Did we like it?
If this show was hopelessly marooned in a lifeboat adrift on an endless ocean sharing the vessel with other comedy kindred such as QI and Have I Got News For You, it would be one of the first to be clubbed to death with a spare oar and tossed overboard (after the arms have been removed should the food supply get a bit low).
What was good about it?
• This show does work as a format and last series produced some splendid comedy moments, as well as genuine enlightenment in how TV can both scrape the sky and drown in the sewer. We remember Johnny Vaughan’s show in which he recalled a fantastic documentary about a group of bikers or David Mitchell’s spluttered venom for the Heaven & Earth Show.
• Sean Lock is usually a very funny host, but even he became waterlogged with despair with the drab Dee.
What was bad about it?
• Jack Dee was perhaps the most apathetic guest on a TV comedy show since Anne Robinson sprawled herself all over What’s The Problem? in the deluded belief that haughtily brandishing her Weakest Link persona would be enough to succeed.
• We hope it’s because he’d writing a new series of the brilliant Lead Balloon, but Dee appeared to have made his three ‘Hell’ selections about five minutes before recording – and what made matters worse is that they were each utterly uninspired.
• Royal It’s A Knockout has been slated so much in the past 20 years that it would probably wish it could have sought sanctuary in a gulag. Dee didn’t add anything more to the bile already spewed; indeed his anaemic observations enhanced the memories of the show as John Travolta and Cliff Richard scarpered about in silly costumes.
• While his alleged hatred of City Hospital and A Question of Sport were little more than gripes that you wouldn’t even bother writing to the council about. In fact, City Hospital had to be ridiculed through clips of the reliably ostentatious Brian Blessed to scrape laughs from the impassive faces of the audience so bland and inoffensive is the show usually. However, David Mitchell managed to hilariously vent his loathing of the similarly bland Heaven & Earth Show, so the real fault here is Dee’s lack of preparation and lethargy.
• Even worse was his soggy diatribe against A Question of Sport, which faltered because, despising sport, Dee had rarely watched the show and so wasn’t perceptive enough pick out the real bugbears. Instead he aimed aimless pot shots at Bill Beaumont, David Coleman and Ian Botham’s hair 20 years too late, and was reduced to mocking the largely anonymous title sequence.
• His ignorance of sport was shown when he moaned about rugby that “we don’t win anything anyway”, oblivious to the fact that he is resident in the nation of the current world champions.
• His sole choice of TV Heaven was also inappropriate as he lauded Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy noting that it was made “when TV took time to do things nicely”. A fine sentiment of what was no doubt a fine drama, but how he hoped to encapsulate the magic of it on a programme that races against itself deliberately not taking its time, and thereby failed to offer a glimpse of Tinker, Tailor’s masterly qualities, was mystifying.