On the main review page we cover new comedy programmes which are also issued as posts.
This page is an archive of the bite-size reviews of some individual episodes, recurring series and some new shows.
Bite-size reviews are Spoiler Free
For the first time, Ricky Gervais has written a third series of one of his creations and what a job he’s done of it. Gervais is not everyone’s cup of tea but that’s never bothered him. He says it as he sees it.
If you are one of the 100m+ households worldwide who have viewed the first two series then, unlike many of the dour critics and reviewers, you will love the conclusion to Tony’s story. As every little ginger boy knows, the language is off the scale but the sentiments are real life.
If you like shows that make you weep and laugh in equal measure: that wrench at your heart strings whilst boosting your serotonin levels: that deal with the grief of a lost loved one with painful reality yet humour then ignore the naysayers and watch this Netflix phenomenon.
A Night In: Alton Towers – Channel 4
Carr’s game show followed a ‘Night In’ (C4) in which we find the ubiquitous Josh Widdicombe and pal Alex Brooker spending a night in unusual locations with a celebrity friend. The first episode saw the pair joined by Roisin Conaty to spend a night doing a one hour commercial for Alton Towers. With so much excellent TV available on so many channels and streamers, there simply isn’t enough time to waste watching drivel like this.
Fun for them maybe: for the viewing public not so much.
The Weakest Link – BBC One
The Weakest Link was another complete waste of 45 minutes, despite the equally ubiquitous, Romesh Ranganathan’s best efforts to generate tension. The return of this iconic quiz show saw it downgraded to the realms of a purile celebrity game show. The first edition was called a ‘Strictly Special’: a blatant attempt at capitalising on the dance show’s popularity, which followed it.
As so often happens with ‘celebrity quiz shows’ the level of the questions is dumbed down so far that they hold no challenge for viewers at home and therefore make the hubris of the celebs answering them somewhat embarrassing.
If it was a one off ‘Strictly Special’ on final night it would be instantly, and justifiably, forgettable, however as a series of 12 it will no doubt grab the early evening audience, thanks to Ranganathan’s popularity.
Would I Lie To You – BBC One
Back for its 15th season this is without doubt the funniest panel show on television. How team captains, David Mitchell and Lee Mack, have maintained such a high level over those years is remarkable. They along with host, Rob Brydon, deliver half an hour of the funniest television you’ll see.
All celebrity panel shows depend to a large extent on the ability of the guests. In WILTY they have to lie convincingly or tell the truth unconvincingly. Part of the viewers enjoyment is guessing whether the story is true or a lie. Some guests tell such a detailed story that they are clearly true. Others like, Holly Willoughby in last week’s episode, can lie exceptionally well. However there is none better at the art than Bob Mortimer whose almost surreal elaborations of both truth and fiction are simply brilliant and always the highlight of every series.
Outsiders – Dave Wednesdays 10pm
Could pairs of comedians survive in the wild (well rural England) without mode-cons? Outsiders won’t really answer that question because the pairs go about their tasks for comic effect and great effect it is too.
Women have dominated TV comedy this year, so it is no surprise that the irrepressible trio of Kerry Godliman, Lou Sanders and Jessica Knappett are the key to making this series great fun to watch. Paired up with Toussaint Douglass, Ed Gamble and the rebellious Jamali Maddix respectively the six comedians provide a very enjoyable hours entertainment supervised by that well known rugged outdoorsman David Mitchell (sarcasm), Mitchell judges their efforts and awards scout type badges. Not many badges will be awarded for sure. It’s fun watching people have fun.
Hitmen: Reloaded – Sky Comedy
The second series of this underrated show got off to a bang with Jamie (Mel Giedroyc) and Fran (Sue Perkins) dealing with a dangerous canine before attending their school reunion. Much like Johnny English, the earnest but inept pair, always manage to complete their assignments despite the mayhem that surrounds them.
Meeting their old classmates brings back unwelcome Dickensian memories for Fran and rekindles old flames for Jamie. Katherine Parkinson enters the fray hinting at some sinister events in future episodes which begin to manifest themselves in episode 2 where Jessica Knappett turns up indoors this time for a cameo. As in the first series, Mel and Sue are a funny, if unlikely, combination for Hitmen.
I Literally Just Told You – Channel 4
The concept behind ‘I Literally Just Told You’ (C4) is simple enough – contestants (members of the public) have to answer questions based on their recall of oral and visual clues mentioned or seen in the preceding parts of the show.
