A quick word about The Generation Game which started on BBC1 last weekend. I don’t think anyone even raised an eyebrow when Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins were announced as presenters. They’re the perfect pair on paper. And perhaps this was the perfect week to start the series with the nation’s focus firmly on entertainment shows, as poor lonely Declan Donnelly went solo on Saturday Night Takeaway. The Generation Game is a stone-cold classic Saturday night entertainment fixture, so the big mystery was why did the Beeb broadcast this on a Sunday? Do they get confused too about what day of the week it is when there’s a bank holiday?
So on Sunday, not Saturday, Mel and Sue in oddly colour-coordinated outfits welcome viewers to a stadium-sized sequin-bejazzled set. The pair are instantly very comfortable together making desperately cheesy jokes, as you imagine they do off-screen too. You’d go on as a contestant just to be able to give Mel and Sue a hug, despite the embarrassing tasks they have in store for you. The pair ably control the chaos and mak the contestants laugh, wandering around during the tasks, partly encouraging them and partly putting them off exactly like their Bake Off heyday.
So far so good. Then we have Richard Osman and Lorraine Kelly introduced as guest judges in an appropriately pointless addition of a celebrity panel. They seem to be there just to give moral support to the show’s producers and talk about how they used to love The Generation Game back in the day. How the new version stacks up, they don’t say. Hopefully they’ll keep any negative comparisons to themselves.
The first round sees Johnny Vegas making as phallic a teapot as humanly possible. This is quite a surprising sight if you’ve not seen him pop up as a guest judge on BBC2’s Great Pottery Throw Down. There’s plenty of innuendo to be had, and some wonderful concentration faces as the contestants mould their teapot handles, working the clay hard and giving it some executive relief. There’s also bhangra dancing, plate spinning and opportunity for the contestants to dress up and show off their acting and accent ‘skills’.
I was surprised to learn there were four initially-commissioned episodes cut down to just two before broadcast, which seems a bit savage. As the Huffington Post says, the knives were out for the reboot well before anyone actually got to see it.
All the elements are there and Mel and Sue particularly seem a very natural fit. Saturday night TV is a total cheesefest, and this is naff nonsense – a fun little distraction as you open a bottle of wine and eagerly await the JustEat driver. A shame that neither the studio audience nor the BBC commissioners seem all that enthusiastic. It is a classic format, that can be readily adapted and modernised without too much jiggery pokery, keeping the over-the-top contestants, mischievous presenters and the cuddly toy. I hope they get another series and have the time and space to mould it into the version they want. And I hope those episodes are broadcast on the right night for this sort of show.
The Generation Game is available now on iPlayer. The second and final episode of this run is on Sunday 8 April at 8pm on BBC 1.