Category Archives: Sketch Show

‘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.

What did you think of Host the Week? Do you agree or disagree with this review? Please comment below or tweet @UKTVReviewer.

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British Comedy Awards Nominees 2013

Yes, it’s not long until the British Comedy Awards and, ahead of the official nominations reveal show on Wednesday (10:45pm), Channel 4 have announced which comedy shows and stars are up for gongs this year.

So, here are the nominations. I did toy with the idea of including my opinion on each but I knew that I’d just witter on about how great they are, so instead I’ve just highlighted my favourite in red…

Best Comedy Panel Show

8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (Channel 4)

Have I Got News For You (BBC1)

A League of Their Own (Sky 1 HD)

Would I Lie to You? (BBC1)

Best Comedy Entertainment Programme

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway (ITV)

Alan Carr: Chatty Man (Channel 4)

The Last Leg (Channel 4)

The Graham Norton Show (BBC1)

Best Sketch Show

Horrible Histories (CBBC)

Harry & Paul (BBC2)

It’s Kevin (BBC2)

Psychobitches (Sky Arts 1)

Best Sitcom

Bad Education (BBC3)

Count Arthur Strong (BBC2)

Getting On (BBC4)

Peep Show (Channel 4)

Best New Comedy Programme

Plebs (ITV2)

Cuckoo (BBC3)

Count Arthur Strong (BBC2)

Psychobitches (Sky Arts 1)

Best Male Television Comic

David Mitchell

Jon Richardson

Lee Mack

James Corden

Best Female Television Comic

Nina Conti

Miranda Hart

Sarah Millican

Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc

Best Comedy Entertainment Personality

Adam Hills

Graham Norton

Alan Carr

Ant & Dec

Best Comedy Breakthrough Artist

Adam Hills (The Last Leg)

Steve Delaney (Count Arthur Strong)

Jonny Sweet (Chickens)

Tom Basden (Plebs)

Best TV Comedy Actor

Greg Davies (Cuckoo)

David Mitchell (Peep Show)

Jack Whitehall (Fresh Meat)

Kevin Eldon (It’s Kevin)

Best TV Comedy Actress

Zawe Ashton (Fresh Meat)

Miranda Hart (Miranda)

Jo Brand (Getting On)

Vicki Pepperdine (Getting On)

King/Queen Of Comedy

This is the only award which is voted for by the public. The numbers to vote for each contender are below and will close during the live ceremony. To vote from a mobile, call 6 50 58 and then add the number of your favourite. To vote from a landline, call 09020 50 58 and then add the number of your favourite.

 Alan Carr (01)

David Mitchell (02)

Graham Norton (03)

Jack Whitehall (04)

Lee Mack (05)

Sarah Millican (06)

Well there we go – those are the nominees. I would have liked to have seen a comedy-drama category as I think there have been some fantastic examples in the last twelve months (Last Tango in Halifax, Mount Pleasant, Stella, The Wrong Mans, etc.) which sadly will not get a look-in – and were often funnier than some of the shows nominated. There are some brilliant shows and performers in the running, though, and I look forward to finding out who the panel of judges/public have chosen to be the winner.

Image courtesy of Channel 4 and Dave King

The British Comedy Awards Nominations Show, narrated by the reigning King of Comedy, Jack Whitehall, is on Wednesday at 10:45pm on Channel 4

The ceremony itself is on live next Thursday (12th December) at 9:00pm on Channel 4

What do you think of this year’s nominees? Who are you backing? Feel free to 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.

‘Vic & Bob’s Lucky Sexy Winners’ – Pilot

After the BBC’s ludicrous axing of Shooting Stars, it’s no wonder its creators Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer grabbed the opportunity to hop back to Channel 4…and basically recreate it under another name. Not that that’s any criticism, however – it was great!


The similarities were obvious: Walter Hottle Bottle making a return, a quite basic set, opening dance routine and Dan Skinner – although this time not in his guise as Angelos Epithemiou (which was wise – he’s moved on, it would be silly to make him return to his roots). However, like I said – these likenesses are no bad thing. I think nearly all Shooting Stars fans would agree that it’s high time we saw it come back in some form or another.


