First things first, a disclaimer. I love Richard Osman. Tall, speccy, a little bit awkward, loves telly, trivia and making people laugh. Those features can easily describe us both. Insert dull-sounding tv show here; Nope, I’m not going to watch it. Oh, Richard Osman’s on it? Well I guess I’ll take a look. He is of course the quizzing genius behind the daytime TV phenomenon that is Pointless. A producer and director Pointless was in fact his first foray into jobs in front of the camera.
His new quiz show House of Games is in an early evening slot. I’ve seen it described as Only Connect for everyone, but the one loyal set of celebrities appearing for fives shows over a week reminds me of Dave’s supberb Taskmaster. In week one comedians Nish Kumar and Al Murray are joined by TV presenter Anneka Rice, and Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo. The celebs are well chosen and well mixed, bound to be a bit reliant on stand-up comics for quick wit and general show-off skills. As Taskmaster proves, this is no bad thing.
Good tv title sequences must grab your attention and sum up a show’s theme, and GLOW is a perfect example. The shiny disco Day-Glo neon titles scream “80s nostalgia here we come!” It’s all there, running throughout the series – the music, the outfits, the big hair. And a central scene in episode 1 takes place in an aerobics class which makes me, and everyone else of a certain age, think of Flashdance. We’ll be seeing a lot more women in leotards before this series is done. GLOW is the new Netflix comedy-drama from Orange Is The New Black executive producer Jenji Kohan, and the theme of strong unconventional women and their struggles is familiar to both.
We start out with aspiring actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) and her fight against sexism in Hollywood. She’s delivering the audition of her life when her misunderstanding is revealed – “You’re reading the man’s part”. The women’s part is a secretary and she gets one line. Ruth is very determined, badgering the casting director (also a tough woman) who eventually offers her a crumb of sympathy – an open casting call for “unconventional women”.
Dara O Briain’s Go 8 Bit is a happy little comedy panel show/ game show hybrid which was originally created by comedians Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013, and then transferred to television on Dave at the end of last year. The genial and very recognisable Dara Ó Briain is in the host’s chair, with Steve as Sam acting as team captains, and video game journalist Ellie Gibson as the resident expert. The show invites celebs to join the teams each week to play a series of video games against each other. These days I think the kids just call them ‘games’.
I warmed up to this little Bejeweled Blitz gem last year and was happy to see it’s been recommissioned for a second and third series. More proof that with the internet fuelling the mobile revolution and people in all age brackets spending more time in front of screens that gaming is no longer niche. However Go 8 Bit knows its audience and is fondly retro and a warm nostalgic hug. The panelists are asked to come on and nominate their favourite games to play. They range from the ancient arcade classics to the modern commute time-killers, and from the massive studio franchise to the tiny indie developers. The games are adapted cleverly to make them tv friendly. Studio audience participation is encouraged where the audience bet on which team will win each game and that affects the overall points total.
Harry Hill is back! And this time it’s worth watching.
The be-spectacled comedic ex-doctor has arrived just in time to save the human race from alien invasion! He’s showing our new alien overlords that we are useful to have around, if only to laugh at. I’m not even kidding. This is the basic premise for a strange and excitable comedy panel show, interweaved with funny clips of old tv shows, very much in the style of the awesome TV Burp, which, shockingly, finished five years ago.
Last year’s Harry Hill’s Tea Time on Sky 1 was way off point, managing to parcel up the Harry Hill brand without ever once stumbling towards what we enjoyed about him. All specs and grins and huge white collars and no fun. It was too gimmicky and far too dependent on one celebrity providing the fun and games in a very awkward, embarrassing situation. (If you want to see how that’s done with style and aplomb see BBC’s Murder in Successville.)
I think we can all agree that 2016 was rubbish, punctuated by the occasional depressing shitstorm. So far, 2017 is just bleak, barely registering on the Shrug Scale of shit-we’ve-all-just-got-to-get-used-to a.k.a. the new normal. So it’s the perfect time to turn your brain off, get grizzly and relish some zombie face-munching fun.
Welcome to Santa Clarita, a deeply boring middle-class suburbia somewhere in dull dry Southern California. Sheila and Joel are good-looking super-normal upwardly mobile estate agents (or realtors as they say over there) quickly sliding down the slippery slope into a totally ridiculous situation. Poor Sheila dies, only she doesn’t. Life goes on as normal, as best they can, while she, Joel and their teenage daughter Abby deal with the fact she is now a zombie.
In wich guest blogger Jontosaurus has something to admit…
Jet was well fit. That is how I’m going to start my article – with a whole-hearted confession that yes, I did find her to be the best of all of the female Gladiators. I was probably too young to really understand what to do with my youthful hormones but I understood that Jet was young, attractive and ever so flexible. That was enough for me.
But I digress- it’s that time again where I delve into the annals of television history with very little protective gear and emerge with another artifact from television’s glorious past. It’s another nostalgia trip and, as you’ve probably worked out for my ever so subtle introduction, it’s the time for Gladiators to be put under the microscope. The show actually earned itself a reboot on Sky in the not too distant past.
Grrr! Arrgh! It’s new guest blogger Jontosaurus! When he isn’t drunk on cider and driving tractors in sleepy old Somerset, the enigmatic and endangered Jontosaurus likes to watch anything with zombies or aliens in it, anything with explosions, or anything with explosions and aliens and zombies all combined. His favourite shows at The Walking Dead, Orange is the New Black, Robot Wars, Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul, and anything with a good story and compelling characters.
He is also writing a sci-fi novel entitled “Deimos Has Fallen” which features aliens, space zombies and explosions.
Visit him at his blog, but first – why is everyone excited about Robot Wars?
Back in the 1990s, we all got a severe shock to the system when the BBC announced a new game show entitled Robot Wars. It was a concept that they had taken from our friends across the pond, who had been televising robotic destruction for a few years already, and they adapted it for British audiences. Series 1 saw Jeremy Clarkson – still an unknown and over a decade away from punching a man in the face over a sandwich – presenting a show, and Phillippa Forester wearing an outfit that wouldn’t look out-of-place in an S&M dungeon as she trundled about the ‘pit’s talking to the roboteering teams and pretending to be impressed by their creations.
In its infancy, this show was just hilarious – a demonstration of both the brilliance and eccentricity of the teams behind the machines. For every revelation such as eventual champion Roadblock, there were terrible contraptions such as Prince of Darkness, a box on wheels with wooden armour, exposed rubber wheels and a paint job that looked as if it had been done by a five-year-old… whilst they were in a deep sleep.