Ah meta-comedy, don’t you just love it? Actually yes, yes I do, and so I quite enjoyed this one off episode of Not Going Out which was filmed live and went out tonight. I have to confess that it’s the first time I’ve seen an episode of the show in several years as after Tim Vine left I lost interest in the series, and to be honest it was never that great in the first place, it was amiable enough stuff but never essential comedy. But this particular episode has an awful lot to like about it.
It starts with Lee (Lee Mack) and Lucy (Sally Bretton) seemingly introducing the episode to the audience but then it’s revealed they’re actually making a video to advertise the school Christmas show. A whole bunch of jokes are made about live shows going wrong which are pretty funny, before they launch in to the main story where they’re apparently struggling to get acts for that Christmas show and they decide to hire professional acts, but Lee is jealous when a knife thrower turns up and he’s something of a lothario.
Toby (Hugh Dennis) fills Tim Vine’s role as Lee’s best friend and provides emotional support when Lee worries Lucy will fall for the knife thrower, and suggests that Lee write some fake reviews so that Lucy will be put off hiring him. The fake reviews have rubbish (if amusing) names all based around coffee and food and yet it persuades Lucy to fire him. Of course it backfires as the knife thrower has a fiance and though a bit of a flirt he wasn’t really attempting to seduce Lucy, and then it gets even worse as after they rehire him the knife thrower discovers that Lee was behind the fake reviews and quits, and so Lee persuades / forces Toby and his wife Anna (Abigail Cruttenden) to perform the famous Element Song by musical humorist and lecturer Tom Lehrer and even though it descends in to a big argument it’s impressive how much they get right, along with the parts they make up. Then Lee has to take on the role of the knife thrower and he kills Sally Bretton on air, much to the delight of the audience. Okay, okay, fine, that bit didn’t happen alas, and kudos must go to Mack for pulling it off.
It’s not highbrow comedy but it’s engaging and appealing tv, and even though there’s only one minor screw up (which might have been planned, you can never trust Lee Mack after all) it’s still a lot of fun. Admittedly it’s fairly audience pleasing in places, Mack jokes about his Would I Lie To You? co-star Rob Brydon, juggles eggs and remembers a long monologue before commenting that it’s on a cue card, but there’s also a decent topical joke where Lucy is reading a newspaper with the headline “What did Corbyn really say?” which leads to Lucy calling Lee a stupid man, and Lee responding “You really are a stupid…people” which made me laugh a fair bit. It’s a bit of a shame there wasn’t more material along those lines though, as if there had been I’d really have been raving about it.
As live episodes go it’s not up there with the best of the genre, the 30 Rock ones are far better and far more adventurous, and it’s nowhere near as good as this year’s Inside No.9 Halloween special. There’s the odd pun which is a bit embarrassing (one about a contortionist is particularly bad) but overall it’s a fun enough diversion, an entertaining bit of silliness that hasn’t persuaded me to watch the series again on a regular basis but if they do another live episode I’ll certainly tune in.
You can watch the episode on Iplayer here.