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The Comic Strip Presents… Sex Actually, Channel 4

Wednesday 28 December 2005
Did we like it?
While tyrannosaurus rex had an undoubted contribution to the history of the world, if through the wonders of genetics, it could be brought back to life today it would still be an evolutionary anachronism. Just like the Comic Strip.
What was good about it?
• The vague, ghostly hints of a satire of middle-class England. Bilbo (Rik Mayall) a conceptual artist who paints portraits as a blob of red ink and then expects it to sell for thousands.
• And Roy (Phil Cornwell), who is afraid of intimacy and expresses his sexuality through the largest collection of pornography on Berkshire (“This section is bestiality, some of the animals featured are now extinct”), and when the Kosovan builders constructing his garden decking romp with his repressed wife, he simply demands a 20% discount from the contractor who employed them.
• The conclusion where, inspired by the random appearance of a festive choir, the corrupt residents of the close endeavour to live a better life as Roy pledges to sell his pornography to finance a romantic trip to Paris.
• The performances were all of a high standard. Sheridan Smith made a convincingly ditzy Angie, though making her the murderess seemed a wholly illogical conclusion to an already flimsy premise. And Robert Bathurst and Rebecca Front were brilliant as a bitter couple sniping at each other.
• The opening credits remained unchanged, which was good.

What was bad about it?
• The complete absence of a plot. Perhaps the writers imagined the comedy could be ignited through a cast of grotesques, but adequate situations were required for the characters to express their quirks convincingly. The promising Carol and Charles seemed to be waiting for any chance to show off their argumentative relationship rather than let their disputes flow naturally from the script. While Jane being chased around the garden by lustful builders may have been an ironic take on Benny Hill’s outdated sexism, but it came across as a lost echo from the 80s which has only just found its way out the abyss of alternative comedy’s profound conceit.
• The Comic Strip is always revered with the same adulation as the Sex Pistols, but similarly, each was just a plastic platform for a much richer consequence. The Young Ones and Blackadder, to name but two, are examples of shows which have the attitude of the Comic Strip within them, but far outstrip them for laughs.
• Perhaps in the pampas grass laden closes of the Home Counties, Sex Actually was an acerbic spoof on the dubious morality and frustrated sensualities of the stuffy middle-classes, but to the rest of the country it was a grim indulgence.
• Nigel Planer – what was the point of his presence?
• Doon Mackichan’s talents being wasted with a mostly dire script.
• Rik Mayall playing a frustrated genius – no surprise there then.

Return Of The Goodies, BBC2

Friday 30 December 2005
Did we like it?
At first there was that sense of euphoria and fun of meeting up with relatives you haven’t seen for a decade, but gradually you realise why it’s taken a so long to attain the motivation and strength to withstand another get together.
What was good about it?
• Some of the sketches still retain their comic appeal. The incessant berating of Tony Blackburn (although this was tempered when the Goodies allowed him to be in on the joke in return for playing their awful records on the radio); and the lassoing of wild Rolf Harrises in order to initiate a breeding programme in a zoo.
• The chronology of how the Goodies moved from the Cambridge Footlights (perhaps the smuggest collection of bilious humanity in the British Isles except for members of the Groucho Club), through a myriad abortive comedy shows in the 60s to the birth of The Goodies.
• One of the main reasons that the Goodies seemed to be successful was that all three were, and still are, very likable, contrasting personalities – posh Tim, boffin Graeme, and unkempt Bill – and this came across in the studio as they looked back over their careers.
• Tim Brooke-Taylor saying that he perhaps should have been part of Monty Python, but modestly adding that his writing “wasn’t that good”.
• Clips from At Last The 1948 Show – the Yorkshiremen engaged in a series of one-upmanship about the sorry state of their lives – and Broaden Your Mind, which seemed like a 60s version of Look Around You.

What was bad about it?
• Much of the humour had dated very badly. This is not a criticism of the wit of the original shows, more that the humour relied heavily on topical issues that were perplexing to a contemporary audience. For instance, it was possible to appreciate that the sketch about Captain Fishface may have been a hilarious pastiche of a Birds Eye Fishfingers advert, but without remembering the ad itself, it merely seems bizarre.
• The allusions to some conspiracy theory as to why the Goodies has never been repeated anywhere. We would surmise that, like executing French aristocrats, denying women the vote or locking 10 strangers in a house together for a TV show, it was very much of its time and today would be a risible and outmoded form of entertainment.
• The Funky Gibbon. Any period of music can be wrought to appear the worst in history if you can find those generation-defining abominations.
• The Cambridge Circus, who were essentially a bunch of Cambridge Footlights, including Tim and Bill, who performed their awful show on Broadway. It was the kind of novelty act some Americans expect to see from the top deck of a London tourist bus as common behaviour amongst the bowler-hatted, repressed Brits.

Top Buzzer, MTV

What’s it all about?
The Johnny Vaughan-penned comic misadventures of two morally conscious London hash dealers.
What to say if you liked it
The first comedy/drama about drugs that isn’t weighed down by the ethical necessity of exhibiting the awfulness of illegal narcotics.
What to say if you didn’t like it
A Young Ones for the undiscerning contemporary generation, only without the jokes, distinct characters and plotlines even fainter than Ben Elton’s.

What was good about it?
• James Lance as Sticky is the only likeable character in the show, but we perhaps feel warmer to him as Lance seems to have transplanted the nonchalant posh drop out who says “fuck” with accentuated class from his roles in Teachers and The Book Group.
• Some of the camera tricks used to illustrate Carlton’s trip were interesting and disorientating.

What was bad about it?
• Drug dealers are the most boring protagonists in the history of entertainment. Indeed, Hollywood sent a bouquet of flowers to Islamic militants for providing the template for a new generation of credible blockbuster villains to fill the void left by the collapse of the Soviet Union that drug dealers inexpertly tried to plug (Crocodile Dundee 2 for instance).
• The currency of friendship among the gang isn’t established through anecdotes and japes but the sharing of a spliff. A fine device for decadent ciphers in a ropey drama to get matey, but for an audience who draw their stimulus from sharp discourse it’s hardly engaging.
• The non-existent plot that observed the hapless Carlton get too high before a romantic meal with Daisy, so he staggered out down the supermarket to get some salt and then… actually, no it’s not worth stealing your precious time explaining the rest of the sorry tale.
• Far too much swearing. The script writers seem oblivious to the notion that profanity is only potent when used sparingly.
• The cynical note after the credits, which gives phone numbers where you can get help for addiction which typically append all shows that exploit social traumas for their own ends and then claim there is a scrap of educational salvation in the show.
• The characterisation, the worst of which was Bugsy (played by the promising Ashley Walters). The DJ was branded with “coolness” and depth after he refused to sell the secret of his delicious cocktail to the corporate suits.

Jack Dee Live At The Apollo, BBC1

What to say if you liked it
The master of miserablism returns with an array of top guests
What to say if you didn’t like it
A washed-up comic props up a show of has been guests
What was good about it?
• It’s always refreshing to have Jack back on our screens as nobody can moan with such mordancy.
What was bad about it?
• Joan Rivers was the special guest.
• Joan Rivers opened her mouth.
• Joan talked about insignificant American celebrities in her routine that exhibited the same laziness of those film ads where the voiceover is in an American
• The audience applauded Joan’s pitiful jokes far too often.
• Some of the jokes seemed to have been born and bred in America (“Italians get the biggest rings as they take them off dead people”), but died in Britain.
• Joan’s face was so forcefully fastened to her scalp that it would serve more use to society were it to be pulled tightly over a burning chip pan to smother the flames.
• The cameras would zoom on to “celebrities” (such as Jo Guest and someone from Holby City) who, even compared to the American “celebrities” Joan twittered on about,
are but microscopic viruses. And Joan was rivalled in the wrecked celebrity stakes by Liam Gallagher.
• At the end of her performance, Joan was still breathing.
• One of the best bits of the last Jack Dee series was when the audience would leave little video messages before the show and then Jack would mercilessly mock them. This has been adapted, but now they “send” Jack text messages. However, far too many of the “messages” seemed to be scripted intros for a gag.

Ideal, BBC3

Tuesday 27 December 2005
Did we like it?
The festive edition of the Johnny Vegas sitcom provided a slice of urban life tinged with surrealism, which made it watchable.
What was good about it?
• Portishead’s Glory Box being played pre-credits.
• The fact that Ideal highlights a common occurrence within the UK: drug-dealing.
• Lovely Ronny Jhutti's appearance.
• Cartoon Head’s weird seduction technique [first male-on-male nipple action on British TV?]

What was bad about it?
• Pregnant woman: who’s the father? Again a common occurrence but yawn!
• Ronny Jhutti’s hair: he looked like an extra from East Is East.
• The camp gay guy: why couldn’t the writers have come up with a gay Average Joe who dabbled in dope?
• The lesbian kiss seemed contrived: wouldn’t the promiscuous heterosexual woman have protested?
Ideal, BBC3, Tuesday 14 March 2006
Did we like it?
An enjoyable and original comedy which has shifted focus as far away from the rather dull topic of drug dealing as it’s possible to move when the central character follows that profession.

