Dave have created some pretty strong series of late, what with Taskmaster often being one of the best things on tv while the new series of Red Dwarf have sometimes been great, and this is their latest effort, a panel show where the guests are given hypothetical situations to discuss and a set of rules that they have to follow, before rambling away about their given topic. It’s kind of like Taskmaster except they don’t actually do anything and just attempt to be humourous instead. It didn’t start off well though unfortunately, as Josh Widdecombe almost made me turn the show off with his drab opening exposition and piss poor “People say I look like Ed Sheeran” joke, but I knew James Acaster was the co-host so stuck with it.
The guests in the first episode were Liza Tarbuck, Rob Beckett, Jessica Knappett and Tom Allen, so bar Allen everyone involved had been a contestant on Taskmaster. Which was a bit of a problem as it made me think about that show and how fantastic it is, and how Hypothetical is definitely a far lesser series in comparison. It does have potential for sure and there’s nothing wrong with the format, but it’s dependent on it’s guests and so this first episode was a mixed affair. I’ve only seen Tom Allen live once but he was very average then and the same applies here, he was the first to take part in a hypothetical situation where he had to come up with a fun filled romantic date without spending any money but everything he offered up was rather bland. Acaster interjected with a few funny lines, and Widdecombe tried to do the same but failed, and overall it was a disappointing start.
The second hypothetical question was for Lisa and Jessica where they were asked to create a cult and get as many people to join up as possible without the threat of violence. In the right hands it could have been amusing stuff, and I’m normally fond of Liza Tarbuck, but instead of trying to be funny she rambled on about stone circles and sacred geometry in what was one of the dullest things I’ve ever witnessed, and once again I considered giving up. Jessica Knapett thankfully provided the first laugh in far too long as when asked if she had experience of a cult she quipped “I went to a Methodist school”, and she was fairly good value in the segment which was at least much more amusing than Tarbuck and Allen’s.
Rob Beckett’s hypothetical scenario followed, which was to somehow get a lift from a major member of the royal family, it allowed them to make a few digs at minor royals (and who doesn’t enjoy people mocking Prince Andrew), and Beckett came up with a few funny lines, but it still floundered and once again needed Acaster’s involvement to actually make me laugh. After this there was a team hypothetical where they had to answer how much money they’d require to go on holiday with a former teacher every time they went away for the rest of their lives. Finally getting out of the studio we got to see Acaster go on holiday with one of Josh Widdecombe’s former teachers (as all of his turned him down), but bar the odd joke at Widdecombe’s expense and footage of James and the teacher larking about on a pier it didn’t really go anywhere. The studio part didn’t entertain either as the contestants revealed various sums of money but apart from Rob Beckett no one actually said anything funny and once again Tom Allen was actively bad, getting a round of applause from the audience which he truly didn’t deserve.
The final round was a selection of quick fire hypotheticals where Acaster’s supposed friend Derek Acorah had created a collection of responses and the contestants had to guess what they were. Acorah was as irritating in the show as he is in every single thing he’s ever done and so it’s probably not going to be a shock that this round didn’t do it for me either. Yet again it was saved by Acaster, but he only had the odd chance to say something alas. As you’ve already probably surmised I’m extremely fond of James Acaster, his stand up is superb and he’s always good value as a contestant on panel shows, so it’s a shame he’s not a regular contestant rather than a co-host who only occasionally gets to chirp in with something funny.
Despite my issues with the show I’ll stick with it because of him, and that future guests include Sara Pascoe, Rachel Parris, Rose Matafeo, Ed Gamble, John Robins, Ivo Graham, Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Cariad Lloyd, but I’ve not got high hopes that it’ll ever be anything other than quite good. Which is frustrating because when the show was first announced it caused a minor stir due to sounding very similar to Danielle Ward and Michael Legge’s superb podcast Do The Right Thing, which Dave had made a tv pilot of previously. In actuality they don’t have much in common but it’s a shame that they didn’t go ahead with the tv version of Do The Right Thing instead as Ward and Legge have proven time and again it’s a superb format, and an hilarious one at that, which this really isn’t and I’ve doubts it ever will be.