Michael McIntyre’s show is big. Very big. Incredibly big. How do I know this? Because he told us about 16 times is the first 3 minutes. The Big Show (not to be confused with Steve Wrights Big Show on Radio 2. I don’t know whose show is biggest though. Perhaps the could have a Big Show big off the decide. By the way, love the show Steve) is the latest vehicle for Mr McIntyre. A vehicle is what TV execs refer to when they have usually signed a big name star to their channel, but haven’t actually got a programme for them.
A few years ago, the BBC lured Graham Norton from Channel 4 where he was golden boy with So Graham Norton. The only problem was that they already had a a big name chat show star with Jonathan Ross, so Graham was given his show on a Monday evening and Graham was given a succession of talent shows (The Maria’s and Joseph’s) to keep his face on prime time Saturday night telly. It was only the sacking of Ross and Wogan resigning from Eurovision that really allowed Norton to establish himself as the king of BBC Light Entertainment. I fear Michael McIntyre is adopting the same plan. Interestingly enough he and Norton have similar backgrounds; both were stand ups and Norton has even dabbled in acting (Google Father Ted lingerie shop for an example. Don’t worry it is safe for work).
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Mr McIntyre. He has a a great comedy pedigree (his dad wrote for Kenny Everett) and there is no denying his incredible popularity. He is a Southern Peter Kay, or is Peter Kay a Northern Michael McIntyre? Anyway, he’s funny, fills arenas and is a great family comedian. I’m just not convinced he is a true Light Entertainment host, yet.
We looked a little at variety shows the other week (see here) and The Big Show is in that vein having a musical act and comedian (another one) on, but it draws heavily on the that other stalwart of Saturday evening entertainment show…the hidden camera stunt. The grand daddy of hidden camera shows is Candid Camera, which started on US TV in the 1940’s and transferred here in the 1960’s. The BBC and ITV tweaked and perfected the format in the 1980’s, ITV with Game for a Laugh and the BBC with a range of Noel Edmonds vehicles. In fact I think we can trace year zero of the hidden camera/celeb stunts/music/game format to 1982 and the The Late Late Breakfast Show. This was Noel’s first foray after 6 years hosting Swap Shop. The show was cancelled after 5 seasons after the death of a contestant, but the die had been cast and 6 years later Noel had finely honed the mixture into the House Party. Pre Blobby, it was brilliant and gave Galdiators on ITV a run for its money. Post Blobby…let’s not go there. ITV have recently taken the early evening crown back with Ant and Dec’s Saturday Takeway. Noel gets a lot of stick these days, some of it justified, some just because he is the last of his generation, but he was responsible for some great Light Entertainment programmes.
Which brings us back to The Big Show. It has all the right elements, but I don’t think McIntyre has the likability or empathy with the public that Ant, Dec, Graham or even Noel have. So it come across a bit “look at me” instead of “look at them” (the members of the public). Saying that, there is one feature which has greatness writ large all over it; Celebrity Send To All. (The first time I saw it I thought he said “Celebrity Centaur”. I was looking forward to seeing a half human half horse on stage, but I was wondering how many Centaurs you could really class as celebrities these days. Perhaps in the days of Jason and the Argonauts and Sinbad, sure, they were ten a penny. But in 2016? Anyway, I misheard, so I don’t have to worry about that). Basically Michael takes a celeb’s phone and sends a saucy message from the the celeb to all their contacts to see who responds. It works because celebrities all have other celebrities in their address book. It he did it with my phone he might get a response from my wife, Amazon customer services and the local curry house. Alas one good stunt does not a great show make, but looking at the viewing figures its enough to keep those not watching X Factor happy at least.
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