Mock the Week
Parsons and Howard were officially "frequent guests" from series 3, and promoted to full regulars from series 5. Addison was a frequent guest from series 8, and was promoted to a full regular from the second half of series 10.
Angst Productions for BBC Two, 5 June 2005 to present
bbc.co.uk webcast, 5 to 6 March 2011 (24 Hour Panel People)
as Mock the Week Looks Back At... 3 March to 5 May 2013 (10 episodes in 1 series)
A topical panel game from the creators of Whose Line is it Anyway?.
The similarity to the late, great Whose Line is enough to be obvious, but not such that it looks like a straight revival. In fact, this is a pretty neat adaptation of a classic format to a different style of humour. Rather than the off-the-wall surrealism of WLIIA, we have games based on current affairs, and there's more of a straight stand-up comedy feel to some of them rather than actorly improv. A few games are carried through from the previous show - celebrity dating videos work just as well in this format as they did in the original - but it's mostly a new show using only the basic template of the old. There's no real scoring system, and it's obvious that the show we see on TV is edited down from a much longer performance. An obvious reference point is Have I Got News for You, though in truth we suspect the real influences come more from the countless topical shows that seem to be crammed into every available space on Radio 2 and Radio 4 these days (even the title has a distinctly Radio 4 ring to it). There also seems to be a hint of If I Ruled the World..., the short-lived panel game hosted by Whose Line's Clive Anderson and featuring Jeremy Hardy, also a guest on the first episode of this show.
But enough of comparisons, the important thing is that this is a lot of fun. The show really got into its stride once the more rigid Whose Line-style games were sidelined, allowing the participants to riff off each over in a more relaxed fashion. The loss of Rory Bremner, who was not only sharp but also clearly loved doing the show (as was obvious from how often he cracked up laughing at other people's jokes) actually didn't impact on the show as much as we expected, and indeed the trend is now toward using younger comedians from the stand-up circuit, which works very well. Meanwhile Dara O'Briain is both sharp enough to contribute to the general banter, and astute enough to know when to let the panellists get on with it.
A quick run-down on the main games is surely in order, so in brief they are:
- Headliners, in which the panellists suggest captions for a picture given the first letter of each word.
- The news wheel round, which has a different name each week ("Dara's Topical Gag Wheel.. Of Death!") but asks the players to be funny on "randomly"-selected topics.
- If This Is The Answer, What Is The Question, wherein questions are suggested to fit a provided answer.
- Scenes We'd Like To See, similar to the old Whose Line game of "Worst in the World", wherein the panellists provide one-liners in response to a given theme, such as "Things You'd Never Hear The Queen Say" or Rejected Opening Lines For The Next Harry Potter Book".
If there's one thing that grates is that the arbitrary scoring system adds absolutely nothing to the format (unlike Whose Line...? where Anderson got a lot of laughs out of it) and could be easily dropped. Also, some segments are rather too scripted to be believeable.
When it's on form, it's one of the funniest half-hours on television, and when it's not, it isn't. Nevertheless, we declare Mock the Week a winner and will now ask the entire cast to present the credits in a style of our choosing. Except they don't do that on this show. Pshaw!
Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson.
News Of The World by The Jam.
The pre-publicity for the first series named Rory Bremner and Frankie Boyle as the team captains, but curiously Boyle didn't take the usual captain's chair in the middle of his team - instead Hugh Dennis sat there for the first show. And every subsequent show. On the fifth episode, Dennis was finally listed as one of the regulars in the end credits, and in the Beeb's publicity for the sixth and last programme in the series he had been officially promoted to actual team captain status. Ironically that week's show was replaced by a clips compilation anyway.
The last episode of the first series was pulled from the schedules in the light of the 7th July terrorist attacks in London. The recording of the programme was due to take place on the evening of 7 July but the closedown of London's transport system meant that many audience members, as well as some of those due to appear on the programme, couldn't make it. However, the Channel 4 topical comedy 8 Out of 10 Cats which was being recorded in another studio at BBC Television Centre did go ahead. Cunningly, they made use of panellists and production team members from Mock the Week who turned up to fill the panel and audience.
Originally, the headline accompanying the picture of George W. Bush in the opening titles read "BUSH: WE'RE INVADING MARS!". But for the fifth series this was changed to "BUSH: WE'RE INVADING FRANCE!". Perhaps the original version was just too believable.
By 2013, straight repeats of old shows were amongst the most popular broadcasts on digital channel Dave. Cashing in on the sustained popularity, the BBC commissioned a series of themed episodes, cutting up from many series to look at topics such as health and animals. Mock the Week Looks Back At... did not air in Northern Ireland, where they showed a comedy series in Gaelic.
First few minutes of the very first episode.