What was good about it?
• Johnny Vegas as Moz. Sure, he’s still weighed down by an accent that slurs like an off-course cruise liner dragging its keel along the floor of a shallow riverbed, but as he’s playing a slothful, one-dimensional Northerner such a deficiency becomes a virtue.
• Moz’s hapless efforts to charm his timid new neighbour Judith. As he spots her moving in, he stands in his doorway and stretches out his portly frame. Later, when Nicki storms out of the flat, Moz, eager to appear free and single, quizzically enquires of Judith, “Who was that?” But his cover is blown after Derrick and Yasuko turn up to invite Moz to be the best man at their wedding (only for a disgruntled Moz to discover he was about fiftieth choice, even in the queue after scoundrels such as Cartoon Head and Colin).
• When “on probation” Colin turns up and, like Derrick, confesses he is going to “cut down” his hash intake, Moz exclaims: “Not another one! You of all people; you haven’t got much to live for!”
• And when Colin tries to flog some mace to him, Moz exasperatedly replies: “You’re trying to sell me something specifically designed to protect me from people like you.”
• Moz deliberately and sympathetically giving the heavily pregnant Jenny a warning over the dangers of smoking while pregnant before selling her some dope. And Jenny’s worries that her verucca will prevent a water birth for her baby as she has already “booked in at Parkway Baths”.
• When PC reveals to Moz that he won’t be around anymore because he has been “recommended for promotion”, Moz implores him to “get embroiled in a scandal” to scupper it. But a resigned PC replies: “What’s the point? The official inquiry would be bound to clear my name.”
• And as PC leaves he resolves to “do everything I can to beat this” as though making a pledge to conquer an illicit addiction like alcoholism.

What was bad about it?
• The revolving door format may be effective for quick gags, but does little to build up narrative flow or sketch out characters so the audience cares about them. A case in point is the pregnant Jenny; if the viewers gave a damn about her well-being then they would be horrified at her attempts to buy dope from Moz (and accordingly lose respect for him). And while this apathy contributes to the gag, the fact that she, and almost all the other characters are ciphers (as well as being unlikeable), leaves the comedy feeling a little empty and dehumanised.
• The consequence of this, is that Ideal functions more like a succession of stand-up routines than a sitcom (with Johnny Vegas as compere), and the storylines appear tacked on as an afterthought to link the individual spots together.

The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, Channel 4

Did we like it?
For the first half hour it was great. But then Noel Fielding and Russell Brand lost interest in being funny and instead proceeded to verbally stamp their dull jackboots of sterile surrealism over everything including David Mitchell and Jonathan Ross, who by the end had both given up, too.

What was good about it?
* David Mitchell’s rant against the Cutty Sark: “What is it? A boat, essentially a lorry. What were the tours like? This is the sails, the wind blew it and it went!”
* Eddie Large’s ‘past-life regression’: “I’m Jock, Jocky Campbell, wee Jocky Campbell. I’m fighting probably the English in the 17th or 18th century. We’re going to batter them in, I don’t know, a massive field.”
* The comments about the 2012 Olympic logo from Phil Mitchell from EastEnders (“Fuckin’ diabolical”) and Simon Cowell: “Seriously, it’s terrible. Give me 500 grand and I’ll give you ten better than that!” As the logo can provoke such fury in two of the figureheads of cultural abasement in the United Kingdom the emblem for 2012 becomes a more precious national monument than Stonehenge, while Cowell’s surly assumption that he can create anything other than musical gruel from the corpses of rotten swineherds epitomised his deluded arrogance.
* John Hurt’s crisp, sardonic reading from Peter Andre’s autobiography. “As I entered I caught sight of Vanessa Feltz who winked at me as if to say, ‘good on you’.”
* Jimmy Carr: “In August, Princess Diana’s memorial concert was held. People said, ‘It’s what she would have wanted’. I’m not sure she would have wanted a memorial concert at all.”
* Thom Yorke asking a question with such a maniacal grin he seemed to be taking a break from his seasonal lobotomy, and then emitting the sort of laugh that isn’t usually heard outside of packs of squabbling hyenas.
* Noel Fielding was much funnier last year, and is often someone whom you look forward to with relish on comedy panel shows. Russell Brand can be good, too. But here, it was perhaps that they had been given carte blanche to act as they pleased with no leash of discipline that ruined the show.

What was bad about it?
* Noel Fielding and Russell Brand giving up, and from then on concocting answers which had very little to do with the actual questions, all the while being encouraged by the indiscriminate adoration and twittering laughter of their teenage girl disciples in the audience.
* To the question of what Stephen Hawking did for his 60th birthday, the pair contributed: “He killed a priest with his mind!”
* Or for a picture of the ‘past-life regressing’ Eddie Large they said he was “subjugating Sid Little (sex wise)”.
* Or for the prostate cancer awareness advert which was unusual because it starred the late Bob Monkhouse they said that it instead starred “a talking dragon”.
* Russell Brand’s weary contention that the home secretary, the defence secretary etc aren’t really secretaries because they can’t type at 100wpm.
* But worst of all was when Noel Fielding turned into a human cliché, calling the bloke who helped foil the ‘terrorist attack’ on Glasgow airport “Braveheart” with all the sadistic conceit of ITV1 curling it’s finger around a rifle trigger as part of its role in the firing squad to exterminate originality.
* Lily Allen’s futile rant about how Radiohead’s In Rainbows internet release “sets a bad precedent for young musicians” who are hoping to have a career in music. It is s far better ‘example’ than stooges who emerge from the primordial quagmire of My Space with the full support of a multi-national record label’s marketing department and yet claim to have risen to the top because of ‘word of mouth’.
* Take That asked the teams a question as if they’d just learned to read that very morning, or not in the case of Mark Owen.
* Jonathan Ross’ suit looked as if it was made from a disused Norfolk railway station.
* Lily Allen’s smile played across her face capriciously like a rapidly eroding coastline occasionally bolstered by some do-gooder environmentalists searching for the secret of maps.
* David Mitchell furrowed his brow like a pair of rutting stags raised from their reverie of skimming through beauty magazines by an out of place Rubik’s Cube.
* Rob Brydon looked on the verge of being transformed into an argumentative golf course by Donald Trump.

The Big Fat Christmas Quiz, Channel 4
1 Host Jimmy Carr's jokes including "Cannabis changed from a Class B drug to Class C which was a nightmare for Scouse kids. They had to learn a new letter." "Dogging – you end up driving away in a car looking like a plasterer's radio." "Wayne Rooney broke his foot. He didn't mind too much because all the brothels he visits have a stairlift."
2 The competitiveness and campness of David Walliams, squabbling with his partner Rob Brydon
3 The victory for Jonathan Ross (we love) and June Sarpong (we also love)
4 "What do you do before you please a lady, David?" Before he could answer, Jonathan chipped in: "He goes to a cashpoint."
5 David and Rob talking about Parky (aimed at Jonathan) "He's a proper chat show host. He's interested in you, not just going on about himself all the time."
6 Jimmy Carr's question: "Do you think Ant & Dec have ever double teamed a lady?"
7 The suggested answers to the question, what did Michael Jackson tell a boy white wine was? Man juice, love piss, Pepsi Cola. The correct answer was Jesus Juice
8 Jonathan Ross – "Ant and Dec, a massive cock and that little bloke – what a brilliant night that would be."
9 Jonathan's ciabatta/Lesley Ash joke
10 Jonathan's impression of Nadia
11 Simon Pegg and Liza Tarbuck's surreal answers
12 The Neasden primary school re-enacting The Office's Golden Globes win and the art warehouse fire

2005Big Fat Quiz Of The Year, Channel 4, Boxing Day
Did we like it?
We stopped watching after 45 minutes it was so bad.
What was good about it?
• Jonathan Ross, David Micthell, Rob Brydon and Denise Van Outen.
• Rob Brydon's Ronnie Corbett impression.
• Jon Snow's cryptic clues to the year's big pop hits

What was bad about it?
• Sharon Osbourne ruined the whole affair by being studpidly grand, being thick, being a show off, being there.
• Host Jimmy Carr's unremarkable jokes and aimless banter
• Gordon Ramsay's not a funny guy
• The format in which the teams had to write down their answers made it tedious
• Jimmy Carr telling Jordan and Peter Andre that they couldn't look more glamourous. Idiot. They couldn't have looked more chavvy, fake-tanned or appalling.
Big Fat Quiz Of The Year, Channel 4
Did we like it?
Those taking part certainly had a whale of a time, but we always struggled to get as much entertainment out of Jimmy Carr's quiz as they did.

What was good about it?
• David Walliams' prissy tantrums in his eagerness to win and remind us of his cross-channel swim. He was the funniest participant; his partner Rob Brydon was arguably the least funny.
• Jonathan Ross and Noel Fielding were both entertaining, and Noel came up with the best answer of the night. When asked to name the parts of the crocodile's anatomy consumed by Matt Willis on I'm A Celebrity, he suggested wine gums, envy and pieces of rainbow.
• The Neasden schoolkids returned from last year, acting out news stories of the year.
• Sir Ian McKellen reading out extracts from the autobiographies of Jade Goody and Kerry Katona with such eager sincerity that it underlined how facile these products are.
• Jon Snow's description of rock hits of the year in news story form.
• David Walliams telling Boy George that he'd enjoyed Matt Lucas's wedding because "you weren't there"

What was bad about it?
• Jimmy Carr was too indulgent with the appalling Russell Brand whose appeal still remains a mystery (is it, perchance, because he speaketh like a 17th-century dandy?). Carr did, however, come up with a great theory about Noel's parentage: "Rod Stewart made love to a raven."
• The quiz dragged on so much that some better written material would have come in handy to keep the entertainment levels up.
• David Walliams finishing bottom after some rigged scoring. When he got the final question wrong, he spat: "We're interested in the big issues not some chicken in a fucking tin."

