Tonight I went to the recording of a new Radio Four panel game hosted by Charlie Brooker. Titled “So Wrong It’s Right”, it’s a celebration of Britain’s favourite subject – failure.
The format is a very simple one. Each week, three guests answer questions and Charlie awards points for the “worst” answer. The first round is about something from the panellests’ memories, for example the worst thing they’ve done to impress someone, allowing them to recall some funny and often embarrasing anecdotes, usually from when they were a child or in university. The next round where they pitch ideas, such as the worst reality show, allows them to come up with lots of very amusing ideas. Next is a round where they have free reign to rant about anything they particularly don’t like in the modern world, and then there’s a final quickfire round, with lots of “world’s worst…” questions.
As well as tonight’s recording, I also went to the pilot episode in March, where the guests were king of the panel shows David Mitchell, poker playing corner expert Victoria Coren and comedian Rufus Hound, who I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of before, but I really enjoyed his contributions, he stole the show alongside David Mitchell’s usual wit. Mitchell is often at his funniest when he rails against the modern world, and there were several occasions where this happened during the show. I don’t know whether the pilot will be broadcast as part of this series, but one very funny moment that won’t be aired was when Hound interrupted proceedings because he needed a “comfort break”. When a couple of audience members followed him in to the toilets, Brooker commented that they were probably going to have a peek and then post what they saw on Popbitch – a concept that had Mitchell both confused and outraged at the same time, leading to another of his wonderful rants.
The guests on tonight’s first show were Richard Herring, Lisa Tarbuck and Jack Whitehall. I was so thrilled to see Herring appear, having been a huge fan since I was a teenager listening to Fist of Fun on Radio 1. I’ve had plenty of chances to see him perform over the years (and was already planning to go to next week’s As It Occurs To Me before tonight) but for one reason or another, never got round to seeing his shows. Richard was great, as were Lisa and Jack, and Charlie Brooker was as chucklesome as ever. This series is apparently set for a 6:30pm slot, which would mean that a huge amount of material would need to be cut out, particularly in the current comedy climate where broadcasters are more watchful than ever about what goes out.
Richard Herring returned for the second episode, alongside Holly Walsh and Iain Morris, writer of The Inbetweeners. All three were again very funny, I won’t spoil the show by letting you know any of the panelists’ answers, especially so far away from the broadcast date, but at one point Morris recounted a very embarrasing story that happened to him which will be very familiar to viewers of The Inbetweeners. The show was a lot of fun, with plenty of good stories, ideas and ad-libs.
Like most panel shows, the format simply exists to allow the panelists to relate anecdotes and bounce funny ideas off each other. To this extent, it works much better than many recent examples, giving plenty of time and space to explore their ideas, with Brooker chipping in with observations, as well as introducing each round by reading some scripted one-liners of varying quality, some of which were very good, although one didn’t raise a laugh at all, with him having to point out that it was supposed to be a joke.
If you’re looking for something like Screenwipe, Newswipe or Brooker’s Guardian writerings, you won’t get exactly what you’re looking for here. Just like his recent Channel Four series, You Have Been Watching, this show is much more about the panelists than Brooker, but his presence is definitely welcome and his contributions often take the conversation down some dark but very funny paths. As long as he continues with the ‘wipes, columns and gets on with that Chris Morris project, the more Charlie Brooker on TV and radio the better.
So Wrong It’s Right, Early 2010, BBC Radio Four