As we head deep into the summer months it’s time to look at what Saturday has got to offer to us now.
ITV1′s new Saturday night headliner is The Marriage Ref a show based on a concept first trialled in the states where it was executive produced by Jerry Seinfeld and didn’t do very well in terms of ratings. Our version is presented by the great Dermot O’Leary who presumably will follow this with The X-Factor so we’ll have about six months of Dermot on ITV which I have no problem with apart from the fact that this mean that his excellent radio show will suffer in the meantime. The basic concept of the show is to listen to couples’ grievances and then decide who’s in the right. So this doesn’t feel too much like an episode of Jeremy Kyle three special guests are bought on to act as refs and to generally be quite amusing about the couples’ quandaries. The guests are a little less special as two of them, Jimmy Car and Sarah Millican, had been part of Channel 4′s new comedy line-up the night before and the other one was Geri Halliwell who nobody’s seen in about a year. The way the show was laid out saw three couples come on – two with quite pressing issues and a cute older couple in the middle in which the wife despaired of her husband’s constant buying and making of pickles which thankfully the panel said he could keep doing. The first couple had a problem in that the wife kept making lists for the husband to do which annoyed him but for me I felt the deeper issue was that the husband was a Tom Jones impersonator and spent a lot of time playing golf or away on the cruise ships while the woman had to take care of four children and work six days a week. Despite this the two women in the panel found in favour of the husband and told the wife to stop making lists. The weirdest couple was on last with the bearded skateboarder man who wouldn’t grow up and his cute American wife who had to keep making him boat sandwiches. I would’ve just split them up there and then but they had to stay together for the good of their son who was called Shock, maybe change that name at some point, so they decided that he had to grow up. The Marriage Ref was all good clean British fun with Dermot proving a great host but my problem was that the guests were the ubiquitous comics you see on all these programmes doing their same shitck, Sarah Millican doesn’t really need an excuse to witter on about relationships for an hour, while Geri Halliwell just sat there and told Jimmy Carr that he was funny thankfully Carr’s ego couldn’t get any bigger so everything was fine. But apart from that The Marriage Ref was lovingly old school and highlighted the eccentricities that British couples have to offer.
The BBC’s big Saturday night offering came in the form of down-to-Earth funnyman Lee Mack and his new show All Star Cast. This was a very traditional style of Saturday night programme with Mack interviewing guests, participating in skits and getting members of the audience involved it could well of been called Lee’s House Party. The audience participation angle was the key here as Mack gave them the chance to star in the show by seeing if anyone in the crowd was a look-a-like, the winner was a girl who looked nothing like Natalie Cassidy and her mum who was apparently a female Johnny Vegs and also getting several members of the audience to relive their most embarrassing moments in order to dress up as a cow in the sketch at the end of the show. In terms of the audience participation angle the best bit was videos from home in which members of the public got to entertain the guests for 15 seconds this included one man who decided to down two pints of milk and was willing to do it again as Mack made a crack about not being able to see it. The main problem with Lee Mack’s All Star Cast was that Mack himself didn’t really seem like he wanted to follow a format and would be much happier just doing a show in which he got to do a bit of a stand-up routine and a few sketches, and to be fair that would’ve been better. I think Mack wanted this to be more of a comedy spectacular which must’ve explained the embarrassing routine by Stuart Francis that lasted all of a minute. Sure Mack’s in-house choir were talented and the chats with Frank Skinner and Fern Britton were fun but really Mack excelled in his opening stand-up bit and his cheesy sketch involving him trying to hit on Tess Daly. Overall I enjoyed the show thanks to Mack’s personality and charm but I would’ve much rather seen more of him and less of the general public.
Going back to the start of ITV1′s Saturday Night line-up we had the return of Odd One In the light entertainment panel show, as if we needed another one. If you missed the show first time around, and if you did I don’t blame you, it features two teams of two guessing who is the only person who is telling the truth out of group of five so in essence it’s a bit like the identity parade of Never Mind the Buzzcocks but instead of looking for faded pop stars they are searching for Welsh people or the only person who can karate chop a pile of blocks. Bradley Walsh returns as host and does a good job, Walsh is a great all-round entertainer and can host a show like this and at the same time be the best thing about the patchy Law and Order UK. Regulars Peter Andre and Jason Manford are also back but this time they are on the same show. Manford obviously needs the work after being disgraced last year and quitting The One Show while Andre plays up to his idiot persona and is the equivalent of Alan Davies on QI to this show, and that will be the last time I compare QI to this. Ubiquitous comedian Jack Whitehall and I’m a Celebrity runner-up Jenny Eclair were the opposing team and didn’t really add anything to proceedings. For me the best thing about this show is being able to participate and trying to guess who is the Odd One In for example I guessed it was the granny who could do the karate chop and bested both teams. Once again I am using the phrase old school entertainment and I feel that this programme is the perfect way to start an entertainment-based Saturday night line-up.
