both parasites who make tapeworms seem like St Francis of Assisi. Amanda Holden’s comments were as colourless and drab as usual.
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