Monthly Archives: January 2013

‘Paddy’s TV Guide’ – Episode 1.1 Review

I sat down to watch Paddy’s TV Guide on Friday not particularly with high expectations, but neither with great apprehension. I read a brief synopsis of the programme, hosted by Take Me Out’s Paddy McGuinness, on The British Comedy Guide website that morning and discovered that they had difficulty in reviewing it positively. Nevertheless, I reasoned, ‘It must be better than Mad Mad World [a disappointingly poor panel show, in a similar vein to TV Guide, and also fronted by McGuinness last year for ITV – see my review to gauge the extent of my lack of enthusiasm]’. What I found myself watching, however, was a largely gag-free show which had me tittering a maximum of twice.

FORMAT PROBLEMS?

Paddy’s TV Guide, as well as seemingly trying to be TV Burp with an ‘old skool’ twist, has the feel of a show which would be best suited to a fledgling presenter or comedian to host on late-night E4. Instead, we have the great, eponymous Paddy presenting us with TV clips from yesteryear which I would extremely generously describe as hit/miss (with emphasis on the latter). Unfortunately, the clips – the centrepiece of the programme – don’t offer much material for poor Paddy and, while undeniably bizarre, it has to be said that they aren’t particularly funny in themselves, meaning that even the cream of the comedy crop would struggle to construct jokes around them. Add to this the fact that, at fifty minutes long, TV Guide seems drawn-out and protracted – anywhere between thirty seconds and half-an-hour really would suffice- and you have a show set to stumble through the next few weeks in its slot on Fridays on prime-time Channel 4.

THIS WON’T ‘DINK DANK DO’

Paddy is a great comedy actor and writer who has achieved success with his stand-up tours (the most recent of which saw him performing in some of the UK’s top arenas). When it comes to presenting, however, I feel that he should either stick to Take Me Out – which, it has to be said, has been largely responsible for the surge in his work offers since 2010 – or, alternatively, not agree to a show until he is 100% certain that the format is watertight. I offer this advice as this is something he seldom does nowadays, if Mad Mad World and TV Guide are anything to go by.

Some shows I take great joy in watching and reviewing, whereas some I force myself to tolerate to the bitter end purely so that I can write a review of it, otherwise I would have turned it off before the first ad break. Paddy’s TV Guide is an example of the latter and if there is no improvement by 10:10pm on Friday, I doubt I will be watching any more episodes.

Paddy’s TV Guide is on Fridays at 10pm on Channel 4

What did you think of Paddy’s TV Guide? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on my YouTube channel.

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‘Way to Go’ – EPISODE 1.1 REVIEW

At 10:30pm on Thursday, as the credits rolled on the first episode of BBC3’s new sitcom Way to Go, I was forced to swallow some humble pie. Actually, that’s a lie: a mere five minutes into the premier episode, I had to swallow a slice as I could tell that it was going to be a great show which would prove my preconceptions to be unfounded.

IT HAS A WARMTH AND CHARM WHICH BRINGS OUT ITS HUMOUR BEAUTIFULLY’

Way to Go centres around three mates who choose to help out an elderly, terminally-ill man by assisting him in committing suicide. ‘Well that doesn’t sound very funny,’ you may be thinking – and quite rightly, too. Euthanasia doesn’t exactly scream hilarity and neither, to be fair, does Way to Go but it definitely has a warmth and charm which brings out its humour beautifully.

I, like a lot of people (most notably, Conservative MP Mark Pritchard), unfairly prejudged this sitcom (starring The Inbetweeners’ Blake Harrison and Nativity!’s Marc Wootton). In fact, when speaking on my YouTube channel about its launch, before having actually watched any clips, I said, ‘I do see where he [Pritchard] is coming from. This doesn’t seem very tasteful.’ In truth, ‘taste’ wasn’t an issue at all – I did not question the suitability of euthanasia for a sitcom throughout the time that I watched Way to Go, and surely that can only be a positive sign?

In my premature critique, I also rubbished the ‘assisted suicide machine’ element (stating that it conjured up images in my mind of some elaborate sci-fi farce) but even that wasn’t presented as over-the-top – it was in actual fact an integral part of the show.

A FINE PROGRAMME’

Somehow, writer and creator Ben Kushell has managed to prove me wrong and produce a fine programme. You can understand the temptation which must have faced him to simply create a show such as this with either no compassion at all or an over-compensating abundance of it but he seems to have got it just about right. For example, the scene in which a stressed-out Scott gave into temptation and smoked dope with his aforementioned neighbour could have been insensitive and callous but transpired to be oddly touching.

FLAWED BUT ULTIMATELY LIKEABLE CHARACTERS’

One of the keys to Way to Go (along with, of course, the niche of its subject matter) is its flawed but ultimately likeable characters. We have Scott (Harrison) – a harmless, put-upon do-gooder (hence why he agrees to euthanising his neighbour) who works as a receptionist in a twenty-four hour veterinary practice. Next, there’s Scott’s half-brother Joey (Ben Heathcote) – an exercise instructor for OAPs who is being chased to repay his gambling debts by local hard men. And finally, completing the trio, we come to Cozzo (Wootton) – a (slightly crude and tactless) dad-to-be who is far from the voice of reason in the group. Flawed but oddly loveable characters are a staple of any good sitcom (Basil Fawlty, Del Boy, Jim Royle, Victor Meldrew – need I go on?) so it’s reassuring to see that Kushell hasn’t strayed too far from comedy convention.