Admittedly, the banter with team captains Ulrika(kakaka) Jonsson and Jack Dee and score keeper Angelos is a miss as it made up a lot of the humour on Shooting Stars but its absence wasn’t the end of the world: we still have the absurd yet ingenious questions, exactly what we’d expect from Vic and Bob. If you need any proof of how absolutely nonsensical and random the duo can be, look no further than Bob asking actor Thomas Turgoose to introduce himself:

“State your name, your occupation and the percentage of your day you spend in Morrison’s waiting for the hot chickens to be reduced in price”

Now, I love writing comedy but know for a fact that – if I’d had the wit to create this joke in the first place – I would have stopped it at “Morrison’s” and still sit back and think, ‘That’s a great gag’. Not Vic and Bob, though! Oh no – they think beyond the obvious and have the ability to turn a simple joke like the one I would have written to the quoted one. I really have a lot to learn!


My only qualm would be that the ‘End Game’ was missing, therefore making Eddie Izzard’s win at the end, and then the subsequent presentation of his prize a little bit shoehorned in. It just didn’t feel right without a final game to round off the show.

Nevertheless, I still maintain that Lucky Sexy Winners (what a great title) is a good replacement for Shooting Stars and fans will agree too, I’m sure. It still doesn’t excuse the fact that the BBC axed it, though.

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‘I’m Spazticus’ – Episode 1.4

After four nights of causing controversy and offence but undoubtedly entertaining, I’m Spazticus finished its run tonight and it was much like it has been for the past three: peppered with humour, but mainly heaped with damp squibs.


The ‘victim discomfort’ was particularly funny tonight, both in the ‘Police Parade’ and the ‘Blind Date’ sketches. In the former, a woman had to bend down in a police parade in order to ‘blend in’ with the other participants – three dwarves. To top it all, she was all but forced to deliver the line, “Why do you put your pornography so high on the shelf?” That was actually really funny. Elsewhere, a blind man went to a restaurant and told his waiter – Sean – that he was expecting a blind date to turn up. If the date was attractive, Tim (the blind man) told Sean, he should recommend the Chef’s Special, otherwise he must recommend the pork. Put it this way: there’s no way Sean could have recommended the Chef’s Special.


That’s all that I found funny about I’m Spazticus tonight, unfortunately. I think the problem with this series has been that a lot of the sketches became repetitive and predictable – ‘Dwarf Punch Sandwich’ and ‘Talking Guide Dog’ spring to mind. There really was a sense that once you’d seen them once, you’d seen them a hundred times. There was simply next-to-no variation between one instalment and then the other, it’s a case it déjà vu a lot of the time.

Whether I’m Spazticus will get a second outing on Channel 4, I have no idea. Personally, I wouldn’t be bothered either way. If it returned, I’d watch it but if it didn’t, I wouldn’t mourn it. Still, it’s got people talking!

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‘Channel 4 Comedy Presents: Them From That Thing’ – Episode 1.2

The way I tend to write reviews is to watch the programme live, along with everyone else, so I have no previews and I make notes throughout, whether they be positive or negative. When watching tonight’s Them From That Thing, I only wrote two notes: there was very little to say of it.

Note One
The ‘Burning Arm’ sketch was almost funny – Blake Harrison was certainly, and scarily, convincing! The subsequent hospital scene in which a bandaged-up patient one of Harrison’s character’s colleagues (Morgana Robinson) believed to be him asked her to ‘pull him off’, only for it to be revealed that it wasn’t Harrison under the bandages, but only once Robinson had…finished. I might not have explained it well but it made me smile almost as much as it did the man in bandages.

Note Two
Morgana Robinson still looks like Fearne Cotton.

So that’s it – it wasn’t much to write about, as I’m sure you can tell. A fairly unimpressive mini-series which I’m sure will be instantly forgotten – understandably. There is literally nothing else to say.

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‘I’m Spazticus’ – Episode 1.3

Love it or loathe it, I’m Spazticus has people talking. Those who love it, I’m finding, do so simply because they find it funny – it has nothing to do with the disability aspect for them, I think. However, those who loathe it are tending to find it offensive and unfunny. I don’t love it, I wouldn’t even say I particularly like it, but I no longer loathe it either.


There were two sketches in particular last night which I found very funny. Firstly, there was the opening one which saw Max, the dwarf, back in his role as a guard standing outside a public toilet, preventing people from going in. It wasn’t the sketch itself which I liked, there was just something funny about him standing there and declaring to a woman he was refusing access, “It’s a bit of a humdinger.” No? Is it just me that found that funny? Oh well.

