Category Archives: Celebrities

‘Host the Week’ (Channel 4) Review

Thursday night brought the latest of Channel 4’s experimental comedy vehicles, Host the Week, each episode of which sees a different celebrity present an hour of sketches and games that they are entirely unprepared for. As we were told at the top of the show, this week’s host Scarlett Moffatt had ‘no script’, ‘no rehearsal’ and ‘no idea what to expect’. One would assume that what they were aiming for was a cross between The Friday Night Project and the Australian improv hit, Thank God You’re Here. What they achieved, however, was something I previously thought impossible: they delivered a show so disastrous that it somehow left me yearning for the comparative halcyon days of 10 O’Clock Live.

Prior to sitting down to watch it in full on Friday, I did catch a glimpse of Host the Week as it was broadcast the previous night. I saw an anxious Scarlett seated at a desk, presenting a news bulletin (pictured below, right), in which she delivered two jokes in relation to the week’s events: one involved the likening of aScarlett Moffatt hosts a Channel 4 News bulletin with Krishnan Guru-Murthy ‘mandate’ to a date with a man, and the other pointed out, quite simply, that Donald Trump is orange. My heart sank. I didn’t hold out much hope for improvement when I watched the show in full, and lo and behold, my expectations were met. The topical gags – of which there were far fewer than one would expect from a show called Host the Week – were nothing more than recycled Twitter puns. We know that Ryanair’s not very good. We also know that Andy Murray’s dull and his mum’s domineering. These are clichés that have been exhausted time and again on shows like this, and it’s the mark of an uninspired writing team when they’re churned out in this way. I found myself hankering for some originality – just a little excitement – but none came.

Despite her claims that she’d had fun and ‘would do it all over again’, this seemed to me just one big sorry mess for Scarlett. Away from the comfort blanket of her parents on Gogglebox or Ant & Dec on Takeaway, this was her first time at the helm of something. This should have been her big    showcase before the launch of her new-look Streetmate later in the year, but with almost universal disdain for Host the Week, it will no doubt be Scarlett who’ll suffer Scarlett co-hosts her own chat show, 'That Morning', with guests Stepsunjustly as she’ll be first in the firing line for people’s criticism. The blame for this mess should not lie with her, though – rather, it should be put on the script she was being fed. Due to the nature of the show, she was helpless – completely unprepared and entirely at the mercy of the writers, who, even when one allows them leeway given it was the first episode, could and should have done so much better. This show is brought to us by 2/3s of the brilliant Pappy’s and can boast a writing team with credits like Cats Does Countdown, Not Going Out and Murder in Successville. Even without that pedigree, the strength and frequency of gags in this show should have been so much higher, but with it, it’s unbelievable. If one also takes into account that some of the writers have previously been involved with Have I Got News For You, Charlie Brooker’s Wipes, and The News Quiz on Radio 4, it’s surely inarguable that the number of fresh topical references across the hour ought to have been drastically increased, particularly given this is a show that purports to celebrate ‘the week’.

It’s quite evident that Channel 4 were trying to do something new, and they should actually be credited for that – far too often we, as viewers, bemoan the fact that too much comedy follows the same frameworks and lacks originality. It’s surely beyond dispute, however, that Host the Week has far from got off to a good start and will need quite an overhaul if it’s to escape the same fate as The Nightly Show and be written-off as a failure.

UPDATE: Channel 4 announced today (27th June) that Host the Week has been scrapped after just one episode. A spokesperson said, ‘They don’t all work’. Read the full story here.

Image courtesy of Charlie Fearn, Tiger Aspect Production Limited and Channel 4

Unless otherwise stated, all images courtesy of Charlie Fearn, Scott Kershaw and Channel 4

Host the Week is still available on All 4.

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‘Tumble’ (BBC1) Review

Question: What happens when you toss Strictly and Splash! together and, with some fanfare, stick the end result on primetime BBC1?

The answer is Tumble: a new talent show which requires celebrities to learn gymnastics, of both the floor and aerial varieties. They’re coached by a gymnast, partnered by a gymnast, commentated on by a gymnast, and then judged by a panel of gymnasts; it’s very much a gymnastics-orientated  vehicle. This week, all of the celebrities performed for the  first time and were guaranteed a place in next week’s show – but at the end of the second episode, the two contestants w ho receive the fewest votes will have to take on the Vault, and whoever is deemed to be the poorest will be eliminated. Sad times.

