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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Argumental, Dave

Did we like it?
Arguably, this is a very funny new comedy panel game. On the other hand, there are plenty of painfully unfunny moments.

What was good about it?
• The man with the mischievous smile, John Sergeant, is such a likeable chap (we gather he's going down a storm on Strictly Come Dancing) and we're pleased he has got the chance to chair his own show (he certainly deserved another chance after that awful pilot on ITV which died a death and was so bad we don't recall its name). Not all of his gags were great but there were some gems, eg:

"MPs now need to produce a receipt for everything they claim. All London's rent boys have changed their name to John Lewis."

"Paul McCartney's a vegetarian. His last piece of mutton cost him £25million"

"Simon Cowell has got more deadly putdowns than a Grand National vet."

"There were so many applicants for this year's X Factor the auditions had to be divided into different categories: dead dads, teen mums and bullied kids".

• Without Dara O'Braian's guest appearance, this would have been a lot weaker. He stole the show and, without him or someone as good (there are only a few), Argumental could fall flat.
• We also like his fellow guest Mark Watson, although he hardly stunned us and we suspect he was rehashing previously used material from his stage shows.
• The varied rounds. The opener – a school debating society-style assessment of "Politics is a waste of time" and "Britain should be more like America" – was the weakest; the flip-flop was weak, too, when Marcus Brigstocke argued for and against "David Cameron deserves to be PM" but it got really good when Dara O'Brain gave us the "Eating meat is wrong" pros and cons ("Look at the face of the cow." "I want to be eaten." "We should protect it from itself."), culminating in a riff about chickens in planes listening to Jimi Hendrix.
• The red versus blue voting cards among the audience. Just like Ready Steady Cook.

What was bad about it?
• The regular team captains are not of the calibre to make us tune in regularly. Marcus Brigstocke has never been a favourite (especially after that hideous BBC1 series he did with Anne Robinson that was so bad we don't recall its name), while Rufus Hound seems to be getting worse as he gets more experienced. He's certainly very poor at ad libbing.
• The audience's over-the-top laughter to below par jokes.
• The contestants' over-the-top laughter, too. Mark Watson looked like he was wetting himself after Sergeant's not funny comment: "How did we manage without Jeremy Clarkson?"
• With a team of eight, yes eight writers, the scripted gags should have been a lot better. Many of them seemed like rejects from a Jonathan Ross monolgue.
• The raucous musical stings.

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