My Dad’s The Prime Minister, BBC1

What was it about?
Sitcom based on life at 10 Downing Street with the Philips family.
What to say if you liked it
Fast-paced satire which shows funny side of running the country.
What to say if you didn’t like it.
Mildly amusing look at what it might be like in Downing Street at election time.

What was good about it?
• The PMs kids, played by Joe Prospero and Emma Sackville. We really loved her T-shirt with the legend ‘My other Barbie’s a crack whore’ and her catchphrase – "I'm doing my GCSEs. You can't expect me to be nice."
• The party political broadcast in which the PM was so desperate to "get down with the people" that he was seen dancing with a clone in a gay club
• The scene of horror that erupted in the PM's imagination whenever the spin doctor recommended he play "the family card"
• Mrs Philips (Carla Mendonca) teasing her husband about whether she was going to vote for him.
• Thelma Barlow (Mavis in Coronation Street) did a good turn, with a Brummie accent, as a pensioner trying to get to her hospital appointment which resulted in horrific press coverage (Oldladygate).

What was bad about it?
• Please stop using these bloody awful audience laughter tracks – was this one recorded at the funny farm?
• Some of the jokes were a bit contrived and it was halfway through the show by the time we got our first real laugh.
• Robert Bathurst looked uncomfortable and a bit flat for the most part. We’ll have to wait and see whether it picks up in future episodes.

Eight Of Out Ten Cats, Channel 4

Eight Out Of Ten Cats: Big Brother Special, Channel 4, Thursday 30 August 2007
Did we like it?
Depends on your own perspective. On the plus side, four educated wits mock a bunch of self-serving idiots; on the negative side, four sneering bullies use emotionally stunted morons as verbal punchbags.

What was good about it?
• Jimmy Carr: “Sadly, Shanessa couldn’t be with us – because we didn’t invite her.”
• Jimmy Carr: “Initially 11 women went into the house, and then Ziggy joined them – making a total of 12 twats.”
• Jimmy Carr: “Did you see Channelle back in the house?” Sean Lock: “Is she delivering pizzas already?” Rather predictable, but Lock’s dry delivery made it amusing.
• Jimmy Carr: “20% of Brits think that Charley should… do what?” Sean Lock: “Only communicate by post.”
• Charley became confused by the concept of brain surgery, and Carr suggested she should have a “cosmetic lobotomy”. “How much would it cost?” she asked. “I’ll pay for it!” quipped Carr.
• Billi, the sort of person who was granted the gift of life in the same way someone gets to keep a football when it is booted into their garden and the kids are too scared to ask for it back, finished a clear last in each of the polls about who from the assembled housemates you would like to perform brain surgery on you/ become your pub landlord/ and whose diary you would most like to read.
• This bit could either go here in the ‘good’ section because it was quite funny or in the ‘bad’ section for the merciless mockery of Charley’ cultural ignorance and the general University Challenge snobbery. But because it is her it’s ‘good’. Danny Wallace: “I’d love to see how long it would take for Charley to get into an argument with Ghandi.” Charley: “Who’s Ghandi?” Wallace: “Brilliant!”

What was bad about it?
• In his intro, Carr referred to the 24 housemates who had been part of Big Brother 8. With 18 of them already out of the house and with only one a pariah on a par with a child murderer, there were 17 to choose from to make up the six person Big Brother panel. So why was it necessary to reach back into the distant and largely forgotten past to retrieve Nicki, Lea and likeable goofball Eugene?
• Jimmy Carr: “I don’t like to think of there being winners and losers in Big Brother – they’re all losers.”
• Rotund comic Jason Manford: “Everyone describes Laura as ‘bubbly’ – that’s because she eats too many Aeros.”
• Charley is now too aware of her catchphrase “I’m not being funny”, and too often because her atrocious acting skills it was apparent she was deliberately pre-fixing her words in order to give Carr and the rest a goldmine of (weak) gags, dragging “I’m not being funny” in front of her sentences with all the calculated menace of an unscrupulous car clamper boxing in an unmindful motorist.
• Shabnam laughing hysterically whenever someone insulted her, or she was at least edited to look that way.
• Dull Nicki.

• Jimmy Carr – "The title Big Brother is inspired by George Orwell's novel 1984 but this year's casting was inspired by Animal Farm."
• Clips of the most-talked about moment from BB6 – Craig's unrequited love for AnTHony, with the hairdressing horror pawing away at the vomiting Geordie. Craig, we learned, is one of the 17 per cent of BB contestants who are hairdressers.
• Science being told that 10 per cent of Big Brother viewers think that Science is a silly name. He tried to rescue his dignity by breaking into one of his awful raps that make the average greeting card verse seem like a great work of poetry.
• Sean Lock suggesting that 34 per cent of BB contestants go back to Asda after they leave the house. The correct answer: they lose weight.
• Jimmy Carr – "Nadia's post-Big Brother diet was extreme. She cut out all meat and two veg."
• Dave Spikey envisaging how Jade Goody would fare on Mastermind. "You've passed on all 22 questions. The answer to question one was Jade."
• Jade proving how thick she is. Commenting on Craig creeping around AnTHony: "If that was a man and a woman, that would be called sexily harassment." Commenting on the suggestion that President Bush is more stupid than her, she said: "I don't know who these people all are."
• Clips of the third most-talked about moment from BB6 – Kinga The Bottle Bank aka Kinga The Novelty Wine Rack
• Clips of the second most-talked about moment from BB6 – the hot tub orgy when Makosi "fell pregnant".
• Science claiming he and Maxwell are "strong characters, strong personalities." No. You are both big-mouthed losers.
• The sight of Maxwell and Victor in stupid hats; Michelle in a stupid face; Kemal in a stupid haircut.
• The not-worth-the-fee appearances by Liza Tarbuck and Jeremy Edwards

Eight Out of Ten Cats, Channel 4
What to say of you liked it
A fabulously irreverent take on the comedy quiz show format that adds a distinct voice to the choir of quintessentially quality Friday night TV feasts.
What to say of you didn’t like it
If comedy quiz shows were organs in the human body, Have I Got News For You would be the vibrant heart, QI the buzzing brain and 29 Minutes of Fame the oozing foot sores, then this is the empty, wizened testicles sympathetically eyed by a doctor armed with a pair of bolt cutters.

What was good about it?
• The shameless pilfering from successful shows as inspiration for the rounds. The first round was a list of the most talked about topics of the past seven days a la Family Fortunes, while the Poll With A Hole section was essentially HIGNFY’s Missing Words round renamed.
• The panel, comprised of Dave Spikey, Sean Lock, Mel Giedroyc, Lee Mack, Simon Amstell and Richard Madeley, were a good mix and all made amusing contributions. Admittedly, Madeley’s seemed to have been fed to him prior to the recording, but he got the timing right.
• It was much, much better than the disastrous 29 Minutes Of Fame and there was no dead(Jason)Wood. Also, Sean Lock was able to achieve redemption and prove he is a genuinely funny bloke. In fact, going by our current exchange rate between Comedy Quiz Shows we’d swap one Eight Out of Ten Cats for three 29 Minutes and the whole series of Space Cadets (still the fathomless nadir of the genre), but only half a QI.
• Jimmy Carr was a slick host, but his impromptu wit appeared to be constricted by his role and the best gags all came from the panellists.
• Simon Amstell and Sean Lock were the pick of the panellists. Amstell made a series of sporadic quips such as: “My brother had one of those black and white anti-racist wristbands. But the black one fell off, so he’s now a racist.” And in answer to the question: Seven per cent of kids don’t know how …? “The correct way to prepare crack?”
• Lock’s best gag was when he explained why he was a lapsed Catholic. “I was at confession, and I thought hold on a minute. I’m in a little wooden room telling dirty stories to an Irishman who’s never had sex. I thought ‘It’s bollocks, this.’” Although he almost trumped that remark with his guess at the Most Frequently Told Lie (“I won’t come on your cat”).

What was bad about it?
• The introduction was done with an American accent. It’s bad enough that films are trailed with Yankee tones to suggest the UK market isn’t important enough to bother re-dubbing for or to award the product (or should that be “pro-duct”) a specious global
authenticity, but for the festering practice to spread onto British TV shows is an infection that quickly needs to be cleansed, preferably by tossing the offenders in an acid bath.
• The opening exchanges between Jimmy Carr and Sean Lock were the kind of stilted dialogue you would expect from regional theatre actors and as a consequence, much of the humour was stripped from the first five minutes.
• Jimmy Carr’s joke. “It’s been claimed that the Make Poverty History wristbands are made by children in China. But they may not be children as they are a lot shorter over there.” While questionable in taste, the worst crime was that it simply wasn’t funny.

Mumbai Calling, ITV1

Wednesday 31 May 2007
Did we like it?
This was a very promising start for this brand new ITV sitcom. Now there's a sentence we never envisaged writing in our lifetime. Based in a Mumbai call centre, it was an enjoyable half-an-hour, with much thanks to the wonderful Sanjeev Bhaskar. This man can do no wrong.

