Sunday, 4 September 2011

Expectation Versus Reality (Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation UK)


Aussie television blog TV Tonight reports that a British version of transgenerational celebrity panel show TALKIN’ ‘BOUT YOUR GENERATION could well be in the works, with original host Shaun Micallef under consideration to present the pilot episode. Now, that would clearly be great news for British fans of Shaun Micallef, of which there seem to be a surprisingly large amount considering the only work of his to ever be shown in here went out on Paramount on weeknights at 11pm about seven years ago, and whose work has never been released on DVD in the UK. Micallef fans aside, it could also provide a shot in the arm for pre-watershed non-Cowell entertainment on ITV, with the only genuinely exciting new format of the last few years, the marvellous PENN & TELLER: FOOL US being bounced around the schedules so much the series finale was sneaked out several weeks after the rest of the series on a different day of the week.

While some might (incorrectly) argue that the Penn & Teller show held little of interest for those who think magic shows are a relic of the past, TAYG should hold a more universal appeal by design. The format of the game – a battle of wits between the Baby Boomer generation, Generation X and Gen Y – means that there’s something viewers of all ages can relate to. Given the right host and team captains, while it’s not a format likely to gather a huge audience immediately, it could certainly prove to become a sleeper hit that grows an audience steadily as time goes on, much as happened with TV Burp. Providing of course, that it isn’t ditched because the first episodes didn’t bag seven million viewers.

A big part of TAYG’s success down under is down to the choice of team captains, with the mumsy Amanda Keller, smart-alecky bigger brother type Charlie Pickering and Josh Thomas, very much the ‘Alan Davies’ of the ensemble, who maintains a pupil/teacher relationship with host Shaun Micallef, combining effortlessly with the format of the show. Another major factor is that the show has evolved as each series has progressed, with what started as a relatively traditional quiz-based panel show having since become less and less conventional, to the point where the episode screened in Australia just a few hours ago saw the cast members switching roles, performing an entire episode dressed up and performing as each other.

Having the right choice of host – who in this instance happens to be the co-creator of the format – is integral to all this, with more and more of the humour we’ve come to expect from Shaun Micallef seeping into the show, even going as far to include specially shot sketches with the likes of Francis Greenslade and Kat Stewart, or pre-recorded appearances from characters performed by Micallef himself, such as “Former Heavyweight Champion of Goat Island” Milo Kerrigan, or a Japanese cliché-spouting Hello Kitty toy, with which real-Shaun interacts expertly.


The changes that have taken place are perhaps best illustrated by screencaps of the questionmaster in action. Here’s Shaun in the first series, with a modest desk, and a single prop telephone, regularly used to mimic angry calls from the producer each time he delivers an especially corny joke.


By the time of series three, any number of props appear on the desk, changing from episode to episode, most of which are never even referred to (like Shaun’s Tyrell Corp high-backed chair), while some (such as Stuart the Stuffed Meerkat, who springs up holding items any of the guests might be there to plug) are frequently remarked upon.


And that’s before we get to the increasingly common themed episodes, of course:


All of which makes us a little concerned at how the ITV version of the series might turn out (and it would be ITV – the show is a Granada Australia/ITV Studios production, so they already own the rights). The last decade has taught us that when ITV has a new light entertainment format, they tend to spin the ITV Whirly-Wheel Of The Half-Dozen Presenters We Like Right Now, and give it to whichever name clicks into place. Should TAYG UK become a full series, we suspect the host would end up being VERNON KAY, DERMOT O’LEARY, JONATHAN ROSS, JASON MANFORD or (may God have mercy on our souls) PADDY McGUINNESS. and we can’t really imagine any of those having the same sort of impact.

Instead, there are only five real candidates for the role as far as we’re concerned. And here they are:


THE CASE FOR: Clearly the best at doing the job. Effortlessly funny. A keen student of classic British comedy, so much so that the last episode of TAYG saw him throw in a Goon Show reference. More television viewers in this country would be introduced to the work of Shaun Micallef.

