MTV Studios, Camden, Tuesday July 11th
Last night addedentry and I went to see an episode of UKTV game show Street Cred Sudoku being filmed. Googling for the show will give you the mistaken impression that Steve Punt may be involved, but sadly (at least for this aging Mary Whitehouse Experience fan) that wasn't the case: team captains were Robin Ince and Rufus Hound, their respective guests were Lucy Porter and Ben Norris, and the show was not-actually-very-ably hosted by Andy Goldstein.
It's not a good start when the presenter and the panel can't agree on how to pronounce "sudoku". You'd think by this time, several episodes into filming, they'd have sorted it out. "Is it suduku or sudoku?" Goldstein asked the panellists and audience. "Only I keep on saying 'suduku', but it's 'sudoku', but everybody says 'sudoku', but..." What could, in some parallel universe, have been an interesting debate on standards and consensus in language usage, rapidly turned into a shouting match. "It's sudoku," said Ince, eventually, with an air of finality that seemed tempered only by bafflement that the argument needed to be had at all. This decided, the show was free to wander along its merry way in the tried and tested (HIGNFY, Buzzcocks, QI, etc.) formula of a quiz show where the quiz is only a vehicle for the contestants' comedy. Not being able to see the scoring grid, we weren't quite sure how the "sudoku" element of it worked, but never mind; it soon transpired that the participants weren't sure either. "Why don't we just have points?" asked one panellist, prompting a couple of well-placed quips about pointlessness.
Pointless or not, though, it turned out to be reasonably good comedy value for money (the tickets were free). We first happened across Robin Ince in Book Club at the Junction a few months ago (with the brilliant Josie Long, who deserves better than being described as 'off-the-wall' or, god help us, 'zany'; but sadly without martylog on accordion); he was bloody funny then, and on the evidence of last night I'd say that he's still bloody funny now. Jolly good, eh? Just as well, too, as he seemed to be carrying the bulk of the comedic weight of last night's show, despite sporadic sparkles of brilliance from the other three panellists. But at its best, the combination was greater than the sum of its parts: intellectual humour from Ince, pert remarks from Porter (this is where I run out of alliteration, you'll be pleased to hear), mockery from Hound, and deadpan wit (which occasionally just fell flat) from Norris.
If I was giving the compere the benefit of the doubt, I'd say that he was playing to the 'cheesy gameshow host' stereotype and providing a knowing foil for the wit of the contestants. If I wasn't, I'd say that he should have stuck to something he'd be better at, for example, winning third prize in Jonathan-Ross-impersonating competitions. He also fluffed a lot of lines, resulting in a ridiculous number of retakes; all part of the experience of being a TV audience, but the novelty was definitely wearing off by the end -- an end which, incidentally, was a bit of a sorry anticlimax, as Goldstein had to redo a few more links and the audience (not quite knowing whether to stay or go) half-heartedly drifted off -- there was an attempt by a couple of people to start a closing round of applause, but it died away after barely a flicker.
It was funny, though, even if part of me hates to admit it, to hear all the jokes that were clearly never going to make it on to UKTV -- the self-referential asides, the gratuitous swearing, and what became a running gag about Nazis which was far funnier than it had any right to be, even if only through repetition and the sense of a shared secret. It may not be big, it may not be clever, but we sat at the back and sniggered and had quite a good time in the process.
If you have UKTV, I think the show's is on air tonight. (If you don't, I still think the show is on air tonight, but you probably won't care.) If you look closely, you may be able to see the back of our heads. Do let me know. I mean, I brushed my hair specially and everything.