What to say of you liked it
Any show where Paul Merton is encouraged to indulge his wonderfully surreal humour is worth watching.
What to say if you didn’t like it
Despite the best efforts of Merton, Kirsty Young was too guarded in her views and too obscure in her choices of pet hates.
What was good about it?
• While Paul Merton may lack a journalistic instinct to delve deeper into his guests’ psyche as to the reason of their choices, he easily compensate with his brilliant observations. Remarking on Kirsty’s comment of “uptight, protestant arsehole”, he wittily said: “It sounds like a cocktail” before adding, “a little difficult to get the straw in.”
• Having Brian Blessed as a surprise guest to commentate on snooker to disprove Kirsty’s belief that he was the paragon of people who couldn’t modulate their own
voice was a decent innovation.
• The research to exhume the best clips to illustrate a choice is as superb as ever, with the highlight coming during during Kirsty’s rant against loud and quiet people, showing Tom Waits being upbraided by a classically rude, and very young, Ian Hislop for mumbling
• Kirsty Young was a good guest largely because she wasn’t a comedian, as they always seem to want to compete with Merton rather than being stooges for his jokes.
• The warped photo of Ian McShane that gave him stumpy legs.
What was bad about it?
• Kirsty Young set herself up as a psychologist, but failed to acknowledge that speaking in a quiet voice may be due to shyness rather than attention-seeking.
• Brian Blessed overstayed his welcome.
• Kirsty Young’s gullibility regarding men with tattoos whom she admires they are “quite brave” because of the pain. And it’s this perception that men with many
tattoos seek from women as they are too universally shallow and stupid to impress them in any other way.
Room 101, BBC2, Friday 2 February 2007
Why Davina McCall’s choices were some of the most selfish and superficial in the history of the show.
Davina’s main objection to space travel was that it cost too much. Fine, but if she had provided the blueprint DNA for ‘Eve’, the ‘mother’ of mankind then instead of striding out of Africa 150,000 years ago to all four corners of the globe, as a species we’d still be apes swinging from the trees with no sense of culture, adventure, wonder or consciousness; ironically a state that her beloved Big Brother seems to urge a regression to.
She then used the populist coward’s comparison of speculating how many “schools could be built” from the cost of the abortive Mars probes. But also think how many schools could be built from obscene profits from the over-expensive Rolexes Davina championed in her second choice. She railed against “fake” goods, imitations of pointless luxury goods such as the Rolexes that the nauseatingly wealthy purchase to elevate themselves above the rest of the common swine.
If the insecure fools who assemble their phoney status through these products stopped buying them and “gave the money to charity”, like every guilt-ridden TV show seems to do at the moment, there would be enough cash to build schools on Mars.
While her final choice of Frank Sinatra’s music was a case of right target, wrong reasons. “He can’t sing in tune,” she wailed against a much-overrated quality in singers. “If you put him in X-Factor he wouldn’t get anywhere.” Neither would Johnny Rotten, neither would Kurt Cobain, neither would Thom Yorke, neither would Elton John, neither would Patti Smith, neither would Alex Turner, neither would Bernard Sumner, neither would Lily Allen. All those performers, and Sinatra, possess charisma and talent something that is burned out of X-Factor wannabes at the “Boot Camps” as though brutally exorcising a foreign spirit.
Room 101, BBC2, Wednesday 14 September 2005
What to say if you liked it
The vexing ills of the world are put to the sword of mordant witticisms by Paul Merton and Dara O’Briain.
What to say if you didn’t like it
Thirty minutes of spiteful, directionless hate.
What was good about it?
• The whole show was utterly hilarious and deserves entry into the hallowed halls of classic Room 101s alongside Johnny Vegas and Harry Hill.
• Dara’s hatred of almost every aspect of contemporary life which had evolved and festered since he received the invite to appear. “Those quizzes on daytime shows where they have is it (a) Posh Spice, (b) Push Spice or (c) Pish Spice?”
• Dara’s expose of children’s TV, “a vicious snakepit of ambition”, where aspiring Noel Edmondses begin their ascent of the televisual Everest from their lowly base camp of entertaining youngsters on inane kiddy shows.
• The clip of Dara as a children’s TV presenter in his native Ireland during which he is making an announcement and is distracted by a giant goose (“that prick in the bird”).
• Dara’s tale of how as a novice presenter he was put-off moments before he went on air by his fickle co-presenter who remarked: “They all think you’re a prick!”
• How Dara’s children’s show was going to follow the pregnancy of a dog and then distribute her puppies to homes around Ireland. Unfortunately, the puppies didn’t make it and their whereabouts became a national mystery to the oblivious populace.
• The classic Blue Peter clip when John Noakes scaled Nelson’s Column on a series of ladders loosely strapped together with fraying rope, and with no safety harness. “If I was up there, I think I’d toss myself off,” Paul reflected. “Anything to take my mind off it.”
Paul deliberating if children’s TV presenters should go into Room 101. “Where would we get the next Dick and Dom from?” he mused, before promptly pulling the lever.
• Dara’s description of the pomposity of hot air balloon pilots in the Serengeti: “It’s a Bunsen burner and a shopping basket. Get over it!”
• Dara’s exasperation of how tourists can see very little from “80 feet in the air” as their balloon soars over the Serengeti plains, “No one’s ever given a child a book ‘Animals From Above’.”
• Paul and Dara’s mockery of a “tremendous story” on Bargain Hunt used to illustrate the senseless time-killing trait of “banter” which has infested every pore of daytime TV to the point where it’s become an essential element of every show.
