Hosted by Gabby Logan, and with team captains Frank Skinner and Micky Flanagan, I Love My Country sets out to celebrate everything that makes Britain great by quizzing celebrity guests on subjects ranging from geography to history and popular culture.
THE WORST OF BRITAIN?
Before this show even aired, it had come in for criticism. For some ridiculous reason, Frank Skinner recently had to defend his involvement and make it plain that the show is not an advert for UKIP. There were also allusions to David Walliams – the show’s original host – having had a lucky escape when he left to concentrate on his new sitcom and the Independent’s Adam Sherwin rebuked it, claiming, ‘[I Love My Country] is so thoroughly, idiotically inane, it could well be the worst entertainment offering that the corporation has yet dredged up for the edification of Saturday night viewers.’ Not exactly a glowing review.
Now, I have to admit, I was far too fixated by the Your Face Sounds Familiar final – well, Matt Johnson, if I’m honest – to watch I Love My Country when it actually aired. However, among the Twitter users commending Xander Armstrong on his performance as SuBo and urging others to boycott #TwitterSilence, there was a smattering of people demanding to know how the BBC dared squander the licence fee payers’ money on the patriotic rubbish they saw on their screens. Mirror columnist Ian Hyland said that after watching I Love My Country he felt ‘more Irish than ever’ and The Sun’s Colin Robertson tweeted, ‘If anyone ever wondered why David Walliams pulled out of hosting I Love My Country, just turn on BBC1 right now.’
BIT OF A LAUGH
Before you read what I have to say about this show, please let me make it plain that I know I’m in a minority…
I really enjoyed it! When I gave the first episode of Your Face Sounds Familiar a favourable review, at a time when lots of others were branding it the worst Saturday night show ever made, I said that I’m very wary of the current want to find high-brow, straightforward Saturday night entertainment. Nowadays, people don’t seem to want Splash! or Hole in the Wall. Instead, they’re crying out either for quiz shows such as In It to Win It or gripping dramas, like ITV’s The Americans. But what’s wrong with a bit of weekend fun on the telly? Yes, I Love My Country forces jollity upon its viewers, audience and participants, yes its running-time should be halved, yes it’s an in-your-face, loud show – but so what? Don’t we need a bit of that? Don’t we need Susanna Reid identifying the theme tune to Challenge Anneka? Don’t we need Frank Skinner identifying Lickey End on a map of the British Isles, aided by a large Yorkshire pudding? I’d argue that we do.
Everyone on I Love My Country is brilliant. As the host, Gabby doesn’t just stand back and oversee proceedings, she gets involved and caught up in the moment, which is great to see – so many presenters nowadays refrain from joining in with the games on their shows, and therefore don’t come across as well as some of the other participants. Thankfully Gabby does, though. Then we have the very well-matched Frank Skinner and Micky Flanagan: they have a similar style, allowing them to bounce off each other throughout the programme. It also helps that they are presumably friends: for years, Frank has been saying in interviews that Micky is his favourite circuit performer – and was doing so at a time before the comic’s analyses of the intricacies of ‘out out’ and ‘the Cockney walk’ had entered the mainstream. Who’d have thought Jamelia would be a valuable asset to the show, as well? A favourite on programmes such as 8 Out of 10 Cats and Would I Lie to You?, Jamelia not only heads up the I Love My Country house band but also makes her mark on the show by interjecting during rounds, responding to something which one of the panellists has said and even bantering with Frank.
The guest panellists seem only to be there to exhibit their knowledge of Britain and its customs, and to provide Frank and Micky with opportunities to gently mock them. Casualty’s Charlotte Salt came in for a particular ribbing in the opening episode, with puns aplenty being made about her surname.
So I thought I Love My Country was fun and enjoyable. Those involved knew what sort of show they wanted to make and they succeeded with it, in my opinion. It was funny, it celebrated some of our British traditions and had all of the unabashed frivolity of a bloody good Saturday night vehicle. I think we can all agree that Frank Skinner and Gabby Logan should stop dancing though, right?
Images courtesy of BBC and Avalon. © Avalon
I Love My Country is on Saturdays at 7:30pm on BBC1
What did you think of I Love My Country? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.
You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.