What was good about it?
• Blimey, there were some laughs, many of the characters were not caucasian and, but for one brief lapse, there weren't any unnecessary celebrities involved. We had to check three times to make sure this really was an ITV sitcom.
• There were some tried-and-tested Goodness Gracious Me-style lines in there, where characters awkwardly tried too hard to hide latent prejudice, which we enjoyed, although one or two were a bit too obvious. "I'm going to send you back where you came from," threatened Ken Gupta's (Bhaskar) boss. "Wembley?" he replied, perplexed. We can easily forgive that, though, because the first episode of a sitcom has to be one of the hardest things to execute perfectly and everything is almost necessarily heavy-handed.
• We also enjoyed the Family Guy-style flashbacks, which were not only funny but were a decent way of showing a little back story to the characters. For example, we were shown how Daddy's girl Tiffany, miffed at not being allowed to work, was given her first job by her Dad - as a paper-girl driven to the front door of every house by a chauffeur.
• Tiffany, cousin Anthony and Ken were all sent to sort out a struggling call centre in Mumbai. Once there they met with smooth and unscrupulous Dev, who was enjoyably over the top and had one or two good lines. When intorduced to Tiffany he replied: "Like the breakfast, isn't it?"
• There were some nicely judged lines from the call centre staff as well, "I'm a Watford fan too, sir," lied one.
• Dev calling Ken 'Son of an owl'.
• Ken claiming everything was to be done by the book from now on: "We'll log all calls, problems will be referred to as challenges - everything."

What was bad about it?
• Twiggy's cameo was awful. She's bad enough on America's Next Top Model but she was dreadful here, and pointless. We hope this isn't a theme whereby every week a 'celebrity' will make a cameo call to the call centre.
• While Dev's character was nicely exaggerated and quite fun, layabout thick-o Anthony was just irritating, like a cheap knock-off of Daphne's tiresome 'English' cousin in one of Frasier's rare moments of miscalculation. Hopefully his character will calm down as the series progresses.
• The fact that ITV had to announce at the end of the show that the hapless flood hotline featured in the programme ("Don't worry, madam, it's only an emergency") was fictional and nothing like the real flood hotline in the UK. Thanks for that.

Lenny’s Britain, BBC1

Tuesday 12 June 2007
Did we like it?
The BBC seems to be spending more time trying to analyse comedy (the Dawn French series, Comedy Connections, The Comedy Map of Britain etc) than producing decent examples of the stuff. And this four-parter is a complete waste of time. Lenny is lacking the lovability factor and there's no fun to be had from watching most ordinary people telling bad jokes
What was good about it?
• Some of the Midlanders were amusing – and not just those Amy Turtle-like accents

What was bad about it?
• Lenny's style of mixing Open University lecturing with buffoonery in silly voices.
• The pointlessness of the exercise. "What makes us laugh and where does our sense of humour come from?" Lenny asked. We weren't much the wiser afterwards. It seems that every single bloody thing makes Lenny laugh. Even himself!
• Padding the programme out with contributions from a “joke booth” which was set up in locations around the land as a recycling bin for old jokes.

Touch Me, I'm Karen Taylor, BBC3,

Monday 10 June 2007
Did we like it?
It wasn't bad. All sketch shows are hit and miss, just as all sitcoms have good and bad jokes in them. It could have done with a mite more polish but overall it was an enjoyably silly half an hour.

What was good about it?
• Probably the best sketch idea was the Cash Cow series, which was a parody of those rip-off phone-in-and-win-cash digital channels that newspapers like to wring their hands about because they exploit the stupid. With her hoiked-up breasts and winning smile, Karen played the part well, although we felt the sketches lost their agreeable subtlety as she became more infuriated by the idiotic callers. The first caller trying to guess the famous phrase “The …”. was Daryl who had been tagged for “setting fire to my nan’s dog”, whose guess was “The… pirates.” Other guesses included “R Kelly” and “The R Kelly”, before at 5am she finally revealed the answer was “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. She then set up the next famous phrase which was “A …”
• We also liked the innovative MySpace parody, delightfully and correctly signposted as MeMeMespace. This was realised well despite the obvious difficulties of putting a website on a sketch show.
• Some of Karen's bawdier lines that were there to shock did their job. Coming out of the shower after cheerleader practice she commented: "I love a good shower. Best piss of the day."
• The lonely, sex-starved, inappropriate teacher was good as well, lusting after her male teenage pupils, demanding that the hunkiest ones strip to the waist, and victimising the prettier females.

What was bad about it?
• We found this opening show rather muddled. From the awkward, stilted opening where Karen seemed to read clumsily from an autocue in the gym of her old school, to a cheerleading sequence at the end, we couldn't quite understand why she was back at school in the first place. Although it did afford Karen the chance to squeeze into an Ann Summers nurse's uniform.
• There were far too many groaningly predictable punchlines, from Karen having an internal examination and then telling the doctor it was the closest she'd been to sex in ages, to the American football player walking into the changing rooms looking all hunky, only to emerge as a skinny bloke (all that padding, you see), to the character who claimed not to miss her ex, but wore a T-shirt with his face on it.
• The weird sketch where Karen left her baby in a cafe and walked out drinking a can of beer.
• The bad-taste undertaker who kept making jokes about the death of a woman's husband. We like bad taste. This just wasn't funny. (Actually there's mixed feelings at thecustard.tv about this. Some of us loved it)
• Overall it was a decent show, but sometimes it was rather derivative and
when it did try to be original it just ended up being puzzling instead.

Would I Lie To You?, BBC1

Would I Lie To You?, BBC1, Saturday 16 June 2007/8 Out Of 10 Cats, Channel 4, Friday 15 June 2007
Did we like it?
These comedy panel games are diverting enough, but the proliferation of the genre means they're no longer must-see TV programmes (apart from Have I Got News For You).

What was good about them?
• Three out of the four team captains: David Mitchell (surreal and posh) and Lee Mack (wisecracker) on the BBC1 show and Sean Lock (surreal and common) on C4. We're reserving judgment on Jason Manford, who has replaced the rather repetitive Dave Spikey. We've seen Jason on a few shows and he's yet to raise much of a laugh. But he's young (and northern) so maybe he'll develop.
• Lee's opinion of David as an old fuddy-duddy who wouldn't have possible gone to see Kill Bill (he has and was mightily offended at the suggestion that he hadn't).David was also a young fuddy-duddy, it seems. "Aged five I wrote to Playschool to suggest how they could resolve a union dispute," he confessed.
• The 8 Out Of 10 Cats format (slightly tweaked on this fifth series) still has mileage – but we think we may soon tire of WILTY (appropriate acronym!), which is like Call My Bluff with bits of trivia replacing obscure words.
• The best of the guests was Frankie Boyle on WILTY; Dom Joly on the same show wasn't bad (and managed to conceal the truth that he'd been at the same school as Osama Bin Laden), and Johnny Vegas was on form.
• The sexiest of the guests was Danny Dyer, all in white, ladding it up, and always welcome on our screens.

What was bad about them?
• Hosts Angus Deayton and Jimmy Carr have become predictable. You can guess their jokes in advance and their acts of irritability and schoolmasterliness seem very staged these days.
• The 'civilian' guests only rarely work. Natalie Cassidy annoys us; Duncan Bannatyne worked as the butt of a few good jokes (mainly about his ban on buying paper clips and his accent "I'll be honest, I'm getting every other word," said Lee); and the horrible
Katie Hopkins has learned nothing from the media ridicule she's received, carrying on like the snooty cow we loved to hate on The Apprentice. Poor Sean Lock, it seems, is forever doomed to have a nonentity beside him.

Pulling, BBC3

Did we like it?
The opener to this comedy starring Sharon Horgan was too dark to be enjoyable: there was so much pain. But there were enough funny lines to make it worth sticking with, especially as Horgan's Donna has dumped her dull fiancé and good times are ahead in Penge. Maybe.

What was good about it?
• It was brave to open up with such miserable black comedy, as Donna realised it was not a brilliant idea to marry the dull Karl (Cavan Clerkin), who we first encountered being masturbated by a bored Donna (who didn't realise when he'd finished) and cleaning himself up with a leaf from the cheeseplant.
• Donna's wonderful hen-night. Crazy friends Karen and Louise had suggested a spit roast with Jamal and Kevin, but Donna went ahead with awful matron-of-honour/baby bore Tanya's night at the bingo.
• When timid pal Karen (Tanya Franks) tells Donna that Karl is dependable, rough old Louise (Rebekah Staton) interjects: "Terry Wogan's dependable but you wouldn't want him blowing his muck inside you every night."
• The pre-wedding meal at Jumpin' Joes, somewhat wrecked by the announcement that the wedding was off. Mouthy mother-in-law Margaret, armed with bread rolls, pursues a fleeing Donna outside. "My son has more dignity than..." she roars, just as Karl comes crawling out on his knees. One of the many marvellous cringeworthy moments in the show.
• Donna's decision to move in with Karen and Louise in their "spare room... aka the shit room."

What was bad about it?
• The grim picture of relationships and friendships.
• Generally, Pulling was inventive and fresh but there was still a slight reliance on Victoria Woodyish lines such as "There's a salad bar – with croutons."

News Knight With Sir Trevor McDonald, ITV

Sunday 24 June 2007
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.