WARNING! SHAMELESS PLUG FOR MY OWN PLAY ALERT!

Way to Go has the near-the-knuckle edge and wit of your typical BBC3 sitcom but also blends a somewhat unexpected sweetness which isn’t quite touching on Gavin & Stacey territory but is undeniably present within the half-hour. I recently wrote a short play about euthanasia but didn’t dare try to directly deal with it comically. Kushell, however, has and his pitching of it is such that it works well onscreen.

So, despite it receiving lukewarm reviews (mine’s certainly the most positive I’ve read – you’re welcome, BBC3), I would definitely urge you to at the very least give it a go – it may not be to your taste but it’s worth watching. After all, I originally panned it and now enthuse about it!

Way to Go is on BBC3, Thursdays at 10pm

To let me know what you think of any of my comments, or just to share your views on anything about the world of TV, drop a comment on this post or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer

Also, watch out for my recommendations for the coming week’s TV at http://www.youtube.com/user/UKTVReviewer

‘Splash!’ – Episode 1.1 Review

The hype surrounding Splash! was ridiculous – and, stupidly, I was drawn into it. I found myself, in fact, sitting at home, watching the trailers and thinking, ‘A show about celebrities learning to dive? It’s never been done before!’ I was right: up until Saturday, it hadn’t been done before – for a very good reason, it seems.

TOTAL WIPEOUT + X FACTOR = SPLASH!

If you didn’t see Splash!, let me congratulate and give you an idea of what the end product was like: imagine Total Wipeout or Hole in the Wall pretending to be X Factor. That was Splash!. However, the one good thing about X Factor (and it’s not often you can say that) is that, although you have to tolerate the sob stories and emotional “journeys”, you do get a vaguely enjoyable three-minute power ballad out of it. With Splash! on the other hand, you must sit through these VTs and then, as a reward, you’re only provided with a three-second plunge into a pool, which Jo Brand is then supposed to get analytical about. It’s ridiculous!

The Olympics brought our attention to sports which we had previously not considered watching, nor following – with the inclusion, to some, of diving. It was obvious that the producers were going to cash in on the Olympics success, but the least they could do is deliver something that does the Games some sort of justice. I think the problem lies with Splash! being quite a good concept on paper but, when live, being an expensive oddity, which had me on the edge of my seat only to switch over to In It to Win It.

WHY, JO?

A lot of people have berated ITV for their decision to inexplicably add comedienne Jo Brand to the judging panel (seemingly purely owing to her 2011 series for Dave entitled Jo Brand’s Big Splash). However, I really like Jo and think she has the ability to add some humour to the show to make it bearable. So, I’m not going to question her being offered the role, but rather her acceptance of it. For her to go from the sublime, televisual masterpiece that is Getting On (which she co-writes and stars in) on BBC4 to Splash! on ITV1 is a shock and she surely regrets it just a smidgen. The flicker of hope I possess for the improvement of this show mainly relies on her, although I understand it can’t be easy for her to comment on the dives – and even when she does provide some tongue-in-cheek humour, she seems to be cruelly shot down by her fellow judges; Team GB diving coach, Andy Banks; and former Olympic diver, Leon Taylor, both of whom are taking the farce with far more seriousness than it clearly deserves and appear think they are critiquing our 2012 competitors.

‘NOTHING SHORT OF CRINGEWORTHY’

Another call for criticism (other than the flawed format, odd choice of judge(s), Daley’s screen presence and the resident aquatics team, Stunts in Trunks (a Freudulent slip waiting to happen)) is the contestants. I just felt embarrassed for them. Some (such as Omid Djalili) saw the show as the joke it was while others (such as Jenni Falconer and Benidorm star Jake Canuso) seemed to think they were competing in a serious diving competition. Canuso’s participation in particular was nothing short of cringeworthy, as reflected in the brave faces his Benidorm colleagues were putting on as they witnessed him self-indulgently strutting up to the diving board in his red Speedos (read dental floss) to the sound of ‘Spice Up Your Life’. Steve Pemberton (Mick in, and co-writer of, the sitcom) must have been sitting in the crowd, thinking, ‘I created The League of Gentlemen and Psychoville. I’ve won a BAFTA and Royal Television Society Award, yet I’m watching this car crash – featuring one of my friends!’

The British public were then asked to pay good money to vote for their favourite celebrity diver of the night! Are ITV out if their minds – and, more to the point, are those who voted? Dialling to save your favourite contestant on Dancing On Ice or Strictly I can cope with, but your favourite amateur diver? Really?

Oh, and please don’t get me started on the ludicrously over-excited studio audience, whooping and cheering every time a contestant moved an inch in their absurdly padded-out preparation for their respective dives!

I’m not the only person to have written a negative review of Splash! since its premier airing on Saturday, and neither am I the first to say what (to my shame) I’m about to: it was compelling. Don’t get me wrong: the emotional roller coasters and journeys were frustratingly predictable and tedious but the dives were slightly interesting – for the three seconds that they lasted. Unfortunately, I will watch next week. It should only take five minutes if I fast forward the rubbish.

Splash! is on Saturday evenings on ITV1.

To let me know what you think of any of my comments, or just to share your views on anything about the world of TV, drop a comment on this post or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer