Archives for posts with tag: Sian Gibson

Sometimes it’s good to be proven wrong. The new relationship your friend starts that you think won’t last but then results in their eternal happiness. The idea at work you are convinced will fail but actually makes turning up that bit easier. Or, on a smaller level, where you feel a TV show has lost its way only to surprise you by a return to form.

Taskmaster did just this. After what I felt was a ropey series 5, series 6 then became one of my favourites, with series 7 nearly matching that. The fear of downward spiral ended as I was able to put the stumble in quality down to a blip.

I still had worries for series 8 though. The line-up unnerved me. Only one of the cast was a stand-up comedian, although two others admittedly were, just not known for it. The other two are comedy actors, who I feel struggle on environments like this, as there is a certain element of ad-libbing that doesn’t work for those who depend on a script.

If the first episode is anything to go by, I shouldn’t have worried. Sian Gibson, one of the actors, is actually very good at handling the spontaneous nature of the show, perhaps because Car Share, the show that made her a star, was largely unscripted. Joe Thomas, the other actor, struggles more, and looks hopelessly out of his depth. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing, as it makes him a convenient receptacle for his fellow panellists’ barbs.

The others (Paul Sinha, Lou Sanders and Iain Stirling) are also on good form. In the case of Stirling this is already bordering on excellent. Sinha is another potential walking punchline as he seems to be the contestant most likely to repeatedly make a pig’s ear of things.

The tasks remain as inventive as ever as well. The first episode saw everything from sexy ventriloquist dolls to competing powerful smells. For a show that depends so much on original and eccentric ideas, it is surprisingly still thriving.

Greg Davies and Alex Horne remain brilliant of course. It is impossible for them not to be. Having said that, an episode of Taskmaster where they are the funniest thing is a poor episode, as the driver should always be the contestants. Good news – they are not.

This show is one of my hours of unadulterated joy. If it can maintain this form I never want it to end. I was as wrong as wrong could be last time. And it has never made me more happy to be so.

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One of the things that struck me about the 2016 TV BAFTAS was the disparity between the winner of the male comedy performance award and the female. The latter was won by Michaela Coel, a new talent who is black and edgy in her humour. Her win was packaged not only as a BME triumph, but one of women prepared to be ‘ugly’ to be funny. It is a source of wonder to me that men are never asked to sacrifice their physical appearance to be seen as comedy gold but women are – as if being pretty is a barrier to writing a good joke and delivering it superbly.

Anyway, the male winner was Peter Kay, a popular established figure. It was almost as if the judges were trying to balance the two out – Coel a critical darling that was still comparatively unknown to the British viewer, Kay an everyman figure of immense popularity. One for the broadsheets to show that British TV is diverse, the other for the tabloids to cheer on as a ‘people’s choice’.

None of this is to do down Kay. He is an excellent writer and performer, with the same ear as Victoria Word for how words actually sound as well as the ability to show the slight absurdities of normal life. Car Share, which also picked up best sitcom last year, is a great example of this. The premise is simple: two co-workers get involved in a car share scheme and travel to work together. During their journeys, they discuss their lives, gossip about work and explore some of life’s odder moments. Of course, over time they discover they have feelings for each other, but never truly express them except in small gestures.

Kay’s co-star is Sian Gibson, playing the bubbly and naïve Kayleigh, the yin to Kay’s yang character John, a grumpy, no-nonsense manager. The conversations are zippy and worthwhile listening too twice if you can – the first time you are bound to miss a gem of a detail. Plus you have the little details that only people like Kay think of in a sitcom, like comedic road signs.

Then you have the secret third character, the radio station Forever FM. It’s essentially a parody of local commercial radio stations, where the music is squarely middle of the road and with adverts for companies accompanied by jingles or poorly thought through slogans. Worryingly, I find myself enjoying the music more and more.

It is also the source of one of my quibbles though. I find the where the characters pretend to be in music videos dull and a little cringey. I do wonder if this is Kay and Gibson’s way of filling thirty or so seconds when they aren’t sure where to go with the dialogue.

My other quibble is that, actually, I don’t want the characters to fall in love. I find it frustrating that we can’t have a man and a woman spending time with each other without it progressing beyond platonic. It would definitely lose something if they got together. For a start, it wouldn’t be a car share. It would just be a man and woman going to work together.

Despite this, it is still easy one of the best British sitcoms of the last few years. Keeping it simple has meant that they can just focus on the writing and the characters, the two things that matter. For once, being popular and a critical success are going hand-in-hand.

I have a confession to make – a lot of comedies and sitcoms I love I don’t actually laugh at. Yes, a smile plays about the lips, and my head registers a ‘oh that was quite clever, well done them’, but sound rarely emits from my lips. Grandma’s House and Getting On were two examples of me spending so much time thinking ‘this is rather good’ that I forgot to laugh.

The shows that break the barrier sometimes surprise me. The Big Bang Theory has become so mainstream I try to resist lest it damage my hipster credentials, yet somehow it always raises a few chuckles. Have I Got News For You gets the biggest laughs from me over silly little things, like a 4-year-old looking like Boris Johnson, rather than the deeper satire. Now joining that list is Car Share, the latest vehicle (sorry) for Peter Kay.

Kay over the last few years has fallen from the heights of comedy to someone who gets a kicking despite, or perhaps because of, having a large fan base. The criticisms revolve around him being too mainstream, too safe, just another Northern comedian making observations. Yet even his most recent stand-up sets have been strong and whip-smart. His comedy may be gentle to some but it is actually funny. Michael McIntyre inspires similar ire from the edges of comedy circles; people complaining that the likes of him and Key make comedy for office workers. Well, thank God somebody does.

Car Share is one of those ‘odd couple’ sitcoms. It pairs up professional misery-guts and workaholic John (Kay) with naïve eternal optimist Kayleigh (Sian Gibson). The pair bounce off each other and add value to each other’s lives. It is actually genuinely heart-warming, and as this friendship is underscored by Forever FM, the naff local radio station. The skewering of these broom-cupboard media operations lends a touch of daft satire to the show.

Kay’s critics won’t like it, not least because what unfurls is not only genuinely funny, but also slightly moving. John is a natural loner who over the episodes unfolds his story to his companion, and is brought out of his shell by his forward but sweet companion. Kayleigh to is alone, but instead of grumpiness has used her smile as a defence, and John helps her avoid the worst of life’s traps. So please, Kay, don’t be put off by the nay-sayers. They would never watch anything this kind, or funny.