Seemingly functioning purely on the basis that most people hate their jobs, Friday night saw the launch of a brand new game show from Channel 4, I Don’t Like Mondays.
The premise is simple: get about 100 hyped-up contestants who want to quit their job, chuck in a few zany games and a handful of celebrity guests, and at the end give one of the hopefuls a year off work with their salary paid – and a little more besides, if they’re lucky. Perhaps even pepper the show with a few Surprise, Surprise-esque family reunions or ‘dream-come-true’ moments, and you’ve got yourself a fun-filled Friday night entertainment bonanza.
Or have you?
I have to confess that from the outset, I didn’t have high hopes for this one. Always on the look-out for a new game show to apply for (Tipping Point, Friday 4th May – just saying), I came across I Don’t Like Mondays some time last year. I read the premise and immediately it didn’t appeal to me. Of course, the year off work on full pay did seem attractive, but the show itself just felt too niche. Too concept-driven. It was clearly one of those ‘TV by committee’ jobs, created by a group of telly people all vying to come up with the next big thing – something that’s never been done before and blows its predecessors out of the water. Gone are the days of trying to win your Bendy Bully and a tankard, now it has to be spectacular and life-changing. Like £40,500 and a forced resignation.
Despite my reservations however, I Don’t Like Mondays wasn’t quite the car-crash I’d anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to go down as a game show classic – there’s no danger of being bombarded with repeats of this on Challenge in years to come – but there was some fun to be had in and amongst all the padding and largely attention-hungry, OTT contestants. The ‘Celebrity Executive Board’ sketches, featuring the likes of Sir Trevor McDonald, Dawn French and Miranda Hart were quite funny, even if they did highlight the comparatively feeble bookings of studio guests Amanda Holden and Shaun ‘Barry off EastEnders’ Williamson, and the quiz questions – of which, admittedly, there were only five across the whole hour – lent themselves to being played along with at home.
My main grumble with I Don’t Like Mondays, though, is that throughout the whole show I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Alan Carr deserves so much better. What happened to him being Channel 4’s golden boy, freeing himself from the shackles of his Justin Lee Collins partnership to be one of the most trustworthy names in comedy? Since the shelving of Chatty Man, Channel 4 seem to have handed him dud after dud. The Singer Takes It All – dumped after one series. 12 Stars of Christmas – sank without trace. Alan Carr’s Happy Hour – confined to the annals of history. He always makes a decent fist of what he’s given, and his pithy ad-libs and natural rapport with an audience are well suited to a show with a party atmosphere like this, but with his offerings in recent years, is it really any wonder that he’s starting to branch out from Channel 4 and beginning to develop ideas with ITV and the BBC? It’s all too easy to see Alan as just another camp comic – he makes what he does seem easy but his jokes are so sharp and I think that his use of language surpasses that of most other mainstream comics I see on TV, and if Channel 4 aren’t careful, they’re going to lose him.
So, while the format leaves a lot to be desired – as does the sanity of a lot of the contestants, given they have to resign from their job (many of them in teaching or nursing) live on air – I suppose it’s a canny little show. That’s not really good enough though is it? Alan Carr has coasted for a few years now on mediocre formats like this, and there’s a danger of him becoming known for it. Perhaps a move to ITV or Auntie is for the best.
I Don’t Like Mondays is on Fridays at 8pm on Channel 4.
Alternatively, you can post on the UKTV Reviewer Facebook page.