My favourite sketch of the episode and indeed the series as a whole, without a shadow of a doubt, was a trailer for a Channel 4 documentary following a dwarf called Tanya Lee Jones who was looking for love. We saw clips of her telling bemused men about her pole dancing and, best of all, “I don’t shave down there ‘cos that makes me look legal.” However, the punchline and the one thing from I’m Spazticus which has genuinely made me laugh out loud was the title, revealed at the end of the trailer: Midget Jones’s Diary. Just inspired.


I suppose once we’ve got over whether I’m Spazticus is offensive or not (I’ve decided that it’s not), the next question is, is it funny? Well…no. Apart from a couple of sketches in each episode, I haven’t found much to laugh at in this show. True, there are some skits which don’t have strong premises, and there are others which do…but aren’t executed well, therefore leaving their potential unfortunately unfulfilled.


I can’t help thinking that I’m Spazticus might work better as a sketch show rather than a ‘hidden-camera’ one. After all, it is the sketches which I think mainly work best: the ‘Fenton!’ one which I mentioned in my last review and the spoof of the Class sketch from The Frost Report were great and don’t use hidden-cameras.

If I’m Spazticus continues after tonight’s final episode – which I doubt it will – it should really concentrate more on scripted sketches than improvised hidden-camera pranks.

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‘Channel 4 Comedy Presents: Them From That Thing’ – Episode 1.1

Packed full with some of comedy’s biggest recent stars (Facejacker‘s Kayvan Novak, Miranda and Parents’ Sally Phillips, Very Important People‘s Morgana Robinson and The Inbetweeners‘ Blake Harrison), I sat down last night desperately trying not to believe the opinions I’d already heard about Them From That Thing. I thought it would be hilarious – it starred all of these brilliant comedy performers and was written by the great Charlie Brooker! However, what should have been the highlight of Channel 4’s Funny Fortnight turned out to be the worst so far.


The first sketch saw an MP reading a statement for the press with his wife by his side, announcing that he was planning to spend less time with his family. Now, I assume the point of this was to turn on its head the idea of MPs announcing they are leaving politics in order to spend more time with their families. However, as well as being very similar to Little Britain‘s Sir Norman Fry MP sketch, it just didn’t work.

In fact, that seemed to be true for many of the sketches: good premises, poorly executed. They were all just disappointingly unfunny. The ‘Aspect Ratio’ sketch – starring Harrison and Robinson as parents who are concerned about their son who has apparently been born “at the wrong aspect ratio”, as he is stretched wide too much (obviously, it works better visually than descriptively) – started promisingly. ‘Could this really be, after twenty five minutes, the first funny sketch?’ I thought. Well…no, it couldn’t. It didn’t fulfil its potential at all. The only real good thing about Them From That Thing, to me, was that it showcased how versatile Sally Phillips is as an actress. Sometimes I didn’t even recognise her, both in appearance and voice!

I can only presume that everyone involved thought, ‘Sod a good quality script, so long as we have this lot on board and Simon Callow making an appearance, that’ll see us through’. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t. I just couldn’t believe that such rubbish could come from such talent as the aforementioned foursome and Brooker! I wonder what’ll happen tonight?

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‘I’m Spazticus’ – Episode 1.2

I’ve been looking forward to writing this one again! Channel 4’s new hidden-camera prank show I’m Spazticus continued tonight and it still seems to be splitting opinion, as opposed to sides.


I tend not to go on Twitter to see what people are saying about a show I’m going to review, out of fear I’ll be influenced by others’ views, rather than just expressing my own. However, after I’d uploaded my review of I’m Spazticus last night, I did go on the site to see what the reaction was. Immediately I saw many tweets from writer Jonathan Harvey saying he didn’t like the show and didn’t really find it funny. Now, Jonathan wrote the quite risqué and rude Gimme Gimme Gimme – which confirmed my point that I didn’t have to be a prude not to like I’m Spazticus.