Other than the gymnastics element, there is nothing to set Tumble apart from any other celebrity talent show: the forced drama, mixed bag of routines and tedious judges have all been seen on shows previously. Even the celebrities aren’t new to 'Tumble' contestantsreality TV fans: Andrea McLean competed on the first series of Dancing on Ice; Ian ‘H’ Watkins (the ‘H’ is very important nowadays) has been a Celebrity Big Brother housemate; Emma Samms, as well as being one of the less recognisable faces from Dynasty, was a contestant on Celebrity Scissorhands; and Peter Duncan has been on The Games and Let’s Dance for Sport Relief – as has Carl Froch. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the celebrities – they seem a perfectly amiable bunch – but they’re largely typical reality TV fodder, and are therefore often as disengaging as the training videos in which they feature and routines they perform.

In fact, even the judging panel is quite unappealing, comprising of Louis Smith and three others who, I think it’s safe to say, most viewers of this programme have never heard of, nor have any interest in.'Tumble' judges - (L-R) Sebastien Stella, Louis Smith, Nadia Comăneci and Craig Heap They’re all gymnasts and all are disengaging. I mean, say what you like about Jo Brand’s right to be on the Splash! panel but at least she cracks a few gags and brightens up the mood after her fellow judges have commented on a ten-second belly flop with far more scrutiny than is necessary, or even appropriate, for a Saturday night celebrity competition. Tumble doesn’t even have a Jo Brand figure, though, meaning that the only person who rises above the tedium of his peers is Craig Heap, whose desperate emulation of Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood is painfully obvious and threatened only by mild conceit.

My main qualm with Tumble, however, was that it didn’t live up to its title – we saw very few 'Tumble' host, Alex Jonestumbles. There’s a reason why the public love shows like You’ve Been Framed and It’ll Be Alright on the Night, and in the past have voted week after week for Todd Carty and Joe Pasquale to stay in Dancing on Ice, and Ann Widdecombe and John Sergeant to endure on Strictly: rightly or wrongly, we love to see failure and accidents on TV. It entertains us as a nation! So, when a show like this comes along, which doesn’t involve something that viewers have at least a smidgen of knowledge and can pass judgement on, like singing or dancing, we long for the accidents – the eponymous ‘tumbles’ – and when they fail to come, it makes for quite a boring show, as Tumble proved to me to be.

I appreciate that the celebrities have put a lot of time and effort into their routines, and Alex Jones did a quite admirable job as host, but the result was something bordering on car crash TV. I imagine that during these summer months, it will prove popular with families, and a few years ago could even  have been lumped into the ‘Bearably Bad’ category – but now that that is occupied by shows like Splash! and Your Face Sounds Familiar, Tumble just seems like a bit of a damp squib.

I’m just preparing myself to pity the BBC when it goes up against The X Factor in a few weeks’ time…

 

Tumble is on Saturdays at 6:30pm on BBC1

What did you think of Tumble? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer

‘The Michael McIntyre Chat Show’ (BBC1) Review

In an interview with The Telegraph in 2012, Michael McIntyre claimed that he ‘didn’t want to go down the chat show route’, and yet there he was last night, proudly presenting the first episode of the imaginatively titled, The Michael McIntyre Chat Show.

Of course, there’s been a long history in this country of stand-up comedians becoming chat show kings and queens: Graham Norton, Alan Carr, Paul O’Grady, Frank Skinner and Sarah Millican to name just a few, and there was quite an expectation for Michael McIntyre – one of the UK’s most popular and biggest-selling comedians – to join that hall of fame. But has he succeeded?

The truth is, it’s too early to tell. The format of idle chats with celebrities, punctuated by banter with the audience, is quite reminiscent of The Rob Brydon Show, which, although running for three series, did go under the radar, quite unnoticed by many. I feel that The Michael McIntyre Chat Show might live a similar existence.