Jimmy Carr was a good choice to host this new game show, his mildly sarcastic/ mocking approach was very much needed for what would otherwise be a pretty mundane attempt at entertainment. Fortunately Jimmy controlled his irritating laugh.
As usual the opener had a bumper cash prize to hook viewers and if contestant one, Al from Cornwall, wasn’t a ringer employed to make mistakes so that the game appeared tougher, he certainly did that job very well. Why Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, the eminent space scientist, was a question setter on the show is a mystery. .
Plenty of scope here for viewer participation so it might catch on.
Never Mind The Buzzcocks
Welcome back! Fortunately Sky have not taken the surgeon’s knife to the original basic format. Still has the same rounds, intros, next line, line up (with a twist) et al.
The opening sequence was frankly embarrassingly pointless and not funny: hope they’re not showing that every week.
Greg Davies is a brilliant choice as the new host as are Daisy May Cooper and Noel Fielding as team captains (the latter being in the original show). It was a joyously funny half hour with regular team member Jamali Maddix alongside Nish Kumar, Jade Thirlwall, from Little Mix and Anne-Marie all contributing to the hilarity. The format works but naturally the quality of each show is totally dependent on the personality and performance of the team members.
The first episode got off to a flyer.
The Complaints Department
A new format that resembles televised Twitter. A much better format for host Jason Manford than his exceedingly dull quiz, Unbeatable. In this show Manford shines as he does on stage in his hilarious Like Me tour. Complaints Department is another show that is totally dependent on the quality of the panel to make it work and so far it has worked extremely well. Jimmy Carr, in the first episode refrained from dominating events (as he usually does), Russell Kane has strong views on almost everything as does Sarah Millican in the second show.
The format relies on the public for making real life complaints, the researchers for finding them and Manford for holding the whole thing together. Overall a surprisingly watchable and enjoyable show.
When the line-up for the series was announced it didn’t seem to promise a great deal of chemistry but such is Alex Horne’s alchemy that the chemistry works. Series 12 promises to be another winner.
The Taskmaster, Greg Davies, is on top form; the tasks are on the money and, as usual, the contestants are not all showing the same level of initial enthusiasm. Victoria Coren Mitchell is coming across as a maiden aunt reluctantly forced into joining in Christmas festivities. However Taskmaster has a habit of generating a competitive spirit and no doubt this group, including VCM will be no different.
The version that was erroneously transmitted with expletives deleted must have rendered Morgana Robinson speechless!
Taskmaster aficionados need have no fear, this series maintains the incredibly high standards of the previous eleven.
The Holden Girls: Mandy and Myrtle
First of all a confession: I’m not a fan of Leigh Francis, in any of his many guises, so was not looking forward to his portrayal of Amanda Holden’s nan in this fly-on-the-wall mockumentary. But, putting that aside, it is funny and does not deserve the scathing reviews it has had.
Holden allows herself to be the butt of nan’s humour with grace. Having said that, it will probably wear pretty thin as a series and maybe one or two episodes is enough so as not to spoil the joke.
Late Night Mash Episode 2
The second Late Night Mash on Dave was much stronger than the first. Sharper writing and Nish Kumar looked a lot more settled into his new home. Ahir Shar did well taking over Geoff Norcott’s spot however he really must learn to read an autocue better or the cameras need to stay side on.
Rachel Parris was absent with The Delightful Sausage (Amy Gledhill and Christopher Cantrill) standing in with a piece on vaccinations. Ellie Taylor was also AWOL with Stevie Martin seamlessly standing in behind the news desk. As a current affairs sketch show it holds up remarkably well,
British As Folk E1 on Dave
If you feel in need of a joyous time spent in good company then look no further than British as Folk (a title presumably devised by Dave’s nudge, nudge, wink, wink committee). An hour with Fern Brady, Darren Harriott and Ivo Graham as they meet the good folk of Leicester will get the endorphins flowing, raise a wide smile and bring you joy.
How refreshing it is to have a travelogue with three relatively and woefully underexposed comedians taking us on a tour of the country to “uncover the real Britain, the one we don’t get to see” as the logline says.
French and Saunders: Funny Women
Well, they seemed to enjoy it.
The clips, most of which hadn’t been seen for a long time, were too short and the links too long.
