They say don’t they whoever they happen to be that you should never judge a book by the cover. it’s the same with TV series except we change the well known phrase to you should never judge a TV series by its timeslot, cast and god awful premise. As a TV reviewer I should live and die by these guidelines but I must confess I was guilty of judging the BBC’s latest “comedy offering” Big Top as soon as it appeared in the listings magazine. To save you a painful half an hour you’ll never get back let me tell you what its about. Amanda Holden (Britain’s Got Talent) is the ringmaster at a circus which we are told is on its last legs. However because the jokes and cast are so painfully awful the production team have decided to make the down on its luck Circus all shiny and colourful as if to blind the audience with a rainbow. Holden isn’t completely to blame for the god awfulness of Big Top as an actress she can only deliver what she’s been given but she manages to deliver each so called punch line with the timing and enthusiasm of a children’s TV presenter doped up on Starbucks and sugar. She is joined by a caricature of circus performers including a husband and wife team of clowns, a foreign trapeze artist who has his eye on Holden’s character and a sarcastic lighting rigger played by once respected comedy actor Tony Robinson.
Perhaps the cast is the most puzzling thing about Big Top. Somehow (excluding Holden) it has managed to somehow attract proper comedic talent like Robinson, Ruth Madoc and John Thomson. Excluding the comedy (as there were so little of it its not really even worth discussing) the 7.30pm timeslot and the premise about a circus deemed this family viewing but surprisingly some of the “jokes” were crude and seemed unstable for the early billing.
Its completely understandable that TV companies are trying to make less expensive programming but in the case of Big Top perhaps if they’d spent more money on finding a writer who could write jokes as opposed to one who followed a comedy map that dictated every set up must be immediately followed by the punch line so as not to allow the audience to forget when to laugh and I suppose the shiny colours will help to keep them awake.
Sometimes as a TV reviewer you are forced to sit through awful programmes. Sometimes you are tortured and feel tempted to break your telly and sometimes you wonder why you enjoy TV at all In the case of Big Top all three were true. Without screaming and swearing its virtually impossible to convey how terrible Big Top is. Its also worrying that the BBC have placed their faith in tat like this when Lee Mack’s genuinely funny sitcom Not Going Out was cruelly and prematurely axed earlier this year. If at anytime over the festive period you find yourself accidently tuned into Big Top I have one recommendation. Take a tip from John Thomson’s clown and stick a pair of ferrets down your trousers. It will be more entertaining and less painful.