Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #64

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Gigglebox Weekly With Ian Wolf

This week Ian Wolf watches a suicidal imaginary friend, someone tapping their nose on a stranger’s knee, and the world’s best ventriloquist dummies.

Full English

There appears to be an unwritten rule when it comes to animation in the UK that unless it’s by Aardman, it’ll be rubbish. Full English seems to obey this rule, which may explain why Channel 4 is airing it at 22.50.

The other reason of course being the crudeness of the humour. It’s been described as the British Family Guy by some critics, which brings us to another unwritten rule on animation: if a British comedy’s marketed as the British version of a successful American comedy, the British comedy will be rubbish in comparison. Again, Full English conforms.

The series centres on a “typical” British suburban family; put-upon father Edgar (Richard Ayoade), emo daughter Eve (Daisy Haggard), and horrid superrich father-in-law Ken (Oliver Maltman) who has an imaginary, gigantic, green friend called Squidge.

Full English doesn’t seem to have one big problem but lots of little ones. The animation by Alex Scarfe (son of Gerald Scarfe) is very poor in terms of quality. The characters seem one dimensional (as opposed to their 2D visual portrayals).

But for me the worst is its attempts at satire. The plot of the first episode sees Eve go on Britain’s Got Talent with her band, failing, but getting back on by pretending her parents are dead. How original. It’s all the same, with Simon Cowell being a vicious git, contestants doing freakishly horrid acts, and others playing the sympathy vote. It’s all been done before.

I’ll concede there were some moments of laughter, mainly the more violent cartoonish sequences – like Squidge’s attempts to hang himself, or the eldest son of the family hiding under the car, only to get badly hurt because he’s so fat he gets terrible friction off the road as the car moves. But other than that I think that Full English hasn’t got much going for it.

Impractical Jokers

This prank show was one of a series of online pilots for BBC Three, which I reviewed for a previous Gigglebox column.

Out of all of the pilots that BBC Three had to offer earlier in the year, this was deemed to be so successful that it needed a series almost immediately (after all, prank shows are cheap to make, especially in this financially tight times). I was glad, because out of all of them this one was the most surprising, in the sense that it’s a prank show that’s actually good.

The premise is that four comedians, Joel Dommet, Roisin Conaty, Paul McCaffrey and Marek Larwood, are each given a series of challenges. As one comic performs in front of hidden cameras, the other three force them to do humiliating things in front of their unsuspecting audience. The comedian who fails to do as they’re told the most is forced to do a final forfeit at the end of the show. Great stuff.

The show’s so successful, of course, because of the people involved. They’re all professional comedians. In most prank shows, it’s just members of the public who are all unwittingly doing something stupid. In Impractical Jokers however, all four performers know how to get the most from the situations and get those extra laughs. It can be as simple as constantly saying “peek-a-boo” while washing someone’s hair, to pretending you’re remembering something by tapping your nose on a customer’s knee.

If I were to have any complaints about the series it would be with the cartoonish opening sequence and animation that they use, which is too annoying for my liking. Other than that it’s a hit.

Live at the Apollo

Arguably the most successful stand-up show on British TV has returned for its eighth series on BBC One, and not much has changed.

This opening episode featured Dara O’Briain as the headline act, mostly talking about stupid things people do in their holidays, including his own experience at trying to surf in Australia. Guest Danny Bhoy also talked a lot about Australia, as well as the problems Scotland might have if they get into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. However, the best act on the night for me was ventriloquist Nina Conti, who did a brilliant improvisation act which involved getting two members of the audience on stage and making them wear fake mouths which she controlled, turning the pair into life-sized dummies.

Live at the Apollo demonstrates some of the great comic talents that are out there, but once again the show still has the problems. Firstly is the length of the show. It used to be 45 minutes, now it’s 30 minutes. Admittedly there are extended repeats, but for the last series they didn’t appear until months later. Personally I think they should scrap the 30 minute format and just have the straight 45 minutes.

The other, bigger complaint Live at the Apollo gets is the lack of diversity among the comics chosen. The main one is the lack of women. Other than Conti the only other women appearing are Kerry Godliman and Sara Pascoe. Now given that Conti, who is both a woman and the first ventriloquist to appear on the programme, was the funniest person on in the latest episode, I think that’s proof that a bigger range of performers could do wonders for it…