Thank God You’re Here is a new effort by ITV to put some decent comedy about. They succeeded with Harry Hill’s TV Burp, which for my money is the only laugh out loud thing on TV at the moment. Actually – not ‘for my money’ at all as it’s on ITV – it’s more ‘for my ability to sit through a series of rubbish thirty second adverts every fifteen minutes’.
Anyhow, Thank God You’re Here is hosted by Paul Merton, an old hand when it comes to improvisational comedy. TGYH involves well-known comedy faces walking onto a set in a costume. Actors, in character, are ready for them and set the scene immediately, enabling the hapless arrivals to attempt to seamlessly fit in and find their role. Obviously, with no preparation, this can be pretty amusing as the improvisers attempt to steer the situation in their own direction.
Featuring on Saturday were Marcus Brigstocke, the current Mr Show-Me-The-Money of television, having taken up Jimmy Carre’s crown when he decided to do that rubbish news parody thing with Trevor Mc Trevor McDonald. He did alright, thrown into a situation where he was a surgeon reporting on a child’s progress. More impressive was Phil Nichol, an American comedian who dealt impressive with the Wild West scenario he found himself in, managing to develop his character as a gay, fashion-obsessed outlaw who’d just returned from Milan. Bizarre, but impressive. Lee Mack was my favourite of the night, responding in his usual dry manner to being a bronze Olympic medallist who was giving a presentation to a school room. I laughed at all these bits.
Sadly it all fell down a peg or two when Coronation Street’s Fizz took to the stage. It’s not often the viewer can honestly say ‘I could do better than that’, unless they’re watching Paul Robinson on international duty. Or, as in this case, Fizz off of The Street trying to be funny. She died.
Peculiarly, Paul Merton also fell apart when taking to the stage as a clown being interrogated by a Ringmaster. His improvisation wraps up the show and is clearly an attempt at rounding things up professionally. Sadly, the actor he was meant to bounce off barked questions at him so quickly he’d have had trouble coming up with anything other than half a one-liner. A half-liner, if you like.
That’s the only weakness in this pretty diverting hour – the fact that the constructed situations can be a little too restrictive. It’s hard to know what limits to put on the actors, but I suppose it’s best they’re not allowed to drift off as they did in the woeful latter days of Whose Line Is It Anyway. But a bit more freedom for talented types like Nichol and Mack would’ve made this comedy gold.
On reflection, I watched this whilst seven pints deep on a Saturday night, so don’t take my word for it being alright. I’ll laugh at a potato when I’m half cut, so it may well be utterly unloveable poo. I once laughed at an episode of Friends, but we’ll blame that on the vicious strain of sensimellia my mate had skinned up a few minutes previous to the telly being flicked on. Also, that episode featured a monkey, which further excuses me.