I then received a tweet in agreement with my review so I knew I had struck a chord with some people. However, I woke up this morning to find that I had also received a tweet from Simon Stevens, the man with cerebal palsy who starred in the sketch I mainly objected to in my review last night – the one focusing on an identity parade. The main reason for Simon’s tweet was to clarify that I’m Spazticus isn’t here to change perceptions but to simply create comedy with disabled people being prominent. The reason I said that the show is out to change perceptions is because I read an article in which blind actor and I’m Spazticus star Tim Gebbels basically said he had plans to stop people being “scared” of disability. That is where my misconception stemmed from and I’m sorry that I got it wrong. I told Simon that the first episode simply didn’t appeal to me and perhaps I’d become more of a fan when I watched tonight’s instalment. And I’m pleased to say: I am warming to it.


I certainly didn’t feel the discomfort that I did when watching the first episode. I mean, I cringed a little at the sketch involving Tim Gebbels attempting to hand over the Olympic torch to a woman who’d had her hands amputated but that was the intended reaction, wasn’t it? I’m sure I’m Spazticus is meant to make the viewer cringe a smidgen in places. It definitely became more obvious to me by watching tonight’s show – and by receiving Steven’s clarification earlier – that the comedy stems from the able-bodied ‘victims’ of the pranks’ reactions, not the performers themselves. I liked Max – the dwarf – pretending to be a guard, it was just as funny on this episode as it was on the first. Also, Tim – the blind performer – having his letter read out by a bemused man at his door, revealing he had a series of STDs was very good and I felt so sorry for the woman who thought actor Peter Mitchell being stuck in his wheelchair in a tree after an alleged parachuting accident was genuine and was at pains to get help. I mean, seriously: who would believe that that was a real incident if they saw it in the street? Apart from that woman, of course.


There are still some weaknesses to I’m Spazticus, however, I feel. The sketches in it make me raise a smile but seldom laugh. I think if it hadn’t been for the creators tapping into the niche of disability in comedy, it wouldn’t stand out in the prank or hidden-camera show genre.

Some sketches are dragged out, too. Take the ‘Gnome-o-gram’ skit, for example. That was a brilliant visual joke when it started but became quite monotonous when we kept revisiting it to find that not a lot had changed. Ditto for the ‘Fenton’ sketch which ended both last night’s and tonight’s show by lampooning the infamous ‘FENTON!’ YouTube clip. In these, we see one of the I’m Spazticus performers racing after their dog (or in Tim Gebbel’s case his ‘Guide Dwarf’…don’t ask). Last night, we only had one but tonight we had two versions of this. When I first saw it in the opening episode, I found it funny. When I watched it in tonight’s show, though, I thought it was a little less funny as it didn’t differ a lot from the previous one. The one saving grace with it ending tonight’s show was that it had a twist, with Tim chasing after his aforementioned ‘Guide Dwarf’…and then dropping the C-word at the end! I didn’t expect that!

So, I enjoyed tonight’s show a little more but I still think it’s got a little way to go before it can fully establish itself. I hope it can – it has potential.

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‘I’m Spazticus’ – Episode 1.1

As part of their ‘Funny Fortnight’, Channel 4 have commissioned a four-part series of I’m Spazticus, which originally piloted in 2005 as part of Comedy Lab. Now, I didn’t see the pilot so had nothing to compare this opening episode to. I did, however, have reservations.


For one, how the hell did the title make it past the censors? Very few comedians nowadays would dare utter the word “spaz”, so derogatory a term is it. I’d just like to clarify that I’m not complaining about the lack of usage of this word – I think it’s offensive, too. Therefore I was dubious about the show itself as this word – as is palpable – appears in the title.

It’s quite difficult to write this review as I feel as if I’m treading on eggshells: can I say this? Can I say that? Is that the politically correct term? I don’t think the creators and stars of I’m Spazticus had these fears, however, as this show is quite in-your-face and they don’t let you forget what their aim is – to change people’s attitudes towards disability and make it less of a taboo subject. Did they succeed? My opinion is no.


I mean, there were some funny sketches in this episode, such as the one in which a blind man received a delivery of a dog which he thought was his beloved Blackie, who had apparently been stuffed after its death, only for him to be told what had actually been brought to him was a stuffed golden Labrador. This man also reappeared later in what was my highlight of I’m Spazticus – a skit in which he walked into a roller-blind shop called ‘We Love Blinds’, claiming that he thought it was a dating agency for blind people. When he walked into the shop, you could see the joke coming a mile off but it still worked really well.


