Did we like it?
There were moments of gross out humour and it was reasonably watchable. But we expected more. Having said that, all panel shows need time to bed in and the concept of a washed-up, foul-mouthed panel show host played by a puppet is a good one.
What was good about it?
• It’s an interesting premise, this dirty old puppet (Barrie Stardust,played by Dave Chapman) with a built-in tabloid background of coke-fuelled S&M nights. It was enough to get us to watch Dave, which we swore we wouldn’t do once the channel swapped from its old, incredibly laborious name (UKTV G2) to its present title. It reminds us of that Simpsons episode where Homer is in a barbershop quartet, the B-Sharps: “What we need is a name that’s funny at first but less and less funny every time you hear it.”
• Kirsten O’Brien was the funniest person on the show, which is a little odd considering at least two of the other three are supposed to be exciting up-and-coming comedians (Rob Rouse and Mark Dolan).
• Kirsten considering what she could do, sexually, with Barrie Stardust’s nose. Conjured an interesting image or two.
• The occasional good line from Barrie – “Put your cocks on the block” has the makings of a decent, if route one, catchphrase.
• Barrie cutting down the frankly desperate Les Keen, who was trying to invent a strange story involving Wile E. Coyote. “No, Les, Wile E. Coyote is a two-dimensional cartoon character and you’re talking shite.” It saved Les from attempting to end his story and us from hearing it.
• In the typical panel show rip-off round, where contestants had to describe an infamous celebrity moment (Hasselhoff drunk eating burgers etc), Mark Dolan complained loudly, and fairly, that Rob Rouse’s character voices all sounded the same.
• Kirsten’s necklace. A rectangular gold chunk as big as her head with dangly bits. We couldn’t take our eyes off it.
What was bad about it?
• It took two minutes for them to resort to a knob cheese gag.
• Presumably Mark Dolan was on half the fee to everyone else, because he was mute for the first two-thirds of the show.
• The ‘guess the infamous celebrity moment’ round was little more than a shouty version of popular board game Articulate. We felt sympathy for the contestants trying to crowbar in some comedy.
• Rob Rouse, perhaps keen to raise the muted atmosphere, was too loud but unfortunately not particularly funny. For all we know Mark Dolan might have been hilarious, but Rouse never let him get a word in.
• Rouse’s tired routine about estate agents called Tarquin. We thought it was just the puppet that came from the 1980s.
• Les Keen did not seem to fit this type of show.
• All the contestants appeared a little bewildered either at the format or Barrie himself. Everyone knows Have I Got News For You contestants are well primed before the show, here they felt a little under-prepared.
• Some of Barrie’s lines were quite good, but the puppet was a little inanimate and staring into Barrie’s dead eyes while he delivered a line often didn’t help the joke. Much of Nick Hancock’s or Angus Deayton’s polished and/or sarcastic delivery is enhanced by a raised eyebrow or a shifting of an eye or a curl of a lip. Barrie’s face was unable to make these subtle moves and it was often to the detriment of the script. Too often he looked like he was staring helplessly at the autocue, which, obviously, he wasn’t.