It was a vast subject and would have benefitted from being, say 3 x 60, in order to do the female subjects justice.
The links seemed laboured, added little to the show and were somewhat repetitive, especially Dawn’s frequent shouting to camera.
Overall not their best night.
Ghosts series 3
“Gently humorous, thoroughly charming series.” summarised my view of series two. That description still applies to series three but the writers, who also created Horrible Histories, are now melding the two productions to the point where they are becoming indistinguishable. Much of episode one tells the story, in Shakespearean play-within-a-play style, of how Humphrey Bone came to be beheaded during the reign of Queen Bess.
Nevertheless, Ghosts is good, clean family entertainment and a welcome returnee to our screens with Charlotte Ritchie shining as always.
This second series is every bit as funny, in a sort of Police Squad way, as the first series. Which you really should watch before embarking on the second.
DI John Major (Daniel Mays) is flashing up Code: 404 computer code for a server error, and the one in his brain appears to be malfunctioning and deteriorating. Crime-fighting partner DI Roy Carver (Stephen Graham) comes to his assistance with the help of American scientist Dr Parfitt. The slapstick and one-liners will make you laugh.
One big surprise is that Anna Maxwell Martin has legs. Who knew?
Inside No9: Last Night of the Proms
Monday June 14th
What a series finale. Last Night of the Proms was a superb end to series 6 of Inside No9. BAFTA award winning creators and writers Pemberton and Shearsmith continually amaze with their one-off dark comedies and last night’s was no exception. No spoilers here, so you’ll have to watch it to laugh at the twists and turns and the ultimate reveal. Another brilliant cast including 86 year old Julian Glover .
We understand that series 7 is already in preparation. Can’t wait.
Intelligence Series 2
If you are one of the unfortunate few who waded through 6 episodes of this drivel to find the few laughs in this overhyped nonsense, then I sympathise.
Finally the incompetent Joseph gets fired from GCHQ but won’t leave and the equally incompetent Jerry gets kidnapped. A very good point at which to leave this twaddle behind but, it will no doubt be recommissioned, so I guess Nick Mohammed will write himself back into a job and the kidnappers will release Jerry before he drives them suicidal.
Underwhelming stuff and nonsense.
This Way Up Series 2
This Way Up is a glorious confection, both sweet and sharp, but delicious nevertheless.
Aisling Bea, creator, writer and co-star has blended together superb, believable characters, added a generous sprinkling of hilarity: a dash of pathos and a pinch of soulfulness and created a script that has risen like a perfect soufflé served with a quenelle of perfect cast.
A definite binge watch
Inside No9 – Hurry Up And Wait
Monday 31st May
Another intriguing dramedy from Pemberton and Shearsmith. A timid bit part actor, playing a policeman in a crime reconstruction, becomes too involved in the case before being out manoeuvred by one of Britain’s top actors. Superb cast as always.
Breeders Episode 2
Thursday 3rd June
Could it be possible that young Luke’s problem was caused by being sworn at for all of his 13 years? In episode 2 dad, Paul, doesn’t swear at him (or anyone else for that matter). He and Ally are dealing with whatever is troubling their son with parental kindness and compassion not violent outbursts of profanity. And do you know what, the show was all the more enjoyable for it.
Inside No9 – How Do You Plead
Monday June 7th
Humour as dark as Whitby Jet and performances as perfect as always, last night’s episode of Inside No9, guest starring the incomparable Derek Jacobi, continued the incredible run from BAFTA award winners Pemberton and Shearsmith. Episodes like this will make it nigh on impossible for anyone to wrest future awards from their hands. Only one more episode to go in this series. Shame
Russell Howard Stands Up to the World
Monday 31st May
A great example of how one of our top comedians gathers material by travelling the world and how New Zealand are keeping Covid out through quarantine. The ‘travelogue’ (sans Mum) dug up some fascinating characters on which he based his stand-up routine delivered to full audiences in a Covid free NZ.
Inside No9 – Lip Service
Monday 24th May
The script took us on a real cork screw journey with subtle comedy as a companion. Sian Clifford was perfect with yet another superb performance by both Steve Pemberton as the cuckold and Reece Shearsmith as the punctilious hotel manager.
We Are Ladyparts
Thursday 20th May
Interesting mix of culture, music and darkish comedy. Definitely one for Zoomers. Promising start to the series, now to watch the rest on All4 before a full review