Sensitive Skin, BBC2

Thursday 10 Novmber 2005
What to say if you liked it
A painstakingly realised drama that lays bare the casual crumbling of vibrant middle-age into the archaic angst of being a pensioner.
What to say if you didn’t like it
A void of a drama whose subtleties merely mask a yawning chasm of tepidity and narrative.
What was good about it?
• The cast. Essentially only three people, Davina (Joanna Lumley), Al (Dennis Lawson) and Orlando (James Lance), but each is superbly intimately sketched that they became near-icons after the first episode.
• Davina’s anxiety over growing old were stamped in the opening scene when her doctor outlined the crippling conditions associated with HRT. But her concern was only with the sole benefit – that it keeps her “looking younger”.
• Al and Davina’s sterile apartment, with its grey-washed walls, sparse décor. The visiting Orlando complained that the flat ideally suited him, and it would do just that – it was a parody of a young entrepreneur’s dream home (leaving aside the fact that entrepreneurs don’t dream), and so lifeless that even a ghost wouldn’t haunt it.
• Al’s frenetic personality contrasted well with the icier Davina. He was irascible with his son Orlando; vengeful when he went to the library purposefully to read the terrible reviews of a rival journalist’s new book cackling falsely at the literary bile; but epileptically contrite when he accidentally knocked down the local drug dealer.
• Meanwhile, Orlando, 33, has been mollycoddled by his parents and is aggravated that their decision to sell the home he grew up in for their apartment has finally cut the parental umbilical cord. Recovering after his girlfriend dumped him for being impotent, he spitefully demands that Al cares for his dog William – condemning him to be a parent, of sorts, once more.
• When Al and Davina joke about her braving the dangers of travelling on the underground, such as terrorists and muggers, she quips she “rather fancied” herself “as Purdey Hurst”.
• Even the human manifestation of Davina’s frustration as a, grouchy, grizzled admiral (played by Feddie Davies), representative of the moment she realised she would never marry Robert Redford, worked because of the matter-of-fact mood of the whole tale.
• The dislocation evident between Al and Davina when she emerged from the hairdressers, and tried in vain to keep it from blowing in the wind, while Al absently tried to hail a cab.
• The crushing mediocrity of middle-aged, middle-class suburban homes exemplified through Davina and Al’s visit to her sister. Her sister sat quaintly on the sofa, tea cup and saucer in hand, as if she had been there for all eternity, whilst her husband tried to impress Al with his terrible new compositions on his electric piano.
• The dog spinning in circles after inhaling cocaine.

What was bad about it?
• The mournful piano which punctuated the story, often heralding one of the protagonists moping around in a veil of self-pity.
• The rather obvious joke about the irritating cellophane on CDs

The Thick Of It, BBC4

Tuesday 3 July 2007
Did we like it?
Perhaps it’s because we’re sick of prime ministerial political posturing, but while this episode was good it lacked the chilling momentum of usual, and flaws such as plot recycling, unrealistic dialogue and irritating characters punched through the TV screen.

What was good about it?

• Peter Capaldi’s central performance as the heinous Malcolm Tucker is still as hypnotic and hilarious as ever. As the numerous MPs jostled for the right to succeed the departing PM, Malcolm manipulated them – and everybody else so that he ultimately kept his place in the political food chain, even rising a few places.
• Initially fearing he was left out of the interior loop at No 10, Malcolm got Ollie to get his rival Nick to betray Tom, the favourite for the role of PM, in favour of a ‘safe’ backbencher. But once she had been frogmarched into the office of the hapless Ben, she revealed to Jamie that she had an addiction to online gambling, which was greeted with groans of dismay from everyone – except the smirking Malcolm.
• His overarching ploy was to set Tom up as PM, but to ensure that he was better placed than Nick to be in the loop by threatening to disclose Nick’s treason in switching allegiances. The only other matter was to intimidate the Daily Mail night editor into not printing a story about Tom’s addiction to painkillers and Malcolm had transferred his preponderate power to the throne of a new king.
• When the timid Robyn meekly voiced her concerns about working with Jamie to Malcolm as she found him “a little bit frightening”, he reassured her with: “Jamie has never hit anyone. Or anyone he has hit hasn’t had the balls to take it to a superior.”
• Glenn’s nervous breakdown after he was scorned by Malcolm, Jamie and Ollie, with the final straw being when the absent Hugh asked to speak to Ollie and not him. He staggered over to his desk, picked up his papers and screamed, “I am a maaaan. I’m not irrelevant, I’m not irrelevant, I’m not irrelevant.” He as calmed by Robyn and Terri before Malcolm sneeringly called him into action for the denouement of his plot to keep his hands clasped about the neck of political power.
• Julius, the Peter Mandelson figure, who had the old PM’s ear but was fighting in his own placid way to retain his permit to march down the corridors of power. Julius spent much of the fraught evening listening to the test match on the radio with the alienated Glenn, and his calm malice contrasted with the raging whirlwinds of Malcolm and Jamie.
• After Ben insults a cleaner who is appalled at the mess in Julius’s office, she says she will sell her story to the News of the World. Malcolm is forced to appease her, but in the end may have encouraged her to sell her story to discredit the inept Ben, who he had lined up as a potential leader should his plot fail.

What was bad about it?
• The disparate plotlines seemed over familiar – we’ve already seen Ollie mess up his girlfriend’s job with a deluge of disinformation before, while Jamie, riotous on his first appearance when he was even more brutal than Malcolm, was reduced to little more than a portable profanity machine nicked from Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant.
• Naïve little Ollie who was the viewers doorway into the vicious world of politics has become as corrupt and morally debauched as the worst of them. And while this is perhaps a logical character progression and Chris Addison is as convincing as ever, he has become extremely irritating.
• Usually The Thick of It is swept along by a tsunami of witticisms and Machiavellian antics that we don’t tend to notice the very tiny flaws. Perhaps its momentum has slowed to a curdled inertia or maybe it is simply more flawed than usual, but we neither laughed as much as in previous episodes nor did we marvel at the backbiting and backstabbing.
• Whereas the swearing was once an illiterate, primal substitute for more calculated language ejaculated by incandescent feral hairless apes, here it appeared that all the calculation was in the swearing and where once you could join the dots to empathise with the frustration of Jamie, Ollie et al, here it seemed to be profanities because they had nothing interesting to say.
• And this dissatisfaction with the dialogue carried over into the one-liners. Malcolm’s once more seemed to have been improvised from the monstrous maelstrom of his swirling fury, but others seemed to express themselves far too wittily. Jamie’s vocabulary is like a goat tightly tethered to the word ‘fuck’, yet he came out with two lines that were inherently funny, yet oddly didn’t even raise a smile because they seemed to be intruders from another sitcom – “There are shades of grey,” protested dull MP Cliff. “I’m looking at about 15 shades of it,” snarled Jamie. And when berating Terri for leaking his deception to Malcolm he barked: “You’re about as secure as a hymen in a south London comprehensive!”

Fonejacker, E4

Thursday 5 July 2007
Did we like it?
Fonejack (verb): to seize control of a telephone conversation by farce esp. to divert it from reason and logic. That was the definition in the title credits, and to be fair, that was exactly what happened. This year’s Trigger Happy TV, it was essentially a spoof call show, enlivened by clever use of ‘guerilla’ type graphics and a wide-ranging remit of calls. Shops, restaurants, directory enquiries and private citizens all became victims of the Fonejacker. It was funny enough to prompt a repeat viewing, but we can’t imagine it lasting more than a series.

Good calls?
• There was an over-reliance on a foreign gentlemen who mispronounced acronyms – but the reactions he got from Directory Enquiries when requesting the number of ‘Duhfs’ (aka DFS) and a tv repair shop when discussing his broken ‘Voosra’ (aka VCR) justified this fairly obvious starter.
• Terry Tibbs, a cross between Harold Steptoe and Swiss Tony, was the most well constructed and thought out character. His running rings round a guy who was trying to sell a Maserati was the highlight.
• The thumbless man trying to buy a voice-activated mobile phone from a Carphone Warehouse employee.
• The spoof estate agent which was using a voice-recognition system to enable people to specify the type of property and the area that wished to live in had us wincing in recognition as the deliberately misheard details sent the caller round and round in a spiral of frustration.

Bad calls?
• The Ugandan bank official trying to elicit people’s bank details was a poor replica of the Nigerian 419 email scam that we’ve all been sent. And unsurprisingly, nobody bit.

The Big Impression, BBC1

The Big Impression 2004 Christmas Special, BBC1
1 Dirty Den and Little Mo in EastEnders, realising the episode was just going to be a double hander. "I hate them," Mo said. "We'll have to indulge in some sub-Pinteresque dialogue instead of the way we normally talk."
2 Richard Madeley's hatred of Christmas. On I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – "They haven't thought it through." On playing parlour games – "Imagine playing silly little guessing games every day."
3 Jennifer Saunders bashing out the script of the French & Saunders show ("We're just finishing it") with Alastair McGowan as Dawn French being Alastair McGowan
4 Posh and Becks discuss her pregnancy with an unintelligible Parkinson. "I love being pregnant. I just eat. As David says, I'm eating for one now."
5 Kelly Holmes being interviewed on Lorraine Today ("Lorraine and Kelly!) and being regarded as a flop for not being a gallant loser
1 Alan Titchmarsh: the real thing is boring and so was the impression
2 The Making Of Bridget Jones with Colin Firth (we thought it was supposed to be Hugh Grant for most of the sketch) and Renee Zellweger
3 Ronnie Ancona's Kerry Katona
4 Vernon Kay hosting reality show Scraping The Barrel (although the Raj Persaud impression was spot on)
5 The overlong Wizard Of Oz parody featuring Dot Cotton, Sven, Jordan, Ozzy, Michael Winner and Ruby Wax (although we loved Barbara Windsor as a munchkin)

Rich Hall BBC4 specials

Rich Hall’s Cattle Drive, BBC4, Thursday 12 January 2006
Did we like it?
An unusual comedy which was odder than it was funny, but one to watch again now the characters have been bedded in.