Throughout the first episode, which saw the host welcome Sir Terry Wogan, Lily Allen and Lord  Sugar, I just felt that the BBC were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. As I’ve said, Michael is one of the nation’s best-loved and most successful comedians – and he’s also one of mine; I saw  him during his Showtime tour in 2012 and can honestly say that there are few comedians who have made me laugh quite as hard and often as him. He’s at his best, though, when he’s messing about, exuberating his energy and making everyday, relatable observations. The opportunities for him to do this when he’s sitting behind a desk, in conversation with Lord Sugar, however, are few and far between. Hence, some moments felt quite stilted – look no further than Michael’s chat with one of Sir Tezza’s TOGs. Surely the epitome of awkwardness?

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that The Michael McIntyre Chat Show needs some work. (Actually, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that it would have made more sense for the BBC to simply commission a third series of Comedy Roadshow.) It appears at the minute that the host is stuck between two worlds: Chat and Observation. Sadly, the two have never been combined well and, while it would be nice to see Michael be the first to achieve this feat, the chances of him doing that are quite slim. Perhaps once he gets a bit more experience with the writing and posing of questions, the show will become an altogether more enjoyable, and less hit-miss, affair. Perhaps the problem is also that Michael has Paul Tonkinson helping with the writing, despite previously saying that he ‘can’t do someone else’s jokes justice’.

Whatever the issue, I hope it’s resolved soon, as the audience expects the show to be a hit and Michael certainly deserves it.

 

The Michael McIntyre Chat Show is on Mondays at 10:35pm on BBC1

What did you think of The Michael McIntyre Chat Show? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Sunday Side Up’/’Sunday Scoop’ (ITV) Review

Be warned. This review contains excessive (yet unavoidable) use of the word ‘Sunday’.

At a time when Saturday mornings are filled with sports, black and white films and repeats, the public are crying out for a brand-new weekend morning show. You know, something interactive, madcap and fun for the kids – something reminiscent of, say, Live & Kicking, SMTV: Live, Tiswas or even – God help us – Dick & Dom. Well, ITV seem to be trying to fill that gaping chasm with Sunday Side Up and, to a much lesser extent, Sunday Scoop. Well, they might be a day late and not survive more than one (perhaps two) series on Saturday mornings, but I guess they’re welcome on an idle Sunday.

Sitting down, pen and paper in hand, this morning, ready to watch these two shows, I fully expected to be more taken with Side Up than Scoop. However, to my surprise, it was the other way around. I  much preferred the homely and relaxed feel of Sunday Scoop to Sunday Side Up – where there were awkward silences aplenty (note no cheering or applause when coming in and out of the ad breaks and ‘stings’, despite there being a Big Breakfast-esque throng of crew'Sunday Side Up' host, Stephen Mulhern visible on the set) and a general feeling of ‘Guys, we should have rehearsed this more’.

Stephen Mulhern was at the helm of Sunday Side Up and, to be fair, he did make a decent fist of it. Even when he was handed mediocre games to play (which were seemingly ‘inspired’ by Catchphrase, The Saturday Show, TV Burp and the ‘You Say We Pay’ segment of Richard & Judy) and guests with merchandise to plug or a work diary to be filled, he managed to soldier on with an eye roll and a wise crack. I can only hope that Bruce Forsyth was watching, so that he could learn that that is how you read an autocue gag – and get a laugh.

Without the brilliant-as-ever ad-libs of its host, I don’t think I would have stuck around for the duration of Sunday Side Up, though. The fun that they all thought was obvious was actually lacking, meaning that the show limped through its sixty minute slot, instead of sailing through.

Of course, as Stephen quite rightly pointed out, this was only the first episode and teething problems were inevitable. It’s somewhat hard to ignore those teething problems, however, when they involve the show itself being dry and clunky. There was nothing there to make it seem new and fun and exciting. Sorry.

Sunday Scoop, on the other hand, was much more enjoyable and easier to watch, mainly because I didn’t feel on edge in case anything went wrong (well, apart from Nadia Sawalha coming close to burning the Sunday dinner (or “lunch” if you’re in the south, I (L-R) 'Sunday Scoop' guest host, Peter Andre with regulars, Kaye Adams and Nadia Sawalhasuppose) that she was apparently cooking throughout the show).