Also returning after a pilot in January is Penn and Teller: Fool Us. This continues in the trend of magic shows in 2011 which also featured the Lenny Henry presented The Magicians which aired in the early months of the year. But while The Magicians was a pro-celebrity type show, Fool Us follows much more of an ITV talent show format as the famous Las Vegas magicians judge whether certain British magic acts are good enough to get a spot in Vegas and indeed it has already happened as two magicians from the January pilot have indeed had a chance at taking the stage in Vegas. The format hasn’t changed a lot Jonathan Ross still presents and still isn’t as funny as he was on BBC and we still get a lot of build-up to each magical act. Disappointingly there was only three tricksters this time and only one fooled Penn and Teller. For my money this was a bit of a fix as the winner, Graham Jolly, got a lot longer to perform and got to do tricks with both Ross and Penn and Teller themselves the other two acts – a man doing something with a rusty nail and a duo doing the old separate the woman trick, were both performing old school tricks that I’ve seen before and as veteran magicians the duo will probably know how to do. The problem with this show is that it starts to tire after a while and more than that there’s a lot of note passing and discussion as Penn and Teller show the contestants how they think their acts have been done but not showing the audience as that would break the magicians code. It’s like Simon and co. on The X Factor only telling the acts backstage what they think of them rather than airing live on TV. There were some genuine entertaining moments but most of those were reserved for the special guests as Penn and Teller headlined the show with an impressive trick. As a special this worked but as a series I do think it will start to drag after a while. So what have we learnt about 2011′s Saturday evening line-ups. Well they’re very old school touching on things that were big in the 1990s they’ve managed to entertain someone who remembers them the first time around but I’m not sure how the younger generation will take to it but then again they’re probably too busy watching Top Gear repeats on Dave.
Talking of Top Gear James May was back with another show on Monday night entitled Things You Need to Know. This was a bit more highbrow than his previous masculine endeavour – Man Lab as he is actually giving us some facts this time starting with looking at the human body. But this wasn’t another ‘Inside the Human Body’ but instead was a group of Frequently Asked Questions. It started off with where did I come from but also answered questions about how do we catch colds, why are teenagers so moody, what happens to our food when we digest it and why do are sense become so impaired when we drink before finally moving on to old age and death. This wasn’t a straight forward show with May showing us various diagrams of the body and pointing out the cells and body parts that do each function instead it was a wild ride of video clips, animations and a great soundtrack which made it feel like a science lesson presented by someone with a bad case of ADD. Although at times I found myself getting a little confused this was a good introduction to science and a lot of the processes were better explained here than they would be in a science text book per se. May also toned down his personality not being so in your face but instead being witty and thoughtful presenting from a leather chair in what looked like a library all that was missing was a glass of scotch and a cigar. I enjoyed Things You Need to Know immensely I learnt a few things I didn’t know before and I hope science teachers everywhere taped it because it would be useful to show in lessons when you want a quiet day.
And finally a bit of drama with the third and final set of two-parters in this series of Case Histories. For me Case Histories has been a bit of a hit-and-miss show. I enjoyed the first set of episodes but found them a little bit chaotic due to the amount of cases that Jason Isaacs’ Jackson Brodie had to solve. The second two-parter I found quite weak but that may be down to the fact that Keith Allen was topless and there was an annoying child actor. This inconsistency can be attributed to the fact that there were three different books being adapted so the stories would be slightly different. Thankfully the third story – ‘When Will There Be Good News?’ ended things on a high combining a train crash, a lost girl’s search for a friend and a declaration of love as well as a shock death. As always Isaacs was great as Brodie and has made the series what it is it’s a shame he doesn’t do more T.V. work over here because he was so great in Case Histories I can’t imagine it working without him. It was also good as we saw some more interplay between Brodie and his former police colleague Louise Monroe with Amanda Abbington perfectly bouncing off Isaacs. We also saw Gwyneth Keyworth as Reggie the girl who saves Brodie’s life and wants a favour in return the relationship between Jackson and Reggie formed the heart of these two episodes and made them all the more watchable with Jackson using Reggie to fill the hole left by his daughter who has trotted over to New Zealand and is now only visible via Skype calls. My main criticism is that the show relies heavily on coincidences here involving a driving licence, the missing doctor and Brodie’s past but that doesn’t matter so much when you’ve got great actors in the parts and some sumptuous shots of Edinburgh. While Case Histories was never going to be a great hit its still one of the best Sunday night crime dramas of the past few years and I certainly enjoyed the final duo and hope to see it return next year.
What did you think of this week’s programmes leave a comment below?