Taskmaster missing? Cheeky school teacher Mel Giedroyc has just what it takes | Television
OThe one thing the last two years and the pandemic count have given us (which no one is attributing to it) is: a renewed love of board games. Everyone is on coronavirus, but we have to give it that special due. “Oh, but we couldn’t go to the supermarket…” Yeah, but you have Zoom quizzes. “Oh, but we haven’t been able to see our loved ones for months…” Hmm, OK, but Quiplash and Among Us have filled a void. “Oh, but I lost my job and couldn’t get my hair cut…” Alright. But you’ve had six months to sit on the floor doing puzzles and getting into adult board games? What exactly is the problem? Honestly, I think some people like to moan.
Either way, this is a TV chronicle, and it should behave accordingly. The second series of Mel Giedroyc: Unforgivable drops on Dave this week (10 p.m., Tuesday), and it seems, somehow, related. The format is as follows: Mel Giedroyc sits on a throne and prompts a rotating cast of British comedians to perform tasks and plays. She has an underling who sits in a lower chair than her and they do various pre-planned skits that never really hit the mark, but that’s kind of the charm. Katherine Ryan is in one episode, Jamali Maddix in another. Wait. Hmm. No, it’s not Taskmaster, you’re right. But it is, isn’t it?
It’s a little dismissive to say that Unforgivable is “Taskmaster, but Dave still has the license for it”, but ignoring the role Taskmaster plays in the genesis of all of this seems to ignore a very large Greg Davies-shaped elephant in the room. . Taskmaster (I don’t explain what Taskmaster is. You read the Guardian. You know what Taskmaster is) was the smash hit of the British comedy tactic “get-away-from-Top-Gear-repeats -by-elevating-British-comedy”. He defected to Channel 4, but there are plenty of interesting shows with interesting comedian remnants: the hypothetical with James Acaster and Josh Widdicombe, the very enjoyable British as Folk, the name change of Late Night Mash. Unforgivable goes the same way – British comedians you haven’t heard of on TV for the first time, some comedy stalwarts in the mix, pre-planned stories that quickly get off the beaten path – that makes them all so good.
We had a few fallow years with panels. Cats are always counting down, of course, and would I lie to you? and Mock the Week are still BBC mainstays, but it hasn’t looked like the giddy days of the late 90s and early 00s in a while. Why? You’d think the easiest path to TV gold would be to “get five or six funny people in a room and let them be unintentionally rude,” but sometimes that just doesn’t work. Is this the cultural temperature of the time? Too many celebrities in the mix and not enough comedians? Is this exactly the right format? — but it looks like Dave is the closest to breaking chemistry right now. Unforgivable can snap a bit; each episode begins excruciatingly slowly. Giedroyc urging everyone, “Tell us an embarrassing story!” can veer into office icebreaker awkwardness, and I could do with less rhyming puns — but he understands that the best way to make funny people funny on TV is to just let them.
Giedroyc helps – her post-Bake Off pivot to “totally cheeky schoolteacher” was a joy to watch – as is Lou Sanders who, in the underling role, consistently pulls out the kind of lines you can’t. not believe survived a montage (the new series begins with a disposable joke with a toilet paper prop that made me pause the filter to calm myself down). Their nice/naughty dynamic helps structure what is, for the first third of every episode at least, people sitting in chairs telling stories.
But the episodes get more manic as they progress: basically, someone always feels comfortable enough to tell the country the last place and time they shit themselves, and once that Rubicon has been crossed (normally around the 24 minute mark), there’s a lot more laughs. It’s not quite the must-watch format of the show that preceded it, but it’s a valiant attempt. Listen up, the rest of UK TV! Put more funny people on shows where they can be funny! Dave got it! Catch up!