Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #71

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This week Ian Wolf gives his nightmare vision of the forthcoming royal birth, learns about a nude swimming pool and hears Charlie Brooker talking positively about something.

The Big Fat Quiz of the Year

Reviewing this programme’s a bit of a problem because it’s been in the newspapers all week, so it’s hard to try and think about something new.

For those who might have been living in a cave since the year began, on this year’s edition of the two-hour long panel game hosted by Jimmy Carr (cue jokes about him tax dodging), one team, consisting of Jack Whitehall and James Corden, supposedly got into trouble after drinking some wine on the set, getting tipsy, writing a random phone number on the screen which lead to people phoning some random member of the public, and making some rude jokes about the Queen which I’m not going to repeat. If you want to know what they are, watch the programme on 4oD and see it in context.

Concerning the phone number, it should be obvious that if you write just about any sequence of numbers down it will be someone’s actual phone number and some idiots will ring it up. That was a bit stupid, and Channel 4 could have made an effort to do something about it. You know, like blur it out.

To be honest, though, I’ve no objection to the jokes about the Queen. Everyone knows that the Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells and Daily Mail brigades would get up on their high horses because, frankly, they enjoy draining the passion out of anything that isn’t a repeat of Last of the Summer Wine – while at the same time complaining that they’re too many repeats on TV. Since the “outrage” that the Mail has failed to stir up in the same way as it did with “Sachsgate”, people have been fighting back in their own way, generally annoying the rag.

But I suppose the main reason why I personally didn’t mind the jokes about the Queen is that over the past few years I’ve become sick of all the royal events on the box. First there was William and Kate getting married, then the Diamond Jubilee, now there’s going to be a baby, and you just know the TV channels are going to give months and months of tedious analysis about the whole thing.

I’ve just got this nightmare vision in my head of Nicholas Witchell and his camera-crew trying to bribe a midwife so that they could get the BBC live exclusive access to the birth from the Duchess of Cambridge’s private maternity unit, in which he will try to talk for about 18 hours straight with experts, while a camera will film Kate’s most private parts constantly as they wait for the baby’s head to come out the royal CENSORED.

Other than that however, The Big Fat Quiz of the Year was mostly enjoyable, except for some tedious reality TV guests – and the lacklustre Jonathan Ross. Shame Whitehall and Corden didn’t try to get him drunk.

Numb: Simon Amstell Live at the BBC

Usually I tend not to cover solo stand-up shows on TV because they’re usually just edited-down versions of DVDs, but this isn’t the case with show from Simon Amstell. Fed up with all the stand-up DVDs out there, Amstell has decided to make to perform his latest stand-up show for the BBC rather than just release it as a DVD.

Numb, broadcast on BBC Four in a specially minimalist set at the TV Centre, is mostly about Amstell’s own anxiety, relationships with his family, friends and boyfriends, and his views on pain, feeling and life itself.

There were so many high moments in the show, such as his experiences of holidaying alone in Amsterdam, going to a nude swimming pool, and how he is now so lonely he watches the least ethical porn he can find.

The show was indeed a good one, and for those who are perhaps not into this kind of comedy, Amstell could help start a trend. Hopefully other comedians might go this way of taking their comedy routines to TV rather than DVD. I would certainly welcome it.

Read Andrew Dipper’s review of the show here.

Charlie Brooker’s 2012 Wipe

Charlie Brooker’s take on 2012 was enjoyable for many reasons, no more so than the fact it took place after the year had ended – unlike all the other comedy reviews of the year.

Another reason, of course, was because the show covered quite a lot of events that people forgot about; the sinking of the Costa Concordia in January, for example, which Brooker covered by showing the idiotic comparisons made by Entertainment Weekly between Concordia and the film Titanic, including the probing question: “Was Celine Dion playing when it sank?”

There were other decent moments too, but some of these, like the campaign against Joseph Kony and Brooker’s mocking of both Kony and the strangely cult-like people campaigning against him, were covered more in-depth by Brooker himself on 10 O’Clock Live. Speaking of which, 10 O’Clock Live also appeared on the show when Brooker covered Jimmy Carr’s taxes.

However, when it comes to Brooker the most interesting part is when he stops going on about how awful things are and actually finds the positive things around us. In the case of 2012 it was the Olympics and Paralympics, and while these are, on a whole, not the funniest moments, they do provide us with a glimmer of joy in an otherwise gloriously miserable show.

With more Wipe programmes coming up in February, Brooker’s work is perhaps the most satirical comedy around. Other shows should be encouraged to be as cutting and thought-provoking as this is.