Archives for posts with tag: Bob Mortimer

We need to talk about Taskmaster. And not in an ‘Oh my god did you see it?’ kind of way. More of a, ‘That wasn’t as good as it used to be’ kind of way. Because it’s true, it does seem to have declined. Four seasons why I found myself crying with laughing at least once an episode to this series, where it rarely got passed raising a smile.

There are two obvious things that need to be held accountable. The first is the tasks themselves. Actually, I feel these haven’t declined as much. There are still the deceptively fiendish mixed in with the borderline logic puzzles and the odd bit of eccentric creativity thrown in. It is noticeable how this series the ability for a contestant to read between the lines and ‘cheat’ their way to first place has been tightened up, but the show doesn’t live or die by that. So it’s not the tasks then.

Which leaves us with the contestants. I think we need to separate here individual charms from those of the group. Nish Kumar, Bob Mortimer and Aisling Bea all provided excellent moments of humour, some of which I will discuss more later. Sally Phillips and Mark Watson, less so. Phillips constantly came across as trying too hard, exemplified by the very first task of the series, where she had to give Alex Horne a hug. Cue lots of silly giggling whilst she shoved cake in his armpits. Watson, meanwhile, spent most of the tasks acting like a depressed and confused puppy and didn’t really spark off anything.

As a group there wasn’t much banter either. The show relied on the back-and-forth between Greg Davies and the contestants rather than between themselves. Overall, it felt flat and inconsistent. Which is major disappointment.

There were some individual moments of brilliance. Aisling Bea turning the tables on a prank played on her by Greg and Alex by sending a gold pineapple to her mum was genius. Nish Kumar made the phrase ‘You bubbly fuck’ my now go to when I get mad at the washing up. Bob Mortimer though was the star. His random comments made the show tick over and I would advise anyone feeling low to search for his ‘sausage display toy’ to cheer them up.

But it never should be relying on such fleeting moments. Maybe it is just running out of steam, or hopefully it was just a duff series. There is a Champion of Champions episode at Christmas that may point towards the show’s future. Part of me wants it to go on forever. But then again, I can’t bear to watch a continued decline. If this is to be its final curtain, then I will grin bear it. Or preferably, laugh myself silly for an hour one last time.

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Comedy goes through fashions. A decade ago, mockumentaries such as The Office were being commissioned ten-a-penny, largely in response to the bursting of the docu-soap bubble that dominated in the late 90’s. Then Gavin & Stacey started a trend for comedies with provincial settings where a fairly sedate couple of central characters were surrounded by an assortment of local oddballs. The most recent in-thing has been the return of the traditional sitcom, with live audiences and a flat-stage format, for example Miranda or Mrs Brown’s Boys.

Yet surrealist, mad-cap comedy has been by-passed. Ok, we had The Mighty Boosh, but that never really left its cult origins, even if Noel Fielding is now allowed to appear on prime-time shows like QI. But the genre may have found its saviour in the shape of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer new sitcom House of Fools. I have loved their work since watching Shooting Stars as a child and I was bitterly disappointed when the BBC axed it a couple of years ago in the face of apparent competition from Celebrity Juice and the like. Personally, I avoid CJ and it’s even more cerebrally-challenged cousins Fake Reaction and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff  like bum-plague.

I digress. Anyway, it is a delight to have them back on our screens being Vic and Bob the performers and centre-stage again, with Vic stepping out of the shadows of Hebburn and Bob getting a gig other than panel show host or guest (although he is brilliant at this – see both of his appearance on Would I Lie To You? where he steals the show). The sitcom is exactly what you would expect from them – bizarre cultural references, outlandish physical humour and a plot that never seems to matter yet somehow comes together as the episode progresses.

The choice of supporting cast is inspired as well. Matt Berry is more than capable of handling the oddest of scenes and delivers his lines with an Olivier-style roar that makes his role far funnier than it has a right to be. Morgana Robinson, Dan Skinner and Erik Simonson all likewise ham it up the way they should. Mortimer is a great straight guy to the outlandishness of the others yet is never forced into the background. The one and only criticism I have of the show is its tendency to stray to the scatological to easily to bridge a gap in the script, but Vic and Bob have always been known for this, and if anyone can actually write a half-decent fart gag it is them.

On the one hand, it would be nice if House of Fools encouraged more shows such as this on to the mainstream channels. The dominance of ‘family’ sitcoms needs to be challenged. Yet somehow, I don’t think anyone could make a show like this as good as Vic and Bob, and an inferior product would only tarnish the quality of the genre as a whole. Maybe, for the sake of us comedy lovers everywhere, House of Fools and its closest relation Count Arthur Strong (another gem), should remain the isolated examples that they are. At least, until someone who can surpass them finally comes along.