Sunday Scoop sees returning Loose Women, Nadia Sawalha and Kaye Adams present a mixture of news, chat and cookery alongside a guest presenter (this week Peter Andre) and a celebrity guest  or two, and unlike its sister-show feels very casual and comfortable to watch, as its hosts flit between the kitchen and the sofa, as if they’re inviting you round for a bite to eat rather than presenting a TV programme. Like Lorraine – but on a Sunday.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: there were some little annoyances in this final hour of ITV’s new Sunday line-up. For instance, Kaye and Nadia’s every word to each other had the subtext of ‘We’re friends, it’s banter, it’s fine!’ and the, albeit rather satisfying, end to the show, which saw the presenters and guests all sit round and have a natter while tucking in to a Sunday roast, did include clips of two of the topics of conversation (The Escape Artist and Philomena) which were all too readily available, meaning that the chat didn’t seem quite as spontaneous as they all wanted us to think it was. But then hey, come on, what TV programme isn’t meticulously orchestrated nowadays – eh, X Factor producers?

So, overall, it appears that ITV have served up quite an entertaining two hours of weekend morning fun here. I suppose there is an argument for it making more sense to just bring back This Morning Sunday (perhaps with Stephen and Nadia as hosts..?) but for the time being these will do. Hopefully Sunday Side Up will manage to quickly iron out those few problems and we’ll be able to look forward to at least another nine weeks of entertaining gossip and games.

Image credits: Thanks to ITV Studios and Nicky Johnson, ©ITV

Sunday Side Up and Sunday Scoop are on…you guessed it, Sundays, at 10:30 and 11:30am, respectively, on ITV

What did you think of Sunday Side Up and Sunday Scoop? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Big Star’s Little Star’ (ITV) Review

Big Star’s Little Star sees Catchphrase host Stephen Mulhern invite three celebrities and their children to play for a possible prize of £15,000 for a charity of their choice. But what do they have to do to win such money?

Well, after we as viewers have mastered the Stars in Their Eyes-style guessing game as to who the eponymous ‘big stars’ are, they must go through three Mr & Mrs-style rounds, in which the adult is asked a question – more often than not about their child’s opinion on them – and their answer must match that of their ‘little star’, and which will invariably cause them embarrassment. Whichever parent and child team has the most points at the end of the three rounds progresses to the final, where they have an allotted time to play a game of pairs, with the pictures representing an aspect of their lives – be it a family member, hobby or something related to their job. For each pair they match correctly, they win £1,000. As they already have £5,000 guaranteed, they must match all ten pairs in order to win the £15,000 jackpot.

It’s slightly similar to Ronnie Corbett’s quiz show, Small Talk – except in Big Star’s Little Star the parents are present and they stand a chance of winning £15,000 for charity, instead of theatre tickets for themselves…

A TRIUMPH

The big stars in this opening episode were: EastEnders actress Nina Wadia and her son, Aidan; Two Pints actor Will Mellor and his daughter, Renee; and pop star Jamelia and her daughter, Tiani. The kids were brilliantly cute and the adults were perfectly game, and a lovely sense of camaraderie developed between Nina, Will and Jamelia as they sat cringing due to the embarrassing truths that(L-R) Nina and Aidan, Will and Renee, and Jamelia and Tiani their darling offspring were revealing to the nation, and they all laughed along and look at each other as if to say, ‘We’re all in the same boat here.’

Of course, the whole point of making this show was to see celebrities embarrassed and have secrets revealed about them which they wish had been kept between the four walls of home, and in that respect, Big Star’s Little Star triumphed. Over the course of an hour we learned that Nina Wadia tells her son that she’s 24, Prince William once held Will Mellor back in ‘a scuffle’ (actually I was just surprised to hear that he even knew Will’s name – clearly a Broadchurch fan) and that Jamelia relaxes on the toilet – but doesn’t do ‘a number two’. I think there are a lot of critics who would argue with that, having seen her on I Love My Country.