• Dara’s wrath towards Gillian McKeith and her “shrill, naggy face”. He claimed that in Ireland, she is the very image of “what Catholics thought Protestants looked like while we were growing up. Just really thin and miserable.”
• As Dara was about to gush forth his most potent verbal venom about Dr McKeith, he turned to the camera and said because of “very delicate legal ground” that he “said a lot more than you’re about to see in this particular section”.
• Dara spitting: “(Dr McKeith) does a programme called You Are What You Eat, and if that’s so she’s a shrew.”
• The fleeting horror on Dara’s face as Paul introduced “our surprise guest – Dr Gillian McKeith!” Luckily for Dara it was only a cardboard cut out which Paul then asked him to cut in half to illustrate his derision for the tortuous, fake routines of magicians.
What was bad about it?
• We didn’t get to hear Dara’s other 15 choices that failed to make the cut for the final show.
Sir Alan Sugar
Room 101, BBC2, Wednesday 21 September 2005
If Sir Alan Sugar’s intolerant persona had set himself and Paul Merton the mission of producing a successful episode of Room 101, here’s how he may have viewed it:
• “Paul Merton and Sir Alan Sugar, you were tasked with writing and presenting a programme of Room 101. You didn’t need to bugger about with the format, you just
needed to use the tools at your disposal to make it funny – the profitable currency of comedy.
• “Let’s look at how you did. Paul… you adopted your trademark deadpan style for many of your jokes. I was very impressed by your observation that bald men could gradually introduce their new wigs by first wearing them on their shoulder. Very amusing.
• I also enjoyed how you exposed Sir Alan’s hypocrisy over laborious telephone helpline queues by calling Amstrad’s own service and finding it as long-winded and convoluted as the ones he was moaning about… Well done. For your efforts, you’ve won yourself a trip shooting office juniors in the Scottish Highlands, or some such other banal activity relished by middle-management which have enough numbing materialistic sustenance to distract from the yawning fissure of emptiness growing in their soul.
• “Sir Alan… I’ve got a real problem with you. You’re an arrogant oddball. There’s something awkward and jarring about putting you anywhere near anything comedic or witty as, like a rogue noxious emission from a chemical factory, you have a unique talent for polluting the surrounding environment with your morose self-delusions. Take your ‘hilarious’ anecdote with which you ‘cracked up a film crew’ when saying how
Donald Trump couldn’t travel by speedboat up the Thames as ‘his bloody hair would have been back at Tower Bridge’.
• “Your first entry into Room 101 was ‘schmoozers’, who obsequiously laugh at your every remark, only you didn’t notice such fake hilarity when confronted with it face-to-face; what’s worse, you then use your misguided observation to fuel your proudest moment. I don’t know who the bloody ’ell told you you could do comedy, ’cause it ain’t happenin’, sunshine. I’ve seen more professional, amusing recitals of funny stories
from breathless four-year-olds; your remarks were out-of-date, lame and exhausted. And so it’s with very little regret… that Sir Alan Sugar… I’m going to have to say… you’re fired.”
Room 101, BBC2, Wednesday 5 October 2005
• Jumper fetishist Gyles Brandreth was a vast improvement on the disastrously lifeless Alan Sugar last week (admittedly this wouldn’t be hard). The former Tory MP and rather rubbish novelist wasn’t an obvious fit for the programme but his eccentricity and passion ensured this edition was humorous and highly watchable.
• The archive photos of Gyles’s jumpers through the years (our favourite was complete with a 3-D frog on).
• The Royal Variety Performance – a well-chosen and highly justified choice for the dumper (especially for anyone who can remember Sonia and Shane Richie performing Grease). Gyles quite rightly noted this bizarre relic of British television has no real purpose and is crammed full of embarrassing British performers who really belong in summer seasons at Bridlington, not on our television screens. Mr. Brandreth also got bonus points for suggesting that the annual event would benefit from a cynical Terry Wogan commentary a la Eurovision.
• The difference between the erotic and the perverse as summed up by Gyles: “The erotic is when you pluck a feather from a duck and use it in love-making; when you use the whole duck, that’s perverse”.
• The highly disturbing footage of ‘Fanta Pants’ herself, Miss Cilla Black, and her minge lighting up at the Royal Variety Performance.
• The British Honours system. An admirable choice for Room 101 but this didn’t guarantee an amusing dissection by Gyles or host Paul Merton.
• The amount of times Gyles tiresomely reminded us he was once an MP. His stint as Countdown panellist lasted longer than that role.
Room 101, BBC2, Wednesday 26 October 2005,
• Jenny’s difficulty in selecting her pet hates, “I hate everything, including you,” she told host Paul Merton.
• Her choice of “charmless” muggers. “I don’t mind being mugged as long as it’s done with some finesse.” The selection enabled Jenny to recall a variety of experiences as a victim, including a carjacker who went off with her supper which was in the boot and a con-artist cabbie who never returned the £500 Jenny gave her to get IVF.
• Jenny’s anti-jellyfish rant which had Paul observing “I think you might be a bit mental.” He pointed out they may have their uses. “We can all eat plankton,” Jenny retorted, before imagining giving birth, by accident, to a jellyfish baby.
• Tottenham Court Road, cited for its grubbiness and grime. “It should be called Rubbish Shopping Street and bulldozed all the way to Paperchase,” Jenny reckons. The selection was illustrated by a spot-on sketch we’d forgotten from Not The Nine O’Clock News featuring sneering hifi shop assistants.
• The show deflated a bit towards the end, though, with the selection of balloons and goodie bags providing no real laughs.