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Monday, 23 March 2009

Genius, BBC2


Did we like it?
On the Richter Scale of genii, Genius would nestle alongside Mark E Smith and Ivan Turgenev creating a cultural earthquake of about 7; below the 10 of Archimedes and Franz Kafka, but soaring above the squalid pseudo-genius of Friedrich Nietzsche and Tony Parsons, the journalistic equivalent of Ben Elton.

What was good about it?
• You imagine that in seeking a replacement for Room 101, the BBC locked Genius and I’ve Never Seen Star Wars in a cage to fight for the more prestigious BBC2 slot with tooth and claw.
• Genius employs the same strategy as Room 101 in which a member of the public, as opposed to a celebrity, must justify why their innovation is genius, as opposed to being dispatched to the bowels of Room 101. The idea is then either decreed a ‘genius’ idea or not by the resident guest.
• The funniest part came with the worst idea. This was because the excellent Dave Gorman and amusing guest Catherine Tate could mock Mike’s idea of a ‘democrobus’. The democrobus itself was a silly idea, but one that was ridden with corrosive flaws, which supplied Gorman and Tate with innumerable gags.
The democrobus works by each passenger having a steering wheel so they can ‘vote’ which route the bus driver follows. Mike, rather feebly, argued that this would ensure that every passenger could get to their destination more accurately rather than a few fixed points.
A noble notion in theory, but one that Gorman tore to shreds with good-natured relish. He involved the audience to show that if one third wanted to go to Belgium, and one third each to two other destinations then through a democratic voting system the bus would simply go round in circles. (Which was, rather inadvertently, an apposite observation on the nature of democracy itself.)
Gorman also pointed out that quite often people don’t know the exact route to their destination, and so wouldn’t know where to turn.
• Of the three ideas that were declared ‘genius’ by Tate, the best was Mark’s ‘hood on a sleeve’ that would enable men “out on a date with a bird” to shelter their hair if the heavens should suddenly open as he walks her home, with the hood attached and positioned near his elbow so he had an excuse to put his arm round her.
The fascination in this innovation wasn’t so much the device itself; it was more the incredible depths to which the masculine imagination can reach to concoct a scheme to get his leg over, which Mark conceded was the purpose of his invention.
• The final idea came from Alex, who proposed a pair of shoes with 98-metre platforms so that he could win a 100m race simply by falling forward. Gorman gleefully pointed out that it would be useless in the Olympics as, while you might win your first race and progress to the next round, the fall would kill you.

What was bad about it?
• We imagine that the members of the public are briefed quite strictly about what they should and shouldn’t say, with even some coaching to help with caustic quips and witty ripostes – there’s nothing wrong with this. The problem arises when the member of the public assumes their hare-brained invention entitles them to try and dominate a conversation with professional comedians on a comedy show.
• This occurred with Paul the cab driver, who ostentatious proclaimed his tactic of demanding the footwear of drunken people who got in his cab as insurance against assault, non-payment, vomiting etcetera. Rather than simply let Gorman and Tate mock him, he persistently insisted on the validity of his idea.

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