The only criticism I really have of Big Star’s Little Star is that it sometimes needed a bit of a kick up the backside – it was often quite slow in pace, and was a bit more fun when the kids were on-Jamelia's daughter, Tiani screen, rather than cooped up in the toy-filled VIP lounge. However, I know that the show would have felt a hell of a lot slower without Stephen Mulhern, who brought along his quick wit and slick presenting techniques from Catchphrase and More Talent and provided many fantastic moments throughout. Having worked with kids on CITV and Britain’s Got More Talent, he was perfect to host this show but also created more than a few risqué moments, too – but none so risqué that it prevented Big Star’s Little Star from firmly fitting the ‘family entertainment’ bill. I’m sure that, just like the little stars in the studio, most kids watching wouldn’t have understood why the thought of Zainab from EastEnders tying up her husband was so funny…

I thought Big Star’s Little Star was great family entertainment, and probably even good enough to be given a Saturday night slot. I’m sure it’d be more popular than Stepping Out. For now, though, it’s sitting quite comfortably on Wednesday night, and I for one think it’s nice that ITV have a bit of light and shade in their schedules, as Whitechapel followed immediately after. I think a lot of young viewers will have been sent to bed at 9:00pm sharp.

Images courtesy of ITV and Nicky Johnson, ©ITV

Big Star’s Little Star is on Wednesdays at 8:00pm on ITV

What did you think of Big Star’s Little Star? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Strictly Come Dancing’ 2013: The Line-Up Revealed

After weeks of speculation, tonight judge Darcey Bussell appeared on The One Show to reveal the 15 celebrities who make up the cast of 2013.

Some were already confirmed, some were quite surprising – but who are they? Well – ladies first – there’s:

 

Mrs. Peter Crouch – Abbey Clancy

Abbey Clancy 

Trying to avoid ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’, singer, Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Sophie Ellis-Bextor 

Broadcaster, Vanessa Feltz

Vanessa Feltz 

James Bond actress, Fiona Fullerton

Fiona Fullerton 

Coronation Street actress, Natalie Gumede

Natalie Gumede 

Businesswoman and Dragons’ Den star, Deborah Meaden

Deborah Meaden 

Newsreader, Susanna Reid

Susanna Reid 

Countdown’s resident maths whizz, Rachel Riley

Rachel Riley 

And now for the boys:

 

Casualty actor, Patrick Robinson

Patrick Robinson 

Former rugby union player, Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen 

Fashion designer and Next Top Model regular, Julien Macdonald

Julien Macdonald 

Golf pro, Tony Jacklin

Tony Jacklin 

Hairy Biker, Dave Myers

Dave Myers 

Hollyoaks actor, Ashley Taylor Dawson

Ashley Taylor Dawson 

Waterloo Road and Early Doors star, Mark Benton

Mark Benton 

 

So there we have this year’s contestants. I wonder who will be the one to take Louis Smith’s crown  as Strictly champion?

Contestant images courtesy of Ray Burmiston, all images ©BBC

Strictly Come Dancing Series 11 launches on Saturday at 6:50pm on BBC1

What do you think of this year’s Strictly line-up? Is there anyone who you are particularly looking forward to seeing? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Stepping Out’ (ITV) Review

Kicking off ITV’s glitzy, much-publicised Saturday night line-up was this brand new talent show hosted by Davina McCall.

Stepping Out sees six real-life celebrity couples – none of whom are particularly known for their footwork – take to the dance floor, having had just a week to learn a routine, and try to impress not only the viewers at home but The Front Row (judges, basically): Wayne Sleep, Mel B and Dancing On Ice’s resident pantomime villain, Jason Gardiner. Beginning in episode two next Saturday, each week one celebrity couple will be voted out by the public.

STUMBLING OUT?

Now, you only had to quickly glance at Twitter to discover that people – mainly TV critics – were  queuing up to condemn Stepping Out before the titles had even begun rolling – and very few people changed their minds. They hated it.

It has to be said that it wasn’t the most dazzling opener to a show I’ve ever seen. It didn’t impress me, it didn’t seem to stand out from the (rather large) talent show crowd. In fact, apart from the ‘real-life couples’ aspect, there was nothing original in the show and, despite Davina McCall’s protestations on This Morning on Friday, it really wasn’t much different to Strictly. Although Davina was funnier than Brucie. But then Boom Town is funnier than Brucie.

