Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #50

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Gigglebox Weekly With Ian Wolf

As Gigglebox Weekly turns 50 this week, Ian Wolf looks back at some old news footage and goes behind bars.

A Short History of Everything Else

Yes, it’s yet another panel game, although given that this series is only four episodes long rather than the conventional six, you can’t help but think Channel 4 don’t have much faith in it.

Hosted by Griff Rhys Jones and featuring team captains Marcus Brigstocke and Charlie Baker, A Short History of Everything Else uses old film footage to ask questions about recent history, from the famous to the obscure.

Watching this show, I can’t help but think that it’s just too much like Have I Got News for You. The key difference, though, is that the questions are too old to be satirical enough and the set is a bit more high-tech. This one actually features TV monitors rather than just turning boards!

Most of the humour in the show come not from the footage, but the panel insulting each other and trying to mock Rhys Jones (mostly over an old beer advert he did). That’s all well and good, but it’d be much better if they could get more funny still from their video archives.

If I were a betting man, I’d say before long this show will be history…

Dead Boss

Sharon Horgan returns to the always slightly dodgy world of the BBC Three sitcom with this new series about a woman wrongly sent to prison for murdering her boss.

In Dead Boss, innocent convict Helen Stephens is trying her best to overturn her conviction, which is not easy, as seemingly everyone around her is keen on her staying banged up. Her unhinged, arsonist cellmate Christine (Bryony Hannah) doesn’t want her new friend to leave her; Governor Margaret (Jennifer Saunders) can’t be bothered with the paperwork; the prison’s reclusive “boss” Top Dog (Lizzie Roper) once was Stephens’ bullied substitute teacher whose taunts leader her to murder her own husband; and former co-worker Henry (Edward Hogg) may seem keen on getting Stephens out, but he is a obsessive stalker who wants her to relay only on him.

The show began with a double-bill, which seemed like a good move, given that the second was clearly the stronger of the two. Both had their moments, but the first seemed to be concerned with setting up the situation more than the actual comedy – which is to be expected, really. The second episode, in which the prison runs a quiz where the top prize was five years off winner’s sentence, had the better plot and, on the whole, was lots of fun.

I know some critics have been likened it, unfavourably, to Porridge, which was inevitable I suppose. However, both shows have major differences in terms of content, casting, and studio audiences (Porridge had one). It might even be better to think of Dead Boss as a comedy drama rather than a straight sitcom. Oh, and stop comparing the two.

Then again everyone else will probably be saying the same thing: “Why did they cancel Pulling?”

Ian Wolf is off to Marbella now to get a tan, so there’ll be no Gigglebox column next week. Instead, we’ll be chatting with Dead Boss co-creator Holly Walsh about the show.