What was good about it?
• Rich Hall as both himself, and deranged animal rights activist U Horst Nightmare, and Mike Wilmot as Rich’s hapless flatmate.
• The acerbic social commentary which although at times sounded like the Daily Mail was funny and sharp enough to make its point. The most amusing instance was when Rich and Mike’s flat was being burgled but Mike’s efforts to tackle the thief were thwarted by his insistence that as long as he was running away from Mike, he couldn’t be restrained or it would constitute an assault.
• Rich: “What sort of robber would rob a place called Bleak House? For Leonard Cohen albums?”
• When Rich and Mike are arrested for pinning the burglar to the ground, their solicitor reveals he is a property solicitor and not qualified to deal with criminal cases but could conduct a survey of the police station and offer a fair valuation.
• As the fugitive Rich and Mike make camp in the desolate wastelands of Berkshire, Mike hears Rich ask him if he has any secrets. He does, and recounts a tale of how at 12-years-old he was subjected to the lewd advances of an uncle. A bemused Rich replies “I asked you if you had any ‘cigarettes’, not ‘secrets’.”

What was bad about it?
• The budget seems to be that of a CBBC drama. Plenty of cheap closed off sets that weren’t being used to film the new series of Kerr-ching!, and scenes that appear to have been shot in a single take.

Rich Hall’s Election Special, BBC4
What was it about?
Rich Hall and mate (Canadian comic Mike Wilmot) go native in Montana to see what the locals are up to at election time.
What to say if you liked it.
An offbeat look at what the American election’s really about. Guns, guns, guns… and a bit about education.
What to say if you didn’t like it.
Who cares what a bunch of boring rednecks think?

What was good about it?
• The ‘thinkin’ fellas’ union’ – Hall’s idea of a get together in a log cabin to talk politics and ‘drink a shitload of bourbon.’
• Using an alter ego – local radio ‘shock jock’ Wayman Tisdale – the kind of bloke who makes Rush Limbaugh look like a softie.
• Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) as the local teacher. ‘If Bush wins again, we’re fucked. We’re all fucked – for the rest of our lives.’
• Mike goes shopping. ‘Easy Cheese, cheese and aerosol. It’s what made this country great.’

What was bad about it?
• It was a bit long and although it promised plenty of laughs at the beginning, it got bogged down.
• The constant rowing between Hall and Wilmot started to grate after a while, as did the increased swearing as the show went on.
• The fact that it was quicker to buy a gun in a shop than get a drink in a bar – not the programme’s fault – but that’s bad.

The Keith Barret Show, BBC2

The Keith Barret Show: Ulrika Jonsson and Lance Gerard-Wright, BBC2
1. Keith: “Lance, you once worked for Fergie.” Lance: “Yes, the Duchess of York.” Keith: “Well, of course. Who’d want to hang out with a football manager? (Looks aghast at Ulrika). I’m sorry, I’ve done it again.”
2. Keith: “I usually ask my guests where they met, but we all know you two met on TV. Lance, what was your gladiator name?”
3. On the subject of Santa Claus, Keith said: “I went into my little smashers’ bedroom at Christmas and on the pillow was a lovely note that said: ‘My brother doesn’t believe in you, but I still do’. I turned it over and it was addressed to me.”
4. Keith: “Ulrika, this could be the first show where you don’t marry someone.”
5. After Keith’s eulogy to Ulrika’s beauty had drawn muted audience applause: “Don’t worry we can dub something on it. We’ll go down to the archives and pull out ‘Wembley Crowd’.”

The Keith Barret Show: Richard Whiteley and Kathy Apanowicz, BBC2
1 Keith doing a digging-a-hole mime as Richard Whiteley talked about the first time he saw partner Kathy Apanowicz – she was an eight-year-old on Junior Showtime.
2 Richard and Kathy revealing their Sunday morning bed game: guessing who'll be reviewing the papers on Breakfast With Frost
3 Keith's disgust when an audience member asked the couple: "Would you ever consider a menage a trois with Carol Vorderman?"
4 Keith's conundrum game
5 Richard banging on about Giggleswick School while Keith and Kathy ignored him

Johnny Vegas: 18 Stones Of Idiot, Channel 4

What to say if you like it
Johnny Vegas gets his own primetime show and grabs the opportunity by the scruff of the neck, shakes it around a few times and belches in its face for good measure before delivering on his promise: "I'm giving you back the TV that you've been denied."
What to say if you dislike it
18 minutes of idiocy and about 40 minutes of self indulgence

What was good about it?
• The title sequence with Johnny as a cowboy, riding from the mean streets of St Helens to "that London".
• Johnny spitting in disgust at the thought that he'd be perceived as a TV presenter.
• Ray Winstone's guest appearance. "You were born in the East End, how come you became a poofy actor?" Johnny asked. "Do you ever stick your finger up your ask while having a wank?" asked an audience member (although Johnny admitted the question had been devised by a "little researcher gobshite")
• Johnny pulling out his earpiece and screaming at the producer when instructed to wind up the interview with Ray
• Johnny on the toilet while being slagged off by an angry baboon perched on the toilet roll holder
• Johnny's Deluxe Hamper of prizes (a plastic bag containing a Birds Of A Feather DVD, fags and booze)
• Pro-Celebrity Lock In, a reality show spoof (with its own Diarrhoea Room) in which Johnny got drunk with Terry Nutkins, Keith Barron, Rustie Lee, Martin Offiah, Ro-Land from Grange Hill, Angus Barnett (who?), Timmy Mallett and Roger de Courcey & Nookie at Camden's The Good Mixer dive.
• Johnny's death defying leap on a chopper bike over a prone, nervous Ray Winstone

What was bad about it?
• Johnny ruining Sing A Song while being beaten by dancing girls plucked from a northern poorhouse
• Johnny's ranting and self pity becomes too much to take after an hour
• TV Democracy, an item no better than Noel Edmonds' grunge tank, in which Neil Hamilton (yes, him again) had to dance for fish.
• The dull item involving shopping TV presenter Nick Davies, "the man who could sell Abi Titmuss dignity" who attempted to turn Johnny into "a doctor of shopping, qualified to prescribe savings."
• The Jerry Springer/Trisha spoof called Beef & Gravy

The IT Crowd, Channel 4

The IT Crowd, Channel 4, Friday 3 February 2006
Did we like it?
It was like watching a trial of an exceptionally promising young footballer who has bags of natural talent but is prone to the odd bout of inconsistency. While offering sporadic flashes of brilliance now, if properly nurtured he could be a star of the future.

What was good about it?
• Usually when a show is hugely derivative of a classic, it’s a bad thing. But in the IT Crowd’s case, we’re willing to mostly make an exception because: a) Writer Graham Linehan actually (co-)wrote Father Ted; and b) Any show that even partially apes Father Ted is worth watching because Father Ted is one of the greatest programmes in TV history, and certainly the funniest.
• The scenario duplicates Father Ted with three social misfits exiled to a cold and lonely wasteland (Craggy Island and the IT department in the dilapidated bowels of Reynholm Industries). And while Jen (Katherine Parkinson) is distinctive, Roy (Chris O’Dowd) is a Ted clone, and Moss (Richard Ayoade) is Dougal reincarnated (minus the charm, however).
• Roy, who acts as the protagonist, is at the same time aware of his pariah status and desperate to be accepted by the “normal” people upstairs, yet unconsciously lets himself down with his behaviour which condemns him to a life of servitude. In the second episode, he couldn’t help himself in wanting to have a go on a tranquil-natured scientist’s machine that illustrated how easy it was to induce stress, and ultimately caused the scientist to lose his temper and attack him.
• The inventive, surreal touches which at least indicated the potential of a great comedy. Such as when Roy exclaimed to Moss that their new boss Jen didn’t know anything about computers, Moss dropped his cup of tea in shock. Roy looked at him in dismay before Moss ambled over to another cup adding: “Oh don’t worry. That’s why I always make two cups of tea.”
• The credits at the end of episode one, which illustrated Roy and Moss’s journey to an Amsterdam fair with a pair of disenchanted prostitutes.
• Denham Reynholm (Chris Morris) exchange of gifts with a visiting Japanese chairman after a business deal had been struck. The Japanese gift was an oriental samurai sword, while Reynholm Industries furnished the visiting dignitary with a pair of Doctor Marten boots. As the chairman stomped about in his new boots, he accidentally trod on Jen’s already mangled feet and her expletive-ridden rebuke (censored by Denham’s minion pressing the profanity button) cost the firm the contract.

