Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #34 – Room 101

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Gigglebox Weekly With Ian Wolf

This week saw the return of the worst place in the entire world, but in a totally new way.

Room 101 has returned, but there are many differences. Firstly, Frank Skinner is now host. Secondly, there are now three guests instead of just one. Thirdly, it’s now on before the watershed. So the question is: “Does this new revamp of Room 101 deserve to go into Room 101; not counting the fact that Room 101 is already in Room 101 thanks to Stephen Fry’s appearance on the show during the Paul Merton years?”

Well, Skinner seemed to do well as host. Mind you, this isn’t that surprising seeing as he does a good job on his own show Opinionated. It’s too early to tell if he’s as good as either Merton or Nick Hancock, but this new format certainly does seem to go back to Hancock in style, with things like getting bonus items in. Also, the yellow studio set looks like the one during the Hancock years.

The guests on this first episode were Robert Webb, Danny Baker and Fern Britton. This line-up seems to prove one of the main features of this series: playing it safe. Baker and Britton both appeared in the original series (Baker with Hancock and Britton with Merton) so they know how to play the show. Also, as Webb is funny that means that this episode was probably going to be good anyway.

This leads to the other main feature of this new revamp: turning this old chat show into a panel show. When I first learnt that there were going to be three guests on each episode I thought: “Oh God no, they’ve turned it into another panel game.” I’m not the only person to think this, as Baker wanted to put panel shows into Room 101 (they didn’t go in). We’ve got to the point of panel show saturation – there are too many now, on both TV and radio. The only reason why there are so many of these is that there are cheap to make. It’s becoming generic and ever so slightly depressing.

Also, one of the joys of the old Room 101 was that the lone guest – even when the guest was rubbish (Davina McCall springs to mind) – had so much time to let rip at the things they hated. Now it’s been slightly toned down now because it goes out before 9pm and Instead replaced by this banter between the guests. It’s good at times, especially when they point out the flaws in each other’s arguments, but why Skinner can’t do that himself I don’t know.

Plus the panel and host don’t have time to  go into depth about their subjects or go off on odd tangents. With this format we could never get something like Johnny Vegas’ confessions about internet chat rooms, or Brian Blessed proving to Kirsty Young that people with very loud voices aren’t always a bad thing.

Just one episode in, it’s too early to call judgement. Like I said, there are funny moments, but I don’t see why they needed to mess around with the format in the first place. This format is safe for now – it’s not in Room 101, but it’s hovering by the trapdoor.