In my review of the first episode of Hypothetical I was pretty harsh on the show, liking James Acaster’s interjections but struggling with Josh Widdecombe’s dullness and with a fair few of the comedians taking part. Tom Allen and Liza Tarbuck were especially disappointing, the latter I have to confess to not being a fan of, partially as I don’t think he’s that funny but also because at one gig I was at he berated the audience for not laughing enough which I always feel is a poor thing to do, and it wasn’t a shitty audience either as the other acts hadn’t had such an issue. Tarbuck was great on Taskmaster though so I was surprised she was weak here, and though Jessica Knappett and Rob Beckett came up with the odd funny joke it wasn’t anything particularly that great.
But it was the very first episode of the series and so perhaps unfair to judge as to whether or not the concept was a great idea or a messy pile of manure that should never have made it on to our screens. Also, panel shows are often made or broken by the guests that take part, so I went in with high hopes that the third episode would be a lot better as I’m a big fan of Sara Pascoe, Ed Gamble and Lou Sanders, while Nish Kumar has his moments and can be funny at times. It was a great improvement in general too, the hypotheticals were dafter and more absurd, and all involved were on top form, hell even Josh Widdecombe made me laugh at one point and that’s a rare event indeed.
After a brief introduction to the rules of the show Ed Gamble started off with a hypothetical situation where Ed’s Aunt had supposedly died, and to get the money in her will he had to get a 150ft bronze statue of The One Show’s Matt Baker erected in his home town. Initially Gamble didn’t actually get much to stay as the other comics made suggestions, but that made the segment a lot more amusing than anything found in the first episode, and a fake conversation between Gamble and Baker (played here by Acaster) was pretty funny if only for the mockery of Acaster’s attempts at accents and it was a decent beginning to the episode in general.
The second round always teams up two of the participants which I think is a shame as it dilutes the better comedian, in this case Lou Sanders who was a little hamstrung by Nish Kumar. They had to come up with a way to make the “And Finally” segment of the news within 24 hours or they’d die and nearly all of Sander’s comments elicited laughs, whereas Kumar was far more patchy. It did benefit from Sara Pascoe’s impression of a talking dog (though I am a sucker for such things admittedly) and Sanders’ idea concerning making a dog and a pig have sex was great (well, very amusing at least, I’m not convinced either would enjoy it in real life despite Sanders’ claims) and it’s a shame it wasn’t given the chance to be developed further, but Nish deciding that he should change his name to Romesh Ranganathan to get on the news cut it short unfortunately. At this point the round was looking a little shaky until Lou suggested “A beauty salon for kittens” which Acaster expanded upon to make it all rather funny again, and another fake phone call with Acaster was also strong, with the Kettering funnyman impressing once more.
Sara Pascoe had the hardest Hypothetical so far where she had to prevent the assassination of JFK, made all the more complicated with the fact that in this reality she was a cat. But she spun gold out of it, proposing a truce with the mice as she claimed they’d benefit by teaming up with cats as people were so angry after JFK’s death they took it out on tiny animals, and it was nicely surreal as she suggested the mice run up everyone’s trousers to see if they have a gun. Acaster brought out a model of Dealey Plaza so Pascoe could act it all out and it was once again fantastic stuff, Pascoe was an absolute delight and I hope she’s asked to return for more episodes, if not every single one of them.
I had concerns about the next round as it had been the worst in the first show, as it was based around the idea that they had to come up with a sum of money which they’d accept to take part in a certain situation. This week’s was far better though, with the concept being that they had to be tied together with their team mate, like in a three legged race. Gamble came up with a lot of fantastic jokes about his disdain over the idea of being attached to Nish Kumar, Pascoe and Sanders devised some fun questions about the intricacies of the idea too, and a video segment with Acaster beating kids at sports and then losing a three legged race was fantastic too. At this stage in the show I was really hoping to write a very positive review, but unfortunately the final section was a bit bland, with it yet again being a quick fire round with one of James’s supposed famous friends, Colin Jackson, and the teams had to match their answers with Jackson’s. There were some okay moments, Kumar finally made me laugh out loud and Gamble got a few strong lines in, but as a whole it didn’t work that well and if there is a second series I hope they ditch it.
This third episode certainly shows that with the right guests the show has a a lot of potential, and it works best when during any Hypothetical the other comics regularly chip in with jokes even if it isn’t their actual turn. Sanders, Pascoe and Gamble lived up to expectations and are a perfect match for this kind of show being quick witted and inventive, and Acaster consistently comes up with a lot of funny moments as well, it’s just a shame Widdecombe is also involved and Nish Kumar was only sporadically funny. Looking at the line up’s for forthcoming episodes suggests that this might end up being the best episode of the run, but I hope I’m wrong and that it continues to improve.