What was bad about it?
• The laughter track. Not since I’m Alan Partridge has there been such an unwelcome external intrusion into a comedy. In the first few minutes the “audience” laughed at a phone ringing. Why is this funny? It lingered throughout the double-bill like a tuberculosis-ridden cough, ruining a number of moments that would have been more amusing without its unsolicited approval. And by the second episode matters had declined to the point that when we’d start laughing at a gag, the “audience” would pipe up with its insincere chortling, and thus compel us to stop laughing as we didn’t want to be associated with anything that would bracket us with that rabble.
• The first episodes of any new show, whether a drama or a comedy, should concentrate on bedding the characters down. This was performed adroitly with Jen and Roy, but with Moss there was too much effort to establish him as an uber-nerd. He had ordered both the children’s and adults’ editions of Harry Potter to spot any discrepancies in the text, playing up to the stereotype of the geek, and his accent was too annoying sounding like Lou from Little Britain on helium.
• And while we’re on the subject of accents, what happened to Denham’s? In opening scene where he met new employee Jen it had an American twang, and from then on flitted between both sides of the Atlantic with the frequency of blacked-out planes illegally transporting suspected terrorists.
• Denham repeatedly asking Jen if she was “sure” was too much like Mrs Doyle offering cups of tea.

Series two
What has improved about it?
• Moss. Initially, his geekiness was too contrived to be funny but since then he has improved massively. The bits when he was on the toilet and his mother was knocking on the door were brilliant, as was when he was stumped in trying to rescue Roy from beneath a desk by claiming there were sexy workmen at the window to distract the ladies pinning Roy in place.
• Denham Reynholm. Chris Morris’ caricature of a capricious office boss has become gradually funnier as the series has worn on. Perhaps still a little too over-the-top to be a future classic character.

What hasn’t improved about it?
• The script still seems to lurch about with very little focus. Whereas the curious logic of Father Ted added to the surreal atmosphere, too often characters lumber from one situation to the next with very little coherence as to why they’re actually acting that way.

Imagine: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Studio, BBC1, Wednesday 2 February 2006
Did we like it?
The fact that Alan 'You're So Vain' Yentob grasped the opportunity to show off a bit was off-putting, but there were interesting glimpses into the world of sitcom-making

What was good about it?
• Peep Show pairing David Mitchell and Robert Webb being funny as they talked about their show – and the look at the behind-the-scenes complications of making it
• It was a much more thoughtful programme than the similar Channel 4 enterprise fronted by the ghostly David Liddiment
• Armando Iannucci on his genius satire The Thick Of It
• Tamsin Grieg revealing how she thinks of old aunts to stop her giggling at Stephen Mangan's improvisations on The Green Wing

What was bad about it?
• Ricky Gervais and, to a lesser extent, Stephen Merchant are obviously better at writing comedy than talking about it
• People being forced to say nice things about My Family and Yentob hailing it as one of today’s great comedies
• Paul Whitehouse was a little self-aggrandising as he spoke about BBC2's brilliant Help

The Last Laugh, BBC3

The Last Laugh, BBC3
Did we like it?
This edition of Dara O’Briain’s series on comedy writing focused on the British attitude to sex in comedy and featured the work of Jonathan Harvey (Gimme, Gimme, Gimme). Though an interesting insight into his writing and the analysis of potential endings for a part-written script, it failed to cover either in enough depth and was akin to having a delicious starter and the main course not turning up.

What was good about it?
• The vintage clips of Dick Emery and the early Carry-Ons showcased how to pitch seaside postcard humour. Any excuse to show Dick Emery’s toothy vicar, or ‘Oooh you are awful!’ always goes down well with us.
• Kathy Burke’s refreshingly honest approach at the 2002 Comedy Awards to the critical reception given to Gimme, Gimme, Gimme by the gay press – “F*ck ‘em!” even made Jonathan Ross wince.
• Jonathan Harvey discussed with disarming frankness his career highs (Beautiful Thing and his writing for Coronation Street) and lows (Closest Thing to Heaven).
• The last quarter of the show devoted to the competition between four budding writers to finish a partly written Harvey script was an informative look at how comedy producers rate and dissect potential sitcoms. The winner may yet see their script turned into a pilot.

What was bad about it?
• The programme wasn’t particularly well-structured – flitting about from topic to topic and back again.
• The clips of Gimme, Gimme, Gimme proved once again how hit and miss the show was.
• The competition element quite often slipped into an “everyone’s a winner” mentality. Maybe all the scripts were of a high quality, but it just sounded somewhat trite.
• Neither of the two main features were covered in enough depth.

Janet Street Porter’s Desperate Women, Channel 4, Saturday 28 January 2006
Did we like it?
Janet delivered a coruscating diatribe on the inherent obsession of vilifying women in the public eye, and as a consequence, ‘normal women’ too.

What was good about it?
• Janet began her polemic with: “We (women) have more choice, more money and more power. So it’s a great time to be female? Crap!”
• Even though it is also broadcast on Channel 4, 10 Years Younger was rightly castigated for the coercive process whereby a woman is humiliated by having people on the street guess her age, and then told all her ills can be solved with a few strokes of the surgeon’s knife. Presenter Nicky Hambleton-Jones seems to have the same ethical essence as those soft drinks companies who market their cola-flavoured drinks more desirable accessories than water in poverty-stricken third world shanty towns.
• The comical absurdity of 10 Years Younger’s cosmetic surgeon Daniel P Goldberg illustrating to some poor sap, who’s had her confidence mangled in Hambleton-Jones’s train wreck apocalypse vernacular, how her chin will look better once she has the fat removed. But Goldberg was unable to do so as his chin was far flabbier than hers, which pinpointed how ridiculous the whole charade was.
• The exposure of Darryn Lyons, the boss of a London-based paparazzi agency and one of the ugliest men in Britain, as an unprincipled tabloid lapdog. With his podgy porcine face squatting below his multi-coloured Mohawk mane, he resembles a colourful constipated parrot trying to shake a particularly tenacious turd from its feathered behind. Lyons justified his firm’s policy of passing on snaps of celebrities to newspapers to pick out illusionary faults with by claiming that he only took the photos and it was up to the newspapers what they did with them. He displayed the same vacuity of moral conceit greedy chemical companies exhibited when supplying the ex-tyrant with toxic gases, protesting they didn’t imagine they would be used to exterminate Kurds.
• Vanessa Feltz’s hypocrisy was laid bare when she claimed she was willing to host some gruesome live cosmetic surgery show on Five “to pay the bills”, and protested that she acted as a cautionary force against such operations by asking probing journalistic questions about the validity of the operation. Janet, quite rightly, wasn’t convinced.
• The funniest moment came in an incidental headline from the Daily Mail’s fawning eulogy to Lynda Lee-Potter, which heralded that “with more women like her, we’d never have lost the Empire”. Which presumably means if Britain had been ruled by a heartless tribe of Amazonian dictators who propagated the slavery of sovereign nations such as India while simultaneously bleeding them dry of their natural resources to fund the debauched wealth of merchants who spent all their spare time in London’s whorehouses buggering stuffed effigies of tigers they’d bravely shot from the top of their elephant mount then Britain would still be ‘Great’.

What was bad about it?
• It was tucked away in the corner of the schedules as if Channel 4 didn’t really want you to watch it like a schoolboy stowing his first pornographic magazine amongst his old schoolbooks. If the protest about the Poll Tax had sought such a meek expression of their views then instead of pitched battles in the centre of London, a sprinkling of disaffected hippies would have trooped through Lowestoft. It also might have been a refugee from last year’s schedules as the death of Lynda Lee-Potter, whose passing Janet seemed to mourn with all the global sorrow at the eradication of smallpox, in 2004 was said to have occurred “last year”.
• Janet failed to pick up on the fundamental purpose of disseminating feminine insecurity in the media, in that insecurity over appearance breeds the need to purchase perfume, surgery et al. Without provoking the deluded necessity of these comforts, there would be no sales of such products; the same products that clog up the pages of women’s magazines with advertising – the lifeblood of commercial magazines. No insecurity = no sales = no advertising = no magazine.
• The adverts during the break. For every brave step forward taken by Janet in her bid to dismantle the corrosive corruption, two were taken back through the commercials shown. Well done, Channel 4. With one hand you nurture, suckle and tuck carefully into bed at night the notion of promoting a more responsible attitude towards women and encourage that self-esteem and confidence are so much more than wrinkle-free skin and nauseatingly skinny hips. While with the other hand, with adverts for teeth whitening toothpaste, skin cream, 5%-fat oven chips, fresh breath toothpaste, “Say goodbye to winter skin” face cream, shampoo, Jaguar – catchphrase “Everybody cares what gorgeous says” – and the News of the World, you may as well push the notion down the stairs, slam its head in doors and stub out cigarettes on its back.
• The justification churned out by the guilty parties taken to task by Janet was that by picking the smallest fault with celebrities, their altruistic aim was to make ‘normal women’ feel better about themselves. Consciously oblivious that it is through the same magazines’ saturation coverage of the celebrities that has caused the insecurity in the first place. It was rather like pioneering and spreading both the cause and cure for cancer and expecting sufferers to be glad at the distribution of the cure.
• June Sarpong was one of the better talking heads but made an error when she claimed to have “interviewed some of the most beautiful women in the world”, presumably falling into the trap, set by magazines such as Heat and OK!, that celebrities are among the most pulchritudinous people in the world. Completely wrong. Walk down any busy street and within 100 yards, you’ll have passed 10, maybe 20, women who are prettier than either Pamela Anderson or Nicole Kidman (but that’s partly because Anderson and Kidman have, in their own particular ways, been enslaved by the tyranny of homogenised celebrity).