Anyway, that’s enough of what I found good about I’m Spazticus: it’s now onto the bad. I’m afraid I found a lot of the sketches very repetitive and dragged-out: I ‘got it’ within the first ten seconds of a sketch beginning – it didn’t need to be dragged-out for a further two minutes or more. God only knows how this is going to be spread out over four consecutive nights!

And then, there are the sketches themselves. There were two in particular which I took umbrage with: one involving a ‘Street Dance’ in which a dwarf, an amputee and a man with cerebal palsy all busked in the street in front of stunned onlookers and another which saw an able-bodied man partake in an identity parade with three other men who all had cerebal palsy. I have to say that I found both of these very uncomfortable to watch. I don’t want to come across as a prude – I’m seldom prudish – but there was just something about these two sketches in particular which didn’t sit well with me. As a viewer, feeling discomfort can be a good thing: it can sometimes get you involved with the programme, make you laugh and cringe in equal measure. Take The Office for example: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant tackled subjects like ethnicity and disability in that show and I think it’s the only comedy which can actually have you watching through your fingers yet be hilarious at the same time. I’m Spazticus, however, didn’t do that – it just made me feel this discomfort without any of the positive connotations. Clearly these two skits in particular were created in order to challenge the viewer’s conscience, to make them really consider whether they were laughing at or with the performers. Unfortunately, this failed because, if you’re like me, you weren’t even laughing in the first place.


Channel 4 has a certain reputation for pushing boundaries and challenging its viewers but I think there are aspects of I’m Spazticus which take this too far. I’m not denying that the intentions of the programme are good – I can see why they want to change the public’s perceptions towards disability and why they’ve chosen this way to go about it but, if I’m being honest, I don’t think the end product will help their cause a great deal.

There’s more I’m Spazticus tomorrow night at 10:35pm on Channel 4. Until then, though, you can follow me on Twitter (@UKTVReviewer) or stay up-to-date with my reviews and those of others, as well as TV news and interviews at

‘Burnistoun’ – Episode 3.1

What on Earth is Burnistoun, some of you – in fact, most of you – will undoubtedly ask. I myself had only vaguely heard of it previously and had never seen it prior to last night, primarily because I don’t live in Scotland, so (like the rest of those in the UK living outside of Scotland) had had Burnistoun cruelly hidden from me, tucked away exclusively on BBC 2 Scotland. That is such a shame because this show is brilliant!


Hilariously inventive and original sketches dominated the half-hour episode! You’ll have to catch the show on iPlayer to understand what the following references mean but bear with me: ‘Cappuccino’, ‘Thanks’, ‘Breathalyser’ and ‘Outraged Man in the Bar’ were all inspired and just proved how ridiculous the BBC are being by keeping this gem for Scots only. It’s teetering on tragic that such genuinely funny comedy is hidden from possible huge fans, like myself.


I’m not going to pretend that Burnistoun doesn’t have its faults, however. Some sketches are, admittedly, damp squibs, such as ‘Balls’, ‘Jolly Boy John’ and ‘Social Networking’. With this trio it just seemed that we ‘got’ the joke within the first ten seconds and there was no need to drag them out for a further couple of minutes. In fact, even at a mere ten seconds, I can’t imagine the jokes being any funnier than they were at around two minutes – they just weren’t particularly strong. Thankfully, though, this trio of poor sketches were in the minority and overshadowed by the aforementioned great ones.


I absolutely loved The Armstrong and Miller Show when it was revived by the BBC and I think the humour in Burnistoun is in a similar vein. Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller have an eye for detail and this show’s writers and stars Iain Connell and Robert Florence certainly do, too. They pick up on odd phrases and situations and are able to make them into really funny sketches. The ‘Cappuccino’ sketch which I mentioned earlier is ludicrous, it could easily have been dreamed up by Harry Hill or Noel Fielding so ridiculous is it, yet it stems from an everyday situation – ordering a cappuccino in a cafe! If Connell and Florence are ever granted the chance to be exposed across the whole of the UK, they could become very, very popular!


I really do urge you – whether you be a die-hard comedy fan or not – to watch Burnistoun on BBC iPlayer on this link ( or, if you have Sky, catch it every Monday at 10pm on BBC 2 Scotland (Sky Channel 970), which it is criminally exclusive to.

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