Let’s face it, Stepping Out was merely a warm-up for The X Factor, wasn’t it? Perhaps ITV’s plan was to avoid a repeat of last year’s speculation that Cowell’s contest is struggling and looking tired by plonking something like this before it – to make X Factor look amazing in comparison? Well even if that wasn’t the plan, that’s certainly how it appeared, and Stepping Out always was going to be living in X Factor’s shadow – even if it had been scheduled hours away from it. The fact that it’s a talent show starting around the same time on the same channel means that it was never going to be regarded as well as it probably would have been if it had been on earlier in the year, like Splash! or Your Face Sounds Familiar.

WEAK PERFORMANCES

The main reason for Stepping Out not opening as brazenly as its name suggests was the couples’ performances. Of course, as with any celebrity talent show, the first week is always going to be the weakest: the competitors are still finding their feet and nerves will inevitably get the better of a few of  them. Some will even simply have been handed quite rubbish routines to work with, meaning they don’t shine as much as their rivals. The thing is, though, shows like Strictly and Dancing on Ice are such a firm part of many people’s viewing that even if the first few weeks are disappointing, we’ll persevere because we know it’s going to get better. The Stepping Out team can’t afford to do that though – especially with only five weeks to play with – so the somewhat weak routines which we saw in this first episode may have deterred quite a few people, because there’s no promise of the standard increasing. Granted, couples like Glynis Barber and Michael Brandon, Brian McFadden and Vogue Williams, and Ortisé Williams and AJ Azari pulled very impressive performances out of the bag, but they were the last three to perform. The first few couples – Carl Froch and Rachel Cordingley, Denise Welch and Lincoln Townley, and Laurence and Jackie Llwelyn-Bowen – weren’t particularly…um…well they didn’t shine, shall we say? Carl and Rachel’s routine was neither nothing nor something, Denise and Lincoln’s was camp and funny but without much technicality, and as for Laurence and Jackie! ‘OMG’ is all I can say.

I have little doubt that by as early as next week we will begin to see gradual improvements in each of the couples’ dancing but I honestly wish they had been better for this big launch night. As I said, they were the main reason for Stepping Out not living up to its hype.

So, far from a brilliant start but I’d like to say a decent one. In the hands of someone less capable than Davina, the ship of Stepping Out would, I’m sure, already be sinking, and I would just like to commend the show’s team for one thing: they know what kind of programme they’re trying to make, and no one is taking it too seriously. Even Jason Gardiner has toned down his trademark Dancing on Ice bitchiness – who’d have thought it?

 

Stepping Out will either grow on viewers or see figures deteriorate week after week. I hope it’s the former (I rarely want to see a TV show do badly) but I honestly don’t know at this stage. I just doubt it’ll be the monster hit that ITV hoped for.

 

Stepping Out is on Saturdays at 6:30pm on ITV

What did you think of Stepping Out? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘Through the Keyhole’ (ITV) Review

If you despise Keith Lemon, now really is not a time to be staying on to watch the telly. With Celebrity Juice having just begun its eleventh series and his revival of Through the Keyhole landing on ITV tonight, it looks like Leigh Francis’s irrepressible alter-ego is here to stay for quite a while.

Fans of the original series, fronted by the late Sir David Frost until 2008, will have been relieved to see that the format has remained relatively unchanged. Apart from a jazzy new set and edgier presenter, the concept is the same: a celebrity panel watch a VT (‘that stands for video tape’) of a tour around a mystery star’s home, with various clues scattered throughout the video, and attempt to decipher, with the help of the audience, who lives in a house like that. As with the best gameshows, it’s such a simple concept which makes for an entertaining and long-running show.

Stepping into the shoes of Frost and Loyd Grossman, and preparing to make their show “rudererer”, was Celebrity Juice host, Keith Lemon, and answering the question ‘’Oo ‘abitates in an ‘ouse like this’ this week were the usual panel show fodder of Eamonn Holmes, Martine McCutcheon and Through the Keyhole regular, Dave Berry.

QUITE ENJOYABLE’

I expected to dislike this revival. With the ghosts of Sing if You Can and LemonAid still haunting ITV viewers, it would be fair to say that the channel took something of a punt on getting Keith Lemon onboard to host it but it appears that they may just have found the ideal format – outside of ITV2 – for him.