Lead Balloon, BBC4/BBC2

Did we like it?
A wry, acerbic diatribe about how miserable life is for a gloomy, middle-aged man with a chip on his shoulder and a sense of charity that would shame King Herod.

What was good about it?
• Jack Dee is hardly stretched playing a sneering, pessimistic comic Rick Spleen, but he adds layers to the superficial gloss of his stage act. The miserliness of Fagin burrows its way believably into the plot like a wasp pupae sucking out the nutrients of a paralysed caterpillar, before spreading its wings into the so-far hilarious denouements.
• Raquel Cassidy is an excellent foil and a well-written role in her own right as Rick’s partner Mel. Forever mirroring the audience’s exasperation with Rick’s penny-pinching through a roll of her eyes or a barbed riposte; it’s perhaps the attrition of living with Rick that has made her the most cynical character in the comedy.
• The artfully crafted scripts that start from points of little promise – in the opener it was Rick and Mel being invited to a christening, Rick doing an advert for recycling that “made him look like a prick”, and exquisitely neurotic café owner Michael foisting one of his homemade cakes on Rick – and are then skilfully woven together, ultimately conspiring to humiliate Rick or leave him out-of-pocket.
• The scariest derision (we think that’s the collective noun for shopkeepers, if it isn’t it should be) of shopkeepers this side of Royston Vasey. Rick’s nosing around a shop selling christening presents was disturbed by the disturbing Maureen (Miranda Hart) who would oscillate spasmodically between matronly empathy and banshee-like hysteria. As she tried to flog a £140 teddy bear to Rick, he claimed that “they sometimes have spikes in them.” To which she shot back. “Well, no. It was made in Austria.”
• Meanwhile, the electrical goods shopkeeper and paper shop worker in the second episode could have crawled from the pages of Franz Kafka.
• Magda, Rick and Mel’s home help, plays the role of the straight-talking stooge whose naivety or bluntness is often as the root of Rick’s problems. It was she, for instance, who threw Michael’s treasured cake in the dustbin.
• Rick’s daughter Sam (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and her boyfriend Ben (Rasmus Hardiker). It’s worth noting that Rasmus Hardiker appears to be turning into the new Nicholas Lyndhurst; both are painfully thin and very talented actors and seem(ed) to vacuum up all the roles as hopeless maladjusted teenagers. It’s only hoped that Hardiker doesn’t get unjustly typecast, though.
• Rick’s enduring efforts to spend as little as possible such as ruining the christening present by trying to engrave the baby’s name on it himself rather than pay the extra £20 or going to extraordinary lengths to repair the broken toaster rather than buy a new one. But is frequently duped by Ben into giving him money. “I didn’t know that Ben smoked dope!” exclaimed a dismayed Mel to a sheepish Rick. “I wonder where he gets the money.”
• Rick setting his alarm clock obscenely early in the morning just to see if the paper boy would have woken him up after he had a word with his boss; spying through the curtains as Wayne lumbered along the street.

What was bad about it?
• The argument and quips provoked by Rick’s junk mail lacked the sharpness of the rest of the script.
• The frequent decamping to the café, which is fine as we get to see more of Michael, but seems like a rancid organ donation from Seinfeld.

He's Having A Baby, BBC1

Debut: Saturday 20 August 2005
What to say if you liked it
Normally you have to be off work sick, tuned to ITV because you've seen the Diagnosis Murder episode on BBC1 before, if you are to see a programme of this kind. Thank you, BBC, for making it available in a primetime Saturday night slot.
What to say if you disliked it
It's hosted by Davina McCall. And with Kate Thornton fronting The X Factor at the same time on ITV1, this was a real devil-or-the-deep-blue-sea dilemma for us poor viewers.

What was good about it?
• The eight featured fathers-to-be are a nice enough bunch. But should they really become minor celebrities purely because they've proved to have lead in their pencils.
• The grimaces of the men as they watched a video of childbirth – or, in the case of Ellis, a look of nauseated horror.
• The three sisters featured in a voxpop who loved their father because he turned them upside-down and used them as mops

What was bad about it?
• "There'll be no singing, no dancing; no-one will be voted out," Davina promised. There'll be no entertainment value whatsoever, she failed to mention.
• Despite this being a show about giving birth, Davina adopted a rather prudish approach as if conception and delivery were awful things that should not be mentioned. When Ellis screwed up his pretty face to deliver his verdict on the childbirth video – "Seeing all that stretching and that were horrible" – Davina leapt in with "Stop there. It's teatime."
And later she said: "For every one being born, there's one being made. Saturday night and that. Whey-hey!!! Let's change tone now. Out of the gutter." So the act of procreation is mucky, is it?
• Liam and Jonny rather spoiled things by already becoming fathers before the programme started. Spoilsports.
• The stories of how Liam and Jonny became fathers were spun in such a way as to suggest there'd be a harrowing ending. Cynical.
• Danny Wallace's dad assignments. The first was for the fathers to care for a newborn baby for two hours. "Fellas, come and grab a baby."
• The show featured two Coventry City fans, which is surely a statistical anomaly that should have been ironed out.
• Jeff Brazier was featured giving his view on raising kids. So was David Baddiel's brother Ivan, who also happens to be part of the production team.
• The audience laughing at any weak joke made by Davina, and awwing at every bloody opportunity.
• The pointless kiddiecounter, clocking up the number of babies being born during the show (every 45 seconds in the UK, we were informed)
• Matthew the weedy IT consultant wearing a sleeveless top. Yuck.

Meet The Magoons, Channel 4

Debut: Friday 19 August 2005
Episode guide
Six-part comedy series about four Indian lads who work in The Spice, a Punjabi curry house in Glasgow. The spin-off from Comedy Lab is written, directed by and stars Hardeep Singh Kohli as Hamish the trivia king, with Sanjeev Kohli as Surjit the peacemaker, Paul Sharma as Paul the ‘Welsh waiter’, Nitin Ganatra as Nitin the manager man and Vincent Brahim as Nitin's dad, the restaurant owner.
Stairway to Havan: It's the annual West of Scotland Indian restaurant five-a-side football tournament and Nitin's gay friend Imran (Ronny Jhutti) is roped in to join the Spice team. There's also a prayer ceremony to bless the new restaurant oven.
Seven For Eight, or Eight For Seven: Nitin is bewildered by the number of diners expected in the Spice; should it be seven diners at 8 o’clock or eight at seven o’clock? He also blunders when he allows the old tables to be taken away without first having received their replacements, which might not be such a problem had he not also forgotten about a stag night party.
The Samosa Triangle: Nitin’s dad has been charmed by the seductive Dolly Pathan who has encouraged him to bolster his corporate identity through the purchase of her aromatic samosas.
Around The World In Eaty Ways: Chef Alan strikes in protest at Nitin’s new novelty nights when customers can enjoy delicacies from Russia, China and France. In desperation, Nitin hires his friend Giles Chan to help out on the Chinese evening, but will his hare-brained scheme succeed?
Devi Does Dallas: To get more business for The Spice, Nitin dreams up Kurry Karaoke for which each meal ordered is presented with a performance of a karaoke classic by Frank Sinatra or the Carpenters. Meanwhile, Paul is challenged to get a date after boasting of his irresistible charm.
A Previous Engagement: On the way to an engagement party, Nitin stops off to pick up the entertainer for the bash – a snake charmer named Selina, whom he once dated but is now in love with Paul. At the party, Selina tries to seduce the reluctant Paul again, but the competitive Nitin tries to charm her instead.

What so say if you liked it
Daft, diverse and delightful. Featured football, food fighting, F-words and a Fiction Factory reference (they were a 1980s band from New Zealand).
What so say if you disliked it
Box-ticking, bickering-packed banality.

What was good about it?
• Vincent Ebrahim (aka Mr Kumar) who stole the show as Nitin's dad and the owner of The Spice curry house in Glasgow, especially when he wrestled the Hindu priest who'd come to bless the new clay oven.
• The four main characters – Nitin the manager (Nitin Ganatra), Hamish the trivia king (played by the sitcom's writer and director Hardeep Singh Kohli), Surjit the sensible(ish) peacemaker (Sanjeev Kohli) and Paul the annoying, childish Welsh waiter (Paul Sharma).
• The quartet's laddish antics – competing to lift a stack of chairs, shoving fruit up their shirts to create fake breasts, badmouthing each other incessantly etc
• The homophobic "Hello sailor!" joke – it was a little offensive but is a true reflection of what young lads say (especially the ones hiding their own homosexuality)
• The very very gorgeous Ronny Jhutti as Imran from the cash and carry who joined the other lads in the West Of Scotland Indian Restaurant Football Tournament
• The Wayne's World driving sequence when the lads sang punning song titles: Oven Must Be Missing An Angel, Oven Is A Place On Earth. But 1980s-loving Hamish spoils it by going too far with Feels Like Oven.
• "The first rule of the kitchen: never fuck with the chef's Angel Delight."
• We spotted a boom microphone in shot. Don't you just love it when that happens?
• The mix-up in which the football kit got left behind and the lads had to play in dad's line-dancing outfits – pink polyester numbers with tassels
• We learned the Scottish meaning of the word "scud" when "Losers go home in the scud" resulted in Nitin's team exiting the football tournament naked.
What was bad about it?
The imbalance of ingredients. Stand by for a painful Indian meal analogy: there was too much stodgy rice (the endless bickering) to go with the tasty curry (the surreal, some would say silly, gags).
• The rather overbearing music


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