THE CASE AGAINST: Micallef might well not want to be away from his family for the few months of the year that TAYG UK would run, and even then, nor might the co-writers who help make the show what it is. More importantly, we suspect the ITV programme commissioners couldn’t countenance the idea of giving a primetime UK television show to someone who isn’t already well-known here.


THE CASE FOR: Probably the British comedy performer most like the multi-talented Micallef. After seeing Brian Butterfield slot in so well with the Shooting Stars format last week, having occasional questions posed by a pre-recorded Butterfield in a British version of TAYG would be wonderful, and Serafinowicz’s inventive humour would be well-suited to coming up with the kinds of question asked during the later rounds of the game.

THE CASE AGAINST: When Peter S does crop up on panel shows like Would I Lie To You or 8 Out of 10 Cats he hasn’t really been at his best, though that might because chipping in with the occasional comment isn’t really his style – a programme centred around him would be a different prospect. More pertinently, with him becoming increasingly popular in the US – his was the most interesting character in sitcom misfire Running Wilde, and he’s due to take part in the Arrested Development movie – he may well have neither the time nor inclination to host an ITV panel show.


THE CASE FOR: Quick witted, able to adapt to a number of personalities, the kind of performer everyone’s mum likes. There’s a good chance he’d be willing to take on the role too, we’d imagine.

THE CASE AGAINST: We don’t think he’d be quite as good in the hosting role as Micallef or Serafinowicz. Might be tied to the BBC – we don’t think he’s fronted anything for another network since 2004’s Director’s Commentary for ITV1.


THE CASE FOR: Maybe a bolt out of the blue this one, but his spell hosting early evening gameshow Gits Win Prizes Goldenballs proves that he’s perfectly capable of hosting such a show. If Carrott can rediscover the form the saw him become Britain’s favourite stand-up for the late 1980s and early 1990s, he could still do well here. If nothing else, it’d be brilliant to have Jasper Carrott back on Saturday night telly.

THE CASE AGAINST: Now in his sixties, he’s probably a bit too old now to go back to doing characters, even if that would only be a minor part of the show. Of the people on our shortlist, Carrott would possibly prove the biggest risk, and there’s a large chance he’s perfectly happy living off the fortune he made from Celador.


THE CASE FOR: Surely he’ll have to try something that isn’t TV Burp eventually? No, we’re not counting You’ve Been Framed, it seems he just knocks out all those voiceovers in a single week. Mr Harry could certainly breathe a lot of life into a British version of TAYG, and the format would give him an ideal opportunity to bring back characters such as Stouffer the Cat or Bert Kwouk.

THE CASE AGAINST: There’s a danger the show would become more about Harry Hill than anything else, and unlike with (say) Shooting Stars where the guests are merely meat in the room, the guests on TAYG are there to actually take part. Such a role would require him to come a little bit out of character at time – which as we’ve seen with his godawful I Wanna Baby single or radio interviews where he bemoans the BBC spending money on programmes that he doesn’t like, might not be a good thing.


Sadly, we do suspect that it’ll be none of the above, and it’ll probably end up as a vehicle for Keith fucking Lemon. PROVE US WRONG, ITV. Just because Australian television picked the wrong host for their version of TV Burp (Ed Kavalee, who we don’t have anything against, just that he wasn’t quite right for the series), it doesn’t mean that you should return the favour.

Here’s a sample clip of the show in action. It’s a segment from a special episode where the guests are real-life relatives of the team captains, and where Josh Thomas’ grandmother Mona puts in a wonderful performance.


2 .:

Tanya Jones said...

Judging from his performance on Buzzcocks, this could be a good way for Adam Buxton to get an 'in', although he may be committed to the Beeb. You're right, though, I expect ITV will want to cling to some moron that their audience know and love.

Mark Jones said...

It'd be one of the greatest moments in TV history if Buckles was handed the reins to a major ITV1 series, wouldn't it? Possibly more likely to actually happen if TAYG UK (if it happens) was put out on ITV2, though that's hoping Buxton would be up for such a task. He has said on his blog that he much preferred just doing his own thing to interacting with the contestants on Buzzcocks, though given TAYG UK would be built from the ground up, maybe Buxto would be given carte blanche to find team captains he'd work well with. He would be a brilliant host for it, after all.

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