You see the truth is that Through the Keyhole is quite an enjoyable show. For once there’s no prize involved – be it novelty or otherwise – and no scoring system to result in a panellist being crowned that episode’s champion: it’s just a fun little game – albeit one which would be made more enjoyable if we were allowed to play along, and the audience and viewers weren’t given the correct answer so quickly.

Granted, it’s not the 55 minutes of non-stop laughs that ITV might have us believe (as a gameshow, none of the magic has been lost, whereas as a comedy, next-to-no magic has been created) but there is a certain charm to Through the Keyhole which, try as I may, I simply cannot deny. I think I’ve inherited my nosiness from my mam (who, if a neighbour’s house is up for sale, can’t resist going on the estate agent’s website and having a look at their kitchen and bathroom) so I relished seeing how many shoes Louis Smith had, how messy (a somewhat slimmer) John Prescott’s book shelves were, and what was inside Duncan from Blue’s wardrobe. Usually you have to pay for a copy of Hello! magazine for that sort of access – but ITV are generously giving us it for free.

A WISE DECISION’

Keith is also surprisingly palatable as a host. The reason why most people love him on Celebrity Juice is that he can be as rude and crude as he likes – and astonishingly gets away with it – because that’s just the character. He is a very crude person. It also helps that it’s post-10pm ITV2, of course. Conversely, the reason why most people hated him on the aforementioned Sing If You Can and LemonAid is that they were scheduled at such a time on ITV that he just couldn’t get away with saying nearly half of the stuff that he does on Juice and the like. People love Keith when he’s being rude, and ITV have made a very wise decision in putting Keyhole in a post-watershed slot so that, while a few F-words have to be censored, Leigh Francis can get away with saying a bit more than he usually would and therefore comes across as a much better host – or rather the character does.

And for those who will continue to slate Keith as Keyhole’s host (for there will be many), just remember that Sir David Frost, who was at the show’s helm for over twenty years and still partly owns the rights to the format, attended the recording of the revival’s pilot, and gave his blessing for it to go ahead. And be honest: could you possibly argue with David Frost? I mean, it didn’t do Richard Nixon much good, did it?

So I was pleasantly surprised by Through the Keyhole. Whereas Julia Raeside warned Guardian readers, ‘Whatever you do, don’t peer Through the Keyhole,’ I thought it was a very good successor for the original series, and a great way to round off ITV’s (relatively) strong Saturday night line-up.

Through the Keyhole is on Saturday nights on ITV

What did you think of Through the Keyhole? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

‘That Puppet Game Show’ (BBC1) Review

What happens when you chuck some larger-than-life puppets, bewildered celebrities and madcap challenges into a Saturday night, primetime slot on the BBC? You end up with the unexpectedly good That Puppet Game Show.

A SURPRISE

When I wrote my preview of this show on Friday, I had only seen a few quick clips – and wasn’t particularly impressed by what I saw. I wrote, ‘Everything tells me that it will be a car crash – Time Out gave it a one-star review last week – but I hope I’m proved wrong. I suppose that after Don’t Scare the Hare (which was axed in 2011, just 2/3 through its run) we have come to assume that anything frivolous and involving non-human presenters is destined for failure.’ My dubiety could also have been owing to the critical mauling that BBC1’s other entertainment show, I Love My Country  came in for when it began its run last week.

I was, however, really surprised to find that That Puppet Game Show is actually funny! It just works so well as an entertainment show: the puppets all have individual personalities and Dougie Colon (pronounced ‘Cologne’) is the archetypal, slightly cheesy, Saturday night host. It’s not cruel in any way, no one gets hurt (well, Rob Brydon’s ego might have taken a bit of a bruising) and there’s plenty there for both kids and adults to enjoy: it truly is great family-friendly television.

The rounds are very well-formed and typically silly, too. My particular favourite was Life’s a Speech – overseen by That Puppet Game Show’s resident showbiz expert, Amber O’Neill. It involved this week’s star guests, Jonathan Ross and Katherine Jenkins, accepting an award (for Best Banter and Pride of Wales, respectively) and reading a speech from an autocue – but with blanks. They each had to fill in the blanks in their speech by drawing on their general knowledge to name things like the highest mountain in Wales, the seven continents of the world and the three nations who won the most medals at the 2012 Olympics. And Katherine did really well – she seemed to know a lot! Jonathan, on the other hand? Well…let’s just say that there’s going to be something of an awkward atmosphere the next time Rob Brydon – or ‘That one in the middle’ from Would I Lie to You? – is on Wossy’s sofa.

SKETCHY

Despite my love of That Puppet Game Show, I’m not a fan of every aspect. The behind-the-scenes  sketches, which see the puppets talking to each other and the producer in the gallery, production   office, etc. are just weak. They spoil the show for me. I would have been content watching Jonathan and Katherine compete in the ridiculous games of the main show – and I’m sure lots of the other viewers would have been, too. Instead, though, we had to sit through these sketches which, while involving an admittedly clever plot, weren’t particularly funny or engaging. In fact, towards the end I stopped paying attention to them.

That Puppet Game Show can survive quite well on its own. It is a good, entertaining show without these behind-the-scenes interruptions. Perhaps it would have been a better idea to incorporate each episode’s plot – which this week was the impending sacking of one of the members of the team – into the programme, with the puppets alluding to it throughout – just as Clyde the Crab did at one point. That way, there’d still be more than one element to the show but we wouldn’t have this switch between the games and sketches.

 

Being from The Jim Henson Company – the team behind The Muppets, Bear in the Big Blue House and Fraggle Rock – there was a lot riding on That Puppet Game Show and, on the whole I loved it, and it seems that other people do, too. Well, it’s been received more warmly than I Love My Country, at least.

Images courtesy of BBC and Guy Levy, ©BBC

That Puppet Game Show is on Saturdays at 6:45pm on BBC1

What did you think of That Puppet Game Show? 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.

‘You Saw Them Here First’ (ITV) Review

Giving some of our favourite stars the unwelcome reminder of what they looked and sounded like when they made their TV debuts, You Saw Them Here First premiered last night, with names such as Pauline Quirke, Stephen Mulhern and Arlene Phillips entering the video booth and being put through the ordeal of watching their younger selves.

A GUESSING GAME

I was worried that this show would either race through the clips or spend far too long on them – making for either a wasted or tedious hour – but it’s actually very well paced. Just the right amount of time is dedicated to showing the celebrities covering their eyes and cringing – which is undoubtedly the best part.

Then again, I love the quiz element of the programme, too: although technically a clips show, it’s  almost impossible not to sit and try to guess who the fresh-faced star is. Some are easier to predict (Hugh Bonneville and Jennie McAlpine, for example) but others – like Suranne Jones and Mel Giedroyc – were much more difficult to spot. And bless little Jack Whitehall!

POP WANNABES

Some of the most enjoyable clips were in fact those featuring some of our best-loved chart-toppers – and Kym Lomas. I had no idea that The Saturdays’ Mollie King began on X Factor as part of Fallen Angelz (I bet she regrets not getting past boot camp, eh?) and, while I knew her bandmates Frankie Sandford and Rochelle Humes started off in S Club Juniors, I always thought they were older when they were singing about their Puppy Love. When I was 7, they seemed about 18 to me! Still, at least seeing 1/4 of them on You Saw Them Here First encouraged me to look them up on Wikipedia, giving me an excuse to reminisce. And did you know they reformed this year? Me neither!

Anyway, back to YSTHF. Seeing 3/5 of The Wanted just a few years ago was great, too – who knew Max auditioned in front of Louis, Sharon and dad-to-be Simon, with a broken arm? And that Nathan performed a self-penned track on Junior Eurovision? And that Siva was in Rock Rivals? Actually, am I the only one to remember Rock Rivals? Probably. And am I the only one to have bought the first – and only – series on DVD? Most definitely.

Next week there’ll be more chart-toppers in their debuts, as JLS’ Aston and former The Voice UK coach, Jessie J, will feature.

It’s a real shame that You Saw Them Here First is in just two parts – normally we’d only get to see this sort of stuff on a tribute show or after hours of searching YouTube. So seldom are we given the opportunity to see Eamonn Holmes with a mullet, Hugh Bonneville dying on a slippery surface, and Michelle Collins looking very much like Julie from 90s sitcom, The Brittas Empire (do some Googling: she actually did).

You Saw Them Here First is on Wednesdays at 8:00pm on ITV

What did you think of You Saw Them Here First? 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.